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My Thanksgiving Acrostic

001 facebook_cover (1)Here is an acrostic I made that contains verses about thanksgiving, music and praise to God.  As you read through it, remember Psalm 95:2, “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” (ESV)    Let us think about all of our blessings and the One who made them possible as we feast and enjoy the company of those we love on this special day!  I hope you will enjoy this little Thanksgiving acrostic:

                   Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts     to the Lord.  (Col. 3:16b, KJV)

                   He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  (Psalm 40:3, ESV)

                   All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you! (Psalm 145:10, ESV)

                   No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.  (Psalm 84:11b, KJV)

                   King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.   To him be honor and might forever. Amen.  (I Timothy 6:15b & 16, NIV)

                   Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Ephesians 6:19 & 20, KJV)

                   Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!  Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.  (Psalm 33:2 & 3, ESV)

                   I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O Lord, I will make music.  (Psalm 101:1, ESV)

This is the Victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  (I John 5:4b, NIV)

                   It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sings praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the   morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.  (Psalm 92:1-3, ESV)

                   Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!         (Psalm 115:1, ESV)

                   Give thanks to him; bless his name!  (Psalm 100:4b, ESV)

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

The Story of Paul and Silas

There were a couple of preachers mentioned in the Book of Acts named Paul and Silas.  Of course, most of us have heard of the Apostle Paul and his fearless preaching of God’s Word even in the face of great persecution!  Less well known, is his partner, Silas, who participated in several of Paul’s adventures in ministry to the Early Church.  Paul and Silas were not too interested in being “politically correct”! When they cast out a demonic spirit from a young girl who had been used by her wicked masters as a fortune teller, the masters became extremely angry because she could no longer bring in the money they were used to collecting from her services.  When these evil men saw that all hope of gain from her services was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, drew them into the marketplace before the magistrates and brought them up on false charges.  The magistrates, urged on by the violent mob, tore off the apostles’ clothes and commanded they be severely beaten with rods and cast into prison!  The jailor promised to keep them from escaping, thrusting them into the inner chambers of the prison, and binding their feet fast in the stocks.  (Read the entire account in Acts 16:16-24)

So, what did Paul and Silas do?  Did they begin to complain and cry out about being falsely accused and the harsh treatment they were forced to undergo for the cause of Christ?  Did they try to contact the Church leaders and circulate petitions for their immediate release?  Did they weep and wail to God, asking Him to explain to them why they were forced to endure such horrible pain and suffering?  You and I might have done this, but the Word of God says in verse 25, “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.”  Evidently they made a great noise with their prayer and praise meeting!

Apparently, God heard it, too, and was pleased with their praises and worship to Him.  It seems He began tapping His foot along with their praise songs, because the Word says in verse 26, “And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.” (KJV)  When God gets ready to release you from your bondage, nothing on earth can stop Him!  God can work in amazing ways to confound even wicked leaders!  I believe we have been seeing some of this lately in our own country! Remember the Tower of Babel, where God did not allow wicked men to prevail and confounded their languages?

Getting back to Paul and Silas, verse 27 says that the keeper of the prison, awakening out of a sound sleep, was ready to kill himself with his sword when he saw the prison doors open and all the prisoners’ bands loosed!  “But Paul cried with a loud voice, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”  (Acts 16:28, ESV)  The result of their obedience to the law and not just escaping caused the jailor to ask them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?  And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.'”  (verses 30 and 31, ESV)  Paul and Silas spoke the word of the Lord to him and all that were in his house!  Then the jailor washed and cleaned up their bloodied backs from the beating, and he was baptized, along with his household!  He also gave them supper in his own house and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house. (verses 32 – 34)  The next day the magistrates came and publicly apologized to the apostles, letting them out of the prison and asking them to leave the city. (verses 35-39)

Wow, what an amazing story!  Just another day in the life of the Apostle Paul?  Or is there a deeper truth for us today from this story?  Could it be that God wants us as His children to offer Him the sacrifice of praise and worship even when we are faced with extreme difficulty in our lives, wickedness in our leadership, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles?  Does it sometimes seem that all of our prayers are futile?  God sees all and in His sovereignty can deliver us out of even the most extreme persecution if need be.  Sometimes He doesn’t deliver us from it, but allows us to go through it, to show His power, delivering us out of severe pain and suffering as we praise and worship Him in the midst of it, just as Paul and Silas did!

