Listen More, Talk Less and Calm Down

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We live in a time of information explosion. I read recently that over 100 billion emails are sent each day. That’s more than ten times the population of the whole world. Each day 5000 new books are published. This year the number of text messages will exceed 6 trillion.

If we take the year Christ was born as our starting point, it took 1500 years for all the knowledge in the world to double. The next doubling took only 250 years. It doubled again in 150 years. By the end of World War II, knowledge doubled every 25 years. Today knowledge is doubling every 12 months. No wonder we can’t keep up.

According to Stephen Davey, “If you happen to read the New York Times newspaper for one week, you will be exposed to more information than the average person, living in the 1800‘s, came across in their entire lifetime.” (From the message “Tutored by Truth.”)

We are being swamped by a tidal wave of information that pours in 24/7/365. The whole world is now “live” and in “real-time.” Stories change every few minutes, and the screen you’re watching may have an anchor reading a story with an image to the right, a sidebar to the left, with a screen crawl at the top and another at the bottom so that you’re following five different information sources at the same time on the same screen.

We are easily distracted

No wonder we are easily distracted. We look without seeing, we listen without hearing, and we speak without understanding. We are a wired up, tuned in, hyper-caffeinated generation. Some years ago Bob Moorehouse wrote an essay called The Paradox of Our Time. Here’s a brief excerpt:

-We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life.

-We’ve added years to life not life to years.

-We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor.

-We conquered outer space but not inner space.

-We’ve done larger things, but not better things.

Every part of that seems very true, but I was especially drawn to this sentence: “We’ve conquered outer space but not inner space.” Everything we build is bigger, stronger, faster, and larger. We’ve come a long way in a short time. The engine of human progress hums right along. We send men to the moon, satellites into orbit, and radio waves to the stars. But inner space is another matter. We’re not even close to conquering that. The human heart seems as unruly as ever.

My Greatest Challenge

If we are honest with ourselves, we all know that the real battles of life are inside, not outside. My greatest challenge is the man in the mirror. When I say that the human heart is unruly, I’m not talking about yours. I’m talking about mine.

What we are on the inside matters more than what happens on the outside. That’s where the little book of James becomes incredibly relevant. This epistle, written 2000 years ago to beleaguered, scattered, oppressed Jewish believers who were just barely hanging on to their faith, speaks with amazing clarity to life in the 21st-century. James wants us to discover the freedom that comes when we respond the right way to the pressures of life.

We look without seeing, we listen without hearing, and we speak without understanding

James 1:19-20 specifically answers the question, How do you respond properly when the heat is on, the pressure is building, and you are about to lose it? Pay close attention to his answer:

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

These verses appear simple, but putting them into practice is a daily challenge. Let’s focus on the three basic commands James gives us.

  1. Listen More

“Be quick to hear” (James 1:19a).

Wisdom begins when we listen more and talk less. In context, this sort of listening starts by paying attention to what God has said in his Word. In the first century, believers didn’t have all the advantages we have. They didn’t have printed copies of the New Testament. For that matter, if James was indeed the first book of the New Testament, they couldn’t read Romans because it hadn’t been written yet. Likewise for all four gospels, the book of Acts, the rest of the epistles, and the book of Revelation. They didn’t have the Bible on a smartphone app so they could read it wherever they went. For the most part, hearing the Word meant meeting with other believers and listening to the Word being taught. It meant hearing, memorizing and then meditating on what you had heard.

Wisdom begins when we listen more and talk less

I sometimes think our modern technology has made it so easy to hear the Word that we hardly hear it at all. When I look at my iPhone, I see tons of apps, all of them brimming with information that flows in 24 hours a day. I have news apps, email apps, message apps, music apps, and video apps. We have enough online stimulation to keep us occupied round the clock. In the old days (maybe 10 years ago), when you got on an airplane, you might actually chat with the person sitting next to you. That rarely happens nowadays. At the gate and on the plane, you see people with their heads down, looking at their smartphones, or apparently talking to themselves (though they are actually on the phone).

A heinous crime paid an impossible debt

I wonder who is better off, the first-century believers who had almost no copies of the Word or 21st-century believers who have the Bible at our fingertips. No one would trade our technology for life 2000 years ago, but I will say this. Technology is useless (and even dangerous) if we are so busy and so distracted that we are not “quick to hear” what God is saying to us.

This principle applies in every area of life. Some people talk so much that they never hear what anyone else says. A few days ago Marlene and I read Proverbs 8 together. In that chapter wisdom is personified as a woman speaking to the reader:

Wisdom calls (v. 1).

She speaks noble things (v. 6).

Wisdom is better than gold or silver (vv. 10-11).

By wisdom kings reign (v. 15).

God blesses those who walk in wisdom (v. 32).

Wisdom gains favor from the Lord (v. 35).

But no one gains wisdom by chance. Wisdom says, “If you seek me, you will find me.” Are we too busy, too worried, too preoccupied, too distracted (a very modern problem) to seek the wisdom God offers in his Word?

No one gains wisdom by chance

The word translated “quick” was used in a slightly different form in John 20:4 to describe Peter outrunning John to the empty tomb. That’s a helpful picture. We ought to be “outrunning” ourselves to find out what God has to say to us. I have a friend who says that he and his wife have a simple morning rule: “No Bible, no breakfast.” I used to hear that said 40 years ago. Not so much nowadays. I like it as a personal habit to adopt.

We would all be better off if instead of checking Facebook first thing in the morning, we went running to the Word of God. I can’t make rules for you or for anyone else, but here’s a challenge to think about. Being “quick to hear” doesn’t happen by accident.

We have to plan to hear the Word.

We’re quick to do many things that don’t matter.

Are we quick to listen to the Word of God?

  1. Talk Less

“Be slow to speak” (James 1:19b).

Ecclesiastes 5:2 says it this way: “God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” It’s hard to argue with that.

You’re not as smart as you think you are, and neither am I.

You’re not as clever as you think you are, and neither am I.

You’re not as wise as you think you are, and neither am I.

We’re not as smart as we think we are

There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. Most of us are better at the former and not so good at the latter. Proverbs 29:20 has a helpful word about this. “Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Ogden Nash put this principle into a neat little rhyme: “To keep your marriage brimming, with love in the loving cup, whenever you’re wrong, admit it. Whenever you’re right, shut up.” It’s so easy to kill a marriage or a friendship with unkind words. How many times have we said something in anger only to regret it a thousand times later?

Let me pause to make an application that I would not have made (or even thought about) 25 years ago. Social media encourages quick feedback. Someone says something we don’t like so without thinking it through, we post a snappy reply, a snarky comment, a clever comeback or a mean-spirited innuendo. Sometimes we are so eager to post our comments that we hit Send and then start chuckling over our cleverness. Here’s a simple piece of advice when you are tempted to do that:

It’s easy to kill a marriage with unkind words

Slow down.

Wait.

Think about it.

You can delete a foolish comment, but you can’t erase it from the Internet. Once you post it, the record floats in cyberspace forever.

You can’t erase a foolish comment completely

When James says “Be slow to speak,” he is thinking about our tendency to speak when we are angry and frustrated. I’m sure you’ve heard it said: Speak when you are angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret. How true it is. When I was a child, people used to say “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That’s a nice, brave saying, and it works pretty well if you have no feelings. Words hurt far more than sticks and stones, and the wounds they leave take far longer to heal. Unkind words don’t break bones; they break hearts.

III. Calm Down

“Be slow to anger” (James 1:19c).

The translators handle this last command in a variety of ways:

“Slow to anger” (ESV).

“Slow to wrath” (ASV).

“Don’t get worked up into a rage so easily” (Voice).

“Slow to lose his temper” (Phillips).

James is not saying don’t get angry. That’s unrealistic. We’re all going to get angry from time to time. The word translated “anger” actually refers to a deep-seated rage. It doesn’t refer to a passing moment of displeasure which is soon gone and forgotten. No, James is speaking of that deep emotion which, when released, is like a volcano erupting. It spews red-hot lava all over the living room.

Anger is under our control

Anger is under our control. Sometimes we talk of “blowing up” as if it happened against our will. But that’s a cop-out. Anger is an emotion we control. Here’s the proof. Have you ever had an argument with your spouse and the phone rang right in the middle of the argument? You were raising your voice and getting red in the face and then, “Hello, how are you? I’m so glad you called. Goodbye.” You hang the phone up and go at it again. That’s because anger is an emotion you can control.

But notice the progression. If we are quick to hear, we will be slow to speak. But if we are slow to hear, we will doubtless be quick to speak. Quick speaking leads to quick anger. The angrier we get, the faster we speak, and the less we hear.

Quick speaking leads to quick anger

Not long ago I spoke to a group of men who serve the Lord in various leadership positions around the world. I talked to them about the character qualities of a godly man in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. When you study the 25 character qualities and put them in groups, you discover the single largest group involves a man and his anger. As I studied the two lists Paul made, I found 5 of the 25 character qualities unquestionably related to a man and his anger:

Not overbearing – Titus 1:7

Not quarrelsome – 1 Timothy 3:3

Not quick-tempered – Titus 1:7

Not violent – 1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7

Gentle – 1 Timothy 3:3

I reminded the men of Solomon’s wise counsel in Proverbs 16:32, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” But of course we don’t really believe it. Which would you rather be called, a patient man or a warrior? The world rewards the warriors while the patient men change diapers and take out the garbage. It’s not much of a contest.

Jesus didn’t come to make us nicer people. He came to make us new people

Solomon says it is better to control your temper than to “take a city.” We use that military imagery all the time in Christian circles. We talk about taking our cities for Christ and winning America back to God. That sort of talk can lead to some disastrous results:

“I took my city for Christ, but my wife left me.”

“I took my city for God, but my children no longer follow Jesus.”

Would you rather be called a warrior or a patient man?

I think James knew we would have an issue with this third command so he added a reason in verse 20: “For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” The CEV offers this practical warning: “If you are angry, you cannot do any of the good things that God wants done.” Did you ever know a person who was angry all the time? They get up angry, they shower angry, they eat breakfast angry, they go to work angry, they come home angry, they watch TV angry, and they go to bed angry. When they are happy, that makes them angry. Nothing pleases a person like that. Anger leads to jealousy, harsh words, and it can even lead to murder.

That sort of anger can never produce a life pleasing to God.

That sort of anger only destroys; it never builds up.

That sort of anger brings the smell of death with it.

Sorrow and Love Flow Mingled Down

In order to move away from bitterness, anger, and hurtful words, we need to take Ephesians 4:32 to heart:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

We are to extend grace to others as God has extended grace to us. We who have been showered with God’s grace in Christ are to give to other undeserving sinners the same outpouring of grace. From God to us to others. Grace to us, grace to others. This is God’s plan. We do for others what God has done for us. We have been forgiven; we know what it is like. Now do the same for others. We are not left to wonder what it means to forgive those who have hurt us.

Grace to us, grace to others. This is God’s plan.

You cannot understand God’s love unless you go to the cross.

You cannot understand the cross unless you see in it God’s love.

Man’s murder became God’s sacrifice. A heinous crime paid an impossible debt. Through the death of an innocent man, we the guilty go free. If we had been there, the stench of death would have overwhelmed us, but the cross smelled good to the Father. The work of salvation was finally done:

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

Did e’er such love or sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

We need the Lord Jesus living in us

Jesus didn’t come to make us nicer people. He came to make us new people. If you read this sermon and think, “I should try harder to listen more, speak less, and calm down,” that’s a good sentiment, but it misses the point. We need the Lord Jesus living in us. In one of his books, British Bible teacher F. B. Meyer talked about how Christ living in us makes all the difference in the moment of temptation. Meyer said that when he felt himself getting angry or irritable, he asked the Lord for the quality most needed at that moment:

Your patience, Lord Jesus.

Your kindness, Lord Jesus.

Your love, Lord Jesus.

Your courage, Lord Jesus.

Your wisdom, Lord Jesus.

Your joy, Lord Jesus.

Your compassion, Lord Jesus.

If we believe that in Jesus Christ dwells all the fullness of God (and we do), and if we believe Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (and we do), then we may believe that in our lives this week the fullness of Christ, the beauty of Christ, the grace of Christ, the mercy of Christ, the holiness of Christ, and the kindness of Christ may fill us and drive out the evil—the lust, greed, impatience, unbelief, critical spirit, and the angry intolerance that holds us back.

When we are living in Christ and Christ is living in us, then by God’s grace we will be . . .

Swift to hear,

Slow to speak, and

Slow to anger.

Come, Lord Jesus, transform us by the power of your Word so that your beauty may be seen in us. Do it, O Lord! Amen.

Courtesy of http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/listen-more-talk-less-calm-down/

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The Power of Music to Alter the Heart, Part 2: Lucifer, the Divine Musician

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Music is a vital part of heaven and the throne of God. It has been part of the worship and praise of God since the beginning. Lucifer was created as a beautiful and wise archangel, an anointed cherub, and music was an integral part of his being.

