Author Archives: cccmusic1

About cccmusic1

I'm a pianist,Bible teacher, Music Administrator on staff at Christ Community Church in Murphysboro, IL.

It’s Not About Us!

Today’s reading:  I Kings 19-20; Acts 13:26-52

In our reading in I Kings 19  today we find that Israel had:  rejected the rule of God; permitted a pagan queen and a perverted king to attack and demolish all but a fragment of the nation’s faith; the altars of God had been razed; the celestial flame had been extinguished in the tabernacle; the sacrifices for sin had ceased; and the priests and prophets had been put to the sword.  Not a pretty picture to begin our story today.

We find Elijah, the prophet of God in the midst of a crisis of faith, quite a turn around from the previous chapters!  He was totally focused on the futility and frustration of his and his nation’s situation and did not remember God’s faithfulness in his and his nation’s past.  When our reading opens, we find Elijah in his enemy’s stronghold, Jezreel.  It appears that the king, Ahab, had at least some respect and awe for Elijah and his exploits, but his queen, Jezebel wasn’t impressed and in fact was furious. Now God certainly hadn’t told Elijah to go to Jezreel and place himself in jeopardy and soon had to flee from her, relying on his own resources.  We ultimately find him in the position of most of us when we get out of God’s will, sitting under a broom tree whining about our circumstances, and wishing we were dead!

But, an angel appears on the scene and prepares a meal for him.  (Does that remind you of another story – Jesus in the wilderness?)  Then the angel sends him on a 300 mile journey through the desert to Mt. Horeb – the place Moses met with God.  Elijah has his own encounter with God there, needing desperately an attitude adjustment.  Has God ever had to get you away from the crowd so that you could hear His voice?  It will change your perspective on things!  Elijah had a divine appointment with God; God’s timing and God’s place.  Oh what a difference it makes when we quit our whining and complaining and begin to listen to what God is saying!  Elijah didn’t think that God had been doing a very good job of taking care of him, but when he rose above himself and became aware of God’s purpose for his life again, he rose and began to do God’s will once again with renewed vigor and purpose.  God sent him to anoint both the kings of Israel and Syria – Syria was later to be used in God’s judgment process for Israel.  And, then to anoint a successor for Elijah.  How many times do we limit our scope of God’s participation in our lives and our world by just focusing on the immediate area around us?  When we do, we limit God and fall prey to the enemy’s designs for us.

When Elijah found Elisha (his eventual replacement), he was plowing in a field, the last in line with eleven teams in front of him.  He was eating everyone else’s dust!  That tells you something about his character, even though he was the son of the owner of this prosperous farm, he was willing to take the last place; the place a servant would normally fill. Elijah simply walks past him, tossing his mantel over Elisha.  Immediately, Elisha’s focus changes from his team and his job of that day to Elijah.  He realized that he had been called by God, and his life would change and never be the same.  He throws down his reins, slaughters his team and feeds everyone, tells his parents goodbye and leaves to follow Elijah.  Now, he left the farm he would have owned at his father’s death, left his responsibilities, his heritage, his family, his future and placed it in God’s hands.  He left to be a servant and to learn God’s purpose for his life.  He had received Elijah’s mantle, the symbol of his authority and power with God.  This young man goes on to receive a double portion of Elijah’s anointing and I think we can understand why:  he was humble, willing to be a servant, to sit at someone’s feet and learn, submitting himself to God.

How this generation, the church, this world and God needs Elishas!  Young people who are willing to focus on God’s plan and purpose for their lives, willing to give up dreams of wealth, prosperity and influence.  Willing to humble themselves and be servants to their generation.  God needs people willing to do exploits for the Kingdom!  God grant us this kind of young people; and older people willing to lead, train and teach those that are called and willing.

We have much to learn from this portion of scripture, especially in the world we live in.  We are very similar to ancient Israel in the direction we are heading   – God grant us Elijahs and Elishas to stand in the gap!


