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There’s Power in the Name of Jesus!

images[5]  musicnote[1] Do you believe in the statement, “There is power in the Name of Jesus”? Have you ever thought about even singing that Name to the Enemy of our souls, who has to flee?

I just read an amazing story that I was unaware of, but it is well documented.  It has to do with the old hymn we all know and sing in our churches, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.”   The lyrics, written in 1779 by Rev. Edward Perronet, a British minister and close friend of John and Charles Wesley, have been translated into almost every existing language and the song has often been called the “National Anthem of Christendom.”

In the early 1800’s a missionary by the name of Reverend E. P. Scott was living in India attempting to reach the native people for Christ.  At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but against the advice of his fellow missionaries, he set out alone to visit a remote village, determined to share the Gospel with a dangerous savage tribe.

After a journey of a few days, Scott was met by a large group of warriors who quickly surrounded him, each one pointing a spear towards his heart.  The missionary expected that he would die, so he made a decision to use his last few breaths to glorify God, while hopefully stirring something within the hearts of his captors.  He was a musician who always carried his violin with him, so he took it out, closed his eyes, and began to play and sing “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” in the native language of the warriors.  He fully expected to feel the agony of the spears being plunged into his heart at any second.

Amazingly, after singing the first verse, the second, the third and then beginning the fourth, Rev. Scott realized he was still standing, and that the angry warriors around him had become peacefully quiet!  As he slowly opened his eyes, he saw every spear lowered!  There stood those mighty warriors, with tears in their eyes.   The power of the Name of Jesus had just been demonstrated once again!

The warriors invited Rev. Scott to stay with them!  He lived among them for over two years, sharing the love of God with them and leading many of them to Christ!  The power of just one song sung in a moment of crisis changed the lives of many that day, accomplishing what a hundred sermons may never have been able to do!

The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 2 9-11, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  (NKJV)

There is ultimate power in the Name of Jesus!  I challenge you to speak and sing that Name against the onslaughts of the Enemy in your life, whether it be for a physical, spiritual, financial, emotional or other need in your life. He responds when we call His Name out in prayer and praise….He is ever present to hear and answer us, even when things seem darkest.  I hope you will sing the words of this song in praise to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

All hail the power of Jesus’ Name, let angels prostrate fall;

Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all;

Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.

*****

Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race, ye ransomed from the Fall;

Hail Him who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all;

Hail Him who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all.

*****

Let every kindred, every tribe on this terrestrial ball,

To Him all majesty ascribe, and crown Him Lord of all.

To Him all majesty ascribe, and crown Him Lord of all.

*****

O that with yonder sacred throng we at His feet may fall!

We’ll join the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all;

We’ll join the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all.

A Word About Worship

As I was going through some of my old “stuff” the other day (you know, the ever-present need to throw some things away!), I ran across an issue of “The East Texas Christian Monthly” newspaper from January 1996.  I used to do a regular monthly column on worship in it and, sure enough, after thumbing through the pages I found the following which I wrote 18 years ago!  I decided to share it with you as I think it is as relevant today as it was back then.  I hope you will be blessed by it:

A Word About Worship

As I was contemplating what type of New Year’s resolutions to try and make (or better yet, try to keep!), I thought of ways in which my worship times with the Lord could become more meaningful this year.  I know that our quiet times alone with God can mean the difference between being productive in His Kingdom, and never really accomplishing what He intended us to do with our lives.

With this in mind, I wrote down four guidelines that I feel are essential to true worship—things that mean the difference between knowing the Father’s heart and will for us, and just haphazardly wandering through life never knowing God’s perfect will and plan for our lives.  Here are the four guidelines to help in developing a worship time with the Lord:

1.  Be consistent.  Make time each day for worship.  This is not easy to do in our hectic “rat race” type lifestyles, but it can be done if we determine it as a priority in each day.

2.  Make quality time for the Lord.  The quantity, or amount, of time is not as important as the way in which we spend it.  Some days we may be able to sit in His presence for an hour or more, reading the Word, meditating, worshipping, singing to Him, letting Him speak to us, etc.; and then, there may be those days where we have only a few minutes while driving to work or getting ready for our day in which to talk to our Lord and listen to His voice in our hearts.  However, if we are sincere, He will speak to us, and we can commune with Him even while going about our work.  We can catch quiet moments alone with Him that are precious beyond description!

