When Jesus was on earth, he did many great and mighty miracles. On more than one occasion, he even confronted the powers of darkness head-on. In the scripture, we are given accounts of Jesus rescuing people from literal possession by evil spirits. He was God in flesh, and that was no problem for Him.
One familiar story is the man who lived among the tombs in the country of the Gadarenes (Mark 5). We’re told the man was too strong to be bound with chains, and that no one could tame him. He cried day and night, and he cut himself with stones. What a miserable existence!
But when he encountered Jesus, his life was instantly transformed. Jesus commanded the devils to leave the man, and they had to obey.
A part of the story that sticks out to me is found in verses 18 and 19.
“And when he (Jesus) was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.”
The account of the story in Luke is worded this way:
“Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee…” Luke 8:38,39a
As an aside, I enjoy seeing how the gospel accounts differ in language, yet do not contradict one another. These corroborating versions from different sources give us even more confidence in the accuracy of the scripture.
This man whom Jesus rescued from horrifying circumstances, asked Jesus for one more thing: just to be with him. There weren’t any conditions around the request. The man didn’t ask where Jesus was going or where He might be staying. It didn’t matter; he simply wanted to stay near him.
I can’t help but wonder if there was fear in the man’s heart that the demons would return and try to possess him again, and he wanted Jesus nearby for protection. Or maybe the request was solely a response of adoration for the one who had redeemed him.
Either way, he was wise in wanting to stay with Jesus. Where is there a better place to be? But Jesus denied his request. He told him he must go home and tell others what had happened to him. Jesus sent him away, with a mission. I wonder how many people learned about the Messiah through the testimony of this man.
We too were bound by the devil. Our spirits, like the poor man in our passage, could not be tamed by anyone. No matter how good we may have seemed from the outside, before Christ, we were possessed by our sin. But then Jesus arrived, and now we’ve been transformed. He delivered us from the powers of darkness.
The application of our story is probably obvious. Jesus has done a great thing for us, and though we may be tempted to just bask in our redemption, we are compelled to go and tell what He has done.
He had compassion on all of us, and gave his life so that we can have fullness of life here and eternity with Him. That’s worth sharing. I used to struggle with depression and anxiety. Now I don’t. I believe God healed me, and I think that is something people should know, so they understand that there is hope. That's something I need to "go tell".
Fortunately, when we “go tell”, it is different than it was for “the man out of whom the devils departed”. Jesus goes with us. We don’t have to leave him behind in order to share the story of his great compassion with others. May God make us bold to tell “how great things the Lord hath done”.
This point of writing this article is partly stress-relief, but, hopefully, it will also serve as light-hearted absolution and encouragement for anyone else who is in my shoes right now.
So...here's my list!
1. Let yourself be a little crazy.
Cut yourself some slack, and know that this season of life won't last forever. Maybe someday, you’ll become a successful author and won’t need the nine-to-five job to pay the bills. That, or your spirit will be crushed from the struggle and you’ll go back to “only” working full-time, raising children, and managing a household. For now, if you forget a birthday party your child was invited to, it's okay. In six months, they won’t even remember. If you forget to pack a child’s lunch and have to leave work to take them something from a drive-through, it's okay. They will be thrilled to have nuggets and fries instead of a Lunchable. And if you call your spouse by the name of your story's protagonist, it's okay. They probably weren’t even listening anyway since they have gotten so used to you being buried in your laptop screen instead of engaging them. It's okay to be a little crazy right now.
2. Hire a maid.
If you have to, break open the piggy bank (yours or your kids’) and pay someone to rescue your family from the disaster area your home has become since you started the undertaking of writing and publishing a book. There is no shame in this. It’s completely understandable that every time you start to fill the dishwasher you think of a great piece of dialogue and have to leave the dishes floating in milk from that morning’s cereal so you can write before the thought is gone. It’s understandable that you want to spend the only free hour you have after the kids are asleep writing, instead of scrubbing cat puke stains out of the carpet. It’s okay. A maid service every other a week will do wonders.
3. Don't sleep.
This is an acquired skill. And if you are able to attain it, you might be able to skip Step 2 and use some of your unnatural awake-time to actually clean your house, or fill out those field trip permission slips and book order forms, in addition to editing your manuscript. But more than likely, your hands will be on the keyboard anyway, right up until the moment you fall asleep and start drooling on the space bar.
4. Have a really great spouse who doesn't mind if you're a little crazy and the house is a mess.
Having a supportive husband or wife is a huge benefit for aspiring authors. If yours isn’t supportive, I’m not suggesting you trade them in for one who is. But if you do have one, let them know how invaluable their support is, and they will likely continue giving it, even when the level of crazy spikes and they’ve had to empty the dishwasher the last five times in a row.
5. Pray. Often.
This one is a serious one. Pray to make sure this dream that you feel God has put in your spirit is really from Him. Then pray for endurance to reach the goal. Pray for wisdom and guidance, to find the right agent and the right publisher. Pray for an audience for your book. Pray for your spouse, that they continue to overlook the crazy. Pray for your family to thrive, even in the midst of chaos.
6. Read your writing to your children.
Share your work with your kids. Let them see you struggle over it. Let them watch you work hard, and share your successes with them. Teach them how to chase their dreams. This is part of your legacy for them- words that you’ve birthed into a story that will stay with them after you’re gone.
If you and I are in the same boat, I hope you found this list helpful! Please comment and share if you have some tips to add!
Venturing away from my devotional-style blog posts, this one is a bit more personal. I am writing this mainly to set up "Part II" of this post- a humorous article called "How To Be An Aspiring Author While Working a Full-time Day Job and Raising Small Children" (how's that for a title?). But I realized, in order for me to start writing articles about writing, I first need to explain to family and friends what I am doing.
While my blog is 95% my thoughts on scripture, it is also about life in general, and my life has been even crazier than normal lately. Back in July, "out of nowhere" (read, God works in mysterious ways) I had an idea for a story (see my Writing page) pop into my head. I started writing and couldn't stop until the story was complete and I had a novel (although at 42,000 words it is considered a short novel). Now, I am starting the journey of getting it published.
Announcing to the world that I am "trying" to get a book published is a scary thing, since there are so many unknowns. But I do believe I will publish it eventually. The question is, will God allow me to have it published traditionally or go through self-publication? I've stopped and started so many projects over the years, and I've had so many "passions" that fizzled out, it's daunting to broadcast this one. But I have a clearer vision now for my writing, and I have some specific goals in mind to help me not lose the fire on this one.
But can I just share with you a little bit of my crazy, blessed life right now?
I know there are plenty of people who are just as busy as we are, if not busier. But whew! Sometimes it feels like my head is spinning! And I am so incredibly happy to be on this journey! I feel like God is shaping and molding our lives, and we want His will to be done in everything! I am so very thankful for His leading, and I am thankful for the busy seasons in life!
