Tag Archives: Music

Loving Laws or Loving People

Loving Laws or Loving People

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  Galatians 5:14

Do you know someone that is hyper critical?  I mean, they have a problem with everyone and everything.  “The temperature is too hot.  The music is too fast. The speaker is too loud.  The women are dressing wrong.  The bulletin was not folded right.  The deacons should have a tie on.  The people helping are not doing it the same way I would do it. The van is parked at the wrong place.  The family is too big or too small.”  You get the idea.

Hyper critical people have forgotten the “Who” they should be loving.  Instead of loving God and loving people, they love a “What.”   They love rules.  They love laws.  They love their preferences and personal expectations and project them onto other people in a way that is detrimental to relationship.

If we could learn to love people more than our preferences, programs, and personal pet peeves, then we would show more honor to the Lord.  And in turn actually live out God’s law instead of a human version of His law.

Loving our neighbor does several things:

  1. Considers others ahead of ourselves.
  2. Creates a forgiving temperament.
  3. Causes more healthy relationships.
  4. Casts aside personal preferences.
  5. Calms personal interactions with others.

Music styles in church can have great variety and still please the Lord.

Preaching and teaching styles vary greatly from person to person, and God can use each delivery style in wonderful ways.

Organizational structure, facility maintenance, the next building project, and more need not be a stumbling point for you or for others at your church.  When we love God and love others, no matter the rules we may impose on ourselves, we do not need to let those preferential things divide and hurt relationships.

One terrific example is the Church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7.  This church had pure doctrine.  They withstood persecution.  They even had a good work ethic.  But Jesus said “You left your first love.”  These second generation Christians, with a godly heritage, clung to laws, rules, and preferences to the neglect of loving Jesus.  They loved their “version of Christianity” more than they loved Jesus!

Don’t let rules and regulations or personal preferences stop you from loving your family (or church family) the way the Lord wants you to love them.

Love people more than laws.

 

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Fellow Servants in the Church

Fellow Servants in the Church

But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.  Acts 6:4

There is much to do in ministry.  Preach, teach, pray, plan, promote, organize, visit, encourage, make phone calls, send texts and emails, administrate, design, print, clean, build, repair, record radio, post messages and devotionals, read, understand current religious trends, cast vision, staff meetings, deacon meetings, special church training sessions, counseling sessions, develop materials, conduct weddings and funerals, and generally be available to encourage the saints while evangelizing the lost.  etc. etc. etc.

Depending on what ministries your local church hosts, there could be many more responsibilities that are connected to the Senior Pastor position in your church.  Even the assistant pastors have much responsibilities in their oversight.  Like Arron supported Moses and lifted his hands, assistant pastors also make a big difference. Ultimately the pastor will give an account of each ministry decision and direction and he may have his hand in nearly every aspect of ministry to a degree because of that accountability.  Speaking of the relationship of the church to its pastor, Hebrews 13:17 states: Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

The pastor is watching for the souls of his people, the sheep in his local pasture field.  His ministry in prayer and in the Word are his primary responsibilities. It could be called “leading and feeding.”  Like a good shepherd does for his sheep.  No matter what needs arise in your life, your pastor will try to assist, help and encourage.  But, he cannot be everywhere at once.  Only God can do that!  The pastor cannot meet every need, but he may be able to point you in the right direction.

The congregation is likened to a flock of sheep who are called to know their shepherd and are directed to follow his leadership.  1 Thessalonians 5:12 teaches: And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you.  Do you know your shepherd?  Do you know his likes, dislikes, and personal characteristics?  Do you know his family or personal needs, and have you asked his thoughts about certain matters?  The church is to know and follow the shepherd God gifted them with.

With so much to do and with such a responsibility for both the pastor for leading and feeding, and the church for knowing and following, you can see why the Lord gave additional helpers in ministry.  They are called deacons.