3.  I must realize that to be truly effective in ministry to others, I must first worship privately.  I am only as effective publicly as I have been privately in my worship time.

4.  Be obedient to His voice and the impressions given by the Holy Spirit during my worship times.  We can gain much direction for our lives and ministries through His Word and that “still small voice” speaking to our spirits during these quiet times.  This will often be the beginning of direction from God for the plan He has for us and the way in which He wants to use us in some area of ministry.  Always be sensitive to His leading in this way!

I challenge you to begin to have a quality worship time with God this New Year.  Your Christian life will never be the same!

The Story of “Amazing Grace”

Perhaps the most famous, best-loved hymn ever written is “Amazing Grace”, penned by Anglican clergyman John Newton in late 1772 for a prayer meeting. The story of how God brought this hardened sea captain to a knowledge of saving grace is indeed remarkable!

Born in 1725 in London, England to a shipping merchant father and devout Christian mother who died of tuberculosis when he was not quite seven years old, John joined his father on a ship as an apprentice when he was only eleven. A headstrong, disobedient young man, he denounced his faith while still in his teens, joined the Royal Navy for a time and, after deserting, joined the crew of a slave ship where he began his career in slave trading.

After openly mocking the ship’s captain, creating obscene poems and songs about him that became popular with the crew, and entering into violent disagreements with several colleagues onboard, he was ordered to be chained like the slaves the ship carried, starved almost to death and imprisoned at sea. He was then enslaved and forced to work on a plantation in Sierra Leone in West Africa for several months until his father intervened and one of his ship captain friends picked him up on another ship bound for England.

While aboard this ship called the “Greyhound”, Newton gained notoriety for being one of the most profane men the captain had ever met. Even among the sailors, known for their foul-mouthed cursing, Newton was admonished several times not only for using the worst words the captain had ever heard, but creating new ones to exceed the limits of verbal debauchery. In March 1748, while the “Greyhound” was in the North Atlantic, a violent storm came up, so rough that it swept overboard a crew member who was standing where Newton had been moments before. After hours of manually pumping water from the ship’s decks, expecting to capsize at any moment, John Newton turned to the captain and said, “If this will not do, then Lord have mercy upon us!” During the next eleven hours he continued to ponder his divine challenge.

About two weeks later, after the battered ship and starving crew landed in Ireland, Newton remembered a book he had read aboard ship, The Christian’s Pattern, a summary of the 15th Century The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, and his uttered phrase in a moment of desperation. He began to ask if he was worthy of God’s mercy and grace or in any way redeemable as he had not only neglected his faith but directly opposed it, mocking others who showed theirs, deriding and denouncing God as a myth. He began to believe that God had sent him a profound message and had begun to work through him.

Although John Newton pointed to this time in his life as his conversion, he continued in the slave trade through several voyages up the rivers of Africa, now as a captain, procuring slaves offered for sale in larger ports and subsequently transporting them to North America. Two days before he was to embark on his fourth slave-trading expedition, a mysterious illness temporarily paralyzed him. His doctors advised him not to sail. Even though he was subsequently promised a position as a ship’s captain with cargo unrelated to slavery, he never sailed again. The replacement captain of the ship he was to command when he became ill was later murdered in a shipboard slave uprising. God’s hand was upon John Newton!

He was only thirty-years-old when he ended his slave trading career. Teaching himself Latin, Greek and theology, he and his new wife, Mary, took a pastorate in Olney, England, after the Earl of Dartmouth, impressed with Newton’s story of his conversion and renunciation of the slave trade, sponsored him for ordination. Newton soon became friends with people like Charles and John Wesley, who had encouraged Newton to go into the clergy and was the founder of the Methodist Church; George Whitfield, a famous Church of England evangelistic preacher; and William Cowper, a gifted hymn writer (“There Is a Fountain” among others). Newton and Cowper began weekly prayer meetings in 1768 and attempted to present a poem or hymn at each one.  “Amazing Grace” was probably used in a prayer meeting for the first time on January 1, 1773. In 1779 a collection of the poems these two men had written for their services in Olney was bound and published anonymously under title “Olney Hymns”. Newton contributed 280 of the 348 texts and titled his best known poem, “I Chronicles 17:16-17, Faith’s Review and Expectation” with the first line: “Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)”, no doubt thinking back on his remarkable conversion from a sinful life of shame! The entire first stanza, speaking of a “wretch like me”, undoubtedly expresses his regret over years spent in the slave trade.

