What Are You Looking For?

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me…” (Psalm 34:4, NIV)


Usually, I use an “old fashioned” paper Bible for my morning quiet time. Corinne gave me a compact NIV Study Bible when we were dating that I love, and I typically find that getting away from a screen helps me connect better with God. But, this morning I was reading Psalm 34 in Logos Bible Software on my computer (Logos is the Bible study software I use to study and write sermons; it’s literally an entire library of thousands of commentaries, journals, lexicons, and other resources… I love it!).

I came to verse 4 and noticed that I had written a note there previously, five years ago. I hovered the mouse over the note and read this:

“The number one reason why our prayers are not answered is because we seek answers instead of seeking God.”

David wrote Psalm 34 when he was on the run from King Saul, who was trying to kill him. David went into Philistine territory to escape Saul but was there in danger of being killed because he was Israel’s greatest warrior. So, he pretended to be insane, drooling and acting like a madman. He escaped that danger and then wrote Psalm 34.

What struck me five years ago, and what struck me again this morning, was that David sought God in his prayers. No doubt he asked God for help with his problem, but what he wrote about in Psalm 34:4 was not how he sought answers, but how he sought God. So many times in my life when I am facing the unknown, when I am up against a challenge that is outside of my ability to control, when I am feeling skeptical about whether or not God will show up, I seek answers when I should be seeking God. Now for sure, it is not wrong to ask questions and seek answers. But our ultimate pursuit should be God Himself. If we seek God, we’ll get the answers and the help that we need because we’ll get God Himself!

This reminded me of an old David Crowder song I used to sing often. One of the lines in the song says:

“From wherever searching comes, the looking itself a trace of what we’re looking for, so be quiet now, and wait.”

My prayer this week is that you’ll have an opportunity to be quiet and wait with the Lord. Seek Him and He’ll take care of whatever else needs to be taken care of. I hope you enjoy this old song!


Asset or Liability?

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” (Philippians 3:7, NIV)


Last week my car died as I was driving to take my boys fishing. Needless to say, I wasn’t in a great mood the rest of the afternoon, even though a friend came in just a few minutes to jump me and get me home, and other friends gave me a loaner (thank you!). I had a super busy week last week, so even though a couple guys from my Life Group offered to help fix it, I ended up taking it to a shop because I didn’t have time to work on it. Truth be told, I was a little frustrated with the Lord.

Then God reminded me what it really means to be blessed. When I’ve gone on mission trips to developing nations, I’ve always been shocked by two seemingly opposite things: (1) the abject poverty of the people we’re serving, and (2) the incredible faith of the believers there. Many of the brothers and sisters in Christ I’ve served alongside in these places are barely surviving. They live in tiny homes with dirt floors that are the size of many Americans’ living rooms. They may only eat one meal a day–if they get work that day and can buy food. Many live with (or have come out of) families with sexual abuse, physical abuse, substance abuse, emotional abuse… do you see the pattern?

And yet, in spite of these circumstances, they have the most amazing faith I have ever seen. They continuously talk about how good God is, they sense His presence, hear Him speak, and are filled with His power. They know what it means to depend on God in ways that I have never known. I can talk about trusting God, but when was the last time I had to trust God to provide food that day? When was the last time I had to trust God to heal me because there was literally no healthcare system to go to? When was the last time God was really my only option?

In America, we tend to define “blessed” in material terms: a promotion, a bigger truck, a bigger TV, more stuff, a bigger house. We look at all the “poor” people in other countries and pray that God would bless them the way He’s blessed us. And yet, look at my faith. If I had 10% of the faith of the believers I’ve met in those “poor” countries, my whole life would be turned upside down!

It seems to me that we are physically rich but spiritually poor, while they are physically poor but spiritually rich. So, who’s really blessed? We go on mission trips and give them a bunch of stuff (granted, it’s often stuff they need) and teach them Bible stories, and they show us what it really means to trust God. We come back with stronger faith. Who is really helping whom? To be sure, I am thankful for the material things God has given me so that my family can eat three meals a day, live in a comfortable home, and drive cars that work (even if they sometimes need new alternators). But I often find that those very material things can hinder my trust in God if I let them.

