Devotions

Monthly Archives: September, 2016

Look Up

The great American author Kurt Vonnegut once said in a commencement speech, “If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.”

I can still remember the first time music affected me in a profound way; it was sitting in third grade music class.  I loved music class, but judging by the moans and groans that accompanied Miss Swift’s third graders on the way to the music room, I think I may have been the only one.  On this particular day, Mr. Lidicky wanted to introduce us to a composer named Johanne Sebastian Bach.  While the boys fidgeted and picked their noses, and the girls giggled and gossiped, Mr. Lidicky popped in a cassette tape and pushed play.  Then out of the speakers, over the din of adolescent chatter, washed the most beautiful melody I had ever heard.  A simple but elegant melodic line that lifted you up into heaven for a glimpse of glory before descending gently back into the atmosphere played masterfully on a pipe organ, it was “Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”  If you do not know the piece of music, you need to Google it right now.  I had no idea music could carry you to another place, another frame of mind.  For me, what that song did was make me look up.  Make me look beyond that music room, beyond the drama of trying to fit in amongst my peers, to something more beautiful, more meaningful, and more powerful than anything I had ever known.

As a worship leader I am often asked why we sing in church, and in a day where school music programs are being defunded, there are few places left where we sing together in our culture.  I believe there are many reasons why singing is an integral part of our worship as Christians.

  1. Connection with The Holy Spirit

Paul in Ephesians 5:18, 19 tells us, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.”

If we are drunk, we are controlled by the things of this world and are out of the control of the Holy Spirit.  By participating in musical worship with each other, we allow the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts and guide our words and actions.

  1. Internalizing the Word of God

Paul says similarly in Colossians 3:16, ”Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Paul says that the Word of Christ needs to dwell in us.  The Scripture needs to not only live in our hearts but also be at home there.  The two ways this happens according to Colossians 3 is through teaching and singing.  The teaching is for understanding, but the singing is what internalizes the Word.  Many do not know that most of the lyrics we sing on Sunday are from the Bible for this very reason.  I can struggle to memorize a verse, but if it is put to music, it burrows down deep in my soul.  There are Bible songs that I learned in Sunday school 30 years ago that I could sing to you at the drop of a hat.  Those Scriptures have shaped my whole life.  I thank God for those Sunday school teachers who taught me the Word of God in song.

  1. Expressing Gratitude

The default attitude of every believer should be one of gratitude.  We who were once dead in our transgressions and sins have been made alive in Christ!  We have been adopted as sons and daughters into His family, and our inheritance is eternal life and fellowship with the creator of the universe. We have been saved by grace; we did not deserve it.   There is only one response to such love: gratitude.  How is it that we are to sing?  According to Paul, it is with thankfulness in our hearts.  I can think of no better way to say thank you to Christ but in song.

Music can lift us out of the monotony of our daily grind.  Music rooted in the Word of God can move us toward Jesus.

I am convinced that it was listening to Bach in that 3rd-grade music class that first turned my gaze toward God.  I believe God calls to us through music that He is beckoning us to experience Him in the moment.  I believe that who God is can be known in the mysterious complexity and simplistic beauty that is music.  When we come together as His people each weekend, my prayer is that through music our hearts would experience something transcendent and cause our eyes to look up and see the face of God.

 

Chris Knuth

Filling the Temple

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by God’s presence during a worship set that you could no longer sing or play?  Just a few weeks ago at Sunday Gathering while we were singing “Great Are You Lord” I found myself so moved in the moment that I could not sing.  My eyes welled up with tears, and my voice choked with emotion.  I believe that I was experiencing the glory of the Lord.

There is a great moment in 2 Chronicles 5 where the Israelites gathered to inaugurate the completed temple built by Solomon and to celebrate moving the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s presence, from its nomadic existence to its final resting place in the inner sanctum of the temple, the Holy of Holies.  Solomon assembled all the who’s who of Israelite leadership, the priests made countless sacrifice before the Ark, and of course, the band was there!  Let’s pick up at verse 12:

“And all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with 120 priests who were trumpeters; and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord, ‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,’ the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.”

First, I love that some of the musicians were deemed significant enough to be kept in the records.  Second, I love to imagine what it must have been like when that temple was filled with the cloud. The same cloud that led the people of Israel through the wilderness by day, the same cloud that let them know that God was with them.  God’s glory was there, with them in that temple and they were overwhelmed to the point that the priests were not able to perform.

My prayer each week is that we would experience God’s presence in worship.  Not that we are chasing an emotional fix but that we would truly connect with God as we lift up His Name in song. That our worship would be pleasing to Him and that He would fill our churches with the glory of the Lord, just like He did in that temple thousands of years ago.

What is it that you are looking to experience at your weekend gathering?

Would you describe yourself as a spectator or a participant at your weekend gathering?

When was that last time you had an emotional response to God’s movement in your life?

