Category Archives: New Testament

I Chronicles 23:12-26:19

Have you or someone you know complained about the music at your church? Or are you aware of the person standing rigid next to you in the morning worship service, silently lip-synching or tapping the pew out of rhythm with the music? Many of us who only sing in the acoustics of a bathroom shower can appreciate those skilled musicians who lead us in worship. How important is music in worshiping the Lord? Scripture indicates that even before the creation of man, angels praised God with music. Lucifer, the mighty angel now called Satan who fell from heaven, was gifted with instruments and skilled in music. Ezekiel 28:13 says of him, “The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created.” And in the final days of man on this earth, according to Revelation 5:8-9, heavenly music will continue ring out: “Now when He [Jesus Christ] had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood…'”

Prophetic messages also emanate from vocal and instrumental worship. God spoke to the heart of the king and to the king’s armies through the harps, horns, stringed instruments, and cymbals played by skilled musicians (remember how the musicians led the Israelites in marching around and pulling down the walls of Jericho). Much of what we know about the heart of King David, himself a musician, is found in the words to the songs he composed, extolling worship and praise, expressing hardship and mourning, and celebrating victories with abandon joy. David even calmed the turbulent spirit of King Saul by playing music on a harp.

Musicians also had their own division of service in the Levitical priesthood. Levites ranging from 20 years old and up were designated for the important service of seeking the Lord. Even before the first brick of the temple was laid by Solomon, musicians were identified by their father’s household. The leaders were even mentioned by name in the Scriptures. King David, even in his old age, made musical instruments for the Levite musicians to use in leading praise and worship. He also gave instructions for when to praise which included: “to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at evening; and at every presentation of burnt offering to the Lord on the Sabbaths and on the New Moons and on the set feasts,” (I Chron.23:30,31).

And then there are all the commandments to praise with song! Too many to quote, but here are just a few.

Ephesians 5:19 “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…”

Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Psalm 95:1 “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!”

Psalm 150:1-6 “Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!”

I have a friend who is the music director at a major local denominational church. Her calling for this role is obvious in the excellence with which she serves. And I am astounded at her qualifications for this position. When I looked up the job description, I can understand even more why we should applaud anyone who is appointed to the role of church music director.

Church music directors, also called choir directors, are professional bandleaders and administrators hired by churches to lead the choir and develop the church’s music-oriented activities. Their job varies based on the structure of the church’s music department and the goals of the minister, but almost always involves scheduling and leading choir rehearsals; conducting and leading the choir in performance; recruiting and auditioning new singers and volunteers; fostering each singer’s musical growth; and appointing senior choir members to become section leaders, soloists, and assistant conductors. Music directors also choose the choir’s performance pieces, prepare special programs for holidays or special occasions, and work alongside the church organist (if they don’t play organ themselves).  A church music director should be enthusiastic and dedicated, with a positive attitude and a commitment to serving the local community. Excellent interpersonal skills are a must, as are the patience, clarity, and ease of communication necessary to teach well. Although teaching is a large part of the job, so is performance, and church music directors must possess the musicianship to consistently craft strong performances. Years of experience as a church musician or member of the church choir—as well as deep knowledge of choral repertoire and Christian scripture—are essential.

https://www.berklee.edu/careers/roles/

Because of these dedicated people, I can sing along with my Christian brothers and sisters, the heartstrings of my soul vibrating in tune to heavenly music. More importantly, I can experience God’s holy presence through the songs and presentations thoughtfully chosen and performed by these gifted and talented leaders. I love that music can lift my mood, speak calm to my frazzled nerves, and prepare my thoughts to focus on God’s Word. I pray, Lord, for all those who dedicate their voice, leadership, and musical abilities in leading us in thanksgiving and praise to You. Bless their efforts, honor them in their congregations, and reward their sacrifices of time and energy to serving You in Your house of worship. Thank You, Lord, for my friend and all those who use their artistic talents for You. They are a beautiful example of harmony in the body of Christ.

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Filed under 1 Chronicles, 66 Books, 7-day reading pln, Bible in a year reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Uncategorized

2 Kings 4:29-8:15

One of my challenges to understanding the Old Testament is reading about war, yet there are many stories of interest in God’s narrative other than just who wins or loses the battles. The first several short stories in this Scripture focus describe God confirming His prophet, Elisha through signs and miracles. I especially was struck by an incident when Elisha prayed that God would feed a hundred men where there were only 20 loaves of barley bread in one man’s knapsack. His servant broke bread until all were fed and some food was left over (reminds me of the miracles through the Lord Jesus yet to come). Elisha also instructed an enemy captain, Naaman, what to do to receive healing from leprosy (doing good to his enemy, again is messianic). We also learn that Elisha, who spoke not of his own will, but what he heard from God, was completely confident in what he was to say. Even when he knew the outcome would not be favorable, he did not hold back speaking the word of God. It is one such story that drew me in for a closer look.

