Masters of Time & Space: How to Make the Most of Your Time
Everyone who intends to do hard things has at least one thing in common. That is, the need to make the most of their time. Most people refer to this as “time management.” But that is not really what it is. It’s actually self-management.
When God stopped the sun in the midddle of the sky so that Joshua could finish his battle with the Amorites (see Joshua 10:13), that was time management! We can’t do that. The best we can do is manage ourselves and our moods and our energy levels so as to make wiser decisions about how we invest the time we have.
The keyword here is invest.
When you “have an hour to kill,” as they say (and I do hate that term!), you’re about to make a very important decision. You have an hour of “free” time. You could spend any way you like. You could waste it trying to beat your best score on a favorite video game. Or you could squander it watching a few more cat videos on YouTube. But in doing so, you would be putting yourself on a path that leads to a future you won’t like.
Every dumb decision you make is taking you somewhere. One foolish choice at a time the fool is proving to be unwise and unfaithful in the way he or she is using their discretionary time. People who stay on that path often end up “doing time” in prison somewhere. They cannot be trusted with any discretionary time. A guard is telling them where to be and what to do every minute of the day and night.
On the other hand, if you invest that same free hour in reading a few more chapters in a good book, or in making that important phone call you’ve been putting off out of fear of rejection, or investing that hour in improving the quality of your relationship with someone important, you’re making a much wiser investment. You are putting yourself on a path that leads to a future you will probably enjoy much more. It is a future that involves ever larger amounts of freedom, in the form of lots of discretionary time.
I know CEO’s who are paid high salaries just to spend their time thinking and imagining the future of their company or organization. They are being paid to “day dream” for the good of their cause. They have proven themselves to be wise with the use of their time, and so they are entrusted with even more time with which to be wise.
This is what the apostle Paul has in mind for us when he writes, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5:15-17).
Two words for time: “chronos” and “kairos”
There are actually two different Greek words for time in the New Testament. The first is “chronos” which is simply time as the sequence of events. The second word is “kairos,” which Paul uses in Ephesians 5. Kairos is “opportunity time.” We can call it our “free time.” That makes it “discretionary time.” It is that part of our time that we can choose to redeem for something important as an investment in our own future. God is telling us, through Paul to “make the most of it.” That is biblical “time management.”
For young people who intend to do hard things with their lives, even while they are still teenagers, this issue of time will either make you, or break you. You already have 24 hours a day to work with. Much of that time is already dedicated to responsibilities in which you have very little choice. But you probably have a few hours in which you are free to do whatever you want. Take care. Be wise.
Make the most of it.
Being Young Is No Excuse: A Lesson from Hans & Sophie Scholl
I remember talking about abortion with our neighbor over the backyard fence. She seemed to agree tepidly with the pro-life position, but added that it wasn’t really her concern. We’ll leave that to other people, she seemed to think.
In America, over three thousand children are killed every day by abortion. Every day. Every single day. How is it that we, like our neighbor, have become so numb to this reality?
Where is our righteous indignation? Where is our passion?
But we are not the first to face this fight. Faithful pilgrims have gone this way before; we just need to find their footsteps.
Hans and Sophie Scholl
Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party left an unerasable mark on history. Millions of people were killed because of their race, physical infirmities, or resistance to the Reich. Why didn’t the local Christians work to save lives? Where was their passion?
Not everyone was swayed by Nazi rhetoric. A young brother and sister, Hans and Sophie Scholl, found themselves at an impasse as they wrestled with the terror of the times and their place in it. Outraged but conflicted, the brother and sister, along with a few others, grappled with the risk that action would cause over the safety of conformity.
But conformity was never their priority.
We Just Don’t Know
When Allied forces liberated the concentration camp Ohrdruf, General Eisenhower ordered that the local Germans visit the camp to see the Nazis’ atrocities. The citizens—including the mayor—were horrified. Even though the evils had taken place so close to their daily lives, they were still shocked to the point of despair.
Just as many of them never knew the extent of Nazi cruelties, too many of us simply do not know the truth about horrific abortion practices. No matter what procedure is used, a child is violently killed.
But there are always some who know. In Nazi Germany, a few courageous youth could stand idle no longer. Under the name the “White Rose,” some university students—included the Scholls—began secretly printing anti-Nazi pamphlets informing the German people of Nazi evils. Fewer and fewer German citizens could plead ignorance.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
“Where does the truth lie?” Hans wrote to a friend. “Should one go off and build a little house with flowers outside the windows and a garden outside the door and extol and thank God and turn one’s back on the world and its filth?”
