The Best Gift

I am not a Barbara Streisand fan, but I grew up listening to her Christmas album. On that record, she included a song titled “The Best Gift” in which she goes on to describe the best gift that she ever got. At the end, she reveals that this gift was “a tiny newborn child.” (If you need me to explain what a record is, let me know.) 😉

Although I have received a lot of nice gifts in my 45 3/4 years of life, the best gift I ever received was the gift of salvation, made possible by Jesus Christ coming to earth and being willing to die a horrendous death on a cross. If you have never studied crucifixion and why it was the Roman’s choice of death, I encourage you to do so. It isn’t a pleasant study but it makes Jesus’ death even more meaningful. It wasn’t like a lethal injection where you die in a matter of minutes. Rather, it was a form of torture in which criminals died a slow, painful, suffocating death.

I realize that it’s not even Palm Sunday yet but I think it’s a good time to begin to think of Christ’s sacrifice, to thank Him for choosing us to be His children, and to ask Him how we can serve Him better.

I started this back in December around Christmastime but I think it’s perfect timing to finish it now. If you take communion in the next few weeks, don’t do it out of routine. Really think about the event that you are commemorating. Picture Jesus on the cross, beaten beyond recognition, blood streaming down His body, looking at you. Then think of the things you allow in your life that is the equivalent of spitting in His face. God’s grace is not cheap. It cost Christ a lot. How can we be so selfish as to not give Him every part of our lives?

Dave Kyllonen Passed Away

  • March 20, 2019 at 7:26 pm in

I found out today that Dave Kyllonen, formerly of the Couriers, has gone Home to be with Jesus. Growing up in Maryland, the Couriers were popular on the one southern gospel station I could get but I only saw them one time outside of NQC, and that was a number of years ago in my current state of Michigan. I appreciated how the group never lost their focus.

My heart goes out to Dave’s friends and family. Please keep them in your prayers.

CD Review: Our Story (Three Bridges)

I’m old enough to remember when Three Bridges first hit the radio and, to be honest, I didn’t care for their sound. Today, the group consists of original member Elliott McCoy, as well as Shannon Smith and Jeremie Hudson, and I am starting to enjoy listening to them.

Although most of their songs are progressive or have more of a black gospel feel, Down the Road to Damascus is the kind of song you would expect to find on a traditional Southern Gospel CD.

I like the message of Like Jesus Did as it talks about the desire to be more like Christ.

Faith Shines Brighter tells the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Live the Gospel is another song with great lyrics.

Other songs include: Count It Victory, My Story, Good News Never Gets Old, God Did It, Nothing But, Gonna Keep Livin’ and The King of Love My Shepherd Is.

 

 

For the Broken

Last year, my most-read post was one I wrote in 2014 titled “I’ve Been Broken (but I’ve Been Blessed).” Broken people are not just out in the world somewhere; they are also in the Church. The fact that a post from 4 1/2 years ago is still my post popular proves that fact.

I think of the old song that said:

He never said you’d only see sunshine
He never said there’d be no rain
He only promised a heart full of singing
And at the very things that once brought pain

(from the song Give Them All to Jesus written by Phillip Johnson & Bob Benson, Sr.)

I don’t actually remember a verse where God promised that, but I do know from experience that He often grants that. It’s when we trust Him in the bad times that we realize as Henry and Hazel Slaughter sang that we “don’t need to understand; we just need to hold His hand.” That is where true joy comes from, along with the peace that passes all understanding.

I wasn’t thinking of this when I started this post but, in closing, I would like to ask prayer for fellow blogger David Bruce Murray whose father passed away on Saturday. The funeral is tomorrow (Tuesday). I’m thankful that I have not yet experienced the loss of a parent but I can imagine how heartbreaking that must be. And yet, what a blessing to know that we will be reunited one day with those who love Jesus. David is the founder of Music Scribe, where I write a Sunday devotional when I’m able. He’s been supportive of my writing and some of my other business ventures, and my heart goes out to him and his family during this difficult time.

 

What Is Worship?

Several months ago, someone suggested that I do a word study on praise vs. worship since I use the two interchangeably when, in fact, they are two different things. I appreciated the gentle admonition so, although it’s taken a while, I am finally sitting down to do that and am sharing my findings with you.

Dictionary.com defines “praise” as:

1. the act of expressing approval or admiration; commendation; laudation
2. the offering of grateful homage in words or song, as an act of worship (emphasis mine).

“Worship” is described as:

1. reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred
2.
formal or ceremonious rendering of such honor and homage 

I often call “praise” worship but worship encompasses much more than verbal praise. Everything you do should be worship.

