Christmas Sunday Song Selection

Silent Night, Away in a Manger, O Holy Night, O Come All Ye Faithful!   All of these are wonderful songs, many of which we wait until after Thanksgiving to sing.  Alas!  Christmas arrives, and we sing them heartily, as well we should!

As you well-known this Sunday is what is commonly called, “Christmas Sunday.”  Christmas Sunday is the final Sunday before Christmas and is usually characterized by higher church attendance and the year’s strongest emphasis on the birth of Christ. For pastors it is one of the most anticipated sermons of the year.  For church musicians and vocalists it is a highly-anticipated day when many of our favorites are sung and played.   The two great questions for those in the Lord’s work are not, “What will I get for Christmas?” or “What shall I make for the family dinner?” but rather, “What in the world am I going to preach on Sunday,” and, “What am I going to sing on Christmas?”

Well do I remember my pastor teaching me that song selection is 75% Continue reading

“Love Music”

One of the chief take-a-ways from your reading of the Old Testament “church” narrative is that what begins with idolatry ends with gross immorality.

Recently, within a culture of so-called “progress” has come gross digression towards spiritual ruination.  True religion is not rotting because of the cultural decline in America; rather, the culture is declining because of that which many call “true worship” in 2014 America.  Within this ever-widening societal decline has been a deliberate attempt at re-inventing church.  “Traditional” has become the new 4-letter word of religious terms.

In many circles today the music of the church is set to the beat and groove of the world.  With that comes a lack of gender identification and modesty in dress.  This is the “come as you are, especially if you are immodest” generation.  We are now encouraged to approach God by casual means, instead of intentional holiness.

One observation concerning the new music and Contemporary theology is the blurring of the lines between the sexual and the sacred.  Yes, within the walls of what should be the world’s safest place (the local, New Testament church) is a blurred concept of love to God.   Continue reading

Rescue the Perishing & the Rest of the Story

Fanny Crosby was born in 1820. For many years she worked in the Bowery Mission in New York City, reaching lost souls for Christ. For years a pew held a plaque with this inscription to her: “Fanny Crosby occupied this seat on her many visits to this mission for over a period of 50 years. It was while sitting here that she received the inspiration for the great Gospel song, ‘Rescue the Perishing’.”

It was a hot, summer evening in the summer of 1869 when upon Fanny’s mind the thought came that in the meeting that night was a mother’s son who would be rescued that night or not at all. After her fervent plea for souls, a young man of eighteen years came to her and said, “Did you mean me? I promised my mother to meet her in Heaven, but as I am now living that will be impossible.” They then prayed together and he received Christ!

A few days previous to that Mr. William Doane had sent her as a great subject for a hymn this thought, “Rescue the Perishing, care for the dying.” It was to this theme and upon the occasion of the young man’s conversion that we have this story.

But, as Paul Harvey would state, “Now, the rest of the story.” Continue reading

Brush Strokes

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not what you would call a “Mr. Fix-it.” In all seriousness, I would be lying if I did not tell you that in an attempt to replace a tube in my daughter’s bike tire on a hot Florida evening, the whole bike ended up in the trash can. Long story (even longer night!”).

However, I am not completely destitute in working with my hands around the house or the church. I am a painter. Over the past 9 months, I have rolled over 40 gallons of paint onto our new church building’s walls and almost completely painted the inside of our home. When someone walks into the church and asks who we hired to do the painting, I get a thrill out of the assertion that there was something that needed “fixing” that I accomplished with my hands!

A few weeks ago we were working in the nursery. A pastor friend’s wife had come to help us to paint a beautiful mural in the nursery. To be honest, that was not just painting, that was art! As we sketched our animals and features onto transparency paper and then onto the wall in pencil, the pain-staking detail of artistry became quite obvious. I was a painter but hardly an artist!

As I was “perfecting” a juvenile-styled goat on the wall, a church member walked in and said, “Wow! You’re an artist, too!” WAIT A MINUTE….SLOW DOWN! I paint, but I am not an artist!

As I meditated on the difference, the Holy Spirit showed me that the work of the Pastor/Teacher is to be both a painter and an artist. Allow me to amplify.

Painters normally work within great spaces. I remember walking through our building with its never-ending white walls (akin to me of the blank corridors of an insane asylum…and please don’t ask me how I know that!). There was this overwhelming feeling of the vastness of the project. Though there is tedious trim work that is done, the main goal of the painter is to take an exterior, a room, a space and survey the room with color.

The artist, however, sees large things and focuses in on the minute details. Artists spend hours on the accuracy of a face, a structure, a sunset, using a myriad of colors to capture their vision. The “Painter of Light,” Thomas Kincaid, made collectible masterpieces by placing within his celestial scenes, varying occurrences of the letter “N,” an homage to his wife, Nanette. Such details makes a man great!

As a preacher of the gospel, I am to be skilled in both the landscape and survey of Scripture, as well as the minute details of God’s Word. My job in preaching is to paint a background for the people, as well as to focus the hearts of the people onto smaller truths. I may spend thirty minutes on a survey of the book of Acts, or spend three months of the three missionary journeys of Paul. Both are necessary, but without the work of painting my backdrop, my artisan skill will be less effective.

If you are a church member reading this post, know that your pastor labors in doctrine and emphasizes the significance of each weekly service to act as both a painter and an artist on the canvas of your heart. Develop a habit of faithfulness to Sunday School and the preaching services your pastor offers. He wants you to see the big picture, as well as to teach you a great love and appreciation for the smallest truths in Scripture.