There must have been some who suspected that the Nazis were committing evil, but even these were sheltered from the victims’ cries. Similarly, most of us are rarely near abortion centers, watching women walk in and then walk out, the irreversible deed done.
It is easy to forget the suffering of others when it is hidden from us. It is easy to move sad and seemingly hopeless topics to the back of our minds. But Hans knew that this was no option. “Isn’t seclusion a form of treachery—of desertion?” he continued. “I’m weak and puny, but I want to do what is right.”
What Can One Person Do?
“Many, perhaps most, of the readers of these leaflets do not see clearly how they can practice an effective opposition,” a White Rose pamphlet stated. “They do not see any avenues open to them.” How do you fight evil when it is protected by the authorities, celebrated in the media, and taught as right in the schools? The courageous White Rose members understood that these daunting odds were no excuse: “We want to try to show them that everyone is in a position to contribute to the overthrow of this system.”
Hans felt a burden for proof of his beliefs—and action would be that proof. “It’s high time that Christians made up their minds to do something . . . What are we going to show in the way of resistance . . . when all this terror is over? We will be standing empty-handed. We will have no answer when we are asked: What did you do about it?”
The White Rose used what abilities and resources they had to produce pamphlets and then distributed them to their closest audience: university students. They didn’t win the war. They didn’t liberate concentration camps. But they did stand for the truth, and they were willing to face whatever consequences their stand might cost them.
And there were consequences.
A Higher Priority
One day a university janitor noticed the Scholl siblings frantically dumping out White Rose pamphlets to cover the university grounds. On February 22, 1943, Hans and Sophie, along with another White Rose member, were executed. They were 24 and 21.
But the fight was not over. And they knew it. Even as she understood how short her time was, Sophie realized what was at stake:
“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”
Throughout World War II, lights shone out of the darkness of the Third Reich occupation. There was always a remnant who knew that standing for life was a higher priority than their own comfort—or even survival.
The war dragged on for two more years. The Scholl family, reeling from the losses of Hans and Sophie, as well as another son in battle, would never be the same again. Were their deaths in vain? Was their sacrifice wasted?
After the war, German citizens searched for a way to return to normalcy. Many who had been involved in the Reich now found themselves adjusting to life without Nazism. Among them was Hitler’s personal secretary, Traudl Junge:
Of course, the terrible things I heard from the Nuremberg Trials, about the six million Jews and the people from other races who were killed, were facts that shocked me deeply. But I wasn’t able to see the connection with my own past. I was satisfied that I wasn’t personally to blame and that I hadn’t known about those things. I wasn’t aware of the extent.
But one day I went past the memorial plaque which had been put up for Sophie Scholl…, and I saw that she was born the same year as me, and she was executed the same year I started working for Hitler. And at that moment I actually sensed that it was no excuse to be young, and that it would have been possible to find things out.
It’s a haunting phrase: “…it was no excuse to be young…” If Hans and Sophie Scholl determined to stand for truth and life—at their ages, in their difficult times—surely we can do the same.
What will we choose? To ignore the pain, hurt, and lies around us—or to pursue the truth and fight for life? The battle will be fought, no matter our stance. But will we choose the victorious side?
Our God never changes, and our charge still stands. Our generation follows on the heels of many who have set the example in the fight for life. Their footsteps are large, and their legacy great. May we be spurred on by those who have gone before, that great cloud of witnesses whose example inspires us to be faithful to what we have been called.
Where is our passion? It is there. We just need to be reminded that it is a righteous passion, and it calls for action.
Others may sit on the fence, but we know there is too much at stake.
Grave of Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst.
Riley Banks, Age 17: Building Schools and Opening Orphanages
(Branson Tri-Lake News) — To say 17-year-old Riley Banks is on a mission could be considered an understatement.
The Branson teen has distributed hundreds of backpacks and school supplies to children in Kenya, provided more than 1,000 hygiene kits to girls there, helped provide a medical clinic for more than 1,300 people and opened a school this year. She does it all through her nonprofit Generation Next, which she set up before she could even drive. While she continues to collect school supplies, hygiene kits and oversee a school in Kenya, she is also working to open an orphanage there.
Aside from building a school, providing for children and opening an orphanage, Banks is a senior at Branson High School.