What a beautiful lesson of God’s deliverance and power in the lives of His servants!

Real Men Don’t Need Church?

  scared-man-5621790[1]              Chris_Kyle  

Guest Post by my husband, Russell D. Bafford, Sr…. 

Look around any evangelical church service on a Sunday morning and count the people you see.  It is likely women will outnumber men 2 or 3 to 1.  Why is that?  It is because the Christian churches in the USA have become feminized over a period of decades.  Some more so than others, but most have succumbed to the societal trend that shuns, or de-emphasizes, masculine interests, values, and goals in favor of “softer, kinder, gentler” interests, values, and goals of women.   Books, essays, seminars, conferences and a host of other forums have acknowledged this phenomenon, and there has been much collective hand-wringing about what should be done to reverse this trend. 

Worship music can help men feel welcome, or it can drive men away.  More on that later, but let me first share some observations I had as a young boy growing up in the Midwest in a mainline protestant church.  None of the men I saw in the church seemed to care much about what the Bible had to say.  It was just not relevant to their daily lives … or at least it seemed that way to this impressionable young boy.  I never saw my own father read the Bible or pray.  Then I encountered a man who had a profound, lasting effect on me.  He never spoke to me; I don’t know his name; but what I saw him do has been etched in my memory for at least 50 years.  While sitting in the waiting room of my dentist, I saw this man come in, sit down, pick up the Bible from the table, open it, and read it.  He didn’t flip through the pages quickly.  He actually read one whole page and then the next one and then the next …  I was amazed.  He didn’t look like a wimp.  He didn’t look crazy.  He looked like he was genuinely interested in the contents of that book.  He looked like a real man, and today I know he was just that.

Nearly twenty years later God would use the contents of that book to draw me, through conviction and repentance, to Himself.  As I read the Bible through for the first time, I saw God-fearing men portrayed in a different light.  They were courageous, brave, bold, stern at times, stupid at times, compassionate, warriors at times, and they could even be gentle.  The first century Christian men I saw in the Bible were not limp-wristed wusses who trembled at every peril they faced.  Their courage and boldness came from the Lord in a measure far beyond what they could muster on their own.  As a result of what the Bible had to say about men, my paradigm of a Christian man changed.

Fast forward to 21st century worship music.  When men are forced to sing praise songs to the Lord that contain romantic lyrics such as those that express a woman’s desire to be embraced by the strong man of her dreams, then many men lose interest.  Such lyrics might resonate with a single woman, a divorced woman, or a woman who has an unbelieving, cold husband, and there is a place for those expressions of love and desire in women-only events.  However, don’t be surprised if the men in the crowd are less than enthusiastic about mouthing those same words of romantic affection.

Want to really engage the men in your worship?  Sing songs about Christ’s kingdom, His power, His blood, His sacrifice, commitment to Him, service for His kingdom, and in general … what He has done for us.  Read the words Martin Luther wrote in A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, and you’ll better understand what concepts resonate with most Christian men.

Real men need to worship God with other believers, too.  Christian men WANT to do that!  Our churches need to encourage their participation without requiring them to leave their masculinity outside the building.

“…not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  (Hebrews 10:25, NIV)

Some Lessons from King David

As the world welcomes with great interest the birth of a new little prince who one day could become King of England, I’d like to take you back to another great king…the Psalmist David, anointed and chosen by God to lead His people, the Israelites.  Many people believe that the Throne of David is still very much alive today with his descendants sitting on the British throne (Jeremiah 33:17-26; II Samuel 7:11-16; Psalm 89:20-37).  Whether you agree with the position that David’s lineage literally refers to the unbroken monarchy in Great Britain descending from the Israelites, or to Jesus, whom we all know came from the “house and lineage of David” (Luke 2:4), we agree David was one of the greatest kings, warriors, musicians and mighty men of God to ever live!  In fact, God called him “a man after his own heart” (I Samuel 13:14), and we still read, sing and gain comfort from his words in the Book of Psalms today.