In Php. 3:7, the word “gains” could be translated “assets,” and the word “loss” could be translated “liabilities.” Those terms were used in Paul’s day in much the same way the English equivalents are used in ours: to speak of net worth. Of course, Paul was thinking of spiritual net worth. All the “assets” of being religious are really “liabilities” that can actually keep people from recognizing their need for Christ. But I think the principle applies to other things as well. Sometimes our material assets can become spiritual liabilities that get in the way of our relationship with God. We must never pursue the gifts rather than the Giver.

My prayer for the week is that we’ll remember to be thankful for what we have, but also that we’ll take a few moments to evaluate if some of our assets might really be liabilities.

One Generation to Another

“One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” (Psalm 145:4, NIV)


In my last devotional, I wrote about how God had reminded me that in the busyness of life, I need to remember to share my faith in Jesus with my kids. My goal with these Monday devotionals is simply to share what God puts on my heart and says to me in the hope that it will encourage you to listen to what God is saying to you. I think more people hear from God more often than they realize, and if I can model or share how God speaks to me, perhaps it will help you learn to better recognize His still small voice in your own heart and mind. Occasionally, one of you shares with me what God is saying to you, or how He is working in your life. I love hearing those stories! Please keep them coming!

I also hoped the devotional last week would encourage parents (and grandparents) to be more proactive in teaching their own children (and grandchildren) about the Lord, and modeling a genuine faith in and relationship with Jesus for their own kids (and grandkids). I know there are many kids out there who don’t have Christian parents or grandparents. They are incredibly important. But, in our zeal to reach them, let’s not forget about the kids God has given us–they matter, too. God reminded me of the importance of investing in my own kids last Monday, and I passed it on to you because it’s what I do with these devotional emails.

That said, this week will be a little different because I want to follow up on last week’s topic. Last week was for parents. This week is for the church. For 30 years (maybe more), the prevailing thought among churches has been divide and conquer. We’ve assumed the most effective way to reach the next generation is to isolate them and create programming in which every second is designed specifically for them. But in the past few years, we’ve begun to realize the drawbacks of that model as more and more teens walk away not just from church, but from God, when they hit adulthood. And, alarmingly, a huge percentage of these young adults are not coming back to God or the church at all, even when they start having their own kids.

Some churches reacted to this by canceling all youth and children’s programming in favor of a fully family-integrated approach. I’m not convinced that’s the right approach, either. Why do we tend to run to the far end of the spectrum on almost every issue? The best way is likely not going to be at either pole, but somewhere in the middle.

The problem with an isolation approach is that you end up with a youth/children’s ministry that is siloed, separated from the rest of the church. The church isn’t a family to them. You end up with a group of kids only loosely connected with the larger church whose building they use for their programming. When the kids become adults, they often lose interest and walk away because they’re not really part of the church. And let’s be honest, our goal isn’t to pack out our programming with high attendance (no matter what age we’re aiming for, whether children’s ministry, youth ministry, Sunday worship, or senior adults). Our goal is to lead kids (really, people of all ages) in a growing relationship with Jesus that will last their lifetime.

The problem with a fully family-integrated approach is that it also ends up isolating people (not just kids). It leaves out those who don’t have a traditional nuclear family, which just happens to be the majority of our society. The very approach targeting integration ends up as just another form of isolation.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think what we need to figure out is not isolation or family-integration, but rather a church family approach to reaching the next generation. My desire is to see the church become a spiritual family. I want everyone (seniors, middle-aged, young adults, teens, and children) to have a place where they belong. I want every generation to know that they have a family–whether or not their parents are Christians–they have a family that loves them, cares for them, prays for them, and is there for them. They are welcome, they belong, there is a place they can call home. The church needs to be a surrogate family for those whose earthly families don’t follow Jesus or are not safe families. I want to see teens and children be loved by seniors who aren’t their biological grandparents but are their spiritual grandparents (of course, it would be great if their biological grandparents also loved them and helped them along in their faith journey).