Thou [Lucifer] hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: Thou wast on the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. (Ezekiel 28:13–14, KJV)

Cherubim are the highest-ranking angels in God’s kingdom and are the most powerful, beautiful, and wise spirit beings God has ever created. Cherubim only do what God beckons, and they are to never turn away from it (Ezekiel 1:9,12; Ezekiel 10:11). The voice of the Almighty is always right above their heads, and they move swiftly, like lightening, to obey His commands (Ezekiel 1:14, 24-26). The fire of God burns brightly in the center of their beings, like coals of fire, and the glory of God rests upon them (Ezekiel 1:4, 13, 27-28; Ezekiel 11:22-23).

These spirit beings were the guardians and ministers of God’s throne, as Psalm 99:1 declares that God is “enthroned above the cherubim.” Revelation 4:6 also says these cherubim have special access to God’s heavenly throne. Revelation 7:11 says the cherubim fall down in humility on their faces before the throne of God and worship Him daily, saying, “Blessing and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power be unto our God for ever and ever.” Cherubim praised and worshipped God constantly, giving great honor to the holiness and majesty of God Almighty.

The cherubim are fiercely devoted to God, and their entire purpose is to serve God with undivided loyalty. C. H. Spurgeon called them “the flaming ones who gaze upon His glory.[i]” The dazzling light of the Lord’s presence rose from within the cherubim as they lived and ministered in the very glory and presence of God. These living spirit beings never ceased to cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8). Words fail miserably in describing the magnificence of these cherubim that ministered daily before the throne of God.

The tabernacle and the temple were full of images of cherubim, the most significant being on the mercy seat that was the covering for the Ark of the Covenant, where the presence and glory of God was revealed. The cherubim images had their wings spread over the Ark, symbolically guarding its holy contents and the glory of God that surrounded it.

Lucifer: The Divine Musician

Lucifer, the highest ranking of the cherubim, was the guardian of the throne of God and His glory and holiness. In Ezekiel 28:14, God called him the “anointed cherub that covers,” illustrating the supreme responsibility Lucifer held in the kingdom of God. This is the only time the word translated anointed is used in the entire Bible, and in the Hebrew it carries the meaning of expansion. It could be translated as “the expanded anointing or the anointing of expansion.” This super-anointing on Lucifer enabled him to carry out his holy duties and assignments before God.

Patrick Fairbairn, in his exposition on Ezekiel, translates the name Lucifer as “the cherub consecrated to the Lord by the anointing oil.[ii]” How special he must have been to the heart of God to give him such an extraordinary anointing. Lucifer was the mightiest supernatural being that He had ever created, and music was an essential part of this super-anointing of God.

The Hebrew word translated covers in Ezekiel 28:14 means to cover so as to secure and protect, to defend, to weave together, and to build a hedge. Lucifer was the great protector, and guardian of the throne of God. His music, praise, and worship were to surround the heavenly throne like a hedge. He was so close to the throne and to God’s presence as to be considered intertwined as one in purpose with God’s authority, power, and glory.

God created Lucifer with supernatural abilities and talents in music, to be used daily for the glory of God. Ezekiel 28:14 says that God set him in this position, which means he consecrated, ordained, and entrusted Lucifer as the super-anointed minister of music, praise, and worship.

We must examine some of the Hebrew words in this verse from Ezekiel to get a real sense of the Devil’s relationship with music. The Hebrew word translated workmanship means occupation, business, service, and ministry. It means the service or ministry that one is employed or sent to do in life. It describes the work of the artisan, the architect, the public servant, and the ordinary laborer. It is even used in Genesis to describe God’s work of divine creation (Genesis 2:2–3).

The Hebrew word translated prepared means to be firmly established, to be ordained, and to be fitted. The primary action of this verb is to cause to stand in an upright position. The word is used in Proverbs 3:19 of God “establishing” the heavens.

God created Lucifer with an occupation, a ministry, and a service in the kingdom of God, and it involved the skillful use of tabrets and pipes to make music that glorified God in the worship of Him at His throne. God firmly established Lucifer as a chief musician and ordained Him in this ministry of music. Music was the focal part of his occupation.

Tabrets and pipes are musical instruments that were created in the very being of Lucifer. Ezekiel says the tabrets and pipes were prepared, established, and ordained in him from the very day Lucifer was created. These percussion and wind instruments were a part of him just as our arms, legs, or fingers are a part of us. He was a living musical instrument. Lucifer was fitted and framed by God to have music as an essential part of who he was and what he was appointed by God to do. Music was his domain, and this was to be his ministry forever before the throne of the Almighty.

Ezekiel says Lucifer was perfect in all his ways before he sinned. The word translated as “perfect” means whole, complete, healthful, wholesome, sound, perfect, free from blemish and undefiled. It means to be perfectly in harmony and accord with the truth, and it could be summed up in the words “to speak and sound out the truth.” Lucifer’s music was absolutely perfect and complete, without any spot or blemish of imperfection. It was a literal sounding out of the truth of God’s awesome characteristics and glory, and it promoted wholeness and peace and righteousness. His music was like a healing balm throughout the halls of heaven. His music was the living Word put to sound that was glorious perfection in every note, arrangement, pitch, and beat. He was the heavenly composer, whose music elevated the heart toward God and filled it with praise, joy, and thankfulness in a great crescendo of exuberance and awe before the throne of God. All the perfection of musical composition and performance was created in Lucifer. He was the maestro of music in the entire heavenly realm.

Tabrets

In the biblical culture, a tabret was a thin wooden rim in the shape of a circle, covered with a membrane, usually with brass bells or rattles attached. It was basically a tambourine, and it was used in dance. The Hebrew word for “tabret” emphasizes beating or striking to produce a sound. The seventeen usages of this word in the Bible show that it was meant to be an instrument of joy and celebration.

The tabret was used in the praise and worship of God. It was also used to celebrate the joy of victory in battle against Israel’s enemies. The prophets and prophetesses also played the tabret, such as Miriam did after the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea (Exodus 15:21-22).

The following verses in Psalms show the tabret being used in the praise of God.

Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of the saints. Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their king. Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel [same Hebrew word for tabret] and harp. (Psalm 149:1–3, KJV)

Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord. (Psalm 150:1–6, KJV)

The tabret accompanied songs of rejoicing, praising God for His mighty acts and breathtaking greatness. God’s intention for a musical instrument like a tabret is that it would be an extension of the heart, and its music was to reflect a heart that totally belonged to God and was overflowing with praise, adoration, and love for Him. The music and song that flowed from the musical instrument was an outward expression of the inward reality of a heart completely devoted to God. Music was to be an expression of the spiritual temperature of the heart that is on fire for God. Music was to convey the beautiful joy of knowing Him and the gratitude of being the object of His affection. Our hearts were made to sing His song.

Pipes/Flutes

The Hebrew word translated pipes refers to the grooves or holes of the instruments. It comes from a root word meaning to bore through. This Hebrew word for pipes in Ezekiel 28:13 only appears once in the Bible, which emphasizes the uniqueness of this wind instrument that was created in the very being of Lucifer. His musical abilities were in such perfection that they were far above human comprehension.

Like the tabrets, pipes were used to express great joy and celebration. In the Bible, pipes were played in celebration of the crowning of a new king. They were also played by the prophets before they prophesied and celebrated a word from the Lord. They accompanied a celebration by dance. They were played at marriage feasts and in mourning at funerals, as we see in Matthew 9. Pipes were used in the worship and praise of God as people rejoiced with songs of gladness about the Lord and His salvation.

Flutes were played in the temple on twelve special festivities, including Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. The pipe, as with all other musical instruments, was intended to be used as an expression of a heart full of love and gratitude for its Creator.

Psalm 5 has the title “For the director of music: For flutes. A Psalm of David.” This psalm was meant to be a song of praise with a flute accompaniment. According to E. W. Bullinger in The Chief Musician, or Studies in the Psalms and their Titles, this subscription belongs at the end of Psalm 4 rather than at the beginning of Psalm 5.[iii] Psalm 4 speaks strongly against turning God’s glory into shame and following false gods. It instructs us to not sin out of anger, but to search our hearts and be silent and offer right sacrifices to God, trusting only in Him.

Lucifer turned God’s glory into shame when he rebelled against God in heaven. In intense anger and hatred toward God, he sinned and failed to offer right sacrifices to Him. Lucifer did not search his heart to find the pride that turned his trust toward himself rather than God.

God used a wind instrument—which, like the tabret, was created in Lucifer—to accompany a psalm about the futility of worshipping any god other than the Lord. He used the flute to touch this psalm with music that encourages His children not to make the same mistake Lucifer made, which led to his tragic downfall.

Read this beautiful psalm and imagine a flute accompaniment that brings these words to life.

Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Selah[iv]

In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah

Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord will hear when I call to him. Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord.

Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.

You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:1–8, NIV)

This psalm is an ode of joy from David to the Lord for being his righteous, merciful, and loving God. It beautifully declares that true joy, peace, and goodness come only from the Lord. The flute helps to drive these words home to the heart.

Stringed Instruments

Isaiah links one other musical instrument to Lucifer:

Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, and the sound of your stringed instruments; the maggot is spread under you, and worms cover you. How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! (Isaiah 14:11–12, NKJV)

Isaiah says “the sound of your string instruments” when referring to Lucifer. This phrase illustrates an extraordinary mastery of stringed instruments by Lucifer and the use of them to accomplish his wicked purposes. They must have been quite valuable to Lucifer for him to declare them as his own.

The Word of God does not say whether these stringed instruments were created in Lucifer, but it does say that he used them with “pomp.” The Hebrew word translated pomp means pride, arrogance, splendor, majesty and ornament. Music is the Devil’s original domain, and he uses music as an ornament for all to admire in order to bring glory to himself.

The Hebrew words for “stringed instruments” are translated as psaltery, lyre, and harp in various places in the Bible. The phrase refers to musical instruments in the harp family.

A portable harp was a popular instrument in the Hebrew culture. It had wonderful capacities in pitch and tone, and was believed to have ten to twelve strings. The strings were drawn over a sounding board, so this harp was like a primitive guitar. The strings were stretched over a skin soundboard, giving the lyre or harp an exotic timbre and considerable volume.

As this musical instrument advanced, its strings were stretched in high tension over woods like fir and algum. It was capable of producing loud music, as indicated in 1 Chronicles 15:26, where it was heard even among the rams’ horns, trumpets, and cymbals. It was also capable of producing musical solos.

Psalm 119:54 says, “Thy statutes have been my zemirot [songs accompanied by plucked stringed instruments],” illustrating that all Hebrew Scripture could be accompanied by this wonderful instrument. It was designed to beautifully set the Word of God to sound.

In Revelation 5:8, we read that every cherubim and every one of the twenty-four elders had a harp that they used in singing a song about the great redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ.

Corruption of Music

The Devil did not lose any of his musical abilities and talents when he rebelled against God. They just became corrupted. And now he uses his musical abilities for his own wicked purposes.

Satan fully understands musical composition, as he was originally a living musical instrument, and he still carries music as an integral part of his spiritual being. He knows how to compose and inspire music that will seduce the human heart away from God. He inspires the writing of music and lyrics that disturb, agitate, or drive the heart with passions, emotions, and thoughts that lead it into his captive snare. The Devil uses a variety of instruments to construct a sound that can fundamentally change the direction and content of the heart. The Enemy understands music better than any human who ever lived on the earth, and he hates God. That is a dangerous combination.

In Isaiah 14, the Word of God declares that Lucifer weakened the nations, caused the earth to tremble, made the world a wilderness, shook kingdoms, and turned the world into a prison house. Although the Devil has many wicked schemes and methods in accomplishing these things, music is one of the ways he has weakened nations and made the world a prison house of captivity. Music is a supernatural weapon of mass destruction in the hands of Satan.

The Hebrew word translated weaken in Isaiah 14:12 means to waste away, to overthrow, to decay, or to disable. The Devil has used music to bring nations to their knees, causing their moral and spiritual foundations to decay and waste away. Music can change the moral and cultural climate of a nation, overthrowing its stability in the hearts and minds of its people, and weakening its strength as a nation. Music can crumble the pillars of a civilization and arouse in its citizens the worst passions of its fleshly sin nature.

The Hebrew word translated tremble in Isaiah 14:16 means to quiver with violent emotion, especially anger or fear. The Devil uses music to disquiet, agitate, and enrage the heart, causing it to quiver with violent emotions, like anger and fear. Music moves the heart like no other sound on earth, and Lucifer knows exactly how to use it to move the heart away from God. It is amazing how one song can move the heart to depression, discord, and agitation. Music can truly make the inhabitants of the earth tremble in great disturbance of heart.

