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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Song Series: No Better Place

No Better Place
Living here today as if we're gone tomorrow

Read: 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18

while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal
– 2 Corinthians 4:18

I haven’t known many heavenly minded people.

Frankly, most of the Christians I’ve met over the years are a lot like me. We believe in God the Father and His Son, Jesus. We believe in the Holy Spirit and His work in our lives. We believe in heaven and hell, and we even believe that prayer changes, sometimes. We’re considered good citizens and most people would like to have us as neighbors. We’re not unreasonably pious or prejudice and we’re quick to give a hand up, as well as, a hand out. All in all, I’d say we’re not that bad, really. Of course, we’re not that Christ-like, really, either.

From what I can tell, and I readily affirm that I could be way off base here, most of us like the thought of being Christian more than the action. It’s almost as if we think that our wanting to live with Jesus counts as actually living with Him. I think part of the problem is we’re so connected to the stuff around us that it makes it really hard to see past the temporal to the eternal.

Paul reminds us that God is a living personal presence. Get this; He is personally present with the guy or gal who’s eyes have been opened by Him to believe in His Son, Jesus (John 6:44) (2 Cor. 3: 16-18). Therefore, the believer actually lives in His presence every moment of every day. I think we just kind of forget this fact after a while of living here on earth. It’s like the eternal slowly gets overshadowed by the temporal. May-be one good way to regain a heavenly frame of mind is to practice walking with Jesus in the little things that make up the mundain moments of our day.

I like to read a little book from time to time called, “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence. It’s an old classic, but this guy seemed to have the whole “walking with Jesus daily” thing down. If it is indeed a true account of Lawrence’s life, I’ve never met anyone like him (ever). He was so “in the moment” with Christ that something simple like peeling potatoes took on a whole new perspective!

I believe, like the Chapman song says, that “there’s no better place on earth than the road that leads to heaven”. I guess I just need help from time to time remembering that being heavenly minded means living here on earth as if I’m already there.

Here’s a link to the book “The Practice of the Presence of God”

Here’s a link to the song “No Better Place” by Steven Curtis Chapman

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Song Series: O Come All Ye Faithful, Come Let Us Adore Him

Come Let Us Adore Him
"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." - Exodus 3:5

The word “adore” does not appear in scripture, but it is felt within the heart of several texts.

Adore: to worship; to express reverence and homage.

Adoration is the glow of revival fire.

What are some ways we can express reverence for the LORD? Well, one way early worshippers would pay homage to God is by removing their shoes (Exodus 3:5; Joshua 5:15) Another practical way worshippers showed deference was to lay prostrate on the ground ( Genesis 17:3 ; Psalms 95:6 ; Isaiah 44:15 Isaiah 44:17 Isaiah 44:19 ; 46:6 ).

We don’t practice this much today, but I have been in worship service where people have taken off their shoes or laid prostrate at the altar. It didn’t seem to be done in a “look at me” kind of way. The congregants just seemed genuinely humbled and vulnerable before the LORD.

I marvel sometimes at the indifference I often see from the platform. Not that I’m remembering any specific church. It’s more like a conglomeration of the times that I’ve lead worshippers who were anything but.

I wonder, what would happen if we began to humble ourselves before the LORD and ask, no beg Him to help us adore Him. Would people think us weird or out of touch with reality? Would we be labeled freaks? Or, may-be, just may-be, we could become the spark of revival that so many fellowships need.

LORD, bring revival, and begin with me!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quiet Time: Ambition

Read: 2 Corinthians 5:8-10

Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men. – Proverbs 22:29

am•bi•tion [am-bish-uh n] noun:an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction

I love that scene in the movie “Facing the Giants” where one kid carries another kid on his back the entire length of the football field after thinking he could only go fifty yards, at best. I think they call it the “death crawl”. The coach was trying to show that when we give our absolute best we can accomplish much more than we ever thought possible. Very inspiring! But, it got me to thinking about what the bible says about ambition. I think it’s a bit different from the corporate industrialized version many Christians have come to believe.

Here’s a little exercise that may help. Replace the word “ambition” with “earnest desire to distinguish ourselves” in these next few verses and you’ll see what I mean.

2 Corinthians 5:9
Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.

1 Thessalonians 4:11
and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you,

So, here are a couple of practical prayers I plan to pray since I know I can’t accomplish anything godly on my own:

“Help me to work quietly for Christ; not myself.”
“Keep me from doing anything that does not please Jesus.”

By the way, there are a couple of ways to know when we’re moving away from "The Way":

James 3:14 &16
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.

And, here are a couple of practical questions I’m going to ask myself while moving along this journey:

Is it all about me and what I receive?
Is there disorder or any hint of evil?

If the answer to either of these questions is, “Yes”, then it’s time to drop back and pray (see above).

Everyone likes to be appreciated and acknowledged for a job well done. The bible even seems to teach that when we’re really good at what we do we’ll be honored among men (Proverbs 22:29). However, if our goal is to be honored among men and not pleasing to Him we can know that we stand in direct opposition to God’s goal for our lives. And that’s not good.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Quiet Time: Choose the Long View

Choose the Long View
Read Hebrews 11:23-29

choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin – Hebrews 11:25

Our local power company used to own a rust colored rickety old eye-sore of a power-plant near the city. We half jokingly said that it was held together by duct tape and water-bond (a type of epoxy for patching holes in pipes). The long view of the plant was that it would eventually be removed and replaced by a newer more efficient one; so, there was a lot of patching going on. Sometimes the patches would fail and very costly emergency repairs became necessary.

Like water-bond, we sometimes try to relieve personal pains with quick fix solutions that only compound the issues, not because we have a long view of how life will be, but because we simply want relief for the moment. If we’re not careful, this can lead to a deep melancholy called depression.

Now, don’t freak out. The fact is that everyone deals with depression.

No, really, from time to time, we all struggle with the symptoms of depression due to external circumstances like the death of a loved one or a prolonged illness. Sometimes we get depressed in a very sneaky way through repressed anger. The good news is that most of us work through it eventually overcoming the gloomy funk. However, there are times that we choose short term fixes (alcohol, drugs, or extramarital affairs) to life’s pains, effectively compounding the problem and prolonging the misery. Point in fact, Doctors Minirth and Meier say, “A common precipitating cause of depression in many Christians is a wrong perspective.” We live as if all that is, is all there is; and, that’s just foolish.

