Sing With Your Heart!

“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.”

Proverbs 3:13 (NLT)

I recently received another book to review, Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church by Keith and Kristyn Getty. It is a compact book that provides a multitude of reasons for congregational singing. The Gettys have done a nice job incorporating Scripture and quotations from theologians to help make the case that singing together as a group can change the lives of individuals, families and entire church congregations. The book aims to encourage people to sing, even if singing isn’t their particular gift, by noting that God looks at the heart, not the harmony. In the same way, when people, regardless of their skill level, begin to hear and believe the words of truth they are singing, their worship becomes more real.

As I was thinking about how singing relates to Bible study, I thought of Proverbs 3:13, which reminds us that we find joy when we seek out the truths in God’s word, and one way we can discover those truths is by singing them.

Sing! is a great resource for pastors, worship leaders, musicians, song writers and music industry production teams. There are “Bonus Tracks” for each of these groups at the end of the book which give insightful questions and suggestions to encourage congregational singing.

As a layperson who does not carry a tune, but loves singing and all things pertaining to music, I appreciated learning about the things that worship leaders and musicians should consider in order to encourage 100 percent of their members to sing in church. The discussion questions at the end of each chapter were helpful and thought-provoking as well.

However, I believe Sing! makes a better study for worship leaders than for congregation members. Even so, the non-musician will still appreciate reading the occasional song lyrics in the book and being reminded that the most important things are singing with your heart, believing what you sing and not worrying what you sound like.

* I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes and the opinions I have expressed in my review are entirely my own.


Let the Horses Go!

“There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.”

Proverbs 21:30-31 (NIV)

Do you believe that God is sovereign? Or, do you think that people can override God’s plans and purposes?

If you’re unsure about the answer, Solomon laid it out for us in two verses: Proverbs 21:30-31. We can plan all we want, and we can fear the evil that happens around us, but ultimately we must trust that the Lord is in control of all of the things that concern us, and that in the end it is his purposes that prevail. In the same way, in anything we undertake for the Lord, the credit for the victory belongs to him alone.

Even a cursory glance at what is happening in the world can be disturbing, frustrating and disappointing, but the end of the story is triumph for the Lord. We have to remember to live with eyes of faith. The Lord knows and sees what we cannot, so we must remember to trust his promises. Revelation 17:14 tells us, “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” (ESV)  It can’t be said much clearer than that! Jesus is the true victor, and as his followers we will be with him and share in his victory!

In the Bible, Joseph is a perfect example of someone who understood the importance of relying on God rather than his circumstances. He was sold into slavery by his brothers,  imprisoned in Egypt, falsely accused of attacking his boss’ wife, promoted and demoted, forgotten after helping someone, and eventually remembered and promoted again. He never grumbled against his boss or his brothers, and when he was reunited with his brothers, he said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20 NIV) Joseph understood that God was in control, and that it was his purposes which would prevail. He also understood the idea behind Romans 8:28, which assures us that God will work all things, even those things intended for evil, to his good purposes.

When thoughts of despair creep in, remember the end of the story is the Lord’s victory over evil. All who try to prevail in their own strength will ultimately find defeat. Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (ESV) In Solomon’s days, horses, if trained correctly, could be the deciding factor in overtaking an enemy in a battle. But, as Solomon wisely noted, all the trained horses in the world could not win a battle if it wasn’t part of God’s plan.

What are the “horses” in your life that you need to let go of in order to help you trust God more?

Pray through your fears, disappointments and frustrations. Seek out God’s promises in his word. Claim those promises for your situation and live in freedom as you walk in faith!

The Secure King

“Unfailing love and faithfulness protect the king; his throne is made secure through love.”

Proverbs 20:28 (NLT)

Solomon most likely wrote this proverb with the idea of secure kingship in mind, but when I first saw this verse it made me think of the role of a husband in the household.

In a family, the husband is the head of the house, making it his kingdom, so to speak. According to Proverbs 20:28, this leadership role is made secure when the leader is loving and faithful.

It’s like any business. Most employees agree that the atmosphere created in the office comes from the top down. If management is kind and gracious, the rest of the office often follows suit. On the other hand, if management is harsh and selfish, that attitude can continue throughout the company, and even worse, can cause a revolt by the employees.

