Archive for September 2015

Think and Feel the Truth

The truth about God is inexpressibly glorious. As a writer, I want people not only to think this truth, but to feel it. I want the truth to grab both their minds and their hearts. Somehow, such a magnificent truth doesn’t seem content to simply speak. It longs to sing and dance and shine as well.

Writing hymns lets me participate in that process. I long for people to be moved by how absolutely wonderful God is. I long for them to know Him on an even deeper level than one knows a spouse or dear friend. Since God is a Spirit, closer than our breath, this knowing can be constant. It is mind-to-mind and heart-to-heart. Our spirits fellowship with His. We are in Him. As we know Him in this way, we are reshaped by the encounter:

We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a  mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory. (2 Corinthians 3:18, NASB)

As we fellowship with Him, looking to Him, talking to Him, trusting Him, He makes us more and more like His holy Son Jesus. The Spirit of Christ grows within us.

I want everyone to know our God in this way, with every breath. That’s what drives me and draws me to write hymns. I want people to not only know the truth but to fully realize it with mind, heart, and imagination.

What does love for God draw You to do? How do you share His greatness and presence with those around you?

Listen and sing:
Hymn: I Have the Truth
Printed Music & Lyrics

The Essence of Life

By current U.S. standards, my financial means are modest. I’m comfortable, but my lifestyle isn’t lavish. I’m a typical middle-class American.

Yet compared to other times and places, I am pampered beyond measure. My luxuries far outstrip what the world’s wealthiest could imagine just a few years ago.

I live in a comfortable, climate-controlled environment.

I enjoy virtually instant communication with almost anyone, anytime, anywhere.

With careful planning, I can travel nearly anywhere in the world. And compared to earlier years, travel today is quick, comfortable, and reliable.

I live in relative safety – the best civilization can provide. I live in a strong, stable country where the government works to protect its citizens from a wide variety of dangers.

I have ready access to virtually any educational information I desire.

I have a comfortable home, meaningful work, a wonderful wife, and healthy, intelligent children.

I am in good health and have affordable access to excellent health care.

A wide variety of nourishing foods is always at my fingertips.

Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to go where I want, leisure time, a whole range of entertainments, a strong, active church—all these luxuries and more surround me every day. I have virtually every good thing the human imagination can conceive.

Yet with all this, my happiness is determined not by what I have, but by what I give. It is measured not by what I possess, but by the love I give out and live out day by day.

I look at my life. I look honestly at my daily happiness, and I see that it is so.

Specifically, my happiness is determined by my response to what Jesus called life’s two greatest commandments: 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30, 31, NIV).

Love shapes my happiness. Not material goods. Not comfort. Not the finest luxuries. Love.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: The Rich Young Ruler
Printed Music & Lyrics

Whom Did Jesus Bless?

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Read Mark 10:13-16; Luke 7:22-23; 10:23-24

Jesus came speaking the Father’s words and doing the Father’s deeds. Therefore He came blessing. In the Old Testament, we saw that the Father longs to bless His people, even when they don’t deserve it, and He abundantly blesses those who trust Him. We see the same in Jesus Christ.

Ask the average person who is particularly “blessed” – that is, who is fortunate, who has been singled out for success or special happiness – and you’re likely to hear that it is the rich…the lottery winners…the famous…the highly respected…those with great jobs. Or if the person answering can see beyond materialism, they might say that the “blessed” are those who are healthy, or who are surrounded by loving friends and family.

But notice who Jesus called “blessed”. God’s blessings are not dependent on circumstances. They are not the product of chance. Since all God’s greatest gifts come to us in Jesus (read Ephesians 1:3-14), we are blessed through relationship with Him. The “blessed” are those who know Him, respond to Him, and trust Him.

“Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:15-17, NIV)

As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:27-28, NIV)

Thomas said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:28-29, NIV)

Remember this: God has decreed the complete, eternal well-being of all who trust in Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3, NASB)

Lord, Forgive Me

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9, NIV)

We are so weak and inconsistent, so dull and ungrateful.

Yet if we repent and consciously turn away from our sins, not even they need separate us from God. The One who died for us doesn’t ask us to beg for forgiveness.

He doesn’t expect us to earn it or deserve it in any way.

You can’t. Don’t try.

He just wants you to ask Him to forgive you and trust Him to do it.

forgive me.
I trust You.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Father, I’ve Failed You
Printed Music & Lyrics

Daily Needs

Give us…our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11, NIV)

God gives us what we need day by day. We are “daily” creatures.

Our families need us every day.

It wouldn’t be good enough if God responded to our needs only when convenient to Him. “At my convenience” isn’t good enough for our families either.

We’ve made a commitment to them. Whether they verbalize it or not, whether they realize it or not, they depend on us for certain needs. It may be to talk, to listen, to encourage, or to give help with daily tasks. It may be to simply be there, to spend relaxed time together and just enjoy being with them. When we fail in our day-to-day commitments, they suffer.

Don’t give leftovers to the people you love the most. Their needs are daily. Be there for them daily.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Happy Our Home When God Is There
Printed Music & Lyrics

Creation Will Blossom

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Read Isaiah 35

Creator God conceived and made this world to engulf us in His goodness and embrace us with all His blessings. He wanted us to see and feel and discover that He is perfect wisdom, power, and love, and He is immediately, personally, constantly with us.