The Hebrew word translated shake in Isaiah 14:16 describes a confused noise, a rattling, an uproar, or a crashing. One form of this word means “noisemaker.” The Devil uses the vibration of music, turning it into a confused noise that shakes the very core of the heart. Music can cause an uproar, shaking the hearts of a nation’s people with confusion and disorientation, causing them to disconnect from God and wander away from Him. The Devil distorts the beauty of music, which God intended to fill the heart with joy, into something that rattles it with disorder.

The Devil would “not let his captives go home,” according to Isaiah 14:17. Satan does everything he can to stop a person from going home to God, where He awaits with open arms.

Christians can experience wonderful deliverance at the cross of Christ, and then allow a careless choice of music to draw them back into their old ways and lifestyles, becoming enslaved again. Music can cause the heart to become a prisoner of war in Satan’s kingdom.

Lyrics: Conveying the Message

Lyrics are a powerful medium to convey a message. Yet many people don’t pay much attention to them. The message in a song is rarely checked at the entrance to the heart. Instead, we allow the words and sounds to flow in freely. Many song lyrics promote the works of the flesh and encourage self-mutilation, suicide, lust, greed, sexual perversion, and rebellion.

Some musicians are blatant about the source of their inspiration and the purpose of their songs. They consider music to be a form of advertising, a clarion call to entice the heart and mind into ways of thinking, speaking, and acting that are not from God Almighty.

Take a moment to reflect on the lyrics in the music you listen to. Does it promote the fruit of the Spirit of God or the fruit of the flesh? A spirit of holiness or of corruption? Does it encourage obedience to God and His Word or rebellion? When you listen to it, do you feel peace or anxiety, agitation, and fear? Does your favorite music build the love of God in your heart, or the love of the world?

Music as Idolatry

Music can establish a law, creed, or lifestyle in your heart that you follow with passion, not even realizing that the prince of the power of the air is the composer of the song that is molding your heart. Music can build a nest in your mind that allows Satan to take up residence there as he gradually deadens your conscience to righteousness and holiness.

Music can be a powerful idol builder. It can drive the heart to worship love, sex, money, self, and power while leaving God out of the picture. The Devil was the first idolater, and he uses music to get people to worship anything but the one true God.

The book of Revelation states that music is an important part of the world system of evil referred to as “Babylon the great.” In the coming judgments, God will stop this music.

Then I saw another angel descending from heaven, possessing great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his radiance and splendor. And he shouted with a mighty voice, She is fallen! Mighty Babylon is fallen! She has become a resort and dwelling place for demons, a dungeon haunted by every loathsome spirit, an abode for every filthy and detestable bird.

For all nations have drunk the wine of her passionate unchastity, and the rulers and leaders of the earth have joined with her in committing fornication [idolatry], and the businessmen of the earth have become rich with the wealth of her excessive luxury and wantonness.

I then heard another voice from heaven saying, Come out from her, my people, so that you may not share in her sins, neither participate in her plagues.

Then a single powerful angel took up a boulder like a great millstone and flung it into the sea, crying, With such violence shall Babylon the great city be hurled down to destruction and shall never again be found. And the sound of harpists and minstrels and flute players and trumpeters shall never again be heard in you, and no skilled artisan of any craft shall ever again be found in you, for your businessmen were the great and prominent men of the earth, and by your magic spells and poisonous charm all nations were led astray [seduced and deluded]. (Revelation 18:1–4, 21–23, AMP)

This great world system is infested with every type of demon spirit and loathsome angel of darkness that fed on all strata of society, including music. People from all nations had drunk of its wine, driving them into idolatry and rebellion against God. Many businesspeople, companies, and musicians have become rich off this music system fueled by the spirit of Babylon. These powerful icons have led the hearts of countless people astray with the poisonous and addictive charms of their music, which is pumped into every radio station and music store around the world.

One day God will say, “I have had enough,” and silence the music borne in the heart of the great rebel. This music will never be heard or played again for all eternity. The judgment of God will come to pass, as described in the book of Revelation 18:21-23, even on the music that has been an essential part of the world system of evil that God calls Babylon.

David Wilkerson, a wonderful preacher and man of God, pulled no punches on the dangers of becoming addicted to the music of this world. In a fiery sermon from the pulpit of the Times Square Church in New York City, he said:

I have been among young people so addicted to their rock and roll, so addicted to their heavy metal, and their punk music. I tell you as I stand here that an angel from God’s heaven could come down, in fact, Jesus Christ himself could come in the flesh and they would know he was Jesus and he could preach to them and they still would not let go of their music. I have had them stand up against me and say “I don’t care what you say, God told me it was alright.”[v]

David Wilkerson also described a disturbing vision that God gave him at a Christian rock concert:

At first, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on stage. I said out loud, “This can’t be happening at a Christian festival-they can’t do this to my Jesus! These people can’t be this blind-the leaders of this youth ministry can be so undiscerning! Oh God-what has happened to your church that its leaders, its people, can’t see the evil …? I sat up and took another look at the stage. I was horrified by what I saw in the Spirit. I saw demonic images rising from the stage! I heard Satan laughing! Laughing at all the blind parents-the blind shepherds-the blind youth-the backslidden church! It was an overt manifestation of Satan-worse than anything I’ve ever seen on the streets of New York.[vi]

Don’t be ignorant of this tool of the Devil in spiritual warfare, as music, inspired from the heart of Satan, can start a revolution in your heart against God.

What is the Soundtrack of Your Life?

If Jesus Christ came down from heaven and told you that your music was harming your heart and turning it away from Him, would you change your choices? Would the soundtrack of your life be any different under Jesus’ guidance?

Music is hugely addicting and through the wonders of technology, music is more readily available now than at any time in human history. In seconds, many musical choices can be downloaded and instantly start pulsating into the heart. The church must awaken to what is pouring into their hearts through habitual listening to the music of the god of this age.

Don’t be deceived into thinking this is just a harmless song on the radio or your iPod. Music is powerful, and it can influence the spiritual temperature of your heart for God. It can either promote or destroy the awesome plans that God has envisioned for your life.

Many Christians idolize the music of this world, and their hearts have become so addicted to it that they need to have it pulsating in their ears, like a heroin junkie who needs his fix. The Bible takes a backseat to their iPod tunes, and the Devil gets to proclaim his message into their hearts through the music ringing in their ears.

Music will change the composition of your heart if you are not careful. Once we become Christians, our listening habits should not be the same as they were before we were born again. Walk by the Spirit of God when it comes to the music you listen to and practice some spiritual discernment.

Ask God if the music you are listening to is bringing your heart closer to Him or driving it further away from Him. When you bring up a tune on your iPod, ask yourself, Will this song brings the joy, love, and celebration of God into my heart, or the fleshly desires of this world? We must guard our hearts when it comes to music, just as we would guard it from anything that contaminates and pollutes.

[i] Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David: Volume 4, Study of the Psalms, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1976), Psalm 99, Kindle Edition, 51882.

[ii] Patrick Fairbairn, Exposition of Ezekiel (Mount Joliet: Sovereign Grace Publishers, Inc., 2001), 312.

[iii] E. W. Bullinger, The Chief Musician, or Studies in the Psalms and their Titles (New York: Cosimo, Inc., 2007), 7.

[iv] Selah means to pause and carefully consider these words, and lift our hearts to God as we reflect on His magnificent truth.

[v] David Wilkerson, Sermon: “Counterfeit Christianity,” May 22, 2010.

[vi] David Wilkerson, World Challenge Pulpit Series, “Driven to Darkness,” August 3, 1987.

This is an excerpt from my new book; “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life” Purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IBook and Lulu. Here is the lin for Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Key-Everything-Christian-Life/dp/1483447928?ie=UTF8&qid=1460632838&ref_=tmm_pap_swatch_0&sr=8-1

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The Power of Music to Alter the Heart: What is the Soundtrack of Your Life? Part I

musico-2Music is an amazingly powerful medium to capture and transform the heart, and to push it toward good or evil. It can move the heart more quickly than any other form of art or communication on earth. Music can instantly create an emotion, a memory, a mood, or a passion. It can change the heart’s direction, focus, and purpose. It can alter behavior. It can heal or destroy the human heart. Music has the power to change an entire culture or even a nation.

In its purest form, music is a precious blessing from God, designed to uplift the thoughts to noble and godly themes, inspiring and elevating the heart. Music is also one of the major tools the Devil uses in spiritual warfare. It can turn us away from God, move us to sin, and emotionally sabotage us.

Cary Schmidt, in Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music, writes:

Music is not only an idol in today’s culture, it is an addiction, and is the primary tool that Satan uses to indoctrinate, control and manipulate the hearts and minds of the masses … No tool in his arsenal is so powerful, so seductive and so subtle as music … I submit to you that music is the most prominent, powerful and pervasive form of communication that satanic spirits are using to control and shape our mass culture. Everywhere you turn, the world is hearing. Everywhere you listen, the voices are speaking. And everywhere you look, music is shaping the emotions, the spirit, and the hearts of people.[i]

Music is Never Morally Neutral

As Christians, we cannot be ignorant of the effects of music on the heart. We must be aware of the music we are allowing to saturate our hearts. Music is never morally neutral. It always carries a message to the heart that is either good or evil.

What is the soundtrack of your life? What music is being played on the chords of your heart? What music is at the top of the charts when it comes to your heart? There is a direct connection between the music we listen to and the spiritual health of our hearts. Music always produces and influences a lifestyle. Life, thought, mood, emotion and desire flow out of the music we listen to.

Listen to what philosophers, scientists, doctors, professors, and musicians have said about the moral and spiritual power of music.

Plato: “In order to take the spiritual temperature of an individual or a society, one must mark the music … Musical innovation is full of danger to the State for when modes of music change, the laws of the State change with them. Music is a moral law … Let me control the music for one generation and I will control Rome … Show me who writes a nation’s songs and I care not who writes its laws … Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.”

Aristotle: “Music has a power of forming the character, and should therefore be introduced into the education of the young … From what has been said it is evident what an influence music has over the disposition of the mind and how variously it can fascinate it.”

Albert Einstein: “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music … I get most joy in life out of music.”

Pietro Mascagni, Italian composer:Modern music is as dangerous as narcotics.”

An inscription at the Alte Opera Haus in Frankfurt, Germany:Bach gave us God’s Word. Mozart gave us God’s laughter. Beethoven gave us God’s fire. God gave us music that we might pray without words.”

Dr. Howard Hanson: “Music is a curiously subtle art with innumerable, varying emotional connotations. It is made up of many ingredients and according to the proportions of those components, it be soothing or invigorating, ennobling or vulgarizing, philosophical or orgiastic. It has the powers for evil as well as good.”[ii]

Alan P. Merriam: “There is probably no other human cultural activity which is so all-pervasive and reaches into, and shapes—and often controls—so much of human behavior.”[iii]

Dr. Adam Knieste:Music is a two-edged sword. It’s really a powerful drug. Music can poison you, lift your spirits, or make you sick without knowing why.”[iv]

Jay Grout: “Music directly affects the passions or states of the soul—gentleness, anger, courage, temperance, and their opposites … When one listens to music that imitates a certain passion, he becomes imbued with the same passion. If over a long time he habitually listens to the kind of music that arouses ignoble passions, his whole character will be shaped to that ignoble form. In short, if one listens to the wrong kind of music—he will become the wrong kind of person.”[v]

Songwriter E. Y. Harburg: “Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought.”

Frank Zappa: “The loud sounds and bright lights are tremendous indoctrination tools; it is possible to modify the human chemical structure with the right combination of frequencies. If the right kind of beat makes you tap your foot, what kind of beat makes you curl your fist and strike?”

The Beatles: “Our music is capable of causing emotional instability, disorganized behavior, rebellion and even revolution.”

Drs. Daniel and Bernadette Skubik: “A driving drum rhythm in excess of three to four beats per second will put the brain into a state of stress, regardless if the listener likes or dislikes the music. And when the brain is in this stressful state, it will release opioids—a group of natural hormones that function like morphine—to help return itself to normal equilibrium and sense of well-being. These natural opioids, if experienced often enough, can be addicting, creating in the listener the continual desire for that ‘high’ somewhat like the high runners experience.”[vi]

The Power of Music to Alter Physical and Emotional States

Music is powerful enough to produce mental and physical effects in our bodies and our brains. Music can modify brain waves, slowing them down and creating a more relaxed, content, and peaceful feeling, or speeding them up, causing more agitation, anxiety, and nervousness. Norman M. Weinberger, professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California, Irvine: “Music can rapidly and powerfully set moods and do so in a way not as easily attained by other means.”[vii] Music not only creates positive or negative emotions, moods, or behaviors, but also can change them in an instant. Music can even affect the rhythm of respiration causing calmness and control of emotions or superficial and scattered thinking, emotional disturbance, and impulsive behavior.