Psalm 145:4 isn’t just for parents teaching their own kids (although it does cover that, too). It’s also for each generation within God’s family, the church, to pass their faith on to the generations below them with love, prayer, encouragement, admonishment, teaching, and leading by example. I’m fully in favor of age-appropriate programming and church-family-integration.

Tell Your Son (and Daughter)

“On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the Lord did for me…’” (Exodus 13:8a, NIV)


Parents have an incredible amount of influence on their kids. Many of us try to raise our kids to be Christians, but statistics show that the majority of kids raised in church walk away from their faith as young adults. While the reasons for this are many and varied, Dr. Tim Kimmel (author of my all-time favorite parenting book, Grace Based Parenting) points out in his book Why Christian Kids Rebel that many kids see their parents treating faith like a hobby, and follow their example.

There is much that has been written about church programming for youth (see this excellent and challenging article by Marc Yoder). Yet, as important as church programming is (or isn’t–the real importance of the church is not the programming), the primary responsibility to teach kids about the Lord belongs to the parents (or grandparents or legal guardians–whoever is raising the kids). We cannot hand over that responsibility and hope that their Sunday school teachers and youth leaders will do our job for us. Youth and children’s programming is supposed to supplement what kids are getting at home, not replace it. It serves as a catalyst, a resource, a conversation-starter for parents. But we have to do our job as parents, and the most important parental responsibility we have is to teach our kids about Jesus (we can’t make them choose to give their lives to Christ, but we can show them what life with Christ is all about, lead them to the point of decision, and help them follow Jesus if they choose to).

I understand it’s not easy. And, my kids are still little, so I don’t pretend to know how this works with teenagers. All I can say is this: As I was having coffee with the Lord and His Word this morning, Exodus 13:8 kept grabbing my eyes. I asked the Lord why, and in reflecting on the verse two thoughts came to my mind from my own childhood. First, my parents’ faith is genuine and important to them–definitely not a hobby. They lived a real relationship with God in front of us, and their example is still to this day the most powerful influencer of my own faith. Second, my parents never hesitated to do just what Exodus 13:8 says. They told us, “We do this because of what the Lord has done for us.” They talked to us about God in a natural way so that conversations about the Lord became a normal part of life, not some weird, dorky, or forced thing.

I am thankful for my parents. God reminded me this morning that I need to do the same with my kids. My prayer for this week is that you will be gently nudged by the Holy Spirit  to have a conversation with your kids (or grandkids): “I do this because of what the Lord has done for me…”

A Prayer for Sri Lanka

“I call out to the LORD…” (Psalm 3:4a)


Yesterday, suicide bombers in Sri Lanka killed over 200 people, targeting three churches during their Easter services. My prayers this week will include our brothers and sisters whose loved ones were martyred while celebrating the resurrection of our Lord. Those faithful saints are with Him face-to-face today, but their families and friends remain grieving (although not as the world grieves, see 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Psalm 3 offers a lament lined with hope and may be used as a guide for our prayer for Sri Lanka. I’ve given Psalm 3 in full below. Will you join me in praying for the Church in Sri Lanka this week?

Psalm 3 (NIV)

A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

1 LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”

3 But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
4 I call out to the LORD,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
6 I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.

7 Arise, LORD!
Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

8 From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.

 

If You Love Me

“If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15 NIV)


We have a 13-year-old beagle named Lucy, and she is a wonderful dog. During my coffee with the Lord this morning, John 14:15 “wiggled” on the page. As I reflected on this very simple, yet very profound, verse, Lucy came to mind. She’s not trained, but she’s very obedient–always has been. Her obedience isn’t the slavish, downtrodden duty of a dog that has been kicked into submission. Rather, it’s the happy, almost worshipful devotion of a dog that loves her master.

I remember when we got Lucy from a shelter. She was two and full of spunk (she still has the spunk at 13, it’s just a little slower). It seemed evident to us that she had been handled roughly by a man in her past. She was skittish around men, taking on a beaten-down posture of fearful submission and growling if a man came too close. We brought her into our basement, and I spent the next few hours sitting with her. At first, she wasn’t having any part of it, but after a while, she came around. Once I had her trust, I was surprised at how quickly she picked up on what I wanted her to do and did it. She wants to please, loves the praise she receives and is eager to obey (unless there’s a squirrel or a rabbit, then all bets are off).