Timing is Everything

Today’s Reading:  Ecclesiastes 1-3; Acts 9:1-22

In today’s society life is a matter of timing.  How many clocks and how many calendars do you have in your home, office and vehicles?  We wear watches on our wrists, have the time displayed on our iPods, phones and laptops.  We are always aware of the time.  When daylight savings time occurs, I groan to think of the time it takes to change the clocks in the house – they’re everywhere!

In today’s reading, we see in Ecclesiastes 3:1 that there is an appointed time for everything and a time for every event under heaven.  When reading this chapter, we find that time is mentioned about 30 times before verse 8!  It must be the key to this passage.

I take great comfort in the fact that every event in our lives is appointed, it’s not random.  God has a purpose in each one of them.  It seems that under God’s calendar, appropriate timing is everything.

There are twenty-eight statements made between verses 2-8.  Fourteen of them are negative, fourteen are positive.  For every negative, there is a positive truth in scripture, and in life.

God has appointed the time and date for our birth and our death.  They are not a surprise to God.  God is sovereign over time, but we are subject to it.  It almost seems that we’re born, then we start our journey toward the grave.  Our time on earth is fleeting – a vapor according to scripture.

Some other thoughts on the rest of this chapter:  Sorrow and joy are both a part of life; we couldn’t fathom the joy if we hadn’t known the days of weeping.  Is it possible to thank God and worship Him in the seasons of life?  Is it possible to find joy in the midst of heartache, sickness or pain?  Can we remain close to God in the midst of the turmoil of life?  If not, then I’m afraid that our faith is in vain.

I’m also happy to learn that God does like garage sales!  Verse 6 tells us that there is a time to keep and a time to clean out and simplify.  Our possessions are temporal.

In verse 7 we find that there is a time to keep your mouth shut!  How much turmoil in our lives could we avoid by thinking before we speak.  Timing is everything!

There is much to learn from this chapter and as we prepare for our Fourth of July celebrations, I think that the last half of verse 8 – the time for peace and the time for war – is especially meaningful.  I think of my Sunday mornings of worship at CCC and thank God again for America and those who have sacrificed their lives to preserve that freedom.  My thoughts go to the young men and women who stand in many places around this world facing danger every day to preserve this freedom.  I especially love the fact that my country is “the home of the brave and the land of the free.”  I don’t like war, but war is a fact of life on this planet until Jesus Christ sets up His kingdom.

I also love the fact that verse 11 states that God has put eternity in our hearts.  Knowing this gives purpose to our lives.  We know that this world is not all there is.

Finally, the writer has challenged us to enjoy what God has given us in this life and to trust the fact that God does everything well, we can’t add to it or take away from it – it will remain forever.  It makes me to understand that life here is temporary – contrast that with the never changing, eternal God!  Some day, time as we know it will be no more, eternity resumes.  Man’s stint in the realm of time has ended.  Timing is everything!

The Wisest of the Wise

Today’s reading:  Proverbs 30-31; Acts 5:22-42

In the last class I took, we took a personality test called the Enneagram.  At the end you found out what number of personality you were – I was a one with a wing of a nine!  Now, I know this doesn’t mean much to you; I’m only mentioning it here because they also assigned a representative creature to each number.  The number of the one’s is the “ant”!    I was a little put out to discover that I was an ant until I read up on ants and I found out that was okay, it was probably pretty accurate for me.

So, what does this have to do with today’s reading?  After reading the whole book of Proverbs,  I’ve come to the conclusion that this whole book is about living wisely in this world.  The Proverbs are clear concise instruction on a multitude of subjects that if followed, would do all of us well in living Christian in a hostile world; living moral in an immoral world.

In verse 24 of chapter 30, the writer points our attention to four small creatures and The Message refers to them as “the wisest of the wise”.   I was thrilled to find that the very first one mentioned was the ant!  The other three were the rock badger or marmot, the locust, and the spider or in some translations the lizard.

What is so compelling in these small, even insignificant creatures that they would be listed as the wisest of the wise?  First of all, they are all small and extremely vulnerable because of it.  I certainly wouldn’t have come up with this list if I had been asked!  But with further research, I’ve come to understand what the writer was trying to convey in this text.

