10 Best Things Billy Graham Ever Said

By Esther Laurie -March 17, 2021

This article with Billy Graham quotes was originally published in 2015. Billy Graham has since passed on, but his sermons and the example of his life will live on well into the future. Several people have written about the impact Billy Graham had on their lives. Below are some of his most famous quotes and our personal favorites.


Billy Graham is proud to be 96-and-a-half years old and hopes to live to 100. His son, Franklin says he’s quieter now, but still sharp.

Billy Graham has been widely known as the “Evangelist to the World” and “Pastor to Presidents.”

Franklin said he thinks God still has him here on earth to encourage Christians around the world.

“Especially now that we see Christians under attack in this country—and this is something, we’re going to see more and more of this—my father is still present. Even though he’s not able to speak as much as he used to, he’s still present, and I think that is a great encouragement to many people to know that Billy Graham is still with us,” said Franklin.

Some even speculate he might be holding on until Jesus comes back. Anne Graham Lotz, Billy’s daughter, said perhaps “the Gospel will be preached to the whole world” before her father passes. That would certainly be in line with the mission Billy Graham embarked upon as he extended the reach of his ministry with the help of media. His sermons were heard on radios and seen on television during the height of his influence. Several leaders in the Christian world can trace their spiritual journey awakening back to hearing the great evangelist preach either in person or through another medium.

To honor Billy Graham, here are ten of the best Billy Graham quotes with things he said:

“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion; it is like a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.”

Billy Graham Quotes

“My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.”

“God never takes away something from your life without replacing it with something better.”

“The will of God will not take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us.”

Billy Graham Quotes

“It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict. God’s job to judge, and my job to love.”

“God has given us two hands—one to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.”

Billy Graham Quotes

“My prayer today is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us, and will know in our hearts that He will never forsake us as we trust in Him.”

“We are the Bibles the world is reading; We are the creeds the world is needing; We are the sermons the world is heeding.”

“Christ not only died for all: He died for each.”

Billy Graham Quotes

“I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right.”

These are only our favorite Billy Graham quotes. Share others not listed here in the comments section.

Billy Graham Quotes

The Meaning of Passover

Laura Bagby

The Jews celebrated their Passover Feast in remembrance of God’s deliverance from death during the time of Moses.

Origination of Passover

Moses had been instructed to lead God’s people out of Egypt and save them from the evil and ungodly Pharaoh. Because of Pharaoh’s disbelief in the power of the One True God, Yahweh sent a series of ten plagues upon the Egyptians: the Nile turned to blood and at various times the land was filled with frogs, gnats, flies, hail, locusts, and darkness. In one awesome act of God’s ultimate authority, He sent one final devastating plague: every firstborn of every household would be annihilated.

In His mercy towards His people, God would shield the Israelites from such unmerciful judgment if they would follow the instructions He gave to Moses and Aaron. The specific instructions are outlined in Exodus 12:1-11. In sum, each family was to take a lamb and all households were to slaughter their lambs at the same time at twilight after a certain number of days. Then they were commanded to paint the sides and top of their doorways with some of this blood. Once this was done and all the meat of the lamb was eaten in accordance with God’s instructions, God would spare the Israelites from death. This is what the Lord said:

“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn — both men and animals — and I will bring judgement on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord — a lasting ordinance” (Exodus 12:12-14)

The Seder Meal

The highlight of a contemporary Jewish Pesach, or Passover, is the Seder.

The Seder meal consists of six highly symbolic elements: matzah, a roasted shank bone, parsley or green herbs, the top of a horseradish, charoset, and an egg. On each plate are three pieces of matzah (a special type of cracker or unleavened bread). Two of these pieces represent the traditional loaves used in the ancient Temple during festivals and the third piece symbolizes Passover. The roasted lamb bone connotes the sacrificial Passover lamb. Herbs symbolize springtime growth. The horseradish represents the bitter years of slavery in Egypt; charoset, a mixture of fruit and ground nuts soaked in wine, represents the mortar used in Egypt; and the egg represents the chagigah (a secondary sacrifice prepared along with the Passover lamb).

The Biblical Accounts

Accounts of what happened can be found in all four gospels — Matthew 26:17-27:10; Mark 14:12-72Luke 22:1-65John 13:1-18:27.

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https://www1.cbn.com/teaching/the-meaning-of-passover

8 Bible Misconceptions Your Church Should Address

By Mark Driscoll -March 18, 2021

bible misconceptions

Over the years, I’ve come across many Bible misconceptions. Some of these are due to rampant biblical illiteracy, and others to simple misunderstandings about how the Bible was copied and transmitted over the years. Many Bible misconceptions can be cleared up simply by learning how to interpret the Bible, but some require a more detailed response, especially from the church pulpit.

 8 Bible Misconceptions Your Church Can Address

1. “You can’t trust the Bible because it’s been translated so many times.”

This misconception assumes that we don’t have an abundance of manuscript evidence in languages such as Greek and Hebrew supporting the Bible. As a result, it makes the added assumption that the Bible may have started out in some original ancient languages a long time ago, but has since been translated and retranslated over and over again into so many different languages that we can’t trust it anymore.

This is simply not true. We have access to literally thousands of manuscripts and fragments that are used in translating the Bible, not a long chain of degraded translations.

2. “The Bible is full of mistakes and contradictions.”

This misconception is usually just thrown out without any supporting evidence.

Always ask for a specific example when you encounter this misconception. But be prepared, because some people may have specifics or even several examples, and you’ll want to know how to respond.

In reality, though, to say the Bible is full of mistakes and contradictions usually stems from a lack of understanding of the principles of biblical interpretation. Many capable scholars have addressed questions about Bible difficulties.

3. “You can make the Bible say whatever you want it to say.”

This only applies if one takes a relaxed view of Scripture, such as a relativistic attitude that rejects that the author had real intent and meaning.

Also, if we treat the Bible fairly in our interpretation, following the basic principles of hermeneutics, then we can’t make it say what we want it to say.

I once heard a seminary professor say that the Golden Rule of interpretation is, “Seek to interpret a text just as you would like others to interpret your words, whether written or spoken.”

4. “The Bible says … ”

This misconception claims the Bible says something specific, when it really doesn’t.

As an example, some will state that the Bible says, “God helps those who helps themselves.” Sorry, that was Ben Franklin, not the Bible. Some will claim the Bible supports the abuse of women, that it encourages slavery or some other major allegation. There’s a long list of things people say the Bible supports when, in reality, it doesn’t.

5. “Power-hungry church councils decided what to include in the Bible.”

The idea is that at some point, usually much later than the time of the New Testament, church councils met and included whatever books and ideas in the Bible would best help consolidate their own power. This is simply false.

Church councils formalized and officially recognized writings that God’s people had already accepted and used as inspired Scripture for hundreds of years, in the case of the New Testament, and thousands of years in the case of the Old Testament. Some of these councils include the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 363); the Council of Hippo (A.D. 393); and the Council of Carthage (A.D. 397). Church councils simply acknowledged the Scriptures that were already known and trusted by Christians everywhere.

6. “The New Testament was written hundreds of years after the time of Jesus.”

The implication of this misconception is that so much time passed between the writing of the Bible and the actual events it records that there’s no way it could be accurate. Supposedly, the gap between the reality and the writing allowed ample time for corruption, legends and even myths to develop.

In actuality, the time between the New Testament events and when they were recorded is very short, especially when compared with other ancient documents. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, for instance, within about 25 years of Jesus’ life. That’s not enough time for myth or legend to develop, because eye-witnesses were still living and would have objected to what Paul wrote and the church taught if it was historically inaccurate.

The earliest surviving manuscript fragment of the New Testament, from the Gospel of John, dates to about A.D. 130. That’s very close to when John actually wrote his Gospel, between A.D. 70–100. And although it’s still being verified, New Testament scholar Daniel Wallace reports that a fragment from Mark may very well be dated to the first century, making it an even earlier fragment than the one from John.

7. “The Bible is an old, outdated list of rules that no longer apply.”

While the Bible is old, it is definitely not outdated.

Not only is it filled with practical wisdom, but it lays out God’s plan of redemption for humanity. Its insights are timeless, relevant and useful in everyday life.

A quick reading of Proverbs, for example, will yield much wisdom and timeless advice.

8. “The Bible excluded other, more accurate, manuscripts.”

Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code popularized the idea that there were originally numerous competing “gospels,” and church leaders chose their favorites.

Supposedly, the four Gospels in the New Testament are biased, and in reality there were dozens or maybe even hundreds of other gospels to choose from. You’ll hear about the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Barnabas, the Gospel of Philip or even the Gospel of Judas. Occasionally, these “other gospels” get a burst of media attention, as though they somehow seal the doom of the New Testament.