Ecclesiastes 3:1: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
"For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (From 1 Samuel 16:7)
I wrote this short story for children three years ago. It's about not judging people by their outward appearance. Now, I'm pasting the entire store as a blog entry, in hopes of spreading the message. Go here to download: Children's Stories
Remy's New Friend
"What's that you say?" the man in the frumpy brown sweater asked curiously.
Remy turned around hesitantly. She hadn't meant for anyone to hear her mumbling. She stared blankly at the man until he asked again, "What did you say?"
Remy knew better than to talk to strangers. But her mother smiled and nodded at her from the corner of the bookstore to let her know it was okay. "I was just thinking out loud," Remy said.
"Oh, yes, yes. Very good. Thinking is important," replied the man. "But what did you say?" There was concern in the man's voice, but it was also very gentle. He had a nice smile, and he stood patiently waiting for the girl's answer as she inspected him.
The man had a funny accent. His pants were a bit too short, revealing mismatched socks, and he wore a big, furry sweater, although it was almost July. He had funny hair, parted too far over on one side, and a few pieces fell down into his eyes which were framed by thick, dark-rimmed glasses. But the eyes behind those glasses were remarkably kind-looking.
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" Ephesians 5:20
As we enter the month of November and near the holiday we call Thanksgiving, I am reminded that every day in the life of a Christian should be a day of thanksgiving.
The scripture says it very clearly in Ephesians 5:20. The verse answers three important questions about thankfulness: when, what, and to whom.
When do we give thanks? ALWAYS.
For what do we give thanks? ALL THINGS.
To whom do we give thanks? GOD.
Having an “attitude of gratitude” is not just a catch phrase. It’s not just a good idea, although it is. It is a commandment of scripture. We are to give thanks to God always, for everything.
There is a well-known story about the famous bible commentator Matthew Henry having his wallet stolen. While there’s debate about the accuracy of how Henry was quoted, the story is a good illustration either way. It’s said that after he was robbed, Henry thanked God in his diary for four things: that he had never been robbed before; that they took his wallet only and not his life; that he didn’t have much in his wallet to be stolen; and, that he was the one who was robbed and not the one robbing.
An attitude of thanksgiving helps us put any situation into the right perspective.
In Luke, we are given a great example of thankfulness to God in the beautiful story of ten lepers cleansed by Jesus. It’s a familiar story, and there is much we can analyze and learn from it. But focusing just on the idea of thankfulness, let’s look at what the one leper out of ten did to show thankfulness.
“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks…” (Luke 17:15-16)
First, he wasn’t quiet with his praise. He didn’t slip Jesus a note. He didn’t whisper his appreciation. He cried with a loud voice, glorifying God! Like this man, we should be willing to proclaim the goodness of God in a way that others can see and hear.
Secondly, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, with his face to the ground. This was a scene of complete humility. When we give thanks, it must be done with the attitude that God alone is worthy of thanks for every good thing, and it is nothing of ourselves.
Teaching on this passage, Charles Spurgeon said, “External religious exercises are easy enough, and common enough; but the internal matter, the drawing out of the heart in thankful love, how scarce a thing it is!”
My prayer, in this season of thankfulness and all the time, is that the “drawing out of the heart in thankful love” will not be a scarce thing in my life. I pray the Holy Spirit will prompt us all to live in a state of continual thanksgiving.
There are many verses in scripture that warn us NOT to look back. Jesus said in Luke 9:62, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." This reference to looking back means longing for an old lifestyle or a turning away from the calling of God. But looking back in the right way is a good thing!
If you need a dose of joy in your day, spend some time taking inventory of the blessings God has poured out. Look back over the course of your life and see where he has brought you from. We sometimes take for granted the way he keeps us from day to day, but if we look back over the span of several years it is mind-blowing and obvious what the Lord has worked.
I recently found myself reflecting on a conversation I had with my husband 13 or 14 years ago, before he and I started dating. We were just "work friends" then, and he was admittedly a non-believer. In conversation, I asked him if he was concerned about what would happen to him after death, to which he replied, "Not really."
This memory almost made me shout! Why? Because now this "work friend" is my husband who has been a believer for years, and he's now a minister telling other people about Jesus. Wow! Who but God can do that?
We need to remember where we came from, not lamenting for the "good old days" but praising God for leading us toward His purpose!
Read the words of Moses from Deuteronomy 6:10-12: "And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage."
He was saying: Don't forget where God brought you from! None of what you have is by your own hand! God did it!
I encourage you to take time to reflect today. What has God done that amazes you when you take a look back?
I saw pictures today that broke my heart, and immediately brought a certain verse of scripture to mind. The pictures were of people walking through flooded streets in Houston, Texas, in the devastating wake of Tropical Storm Harvey. The people in the images on the news look so helpless and desperate, overwhelmed by water.
I saw their faces, and I ached for their ordeal, and I prayed for their safety, and I thought, "Oh, if they could just get to higher ground!" I don't know much about the landscape of Houston. I think of Texas as being very flat. And with the water coming down so fast, it seems their only refuge would be an elevated place.
Many times in life, we feel flooded with trouble, much like the literal flood being experienced right now in Texas. It rains down on us and overtakes us, and we feel like we just need to get to a place of refuge.
King David certainly felt like this, when he wrote the psalm that says, "Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I." (Psalm 61:1,2) This is the verse that came to mind when I saw pictures of the flooding. There is a rock that is higher than all of us- a place of spiritual safety above the storms of life.
When we trust Him, God is our rock. Psalms 62:7 says, "In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God."
Rocks are solid, and they can provide stability. In the New Testament, Jesus compares those who follow his teaching to "a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock." (Matthew 7:24-25)
The Word of God provides a sure foundation for life. No matter what circumstances we may face, we can trust in the Bible to point us in the right direction and teach us how to endure trials.
I pray for the people in the path of the storms in Texas. I pray that God will provide physical safety and refuge. My hope for those overwhelmed by this terrible situation is that they will trust in Him as their Rock, that their hearts will be comforted by Him and He will give them courage.
It is often said that money is the root of all evil. Indeed the scriptures tell us (1 Timothy 6:10) that specifically the “love of money” is the root of all evil. But we understand there are many sins that have nothing to do with money, so we have to look at the verse in context.
“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Here we see money was the root of all the evils of those who coveted after it and allowed it to compromise the tenets of their faith.
There is, however, another portion of scripture in the New Testament that I believe provides us an explanation of the cause of ALL evil in the world. It seems too simple that there is a singular problem with mankind that causes us to sin, but I believe the first chapter of Romans does provide us with a powerful and concise explanation.
"Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen."
I underlined the parts of the passage I want to bring out as key points.