The ant – as frail as the ant is, vulnerable to being stepped on at any moment – the NKJ tells it like this “the ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer.  They have foresight, they plan ahead, they aren’t caught unaware.  I’ve also learned this about the ant, they are capable of carrying many times their own weight!  They are very organized and see to their community’s needs, each fulfilling its role for the better good.  They send out scouts to locate and gather food and leave a scented trail for those who come behind.  They are the ultimate teamwork creatures; one writer saying that the ants could rule the world!  Yes, I’m proud to be an ant!

The marmot or rock badger, I learned, builds its home on the rocks.  It protects its home from the elements and also natural enemies.

Whatever you think about the locust, they work together to strip a field like an army regiment!  They are the ultimate at cooperation with others to see the job well done!

The spider or lizard according to your translation have the same characteristics.  They are both vulnerable by themselves, easy to catch.  But, they manage to dwell in the most beautiful places in the land.

I somehow think that if we were to pay attention to the things these small creatures paid attention to, we might also be considered the wisest of the wise!  If we had foresight, planning for the future (eternity is coming) and positioning ourselves through fiscal discipline and good stewardship, we could be a blessing to those in need and take care of our families at the same time.  If we built our homes on the “Rock”, we would protect it from the elements and also our enemy!  If we worked well with others, we could see the Kingdom of God flourish and take territory and see the job Jesus left us with well done.  We, if we were wise, would rid our homes of vermin and reach the place of power in the land if God has planned that for us – just as the spider or the lizard.

I think the wise Christian has all of these characteristics.  Let’s learn from the most vulnerable how to be wise!

The Purpose, The Promise, The Prayer

Today’s reading:  Proverbs 10-12; Acts 1

In today’s reading we see some notable things regarding believers in the first months after the crucifixion.  One of the most notable is the unity and harmony projected in their dealings with each other and decisions made regarding the church.  “One accord” becomes a dominant description of the leadership of the New Testament church.  Whenever they gathered in Jerusalem, they were said to be in unity and harmony with each other and with God.  Perhaps that is why they turned the world upside down!  Their unity and harmony had to encompass not only spiritual issues, but practical as well for they shared their lives and their possessions.  They had to work together to survive in their world!

We also see another notable fact:  they prayed together often.  This is telling regarding their relationship with each other and also their total reliance on God.  I’ve seen many a “Christian” home go on the rocks because they neglected this discipline.

They had a God-given purpose for being:  to evangelize the world.  They had a promise given to them; the Holy Spirit enabling them to fulfill their God-given purpose.  Prayer was the catalyst to bring the promise and to achieve the purpose, and perhaps this is true of many churches also.

They needed the power of the Holy Spirit to serve effectively; after all, they were to be sent forth to heal the sick, raise the dead, deliver the oppressed and take the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world.  The first anointing of the Holy Spirit would be to “go”.  They had to leave the place they were at home in, their comfort zone.  They had to go and find the lost, hurting, lonely, oppressed.  Then they had to use the authority the Holy Spirit would give them to achieve the impossible, spread the gospel and build the church both locally and worldwide.  Of course, persecution would help them achieve their goals, being a catalyst for movement and change when its easier to just sit down and relax.

The borders of the expansion of this kingdom that God wanted built were laid out clearly:  Jerusalem (local), Judea (national), Samaria (cross-cultural) and “to the ends of the earth” (international). There can be no doubt what God’s purpose was; a world-wide body of believers united by faith and dedicated to one purpose — being ready for the return of Jesus Christ to the earth.

I am once again reminded of the message of verse 11 — the angel’s promise that Jesus would come again!  This promise should have a profound effect on how we behave toward our world.  Jesus has given each of us an assignment and “blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.” (Matthew 24:46)

We get caught up in living life, building families, working at jobs, making a living, building houses, planning for retirement; forgetting the overriding fact above everything else — this is all going to end.  Jesus has promised in John 14:1-3 that He would return and the angels reaffirmed that promise in today’s text….. Are you preparing, ready, waiting for that promise to materialize? The early church lived dangerously because of their belief in that promise, expecting it to happen in their lifetime.  How do we as believers in 2012 compare?