That is still His purpose. He has not abandoned it. This earth was designed to glorify God and bless His people, and that is what it will do.

Look at the rich array of blessings our Creator God promises His people:

  • Even the most barren parts of creation will blossom into beauty and abundance (vv.1-2, 6b-7). 
  • Take courage! Don’t be afraid! Though we are weak, He is strong. Our God will come and save His people from all that oppresses us. He will make everything right and good (vv.3-4).
  • Disease and physical affliction are evil cancers on God’s created world. They will be gone forever. Health and healing will reign all around (vv.5-6a). 
  • God’s people will be able to get around His world easily and safely. A road will penetrate even the wilderness – a road that is clearly marked and safe (vv.8-9).
  • In the future, God’s world will be permeated with joy. All the natural world will rejoice with a rich display of life and beauty (vv.1, 2). The afflicted will leap and shout for joy (v.6). All God’s people will be filled with everlasting joy, and sorrow in all its forms will be gone forever (v.10). 

This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world.
The battle is not done;
Jesus, who died, shall be satisfied,
And earth and heaven be one.
(Maltbie D. Babcock)

Don’t Forget

I am a conservative, evangelical, Bible-believing Christian. The laws, court decisions, and social movements in this country often conflict with my deeply-held beliefs. That will not change until Christ returns. Like most of you, I wrestle with how I should live as salt and light in this crooked and perverse generation (Matthew 5:13-16; Philippians 2:15, NASB).

I can’t tell you how you should respond to the moral issues that will continue to stir societal tensions; gay marriage, for example. But I can urge you to remember some basic truths that are easily forgotten in the heat of cultural combat:

1.       As children of God, our most basic calling is to show all those around us just how much God loves them (Ephesians 1:6). Our responsibility to each and every person is to love them as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Nothing is ever more important than actively demonstrating God’s love. Nothing! Without love, everything we say is as meaningless and obnoxious as a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1, NASB).

2.       Jesus didn’t respond to people as classes. He resisted labels. He dealt with people as individuals, and always with respect. His Spirit should guide every personal interaction. Remember that each individual is unspeakably precious to Him. Treat them that way.

3.       Jesus said: “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17, NASB). He didn’t condemn the moral degenerates of His day. He openly befriended them and warmly socialized with them. The religious conservatives accused Him of being a “friend of sinners”, a charge which He gladly owned. If He did not come to judge sinners, neither have we.

4.       People do not become righteous by externally-imposed laws, but by grace through faith. They are drawn to God from the inside, not driven from the outside. Righteous laws don’t make a righteous people, nor does a perfect president, a perfect court system, or a perfect Congress. Old Testament Israel was given a perfect legal code, dictated by God Himself, with Moses as their leader. Did that make them a godly nation? Not even close. Neither would Christian laws make America Christian. The Biblical agent for changing individuals and societies is not law, but grace. Shouldn’t grace be our focus?

Give Yourself to Him

I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1, NIV)

We are made for God, and for Him alone.

His love, His wisdom, His will for us are perfect. But He cannot do in us what He wants as long as we are distracted by other desires. To be His, to live in unbroken communion with Him, our hearts must be empty of everything else. Otherwise He cannot act and do there what He pleases.

Trust Him completely. Want only His will. Make Him and His glory the focus of all that you do and say and undertake. Free Him to do and be all that He desires in you.

by Brother Lawrence and Ken Bible

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Nothing Between
Printed Music & Lyrics

Psalm 1: Fruits of God’s Blessing

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Read Psalm 1:3-6

Make God’s word your delight, not your duty. Psalm 1:3-6 draws a beautiful picture of God’s blessings on those who feed their minds and hearts on His word.

  • God’s blessing is stability. You will be like a tree firmly planted. You will be immovable, not because of your own strength, but because your roots are imbedded in what cannot move.

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,
He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Planted in the house of the Lord…
They will still yield fruit in old age;
They shall be full of sap and very green. (Psalm 92:12-14, NASB)

  • God’s blessing is sufficiency. You will never run dry, for you will be planted by an eternal source of life-giving water.

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:38, NASB)

  • God’s blessing is fruitfulness. Your life will bear fruit that feeds others and honors God. Notice that this blessing will involve growth. Your fruit will grow naturally and gradually, in its proper season.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23, NASB)

  • God’s blessing is Himself. You will be constantly and forever wrapped in His knowing, His caring, His guarding, and His prospering.

Thus says the Lord, your Creator…He who formed you…“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!…You are precious in My sight…you are honored and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:1, 4, NASB)

God Himself is the only source of all life and all that is good. Without Him, the inevitable result is life that is dry, rootless, meaningless, and quickly passing. But Sovereign God has decreed the well-being of those who trust and obey Him. His life and His love do not fluctuate with money or external situations.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Walking with You
Printed Music & Lyrics

Looking for Acceptance

He is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. (Romans 2:29, NASB)

Lord, You saved me out of my sin.
And our relationship is person to person,
You and me.
You have called me,
prepared me, and
enabled my every step.
It is You who is working through me.
And all my work is for You alone, Lord.

Then why do I hunger so much for human acceptance of my work?
Why do I gauge its worth, and mine,
by the amount of response from others?

Father, help me to look for acceptance only in Your face.
Let obedience to You,
not recognition,
be the measure of my success.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Focus
Printed Music & Lyrics