Moses is a good example of a great life perspective. Although, he was at a point in his career where everything was coming together; he turned his back on all that this world had to offer (riches, extravagance, and power). The scripture says that he actually chose pain over passing pleasures because he had a long view that caused him to want God’s best for his life and the life of his people. Now, this isn’t to say that Moses didn’t suffer from a melancholy spirit at times. Just read about his leading the children of Israel through the desert and you’ll see that he was fully human and struggled mightily.

Perhaps we need to guard against “short-range perspectives that lead to short-range behavior patterns” [MM] since they only increase the potential for more pain and distress.

Here’s my long term perspective:
I want to walk where I am as if I’m where I’ll be; face to face with Jesus.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Quiet Time: The Green Eyed Monster

The Green Eyed Monster
Read: Galatians 5

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. – Galatians 5:25-26

I have a confession to make: sometimes I envy the mega churches in my area.

Every once in a while I’ll go to see one of their wonderful and impecably produced musicals or worship services and I’m just blown away. Everything comes off without a hitch. Crystaline sound reinforcements, immersive stage lighting with atmospheric enhancements, and flawless instrumental and vocal talent all come together for a seemingly effortless worship experience.  Now, I understand that I don’t really know all of the ends and outs of such a large ministry, but that doesn’t keep me from wishing that most of the churches with which I’ve  served had the resources both monitarily and talent wise that the mega churches accumulate; they are truly a sight to behold! Then I get a little befuddled as I wonder why they don’t feel the need to share some of their pools of under utilized talent with many of the great yet scantly resourced churches in their area.

Frankly, I’ve come to realize that this befuddlment, although it sounds right and prudent,  is part and partial to my envy. I want what they have; plain and simple. And, that, my friends, is wrong.

 Paul tells me that if I “live by the Spirit,” if what I believe is more than just an ideal, then I must “walk by the Spirit.” I must infuse the Spirit into every aspect of my life. His fruits should be evident at work, play, what I do, and what I say. Paul goes on to instruct me to not “boast, challenge, or envy”  other believers. Christians are saved individually to live individual lives. Comparing myself to other Christians is fruitless and harmful to further growth and does nothing to strengthen who I am in Christ.

So, now I’ve confessed to the world the fact that God is still working on me. I’ve got a long way to go toward maturity in Christ. Candidly, I still plan to build myself and any ministry God gives me to serve, to the top most level. This is right, for God wants our best not our better than. But, by God’s grace I will build with the Spirit, not inspite of. How about you?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quiet Time: No Limits?

No Limits?

Read: Galatians 5

On a good day, enjoy yourself;
On a bad day, examine your conscience.
God arranges for both kinds of days
So that we won't take anything for granted.
- Ecclesiastes 7:14 (The Message)

Limits are laced with disappointment.
Last December the ESPN/Red Bull "New Year. No Limits" event at which snowmobiler Levi LaVallee planned to break a world record by jumping over 301.5 feet of water was canceled after LaVallee crashed during practice. Fortunately, during testing, LaVallee did jump an astounding 361 feet, eclipsing the existing record by 60 feet. This jump was submitted for world record certification. [LaunchinLevi] So, I guess it’s safe to say that the new “No Limits” limit for snow mobile jumping is 361 feet and that Levi painfully experienced the disappointment of limits.

We all understand that life itself is limited. So, it comes as no shock that without self-control we often suffer the consequences of going over the limit; and that’s the rub. We don’t like limits because limits tell us that we can’t do whatever we want to do.

I’ve sat down with six figure corporate leaders, salt of the earth common folk, and wired for sound college students. All had adequate means to balance their budgets yet, practiced little self-control when it came to living within their limits. All ended up experiencing a monetary crisis. Often, as friends or family members, our first inclination is to bail them out or at least help them out in some way to get past the crisis. However, the plain and simple fact is that we will only postpone the inevitable (Proverbs 19:19). You see, no-one can experience the pain and disappointment of being limited for the one being limited just as one plant cannot grow for another plant.

OK, here’s the point: We are limited creatures who serve a limitless God. This limitless God has given each of us exactly what He wants us to have for the moment; a limited amount of time, talents, and treasures. When we live within the parameters of His principles we experience a sense of peace, contentment, and knowledge that we are indeed walking with Him as He leads (1 Corinthians 3:17).

Walking with God will limit where we go, as well as, how we get there. On the journey, we will undoubtedly be disappointed because we can’t do what we want to do when we want to do it. But, if we determine to be content with His presence the pain will soon give way to peace (1 Corinthians 15:58). We may even discover that living within limits is a privilege not a pain.

Live the life that’s in front of you
But don’t always do what you want to do
Learn from the ant which saved more than she spent
And had plenty the whole winter through – (Proverbs 6:6-8)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Quiet Time: Dream It - Do It

Dream it – Do it

It will be as when a hungry man dreams— And behold, he is eating; But when he awakens, his hunger is not satisfied, Or as when a thirsty man dreams— And behold, he is drinking, But when he awakens, behold, he is faint And his thirst is not quenched. Thus the multitude of all the nations will be who wage war against Mount Zion. – Isaiah 29:8

My wife and I recently visited Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Frankly, I usually try and avoid theme parks but Disney offered a deal to Florida residents that was hard refuse. I think one would be hard pressed after about an hour of walking around the picturesque avenues and shops not to see a prevalent quote displayed throughout the park by the founder, Walt Disney, “If you can dream it you can do it.”

That just sounds good doesn’t it? I mean, isn’t that exactly what we want to hear? After all, from the time we were old enough to comprehend ambition’s siren call we’ve been told, “You can do anything you put your mind to” and “There’s nothing you can’t do if you’ll just apply yourself.” And, of course there’s the spiritual version, “Name it, claim it, believe it; insert christianeze verb here ____, and you can have it!” But what if I name it and claim it, then apply myself, and finally put my whole heart and mind into something only to discover that I get exactly what I want, and in the getting I lose my grip on the cloak of Christ (Matthew 9:19-21)? Worse yet, what if I begin to treat my walk with antipathy rather than avidity in Christ?

I remember hearing another quote that really got my attention; “Satan will give you whatever it takes to keep you from following Jesus.” This does appear to a valid view in light of Christ and Satan’s conversation during the wilderness temptation (Luke 4:5-8). So how do I strive to be my best without becoming overly connected to, or ambitions for, the things of this world (1 John 2:15-17)?
How do I guard against covetousness without becoming complacent? Here’s my personal and I’m sure over simplified prescription:

1. Seek Christ first and foremost (2 Corinthians 5:15)
2. Reject selfish ambition (Philippians 2:2-4)
3. Be my best for Jesus (Colossians 3:23-24)

(Proverbs 22:29) seems to speak to the benefits of being our best in whatever God gives us to do without losing our spiritual integrity.

