Tag Archive | Psalms

Why I Stand

Flag 2

With all of the controversy surrounding the NFL, the National Anthem, and Old Glory, I just wanted to share a few thoughts why I, personally, choose to stand.

I stand…

… because our flag, Old Glory, is the symbol of the United States of America, the land I love and the nation of which I am proud to be a citizen. To do otherwise, for me, would be to not only disrespect our nation, but to dishonor God by showing a lack of appreciation for His good and perfect gifts that He has afforded me because I am an American.

I stand… when The Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem, plays because that is a show of respect for the flag that it so eloquently describes, and a show of unity with my fellow citizens. Even when we may disagree about sports, politics, religion, etc., when the words “O say can you see…” are heard, we become silent and unified in our mutual respect for the flag, the anthem, and all that it symbolizes.

I stand… because of fifty-six men from all walks of life who, in putting their signatures on a parchment known as The Declaration of Independence, knew they were putting their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor on the line in the name of freedom. These men were as flawed and imperfect as the rest of us, but found the courage to stand for an ideal greater than themselves.

I stand… because I want to be an example to future generations that we are more than a collection of individuals, each going their own direction.

Flag FoldedI stand… because from the streets of Lexington and Concord to the mountains of Afghanistan and the deserts of Iraq, for over 240 years, brave men and women have given their last full measure of devotion to secure the freedom the rest of us enjoy on a daily basis. I stand, saluting an unfurled flag because of all of the wives, mothers, fathers, husbands, and family members who have been handed a folded one.

I stand… because standing is a universal sign of honor and respect.

I stand… because I believe that our battle is not against flesh and blood, and that we can accomplish more through the power of prayer than through hollow protests.

I stand… because we are better when we operate in unity, as “one nation under God, indivisible…” As a Christian, I believe the truth expressed by the psalmist who said,

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity! ~ Psalm 133:1

I stand… because our flag and national anthem symbolize what is right with our country, not what is wrong with it.

I stand… because there are other countries where people are poor and oppressed beyond measure, and are looking to America to be an example — The shining city on a hill.

I stand… because I am the recipient of a grace that has been granted to me in the form of a life in a free country called America.

I stand… not because we are perfect and have it all together, but as a sign that I am willing to take my place — standing beside you — working together to make America a better place.

I stand… to show that I am up on my feet and ready to go; to be a part of the solution, not a symptom of the problem.

I stand… because I am grateful.

Flag 3O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

                                                      ~ Katharine Lee Bates

The Judas Paradigm

 He had a kind boss, but for some inexplicable reason,
that wasn’t enough.

He had seen amazing things at the hands of his master, and thousands of people were touched by his goodness. Yet, as in many cases, the saying of him was definitely true… “No good deed goes unpunished”. And when betrayal comes with a pricetag…

Well, where do we sign up?

judasHe waited for the opportune time to spring his trap — a time when all was quiet, the adoring crowds were gone, and he was relatively alone, except for maybe a few of his closest friends. His accusers were seconds away in hiding, just waiting for a sign…

A kiss. Yes!!! Such a sign of affection would be unmistakable for the wolves hiding in the shadows.

By now, if you know anything about the life of Jesus, you have probably figured out that I am talking about His betrayal at the hands of Judas Iscariot. With his singular act of betrayal, Judas entered the ranks of the most despised individuals in Biblical history, joining names like Cain, Goliath, Jezebel, Absalom, and many others. Yet his betrayal of the Son of God moved him straight to the head of the class; Judas had betrayed God for 30 pieces of silver, and although remorse soon set in, and he tried to undo the damage he had done, some things cannot be undone.

In a matter of days, Jesus was tried, convicted, killed, and rose from the grave.