Newton soon joined forces with a young man named William Wilberforce, the British member of Parliament who led the campaign to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire which culminated in the Slave Trade Act 1807, and became an ardent and outspoken abolitionist.

Years later, in 1847, William Walker assigned Newton’s words to a traditional song named “New Britain”, and published the song in the United States in his songbook, “Southern Harmony”. It was an immediate success and became enormously popular all over the country. A new verse, not written by Newton, was added by Harriet Beecher Stowe in her best-selling 1852 anti-slavery novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, which had been passed down orally in African-American communities for at least 50 years:

When we’ve been there ten-thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun;
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
Than when we first begun.

“Amazing Grace” continues to be an emblem of the Christian faith today, as well as a symbol of hope during tragedies like the Civil War, the persecution of various groups such as African-American slaves, the Cherokees who sang it while on their “Trail of Tears” as a way of coping with their ongoing battle, and all of us who suffer in one way or another. If it were not for God’s “Amazing Grace” where would any of us be?

Created to Worship

 

Rebecca Baker 4Did you ever wonder why you were born and placed on this earth in the first place?  Many people do, and their quest to find the answers as to the purpose for being here often leads them in very strange directions!  Some pursue mind-expanding drugs; some explore Eastern religions and self-help courses; there are those who are convinced we have been reincarnated from something or someone who lived thousands of years back in history; or perhaps in a “former life” we were really a toad…who knows? Then they get into the strange belief that everything has a spirit; your great-grandmother may have come back as a tree, and if plants and animals are the same as us, we must do everything to save them!  This is the basis for the New Age movement.  Of course, they believe we must save the planet because God does not necessarily exist and, even if  He did, He may be unable to maintain this vast Cosmos, including our galaxy, as He has for untold eons of time!  Our small planet must be in danger and He needs our help to ensure it does not disintegrate!

Of course, the real crux of the problem is that humans have a God-shaped void in their hearts and souls which only their Creator can fulfill!  Until they come into a personal relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ, and allow Him to be Lord of their lives, they will continue in their misery, trying all sorts of perversion, illicit sex, drugs, alcohol and pleasure which in the end will only leave them feeling emptier than when they started!

So, getting back to my question: “Why was I created?”…the answer is simple:  God created us to have fellowship with Him and maintain the earth, including having dominion over all created things, until He chooses to come again and bring those who are in relationship with Him unto Himself for Eternity!  Jesus said in Matthew 24:35:  “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”  (ESV)  So, if these things are doomed for destruction at some point anyway, making way for the New Heaven and New Earth (Isaiah 66:22 and 2 Peter 3:13), why don’t we spend more time practicing our worship of God, who we will be with through Eternity, entering into His presence on a daily basis, instead of worrying about things we cannot change?  I believe we have our priorities all wrong!  Jesus said in  Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  (ESV)  I believe Jesus was speaking of the material  and  mundane things of life we place so much importance on, while totally neglecting the Eternal values in which we should be more interested.

So, how can we enter into His presence in worship?  I believe there are many ways to do this, not the least important of which is singing and playing instruments before Him!  Even as our Heavenly Father loves to hear our praises, it builds us up, as well. I love Ephesians 5:19,  “…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”  (NKJV)  Another favorite of mine that says nearly the same thing is Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”  (ESV)

I believe the reason God wants His children to speak and sing their worship aloud is because He knows it builds us up in our innermost beings, edifying and fulfilling a need that is built into all human beings to worship someone or something higher than they are!  We were created to worship our Maker and nothing else in the world will satisfy this deepest of all longings!  Even the best love relationship in the world; the most wonderful spouse or children; the biggest mansion ever built; the finest cars, planes, boats and material trappings; jet-setting the world in luxury; and all that this world can offer will never fulfill this longing for God!  It is why you have a longing to worship Him, and as you do so, you will sense His peace and joy in your life; the daily cares, loneliness and stress of life will fade away as you bask in His presence!