Dream it – do it…all for Jesus.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Quiet Time: He's Always Been Faithful

He’s Always Been Faithful

Read: Hebrews 13:4-6

being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU  
                                              – Hebrews 13:5

God is faithful even when we are faithless.

Have you ever doubted your faith in Christ? I have. Usually my doubt comes after something or someone has drawn my face away from Jesus. Before I know it, my focus is on stuff and circumstance instead of my Savior.

Fortunately for me, I’m a worship leader; therefore, I’m forced to redirect my view each day as I practice songs of praise and worship for the upcoming Sunday. Before I know it, my mind and soul are again looking for another tender moment with the Master. Like the old song says:

o Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

I like the old songs, but I like the new as well. There’s a new song by Sara Groves titled “He’s Always Been Faithful”. I asked my daughter to sing it for me tonight. I needed it. May-be you do too. So, I’ve attached a YouTube link with her singing it for me. I joined her on the old hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness”; I just couldn’t help it. Sing along if you want to and remember, Jesus is always faithful, even when we are faithless.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Quiet Time: New Song Blues

New Song Blues

Read: Psalm 33

Sing to Him a new song;
Play skillfully with a shout of joy.                        - Psalm 33:3

For the most part, people hate change (that goes for worship songs as well).
We love our old songs; after all, we know them and can sing them best. We feel good singing them, so why add another song? Don’t we have enough already? Well, I suppose we have plenty of songs to sing, and, yes, they really are good, but where would we be today without “Blessed Be Your Name”, “Give Thanks”, or “Desert Song”? How about “Our God Saves”, “You Are God Alone”, or “Shout to the Lord”? Obviously, these were all new songs at one time, yet today they’re a regular part of most song sets.

As a worship leader I’ve introduce many new songs to congregations throughout the body of Christ. Many were received and sung well, but just as many were held at arm’s length and responded to with skepticism and halfhearted effort. I’ve often wondered about the best way to present a new song and I’ve finally decided that there is no good way.

Although it is a fact that old songs actually were new once. The blushing truth is that these new-older songs often succumb to a blasé’ and ho-hum effort by a complacent worshipper. And, we've all been complacent at one time or other.

Perhaps that’s why the psalmist encourages us to sing and develop new songs regularly.

New songs require that we think before we sing (1 Corinthians 14:15) and that’s a good thing.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Song Series: Always

Read: Psalm 121

A Song of Ascents.

1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber - Psalm 121:1-3

We are always confident because God is always in control.

My son, Matt, recently struggled with a section in his algebra class. I could tell he was getting pretty discouraged and suggested he stop by the student center at the college to meet with a tutor. However, he wanted to try and figure it out himself. So, he decided to take a couple of hours from his part time job to work through it during an extended lunch break. Well, he did teach himself to do the math, and the victory was evident; not only in the fact that he could now work the problem but also in his attitude. He became confident and ready for the next challenge.

The psalmist certainly understood challenge and discouragement, but he also understood that his hope and help were eternally secure and immeasurably abundant in the Living God. Psalm 121 is part of the so called songs of steps or pilgrim songs (120-134) that were intended to be sung by worshipers as they made their way up to the temple in Jerusalem for the three great festivals. They were songs of encouragement and joy that reminded the worshiper where his strength and hope were found.

There will always be challenges, and like my son’s math problem, they may cause our confidence to wax cold. But, God is the same today as He was yesterday and He will not change. He is no less of a help, hope, joy, strength, and eternal encouragement today than he was for the old testament pilgrim. Therefore, we should work hard in overcoming adversity; after all, God allows it in our lives. However, we must remember from Whom our strength comes and keep ourselves secure in the fact that God will ALWAYS see us through

by Kristian Stanfill and Jason Ingram

O my God, He will not delay, my refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true,
My God will come through always, always..

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Song Series: Grace Greater Than Our Sin

Grace Greater Than Our Sin
Julia H. Johnston, 1849-1919

"But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5:20-21)

God's grace is not merely a sufficient grace; it is an abounding grace--"that you will abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8). His grace provides our eternal salvation as well as the enablement to know life more abundantly. It is available for our every problem and need.

Sometimes the argument is advanced that since God's grace covers all our sins, then we are free to live as we please. God's grace does provide for our freedom, but it is meant to free us from a slavery to our selfish, sinful nature in order that we might pursue "every good work"--to become all that God intends us to be.

Julia Johnston was for many years involved in the work of Sunday schools at the First Presbyterian Church of Peoria, Illinois, and as a writer of lesson materials for primary age children for the David C. Cook Publishing Company. She also wrote approximately 500 hymn texts. The composer of this hymn, Daniel B. Towner, was for many years the director of the music department at Moody Bible Institute. "Grace Greater Than Our Sin" first appeared in Towner's compilation, Hymns Tried and True, 1911.

Grace Greater Than Our Sin
Julia H. Johnston, 1849-1919

"Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured--there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
"Sin and despair, like the seawaves cold, threaten the soul with infinite loss; grace that is greater--yes, grace untold--points to the Refuge, the mighty Cross.
"Dark is the stain that we cannot hide; what can avail to wash it away? Look! there is flowing a crimson tide--whiter than snow you may be today.
"Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, freely bestowed on all who believe! You that are longing to see His face, will you this moment His grace receive?
"Chorus: Grace, grace, God's grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within; grace, grace, God's grace, grace that is greater than all our sin!"

What does the term "grace" mean to your life? Try to define it in your own words. Discuss your insights with another. (Osbeck)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Song Series: Happy Am I

Happy Am I

Read: Hebrews 13:1-6

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”        – Hebrews 13:6

I have such fond memories of what some ministries used to call “Children’s Church”. For those of you who’ve not heard of this concept; basically, it was a church service for grade school age kids. We had our own children’s pastor, bible games, flannel graph story times (as close as we got to high tech) and of course, music. Now that I think of it, we even had our own child led worship team.

Basically, it consisted of a trio of us boys who figured out how to sing in harmony. We got pretty good at it and were invited to sing a little ditty called “Do Lord” for the adults in the “Big Church” service. Stevie, Billy, and I stood around a single microphone accompanied by Bob and Avis Swartz on organ and grand-piano respectively. What a hoot! But, singing aside, I think we kids really did learn a lot about Jesus through these kid-centric times together.