John 4:23 tells us that “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”

I think it is safe to say that the people or things that you idolize is who or what you worship. This is why Jesus told Satan, “For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’” (Matthew 4:10). God is a jealous God, and He will not share His glory with anyone else.

Today I want to encourage you to “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:2).

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash.

CD Review: A Million Miles (Sunday Drive)

If you are as old as I am, you may remember a group called Cedar Ridge. I loved their sound and have wondered at times what happened to them. Well, I recently found out that Jeff Treece now sings with Dusty Treece and Misty Treece in a group called Sunday Drive.

This CD starts out by asking, “Lord, am I Right Where You Want Me to Be?” This is a question we should each be asking ourselves.

I grew up listening to the music of Evie so I am happy to hear her popular song Born Again.

I’m Not Gonna Leave is a unique song that talks about never leaving the feet of Jesus.

I love the title song. No matter what you are going through, you can travel A Million Miles to reach the throne of God.

“I’m Living in the Middle of His Will, and life is better than it’s ever been.” True words. The Christian life isn’t trial-free, but if you are in the will of God, His grace will carry you through.

Other songs included are: What Can Change the World, He Set Me Free (not the old classic but a new song written by Misty Treece and Jeff Treece), Angels Sing My Victory Song, Just Before the Dawn, and It’s All About Me.

Your Life Matters

Those who got no further than the title probably assumed that this was going to be a post of psychology or a simple “God loves you” kind of post but my purpose in writing goes deeper than that.  When people talk of “finding” themselves, they typically are looking for validation, desiring to feel loved and accepted while figuring out why they were placed here on this earth. That comes closer to what I am addressing but not exactly.

Maybe I say too often that you were placed here for a reason, and you need to find that reason, but instead of rolling your eyes and moving on to other things, I want you to think about this: Your life matters. Not only to you and those around you but to future generations. Have you ever thought about that?

If you study the first five books of the Bible, you will find that God sometimes blesses future generations based on their forefathers’ faithfulness and obedience. He also punishes descendendants based on decisions their parents made. Besides that, a life lived wholly for the Lord can speak volumes after a person is dead.

I think of Jonadab who commanded his sons to never drink wine. Years after their father was gone, they were still honoring his wish. Because of this, God protected them from Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.

On the flip side of this was King Saul whose family was wiped out because he turned away from the Lord, while David was promised that one of his descendants would always sit on the throne due to David’s faithfulness. You may think that when you make a bad, selfish, or even sinful decision, that you are hurting no one but yourself. You may be hurting a lot more than you realize.

Not long ago someone made the comment that it’s hypocritical for parents who were involved in drugs or drinking when they were younger to tell their children they can’t drink or do drugs. I disagree with this statement since we learn from our mistakes, and it is a natural desire to keep others from making those same mistakes. However, think of how much better it would be had the parents not done those things in the first place. These are the things you need to think of.

For the last week and a half, I’ve been highlighting a book on my website titled Habits: The Mother’s Helper. In this book, the author talks about how you can teach character to your children by creating habits. I appreciate that she points out that this has to start by example. Whoever said “more is caught than taught” was correct.

So, you see, your life matters. Every word, every action is not only seen by your Heavenly Father, but it is also seen by those around you who will be seen by those around them and so on until, generations later, others may be carrying on the legacy that you left behind while having no idea who they have to thank for it.

Don’t take your life for granted. Don’t assume that, once you’re gone, your life is over. If you are a Christian, you will live forever. Not only in Heaven but also in the lives of those you left behind.

Are You Burnt Out?

Last Fall, while traveling with my brother on one of his speaking tours, I talked with a several people who mentioned that, in the past, they had become burnt out with serving, and some had even walked away from God for a while due to being tired and disillusioned. At least one person mentioned feeling like she was carrying a lot while others were doing nothing.

I suspect burnout is a common experience but one that most don’t talk about. After all, you might appear to be not very Christian if you admit that your heart is not into your service. If this is you, I hope this post will encourage you.

You may remember the story of Martha and Mary. Martha was busy serving while Mary spent the day sitting and listening to Jesus talk instead of helping her sister. I believe Scripture records this story so that we can learn from it.

“Martha” personalities have a hard time saying No. Whenever something needs done, they sign up, not really thinking through the activities they are already committed to and making a responsible decision to know whether or not this is something they can pull off.

Although I know there are some, I really don’t see many “Marys”–people who are spending quality time in God’s presence and are making that their priority. The reason most people don’t volunteer to do things is due to laziness or not wanting to come out of their comfort zones. And this is why “Martha” is getting burnt out.