“I don’t think Generation Next would have grown like it has if God didn’t want me to be in this area,” the 17-year-old said recently sitting in her parent’s Copy Run store at the Shoppes at Branson Meadows.
Banks’ journey began when she was 13 years old.
Her uncle, a doctor, and his wife, she explained, were going to serve in Kenya for six months.
“I thought it would be neat to go and visit,” Banks said.
In order to afford the trip, Banks said she had to give up Christmas gifts and had to help raise money to pay for travel expenses.
“For my birthday, I asked for toys to take over there,” Banks said.
She made a two-week trip with her father, Lucas.
While the trip in itself was an experience, the biggest eye-opener came when she went with her aunt to help feed babies in a neonatal unit.
“All the babies were in these tubs,” she said.
The babies weren’t swaddled in blankets and weren’t even wearing diapers, for that matter. She wasn’t given a bottle to feed the babies, rather a small medicine cup.
It didn’t take long before the smell and everything became too much for the 13-year-old and she rushed out of the room before passing out.
“It was almost like a culture shock,” she said.
During that trip to Kenya, she also had an opportunity to volunteer at an orphanage, which is where she found inspiration for the first project that came out of Generation Next.
She said as children practiced writing, she noticed they were sharing a pencil. As one would finish writing a word, the child would pass the pencil to the next student. She said she realized how hard it must be to learn when they don’t have the right supplies, something many students in the U.S. take for granted.
“We came home from that trip and I was just like, ‘Wow,’” she said.
Soon after returning to Branson, with the help of her family, she founded Generation Next.
“The idea behind the name is if we help one generation, then they can go on and help the next generation,” she said.
At the end of that school year, Banks organized a school supply drive, asking students to donate their unused school supplies. With those supplies, Banks was able to return to Kenya, just a little more than a year after her first trip, this time with 200 backpacks full of supplies.
“I’d just fallen in love with these people,” she said.
It was during her second trip when she said it was brought to her attention another factor that impacts eduction of many students — the lack of sanitary supplies.
“I talked to the head mistress who told me a lot of girls, when they reach a certain age, they don’t come back to school,” Banks said.
She said often the girls couldn’t afford sanitary supplies and without the supplies, the girls often missed a week of school or would turn to prostitution to help with money.
“I thought that is not fair because these girls were my age and that should never happen,” Banks said.
For her third trip, Banks was able to collect enough items for 200 hygiene kits, as well as more backpacks. Also, during that third trip, Generation Next partnered with Nomad Charities, out of Bend, Ore., to host a medical clinic.
(Click images below to enlarge)
“We had 1,324 people come through,” she said.
While helping at the clinic, she said she saw people who came through with HIV and AIDS, as well as many other diseases.
“That was pretty much the hardest thing I’d ever done,” she said.
During Banks’ third trip, they also began working to complete a partially constructed building. Banks explained that a man who had started work on the building, which was intended to be a school, was robbed and killed years before. The building hadn’t been touched after that, Banks said.
In 2012, when they were in Kibwezi, Kenya, they began working on the building. Since that time, Generation Next had been sending money to finish the building.
This summer, Banks was able to open the school named Pamoja, which means together. The school serves 50 children.
(Click images below to enlarge)
“We pay for their fees,” she said. “We pay for their teacher and they get a meal.”
For Banks’ latest project, Generation Next has partnered with Nomad Charities again, this time to open an orphanage.
To fund it all, Banks spends most of her weekends speaking at churches throughout the state.
“I’ve spoken at a lot of different place and we have donors who send monthly (donations),” she said.
While the teen will admit it can be exhausting running a nonprofit while going to high school, she said she loves it.
“I’ve missed a lot of school this year,” she said.
Banks maintains straight As and said her teachers are always willing to work with her.
“I think I’m just focused on it because it is something I just love to do,” she said about Generation Next. “They say, if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. I think that is so true.”
The Branson teen credits her parents, Tracy and Lucas Banks, for helping her keep it all together.
“My mom and dad are a big part of that,” she said.
She said her mom Tracy Banks is the organizer and makes sure she is where she needs to be every time she has a fundraiser or group to speak to.
While Banks said she recognizes there are people in need in the Ozarks, and she does work to provide for children in Taney County, she said her heart seems to belong to Kenya and the people there.
“I think it was just their attitudes,” Banks said. “They are the most positive people I’ve ever met. They are so thankful for everything God gave them because they might not have it the next day.