We understood that our happiness wasn’t found in hitting a ball better than Bobby or getting better grades than Greg. Our joy wasn’t dependant on being better than anybody or anything at all; joy was found in walking with Jesus. After all, we grew up intimately knowing missionaries, like the Bells, who had very little money but a whole lot of happiness, even after spending three decades in a foreign land. We saw that walking with Christ costs something, yet also observed how the dividends far outweighed the sacrifice. I guess, as kids, we just accepted what the bible had to say as fact; and that was that. Not a bad way to live, actually.

Songs, flannel graphs, and walking talking examples encouraged us to believe that Jesus was enough, so as kids, we believed. Like one of our favorite children’s church songs simply stated, “Happy am I, Jesus is mine forever”.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that Jesus will never leave me nor forsake me. He was enough then and He’s enough now, even when I begin to worry about “Big Church” people stuff.

Happy Am I

Happy am I: Jesus is Mine Forever,
Never to leave: always in each endeavor,
Leading me on - in a life ending never.
Giving a smile, every mile, - happy am I.

Happy am I: all of my sins forgiven,
What a great day: Life is now worth the living!
One of these days, I'll be enjoying heaven,
Now that I know, upward I'll go - happy am I.

Happy am I! How can I help but shout it?
Every day - telling the world about it;
Jesus is real - only believe, don't doubt it.
Then you will be happy like me; happy am I.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Quiet Time: One Voice

One Voice

READ: 2 Chronicles 5:1-14

in unison when the trumpeters and the singers were to make themselves heard with one voice to praise and to glorify the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice accompanied by trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and when they praised the LORD saying, “He indeed is good for His loving-kindness is everlasting,” then the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, - 2 Chronicles 5:13 (NASB)

Unity is powerful. That’s why I think, musically, unison can also be powerful.

In this passage referring to the dedication of Solomon’s temple we see the instrumentalists and vocalist getting the attention of everyone in attendance by singing and playing one line of song in unison. However, the message was also heard in the heavenlies, and it was visibly received loud and clear by the Levite’s audience of One, as God amened His approval by filling the temple with His presence just as He did in Moses day. What more could a musician ask for than to be in the presence of his master.

Oh, that the church in unison would proclaim with one voice, "Yes! God is good! His loyal love goes on forever!" (MSG)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Quiet Time: Meet the Band

Meet the Band
Read: 1 Chronicles 16:1-7

He appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, even to celebrate and to thank and praise the LORD God of Israel: - 1 Chronicles 16:4

Just about every live concert has a “meet the band” break somewhere near the end of their program where each member of the group is introduced to the audience. Church worship bands don’t normally take the time to do this on Sunday mornings for obvious reasons But, I don’t think it hurts to introduce them to the congregation from time to time. It may even be a good idea to place a personal bio for each of them in the bulletin once in a while, or, at the very least, give them a spot on the church web site.

The Holy Spirit seems to think it’s important to know the names of the musicians who played in Old Testament times. He’s very specific; almost like He’s giving us a “meet the band” break in the middle of the action.

Here are just a few of the guys who served in the Davidic tabernacle, as well as, who marched along with the arc of the covenant as it was paraded back to Jerusalem from Obed-edom’s house with songs of joy:
Asaph (collector) Music Director, vocalist, played the lyre, harp, and loud cymbals.
Benaiah (Yahweh has built) played trumpet, was an army commander (1 Chr. 27:5), killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day! (1 Chr. 11:22)
Eliab (God is a father) played the harp tuned to alamoth or soprano harp and was a gate keeper
Heman (faithful) prophet, vocalist, who played both the lyre and the harp, as well as, the loud brass cymbals
Jahaziel (God Sees) a priest and trumpeter
Jehiel (God lives) played a harp tuned to alamoth
Jeiel (treasured of God) gate keeper to the sacred tent, played the lyre tuned to sheminith - probably a large 8 stringed harp tuned below the the soprano (alamoth) lyre.
Mattihiah (gift of Yahweh) played the lyre tuned to sheminith. was also a tabernacle gatekeeper
Obed-edom (Edom is serving) kept the arc of the covenant at his house for three months before it was brought to Jerusalem, was gatekeeper for the arc in Jeruselem, also played both the harp and lyre
Shemiramoth (highest fame) played the soprano harp and was a gatekeeper
Zechariah (Yahweh remembered) priest, trumpeter, played the soprano harp and probably the 8 stringed harp as well.

Do you know your worship leaders by name? When was the last time you handed them a "Thank You" card or stopped to tell them how much you appreciate them? May I offer a suggestion? While you’re worshipping this Sunday, really listen to what each team member is doing. Then, find something specific in regard to their playing or singing to compliment and share your observation with them. Trust me, not only will you strengthen their spirit but you will revitalize their desire to serve.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Quiet Time: Raise Sounds of Joy

Raise Sounds of Joy

1 Chronicles 15:15-17

Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. -    1 Chronicles 15:16

When people want to celebrate, music is invariably involved. We use bands at ruckus football games and somber graduations. Orchestras fill the air with stringed music at weddings, as well as, coronations. And, if we can’t afford a full band or orchestra we hire DJs to mix soundtracks of music to fill the silence. Most of the secular gigs I’ve played have been in celebration of one event or another. Joy and music just seem to go hand in hand.

David knew how to celebrate. He put together the first traveling troubadours. Ok, ok, I know these guys were more than folk singers, but one thing’s certain, they were the best musicians in the kingdom. I mean look at the list of artist: Heman, Asaph, Ethan, basically first chair musicians, not to mention Zechariah, Ben (only three letters, are you kidding), Jaaziel, and all of their buddies including Chenaniah, the top notch director over the vocalists. We get the impression that David wanted everyone everywhere to know that something BIG was taking place; something no one wanted to miss, and it would be a time of incomparable joy and celebration of the presence and power of the living God.

Sometimes I think the church has lost its sense of celebration. Ernest thoughtful songs can help us contemplate the reverence and awesome holiness of God, but loud, festive, upbeat praise can really add a feeling of victory and power to our corporate worship time as well. Worship leaders can have a direct impact on whether or not a congregation is jubilant or dull, and of all the people everywhere, Christians have the most to get excited about.