The term deacon is defined as “an attendant, or someone who runs errands.”   Those who are called to the ministry of pastoring are focused on two main components: Praying and Studying/delivering the Word of God itself.  Therefore, the Lord gave deacons, to help with the material matters of the church.  They run the errands and conduct much business, supporting the oversight of the pastor.  It is the deacons, whose spiritual calling and enabling is to serve the church by freeing the pastors to fulfill their calling.  With so much to do, prayer and study can be hindered.  With so much needing to be built, repaired, meals delivered, saints cared for in physical ways, fellowships, hospitality, assistance, and more help in other material things, the deacons also have much to do.

During pastor appreciation month, I am thankful, not only for the pastors and servants preaching the Word, but I am also thankful for the deacons, who support the pastor, by serving the church people and looking for ways to minister to their material and physical needs.  We are blessed to have fine deacons at WBC.  It is a pleasure to serve with them.

Even if you are not a deacon, you are called to serve others.  Every Christian should find and fulfill his calling of God to “serve one another.”  There are many “one another’s” in Scripture to apply to our relationships at church. Some people are actually “deacons in training” who may fill that role in the future!

So, pastors – thank you.

Deacons – thank you.

Fellow church members – thank you.

Working together with God, we can see the Lord accomplish amazing things in our lives, homes, and church.  We are “fellow servants” in the church.

 

 

 

 

Where Do You Find Happiness?

Where Do You Find Happiness?

I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.

Psalm 9:2

One of my favorite childhood songs from children’s church is called, “Happiness is the Lord.”  Lindsay Terry tells the following story as to how this wonderful song came about.

“Ira F. Stanphill was born in Belview, New Mexico, in 1914. He has written more than 550 songs, the most popular of which are “Mansion over the Hilltop,” “Room at the Cross,” and, of course, “Happiness Is the Lord.”

On any number of occasions the Lord has given a song to a songwriter when he or she least expected it. Such was the case of Ira Stanphill one afternoon in 1974 after he left the church office where he was pastor in Fort Worth, Texas.

The car radio was on, and as he rode along he listened to some commercial programs. Some were sponsored by establishments that advertised their “happy hour” and their alcoholic beverages. He also heard cigarettes being advertised in terms of how they bring happiness.

The word happiness was used several times in the ads. Ira related to me that he thought at the time that “happiness does not come with these things, but with knowing Christ.” He continued, “As this thought really took over my mind I began to sing. I sang a new song, composing words and melody as I drove along. I sang it almost as it is published today.””

The words are accompanied by a cheerful tune.  In it this song says,

Verse 1
Happiness is to know the Savior
Living a life within His favor
Having a change in my behavior
Happiness is the Lord

Verse 2
Happiness is a new creation
Jesus and me in close relation
Having a part in His salvation
Happiness is the Lord

(Bridge)
Real joy is mine
No matter if teardrops start
I’ve found the secret
It’s Jesus in my heart

Verse 3
Happiness is to be forgiven
Living a life that’s worth the livin’
Taking a trip that leads to heaven
Happiness is the Lord

(Ending)
Happiness is the Lord
Happiness is the Lord

No matter what circumstances you find yourself in today, my friend, the Lord is the Who, What, and the Where that you can find real happiness.  In poor health?  Have an overwhelming situation? Are you having a tough time coping with a loss, or a major disappointment?  In the midst of your situation, it is possible to find, peace, contentment, happiness, and gladness.  Like the Psalmist declares in Psalm 126:3, when we count our blessings we can say, “The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.”

Making Time to Pray

Making Time to Pray

But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.                   1 Peter 4:7

When faced with a big decision or fraught with a new diagnosis, we can start to pray like we never prayed before.  But why wait to pray?  There is much to pray for every day.

Between work and play – we need to make time to pray.

In the verse above, the word “sober” has to do with clear thinking.  Then the word “watch” is used and says we are to “watch unto prayer.”  It means to abstain from wine.  Abstaining from alcohol helps keep the mind clear.  It is a word that when applied indicates having clear attention.  While alcohol clouds the mind, we must be clear headed to pay attention to prayer. The Lord wants us to have a clear mind and level-headed thinking so we can give time to praying.