Judas, on the other hand…

(For the whole story, read Matthew 26 – 27:9)

So how does one go from a position of favor to embracing a curse? How does one go from a place of honor to dying by suicide, and being buried in an unmarked grave? While I’m sure the other eleven disciples were somewhat surprised by Judas’s betrayal, none of this caught Jesus by surprise. After all, this historic betrayal had been foretold hundreds of years before…

Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted,
Who ate my bread,
Has lifted up his heel against me. ~ Psalm 41:9

And was again alluded to in Zechariah…

 Then I said to them, “If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.”
So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.
And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—that princely price they set on me.
So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into
the house of the Lord for the potter. ~Zechariah 11:12-13

So what drove Judas to betray the Creator of the Universe to a self-serving and self-righteous bunch? What path did Judas take that led him to the hanging tree? What are the symptoms of The Judas Paradigm?

  • Judas had no faith. In John 6, Jesus puts before His disciples some pretty tough language about what it takes to follow Him. He recognized that there were many of His disciples who did not really believe, and their desertion bore out this fact (v.64-66). In the face of unpopular and controversial teaching, they bailed out. Even when given the choice to leave, and hearing Peter declare, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 68-69), Judas still masqueraded as a follower, and gave the illusion of devotion and trust. 
  • Judas had no respect for the sacred. When Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with a costly perfume (John 12), Judas objected. “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (v. 5). The next verse reveals that Judas had no care or concern for the poor, but that he was a thief, and as the one tasked with the care of the money box, he regularly stole from the money that was given to Jesus and His disciples for their needs and the care of the poor.
  • Judas had no loyalty to the Truth. Because of the deceit of his heart, Judas was ripe to be used by the devil. John 13 bears out the fact that the rest of the disciples were clueless to his deceit (v.28-29). In verse 2, we learn that the devil had “put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot” to betray Jesus. At that point, he was considering his betrayal. But when consideration turned to commitment, Satan entered into him (v. 27). At that point, he was totally under the control of the demonic. In spite of the fact that Jesus had, in an act of abject humility, just washed Judas’s feet (as well as the other disciples), Judas maintained his destructive path that ultimately took him to the grave.

In our world today, we are seeing The Judas Paradigm alive and at work in our homes, our churches, and our government.

As statistics bear out, we are seeing a decline in the organized church in America today. Children are abandoning the faith of their parents for convenience, comfort, and a feel-good Gospel that requires no sacrifice, no commitment, and no tough choices. The goal is relevance and inclusion, at the expense of Truth and holiness. We have so blurred the lines between the sacred and the secular that the message of the blood of Jesus has been lost in pop-psychology and moral relativism. We have forgotten the words of Jesus, that fly in the face of this 21st century mindset…

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me,
let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” ~ Matthew 16:24

When we lose our faith, it’s open season on what is sacred. We are seeing that at work in America today. Our founding documents (The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution) were written by men of faith that held the teachings of the Bible as guiding principles in their authorship of these documents. You cannot disregard one without catastrophic results to the others. When we removed the Bible from a place of prominence and respect in our society, it was a matter of time before our nation’s founding documents followed suit. The assault on our freedoms that we are seeing now, with utter disregard for The Constitution, is unprecedented. With the fate of the Supreme Court in the balance, America stands on the edge of a precipice. This year’s election will determine whether we move away from the edge, or plunge headlong into an abyss of lawlessness and Godlessness.

Where there is no vision, the people perish:
but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. ~ Proverbs 29:18

It’s easy to be loyal when people agree with you. But when society stands in opposition to the Word of God, we are forced to make a choice: We are forced to choose between the acceptance of the world or the approval of God. But make no mistake about it… if we choose the acceptance of the world, it puts us at odds with a Holy God. James 4:4 is pretty clear on the subject…

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity (hostility) against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. ~ James 4:4

Yet we are seeing an astounding number of “Christian” churches and pastors who are ignoring this dire warning, and condoning what God condemns. We are seeing politicians who — because of personalities — have abandoned their principles, promising to support a candidate who represents everything that is wrong with our political system, and who promises to continue us down a path of secularism, hedonism, and liberalism. The Judas Paradigm (spirit) allows loyalty to the Truth to take a back seat to our own comfort, feelings, and agenda. If we don’t like criticism, we cower to conformity. If we don’t like the messenger, we reject the message. If the road gets tough, we retire to the median and resign ourselves to being another casualty to a society bent on running over the righteous and off the cliff.

