More On Harmony

Daily Devotions

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Play In Harmony (part 2)

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:8   Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 

After talking to a few people about yesterday’s devotional, I came to discover that it had a lot more meaning to me than to anyone else. I find that happens a lot, because I still have this disconnect between what my mind is thinking and what my words are saying. In my mind, it was very clear how the analogy of a band connected to the reality of the church. For me, there were multiple points of application to our lives throughout the devotional, especially in regards to our relationships within the body of Christ. Yet after reading the whole devotional, and coming to the last line, one person commented, “I wondered when this would make a point.” I guess I need to try again.

In First Peter 3:8, Peter is bringing to a conclusion his excellent teaching on the subject of submission. He has written to citizens and leaders, employees and employers, wives and husbands, and now wraps it all up by addressing everyone in the church. His command for us from the Holy Spirit is to live in harmony with one another within the church. That will only be the reality if the people of the church are living in submission to Christ and to one another.

Harmony requires community. Community requires connection. Connection requires humility. Humility breeds sympathy, compassion, and love, which together strengthen connections, growing greater community, and producing richer harmony.

One of the most important points made yesterday (maybe it was too subtle) was the emphasis on encouragement. In the body of Christ, we must recognize that gifts, abilities, and skill don’t equate to worth. Every person is needed. Every person is valuable. Some instruments of God are more noticeable than others, but none is more worthy than any other. When one part of the body does something commendable under the power of the Holy Spirit, the rest of the body rejoices for two reasons: they played a supporting role, and, the vision and goals of the whole are being realized. As a result, those who get recognition are honored and encouraged with sincerity because there is no jealousy. Individual goals are surrendered for the sake of the community, so individual recognition is not sought, but it is given by the community as an encouragement to all.

Harmony is destroyed and discord happens when individuals begin to demand recognition. This is deadly to church community. People who stand up to be noticed divert attention from the Director. People who stop playing because they aren’t getting noticed cause the rest of the community to suffer a loss in productivity. People who criticize the sounds made by other community members are themselves making ugly sounds. If there is to be true harmony, then there must be humility, for only humility can unite diversity.

Harmony is the result of diversity united by a common objective.  The Director has arranged the instruments exactly the way he knows their sounds will complement one another and produce the best possible result. He has handed out the music with unique notes on each sheet specifically written to produce the best possible sound out of each instrument and blend in perfect harmony with each of the other instruments. He stands at the front of the band – the church – and raises His hands, and all attention is drawn to Him. Not one member is looking at the crowd any longer. No one is playing for the audience any more. Everyone is intent on playing exactly what the director has assigned them to play. Everyone has one purpose – fulfill the goal of the Director by playing their best.

My friends, we are Christ’s band of brothers and sisters. We are the church. We are a connected community. We have each been uniquely assigned a gift by the Holy Spirit to be used completely and continually in harmony with one another. We accomplish harmony by being sympathetic, compassionate, humble, and loving. We have surrendered our personal goals and any need for individual recognition so that the objectives of the Director can be accomplished. And when the Director chooses to point at someone, we will all cheer for them, just as we hope they will cheer for us when the Director points our way. Not because we want the recognition, but because we want people to know what a great Director we have. Who else could have brought out the best in us? The cheers are really for Him.

Pastor John

Play In Harmony

Daily Devotions

Monday, June 29, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Play In Harmony

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:8   Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 

Music has always been an important part of my life. I grew up with talented parents who both played the piano and organ magnificently. My mom also played the flute. I took piano lessons first, and then moved to band instruments. I played the trumpet, then the baritone, followed by the trombone, and while learning all of them I also learned guitar, bass fiddle, and marimba. By the time I was in 9th grade I could play them all.

I learned some valuable lessons from my musical training. First, I wasn’t first chair in my section all the time. It was always my goal, but I wasn’t always good enough. I had to learn to live with second chair. My best friend, Carl Zeigler, was just a little better than me at playing the trombone. We were always challenging each other during the practice sessions. One day he would be first chair; the next day I would be. But when we played together in the concerts, it wasn’t to compete, but to blend. We both pushed ourselves to be the best we could be, because that made the whole band better.

Second, I learned that without second and third chairs, there would be no harmony. Melody is great, but it gets pretty boring after a while. Harmony and rhythm are needed to bring out the richness of the musical experience. Someone once said that the most important position in any orchestra is second fiddle. They add richness to the music by adding harmony. They add harmony because they are humble.