There are three lines of evidence that argue against the reliability of these other “gospels.”

First, the manuscript evidence for them is terrible, especially compared to the manuscript evidence for the New Testament Gospels.

Second, all of these other writings were written down much later than the New Testament.

Third, the ideas they present are often completely foreign to what the New Testament Gospels are about, sometimes offering up advice that is just plain bizarre.

In the case of the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, it’s not even in the style of the New Testament Gospels, instead serving as a sort of collection of sayings. Some of the material is orthodox, while other parts are strange and outlandish. For example, in Saying 114 of the Gospel of Thomas, Peter supposedly says, “Women are not worthy of life.” Jesus responds not by clearing up Peter’s mistake, but by saying he, Jesus, will make the woman into a man so she can then enter the kingdom of heaven. That hardly sounds like the gospel we see throughout the rest of Scripture.

When it is rightly understood and wisely interpreted, we can be confident that the Bible is accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

The Bible is uniquely and solely God’s completely trustworthy revelation to us today.

Three Ways to Handle an Unhappy Marriage

By Corey Allan -August 12, 2020

Problems in marriage are inevitable. Even chronic. And so, at times, is unhappiness. There are three key ways to handle an unhappy marriage.

After studying 645 couples where one spouse rated their marriage as unhappy, a research study from a team of family scholars found that two-thirds of the couples who chose to stick it out together reported a significantly happier marriage five years later.

So what makes the difference if you choose not to divorce?

The marriages that got happier fell into three broad approaches: the marital work ethic, the marital endurance ethic and the personal happiness epic.

  1. In the marital work ethic, spouses actively work to solve problems, change behavior or improve communication. When the problem is solved, the marriage gets happier. Strategies for improving marriages range from arranging dates or other ways to spend more time together, to enlisting the help and advice of relatives or in-laws, consulting clergy or secular counselors, or even threatening divorce and consulting divorce attorneys.
  2. In the marital endurance ethic, by contrast, spouses don’t solve problems with concerted action on the part of either spouse. Stated another way, you don’t “work” on an unhappy marriage; instead, you endure it. “Just keep putting one foot in front of the other” because with the passage of time, things get better. Job situations improve, children get older or better, or chronic ongoing problems get put into new perspective.
  3. Finally, in the personal happiness epic, marriage problems don’t seem to change that much. Instead, you find alternative ways to improve your own happiness and build a good and happy life despite a mediocre marriage. This often contains elements of both the marital work ethic and the marital endurance ethic approaches as well.

Marriage as a Shared Story

Creating a happy marriage depends on more than just your interactions with your spouse; it also depends on how you view marriage in general.

Marriage is not just the sum of the personal interactions that you find either satisfying or distressing. Marriage is a social status and a shared ideal—a story you have about your own life, your family, your spouse and your love.

The attitudes and values that people and societies have about marriage and divorce affect how satisfying people find being married. In communities where marriage is highly valued, husbands and wives get more from marriage than they would in a community where marriage is seen as a merely private matter.

People who are deeply committed to marriage as a lifelong vow have happier marriages not only because of what they do in their relationships, but because of what they think about being married in general. Read that sentence again.

Stated another way: The happiness you get from any role in life—being a parent, holding a job, being married—depends in part on how satisfying you find the day-to-day interactions and tasks. But it also depends on whether you see the role itself as important and valuable.

In general, we have many goals for our own marriages, and those of others: We want marriage to last, we want children to enjoy living with their own two married parents, we want these marriages to be happy, and we don’t want unhappily married people trapped in miserable lives.

Over the past 40 years, these goals have seemed to be in conflict: If we discourage divorce we create lasting marriages at the high cost of individual misery—almost certainly for adults and often for the children. We need to find ways how to handle conflict.

Based on the findings of this study, this conventional wisdom is untrue.

Does divorce typically make unhappily married people happier than staying married? No.

Does a firm commitment to staying married, even though unhappy, typically condemn adults to lifelong misery? No.

So, is divorce always wrong and staying married always right? The answer’s not so simple.

Both divorce and marriage initiate complex chains of events whose outcomes cannot be predicted with certainty at the outset.

But know this…marriages are not happy or unhappy—spouses are.

And with the passage of time, the feelings of people about their marriages can and do change.

A bad marriage and a good marriage is not always a fixed opposite, but the same marriage at two different points in time (or in the eyes of two different spouses).

Divorce may make an unhappy spouse happier, but there is no guarantee (and much doubt) that it will.

Marriage is no panacea, but neither is divorce.

To sum all this up: People and marriages are going to be happier in communities with a strong commitment to marital permanence. While some marriages are so destructive that divorce or separation maybe an outcome, marriages are more likely to be both happy and stable when marriage is highly valued.

So,

Surround yourself with other married couples who value marriage as well.

Stick it out through the tough times.

And live life together with others.

It makes the ride so much more enjoyable along the way.

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Pick up a copy of Naked Marriage…available now.  

This article about how to handle an unhappy marriage originally appeared here.

Three Ways to Handle an Unhappy Marriage

What Makes Life Matter?

 September 26, 2020 by Menagerie

I am sure by now all of you, like me, are weary of hearing Black Lives Matter, and all the rhetoric associated with the phrase. It isn’t really being used as an introduction to a productive and honest conversation, or even as a true call to arms to change injustice. I am not, and I will emphasize that for commenters, am not wanting to discuss the worthiness of the cause and all the associated protests, and violence. We can leave that for other posts.

Because this has been at the forefront of our minds the last months, no matter which side of the issue you take, I have been giving a lot of thought to what makes life matter. You can throw out a phrase the media seizes or glorifies without really having any true understanding of it. That is inconsequential to the truth, and only the mentally lazy or immature accept it at face value.

For this thing we sum up as life, a big word indeed, what does give it meaning? What really matters? I’m sure since the beginning of human ability to discuss and record ideas no consensus has ever been found, but, at least in Western society as I know it, until recently, it appears to me that people, families, cultures, governments, philosophers, historians, educators and theologians shared some ideas.

What are they? Unique to each person, we can never speak authoritatively for all, and I do not seek to do that here. I would just, with your assistance, examine some of the more common motivations that I became familiar with through my childhood, born in the late fifties, and adult years, and feedback from friends, family, and ideas from my reading and studies.

It seems to me that every generation bore the burden of living up to unspoken standards, perhaps innocently as a toddler, and maybe even unwillingly as the child grew and became a teenager, in certain instances. No individual came away unswayed by those parental and societal expectations, not even the great and small rebels who defined their rebellion against those very expectations, be they bath and bedtime, curfew, length of hair or hemline, or denial of civil rights or religious freedom.

From earliest human history, people had to work to provide their safety, sustenance, and hope for another tomorrow. Only relatively recently in our existence have we had the luxury of leisure and reflection.

I know that life for my grandparents was all about work, survival, and that included surviving the Great Depression and all that entailed. Gardening especially, farming in Kansas during Dust Bowl years for my dad’s family. Re-using, repairing, making do, sacrificing for the whole family, and especially for the sick, the young, the old.

Throughout our American history, immigrants arrived on our shores with their own expectations and goals and desires. They brought into our melting pot cultural richness and beliefs that added to who and what we are, added by their work, sacrifice, hunger for success and life for the generations they gave birth to. But they also, upon arrival and integration into American life and society accepted the expectations of previous generations of Americans and determined to live up to those expectations, those standards, and stand alongside their American brethren to contribute not only daily bread to their hungry children, but to the building and protection and success of this great country that they gave everything for.

Immigrants did not leave their homes and families behind, almost everyone of them knowing they would never see father, mother, brothers and sisters again, to come to America and stand idle, to wait in a bread line, to huddle in hovels and listen to the powerful tell them how to live and what to think.  They came with dreams yes, but equal measures of determination, grit, work ethic, and hope. They came to build, and build they damn well did.

When I was a child our parents, and every teacher I ever had, painted pictures in our daily lives, in our minds, by words and deeds, of those who came before and built. In kindergarten we learned the story of the Pilgrims and Indians and the struggle to establish a home in the wilderness. Later in school we celebrated Thanksgiving through plays and the fictional words of Patricia Mullins “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?”

In very early years we knew how America was settled, we knew of the building of the Colonies, the great Revolutionary War, the establishing of the United States of America under our Constitution. Later we learned more, the fleshing out of the great statesman and their long days writing that Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and every single one of us had a picture of George Washington leading his troops across the Delaware River, but also leading his fledgling country as it began a legendary march into history and world power.

