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The House on the Rock

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
Matthew 7:24-25 NIV

My husband is active duty Army, and we have lived in many places. In 2004 we moved to Okinawa Japan, which was one of the most memorable. Okinawa is a tropical island where farmers grow sugar cane and pineapples; there are beautiful parks with flowers, and beaches where the ocean is turquoise and filled with reefs. However, the cities are made up of square concrete buildings as far as the eye can see. These buildings were such a contrast to the beautiful nature that we were surrounded by, that it made us wonder why houses would be built like this. When we finally received our assigned address and drove into the military post housing, we noticed that our house was the same square concrete. Even the shed in the back was concrete.

We discovered the answer to this mystery the first time there was a typhoon (the western Pacific is the most active area for tropical cyclones in the world). The island uses a colored flag system to let everyone know how close a storm is, and when the flags turn black, everyone goes into their homes. There is no panic, no evacuations, and not even any debris because everything outside goes into those backyard sheds. Even the trees are tied down. Everyone already has their groceries because the flag system told them to prepare, and and no one goes outside. During a typhoon I was able to relax with my coffee and play with my young children in the living room because even though the storm was raging outside (the wind roared like a train around the house), I knew that my concrete walls would stand strong.

Those wise people of Okinawa know how to build a solid house that will withstand a storm. In Matthew 7:24-25 Jesus said that “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” If we put our trust in God and do his will, we will keep standing no matter how strong the storms of this world are, because our foundation is on the rock.

Standing with you on God’s promises,

Erin Tabor

 

 

 

Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/aSmLcO3-dbk

Joy to the World, The Lord is Come

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” Psalm 98:4 ESV 

Isaac Watts was born in 1674 in Southampton England. As a child he loved creating rhymes (and was even reprimanded for it in church). He lived at a time when it was believed that only the Psalms should be sung in solemn services. Outside in the streets people merrily sang carols during the Christmas season, but inside the church the songs were serious and traditional. When he was a teenager, Isaac complained that the Psalms were too stagnant. He thought that people should be singing with joy and passion and that the songs should reflect Christian lives, not the Old Testament before Christ returned. Later in life, he was quoted as saying “To see the dull indifference, the negligent and thoughtless air that sits upon the faces fo a whole assembly, while the psalm is upon their lips, might even tempt a charitable observer to suspect the fervency of their inward religion.” His father eventually got so tired of his teenage son’s complaining that he challenged young Isaac to write something better. This began a lifetime of hymn writing.

In 1719 he wrote Psalms of David imitated in the language of the New Testament. These hymns were based on the words of David in the Old Testament but included the gospel of the New Testament. Many traditionalists were, not surprisingly, against his new music, and called his songs “whims and flights of fancy,” but on the other hand, many prominent people supported him, such as Samuel Johnson, Benjamin Franklin, Cotton Mather, and John Wesley.

Isaac Watts is considered The godfather of modern hymn writing and many of his songs are still recognizable to us today, such as “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “This is the Day that the Lord hath Made.” His most famous Christmas carol is “Joy to the World” based on the joy David sang about in Psalm 98:4 (ESV). “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” However, his words also reflect the good news that the angels sang to the shepherds the night Jesus was born. “The Lord is come, Let earth receive her king! Let every heart prepare him room and heaven and nature sing.” Even though this song was written in 1719, the message of it is timeless. In fact, it was the most popular hymn of the 20th century (based on how many hymnals it was printed in).

I think the popularity is because the message is so simple yet so profound. The angel in Luke 2:10 (ESV) said “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The angels rejoiced and the good news of the birth of Christ was for all people of all time and for the whole world, so I agree with Isaac Watts. We should be singing with joy and passion about the miraculous entrance of our savior on the earth. “Joy to the world! The Lord is come!”

Sharing your joy in Christ,

Erin Tabor 

Photo Credit: Image courtesy of https://www.freeimages.com/photo/angel-christmas-ornament-1442351

God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord’”  Luke 2:10-11 NIV 

During the Christmas season each year, churches like to dig out the old traditional carols and we have fun singing them, but if we’re honest, some of the words are so outdated that we don’t necessarily know what all of them mean. If we look closely though, these old songs have messages that still have pertinent meanings for us today.

For example, when we hear the lyric “God rest you merry, gentlemen” it may sound like an admonishment: “You are being too merry gentlemen, I think you should rest.” This confusion is because the meanings of the words have changed over time (also because we need to be sure to put the comma after ‘merry’ and not before). ‘Rest’ in this context did not mean relax as we recognize it today, but ‘to keep or to remain,’ so ‘God rest you merry’ was a phrase that originally meant something like ‘God keep you in good spirits.’ In fact, long before this song was published in 1760, the phrase was commonly spoken as a greeting (Shakespeare even used it in his play As You Like It in 1599!).

So how can we find meaning from these antiquated words today? After the opening lyric, the song continues: “let nothing you dismay/Remember Christ our savior was born upon this day/ To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray/Oh tidings of comfort and joy.” The whole message is conveying that we should not feel dismayed by anything because we remember this day that Jesus was born to save us from our sins, and our Christmas season is to celebrate the joy we can only find in Christ.

If you are feeling overwhelmed this December with the number of Christmas parties to attend, homemade cookies that need to be sent to school, what present to buy for which child, and what relatives need to be seated together at Christmas dinner, then remember what the angel told the shepherds on that miraculous night: “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10b-11, NIV). Don’t be stressed by material things, for the savior has come. Spread the good news! What a miracle! Put down that wrapping paper, get the flour out of your hair, and rejoice! I bet your spirits will be raised.

God rest you merry,

Erin Tabor

 

Photo Credit: Image courtesy of  https://www.stockfreeimages.com/4012247/Caroler-Ornaments.html