 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. ~ 2 Chronicles 16:9a

God is still looking…

He is looking for those who have faith, however small.

He is looking for those who recognize and respect the sacred.

He is looking for people of honor, who are loyal to Him.

He is looking for those who will stand when the crowd sits, be loud when the crowd is silent, and be faithful when the crowd is faithless.

He is looking for those who will gaze defiantly into the face of The Judas Paradigm, and refuse the 30 pieces of silver.

He is looking for YOU!

Pastor Ron

You Can’t Have It Both Ways

The more I watch the news, read stories on the internet, or talk to people, the crazier I see our society becoming. Here are just a few questions that I have been pondering of late…

  • Emanuel AME2We see stories nearly every week of some atheist or anti-religion group up in arms because someone prayed at a school function, sporting event, or city council meeting. We have seen anti-God groups go after every Christian symbol, holiday, and even our own national history with a vengeance, trying to eradicate the Christian “religion” and our Judeo-Christian roots from every corner of public life.

So where is the outcry from these same individuals when it comes to the tax-payer funded indoctrination of our school children and college students to Islam? If “separation of church and state” is so important, why do we need governmental-appointed positions such as Sharia Czar and Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference? Where is the indignation from anti- religion groups when it comes to the misrepresentation and acceptance of Islam by those in the corridors of power in Washington D.C.?

You can’t have it both ways.

  • For decades, the argument (among others) from pro-abortion groups has been that it is fetal matter — a blob of tissue — not a baby. A baby does not become a real person until it is actually born. Until birth, a fetus does not have a “meaningful life”.

If this is the case, then why is one of the nation’s top abortion providers, Planned Parenthood, currently embroiled in controversy surrounding the harvesting and selling of fetal tissue from aborted babies? If it’s not a person, why harvest these meaningless “blobs of tissue”? At what point, and who, decides that a person’s life has no meaning? What about people who are tragically injured and in a persistent vegetative state… are they no longer worthy of life?

You can’t have it both ways.

  • IMG_1905With the Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states, the LGBT community, which has spoken out for decades about discrimination and mistreatment, have finally been granted the “right” to marry the person of their choosing. After years of being denied the right to live their lives however they choose, believe what they want to believe, and love who they want to love, homosexuals and transgender individuals have been granted the ability to do so with the blessing of the United States Supreme Court.

So why is it ok now to vilify and persecute Christians who still oppose same-sex marriage? How is it that people who for years screamed “discrimination” are now discriminating against those who simply (and peacefully) disagree with their lifestyle based on personal religious values? How does a homosexual’s “right” to marriage trump a Christian’s First Amendment right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech?

You can’t have it both ways.

For a society that prides itself on intelligence and logic, we have crossed just about every line of logic and reason in our attempt to be “fair, tolerant, and inclusive.” Science, biology, natural law, and intelligence take a back seat to the ability to “identify” with a person or group. Laws are ignored by those entrusted with upholding the law because those individuals disagree with a certain statute or regulation. Those tasked with protecting and serving the public are forced to operate at a handicap because the very people they are trying to protect are advocating their destruction. We have been told that global warming (“climate change”) is the most pressing issue of our time. Yet recently, arctic ice increased by 1 million square miles in one year (2012 to 2013).

In Romans 1, Paul had this to say about those who choose to ignore and/or disregard the truth…

   The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — Who is forever praised. Amen.
    Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. ~ Romans 1:18-32

Creation itself testifies of the glory of God, and His handiwork. A society may attempt to dissuade its members from belief in a Holy God. It may try to marginalize God, lumping Him in with fable, folklore, myth, and legend. Yet, the fingerprint of God on Creation is unmistakable and undeniable. In Psalm 19, David declared…

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.

Werner Heisenberg, considered to be one of the fathers of Quantum Physics, had this to say about the relationship of science and religion…

“Where no guiding ideals are left to point the way, the scale of values disappears and with it the meaning of our deeds and sufferings, and at the end can lie only negation and despair. Religion is therefore the foundation of ethics, and ethics the presupposition of life.”

