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My Weapon is a Melody

This Sunday we added a new song, Raise a Hallelujah, to the canon of songs we sing at Coats Baptist. I have personally loved worshiping to this song since it was released, but that doesn’t always constitute a song becoming one of the songs we sing during corporate worship gatherings. I’ve found this anthem to be worthy and anointed by God. It brings glory and honor to Him only. It is a powerful declaration of faith in the power of God over all things in our lives. It’s repetitive enough to easily learn, yet not a boring cookie-cutter worship tune.

It was also birthed from a powerful story of faith. You may have even been a part of this story going viral on social media. Read this song story below:

Bethel Music CEO Joel Taylor and his wife Janie took their two-year-old son Jaxon to the hospital with what they thought was a normal child’s illness. The Taylors soon discovered that Jaxon’s kidneys were shutting down due to an E-coli virus attacking his organs. Jaxon then began to undergo blood transfusions and go on dialysis, while suffering from seizures and respiratory issues.

 

Soon after, their four-year-old daughter Addie was diagnosed with the same infection. Faced with the possible loss of their son and daughter, the couple cried out to their community for prayer and support. Joel Taylor recorded a video on Instagram asking for prayer from the community that soon went viral, as Christians from all over the world joined in prayer and intercession for the Taylors.

 

Worship leaders and friends of the community Jonathan and Melissa Helser were in constant contact with the Taylors from the beginning of the crisis, and received news one night that the Taylors didn’t think Jaxon would make it through the night. “As soon as I got that text, I felt like this giant of unbelief stood in front of me,” Jonathan Helser said. “I thought, ‘Jaxon’s going to die tonight, we’re not going to see the miracle.’”

 

As the Helsers dove into prayer over Jaxon, a new song came out. “All of a sudden, out of my gut, this song came out in the face of the giant – ‘I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies. I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief.’” This song became an anthem for the Taylors throughout the rest of the battle over Jaxon’s life.

 

Making worship their weapon, more friends from the community came to the hospital room and sang over Jaxon and Addie. After several weeks in the hospital, numerous treatments and countless prayers, the Taylors were admitted to go home with two healthy children. Joel Taylor recounts his experience, “God’s timing often doesn’t make sense until you look back to see that mountains were climbed and canyons were crossed on no strength of your own. In the battle for Jaxon’s life, the global church community rose up like a mighty army and joined us in prayer and worship all over the world. Our son was miraculously healed and today is perfectly healthy.”

If I had to choose, I’d say my favorite line from this anthem is “I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody.” There are so many instances in my life that I’ve faced with a song – with a battle cry to the Lord. God, the creator of all, has created us with a song in our hearts that is intended to worship Him in the best and worst of times. When all is well in your life, raise a hallelujah for His goodness. When you face a season of uncertainty, raise a hallelujah for His sovereignty. When everything is falling apart around you, raise a hallelujah for His unshakeable hope.

Use the songs of hope, faith, and assurance that God has given to you in your life as a weapon against doubt, fear, and failure. I encourage you to add Raise a Hallelujah to your arsenal. Sing in the middle of the storm. Louder. And LOUDER. Let them hear your praises roar!

Bind My Wandering Heart to Thee

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”

As a new year begins to take off, I once again find my heart confessing these words found in the beautiful hymn “Come Thou Fount”. How easy it is for my heart to wander, especially when life is busy. Keeping my wandering heart focused on God requires discipline.

As a new year begins, many of us will reflect on last year and set new spiritual goals for the upcoming year. If you are like me, it will not be long before you become discouraged in your pursuit of your new goals.

Last year, I took a spiritual discipline class with Dr. Lawless. He gave our class some practical tips for practicing spiritual disciplines that I consistently review, as it helps my spiritual life flourish. Many of us want to practice these spiritual disciplines but have never been taught how. I want to share some of the things I learned to encourage you as you practice spiritual disciplines.

Bible Reading

One of the first chapters my new Bible reading plan had me read this year was Psalms 19. In Psalms 19 we see that the law of the Lord is perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, pure, and reliable. His Word renews our soul, enlightens our eyes, and makes our heart glad. What a great reminder of the importance of reading God’s Word.

When it comes to Bible reading, quality is greater than quantity. Set a realistic goal. If you have not previously pursued God’s Word, it may not be realistic for you to try to read through the Bible in year, but you can still set a goal. You may try reading through one book each month. As the quality of your Bible reading improves, quantity will follow. I would also recommend having a friend hold you accountable. Personally, the best way I have found to do this is by having friends send me an email daily with insights and prayer from their devotional time and having them hold me accountable for sending an email with my reflections. This trains me to share what God is teaching me with others.

Prayer

As you dive into the Word, the natural response will be prayer. Praying Scripture leads to more focused and God-centered prayers. However, you must schedule time to pray. If you do not intentional plan times to pray and read your Bible, it will easily get pushed to the bottom of the list. One trick I find helpful is keeping my prayer journal open throughout the day and adding to it continuously instead of waiting until my devotional time to communicate with God.

Journaling

I have failed at this discipline over and over again. The best way for me to journal is to be brief and invest in a journaling Bible. Each year in a new journaling Bible I write prayers and notes on the three Biblical themes I select. Though these small steps have helped me consistently journal, the biggest reward from this spiritual discipline has been reflection. As I reflect on previous prayers, I can see the many ways God has been faithful to answer these prayers. Journals are a practical way to leave behind a witness.

