Law vs. no law – in Galatians 5 we see the contrast between law and no law. In verses 19-23, there are two lists. One concerning the law – verses 19-21 list the works of the flesh which would keep one from inheriting the kingdom of God. One concerning no law – verses 22-23 list the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance – against such there is no law. That is such a convicting phrase. We are so often more concerned with legalism and what we cannot do that we miss the most important point. We have no law that keeps us from exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in our life. We can love all we want, have all the joy we want, have all the peace we want . . . but are more often consumed in what we cannot do. Galatians 5:18 offers an answer – But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. The fruit of the Spirit — live it, show it, do it – there’s no law against it!
As a music director, I look for ways that I can apply sermons that I hear to my ministry. Recently I heard a sermon on John 15:16. The main points were – our relationship to Christ is personal – “I have chosen you”; it is purposeful – “and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit”; and it is powerful – “and whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” As I began considering these points, I realized that the ministry of music should have the same points. Our “song” should be personal – salvation is a personal experience. It should be purposeful – it’s not entertainment, it is ministry. It should be powerful – there should be a spiritual result. Psalms 40:3 aptly exhibits these three points. Personal – he hath put a new song in my mouth; Purposeful – (1) praise unto our God, (2) many shall see it, and fear; Powerful – and shall trust in the LORD. Consider the ministry of Paul and Silas in Acts 16 as they were in jail. They prayed and sang praises unto God, and they saw some mighty results. The next verse tells the foundations of the prison were shaken from a great earthquake, and a few verses later the jailer was seeking salvation. Those were personal, purposeful, and powerful results! Does the message of your music have these three powerful points?
We’ve all heard the statement, the Bible isn’t a science book, but it teaches science. We could insert any subject in place of science, and we would have a true statement. After hearing a recent sermon on Psalm 8, I remembered learning and teaching about Matthew Maury (1806-1873), the “pathfinder of the seas.” He took seriously when he read about “paths of the sea” in Psalm 8:8 and “winds whirling continuously in his circuits” in Ecclesiastes 1:6. He figured he could find them if God said they were there. He dedicated his life to studying those sea and wind currents. He became known as the founder of modern oceanography. His studies and charting of the wind and sea currents transformed trans-Atlantic travel, reducing sailing times significantly, often times by weeks. Just as Maury used Psalm 8 and Ecclesiastes I, many Christian scientists were inspired by a particular verse to search deeper into what the Bible was teaching. Psalm 8 is inscribed on Matthew Maury’s tombstone – “whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.” So we can say whole-heartedly that our Bible is indeed a science book.
An audience of One – I recently heard this phrase in reference to our attitude in respect to praise and worship during congregational singing. I think that is a very appropriate attitude – our praise and worship should be personal and have one focus – an audience of One, our great God. The Scriptures, especially Psalms, use personal pronouns in referring to praise and worship – I will extol Thee, praise ye the Lord, I will sing praises. When we lose focus of the true audience of our worship, we often turn to entertaining the congregation instead of directing our praise to an audience of One.
I think this phrase can also have a broader application. What about our daily life? I Corinthians 10:31 says -“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Whatsoever ye do – all encompassing, do all to the glory of God – to an audience of One. Who is your audience?
Is music important? Does music matter? Does music have a message and purpose? These are all essentially rhetorical questions that can be answered with an emphatic – yes! – with scripture to back each one. Is music important? It is important in worship. Psalm 81:1-4 tells that Israel used both singing and instrumental music in their worship. According to verse four it was “a statute for Israel and a law of God.” Numbers 10:10 states – “ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings.” Does music matter? When the Israelites were preparing for battle, they appointed singers that praised the beauty of his holiness, and God helped them in battle. “And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten” (II Chronicles 20:22 ). Does music have a message and purpose? Music does have a message. During the worship of the golden calf, what message did the music give those that heard from a distance? And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp (Exodus 32:17). Even though it was “worship” to the golden calf, this music had a specific message – war! Music has a purpose. David played his harp when an evil spirit was upon Saul. “And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him” (I Samuel 16:23). Music does matter; it has a purpose – what about your music? Worship or War?
Entitlement – such a hot topic in this day – everyone has rights to do as they wish with responsibility to no one, but for the Christian we can look at it from Paul’s perspective in Galatians 2:20. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” From this verse, entitlement for the Christian can be summed up in two phrases. First, I am crucified with Christ; secondly, yet not I, but Christ. That’s our entitlement – Christ who gave himself for me. We are not our own, we are bought with a price and can only glory in the cross of Christ. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Galatians 6:14a. Job and Joseph displayed this character in their lives when they encountered adversity. Job’s wife said curse God and die – his response was “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips” (Job 2:10b). Joseph’s response to his brothers was “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good,” (Genesis 50:20a). Our entitlement – Not I, but Christ!