Our family structures can be like an office staff or a kingdom in that they all need a leader and followers. The Lord calls the husband to love his wife as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25), and also not to exasperate his children but rather to teach them by pointing them to God (Ephesians 6:4). The leader may be in charge, but notice these verses show that life is not all about him. Husbands and fathers have a tough job, and it requires Christlikeness. By their love and faithfulness, their kingdoms are made and kept secure.

As a wife, I find it easier to submit to my husband when he treats me lovingly and faithfully places my interests above his own. When those things are in place, it is easy for me to follow him, even to the ends of the earth.

Next week, on September 25, my husband Bert and I will celebrate 13 years of marriage. Aside from accepting Christ as my Savior, marrying Bert is the best decision I have ever made. He has been my faithful husband and loving friend, helping me through hard times and cheering me on in good times. He has faithfully prayed for me and treated me with respect (1 Peter 3:7). By his love and faithfulness, he is a secure “king” in our home.

Leave Out the Leakiness

“A foolish child is a father’s ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof.”

Proverbs 19:13 (NIV)

If you’ve experienced a leaky roof or faucet – you know the kind where you hear the drip, drip, drip sound that seems never-ending and becomes all you hear to the point of not being able to focus on anything else –  then you will appreciate the image Solomon portrays in Proverbs 19:13.

I’m pretty sure there is not a wife anywhere who wants to be thought of as something as annoying as a leaky roof. But, there it is plain as day: Solomon says that women who quarrel with their husbands are basically like that leaky faucet or roof with their continual dripping. On the surface, a constant drip with its monotonous sound is simply bothersome. But deeper down, the effects of the drip are more costly. Just as a steady drip, over time, can increase a water bill, constant quarreling will create enmity by wearing down a person and can ultimately cost a relationship.

As I thought about this, I realized that when I don’t submit to my husband’s authority and instead argue that my way is better – or even worse, just go my own way – that action makes me an annoying drip. I need to remember that when I married my husband, I vowed to trust his leadership, as Paul explains in Ephesians 5:22-24:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” (ESV)

This idea of submission does not mean wives are a doormat. But it does mean that if you are equally yoked with your husband (both of you are submitting to Christ in your lives), then you should trust your husband’s leadership. Of course, this relationship works both ways, as Paul tells husbands that they should “love their wives, just as Christ loved the church” (Ephesians 5:23 NIV).

It all comes down to respect. If the husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church and the wife respects her husband the way she and her husband respect the Lord, there will be no room for “drippiness.” So, rather than quarrelling, pray first and follow the solutions God provides through prayer and his word in areas in your marriage where you disagree. In fact, why not study the topic together? Marriage is hard, but when Christ is the glue that holds it together, there will be much less room for the leaks of life that come in to annoy and destroy.


Names of Jesus

In my post earlier this week, I mentioned focusing on the names of God to help us learn to live out Proverbs 18:10 and trust the name of the Lord. If you would like a longer devotional than the 30-day one I suggested or one that is focused specifically on names of Jesus, there is a new book, 100 Days With Jesus: A Daily Glimpse Into the Person of Christ by Diann Cotton.

This devotional focuses on 100 names of Jesus, and while some of the traditional names like Bright Morning Star and Living Water are included, there are unexpected ones like Baby, Unchangeable and Minister in the Sanctuary. The devotions are short and will take only a few minutes to read, but they include some nice features. Each devotion begins with the verse from which the name of Jesus is derived. This is followed by a definition of the key word(s) that make up the name. Then the author provides her thoughts on the name, and the devotion ends with a personal question and prayer of praise.

Though short, the devotions are still insightful, and I enjoyed reading about both familiar and unfamiliar names of Jesus and seeing how the author conveyed her thoughts on the verses. I love the author’s story of why she wrote her book – to better understand the names of Jesus that she had put on Christmas ornaments for her tree. It is such a good thing to not take what we hear for granted but to study and investigate when we have questions about the Bible.

The cover of the book is beautiful, and this book would make a nice gift. My only complaint about this book is the pictures that accompany each devotion. While I think color photography is a nice approach and there a few good images scattered throughout the book, most of the pictures seem like stock photos and don’t really add much to the devotions.