When Elisha met with the king of Aram’s messenger regarding Aram’s failing health, Elisha said this to the man, “Go and say to him, ‘You will certainly recover.’ Nevertheless, the Lord has revealed to me that he will in fact die.” But Elisha could not stop staring at the messenger, Hazael, who became embarrassed under Elisha’s gaze. In this eerie moment, Elisha was given a horrifying vision of what was to come at the hand of Hazael. He wept as he prophesied to Hazael what he would do to the Israelites, saying, “You will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women.” Elisha knew he was helpless to do anything about this but weep; yet he was tasked with knowing and prophesying the tragedy.

I do not seek that kind of relationship with God, our Father. Still, there have been times when I feared for a person’s future without really knowing why. And when some disaster shortly befell that person, I went to my knees in fear and in prayer for mercy. On another occasion, when this foreboding overtook me concerning what a person said, I prayed for God to forgive her. I still pray that His mercy was shown to her in her last moments of life. I am no prophet, and frankly I do not want to be the harbinger of destruction. It weighs down my soul.

Yet, there are many even today who are called prophets, and who are sounding the alarm about the times we are living in. How can I discern when God is speaking through them? When I hear of destruction, is my fear of what is to come causing me to tremble? Or am I fearful for the words of those who pray for this destruction, not just to destroy the enemy armies but to cut off their descendants? Are we to pray for our enemies and ask God to destroy them at the same time? This, too, weighs down my soul.

My writer friends and I have been discussing the ‘divided heart.’ Loving two things at the same time. I thought about Jesus’ commandment, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?” (Matthew 5:43-48). If we are to obey Christ, therefore, we must love our enemies even knowing their intent to do us or others harm. How do we do that?

Look up to heaven. Look into the face of Jesus Christ. Let His words, His Spirit, and His will be alive in our prayers. For the only way a soul is lifted up is to give God glory. He alone knows the end of all life; I am not the one who has understanding. And that is okay. My prayer is that God be with us all, protecting our hearts from becoming embittered, unforgiving, or vindictive. What we may see in a vision or otherwise, we must submit to a good God who is Lord over all the earth. Let us start by dropping to our knees in prayer for mercy. Then pray that God will increase our faith in the sovereignty of His will.

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Filed under 2 Kings, Matthew, New Testament, Old Testament, Uncategorized

2 Samuel 14-16

His loyal love – a servant’s heart

One of the most quoted passages of Scripture on loyal love is from the Book of Ruth: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your People shall be my people, And your God, my God,” (Ruth 1:16).

This profound declaration of loyalty is a beautiful illustration of the deepest friendship, most unselfish love, and abiding trust that one can express. Ruth demonstrated this to Naomi, her mother-in-law, by traveling with her out of Ruth’s familiar surroundings to the strangeness of Naomi’s home.

In today’s passage of Scripture, King David is the grateful recipient of steadfast loyalty. Ittai the Gittite and his men, foreigners who lived under David’s protection, pledged their lives and military strength to David as he fled Jerusalem, (2 Samuel 15:21-23). In glaring contrast to the loyal love demonstrated by Naomi and Ittai, we learn the historical account of David’s own son, Absalom, who was the epitome of disloyalty.

Loyalty is defined as allegiance, faithfulness, fidelity, devotion, steadfastness, commitment. What engenders loyalty? In today’s world of business, customer satisfaction is the gold standard for ensuring customer loyalty. There are case studies on the global market that prove good customer service is paramount to continued success of a business. Out of these studies came solid strategies for increasing the odds of customer satisfaction. One principal factor in building loyalty is to provide reliable service. That is, do what you say you will do every time. That may mean going the extra mile, suffering personal loss, and responding judiciously to the needs of customers. Another important strategy is providing relational service. This is accomplished by recognizing the importance of customer/business relationships in tangible ways such as rewarding repeated visits – think perks, redeemable stars given in a point system, specials meant just for those who keep coming back. Responsive service is another strategy in developing customer satisfaction. Communicating with customers is crucial for learning about their changing needs. This means being open to their honest opinions, encouraging feedback, and analyzing their points of interest or pain. And finally, commemorating service by ‘shouting out’ customer satisfaction is a strategy that validates the success of the business. This is accomplished by publishing reviews, testimonials, endorsements, etc.