Subsequently we learned about American expansion across the Continent, we learned about the Louisiana Purchase, we learned about the rise of industrialism, slavery, the abolitionist movement, the compromises and Congressional battles prior to the firing on Fort Sumter. Here in the South most of us learned about Reconstruction from old family members and friends. We learned about the World Wars, especially WWII.

Because we knew about the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, we learned that people survive great pandemics and economic crashes. We knew about victory gardens, war shortages, rationing, and such obscure things as women painting a line down their legs to simulate stockings because they had none. Every family had an aunt or mother who learned to weld or rivet during the war.

We learned about heroes and heroines. We learned about heritage and pride. We learned patriotism. I was taught the states and their capitals by an old black man who worked for my father, along with a lot of other special things, both academic and practical, and I remember the dignity, confidence and pride this friend of mine had when he taught me, though he was impoverished and caught in alcoholism. This was a time when he was denied basic rights and privileges that I, unknowingly at that time, had merely by virtue of my birth.

I learned that he expected me to come to him after test day and report my good grades, measuring not only the knowledge he imparted to me, but my valuing of that teaching and time invested, and I learned that his expectations were very high. All this he did voluntarily, imparting knowledge he had gained to me just because that is what people did, across race, culture, societal and economic status.

Let’s narrow this in some, and individualize it. When I graduated high school, I went into the world expecting that there was some thing I had to contribute, some actions and work and effort that I should put forth, primarily for my own success, but also because I wanted, like every other graduate in my class, to make my mark, to measure up. But we all had an unspoken idea that we owed the world we lived in our best.

I graduated in 1976. We were caught up in a year long celebration of 200 years of American history, excellence, and potential. In that time, not only for us young adults, but also for the country, there was an air of pride and patriotism, and absolute belief that we had greatness ahead. As valedictorian, I still remember the closing line I wrote for my speech.

“We now have the key to our future. We must find the lock it opens.” At this point, I am told, my future father in law gave me applause. You better believe that ranks in my list of things that matter. He was one tough man, not given to praise.

Later when I married, we each had a firm idea of what we wanted and what we had to offer, as well as what it would take to make life happen for us. First and foremost, perhaps even more than love, that idea for both of us involved work. My husband knew absolutely what hard work was already, and he immediately and everlastingly (still going like the Energizer Bunny!) set out to make a future for us. I wanted more than anything to build a wonderful home for us, to learn to cook, especially his favorite biscuits and gravy, and to help work and provide security for the coming children.

We wanted to be able to provide our own home for our family, give them security, teach them about life, work, home, family, and yes, all those things I listed above, the richness of our American heritage and experience. We wanted to prepare them for an indifferent and often hostile world, to give them confidence, strength, determination, hope in the face of trials, and belief, both in themselves, and in our family.

If there was anything we took for granted back then, it was perhaps the freedom we had to practice our Christian faith, to have a church building, a parish family, priests and nuns and parish schools, and all the richness and splendor and fruits of living in a land where you can worship God and try to pass on your faith to your children, all without persecution or punishment. In those busy days, we gave little thought to not only the American history we knew insuring our right to worship, but the poor workers who make our beautiful old church building possible, the priest who is now a candidate for sainthood because he gave his life in a Yellow Fever epidemic, staying in town to care for the sick and dying.

We wanted to build a good life for each other, we wanted a great future for our family, our sons. We didn’t just have an idea in our heads for how life should be, not for ourselves, and not for our sons. We wanted to teach them all they needed to know to make the best of their lives, to be able to go out into the world and make a good life for themselves, yes, but more still. We wanted to teach them about adversity, strength, endurance, getting up when life knocks you down. We wanted to teach them to do things for themselves, and that they could do hard things.

We wanted to teach them the value of hard work, and my husband especially was determined that no son of his would be anything less than the hardest, toughest, longest enduring man standing when the chips fell. We wanted them to see the value of their contributions, to our family, and to our common experience as Americans.

Our sons knew what it was to work from a very young age, and just as my husband and his siblings had done, they contributed to our family’s well being. As teens they helped pay their school tuition, they always paid for their own gas and insurance, and even sometimes bought their own clothes, especially if they wanted nicer things than mom was willing to spring for. Yes, shout out to you, number two son.

They learned the cost of failure, of lack of effort, and of mistakes. They learned that actions have consequences, and they learned that their parents would not bail them out of troubles, large and small. They learned to make recompense when their actions cost others. Looking at you, number one son and the spray painting of the barn episode.

They learned that mindless destruction and irresponsibility had repercussions, number three son and the screwdriver episode, and that privileges were not to be taken for granted.

As a proud, very proud, mother and grandmother now, I can say they learned all those things well and taught us others. They are finer men than we dreamed of, and life will never mow them down. They are wonderful husbands, fathers, and each in his own wonderful and unique way adds value to our world. They are patriots all. They have brought very special and resolute women into our family, and we have eight wonderful grandchildren who represent the hope and the future of our family.

To help me gather thoughts for this post, and because I value their opinions most, we had a conversation this week about what makes life matter.

Every one of them ranked family at the top of the list. One daughter in law is in school, and that ranks high on the list of things that matter. Another daughter in law, established in her field, still seeks further personal purpose and feels the quest continues, a sentiment that I share, although she sure words it better. A sense of humor, so necessary in our family, which is perhaps why my daughter in law named it.

My youngest son just finished school a year ago, all while working and raising three kids. He wants a better life for his wife and family, but he also wants the things he does to make his family, especially his wife and kids, proud of him, as well as us, his parents. And by us, he mostly means dad, because that’s a healthy desire in a young man, just as my husband was satisfied that he was able to please his father and make him proud.

My middle son separates his motivations into professional and personal. Professionally he is driven to succeed not only for personal satisfaction ( I can say from experience he was driven from birth toward excellence) but also for the sake of building a team and doing his best for them and his company. Personally, he wants his kids to see and experience the limitless possibilities life offers, and to understand that sacrifices must be made to win those things. He wants them to be confident in the security and love of their family, as do all of the sons and daughters in law. He wants them to be aware that their lives and potential are tied to the sacrifices of generations of family before them.

My oldest son experienced personal loss this year in a big way, a huge and heartbreaking struggle this year has been for him, again, personally and professionally. As far as bad things happening, big and small, 2020 has been a year of hits for him. Through it all he has not only kept on going, he has made his kids a priority, kept a sense of humor, hope, faith, and made time to come home and help take care of me in my time of recuperation, and make things easier for his dad by doing whatever he can around the house.

I had a bad ankle injury a few months ago, and it is a long journey toward being able to walk again. Every single one of my sons and daughters in law have been there for me in ways large and small, from one son who had to make himself the contact during and after surgery, all of them who took me to and from doctor and hospital, cooked and cleaned and shopped and mowed grass. Perhaps most important, they just came when I needed company and encouragement most. Extended family brought meals and visited. Family matters.

And because this is what the post is most about, passing on what matters, I’ll brag on the grandchildren, from the oldest ones who even stayed with me a day or two to help when I was almost immobile, to the little ones who give me hugs and solemnly promised not to bump my leg, all of them have been there for me when it matters.

My husband has worked a full time job, been nurse, caretaker, coach (he’s brutal – no room for safe places in his thinking) and been the most uncomplaining companion in the world, when it was not easy to be any of those things, and when I was depressed and hurting and a big PITA. He epitomizes the for better or worse clause, and he is just absolutely as faithful and true and motivated in the worst as he is the better.

All these things matter. For us, they are the tip of the iceberg of love, family, tradition, hope, faith. They are the spoken representation of what can never truly be spoken. Together we stand, and we will not fall, and we will succeed in giving the eight kids entrusted to us to care for the best chances we possibly can to grow into adults who find their meaning and build their lives.

I submit to you that life must have deep and powerful, sacrificial meaning. One phrase can’t give life meaning. Signs can’t make life matter. Before it comes to showdowns with police, especially if they end in gunfire, life matters or it does not. From the time of conception, if this world is to matter, then life matters, and parents, family, society owe that child protection and care.

I will say what I said when Mike Brown died, and I saw his body on the street. I cried, I cried for a loss of what should have been as well as what was. He, through his own actions, lost the future chances to make his life about something that mattered.

When one young man or woman loses their life, we have all lost. But when a large, formidably, scary percentage of our youth are not given meaning and hope, values, responsibilities, family, and expectations, yes, expectations from parents and society, we all lose.

Until society understands the phrases Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, and all their other words designed to inflame, are incomplete without an ending, we have work to do. I think that our thinking should go further.

Life Matters Because…

A few notes in conclusion here. Most of you know me from family and religious posts. I have mostly kept my faith out of this. It is too huge a part of life to tag on here, and possibly deserves another post. You may of course address that in comments, but in order to stay on track with the ideas here, I did not include the most important thing in my life, but not out of neglect or failure to appreciate it.

