Make Music In Your Heart

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Might I suggest that maybe you, too, have a song in your heart? In fact, if you truly appreciate what Jesus has done for you, you should. So why not make music in your heart, at least to the Lord? Perhaps you should even begin to record your songs. You see, what is in your heart—the love and gratitude that is there toward God—is a song in unrecorded form. No one other than God and you may read it, but the God part of that combination is reason enough for you to write it. And who knows, but maybe at some point in your life, or after your life ends, others may pick up what you have done and be inspired to make music in their own heart with the song that God has put there.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 23:1-5

When David was old and full of years, he made his son Solomon king over Israel. He also gathered together all the leaders of Israel, as well as the priests and Levites. The Levites thirty years old or more were counted, and the total number of men was thirty-eight thousand. David said, “Of these, twenty-four thousand are to be in charge of the work of the temple of the Lord and six thousand are to be officials and judges. Four thousand are to be gatekeepers and four thousand are to praise the Lord with the musical instruments I have provided for that purpose.”

David was quite the renaissance man, and that was way before the Renaissance Age. His skill, knowledge and artistry were well known among his peers, and his renown for matters of leadership, warcraft, musicianship and spirituality continue even to this day. No wonder he was and is the most loved king in the Bible.

Among David’s many achievements, none is greater than the contribution he made to the songbook of the human race, the Psalms. David was a songwriter par excellence, and a choreographer of immense creativity—he was able to direct skilled musicians in putting together the worship services of the temple—and a skilled craftsman of fine musical instruments. David’s all around artistic accomplishments are unmatched, even to this day.

That is mostly because David had a song in his heart. Music was not something that was manufactured; it was organic to him. When he was just a boy, he began playing a harp, writing songs, and performing to the flock of sheep over which his father had given him charge. David’s worship bubbled out from his core to the Lord, and over much time, in long stretches of solitude, refined by circumstances in which he met God’s deliverance, the sweet singer of Israel honed his craft. He became greater and greater as a singer, songwriter and musician. And while we will never truly know the expanse of David’s artistry, we do have the book of Psalms that surely impresses us with the brilliance of this man!

So other than great appreciation for the multifaceted talents of David, what should this mean to you? How should you apply this to your life? Might I suggest that maybe you, too, have a song in your heart? In fact, if you truly appreciate what Jesus has done for you, you should. So why not make music in your heart, at least to the Lord? The Apostle Paul says that is actually a function of the Spirit-filled life:

Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20)

So with the Spirit’s help, at the very least, why not start with writing down your song? A song? Yes, what is in your heart—the love and gratitude that is there toward God—is a song in unrecorded form. So record it; write it down. Every day, or once a week, or at some regular interval, commit to writing down you thoughts in journal form. No one other than God and you may read it, but the God part of that combination is reason enough for you to write it. And who knows, but maybe at some point in your life, or after your life ends, others may pick up what you have done and be inspired to make music in their own heart with the song that God has put there.

What might seem like a silly activity could actually be what inspires even more worship to the God who truly deserves much more than what we have given.

Going Deeper With God: Today, record your first song. Hey, at least it’s a start!

Don’t Surrender Your Child’s Faith To Chance

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Christian parents make a grave mistake when they take a hands-off approach to passing on their faith. “We will let our child decided for herself” is akin to a death sentence to that child’s potential walk with God. According to Proverbs 22:6, parents have a calling to direct their children in the way they should go, so that when they are of age, they won’t detour from it. Better than your own earthly accomplishments is passing the baton well to the next generation. It is your sacred duty, so do it well, for it will be an eternal accomplishment!

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 22:11-13

“Now, my son, may the Lord be with you and give you success as you follow his directions in building the Temple of the Lord your God. And may the Lord give you wisdom and understanding, that you may obey the Law of the Lord your God as you rule over Israel. For you will be successful if you carefully obey the decrees and regulations that the Lord gave to Israel through Moses. Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or lose heart!

David didn’t leave Solomon’s path to faith in God up to chance, nor did he let his son alone decide this important matter for himself. Christian parents make a grave mistake when they take a hands-off approach to passing on their faith. “We will let our child decided for herself” is akin to a death sentence to that child’s potential walk with God. According to Proverbs 22:6, all parents have a calling to direct their children in the way they should go, so that when they are of age, they won’t detour from it.

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.

