Feed My Sheep

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The Holy Spirit has been frequently whispering one three-word phrase to me, over and over again, that being, “Feed my sheep.”  Hence, I’ve decided to commit to blogging once a week on an on-going basis with devotions to feed His flock, in the faith.  This blog will be dedicated to the message God lays on my heart to lift you up, as believers in Christ.  I’m starting off this blog by addressing a more serious matter that is near to my heart right now, betrayal.  I wonder if any of you have experienced betrayal?  If so, when someone who you love betrays your trust, do you remain loyal to the friendship, marriage, or family member?  I want to encourage anyone right now that has experienced the pain of being cut to the heart by the blade of betrayal; that God feels your pain.  “Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are on her cheeks. Among all her lovers there is no one to comfort her.  All her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies.” (Lamentations 1:2)

How does the Bible address this poignant topic, and how should we deal with this issue as a Christian?  In the Bible, there are several examples of betrayal, starting with the first family in Genesis, when Cain betrayed his brother Abel, by leading him out to a field, with the sole intent to kill him.  You may also remember the well-known story of Sampson and Delilah found in Judges 16:18-20:  “When Delilah realized that he had told her his secret, she sent for the Philistine tyrants, telling them, “Come quickly—this time he’s told me the truth.” They came, bringing the bribe money.  When she got him to sleep, his head on her lap, she motioned to a man to cut off the seven braids of his hair. Immediately he began to grow weak. His strength drained from him.  Then she said, “The Philistines are on you, Samson!” He woke up, thinking, “I’ll go out, like always, and shake free.” He didn’t realize that God had abandoned him.”  This is an example of the kind of betrayal done deliberately in order to hurt or harm someone, by his wife, no less.  Let’s look further. 

In the New Testament, in John 18, we see two kinds of betrayal.  First, we see an outright betrayal leading to death by Judas, who had just led the soldiers and Jewish leaders to the place where he knew Jesus would be, in the olive grove where he was arrested.  Judas had deserted Jesus and his fellow disciples, and blatantly sold him out, to his death–the ultimate betrayal. (v. 1-8).  In contrast, we learn of the somewhat concealed betrayal by Peter who was just outside the courtyard where Jesus was being tried.  Someone recognized Peter as one of the disciples, as he was warming his hands by the fire.  Then, the pivotal moment comes when Peter denies knowing Jesus three times, and is scorned by the fulfilled prophecy signified by the crow of a rooster (v. 25-27).  This betrayal was in the form of fear by association of what might happen if he was recognized as a Christ-follower.

Have you ever experienced betrayal by those you love, because of blatant disloyalty, a disconnected relationship, or their fear of being found out?  Or, maybe you have betrayed someone’s trust unknowingly yourself.  Merriam Webster defines betrayal as hurting someone who trusts you by not giving help or by doing something morally wrong.  So before we throw each other under the bus on this one, let’s see what God has to say about it.  In Proverbs 25:9 it says, “In the heat of an argument, don’t betray confidences; Word is sure to get around, and no one will trust you.”    Maybe we embellish our life stories just a little to impress others, make empty promises, or we talk about the annoyances of people when they’re not around.  Did I strike a chord here?  Well if not, how about this one.  Revelation 2:4, “ Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first.”  What? not that verse.  Am I stepping on anyone’s toes yet?  God says, in Psalm 89:33, “but I will not take my love from him, nor will I ever betray my faithfulness.” NIV.  When we forsake, deny, or disengage, from those we love, it is an act of betrayal.  When, we approve of this world by the activities we engage in, misplace our priorities, or live in denial of who we are in Christ, we are pulling ourselves away from God.  

Remember, after the resurrection, when Jesus said to Peter, “If you love me, feed my sheep!”  Isn’t it just like God, our Shepherd to bring those He loves back to the fold.    When Peter heard His precious Savior say this phrase to him three times, it definitely resonated with him.  Let’s allow Jesus’ words to resonate with us too.  If someone in your life has betrayed you, cheated, lied, or done worse, have compassion for them.  By choosing to love the unlovable people God has placed around you, you are building a trust that will hopefully restore your relationship, and bring them back to God.  If you have been the betrayer, then remember God forgives you,  and He cannot betray His faithfulness to you, if you confess your sin and return to Him.

A final challenge and word of encouragement:  Eliminate the tendency to betray the trust of others.  Be transparent with everyone as much as possible.  And finally, if you love God, then be a comfort to the unlovable people, who may just feel betrayed by life’s heavy blows.  (II Cor. 1:3-4) –Go ahead, “Feed [His] sheep!”

Ministry Update

I have just finished my 6-week mentorship with Next Level Songs, and it was a good growing experience for me with my songwriting.  It all started when I attended the Next Level Songs retreat back in April, and I was given the mentoring opportunity through God’s provision.  Now, I am excited to be telling you what is coming, as I am trusting God for His guidance in my songwriting ministry.