Most American Christians are too distracted to make time to pray.  For example:

Recode.net says American spend 5 hours watching TV every day. In comparison:  Media and Methods reports the average American spends only five hours per year reading books.”

The A.C. Nielson Co says that “TV viewing began to rise in the 1960’s. It is approximately the same point in time that the Standard Achievement Test scores began to decline. This time frame is significant because the first generation to cut its teeth on TV began taking SATs in the early 1960’s.

Spin.com says Americans listen to 4 hours of music each day.

In many ways, we are “entertained out of our minds!”  Our minds are “clouded- full of entertainment.”  No wonder we do not take the time to pray like we should.  The stats above do not even factor small screen time (cellphones, tablets, etc).

Be sure to “Watch” unto prayer today.  Decisive action and a definite plan to pause and pray can be taken in your life today.

Make some time to pray – today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Call to Ministry is a Big Deal

A Call to Ministry is a Big Deal

“So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee?  And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.”  1 Kings 19:19-21

Have you ever been to an ordination council?  Have you observed the questions that season pastors and preachers asked the candidate for ordination in the “interrogation?”  It is fascinating and I love being on the ordination councils for these men.  It is a good challenge to read the doctrinal statements and attempt to encourage and add insight to the candidate that will help him in future ministry.  What an honor it is to recognize the calling of God on a man for the ministry.

In 1 Kings 19, Elijah runs away to a cave from the hateful Queen Jezebel.  After the Lord meets with Elijah, God encourages him that he is not alone that there are many others who are faithful to serve the Lord.  God then gives Elijah an “assistant prophet” named Elisha.

Elisha comes from a wealthy family with many oxen.  He is a hard worker, plowing in the family fields when Elijah meets him the first time.  From there – Elisha follows and helps Elijah everywhere, “ministering” to him.  I am thankful for the assistants the Lord has given me over the years.  I need help in ministry!

When Elisha is called by God to assist Elijah, he asks if he could go home and explain it to his family.  There are many men in ministry today whose families do not understand.  “How could he leave the business world, his hometown, or the family farm?” are common questions.  Elisha kisses his mother and father goodbye but then he throws a celebration.

Elisha takes 2 oxen, butchers them, then has a gigantic cookout.  I love barbecuing on a grill or over an open flame!  That is what he does.  He cooks the beef and throws a celebration to mark the day he answered the call and entered into ministry.

Whenever a man enters ministry – it is a thing to be commended and celebrated.  I hope that when ordination events are held at your church that you do everything possible to be there and to participate because it is a big deal.

  • It is a big deal to God because a man has willingly answered the call to vocational ministry.
  • It is a big deal to family because a son and a husband is entering into the ministry.
  • It is a big deal for the church because they are ordaining and commissioning a man to the gospel ministry.

It is hard to imagine, but Elisha went on to do even greater things than Elijah. (2 Kings 2:9). It all began when a man answered a call to ministry.  It was recognized by all around him and a feast to mark the special occasion was celebrated by all.

We may have cake and a chicken dinner today.  Whatever is used to mark the occasion – know that it is an occasion worthy of respect, honor, and recognition.

 

 

 

Overcoming Addiction

Overcoming Addiction

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.  I Corinthians 6:12

Between health-care, lost work productivity, and crimes, addictions are costing America greatly.  Drugabuse.com says that $295 billion is lost to Tobacco, $224 billion is lost to Alcohol, and $193 billion is lost to illicit Drugs.  Yes, the numbers are in the billions.  Look at the American culture and you will realize that many people are addicted to something.  If you are not addicted to something; chances are, someone you know very well – is.