CoffeeCreation is not subject to the whims of world leaders, political correctness, or public outcry. Nature cares not a wit about feelings, fairness, or whether or not it offends anyone. The natural laws, written into the DNA of every cell in Creation, are as unchangeable as Jehovah God. Mankind may attempt to suppress all evidence of the goodness of God from society, but the stones, seas, and stars will not cease to cry out. And if nature declares the glory of God, and God is who He says He is, then His Word is true. And if His Word is true, then we cannot help but conclude that He means what He says, and that we must all come to Him in repentance and humility, to find grace and forgiveness. Truly coming to Him in repentance means to turn from our sin, and accept His finished work of salvation through His sacrifice. We cannot come to Him while holding on, in stubborn unrepentance, to the very things He died to redeem us from. You can’t have it both ways.

“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”
~ Werner Heisenberg

Do You Possess the Heart of a Warrior?

Whether it is in the movies or real life, with all of the violence in the world today, there is a word we hear quite often…

Warrior.

Wallace SwordWhen we think of a warrior, it brings to mind images of a knight in shining armor, wielding a massive sword, and ready to take care of business. For some of us who remember the movies of the ’80’s and ’90’s, it may conjure images of Rambo or William Wallace in Braveheart. We want to think of a hero; someone of great strength and integrity, willing to face insurmountable odds for the betterment of humanity.

However, we often don’t take into account what it takes to become a warrior. We don’t often understand the pain and sacrifice that an individual goes through — the commitment that it takes to carry the mantle of a warrior. Today in America, most armed services have a six- to thirteen-week period of what they term basic training. During that time, the recruits have a leader called a drill instructor. Throughout this basic training, the young soldier or sailor begins to look and act differently. They are preparing for the possibility of warfare, and train accordingly. They prepare to take down the enemy with extreme prejudice (deadly force) — an enemy that will not hesitate to kill both soldier and innocent civilian if given the opportunity.

In spiritual warfare, a timid, untrained army is no match for hell’s terrorists! No, we must get into spiritual shape, pick up our armor, and go to the battlefront. The destiny of humanity hangs in the balance. David trained his four hundred soldiers with the truth we find in Psalm 18, which contains six basic charges every warrior needs to hear.

I. Get under authority — submission.

For You will save the humble people, but will bring down haughty looks. ~ Psalm 18:27

The soldier must begin the day knowing how to obey orders. From the moment of arrival in boot camp, nothing belongs to the recruit any longer. His hair is cut, his clothing is selected for him, and his schedule is determined by his leaders. For a season, freedom is lost and submission is taught. One of my high school buddies was always a rebel at heart. His dress was unconventional, as well as his attitude. Finally, he quit school to live free. His choice? He joined the Marines. I laughed when I saw him after boot camp… his long hair was now a crew cut, and he wore a crisp U.S Marine uniform instead of jeans. He had learned to live under orders.

It is essential to understand that putting the devil to flight requires submission to God. James 4:7 tells us, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  Hebrews 12:1-2 gives the Christian his or her marching orders…

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

II. Get on fire for the cause — passion.

For You will light my lamp. ~ Psalm 18:28

The second goal of boot camp is to inspire the recruit to have a passion for the cause of the nation. All things being equal, the one with the most passion for the fight will win. In our struggle against the enemy, we must be on fire to win the souls of men for God’s kingdom. One admirable thing about Islamic fundamentalists is their unbridled passion for their cause. They are willing to die in order to further their purposes. While their teaching is in error and their methods are horrific, they’re on fire for what they believe. All the weapons of a militia cannot stop such passion; it must be met by Christians who have a passion for Jesus Christ.

III. Be prepared for warfare — discipline.

The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. ~ Psalm 18:28

God will “enlighten” His soldiers. We have been given the right armor and the right instructions. Every church must become a spiritual armory, preparing its people for the struggle against the darkness.

IV. Believe you can win — vision.

For by You I can run against a troop,
By my God, I can leap over a wall. ~ Psalm 18:29

Here the recruit confesses his faith. By the power of God, He can overcome a troop. With the strength of God, he can leap over a wall. The enemy’s army and obstacles fall before the spiritual soldier who has faith.