God brought Lucy to mind as an illustration of what He desires from me. He doesn’t want slavish, downtrodden duty from a beaten-down broken-spirited servant kicked into submission. He desires joy-filled, loving, worshipful devotion from a child who loves his Father and wants to feel God’s smile. It’s not about doggedly following a list of rules out of fear, it’s about loving Jesus enough to figure out what He wants and do it. Why? Because that is the essence of love, pouring yourself out for another. That’s what Jesus did for us. His wish is my command, not because I need to check off my be-a-good-person checklist, but because I love Him. I follow Him out of love.

My prayer for the week is that God will whisper something to you, and you’ll spring into action with all the joy of a child running an errand for his/her Father (or a beagle running to the door for a biscuit, lol).

Your Word is Truth pt 2

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17 NIV)


This is part two of a two-part post. In part one, we looked at the second have of John 17:17, “your word is truth.” In this part, we’ll look at the first half of the verse, “Sanctify them by the truth.”

Sanctify them by the truth

I recently watched Billy Graham: An Extraordinary Journey, a documentary about Billy Graham on Netflix. I didn’t know this, but in the 1940s, a few years into his preaching ministry after he’d already started to become famous, Dr. Graham had a minor crisis of faith. In those days, the progressive theologians, Bible scholars, and pastors who were up with the times were abandoning the truth of God’s Word. The popular opinion among many mainline Protestant church leaders was that the Bible really wasn’t “truth.” It was full of myth, legend, error, morality stories, etc., but it couldn’t be considered “God’s Word.”

Dr. Graham described how he began to doubt the authority and truth of the Bible, but then made a decision to accept it on faith. He said, “I got on my knees and told God, ‘Just as I accepted Jesus on faith, so now I accept the Bible as Your Word on faith.'” From that moment on, he said there was a power, an authority, and confidence in his ministry that hadn’t been there before.

God’s Word is powerful and effective. As Jesus said in John 17:17, God’s Word is truth. He didn’t say, “Your Word is true,” but rather, “Your Word is truth.” The Bible isn’t just a book of true statements, facts, and historical information. It certainly is true, but it is more than that. It is truth, and truth has the power to change lives. That’s what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Sanctify them by the truth…” (John 17:17a NIV). The word sanctify means “to make holy” or “to purify or free from sin.” God’s Word sanctifies us–it makes us holy, it purifies us, it sets us free from sin; it is the truth that changes our lives forever.

Here is just a sliver of the truth that God’s Word reveals. Accepting this as the defining truth of our lives will transform us and make us holy as we live according to it (over time, of course).

  • Every inclination of the human heart is evil, even from childhood. (Gen. 8:21)
  • There is no one on earth who never sins. (Eccl. 7:20)
  • Every human being is sinful and has committed sins. (1 John 1:8-10)

We have to acknowledge that we have a problem, namely, sin. Only then can we receive the Savior. Jesus doesn’t just save us from our hurts, our pain, and our sorrows. He saves us from our sin. Yet, so many today don’t want to confess their sin. The problem is, we can’t be sanctified by the truth unless we accept the truth–we are sinners. But God’s truth doesn’t end with revealing our sin. Jesus saves us from our sin in what has come to be known as the Great Exchange:

  • “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

The Bible teaches many things about how Jesus changes us. Believing these statements will transform our relationship with God, with ourselves, and with others. Here are just a few points:

  • I am God’s child. (John 1:12)
  • I belong to God. (1 Cor. 6:20)
  • God will complete the work He has begun in me. (Php. 1:6)
  • I am a citizen of Heaven. (Php. 3:20)
  • I am forgiven. (Eph. 1:8)
  • I have a purpose. (Eph. 1:9)
  • I have a hope. (Eph. 1:12)
  • God desires me to be fruitful. (John 15:5)
  • I am invited to be God’s co-worker. (2 Cor. 6:1)
  • I am a dwelling for the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 2:22)
  • I am not alone. (Heb. 13:5)
  • I am victorious. (1 John 5:4)
  • I am no longer condemned. (Rom. 8:1)
  • I have been chosen and appointed by Jesus. (John 15:16)

There are so many more things the Bible has to say about who we are, what happened to us when we accepted Christ, and what God wants for us. And there is even more truth about who God is, what He’s done, and what His plans are for the world! Allowing the truth to penetrate your heart and mind will change everything about you. For our church this next season, we are internalizing this truth:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20 NIV)

The life we live is Christ’s life. My prayer this week is that God will show us all where our lives are not aligned with His so that we can die to our false understanding of the world and come alive to the Truth in Christ.