 

Chris Knuth

More than a song

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

When we gather on Sunday, it is the perfect opportunity to pursue and experience God. Whether it is through worship, the message, or even the people that surround us, we want nothing more than to seek His presence.

When I first started attending church, I did not understand why people raised their hands. I was not really sure why they even sang at all. Was it for entertainment? Was it supposed to be like a concert? I did not quite get it. As I continued attending (still not fully sold on the songs), I cried almost every time. The message seemed to always speak directly to me, and boy did it hit hard. I have since continued growing in my walk of faith, and I have learned that God can speak to us in a multitude of ways, and one way being in song. One of the first songs I remember connecting with was “No Turning Back,” by Chris Tomlin. I remember being so grateful God saved me from the mess I was in and there was absolutely no way I was ever turning back. This was the moment I realized why we sing.

Praise and worship have now become one of my favorite ways to spend time with God. It is not only an opportunity for us to declare our praise to the Lord but for Him to speak to us as well.

Next time you are in a gathering try your best to put all distractions aside and sing along. Don’t worry about your neighbor or what others may think if they hear you singing. (The words are up there for a reason!). I often joke that I have a voice only Jesus could love, and that is okay because you know what, He does love it! Also, He will love it when you sing too!

P.S. – Isn’t it absolutely beautiful when the whole congregation is singing His praises? Imagine how much more He loves it than we do!

 

Shawna Johnson
Tech Assistant

Birds of a Feather

When I was young, my parents often warned me about my choice of friends. In school, they taught about peer pressure and the impact our friends had on us. I liked to think I was my own person and even if my friends made poor choices, there was no way I was going to give in simply because they were doing it. To be honest, for a long time I never gave in, but we know what happens; the more time we spend with someone, the more we become like him or her.

Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

As I continue to grow, God reveals Himself to me more and more. I now know that there is so much truth to that statement. The people we surround ourselves with do in fact play a role in our lives.

A personal goal of mine, as a follower of Jesus, is to become more and more like Him. In doing so, I have to be mindful of the things and people I surround myself with. Friends I used to party with, music I used to listen to, and even activities I once used to entertain myself have begun to change. I still love my friends, there is no doubt about it, but that love has changed. I no longer want to spend all my hours partying with them, but instead, show myself as a living testimony to how God changes lives. Let me tell you, friends, He has changed my life!

If I told you I never think about my past, or occasionally put on music I probably should not listen to I would be lying. I have found that when this happens, I find my mind wandering to places it should not, and the words that come out of my mouth are no longer glorifying God. I begin sounding like the “me” I used to be. It is then that I am quickly reminded that I do not want to go back there. I left the old life behind for a reason.

This is where friends who love Jesus come in! I am so thankful for friends who have the ability to speak truth into my life and to remind me to be the best me I can be. I have recently begun discussing with a good friend the necessity of an accountability partner. It is important to have someone you trust that loves you enough to set you straight.

We are not perfect, none of us are, but we can strive to be the best version of ourselves as possible. Through God’s Word, prayer, and by gathering with brothers and sisters in Christ we are stepping foot in the right direction.

Maybe there are some activities you participate in, or people you give your time to you know you should not. Be in prayer and ask God for friendships that have a foundation built on Him. Set up accountability partners to help you succeed on your journey! The old life has nothing to offer; I promise you that!

 

Shawna Johnson
Tech Assistant

Encourage One Another

Life can be challenging. The great thing about the church is that we do not have to go through it alone! Over the last few years, I have had the opportunity to both sit in and serve at our Recovery Gathering. It is such a beautiful place to be. If you have never been, I urge you to visit at least once. As we gather to hear from God’s Word, nothing is hidden or left out. Nothing is sugarcoated; this is real life, and sometimes life is hard. The beautiful thing about coming and gathering together is that we can walk alongside each other, encouraging, uplifting, and reminding one another who Jesus is and how He saves lives. We do not have to live this life alone.

After being in church for a while, I noticed a difference between Tuesday night and Sunday morning. On Tuesday night, people are not ashamed or afraid to say they need help. On Sundays, people are not as open. I have often noticed struggles are hidden, and we pretend everything is okay. I heard a Pastor mention once that if we always pretend everything is okay we ultimately rob God of the glory of getting us through it! We all know we need help, and we simply cannot get through our struggles on our own, it is okay to ask for help.

Hebrews 10:24-55 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

As we gather during weekend gatherings, small groups, or friend groups, remember the importance of lifting each other up and encouraging one another. I want you to think of the last time someone encouraged you. Not the “I like your shirt,” or “Your hair looks cute,” kind of compliment, but the last time someone genuinely encouraged you? When was the last time you encouraged someone else?

Society today is continually reminding us of how we should look, what we should buy, or how we should act to be successful. Life is tough enough; let us be the light God has called us to be and help each other. Begin praying that God would reveal someone to you that you can encourage this week, and as you attend weekend gatherings be on the lookout for opportunities to love others. You will find that blessing others will bless you!

 

Shawna Johnson
Tech Assistant



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