Tag Archive | Christian

Lessons I Learned from a Bird

In Job 35:11 (NASB) we read, “Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?”  Could God use a bird to deliver a spiritual lesson to us?  My husband, Russell Bafford, had a chance to experience this very thing and I invited him to share it with us today on my blog:
Several years ago, I had this encounter with a bird….
While walking along the Ohio River at Paducah, Kentucky one sunny morning I saw a bird standing still at the edge of the river.  He had long, skinny legs and a long, narrow beak … probably a heron of some kind.  He remained motionless for the longest time.  I became mesmerized at the sight of him standing there, and focused on him wondering what was going to happen.  Then, all of a sudden, bam!  He poked his long beak down into the water just a few inches in front of his legs, and he came up with a small fish which he promptly swallowed.  Shortly after that he flew off.  After reflecting on what I had just seen, here are the nine things I learned from that episode.
1. This bird knew where to go to find what he needed.  Not to a junkyard… not to a barnyard…not to a desert…not to a mountaintop … not to a mall parking lot … not to a football field … not to a rooftop … but rather to the river.  Are you looking for a job in the wrong place?  There aren’t many cowboy jobs in downtown New York.  If you want to make surfboards, you better not look for a job in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  If you are looking for a Christian companion, go to where those Christians hang out … probably not to the local taverns and bars.  (He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.   Prov. 13:20)
2. He had to leave his resting place to find what he needed.  This took some effort on his part.  It would have been easier for him to stay in his bed, and hope the food would come to him.  But even this bird, with his bird brain, knew better than that.  He knew he had to go out and look for himself.  Do you wish you had a job, but wish someone would come to your door to offer you one?  Do you wish you had more friends, and wish they would come to your door offering to befriend you?  Get a bird brain … go look for what you desire!
3. He didn’t know the exact location of where his food would appear, but he did know the general vicinity of where it was most likely to appear.  Even though the river is about a mile wide, he only went to the river’s edge.  A fish that was 20 feet beneath the surface wouldn’t do him much good; he had to have something just a few inches down.  A 50 pound fish would be too much for him to handle, but a one ounce fish was just about the right size.  Could you really handle a million dollars right now if it was dumped into your lap?  Would a thousand dollars be easier for you to manage?  Our Lord told us to pray for our DAILY bread … not a year’s supply!  There must be a reason for that.
4. He looked for his needs using the physical characteristics, senses, skills, and attributes with which God had endowed him.  Those skinny legs look an awful lot like another reed growing up out of the water’s edge.  His eyes were several inches above the water giving him a pretty wide view of the water around him.  Be real with yourself.  God gave you much more than a bird’s brain!  Make a serious assessment of your skills, talents, attributes, and interests keeping in mind they are a gift from God proportioned to you in just the right amount according to His divine will.  Don’t be surprised if others don’t have the same exact mix of attributes … that’s because God made you unique!
5. He had patience… he stayed at it until his needs were met … he never gave up.  This took time.  He was willing to spend the time needed.  How long are you willing to wait on an answer to prayer from the Lord?  Look at some examples we have from scripture … when Moses went up Mount Sinai to seek the Lord, he was more than just a new believer.  He was more than a neophyte in spiritual things.  After leaving Egypt the first time, he spent 40 years biding his time in a foreign land most likely gaining some maturity in his spiritual life.  Then God finally told him to go back to Egypt, and bring His people out.  Moses saw and participated in some mind-boggling miracles brought about by God’s own hand.  And now this giant of the faith was summoned by God himself to ascend Mount Sinai for further instructions.  But once he was up there he waited … one hour … two hours … three hours … then one day … then two days … then three days … still no response from God … (How patient are you when you pray?  If we were really spiritual, we would all get an immediate response from God, right?) … Moses waited another day … then another … then after seven days had past, God finally spoke to him.  If this spiritual giant of the faith had to wait a full week before God answered him, how long should we be prepared to wait on our sovereign Lord?
6. He was focused on the task at hand … not distracted by other things going on around him.  There was a lot of background noise around him.  There was a lot of other activity by animals and people going on around him while he was trying to stay focused.  These other distractions did not care about his needs; they were unconcerned about his goals and objectives.  The distractive influences had their own agendas that were different from his.  Do you start with good intentions only to take your eye off the ball when the first distraction comes along?  Then, once distracted, do you go back to the task you started?  Did you ever begin a discipline of regular prayer & devotion time only to be distracted?  Did you go back to resume the practice?  There is a reason they are called DISCIPLES … because it involves discipline.   Let us learn from this bird and resolve to emulate his focus and his discipline.
7. He recognized what he needed when he saw it.  He had a pretty good idea of what his goal looked like.  Things that did not match his goal were ignored.  It has been said, “If you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there.”  People often struggle for years to get a goal established in their lives.  Most Christians want to know what God’s will is for their lives.  This is a good place to remember Romans 12:2 which says: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV)  Are you looking to the celebrities in America’s popular culture for advice and direction?  Look somewhere else.  The key to knowing God’s will is to renew our minds to think His thoughts, to look at things the way He sees them, to respond the way our Lord would respond, to embrace and exercise the same value system our Lord has demonstrated for us.  This is not easy, but it is something to which each serious Christian should aspire.
8. He took what he needed when it got within his reach.  Even if he spotted a perfect fish 10 feet away it wouldn’t do him much good because it was beyond his reach.  It had to be within his reach.  Is it a surprise to you when God provides that for which you have prayed?  Should it be a surprise?  It should be a cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving, but should it really be a surprise to us when God answers our prayers?
9. When his need was met, he went on to something else … as if he was confident God would meet that same need again on another day in a similar way.  Remember how Jesus told us to pray   “… give us this day our daily bread …”
I really learned a lot from that bird.  How about you?

