Thursday, August 25, 2016

When You Move… But Just to Another Part of Town


This summer of 2016 has been a whirlwind of adventure for Julie and me.  From a Joyful Noise bell tour to WAM kids at the beach to giving guitar lessons in Nazareth, Israel to making a change in careers here at Lexington Baptist!  Packing up (and throwing out some!) 40+ years of Music Ministry books, college music books, resources, CD’s, VHS tapes of past performances, cassettes of solo tracks, and a lot of memorabilia has been a slow process for me.  I feel like I’m moving out, but then I keep reminding myself that I am really not going anywhere!  So, it’s definitely not like saying goodbye to anybody, just goodbye to “the neighborhood” and what many of us cherish together as memories of worshipping God through great songs that have touched our souls.  28 years of cantatas and dramas and creative Passion Play productions that have allowed us to tell God’s wonderful Redemption Story of Christ’s great love for us are strong ties of love that bind us together.  It has been an awesome journey!

The following scripture passage has no doubt been the perfect expression repeated by many, many Disciples of Christ throughout the ages who have come to that inevitable time of closure or separation from those who have been entrusted to their care or tutelage:

Philippians 1:3-11Tree of Life Version (TLV)

I thank my God at every memory of you, always praying with joy in every prayer of mine for you all, because of your sharing in the Good News from the first day until now. I am sure of this very thing—that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the Day of Messiah Yeshua. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart—for you all are partakers of grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the Good News. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Messiah Yeshua.

(And the rest of this passage from “The Message” is just perfect)

The Message:

7-8 It’s not at all fanciful for me to think this way about you. My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality. You have, after all, stuck with me all the way from the time I was thrown in jail, put on trial, and came out of it in one piece. All along you have experienced with me the most generous help from God. He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does!

9-11 So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.

 

Joyfully Yours,

Dan

Monday, July 18, 2016

Walking a Guided Path


Proverbs 3:6

A simple verse, yet enormous in its truth and application.  The King James Version, which most of us learned at an early age says, "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."   All that we know of these great proverbs for living is what has been translated from the Hebrew into English.  Different translations and paraphrases of scripture help us in our attempt to fully understand the deepest insights to fully understand what the Father is communicating to us, His children.  So, here are a few other renditions: New Living Translation - Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. New American Standard Bible - In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.  Holman Christian Standard Bible - think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths. 

So, meditating on this verse, you can ask yourself, "Am I truly acknowledging  and seeking Yahwey our great Elohim in every pursuit, in every task, in every focus of my life?"  If I know in my heart that I am doing that, then I can feel confident that the path and direction of my life, my career, and my life experiences are indeed His perfect will for me.

But I am thankful for the preceding verse Proverbs 3:5 which gives a greater explanation and foundation for knowing what it means to acknowledge Him in all my ways.  It says that you must first, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean (or rely upon, depend upon, or trust)  in your own understanding."  Then acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will direct your path!

Well, how else can we possibly understand anything except from the perspective of our own minds? How can we perceive and understand anything in this world apart from the way we perceive and understand everything?  What a great lesson this is from the Old Testament about doing something we are instructed to do in the New Testament: die to self, have the mind of Christ, be transformed by the renewing of your mind, be a living sacrifice, take every thought captive, be an imitator of God!

Living in this realm, this understanding, this obedience  produces a great freedom, peace and ability to stand firm when our circumstances drastically change.  You can truly experience what it is to be calm in the midst of a storm and be standing on a firm foundation though others may fall all around you.  

But know this, that your natural and truly more human nature is not to do any of the above.  But that is why you can be called a holy person--one who is set apart and different from the rest!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

If & Then


As a young person I think I was overly impressed with the Biblical teaching that salvation is a free gift of God, and that there was nothing we could do to earn our salvation.  While these are true statements, for the sake of high volume evangelism it was not often enough stressed to new converts that there are conditions which God the Father requires of us if we truly want to be a part of His Kingdom.  The "taking up your cross" and "dying to self" parts were actually de-emphasized (though unintentional I'm sure) when the main pitch was "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" if you just pray the sinner's prayer asking God's forgiveness.  The repentance from sin part and behavioral issues were just growth concerns for those wanting to  go deeper and perhaps get fanatical about their faith.

Many Christian converts of the "Jesus Movement" of the late 60's/early 70's were invited to join the Everlasting Throng with only a modicum of entry level belief--remember the Doobie Brothers singing, "Jesus is just alright with me"?  In the culture war that began 50 years ago of seeing who can shock others the most by being the most different, the "Jesus Freak" was born.  The Jesus Movement itself was actually a Christian response to the "Free-Love-Hippie Movement" of that era.  The baby boomer generation was inundated with life-simplifying, quick-fix products and solutions for everything, and our culture was pushing a very self-centered philosophy of "Free Love!", "If it feels good, do it!", and "You only go 'round once in life, you gotta grab for all the gusto you can!" And Instead of "If you love me, then keep my commandments, the  only "If & Then" proposition  going around was, "If you can't be with the one you love, honey, then love the one you're with. (Crosby, Stills & Nash)"  

Nevertheless, there were many of us who came through the Jesus Movement days of the 60's and 70's who have gone on to discover what it is that God truly expects from us who would be His Sons and Daughters in His Kingdom.  Yes, we are saved by grace through faith, but the complete Torah of the Father teaches us how we are to obey Him and thereby learn what it is to be in an active, daily relationship with Him through Yeshua!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

From Today's Torah Portion: Exodus 35:1

And Moses gathered (Vaya - K'hel or Kahol - gather an assembly) all the congregation (Edah) of the children of Israel together, and said unto them, These are the words which the Lord hath commanded, that ye should do them.