Richard Wagner’s music was thought to be instrumental in the establishment of the Third Reich in Germany. Nietzsche once said, “My objections to Wagner’s music are physiological. I breathe with difficulty as soon as Wagner’s music begins to act upon me.[viii]” Wagner’s music had a strong psychological effect not only on Nietzsche, but also on Adolf Hitler. The power of music had a part in molding one of the most brutal, ruthless, and destructive dictators of all time. Never underestimate the power of music to influence, indoctrinate, and control the human heart.

Don Campbell, in The Mozart Effect, says:

The heart rate responds to musical variables such as frequency, tempo and volume and tends to speed up or slow down to match the rhythm of a sound. The faster the music, the faster the heart will beat; the slower the music, the slower the heart beats … As with breathing rates, a lower heartbeat creates less physical stress, calms the mind and helps the body to heal itself. Music is a natural pacemaker … Music can also change blood pressure … Excessive noise may raise blood pressure … Such noise may trigger the body’s fight or flight mechanism which causes adrenaline and norepinephrine, two strong hormones, to be released, speeding up the heart and straining the blood vessels.[ix]

Music also can change the body temperature, influence blood circulation, increase endorphin levels, and affect the body’s release of hormones. Music has a pulse, a life, and a flow of energy through its beat, tempo, tone, and rhythm that dramatically affects our spiritual hearts. Music is a spiritual medium where philosophies, emotions, ideas, and agendas are conveyed directly to the heart. All music has a message in both its words and its pitch, tone, and beat, and we must be wise as to who the messenger is in the music we are listening to.

The Involuntary Response to Music: Emotion by Design

One of the most amazing things about music is its ability to affect us subliminally. Rather than intruding on our conscious thought, it enters directly into our hearts. The human response to music is involuntary. One of the greatest examples involves the company Muzak, which began in the 1940s, and provides background music for all types of businesses. Cary Schmidt, in Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music, writes:

No group on the planet has studied the power of music more than the researchers at Muzak. An article from The New Yorker magazine in April 2006 quotes, “Today, [Muzak] estimates that its daily audience is roughly a hundred million people, in more than a dozen countries, and that it supplies 60% of the commercial background music in the United States.” Muzak offers a service known as “audio architecture” to more than 350 corporations around the globe. Audio architecture is essentially the power of public influence and control—through music … Chances are, if you have been anywhere in public in recent days, you’ve been subject to Muzak’s influence without even knowing it. This is a company that owes its success to the manipulative power of music in mass culture. Muzak simply could not exist if music did not affect the attitudes and behavior of people. The New Yorker article says in this story, “In the forties, Muzak introduced a trademarked concept, called Stimulus Progression, which held that most workers would be more productive if they were exposed to music gradually increasing intensity, in fifteen minute cycles. The process was said to be subliminal: Music affected you the way hypnosis did, whether you wanted it to or not. Only sanitized instrumental arrangements were used, because the absence of lyrics made the music less likely to intrude upon conscious thought … Audio architecture is a compelling concept because the human response to musical accompaniment is powerful and involuntary. “Our biggest competitor,” a member of Muzak’s marketing department told me, “is silence.” Did you catch that? “The human response to musical accompaniment is powerful and involuntary.” Are you getting the message? Are you understanding how powerful and dominant music is in our culture? Look at Muzak’s own promotional words, “Audio Architecture is emotion by design … It is the integration of music, voice and sound to create experiences that link customers with companies.” Its power lies in its subtlety. It bypasses the resistance of the mind and targets the receptiveness of the heart … These soundtracks bypass our intellectual resistance and create involuntary, heart-level emotions and responses.[x]

That is powerful! Consider this. If Muzak can do this with music, what can Satan do with music? More important, what is Satan doing with music, and what is the music of the culture doing to our hearts? If music is important for mass marketing, how much more powerful is it in the spiritual realm and in our relationship with Christ?

Can you imagine something so powerful that it can generate an emotional and behavioral response in your heart that you have no control over? Depression, anger, lust, and hatred can ride into your heart by the music you listen to as well as joy, peace, love, and inspiration. For the Devil to establish a stronghold in your mind and heart, it takes time to build ways of thinking and acting according to his subtle influences. But music can give him a free ride into your mind and your heart within a matter of seconds. Music is that powerful, and it can quickly change the composition, direction, and boundaries of the heart.

Music is emotion, music is passion, music is behavior by design, and it can subtly change our hearts without us even knowing it. It can be like a toxic vaccine that is injected into the bloodstream. We don’t see its dangerous effect on the heart until it begins to circulate throughout the entire body. Music can be a dangerous weapon to our hearts, and wisdom mandates that we are wise as to its powerful effects to influence our emotions, behavior, and lifestyle.

Music in the Spiritual Battle for the Heart

Music is intimately related to the spiritual battle that rages for the heart, because the music you listen to, the soundtrack of your life, can change you and dictate your emotions, your behavior, and your heart’s responses to circumstances in life. Music can create an emotion. Music can create an attitude. Music can create a desire. The music you listen to will affect your heart and your basic personal and spiritual mind-set, either drawing you closer to God or driving you further away. Every song is a sermon for either good or evil.

Cary Schmidt, in Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music, writes:

The choices you make when you turn on a CD or an iPod are intricately related to your inner life. You will either be led by the flesh or by the Spirit of God. Your music is changing you. It is dictating emotions and heart responses that are either godly or ungodly … Ultimately your spiritual and emotional condition, as influenced by your music, will come out in your lifestyle. Your words, your deeds, your decisions, and your actions—the issues of your life—will be a product of your heart and what you’ve placed into it. Your music directly affects your heart. Both God and Muzak agree on this … The soundtrack of your life is closely related to the spiritual condition of your heart. You cannot separate the two. God’s Word is clear. Basic reasoning is clear. Medical and social statistics are clear. Our music always affects us personally and spiritually. God desires to grow you through music and Satan desires to destroy you through it.[xi]

[i] Cary Schmidt, Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music (Lancaster: Striving Together Publications, 2007), Kindle Edition, 24.

[ii] Dr. Howard Hanson, “A Musician’s Point of View Toward Emotional Expression,” The American Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 99, (1942), 317.

[iii] Alan P. Merriam, The Anthropology of Music, (1964): 218. .

[iv] Dr. Adam Knieste, quoted by David Chagall, in Family Weekly, January 30, 1983, 14.

[v] Jay Grout, A History of Western Music (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2009).

[vi] Daniel and Bernadette Skubik, The Neurophysiology of Rock, published separately as an appendix in John Blanchard, Pop Goes the Gospel: Rock in the Church (Durham, England 1991), 191.

[vii] Norman M. Weinberger, The Nonmusical Outcomes of Music Education (University of California Board of Regents, 1995).

[viii] Freidrich Nietzsche, The Joyful Wisdom (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1924), 343.

[ix] Don Campbell, The Mozart Effect (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2001), 67.

[x] Cary Schmidt, Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music (Lancaster: Striving Together Publications, 2007), Kindle Edition, 24, 25.

[xi] Cary Schmidt, Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music (Lancaster: Striving Together Publications, 2007), Kindle Edition, 41, 42.

This is an excerpt from Tim Rowe’s new book “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life.” Order at http://www.lulu.com/shop/tim-rowe/the-heart-the-key-to-everything-in-the-christian-life/paperback/product-22601300.html

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The Perfect Heart

bible-heart

The great English clergyman John Flavel, in His wonderful work Keeping the Heart, wrote, “The greatest difficulty in conversion, is to win the heart to God; and the greatest difficulty after conversion, is to keep the heart with God … The keeping and right managing of the heart in every condition, is one great business of a Christian’s life (emphasis mine).”[i]

We must diligently keep and rightly manage our hearts daily, for this is the great business of a Christian’s life that cannot be neglected. Yet many of us have allowed our hearts to become sickened from the toxic pollution of this world. Such hearts have become a desolate wilderness, barren of spiritual fruit.

It is time to reverse this tragedy of the heart in the Christian home and church. Our hearts must become perfect before the Lord. Do you know that God’s eyes are searching throughout the entire earth, peering into every home, every church, and every person for one thing? Do you know what it is the Creator of the heavens and earth is leaving no stone unturned to find?

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. (2 Chronicles 16:9, KJV)

The New American Standard Bible puts it this way: “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”

God yearns for each of us to have a perfect heart. The word translated “perfect” from the Hebrew means “complete, whole, and completely finishing or perfecting a work.” It describes a heart wholly true to God and completely undivided in its allegiance. It is a heart that utterly trusts and leans on Him in every circumstance and does not put its confidence in the strength of another. It is a heart that empties itself of every ounce of self-pride, self-exultance, and self-reliance, and is totally consumed by God. We’re talking about a heart that gives all of itself to God without reservation.

A perfect heart holds nothing back from God. It lays itself on God’s altar as a living sacrifice. It is a heart shaped, molded, and prepared by God to accomplish His mighty purposes upon the earth. Such a heart will enjoy intimate communion with the living God and is prepared to fulfill its calling to manifest God’s compassion and love in the world. But I warn you: This is a heart that is 100 percent God’s, with no strings attached. It’s always at God’s disposal, ready to serve Him in love wherever He beckons. It is a heart that is so passionately rooted in God and His Holy Word that sin has no power over it, and no unholy desire or craving has any control over it.

Only such a heart will allow God to completely finish His work within, bringing us to the point where the heart is completely conformed to the image of Christ. Make your heart His instrument, and as God will create the most beautiful masterpiece that lives and breathes Christ in every note. The perfect heart will sound out His song to all generations.

God implants the seeds of a perfect heart within our new nature when we are born again in Christ, but we must allow Him to finish His perfect work and, as a fellow laborer with Christ, work with Him to ensure that our hearts begin to grow and blossom toward perfection.

Scripture assures us it is possible to walk before the Lord with a perfect heart. King David said, “I will behave wisely in a perfect way … I will walk within my house with a perfect heart” (Psalm 101:2, NKJV). David Wilkerson writes in Hungry for More of Jesus:

To come to grips with the idea of perfection, we must first understand that perfection does not mean a sinless, flawless existence … it means completeness, maturity. Hebrew and Greek meanings of perfection include “uprightness, having neither spot nor blemish, being totally obedient.” … A perfect heart is a responsive heart, one that answers quickly and totally all the Lord’s wooings, whisperings, and warnings … The perfect heart wants the Holy Spirit to come and search out the innermost man, to shine into all the hidden parts-to investigate, expose and dig out all that is unlike Christ … The perfect heart yearns for more than security or a covering for sin. It seeks to be in God’s presence always.[ii]

The perfect heart is fiercely loyal to God, regardless of circumstance or enticement. The perfect heart is obedient to God without hesitation or compromise. The perfect heart loves God with every fiber of its being and shuns the lure of earthly treasure. It stakes its very life on the promise of God’s faithfulness. A perfect heart is unadulterated in its humility before the Lord. It is a meek heart that is teachable and fully tuned to the voice of God. The perfect heart lives and breathes in His presence, aching with a burning passion for intimacy with the Father. Oh, that the Lord will take our weak and frail hearts and form them into perfect hearts that joyfully abide in Him always!

Now is the time for a purifying restoration of our hearts—a revival of the heart, if you will. If we will empty ourselves of pride and instead allow our hearts to become rooted in God and His Word, the church will become unstoppable, immovable, and unshakeable as we move to fulfill His holy calling on this earth.

We must once again have the shepherd heart of David, the lion heart of Jesus, the meek heart of Moses, the tender heart of Hezekiah, the perfect heart of Abraham, the wise heart of Solomon, the willing heart of Ruth, the listening heart of Samuel, the stirred heart of Jeremiah, the fiery heart of Elijah, the courageous heart of Joshua, the sacred heart of Ezekiel, the obedient heart of Noah, the fellowship heart of Enoch, the devoted heart of Peter, and the branded heart of Paul.

May Jesus Christ, the Bright and Morning Star, arise and shine forth brilliantly in your hearts so that we can turn the world upside down again (Acts 17:6) by the testimony,  actions, motives and emotions that flow from our hearts.

[i] John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 9, Kindle.

[ii] David Wilkerson, Hungry for More of Jesus: Experiencing His Presence in These Troubled Times (Baker Books, 1992), 379, 390, Kindle.

This is an excerpt from my new book: The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life. Purchase it now:

http://www.lulu.com/shop/tim-rowe/the-heart-the-key-to-everything-in-the-christian-life/paperback/product-22601300.html

 

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The Lost Art of Meditating on God’s Word

Meditate 1MEDITATE, MEDITATE, MEDITATE – Biblical meditation is the key that unlocks the greatest storeroom in the house of God’s provisions for the Christian. Indeed, saturation of our souls with the Scriptures is the secret of satisfaction of our souls! Someone has said that 1 in 100 Christians read Scripture regularly; 1 in 1000 memorize Scripture; but only 1 in 10,000 meditate! As Spurgeon says “No spiritual exercise is more profitable to the soul than that of devout meditation; why are many of us so exceeding slack in it?” He goes on to exhort us to “Read the Bible carefully, and then meditate and meditate and meditate.”