Third, I learned that I don’t get to play melody all the time. And when I do, there’s no special recognition for it. Sometimes the trumpets had melody. Sometimes the clarinets. Everybody got a chance to play it sometimes, depending on the song. I even remember one song where the tuba got a solo. But when we were young and immature, no special recognition was given for melody-playing. Band was about unity, not recognition.

As we got older supposedly more mature, recognition was allowed. On very special occasions during a concert the band director would point at one section after the song was over and have them stand. The rest of the band would join with the audience in giving them the recognition they deserved. There was no jealousy or envy or fault-finding. We were being taught that sometimes someone does something special and they deserve to be praised for it.

Then came high school, and we got to play in what we called “stage band.”  Some of you know it as jazz band. During those concerts, featured soloists would stand while they played the melody, and the audience would applaud. The soloists had been given the liberty to improvise and embellish the melody show off their skills. When they were done, they would sit down and blend back into the rest of the group. Even while they were standing, the rest of the group supported them with harmony and rhythm so they would sound their best.

In band, everyone knew that there would be others who would be better musicians than they were. They knew that not everyone played all the instruments. They knew that it took all the instruments to make the band complete. They knew that it took all the sections to create all the harmony to bring out the richness of the music. Band members understood that while they were each challenged to be the best they could be, it was not for the purpose of individual recognition but for the overall excellence of the band.

Then, at the end of the concert, after the audience has cheered for the band, the band cheers for the director, knowing that ultimately he deserves all the credit for teaching them to play in harmony.

Let this be the picture of the church today, as we play our instruments in harmony with one another for the glory of the Director.

Pastor John

Unhindered Prayer

Daily Devotions

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Unhindered Prayer

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:7   Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

I am fascinated by statements people make that contradict Scripture. On several occasions I have had to confront people who have stated that they were praying for permission to do something God’s Word already forbids. I once had a young woman tell me that she and her new married boyfriend had prayed about their “love” for each other and that God had given them peace that their adultery was not a sin for them.  I thank the Lord for the spiritual maturity of the Elders that rebuked her with the authority of God’s Word.

So many people have the wrong understanding of prayer and the wrong motivation for praying. For many, prayer is nothing more than an emotional tool to bring self-assurance. Others believe it is the secret ingredient that, when made public, brings affirmation and praise from others about choices they have made. You’ve heard people say things like, “I prayed about this before I made the decision.” Their expectation is that when we hear they prayed about it, we will accept their decision as God’s will.

But the Bible does not define prayer as a “genie-in-a-bottle” approach to satisfying one’s own desires. In fact, any sin in our lives actually hinders our prayers, and the prideful pursuit of our own desires is sin. If we have unrepentant sin in our lives in just one part of our life, it closes the ear of God to our prayers in every area of our life. King David said in Psalm 66, If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.

In Peter’s inspired writing today, he declares that when a husband does not treat his wife with the consideration and respect she deserves, he sins. As a result, his whole prayer life is affected. Men, the reason many of you are not powerful in prayer is because you’ve chosen to be too powerful in the home. Being in control of your own life is the very antithesis of prayer. Prayer requires submission to God’s control. Pride demands that our own will be done. Prayer seeks to know and do the will of God.

One way that you can be considerate of your wife and show her the proper respect she deserves is to pray with her. Praying together with your wife shows her that you consider her your equal. This is crucial, and yet tragically overlooked by many of us, including me.

Paul Tournier, writing in Leadership, says, It is only when a husband and wife pray together before God that they find the secret of true harmony: that the difference in their temperaments, their ideas, and their tastes enriches their home instead of endangering it. There will be no further question of one imposing his will on the other, or of the other giving in for the sake of peace. Instead, they will together seek God’s will, which alone will ensure that each will be fully able to develop his personality …. When each of the marriage partners seeks quietly before God to see his own faults, recognizes his sin, and asks the forgiveness of the other, marital problems are no more. Each learns to speak the other’s language, and to meet him halfway, so to speak. Each holds back those harsh little words which one is apt to utter when one is right, but which are said in order to injure. Most of all, a couple rediscovers complete mutual confidence, because, in meditating in prayer together, they learn to become absolutely honest with each other …. This is the price to be paid if partners very different from each other are to combine their gifts instead of setting them against each other.

Men, you are at the starting line. Forget what has happened in the past. Don’t look behind you. Look ahead at the finish line, where Jesus is waiting. Your goal is to run the race with perseverance and discipline, and to be found faithful at the end. And the greatest testament to your faithfulness will be when you cross that finish line hand-in-hand with your wife and present her to Jesus as His bride.

