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|A Prayer That We Not Be Afraid|
“Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act… Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him”—Psalm 37:1-5, 7
There are several commands in these verses that, if we were to obey them, we would find many heavy burdens lifted from our hearts. In this Psalm, David was musing on a number of themes, always returning to the basic truth that we can trust God to come to our aid in His own time and in His own way. In short, God comes through for those who trust Him.
“Fret not” in Hebrew literally means, “don’t get heated.” Then the words follow, trust, delight, commit and be still. The bottom line is that we should change our focus from looking at our enemies and our fears to looking at God. We think, for example, of Stephen who, when he was being stoned, gazed into heaven and God graciously gave him a vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God. His last words were “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:54-60). Or we think of Paul and Silas in prison, not focused on their plight, but singing praises and praying at midnight (Acts 16:25). Consider a more contemporary example, that of Dietrich Bonheoffer who, before he was hung, was able to say, “O God this is the end, but for me the beginning of life.”
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|A Prayer That We Worship God in Our Trials|
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”—Job 42:2-3; 5,6
Last time, we saw Job’s despair in trying to find God in the midst of his unforeseen trials, and yet he also saw the light of hope, that no matter what happened, he would continue to believe and “come forth as gold.” Now, after his friends cease their moralizing, a young theologian by the name of Elihu shows up and rebukes Job for suggesting that God has been unjust or dealt with him unfairly.
Then finally, God comes on the scene to speak to Job one on one, granting His servant’s wish to speak directly to the Almighty. However, rather than answering Job’s questions, God came with a few dozen questions of His own—questions about the created order that Job could not answer. God’s point: if you don’t understand the created, physical realm, what makes you think that you can understand what I am doing in the moral realm; what makes you think you can understand My purposes for you or anyone else, for that matter?
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As I think about the role of Songtime in the future and the need for ministries like this to preach the Word of God, I examine the playing field and come out discouraged by some troubling trends I see taking place in Christian media. The technological age has brought with it a massive amount of voices converging on the Christian marketplace. Songtime’s motto is “Many Voices, One Message.” Our goal is to bring together the many different Bible teachers to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, with all of the voices dominating the scene today there comes with it a lot of different messages.
Here are just three trends that I find troubling in Christian media today.
1. Therapeutic Moralism
The vast majority of books that come across my desk are promoting some form of self help formula: Five Steps to Holiness, A Practical Guide to Getting Kids to Go to Church, or How You Can Be Humble Like Me. The common theme in all of these hypothetical titles is their connection to another title of an actual best selling book, “Your Best Life Now.” Therapeutic Moralism tries to come up with shortcuts to what God has said is his work (Philippians 1:6).
The temptation of these sort of strategies is obvious because we want immediate results, but if our transformation is based on anything other than the power of the Word of God it will be burned up with everything else when it faces the final judgment. Understand the tricks of the devil when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Everything satan used to entrap Jesus had good results by practical means. Satan is not interested in getting you to make some major moral lapse in judgment, he is far more satisfied leaving you alone to practice Christianity as long as you do not appeal to the power of the cross.
Therapeutic Moralism has permeated our pulpits. The fastest growing churches are compromising the offense of the gospel to attract wider audiences. As these ministries keep growing, they gain even greater public recognition and they become the very judgment of those who will not remain faithful to the teaching of the Word of God.
This is a very subtle teaching that plays right to our biases. So how do we detect it? Ask these questions, “Are they looking for immediate or eternal results? Are they appealing to grace or works?” Jesus told us to seek first the Kingdom of God and all of these other things would be added to us (Matthew 6:33).
2. Shock Jockeying
In contrast to the Therapeutic Moralist promoting a message of love and happiness, Shock Jocks are banking on the other side of your emotions, hate and anger. The biggest problem with most of these characters in Christian media is that they are often right. They are the ones who are calling out the Therapeutic Moralists. However, they are doing so in a way that aligns them more with the pharisees than Jesus.
Shock Jocks are polarizing by definition. They hardly ever offer a balanced view on any given topic. Even from some of the best ministries there is a form of reductionism that reduces Christianity down to a few themes or positions. This results in more infighting over things that are not central to the gospel rather than unity on the things that truly matter. There is a lot of fear-mongering from these sorts of ministries that make one think that the speck in our brother’s eye is much bigger than the log in our own. This only results in an inflated ego and a complete loss of connection with the world where we were called to be salt and light.
Shock Jockeying is pervasive and it can be extremely difficult to recognize. The easiest way to deflate their egos is to ask them for their references. You could also try asking yourself these questions, “Are they speaking the truth in love? Are they filling me with hope or fear? Are the speakers showing integrity and fairness to their opponents or are they speaking to my prejudices? Is the purpose for this discussion to regain gospel centered unity or to further the divide?” If a preacher is always condemning those outside of the Church but never calling his congregation to examine themselves, steer clear unless you fall into the trap thinking of yourself more highly than you ought to think (Romans 12:3).