Your Word is Truth pt. 1

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17, NIV)


This is a two-part post. In this first part, we’ll look at the second half of John 17:17, “your word is truth.”

Your Word is Truth

We live in a culture that is constantly asking, “What is truth? You have your truth, I have my truth. That’s true in your eyes, but something different is true in my eyes. This is how I feel, my feelings are real, and therefore this is what is true to me.” We have lost the concept that truth is an objective correspondence to reality. We have replaced it with the idea that “truth” is my perspective of reality and my feelings about reality.

The implications of this are massive and damning.  For one thing, if truth is defined by what we feel or from our perspective, how can we ever be wrong? Who can contradict how I feel? If I am living true to my feelings, how can I be convicted of sin? It is impossible for me to lie because I’m simply telling “my truth.” It’s impossible for me to do anything wrong because I’m simply living out of “my reality.” And if I can’t sin, I can’t acknowledge sin because there’s no sin to acknowledge. And if I can’t confess my sin, I can’t repent because there’s no sin to turn away from. I don’t need Jesus to save me from my sin that doesn’t exist.

Additionally, our popular thinking about truth means there is no solid foundation on which to build our lives–there are only the shifting sands of feelings and perspectives. Remember the children’s song? If our houses are built on the sand, when the rains come down and the floods come up our foolish lives go splat.

Thirdly, often our feelings don’t correspond to reality. We start to believe things about ourselves that aren’t true, even though it’s how we feel at the time. This is very evident with eating disorders. I’m told that people who are anorexic look in the mirror and see an overweight reflection even though they are often dangerously underweight. They feel like they are “fat,” and they believe their feelings rather than reality. But this isn’t just a problem with eating disorders. People believe all kinds of things about themselves that are not true. I’m ugly. I’m stupid. I’m awkward. No one could love me. I’ll never amount to anything. I’m too far gone for God to want me. I have nothing to offer. All my friends on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram have it together more than me. If I can’t be like _________________ (fill in the blank), I’ll never be accepted. If this is how you feel, your feelings are lying to you!

In John 17:17, Jesus said a single sentence that will change everything we know. In fact, just the second phrase, “your word is truth,” is a paradigm-changing, profound statement that will literally turn your world upside down. Truth is not what we feel. Truth is not what I see from my perspective. Truth is not what popular opinion says it is, or what the majority vote says it should be. Truth is revealed in God’s Word. God is the Author of truth. What He says is not only real but true–regardless of how I feel about it or what I think about it; whether I like it or not.

My prayer for this week is that God will show you something you have been believing that isn’t truth, and that He will help you find the truth that He has spoken over you.

Full Confidence

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.” (Proverbs 31:11, NIV)


I have blogged my way through the entire Book of Proverbs, writing about the conversations I have with the Lord in my quiet time. My goal over the 31 weeks was to take a chapter each week and meditate on it, listening to what God might be saying and sharing it with you. And now we’re on the final page of Proverbs! I hope you’ve found this little series helpful.

Proverbs 31:10-31 is a very famous passage describing a “wife of noble character” (v. 10). Most Old Testament scholars agree that these verses do not describe an actual woman, but rather combine the strengths of several women into an “ideal woman” who can serve as a role model for all women. Reading through the passage, she can serve as a role model for men, too!