There is no such thing as an atheist. I find it hard to believe that anyone could look at the beauty and majesty of creation and arrive at the conclusion that it is all a serendipitous result of cosmic happenstance. We have the evidence of God the creator right in front of us, so there is no excuse for unbelief.
So, what is the cause of evil? Not glorifying God as God and not being thankful. (I suppose that really is two causes, but I believe they go together.) Along with that comes worshipping and serving the creature more than the Creator (which brings us back to the love of money- a “thing” that people have created and tried to elevate above God).
In this same chapter, verses 26 and 27 specifically address homosexuality; then verses 29-31 give us a list of some of the other problems in the world, all prompted by the failure to honor God as God- the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent Creator- and to be thankful for His perfect design: “fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful”.
It is easy to understand that sin is disobedience, but we disobey whenever we fail to recognize His creative power and His authority over all creation. I believe that much of the moral decline of our society can be attributed to the theory of evolution being widely embraced as scientific fact. People have bent and stretched the definition of science for the express purpose of denying the Creator.
Not honoring God as Creator is the starting point of sin for many, while others may espouse the idea of Intelligent Design and still fail to honor God as God in other areas by simply not following His divine instructions outlined for us in the Bible.
Now that we understand the cause of sin, at a base level, what is the antithesis of a sinful life? Romans 1 gives us the answer for that, too!
Verse 16 says: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." And verse 17 delivers the final answer: "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." (For further study, the last part of verse 17 is a reference to Habakkuk 2:4.)
How beautifully the Word of God fits together! It doesn't condemn and just point out all the weaknesses of man. It mercifully gives us instruction for how not to fail. The antithesis of a sinful life- one of wickedness, deceitfulness, envy, pride, etc.- is one of faith in Jesus and the redemption that comes from Him alone.
I’m sure there will be tons of devotional articles about the “Great American Eclipse”. On August 21, 2017, people in a 66-mile-wide path, stretching from Oregon to South Carolina, will be able to witness the sun be completely blocked from view by the moon, and the rest of the United States will experience a partial eclipse. Obviously, the eclipse is a big deal, and there are several spiritual applications that can be drawn from it. Here are my thoughts about this grandiose celestial event.
Darkness and Light are common spiritual themes. We know that Light is symbolic of goodness and God, and darkness is symbolic of evil and Satan. But, the analogy I draw from thinking about the eclipse doesn’t deal with the most obvious symbolism. When I think about the eclipse, I think about the massive, powerful sun being covered up, blocked out, at least from our line of sight. The sun is so big and powerful, yet it will be hidden from view.
Right now, especially, in our country and in our world, it feels like sin abounds- against God and against our fellow man. It’s easy to feel like the egregious acts of evil we witness daily are too rampant and too serious to be overcome. But the Bible clearly gives us the answer: “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)” This verse is a reference to Proverbs 10:12, which says: “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”
Love eclipses sin. Just as the sun will negate the effect of the sun during the eclipse, love can negate the power of sin in the world.
I’m thankful for the total spiritual eclipse that has taken place in the life of every believer. When a person repents of their sin and believes on Jesus as their Savior, the sins of the past are blocked out, never to be seen again by God.
Where I live, 95% of the sun will be covered by the moon during the solar eclipse. But, Jesus, who’s love is perfect, has covered up 100% of my sin. The Bible says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)” Not a little bit free. Not mostly free. Free, indeed.
Thank you, Lord, for my children and for the gift of summer vacation.
As this new school year begins, I pray for your blessings on them:
Lord, please give my children Christian teachers. Let the people who lead and teach them be led and taught by You.
Surround my children with kind and patient authority figures, who are also consistent and structured.
Lord, please help my children know and remember their identity in You. Help them understand how You see them .
Help my children have a healthy self-esteem throughout the school year. Let them be confident in how well You made them.
Lord, please put people in my children's paths that will encourage them, motivate them, inspire them, and guide them in the right way.
Give them friends who will encourage them in their faith, and let my children encourage others. Teach them how to be a friend.
Please let my children encounter people who are different from them, so they will see how creative You are in Your most important handiwork.
May you expand my children's knowledge of science this year, so they will marvel at Your awesome creation. Let them learn more about the history of the people you have placed on this earth, so they can learn from the mistakes and the successes of the past. Give them a passion for reading, and for language, so they will learn how to think and to communicate. And, let each lesson my children are taught contain only truth.
Teach them how to be responsible. Teach them how to deal with stresses and pressures.
Please give my children endurance to accomplish the tasks set before them every day. Help them to try their best at everything, with a good attitude. Give them a healthy pride in their accomplishments at school. Please teach them to accept and learn from their mistakes.
Father, let this be a fun and happy school year. I pray school will be a joyful place for my children to spend their days. I pray this year will be exciting and memorable to them.
Please protect my children from all mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual harm. Guard them, Lord, with Your strong hand.
Help my children to let their light shine for You. Please present them with opportunities to show people Your love, at school and everywhere they go.
Above all, let Your will be done in the lives of my children.
One of my favorite places is a particular spot on the bank of a canal that connects the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic. Recently at this special place, I enjoyed watching a school of little fish right next to the bank. As many times as I have witnessed a similar sight, I was still amazed by their cohesiveness. It was fun to watch them glide and dart as a unit, then to watch them scatter in every direction when a water bug disturbed the surface nearby and immediately come back together. It made me think about relationships among believers and what the body of Christ can learn from a school of fish.
My study began with finding out why fish swim in schools. There are three main reasons for the schooling behavior of fish:
1.) To help keep them safe
2.) To find food
3.) To find a mate
I realized these are some of the same reasons we as believers should join together with other believers in a collective body. We need each other. We need to be unified- within our local assembly and within the Church as a whole. Let's look to the scriptures to find out how the instinctive motivations of fish align with the spiritual benefits of being unified with other Jesus-Followers.
- "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." Galatians 6:1-2
- "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." James 5:19-20
The body of Christ should operate as a cohesive unit to help protect individual believers from spiritual danger.
To Find Food
Again, we are not speaking of physical things (although I have enjoyed many wonderful meals at church). We join together with other believers to receive spiritual food; that is, sustenance that helps us grow in the faith.
- "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." Hebrews 10:25
- "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Colossians 3:16
We come together- teaching, preaching, and singing- to be fed spiritually.
To Find a Mate
While perhaps not the most important reason, the third point still fits into our illustration. The body of Christ is the only place a believer should look to find a spouse.
- "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" 2 Corinthians 6:14
In order for a marriage to be optimally successful, a man and woman must be aligned spiritually; in other words, part of the same "school".
The unity of believers is a common subject in the New Testament. 1 Corinthians 1:10 says, "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." Think about how much we can accomplish when believers are in sync with one another, like that little school of fish!
In John 17:11, Jesus prayed: "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are." Very simply, He wants us to be unified.
Believers- join together and keep swimming!