3. Sensational Soothsayers
Over recent years, there have been countless public figures who have offered Christians miraculous signs and wonders. The mass majority of these figures have been disproven, yet they are consistently replaced by a new crowd of charlatans and an even larger growing population of willing followers.
Sensational Soothsayers are not always promoting a prosperity gospel. Sometimes they are just trying to sell their own products. This can be seen in the massive amount of books written in the last decade on near death encounters of heaven. The sudden surge of best sellers should cause us to scrutinize what is being promoted. It’s not just ‘heaven and back’ accounts that are captivating Christians’ attention. One of the greatest areas of Soothsaying comes from the exorbitant amount of prophecy teachers rising up out of the increased tensions taking place in the Middle East. We have to be especially cautious that our analysis of current events is consistent with the Word of God and not simply speculation.
Whenever there is a spiritual depression, there will always be a massive amount of Christians looking for a message that tells them what they want to hear. So, how do we detect Sensational Soothsayers? Ask yourself these questions, “Are they just telling me what I want to hear? Is what they are saying consistent with the Word of God and driving me to study Scripture? Are they appealing to any scholarship behind their claims? Do any trusted Bible teachers recommend their book or ministry?”
In conclusion, as long as it is uncomfortable to be a Christian, we will continue to have itching ears and there will be plenty of pundits to meet the demand. Remember that truth is never threatened by questions. Many of these figures hate to be scrutinized. The greatest threat to their teaching is critical thinking. So be like the Bereans, who Paul described as more nobel than the Thessalonians because they questioned what he said and searched the Scriptures (Acts 17:11).
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|A Prayer for Hope|
“Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments…Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”—Job 23:3-4, 8-10
Job felt abandoned by God and his grief was increased by listening to his three friends. Their argument was simple: for Job to have lost his children and his health meant that he had sinned to deserve his fate. So his friends set out to help Job uncover his transgression, confess it, and then he’d be blessed again and free to move ahead with God. For his part, Job did not claim to be perfect, but he simply did not agree that he was the sinner that his friends made him out to be.
With ten fresh graves on the hillside, Job worshipped God when the tragedy came. His wife was of no particular help by encouraging him to “curse God and die” (2:9). But sitting there on the ash heap day after day with painful boils all over his body, his faith vanished, especially in the presence of his friends who kept probing his soul to find the source of his tragedy.
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“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
Isaiah 55:10-11 NKJV
The Songtime ministry is built around the teaching of God’s Word. Even our music is designed to resonate with the Scriptures. Our Statement of Faith reads,
“The 66 books of the Bible are the Word of God; divinely inspired and inerrant in its original autographs; the supreme and final authority for life and practice and the only infallible source of special revelation for knowing God. The Bible is to be studied, taught, and proclaimed by all believers; understood through the power of the Holy Spirit and the proper use of exegesis; honored as doctrine, received as reproof, and applied as instruction in righteousness.”
As Christians, our primary mission is to know God and make Him known. Our mission is to equip you to seek Him. It is in discovering Him that you will find your greatest blessing and reward.
Apart from the passage above being a detailed scientific account of nature’s water cycle, the metaphor gives a beautiful picture to the work of Scripture. It says that the Word of the LORD never returns void and that it always accomplishes its purpose. That is why we give so much of our time to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. Songtime’s program could be compared to the rain in this analogy while all of the stations that carry our broadcast could be compared to different clouds that cover the Northeast. The program covers one of the most spiritually dry regions of America and the words fall on the fertile and the unfertile soils. We continue to do what God has called us to do because we believe in what it says in Isaiah 55 that the Word of the LORD always does exactly what it is supposed to do.
That statement would be enough for us to keep on preaching the Word, but as Paul Tripp recently reminded me, the passage does not end there.
“For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree,
And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree;
And it shall be to the Lord for a name,
For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Isaiah 55:12-13 NKJV
My landlady is a gardener. The last I checked, neither of my thumbs were green. She knows what to expect because she has planted the flowers she wants to see growing in her yard. So when she sees weeds growing she knows that is not right and she has me pull them out. The one thing I do know about gardening is that if you plant rose bushes, water them, and pull out the weeds, you’re not going to see an oak tree sprout out of the ground.
As the metaphor of the rain cycle continues in Isaiah 55 the message takes a drastic turn when we see the effect that the water of the Word has on the plants. Instead of the thorn and brier bushes getting stronger they turn into cypress and myrtle trees. This divine water has the unique properties to transform these irritating weeds into mighty trees.
There are a lot of preachers today who are preaching the Bible as nothing more than a self help book to make you a better you and give you your best life now. That is not the proper use of Scripture. The Word of God has the power to completely transform your life. You won’t just be a better and stronger version of yourself, you will be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.
The ministry of Songtime is perfectly positioned to preach the transforming power of the Word of God to countless numbers of people on a daily basis. We believe the Bible that all of this effort will not return void. We pray that God will raise up mighty trees through the preaching of His Word and that those testimonies will point people to Christ as an evidence of His grace and mercy.
Based on our effort to preach the Word of God, your support of Songtime is one of the wisest investments you could ever make.