David was the paragon of baton passing for parents of faith. He clearly knew God’s will for Solomon’s life and boldly spoke that prophetic vision for his son’s future into his heart. David wasn’t a unique parent in his ability to discern that about Solomon, he was simply being a good steward of the child that God gave him. And that should be the case with all parents. It doesn’t require special prophetic abilities, but it does take diligent parenting—staying close to God and the child for the purpose of discerning God’s path for that child.

The setting for this story is David’s instructions to the young Solomon on the duty he would have to build a glorious temple to the Lord that would not only be a fitting house for the King of kings, but would wow the world as they were attracted to God by the uncommon blessings that had been poured out upon the nation of Israel. This building, in David’s own words, was to be “a magnificent structure, famous and glorious throughout the world.” (1 Chronicles 22:5) This would be an impossible task for a lesser person, but Solomon was up to it, according to the prophetic future David spoke forth for Solomon. And in the father’s instructions to the son, we find several universal and timeless truths that will not only lead to success before God and men in the building project, but throughout his entire life:

  1. Success comes from the Lord: “my son, may the Lord be with you and give you success.” (1 Chronicles 22:11) That is the starting point for a life of achievement and impact. Success begins with God, is for God and is rife through and through with God.
  2. God gives success as we are fully submitted to him: “the Lord be with you and give you success as you follow his directions.” (1 Chronicles 22:11) God is not obligated to bless the disobedient, no matter what we are doing for him. As David’s mentor, Samuel famously said, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (I Samuel 15:22) Above all else, a parent should instruct their child that love for God is proven through obedience to his Word.
  3. With God at the center of lives and full obedience to him the passion of our heart, he will supply us with divine wisdom and understanding to do life well: “And may the Lord give you wisdom and understanding, that you may obey the Law of the Lord your God as you rule over Israel.” (1 Chronicles 22:12) Knowing and applying God’s Word takes discernment and skill. And even discernment and skill are not a human invention. They require human discipline, but they come from the Lord, and must we seek them, align ourselves to receive them, and ruthlessly, consistently apply them to daily living.
  4. At the end of the day, it will take boldness and inner resolve to wholeheartedly follow God: “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or lose heart!” (1 Chronicles 22:13) The way of faith will be fought at every step. It will not be successfully trod by the faint of heart, but by the courageous and determined soul. Most parents believe that boldness is a personality train, but in truth, a mom and dad must train the child to be strong and courageous, to fight for what is right, and to persevere through difficulty. The example of the parent who uses real life expressions of boldness as teachable moments with the child is the best way to inculcate courage. Be strong and courageous, the Lord tells us, and he will give us success wherever we go. (Joshua 1:9)

If you are a parent—or a mentor or you have some influence with a child—God’s calling on your life is to pass your faith on in such a way that the child has a running start at succeeding in life. Better than your own earthly accomplishments is passing the baton well to the next generation. Billy Graham is right,

The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.

Pass your faith on to the child that God has placed within your sphere of influence, for that is an eternal accomplishment!

Going Deeper With God: If you have a child, or any other person who is under your influence, have a heart to heart talk with them as soon as possible about what has been said in this devotional.

Seeking Temporary Relief or True Repentance

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

King David was thoroughly flawed, yet also authentically humble and quickly repentant. The true condition of his heart revealed that he deeply cared about the things that God cared about. That’s what it means to have a heart after God’s own heart: not that you are perfect and never fall into sin, but that your heart is tender toward the Lord and quick to repent when you have violated his command. That is a heart he can bless!

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 21:7

God was very displeased with the census, and he punished Israel for it. Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt for doing this foolish thing.”

Have you ever wondered why King David was called a man after God’s own heart but King Saul was a man rejected by God? On the surface, it seems that David’s sins were equal to, if not more grievous than Saul’s. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed to cover it up, and now, he had taken this census of Israel’s fighting men—a sin that demonstrated a lack of trust in God’s protection and pride in David’s own military prowess.

When you look at Saul’s sins, it seems that he had merely failed to follow the prophet Samuel’s advice to the letter (1 Samuel 13 & 15). Obviously, both kings made mistakes, but adultery and murder versus disobedience? Shouldn’t we give Saul more of a break that he gets in the history books?

The difference between these two men was in how they responded to godly conviction. When a distressing spirit came upon Saul (1 Samuel 17 & 18), he would send for his young assistant David to soothe his chaotic mind by having him play the harp. The problem was, Saul was only seeking relief from feeling bad rather that repenting for acting badly.