I Corinthians 1:9  says, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (NKJV)  Let us practice the words of Psalm 95:6, just one of hundreds of admonitions to worship in the book of Psalms:  “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”  (NKJV)  Have you worshipped your Creator today?

The Story of “Silent Night”

The beautiful and much-loved Christmas carol, “Silent Night”, has a very interesting story behind it….I thought you might enjoy hearing how this most famous carol came to be written!

The year was 1818 and a roving band of actors was traveling through the Austrian Alps performing their re-enactment of the story of Christ’s birth in towns all over the area. On December 23 they arrived at Oberndorf, a village near Salzburg, where they were scheduled to perform that evening in the small Church of St. Nicholas.

Unfortunately, the church organ was broken and unable to be repaired until after Christmas. Undeterred, the acting company simply moved their Christmas drama to a private home. In attendance that evening was an assistant priest of the church, Josef Mohr, a young man who had been born an illegitimate child on December 11, 1792 in  Salzburg.  He had become a Catholic priest in 1815 after he obtained a special papal dispensation that was required for illegitimate persons entering the priesthood. That night the beautiful presentation of the actors put him in a meditative mood, and instead of walking straight home, he took a longer route which included a quiet path up a hill overlooking the village below. As he looked down from the hilltop on the peaceful, snow-covered village, he reveled in the majestic silence of the wintry night and, gazing upon the picturesque winter scene, remembered a poem he had written a couple of years before about the night the angels announced the birth of the long-awaited Messiah to shepherds on another hillside far away in Judea.

Mohr, who was very determined to introduce music in the mother tongue of the Austrian and German people, instead of insisting they sing songs and hear sermons in Latin which was not understood by anyone, decided that the words he had written might make a good simple carol for his congregation the following evening at their Christmas eve service. The only problem was he had no music to which the poem could be sung! So the next day Father Mohr went to see the church organist, Franz Gruber. The organist had only a few hours to compose a melody for Mohr’s poem, and due to the fact the organ was inoperable, he had to come up with an extremely simple melody and chord pattern that could be sung with a guitar. Gruber managed to do just that, and by the time of the Christmas eve service, he had composed a simple but beautiful musical setting for the poem, one which could easily be sung by the common people and whose accompaniment could  be strummed on the guitar. They had just introduced a Christmas carol that could be sung without an organ!

On that Christmas Eve in 1818, the congregation heard for the very first time the beautiful carol, “Silent Night”, sung by Mohr and Gruber, who also accompanied them on his guitar.

Weeks later, when the organ builder Karl Mauracher arrived to repair the organ, he heard Gruber play his composition as he tested out the newly refurbished instrument. Deeply impressed by the beautiful, melodious carol, Mauracher took copies of the music and words to “Silent Night” back to his own Alpine village of Kapfing. Two well-known singing families, the Rainers and the Strassers, heard and were captivated by the beautiful new song, putting it into their Christmas season repertoires.

The Strasser sisters spread the carol across northern Europe. In 1834, after they performed it for King Frederick William IV of Prussia, he ordered his cathedral choir to sing it every Christmas eve! Twenty years after it was written, the Rainers brought “Silent Night” to the United States, singing it (in German) at the Alexander Hamilton Monument located outside of New York City’s Trinity Church.  Josef Mohr and Franz Gruber had maintained their church work in relative obscurity through the years.  It was not until people began asking years later, as its popularity at Christmas increased, “Who wrote this beautiful song?” that  Gruber’s son spoke up and said, “I know the story of this song!” and produced a copy of it after his father’s death.  Josef Mohr died of complications from tuberculosis when he was not quite 56 years old, and is buried in the courtyard of a school he started in a small town in Austria during his priesthood.  Neither man ever knew the worldwide scope of the song they had penned that Christmas Eve in a small town in the mountains of Austria, but God used their talents in a remarkable way.  Even though Josef Mohr was a man who came from a less than desirable background at the time, God chose him to herald the message of the birth of the Savior through this beloved song!

In 1863, “Silent Night” was translated into English from the original German, and today the words of “Silent Night” are sung in more than 300 different languages around the world!  It has been recorded musically by over 740 artists all over the world, making it the most recorded song of all time!