If you are exhausting yourself to the point of frustration and failing health, I would like to suggest that it might be time for you to take a break and learn to become Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus and letting Him refresh your Spirit. Fulfill any commitments you have made but don’t take on anything else unless you know it’s what God is calling you to do. If you are serving out of guilt or obligation, there is a good possibility that God never intended for you to take on so much.

I believe that one can do thankless, exhausting work and yet have joy while doing it. If you are not experiencing this joy or the grace that comes from the Spirit when you are doing His work, then it’s time to reevalute. Now, if you are a complainer who doesn’t like to do anything, I am not talking to you. This is for those who have a heart to serve but who really need a break. You know who you are. The fact is, as hard as it may be for you to believe, you are replaceable. If you are like me, you don’t like to hear that, but you are. And it’s possible that, if you step down, someone else, whom God has been working on to develop a servant’s heart, will step up to the plate.

Remember the people I talked to last Fall? They had all returned to being active in the church but they’d learned to scale back and not over-commit. Even Jesus needed rest sometimes. Don’t underestimate the importance of that.

How to Read the Bible

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Reading the Bible is a discipline that many find hard to do. Those who do get into a routine of reading every day can easily fall into a rut where one is reading the text but it’s not impacting them any more than if they were reading a novel. I find myself going through this as well so I wrote down some suggestions that can help us all to get more out of our Bible reading.

Highlight commands. Years ago, a pastor said that he puts a “C” in front of every command he comes across in the Bible. I started to do that in one of my Bibles but lately I have started underlining commands that jump out at me. This can be anything from words of Jesus to instructions from Paul to the churches which could still be applied today. If you already underline verses in your Bible, then you may want to do the “C” method. Regardless of how you do it, I think it’s good to pay attention to the things that Scripture commands us to do, how to act, etc.

Slow down whenever God or Jesus asks a question. My brother has written a couple books titled Questions God Asks and Questions Jesus Asks. These books have helped me to read the Bible in a new way. If we truly believe that everything is in the Bible for a reason, then we should take the time to figure out what God is speaking to us through even the simplest things. It may look like God is asking Abraham a question, for example, but is there something in that question that we can learn from today?

Mark verses you want to be able to find quickly. I know there are some who believe we shouldn’t mark up our Bibles and, if that is your conviction, that is fine. For myself, however, underlining verses that I especially want to remember is very helpful in finding them again. I have a hard time memorizing references but I can sometimes remember the book a Scripture is in, and this saves me a lot of time.

Don’t read when tired. This is something I am working on. I like to have my prayer and Bible time the first thing in the morning but if I push myself before I’m really awake, I end up barely getting through a chapter before I’m falling back to sleep, and I don’t comprehend what I read. I also like to go through a Bible study at night which means making time to do that before I’m too tired. On the evenings that I play out early, I may review the previous evening’s study but I don’t try to do a new lesson if I don’t have the mental energy to put into it. If you find that this is your experience every morning and/or evening, then you will have to find a time that you can devote to reading. The answer isn’t to ignore the Bible but to find a way to get the most out of it.

Pray. Take time to pray before you read. I often pray that God will open my heart to receive His Word and know what He desires to speak to me, that He will give me ears to hear and a willingness to obey. I usually have a time of praise first as well which can help to prepare me to read the Word.

Let’s all endeavor to not just be hearers of the Word but doers as well. If you have found something that has helped you to get more out of your Bible study, feel free to leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.

CD Review: Silhouette (The Wisecarvers)

I first heard The Wisecarvers on the National Quartet Convention’s live feed in 2017, and I was immediately impressed. I didn’t realize until I started this review that they also write their songs which is a bonus in my book. The only song they didn’t write on this recording is the hymn Amazing Grace.

Songs of special mention:

Best of Forever “I’ll be with You for the best of forever because you saved me from the worst of forever.” It’s not because of anything that I have done but because of His mercy, He saved me. I am so thankful!

When You Look at Me Am I the person God created me to be? Is He pleased with how I am living my life? Good questions to ask yourself.

You Have My Attention I love this song. It starts by painting a picture of someone who is desperate to hear from the Lord and ends with God stopping and paying attention to the soul who is fervently seeking Him.

Love You Still No matter what my future holds, God has been so good to me. He continues to be worthy of our love.

Someone Else’s Valley When things are going well, it can be easy to forget others who are hurting. This song encourages us to not forget someone else’s valley.

Potter’s Wheel is an encouraging song for those who are hurting. God will put the pieces back together. He loves you.

Other songs included are Begin With You, Jesus to Me, Silhouette, Go Down Again, and Manufactured Smiles.

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