On the other had, when David experienced a guilty conscience, he would fully own up to his wrongdoing and seek the Lord’s forgiveness. David didn’t make excuses, he didn’t blame, he didn’t hedge—he would always come clean. He recognized how deeply wicked his flawed heart was prone to be.

When caught in wrongdoing, the true condition of Saul’s heart was revealed by his justification and minimization of the sin. Saul made excuses. He blamed—his men, Samuel, even God. Saul’s heart grew more and more dark as time moved on, but he chose to remain aloof to it.

The true condition of David’s heart revealed that he deeply cared about the things that God cared about. Immensely flawed, David was also intensely humble and quickly repentant.

That’s what it means to have a heart after God’s own heart: not that you are perfect and never fall into sin, but that your heart is tender toward God, passionate about the things of God, and quick to repent when you have violated the commands of God.

That is the kind of heart God can bless!

Going Deeper With God: Here is a David-like prayer you may want to offer today: Father, as David prayed in Psalm 51, so I pray this morning: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving-kindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight—and my sin is always before me. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit in me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” O Lord, give me a clean heart, a heart after Your own heart. Help me to passionately care about the things You care about—this is my deepest prayer. Amen!

Beware Success!

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

If you think you are standing, take care that you don’t fall. If things are going really well for you, praise God, but keep your guard up. You are most vulnerable when you seem to be least vulnerable, that is, during times of success. Just remember, you are invincible only as long as you are acknowledging your utter dependence on God to keep you pure and satisfy your every longing.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 20:1

In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, Joab led the Israelite army in successful attacks against the land of the Ammonites. In the process he laid siege to the city of Rabbah, attacking and destroying it. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem.

Few people can handle adversity well, but even fewer success! King David is proof positive of that.

Springtime in ancient Israel was the season for war, and kings in those days led their troops into battle. But this time, the text tells us that David didn’t. He stayed at home doing “other things.” The chronicler, likely Ezra, chooses not to include the details of David’s activities, but 2 Samuel 11 spells it out in painful detail: David was having an affair with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his mighty men, Uriah.

Someone once came up with the notion that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop, and in this particular case, that is exactly right. David should have been leading, but instead he was cheating. It is likely that success had gone to his head, and that he had begun to feel invincible, impervious to danger and entitled to anything he wanted—including women. Power tends to do that to you. So does the worship of people who are infatuated with powerful people. Since David wielded immense power, perhaps he succumbed to what amounted to the hero worship of the Israelites. And no one but God is built to handle worship—not David, the man after God’s own heart, nor you, and not me.

David was at the height of power and success. God had given him victory from his enemies on ever front. The boundaries of the nation had expanded, and were now as secure as they had ever been. The economy was thriving and the people were prospering. And the worship of God had never been better at a national level. Things were going well for the king. Then, boom! David let his guard down and took the haymaker of an illicit sexual affair that knocked his life, his family and his leadership of the nation off course for quite a while.

By the way, one of the reasons why scripture never sugar-coats the moral failings of our heroes is to remind us that what happened to them can certainly happen to us. The Apostle Paul made this very clear in 1 Corinthians 10:11-13,

These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

If you think you are standing, take care that you don’t fall. If things are going really well for you, praise God, but keep your guard up. You are most vulnerable when you seem to be least vulnerable, that is, during times of success. Just remember, you are invincible only as long as you are acknowledging your utter dependence on God to keep you pure and satisfy your every longing.

Beware success. How alert you stay to its dangers will determine how well you will wear it.

Going Deeper With God: Re-read 1 Corinthians 10:11-13 and with the Spirit’s help, do an assessment of where you are being tempted. Then ask God to show you the way out—and take it.

God’s Will Needs Your Courage

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Fear is an ever-present enemy that is constantly yammering in your ear that you will lose, you will get hurt, you will fail, and you will die if you take that step of faith. Fear is telling you to shrink back, play it safe, and stay in your comfort zone. Yet God has pre-determined victory for his people, and that includes you. So whom are you going to believe: Fear or God? The answer to that will determine whether you will achieve victory over the enemies in your life and attain the promises that God has made to you, or if you will shrink back into a life of mediocrity.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 19:13

Be courageous! Let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. May the Lord’s will be done.

If we are truly committed to the will of the Lord being done, then the only thing left to do is to show courage and move forward with resolution.