The psalmist affirms “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he MEDITATES day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:1-3) As John Piper says “The deepest mark of this blessed person in Psalm 1 is that he delights in the Word of God. Bible reading and Bible memorization and meditation are not a burden to him, but a pleasure.” He adds that if Bible reading is more of a drudgery than a delight “We must pray for God’s enabling to help us delight in his Word.”

J I Packer explains that “MEDITATION is the activity of CALLING TO MIND, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God (found foremost of course in the Scripture)…It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God.” And I would submit the best way of “calling to mind” the Scriptures is to first place them in our mind by intentional memorization. Are you actively MEMORIZING Scripture? If you are not, you will find it difficult to meditate on Scripture “day and night” as advocated in Psalm 1.

Cows chewing cud are often used as an illustration for Biblical meditation. Cows eat the grass and then settle down for a good, long chew. They bring the food back up from their stomachs and rework what they’ve already eaten, assimilating its goodness and transforming it into rich milk. Time-consuming? Yes. A waste of time? Not if they want to give good milk! So too, reading snips off the grass, while meditation chews the cud! God’s Word is not meant to be fast food, so take time for a good long chew. Indeed, reading the Bible without meditating on it is like eating without chewing. What digestion is to the body, meditation is to the soul.

We must read Scripture every day
And meditate on what God said
To fight temptation from the world
And live a life that’s Spirit led. – Sper

As John Piper observes one of our greatest weaknesses in our digital age “is that we do not meditate on the great things of God. Our lives are unbelievably distracted. We are experts at multi-tasking, surfing, and skimming, but it is harder than ever to MEDITATE. Therefore, it is imperative to intentionally cultivate MEDITATION on God’s Word. But how? I call it “going out to pasture”—resting and ruminating (like a cow chewing) on the Word of God, savoring it for the sake of life. If possible, find a consistent time, place, and plan. Then read slowly and carefully. Reread and reread. Read out loud. Read prayerfully. Read with a pen in hand. Memorize texts that you read.” Indeed, memorization is a first step to meditation. You cannot chew what you have not placed in your mouth!

Puritan Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) adds “It is not hasty reading—but serious MEDITATION on holy and heavenly truths, which makes them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the mere touching of the flower by the bee which gathers honey, but her abiding for a time on the flower which draws out the sweet nectar (cf Ps 19:10; 119:103). It is not he who reads most, but he who MEDITATES most, who will prove to be the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.”

Spurgeon adds that “Meditation and prayer are twin sisters and both of them appear to me equally necessary to Christian life. I think meditation must exist where there is prayer, and prayer is sure to exist where there is meditation.” Indeed, meditation fits a man for supplication!

Jehovah instructed Joshua on how to possess his possessions as he prepared to enter the promised land – “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth (How is this best achieved? By memorizing the Word), but you shall MEDITATE on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Joshua 1:8). Joshua was to meditate on God’s Word so that he might possess a land promised by God. Dear Christ follower we too are to MEDITATE on God’s Word so that we might possess not a land but a LIFE, an abundant LIFE promised by Jesus (Jn 10:10). And we will be enabled to “possess our possessions” and become partakers of His divine nature as we meditate on the truth that we have been granted Christ’s “precious and magnificent promises” in addition to “everything pertaining to life and godliness.” (2Pe 1:4,3) As Spurgeon says “Grasp these sweet promises, thresh them out by MEDITATION and feed on them with joy.”

What made C H Spurgeon such a powerful preacher of the Word? There are probably many answers to this question, but the following quotes from Spurgeon suggest one of his “secrets” – “I quarry out the Truth when I read, but I smelt the ore and get the pure gold out of it when I MEDITATE! For lack of MEDITATION the Truth of God runs by us and we miss and lose it. Our treacherous memory is like a sieve—and what we hear and what we read runs through it and leaves but little behind—and that little is often unprofitable to us by reason of our lack of diligence to get thoroughly at it. We must, by meditation, tread the clusters of truth, if we would get the wine of consolation therefrom. I often find it very profitable to get a text as a sweet morsel under my tongue in the morning and to keep the flavor of it, if I can, in my mouth all day!”

“I will MEDITATE on all Your work and muse on Your deeds.” (Ps 77:12) Spurgeon exhorts us to “meditate much on heaven, for it will help thee to press on, and to forget the toil of the way. This vale of tears is but the pathway to the better country: this world of woe is but the stepping-stone to a world of bliss.”

“O how I love Thy law! It is my MEDITATION all the day. Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Thy testimonies are my MEDITATION.” (Psalm 119:97-99) Spurgeon – “It is an admirable plan to fix your thoughts upon some text of Scripture before you leave your bedroom in the morning—it will sweeten your MEDITATION all the day.”

Are you having trouble falling to sleep? Redeem the time like the psalmists – “My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may MEDITATE on Your Word.” (Ps 119:148) “When I remember You on my bed, I MEDITATE on You in the night watches.” (Ps 63:6) “If day’s cares tempt us to forget God, it is well that night’s quiet should lead us to remember Him. We see best in the dark if we there see God best. Night is congenial, in its silence and darkness, to a soul which would forget the world, and rise into a higher sphere. Absorption in the most hallowed of all themes makes watches which would otherwise be weary glide away all too rapidly. Meditation causes the lonely and hard couch to yield the most delightful repose – repose more restful than even sleep itself. We read of beds of ivory, but beds of piety are far better. Some revel in the night, but they are not a tenth so blessed as those who ruminate on the Word of God.” (Spurgeon) “On the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wonderful works, I will MEDITATE.” (Psalm 145:5)

As Spurgeon said “Words of the mouth are mockery if the heart does not MEDITATE. The shell is nothing without the kernel; but both together are useless unless accepted; and even if accepted by man, it is all vanity if not acceptable in the sight of God.” And so may our prayer ever be “Let the words of my mouth and the MEDITATION of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Amen (Psalm 19:14)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0DVrTk80Ps

Related Resources:
(1) Primer on Biblical Meditation
http://www.preceptaustin.org/a_primer_on_meditation.htm
(2) Memorizing His Word
http://www.preceptaustin.org/Memorizing_His_Word.htm

Courtesy of https://preceptaustin.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/meditate-meditate-meditate/

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The Plan, the Vision, the Purpose of God for Your Life

gods-planGod is the master builder, the perfect planner, the passionate artist, the original designer, the patient sculptor and the Creator. Look at the breathtaking beauty of His creation from the beauty of a simple flower to snow-capped mountains to the sun, moon and billions of stars in the universe. Why do we think his plan and design for our live is any less spectacular? God has called every single Christian to do something special, something mighty, something unique and something that makes a difference. He has given us a special assignment to advance His kingdom. This is part of God’s calling over our lives. Ephesians says we are to live a life worthy of the calling we have received. This calling is so big and magnificent that God dreamed about it before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).

Do you know of the seven billion people on the planet earth not one has the same fingerprint? God is not a duplicator, a copycat, and a counterfeiter, but God is a Creator; God is an originator: God is a visionary. God only designed one you. He only has one blueprint that he masterfully used to make a masterpiece called you. God has designed you wonderfully unique and awesomely made as a true original. God has the most spectacular design for your life that is absolutely breathtaking and specific down to the littlest detail. The gift of holy spirit, the Christ in you, that carries the flame of God in your soul is uniquely and specially designed for your body, your soul and your heart. No one has the same flame of God. No one exactly the same gift of holy spirit for God has tailored made this wonderful gift for your life and your purposes. Are you ready for a God original life? Are you ready to surrender to His purposes? Are you ready to give everything to Him?

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” We were made for God. We were made to know God, to serve God, to love God, and to live forever with God. As Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” In enjoying God, we will enjoy (in the truest and deepest sense) the life he has given us.

So where does the spiritual life begin? It all starts with this fundamental truth: He’s God and we’re not. Nothing is more basic than that. All spiritual reality begins with this truth, and if we skip this or ignore it or downplay it, life will never work. “But he stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever he pleases” (Job 23:13). Life began for the human race in this intimate moment described in Genesis. Can you imagine this beginning of life, God and man face to face, eye to eye and breath to breath as God breathed in Adam’s nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7) and created Him in his image.

The vision, purpose and plan God has for you is beyond anything you have ever imagined; it is big; it is colossal; it is world shaking. It is never too late to walk in His vision, follow His plan and fulfill His purpose.

I Corinthians 2:9.10a: But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit:

God has an extraordinary plan, purpose and vision for each one of our lives. The opposite of extraordinary is normal. We were created to live extraordinary lives and God has equipped with the power to do so. Jesus Christ came that we might have life and have it more abundantly and through Him we can reign in life (John 10:10, Romans 5:17). Do you know that God has goals for your life? Do you know has a detailed architectural plan for your life, a vision like no other? Jesus Christ is the door to this plan and purpose. Without Him, we can never fulfil the God-given purpose for our life. John 10:9,10:  I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

The Vision

Proverbs 29:18: Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

“Vision” in Hebrew means a divine vision from God respecting future events.

Jeremiah 23:16: Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.

Not a vision of our own heart, but out of the mouth of the Lord. He must have spoken it to you sometime or some place if you are listening. Maybe He is speaking His vision for your life to you right now. He sees the vision for your life, do you? He is Yahweh Jireh, the Lord who sees and provides.

We become vain with the wrong vision, a vision out of our own hearts. The Hebrew word for “vain” means to be vain in action, word or expectation; to lead astray. It comes from the word to breathe or exhale. It is like a puff of air. It is to act emptily and to have an empty hope. A vain vision is an empty, fleeting vision that leads you astray far from the Lord. Jeremiah 2:5: Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?

Not a vision, purpose or plan conformed to this world. It is a heavenly vision. It comes from the Word of the Lord. I Samuel 3:1: Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

The vision is built on the Word of God. It is rooted in the Word of God and it cannot contradict the Word of God. It is a revelation from the heart of God. It is a seeing of God’s heart and vision for our lives. We must first open the eyes of our heart to see. The wrong vision of Eve in the garden that was after her own heart caused the great fall of mankind into sin. Genesis 3:4ff:  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. The world has had the wrong vision ever since. Satan has vision for your life too as he did for Eve’s. He wants to steal, kill and destroy the vision God has for your life. (John 10:10a). He is a thief, a liar, a deceiver, a destroyer, an accuser and an opposer and utilizes all of his devises to still the vision of God for your life and replace it with his vision. The gospel delivers us from the power of Satan to God and replaces Satan’s vision with God’s vision.

Without this vision we perish. “Perish” in the Hebrew means to go at it alone, to be unrestrained from God’s Word, to let the reins loose and go unbridled. It is to let go of God and try to do it alone without Him. To dismiss God’s vision and God’s instructions and to go lawless. It is the vision of rebellion. It causes us to wander aimlessly.

Habakkuk 2:2,3: Then the Lord answered me and said, “Write the vision
And engrave it plainly on [clay] tablets So that the one who reads it will run
.3 “For the vision is yet for the appointed [future] time. It hurries toward the goal [of fulfillment]; it will not fail. Even though it delays, wait [patiently] for it, because it will certainly come; it will not delay.

“Write” in the Hebrew means: to engrave, to write down and describe in writing. We record and write it down so we do not forget. “Make it plain” in Hebrew means to dig out the sense and make it distinct and clear as we declare it with our lives. “Run”: We move quickly and decisively with speed and diligence and never look back. It’s the Lord’s vision for our lives. What are we running to daily? We must run toward and with God’s vision for our lives and never forget it. It is what we live and breathe and move in. Take time daily to be still in prayer and the Word and listen to God speaking to your heart. Write down His thoughts until His vision becomes crystal clear.

Jeremiah 1:4:  Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.”
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”11 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond] branch.” 12 Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”

Isaiah 49:1b: The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.

Psalm 139:13-18: For You did form my inward parts; You did knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will confess and praise You for You are fearful and wonderful and for the awful wonder of my birth! Wonderful are Your works, and that my inner self knows right well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret [and] intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors] in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery]. Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them. How precious and weighty also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I could count them, they would be more in number than the sand. When I awoke, [could I count to the end] I would still be with You.

God embroidered everything about you like a beautiful tapestry when he formed you in the womb. He knit you together with magnificent detail and in all the vibrant colors of His glory. He formed your heart, your eyes, your abilities, your personality, your hands, your DNA and every minute detail about you. Your book, your story of all the days of your life, was written by God before you ever took shape. God’s thoughts about you are so immense, so numerous, so vast that they cannot even be numbered. They are more than all the grains of sand on every beach on earth. Oh how special you are to God!!! How wonderful must your purpose be!! How much you mean to God!! Oh how we have missed this truth.

