Christianity 201

June 2, 2017

The Difference Between Singing Songs and Singing to the Lord

Today we’re back with Susan Barnes at A Book Look. In addition to book reviews, she’s currently blogging some devotional thoughts on the book of 2 Chronicles. As we did last year, we’re giving you a two-for-one special, with another devotional on another subject! Click the titles to read the individual devotions, or for more click this link, and look for the articles headed “Devotional Thought.”

Devotional Thought: II Chronicles 5:13

The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud. 2 Chronicles 5:13

I’ve met some Christians who don’t like to sing, which has puzzled me greatly. Some even want to have gatherings where there is no singing.

However, the Bible contains a good deal of singing. The longest book in the Bible, Psalms, is a song book. When it was first put together many would have memorized it, because they sang it. I once thought this was amazing, until I considered that I probably know 150 songs by heart.

There is a major difference between singing songs and singing to the Lord. I hope those who don’t like to sing are those who think they are just singing songs.

In this verse we have an example of singing to the Lord. As their songs of praise rose from the temple, God’s presence filled it. We experience God’s presence when we lift up his name with praise, music and song. This is not always consciously felt, but we know that God inhabits the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3 KJV).

Singing to the Lord, focuses our attention on God and changes our perspective. When we consider God’s love and his almightiness, our difficulties shrink, our complaints fade and our worries diminish. It is a spiritual discipline to call to mind God’s attributes and to express them to him. It builds up our faith and honours the Lord.

We aren’t going to like every Christian song we sing, nevertheless, let’s use songs as vehicles to focus on the Lord.


Devotional Thought: I Chronicles 29:22

They ate and drank with great joy in the presence of the Lord that day. 1 Chronicles 29:22

Such joy in this chapter and David wanted it to go on forever – he prayed: “Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided” (v. 18-19)

David prayed that God would keep the people’s hearts loyal to himself, but it didn’t happen. He prayed that Solomon would have wholehearted devotion to keep God’s commands but that didn’t happen either.

God doesn’t override free will. We choose the desires and thoughts we keep in our hearts, we choose to be loyal or not, and we choose our level of devotion. God doesn’t take our choices from us.

Perhaps Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9-11 is a better model. He prays for the Colossians to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in order to live a life pleasing to him, to grow in the knowledge of God and to be strengthened so they may have great endurance and patience. Paul saw the Colossians’ greatest necessity as continually growing in understanding God and his ways, and to have perseverance.

Even then, the Colossians would still have to choose. Christian leaders can provide opportunities for growth and recommend spiritual disciplines to encourage growth, but ultimately it’s our decision if we engage in these practices.

Perseverance is part of the growth process, and seems to be sadly lacking in David’s time. However, the ability to keep going when things get difficult will greatly enhance our spiritual lives.

December 6, 2014

Ending the Year Well

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A year ago we introduced you to someone new with these words, “The Christian blogosphere is somewhat dominated by American writers, so I’m really excited to mix things up today and introduce you to Enoch Anti from Ghana. His blog is called Truth.” His theme then was appropriate to the end of the year, as is today’s, and for this one we’ve borrowed an October post from the same author which began with these words, “We are left with three months to finish the year.”

Well, now we have just three weeks, and we hoped he wouldn’t mind the minor edit. To read this at source, click on the title below.

Finishing Well: Lessons From Paul

We are left with three weeks to finish the year. Reminiscing, probably, yours will come with a sense of regret or accomplishment or a mixture of both. Whatever your sentiments are, I present you with three points from Paul’s life–what a great person he was–that will help you sail through the rest of the year with hope if you have regrets. Expansion if you have a sense of accomplishment.

These, I must say are no “wild insights”. They are things we know already, so let me say these are just a gentle reminder: 1: Forget Past Failures, 2: Don’t Be Complacent, 3: Focus On The Future. I will glean these three lessons from Philippians 3:13-14:

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Forget Past Failures

If Paul says “forgetting those things which are behind” we have to pay attention to him. He was a murderer. He has blood on his hands. To get a good picture of Saul(Paul); imagine him as head of any of the terrorists groups we have today. He hated believers of his day, persecuted and handed them over to be executed.

It was on one of such persecution trips that he met Jesus. Hear his own words: “And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him” (Acts 22:20). I believe Paul, as human as he was, had to deal with this regret constantly.