This post is intended to encourage personal reflection (I could insert various scoffing adjectives from my sons here, as they reluctantly shared xxx feelings, as they so eloquently put it). I do not intend it to be a referendum on the various shootings, protests, and political arguments about them.

Be respectful, please.

Addition to original post.

In their review of this post, my sons placed emphasis on the value of humility. I’m sorry I forgot to include that, it’s very important to them. Indeed, it was a three way tie as to who is most humble.

God’s Will As a Way of Life

thy-will-be-done_si.jpg

Ken Boa

“How can I discover God’s will for my life?”
“How can I be sure of God’s guidance in my decisions?”
“God, what do you want me to do?”

Practically all followers of Jesus have asked questions like these. Most of us ask them not so much on a daily basis, but at an important crossroads in our lives. But is that really the best view of discerning God’s will: something we do at the “crisis” points in life?

I believe Scripture points to a different view: discerning God’s will is a process, a way of life, centering not on some special, all-purpose technique or program, but on our relationship with God.

Maybe you’ve noticed the Bible has much to say about cultivating intimacy with God — drawing near to Him, walking in step with His Spirit, leaning on His understanding — but says little about methods of determining His will. Scripture also emphasizes who we are over what we do. This is not because our actions are unimportant, but because they’re an overflow from who we are (Luke 6:45; Matthew 23:27-28). If we concentrate on intimacy with Christ, our actions and decisions will naturally be shaped by that growing relationship.

Knowing God’s will centers on a relationship isn’t enough, though; we need to be clear about the nature of this relationship. In some earthly relationships, we simply want to be told what to do, or we want to get approval for our predetermined plans. A good analogy for discerning God’s will in a decision is that of a joint decision reached by a married couple who enjoy an intimate relationship of mutual concern, respect, and trust. In this case, both are involved in the decisions reached, and it is sometimes impossible to distinguish the part each played in the process. Similarly, the will of God is a divine/human process, not solely divine or solely human. Furthermore, His will is not an end so much as a means to the end of knowing Him better and becoming more like Christ.

God’s primary will has already been revealed to us in His Word: to form and forge a Christlike character in us (Romans 8:29). The more closely we’re walking with Him, the better we will align with His will on an ongoing basis.

A deliberate acknowledgment of the presence of God during decision-making moments will carry us far in making God’s will a way of life rather than something we seek during a crisis experience. The fabric of our lives is woven out of the threads of minor choices, so it is wise to form the habit of being conscious of God while making them. This habit of taking God seriously in small decisions will make major decisions less traumatic.

Practical Principles for Discerning God’s Direction

Even with a biblical model of discerning God’s will, we’ll still face some decisions about which we’re uncertain, or in which the path forward is not obvious. In these cases, some guidelines are helpful. Here are seven principles—listed generally in order of how significant a part they should play in our decision-making.

COMMUNICATION: What do the Scriptures say? (Psalm 119:105; Romans 12:2)

God will never lead us to do anything contrary to His Word. And we need to be as committed to the content of His Word as to obeying it (whatever it says).

CONSCIENCE: How does this decision affect my love for God and others? (Acts 24:16)

God has implanted within us an intuitive sense of right and wrong. As we grow in Him, our conscience becomes more sensitive, more attuned to his desires.

COMMON SENSE: Does this decision reflect good judgment? (Romans 12:3)

Outside the above framework, common sense may lead us astray; yet, those committed to God and willing to comply wherever He leads may still be uncertain about a decision. God gave us minds that we’re to use to evaluate consequences of actions (recognizing that He may occasionally lead us against “good judgment”).

CIRCUMSTANCES: How does my state of affairs relate to this decision? (Ephesians 1:11)

Never the only criterion, circumstances are easily misinterpreted; nevertheless, our current situations should be taken into account—for example, our finances, aptitudes, education, experience, family, spiritual gifts, and occupation.

COUNSEL: What do wise and godly friends say about this decision? (Proverbs 11:14; Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 15:22)

The perspective of mature and godly people can be instructive and corrective. Even the wisest people are finite and biased, though, and we ultimately bear the responsibility for our decisions.

COMPULSION: What are my own desires? (Romans 8:14; Philippians 2:13)

God works in believers to give us the desire to do the things that are pleasing to him. Though we can easily become victims of sinful desires and inclinations, a burden or desire can be God’s leading and should be considered in context with the counsel of His Word.

CONTENTMENT AND CONFIRMATION: Do I have a sense of peace and assurance about this decision? (2 Corinthians 2:12-13)

If an option passes the test of the other principles but fails to provide peace, the wisest course of action is to wait (if the decision can be deferred). The option may be right, but the timing may be wrong.

For more on God’s guidance, download Ken Boa’s free booklet Discerning the Will of God. 

Can God change your life?

God has made it possible for you to know Him and experience an amazing change in your own life. Discover how you can find peace with God. You can also send us your prayer requests.

https://www1.cbn.com/spiritual-life/gods-will-as-a-way-of-life

Jesus’ Decisive Victory Over the Rulers of This Dark World

By Glenn Paauw -September 23, 2020

The defeat is not yet final, but Christ has dealt the decisive blow.

The contention of this series of articles is that the Bible is set in the land of wild things. That is, the Bible is more fantastical—beautiful, dangerous and strange—than we give it credit for. What we incorrectly call the natural and the supernatural, as if they are distinct and isolated realms, are actually part of a single, fascinating, and intertwined world. In the Bible, heaven and earth constantly interact and are alive with all kinds of creatures, forces, and powers—both seen and unseen.

What are these powers? What do they do in the world? How do they operate? How do they relate to God, to humans, and to the story of rescue and redemption the Bible tells? It’s past time we re-engage the Bible’s overlooked story of the powers.

* I am especially indebted to G.B. Caird’s small book Principalities and Powers for the main outline of this series (based on his Chancellor’s Lectures in 1954 at Queen’s University).

RECLAIMING THE WORLD

On the very first Sabbath day in the history of the world, God rested. In the ancient world, when a deity “rested” it meant they took up residence within their temple and began to rule:

“For the LORD has chosen Zion,
he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,
‘This is my resting place for ever and ever;
here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.’”
— Psalm 132

But it wasn’t long before God had to start working again, for the fallen powers and principalities and even his own wayward image-bearers had immediately begun disrupting the life and flourishing of his cosmic temple.

God’s new work was to pursue re-creation—the restoration and renewal of all he’d intended from the beginning. But this labor proves to be harder and slower than the first time around, due to the recalcitrants now impeding his plans.

The world rulers of this darkness seeking only to steal, kill and destroy.

Divine image-bearers strangely refusing to image the divine.

So when the Father sends the Son into the world to redeem the world, the Son continues the divine striving. When Jesus is accused of healing a man (i.e., working) on the Sabbath he says, “Yes, of course I’m working on this day. I work every single day! And my Father is working too!” This is the creational endeavor of rebuilding and recovery. This is the storyline of the Bible: God working to undo the work of those seeking to undo his own good work in the creation.

The life and ministry of Jesus is the culmination of God’s great undertaking: to win back the world.

GOD AT WAR

Read a Gospel, any Gospel. What do you find? A great battle between the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God.

We need to rethink what we’ve supposed the good news of Jesus to be all about. Again, as with so many elements of the biblical story, we’ve minimized and narrowed (he came to save me) what is big and comprehensive (he came to defeat sin and death and reclaim the creation—which includes me). Again and again in the stories about Jesus we find confrontation with evil and with evil ones. Jesus announces and is advancing a kingdom, a reign, a new authority.

Mark tells us that Jesus begins his entire ministry in the wilderness “with the wild animals” to be tested by the Accuser. Jesus immediately goes out to where the wild things are to face down the malicious spiritual forces that have been running the world. His initial victory here launches him into a public ministry in Israel that is both invitational and combative at the same time. His mission is a rescue operation, fighting spiritual oppressors and freeing slaves.

From Outreach Magazine  Shalom and the Future of Church Ministry

The authority of Satan as the ruler of this age is seen in physical disease (“a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has kept bound for 18 long years”), in demon possession, in false teaching, in moral failure, and preeminently in the murder of Jesus on the cross (“this is your hour, and the dominion of darkness”). Jesus exorcises and teaches and heals to overpower the Strong Man, with the goal of releasing and restoring those people who’ve been suffering under the Dark Lord.

This battle the Messiah is fighting is not the battle Israel was expecting. The reorientation is hard to understand, even for the Twelve:

Who is this that commands unclean spirits?
Who is this that can calm the wild, uncontrollable seas of chaos?
Who is this that can heal and restore with a touch, or even a word?
Who is this that is overpowering the powers?

