Joining In Praise

October 11, 2022

On this Lord’s Day, we join together in praise of our awesome God.  But it is not us who begin this worship.  No, we will enter the throne room of God, in the spirit, to join with worship that is ongoing—that never ceases—in heaven. 

“And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.’ And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne saying, ‘Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed and were created.’” (Revelation 4:8-11 NAS95)

Our God is worthy of praise!  He is the creator! He is Holy!  He is the Almighty!  Let us join with these heavenly beings in falling down before the throne to worship Him in reverence and in awe. 

And let us, throughout the week ahead, take time to praise God individually.  His praise should be in our hearts, and also on our lips.  Not only should we praise God in our minds, but we should express our praise to him with our mouths; in prayer, in song, in reminding another of His goodness and glory.  We should do this when life is good and also when life gets hard.  Our God is intrinsically worthy of our praise, no matter what is going on in our lives, and we do not worship Him merely to get something in return.  Yet, God is gracious.  He gives so much in return as we praise Him. In times of turmoil and heartache, if we would praise Him with our hearts and our lips, we will find help.  We will find strength.  We will find a renewed perspective on life.  Praising God will help us to stop wallowing in our own troubles and to fix our eyes on Him.  As we praise Him, we are reminded that He deeply cares for us and that He can handle any problem we may be facing.  What renewed vigor and hope worship brings.  Let us be people of praise in our daily lives and as we gather together as His redeemed people this Lord’s Day.

—Scott Colvin


The Majesty of the Lord Jesus

December 21, 2021

In the first two chapters of the book of Colossians we receive a stunning view of the glory and majesty of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We get an inspired glimpse of who He is, and who He was from all eternity.  Listen to these splendid words: “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17, NASB).  Nothing has been made, whether visible or invisible, that wasn’t made by and for Jesus Christ.  There is no throne or dominion, whether human or in the spiritual realm, that Jesus Christ is not far above.  Even as you read these words, Jesus Christ is holding together the entire universe by the word of His power.  Should He stop holding it all together, everything we know, everything we can see and can’t see—from the smallest atom to the most distant galaxy—would cease to exist.

And if anything could be more stunning than the amazing majesty and power of our Lord, it is this:  that the creator and sustainer of all things would empty Himself, take on a human body, and give up His life for us.  Jesus, the Eternal One, the All-Powerful One, gave everything so that sinful, undeserving people like you and me can share in His life.  “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach (Colossians 1:21-22, NASB) Even though we were hostile to God, even though we were living in evil, Christ came to save us.  He came so that we could be holy and without blame in His sight.  The One in whom all the fullness of Deity dwells came so that we would be filled up to His fullness (Colossians 2:9-10, Ephesians 3:19).

Each Lord’s Day, we gather to fall down and worship the One who created all things, who is above all things, and yet who humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross so that we might truly live through Him.  May our souls magnify the Lord and rejoice in God, our Savior.     

— Scott Colvin


Entering into the Presence of God

December 7, 2021

In Matthew’s account of the crucifixion, we read this: “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.  And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom…” (Matthew 27:50-51a NASB) The veil of the temple was a large, thick curtain that physically separated the “holy of holies” from the rest of the temple.  The holy of holies was the innermost sanctuary of the temple.  Our Almighty God, Himself, filled the holy of holies with His presence and glory as He appeared in a cloud above the mercy seat on top of the ark of the covenant.  The veil served a very important purpose and signified something we need to understand:  God is Holy!  You cannot come casually into His presence in whatever way you please!  Only the high priest could go behind the veil, only once per year, and only after taking the blood of goats and calves which he would offer for his own sins and the sins of the people. If the high priest entered behind the veil without first being consecrated, as God prescribed, He would surely die (Leviticus 16:1-2).  No one can come into the presence of God without first being made holy. 