That was Joab’s philosophy in leading the Israelite troops against two formidable armies that had ganged up on Israel. The Arameans and the Ammonites presented a sizable danger to Israel, and they were desperate: they knew of David’s growing military dominance and they didn’t want to be yet two more of his many vassal nations. So they came to fight; they threw all they had at Israel in a do-or-die effort.

So when Joab realized their divide and conquer strategy—they would split their forces and attack Israel from the front and from the rear—he repurposed part of his troops under the capable leadership of his brother Abishai while he led the other part. He met their strategy with his own, along with this bold faith declaration calling for courageous leadership, and at the end of the day, his troops routed their enemy while securing the promise of God for a prosperous Israel.

But it wasn’t just a great strategy that won the day for Israel. That was a significant part to the victory. It wasn’t just well trained troops, previous experience and the skillful leadership of Joab and Abishai. Those were important pieces to the story as well. What won the day for God’s people was God’s will. God had willed that Israel would prosper, and because Joab was convinced of the will of God, he was able to marshal his strategic thinking, military experience and well trained troops to win the day. Since he knew in his “knower” that God’s will was to give him victory, the only thing left for the general to do at this point was to demonstrate courageous leadership and move his troops resolutely into battle.

Think about that in terms of your own life. If you are truly convinced of God’s good will for you, as you say you are, then the only thing left for you to do is to act courageously. If you resist steps of faith in response to God’s will, then you really don’t trust that God will perform his purposes. Now I am not mocking your lack of faith or belittling you because of fear. Fear and emotional paralysis are natural emotions that attack our resolve every step of the way. That is why “do not fear” and “be bold and courageous” are the number one commands given to us in scripture. Fear is an ever-present enemy that we must overcome at each step where faith is required of us.

Fear is an ever-present enemy that is constantly yammering in your ear that you will lose, you will get hurt, you will fail, and you will die if you take that step of faith. Fear is telling you to shrink back, play it safe, and stay in your comfort zone. Yet God has pre-determined victory for his people, and that includes you. So whom are you going to believe: Fear or God? The answer to that will determine whether you will achieve victory over the enemies in your life and attain the promises that God has made to you, or if you will shrink back into a life of mediocrity.

My friend, the will of God shall be accomplished. So my encouragement to you is to step out courageously and resolutely into the victory that the Lord has predetermined to give you.

Going Deeper With God: Memorize Joshua 1:9, “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Claim that promise for today, and then act on it!

Give Us David-like Leaders

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

In a day in which leaders at the highest levels are not characterized by godly character, moral purity and unassailable integrity, may God give us David-like leaders! How strong, fair and prosperous would our nation be if we had a majority of representatives and senators who feared the Lord walking the halls of Congress; a preponderance of judges at all levels of the judiciary who respected their calling and exhibited fidelity to God’s laws; a president and administration who shepherded America with integrity of heart and skillful hands? What would happen to our economic competitiveness in the world if business leaders led like David? How much stronger would our culture be if preachers, entertainers, teachers and journalists served the public as if they were serving God? What a nation we would have, far beyond any of the greatness that has characterized us during the high points of our history.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 18:13-14

The Lord made David victorious wherever he went. So David reigned over all Israel and did what was just and right for all his people.

Wouldn’t that be refreshing for a change? To have a leader who is not only successful, but whose success can only be explained by God’s direct favor. Moreover, that leader leverages his authority for just purposes and who always does right by the people he leads. And this leader is not merely benevolent because he is a good guy, but because of his loyalty to and dependence on the Almighty.

That was the kind of leader King David turned out to be, and how fortunate Israel was to have him on the throne. Not only did God refer to David as a “man after his own heart,” but he became the measuring stick for all future Israelite kings. One of David’s key worship leaders, Asaph, wrote in Psalm 78:70-72 that precisely because of David’s calling from God and his fidelity to that calling, he led Israel with unassailable integrity and great skill:

God chose his servant David,
calling him from the sheep pens.
He took David from tending the ewes and lambs
and made him the shepherd of Jacob’s descendants—
God’s own people, Israel.
He cared for them with a true heart
and led them with skillful hands

O, for David-like leaders in our day! How strong, fair and prosperous would our nation be if we had a majority of representatives and senators who feared the Lord walking the halls of Congress; a preponderance of judges at all levels of the judiciary who respected their calling and exhibited fidelity to God’s laws; a president and administration who shepherded America with integrity of heart and skillful hands? What would happen to our economic competitiveness in the world if business leaders led like David? How much stronger would our culture be if preachers, entertainers, teachers and journalists served the public as if they were serving God? What a nation we would have, far beyond any of the greatness that has characterized us during the high points of our history.