V. Know your weapons — power.

As for God, His way is perfect: the word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. For who is God except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect… He teaches my hands make war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. ~ Psalm 18:30-32, 34

Notice first that God has a perfect battle plan. The word perfect means “absolutely complete”. We must fight according to His plan.

Secondly, Yahweh has given us a sharp, two-edged sword — His Word. We must wield this sword effectively if we are to live the Victor’s life.

Furthermore, God grants us a shield of protection: faith.

Also, Yahweh exercises our gifts so our hands will be strengthened to make war. We can use our “bronze bow” to judge the enemy. Spiritual archers can shoot down the principalities in the heavens.

VI. Go to the next level — excellence.

He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places. ~ Psalm 18:33

Boot camp moves us to the next level of battle. We can conquer the mountains before us. Our feet must be strong so we can walk with a sure foot. The feet of deer ‘track,” which means the rear foot will always land where the front foot leaves. Our God allows us to walk in His footsteps, tracking hard after Him.

David’s manual, here in Psalm 18, molded the four hundred outcasts into a military machine that would take the kingdom. We too can go to the next level if we become informed and disciplined.

So what about it? Are you ready to become the warrior for the Kingdom that God has called you to be? Are you ready to know your enemy, understand the battle, equip yourself for the fight, and walk in victory? The battle lines are drawn. The Commander awaits.

Will you answer the call?

— Adapted from my book
Everyone’s Guide to Demons and Spiritual Warfare
Copyright © 2010 by Ron Phillips
Published by Charisma Media / Charisma House Book Group

Stone-Phillips

Unleash The Greatness Within YOU!

 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them:
because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. ~ 1 John 4:4

  • Born into privilege, “Copperknob” (as he came to be nicknamed because of his red hair) was born into British aristocracy. Spending much of his childhood being raised by people other than his parents, he was independent and rebellious, and although an obviously smart child, made poor grades in school. Suffering from a speech impediment he worked hard to overcome, his life was a series of successes and setbacks.

Sir_Winston_S_ChurchillAfter years of public service, and suffering from a severely damaged reputation, he went into exile. However, with a world in crisis, he returned to the public eye, and became Prime Minister of Great Britain at the age of 65, leading his nation through its darkest hours and on to victory against the Nazi regime. He famously said…

…We shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

He was Winston Churchill.

  • In 1919, while segregation was alive and well in the South, a boy was born to the daughter of a former slave. After the boy’s father left when he was just a few months old, the boy’s mother Mallie moved, with her five children, to California.

Jackie_Robinson_1945As Mallie’s boy grew, he experienced the racial hatred still aflame, even in California, in the 1920’s. However, Mallie’s example of diligence, hard work, and kindness, as well as her faith, lighted the way for her son. Overcoming the hurdles of a racially divided nation, Mallie’s boy worked hard to become a fine athlete, excelling in multiple sports including football, track, basketball, and baseball. Although he had minor brushes with authorities, the Christian values instilled in him by a good mother and other Godly adult role models kept him on the (fairly) “straight and narrow”.

After a period of playing semipro football, as well as serving honorably in the United States Army, “Jackrabbit” — as he came to be nicknamed — accepted an offer to play baseball in the Negro National League. His exceptional ability on the diamond attracted the attention of an older gentleman…

Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

“Jackrabbit” Jackie Roosevelt Robinson overcame the obstacles of hatred and racism to become the first African-American to play major league baseball, receiving awards and accolades, a world championship, and the Medal of Freedom (posthumously awarded to him in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan).

We all have untapped potential. We all have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. It doesn’t matter if you are born into wealth and prestige, or come from humble beginnings — we all have the potential for greatness.

“How is that?” you say.

It just stands to reason that, if He is great and greatly to be praised, and we are made in His image, we have the potential for greatness as well. So what does it take to unleash that greatness? What does it take to tap into that untapped potential?