“Tune my heart to sing thy grace. Bind my wandering heart to Thee.”

This is my prayer as the year continues, that God will bind my wandering heart to His as I seek to grow in my relationship with Him through Bible study, prayer, and journaling.

Examine Yourself

Christians understand that spiritual health is the product of regular examination of their walk with Christ. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.” (2 Corinthians 13:5) Therefore, we do well to remember this axiom: Without periodic evaluation it is impossible to maintain proper direction.

Below is a simple list of self-examining questions to promote spiritual health. They represent common spiritual habits to be found in the life of a healthy, fully devoted follower of Christ. Thirty-one in total, one for each day of the month. Together, the points are a diagnostic checklist to evaluate your spiritual health.

  1. Do I believe the gospel? 2 Corinthians 5:21      
  2. Do I use a prayer list? 1 Timothy 2:1
  3. Do I serve my church? 1 Peter 4:10
  4. Do I work at my marriage? Colossians 3:18-19
  5. Do I confess my sins? 1 John 1:9
  6. Do I keep bad company? 1 Corinthians 15:33
  7. Do I read my Bible regularly? Psalm 119:1
  8. Do I worship God personally? Colossians 3:16
  9. Do I love my enemies? Matthew 5:44
  10. Do I walk in the Spirit? Galatians 5:16
  11. Do I live on mission? Matthew 28:19-20
  12. Do I have a generous heart? Acts 2:46
  13. Do I think pure thoughts? Philippians 4:8
  14. Do I keep a Christian witness? Ephesians 4:1-2
  15. Do I make disciples? Mark 8:34
  16. Do I pray for church leaders?Hebrews 13:17-19
  17. Do I desire God’s will? Ephesians 5:17
  18. Do I read Christian literature? Romans 12:2
  19. Do I speak slander? James 4:11
  20. Do I share the gospel? Colossians 1:28
  21. Do I join in church ministry? Hebrews 10:25
  22. Do I comfort those who hurt? 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
  23. Do I sow discord? Titus 3:10
  24. Do I practice hospitality? Hebrews 13:2
  25. Do I discipline my tongue? Ephesians 4:29
  26. Do I abide in Christ? John 15:4
  27. Do I guard my eyes? Job 31:1
  28. Do I steward my resources? Malachi 3:10
  29. Do I count my blessings? James 1:17
  30. Do I invite people to church? Luke 19:10
  31. Do I desire peace with others? Romans 12:18

What Gift Can I Bring?

What does Jesus want for Christmas?  Have you ever stopped to consider that?  Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth so what gifts are we giving Him?  This is not a trick question.  What does Jesus want?  He literally has EVERYTHING.

For many years I heard the gospel described as a free gift.  And while it is a gift freely given, it cost Jesus 33 years on this earth rather than the glory He deserved in heaven.  It cost him pain, suffering, and death in the cruelest of ways.  So, to describe it as a “free gift” does not really fit.  It had the greatest of costs.

One of the biggest mysteries in all creation is why God choose to love us in the first place?  We stand before him and our best is as filthy rags.  And He already knows this.  He already knows not only that Peter will reject him.  He knows I will too.  And yet He came.

When I look at my life in the perspective of the manger and the cross, I find myself sorely lacking.  When I think of how little I know of what it means to sacrifice for Him I am downcast.  When I come to terms with the feelings of pride or self-righteousness in my own heart I am sickened and terrified.

So, what can I bring Him?  What kind of birthday present can I offer to the Lord of all Creation whose name I am not even worthy to utter?

He only wants one thing.

He wants me. To be more specific, He wants all of me.

Understand, by definition, “part” is not “all”.  I can’t be His on Sunday and mine the other six days of the week.  In truth, if I gave Him 167 hours of the 168 hours I have in a week and kept just one for myself, I have not given “all”.

Luke 14:25–35 describe what it means to follow Jesus.  It gives us a framework for His expectations of us.  It says things like, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”  And, “every one of you who does not say good-bye to all his possessions cannot be My disciple.” This is the same passage that describes our love for parents and siblings as “hate” when compared to our love for Jesus.

Does that describe you?  I know it does not describe me.  I know I hold things back from Him.  I know I set family over Him at times.  I know I have truly sacrificed very little for Him in my life.

How does this relate to giving Jesus a birthday present?

I believe Jesus’ desire is for our hearts to be bent to the task of giving ourselves to Him fully.  The question is not, “have I given everything to Him completely?” The question is, “does He have more of today than yesterday.”  Surrendering our lives to Jesus is truly a journey, not a destination we will find this side of heaven.

So for this year, I want to give Jesus the gift of myself.  Not as I hope to be, but as I am.  In this next year, I want to walk with Him.  Share my hopes and dreams with Him.  Share my burdens and my struggles with Him.  I don’t want to hold anything back.  I want to give thanks to Him for the joys.  Lean on Him during the hard times.  Be conscious of the time I give other things that could be His.  I want to go where He sends me, and do what He asks of me.  When all is said and done, He just wants me to let Him love me, and for me to love Him back.  With all my heart.  And for my love for Him to have action.

He wants the same for you.  Will you give Him that?

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