“Their spirit is just incredible. It is just something you don’t see here.”
While Banks said she would like to head to Kenya as soon as she graduates from Branson High School, she understands the importance of her own education and plans to attend college and get a degree in elementary education.
Then, she said, she plans to move to Kenya and live at the orphanage.
“My goal in life is to encourage people to never give up and to inspire people,” Banks said. “I want to inspire people to think they can do whatever they can think of.”
Tracy Banks said she is in full support of her daughter and her daughter’s dream, no matter where it seems to take their family.
“I don’t think she knew it would turn into this,” Tracy Banks said. “It is fun. It is hard work. We love it.”
For more information about Generation Next, visit generationnextcares.org.
Photos courtesy of Generation Next website and Facebook Page.
Misselainious: Help Me Reach $100K for Orphans in India
Hello! My name is Elaini and for those of you who have been following The Rebelution for awhile you know that Brett and Alex graciously agreed to feature my orphan care project two years ago. I styled one dress in 100 different ways over 100 days to raise $50,000 for orphans in India, blogging about the escapade all the way along.
Well, the response to this campaign was overwhelming as the community of people who came out to support these sweet children were generous beyond anything I could have imagined. When we surpassed the initial $50k goal, and then the 60k goal, I decided to simply continue the blog indefinitely to raise more and more money and awareness about the plight of orphans in India.
We are now at $76k and counting!
Our hope (and the latest goal) is to raise an additional $24k by the end of this calendar year. Please join me in this fun and rewarding adventure. You will be part of a team of audacious people who believe they make a difference just by doing a little bit, or even a lot. Will you join us?
Please watch the video above to learn more and help us reach our goal, and maybe even more! Contact me with any questions at misselaini @ gmail.com (remove spaces). You can also learn more about this project at misselainious.com.
Photos courtesy of Jean Piere Candelier and Flickr Creative Commons.
Bringing Christmas to Orphans
My name is Brooke Bernhardt and I’m a 19-year-old currently serving as a missionary in Pucallpa, Peru. Pucallpa is a city in the Amazon jungle where there is a vast amount of poverty and disease. Alot of people here struggle with malaria and Dengue fever. I work with an organization called AMOR Projects which stands for Ambassadors In Medical Outreach and Relief. I am volunteering here in Peru for a total of 8 months helping with medical clinics and children’s evangelism.
Just last Saturday, I visited a nearby orphanage and saw that their were so many needs that were not being provided adequately for the kids. There are eighty-six kids in the orphanage and ten of them have special needs. The children hardly have anything in their possession to call their own.
James 1:27 says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” God has given me a dream to provide a special Christmas for each one of these orphan children.
Similar to Operation Christmas Child that puts together boxes with a few basic hygiene items, school supplies, and special gifts for children in poverty, I want to make Christmas bags for all the children in the orphanage. They all need basic things like toothbrushes, soap, and washcloths as well as school supplies and some simple Christmas presents.
I need to raise $1700 for the project by November 30th — that way we would have about $20 American Money to shop for each kid’s gifts and supplies.
Christmas is coming soon and is a special time when lots of money is spent buying gifts for the people we love. These kids at the Pucallpa orphanage don’t have people buying them the things they need. They don’t have people to provide them with presents or lavish them with hugs on Christmas. But they do have us! It’s easy to simply close your eyes or turn your head to the sufferings and problems the world has. It’s easy to try and ignore it, but I’m begging you not too.
I will be visiting the orphanage again next Saturday, and I simply can’t ignore the problem right before my eyes. I want to make a difference in these children’s lives. I want to do something special for them on Christmas that they will remember all year long.
Please consider helping me raise money for the children in the Pucallpa Orphanage. For $20 you can give a nice gift bag to a Pucallpan orphan complete with special presents, hygiene needs, and school supplies. I will be hand delivering all the Christmas presents to the orphans on Christmas day with some of my friends here at AMOR Projects.
Money for Operation Orphanage Christmas Child can be donated to amorprojects.org/donate and just specify that it is for the Operation Orphanage Christmas Child. You can read more about my journey as a volunteer in Peru at brooketotallybrio.blogspot.com.
What If Kids Are Far More Capable Than We Thought?