The devil might even take advantage and constantly whisper in his mind “You’re a murderer”. Remember one of the credentials of the devil is “accuser of the brethren”. Can you identify with the effects of having to deal with past regrets, mistakes and failures? It can be energy sapping. Dwelling on past failures can breed guilt and immobilise us from moving forward. Everyone, without exception, got things in the past they not proud of. But we have to rise above our past failures and press forward. “… reaching forth unto those things which are before … press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus ”

If you ever admire Paul–you should if you are a believer-remember he is not a product of his own achievements. He is a work of Total Grace. God’s grace made him. No wonder he taught us so much about grace. “By grace are you saved…”, he reminded his congregation in Ephesians. There is no pit of failure so deep grace cannot reach you. I recently spotted a book title “You failed and So What?”…that would make good reading I believe…

How bad have you fared? Put your regrets and failures behind and press on…PRESS ON! God is not done with you: “…he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6)

Don’t Be Complacent

“Don’t be Complacent”-that is so basic; nonetheless, I have indicated these are just gentle reminders and no “wild insights”. For those with regrets, I said in the previous post that “Forget Past Failures” and for you with a sense of accomplishment, I am saying today,”Don’t Be Complacent”

Paul, unlike the first twelve Apostles, was a scholar. He studied in Tarsus under Gamaliel, one of the best teachers of His time. He also belonged to the order of the Pharisees–the highest political and religious order of his time. A qualified lawyer; Paul never considered himself inferior to any of the first Apostles, though, he never walked physically with Christ. He asked “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant…” (2 Corinthians 11:23).

It is on record Paul wrote all his epistles before any of the earlier Apostles penned their gospels and epistles. So we are not looking at a man with average success in Paul. We are looking at a highly successful minister of the gospel. In today’s world, Paul would easily qualify for a “Mega church” pastor. Despite these feats, Paul had no room for complacency: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 3:12) What Paul is communicating here is that: “I have not achieved it yet”. “I have not arrived”. “I have not become all I was called to be”. “There are still territories to cover.” “There is more success ahead” “There is more work to do”.

Regardless of your level of achievements, don’t be complacent. Don’t settle for less “…press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”.

Focus on the future

“…reach forth unto those things which are before”. Life should be progressive; building on successes and learning from failures. The day the past becomes the standard, we stop growing, we enter a comfort zone and our purpose on earth gets clouded.

In Deuteronomy 1, we see a comfort zone situation where the Israelites, instead of moving forward, pitched camp in a comfort zone and stopped moving: “The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount: Turn you, and take your journey … and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them“ (vs 6-8).

Settling in a comfort zone when we are supposed to move on is equated to rebellion. In vs 26 of the same Scripture, Moses said: “Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God:” (vs26).

Paul, didn’t settle in complacency. Reach forth into the future. “Turn you, and take your journey…”. Move on.

November 6, 2013

Where I Do I Go To Resign?

Galatians 6 9 Let us Not Grow Weary

I left work today in one of those moods where I just wanted to go home, sit at my computer and write my letter of resignation. Problem is, I own the company. I don’t have a job per se, I do what I do as a response to what I’ve felt is a calling, and a natural fit for my gifts and abilities.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get discouraging, frustrating and exhausting some (most) days.

In the first of the seven letters in Revelation, the church at Ephesus is commended for their perseverance:

Rev. 2:2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. … You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

In Hebrews, we’re reminded that, having Christ as our example, we should not give up:

Heb. 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Our Old Testament heroes knew what it was like to have their backs against the wall:

II Chron. 20:15 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

Parents are told not to “embitter” their children, not lest they sin, but lest they become discouraged.

Col. 3:21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Though we are surrounded by people who are idle and disrupted, we are reminded not to grow weary of doing right.

II Thes. 3:13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.

But the verse that came to mind for me today, is the one which I always come back to:

Gal. 6:8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

Ray McDonald writes:

Some might tire from doing good.  The reason for some is that we don’t always see the benefit or reward from doing good.  It isn’t always immediate and of course we are an instant society – needing instant feedback on everything.  We see people taking short cuts and doing what pleases them and they seem to reap the rewards while we strive to do the right thing – the good things – and don’t see the reward or benefit at times.

Of course Christianity is a heart thing my friends.  Christianity boils down to attitude – the condition and position of one’s heart.  We shouldn’t do good to reap a reward – to see a personal benefit.  We should do good simply because that is what God wants of us.  We should serve God because God is God and for no other reason.  Yet God wants us to know there will be a reward – a blessing – from doing good.  We will reap what we sow He says.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

 
Here’s a song from Danniebelle Hall with which to conclude today’s meditation:


Today’s bonus item: The verse that follows in Galatians 6 is a verse that we use to determine our financial policy:

Gal. 6:10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

When push comes to shove, we make a point of paying our brothers and sisters in business first and foremost where an option exists on paying several companies at once. And of course, if someone owes us money, we’re quick mention this verse. Sometimes a church will faithfully pay its utilities on time but not consider an issue to be weeks behind on paying other invoices. We feel this verse is a challenge to us (and them) to rethink wrong priorities and policies.

December 30, 2011

God Finishes His Projects

J. Lee Grady is one of my favorite writers.  This appeared at his blog, Fire in My Bones where this appeared as: A Word to the Weary – God Will Finish What He Started.

Here’s a trivia question: Which building project took the longest to complete?·

A. The construction of the Pentagon.
B. The carving of Mount Rushmore.
C. The digging of the Panama Canal.
D. The building of the Empire State Building.
E. The carving and assembling of the Statue of Liberty.