After a recent church service, I walked up on a conversation that really provided some food for thought. The discussion was about advice from women in the Bible. A gentleman asked me if I could name any instances in the scripture where a woman gave good advice. I have to admit, I drew a blank. But this gentleman already had the answer, and I was pretty impressed with his insight, although there was a slight undertone of a joke about being surprised that a woman had given good advice. So the commentary that follows is based on two verses that he shared with me, and I hope you will find this advice as inspiring as I do.
The first piece of advice comes from a women whose name we aren't given. She is commonly referred to as "the woman at the well". After an encounter with Jesus where she recognizes him as the Christ, the bible says this woman made her way into the city and then said to the men, "Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" (John 4:29) This woman's advice sounds simple, yet the heart of her message is the most important of directives in all of human experience: Meet Jesus.
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6) Without a real, personal encounter with Christ, one cannot know or understand truth, experience authentic joy or peace, or have any assurance of heaven. When the knowledge of the power of a relationship with Jesus was revealed to the woman that met Him at the well, she couldn't keep that revelation to herself. She had to share Him with others. If you haven't taken the woman's advice to meet Him, please take a moment now to consider her words.
For those of us that have met the Christ, we should follow the woman's example and use our energies to make His name famous. Our lives should make others want to meet Him. The joy that we carry should speak for itself, saying, "Come, see! Come, see! Come, see!" And we should always be ready to tell others how we came to know the Christ, and what He has done for us. (But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. 1 Peter 3:5)
The second piece of good advice comes from a much more popular biblical figure- Mary, the mother of Jesus. I had never stopped to reflect on Mary's words to the servants at the wedding in Cana. Just before the Lord performed His first earthly miracle by turning the water into wine, his mother said to the servants, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." (John 2:5) What more can I add? Straightforward. Simple. Life-changing. In obedience to the Lord, all the questions of life are resolved. Of course, we have to search the Word to know His commandments, but Proverbs 3:6 says, "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." Whatever He says to do, we should do it.
The servants that filled the water pots and drew from them to serve the governor of the feast witnessed a surprising miracle! We can likewise see miraculous things in our lives, when we are obedient to what Jesus says to do in His Word.
I'm so glad the words of these two wise women of history were presented to me for further reflection. May we all take their advice to heart.
This summer, my children and I have been working on scripture memorization. For us, that means taking a verse per week and saying it together every day so by the end of the week we have it memorized. We've been focusing on the book of Psalms, and I'd like to share with you the verses I've selected for us to learn.
I think Psalms is especially great for verse memorization. The psalms are passionate and inspiring. They teach us about worship and about the character of God, and the lyrical nature of Psalms makes many verses relatively easy to memorize.
Some verses may take more than one week for kids to memorize. That's okay! Sometimes you may want to learn two in the same week. Just be consistent with reciting the verse daily- maybe at the dinner table- but, learn them at whatever pace is best for everyone in your family.
The Smith kids reciting Psalms 19:14.
Something I've found interesting is that verses I thought were difficult were memorized easily by my kids, while some of the shorter verses were a little more challenging for them. Also, it has been easier for us all to remember the verse based on the week we learned it, rather than the actual verse number. So, I plan to go back and work on making sure the chapter and verse are memorized as well.
Challenge one another to come up with a melody for some of the verses. Many of the verses have already been set to music and are well-known songs (links to a couple are included below). You may choose to offer a small incentive for memorization or use a wall chart to show kids their progress.
Obviously, you could search Psalms and pick out many, many wonderful verses for your family to learn together, but perhaps this list will make it easy for you to get started. (The verses below are KJV except two which are noted.) After our verses from Psalms are learned, I hope to choose another book of the bible from which to memorize. How do you encourage scripture memorization in your family? Please share your ideas in the Comments section!
7 Verses from Psalms to Memorize with Your Children
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My heart is bursting right now. I just talked to my ten-year-old daughter for the first time in four days, and she's finally on her way home from camp! I am so excited to see her, and hug her, and hold on tightly for the rest of the weekend!
This post is a little more personal in nature than other recent articles I've written. I want to share that this has been one of the most challenging weeks I can remember. As a full-time working mother who has always wished she could be a stay-at-home mother, I have been reveling in the opportunity I have this summer to take several weeks off just to spend with my kids. It has been glorious! We have laughed, and played (and fought and cried), and have been so busy seeing and doing fun things for most of the month- then one of my three left me for almost a whole week!
My family is involved in a group called American Heritage Girls (I tell people it's like Girl Scouts, but Christ-focused). It is a remarkable organization. I serve as the troop Shepherd (kind of like a chaplain), Elizabeth is in the "Explorer" unit, and Sarah is a "Tenderheart". We've gone on family camp-outs with the group, and Alex has taken the girls on many of troop outings during the last two years of our involvement. We love American Heritage Girls. But when Elizabeth wanted to go to an AHG summer camp five hours away, my faith was tested in a big way!
You have to understand, I have not gone without seeing this child for more than a day in ten years! Other than a few one-night stays with grandparents, the only times I've not slept under the same roof as her was when I was in the hospital having her sister and brother. But I knew this experience would be good for her, and she was so excited to go. To be honest, the only reason I could let her go was because her dad took a week off from work to go volunteer at camp. (Thank you, Lord, for a wonderful daddy for my children.) He took four girls from our troop (including our girl) and drove from Lewisville, NC to Crawfordville, GA on Monday, and they are returning on a Saturday.
Campers are not supposed to call home, I suppose for a few reasons. Logistically, it would be impossible for that many girls to have access to phones. I think they also feel it makes homesickness worse instead of better. Plus, camp is supposed to be a place to escape the hold technology has on us. Still, I balked at the restriction. It doesn't feel natural for a mother not to speak to her ten-year-old child for that long! (We bent the rules a little, and I did get to speak to her for about 60 seconds on Tuesday. And, of course, my husband sent me text message updates and pictures every day, plus I could talk to him on the phone in the evening.)
But, what a lesson God had for me this week! There were a few lessons actually. I could talk all day about learning to have faith that He will take care of my children. But the biggest lesson was something I thought I already knew: Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3).
Another one of the moms from our troop and I got together this week and discussed it. We are guilty of worshipping our children. It is a difficult thing for me to distinguish between the love and devotion of a mother and idol worship, but I have to admit that I probably cross that line sometimes.
Deuteronomy 4:24 says, "For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God." God's rightful place is at the center of our lives. He belongs at the top of our priority list. The thought of being without my daughter for a week almost made it hard to breath! But do I feel that kind of devotion for the Lord? I definitely believe He created a mother's heart to long for her children, but I need to be very careful that I am not placing them above Him in my life.
I can't say that I've learned any special secrets for avoiding elevating my children to idol status, but I think just recognizing I do it is an important step. As with any sin, all we have to do is ask forgiveness and ask Him to help us overcome it.