It could be an addiction to stimulants, such as drugs or other stimulants such as TV and mobile device screens.  Some addictions are to fleshly and lustful things that are clearly sin.  Some addictions are to things that many not even be sinful of themselves.  For example, not all TV shows are bad.  Drugs (medicine) can be prescribed and help a person heal.

Addictions are anything that becomes a controlling power in your life.  It could be the next smoke, or vape.  It could be the next tv program.  It could be the lustful images on a screen.  It could be an addiction of social acceptance and applause.  Some people live for the approval of others and getting that approval causes a similar “high” as a reaction to a drug.  Some kids are even addicted to video games.   Paul was not willing to allow anything – whether a good thing or a sinful thing, be controlling of his life.  While Christian liberty gives variety in living, it does not give the freedom to allow any substance, response, or desire to be the controlling factor in our life.  The Christian is to be controlled by the Spirit of God as He directs in the Word of God.

Many are crying out for “help.”  The way the cry is sounded is different in each case.  Some drop hints.  Others go further into their addiction.  No matter what some “professionals” say, the Bible is clear that addictions do not need to control the Christian.  You can have victory!  It will be a challenge; but change is possible!  Here are some steps to victory.

God’s Grace Teaches Us to Deny Worldly Lust.  Titus 2:11-12 declares, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”  To reject a sinful action, thought, or addition as wrong is a great place to start.  Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of choices and direction of living. 

Godly Structure Helps When Tempted with Addictions.  Psalm 119:133 states, “Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.”  Having a structured day with Biblical plans and goals will help you fend off the temptation to an addiction.  Memorizing a Scripture that deals with your particular addiction then reciting that verse in “care free” moments will help you have victory.  Order your steps with God and others being involved in your daily routines.

God’s Power is Greater.  Notice how Paul says in I Corinthians 6:12, “I will not be brought under the power of any.”  As powerful as the urge, drive, desire, lust, high, or hit may be, God is more powerful.  Rely on Him.  Your flesh is weak, but God is strong.  Since we can only serve One Master, make the choice to not put any other master in front of the Lord.  An addiction in a moment of fleshly or sinful temptation becomes another master.  God is greater.

Ask the Lord for victory.  Pray.  Rely on His grace.  Set parameters in your life with goals for living.  Embrace the power of God to find the win over the addiction.  While short and simple – these truths are a great start to overcoming addictions.  Other helpful ideas are accountability to others, eliminating excess money (limit money to limit usage), and the replacement principle of exchanging right in the place of wrong.

Get some help from a pastor or Bible counselor today.  May the Lord help you in your search for victory over addiction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Professional Musicians in the Bible

The Professional Musicians in the Bible

And other of their brethren, of the sons of the Kohathites, were over the shewbread, to prepare it every sabbath.  And these are the singers, chief of the fathers of the Levites, who remaining in the chambers were free: for they were employed in that work day and night.  1 Chronicles 9:32-33

Years ago as a student in Jr High and High School, I played an instrument in the school band.  We had a stage band, a marching band, and would perform a Christmas, and end of the year program.  Band practice was always a lot of fun.  My favorite part was the “tuning time” when the director would try to get all the instruments to be tuned to the key of “c.”  This was always a challenge with woodwinds, brass, and complicated teenagers trying to sound out on their instruments.  One exasperated director threw his baton, he was so upset that the practice was going so bad!

I enjoy listening to classical music.  Large orchestras filled with professional musicians making music in perfect harmony with accurate pitch and acoustic tenor is a wonderful thing for my ears to hear!  Hearing the various instruments resonate through the hall or park and the united sounds of the orchestra penetrating our ears can be amazing.

Music is a wonderful gift God has given man and it is a terrific tool that God has given us in part to worship God.  The Bible musicians took their presentations to the Lord very seriously.  In the verses above, they were so devoted to the music of the temple, that it became their occupation.  There are a few “professional musicians” in the Bible.