Let’s examine a few interesting facts concerning this man chosen of God to be king of Israel.  In I Samuel we read that God spoke to the prophet Samuel and said, “Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite.  For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.” (I Samuel 16:1, ESV)  In verses 12 and 13,  God tells Samuel (speaking of David), “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.  Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” (KJV)

We see in this passage that God chose the one He wanted, anointed him, and from that day on put His Spirit upon David!  If God’s spirit had not been on him, how would he have dared to come against the giant Goliath and speak boldly to him the Word of the Lord, killing him in front of everyone?  If God’s spirit had not been upon him, how could he have played anointed music with his harp and lyre for King Saul when the evil spirits were vexing him?  This happened several times; the first account is in I Samuel 16:14-23.  If God’s spirit had not been upon him, how would he have been able not only to slay multiplied thousands at God’s command, but also to write some of the most beautiful psalms?

So, my friend, follower of Jesus, and fellow musician, if you know beyond a certainty that God has called you to your ministry, whatever it may be, and that God’s Spirit is upon you, does it really matter what anyone else thinks of you or says about you?  Don’t you have the boldness of the Holy Spirit within you to make you victorious in any circumstance?

You will notice that after David was anointed to be king and God’s Spirit was upon him he became the object of severe jealousy directed at him by friends and family.  Notice his brother’s angry reaction to his coming to challenge Goliath in I Samuel 17:28…not exactly a show of support from his family, was it? After the victory over the giant, while the people, particularly the women, were dancing and singing his praises, King Saul became insanely jealous of David.  I Samuel 18:9 says, “And Saul eyed (or envied) David from that day and forward.” (ESV)  Instead of being proud of him and grateful for his success over the enemy, he sought to kill him from that day on!

How often do we feel jealousy and envy directed at us, perhaps even from other musicians in the Church?   Song of Solomon 8:6 says, “…jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.” (KJV)  The Apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians 4:7, “What is so special about you?  What do you have that you were not given?  And if it was given to you, how can you boast?”  (CEVU)   If all gifts are God-given, we should never be jealous of anyone else’s talents!  Equally as sinful as having jealousy towards our brother or sister is boasting about our own gift. It’s clear there should be no jealousy, competition, arrogance or pride amongst any musical group or in any form of leadership in the Church.  Even when David felt this jealousy directed at him and had to run for his very life, often hiding in caves, he knew Who had anointed him to be king; he knew that eventually God’s plan for him would be fulfilled!  And, of course, it was.  God used this interim time, however, to do a work in David, molding him and mellowing him, teaching him to trust and obey Him, forming him into the great leader He desired him to be!

My husband had a wonderful comment on the fact that when Saul tried to outfit David with his armor as he prepared to fight against Goliath  (I Samuel 17:38 and 39), David declined, saying, ” ‘I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.’  So David put them off.” (ESV)  As Christians we cannot simply “use” another person’s armor; we must test the “whole armor of God” for ourselves, putting on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness,  and shoes of the gospel of peace; taking the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, “that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  (Ephesians 6:11-17)

David stood strong in the midst of persecution, jealousy and battle because he knew God had called and anointed him for a specific time and role!  He was willing to wait for this to come to pass in God’s perfect timing.  If we know our calling, why do we let the devil and others destroy our peace of mind and confidence in God?  Let’s take a lesson from King David…be strong in the Lord, for you are victorious today!

What is an “Anointed” Song?

Many times we hear people say, “That song is so beautiful and so anointed!”  What are they really saying and how can we tell if a song truly is “anointed”?