I am so thankful that when we walk with the Lord, He helps us to grow and puts circumstances in our life that draw us closer to Him. There were times while Elizabeth was gone that I thought, "Why on earth did I let her go?" and "Why did I agree to this?" The answer is simple. It was a God thing. He helps us grow. He teaches us the lessons we need to learn when we seek Him. This week was so beneficial for my child. And as much as it hurt, it was beneficial for me, too. I pray I will succeed in not having any other gods before Him, including my children.
Some days I step outside my front door and feel the warm sunshine on my face and the gentle breeze brush across my skin, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Just the ability to experience a particularly beautiful day is an amazing gift, and it makes me grateful to exist in this world. This past weekend I spent a couple hours floating down a peaceful river, surrounded by majestic scenery, under a sunny sky, in the company of kind friends and two of my children. It was wonderful!
At night, I lay my head down on a soft pillow, in a comfortable bed, where I feel safe. Again, I count these things as remarkable gifts.
But I have to ask myself, "Would I be so grateful if my circumstances were much different? Would I still be in awe of the handiwork of the Creator if the view outside my front door was different?" I can't answer those questions with certainty, but I'd like to think that I would. Sure, I have fears and worries and doubts, and there are days where I allow my perspective to be skewed. There are days when I find myself grumbling and complaining about things that have no real consequence. But, even on those days, I have an abiding joy.
Joy is a hallmark, but not the source of, an abundant life. So, what does it mean to live abundantly and how do we do it? One of the definitions for the word 'abundant' is, "Richly supplied, as with resources". When I think about that definition, it occurs to me that abundant living is not measured by tangible resources. Living abundantly means having a completeness and fullness in life that does not depend on circumstances. Abundant living is being richly supplied in resources that transcend our natural understanding. The key to abundant living is recognizing the source.
In John 10:10, Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Jesus does not merely supply us with abundance. He IS our abundance. Jesus doesn’t simply give us joy. He IS our joy. As children of God, we must recognize that even the ability to feel the emotions we associate with the idea of abundance comes from Him.
Abundant living comes from fellowship with the God of the universe, through Christ. Ephesians 3:19 says, "And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." I can experience joy and have gratitude for of all the blessings of life around me- the natural world, the love of my family, my earthly pleasures- but the true source of abundance is the fullness of God.
Did my experience on the river this weekend qualify as living abundantly? Sure- but only by extension. It is the relationship I have with God, which reveals the truth of His goodness, that allows me to truly enjoy this life and appreciate the beauty He has provided. Having a relationship with God, in itself, is living abundantly.
Sometimes I get a thought about which I want to write, and I search the scriptures for help with that topic. Sometimes I search out the scriptures for help finding something to write about. This devotion was born of the latter method.
In my searching of the scriptures today, I “found” 1 Thessalonians, Chapters 4 and 5, and in these chapters, practical instruction for sanctified Christian living. I was struck by how plainly many of the exhortations are outlined.
While we are only saved through faith in Christ, and not by our works, we are compelled by the Holy Spirit to strive to be more like Christ in our actions. The word “sanctified” means “set apart”, which is to say, markedly different from the non-believer in thought and practice.
Please note, the title of this devotion is not "21 Steps to Sanctified Christian Living". I am not trying to present a comprehensive list here. I'm sure there are additional ways in which we should conduct ourselves to demonstrate sanctification. Please also note, this list is not my own invention! The ideas are taken directly from scripture, but I have paraphrased them in a list format.
So, let's look at 1 Thessalonians. In Chapter 4, verse 3, it says: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification:" Well, that seems pretty clear! It could be interpreted that the idea of sanctification here pertains mainly to the exhortation immediately following (which is number one on the list below). But, I read that statement as an introduction to all the contents of Chapters 4 and 5, as the end of Chapter 5 seems to be a summary of the instructions in Paul's letter.
21 Steps Toward Sanctified Christian Living
Yes, this a list of "Dos" and "Dont's". But as with all biblical instruction, the purpose is not to restrict or burden, but is to improve the spiritual health of the believer. This list contains actions and practices that set us apart from those outside of the faith.
At the end of Chapter 5 we are left with some great encouragement! "Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." (5:23-24) Commit to serving Him and He will take care of the sanctification process.
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I've always admired people who are "prayer warriors", but I have to admit, I've never felt like I fall into that category. Don't get me wrong- I enjoy talking to God, and prayer is certainly a daily practice for me, but I am so easily distracted that I often don't spend enough quality time in prayer. While my intention is not to absolve myself, I had a revelation recently that made me feel better about my prayer life, but most importantly, it filled me with awe about God's grace.
I often find myself whispering the words, "Your will be done, Lord"- when I'm driving, when I'm walking into my office, when I'm cleaning the house. My mind might be in a million different places, but those words will squeeze their way into my thoughts and I'll direct them to Him. It was while listening to a radio sermon about the Lord's Prayer a few days ago that God spoke to my spirit about this. I felt Him say that every time I had whispered those words, He had received them as a prayer and had acted on my behalf. He honored my five-word prayer. I suddenly felt like He has been ordering my steps, in part, because of my feeble little prayer for His will to be done. And then it made so much sense- little prayers are heard by a big God! I've known this for a long time, but it seemed God was making it a special point to remind me.
Let's take a look at three "little" prayers in the bible that had great impact.
In all three of these examples, the petitions were granted, even though the words spoken were few. It didn't take great orations or lengthy invocations to move the heart of God. It seems when it comes to prayer, quality is more important than quantity, and what qualifies a prayer as effective is the faith behind it.
To be sure, the more we can pray, with faith, the better! I know I should still strive daily to spend more time in prayer. There are so many things about which to pray- our families; our nation and leaders; our churches; our spiritual growth; non-believing loved ones. And those are just requests! We could spend 24/7 offering prayers of thanksgiving and praise! But, my point is that we shouldn't discount those quick prayers we utter throughout the day. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, "Pray without ceasing." I think that can look like this:
"Lord, help me on this test."
"Please bless my children."
"Make me more like You."
"Give us opportunities to show Your love."
I'm so glad God hears and responds to "little" prayers, as well as the "big" ones.
My head has been swirling with questions for the last two days, and the Lord has been helping me work through some faith issues. I have peace now, if not concrete answers, about all my recent questions, but not the liberty or leading to write about what I’ve learned except for my conclusions on one specific situation. I have five half-written articles to prove it! Now, on to our topic…
I’ve been very troubled lately by the dogmatic nature in which a preacher I know addresses a non-doctrinal issue. For the sake of being discreet, I’m not even going to name the issue. Let’s pretend the issue is "traditional versus casual dress" in worship services. That’s not what it is, but it’s a similar type of non-doctrinal debate. Let’s say that on social media this pastor is constantly commenting about how sinful it is for people to show up to worship service in casual attire, and he regularly decries any church that condones such. I feel this pastor’s arguments are “profane and vain babblings” (2 Timothy 2:16) and the manner in which his opinions are delivered, regardless of whether he’s right or wrong, is contrary to the command of 2 Timothy 2:24 (“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.”) However, that’s not even the point of this article. The point of this article is to answer the questions, “Can I trust a preacher with whom I strongly disagree about one topic?” and “Is the anointed of God perfect in his understanding?”