It takes courage. Venturing into the unknown takes courage. It is no small thing to go into uncharted territory, personally or professionally. Churchill had the weight and fate of Britain on his shoulders. Jackie Robinson was breaking down the wall of racism in professional sports at a time when vitriol and hate against people of color were in full swing. It takes courage to go down a path no one has traveled, where the path is neither clear nor well-lit.

It takes commitment. Although he faced criticism and opposition, Churchill was committed to his nation, and the principles of freedom that Britain stood for. Jackie Robinson had to be committed enough to, not just baseball, but the vision that Branch Rickey had, that he was willing to look beyond the physical and emotional abuse, threats, and ridicule he incurred for the sake of an ideal bigger than he was. Being committed to your calling is vital to see your vision through to the end.

It takes Christ. Sure, there are plenty of people out there with lots of success who do not believe the tenants of Christ. But in the end, only what is done for Christ will last. Only what is done for God will stand the test beyond time, and still matter when the hands of time have stopped.

We are put on this earth for but a moment, compared with the eternity that awaits us… it’s best that we don’t waste that moment. God has called you to something bigger than yourself, but you’ve got to make the decision to get into the game if you are going to make a difference. In the words of Jackie Robinson…

Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.

In 1997, amidst much fanfare, Jackie Robinson’s number 42 was retired from major league baseball.

When eternity looks back on the race you have run, will your number be retired?

Will you fight the good fight of faith?

Will the sound of your accomplishments echo through eternity?

Will you hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant“?

Finding Your Song

This is a wonderful sentiment by the late Maya Angelou…

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

imageOne has but to walk outdoors on a sunny day and listen to the sound of a chorus of birds to understand this thought. Even in the captivity of a small cage, a bird still has the ability to find its song. A friend once told me about taking a walk one day, and feeling the Spirit of God encouraging him to sing… to lift up a new song to Him as he strolled in God’s cathedral, the Great Outdoors. As he walked and began to sing, he noticed something interesting began to happen. He noticed the sound of creation getting louder and louder. As he found his song, creation itself joined in the chorus, and the birds in the numerous trees about him began to lift up their voices as well. After a time, he said he stopped singing, and something uncanny happened…

Many of the birds stopped singing as well, and the sound of creation slowly died away.

In Luke 19, we find this story…

Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: 

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

We are all given a song. For some, that song is sung in the midst of gratitude and thanksgiving; a song of grateful worship to God for His goodness and favor.

But for others, that song may be sung from a place of hardship and pain.

How do you sing for joy when you are watching a loved one slowly slip away because of Alzheimer’s Disease or ALS?

How do you sing with gladness when the diagnosis is cancer?

How do you worship when you are a parent standing over the grave of a child gone too early?

We sing, not because we have the answer, but because we have a song. We worship, not because we are good, but because He is Holy. We seek out His presence, not as an escape from the world we are in, but as a place of safety and refuge for our souls while we are on the journey through this life.

 An interesting thing about dementia patients is, even as they are losing their ability to remember friends and family members — as well as their ability to even talk — many still have the ability to recognize songs and sing or hum a tune.

There is something about the language of music that speaks to all of us on a spiritual level. We are all made for worship. God has put His song into our DNA, and pursuing an intimate relationship with Him in worship is the first step to finding your song. The Psalmist wrote…

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. ~ Psalm 104:33

He was determined to worship as long as he had breath in his lungs; no qualifier, no expectation.

Maybe when we get to the point of unconditional worship — when we are singing our song, not because we have an answer, but because we have a God-given song — we’ll find that, in that obedience, we will find the answers we are looking for in His presence.

It could also be that, by spending time in His presence, we’ll discover that knowing the answers will become less important than knowing Him.

The Rhythm of the Saints

 

Several years ago, 60’s music icon Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel fame released an album entitled The Rhythm of the Saints. On this recording, he utilized musicians and musical instruments from all over the world to create a compelling, “world music” experience. As I thought about this title (with it’s obvious spiritual overtones), and thought about the debate over music that has raged in the church for years (decades, centuries, etc.), it begged the question…

What should the real “Rhythm of the Saints” look and sound like? How should we as believers approach music and worship?

The instructions for true worship and praise are clearly defined in the scriptures.