Absalom would have made a fortune in today’s business. He must have been reading Forbes magazine in learning how to turn the people toward him and away from his father, King David. “And so it was, whenever anyone came near to bow down to him, that he would put out his hand and take him and kiss him. In this manner Absalom acted toward all Israel who came to the king for judgment. So, Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel,” (2 Samuel 15:5-6).

How had David lost the hearts of so many men? First, he, an aging king, was not as visible to his people as his handsome son. David may have been relying on his past laurels to garner loyalty from his people. However, “it was said that Absalom would rise early and stand beside the way to the gate,” (2 Samuel 15:2). Also, King David did not hear the changing opinions of his people who feared losing the heir to the throne, (2 Samuel 14:13-15). And though David eventually reconciled with Absalom, he had refused to see him for two years, thereby failing to endorse him, (2 Samuel 14:28). To be sure, King David was conflicted since Absalom had murdered his brother and sought to kill all the King’s sons. Yet, doing nothing for so long to restore the relationship and shunning Absalom no doubt sowed seeds of bitterness that eventually produced conspiracy and rebellion. Absolom was more business savvy which cost David many loyal subjects.

I can relate to King David, however. I, too, have wanted to turn away from negative situations, especially when relationships were involved. I would rather live and let be than consider my own shortcomings or confront others. Unfortunately, this posture has allowed situations to escalate to the point where I am either running from the consequences of inaction or having to do damage control. Yet, I know from experience why we should never let the sun go down on our anger. Why we should forgive – I mean really forgive. When to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’ to loved ones and to the stranger. Why we should pray, pray, pray to have the log removed out of our own eye and to have our buried head pulled out of the sand.

When on the run, I also neglect to nurture my spiritual relationship with God. No surprise that doing so is reflected in the loss of earthly relationships. Thankfully, we are made in the image of God, and God’s character is the very definition of loyal love. Therefore, I believe God can change my heart attitude, can give me the courage to address uncomfortable situations, can utter words I should speak in difficult conversations, and can work all things out for my good. And theirs. (Romans 8:28)

David’s journey back to the throne depended on God’s faithfulness to him. We, too, have been restored through the blessing of God’s loyal love. He heard our cries and sent His Son, Jesus Christ to us. Christ suffered, died, and was resurrected to bring us back to the Father. As if that were not enough to earn our loyalty, God is faithful to fulfil all His promises to us. And He does not hold back on celebrating our salvation. As is evidenced in Luke 15:10, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” And “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing,” (Zephania 3:17).

Father, God, thank You for your loyal love! Help me to be filled by Your Holy Spirit and have access to Your wisdom, counseling, and authority. Teach me, dear Lord, to develop behaviors that encourage, support, and benefit those whom You have given me at my place of work, in my marriage, in friendships, and in fellowship. I pray that as Your servant, Lord God, I will give my very best service to others in Your blessed name.

Janet (jansuwilkinson)

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Filed under 2 Samuel, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Luke, New Testament, Old Testament, reading plan, Romans, Ruth, Uncategorized

Ruth 2:14-4:22; I Samuel 1

Women of the Bible: the stories of Ruth and Hannah

 When reading Scripture, I often visualize myself walking in the shoes of the principal characters of the narratives. I can imagine, for instance, being Ruth the Moabite woman living in Bethlehem with her mother-in-law. Rising early and walking to a field where she hoped to pick up the leftover grain to bring home sustenance for Naomi and herself. Listening to the wise council of the one woman she trusted with all her heart, the one who taught her to love and believe in the God of Israel. Risking her virtue and physical safety to join with strangers, she a foreigner in a small, but tightly woven community where everyone knew your story without knowing you. What could that have been like? The part of me that relates is the yearning I had as a young girl to know who to depend on for sustenance, guidance, and comfort. Grateful for those times when others showed concern and genuine caring. Yet, always longing for stability when, even as a young woman, I continued to need protection and provision. I’ve often testified that God answered the prayer of this unbeliever when He sent to me a husband who satisfied my need for security. How wonderful that even though I was not then aware of my future salvation, God knew. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son,” Romans 8:29.

Like a Cinderella story, Ruth found her charming prince and Naomi held her precious grandson against her shoulder. And from that fortuitous pairing of Ruth and Boaz came the future King David and the messianic lineage of Jesus Christ. I, too, had my prince and then my own little darling to raise.