On your marks! Take your position in your marriage – the spiritual leader of your home. It’s the position God has assigned you and equipped you to fill.

Get set! Plan the strategies for winning the race. Then kneel down and stretch out so that you start the race from a position of humility.

GO! Run! Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and run! Be strong. Be courageous. And when you look to your side to see if she’s keeping up, you’ll discover something incredible. You’ll see Jesus running with you, making sure you stay together. 

Pastor John

Get Over Yourself

Daily Devotions

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Learn To Be Considerate

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:7   Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Men love stories. I had breakfast this morning with a brother in Christ. Our purpose for meeting was to further study the subject of salvation and to clarify some teaching that confused him. We started our meeting at 6:25. Soon the stories were flowing. Stories of bow hunting, fishing and golfing. It wasn’t until 7:00, after the food had been eaten, that we got down to the real business of the day.

Stories captivate the hearts of men, so I have a story for you that will help bring to light the truth of Peter’s admonition to husbands to be considerate and respectful of their wives. The story comes from Howard Hendricks, preacher and professor at Dallas Theological Seminary.

 We had one of the Dallas Cowboys come to Christ a few years back. What a testimony! He came to me one day and said, “Howie, I’m going out to Thousand Oaks for the training camp and need an assignment.”

I said, “Okay. I want you to read the Book of Ephesians.”

“The what?”

“The Book of Ephesians.”

“How you spell it?”

I said, “Have you found Matthew?”

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, “I got it right here in the front.”

I said, “Okay, find Matthew, go right, and you’ll run into it.”

So he gets out to Thousand Oaks, California. I found out later he read the Book of Ephesians six times, every single day. When he came back he called me up and said, “Hendricks, I’ve got to get together with you. You know that assignment you gave me?”

I said, “Yeah.”

“Man,” he said, “it blew my mind! That’s a wipe out.”

I said, “Okay. Come on over.”

So he comes over, he opens the book—isn’t it wonderful to work with people who have no idea what you know?—“Here … here it is right here! Here: ‘Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church.’ Whooo!” he said. “That’s impossible!”

I said, “Fantastic, man! You have made the greatest discovery in your Christian life, and that is that the Christian life is not difficult; it’s impossible. Let me ask you a question. What does your wife do that you appreciate?”

Typical male fashion, he says, “Oh, lots of things.” “Well,” I said “name one.” “Well,” he said, “for example, she’s a good cook.” I said, “Great. That’s your assignment. I want you to go home and tell her how much you appreciate her cooking.” “Oh, man,” he said, “I—I couldn’t do that. That’d take a miracle.” I said, “Great. That’s what God specializes in.” “Well,” he said, “we’d better pray about that.”

We got down. I’ll never forget this guy’s prayer, “Oh, God, you’ve got a rough assignment here.” Then—you know, the Lord’s so beautiful—the guy gets up from his knees and goes home. His wife knocked out the best meal he’d ever seen: six courses, beautifully spread table, candlelight, the works.

I said, “How’d you enjoy the meal?”

“Aw,” he said, “it was horrible.”

I said, “Why? What’s the matter?”

“Oh,” he said, “I just sat there saying ‘God, you gotta do it.’ “

“Well,” I said, “what happened?”

He said, “Well, finally the Lord encouraged me, and I got up and I ran around to the other side, and I grabbed her.”

I said, “What happened?”

“She went as white as the table cloth,” he said. “I really think she thought I was gonna clip her.” And he said, “I lifted her up so that I could talk to her eyeball to eyeball, and I said, ‘Woman, that was wonderful!’ And I knew we were off the ground.”

He gave his testimony last Friday in Dallas. It just blew the minds of the guys. He said, “Man, I want you to know that I was the most yellow man in America behind a closed door. I’ll take on anybody in the NFL. It usually takes two or three in the pits. But, you put me behind a closed door, and I’m yellow.” Then he said, “Jesus Christ came into my life. How do I know it’s real? I’ll tell you. He took a self-centered, great-big football stud like me, who had all of his life revolving around him, and he began to deliver me from myself.”

Start today to get delivered from yourself, so you can truly care about your wife. She is your equal heir in life.

Pastor John

She’s the Queen

Daily Devotions

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Descending Into Greatness

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:7   Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Married folk are not to act as they now usually do. The men are almost lions in their homes, hard toward their wives. The women, too, everywhere want to domineer and have their husbands as servants.