What is the most tragic thing that could ever happen in the history of the world? What is the greatest catastrophe throughout the ages? The greatest tragedy in life is when we turn our backs on God’s design and purpose for our lives. This tragedy hurts the heart of God for He knows what could have been. The story that never came to pass; the beautiful masterpiece that was left in the box. The awesome calling that faded away. He has written a beautiful story for our life, but when we pick up the pen and try to write the book ourselves, everything falls apart and crumbles before our eyes. Pray to God. Talk to God. Ask God to show you day by day His design and function and purpose for you on this earth. Pray to God that you fulfill every jot and tittle of it. It is glorious. It is immense. It is adventurous. It is the best. This purpose always has at its fabric that you have a heart of service to God and others. It begins with salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ and the new birth. No one can accomplish their destiny without the Lord Jesus Christ. God is with you every step of the way and He will help you, strengthen you and guide you into fulfilling His purpose that He has for you in your generation. Don’t ever waste your potential, your purpose and your design on things, paths, ways that God never intended for you. Be all that you can be for God. Every cell in your body was designed for you to fulfill your purpose that God knew about before time began. Let God make your life count and ring as a gem of God’s glory throughout the halls of eternity forever. Every moment counts; every day counts; every week counts; every year counts, but we live with God one day at a time.

The Purpose

Acts 13:36: For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, 

It is no mistake you were born in this generation, in this time. You have a purpose to fulfill for your generation. David completed it. He served this purpose of God for his life and fulfilled it.

Most of us have no idea why we were born. We spend our lives in search of purpose. We are on the race track of life; the course of the world and all we do is spin our wheels going around in a circle having the same fears, doing the same routine things, having the same worries and living in a rut of existence. God wants us to enter each day with anticipation which can only be done when you begin to know the heart of God. Each day is a gift from God and contains a moment God has been planning to express his purpose for creating you; a moment that he has planned since before time began to express his grace and mercy through you. Entering your day with the same trusting anticipation as a child asking a parent, “Where are we going today and what are we going to do?” will let God be the Lord of your day and your work.

What is your mission statement for life? What is your purpose for life? What were born to do in God’s kingdom? God wants us to be perfect (telios) which does not mean without flaw or defect, but means to reach the goal of God’s intended purpose for your life and be all that God wants you to be; to be just like Him as I fulfill my mission in life given by my commander-in-chief, the Lord of Hosts. God wants me to become the destiny that He purposes for me to be. 2 Timothy 4:7: I have fought the good fight, I have stayed on course and finished the race, and through it all, I have kept believing. Philippians 1:6: Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. This is not done by doing nothing; living like everyone else, wasting your life away with trivialities that matter little in His kingdom. God wants me to be everything he designed me to be. Only with God is this possible. It cannot be done by human grit, human achievement, human effort and human knowledge because YOU WILL ALWAYS FALL SHORT. God is the designer, the architect, the master-builder, the sculptor, and the artist and without Him the true design for your life falls flat and fails miserably. Such a waste of God’s potential; such a waste of God’s impact in the world through your life. Grow up and become His destiny for you. Be completely what He wants you to be. To do so you must surrender to His will, His purposes, His design. You must serve Him above all else. “No man can serve two masters” Matthew 6:24.

The Plan

Jeremiah 29:11: 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

God knows: Hebrew word for “know” is yada. The Bible uses this word to proclaim God’s complete knowledge of creation.  Nothing can be hidden from His understanding.  God’s perception and recognition extend to every act and circumstance.  God’s knowledge extends to our relationships, tendencies, behavior, talents and emotions.  God talks about knowing us before we are even born.  Someone with that kind of knowledge would certainly know what is best for us and exactly how we should fit into His world.

“Plan” in the Hebrew means: that which one meditates, purposes or plots; a project. It is used in other verses as a skilled plan of artistic design to produce a breathtaking work.

“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

Psalm 33:8-13: Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. The plans of His heart stand forever, The plans of man are but a mere breath (Psalm 94:11) Nothing can compare with God’s plan. Psalm 40:4,5a: Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts (plans-same word in Hebrew) toward us; none can compare with you!” Anything that is not God’s plan is built upon a lie. God has multiplied his plans toward us.

Isaiah 55:8,9: For my thoughts (same Hebrew word translated “plans”) are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Plans for welfare. “Welfare” in the Hebrew is shalom and means: wholeness, completeness and soundness; it’s a harmony and unity of heart and soul because of a restored relationship with God, our Father; it is an inward and outward tranquility, a quiet assurance and a complete well-being where nothing is lacking or broken. It’s the freedom from being disturbed, agitated, stressed and troubled. It is the absence of discord, strife, and anxiety. It is to be at ease and calmly unaffected by circumstance. Peace is the highest measure of contentment, joyfulness, happiness, and satisfaction in life. There is absolute security, safety, and victory at the center of peace. It is the absence of inward conflict, condemnation, and torment, but rather a state of rest, calmness, and quiet confidence.

Not plans for calamity (ra). It is translated “evil” in the Hebrew. The root behind ra is a noun that means “rotten, spoiled or good for nothing”. His determination about what is evil is the last word on the subject.  If God says that some act or event is evil, there is no negotiation on the matter.  The essence of evil is disobedience to God’s will.  It is progressive.  Evil begins with a lack of acknowledgement – we do not recognize God as God, we refuse to give Him honor as the Creator.  From this lack of acknowledgement, we proceed to an attitude of ingratitude.  We are not thankful for what God has done.  Refusal and ingratitude become ingrained as habit, then compulsion.  The result is that we do injury to others and to ourselves. In this verse, God tells us not only that He has no plans to harm us, but His plans and purposes will keep us from self-inflicted harm.  God’s plan is for harmony, unity, peace and life.  Ignoring His plans for us will lead to strife, hostility, injury and death, Evil is destroying or injuring by scattering or breaking into pieces; to destroy, circumvent or hinder the good purpose or design God has intended for someone or something. Think of a beautiful flower vase that has the design or function of holding flowers and water, and all are blessed to observe the breathtaking display of beauty in the flowers. But if you take that vase and smash it on the floor, the action of destroying its purpose, design, and function is a vivid illustration of what this Hebrew word for “evil” means. Evil is the active opposition of God’s good purpose or design for a person with the intent of destroying, limiting, suffocating, and hindering it in any way possible.

Plans to Give us a Future. Future-The word is aharit.   Skip Moen: What is unusual about this word is that it literally means “afterward, backwards or after part”.  So, how can it be about the future?  H. W. Wolff says that the Hebrew concept of time is like a man rowing a boat.  He sees where he has been, but the future is toward his back.  He backs into the future.  It is entirely unknown to him because it is behind him! This picture is very powerful.  God must set our course since only He can see “behind” us.  There is a great connection with the idea that we must trust God’s direction and not fear.  If we are “backing” into the future, we must trust the guide.  We cannot see where we are going, but He can. There is a tremendous example of this word in a story from Genesis.  When Lot and his wife ran from the destruction of Sodom, they were told not to look back.  Lot’s wife did look back and she saw her future.  She died there.  Looking back was a choice not to obey the guide who was taking her out of harm’s way.

Plans to give us Hope-confident expectation of His faithfulness to His promises for all eternity. God is the God of hope.

Who knows better the sculptor or the sculpture, the potter or the pot, the Creator or the created?

Isaiah 45:9-12: “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,
a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’? 10Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?'” 11Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him:) “Ask me of things to come; will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands? 12 I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host.

God as the great sculptor and potter knew what He was doing when he formed you and called you to fulfill His purpose. Who has the right to command God concerning His children? Truly Father knows best. Did we have any part in creating the heavens and the earth? Is God’s design of us any less spectacular?

Skip Moen-Have you ever experienced the wonder that occurs when you allow God to give you His perspective about the task you face?

Sin: missing the mark. The word “sin” in the Greek means: to miss or fail to hit the mark, like when someone fails to hit the target with a bow and arrow; to fall short of any goal, purpose, or standard, and a failure or aberration from a prescribed law or duty. Trench, in Synonyms of the New Testament, states that the word means “a falling and missing the true end and scope of our lives which is God.” Wuest, in Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, says it means “missing the divinely appointed goal, a deviation of what is pleasing to God, doing what is opposed to God’s will…a missing of the goal conformable to and fixed by God.” There is great emptiness of soul and meaningless in life without God.  Mankind has lost their true heart, their true destiny, and their true purpose. David Needham, in Birthright, Christian Do You Know Who You Are?, gives a vivid illustration of the emptiness and meaninglessness of the sin nature:

Try to imagine for a moment the entire human

race as though it were an art gallery full of

picture frames. Long, long halls. Billions of

picture frames-without any pictures! Empty

can you visualize it? Some of the frames are

very carefully carved. Some boast very delicate

gold leaf, others are rather gaudily painted. A

few are dirty, chipped. But every frame is

wrapped around-nothing-emptiness. Is it

possible the human race is seen in such a

way by God? An art gallery with no paintings!

Each human being was intended to frame an

inimitable, individual masterpiece of God’s

own reflected glory. But where God should

be, there is only emptiness, a bare patch of wall.

Man and woman were meant for so much more than an enslaved obedience to the sin nature. Humans struggle with a nature that has been crippled by the loss and continued absence of a relationship with God. The sin nature, like a deadly disease, is lethal to life.

Ephesians 2:10 (New Jerusalem Bible): We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life.

New Living Translation: For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Moffatt Translation: God has made us what we are, creating us in Christ Jesus for the good deeds which are prepared beforehand by God as our sphere of action.  

The word  “workmanship” is the Greek word poiema, which means  “a thing made or produced with effort, object, and design; a work of art especially a poetic product, and a masterpiece.” We are God’s poetic masterpiece. God is the poet, the sculptor, and the artist, and we are the masterpiece. Poetry is masterfully chosen words, that mixed with rhythm and sound, express great depth of meaning and emotion. A poem is an expression of a vision that is rendered in a form that arouses the emotions and touches the heart. Poetry is the chiseled marble of language, it is a paint spattered canvas, but the poet uses words instead of paint, and the canvas is the human heart. Poetry evokes emotion and deep thought, often calling the human heart to action. Poetry inspires, enlightens, defines, and unfolds.

As God’s poetic masterpiece, who is the audience that we are to have such a great impact upon? Who are the listeners who are stirred and deeply affected by the beautiful poetic expression of language and art? The audience is the world. The listeners are our communities, cities, states, and nations. Once we are created in Christ Jesus as a son or daughter of God, God wants our lives to be His poetic masterpiece to the world. God wants our lives to be a beautiful poem of His love and goodness that inspires, touches, and stirs the human heart to return to the loving arms of God Almighty.  The poiema of God is too be seen by the human eye, felt by the human heart, experienced by the human mind, and heard by the human ear. The poeima of God is not to be hid under a bush, concealed in a room, or buried underground. The poeima of God is to be clearly seen and manifested to the world so that all might see a wonderful glimpse of the heart of God. The words “clearly seen” in the Greek mean: to behold fully, to distinctly apprehend, and to discern clearly. The poiema of God is created so that all people can fully behold and distinctly comprehend the amazing characteristics of our loving God.  God wants the beauty of who He is and the wonderful grace of His goodness to be seen and understood by every human being on the face of the earth.  The poiema of God is the artist’s most magnificent masterpiece, and it reveals many details of the awesome power and glory of Our Creator, our Father, our Lord, and our God.

These good works, which come forth from God’s poetic masterpiece of our new creation in Christ, are to inspire, heal, touch, mend, repair, and restore. These good works are rooted and grounded in God’s love. Every Christian believer has been called to a ministry of good works that touch the heart, soul, and needs of people emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

We are always producing works in our daily life. What kind of works are we producing? What types of works are coming forth from our mouths, our hands, and our hearts? Are we wise master builders, building a beautiful poetic masterpiece of good works on the foundation of Jesus Christ? Or are we building works of selfishness, pride, lust, greed, anger, and hatred on a foundation of sinking sand? What are you building? What does your building look like?

I Corinthians 12,18,21: But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” We also have a special purpose in the Body of Christ. This is part of God’s plan for the Christian life.

God gives us the vivid example of Moses who had to decide to either follow the world’s plan, vision or purpose for his life or God’s?

Hebrews 12:24-27: By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

Moses had the best of everything the world had to offer. Josephus said he was a mighty general who one great battles against the Ethiopians. He was royalty and a mighty conqueror in Egypt’s eyes. He chose to be identified with the slaves in the world’s eyes, God’s chosen people. He saw with spiritual eyes God’s vision and purpose for his life.

Mark Batterson: Jesus did not die to keep us safe, He died to make us dangerous. Faithfulness is not holding the fort; it is storming the gates of hell. The will of God is not an insurance plan; it is a daring plan. The complete surrender of your life to the cause of Christ is not radical; it is normal. It is time to quit living like the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Many think they are following Jesus, but the reality is this: they have invited Jesus to follow them. Who is following who? The true adventure of following Jesus does not begin until you go all in.