In previous devotionals I have used the question – “Have you ever wondered?” – to cause us to ponder on God’s creative genius. In this devotional, I’m adding the question – “How does your garden grow?” – to help us see an aspect of God’s intelligent design in the plant world. Genesis 3:11-12 tell us plants were created on the third day, and God saw that it was good. Before we get to “Have you ever wondered?” – first, let’s look at “How does your garden grow?”. In science, you learned that plants are different from any other living organism in the fact that they could produce their own food through the process of photosynthesis. God created them with certain cellular machinery that uses light energy to combine carbon dioxide and water which produces glucose. Plants are so efficient in making glucose that many of them store the glucose in the form of fruits and vegetables that we eat. One important part of the cell is the light absorbing green pigment called chlorophyll. So, that leads us to our other question – “Have you ever wondered?” Have you ever wondered why the top of a leaf is greener that the bottom? The cells in the top of the leaf have a greater concentration of chlorophyll in them. Chlorophyll is the light absorbing pigment that stores energy to fuel photosynthesis, and the top of the leaf is what gets the most contact to light. So, whether you are a flower gardener, a vegetable gardener, or a reluctant gardener that just mows the lawn and pulls weeds, look at your leaves and think of God’s great creation – it is good!
As I sat down to contemplate what to write for this devotional my attention was drawn to my computer screen. For the last several days, I have had a live cam of an eagle nest playing as my screen saver. The creative genius of God is so evident as you watch nature. I had watched as the parent eagles had brought food, cleaned the nest, perched on the perimeter of the nest guarding the young eaglets, but as I watched this time the scene was different. The parent eagle was crouched in the nest, snuggled up to the eaglets. As I watched for a while, I realized that the wind had picked up and was swaying the treetop. The parent looked as if its wings were cocked and ready to secure the eaglets in the nest. I had also remembered seeing earlier the parent birds adding branches to the perimeter of the nest, almost as if they knew a storm was coming, and they were fortifying the nest. I began thinking – what a depiction this is of our loving Father. As I continued my musings, verses began to come to mind. God is a God who is near and a God that is our safety in a storm. God is always at hand like that parent eagle perching at the perimeter of the nest but is the place of safety and refuge during the storm when the parent eagle fluttereth over her young and spreadeth abroad her wings. A God at hand!
*Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off (Jeremiah 23:23)?
*For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, (Isaiah 25:4a).
*And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the day time from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain (Isaiah 4:6).
*As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: (Deuteronomy 32:11).
I recently came across a thought-provoking post about ministry. Our goal of ministry should be to glorify God, and this post brought things into clear perspective. “When ministry becomes performance, then the sanctuary becomes a theater, the congregation becomes an audience, worship becomes entertainment, and man’s applause and approval becomes the measure of our success. But when ministry is for the glory of God, His presence moves into the sanctuary.”
Local churches are multi-faceted ministries. As a music director, my mind immediately went to the music ministry, and I used this post to evaluate what a music program should be attempting to accomplish for the Lord.
“When music becomes performance” – our focus changes from praising God to praising self.
“The sanctuary becomes a theater” – our focus changes from that holy meeting place to a worldly venue.
“The congregation becomes an audience” – our focus changes from touching hearts to satisfying flesh.
“Worship becomes entertainment” – our focus changes from glorifying God to pleasing people.
“Man’s applause and approval become the measure of success” – at this point our focus is no longer “to the praise of His glory.” Man has become our standard.
Is our ministry (i.e. music) for the glory of God? Does it invite His presence into the sanctuary?
That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. Ephesians 1:12
We all know how important it is to take a stand. The old adage says – “Stand for something or you will fall for anything” – how true that is. For what have you decided to stand? I recently heard a television preacher that was speaking on how Daniel took a stand. He was specifically focusing on the stand that Daniel took when Darius was “tricked” into signing the decree in Daniel 6:7b “…whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of the O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions.” Daniel had been promoted and those under him were unable to find fault in Daniel concerning the kingdom. They had to have known the faithfulness of Daniel concerning his God for that is how they decided they would have to find an occasion against him. Daniel was unaffected by the decree and continued his religious life as usual. According to Daniel 6:10, he went into his house with his windows opened. He kneeled to pray just as he had been doing before the decree. He did not stand down from his convictions – that would have been cowardice. He did not stand with the king’s decree – that would have been compromise. He did not stand against the king’s decree – that would have been contempt. But he stood up for God and did as he had done aforetime. Daniel’s stand was on a conviction – a conviction that was supported by his lifestyle. How and why do you take a stand?