Overall, though, I like this book and it will draw you closer to Jesus as you meditate on his character described each day.

Trusting the Name

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.”

Proverbs 18:10 (ESV)

What obstacles are you facing today?  Do you feel like you could use a refuge, some place to find solace and safety? Solomon tells us in Proverbs that there is a place of strength and protection to which we can go in our troubles: the name of the LORD.

How can a name help us? In Proverbs 18:10, name actually refers to the person of God, and the designation LORD represents Yahweh, the Hebrew word for “He is.” God identified himself with this name to a reluctant Moses to encourage him to lead the Israelites in Exodus 3:14-15. Throughout the Old Testament, God comforted, convicted and encouraged people to draw them to himself. He encouraged Abraham with the promise that his descendants would one day become a great nation. He comforted Hagar when she was afraid. He convicted Adam and Eve for their sin against him. He spoke courage to Joshua to motivate him to conquer the promised land. He answered Job‘s doubt by reminding him of the infinite power and knowledge of God. He spoke words of comfort and exhortation through the prophets, all leading up to the revelation of himself through his son Jesus in the New Testament.

Our God is the great I Am who cannot be encapsulated in a simple definition or made to fit into a box of our own design. He is a God of many facets, all of which can speak to us on a daily basis.

What attribute of God would encourage you most today?

God’s word is living and active, and attributes of God that you’ve heard and read about your whole life can become more real to you in every stage of your life.  So, as you read your Bible, look for attributes of God and hold on to the promises they represent.

I recently found a 30-Day prayer challenge on the names and attributes of God.

30 Days of Praying the Names and Attributes of God

As you pray over the next 30 days, remember, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” Proverbs 29:25 (NIV). Trust in the name of the Lord!

For the past month, my family has been praying over some big decisions, and the LORD revealed his greatness to us through Isaiah 43:18-19. We take comfort from this passage knowing that he will make a way in situations where we are unsure.

So, trust the LORD with your worries and problems, just like the psalmist in 91:2: “I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'” (NIV)

I would love to hear your stories of how God reveals his attributes to you. Share them by replying to this post!


Interested in Apologetics?

Recently, I received a copy of The Apologetics Study Bible published by Holman Bible Publishers and I think it is a nice resource for those who would like to learn more about defending the Christian faith. This Bible is filled with articles by experts in apologetics such as Lee Strobel, Ravi Zacharias and Josh McDowell. Some of the articles are easier to understand than others; however, even the most difficult material still gives a good starting point for those seeking to learn apologetics terminology and then research further from there.

Articles cover a variety of topics including “What is Apologetics?,” “How Can We Know the Bible Includes the Correct Books?,” “What About Those Who Have Never Heard about Christ?,” and how Christianity relates to other faiths such as Islam and Hinduism. When I received this Bible, I sat down and started reading the articles and it was hard to put down because each time I turned the page, there was yet another topic I wanted to learn about.

The new CSB translation is easy to read and understand, and the layout of this Bible is beautiful. The type is in two columns and the font is large and easy on the eye. Jesus’s words are not red letter; however, Old Testament passages quoted in the New Testament are set in boldface type in the New Testament text. Although this feature is not unique to this particular Bible, it nevertheless works well for an apologetics Bible because, among other things, it makes it easy to see how Old Testament prophecy was fulfilled in the New Testament.

There are some study notes underneath the Biblical text, but not for every verse. So, if you are looking for a comprehensive study Bible, this one may not be for you, since the study notes serve mainly to reflect apologetics ideas as they fit in with specific verses. Another nice feature of this Bible is the “Twisted Scripture” notes that occur occasionally to point out how certain Scriptures are manipulated or interpreted incorrectly.

The structures of the introduction sections for each book in the Bible are unique – while each introduction includes an Author section, the remaining sections are structured uniquely to best relate to the particular book they cover. The Bible also features an annotated bibliography for topics in apologetics, a nice concordance, and a handful of color maps.

Overall, I really like this Bible because it is so easy to read and it has opened my eyes to ways to defend my Christian faith. I also think an unbeliever would find this Bible useful to answer questions they have about the Christian faith.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes and the opinions I have expressed in my review are entirely my own. I look forward to using the new CSB translation and apologetics study notes as I research Proverbs for new posts.