Just as Palestine was a territory controlled by a Roman legion, so Jesus takes on the Legion of spiritual powers and authorities destroying the people of God. He is the Son of Man—that is, the truly human one come to reclaim the human vocation of image-bearing and ruling. Yes, it is the reign of God that he brings, but God has always wanted to rule in and through his designated agents. It is the seed of the woman that will crush the serpent (Gen. 3). It is the Son of Man that will put all things in subjection under his feet (Ps. 8; Dan. 7).

So Jesus teaches his disciples to pray a battle prayer, demanding that God bring victory in this contest. (Boldly, the verbs here are all imperatives, i.e., telling God what to do.) It is time for God to make his name known throughout the world, for God’s rule to extend to the earth. This prayer is about a new day coming and the bread of a New Exodus being given. Debtors must be released and the power of sin must be broken. It is an urgent appeal for God to protect his people from the Evil One and save them from the time of trial.

This clash comes to its climax when Jesus enters Jerusalem on a wild, unbroken colt, demonstrating that he really is king of the city and ruler over the powers. Jesus directly confronts the false and corrupt rulers of his people, both Jewish and Roman.

But then ha Satan enters one of the Twelve and drives him to betrayal. The powers intend the worst for Jesus, this disruptive human one that has been pushing them back and reclaiming creation for the Creator.

They know he is the Holy One of God, as we hear them shriek when he casts them out. But they also know he is vulnerable, flesh, able to die.

So the powers do what they know, do what they’ve always done. They steal, kill and destroy once more.

THE SECRET WISDOM OF GOD IN CHRIST

The Gospels narrate the story. The letters of the apostles clarify the implications. Paul explains to us what has happened:

“We do, however, speak wisdom among the mature. But this isn’t a wisdom of this present world, or of the rulers of this present world—those same rulers who are being done away with. No: we speak God’s hidden wisdom in a mystery. This is the wisdom God prepared ahead of time, before the world began, for our glory.

“None of the rulers of this present age knew about this wisdom. If they had, you see, they wouldn’t have crucified the Lord of glory.” — 1 Corinthians 2

The powers were blinded by their own lust for control, their thirst for destruction. They didn’t understand God’s deeper wisdom in Christ. Working through their human allies, they thought they could simply eliminate the Stronger One who had come into the world.

From Outreach Magazine  The 7 Irrefutable Laws of Servant Leadership

Though they couldn’t see it coming, the tables were being turned. What they thought was their moment of greatest triumph was precisely their moment of utter defeat.

The weakness of God in Christ was more powerful than the strength of the powers.

The paradox of God’s work in Christ—losing to win, dying to live—was incomprehensible to those obsessed with their own lust for dominance and carnage.

New Testament scholar G.B. Caird* identifies the specific threefold victory of the Messiah over the world rulers of the darkness:

1. The powers had a hold over the human race because of their successful accusations of our own pervasive wrongdoing. But Christ decisively dealt with the charges against us:

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” — Colossians 2

2. The powers operate at a high level of organization. Their pernicious effects are nested into the structures of society: institutions, economic systems and governments. They are intertwined with the essential frameworks of a fallen cosmos. Defeating them requires giving humans a new option for corporate identification and action. This is what Christ and the renewed family of God provide. The Messiah is a new or second Adam, affording humanity a new basis for unity and taking away a crucial tool of the powers.

3. Finally, Jesus destroys the deceptions and falsehoods at the heart of the kingdom of corruption. Paul writes that the god of this age has blinded the minds of all those who worship what is not God. This spiritual veil compels people to give their allegiance to imposters. Jesus has shown us the truth about the world and about who God is. The light of revelation that Christ brings evaporates the lies that empower so much of the success of the false rulers.

This definitive victory of Israel’s Messiah and world’s true Lord on the cross was confirmed and demonstrated by his powerful resurrection and ascension. Jesus came and did God’s work. He came and fought God’s fight. Therefore his death was reversed, his claim to be king was vindicated, and he was raised up to his rightful position over all things.

The powers have met their match. Their defeat is not yet final, but the decisive blow has been dealt.

The secret wisdom of God in Christ is the dawning of a new day for the world. People are being liberated. The creation itself will soon be set free.

So our final question must turn back to us. What do we do now? How do we take up our own roles in the ongoing defeat of the world rulers of this darkness?

* c.f. Principalities and Powers, pp. 84–101.

Jesus’ Decisive Victory Over the Rulers of This Dark World

VIDEO Spirit-Filled Music

By John MacArthur Jul 19, 2009 Ephesians 5:18–19

Well, let’s take the Word of God and open to Ephesians chapter 5. Ephesians chapter 5 verses 18 and 19 tell us this: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;” – this is Spirit-filled music. Certainly, we’re all aware that music dominates our culture, aren’t we? Rarely is anyone away from it.

If you’re in the car, music is playing. If you’re at home, music is playing, on the radio, the television, stereos, CD players, MP3s, iPods, etc. If you go into a store, music is playing. If you go into a restaurant, music is playing. You see people walking down the street, riding bicycles, jogging with ear plugs listening to music. Music is a powerful emotional stimulator. Truthfully, music is a gift from God. It’s part of His creation, and what a wonderful gift it is.

It is a common grace. That’s an expression that theologians have used for centuries to describe things that are good gifts from God given to everybody; common grace, like the rain falling on the just and the unjust. Music is a common grace. It is a gift from God for everyone to enjoy. It is a benefit to mankind. It is a ready means to quite the troubled soul, to settle the anxious heart, to give expression to strong feelings when words are not enough.

It was music that calmed the troubled heart of Saul in 1 Samuel. In Ecclesiastes the troubled king – looking at life and concluding that everything is vanity and nothing but vanity – says, “I gathered around me male and female singers.” Music is a comfort. Music is an encouragement. It can be high and noble. It can be beautiful and majestic. Music can elevate the soul and emotions that are honorable, and pure, and lofty and good, or it can be base and crass, ugly, degrading, catapulting the soul downward into feelings that are dishonorable and impure – and just about anything in between.

But as the world gets worse, as evil men grow worse and worse, the world carries its music with it. As a fallen world catapults deeper and deeper into corruption, headed toward the day when the Lord comes back to destroy this world and to create a new heaven and a new earth, music degenerates with humanity. Therefore, music in our day is dominated by a more degenerate kind of society than years ago. The degenerate – in fact, seemingly, the more degenerate people are, the more impact they have in music.

Music has become a settling ground for degenerate people. Not just music, but just about all the arts; but certainly, music has degenerated in our culture, both in its composition, and its performance and its personnel. And it seems that, in most cases, if you want music that is beautiful, and noble, and lofty, and pure, and good, and intelligent and magnificent, you have to go back in time to a less sensual era, a less blatantly corrupt era.

If you were here 30 years ago, you might have heard the choir sing what they sang today. If you were here 30 years ago, you might have heard the congregation sing, “There is a fountain filled with blood.” The music that the church sings is timeless, and its truth is eternal. We go back, even in the culture, to the classics because we want a nobler, loftier, more elevated experience in music; the further we go forward in our culture, the more base it becomes. And I submit to you that nothing that you do is more serious than worship; nothing.

Worship is the highest expression of a believer’s life, and therefore the music that accompanies your worship should be the highest, and the noblest, and the loftiest and the best. In all cases with secular music, it reflects the attitude of the society in the time it was produced, but that’s not true with our music. The music of the redeemed expresses the unchanging truth of the Word of God, that transcends culture. We don’t succumb to the ever-increasing corruption of a fallen world displayed in its music.

The music of the redeemed is different; it is reflective of the truth of God that never changes, and I think it displays the elements that are true of God: order, design, intelligence. The music that is reflective of God is systematic, sequential, poetic, harmonic, rhythmic, possesses resolution. It expresses the unchangeable reality of God and His truth. Salvation has given us a new song, and it is a timeless song. I have the distinct feeling that when we get to heaven we’re going to be singing the same things we’re singing here.

Salvation has given us God’s truth, and with it, music consistent with that truth, consistent with His nature. It is for us more than a common grace; it is a spiritual blessing given only to the elect, only to the redeemed. Now, before we look at the verses that are the text for today, I just would like to comment on some misconceptions – maybe correct them. First of all, there is the misconception that music is worship. For a lot of people, you say, “We’re going to worship,” automatically that means music.

But music is not worship; that is not true. Music is a means to express worship. It’s not the only means; it’s not even the most important means. The most important means to express worship is obedience. And even, connected to that obedience, is love. But music is a way to express worship. It gives wings to us. It elevates us. It lifts us when words are not enough, and it allows us to borrow somebody else’s words when our own are not as prosaic as our hearts wish they were.