Speaking of "WORDS", let's stop here and consider a few words that have been used and misused in the past which have created a heap of confusion today.

1. CHURCH - (Old English word "Circe")  What does this word mean to people today?
a) Pertains to Christians
b) Predominant mental picture is a building to which Christians go to on Sundays
c) The world-wide Body of Christ that was birthed after Jesus rose from the dead

    The word meant "pertaining to a lord" and later "Belonging to The Lord."  

2. SYNOGOGUE - (Gr. sunogoge - came about during Babylonian exile) First Thought?
a) Pertains to Jews
b) Predominant mental picture is a building to which Jews go on Saturdays

3. TEMPLE - (In Hebrew this was Beit YHWH) First Thought?
a) The two Jewish Houses of God, both destroyed, Solomon's and Herod's
b) Buddhist Temple, LDS/Mormon Temple
c) Third Temple for the Millennial Kingdom - Hmm, Jewish or Christian?

4. TABERNACLE - (Hebrew: Mishkan) First Thought?
a) Jewish predecessor in the wilderness to the Jewish Temple
b) Christian/Mormon hijack for branding: i.e. Brooklyn Tabernacle, Mormon Tabernacle

5. CATHEDRAL - First Thought?
a) Humongous Catholic Edifice

We would probably do well to ditch the use of all of these terms today because they all detract from the truth of what Yeshua came to establish here on earth. His purpose was not to build buildings.

Matt. 16:18  (Young's Literal Translation)  And I also say to thee, that thou art a rock, and upon this rock I will build my assembly, and gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

Acts 7: 48-49  However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says: (Is. 66:1) HEAVEN IS MY THRONE, AND EARTH IS THE FOOTSTOOL OF MY FEET; WHAT KIND OF HOUSE WILL YOU BUILD FOR ME?' says the Lord, 'OR WHAT PLACE IS THERE FOR MY REPOSE?

So, what did YHWH call His people and what did Yeshua call his Father's people according to the Bible?
 
* In Hebrew they were the Edah or Congregation AND they were called the Kahol or Assembly
* In Greek they were the Ekklesia which meant an Assembly

But the point is that the Church did not begin with the first coming of the Messiah 2,000 years ago.  Simply put, God has always been about gathering an ASSEMBLY of His own people, chosen, called out, set apart, made holy unto Himself for the purpose of fellowship and communion with Himself; His people must be free from the bondage of sin and governed and ruled by Himself to live in harmony with one another according to His will and His authority, obeying His statutes and His Torah (Instruction). God established a RELATIONSHIP with His people at Mt. Sinai, He met with them in the Tabernacle and Temple in the Holy of Holies.  But because of His great sacrifice and work on the CROSS, He now has a relationship with His people on a one to one basis by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit in the heart of every Believer!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

It's All About Obedience. But Why?


When you get down to it, There’s a God who created us and desires a relationship with us, but the functionality of that relationship hinges on OBEDIENCE on our part. Here is where the cart and horse thing comes into play: when your obedience to the commands of God as spelled out in His Holy Word is a legalistic means to an end in order to expect God’s blessings and to escape damnation, your RELATIONSHIP with God will not be at all be what He desires for you. In this condition, you are really still in control of your life and destiny, or so you think and act. Yet, when you have a RELATIONSHIP with God based upon the love He has shown you, in which you understand that He gave His Son to save you from death and destruction and has delivered you, then your OBEDIENCE becomes your greatest desire because there is no greater way to show your love to Him!  In this condition, you have given up your rights and you are not in control of your own destiny— God is in control of your life and your death. Only in that position can you truly know what it is to have a RELATIONSHIP with the Father.

 

 It’s a little bit like the different kinds of relationships that can exist between an earthly parent and a teenager.  Some teens obey their parent’s rules very reluctantly and begrudgingly. They are strong-willed and defiant, and they definitely want to maintain control of their own lives. Others are much more obedient, but have found security and happiness in submission to authority and would never want to do anything that would displease their parents. 