Verse 11 caught my attention. Often (not always) when I am reading the Bible devotionally to meet with the Lord, a verse seems to “wiggle” or stand out, like it was highlighted or bold font. Of course, it’s not actually wiggling on the page, but it catches my eye and doesn’t let go. That twinge in my heart when I read it, the way it draws my eyes to it, these are signs that perhaps the Lord wants to speak to me through that verse. So, I read it again, more slowly, in context, listening. Why did God bring that verse to my attention? What is it saying that I need to hear? I reflect and meditate on that verse, and talk to the Lord about what comes to mind. It is during that time that He sometimes speaks directly to me through the still small voice in my heart (read 1 Kings 19:9-18 for more on the still small voice, or the “gentle whisper”).

This morning as I pondered Proverbs 31:11, the word trust came to me. The woman described in these verses has the full and complete trust of her husband. Trust is foundational to every human relationship, not just marriage. Trust takes a long time to earn but can be broken in a moment. Once trust is shattered, it may never be rebuilt to the same extent it was before, or it may take years to regain what was lost.

Trust must be given to you, you cannot take it for yourself. I cannot force Corinne or anyone else to trust me. I have to demonstrate through integrity that I am worthy of her trust, and then I must walk in integrity in order to keep her trust. It is the same in every marriage, every friendship. The challenge is this: If you were your spouse or your friend, would you trust you? Knowing what you know about yourself, what you say when that person isn’t around, what you do when no one else is watching, what you think about that no one else ever knows… would you trust you? Are your thoughts, words, and actions full of integrity and honor? Do you live a life worthy of full confidence?

My prayer for the week is that the Holy Spirit will reveal an area of our hearts that lacks integrity, that we will confess that and become more trustworthy.

Surely You Know

“Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands have gathered up the wind? Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son? Surely you know!” (Proverbs 30:4, NIV)

Yesterday at LakeView I felt led by the Lord to give an invitation for people to repent and declare their faith in Jesus, to be saved. In some churches I’ve attended something like this would be handled through an “altar call.” That is, we’d have had prayer partners at the front, and we’d have invited people to step out and come forward to pray and receive Christ. In a couple of churches, they even had an actual altar, a bench at the front of the church before the stage where people could come and kneel to pray.

I didn’t give an altar call yesterday, I did the old “every head bowed, every eye closed” routine and two people raised their hands to receive Christ. PRAISE THE LORD! However, I keep wondering if I should’ve challenged the people gathered to take a more declarative step…

I’ll be transparent. My church background, with its dysfunction, has put fear of altar calls in me. There have been a few times at LakeView when I felt nudged to invite people forward for prayer for one reason or another but chickened out. The culture of our church is not an altar-call culture. What if no one comes forward? Will it seem like the service was a failure? Will people think I’m not a good pastor? Hello, pride, there you are again. I’d sure like you to be crucified in me so that Christ can live in your place!

This morning, when I read Proverbs 30:4, I felt the challenge from the Lord. (Sidenote: It’s amazing how God can give a rebuke without condemnation. He is incredible!) Why do I let fear and pride influence my actions? “Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands have gathered up the wind? Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak? Who has established the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son? Surely you know!”

As I reflected on these words, the last line held my attention. “What is his name, and what is the name of his son?” His name is Jesus, and His son’s name is… me. I’ve been born again into His household. My confidence and sense of self-worth shouldn’t come from whether or not people respond to an invitation. Neither should I be afraid (whether afraid of failure or wounded pride) to be obedient when God stirs my heart. Our job is to obey faithfully and let God produce the fruit. If we do what He tells us to do, then we cannot fail because the definition of success is obedience, not results.

My prayer for the week is for those who accepted Christ yesterday (please join me in that), and for God to remind you who He is what His son’s or daughter’s name is, yours. Be humble, yet confident in who you are in Jesus.

Music, Revelation, and Instruction

“Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.” (Proverbs 29:18, NIV)

Every now and then, I come across a worship song that is so rich in its music and lyrics that it feels like a feast. When an artist is able to match the revelation of God in Scripture with music that fits the message in tone and emotion, something amazing happens. Some of these songs become timeless classics, like Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, Because He Lives, and How Great is Our God. Others may be less well known or less often sung, but are no less moving. Some of my favorites are Great Are You Lord, This is Amazing Grace, Christ Be All Around Me, and This I Believe (The Creed).