During my retreat experience God specifically called me to write songs for the church. (Gal. 6:9-10) I was able to write an average of three songs a week during the mentorship with God’s help, and I am going to continue doing this.  I will be writing worship songs primarily, and my heart is to write songs out of love for the church.  I will also be co-writing with others as I have the opportunity to do so.  

Also, I am excited to be telling you that God is calling me to go out and serve Him wherever I can, by encouraging others in testimony and songs for His glory.  I have set up an events page for you to check out what is coming up on my calendar in the near future. Please pray for me as this is a bold undertaking for me, but one that the Holy Spirit will enable me for as I prepare to go. 

Also, in September I am very excited and overwhelmed for the GAP Songwriter’s Intensive that I will be attending in Franklin, TN.  This will be a blessing, as I will be able to write with some amazing writers in the music industry.  I took a step of faith in this, because I am totally trusting God for the funds.  Although, after prayerfully considering my next steps, I feel that the Holy Spirit is leading me in this direction, as well.  Please pray for me in preparation for this event, that the Lord will enable and give inspiration for me to record and write songs in keeping with the goals.

I am humbly asking for prayer in all of these things, as all of these new happenings in my life will come with trials, and struggles too.  Please pray that I will stay closely grounded to what God wants to do through me as I minister for His glory, and write songs to build up the church.  Please leave your comments as they are a huge encouragement to me, as I continue to step out in faith with God at the helm.

A Leap of Faith

Frogs are associated with leap years

It is February 29th today, which appears on the calendar only every four years.  Leap day was devised based on the Gregorian calendar, which has 365 days to coincide with the Earth’s orbit around the sun.  So, this system helps to keep our calendars in sync with the Earth and its seasons.  Some people who have birthdays on February 29th only celebrate their special day when it actually appears on the calendar.  Waiting four long years to celebrate my birthday with cake and presents doesn’t sound too pleasant to me.  It would be like living my life as a Christian, and never really celebrating my birth in Christ.  What do I mean by that, well your salvation is not just a single event in the life of a born again believer–been there, done that, got the baptismal certificate to prove it.  No, my friend, it is the initial leap of faith of many in your journey of faith as God’s child.

Taking a leap of faith should be a natural occurrence in your life as a Christian.  God did not mean for us to remain complacent, but to fully rely on Him as we take risks and boldly follow His plan.  In my Bible study, The Armor Of God, by Priscilla Shirer, I have been looking at those faithful followers in Hebrews 11.  The faithful ones followed God without questioning where they were going, what they were doing, all with the intention of being obedient to God’s call.  Whether it made sense or not, for Noah to build an ark without ever seeing one drop of rain in his entire life, didn’t seem crazy.  For Sarah, well past child-bearing age, to trust God for His promise of giving her a child, didn’t seem impossible.  They took a leap of faith, and acted in obedience to whatever God led them to do.

Since I took a leap of faith by changing my career as a teacher, to become a Christian songwriter, the Lord has been faithful in leading me and encouraging me along the way.  Yes, at first I didn’t know what would come of it.  But, God has shown me through this, that He fully intends for every Christian to take risks and leaps of faith in their Christian walk.  How else, would we come to depend on Him, if we always had everything planned out, and knew the outcome of every undertaking.  Yes, we should think things through, but we should also be listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  When we have no choice but to trust God with our lives, that is when He shows up in power; we need only get out of the way.

When is the last time you have felt God’s prompting to take a leap of faith?  Friend, it should be almost a daily occurrence, as you abide in Christ, and let Him be the Lord of Your life.  In the songwriting biz, you feel like everything you do: submitting songs in contests;  collaborating with others; songwriting retreats,  are all a stretch in the faith department.  But, when you look to God and His plan for you, He will give you specific details as He guides you.  In my experience, He has been very specific about which songwriting retreats to go to, as well as starting this website and blog to encourage all of you.  So, I challenge you to pray and ask God specifically about the next step in your faith walk.  As you take bigger and more frequent leaps of faith, it brings you even closer to God.  Not to mention, when you entrust your life to God’s plan, it will turn out to be much greater than you could ever imagine.  What are you waiting for?

Virtuous vs. Virtuoso

 

   For those of us Renaissance types, sticking to one thing can become an arduous task.  We all aspire to be accomplished at something, or to at least try to make a difference with our lives.  However, the difficulty lies in finding what exactly it is that we are aspiring to.  For some of us, who are very focused and driven people, it’s easy to discover that one thing you’re good at and honing in on it.   But for the rest of us, “Jacks of all Trades”  if you will, hopping from one thing to the next is in our nature.