That assessment of the state of marriage could very easily have been written recently, but it wasn’t. It was actually written by Martin Luther in the 1500’s. Relationship problems resulting from an improper understanding of submission have existed since marriage began.

Men, it’s time for Peter, and for me, to address some serious issues that we need to get right or our relationships will be all wrong. Over the past few days of devotionals, you may have been tempted to think that it’s been good to have someone writing about what’s wrong with your wife. Now I’m going to give your wife the same opportunity, so get ready to take your medicine too.

When Peter told wives to be submissive to their husbands, he put it in the context of what he had just written on the subject to others. He used the words, in the same way. Hey guys, pay attention, he says it again. Husbands, in the same way So every one of us men is responsible to go back to every point made about how women are to live in relationship to their husbands, and apply those principles to ourselves. 

The first thing we’d better get right is that the responsibility to submit to them is greater for us than it is for them to submit to us. How do I know this? First, the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 5:21 that we are to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. Then, he tells the wife to submit to the husband as unto the Lord – in a living relationship. And finally, he tells the husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, in a dying relationship. The call upon men to submit demands more than the call for women to submit.

Think about this for a minute. God created woman from man. She was created with a nature to help. Man was created to rule over all of creation. Woman was commanded to help man rule. Women will more naturally submit to leadership, while men aspire to be leaders. When Christ gave up His life for the church, He did so even though He was perfectly qualified to rule and reign, and was already in that position. Men, we are called to do the same. Our call to submit demands the total sacrifice of our lives and position for the sake of our wives. We are only able to do this if we have the same motivation as Christ – LOVE.  

Kevin A. Miller, an editor in suburban Chicago, writes, I’d just finished mowing the lawn, and it seemed like the perfect time to spray Weed & Feed on the grass. Except I didn’t have any Weed & Feed.

“I’m going to the store,” I told Karen.

“But the kids and I are waiting for you to go to the pool with us,” she said.

“That can wait,” I said.

“Honey,” she said, “we promised the kids we’d all go.”

Next thing I knew, we were having a heated argument. I knew what I wanted; what she wanted could wait.

Most of us stumble over the words of Ephesians 5:21 because we’re concentrating on what’s fair. But if we insist on playing out our marriage that way, we only bring pain to our spouses and ourselves. To paraphrase Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, “If you insist on an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, you’ll both end up blind and toothless.” God wants to spare us that pain, so he gives us a better way: “Submit to one another. 

That doesn’t come naturally. Scripture has to remind me: Exaltation comes after humility. You have to descend into greatness.

So, men, start learning to submit. You are not the lord of the land nor are you the king of your castle. You are the servant of the daughter of the King. She is your princess. Treat her like your queen.

Pastor John

Don’t Be Afraid

Daily Devotions

Monday, June 22, 2009

 Current Study: First Peter

 Today’s Topic:  What Are You Afraid Of?

 Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:5-6   For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

 After Philip Yancey and his wife reached their 25th wedding anniversary, he reflected on their experience:

 Before marriage, each by instinct strives to be what the other wants. The young woman desires to look sexy and takes up interest in sports. The young man notices plants and flowers, and works at asking questions instead of just answering monosyllabically. After marriage, the process slows and somewhat reverses. Each insists on his or her rights. Each resists bending to the other’s will.

 After years, though, the process may subtly begin to reverse again. I sense a new willingness to bend back toward what the other wants—maturely, this time, not out of a desire to catch a mate but out of a desire to please a man who has shared a quarter-century of life. I grieve for those couples who give up before reaching this stage.

 Unfortunately, many couples do give up before they reach the stage of surrender and submission again. We generally call that the mid-life crisis. It’s that age where unfulfilled dreams and goals become over exaggerated and attack our sense of worth. We feel slighted by the life we are living. We begin to see greener grass on the other side of the fence. We become self-centered, which, if left unchecked, will lead to self-serving choices. In the case of women, this will lead to affairs with men who communicate, understand, and validate their dreams. Their perception quickly changes and they begin to believe that submission will never accomplish any grand purpose in their lives, and that God has left them to fend for themselves.

 I think today’s verses from Peter give us a key to understanding this. In his final statement about the true beauty of a woman, he gives a warning. I believe the whole discussion on the subject of submission hinges on this one point. Peter says to be careful not to give way to fear. What kind of fear is he talking about?