Today’s reading: Psalms 139-141; John 17

Just before His crucifixion, Jesus prays what is probably known as the greatest prayer in the Bible.  John 17 can be divided into three distinct sections.  In the first section, 17:1-5, Jesus prays to the Father for Himself.  He asks that His death bring glory to the Father.  In the second section, verses 6-17, He prays for the disciples, asking that God keep them.  In the third section, verses 20-26, He prays for all believers that they may be one.

It’s amazing to me that Jesus is looking for God’s glory to be manifest in–  of all places — a Roman cross, in the midst of a crucifixion.  The word “glorify” caught my attention in this reading and I looked it up.  The Greek word is “doxazo” which means “show honor” or “reveal the wonderful character of something or someone.”

We know that Jesus’ life exemplified glorifying the Father.  But, have you ever contemplated glorifying God in your death?  Jesus died voluntarily, submitting Himself to the degradation of the whipping post and the cross. He didn’t deserve it, but He did it.  Jesus’ death took guts!  You see He knew it wasn’t only He had to live well, but He had to die well!

The philosopher, William James said that the value of life is computed not by its duration, but by its donation.  (Thank you to my husband and his love for famous quotes!)  It’s normal to think that if Jesus’ relatively short life had continued to a normal length, He could have done more and more miracles, more amazing acts.  But, Jesus’ ultimate donation was surrendering His life to purchase our salvation.  His donation just keeps on giving and giving as more find salvation at the foot of that Roman cross.

Just maybe the real harvest of our life is after our life is over.  We can continue to bear fruit long after our life is over.  God should get glory from our life and our death.  Shouldn’t that be our main concern in life, making sure that God be glorified in our every day on earth and in our death?  So, it’s not how long we live, but how we live and how we die that matters.

Remember, NO GUTS – NO GLORY!

Seeing What Others Didn’t See; Hearing What Others Didn’t Hear!

Today’s reading:  Psalm 36-38; John 12:1-26

Once again scripture that I have read thousands of times in my life as a Christian has opened up to me.  I saw and heard what I hadn’t seen or heard before.  That’s what makes the Bible such a unique book!

With today’s reading in John 12, we are entering the last week of Jesus’ life and this story of the anointing of Jesus in Bethany at Simon the Leper’s house sets the stage for what would happen in that last week on earth.  In the other gospel’s versions of this story, we find other aspects emphasized.   Today’s reading, however,  emphasizes the contrast between Mary and the Disciples and their grasp of Jesus’ words and actions.

We see Mary presented by John as insightful and devoted to Jesus, sitting at His feet, listening to His words and responding with love.  She recognizes that Jesus feet were dirty from His journey that day and wanted to do what servants generally did in the middle eastern households, wash the traveler’s feet.  Instead of using a basin of water from the well and a cloth, she obtains her alabaster flask.  Alabaster was a white, semi-transparent stone used to hold precious and costly ointments and perfumes.  The flask contained Nard, which was a highly aromatic ointment used for anointing priests and kings, anointing the wealthy for burial, or a gift for a king.  Nard was made from a plant that grew in the Himalayan Mountains; it was difficult to obtain and extremely expensive.  Its cost was, according to today’s reading, 300 denari.  The typical daily wage of a worker in that time would have been 1 denari.  It was worth an entire year’s wages!

Mary broke the flask, probably the neck of it as it would have been constructed to only let a drop at a time fall out, so that it could flow freely over both Jesus’ feet and His head.  This action alone shows that Mary had great insight as to who Jesus was and His mission on earth.  1) She saw Him as King.  The very next day He would ride into Jerusalem on the donkey proclaiming Himself as King.  2) She saw Him as Priest.  He was soon to make atonement for the people as a priest, standing between them and God.  3)  She saw Him as the One soon to die and in need of anointing for burial.  And, I believe with my whole heart that she also saw herself as a sinner in need of the salvation He would provide for her.

The result of her devotion – the fragrance filled the room!  She sacrificed her costliest possession for Him; He was soon to sacrifice His all for her and the whole world!