(Huffington Post) — In the U.S., we tend to think of babies and young children as immature, incompetent beings. This is because of a long history of research in developmental psychology — especially the work of Jean Piaget — that viewed infants’ and children’s thinking as deficient compared to adults’. By studying his own two children, Piaget concluded that children learn through exploring the world on their own like “little scientists.” But Piaget assumed that young children didn’t have much capacity for logical thought. He showed this through his famous experiments where he asked preschool children to respond to demonstrations of various physical properties. Videos of these experiments are often used in developmental psychology courses to show the cute, often amusingly incorrect responses of these “immature” children.
Newer research by developmental psychologists such as Alison Gopnik has started to seriously question the assumption that children are immature thinkers. Gopnik has shown us that babies and young children develop cognitive capacities early on — in fact, they are innately wired for learning from the moment they are born. Annie Murphy Paul pushes this understanding one step further by showing us the many important things fetuses learn about the world while they are still in the womb. Fetuses learn things like what foods are enjoyed by the mother’s culture, whether to anticipate a world full of stress and deprivation or a world full of abundance and security. At birth, we already have a sophisticated sense of what to expect from our environment.
However, the babies and children that this research is about are almost always living in the U.S., Canada, or other Western societies. What can we learn when we adopt a broader cultural perspective? Anthropologists who study human development are concerned with understanding how culture influences how we raise our children, what we think they are capable of at different ages, and what we think the outcome of their development should be. In the U.S., popular thinking assumes that children should enjoy an extended childhood where they have the time to play and explore, that they should develop academic skills at a relatively early age (but not too early), and that they shouldn’t have to do the kinds of work that adults do. How we raise our children — and the types of cognitive skills we value and encourage — grows out of these cultural values.
However, the values that we take for granted are not shared across cultures. Cultural psychologist Barbara Rogoff has shown us that cultures vary widely in when they think children are mature enough for certain adult-like tasks. For example, in Efe culture, it’s common for an 11-month-old to use a machete without adult supervision. In many non-Western cultures, children (mostly girls) are responsible for adult-like work, such as taking care of infants, by the age of 3. These childrearing practices may sound shocking to us in the U.S. because we assume that children aren’t ready for these kinds of tasks. But these practices make logical sense when understood through the lens of culture. Not everyone shares the Western assumption that children should have an extended, protected childhood. The circumstances of life in different parts of the world create different assumptions about what childhood should look like.
Unleash Hope: Filipino Teens Respond to Typhoon Yolanda
I believe that it is part of God’s wonderful design that though the world’s strongest storm hit our developing country, by faith, we can begin again. I was not affected by the typhoon here in Manila —physically. But one thing is clear, I am affected emotionally because even long distance from the affected regions, the desperate cries of my people are echoing clearly in my heart. Please help us pray along with the rebelutionaries here that one day, we will be back to normal.
Please also pray for us for we are doing a leap of faith to raise Php 30,000 of cash and other relief goods to be donated for the typhoon victims.
We will collect donations of cash and in kind from our community and schools and businesses nearby. At the same time, we will include Gospel Tracts in the relief goods to bring them “real hope” (1 Peter 1:13).
We are calling the project Unleash Hope. God moved us to do this for if you will see the destruction Yolanda (the typhoon) brought to our brethren, it is beyond the scope of words to be described. Just the thought of it breaks my heart and brings me to tears.
Compassion — that is the blood of this project. God is calling us to put our love for Him and for people to practice. Please do help us in prayer. God bless, brothers and sisters.
Filipino Rebelutionaries for Christ,
Unleash Hope Team
(click on image to visit the Unleash Hope Facebook Page)
Photos courtesy of Mans Unides and Flickr Creative Commons.
Let’s Talk About Music
“Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones; praise is becoming to the upright. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy, for the word of the Lord is upright, and all His work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the loving kindness of the Lord.” – Psalm 33:1-5
Let’s talk about music! Music is a wonderful art. Nothing speaks quite as deeply to one’s emotions as music does—especially if accompanied with poetry. Music transcends many arts in that it affects not only your soul, but your body and spirit as well. Because it is so intimate, I believe that Christians—especially young people—should be serious in their approach to music and truly seek God in this area of their lives. This may be hard, but, well, since when has that stopped us?
I do not completely know how to approach this subject because I am not exactly sure where you, my audience, stand on this issue. In some Christian circles this is a really sensitive issue, but in others it is a topic from the ‘90s. There is a huge spectrum of musical beliefs and opinions among Christians. Some people believe that anything musical is acceptable, others believe that a cappella is the only way to worship God through music. Honestly, I have rarely participated in a conversation about music that was actually beneficial or uplifting. Therefore, I do not write this in order to give my opinion or assert my own personal belief. Rather, I wish to give some suggestions to keep in mind as YOU formulate YOUR beliefs. These suggestions are mostly an assortment of tools others have handed to me which I find beneficial in my current musical processing, and I would like to hand them to you.