The original German lyrics go something like this:

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schlaft, einsam wacht;
Nur das traute heilige Paar,
Holder Knab im lockigten Haar;
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh’, Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh’.

Did God in His sovereignty allow a simple church organ to “break down” and be out of commission at a most important time so that someone would compose a simple song, one that ordinarily would not be thought of as nearly complex enough for the traditional organ masterpieces of the day, later sung around the world as a best-loved rendition of His birth? Did God anoint two men who were moved by the events recorded in Matthew and Luke to compose perhaps the most famous of the carols that are sung all over the world to this day? I believe He did! I am thankful that they were obedient to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to pen the words and music that will go down in history as one of the greatest songs ever written!

Silent night, Holy night,
All is calm, all is bright;
‘Round yon virgin, mother and child,
Holy infant so tender and mild;
Sleep in Heavenly peace, Sleep in Heavenly peace.

Silent night, Holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight; 
Glories stream from Heaven afar;
Heavenly hosts sing, “Allelujah”;
Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born!

Please enjoy my arrangement of this beloved carol from my Christmas album “Proclaim the Joy!” (available also on Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, CD Baby and others)

Hope

The word “hope” is often used casually in day-to-day conversation as a word which conveys a desire for something to happen in the future.  Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it this way, “To cherish a desire with anticipation, to desire with expectation of obtainment, to expect with confidence; trust“.

I would like to share a few words today of how this word “hope” has played a role in my own life!

I was thinking back the other day on my earlier life, particularly my teen-age years…awhile ago!!  I have fond memories of many things, some not so pleasant, some wonderful…but sandwiched in between each memory is a little thing I can only define as “hope”.  What made those years so special and poignant in my mind today is the fact I was looking forward with anticipation and hope to my adult life, where I “hoped” to fulfill all of my dreams and ambitions!  I could hardly wait to get out of school, to begin my career, to get married, to start a family, on and on.  I could see my music career blossom (I hoped!), my handsome husband and adorable children, my gorgeous home, lots of travel, lovely clothes, lots of money to spend, and on and on!  Did all of my hopes materialize?  Well, you probably know from your own life that rarely do things turn out the way you “hoped” they would!  Did that mean I was a failure?  Or did God perhaps have a slightly different plan in mind for my life than I had “hoped” for?

Sure, many of the things I hoped would happen certainly did, but not always in the way I had envisioned. Was my life a success?  “Hopefully” in God’s eyes it has been.  Certainly, in my mind, I have failed to achieve the great dreams of my youth.  However, maybe a far more important goal has been reached; that of being a blessing to even one person who needed to receive a touch from the Lord; encouraging even one person in their walk with God; leading someone to Christ; blessing someone with the gift of music; teaching a young child to play an instrument or sing God’s praises! Did it always involve the big stage or worldwide adulation?  Hardly!  However, God, who is the final judge on success and achievement sees us all on a completely different scale than the world does.  It is by His standards that I hope to someday be judged and hear Him say, “Well done, you good and faithful servant!”

So, how does “hope” play into my life now that I am older and have much of it to look back on? I look to the Psalmist David, who said in Psalm 37:25, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.”  (ESV)  In Psalm 42:5 he says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.”  (ESV)

Even as we get older (and we are all on that path!) we should never give up on “hope“, which is really trust in God!  Hope for the future; hope for our nation; hope for our children and grandchildren; hope that the ministry God has destined for us to fulfill will be brought forth in our lifetime; hope for abundance in every area of our lives, spiritual as well as material!  Hopelessness brings despair, which leads to despondency.  At this time of year many people are deeply lonely as the holiday season conjures up old, painful memories.  Some even resort to taking their own lives during this time, listening to Satan’s lies that there is no hope for them and therefore they should end the misery they are feeling.  Some have chronic pain and health concerns in their physical bodies that make them want to give up and “throw in the towel”, so to speak.  Today, I would like to encourage everyone who feels a sense of hopelessness in their lives to look up and let God bring you into joy and victory through His Word and your praise and worship to Him!  Proverbs 10:28 says,, “The hope of the righteous brings joy….”  (ESV) and Paul writes in Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  (ESV)

Should we lose hope as we grow older and realize that some of our dreams did not transpire and our lives turned out quite differently than we anticipated?  Absolutely not!  We need to continue to hope for the future, realizing that if we had received everything we thought we wanted, our lives would probably be a big mess in many ways!  Our Sovereign God knows best what (and who) we need in our lives, and even as we look backward with fond memories, being careful not to “live in the past”,  we can also look ahead to even better days, days of fulfillment of God’s promises to us, our children and grandchildren, rewarding days filled with the benefits of a life lived for the Lord and confidence achieved through valuable lessons learned!