The answer is C. It took 31 years to dig the Panama Canal, mainly because that superhuman task was started and stopped several times due to floods, mudslides, unexpected costs (the total bill for the United States was $375 million in 1914) and a horrific death toll (20,000 French workers and 6,000 Americans died on the job site.) The moral of that story: Expect delays when you cut a 50-mile-long canal to connect two oceans.

I’m not attempting to move millions of tons of earth to make room for cargo ships. My ministry assignment is different. But I still feel overwhelmed at times by the task. God calls each of us to join Him in His work, but accomplishing anything spiritual (such as building a church, winning the lost, or influencing culture for Christ) is impossible in human terms. We can’t accomplish anything for God without supernatural faith.

“God does not tell you to begin something and then leave you halfway through it. He is a wise builder and an expert craftsman. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He finishes what He starts.”

God gives us a promise—that’s the easy part. Then He reveals His strategies, works miracles and sends provision. Working with God is exhilarating when these things happen. But faith is also warfare. The devil hurls doubts and obstacles in our direction. There are battles and, sometimes, casualties. These are the times we are tempted to quit.

Zerubbabel and Joshua, the two men commissioned to rebuild Solomon’s temple, struggled with intense discouragement as they looked at the ruins of Jerusalem. The task was overwhelming, the cost was prohibitive, the workers were dismayed and their enemies were fierce. They started the work in earnest, but they heard a familiar voice that whispered: “You’ll never finish this. God is going to abandon you in the middle of this project.”

Fortunately, just when Zerubbabel and Joshua were about to throw in the towel, the prophet Haggai showed up with a refreshing announcement. He told them: “’But now take courage … and work; for I am with you,’ declares the Lord” (Hag. 2:4, NASB). The Lord also promised He would see the building project to completion. He said: “The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former … and in this place I will give peace” (v. 9).

Those powerful prophetic promises propelled Zerubbabel and Joshua forward. The words invigorated their weary faith and steeled their determination. Their passion was refueled. They returned to the work, even though it seemed impossible. In the end, God’s glorious house arose from an ash heap.

This is God’s promise to all who are called to labor with Him. He does not tell you to begin something and then leave you halfway through it. God is a wise builder and an expert craftsman. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He finishes what He starts.

The apostle Paul knew this when he wrote: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). The Message Bible says it this way: “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”

Many of God’s servants today are weary. Budgets have been tight, resistance is strong and trends are negative. The devil is busy trying to abort God’s promises. You may have been tempted even this week to resign from your assignment. But I want to encourage you with the words of Haggai: “Take courage! The Lord is with you!” Regardless of what you lack, the Lord’s mighty presence is all you need to finish the task. Hang on to Him and keep believing.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His most recent book is 10 Lies Men Believe (Charisma House).

Note: In case you are curious about the other projects mentioned in the trivia question, here are the answers: A. The Pentagon, the world’s largest office building, was built in 16 months. B. Mount Rushmore was carved in 14 years. D. The Empire State Building was completed in 1 year and 45 days. E. The Statue of Liberty was carved and assembled over a 10-year period.

September 4, 2010

Bible Emphasizes Renewal Over “New”

(NIV) Psalm 92:12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;

13 planted in the house of the LORD,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.

14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green…

What’s your church’s attitude to the seniors in the congregation?   What about you, yourself?   Do you see these people as ready to be “put out to pasture” or do you see them as people for whom, potentially, the greatest days are yet to come?

I’m not sure what your opinion is of Mars Hill (Grand Rapids, MI) pastor Rob Bell, but today we listened to a most unusual sermon from a pastor for whom “unusual” is de rigeur. I started to write about it here; and then moved the blog post over to Thinking Out Loud; but then found myself staring at the draft version of it here and thinking, ‘This is an important message that we’ve got to get through our heads, because some day it will be us who are getting invited to the 60+ group at the church.’

Actually, as Bell’s preaching goes, this one was somewhat conservative.   The message had as its aim the affirmation of the aging process itself and the affirmation of the aged.   He claims that the motivation for this was that it was the day before his 40th birthday; hardly senior status by any measure.

He began with stories of people whose major life accomplishments began at what some would call the later stages of life.    The stories highlighted people who were, with each example, progressively older.   (Sadly, the slides that go with this sermon weren’t posted online.)

The message functions well on a number of levels.   Besides affirming respect for the wisdom and experience of age, it’s also an encouragement to those who are older to reconsider the traditional definition of retirement.

But most important, it’s a challenge to all of us to rethink the concept that “new is best.”   He gets into the difference between “new” and “renewal;” and says that our culture tends to emphasize the former, while the Bible speaks clearly of the latter.

(NIV) II Cor 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Bell ends the message with a question that was asked of him — Bell being a guy who knows what it’s like to be the new hot trend — as to how a person can avoid “peaking” after sudden popularity.

You can find the 50+ minute sermon here.  Click on the message for 8/22 — appropriately titled:  The Village Elder.