Hiding in Hymns

A hymn is not a poem. Even though hymns have an outward resemblance to formal poetry, they actually function very differently. A successful poem works because it expresses a unique individual viewpoint. A successful hymn works because it speaks for the congregation. Continue reading


Problems with Worship

While it is true that every page of the Bible has something to say to us, sometimes, one part of the Scriptures is made particularly relevant by something about our circumstances.  I think this is the case with the book of Malachi.  Like the Jews of Malachi’s time, we live in a post-restoration existence.  Like them, we’re part of a community of God’s people that has been serving Him faithfully for more than a hundred years.

However, as Malachi reveals, being part of a faithful tradition is not enough to ensure that we personally are pleasing to God.  Malachi points out several areas in which the Jews, rather than asking how much they could give to God, had begun to ask how little they could get away with giving.  This was true with their marriages, it was true with their tithing, and it was true with their worship.  Because our spiritual position is so similar to theirs, we easily can fall into the same trap.  Let’s use a context in Malachi, then, to evaluate potential problems with our own worship. Continue reading

Sending Someone Else

The story of Exodus 3-4 is truly a descent from the sublime to the ridiculous.  It begins with God Himself appearing to Moses in the burning bush and revealing His great plan for the deliverance of His people.  Moses’ job is to be the pebble that starts the avalanche, to go to Pharaoh and bring the people out.

However, the pebble has other ideas.  Moses throws up excuse after excuse, God patiently answers them all, until finally, in 4:13, Moses reveals his true motivation.  He says, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”

The problem here isn’t inclination.  Moses does want to see Israel delivered.  In fact, that’s why he’s in exile in the first place!  The problem is participation.  Even though it’s a good work, Moses flat doesn’t want to get involved. Continue reading

Choosing Right or Choosing Kind

In years past, my wife and I spent a lot of time visiting her Uncle Chuck and Aunt Betty.  Betty likes antiques, so in the bathroom of their guest suite, there is a beautiful chrome vintage scale, clearly designed by the same people who designed the ’57 Chevy.

If you weigh yourself on the scale, you will discover a pleasant surprise.  Even though you have been on vacation, ingesting vast quantities of paper-wrapper fried-food garbage, the scale will inform you that you have actually LOST weight since you left home.  Down three pounds, down four pounds, maybe even down five pounds!

Sadly, when you return home, the truth will emerge.  You have not actually lost weight; indeed, quite the opposite is true.  The scale in Chuck and Betty’s guest bathroom is a lying scale.  They keep it around for looks, and possibly for the momentary pleasure it brings their guests. Continue reading


We live in troubled times. It appears that our country is more divided than it has been in a long time. After our current president was sworn in last Friday, millions of Americans spent the weekend protesting their displeasure. In major cities across the country there were people marching and loudly voicing their displeasure for the direction of the country.

It is certainly discouraging to see how divided we are. In fact, if we just spent an hour watching the news over the past few days, we might think that we live in one of the worst countries in the world. But the truth is, despite all the protest (despite all the anger and pessimism of many) we still live in the greatest country in the world! Our country is great because we have something of great importance and yet it is often taken for granted. We have freedom.

  • Freedom to choose our own path. We live in a country where we can not only dream big, but we can move towards achieving those dreams. We can be doctors and lawyers. We can own businesses. We can be teachers and engineers. We can work hard and accumulate wealth. Our children can get educated and aspire to be whatever they want.
  • Freedom to go anywhere at any time. You need to go to Walmart today? You need to visit someone in their home? You want to go to the mall in Cool Springs, or even to visit New York or California? If you have the resources and the time, go! In this country you have the freedom to go anywhere you want at any time. It is totally up to you.
  • Freedom to vote. I know millions are not happy with the outcome of the recent election (the truth is every election has a group of unhappy folks), but what a blessing it is to have a say in our political process. What a blessing it is to be able to vote and choose our leaders. I have been many places where the people did not have the privilege of voting. In some cases they may have been allowed to vote, but if they didn’t vote a certain way they could be arrested or even killed!
  • Freedom of religion. There are Christians across the globe who would do anything to have this privilege. Our brethren in the first century would have loved to have had this privilege. Instead many of them were arrested, beaten, and killed for their faith (Acts 4:18-20, 23-31; Revelation 2:13). We have the privilege of being able to get up on Sunday morning to go and worship God without fear of any kind of interference from our government. In fact, we have the protected right to worship in our country! We have the protected right to teach the Bible and spread the gospel to others! Unfortunately, so often many struggle with taking advantage of this privilege.

Regardless of whether the person you voted for won or not, don’t lose sight of the blessings of freedom. Don’t take for granted how wonderful it is to live in a free country! Millions of people in the world would do anything to have all the freedoms that come with being an American.

The question is: do you have the freedom that Jesus died to give you? Jesus didn’t die so you can have the freedom that comes with being an American citizen. Jesus died so you can be set free from sin (Romans 5:8-10; 6:17-18). There are many Americans who have all the freedoms mentioned above, but they are still slaves of the terrible master of sin (John 8:34). As a result, they will die lost in their sins (John 8:24). Don’t let that be you! Surrender to Jesus. Obey the truth because only it can set you free (John 8:32).

– Shawn Jeffries