Another misconception is that music produces worship, motivates worship, induces worship; that is to say, that worship is an emotional experience and the right kind of music will whip up that emotion. That is true. Music will play on your emotion, music will stir your emotion, but that is not necessarily worship. Music will give expression to love, it will give expression to adoration, it will give expression to honor, it will give expression to worship, but it doesn’t produce it.

What produces it is the truth in the heart and the work of the Spirit of God. People sometimes ask me about musical preferences, and I will just tell you this: I don’t – I don’t need music to that whips up my emotions. I am content with any kind of music that allows me to give expression to the truth that I believe. I want to think about what I’m singing. Patricia and I visited a church recently where I was trying my best to worship, but I was so blasted and bombarded by smoke and mirrors, and flashing lights, and spinning wheels, and jumping people, that it was impossible for me to worship.

I was so distracted, I couldn’t keep my attention in any direction. I don’t need to have my senses blasted. My worship comes from the truth that I love and that I understand. I don’t need emotion to induce that; I need emotion to respond to that. Another misconception is that music must appeal to the non-believer, or they’re going to get bored with our worship. That also is a misconception. I want to say this in a gracious way, but the music that you hear among the people of God is not designed for the unbeliever; not designed for the unbeliever.

We’re glad you’re here, glad you’re listening; don’t expect you to like it, particularly. We would assume that it’s not your favorite kind of music, and that you’re probably fairly bored with it; and that certainly, if you’re not bored with the music, by now you’re bored with me. I understand that. The songs of the redeemed belong to the redeemed. I don’t say that in an unkind way, but you’re on the outside looking in. The songs of the redeemed never, in Scripture, are said to be for any direct evangelistic purpose.

There’s an indirect effect; when you see a worshiping group of people, who with all their heart love their God and love their Savior, and are pouring out their hearts in praise, that has an impact. But it’s the truth of the transformation demonstrated in the worship that has the impact. There’s no mandate for the church to make its music appealing to the sons of Satan; it’s our music. So, music is not worship. Music does not induce worship.

Music is never intended for the satisfaction of non-worshipers. It is the gift of God to believers to give expression to their love and their gratitude to the God of their salvation. That’s why the Bible calls it “a new song;” “a new song.” The world, as I said, is filled with music; it’s a common grace, but we have a new song. In fact, if you go back to the Psalms – we talked about the Psalms being Israel’s hymn book – the word new appears many times in the Psalms – more with the word song than any other substantive.

As a new people, we have a new song. Our music has dramatically changed from the music of the world. In Psalm 33 we read – verse 1: “Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones; Praise is becoming to the upright. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; Sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.” God wants music that is loud, skillful, joyous, and expresses the new song; and what is the new song?

It’s the song of the redeemed, it’s the song of the new life, it’s the song of salvation. Psalm 40 – a personal testimony from the Psalmist, David: “I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.” This is basically a testimony of His salvation. “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God” – ours is a new song.

Psalm 96:1: “Sing to the Lord a new song.” Psalm 98:1: “O sing to the Lord a new song.” Psalm 149:1, I read earlier: “Sing to the Lord a new song.” Isaiah 42:10, the prophet says, “Sing to the Lord a new song.” We sing a new song because we are new creations. Our music is not like the old song. It’s not like the songs that are the common grace songs. It’s the song of joy and praise, and thanks for the gift of salvation, the forgiveness of sin, and the promise of eternal life.

And it’s always been a part of the worship of God’s people. If you go all the way back, for example, into 2 Chronicles chapter 29, the wonderful story there of Hezekiah – finally a good king in Judah – and Hezekiah comes back and the Lord uses him to bring a wonderful restoration of worship. In chapter 29 of 2 Chronicles and verse 20, “King Hezekiah arose early, assembled the princes of the city, went to the house of the Lord.”

Going to restore worship, and there are animals brought for sin offering; the slaughter of the bulls, verse 22, the priests took the blood, sprinkled it on the altar. Slaughtered the rams, sprinkled the blood; slaughtered the lambs, sprinkled the blood; same with the male goats. Laid their hands on them, the priests slaughtered them – verse 24 – purged the altar. And then verse 25: “He stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with harp, with lyres, according to the command of David and Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet; for the command was from the Lord through His prophets.”

The Lord commands music; music in response to the initiation of worship, based upon forgiveness through a sacrifice. “The Levites” – verse 26 – “stood with the musical instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. Hezekiah gave the order to offer the burnt offering on the altar. When the burnt offering began, the song to the Lord also began with the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David, king of Israel.

While the whole assembly worshiped, the singers also sang and the trumpets sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. Now at the completion of the burnt offerings, the king and all who were present with him bowed down and worshiped. Moreover, King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to sing praises to the Lord with the words of David and Asaph the seer” – who both wrote psalms. “So they sang praises with joy, and bowed down and worshiped.”

Singing is not worship, but it accompanies worship; it is a means of worship. This is the worship of the redeemed. Our music is not like the old song. And music was a critical part of Old Testament life. According to 1 Chronicles 23:5, there were about, I suppose, nearly forty thousand people serving in the temple; four thousand of them were in the music department – one in ten. In Exodus 15 verses 20 and 21, Miriam, the sister of Moses, led a woman’s chorus.

In 1 Samuel 10:5, the prophets made up a male chorus with instruments. In 1 Chronicles 13:8 and 1 Chronicles 15:28, the congregation sang praise to God with instruments; it says, “with all their might” – loudly, as the Lord likes it. First Chronicles 16, David made a tabernacle choir. There was a temple choir, as I said, of 4,000, according to 1 Chronicles 23:5. And when the children of Israel were taken into captivity in Babylon the temple was destroyed.

They came back, you remember, under Zerubbabel, they rebuilt the temple. Ezra 2:65 says that when the temple was rebuilt, they reconstituted the choir. Smaller temple this time, smaller choir, only 200 in the choir. But the revival that came when they returned from captivity is recorded in Nehemiah, as you know, chapter 8 on through chapter 12. They had a great revival – the Word of God was read, restoration came – and it tells us in the twelfth chapter of Nehemiah that the revival featured an antiphonal loud singing – antiphonal means people singing back and forth.

This was the ultimate sort of consummational praise in response to the revival. The Old Testament talks about all kinds of stringed instruments: azor, dulcimer, harp, sackbut – which is like a lyre – drums, timbrel, bells, woodwinds, trumpets, clarinets, flutes, pipes, ram’s horns – music was a main means of expressing worship. If we look forward – as we just looked back – to the millennial kingdom, Ezekiel gives us a description of worship in the millennium.

In the time, the thousand-year kingdom, when the Lord comes back and reigns on the earth, there is going to be a great time of worship in the rebuilt temple. It’s going to be a monumental choir that is going to take place there. In fact – I’m not going to read it to you – but in the fortieth chapter of Ezekiel, verses 44 to 47, there is a choir loft that is described there that could hold four thousand people. So, a four thousand voice choir in the Old Testament, a four thousand voice choir to come in the great time of millennium.

In between – in this period of time – the New Testament, for example, makes much of music. Matthew 26:30, remember, Jesus gathered with His disciples in the Upper Room for the final Passover, instituted the Lord’s Table, and it says, “And after they had sung a hymn, He went out into the Mount of Olives.” From there on the church sings. We have even some of the elements of the hymns they sung scattered throughout the epistles of the New Testament.

There are illustrations of the music of the church in Acts 16, 1 Corinthians 14. And then you come to the book of Revelation, chapter 5, chapter 14, chapter 15, and you go to heaven in those scenes, and there’s music in heaven as the saints are singing, “Worthy is the Lamb.” Music has always been a part, always will be a part, of our worship. It is a wondrous blessing from God, a gift. And we will enjoy music throughout eternity, singing the songs of redemption.

Well, all of that leads us to our text, so let’s look at it. Just three points I want to make. First is a contrast; a contrast. Verse 18: “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” If that seems to you as a strange contrast, I understand that. Why would he contrast being filled with the Spirit with being drunk? Well, the reason is because, in the ancient pagan religions, they believed that the way you communed with the deities was through losing control.

The idea was that you become drunk, you engage yourself in a kind of a deep drunkenness, and this will lift you, this will elevate you to commune with deities. You add to that indulgence at a gross level in terms of food – gluttony and vomiting in a pit in the middle of the floor, and then going back and refilling yourself. And you add to that temple prostitutes, with whom orgies are conducted, and you have a description of the typical Gentile pagan religious experience.