DL Moody: The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is wholly and fully consecrated to Him. Consecrate means to set yourself apart; it means full devotion. It is a complete divesture of all self-interest. It is a simple recognition that every second of time, every ounce of energy, and every penny of money is a gift from God and for God. Consecration is going all in and all out for the all in all. Why not you? Why not now?

Our fundamental problem is we try to God’s job for Him. We want to do amazing things for God and that seems noble but we have it backwards. God wants to do amazing things for us. That is His job not ours. Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow God will do amazing things among you (Joshua 3:5)

We can be a Christian for our entire lives and never go all in for Jesus Christ. We never sell out to follow Him no matter where, no matter how, and no matter when. Eric Ludy: When the gospel it truly received it costs you everything, your life, your old ways, your old mannerisms, your old self.  You cannot hold on to a scrap of the old you. The problem is us. We have a born disposition that is in rebellion against the Most High God. I want my life on my terms. You can have all that Jesus Christ is, but there is a little caveat: He gets all that you are. Oh the glow, the soul satisfaction, the radiance that comes from giving our all, our entire lives, EVERYTHING to Him. Few want to live Christianity like this. Can you look God square in face and say you made me, you fashioned me for a purpose and a destiny, you gave your Son to set me free, and I now give you my life and will do what you require me to do. I don’t want my way. I want your way. Do you know you have a thousand moments in every day that you need to be rescued and delivered? From what? From YOU, from the problem of you. You have a desire; you have an esteem for that very throne in your life. You want to be in control; you want it to be your way. You are a problem; you are a rebel against the kingdom agenda. But God has a better plan. It starts with this question: Lord what do you want me to do with my life?

The Excuse: Don’t we all have excuses why we don’t follow God’s purpose for our life. He has given us the invitation. He has set a place for us at his extraordinary banquet. But we have more important things to do. We are too busy to fulfill His purpose for us for our generation. We just want to be left alone and live life on our terms. Big mistake. Oh what you are missing out on now and in eternity! We have all become the Marthas of our generation. So busy we do not have time to sit at the feet of Jesus. Our days so packed that God is a distant memory. Busybodies instead of disciples. Anxious wanderers instead of living in His plan. We have lost our vision, our eyes have been blinded and the darkness of our selfishness seems so normal, but in our heart we know something is askew. Something is not right.  Excuses! Rationalizations! Puffed up reasonings! And the extraordinary life slips away. We are living off the scraps of the flesh instead of the bread of life at His banquet.

Luke 14:16ff:  But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant[c] to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said,‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you,[d] none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

God’s intense desire is that we be filled to capacity with a full, perfect, precise, and detailed knowledge of the desires of His heart. God wants us to intimately experience His will, His heart, His purposes, and His plans and know them in the depths of our heart. God wants us to be absolutely full of the rich heart knowledge of His will, to the end it powerfully influences our character and the growth of our spiritual life.  God never wants us to be left empty concerning the purposes, designs, and plans for our lives that come from the very heart of God.  God wants us to have a thrilling, living, and dynamic heart experience of His will and His desires through our personal relationship with Him. (Colossians 1:9,10).

 Awaken to the vision the purpose the plan God has for your lives. Put off the grave clothes of our old life and become alive to the righteousness you are clothed in in Christ. A new creation.  Ephesians 5:14b-17: Awake, you sleeper! Rise from your grave, And the Anointed One will shine on you.15 So be careful how you live; be mindful of your steps. Don’t run around like idiots as the rest of the world does. Instead, walk as the wise! 16 Make the most of every living and breathing moment because these are evil times. 17 So understand and be confident in God’s will, and don’t live thoughtlessly.

I Corinthians 3:5,6,8,10-15 (NIV): What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe-as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. By the grace God has given me, I lay a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, His work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

According to I Corinthians 3, every born-again Christian believer is a builder, which from the Greek means “architect, skilled craftsman, and master worker.” By our works, we are constructing a building on the foundation of Jesus Christ. This building is the sum total of the quality and character of our deeds, words, and actions throughout our Christian life.

At the Judgment Seat of Christ, the quality of our workmanship will be tested and we will be rewarded according to how the building passes the inspection. A wise master builder does not throw together the building haphazardly, but contemplates every detail, and works tirelessly to bring about the best, quality product. God is our co-worker, our fellow-laborer, and our building partner, and He will help us build a beautiful structure of good works that is unmatched in quality if we only let Him. God has magnificent architectural plans and drawings for your beautiful house and is so excited to help you build it. God has all the right contacts, knows all the right people, and knows all the proper building techniques to construct the best home that perfectly suits your life. Whose architectural blueprints are we going to follow? God’s or the world’s? Isn’t God the best suited to help us build a quality Christian life that glorifies Him in word and action? God is the ultimate wise master builder, and without His help our building will not pass the inspection.

Every Christians building will go through a complete and thorough testing process at the bema. The word “test” in I Corinthians 3 in the Greek means “ to put to the test for the purpose of approving.” It is a critical examination of something to determine its genuineness. The word was used in secular Greek literature to describe the action of the examining board putting its stamp of approval on those individuals who passed the examination for the degree of Doctor of Medicine. It was also used of a candidate who passed the test as fit for public office. This Greek word describes a process of approval, not condemnation or punishment. You either passed or failed, as the testing was not done to determine how much good or evil was in the product or person being tested.  The testing was done to determine whether the thing tested passed the examination according to specifications.  It was also used in classic Greek to describe the testing of precious metals, usually by fire, to determine if they were truly authentic and measured up to their stated worth. The word also implies that the testing was done with the expectation and hope that the person or thing being tested would pass the test with flying colors.

God is like the master builder, or the renowned artist, that molds a hunk of clay into a beautiful masterpiece. He shapes, contours, and forms the clay with a delicate and loving touch in great detail, throwing off the excess dirt and molding it into the image that is in his heart. He is not rushed, as time does not matter when you are crafting a magnificent work of art. Not one aspect, not one element, and not one detail escapes the eye of the master. He heats his work in intense flame, and then adds the finishing touches and brushes of color that reflect the beauty of the picture that engulfs his soul. Finally, when the masterpiece is finished, it can be proudly displayed as it forever illustrates the wonderful touch of the master’s hand. God will do the same for your life if you will only let Him. Oh, how we need to let the Lord God, the Master, the most talented artist of all times, work in our lives and shape and mold us into a glorious masterpiece that is a witness to all the world of His love. You can read all the self-help books on the shelves of every library in the world; you can master all the philosophies and psychologies of mankind; you can take every course of self-improvement offered at all the universities throughout the ages and still not reproduce or duplicate one iota of what God can do for you.

I want to end with a beautiful poem which is one of my favorites.

The Touch of the Master’s Hand

Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought it scarcely worth his while to waste much time on the old violin, but held it up with a smile; “What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried, “Who’ll start the bidding for me?” “A dollar, a dollar”; then two!” “Only two? Two dollars, and who’ll make it three? Three dollars, once; three dollars twice; going for three..” But no, from the room, far back, a gray-haired man came forward and picked up the bow; Then, wiping the dust from the old violin, and tightening the loose strings, he played a melody pure and sweet as caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer, with a voice that was quiet and low,
said; “What am I bid for the old violin?” And he held it up with the bow.
A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two? Two thousand! And who’ll make it three? Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice, and going and
gone,” said he. The people cheered, but some of them cried, “We do not
quite understand what changed its worth.” Swift came the reply: “The touch of a master’s hand.”

And many a man with life out of tune, and battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd, much like the old violin, A
“mess of pottage,” a glass of wine; a game – and he travels on. “He is
going” once, and “going twice, He’s going and almost gone.” But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd never can quite understand the worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought by the touch of the Master’s hand.

Myra ‘Brooks’ Welch

Ecclesiastes 5:7: Many words are meaningless. Stand in awe of God.

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The Time of Your Life

lightstock_67242_max_user_1468309What does 2016 hold for each of us beloved? Our Father knows (best). We do not. G Campbell Morgan wisely said therefore “Let the year be given to God in its every moment! The year is made up of minutes: let these be watched as having been dedicated to God! It is in the sanctification of the small that hallowing of the large is secure.”

“Time that is past we can never recall.
Of time to come, we are not sure at all.
Only the present is now in our power,
Therefore, redeem and improve every hour.” -Anonymous

Time is a strange commodity — we cannot save it, retrieve it, relive it, stretch it, borrow it, loan it, stop it or store it , but can only use it or lose it. We can’t call “time out” in the game of life and there are no “instant replays” as in the game of football. Job in the midst of the trial of his life was very sensitive to the brevity of life declaring “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle…my life is but breath… my days are swifter than a runner. They flee away. They slip by like reed boats, like an eagle that swoops on its prey. Man, who is born of woman, is of few days, and full of trouble. Like a flower he comes forth and withers. He flees like a shadow and does not remain.” (Job 7:6-7, 9:25-26, 14:1-2) A poet phrased it well — “When as a child I laughed and wept, time crept. When as a youth I dreamed and talked, time walked. When I became a full grown man, time ran. When older still I daily grew, time flew. Soon I shall find in traveling on, time gone.” And so while we cannot control the length of our days, yet by God’s grace we can control their depth, for we know that our Redeemer lives (Job 19:25) and that He is on our side (Ps 124:1-2note, cf Ro 8:31-32note).

Our vigor is fleeting, our best years are brief,
Our youth passes quickly—time’s ever a thief;
But hope yet becomes us—death’s sting holds no power;
We have a Redeemer—an unfailing Tower. —Gustafson

James wrote you “do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:15) When the great artist Raphael died at the early age of 37, friends and relatives carried his marvelous but unfinished painting The Transfiguration in the funeral procession. His family felt that because of the limited time he was allotted to use his creative genius, the painting was an appropriate symbol of his unfulfilled earthly aspirations. That half-completed picture has another meaning–a message that should impress itself on all of us: Life is fleeting and death may come unexpectedly. We should treasure each hour as a gift of great value and use it to the best advantage. And so we do well to pray the prayer of Moses the man of God “Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born, or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.…. Our lives last seventy years or, if we are strong, eighty years. Even the best of them are struggle and sorrow; indeed, they pass quickly and we fly away….SO TEACH US to number our DAYS, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.” (Ps 90:1-2, 10, 12note) The root meaning of the verb translated “NUMBER” is “to weigh” or “to measure.” We are to place each DAY in the divine balance so that it tips the scales in such a way that will bring glory to God and blessing to the lives of others. Remember that there is no time after time, but there is an eternity. Indeed, time is but the fringe of eternity!

Reflect for a moment what time of day it would be today if Moses’ normal life span of “70 years” were were squeezed into a single 24-hour day. For example, if you are 59, the time is approximately 8:30pm. If you approached your 70th birthday, it would be near midnight! In fact, this Christmas I considered asking my children for a watch called the “Tikker” which not only tells time but calculates your estimated life span, and displays a running countdown of your remaining time! It is advertised as the watch “that counts down your life, just so you can make every second count!” That’s not a bad tagline Biblically speaking! So the question is…

How much time? We are never sure,
But at least we have today
To seek to do the Master’s will,
In all we do and say. —Fitzhugh

David a man after God’s own heart echoed a prayer similar to Moses — “LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my DAYS are numbered–how fleeting my life is.” (Ps 39:4NLT) Did you notice that the prayers of both men specify “DAYS” not years? Most men number their life in years, but wise men number their lives in DAYS. David goes on to write “BEHOLD, Thou hast made my DAYS as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Thy sight. Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah…. And now Lord what do I wait for? My hope is in You” (Ps 39:5,7note) For what are you waiting? And how can you be sure that what you’re waiting for is going to come to pass? In light of the brevity of life, David’s HOPE was in Jehovah. Biblical hope is not “hope so,” but “hope sure,” a mindset that gives us an absolute assurance that God will do good to us in the future. The “Tikker” is ticking. Today is the DAY for us to seek God’s presence and power to enable us to be the people He wants us to be. And finding HOPE in our eternal God gives meaning for our daily lives however long or short. As Spurgeon explains “a handbreadth is one of the shortest natural measures, being the breadth of four fingers; such is the brevity of life, by divine appointment; God hath made it so, fixing the period in wisdom. David’s “BEHOLD” calls us to attention. To some the thoughts of life’s hastiness will bring the most acute pain, but to others the most solemn earnestness. How well should those live who are to live so little! Is my earthly pilgrimage so brief? Then let me watch every step of it, that in the little time there may be much of grace.” Selah – Pause and reflect on these things remembering that it is not HOW LONG you live that counts, but HOW WELL you live. Don’t spend time. Invest it! Don’t spend it on futility. Invest it in eternity!  “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Eccl 9:10).