So, break out the tambourines and high sounding cymbals. Celebrate the joy of your salvation!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quiet Time: You Never Arive

You Never Arive

Read: 1 Samuel 18:5-7

The women sang as they played, and said,
“Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands.” - 1 Samuel 18:5-7 (NASB)

As a teen, I remember winning several competitions as a bassist. After which I received invitations to work college performances, local bands, and a few Disney gigs. I made some decent money and it seemed as if everyone was patting me on the back. It felt good - really good - too good. In my eyes, I was, as the saying goes, “At the top of my game”. However, a personal instructor of mine saw the attitude change, as well as, the first flickers of pride. He took me aside, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You know Doug, you never arrive.” At first I didn’t know how to take his stern rebuke, but then it hit me; I wasn’t at the top of my game, I was still in training, and I’ve been in training ever since.

In 1 Samuel 18 we see that David went wherever Saul told him to go and did better than expected. He did so well that Saul made him one of his generals. Well, David was already popular with his peers, but his new position and the fact that he never lost in battle really made him famous. Even Saul’s household jumped on the D-train. Of course that’s when the trouble started. As is often the case with living legends, people began to get excited about his exploits and put together a hero’s welcome home parade. The young women actually created a song for the event, but the lyrics unintentionally put Saul down in front of his men, and from that moment on Saul was out to bring David down. Yet, you never see David acting proud or displaying an elitist attitude. David simply wanted to serve and bring God glory.

It’s easy to get prideful when we forget Who gave us our gifts and talents. It’s doubly hard when we lose sight of who we serve, but then again, it can be pretty difficult to humble ourselves when people are singing our praises.

So, let’s just sing His praises and give the glory all to God.

Proverbs 27:21
The Message (MSG)

The purity of silver and gold is tested
by putting them in the fire;
The purity of human hearts is tested
by giving them a little fame.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quiet Time: God With You

GOD With You

Read: 1 Samuel 16:17-19

Then one of the young men said, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is a skillful musician, a mighty man of valor, a warrior, one prudent in speech, and a handsome man; and the LORD is with him. – 1 Samuel 16:18

Teachers like to give out awards to encourage students when they perform well or show good character. Often they’ll give the kid a document, a button, or a bumper sticker stated his action or personal accomplishment. The teacher understands that the practice reinforces good behavior, and helps the student see a tangible return for his right behavior. He sees that someone respects the fact that he did good, and his peers see it too.

David was well known among the young adults of his day, but Saul didn’t know him…yet. They knew his family and where he lived. They liked the way he talked, fought, and stood up to bullies and bad guys, but most of all they liked his music. Of course it didn’t hurt either, that he was easy on the eyes. David, in a word, was popular with his peers. But check out the last thing the young reporter said to Saul, “the LORD is with him.”

“The LORD is with him”, what a thing to have someone say about you! Saul was suffering terrible terrors and miserable sleepless nights because the LORD had left him. (The Holy Spirit empowered people back in the Old Testament times to perform whatever service God had for them to do; like being a king over His people) But, can you imagine the impact of living a life so filled with the Spirit of God, that your popularity is couched not just in the fleeting fancies of beauty or talent, but in the fact that you are a man or woman of God. That God actually moves in you and through you in such a way that others sense and see Him?

Oh, that God would be so evident in our lives that people would see and glorify Him! (Matthew 5:16)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quiet Time: Be Diligent

Be Diligent
Read: Proverbs 12:23-25

The hand of the diligent will rule,
But the slack hand will be put to forced labor. - Proverbs 12:24

Diligence is needed in ministry, as well as, vocation. Be constant, attentive, and persistent and your skills will increase to the point that you may even find yourself the expert and leader in the field (Proverbs 22:29).

[dil-i-juhnt] adjective
1. constant in effort to accomplish something; attentive and persistent in doing anything

If you're tired of being told what to do; do it before you're told.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Quiet Time: Check Yourself Out

Check Yourself Out

Read: 1 Thessalonians 5:22-24

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
 – 1 Thessalonians 5:23

I like the way one pastor reminds us to stay strong in our walk with Jesus. He says, “God’s effectiveness through our lives is enhanced or hindered by the way we live.” - Joe Stowell.

He got me to thinking about my walk this week. This caused me to do a personal inventory that I thought I’d share. May-be it’ll help you too.

Saturday is a good day to look back over our week and see where we walked well with Jesus and where we walked away from Him. Some questions we may ask ourselves are:

1. Did I surrender to God’s sanctification (setting me apart)?

2. Was my spirit, the part of me that communes with God, strengthened?
a. Did I have a daily quiet time?
b. Did a certain scripture stand out?
c. Did I meditate and memorize it?
d. Did I abstain from evil?

3. Was my soul (mind, will, emotions) edified or did I take in stuff that hurts my walk with Christ?
a. Did I learn something new this week?
b. Did I turn away from that which would corrupt my mind?
c. Did I do what should be done, not just what could be done?
d. Did I connect with someone through empathizing?

4. Was my body strengthened and brought into submission?
a. Did I exercise?
b. Did I moderate my intake?
c. Did I get proper rest?

I pray these questions help us prepare for worship tomorrow, that worship prepares us for the work ahead, and that our work ahead is pleasing and glorifying to God.

P.S. if you think of some other questions that might help, please share them.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Quiet Time: Don't Be Fooled Into Fearing

Don't Be Fooled Into Fearing

Nehemiah 6:10-14

He was hired for this reason, that I might become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report in order that they could reproach me – Nehemiah 6:13

Don’t let evil frighten you from doing good.

There’s a YouTube video of a huge bull mastiff dog being frightened by a little radio controlled mouse. It’s hilarious to watch this big gal lute dancing and prancing to avoid the bogus rodent when he could simply eliminate the supposed threat with a single chomp. You might say he was scared into being that which he was not.

Shemaiah wanted to bring the Hebrew’s new leader, Nehemiah, down. So Shem acted like God told him to tell Governor Nehemiah to hide in the temple and said that men were coming to kill him. However, Nehemiah wasn’t so easily fooled. He had a job to do; a holy calling on his life to lead God’s people and he wasn’t about to let his enemies dishearten him or discourage the people in the process. He knew who he was and from Whom his strength came. Nehemiah would rather die  than cower in self preservation. So, the work on Jerusalem’s wall progressed and the tide was turned. Instead of Nehemiah and his fellow Israelites becoming frightened the nations surrounding them saw what the Hebrews had accomplished and lost their confidence. They recognized that this work had been completed with the help of God (Nehemiah 6:16).