I feel like God answered these questions for me through a recent real-life incident. My husband and I have been trying to give our oldest child more responsibilities, little tests of maturity to gauge how she handles certain situations. Recently, he let her go into a gas station to make a purchase on her own (he was parked where he could watch her through the window). He told her to buy two Slushees- one for her and one for her sister. She came back with three Slushees and a pack of gummy bears. My husband wasn’t angry with her, especially since she had brought him a treat too, but he encouraged her to only buy what she was told the next time.
In this situation, my daughter was sent to do a job, which she did, but she overstepped the instructions she was given. In the same way, I think a minister can be truly called and anointed of God, yet at times be erroneous in their teaching or delivery. Sometimes God picks a messenger, God gives them clear instructions, the messenger delivers the message, but because the messenger is human, they add unnecessarily to the original communication. It doesn't mean that person wasn't sent of God. It doesn't mean they are a false teacher. It means they are human.
In the scripture we find where Peter, upon whom the Lord declared He would build the church, was called out by Paul because he was wrong in separating himself from the Gentile believers (Galatians 2:11). Even the early church leaders made mistakes! I don’t believe the mistake of the Apostle Peter nullified his ministry. Believers need to be discerning enough themselves to not “throw the baby out with the bathwater”, as the idiom goes. In truth, there’s probably no preacher or teacher with whom I agree on every single point of scripture or practice.
I’m thankful God has allowed me to come to a personal resolution on this matter. Obviously, I will not sit under any teaching that is contrary to the primary tenets of my faith, but in this situation, I will try to maintain respect for this pastor with whom I disagree. I will on occasion listen to his messages. I will pray for God to deal with him about his handling of non-doctrinal issues. And, I will rest in the fact that God’s ministers are human, “nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure” (2 Timothy 2:19).
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My husband recently incorporated Star Wars into a sermon and was quite proud of himself for it. Today, I’m going to try to match him by using one of my favorite movies as the basis for this devotional.
I don’t have a great analogy to connect “The Princess Bride” (which is also a great book) to a spiritual concept. Rather, I want to borrow a key phrase from this beloved fairy tale film. Do you remember the farm boy, Wesley, at the beginning of the movie and his response to Buttercup’s every whim? Remember when he came back to her as the Dread Pirate Roberts and the moment she realized it was really Wesley as he went tumbling down the giant hill yelling those cherished words: “As you wish.” What an awesome scene! If somehow you’ve managed to not see the movie, don’t worry; this message is still for you.
Maybe you can already see where I’m going with this. Those three little words, “As you wish” should be the believer's response to every command of God. Let’s look at five people from the bible who essentially said “as you wish” to God.
In the movie I’ve referenced, the male leading character answers every request of his love interest with the phrase “as you wish.” His humble obedience was a direct response to his unfailing love for her. Likewise, we should consistently affirm our love for God by blindly, completely, enthusiastically, reverently, and selflessly obeying his direction. Our obedience to God must be driven by our love for Him, with no thought for what we will gain.
Sometimes I have a feeling of anticipation, as if I am waiting on God to give a command to which I can respond, “As you wish.” I’ve said to Him, “Show me what you want me to do, Lord! I’ll do it!” But, I need to stop and look at the instructions He has already given to all of us and evaluate how I am responding to those. I need to make sure I am saying “as you wish” in regards to what the Word says to do. Am I saying, "As you wish, Lord" to the commands to love God with all my heart, to love my neighbor, to forgive, and to not worry? I fall short often, but I pray that whether the task seems big or small, whether it comes directly from scripture or from the prompting of the Holy Spirit, that I will continually learn to obey.
I leave you with a challenge! Read Romans 12:9-18, and after every sentence that contains a command whisper, “As you wish, Lord. As you wish.” Then go live out that promise.
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I haven’t taken many classes on the subject of Theology, or read nearly enough books on the history of the Church, but still I find it surprising that I learned about the Five Solas only recently. Maybe I did learn about them in the past and they fell somewhere into the recesses of my memory. Now that I am aware of them, I believe these five principles are a great summary of my faith. Perhaps they are for you, too.
From Theopedia.com: “The Five Solas are five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged from the Protestant Reformation intended to summarize the Reformers' basic theological principles in contrast to certain teachings of the Roman Catholic Church of the day. "Sola" is Latin meaning "alone" or "only"…”
In an article on Christianity.com, episcopal Priest Justin Holcomb wrote that the Five Solas "summarize the Reformers’ theological convictions about the essentials of Christianity". He listed the Solas and provided the following explanations.
There is no definitive author of the Five Solas, but they reflect the teachings of all the early Reformers.
In reality, I’ve been exposed to these principles all my life; they just haven't been listed out in this manner, nor have they been communicated in Latin. But, I wonder why this list isn't discussed more frequently in mainline Protestant churches.
Let’s start by talking about where I do find the Five Solas. Most of my research points to the Five Solas being used predominantly by the Reformed Church. Perhaps the Arminian-leaning denominations don’t utilize the “Solas” list for that reason- because it has a reputation of being a “Calvinist” doctrine. On the surface, I don’t see any point of the Solas that is not true for both groups. It is most likely the predestination slant that the Reformed Church applies to the concept of Sola Gratia that makes denominations who follow a “free will” ideology shy away from identifying with the Five Solas.
Maybe we don’t use the list because it seems unnecessary, because the same ideas are already spelled out in our respective doctrinal statements. Even though the Five Solas were more of an antithesis to the teaching of the Catholic church, and were not meant to be a complete Statement of Faith, I think this list is a great starting point for the exposition of my faith.
Perhaps this list isn't more broadly published because we don't want to seem combative toward our Catholic friends. We certainly want to affirm our beliefs, while not purposefully causing contention with other believers.
Maybe we don’t use this list because it’s in Latin. This seems logical to me. We don't commonly use Latin in our communication, plus people may associate Latin phrases with the Catholic church. Even so, I’m thinking about making a shirt for myself that just says “Solus Christus”, because I love this statement. It might even prove to be a conversation starter.
A more troubling theory for the perceived absence of the Five Solas is that some Protestant churches no longer hold to the founding truths of the Protestant Reformation. Sadly, there are churches in which the bible is not hailed as the highest authority and the message of Ephesians 2:8 isn't taught. Still, it remains true: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:"
I tend to think we don't focus on the Solas mainly because of the concept of Sola Scriptura. Scripture alone is the basis for our teaching, so we hear the scriptures that convey the Five Solas but not the formal list as such or the church history from which it was born.