Not all the people of the Tribe of Levi became priests.  However, all those who were priests did come from the Tribe of Levi.  The non-priest Levites were asked of God to help with the functions around the temple and also to assist in facilitating the music and singing of the temple.  This was started back when the people of Israel were still worshipping God in the transportable temple called the Tabernacle.

Note how the music expectations developed by the time of King David.

1 Chronicles 15:16 And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of musick, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy.

Not just anyone was allowed to sing, but only the people approved by the leaders.  Some people do not have a good testimony and may not be allowed to sing.  I wonder if some of the Levites were born with “tin ears” and could not hold a tune.  I doubt they would have been asked to sing.

These musicians that were asked to present their music did so after much practice.  Think about a professional musician today.  They take their music so serious that they memorize the words and give every effort to put on a good performance.  While Christian singers are not performing as such, we are presenting our songs to the Lord Jesus Christ and we should give the best effort possible.

They were also to present their music pieces with joy.  A good attitude is a perquisite for singing a special in church.  Isn’t it amazing how sometimes when you are discouraged a song can lift you up?  These musicians were to be right with the Lord and joyful in their disposition before they delivered their music.

2 Chronicles 7:6 And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of musick of the LORD, which David the king had made to praise the LORD, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood.

The music was clearly a call to worship the Lord.  It was distinct music that directed people’s attention to the Lord.  Our music should have the same affect today.  The music and the words sung should guide our hearts and minds to the Lord Jesus Christ.  The congregational singing, choir number, and special music must work together to point people to the Lord.  The music director must be filled with the Spirit of God and emptied of self to be truly effective.

This also causes us to consider the quality of the music.  Our instruments should be tuned, and our musicians should be accustomed to playing the right notes at the right time.  Any Jr High music teacher will chuckle at that proposition!  I still laugh when I recall the band director throwing the conductors baton across the room!  It would not have happened if we Jr High students could have only played the warm up in the same key!

Not every song sung or instrument played will be pitch perfect every time – but we should try for it.  The idea of “winging it” or “hoping it will work out” would be an unfamiliar idea to David and to the Levite professional musicians who served the Lord in the music ministry.

At the same time, young people and developing musicians should be encouraged and given appropriate opportunities to present their music to the Lord.  Not every musician will be Sunday morning ready, but they should be utilized in the Nursing Home, Jail service, Jr. Church, and Youth Ministries.  While serving God, they are further developing their talents and preparing for more opportunities when the time is right.

2 Chronicles 34:12 And the men did the work faithfully: and the overseers of them were Jahath and Obadiah, the Levites, of the sons of Merari; and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to set it forward; and other of the Levites, all that could skill of instruments of musick. 

These musicians were faithful.  They were faithful to practice, they were faithful in service.  All of us have known people who attend a church service only when it is their turn to sing.  If they are not scheduled to lead singing, sing a song, or play an instrument, they do not show up.  These are not the people that should be ministering in music in our churches.  The music people should be faithful to be involved in other aspects of church life.  I have found that many times, the most involved people are the lovely piano players who are almost “stretched thin” they are so committed to serving the Lord in areas other than music.

Musicians should be involved in other areas, not just music.  This is clear as we see the musical Levites in their ministry.  If a person only serves in the spotlight, he is much quicker to become lifted up with pride.  Many talented musically enabled Christians have fallen because of pride.

The “overseers” would also coach and help the musicians get better.  If a musician cannot be encouraged to do better, then pride is getting in the way of true service to the Lord.  The work of music was “set forward” by the overseers.  Each musician should try to help the church music director and the church music ministry advance to become more professional to the glory of the Lord.  I enjoy listening to church and college CD’s and then comparing them to their next CD.  You can hear a “quality difference” in voice, music, and recording.  As the musicians, sound engineers, and technology get better, so does the quality of the CD’s.  We all are blessed when things are “set forward” and made better.

Not to suggest anyone quits their job to become a “professional musician” but we all can look at our music ministry and consider – are we being as professional as possible to make a joyful noise unto the Lord?