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.


Unstoppable

Sermon delivered at LakeView Church on 2/24/19.

How did Christianity go from a movement started by Jesus and a handful of disciples to over 2.3 billion people who identify as Christians today? We begin a new series through the Book of Acts, which shows just how this whole “Christianity” thing started.

When Christians Get Dunked

Sermon delivered at LakeView Church on 2/17/19.

Baptism is one of those weird traditions in church. And what makes it confusing is that it seems like every church does it just a little differently. What is baptism, why do we get baptized, and why does LakeView practice baptism the way we do?

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.

Tested by Praise

“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but people are tested by their praise.”

Proverbs 27:21 NIV

Although I don’t have any firsthand experience with refining metals, my secondhand understanding is that they are refined by fire. You take a piece of ore, which is rock or sediment that has traces of the gold or silver in it, or a chunk of metal with impurities, and throw it into a smelting furnace. The metal melts into a liquid, and the impurities (also called dross) can be separated out resulting in pure gold or silver.

Gold’s and silver’s impurities are revealed by the fire in the furnace. Your and my impurities are revealed by praise. Compliments test our humility and can expose such dross in us as pride, selfishness, vain ambition, jealousy, and more. It’s not wrong to take pride in a job well done or to receive a compliment from someone else. The question is, what do I do with that praise? How does it cause my heart to react? Do I return the praise to God, giving thanks for the work He has done in and through me?

Remember James 1:17: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” Nothing we have is from our own hand. God gave us the skills, talents, abilities, and opportunities. Receive a compliment for being faithful with what He’s given, but don’t forget that He’s the one who gives–and takes away.

Perhaps the most telling test of praise (in my experience) is how a person reacts when someone else receives praise, but they don’t. We’ve all been there. Someone comes up and compliments the person standing next to us, but neglects to give us the same regard. When someone else is praised and you aren’t, what happens in your heart? Jealousy? Anger? Discouragement?

Here’s the thing. As Christians, we should really only care about the praise of One: our great God and Savior. If we never receive a single nice word from another human being, but the Lord says, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” then we have received the highest praise of all. So, when someone else is complimented and you aren’t, give thanks that God allowed that other person to be encouraged, and remember that one day the One who alone is worthy of all praise will tell you just how proud of you He is.

My prayer for the week is that some praise or compliment will reveal to you an impurity so that you can confess and be free.

Choice Morsels

“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.”

Proverbs 26:22 NIV

Writing devotional thoughts from every chapter in Proverbs means sometimes hitting the same themes more than once. And, since gossip is a major topic discussed throughout the book, it’s no surprise that here in chapter 26, gossip comes up again. As I’ve written before, one of the best definitions of gossip I’ve come across is this: gossip is sharing sensitive or confidential information with someone who is not part of the problem or the solution.

One of the biggest challenges with finding victory over the sin of gossip is that it can often be hard to identify. Of course, there’s the really obvious gossip that is clearly wrong and everyone knows it. “Did you hear about so and so? Let me fill you in…” But, there’s another kind of gossip that’s much more subtle. It’s described in Proverbs 26:22 as “choice morsels” that “go down to the inmost parts.” It’s gossip that doesn’t look or feel like gossip. It’s disguised as a prayer request or expressing concern for the well-being of a friend who’s headed down the wrong path. It’s sharing inside information that may seem harmless, but is still confidential and shouldn’t be shared.

Choice-morsel-gossip doesn’t feel sleazy like blatant, obvious gossip. We’ve all had those conversations where we knew we were gossiping, did it anyway, and left feeling like we just swallowed a rock. Choice-morsel-gossip is different. It feels good at first. We’re helping someone pray for a friend in more specific prayers. We’re bringing someone into the know so they won’t be caught off-guard when they find out the news. Doesn’t it feel good to have knowledge someone else doesn’t, and then to share that knowledge in a way that encourages that person to pray more? Not only am I helping the person who needs prayer by recruiting more prayer partners, but I’m also helping the person I gossip to spend more time with God! How can that be wrong?

Gossip is a sin. No matter what motivates it, it’s a sin. Even when I gossip with good intentions, I sin. Sooner or later, those “choice morsels” turn into rocks in the pit of my soul. Thank God for His continued grace! My prayer this week is that God will nudge us with conviction as we are about to share a choice morsel, and we will hold our tongues.