The “Dumbing Down” of Music?

OK, so maybe this doesn’t sound like the most “spiritual” topic to you; perhaps you think I am just going to “vent” about some of my pet peeves concerning music today, especially as it relates to the current church scene.  Well, please bear with me.  I think you’ll find some interesting observations here that may even get you thinking about some issues you may not have thought of!

A few weeks ago my husband and I visited a nearby church that featured a very “free” style contemporary praise band.  Although it was loud, it wasn’t any different than countless other churches I had been in which featured the same style of “three chord” simplistic “praise” music, complete with several guitars, drums, keyboards, etc.  You get my drift!  Anyway, about twenty minutes into the worship, the lady seated directly in front of us started to put her hands over her ears as if in intense pain.  I hoped she was OK!  Then, she whispered something to her husband and left the sanctuary.  I assumed she wouldn’t be back until the worship was over; it was quite apparent she found the music too loud for her ears.  Well, to my great surprise, she emerged again in just a couple of minutes with two ear plugs in her hands, which she promptly put in and continued sitting by her husband!  Needless to say, I don’t think she was getting much out of the worship!

In sharp contrast, we recently visited a rehearsal for a world-renowned church choir with a more liturgical or classical slant to their music.  As they sang, I noticed the woman sitting in front of me began wiping tears from her eyes as she pulled a hanky from her purse.  Obviously, she was greatly moved emotionally by the song and the tears followed.

Now, what do these two incidents have in common, you may ask?  To my mind, it seemed as if the first woman, who was obviously there to worship, was not getting a thing out of the musical service.  She was “enduring” it!  In sharp contrast, the second woman was moved to tears by the sheer emotion exuded by a great composer and glorious choir and was obviously touched somewhere down in her soul!

I have read many times Psalm 33:3, “Sing unto Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.”  (NKJV)

I’ve used this verse so many times to encourage people to take piano (or another instrument) lessons, or even learn to sing properly, when I had my teaching studio in Texas for over 28 years.  As a student of classical music myself, I have a deep appreciation for good music, properly performed.  Badly performed music leaves me cold!   When a person has sung or played beautiful, challenging music with intricate and fascinating chord structures and patterns, such as I have, it is extremely difficult not to be bored with the current three chord “pablum” being offered up as the sole choice for any given worship service in many churches.  Any other alternative, such as time-honored hymns written by revered musicians, men and women of God, are sadly viewed as absolutely unacceptable in some churches!  It sometimes appears that the churches who wish to have a “free” worship style and move into “praise and worship” also fail to utilize great music and seasoned, well-trained musicians who can play “skillfully” as the Word mentions in Psalms.  It seems to be the “dumbing down” of music!

Interestingly,  Numbers 8:24-26 speaks of the Levites (the priests) serving in the tabernacle from the age of 25-50.  In I Chronicles   23:3-5  we read that the Levites from the age of 30 and up numbered 38,000 and of that number 24,000 were to carry forward the work of the house of the Lord.  Of this number, we read in verse 5:  “…four thousand praised the Lord with the instruments which I made, said David to praise therewith.” (KJV)  I want to get into this whole concept of trained, paid temple musicians more in future postings, but suffice it to say that by reading about the Levites, many of whom were musicians, we see that they were first of all trained, then spent many years actually performing as musicians before spending the last part of their lives teaching the next generation of musicians coming up!  In II Chronicles 20 we read that the singers and musicians led the  army against the enemy as they sang and praised God!  Verse 28 mentions “stringed instruments and harps and trumpets, to the house of the Lord.”  (NKJV)

It is obvious (and we will get into this subject more later) that these were skilled musicians,  anointed by God to lead the praise and worship!  Is there room for more than one type of music in our worship today?  I think that the answer is emphatically, yes!  Different styles minister to different people; it has not as much to do with age as with preference.  Does everyone like the same kind of food or pick the same thing at a buffet?  Do we all order the same food off the menu?  The same is true with our musical tastes.  Skilled musicians are going to have a greater appreciation for a deeper type of musical genre than someone who has had no musical training, perhaps.  Should we honor differing musical tastes in our worship times?  I believe we should!  If someone is not worshiping, but using ear plugs to endure, perhaps the whole idea of helping everyone enter into the presence of God has been lost!

Let’s stop picking apart each other’s musical tastes and admit that God loves variety and diversity.  Why not help each other enter into worship by respecting  various musical preferences and allow skilled, trained musicians to help us enter into the presence of God!

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