It rained today, an unexpected pleasure. I had started mowing our yards which include the yard for Anita and I plus Marc and Dixie’s place right next door to us. I really don’t know how many acres I mow, but I estimate it to be 5 acres or so. I was about half finished when the dark clouds started to roll in from the north. I was already receiving “lightning proximity” alerts on my iphone. The clouds were looking more ominous by the moment, so I disengaged the mower blades and headed at full speed for the shed.
I was hot and nasty, covered with dust and grass, so I took a refreshing shower and got dressed for church which is later this evening.
I had just sat down to relax and eat some cold watermelon. Then came the rain. It wasn’t a flood, but it was a nice summer shower. Our rain gauge is broken so I don’t know exactly how much we got, but I know it was enough to keep the grass growing. And that will not be but a few days away.
After the rain let up a bit, I stepped out on our front porch. The aroma flooded my nostrils. It was a scent that took me back 60 years, all the way to my childhood. My senses were overwhelmed for a moment as I took in the scent of “Sweet Summer Rain.” I think I’ll go get some sweet tea, sit in one of the rockers on our front porch and enjoy the moment.
I had just attended the evening worship service at Youth Camp. A worship service should be both challenging and encouraging. To me it was neither, except the message/sermon part was a challenge to listen to. The only thing I can say for this “preacher” was that he was humorous at some points. But the point of the message was very convoluted almost to the exclusion of a point. I even left the auditorium before the conclusion of the service because I was so confused and irritated about some of the statements that the speaker made. I needed to take a step back and talk to the Lord about it and calm down. Was there something I was missing? Did God have a message for me that I missed? I think the point of the message was “forgiveness.”
After we left the worship service, I waited outside for our group. We then moved to another location for our church group time. I needed some personal time for a moment, so I found a location off to the side of the path that led to the room in which we were to gather. A few trees were dotting the hills that surrounded the building and some patches of green grass surrounded me. It was a pleasant place to be alone for a few moments. I focused on these small pieces of nature for that moment when I noticed two things.
First, for just a moment, it was soothingly quiet. The crowd of youth with all of their joyous noise hadn’t reached my location yet. Secondly, I noticed fireflies were flying low, close to the ground as they often do. The sight took me back to the safety of my youth, for in those days every summer evening there would be what looked to be hundreds of fireflies surrounding my brothers and me as we played in the yard of our home.
At that moment as I watched the few fireflies surround me, there was peace. It was a reprieve from the disappointment of the past hour or so. I was encouraged by a small group of God’s creatures in a way that the “preacher” had failed to do so.
Then I heard from behind me a youth leader doing what the “preacher” should have done for us. He was encouraging and challenging his students. A few minutes later our own youth leader would be doing the same for our youth group.
Our encouragement may not come from the places we expect; it may not come from the guy or gal on the stage with the microphone in their hand. Encouragement may come from those closest to us or from near and dear friends that love and care for us. It may also come from something unexpected, something like fireflies. From whatever the source of the encouragement, receive it joyfully because ultimately all encouragement is from the Lord.
The Lord calls us to praise Him. How do we do that? In all kinds of ways. In the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, praise came with a sound, any kind of kind. From the declaration of God’s glory and the praise that God receives by the heavens, to the sounds nature makes everyday, God is praised.
Some of the sounds that God’s creation makes in praise to Him are easily heard like the wind blowing through the leaves of a tree or the roar of the ocean waves as they crash against the rocks along the shoreline. Those same elements of nature can either be in a sound as a whisper or it can be as a cacophony of sounds.
Most of us can handle a whisper of sound, but cannot handle a noisious roar very well; I am among that crowd. But God does, when it is meant to give Him praise.
I was in a worship service a few nights ago at a Youth Camp. If you have ever been to Youth Camp, you know that they are loud. Youth have so much energy that just begs to get out. When that energy is directed toward praise to God, it too can be loud. That is okay because in the Book of Revelation we read of a worship service in heaven. All creation is praising the Lord Jesus. Rev. 5:12 says that they were worshipping the Lord with a loud voice. I have no problem with people worshipping the Lord with a loud voice, as long as it is done sincerely, reverently, decently and in order. Dr. Adrian Rogers used to say that if you don’t like loud worship, he doesn’t know what you are going to do when you get to heaven. We better get used to it because that is what we too will enjoy when we get to heaven.