What a shock it must have been to the people of that day when the veil was torn in two from top to bottom.  Why did this happen?  What did it have to do with the death of Jesus?  There is profound significance in the tearing of the veil, as we are told in Hebrews chapter 10: “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh…” (Hebrews 10:19-20 NASB).  The tearing of the veil signified that you and I can go into the very presence of our Holy God with confidence.  We can enter the true throne room of God in Heaven!   There is no longer any separation between Him and us!  We can draw near to Him!  This is all because of the blood of Jesus.  God made the way for us to come into His presence through the death of Jesus.

We need to understand that when the church assembles together for worship, we are entering into the presence of our Almighty God.  Have you considered this fact?  How should we respond to this spiritual reality?  “Let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29 NASB)     

—Scott Colvin


Veneer or Solid Wood?

March 27, 2020

When I was a small child, I remember a dresser which had veneer. If you are wondering what veneer is, the dictionary definition of veneer is “a thin decorative covering of fine wood applied to a coarser wood or other material.” This dresser had seen better days, so some pieces of veneer were missing or loose. As a curious child I noticed the difference between the beautiful veneer and the coarse wood beneath. And truth be told, I wanted to pull on the veneer to see more, much to my Mother’s dismay.

As an adult, I have a couple of pieces of furniture from my family which are solid wood. The veneer dresser, by the way, is long gone. One of these pieces of furniture is an oak end table. I remember when it was purchased at an antique store. It too had seen better days. But being solid wood, the beauty of the oak was restored to its former glory, because it was oak all the way down. It was solid wood.

I cannot help but feel that we as Christians are being tested by the Covid-19 pandemic. If we can’t assemble together, will we worship God in smaller groups? God continues to be worthy of worship. In fact, our English word, worship, has as its etymology “acknowledgement of worth.” God is still our creator. God is still our redeemer. God is still the one who reveals himself through his word. God’s providence hasn’t failed. I still have blessings, and God still deserves thanksgiving.

What I fear is that this past Sunday, God received less worship, less praise, and less thanksgiving than the week before. And if my fear is true, it is not because churches weren’t trying to provide resources for their members. It seems to me that a crisis is exactly the time to turn to God even more devotedly. So I want to make clear the challenge for us.

On Paul’s Second Missionary Journey, he and Silas were arrested in Philippi. They were placed in stocks in the inner prison. Roman prisons had less creature comforts than our modern jails and prisons, and I wouldn’t want to live in a modern one let less a Roman prison. Not only were they in jail, but Paul and Silas were placed in the most secure part of that prison. Their feet were placed in stocks, a device to confine their extremities and make it impossible to escape. And I thought long flights in economy class were uncomfortable. I can’t imagine the discomfort felt by Paul and Silas. And yet, what did they do? “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25 ESV). Paul and Silas didn’t stop worshipping and praying when times were tough or even when they couldn’t be in an assembly with others.

So the question is a simple one. Will we continue to worship and pray? Is our Christianity more like a thin layer of veneer, or are we solid wood all the way down?

— Russ Holden

*Oxford Dictionary of English, see under veneer and worship.


Christian Living and Covid-19

March 20, 2020

Covid-19 has changed our lives. Most churches are cancelling their assemblies because of the CDC’s recommendation of not having a gathering of more than 10. These have been difficult decisions for church leaders. The kind of closings we are experiencing haven’t occurred since the Spanish Influenza of 1918. By the way, most church leaders closed church doors during that time, but they reminded Christians of the things we can continue to do. So let me remind you of the things we can do as we face this present crisis.

Christians Pray In Times of Crisis. Paul writes, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1–2 ESV). Our leaders certainly need our prayers at a time like this. And we should remember our church leaders as they struggle with these issues as well.

I’ve read articles asking whether Covid-19 is the plague of Revelation. My short answer is no. My convictions about Revelation is that it is written about the persecutions of the early church by the Roman Empire, so that Revelation 1-19 is dealing with Roman persecution and the Fall of Rome.

My longer answer goes something like this. God did use natural disasters and armed conflict to punish nations. We see this in the prophets. But it would be presumptuous of me to say that this crisis is a punishment from God. You need a prophet to say that. But I think it is wise to use any calamity as a time to examine ourselves spiritually. I’ve been saying for decades that we need to pray for spiritual revival in our country. So whether this is sent from God or not, this is a good time to pray for revival, to pray for the spiritual condition of our country and our world.