If we’re not careful we can easily fall into the “ditches” on either end of the spectrum. But God does not call us to get stuck in ditches; He calls us to walk with Him on the road. Again, I’m not here to define where the ditches begin and end, or show exactly where we should be on the spectrum. Rather, I’m here to provoke our thoughts and, I hope, arouse meaningful conversation. Many of you will come to a completely different conclusion than I would after applying these tools, but my desire is that you really be thoughtful and spiritually discerning in your musical choices.
And that is why I want to hear from you to see where young people are at on music in the greater church. So as you read this article, seriously think about the music you listen to and what you believe about music. When you are done, give your thoughts in the comment section below.
As with every issue in life we as young people ought to:
1. Approach the subject of music humbly.
Young people have lots of energy and often lots of ideas, but because we do not have much experience—disappointments, failures, successes—we can approach life overconfidently and often arrogantly. Confidence is good, but confidence mixed with humility is marvelous—like a kingly crown. We will never persuade someone to agree with us at a heart level through arrogant argumentation. Love and care must precede truth. No one will genuinely accept truth from us unless they sense love and humility exuding from our spirit and lifestyle.
Therefore, we must not approach music as if we have all the answers, because we do not. Period. We must be willing to learn from our peers, from mentors, and from adults we do not agree with. This is maturity. And ultimately, we must be willing to humbly accept what God says through His Word, our authorities, and His Holy spirit. God made us and the world, and is therefore sovereign over us in every area of life. We must submit to this reality if we wish to be intimate with Him, particularly through our music.
While reading the rest of the tools, you will find that some apply more to the left end of the spectrum, and others to the right end. Even though one or two tools may not seem relevant to you, still apply them to your music, because I truly believe that these tools can be applied to each end of the spectrum. None of us are above needing to reevaluate our music. The occasional reevaluation of our music—and all of our beliefs—is what keeps us on the road and out of the ditches. That is why this first point is so essential. As you continue reading, approach each tool humbly realizing that it applies, in some way, to your music as well.
2. Be conscious of who we are singing for.
Photo courtesy of Dustin Bryson and Flickr Creative Commons.
When we sing, play, or listen to music we must ask ourselves “Who are we conscious of in this moment?” Check our motives. It is not entirely wrong to participate in music for other’s enjoyment, but in doing that, are we trying to build reputation for ourselves? Are our hearts projected humbly toward God, desiring to glorify Him? Or are we merely trying to impress the bros, or the girl, or the talented?
This is a tough concept to accept but we must “digest” it thoroughly. God says that He will “not give His glory to another,” and that we are to “worship no other gods.” This idolatry happens on both ends of the spectrum. Purchasing an album (whether it is hardcore rock or pure a cappella) with the intentions of impressing another human being is idolatry (even if it is subconscious). (Notice I said “impress,” not “honor”. If your authority [i.e. parents] does not want you participating in certain music, it is your responsibility to honor their wishes. To do otherwise, is a sin as long as you are under their authority.)
If our motives in listening to or playing certain music (even a cappella) are to impress others or build our own ego, we are setting that person or ourselves on a pedestal they or we do not deserve. We must knock down the pedestal as quickly as we can. This does not necessarily mean we stop or change our music, but rather change our motives.
Furthermore, we should:
3. Remember Scripture.
I find it more than ironic that God never gives a direct “right” or “wrong” commandment about music. But throughout the entire Bible He is constantly commanding us to sing and make music. Don’t you think that if the style of music were such an important issue to the Creator of communication that He would have communicated it to us? Therefore, either “right” music is so obvious that He did not bother to explain it in scripture, or “right” and “wrong” music is not the issue we should be addressing. Because of this, we should not act like Scripture directly supports our particular musical preferences or beliefs because it simply does not (whether they be a cappella only, strictly CCM, or “anything goes”). But there are broader principles which we can apply to music, which I have placed under other tools.
As we remember Scripture, we should likewise:
4. Consider Culture.
Photo courtesy of the apostrophe and Flickr Creative Commons.