There is a great contrast in this story that I haven’t really noticed before.  Mary listened and heard, watched and took all that Jesus said and did and acted from her heart.  The disciples heard and observed, but didn’t really see and hear.  Mary made the issue Jesus, they made the issue the poor!  Do you suppose that Mary’s wholehearted devotion to Jesus made them uncomfortable?   I have often observed that devoted people make religious folks uncomfortable.  It’s alright to be “devoted” to a hobby or your favorite sport, but if you’re devoted to Jesus you are a “fanatic”.  Why?  It shines the light on their own lack of spiritual priorities.  It’s very convicting to be in the presence of a devoted follower of Jesus.

Mary knew that her significance and her security in this life was in Jesus Christ.  For the disciples, especially Judas, security and significance were still anchored on this earth.  They failed to really see and really hear and were totally unprepared for the reality that was to occur just days from then.

Take advantage of those times you can spend in the presence of Jesus, listen closely to what He is saying.  It just could be very important to you!

Forgotten? Never!

Today’s reading:  Psalm 12-14; John 8:28-59

In today’s reading, Psalm 13 has captured my attention.  Written by David while being hunted by King Saul; though loyal and innocent, he lived as an escaped fugitive for twelve long years.

There was a time in my life when I identified with David closely…I too lived in less than stellar circumstances for twelve long years.  I read David’s Psalms and felt his pain and frustration.  Had God forgotten him?  When in the midst of dark times, it’s not unusual for a Christian to feel that way.

As this Psalm opens, David expresses his frustration at his humiliation meted out by Saul  and the misery of his circumstances.  During my years of despair, I read somewhere that God designs trials for each of us and the circumstances of life are His shaping tools. He designs the depth and length of our trials according to the purpose He has for us to fill.   I even remember a long ago sermon that has stayed buried in my heart and mind for forty years using this Psalm as its focal point.  When I started reading this Psalm, it came to the forefront of my thoughts and I wish to share some of them with you.

In verse one, David asks God a question…”Will you forget me forever?”  What is the depth of this trial, God?  He then asks God…“How long will you hide your face from me?”  What is the length of this trial, God?  David then asks God…”How long will I take counsel in my soul?”  Do I have to use my own plans to survive this trial?  Since we know the end of the story, we know that his trials forged David into a man with great inner strength and sensitivity to his God.  But how did he survive the long years of struggle?

We see in verse three that David is now on his knees…“Consider and hear me O God.”  David knew acutely that his strength to survive depended on his relationship with God and his times of communion with Him.  He goes on to ask God to “enlighten my eyes”.  Restore the sparkle in my eyes, God.  Let me feel the life and vitality to live as I once did.  Trials drain your vitality; mere survival on a day to day basis saps your positive outlook and causes you to focus on your miserable circumstances.  He knows that only God can lighten the load in the midst of the circumstances.

In his time of prayer and communion with God David gets the encouragement to not only survive, but even flourish in the midst of his trial.  In verses five and six we read…“I have trusted in Your mercy…my heart rejoices in Your salvation…I will sing to the Lord for He has dealt bountifully with me!” 

That’s quite a reversal of attitude between the opening stanza and the last of this chapter.  David’s circumstances hadn’t changed – David had changed!  He begins bowed down with his misery and ends on his feet rejoicing before his God!  I’ve always felt that in our weakness and time of trial, God has a platform to do some of His most magnificent work for us humans that trust in Him.  In II Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul tells the Corinthian church that God told him “For My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”  He goes on to say…“For when I am weak, then I am strong!”  There it is again, one of the dichotomies of scripture.  David’s trials and how he faced them had worked in him the mettle that he would need for the plan God had for his life.  That’s an interesting way to face our disappointments and trials – call on God, learn from them, go on to worship God in the midst of them that His strength can work through our weakness to show Himself strong!

Forgotten?  No, definitely not!  David was in the midst of the refining process to become God’s tool, to become the King that would usher in the reign of the King of Kings; the throne and the Kingdom that would never end!

I close with a quote by Jim Elliott:  “The saint who advances on his knees, will never have to retreat.”