A crisis brings a certain amount of anxiety into our lives. So let me remind you of a couple of passages.

“casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 ESV)

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 ESV)

Scripture gives us prayer as an important way of dealing with worry. I don’t want to live a life of fear even now. Prayer and trusting in God’s providence is my way of dealing with life’s difficulties and this current crisis.

Christians Worship in Times of Crisis. We are facing a situation where many church buildings may closed for worship this Sunday all around our country due to Covid-19. But Christian worship is simple in what we do, and profound in what it means. So my hope is that families or a few people may get together and worship this Sunday minding the CDC’s recommendation about groups not larger than 10. I’ll miss the assembly, and I will want to get back to regular church life as soon as possible. But Christian worship scales down to where two or more are gathered in my name and scales up to the largest assemblies that we have. I think if a family has children, this will make a lasting impression on them. Christians always worship God. We worship God because he is worthy of worship. We can’t even let a pandemic stop our worship and praise to God.

Christians Serve in Times of Crisis. Christians always serve others, but a time of crisis may present additional opportunities. Our congregation is making certain that people who can’t get out at this time have food and supplies. We are also cooperating with Feeding America to offer special food pantry days to serve the community. You may be able to find such opportunities in your own life. You may know neighbors who are in the high risk category who need help.

I have multiple myeloma. I underwent a stem cell transplant where they kill your immune system with chemotherapy and then reboot it with your own stem cells. I tell you this, because I know what it is like to be quarantined. It’s bit lonely, and you feel a little stir-crazy. I think all of us may be feeling that in the coming days. I want to emphasize how important phone calls were to me while I was going through my quarantine. One way you may serve others is reaching out to them with a phone call. You may brighten someone’s day, and you may find out other ways you can serve them.

Christians serve, and Christians certainly serve in times of crisis. When we do, it makes our faith real to us and real to others.

May God be with you through this time of crisis.

— Russ Holden


Why Sing?

September 27, 2019

Singing is an important part of our worship to God. We want our singing to be pleasing to God, and we want it to be meaningful as worshippers. One important way of focusing on singing is simply to ask its purpose. Why sing?

Dr. Everett Ferguson provides a good list in his book, The Church of Christ:

  1. Singing is a way of preaching Christ. Several New Testament passages are thought to have been early Christian hymns (e.g., Philippians 2:6-11 and 1 Timothy 3:16). 
  2. Singing is a confession of faith. “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge (or confess) his name” (Hebrews 13:15, ESV).
  3. Singing expresses the indwelling Spirit and word of Christ. Ephesians 5:18-19 associates singing with being filled with the Holy Spirit. The parallel passage in Colossians 3:16 encourages us to have the word of Christ dwell in us richly. How many things do you remember because you have repeatedly sung them?
  4. Singing as praise is a spiritual sacrifice. See the quotation of Hebrews 13:15 above.
  5. Singing shares in the praise of heaven. In Revelation we are brought to the throne room of heaven and given a taste of its praise (Revelation 4:8, 10-11, 5:8-12, 14:2-3, and 15:2-3).
  6. Singing is for instructing and encouraging one another. When we sing, we teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16). We must sing with our minds (1 Corinthians 14:15). When we sing, we are speaking to one another (Ephesians 5:19).
  7. Singing expresses the unity of the church. “…that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:6, ESV — emphasis added).
  8. Singing involves the whole person. Scripture emphasizes that singing is to be with both spirit and mind (1 Corinthians 14:15). We are to sing with our hearts (Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16) as well as with our lips (Hebrews 13:15).
  9. Singing expresses deep religious emotion. “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13, ESV).*

Good singing has meaningful words that draw us closer to God. Let’s sing praise to God with our whole being.

