Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Your Favorite Song

Please participate in this exercise. I want you to think of your favorite song. Now think of why you like it so much. Is it the tune, the beat, the lyrics? What is it about that song that makes it special to you? I have to be honest and say that when you thought of the song, I hope it was a spiritual song and not a secular one. Please take a moment to reflect with me on the impact of spiritual songs in the musical worship of the church.

Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 are two well known verses that describe the blessings of spiritual songs in worship. These verses remind us that God-authored, musical worship is:
1. Directed to God and for God.
2. Instructive and thought provoking.
3. Uplifting and admonishing.
4. An expression of the heart from the lips and mouth.

The most meaningful aspects of singing in worship involve what is on our mind and in our hearts. The notes and our abilitly to perform them are not very important. But what we think and how we feel while singing is an expression of our love and thanks and our appreciation as we relate to our God. While it makes sense that we would give our best effort as we sing, obedience and adoration are the keys to successful and inspirational worship to the Lord.

Having a favorite song is an additional example of the blessings that come with worship. You may not have one favorite, but I am sure you can think of some songs or lyrics that speak to you and help you spiritually to be comforted. My son recently told me that his new favorite song is "Living by faith." I decided to ask him why. He said it makes him feel safe. I think that is wonderful! This discussion reminded me how songs touch each one of us differently and how we can be strengthened by one another as we discuss the words that convey the spiritual ideas of the songs.

Be thankful today for the blessing of music. It is a gift from God. Sing to Him. It will change your attitude and bless your life. It will give you the resolve to live for the one who died for you.

"Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms." ~ James 5:13

"...from all harm safe, in His sheltering arm. I'm living by faith, and feel no alarm." ~ James S. Wells (1918)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Running Out of Time

Good news! The gospel is good news! That is a literal definition of "gospel." This being the case it would seem that our primary focus as God's people would be to spread the gospel all of the time. Who doesn't like to share good news?

If the church isn't growing it is completely and totally our fault. We cannot blame the times. We cannot blame the leadership. We cannot blame the devil. We cannot blame the preacher. We cannot blame the Bible. We cannot blame the ignorance of the world. We cannot blame the culture. We cannot blame our busy schedules. We cannot blame our families. We cannot blame our jobs. We cannot blame our intentions. We cannot blame our fears. We cannot blame our ignorance. WE CAN ONLY BLAME OURSELVES!

If you look at the attendance record each Sunday and you don't like what you see - then make a decision to positively change it. Invite someone to services. Ask your neighbors to worship. Start a Bible study with someone. Open up your church directory and call the people who have been missing lately. Realize that you are a difference maker and a link between people and God. This is what you have been called to do. This a role you must fulfill.

Growing churches are churches in which every member is committed to the spread of the gospel. Preachers may help inspire, and leaders may promote opportunities, but until every member of the church makes a decision to care for the lost souls of others, the desired growth in our individual congregations will not take place.

I would like to think that every week we are doing more than worshiping our God. I would like to think that every week we are doing more than studying and fellowshiping with our brethren. I would like to think that we are making a difference in our world and that people who would otherwise not go to heaven will indeed be going because of the efforts we are making.

My son Luke recently made an interesting statement just before his baptism in September. He had announced to us (his parents) that he wanted to become a Christian, and of course we asked him why he wanted to make that decision. Among the answers he gave us, one in particular stood out to me. He said, "Because I am running out of time." He was so correct.

Brethren, I love you, but I want to tell you that we are running out of time. I am concerned and heart-broken that anyone may miss out on heaven because I did not talk to them about it or at least invite them to consider such good news. I beg you to have more than good intentions. The gospel is too good not to share! What are you going to do about it?

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." ~ Mark 1:15

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Greeting Cards

Cards matter. Do you know what a great thing it is to send a card to someone? Sometimes you may think it is not that big of a deal to send or receive one. But I can tell you, at the lowest points in my own life it was often a card that helped me make it through.

I remember being so scared when I was diagnosed with cancer. But people sent cards. Hundreds of cards. Over the course of my treatments and surgeries I received over 2000 cards! Sometimes the words on the card were inspirational, and sometimes just knowing that a friend thought I mattered made such a huge difference! I received cards from church prayer groups, and from Christian ladies in their 90's who prayed for me every day. I received cards from children that were created in Bible classes. I received cards from people I hadn't heard from in years.

When I left the Pulaski St. church to come to Cookeville, I remember one special card I received from an older gentleman named Jess Springer. Sometimes when you reflect on your ministry you doubt yourself. The card he sent me made me realize that what I was doing for the Lord was a good thing, that I had made a difference. Sometimes I think that one card saved my preaching career.

Recently, my family has been showered by cards due to the loss of my father. People probably don't know how wonderful it has been for us to receive them. I wish I could write a card back to every person and thank them. One church, the West Sparta congregation, has sent me dozens of cards! When you are grieving, sometimes the one bright spot in your day is going to the mailbox and finding out that somebody else cares. I admit that I am sad that the cards will stop coming soon. This is a natural progression - and soon it will be time for someone else to receive cards. But it just reminds me that expressions of love, no matter how small they may seem, are the things that make life worth living.

Send a card. It is a beautiful thing to do. You are changing the world.

"No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted" ~ Aesop

"What is desired in a man is kindness..." ~ Proverbs 19:22

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Do You Know How He Would Do It?

Whenever we lose a loved one, there are certain duties we carry out in order to honor their wishes and preserve their memory. Sometimes the "Last Will and Testament" is there for us to help us know exactly what to do. The funeral arrangements may have been made already, and so all that has to be done is the work itself.

But on many other levels we find ourselves without written guidelines. It is by spending years with our loved ones that we still know what they would say or think or do in a given situation. Only through the depth of our personal relationship and association and time spent with them can we know just how they would react or perform in certain situations.

The Bible is God's last will and testament. We know what God wants us to do because it is written in His Word. When Jesus was on the earth, mankind had a bodily example of the way God would do things. When Jesus left, He gave the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles when He was not there. Now that God's will has been completely revealed in the Bible, the Scriptures alone exist as our way of understanding how God would have things to be done.

When we do not have the Bible with us, and when we cannot recall the specific verses or words, it is through our time spent with it that we will still generally know how to be and what to do. If we are not spending a good amount of our daily lives in the Scriptures, we will not behave as God would want, and we will not know how to carry out His will in our lives.

When we cannot be in the very presence of our departed loved ones, there is an immeasurable comfort of still being connected with them by simply knowing what they would do and think and say if they were here. When we act according to that knowledge, they live on in our lives and their influence passes on from generation to generation.

God set up the earthly family to exist as a heritage. He set up His Word through the spiritual family in the same way. When we draw close to Him we can think like He thinks, speak as He speaks, and live as He lives. In so doing, His eternal power and love and presence in our lives goes on forever...

"Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, For they are the rejoicing of my heart." ~ Psalm 119:111