In Hannah’s story, my heart was torn reading that after God answered her prayer for a child, she could give up of that same child for another to raise. Hannah’s anguish over being barren, year after year, may be difficult to understand in America today. Young adults are waiting longer to marry and longer still to have children. We praise the family who limits conceiving their number of children to two or less. We value resources such as food, fuel, forests, and air as if these elements preserve our future. Yet, are we not, as C.S. Lewis once argued careening toward the “abolition of man?” Still, what is the first commitment made by most Christian parents who love the Lord God? We dedicate our children to God – to raise them in the “admonition of the Lord.” We stand publicly before our congregations to declare we will raise our children in a godly home, and we ask for their support in teaching and modeling for our children how to obey and love God. Yet, Hannah’s desire for her son to know God went so much deeper. She held the hand of little Samuel, a child of two or three years old, and took him to actually live in the sanctuary and be raised by the aging priest, Eli.

“And she said, ‘O my lord! As your soul lives, my lord [Eli], I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the Lord…For this child I prayed and the Lord granted me my petition…Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he shall be lent to the Lord,” I Samuel 1:26-28.

In dedicating my own daughter, did I truly give her over to the Lord? I thought I did. I still feel the joy and pride of her memorizing Scripture for the Bible Bowl, attending Vacation Bible School, singing in the Children’s Choir, coloring pictures of Jesus and the Cross, creating her own Christmas and Easter cards, and writing stories and poems for her Christian school English teachers. But did I hamper her learning to trust in God by my own need for validation as a mother? Why was it so hard to believe that God loved her more than I ever could?

These are questions that I ponder being a parent. There is no end to my negative self-talk, my mother-guilt, especially since my daughter passed away. Yet I am comforted knowing that “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him,” (Biblegateway.com). As her mother, I can rejoice that God ‘lent’ her to me for a while like Hannah could rejoice despite knowing how short the time she would have to nurture her son.

Scripture is for our instruction in righteousness and for strengthening our faith, for courage, healing, and peace. God’s Word also reminds me that women in the Bible were important to His plan of redemption and the birth of the Church. I am comforted by the real stories of people who walked with God, obeyed, and worshiped Him, and were rewarded with renewed joy and greater faith. Ruth’s loyal love to Naomi, Hannah’s sacrificial gratitude for Samuel, and the many other heroines of the Old and New Testaments are the precious jewels of Proverbs 31 which declares, “For her worth is far above rubies…a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

Precious Lord God, You alone fashioned me and every other child inside of mothers whom You loved. You know the first and last day we will walk this earth. Thank You, Lord, that You rejoice and sing over us from that first reunion with You and into eternity. May the Lord bless us and favor us, our family, our children, and their children while we wait for that day we are together again with Jesus, our Lord.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zp6aygmvzM4

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Filed under 1 Samuel, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Proverbs, Psalms, Romans, Ruth, Uncategorized

Job 18-20; Psalm 141; Revelation 15

Growing up in a dysfunctional home does not make me an expert as to what love looks like. Through trial and error, and many more errors, I began my journey to being relatively healthy except when it comes to conflict with those I would call my superiors in the workplace. They have not modelled love very well and to this day I still struggle with what that looks like. For those I lead, I try to be the one who loves through conflict. From the testimonies I have collected, I would say I am doing a fairly good job. In marriage I have not had that much success when it comes to speaking the truth in love. In my relationship with God, I have excelled. We have loved each other with a major intensity. He has called me out on many issues and has demanded a more closer walk with Him.

Let the righteous one strike me—
it is an act of faithful love;
let him rebuke me—
it is oil for my head;
let me[a] not refuse it.
Even now my prayer is against
the evil acts of the wicked. – Psalm 141:5 HCSB

King David learned to love rebuke too. Somehow, when God rebukes, He does not shame, He causes me to sing.

They sang the song of God’s servant Moses and the song of the Lamb:

Great and awe-inspiring are Your works,
Lord God, the Almighty;
righteous and true are Your ways,
King of the Nations. – Revelation 15:2-3 HCSB

The principle I learn is this – there is a perfect harmony in the retributive acts of God in dealing with this world and the highest conception of His love and mercy which the gospel brings. God’s dealings with me are meant to manifest His character that I may know and love Him. The motive is His own love, the end is the glory of His Name, in the love and knowledge of those like me whose life and blessedness depend on my knowing and loving Him.

God’s demand for my supreme love – is it just? That would depend on two things:

  • Whether I have the power of loving any one supremely
  • Whether God has attributes adapted to awaken this love within me

I think it is found in everyone to love some object supremely. My choice is quite easily understood then – I make a choice to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

Father, thank you for calling my name in the darkest moments of my life. I am so thankful that You allowed me to hear Your voice. Every time You spoke You imparted Your love in an incredibly meaningful way. Your love mattered more than life itself. Thank You.

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Filed under 5 day reading plan, Bible in a year reading plan, Job, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms, reading plan, Revelation, Uncategorized