If you ever get the opportunity to travel around the world, observe the musical styles of the cultures you interact with. I am positive that there are as many styles and forms of music as there are cultures, and I only have a modest amount of world travel experience. Even within the American culture, there are dozens of different styles. Being “cultural” justifies nothing—teen sex and abortion is also cultural, yet the Bible clearly condemns it. Like every aspect of culture, we must bring Christ into music—and believe me, when Christ is introduced into a culture, its music will change. How? I do not know exactly, but it will change in some way.
With all of the above in mind, don’t you think it is just slightly arrogant to pin-point one style and call it “holy”? Likewise, it is arrogant to assume God has no musical guidelines. Even we Christian who have the Holy Spirit indwelling within us can be misguided at times. Therefore, if we can be misguided, and the Scriptures are not strictly clear on music, who are we to judge one music style or form over another? Approach music humbly.
5. Remember conviction is ultimately between God and the individual.
Read Romans 14 when you get the chance. It is a simple chapter explaining, as an example, how some people’s faith allows them to eat whatever food they want, but others are weak and eat only vegetables. Or some people consider one day more sacred than other days, but other people consider every day the same. Yet Paul says that we ought to “accept him whose faith is weak without passing judgment on disputable matters.” Music styles and forms are not spelled out in scripture—they are disputable. Still he says “none of us lives [or dies] for himself alone… So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Jesus is our Lord. Listen to Him. Paul’s main point is that we are accountable before God for our own choices and convictions and we must hold fast to them without passing judgment on others who disagree. Ultimately, though, he says that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking [or making music], but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” He says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
Is our music or our beliefs about music inhibiting others from truly worshiping God? Can people enter into our music and truly worship, or is our music too formulated or too dynamic making them feel unqualified to participate. Is it too active and they get lost or maybe too drab and they feel dry? This is why it is important to listen to the Spirit as we sing because He will communicate with us and speak to us through the music and about the music.
Also, we ought to ask ourselves a question:
6. Is it quality music or lyrics?
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). We should test the lyrics of our music with this verse, not to restrict us, but to benefit us. In the next verse, Paul says that we ought to put into practice what we learn from scripture so that the “God of peace will be with [us].” Paul is saying that we should promote intimacy with God by concentrating our thoughts on what is lovely and true—righteous—in nature. What we feed on is what we become: if we feed on junk food, our bodies deteriorate; but if we eat healthy food, our bodies are strengthened.
So what are we feeding on mentally or spiritually? What are we filling our minds with? This is what we will become. Thoughts generally become actions and actions determine history. Therefore, in an indirect way, the music (and especially the lyrics) we allow to penetrate our minds will affect history. Also consider the performer. How do they interact? Is “it all about them”? Do they move immorally? Do they invoke temptation sexually or spiritually? Do they emanate pride through their singing or lifestyle? I’m not writing with answers, I just want us to think about it. This is mature thinking and we are called to be mature examples.
But as we analyze our music we need to:
7. Remember that God is pleased with our singing.
Although it is very important that our beliefs and actions line up with Jesus Christ, we must not forget that God, ultimately, looks at the heart. Because God looks at the Christian and sees the beauty of Jesus Christ, when we sing out of a heart of worship to God, He is delighted, even though we may be doing it a little wrong. God’s delight in our worship for Him is beyond our comprehension. It is an extraordinary mixture of the delight a parent has for their child who just wants to please the parent and the delight a husband has for his beautiful wife who loves him passionately. Think on this as you sing and discern His will about and through music.
And last of all, as God says again and again:
8. Sing your heart out!
He loves it.
The Psalms are all about singing to God. Here are a few of my favorite Psalms (as well as a few other passages):
“But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may exult in You.”
- Psalm 5:11
“It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare Your loving kindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night, with the ten-stringed lute and with the harp, with resounding music upon the lyre. For You, O Lord, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands.”
- Psalm 92:1-3
“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
- Ephesians 5:15-21
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
- Colossians 3:16
Cover photo courtesy of Mark J P and Flickr Creative Commons.
Drafted: Why Chris Norman Said No to the NFL
(Desiring God) — I invite you to watch this moving 11-minute story of Michigan State linebacker Chris Norman.
Desiring God commissioned the video because God is at the center of the story, and because at one key point, God used Don’t Waste Your Life as part of his surprising plan for Chris’s life. Special thanks to hip-hop artists Flame and Shai Linne for their contributions to the soundtrack, and to Michigan State University and ESPN for the game footage.