It is total abandonment to all things sensual; total abandonment of all control to a substance that causes you to plunge deep into a stupor of unthinking, irresponsible evil. That, they taught, was how you worship. That’s how you transcend the mundane. That’s how you commune with the deities. In the sixties, Timothy Leary tried to sell that, saying that drugs induced an elevated state of consciousness in which you could commune with God; that’s a very old belief.

Peter faced it in his ministry, and so he wrote in 1 Peter chapter 4 and verse 3, “For the time already past is sufficient for you.” In other words, you need to change your lives. Now that you’ve come to Christ, no longer living “for the lusts of men, but the will of God.” – verse 2 – you’ve had enough of “the desire of the Gentiles.” You’ve had enough of the old life; what was it like? “Having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.”

All of that was one package deal. When you went to worship an idol, it involved sensuality, lust, drunkenness, carousing and, of course, the abomination of worshiping a false God – you’ve got to stop this. He says, “In all this, they” – the Gentiles – “are surprised that you do not run with them with the same excesses of dissipation.” There’s that same word dissipation that was in Ephesians, that drunkenness led to dissipation.

They wanted the dissipation. They wanted the drunkenness to lead to the dissipation, because the deception was this is how you commune with the supernatural. And the truth is, they did commune with the supernatural, but the ones they were communing with were demons. That’s why Paul says in 1 Corinthians you can’t come to the table of the Lord and go to the table of demons. False religion was demonic. They did touch the supernatural, but they touched the supernatural at the demonic point.

Frenzied immoral drunkenness, gluttony, corrupt sexual behavior – all supposedly inducing communion with deities – did nothing but plunge them deeper into Satanism. Paul says, “We don’t do that; we don’t do that. You’re going to be controlled, not by a substance like alcohol – you’re going to be controlled by being filled with the Holy Spirit.” There’s a clear contrast between false religion and true religion, the religion of the flesh, the religion of the Spirit.

The command is to be being – literally in the Greek – “be being kept filled with the Spirit.” Now, there’s a lot of theology we could talk about with that, but I won’t take the time to do it at this point. Suffice it to say the “be being kept filled with the Spirit” is a command for continuity. Some people think being filled with the Spirit is some kind of ecstatic experience that hits you here and there and hither and yon; some people equate it with being slain in the Spirit or launching off into some kind of tongues.

That is not what this is talking about. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is compared to being filled with alcohol. When you’re filled with alcohol, it controls you. When you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, He controls you, and this is not a sometime experience – this is to be a way of life. If you were in a Gentile religion and involved in that kind of thing, you would drink yourself into oblivion, and then you would eat yourself to the point where you would need to get rid of it.

And you would go and divest yourself of the food and the alcohol in your stomach, and then you would go back again and fill up again, and fill up again, and fill up again – and the history of these orgies is just unbelievable – and then you would engage in all kinds of corrupt immoral behavior because you were totally under the control of that substance. We don’t worship except under the control of the Holy Spirit. Being filled expresses the idea of permeation – being dominated to the point of control – that’s the parallel.

What fills, controls, and we are to be controlled in our worship by the Holy Spirit. You know, the pagans were so used to seeing religion expressed in drunkenness and strange behavior that on the day of Pentecost, in Acts chapter 2, when the Spirit of God came, it says, “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to speak in languages.” What was the response of the people around? Acts 2:13, they said, “they’re drunk.”

Because the normal explanation for unusual religious behavior was that they were drunk, and, of course, on the day of Pentecost, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the basic spiritual reality that defines what it is to live your Christian life. This is not some once-in-a-while deal. This is not some repeatable, ecstatic experience in which you speak in tongues or fall over backwards. This is just how you live your life.

Every Christian possesses the Holy Spirit. Every believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit: 1 Corinthians 6:19. If you have Christ, you have the Holy Spirit: Romans 8:9. The Spirit has come to dwell in you: 1 Corinthians 12:13. You’ve been sealed with the Spirit of God. The point is, since He lives in you, you are to yield to His control. It doesn’t mean having a wild, ecstatic experience, some kind of mystical trauma, some kind of ecstatic speech.

It’s very thoughtful, it’s very controlled, it’s very orderly, it’s very reasonable, and it is to be a constant reality. Filled in the sense of permeation. Now, to better understand that, the word filled is used – plēroō – to speak of winds filling a sail that moves the ship. The word is used very often in the New Testament in a dominating sense – like in John 16:6, it says he was filled with sorrow, which means that it just took over – no more balance.

Or Luke 5:26, filled with fear, or Luke 6:11, filled with madness, or Acts 6:5, filled with faith, or Acts 5:3, filled with Satan. It’s talking about permeation and control. And the command of Scripture is that we are to be filled, permeated, controlled, by the Holy Spirit. How do you do that; how do you do that? You – do you pray some prayer to the Holy Spirit to come? No, because He’s already there. How do you do that? Well, the answer comes in a parallel passage in Colossians 3, so turn to Colossians 3.

This is very practical. If you look at Colossians 3, in one verse – verse 16 – the verse ends – I want you to see the back half of the verse to begin with. It says, “admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to the Lord.” That’s a direct parallel of Ephesians 5:19, right? We just read it. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

That’s Ephesians 5:19. Here, Colossians 3:16b – same thing – “psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your heart to the Lord.” So, the results are the same in Ephesians and Colossians, but the means are different. In Ephesians, it says, “Be filled with the Spirit.” Here, it says, “Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom.” So, you get the same results from two things: one, being filled with the Spirit; two, letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.

Conclusion: they’re the same. To be filled with the Spirit, to be dominated by the Spirit, to be controlled by the Spirit, means to be aware of what the Word says and obedient to it. We’re not talking about a mystical experience here. We’re talking about simply understanding richly – plousiōs, equal to abundantly – the Word that has come from Christ. You want to be filled with the Spirit? That simple; you have to know what the Spirit wills – right?

If you want the Spirit to control your life, you have to know what is the Spirit’s will? To know the Spirit’s will, you need simply to know what the Spirit has revealed in Scripture. We’re commanded to live under the control of the Holy Spirit, and the only way we can do that is to be obedient to the will of the Spirit; the only way we can be obedient to the will of the Spirit is to know what His will is; and so, we turn to the Word.

Worship is inseparable from holiness. Holiness is inseparable from obedience. Obedience is inseparable from knowledge. Knowledge is inseparable from Scripture. You know the Scripture, it leads to knowledge. Knowledge leads to obedience, obedience leads to holiness, and that’s what it means to be under the control of the Holy Spirit. That’s a life that worships; whether there’s any music or not, that’s a life that worships.

Now, that brings us to the issue that’s on our minds – back to Ephesians 5. The contrast, and then the command to be filled with the Spirit, dominated by the Word, living in obedience to the Word – what are the consequences? How do you know when you’re doing this? The consequences, first of all, are given clearly in verse 19: “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”

The first consequence is music; music. There’s a second consequence in verse 20: thankfulness. There’s a third consequence in verse 21: submission to one another in the fear of Christ. But the first is music – there’s a reason why Christians sing. We can’t stop singing. Now, three words here carry the action, three verbs – verbs always carry the action in any language, certainly that’s true in Greek as well – three verbs: speaking, singing and making melody; speaking, singing and making melody.

Speaking is a general word, but it’s the Greek word laleō. It actually means – it’s an onomatopoetic word; that is, its meaning is like its sound – la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-leō. It’s used of animals, it is used of the sounds of a baby, it is used of the chirping of birds – primarily; secondarily, it means to say or to speak. But it really could be simply translated making soundsmaking sounds. And further defining those sounds, we are making sounds to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs by singing and making melody; so, what kind of sounds?

The sounds of singing – we sing. We can’t stop singing. The Greek verb is adōto sing. Further defined, making melody – from the verb psallō, from which the word psalm comes from – it literally means to sing to the accompaniment of an instrument, or to play an instrument. We play instruments, we sing to the accompaniment of those instruments; this is an expression of the Spirit-filled life. Vocal, instrumental music is the initial expression of the worship of a Spirit-filled believer.

How blessed have we been here, right? To come filled with the Spirit, and to have one so gifted to lead us in the expression of that song. It’s in our hearts to sing; we will sing forever around the throne of God. We have had a foretaste of that glory here in our church experience. Now, there are several features about our singing. Among whom do we sing? Verse 19: “Speaking to one another” – “to yourselves” some translations put it – it refers to the believers.

We sing to ourselves. We sing among ourselves, is the best way to say it. It is a mutual ministry among the saints. It is not entertainment. It is not evangelistic. It is not for other people. It is among us. It is corporate worship. By the way, the Roman Catholic Church robbed the church of this, of course, for a thousand years, and when the Reformers came back and rediscovered the gospel, they also started to write hymns, and even produced hymns for the people to sing for the first time in a thousand years.