You know, there something pretty interesting in the YouTube video that I bet most people over look. There’s another dog in the picture. He’s acting as if the toy mouse doesn’t exist and almost looks amused by the mastiff’s goofy actions. The ruse has absolutely no affect on him. I guess the other dog just couldn’t be fooled into fearing.

Fear should never stop God's people from doing good.

“Holy courage and magnanimity will engage us, whatever it cost us, never to decline a good work, nor ever to do a bad one.” – Matthew Henry’s Commentary

Here’s the link to the video:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Quiet Time: Soul Singing

Soul Singing

Read: Psalm 42:6-9

The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;
And His song will be with me in the night,
A prayer to the God of my life. – Psalm 42:8

Could it be that one reason God created music was to give man a language that speaks straight from the heart?

“The music reminded us that there is always beauty to be found in life – even amid the ashes,” said Ernest Gordon, author of Through the Valley of the Kwai. He was recounting the night a sick party of emaciated and jungle rot ridden men were marched into the camp where he was imprisoned. As they stumbled toward the cookhouse for a bowl of rice, the men heard the makeshift orchestra from Gordon’s prison camp playing Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. This stopped the haggard troop in its tracks. Ernest continues, “While they listened, faces came to life… I thought to myself, ‘Aren’t there two kinds of food – one for the body and one for the soul?"

I vividly remember a time of personal struggle and turmoil as a teenager that often woke me up in the middle of the night. My parents, as leaders, had a key to our church which was located just a block from our house. Unbeknownst to them, I would often slip out of the house and into the sanctuary during the early morning hours. I left all of the church lights off except for the one over the piano. In that cavernous darkness, illuminated by a single lamp, I sang my prayers to God. You know, I can’t remember a time that I felt more intimate in my walk with Christ. In a small way, I think I can relate to Psalm 42.

The Psalmist understood the pain and pressures of life. He knew what it was like to be persecuted for his faith and overcome by sorrow (Psalm 42:6). It was as if his problems were conspiring to crash upon him as a tumultuous storm (Psalm 42:7). Yet, in the midst of the tempest he finds strength and confidence in the Lord his deliverer and lifts up a prayer of praise (Psalm 42:8). Oh, and by the way, the Psalmist wasn’t afraid to ask God, “Why” (Psalm 42:9).

Music helps voice the hurts of the heart. May I suggest, if you’re a musician or vocalist, why not try developing a prayer song during your next devotional time with God. But then again, aren’t the arts for everyone; therefore, anyone can put prayer/praise into practice.

After all, prayer is simply the soul’s song, so, sing it out.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Song Series: Healing Rain

Healing Rain (No More Anemia)
Read: Psalm 51

Make me to hear joy and gladness,
Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. – Psalm 51:8

“I believe that when you genuinely call upon the presence of God and that when the power of God falls; you can’t help but be changed.” – Michael W. Smith speaking about his new song “Healing Rain”.

During my wife, Des’, first pregnancy she became severely anemic. The doctor recommended that she eat iron rich foods and get plenty of rest. That’s how I discovered my talent for cooking, or at least for cooking beans, greens, and other bulk dishes. I even came up with a robust whole grain loaf that I dubbed “Energy Bread”. It consisted of whole grains, of course, but then I added molasses, honey, sourgum, and sometimes dried spinach. The thing weighed in at a whopping two pounds or more per loaf and looked like a dark brown brick. But, you know what? All that “power cooking” worked! Within a few weeks my wife was back to her old energetic self and the anemia was beaten for the remaining months of pregnancy.

I hear people say that the church is anemic. I’m not sure what exactly they mean by that but I’d guess it has something to do with a lack of power or relevance. If this is indeed the case, may-be all we need is a little spiritual power cooking. We could all start with some good old fashioned prayer with fasting (Daniel 9:3) crying out to God for renewal and a fresh sense of His presence in our lives (Psalm 69:32; Psalm 85:6). Then, when the power of God falls upon us we will, no doubt become convicted of our sins and return to Him lifting holy hands (1 Timothy 2:8) in reverence and awe. Finally, with our anemia gone, we will experience the presence of God and be effective and infectious followers of Christ (Psalm 51:10-13).

LORD, heal me!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Quiet Time: Captain America Wants You

Captain America Wants You

Read: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:10

“The weak understand the value of strength (dramatic pause)…and compassion” – Dr. Abraham Erskine.

My son, Matthew, and I just saw the new action movie, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER. The flick tells the origin of Marvel’s first super-hero and the beginnings of his battles against Red Skull, the ruthless head of a rogue German military outfit trying to take over the world. Here’s a link to a terrific movie revewer:

In the movie, the good Dr. Abraham Erskine tells the impuissant Steve Rogers, who will soon become Captain America that he was chosen specifically for his weakness, a scrawny body. But the doctor felt the thing that actually qualified Steve was his particular strength, a selfless character. My mind immediately went to the bible verse that reads “strength is perfected in weakness”.

Later that evening, I pondered that scripture passage as I lay in bed. Flashbacks of my childhood began to play in my mind. I remembered being the youngest, smallest, and least athletic boy in my neighborhood. So, I know what it feels like to be picked last for team sports, as well as, targeted by the bigger boys as an easy mark for a thrashing. Unlike Captain America, I didn’t keep getting up after being knocked down. Of course, I did eventually become older, bigger, and more athletic. The beatings stopped and I got to choose my own team from time to time. Although, I never forgot the feeling of weakness.

The apostle Paul said, that he took his limitations in stride and with good cheer (2 Cor. 12:10). I’ve gotta say that I’m not there yet. I want to be brave, strong, even heroic in the face of danger, but honestly, I hate conflict. And when I feel weak, well, I just feel weak; and, you know what, I don’t think I’m alone. However, since the Holy Spirit directed Paul to tell me that strength is perfected in weakness, I know it’s true and that God will perfect His strength in me, and you too.

We may not know all there is to know about being strong in Christ, but we who’ve experienced weakness certainly understand the benefits of strength…and compassion motivates us to press on. So, let’s press in to Him and press on toward the prize (Philippians 3:14).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Quiet Time: Just Say No

Just Say No

Read: 1 Corinthians 9:19-27

but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
 - 1 Corinthians 9:27

Back in the 80s there was an anti-drug use campaign that used the slogan “Just Say No”. According to government statistics it was, for the most part, a failure. "Effective resistance strategies go beyond repeating simplistic slogans at kids,'" says Michael Hecht, professor of communication at Penn State. However, it’s hard to argue the catchiness of the catch phrase; even the illicit drug culture used it as a wry joke. But, learning to just say, “No”, isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Christ followers to practice. As a matter of fact, the apostle Paul seemed to practice saying it quite regularly.