I've enjoyed my simple examination of the Solas. I hope someone will find it enlightening in some way. Please share your thoughts with me!
Please keep in mind, this article is based on my personal observations and mainly internet research. If there are errors, please reach out to correct me (with grace)!
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The pictures flood my Pinterest and Facebook feeds. From simple doodles to elaborate works of art, women everywhere are coloring in their bibles and sharing the pictures on social media. "Bible journaling" is a trend I never could have imagined a few years ago. At first, I had the slightest feeling that bible journaling was just a trendy idea, and even a gimmick to sell different types of bibles. I even had the fleeting thought that it might be disrespectful to draw all over the words of scripture. I’m writing this article because I’m confident that those little thoughts were wrong, and I want to explore the idea of our creative nature.
While I still haven’t tried bible journaling for myself (I hope to soon!), it occurred to me that anything that encourages people to spend time in the Word is A GOOD THING! I also realize that we revere the words of scripture and the author, God, but we don’t worship the physical pages of the book. Taking the Word and incorporating it into a beautiful image only serves to exalt the truth of scripture. When someone takes time to think about how to translate an idea from scripture into a visual representation, they are really meditating on the Word and its meaning.
I also realized that bible journaling may accomplish the same thing for some people as writing does for me. Sometimes I’m drawn deeper into studying the Word because I want to write about a certain topic. My desire to write pushes me to study scripture. I imagine that the enjoyment one gets from creating an artistic journal entry in their bible is a catalyst for more frequent study.
From his book “About You”, author Dick Staub writes, “Every human has the capacity to make things, to create, because we are all made in the image of a creative God.” Genesis 1:26 says, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:”. The desire to create has been made in us.
I found another beautiful quote from the book “Heart Steps” by Julia Cameron. She writes, “We are ourselves creations. We are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves. This is the God-force extending itself through us. Creativity is God's gift to us. Using creativity is our gift back to God.”
I have some friends who seem to have found great enjoyment from creating artwork in their bibles. And, I’m excited to share some of their creations here with you. I am so inspired by these ladies! Be sure to click through or play both slideshows.
Renee told me, "Bible journaling has been an amazing experience that allows me to completely concentrate and experience the Word of God in a way I never imagined." You can find the bible she uses here.
Do you enjoy bible journaling? What does it mean to you? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!
Bible journaling seems to be an activity mostly women enjoy. Are there any men out there that do it?
Please also share any advice you might have for someone, like me, who wants to start bible journaling. Thanks!
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The Bible makes it pretty clear: God wants us to sing. The canon of scripture includes an entire book of songs, mostly written by the person God described as “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22). God wants us to sing.
Psalms 95:1 and 95:2 says, “O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.” Most church services utilize music in one way or another.
Music is referenced all through the bible; not just in Psalms. It’s exciting to read how the Israelites, immediately after being brought through the Red Sea, broke out into singing (and dancing! Exodus 15). There are examples in the Bible of congregations of people singing and there are examples of people appointed as singers in service to the Lord. When music is used in true worship, it has the power to move the heart of God.
Some people say music is just used “to stir up emotion” (that’s a common argument against certain styles of music in church), but let me share with you an example from scripture that makes the importance of music in worship pretty clear! In 2 Chronicles, Chapter 5, we read about the dedication of the temple built by Solomon. Verses 13 and 14 say, “It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.” Wow!! It was the praises lifted up through music that ushered in the presence of God.
As a singer, I have some personal “rules” to make my sure my ministry has the correct motives. I sing for these three reasons:
1. To worship and give praise to God
2. To share the Word of God through music
3. To edify the body of Christ
Usually, these three purposes are achieved together, but if a song doesn’t do at least one of these things, then I shouldn’t sing it. And I think the same standards should be applied to all music within the church.
Using music to praise God and to worship Him is an obvious purpose. That’s the common theme throughout the Psalms. There are also examples of music being used to share God’s word. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Teaching and admonishing come through songs based on the Word.
Then we have the concept of “edifying”. 1 Corinthians 14:26 says, “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.” Here we have an instruction from Paul that there should be order in a church service (order meaning, not everybody trying to do whatever they feel like) and that the ministrations, including the music, should edify the body.
Let’s talk about this word “edify”. Edifying the body doesn’t mean just making people feel happy. Edifying the body means drawing people into sincere worship or encouraging them in some way in their walk with the Lord.
When the three motives listed above are the primary concern of musicians, then the music can be a powerful complement to the worship service, regardless of the level of talent or the style of music. (Obviously, we all have different gifts and not everybody is meant to stand up and give a solo, but I have been very blessed by some off-key singers before, because they were being obedient and singing for the glory of God.)
Speaking of styles of music, let me say this: God owns every beat, every rhythm, every note, every chord, every chord progression, every melody, every harmony, every key, every instrument; and they all can be used for His glory IF the music exalts Him, promotes the gospel, or edifies the body of Christ. That being said, in a worship service it is also important to maintain a tone of reverence. Balancing pure motives and musical style preferences with a reverent attitude is important.
For musicians who minister outside of their home church, I think it is important to be respectful of a congregations’ over-all style of worship. My roots are in Southern Gospel and the Broadman Hymnal, but I also sing and write Praise and Worship music and songs some might consider “contemporary”. If I’m going to a church with a more “contemporary” style of worship, I might sing all of the above styles of music because no one is going to be offended by a hymn. But, if I’m going to a very traditional church, I’m going to be mindful about avoiding the use of soundtracks with a more contemporary sound, UNLESS I hear from the Lord that He wants me sing a specific song.
I believe the three rules I've listed for using music in worship are important litmus tests, because so many other facets of music in worship are just matters of personal preference. I love to clap my hands when I sing with the choir or congregation (and sometimes slap my hymn book as an instrument!), and while there’s definitely a biblical basis for that, nowhere is it written that a person HAS to do that as part of their worship. That’s an area where we have some liberty with our worship.
Whether the style is traditional or contemporary, our motives must be kept in check. I’ve been in “contemporary” services where the Lord fellowshipped with His people through their offering of music. I’ve also been in contemporary services where the band seemed more interested in laying down the bass than leading the congregation to worship. I’ve heard and sung songs by Bill and Gloria Gaither in services where the presence of the Lord was so sweet and so real, but then I’ve also heard those same-type songs performed in what felt like just an entertainment act. While we should enjoy church, and we should enjoy music in church, when we set aside time to worship, a mood of reverence should be maintained, and the intent of our musical worship should be above reproach.
