Sunday, June 17, 2012

Don't Copy the World

Romans 12:2 says,   "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."

I need the message of this verse so much.  It is so hard to live in this world and not be affected by the behavior and customs of it.  It is so easy to allow our media choices to influence us.  Just watching a news clip probably means you are seeing a woman dressed very immodestly, or a swear word may be used to name a few possibilities.  We go to the grocery store to buy our food and there you see magazine covers right by where you are checking out with suggestive messages, body parts which should be covered are flagrantly displayed, and immoral relationships are celebrated.  How easy it is to be "curious" about these things and pick up a magazine, read it, and voila!  You have just stored an image in your mind which does not meet the criteria set forth in Philippians 4:8; "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

It takes mental energy to do what Philippians 4:8 tells us to.  It goes against our flesh, it requires thought and a conscious choice.  After a long day working and feeling stressed, it is easy to set down in front of whatever media outlets we have and "veg out."  I have found this to be a huge problem for me.

I am presently reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Timothy J. Keller, and it is an exercise in mental energies.  I am fascinated by Dietrich Bonhoeffer who lived during World War II in Germany.  He risked and eventually gave his own life to stand for righteousness during that time.  This book gives a detailed account of the struggle in the German church before and during World War II.  It is much easier to read a novel or watch a movie than to exercise my brain to read this book.  But, I believe it is good for me to study this great giant of the faith and to understand something of history.  It is essential also, to do things like this to "push back" against the flesh and what is "easy."  It is part of going against the grain of this world which is always trying to push me into its mold and influence me to take part in its customs.  To spend some of my time reading a thoughtful book about history and Christianity is much more profitable and helpful than the latest tabloid magazine. 

"Lord Jesus, give me strength, give me desire to know You, to glorify You, to enjoy You above all things.  May Your life be seen in me." 

Sunday, March 11, 2012


The time was depression days, 1930's. The setting was a poor area in "hillbilly" country in south Missouri near a little town named Corry. The young woman was already a mother  having married at 16 years of age. Life was hard, making a living was difficult. Then, the preacher came. He preached a message of salvation and repentance from sin. She went to the meetings and heard the glorious possibility of sins forgiven and eternal life through Christ. She responded and became a child of the King of Kings! In that moment, not only was her destiny changed, but so was that of her children, as well as numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren and many more. The young woman was Maye Wright, my paternal grandmother. I never knew her as she passed away shortly before I was born. But, having grown up hearing her spoken of so highly, I wish I could've known her.
In time the family moved to Fort Scott, KS in order to have a better life and to be a part of the Church of God (Holiness) there. Sensing a need for Christian education, Maye became one of the founding members of the Fort Scott Bible School and then her children received schooling in that institution. Several of them also attended Kansas City College and Bible School located in Overland Park, KS or lived in the area. There, several of them met their spouses and the family fanned out. Through the years, from among the 11 surviving children and their families have come Christian school teachers, pastors’ wives and a youth pastor. Three have served as employees at the Herald and Banner print shop. One serves as the secretary of the World Missions Department for the Church of God (Holiness) and many have served faithfully in various churches as lay persons assisting in many ways great and small.
So, while my grandmother did not live to witness all of this, the results of her decision continue s to live on in the lives of her descendants. I am grateful for the choice that she made. I hope to sit down with her some day by the River of Life and tell her so.
Never underestimate the power of the choices that you make each and every day!

(The preacher was W. L. Gates)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Some Thoughts on Music...

Recently I spoke at a church in this area on the issue of music. I chose to center my thoughts to start with on the "New Song" Principle. I hope you enjoy these thoughts extracted my talk that day...

MUSIC! Does it really matter?

There is so much which could be said along this subject. Where is one to start? I am drawn to Psalms 40:1-3. Here, the psalmist says

I waited patiently for the Lord;

And He inclined to me,

And heard my cry.

2 He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,

Out of the miry clay,

And set my feet upon a rock,

And established my steps.

3 He has put a new song in my mouth—

Praise to our God;

Many will see it and fear,

And will trust in the Lord.

This is part of the basis for the “New Song Principle.” If we believe what II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new,” then, how can we believe that everything changes except our music? Instead of changing our music, these days, we are bringing in more and more of the world when it comes to this matter. A little bit of rock beat here, a little of jazz and blues there, and before you know it, there is little difference in the music of the world and the music of the church and those who profess Christ.

One argument used these day is that “we must use the music of the world in order to reach them.” Really? Where does that come from in the Bible? How can being like the world, result in them seeing any reason to change? II Corinthians 6:17 says, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” (KJV) Clearly, anyone who knows Christ will begin to move away from the world and closer to the Lord as he walks the Christian life.

Ray Comfort of preached a powerful message several years ago on the need to present Christ and the gospel in such a way as to cause people to see their eternal, desperate need of Christ!!! Sinners are not in need of “life enhancement” as Comfort described the modern, watered-down gospel we hear. But instead, we need a clear presentation of the gospel that will cause men and women, boys and girls to see that, “yes, I am a sinner, without Christ, condemned to hell without Him.” Seeing one’s need for Christ will result in salvation. We can never “sneak” Christ in through worldly music that has the sinful words swapped out with supposed good words.. We must clearly present Him in our music and preaching. We cannot take worldly styles of music, change the words and convince people that they need a Savior. Therefore, it is important that we present Christ through music which is God-glorifying, and points towards Christ as the Savior of this world.

Some worry that people will feel “uncomfortable” with “church music” if all we sing is hymns and conservative styles of music. But, really, should the sinner “feel comfortable” in the house of God? He should feel VERY uncomfortable if presented with a clear gospel message. God is holy. We are sinners with no way in ourselves to be made holy. Through Christ, this gulf can be spanned. There is no other way. Only by seeing ourselves as destined for eternity without Christ can we have any hope of salvation.

Mr. Garen Wolf, in his book, Church Music Matters, gives us some tests for determining what is appropriate in the church.

Summary of “tests” from Garen Wolf.

1. Does a particular style of music lend itself to the awesomeness and solemnity of worshiping God?

2. Does the style of music we are using in our church remind the people of the music they listen to in a bar or at a dance club?

3. Will this music cause the hearer to think on the lust of the eye and the lust of the flesh?

4. What will be the end result of this style of music being performed? Will it cause one to think on Christ?