Paul sacrificed self-will and practiced saying no to his fleshly desires, not because they were bad per se’, but because he considered himself a spiritual athlete who was competing as an example to others. He reminded himself daily that there’s nothing wrong with, “No”. He said that he disciplined (literally “bruised”) his body and made it his slave.

It looks to me like too many of us have become slaves of passion. If we want it, we get it, and we get it a lot! So, we suffer from weight gain, alcoholism, and frivolous living. If we don't start telling ourselves, "no" more often, we may become a less creditable witness for Christ. I wonder if we’d grow spiritually, if we began to stand up to our desires and simply said, “No”?

“No” may not get me what I want, but it will probably give me what I need; self control.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Song Series: Bed Head (Living For Jesus)

No Bed Head for Me

Read: 1 Samuel 21:10-15

"Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this one to act the madman in my presence? Shall this one come into my house?" – 1 Samuel 21:15

God can make the most of a bad situation even if we’re the one who creates it.

All of us at one time or another have woken up from a fitful night's rest with the dreaded "bed head". Hairs pointing in every direction with strands popping up precariously making us look like an over-done  Alfalfa from the old Little Rascals. What used to be a morning malady is now an acceptable fashion statement. But, you know, I just don't think it works for me. Kind of like the "day old beard" look that was in a couple of years ago. When I let my whiskers grow or my hairs go unkempt it makes me look like a vagrant; not quite the look I was going for.

David was a mighty man of God; a hero we can all look up to, but there was time that he looked anything but heroic. 1 Samuel records David’s close call in his enemy’s city. He walked into Goliath’s hometown with Goliath’s sword on his hip hoping that no one would notice him. To the contrary, not only did people recognize him as the warrior Hebrew girls sang about (1 Samuel 18:6-7), but they also seemed to understand Dave’s destiny better than he did (1 Samuel 21:11-12). So, the people took him captive (Psalm 56:1) and brought him before king Achish. David saw the trouble he was in and feigned madness; scratching the floor like an animal with spit running down his chin. Achish took one look and let him go. David was neither mighty nor kingly at that moment, but he was free and very humbled, which is a great place to be in renewing a walk with the Lord. (For further study check out Psalm 34 & 56)

I suppose that changing our appearance to look more presentable isn’t necessarily a bad thing; however, trusting in looks to garner acceptance is a very slippery slope. Truthfully, this type of behavior is fear based and there’s a fine line between seeking God’s approval verses man’s (John 12:42-44). Therefore, if we find ourselves in a tough spot let’s be encouraged to be who we are, mighty men and women of God and leave the theatrics to thespians.

By Thomas Obediah Chisholm

Living for Jesus a life that is true,
Striving to please Him in all that I do;
Yielding allegiance, glad hearted and free,
This is the pathway of blessing for me.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Quiet Time: Looks Good to Me

Looks Good to Me

Read: Jeremiah 5:21-29

Therefore they have become great and rich. 28 ‘They are fat, they are sleek, They also excel in deeds of wickedness; They do not plead the cause, The cause of the orphan, that they may prosper;
And they do not defend the rights of the poor.
- Jeremiah 5:27-28

We are easily deceived.

In a social behavior study a man dressed like a bum and asked people for change to make a phone call. No one gave him a dime; literally. To the contrary, most gave him a sour look as they hissed sardonically, "Get a job." Then, this same guy dressed up like a business man. You know, coat, tie, brief case, and all that, and asked passers-by for change; however, this time most people were happy to oblige and often gave him more than he needed. So, what made the difference? Appearance; obviously. Sometimes people fool us and sometimes we fool people, but no-one ever fools God. I suppose, more often than not, we tend to go by what we see not what we know.

Jeremiah was surrounded by people who looked good outwardly yet whose hearts were steadily spiraling downward to wickedness. God, true to His name, Faithful, was pointing out their awful state so that they would repent and return to Him. The leaders, priests, prophets, and their hand-picked cronies were proclaiming and preaching lies; and, get this, the general population loved it! Everybody seemed to be patting the popular guys on the back saying, “Keep it coming man; keep it coming!” Yet, all around them, widows, orphans, and others living life in the shadows were starving both physically and spiritually. No one gave them a second glance, some even took advantage of them, and I’d wager that if the phrase existed back then, a few spat caustically, “Get a job!”

I get tripped up from time to time by leaders who talk well and pander to the crowd. Frankly, some of what they say is true, but most of it is fluff and feel good rhetoric. So, they fool me into listening for a time, but then God calls me close to His side and says, “Child, stop looking at the glitz and come to where I’m working. It may not be sensational but it will always be satisfying.”

Perhaps we would do well to remember that God will right the wrongs and to not be deceived into thinking He isn't in control (Galatians 6:7).

May-be a good goal for us is to simply walk with Him and be wise (Matthew 10:16) because it is so easy to be deceived.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Quiet Time: Effective Faith

Effective Faith

Read: Philemon 1:4-7

I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake. - Philemon 1:6

Many of you  know that last year, I joined the staff of new church launch in Valrico. We are growing steadily and that's always encouraging, but the thing that really tweeks my knobs is how we are reaching people one on one. Men and women often come to our little fellowship and listen for several months before making a decision for Christ. However, when they finally take the plunge, they're all in and eager to learn and serve. I like that, but I want more.

I want each one of us to become effective as a body of believers, a team, and a family. Pastor Daniel and I are on the same page with this. Like many of you  we don't want to play church we want to be the church, in love and knowledge to the glory of God. To do this, we as a body of believers will need to grow more intement with Jesus, more in love with each other, and more surrendered to His will.

Please pray that God would help us to be effective as a body of believers, and if you let me know your congregation's name, I'll do the same for you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Song Series: The Greatness of Our God

The Greatness of Our God

Read: 2 Corinthians 4:6-8

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;
 - 2 Corinthians 4:7

A month to live. What would you do?

Keith is the worship arts pastor at Woodland Baptist in Bradenton. I don’t really know him, his name popped up in my e-mail this morning as someone who needs our prayers. Now, I’m not trying to bum you out, because neither Keith, his wife, nor his kids seemed crushed by this recent news. To the contrary, Keith is fully engaged in the life of his family, as well as, his church. However, what really caught my attention was the line in his recent update that reads, “Keith has been busy planning his funeral.” Planning his funeral, are you kidding me? Keith’s wife finishes the paragraph by writing, “I have to tell you that God's peace has surrounded us every step of the way. Week before last especially I felt closer to God than I have in my entire life.”