 To begin with, I do not believe he is talking about being afraid of another person. He is not advocating ignoring fear caused by potential or real physical harm from an abusive husband. In the context of his whole discussion on submission, it seems that Peter is referring to the fear that is self-generated by pride. It is the fear that stems from the false belief that self cannot and will not be fulfilled or satisfied by obedience to any other person. Fear like that is the product of distrust. Not distrust of people, but distrust of the promise of God.

 My dear friends – my heart is heavy today. While yesterday was a fantastic Father’s Day filled with family and fun for me, I am disturbed by the overwhelming blindness of people to their own pride, especially within the context of marriage. I deal with far too many relationship issues with people that are based on one common point contention reflected in statements such as I’m not being satisfied, or He’s not meeting my needs, or When do I get to fulfill my dreams for life?

 Ladies, I’m not assuming that every husband is perfect, but if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, and your husband, saved or unsaved, is willing to live with you, support you, care for you, and love you, then the true beauty of Christ will be seen in you by trusting God to use your husband to fulfill you. Do not give way to the fear that God will not fulfill His promise to you. Do not let fear cause you to run from doing what is right and turn instead to self-fulfillment. Be patient, and trust God. Put your hope in Him, not in what you think the world will provide for you. There’s way too much self-gratification going on. There’s way too much denial that it is. Surrender to Christ. Submit to others. Be the servant of those God has put into your life, and trust Him to exalt you.

 Pastor John

You’re Beautiful

Daily Devotions

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic: What Is Beauty?

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:3-4   Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

What am I going to wear today? I actually ask that question to myself every night, substituting the word “tomorrow” for today. I usually get up much earlier than my wife, so I lay out my clothes in the bathroom the night before. The rationale I use to make the decisions are simple – what’s the weather going to be like and what am I going to comfortable in accomplishing my tasks. Very rarely do I ever consider how it will make me look or what others will think of me. I know what you’re thinking – maybe I should consider those last two things more often. Tough! It’s not going to happen.

On the other hand, the question of what to wear each day is a huge dilemma for some. I know for a fact that it’s a lot more serious decision for women than it is for men. Author Billie Hawks of Columbia, Missouri, shares some insights into solving this issue of true beauty.

For most ladies this is a daily dilemma because we want to look our best. Some women consult the latest fashion magazines for hints on hairstyles, clothes and makeup. But, believe it or not, the Bible offers tips on fashions that never go out of style. Here are some of the requirements for the well-dressed Christian woman:

1. A gentle and quiet spirit  (1 Peter 3:3-4). This does not mean we must be silent or never speak our mind. It does mean that we should not be loud or boisterous, or call attention to ourselves by being bawdy or brazen.

2. Contentment (Heb. 13:5). We may not have a big, fancy house or the latest car, but we need to remember to count the blessings we do have and to be content with them. Nothing is less attractive than a jealous spirit.

3. A smile. This is a reflection of a joyous heart. Christians have every reason to be happy because we have hope above all hope (John 16:22). Why would others desire to serve Christ if they see us wearing pained expressions on our faces? Don’t forget that smile!

4. Inner peace (Rom. 5:1). God gives us strength and peace in facing whatever we encounter every day.

5. Confidence…not necessarily in ourselves so much as in Christ (Phil. 4:13). He is our strength and our refuge (Ps. 46:1-2).

6. Kindness. Before we act, react or speak we should always consider the feelings of the other person. How would you feel if you were in their shoes (Matt. 7:2)? Treat them kindly, gently, with compassion.

 If you remember to wear these things daily you still may not make Blackwell’s Best Dressed List, but you will make Christ’s list. Which is more important to you?

Another famous author, Jill Briscoe, offers help in facing the tensions felt when we place an unnecessary emphasis on external beauty.

 One day I had a speaking engagement in Florida and I shared a table with three elegant young women. I felt fat, forty, and somewhat futile.

 Suddenly and unexpectedly God inquired of me, “Why do you think everyone is so tense?”

 “Competition,” I replied with sudden understanding.

 I distinctly heard his next words: “Jill, you’ll never be competition.”

For the first time I thanked God for my ordinary good looks. I could be a big sister to women, a friendly mother, an aunt. I could relax, knowing I would never threaten anyone. God had made me just right for my ministry of teaching women, and that was all that mattered.

God has made us all “just right” for the purpose of serving Him. Stop spending so much time trying to improve on what He made. And stop letting your life be ruled by the law of the world which defines beauty as skin deep. God says beauty emanates from the heart.

Speaking to all you ladies as a man, I can tell you that the beauty of your heart makes you beautiful in every way. Real men know that. Real men love that!

Pastor John