—Russ Holden

*Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today (Eerdmans, 1996), p. 271


More than a Melody

August 3, 2018

It may be significant that Eutychus didn’t fall asleep during the singing (Acts 20:9). The song service for most of us is the easiest part in which to stay awake and involved. Occasionally, one will hear of singings until midnight, but when the preaching is continued until midnight (Acts 20:7), many of us would be like Eutychus.

This observation is not made to suggest that we do away with preaching, but rather to note that most of us enjoy singing. Music is powerful and brings us much joy. It has great appeal, but in worship we need to remind ourselves that it should be more than a melody.

In Your Hearts to God. Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 reminds us that the singing is not just for enjoyment but is directed to God. It is possible for an atheist to come in and sing our songs, and quite possibly enjoy the aesthetic of the experience, but that would not be acceptable worship. Singing is worship directed to God.

With the Understanding. Paul has repeatedly made this point in 1 Corinthians 14 (see verse 15 for the one on singing), because apparently the Corinthians coming out of their pagan past thought they could worship acceptably with minds disengaged. Understanding is an essential ingredient for Christian worship. Do you understand what you sing (“beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,” “here I raise my Ebenezer”*)?

In Truth. Jesus’ words “worship in spirit and in truth” apply to songs as well. Is the song true and contain what is pleasing to God? Erik Routley in Hymns Today and Tomorrow states:

A congregation’s disposition toward right belief or away from it is subtly influenced by the habitual use of hymns. No single influence in public worship can surely condition a congregation to self-deception, to fugitive follies, to religious perversities, as thoughtlessly chosen hymns. The singing congregation is uncritical, but it matters very much what it sings, for it comes to believe its hymns. Wrong doctrine in preaching would be noticed; in hymns, it may come to be believed.

Thank God we have this powerful and joyful means of worship — our singing. May it always be to the Lord with understanding and in truth.

*Fain=gladly, Ebenezer = stone of help and is an allusion to 1 Samuel 7:12.


The Power of Habits

September 1, 2017

Habits are powerful. They are the things we do without having to think about them too much. They represent our routine. When they are good habits, they help us live the kind of life we want.

I’ve been working on healthy habits this year. I’m drinking more water and very little diet soda. I’m trying to eat right, which in my case involves counting calories. I’m walking daily and exercising. But I will confess that forming these new, healthy habits has not been easy, but it has been life changing. I wish I’d done it sooner

How long does it take to form a new habit? One number that is frequently heard is 21 days. This number doesn’t quite represent the original quotations from which it was taken. It would have been truer to say a minimum of 21 days. More recent research would such that it takes on average 66 days, but depending on the complexity of the behavior, it can take longer. But good habits are worth it.

Once you form a good habit, you do certain things routinely. Of course, the danger is that you will lose the habit if you keep breaking it. Habit formation doesn’t take perfection, but it does take consistency.

Spiritual formation also includes habits. I’ve learned important routines in my spiritual life, things that I automatically do. One of the habits I would like to suggest to you as we begin a new quarter in our Bible school program is participation in Bible class on Sunday morning and Wednesday night. For some of us, this is a habit. We don’t have to ponder whether we are going to go. We just go. We have formed this as a habit in our life.

Will every class meet a burning need in my life? Will every class give me a spiritual, mountain top experience? Probably not. I’ve had meals of physical food that were quite memorable. I’ve eaten food that didn’t appeal to me very much (for example, think about your least favorite leftovers), but was still nourishing. The same will probably be true as we attempt to provide spiritual food in our Bible classes. I’ve learned to find something worthwhile in the classes I attend and to be spiritually nourished by it. Besides another aspect of being together is fellowship and forming my identity with fellow Christians. This is even more important for our children.

I suspect in eternity we will not look back on time that we spent in Bible classes and say things like: I wish I’d slept in more. I wish I’d watched more TV. I wish I’d worked more. I wish I’d done more household chores, or whatever else we might have done with this time.

I hope that you will give this habit a try. Remember habit formation will probably take weeks to months. Consistency is important in forming this habit. But maybe at the end of that time, you will say what I’ve said about my new healthy habits: I wish I’d done it sooner.


Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking

July 21, 2017

Speaking in public is not an easy thing to do. In fact, you may always get “butterflies” even if you do it well. The Book of Lists gives the fear of public speaking as the number one fear for most people. It comes in higher than the fear of death and disease. No wonder that most of us need a lot of encouragement to do it the first time.

Part of the fear of public speaking is the fear of making a mistake, but the truth is anyone who speaks in public will make mistakes. That’s not an excuse for poor preparation or failing to improve, but it is part of the reality of being human. Only God is perfect. One author notes that expecting perfection from ourselves will probably make us more anxious and likely to make a mistake. He goes on to write:

The essence of public speaking is this: give your audience something of value. … Even if you pass out, get tongue-tied, or say something stupid during your talk . . . they won’t care! As long as they get something of value, they will be thankful.1

I can vividly remember one such mistake. When I was a teenager, I was encouraged to lead singing. It was one of my early song leading experiences. I started the song, and we sang about two measures and came to a crashing halt. We were singing the same words, but the tune was very different. I tried again with the same disastrous results. I wanted to hide behind the pulpit. Fortunately, the preacher sitting on the first row figured it out.

My songbook was dog-eared. The page number I was announcing was actually for the page beneath the page I was on. Unfortunately, both hymns were based on the same Psalm so they had the same words. Once we were all on the same page, the third time trying the song worked. I was embarrassed by it, but that is a part of learning humility—another one of those lessons we don’t like, but that God wants us to learn. The people in the congregation were actually very kind and encouraging.

Almost anyone who appears in public can tell such a story. I remember in a gathering of preachers, one of them told the story of the first time he baptized someone. He was very uncertain of himself. He had the person being baptized put on the waders by mistake. You can imagine what happens when someone wearing hip high waders is lowered beneath the water. The waders filled. He really had to struggle to get the person back up. After all it wouldn’t be good for the first time baptizing someone to turn into a drowning! Most of these experiences can seem humorous…afterwards.

Overcoming the fear of public speaking is aided by doing it, and realizing the goal is not perfection but edification.

1Morton C. Orman, M.D., “How To Conquer Public Speaking Fear”


A Living Sacrifice

May 15, 2015

Recently, someone said in the assembly, “We ought to be able to give an hour a week for worship.” I cringed at the statement, and I’ll explain why in a moment. I think I know what the speaker meant, so let me start there.

A recent headline highlights the concern: “You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span than a Goldfish.” “The article explains researchers have found that the human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds in recent years. The goldfish comes in with an attention span of 9 seconds explaining the headline. The source of the problem is our digital life where we may have multiple screens providing us with information. This may make it difficult for us to concentrate on one thing and maintain sustained attention.

Yet, you are capable of much deeper thoughts than a goldfish, and you can have sustained attention if you try and practice at it. Worship is one of those places that needs our sustained attention. Reading books, especially reading the Bible, is another. Somehow thoughts about God ought to rank higher than our instant messages and Twitter feed.

I hear complaints at times that people are talking, passing notes, or on their phone during worship. Granted that a person may be reading their Bible on their phone, but this is not always the case. The suspicion is that people are distracted and not paying attention and being a distraction to others who are attempting to pay attention. I think that is where “the hour a week” comment comes in. Can we learn to give sustained attention to the things God has asked us to do? This may take some effort on our part, but it is a call to be different from the world around us. It is also a call to be reverent and respectful.

What made me cringe about the statement? I don’t want to convey the idea that Christian living can be pigeonholed into an hour a week. God wants your whole life not just a token hour. He wants you to be “a living sacrifice” daily. It means being a Christian on the job, at school, and in the home. I’m giving God all of my time as I use my entire life to glorify God.

When I give God my life, then the times of worship become a no-brainer. I don’t have to decide each time whether I’m going or not. Worship, whether in my devotional life or in the assembly, becomes a part of the rhythm of my life. Worship shouldn’t be something that I begrudgingly give to God counting down the minutes until I’m free. Worship should come from the overflow of a daily walk with God. My aim is to be a “living sacrifice.”