Does all of that sound like a pipe dream? Seeing that kind of leadership at all levels of American society at this point probably seems like it is a shade beyond impossible. So should we even tease ourselves with that kind of fantasy of a better nation? Well, I don’t think it does much good to simply fanaticize about that kind of America, but I do believe we are called to pray for it. The Apostle Paul was pretty clear that we owe it to God and country to intercede on behalf of those who shape the nation:

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

I don’t know if we will ever have a leader like David, or if America will enjoy the kind of economic, military and spiritual prosperity that Israel did, but I do know that God is calling us to pray as if it were an expected outcome.

Going Deeper With God: Have you prayed, sincerely prayed, for your leaders today? If not, I think you know what to do!

When God Says “No” To You, Say “Yes” To Him

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

When you are fully submitted to God’s rule, you acknowledge the fact that he reserves the right to say “no” to you anytime he wishes—and without explanation, if he so chooses. And you embrace it! It is a matter of maturity, trust and obedience to humbly, gratefully, praisefully surrender to what God thinks best—and it is always the pathway to even better blessings than your plan would have brought. When God says “no” to you, say “yes” to God!

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 17:1-4

When David was settled in his palace, he summoned Nathan the prophet. “Look,” David said, “I am living in a beautiful cedar palace, but the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant is out there under a tent!” Nathan replied to David, “Do whatever you have in mind, for God is with you.” But that same night God said to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord has declared: You are not the one to build a house for me to live in.’”

King David wanted to build a house for God. It was a noble desire, and on the surface, it would seem that getting the green light would be a no brainer. David lived in a luxurious palace, and God had only a tent from Israel’s wilderness days to house his presence. Why not go all out, now that there was peace and prosperity in the land, to build an extraordinary temple to house the glory of the Lord?

But God said no. He reserves that right, you know! What might seem like a great idea to you and me, and it may very well be the best thing to come along since sliced bread, God might choose to put it on the back burner. He might even take it off our list of things we would like to do for God completely. God has his reasons, and sometimes he even gives us insight into why he closes the door on our desires. At other times, God simply says no, without further explanation.

In David’s case, God revealed the reason why he said no to David’s plans for the temple: he had shed too much blood as a warrior king, and the Lord desired a man of peace to build a place where all nations could come to experience his presence while they offered up their sacrifices of worship. (see 1 Chronicles 22:8) No, David wouldn’t build it, but his son would. And it would be a place that would be a marvel, an awe-inspiring house of worship that would stand for centuries as the centerpiece of worship to the God of Israel, the sovereign ruler of all the earth. (see 1 Chronicles 22:5)

Was David disappointed that the temple wouldn’t be listed as one of his major accomplishments? Perhaps. We don’t know for sure, but usually a strong desire like that brings up all kinds of emotions when we realize that it will never come to pass. David may have been saddened by the news, but his response was even nobler than his original desire:

When King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, O God, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty! You speak as though I were someone very great, O Lord God! What more can I say to you about the way you have honored me? You know what your servant is really like. For the sake of your servant, O Lord, and according to your will, you have done all these great things and have made them known. Lord, there is no one like you.” (1 Chronicles 17:16-20)

And David’s psalm of praise extolling the wisdom and greatness of God in the aftermath of God’s rejection of his idea continues on for several more verses until the chapter ends. (1 Chronicles 17:20-27).

God said no, and David responded with humility (“who am I”), gratitude (“you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty”), submission (“according to your will”) and praise (“Lord, there is no one like you”).

I don’t know about you, but I think I might have felt a bit sorry for myself that God had ruined my plans. I might have even pouted. I hope not, but often that is the human reaction to having our dreams dashed. But when your life and all your plans are fully submitted to the Lordship of Almighty God, you acknowledge the fact that he reserves the right to say no to you anytime he wishes. And you embrace it! It is a matter of maturity, trust and obedience to humbly, gratefully, praisefully surrender to what God thinks best—and it is the pathway to even better blessings than your plan would have brought.

When God says no to you, say yes to God!

Going Deeper With God: Has the Lord blunted your plans. Give him praise!