Music has long been recognized as a powerful tool for instruction. It brings together mind and heart, word and emotion, and it seems to stay with us–ever had an annoying song stuck in your head? I believe the power of music to serve as an expression of our hearts, a reinforcement of our faith, a remembering and retelling of the great saving works of God in the world, and a tool for instructing new believers in the faith are all reasons why God tells us to sing (see Ps. 5:11; 33:1-3; 101:1; and too many others to list here). Music is a powerful medium of God’s revelation and wisdom’s instruction, and we are blessed when we participate by singing in worship.

Here’s a new song I found recently by Chris Tomlin. The style is a little different and the lyrics are a wealth of truth, revelation, and wisdom that bring glory to the One who is worthy. Take a few minutes to listen and let the Spirit soak your soul as you do. My prayer this week is that this song will bless you as much as it has blessed me in recent days.


Guilty Conscience?

“The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”

Proverbs 28:1 NIV

Ever get called into the principal’s office? Or have your boss leave you a message: “I need to chat with you for a few minutes when you get in”? Then you probably know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, when you know you’ve done something wrong, but you can’t figure out what it is. You have a guilty conscience. Or maybe your spouse or a good friend suddenly becomes sickeningly sweet and does something too nice. Immediately, you think, I wonder what they did? They must have a guilty conscience.

All of us struggle with feelings of guilt from time to time. If you don’t, beware! You may be infected with the sin of pride more deeply than you realize. A guilty conscience can come from three sources, and it is important to discern the source so that you can deal with it appropriately.

The first source of feelings of guilt (also known as conviction) is the Holy Spirit (see John 16:8), who convicts us of sin that we need to confess. The Holy Spirit is never wrong, and He often brings to my mind sins that I had forgotten about, or areas of my life that I haven’t ever fully surrendered to God. We feel guilty because we are guilty, and God is bringing that conviction to our hearts so that we can confess our sin and be set free (see 1 John 1:9). If we don’t confess the sin in our lives, we cannot receive His forgiveness, and that will lead to worse things in us than just a guilty conscience.

One way you can recognize the conviction of the Holy Spirit is that He will bring specific things to you to confess. He will remind you of an unkind thing you said to someone, reveal a pattern of pride, show you that you’re not generous, or bring to light a hidden sin or habit. This most often happens when worshiping, listening to a sermon, reading your Bible, or praying–God speaks directly to your heart with conviction. Now, God is not in the business of convicting us for no reason. When He convicts, it’s for the purpose of confession, repentance, forgiveness, and freedom. His conviction will never come with condemnation for those who belong to Jesus (see Romans 8:1). So, when He convicts, it will be specific and will put in your heart a desire to come to God, rather than run from God.

The second source of a guilty conscience is our own conscience! God has given us all a conscience to detect sin in our lives, but we must remember that our conscience is not always right. Sometimes my conscience detects “sin” that isn’t really sin. And sometimes my conscience doesn’t pick up on sin in my life because I’m blinded by pride. When you’re feeling guilty about something, it’s important to process that with the Lord in prayer, and turn to Scripture for guidance. A pastor I know once said, “Your conscience isn’t always right, but it’s always wrong to violate it.” Often, my conscience isn’t very specific, but when I pray about what’s bothering me, the Lord reveals the specific sin causing the guilt. In this way, our conscience really can be a guide that brings us to God.

The third source of guilt is spiritual attack. The name Satan literally means “accuser,” and he loves nothing more than to accuse us so we feel guilty and unworthy of God’s love. He will bring up past sins and try to convince you that you haven’t been forgiven and God could never love someone like you. He may try to falsely accuse you, but he doesn’t have to–we’ve all sinned enough that he has plenty to work with! The surest way to detect this form of spiritual attack is that it comes with condemnation and leads you away from God. Rather than inviting you to come to God, confess, and be free, it pushes you away from God into a pit of despair that leads to further sin.

Whatever the source of your guilty conscience, the answer is always the same: bring it to the Lord. If you’ve already confessed that sin, thank God for His forgiveness and walk boldly in your freedom. If you haven’t confessed that sin, thank God for the conviction (whatever the source), confess, repent, be forgiven and set free.

My prayer for the week is that you get to walk in the freedom of forgiveness that cost Christ so much.