Perhaps you are waiting on God for the fulfillment of a dream or the ability to carry out the ministry you believe He has called you to!  Perhaps you are waiting for that special someone to love, one who will become your spouse!  Never give up hope….God has a timing for all things as you trust Him!  Just give your circumstances to God and watch Him work as you leave them in His hands!  By way of personal testimony, I became a widow over seven years ago when God called my husband home after he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.  I really never knew what loneliness was until I was forced to come home to an empty house night after night.  Even though I looked for love and found some romantic relationships during this time, I did not find my “Mr. Right” immediately.  When I had all but given up hope of ever finding my “life’s companion”, God brought my wonderful husband to me and we have been happily married for almost three years now!  He knew just the right person was there for me and He knew the right time for us to meet!  So, never give up hope!

What does all of this have to do with music?  Well, I would start singing songs about “hope” to the Lord….you might start with the old hymn, “The Solid Rock”,  which says,  “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness!”  Never lose HOPE, and don’t forget that FAITH goes along with hope!!

Musicians and Warfare

Did you know that in the Old Testament there are several passages that recount the stories of musicians not only leading worship, but leading processions carrying the ark of the covenant as well as troops going into battle against their enemies at the command of God? It’s really pretty interesting stuff!

II Chronicles 15:11-29 details the entire account of the Israelites returning the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its permanent place in Jerusalem as God had commanded. Verses 16 – 24 mention these facts: “David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy….The singers…were to sound bronze cymbals…were to play harps…were to lead with lyres….Chenaniah, leader of the Levites in music, should direct the music, for he understood it….The priests should blow the trumpets before the ark of God….” Verse 28 sums up the entire processional this way, “So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouting, to the sound of the horn, trumpets, and cymbals, and made loud music on harps and lyres.” (ESV)

Wow! It sounds to me like they were having a loud, jubilant, boisterous time of singing and playing instruments in praise to Jehovah! I believe they were rejoicing, happy, excited and thankful because the ark of the covenant was finally coming home! I see a parallel today as we worship God for His many blessings to us, bringing us “home” into His Kingdom through salvation, guiding and directing our steps and providing for our needs! Their loud, joyful songs and shouts of worship to God even caused King David to get so excited that he danced and rejoiced before the Lord, much to the chagrin of his wife, Michal. Verse 29 says…”Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David dancing and rejoicing, and she despised him in her heart.”

I am not sure just what the reason for this was; perhaps she was jealous of his intimate, seemingly uninhibited worship and relationship with the King of Kings. Perhaps she wanted first place in his heart, instead of allowing David to give God (Yahveh) the glory reserved exclusively for Him! Whatever the reason, The Word tells us in another account of the same incident in II Samuel 6:21-23, “And David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord—and I will make merry before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes’….And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.” (ESV)   It is dangerous to try to share God’s glory with anyone!

One account of musicians leading armies in warfare is in II Chronicles 20:21 and 22, “…he (King Jehoshaphat) appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army and say, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.’ And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.” (ESV)   Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “rout” this way: “A state of wild confusion or disorderly retreat; a disastrous defeat; debacle; a precipitate flight”.

Need I say more? When the musicians obeyed God and led the Israelites, praising and worshipping Him, He sent the armies into a panic, scattering and confusing them, so that they fled! Verse 23 goes on to say that the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction and helping them destroy one another! Really, God does not need our help; only our obedience! When we have perfect trust in Him and believe Him to honor His Word no matter what the circumstances look like around us, He always comes through!

So, “get your praise on”, start singing to the Lord, playing that musical instrument and shouting before the victory is won. The Enemy of your soul hates it when you sing and shout before God works a miracle; he cannot stand to see you happy, calm and confident in God’s imminent miraculous provision and deliverance! So, why not begin to praise and worship the Lord right now? Sing, play and praise your way to victory!

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)