  • We should worship Christ continually.

Our lives, not just our church services, should be a reflection of praise.

“Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and let those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘Let God be magnified.’” ~ Psalm 70:4

  • We should worship Christ in the church.

“I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people.” ~ Psalm 35:18

  • We should worship Christ with the lost present.

“He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.” ~ Psalm 40:3

  • We should worship God so that praise can be heard.

“O bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise be heard.” ~ Psalm 66:8

These sounds of worship could include:

Shouting—

“… let Your saints shout for joy.” ~ Psalm 132:9

Singing—

“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~ Ephesians 5:18-20

Laughter—

“…then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with singing…” ~ Psalm 126:1-3

Musical Instruments—

“…play skillfully with a loud noise…” ~ Psalm 47:1

Clapping—

“Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph!” ~ Psalm 47:1

  • We should worship God with our bodies.

How should we use our bodies in worship? We are commanded to “present your bodies a living sacrifice…” (Romans 12:1-2). We should not hesitate to follow the example of “the man after God’s own heart” — “… David danced before the LORD with all of his might…” (2 Samuel 6:14)

  • We can lift up our hands.

“Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.” ~ Psalm 63:4

  • We should worship God with our soul and spirit.

You are body-world conscious, and you are soul-self conscious:

“Bless the Lord O my soul…” ~ Psalm 103:1

In addition, you are spirit/God conscious. When you are saved your spirit comes alive in Jesus Christ. Praise is the exercise of the Spirit. Praise brings strength to your spirit.

“…which worship God in the Spirit…” ~ Philippians 3:3

Mary praised God by saying, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:47)

  • We should worship according to the Word of God.

Everything David did in worship was from the Word of God…

“In God I will praise His word.” ~ Psalm 56:10-11

The Pitfalls of Preference

Worship is not about musical styles and personal preferences. It’s not about “warm fuzzies”, “nice feelings”, and staying in our comfort zones. Worship is about getting into God’s presence and seeking His face above all. What may sound to us like a joyful noise (emphasis on noise) may be wonderful praise from a pure heart to the ears of Almighty God. On the contrary, what may sound reverent, impressive, and inspiring to us may be a clanging noise to the One who knows “the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

The ark of God was the very throne and dwelling place of the presence of God on earth. When David and the children of Israel wanted to bring the ark of God up from Kiriath Jearim to the City of David, they had the best intentions at heart. It seemed like the right thing to do. There was much rejoicing and celebrating. They gathered all the people together, lots of music and dance, put the ark on a “new cart”, and headed out. However, God had already specified the manner in which the ark was to be carried, and a cart pulled by oxen was not in the instructions. The ark (His Presence) was always to be carried upon the shoulders of men, not on a cart pulled by a beast. So, when the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out to steady the ark, he paid for his irreverence with his life. God struck him dead on the spot, which angered the king. However, it wasn’t long until anger turned to fear in David’s heart. Instead of continuing with his ill-fated plan, David turned aside to the house of Obed-Edom, where the ark resided for the next three months (2 Samuel 6).

David had a good idea, but he did a good thing in a bad way. Worship is not about our opinion — it’s about His Presence. Following His design for how we approach Him is the key to finding His heart, and experiencing the joy, peace, awe, and wonder of His presence. When David returned three months later to move the ark to the City of David, he had a new perspective, a new attitude of worship, and approached the ark of God with sacrificial worship and praise.

One final thought…

The passage states that, “The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed him and his entire household” (2 Samuel 6:11). Obed-Edom didn’t just stop by occasionally and visit the ark. He made his home — his dwelling place — the habitation of the presence of Almighty God. Could it be that we are not experiencing more of His power and blessing because we are apathetic in our treatment of His presence in our lives? Could it be that if, instead of showing up at His house on Sundays and Wednesday nights, we make our own homes and our very lives habitations for His throne to reside 24/7?

Combine that attitude toward worship with the spirit of unity of believers in Jesus, and I believe that you find the unstoppable, unmistakable “Rhythm of the Saints” sounds surprisingly like the very heartbeat of God.