So, whether you are the man of God with the palette or the canvas in the pew, thank God for these varying brush strokes and for your opportunity to know God and to make Him known. Selah!

Two Views that Make You Muse

I have been saved for twenty years.  Believe me when I say that I know how Christians think.  I know how they talk.  The ole’ redneck exclaimed, “I ought to know.  I are one!”

Life is full of trouble.  Every man born of woman (and that is all of them) is of few days and full of trouble (Job 14:1).  The Bible also states that the afflictions of the righteous are many (Psalm 34:19).  Christianity is not a powerful vaccinations from trouble.  If Jesus Christ were a haven from trouble, He would be sought as a savior from danger and ill, not a Saviour from sin and death.  Indeed, the soul needs a Saviour!

When trouble comes, the average Christian often takes this view:

“I have been on the mountain and my prayers have been answered.  God is blessing my life.  My devotional life is strong, and I’m living for Christ.  I am faithful to church and seeking to live Godly.  THEREFORE, my present trials are the attempt of Satan to hinder me.”  

I do not necessarily disagree with this rationale.  There is Bible for that.  Paul said, “Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.”  (I Thessalonians 2:18)

Why would Satan live in the suburbs of Spiritual Apathy when he is not needed there?  To be effective, he sets up shop across the street from First “missions-minded, soul-winning, Spirit-filled, holy-living, revival-seeking” Baptist Church!  Satan does hinder the church as she seeks to fulfill her purpose!  

The first view, therefore, is retrospective.  We look back across the landscape of that which we call “circumstance” and believe that Satan has been hindering us and thwarting our onward advance.  It is the belief that we are being attacked because God did something spectacular in our lives.

However, there is a second view, and one in which I hope to impress on your heart.  Suppose that we look at our trouble, not in retrospect, but rather in faith.  Suppose that it was not Satan that schemed our demise but rather God that was scheduling our future success!  Suppose that we look forward rather than behind.  Suppose we believe that “bad things” are happening in our lives because God is setting the stage for great things in our lives!

This is the recipe of Romans 8:28.  This seminal verse of Scripture uses vaulted ideas such as, “We know,” and “all things” to suggest that God uses the past to build our present security and our future success.  “And we know that all things worth together for good.”

In the Bible when God’s people were going through great difficulty, LOOK OUT!  God was setting the stage to do something special!

Consider that Joseph was oft-afflicted before his ascension to greatness in Egypt…and that Noah preached 120 years almost convert-less until helped arrived in the Ark…and that Abram and Sarai went childless until after the midnight hour of barrenness…that Moses endured worldly success, ostracism and obscurity until God showed up in fiery bush to reveal godly success through His power and miracles…and that Gideon was seemingly relegated to ultimate defeat by his diminishing army but won the victory with but 300 faint, yet pursuing soldiers…and that God used David’s desire, zeal and burden to form the future success of Solomon’s Temple…and that Israel sat in 400 years of spiritual darkness until the Light of the World illuminated the Judean sky at Bethlehem!

You see, just maybe, your trials today are not the “equity” of yesterday’s blessings but rather the “investment” God is making in your future usefulness!   Just maybe your “circumstances” are working against you, so you think, but God is working for you!

Faith lays hold of the solid rock and believes to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13).  Take a moment and muse on your view.  Do you see burdens as retroactive or the guarantee of tomorrow’s best?  It’s not “mind-over-matter;” it’s called faith.  “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith,” (Hebrews 12:1), we learn that all may change, but Jesus never.  Glory to His name!  Jesus never fails!

What Your Music Says About You

All of us like to control the way in which we portray ourselves. That is why we go shopping for ourselves, dress ourselves, pick out our own vehicles and the like.   The old adage, “Clothes make the man,” is true in an outward sense.   A man’s clothing is a billboard, not into who he is, but who he wants you to think he is. Many a millionaire has hidden his wealth under the ragged garments of humility, while many an indebted man or woman covered up their poverty by clothing fit for a king.

In a very real sense, however, there are ways in which who we are and what we are is most-readily discerned by others. Clothing may tell a false tale concerning an individual but the matter of music provides a crystal-clear super-highway of knowledge into the soul of a man.

World over, music has an unparalleled appeal in every culture. There is no culture where a form of music is not found and in each particular culture a man’s fruit may be seen through the music which influences his soul. Continue reading

Interesting Facts about the Bible

Question: What are some interesting facts & stats about the Bible?

Answer:

Books in the Bible: 66
Books in the Old Testament: 39
Books in the New Testament: 27
Shortest book in the Bible: 2 John
Longest book in the Bible: Psalms
Chapters in the Bible: 1189
Chapters in the Old Testament: 929
Chapters in the New Testament: 260
Middle chapter of the Bible: Psalm 117
Shortest chapter in the Bible: Psalm 117
Longest chapter in the Bible: Psalm 119
Verses in the Bible: 31,173
Verses in the Old Testament: 23,214
Verses in the New Testament: 7,959
Shortest verse in the Bible: John 11:35
Longest verse in the Bible: Esther 8:9
Words in the Bible: 773,692
Words in the Old Testament: 592,439
Words in the New Testament: 181,253

Source- http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-stats, S. Michael Houdmann