Let’s first of all explore what the word “anointed” means.  Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines “anoint” as “to apply oil to as a sacred rite especially for consecration”.  We know of several instances in the Old Testament where the priests or kings of Israel were anointed.  There was a special ceremony and they were “set apart” or consecrated for this office.  Some verses about this are found in Exodus 28:41, Leviticus 16:32, and I Samuel 15:1.  You can look up many others, as well.  This brings us to the other definition for “anoint” which, according to Merriam Webster is “to choose by or as if by divine election”.  In my concordance, the word “anointed” gives the subtitle, “consecrated”.  This brings me to my real question:  Can a song truly be “anointed”?

First of all, let’s explore what the term “the anointing” we hear used so often is not:  It is not necessarily chill bumps all over your body when you hear a good song, although this definitely can be a part of it!  It is not tears or emotional responses to a certain song, although this may, also, be a big part of it!  If this is all the “anointing” were, then many  secular love songs and patriotic songs which invoke similar responses would also be “anointed”.  So, what is this term we often uses so loosely and why is it so important to a song’s ability to speak to hearts and change lives, often turning them towards God in a way not possible through mere spoken words?

The Word of God speaks of “the Lord saving His anointed” (Psalm 20:6) and the “saving strength of His anointed” (Psalm 28:8).  Psalm 105:15 also says, “Touch not mine anointed…” (KJV)  It appears from these and other similar verses throughout the Word that God has special ones that He has “anointed” and that He guards and watches over them diligently!  Could this be the converted, elect children of God?  Could it be that when we place our trust in Jesus as Savior and choose to follow the Lord in all of our ways that we then become His “anointed” and that we are saved for Eternity and protected with His divine provision from harm and danger?  Even though we may “walk through the valley of the shadow of death we will fear no evil for He is with us!” (Psalm 23)

So what does being “consecrated”, or as the dictionary definition puts it, “dedicated to a sacred purpose” have to do with anointed music?  Can we feel this “anointing” in a song?  I think the answer is simple:  When a person becomes a Spirit-filled child of God, this anointing, the “oil” of the Holy Spirit spoken of in the Old Testament,  overflows from our lives, making the words or songs given by the Holy Spirit “dedicated” or “consecrated” as well, or in essence, “anointed”.  Words or songs given to that person by the Holy Spirit will be “anointed” because He is enlightening our minds with the words of God!  That is why I believe the entire Word of God is totally inspired; every word is anointed and valuable to us.   II Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  (KJV)  This means that if God through the Holy Spirit gives someone a song, that song, including the words and the music, is inspired and “anointed” to bring Him glory!

So, can a song be anointed?  The answer is an emphatic “yes”!   The reason?  Because the person who wrote the song under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was “anointed” and God’s words and melodies flowing through the writer’s pen bring to bear that same anointing on the song they have written!  Do some songs, even supposed “Christian” ones, leave you cold and flat emotionally?  Perhaps they are not really “anointed”.   Some hymns that have come down through the centuries are just as poignant with emotion and God’s Word beautifully set to poetry as the day they were written.  For example, how can you improve on best-loved songs of all time such as “Amazing Grace”, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”?  Hard to compare these with some of the current dribble that passes for music!

One of my friends who happens to be the wife of a pastor of a large church really summed it up for me.  She told me of a recent experience where her daughter who is in her late 20’s decided to buy a CD of just hymns to play on a lengthy trip she needed to make with her two small children.  She told her mother she put the hymn CD into her player and  just couldn’t stop listening as tears ran down her cheeks.  Her two children were quiet and slept most of the way and they, too, seemed to sense the “anointing” coming from the words and music.  Her last comment to her mom is one I will never forget.  She said, “Mom, these hymns are so different from the standard “praise” music we usually hear.  Those songs are ‘all about me’; these hymns are ‘all about Him’!”  I couldn’t have put it any better!  The anointing of the Holy Spirit is real.  It truly can even “fill a song with God’s presence!”

Being “Salt and Light” Where You Are!