In Hebrews chapter 2 and verse 12, there is a wonderful testimony given: “I will proclaim Your name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.” Our praise is sung in the midst of the congregation. It’s for us, it’s our music, it’s our new song; it’s our form, our means, of worship. From where does this song come? End of the verse – says, “singing and making melody with your heart,” or “from your heart,” or “in your heart.” It comes from the heart.

It’s an overflow; it’s a bubbling over. Psalm 137 tells the story of the captivity of Israel, and Psalm 137 looks at their captivity from the musical perspective. Very interesting Psalm – listen: “By the rivers of Babylon,” – they’re captive in Babylon – “There we sat down and wept, When we remembered Zion. On the willows in the midst of it We hung our harps.” No more singing; there was no song to sing. “For there our captives demanded of us songs.” The Babylonians came and said, “Sing.”

“Our tormentors said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’”  “We want to hear your music.” “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” They hung their harps on the tree limbs. It has to come from the heart; they were not redeemed yet. Well, when they were redeemed and they went back to the land – as you remember, I said a little while ago they had the great revival and the restoration of the land – the first thing they did was begin to sing.

Amos 5, the prophet Amos said, “Stop your songs; your hearts aren’t right.” Sometimes Israel sang with an impure heart, and sometimes they had no heart at all, but the kind of songs the Lord wants to hear are the songs that come from a pure heart. To whom do we sing? To the Lord – end of verse 19, to the Lord. When you come to church you’ve got to understand this: this is not a performance going on up here with the musicians and you’re not the audience.

God is the audience and we are all singing to Him. You understand that? When you sing a hymn, you sing it to Him. “O God, our help in ages past/Our hope for years to come” – who you talking to? You’re talking to God. When you’re singing, “There is a fountain filled with blood,” to whom are you singing that? You’re singing that to the one who gave His blood for you. Whether you’re singing it as a solo or a trio or a congregation, it’s all directed at Him; He’s the audience in the worship.

It’s to Him. Everything is, as Bach put it, Solo Deo gloria, for the glory of God. And so, we ask the question about all music, will it honor God? Will it glorify God? If not, then we don’t want to use it. With what do we sing? Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and I think while there’s not a hard and fast difference between these, there are some distinctions in them; and this is a way in which the Scripture – and it does it here and also in Colossians 3:16 – can give us some breadth in our musical expression.

Psalms – psalmos – could refer to the Old Testament Psalms, or any of those anthems that are directed at the greatness and the glory of the Trinity. Hymns – humnos – means a song of praise and generally related to salvation. So, you have great anthems on the nature of God, and then you have songs of salvation. Then you have spiritual songs; what are they? Likely referring to personal testimony: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,that saved a wretch like me” – that’s a spiritual song.

We sing great anthems about God. We sing the great songs of salvation, and we give personal testimony to the spiritual work of God in our lives in songs of testimony. What a privilege for us to have been doing this for the last 30 years because the Lord gave us Clayton to lead us, to lift us. Well, if you haven’t read Pilgrim’s Progress, it’s not too late; find an edition of it and read it.

Whenever John Bunyan describes Pilgrim coming out of a conflict – coming out of a dilemma, coming out of a disaster, coming out of desolation, being recovered, rescued from harm – it never says he was filled with the Spirit; it never says that. But 50 times in Pilgrim’s Progress it says, “he went on his way singing;” he went on his way singing. We sing because we are filled with the Spirit and that’s the immediate consequence.

Revelation 18:20 to 22 says that a day is coming when all music in the world will stop – just think of that – that’s Revelation 18. God says the music of the world will stop. Things will get so bad, so horrendous, so horrific, that – like the Jews who hung their harps on the willows in Babylon – the world’s music will stop. That’s an unbelievable thought. You just experienced the death of Michael Jackson and the bizarre outpouring of emotion in response to that – and it wasn’t because of him, because nobody could really understand him.

It was because of the music. It’s so seductive. There will come a time when all the music stops, and just at the time when all the music of the world stops, the whole new heaven and new earth will be dominated by the new song, the song of the redeemed. Ours will just be beginning when the world comes to an end. And when you get to heaven, I want to tell you a little about what’s going to happen. Listen to Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God in your midst, the mighty one will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness.”

Isn’t that amazing? We rejoice over Him with gladness; He’s going to rejoice over us? “He will rejoice over you with singing.” Did you know God is the ultimate soloist? Can you imagine getting to heaven, and having God step up and sing a solo of joy to you? “He will rejoice over you with singing” – because His own heart will be filled with joy to see you in His presence. Spirit-filled music – not the music of the world, but the music that we will sing forever – and one day God will even sing to us.

Father, we thank You again for a wonderful time this morning, thinking about all these things and many more things that come to mind. So grateful for the music that You’ve given us here in this church; grateful for all the wonderful good music, uplifting music. Our minds sweep back over Sundays, and Sundays, and Sundays, concerts and special events, and our lives have been filled with the best of music. And You’ve given it to us as a gift through Your servant, Clayton Erb.

We are deeply grateful, and we express to You our gratitude. We even thank You for all the influences in his life, starting with his own parents and family, and friends, and mostly the influence of the Spirit; for he, being filled with Your Spirit, could lead us by his own example. And so, we thank You that we’ve even been able to worship You this morning, and we thank You for what we look forward to ahead as we gather week in and week out.

And even in the middle of the week as we enjoy the wonderful expressions of music that give wings to our worship. We pray, Lord, for those who may not know the Savior, who are on the outside looking in, for whom these songs are foreign songs. We would pray, Lord, that You would bring that person to the cross of Christ, that You would cause that sinner to repent and desire the salvation that only Christ can bring, and that You would add one more voice to the choir who sing the new song.

We pray, Lord, that You would rescue those who are perishing, as the hymn writer put it; that they would come to the Savior and receive salvation, and sing the new song, the song of the redeemed that we will sing forever. This is an inexplicable gift of sovereign grace, and we thank You for it. And all God’s people said: Amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-377

6 things that are Better than Sacrifice! Part-2

September 25, 2020 hephzibahgarden

Hello and welcome back!! 🤗

Here’s the second part of the 6 things that are better than Sacrifice; based on what the Word of God teaches us.

Be loyal

Yes. This is another important aspect that the Lord desires from our lives. He wants us to be faithful and loyal to Him. Why not? The Lord Himself is faithful to us every single day. He keeps His Word and fulfils them as well. As His children, God wants that we too learn to be loyal to Him and to His Word.

For I desire and delight in [steadfast] loyalty [faithfulness in the covenant relationship], rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. Hosea‬ ‭6:6‬.

Know God

Growing in the knowledge of God is very important for followers of Christ. The knowledge of the Holy is understanding. Proverbs 9:10. There is no point in calling oneself a follower of Jesus, if that person does not know His Saviour and what He’s done for him/her.

For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. Hosea‬ ‭6:6‬.

Walk humbly with God

To fear God and keep God’s commandment is the whole duty of man — for as long as he is alive. Without doing this, how much ever a person may offer sacrifice and offerings to God, there is no point in it! Abraham, Moses, Joshua and Caleb, the Spirit baptised apostles and believers all walked humbly with God.

Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah‬ ‭6:6-8‬

May the Lord help us!

Be blessed! 💕

6 things that are Better than Sacrifice! Part-2

6 things that are Better than Sacrifice? Part-1

September 24, 2020 hephzibahgarden

Simple yet direct!! 🙌

As followers of Christ, there are a few things which we all need to keep in mind — things that better than sacrifice!! Let’s see what the Scripture teaches us on this topic:

Obedience

King Saul thought sacrifice was better than obedience. Therefore, instead of destroying every bit of the Amalekites, he saved the best of their spoil, sheep and oxen to offer as sacrifice to the Lord and destroyed the rest; including man, women and children. God was very displeased with what Saul did, which cost him his kingdom. Through prophet Samuel, God said:

And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel‬ ‭15:22.

Do justice and judgment

Well…!! This👆is something that is decreasing in the world. The justice and judgement that the world offers can be biased and partial. But as followers of Jesus, the Lord desires that His people should do justice and justice. How? By conferring with the Word of God. Judgement here refers to righteousness; not ours but the righteousness of God.

To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Proverbs‬ ‭21:3‬

Draw near to listen

There’s a big difference between “hearing” and “listening”!! We hear with our ears, but to listen, the mind(attention) and ears are also involved. Specially when children of God go to the house of God, it’s important that they listen and understand to what is being shared than hear with one ear and leave it there! 😄 Listening will help us to accept God’s Word and practice it in our daily lives.

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Ecclesiastes‬ ‭5:1‬.

(… to be continued)

6 things that are Better than Sacrifice? Part-1