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Archive for May, 2011

I attend the youth ministry at my church, and like many youth groups, we play contemporary Christian music. I notice that these songs can often be much more stirring to sing than the old hymns, and more heartfelt at times.

One big problem, however, occurs when we sing new songs or get too focused on singing a song well. Personally, I find it difficult to sing from my heart a song I’ve never seen before. I’m unfamiliar with the tunes and the lyrics, leaving me to stay silent as I try to get used to the song. Also, there are times when I’m conscious of my singing or my voice – such as those times when I have a bad cold and a hoarse voice – where I get too distracted trying to sing well. The rest of the time I’m so busy singing, I actually forget what I’m singing in the first place – because I’m so used to the song. It then becomes easy to lose focus of what worship is truly about: standing before God, acknowledging His presence, and letting my praise flow to Him in music.

However, new songs can be excellent at times. If the song is really well written, you can read the lyrics – not busy trying to sing – and understand the songwriter’s motives behind writing it. Often times when I sing a very familiar song, I kind of forget the whole meaning of it… unless of course I know the words really well and sing them as an extension of my thanksgiving to God, experiencing the words in their full power.

Every once in a while, I find it extremely helpful and encouraging to just be silent as the music plays. Read the lyrics and meditate on them, and try to figure out if there are any subliminal, deeper meanings between the words. Silently pray ad talk to God, acknowledging the words and presenting them to God in prayer as your praise. It’s a completely different experience than from singing the words. Your worship might become more real, with the knowledge that you aren’t simply singing… you are actually giving to God all the praise and glory He deserves.

With that, I urge you to give this a try. Whether you sing hymns or contemporary songs, take a minute or two to really think on the words, and honestly present your praise to God in full adoration of who He is.

If you do so with a heart full of thanksgiving, you will surely reap heartwarming results.

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The Christian life is one of sacrifices. Not sacrifices that will harm us, but sacrifices that will help us grow, develop, and mature as believers. We are called to leave everything behind and to follow Christ. This is not to be taken extremely literally, but it is to be followed to a reasonable extent.

“But whatever things were gained to me I now consider lost for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”

Philippians 3:7-8

What things are so valuable to you, they keep you away from serving the Lord to your full ability? It may be sports, video games, sex, alcohol, toys, books, ideas, philosophies, movies… et cetera.  They all have their individual allure, drawing those under their influence closer and closer to bondage in their own addictions.

I admit to being an idolater to several things, such as books and movies. An idol is essentially something that takes away time that should be spent with God. Many pastimes are not inherently evil within themselves. They might even be good things, like spending time in charity work, missions, and with family.  But if they began to take control of your life to the extent that you are neglecting your personal, daily walk with God, then there is something wrong. In my case, I would rather spend time with a good book or a exciting movie than to spend time with God in prayer or reading His word.

The solution to these addictions would be to lay them before the Lord on an altar of love, handing them over to Him and in doing so express your love for Him. In sacrificing those things which are dearest to you, you say to God: “I love you more.”

There is nothing God would love to hear more.

However just sacrificing your idols is not the end of the story. There will be no effect to your declaration without practical application. Replace the time you used to spend on your idols with personal time with the Lord. Talk to Him, journal His work in your life, read His word, read Christian books that challenge your walk. Give Him the time that once went to waste.

Become addicted to the Words, love, beauty, and presence of God.

I, personally, drift in and out of this process over and over. But whenever I enter into God’s presence again, I know no other joy. I cannot understand WHY I sought solace and entertainment in worldly, temporal things. I just know that God is enough. His grace is enough. His love is enough.

Have no idols before the Lord, because He is worth more than all of them… combined.

 

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Like many people, I’ve gone through a “clothes craze phase”. I visited a bunch of thrift stores and bought just about everything I thought looked good. As always when you become crazy with something, you notice other peoples’ paraphernalia as well, in this case, clothes.

One really weird thing I noticed is this: if a given person is not into fashion or the latest trends, he usually ends up dressing in clothes that reflect his personalities and interests. For example, I have some friends who love sports. They are definitely not into clothes. But they dress well, and they dress in clothes that present themselves to people as athletes. The jacket, the brand, the pants, shoes… all have something to do with SPORTS!

Another example is myself. Almost everyone who knows me well will tell you about my passion for writing, reading, and literature as a whole. I’m not exactly a fan of fashion… but I do like clothes that “look good”. Due to my pretty conservative background, I usually wear polos and shirts in classic colors and designs, mostly with jeans. But based on my attire, many people will ask me out of the blue if I’m a writer or am planning a career in that direction. Funny… because most of the time they don’t know a single thing about me. And I don’t consciously go out of my way to dress like a literature nerd.

My point in saying all this? Clothes reflect who you are, and as Christians, we must dress to represent ourselves well. Some may say that clothes do not make the man, and clothes do sometimes cover up who a person really is. However, people have a natural inclination to base their first impression mainly on the clothes that particular person is wearing. You may come up with all sorts of excuses and exceptions for your not-so-Christian attire, but in the end, you are misrepresenting yourself, the Christian community, and God. You can look good without dressing like the world dresses.

Also, the wrong clothing attracts the wrong crowd. You may be dressing to fit in with a certain group, impress a certain person, or whatever. But most times, you will end up with the wrong people; the people you should not be with.

I’m not saying this to condemn, but I know the impact clothing trends have on many young believers. I am writing this out of concern for my fellow believers, for why would a peer like me go all out for no apparent reason just to criticize how people dress? Clothing expresses a person’s individuality, but clothes also reflect their values – whether they know it or not.  Personally, in the past I have debated over some clothing styles, and my conservative side won over. But honestly, it isn’t a huge struggle and problem for me. However, I’ve personal experience with people I know who love the Lord and do their best to live out His plan in their lives… but if I was a stranger and just met them, I would not automatically think them Christian – just because their clothes don’t reflect the modesty and self-respect that Christians as children of the King should be shrouded in… around their entire being.

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