She was a delicate, beautiful, slightly built young woman who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent.  After walking into my teaching studio in Tyler, Texas and shyly introducing herself as Sheron,  she told me she was interested in her five year old son, Ali, beginning piano lessons.  She seemed a bit unsure of herself, and I noticed she also had a two-year-old son who appeared to be very hyper-active with disciplinary challenges!  I gladly enrolled her little boy in lessons and decided to take him myself, as I had a few openings.

Ali did fairly well when he practiced, but I don’t think piano was his main interest in life; probably, more than likely, it was his mom’s idea for him to come!  As the weeks passed and he came to his half-hour lesson, I would visit briefly with Sheron and discuss her son’s progress, among other things.  I learned that she was new to our country, having recently moved here from her native country of Iran.  She had a degree in biophysics and after moving to the U.S. had met and married a fellow Iranian who owned several gas station/convenience stores in the area.  She was always very pleasant to talk with and our friendship grew.

One day she confided to me that she was very lonely and did not seem able to make many friends in our country.  I told her I would be her friend and that seemed to please her.  I knew she had her hands full with two very active boys and I just tried to help her feel comfortable.  The next time Sheron brought Ali to his lesson, she said to me, “I want to know about Jesus!  I have been reading some and hearing about Him.  Can you help me?”  I excitedly shared my testimony of receiving Jesus as my personal Savior from sin and asked her if she had a Bible.  She did not, and I told her I would get her one, which I promptly did.  When I presented it to her the following week, she was very excited, telling me she was fluent in English and could easily read an English edition.  She also began reading materials about the Gospel in her native Farsi language.

The next time she came I asked her if she would like to receive Jesus as her Savior.  She eagerly said, “Yes!” and after explaining what conversion was all about, I led her in the sinner’s prayer and Sheron became a Christian!  I asked if she had a church home and invited her to come to our church.  She said she would try, but that her husband was a Muslim and did not like the Christian faith.  She seemed a bit concerned about this fact, and I told her I would be her prayer partner and together we would pray for her husband.  Then she shared with me the fact that she had suffered with severe back pain for some time; I prayed for her healing and she told me the pain left!  The next week she was jubilant when she told me she had not suffered any more pain all week and that she was still rejoicing in her new-found salvation through the blood of Christ!

Not too long after this a young woman in her twenties, with a remarkable voice and to whom I had taught voice lessons when she was in high school, came back to refresh and sing again with me.  During her first vocal lesson, she confided in me that she had recently converted to the “Wicca” faith, a variety of witchcraft, although she had been a Baptist when I had taught her years earlier.  Although I was somewhat aghast and surprised, I simply told her I would pray for her.  She knew how I believed and week after week at our lesson, she would still sing some Christian songs along with Broadway and operatic tunes she was working on.  At times I would have a chance to witness to her of my faith, once again.  One day, she came and told me about some heart-wrenching things in her life, and began to sob in anguish.  As the tears streamed down her face, I said, “Michelle (not her real name), it’s time to come back!  Jesus is waiting for you and you know you will never be happy until you surrender to Him!”  She nodded in agreement, and prayed the sinner’s prayer with me.  Great joy flooded her countenance and the next week when she returned for her lesson, she glowed with a peace that made her look almost like an entirely different person!

Both Sheron and Michelle moved out of my life, Ali discontinuing his lessons and Michelle moving away.  I never saw either of them again, and perhaps I never will, but out of the thousands of people I have taught, I never forgot them!   I know God used me in that little studio to help two young women come to Christ.  Sometimes when I became discouraged about teaching kids who didn’t want to be there, or when it seemed that my work was in vain, I thought about them and others who had come for lessons, many pouring out their hearts and problems to me with tears streaming down their faces, often saying as they sang worship songs, “I don’t know why, but this just brings something out in me that makes the tears flow!”  I would tell them this was the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

When you get discouraged or feel like giving up some days, just remember God can bring people into your life and down your path, even in the workplace!  You don’t have to preach them a sermon; just be their friend and bring Jesus to them as He leads you!  I found out through these experiences that “music really is worship”…being “salt and light” in a dark place!