Why would a promising All-American turn from options in the NFL toward theological education and the pastoral ministry? The decisive reason came in 2011 at a Christian camp for athletes. He saw something different: People enjoying Jesus.
I didn’t know that Jesus could be enjoyed. So once I figured that out — it was the night of May 24, 2011 — Christ got a hold of my life, captivated my heart, and changed me from the inside out.
As it has happened for many of us, this love for Christ became, in Chris’s life, a specific call to ministry. About a week after his final game he decided to go to seminary. It is a remarkable story brimming with lessons for life. Lessons like . . .
- First loves in life, no matter how good, and how intense, may not prove to be last loves.
- Joy in Jesus is captivating.
- At key points in our lives direction from God will be followed by opposition and obstacles.
- Surprising, unexpected help comes along the path of obedience.
- Drop your pebbles of Christ-exalting truth in every pond you can. You have no idea where the ripples might go. This surely has been the story of my life. Share the gospel. Preach a sermon. Give a devotional. Write a book. For example, Don’t Waste Your Life. And seven years later it falls into the hands of a Michigan State linebacker.
- Now Chris has dropped his pebble into this video. Where will the ripples go? When you watch, you will become part of that story. And it will become part of yours.
Would you help us share Chris’s story with more and more athletes and sports fans? It will begin with your friends, family, classmates, and co-workers. You can send them to www.desiringGod.org/drafted.
Check out Chris Norman’s article, Why I Said No to the NFL, where he explains his decision and answers questions raised by the video.
Know What You Believe. Know Why You Believe It.
As I sat in my room I remember thinking, “I have believed there was a God for as long as I can remember, but why do I believe it?” I had grown up in the church, going every Sunday and being highly involved in our youth group. I had known God existed and had read and studied the Bible for years. I committed my life to Christ at a young age and He had transformed my life and given me a purpose. But as I sat there, I knew that if someone asked me to give them a reason for why I believed God existed I would, besides giving the typical Sunday school answer, have nothing to say.
Don’t get me wrong, when I say I would have nothing to say, I do not mean I would not be able to present the gospel or how God had changed my life, but when confronted with the arguments that are presented by atheists today I would be completely unprepared. Today’s atheistic arguments are complicated theological, social, and scientific questions which require deep and specific answers. The Bible says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15) I had hope, but no answer for why I had it. I knew what I believed, but did not fully know why I believed it.
This is where my study began. As I researched, I stumbled across this statistic released by the Barna Group a few years ago, which says, “65% of high school students stop attending church after they graduate.” And that is only a conservative figure! So many Christians do not know why they believe what they believe. This just goes to show, if we do not know why we believe, and if our foundation of faith is not solid now, it will be shaken later.
As we step onto our high school and college campuses, we should be the most prepared and be the firmest in our beliefs out of anyone there. Obviously, as the statistics show, this is not the case today. Christians abandon their faith because they are not prepared to answer some of the simplest arguments against God that are presented by atheists today. If you were faced with any of the following statements and questions, would you be able to answer them?
- If God really existed, why would he allow all of the evil and suffering that exists in the world? (For example: 9/11)
- There is no proof for creationism, evolution has been proven and any attempt to hold on to that myth is foolishness and blind faith.
- The Bible is historically inaccurate and is full of fairytales.
- The life of Jesus Christ is undocumented and it is very likely that he was not even a real person, not to mention there is absolutely no proof for his resurrection from the dead.
- You really believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God? How do you know that Christianity is the only religion that is right? You really think that the billions of Muslims and Buddhists in world are going to Hell just because they believe differently than you? How arrogant!
- Good and evil are illusions. Right and wrong are determined simply according to what is best for the survival of humanity and by avoiding the most possible suffering for the majority.
The arguments are endless, but the evidences for God’s existence are overwhelming. Jesus told us to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:36-40) So many times we ignore the command to love God with our mind. We need to know what we believe and we need to know why we believe it. We must actively seek out the evidences for God.
Since that moment when I realized the gaping hole in my knowledge of God, as I searched out how God has revealed himself to his creation, my faith has been strengthened. We have no better opportunities in our lifetime to share the gospel than on our high school and college campuses, but we have got to be prepared. God has called us do hard things, and the search for evidence is not easy, but it is definitely worth it. Know what, but just as importantly, know why.
Photo courtesy of Hilbert 1958 and Flickr Creative Commons.