Let me leave you with a beautiful example of the use of music in worship: Our Lord sang. I am grateful that a friend recently pointed out to me the verse in Matthew that refers to Jesus singing. What a beautiful thought! Speaking about the Last Supper, the Bible says, “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.” (Matthew 26:30) Jesus concluded His time of fellowship with His disciples with a song. Meditate on that.
Thank you for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Please post your comments below.
I am very excited about this topic! This is a simple and to-the-point article, but I believe it will be meaningful for someone. There’s a lot of scripture contained here, so please stick with me. There’s an important message at the end!
Have you ever heard of a “life verse”? The term refers to a verse that holds special meaning for a person or a verse they rely on regularly to guide their life. While not directly a scriptural concept, it makes sense that believers claim specific verses in such a way, as scripture is the most direct method God uses to speak to His people. One danger of the “life verse” concept, is that it can become a cliché, almost akin to a person’s birthstone or astrological sign. But, for true believers, having a life verse, and especially being able to communicate “why” it is meaningful, is a good way to share their faith. (Read more ideas about how to use scripture in my article "Rightly Divided".)
In truth, the whole of scripture is “life” verses, in that it leads us on the path of eternal life. In John 6:68, Simon Peter said to Jesus, “to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”
While there are many more that I love, I claim these four as “mine”:
In the book of Deuteronomy, God gave instruction for how the eventual kings of Israel should handle the Words of God. (Israel was not supposed to have a king other than God, but God knew the people would insist on having one “like as all the nations” that were around them- Deuteronomy 17:15.)
Deuteronomy 17:18-20 says, "And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.”
While we have certain verses to help carry us through this life, the Word itself is the very essence of life, and our reliance on it, and faith in it, can dictate the outcome of every situation.
Going beyond the idea of a “life verse”, I want to share with you the portion of scripture that is quite literally my “life chapter”. In my teenage years and early twenties, I suffered with severe depression and anxiety. (I’ve been free from it for so long it is almost hard to remember- praise God!). There were days when, overcome with a constant, unexplainable grief, thoughts of suicide invaded in my brain. While He didn’t heal me right away, one day the Lord practically handed me Psalm 116, to sustain me until the time He would heal me. I claim this as my life chapter, because I believe God used it to spare my life. If you find yourself in a dark place, please let the words of Psalm 116 help put you on a different course, so you too can “walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:9).
I'd love to hear your life verse (or chapter)! Please leave a comment below, and if you enjoyed this article, please share it. Thanks!
It happens often. I will be driving, folding laundry, trying to sleep, or any other normal task, when I start “randomly” singing a song I haven’t heard in a relatively long time, without any conscious thought. I’m usually half-way through the chorus when I stop and think, “Now where did that come from?” The truth is, I know where it comes from. The question is really “Why?” instead of “Where?”
While the Holy Scriptures are the only sovereign texts we possess, I believe God has inspired people throughout the ages to write songs to be used for His glory, and I believe He uses these to speak to His people. Today He put a song in my heart from one of His greatest poets, Fanny Crosby. I was on my way to Starbucks for a mid-day treat when I recognized the words of “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” on my lips (listen to the audio clip above). It has a beautiful melody (the music was composed by William Doane in 1870) and a pleading tone. For the first time I actually thought about the petition of this song. I started to examine if there might be some error in singing a refrain that expresses doubt that God will be available to us when we call.
Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
I wondered if knowing the origin of the hymn might help resolve the thought, and I found some help for my questions on the Discipleship Ministries website of the United Methodist Church. There, I read an article titled “History of Hymns: “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior””, written by professor of sacred music at Southern Methodist University, C. Michael Hawn.
Mr. Hawn wrote, “The late hymnologist William J. Reynolds discovered that the inspiration for this hymn was the result of a visit to a prison by the poet during spring 1868. He notes: “After she had spoken and some of her hymns had been sung, she heard one of the prisoners cry out in a pleading voice, ‘Good Lord, do not pass me by’;””
The account described above sounds like the plea of a man who had enough faith to understand that he needed God, but was not yet acquainted with God enough to understand he could trust Him. This reminds of the father in Mark Chapter 9 who, wanting Jesus to heal his son, proclaimed, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." That story has always given me hope. Although the man admitted to having a measure of unbelief, Jesus healed his son based on the measure of faith he did have. (The last line of the second verse of "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior" is "Help my unbelief".)
The tone of the song also reminds me of King David and how he pleaded with God in despair, yet he ended his petition with a praise acknowledging God's faithfulness. In Psalm 13:1 he said, “How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?” But, just five versus later he says, “I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.” Even a man well-acquainted with the provision of God, who is described as a man after God's own heart, struggled with whether or not God would be present in his situation, but because of His knowledge of the nature of God could ultimately be at peace.
After a bit of reflection, I am reassured that when I sing the great hymn that has been our topic, I am not alluding to any personal concern that Jesus could in some way pass me by. The words "do not pass me by" are an expression of every sincere heart that has longed to be close to the Almighty, yet in human frailty can hardly comprehend that the God of the universe lends His availability and concern to sinners such as us. The song has a tone of humility that serves to amplify the truth of God's holiness.
Why the Lord gave me this particular song today I may not know. Maybe I will need its message in the coming days. Maybe I should lead it as our "Invitation" song during Sunday morning worship. Maybe I was just supposed to think on it and write this blog post to share with you. Whatever the reason, I am thankful that He speaks to me through the classic hymns He inspired so long ago.
Read the full lyrics for "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior".
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The title of this article is not mine, but rather the title and main idea of a book by Reverend Dr. Samuel Valentine Cole, who was the first president of Wheaton College in Massachusetts. This book has had such an impact on me that it would be selfish to not try to expose others to the literary masterpiece.
I was first introduced to Cole's work when I heard one of his poems quoted in a sermon on the radio. Captivated by the lyric from "Hammer an Anvil", that poem became the foundation for my song, "The Word Will Stand" (listen here). Through researching to learn more about the author of the poem that inspired me so, I found "The Life That Counts", which was published in 1905. I strongly believe this 124-page book should be required reading in every school in this country, and beyond.
It was the title, which speaks to my personal aspiration, and Cole's eloquent language that initially compelled me. But, very early in my reading, I was captivated by the genius of the content and the purposefulness of the message. Reminiscent of the writings of C.S. Lewis, the lessons in "The Life That Counts" are most certainly biblical, but they are also profoundly philosophical.
It is difficult to assess how much praise should be awarded a man for such an accomplishment as "The Life That Counts", since reason suggests there is much more of the divine in its wisdom than of the natural. While it almost feels irreverent to me to pick apart the work in order to present some nuggets to you here, my goal is to summarize this inspired book in such a way that encourages others to read it.
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Thank you for visiting my blog. I share devotional and Bible study-type posts as well as musings about my life, parenting, and the writing journey, and important news about my books. I hope you find something encouraging and/or entertaining here.