One life for Christ is all I have,
One life for Him so dear;
One life for doing all I can
With every passing year. —Brandt

Moses and David were both seeking God’s wisdom to live in the eternal now, to live in light of eternity, knowing that TODAY is the only DAY of which one can be certain. We need to give God our days, confident that He will take care of our tomorrows. “Yesterday is but a cancelled check. Tomorrow is a promissory note. Today is all of the cash that you have. Spend it wisely.” Indeed, we are stewards of every God-given DAY. DAYS wasted can never be recovered. No man ever possessed the same moment twice! One DAY we will all give an account for the opportunities God gave us each day of our life (2Cor 5:10note). We have all been allotted the same amount of time each day. May God grant that we learn to view every minute as precious, seeking to use it for His glory, for as the poet put it “I have only just a minute – only 60 seconds in it./ Forced upon me – can’t refuse it/ But it’s up to me just how I use it; I must suffer if I lose it./ Give account if I abuse it./ Just a tiny little minute – but eternity is in it.” Amen

SO THE QUESTION IS “AM I REDEEMING THE TIME OF MY LIFE?” To help answer that question ask yourself what do you really value most in life? Undoubtedly God, Jesus, family, etc are at the top of your list. But did you remember to include “TIME?” Ephesians 5:15-16note has been called the Bible’s key to TIME MANAGEMENT. In these passages Paul commands all believers “Therefore (because we have been awakened from spiritual stupor and spiritual death and have the light of Christ – Eph 5:14noteBE CAREFUL(a command to continually take heed, be alert, be vigilant, to discern with Spirit enabled vision) how you walk, not as unwise men (foolishly), but as wise, MAKING THE MOST OF   (REDEEMING) THE OPPORTUNITY (Kairos) because the days are evil.” (Eph 5:16) Notice that the evil of our day should motivate us to redeem the time each day. C H Spurgeon paraphrasesEph 5:16note–“See then that ye walk circumspectly (being careful to consider all circumstances and all possible consequences), not carelessly, not thinking that it is of no importance how you live; but looking all round you, “walk circumspectly,” watching lest even in seeking one good thing you spoil another.” In other words, if we walk wisely, we will be careful not to let the good steal God’s best! Charles Hummel, author of “Tyranny of the Urgent,” wrote that our “greatest danger is letting the urgent (secular, temporal) things crowd out the important (divine, eternal things).” Our problem is that too often we live by life’s demands, instead of by God’s priorities. Remember that life is too short for us to do everything we want to do, but it is long enough for us to do everything God wants us to do.

Paul gives a parallel command in Colossians to “Conduct (command to make this your habitual practice enabled by the Spirit) yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders,MAKING THE MOST OF (same verb as Eph 5:16) the OPPORTUNITY (KAIROS). Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.” (Col 4:5-6note) The verb MAKING THE MOST OF (REDEEMING) (Eph 5:16, Col 4:5) literally means to “buy out of the market place” as would a wise merchant diligently seeking the best bargains, taking care not to miss the fleeting “opportunities!” MAKING THE MOST OF is in the present tense which calls for us to make redemption of time our daily practice, buying up the strategic opportunities which God providentially places in our path. If we are walking wisely (Eph 5:15note), filled with (continually controlled and enabled by) God’s Spirit (Eph 5:18note), we will be spiritually alert to divine OPPORTUNITIES and will begin to view people and circumstances not simply as encounters (or irritations) but as opportunities (and “invitations”) to impact eternity, as we learn to “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2Cor 4:18note).

Think of redeeming the time this way – If each day someone gave you $1440 (the number of minutes in a day) and said spend it or lose it, most of us would be quite motivated to wisely spend every dollar! A survey asked “What do you have to live for?” to which 94% answered they were just enduring today and living for tomorrow. That is living unwisely (Eph 5:15note). Too many people miss TODAY because they are worrying about TOMORROW (cf Jesus’ words in Mt 6:34note). Adrian Rogers said “We face the future out of breath, because we have been fighting tomorrow’s battles today!” Instead of killing time, redeem it. Instead of counting the days, make your days count. “ETERNITY will be appreciated only in the measure that we have rightly handled TIME!” Spurgeon said “‘NOW’ should be the watchword of the wise.” LATER may be too late! Right NOW counts for eternity. To make our life count for eternity, we must be wise in how we spend our time today. What will your eternal harvest be? A popular slogan says, “Life Is Short—Party Hard.” But God, Who gives us eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ, reminds us that “Life Is Short—Live It Well!” It’s not how long you live that counts, but how well you live, for a life lived for God will count for eternity. To make the most of our earthly existence, we must lose ourselves in the will of God, living “the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” (1Pe 4:2note).

I do not ask for honor, fame
While life’s short race I run,
But for a will to do Thy will
And then Thy glad “Well done.” —Meadows

In Ephesians 5:16 the word TIME is the Greek word KAIROS which can also be translated as OPPORTUNITY (as in Col 4:5) or SEASON (Ps 1:3 in the Lxx). In ancient Greece “Kairos” was a mythological character who had a forelock by which you could seize him when you met him, but who was bald in the back, so once he had sped past (his statute had wings on his feet), he could not be seized again. And so kairos refers to a fixed and definite period of time during which something can be accomplished that cannot be accomplished after the time has passed. The idea of kairos is not “clock time” (Gk – chronos) but what one writer refers to as “kingdom opportunities.” The time/opportunity for bringing forth fruit is the spring SEASON in which the tree bears fruit (Ps 1:3). Once the season has passed, there is no fruit. And so in a spiritual sense kairos is the time which  God allots to each believer to bring forth “spiritual fruit.” Therefore it behooves us, enabled by the Spirit, to  “Seize the Day” (Carpe diem) because Tempus fugit (Time flies)! Kill time and you murder opportunity. History records that when Hannibal could have taken Rome he did not, and when he later sought to he could not. As Horace Mann put it “Lost yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever.” Kairos represents the best time to do something, the moment when circumstances are most suitable. Kairos can be a moment or a season, but always refers to specific times in which opportunity is “ripe”, so that when the time passes, so does the opportunity.

Our English word OPPORTUNITY is derived from the Latin “ob portu.” In ancient times before modern harbors, ships had to wait for the timing of the tide before they could make it safely to port. Thus “OB PORTU,” described the ship waiting “FOR PORT,” ready to seize the crucial moment when it could ride the tide into safe harbor. The captain knew that if he missed the passing tide, the ship would have to wait for another tide to come in. God gives each of us many “ob portu’s”, but we must be spiritually wise and Spirit filled in order to see and seize them. As Charles Swindoll said “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities (ob portu’s) brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” Shakespeare’s famous line from Julius Caesar conveys the same thought: “There is a tide in the affairs of men (an “ob portu”), Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries.” Napoleon said, “There is in the midst of every great battle a ten to fifteen minute period that is the crucial point (kairos). Take that period and you win the battle; lose it and you will be defeated.” In short, KAIROS conveys the sense of an “opportune time,” a “window of opportunity”.  “Opportunity is the flower of time which blooms for a moment and is gone for ever.” (G Barlow) John Broadus said “Opportunity is like a fleet horse that pauses for a moment at one’s side. If you fail to mount him in that moment, you can hear the clatter of his hoofs down the corridors of time. That opportunity is gone forever.” Jonathan Edwards America’s greatest theologian understood Paul’s charge to REDEEM THE TIME and as a young man wrote “Resolved: Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can. Resolved: to live with all my might while I do live.”

A farmer’s clock ran amuck one morning and struck seventeen. The man of the house jumped up and ran all over the place, saying, “Get up, it’s later than it ever has been before!”  It is later than it ever has been by God’s eternal timepiece. It is later than you think! Today you are as young as you will ever be. Don’t vacillate! Don’t hesitate! Don’t procrastinate! Time is loaned to us and, as good stewards of Christ, enabled by His Spirit we must use it wisely. Let us each redeem the golden moments of opportunity while we still can! “Man is like a mere breath; His days are like a passing shadow.” (Ps 144:4) As Spurgeon (who went home at age 59) said “A short life should be wisely spent. We have not enough time at our disposal to justify us in misspending a single quarter of an hour!” Spurgeon in fact reduced our lives to four words “Sown, groan, blown, gone!” As Larry Moyer said “Decide now what you want written on your tombstone, then live your life backward from there.” Stated another way, instead of counting your days, make your days count! Ask yourself what would you change if this day were your last? In fact, we should live every day as if it might be our last, for one of these days we will be right!

Now is the only time we own
To do His precious will,
Do not wait until tomorrow;
For the clock may then be still.

John Piper reiterates that the “OPPORTUNITY will never come again. The days are evil; opposition is great; be wise as serpents (Mt 10:16). Understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph 5:17-note)…These words ring with a sense of urgency. They are like the words of a platoon leader addressing his unit just before they enter combat. The air is tense and your heart is beating fast and, even if you love battle, your hands are sweaty. “Watch your step; be smart; don’t miss your opportunity; keep yourself lean for the battle!”…In other words, the Christian life is a vigilant life, defensively guarding itself from the subtleties of the evil days and offensively redeeming the time to strike for love and righteousness again and again. We are a vigilant people at war with unbelief and evil. O to be a faithful steward of the breath God has given me…Surely God means for our minutes on earth to count for something significant. Paul said, “In the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain” (Php 2:16note). In the same way, I have good hope from the Lord that my “labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1Cor 15:58note). And I commend this promise to you. No minute need be lived in vain. Eternity will render it significant if lived in faith for the glory of God. In the end we rest in this: “My times are in Your hand” (Psalm 31:15note).

Adoniram Judson a famous missionary to Burma wrote that “A life once spent is irrevocable. It will remain to be contemplated throughout eternity. The same may be said of each DAY. When it is once past, it is gone forever. All the marks which we put upon it, it will exhibit forever. Each DAY will not only be a witness of our conduct, but will affect our everlasting destiny. How shall we then wish to see each day marked with usefulness! It is too late to mend the days that are past. The future is in our power. Let us, then, each morning, (enabled by God’s Spirit) resolve to send the DAY into eternity in such a garb as we shall wish it to wear forever. And at night let us reflect that one more DAY is irrevocably gone, indelibly (forever) marked.” Eternity will reveal whether we have made the right use of time for what we weave in time we will wear in eternity.  David Brainerd whose candle burned so brightly that God brought him home at the relatively young age of 29 wrote in his diary “Oh, how precious is time; and how guilty it makes me feel when I think I have trifled away and misemployed it or neglected to fill up each part of it with duty to the utmost of my ability and capacity. Oh, that I might not loiter on my heavenly journey!” It’s too late to redeem the time that is past, but not the time that is passing! Clocks don’t move backwards! So don’t replay those old tapes of failures of unfaithfulness. The hands of the time of your life that count are the ones moving “clockwise!” So enabled by God’s Spirit and His Word, make every second count for eternity!

Time that is past you can never recall,
Of time to come, you are not sure at all;
Only the present is now in your power,
Therefore, redeem and improve every hour.—Unknown

Adrian Rogers offers some practical thoughts on redeeming the time: (1) Learn to live in the eternal now. Today is the only day you have. Redeem the time. (2) Stop saying, “If I had time.” You do have time. (3) Stop worrying about tomorrow, and stop waiting for tomorrow. Give God today, and He will take care of tomorrow. (4) Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today. Cut yourself loose from the past. Bury your failure in the grave of God’s forgetfulness (read Micah 7:18-19Isaiah 43:2544:22), and let Him give you a brand new day. (5) If you have not accepted Christ, now is the time “for He says, “At the acceptable time (kairos = the opportune time!) I listened to you and on the day of salvation I helped you”; behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME (kairos),” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION” (2Cor 6:2)

Let us pray like the old Puritans in Valley of Vision — “Turn my heart from vanity, from dissatisfactions, from uncertainties of the present state, to an eternal interest in Christ. Let me remember that life is short and  unforeseen, and is only an opportunity for usefulness; GIVE ME A HOLY AVARICE TO REDEEM THE TIME, to awake at every call to charity (love) and piety (godliness), so that I may feed the hungry, clothe the naked, instruct the ignorant, reclaim the vicious, forgive the offender, diffuse the Gospel, show neighborly love to all. Let me live a life of self-distrust, dependence on Thyself (Thy Spirit), mortification, crucifixion, prayer.” Amen

Dear reader, may God by His Spirit cause each of us to so order our steps that when that great day comes we might hear those glorious words “Well done, good and faithful servant, you were faithful in a few things, I will put your in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your Master.” (Mt 25:21) “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.” (Ps 90:12note)

The famous missionary C T Studd penned these words…

Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice,
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave.
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes and fears,
Each with its days I must fulfill,
Living for self or in His will.
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Now take a moment, as you ponder the moments of your life which remain and the poignant words of Robin Mark’s song

When It’s All Been Said and Done
There is just one thing that matters.
Did I do my best to live for Truth?
Did I live my life for You?
When It’s All Been Said and Done
All my treasures will mean nothing.
Only what I’ve done for love’s reward,
Will stand the test of time.

Courtesy of https://preceptaustin.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/the-time-of-your-life/

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