This particular evening’s worship had an extra element that was unnerving to me. There is always a band in these Youth Camp worship services, as well as other venues. This band had what seemed to me an unusually loud drummer or to put it another way, they had a drummer with very loud cymbals. To me it was a distraction. The “worship” part of this service was interrupted because it wasn’t exactly “my” kind of worship music. It was okay and the lyrics to some of the songs were deep expressions of the singer/writer’s heart for God. Add that to the extraordinarily loud cymbals and I was not experiencing worship as I should.
But then God brought to my mind a set of scriptures; Psalm 150:
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament.
Praise Him for His mighty acts.
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!
Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
Praise Him with the lute and harp!
Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!
Verse 5 says that we are to worship God with loud and clashing cymbals. This band certainly had that covered! When God brought that scripture to my mind, He was reminding me that all that loud clashing noise up there on that stage in front of us was a group of brothers and sisters in Christ leading us in worship and praise. It was not for my or anyone else’s enjoyment, although many did enjoy it. The music they were singing and playing may not have been “my” kind of music and it may have been to loud for my liking; but this band and singer seemed to be worshipping the Lord sincerely, in spirit and in truth. I may not have really enjoyed it; but our Lord did!
Lord, may I enjoy that praise and worship that You enjoy. No matter the source of the praise or the Sound of that praise, help me to add my voice to it for I desire to worship You also along with the heavens and the earth and my brothers and sisters in Christ as their voice ascends to heaven, a sacrifice of hearts and tongues. May You receive it as a sweet aroma unto Yourself. Praise the Lord!
When I was a young lad running up and down a gravel road barefooted in Morehouse Parish, Northeast Louisiana, the last thing on my mind was maturity of any kind I was never going to get old! According to my own way of thinking maturity merely equaled getting along in years. That is one of the definitions of maturity, i.e. to be aged or ripe, just like some of the trees in the picture of took at Rainey Lake in Tensas River NWR. But that isn’t the kind of maturity I am talking about. As I did grow older, as we all do, I began to understand maturity in a different way. It wasn’t just about reaching a certain age. I have seen people in their middle aged years act very immaturely. And even some senior adults who do the same, thinking that they are acting young, when in actuality they were only acting…….immaturely.
How we achieve maturity? Does it just happen? Does it come with education or experience? I’m sure that those things contribute to a person growing in maturity. But just as the possession of knowledge doesn’t guarantee that a person will be wise, so is it that though a person possess knowledge and experience, they will not necessarily grow in maturity. I’ve even seen teenagers and young adults possess a level of maturity that someone more advanced in years doesn’t exhibit. Why is that? Is it a desire to be mature? Or is it just the result of a life well thought out and lived? Are there other contributing factors that we might consider?
God’s Word gives us an answer we might consider. As I introduce that statement, you may think I’m going to say something like, “One must be religious in order to show maturity.” Spiritual Maturity is certainly something about which a child of God should be concerned. But I think the scriptures can be understood to apply to all of life, not just to the Christian. So please consider this:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4 ESV.
The words “Perfect” and “complete” are descriptors of maturity. And here the author James says that maturity come as the result of something. It may surprise you what that something is. “Trials of various kinds…..”. And he isn’t talking about a one time thing; he means a whole series of events. One trial after the other that we encounter in life CAN bring us to a certain level of maturity. Sounds like the proverbial “School of Hard Knocks” doesn’t it. Well, that’s exactly what he means. If we think about that, we come to realize that is why so many people with a little age on them have come to a level of maturity. They display it in their lives because they’ve been there. And they have allowed those trials of life to teach them how to live and how to prepare for the next thing. But some people never learn. They encounter one trial or bad experience after another and instead of learning to adapt, they only complain or blame someone else for their misfortune. In the scripture we read, “LET steadfastness (which is a product of the trial) have its full effect.” We need to ask ourselves, “What did I learn from that terrible time through which I just went?” As horrid as some of those trials maybe, they can still produce maturity within us.
I wished that I could say that I am more mature because I’ve allowed the trials that I have gone through in life to produce its full effect in me. But I can’t. But I also thank the Lord that I have allowed many of the other trials which I have gone through to produce some maturity in me. I haven’t arrived yet. But I am still aiming for it.