 How would you describe your RELATIONSHIP with God the Father? Do you feel there are rules you have to obey but would rather not? Or do you feel you get to obey the Father and desire nothing else but to please Him? The answer to finding a powerful and daily RELATIONSHIP with God has everything to do with our daily submission to Him and His commands. This is why Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” So what does this have to do with music? You have been commanded by our God to sing! Over and over we see this in the Bible:

“Let us sing psalms of praise to him.” Psalm 95:2

“I will praise God’s name with singing.” Psalm 69:30

“Sing joyfully about his glorious acts. “Psalm 107:22

“Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him!” 1 Chronicles 16:9

“Sing to the LORD, all the earth.” 1 Chronicles 16:23

“Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing.” Psalm 100:2

 

 So how are you going to obey this command? Out of duty and compulsion? May your singing be done out of love and praise for the God who has saved you!  Sing everyday.  But especially add your voice to singing in worship--either from the pew or (Insert  shameless plug:) from the CHOIR LOFT!

Friday, January 1, 2016

A First Blog Post for 2016


Here I raise mine ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I've come!  These familiar words are from the hymn "Come. Thou Fount of Every Blessing" written by Robert Robinson in 1758.  I guess what has been surprising to me through the years is that this single phrase has been used to declare why we should not sing the old hymns because singing "Christianeze" words that the world doesn't understand does not help evangelize the lost and only turns off the modern generation.  Well, did it ever occur to anybody that if you come across a word you don't understand, it might be a good idea to look it up or even ask someone what it means?  Good grief, you can Google it and find the answer in about one minute!



This phrase was penned because the author knew his Bible enough to know the word "ebenezer".  It is found in 1 Samuel 7 where the prophet Samuel and the Israelites found themselves under attack by the Philistines. Fearing for their lives, the Israelites begged Samuel to pray for them in their impending battle against the Philistines. Samuel offered a sacrifice to God and prayed for His protection. God listened to Samuel, causing the Philistines to lose the battle and retreat back to their own territory. After the Israelite victory, the Bible records: “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’ ” (1 Samuel 7:12).  The word ebenezer comes from the Hebrew words ’eben hà-ezer (eh’-ben haw-e’-zer), which simply mean “stone of help”. 



So, what better time to "raise an ebenezer" than at the end of 2015 and the beginning 2016!  Stop long enough to look back and thank God for all the blessings He bestowed in 2015!  Then thank Him and credit Him for getting you through the tough trials, tragedies and heartaches of this past year!  Pray a prayer something like, " Father, here I raise an ebenzer, a stone of help, to declare that I know that it was by Your grace and mercy that I am alive today and have an opportunity to serve you today and however many more days you grant to me in this coming year.  In Yeshua's name I pray, Amen!"



One more thought: When Robert Robinson wrote his hymn in the 1700's do you think he purposefully wrote a lyric that he thought nobody would understand, or did he assume that people knew their Bibles well enough in his day to understand what was meant by "raise an ebenezer?"  If people indeed don't know their Bibles very well in 2016, what is wrong with finding more obscure phrases or words in the Bible to include in our worship songs as a means of increasing Bible knowledge?

Friday, December 4, 2015

How Important Is Your Halacha?

Halacha - Ha - la - kah is a Hebrew word which literally means "behavior" or "The way you live."  For the orthodox Jew, this is totally wrapped up in the teaching of the Talmud which uses the Torah as its basis, but includes the rabbinic teachings and established traditions.  A Jew's halacha includes the keeping of the 613 laws found in the Torah, but will be expounded upon by the interpretations and additions made by the rabbis.  For example, the Torah teaches in Ex. 23:19 not to boil a kid (goat) in its mother's milk. This is a sanctity of life matter and about respect for the mother, but the rabbis added their interpretation of this to mean don't mix meat and dairy products.  In modern times, this was elaborated upon to prohibit the cooking of meat and dairy in the same oven.  So, an orthodox Jewish home must have two ovens - one for meat and one for dairy because the very steam from cooking meat may collect on the walls of an oven and possibly contaminate a cake with eggs if cooked in the same oven. 

If we want to live pleasing lives for our Heavenly Father, we know that because we are all sinners and have broken all of God's commandments, we are lost and need the Messiah's indwelling of His Holy Spirit to give us the ability to have a halacha that pleases God and makes us acceptable to Him.

Jesus, Yeshua, came to give us all a halacha that will bless us in this life, but also bring glory to our Heavenly Father which is our main purpose in life!

But we are all on our own separate spiritual journeys, travelling at differing speeds, receiving inspired revelations from God and His Word with different perspectives and insights and unique applications to our circumstances in life.  This is why the Body of Christ in the world today may be joined together by the same Savior, but yet also be greatly divided by our halacha--our understanding of how we are to live and walk the Way of the Master.

Paul addressed this in his letter to the church in Rome.  The Jews and Gentiles who were finding themselves in unity through the common forgiveness of sins by Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, were also finding themselves being divided by different understandings of what a New-Born Believer's halacha should be!  Paul's bottom line to the Church was, "Don't let your various opinions and camp divisions over halacha take priority over your unity!"  Wow, that's what we need to hear today!

Isn't it interesting that the Church today deals with the exact same problem that the Church in Rome was experiencing--the need for unity in the midst of differing halacha?  It is just sad that so many Believers will go to their graves thinking they will be rewarded (gain glory for themselves) for having maintained a strict halacha which isolated them from the larger context of The Body only to find out at the Judgment that the Father would have been more pleased if unity had been the goal which would have brought more glory to the Father!