Monthly Archives: January 2021

Joyful Worship

“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all you lands; worship the Lord with cries of gladness; come before him with joyful song.” (Psalm 100:1)

Thirty-five other psalms begin with this same encouragement according to my cursory search.  St. Paul urges us to: “Rejoice in the Lord always. (Phil. 4:4)  Jesus in his Lord’s Prayer begins with, “Our Father in heaven, hollowed be your name…”  

A number of years ago, our daughter Emily, who has Down syndrome, showed me how we should approach the Father with praise and worship.  We were at mass, and I was serving as a Eucharistic minister and just happened to be serving the isle in which she and my wife were coming down. When she realized that she was coming to me for communion, her face lit up with that big bright beautiful smile of hers, she held out her cupped hands to receive the body of Christ and started running toward me exclaiming loudly, “Daddy!”  It was an expression of complete and total love. 

My heart melted with her response, but then I thought, isn’t this how God would like all of us to approach him – unreservedly expressing our love and joy for him, not worrying about what others might think. 

While I begin my prayer time each day with a short bit of praise, I am not sure I fulfill the expectation of the psalms or the level of commitment suggested by Jesus in his Greatest Commandment to “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Mt. 22:37)  How often does my praise come from duty or a routine approach, instead of a joyful heart?

As the Psalmist says, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.” (Psalm 8:2 NIV)

May we follow their example and sing hymns with enthusiasm, offer our prayers and responses with fervor, and seek the Lord with a pure heart.

“I will praise the Lord at all times; praise shall always be in my mouth.” (Psalm 66:1) 

Listening More, Talking Less

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak.” (James 1:19 NIV)

If we calculate the amount of time we talk versus the amount of time we listen, what would be the ratio?  Would it tilt toward talking or listening?  A good friend of our family had an uncanny ability to listen.  If you would ask her how she was doing, she would quickly turn the conversation back to what was going on in your life.

On a Sunday morning a few years ago, I experienced the blessing of taking communion to a 95 year old gentleman, a widower who lives alone in the house that has been his for more than 40 years.  In response to my question of “How are you doing today,” I heard about his wife of 52 years who died a few years ago; about his son who is a priest; about the many missions he flew in World War II and the Korean War; how he was a consultant to Congressional committees overseeing the Air Force, and finally, about his current health issues. What a blessing it was not to talk for more than 30 minutes, but just listen.  

We have the opportunity to listen wherever we are — at work, at home, or social gatherings. If our desire is to learn and grow in each of these venues, we soon realize that we don’t learn much from talking, but we do from listening. As an attorney, I found that I was able to better serve my corporate clients when I listened more.  At home, I serve and love my wife and children better by listening more. At social events I honor our guests by listening more.  While my efforts are sometimes spotty, I try to change course as soon as I realize that I am talking too much.   

We can also listen even when we are alone.  The Lord loves to put thoughts in our minds about various things going on in our life so long as we are open to hear him.  When Moses was giving his last instructions to the Israelites, he said they would inherit the land God had promised them by, “Loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.” (Deut. 30:20)  Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.” (John 10:27)

I have often allowed the noise of everyday life to drown out God’s voice, but the psalmist says, “Be still and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10 NIV)  Like Elijah, who went up on Mount Horeb to hear God, he did not hear him in the powerful wind, or the earthquake, or the fire, but in “a tiny whispering sound.” (1 Kings 19:12)  God loves to speak to us as a gentle whisper in our thoughts. 

Are we listening to the Lord and others, or to our own voice and noise?          

Faith in the Name of Jesus

Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13)

In Acts 3, Peter and John are entering the temple at the same time a man who had been crippled form birth is being carried there to beg.  He asks them for money and Peter responds, “Look at us…I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give to you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, walk.” (Acts 3: 4, 6) Peter then takes his hand and lifts him up.  His feet and ankles instantly become strong, he jumps to his feet and he begins walking, jumping and praising God. When the people recognize him as the man who had always been begging they are filled with wonder and amazement.

When Peter said, “Look at us,” he wanted to get the man’s attention because what he was going to do was not the usual response of throwing a coin in a cup.  This time was going to be different.  Peter was going to give the man not what he asked for, but what he needed.  He needed Jesus and healing.  Peter gave him both.

How much faith do you have to pray for something in the name of Jesus?

On a personal note, I have seen prayers in the name of Jesus: heal a hole in the heart of our daughter, Emily; restore a vision loss in me from glaucoma; find wonderful Christian spouses for our four married children, to name just a few examples.

In the workplace, I have seen prayers in the name of Jesus: turn a negative work environment into a positive one; enable a person to forgive a business partner who defrauded him of thousands of dollars; encourage a company to decide to forgo short term profits for the long term good of the company and its employees; heal a colleague’s brain tumor; guide a prosecutor to lead a defendant he had prosecuted several times to surrender his life to Christ before he died.

Jesus says in the above scripture that when we pray in his name we create an opportunity to bring glory to the Father.

Bringing glory to the Father through prayer in the name of Jesus is not something that was meant only for the early Church. These words are applicable for us today as well.

How much faith do you have in the name of Jesus?  Pray for something in the name of Jesus today in order to bring glory to the Father.

Getting Out of the Boat

“Lord if it’s you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” (Mt. 14:22-33)

When we read Matthew’s account of Jesus walking on the water and Peter’s attempt to get out of the boat and walk toward him, we tend to dwell on Peter’s apparent lack of faith which resulted in him sinking until he called out to Jesus to save him. 

Still, of all the disciples, Peter was the only one who had the courage to get out of the safety of the boat and walk towards Jesus.  The others no doubt thought it was foolish and reckless.

It is a normal thing for us to seek safety and comfort, but sometimes the Lord calls us to step out of our safety and comfort to do something for him or for ourselves that is beneficial, even though it may not appear so at the time.

When I was in my mid-forties, I was offered a new assignment by my employer that would have certainly furthered my career, but would have required a move back to New York from Virginia.  We had three teenage daughters and a two year old son at the time. Our daughters were all doing well in school, were involved in Young Life, a Christian outreach to high school teenagers and had great peers for friends. 

For three days, I agonized over the decision.  While I didn’t think I would be fired if I declined the assignment, I knew it would have a negative impact on my career. There was a lot of pressure from my superiors to take the job and to decide quickly.  The corporate culture fostered success, and moving up the corporate ladder was something highly valued. You were expected to accept promotions, not turn them down. 

After three days of prayer, consultation with colleagues, and lengthy discussions with my wife, we discerned that I should decline the offer.  I had to get out of the boat of my security and comfort to walk on the waters of going against the corporate culture at the time.

The decision did have a negative impact on my career for a number of years, but when I look back today and see all that has happened in the lives of our children and all the blessings we have experienced in our family, I am absolutely confident that this decision was God’s will for our family and for me professionally. 

Our children went on to complete their education and have since married wonderful Christians who are all raising Christian families of their own.  After about five years, my career eventually got back on track.  I was also led to become active in Christians in Commerce, a ministry encouraging Christians to live out their faith in their work with integrity and respect for others.  There is more, but too much for this space.

Is the Lord calling you out of your boat of comfort and security?  Jesus says, “Come.”