I think that we Christians sometimes take our walk with Christ and the accompanying peace for granted. Perhaps we’ve been saved so long that the presence of Christ has become mundane and blasé; nothing more than just another part of our personality. Then, one day, we are confronted with life’s frailty and we remember that God is real and is above it all giving us grace to see beyond the moment here. 

I’m sorry for Brother Keith’s battle with cancer. I hate what disease does to us physically, but I’m so glad for what it brings out in us spiritually. Sure, I’m praying for a miracle, but it seems a miracle has already occurred. Keith is getting ready to go home; his real home. Neither life nor death has power over him because he is walking in the presence of His Lord.

Keith’s wife asks that we agree with her in prayer. She says, “We are praying for God's grace and mercy. We are praying that Keith's mind will stay clear until the end.” Amen, Lord Jesus, make it so.

The Greatness Of Our God
Authors: Jason Ingram
Reuben Morgan
Stuart David Garrard

Verse 1
Give me eyes to see more of who You are
May what I behold still my anxious heart
Take what I have known and break it all apart
You my God are greater still

Chorus 1
And no sky contains
No doubt restrains all You are
The greatness of our God
I spend my life to know
And I'm far from close to all You are
The greatness of our God

Verse 2
Give me grace to see beyond this moment here
To believe that there is nothing left to fear
And that You alone are high above it all
You my God are greater still

And there is nothing that could ever separate us
There is nothing that could ever separate us
From Your love
No life no death of this I am convinced
That You my God are greater still


Friday, July 8, 2011

Song Series: Stand Up For Jesus (Heroes Don't Duck)

Stand Up Stand Up For Jesus
(Heroes Don’t Duck)

Read: Acts 7-8

55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” – Acts 7:55-56

David (not his real name), my neighbor’s son, is a real “stand up guy”. He recently returned from a military tour in Afghanistan. The happy go lucky youth who left us is now a serious and somewhat somber young man. The details are sketchy, but the account of what happened to David begins with a preverbal last stand. There was an enemy attempt to overrun his platoon’s position and David single handedly removed the threat while taking six bullets, as well as, shrapnel from his own grenade due to the close in fighting. You see, David’s a really big guy, which makes him a really big target, so by standing up he drew the fire away from the trapped troops long enough to allow a safe retreat. Men’s lives were saved because a hero didn’t duck. As one man commented, “It just aint in em.”

Stephen was a hero of The Faith. He was one of the first deacons selected by the early church (Acts 6:5) and became a true example of servant leadership. He was a man’s man, full of power, and like the apostles, performed signs and wonders (Acts 6:8). But, being a stand up guy also made him a target (Acts 6:9). Stephen’s end came at the hands of wicked men who had no argument other than their own selfish ambitions and religious traditions (Acts 7:58-60); however, where Stephen’s life ended new life for many began as the Gospel spread from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and beyond (Acts 8:1-3). Stephen didn’t duck.

I, like many of you, have been teased, poked, and prodded for standing on the scriptures and the truth of the Gospel. We’ve been tempted to just fit in and not make waves. Sometimes we’ve hidden our faith within when we should’ve headed out. The fact is, walking with Jesus, in essence, requires standing up, and standing up can make us a target. Targets get shot but targets, like heroes, aren’t designed to duck. “It just aint in em.”

Stand Up Stand Up For Jesus
By George Duffield Jr.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the trumpet call obey;
Forth to the mighty conflict, in this His glorious day.
Ye that are brave now serve Him against unnumbered foes;
Let courage rise with danger, and strength to strength oppose.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Song Series: Glorious Is Our God

Glorious Is Our God

Read: Colossians 1:24-29

to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory – Colossians 1:27

We have one hope and one message; plain, simple, and POWERFUL!
We preach Christ and Christ alone; no more no less. He is the beginning and end to our salvation and the very hope of eternity. Regardless of where we came from, our standing in society, or our sometimes sordid and wasted past we who believe in Jesus have been given Christ. He lives in us and compels us to share the good news with everyone everywhere. What is the good news? Christ in us the hope of glory, and He can be Christ in you the hope of glory! “We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less.”The Message

We work hard “in the energy God gives us”, at taking this message to our family, friends, neighbors, and beyond because we know that He wants everyone to come to repentance and be forgiven forever. We use our gifts, talents, and treasures to sing, play, and pay for the Gospel to be preached in full recognition that God will move in as we move out. So let’s move out, sharing the hope filled message that Jesus and Jesus alone has the power to bring us into God’s glorious presence to the praise of His glory and grace!

Glorious Is Our God
by Richard Knott

Glorious, glorious
Glorious is our God.
Glorious, alive in us,
Glorious is our God, is our God.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Song Series: A Hero to Believe In (Strong and Mighty Tower)

 A Hero to Believe In
Strong and Mighty Tower

Read: Psalm 18:1-3

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. - Psalm 18:2 (NASB)

My wife and I recently saw the new Transformers movie, “Dark Side of the Moon”. It’s a fun action packed flick that shouldn’t be taken seriously for anything other than shear entertainment. What I love about these science fiction CG extravaganzas is how the super hero always seems to find himself beat down and out of the fight. Then, by some miracle of hidden strength and indomitable courage he rises to ultimate victory over his foe in a flash of fury, forcefulness, and fire. He is after all, THE CHAMPION! But, I found myself chuckling at the end of the movie, because the audience applauded! I mean, they actually clapped in response to the movie’s climactic ending. Why? It’s not real. But, I guess everyone wants a hero to believe in.

God wants to be our hero. When life seems all but lost, He wants us to know that He will win the day. Evil may seem to advance its dark cause, but God is greater and no one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:29). God never rises from a position of defeat. He always stands in victory over His foes (Revelation 15:3-4). We can trust Him and take Him at His word.

Having a hero who never finds himself down and out may not be the best ingredient for fictional entertainment. However, our Hero, God, The Rock, and our Refuge is a Stronghold we can all believe in. He is and always will be, THE CHAMPION!

YOUR NAME by Paul Baloche

Your Name is a strong and mighty tower

Your Name is a shelter like no other

Your Name let the nations sing it louder

'Cause nothing has the power to save

But Your Name