When we look at scripture, We have been given a blueprint of a virtuous woman in Proverbs 31:10-31.  And, you can’t get much more Renaissance than that.  These are just a few of her talents:  She cooks, buys land, sells goods, gardens, sews, trades goods, is physically fit, volunteers, is hospitable, teaches, and manages her household.  No wonder she doesn’t seem to have time to turn off her lamp at night.  She is definitely a hard worker, and has more skills than most of us could claim, and yet her husband and children do not praise her for all that.  Did you hear me?  It’s not all that we do in this life that counts; but how we exemplify Christ in what we do that counts!  Sure, we know “Idleness is the devil’s workshop.”  But verse thirty sums up what should be our focus, “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

For me, it’s been a constant juggling act, to keep myself focused on what’s important in life.  In fact, God has really been speaking to me about just “sticking to the one thing” (songwriting), instead of all those other distractions.  Don’t get me wrong, some of those distractions are good.  For example, Bible study is crucial, household chores need to be done,  caring for my children is necessary.  But, there are other things that can get in the way, like learning a foreign language, playing three instruments, arts and crafts, social surfing, reading 5 books at once, Yeah! you get the idea.  God has helped me to focus in on my songwriting, so that I can do one thing, and do it well.  Because, I do want to be virtuous; but, I also want to be a virtuoso.  I want that specialized skill that with years of practice and hard work will please God and give Him the glory in the end.  I Corinthians 10:31 says, So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  So remember, when you’re evaluating yourself,  find that one craft that God intended for you to become His craftsmanship, and “stick to it.” 

CHALLENGE:  Spend at least 30 minutes a day perfecting your craft (songwriting, etc.), and see what a difference that makes.

See It Bigger

I am constantly reminding myself to try and look at things from a bigger perspective.  It’s real easy for me to get caught up in my little bubble of simple living, without giving a single thought to what is going on globally.  As I’ve had more time to reflect on this, I know God wants me to open my eyes to the world from a bi-focal point of view.   Not just looking at what is right in front of me, but also concentrating on what is far away.  In our sermon Sunday, my pastor spoke on the story of Job, and shared Job 42:5, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” We may have a very limited view as Job did, but God who sees the bigger picture, will reveal the grander scale of things to us.  Why do you think God gave us the great commission in Matthew 28:19?, that says,  “Go therefore[c] and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  This passage is a command for us to”make disciples of all nations” by the authority given to us in Jesus’ name . [Mtt. 28:18]  Is God calling all of us to physically travel the world in order to make disciples?–no, we are not all missionaries. But, I believe He wants us to use our resources to touch the world wherever we are.  Whether it be by prayer, finances, communication via the internet, etc., we have a huge responsibility to be a gospel witness and teacher of God’s Word to everyone we come in contact with.  Although it may seem intimidating, nevertheless, we are ambassadors for Christ. [II Cor. 5:20]

Therefore, God has laid it on my heart to be committed to this website, and to pray for and help others that I may never meet here on Earth.  As you know, if you’ve checked out my charity page here, I have information on some Nepal ministries that I support.  From my correspondence with them, recently, I have been made aware of some real physical needs that they have right now.   Please join me in praying specifically for them in this moment, as their water supply, and food supplies are being cut off from India.  This is causing some children to get scabies, and the people are very malnourished as well.  Also, please pray for the ministers of the gospel there to be encouraged, and strengthened in their service, as they go in Jesus’ name.  If God made it possible for me, I would love to go over there on a mission trip, and work along side of them.  Perhaps He will pave a way in the future–I’m praying about it– but for now I am using my resources, to help them.  Thank you so much for your continued prayers, as well.  Remember to think globally, and ask yourself in what ways God may use your resources to spread the gospel and “make disciples” to all nations.

Coconuts & Compositions In Paradise

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I grew up in South Florida where Palm trees are plentiful.  It was very exciting when a coconut fell from one of the trees, and I opened one up.  I started by peeling off the hairy husk, to get to the hard, inner core.  Next, I used a hammer to crack open the seed of the coconut, and drained the juice out.  Then, I decided to take a bite of the coconut meat–yuck!  The sour tasting coconut juice, mixed with the bland flavor of the coconut was not pleasant.  But when coconut is taken to a processing plant where it is extracted from the seed, and transformed into sweetened white flakes–oh, what a difference it makes.  I was thinking about this as I sunk my teeth into one of my Lindor milk chocolate, coconut truffles yesterday.

When writing songs it’s kind of like that coconut, as it goes through a similar transformation process.  First, a song might simply be an idea or theme with a great hook (title, or catchy chorus opener).  You may have a few verse lines maybe; but you think how is this skeleton outline ever going to develop into anything with potential.  But after many rewrites and getting just the right rhymes, word pictures, metaphors, etc., it can turn out to be a full-fledged song.  Just like the transformation of the coconut, a song can become a delightful, memorable masterpiece.  That’s what I like about songwriting; I am an artist who shapes lyrics and melody into a musical masterpiece.

When I think of transformation from a spiritual aspect, I am reminded of what’s in store for us, who have accepted Jesus Christ, when we arrive in heaven.   Revelation 7:16 says, They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat;” –we cannot even fathom what He has prepared for us compared to this world.  Our bodies will no longer be like the temporary “tents” that wear out, but strong  houses built for all eternity.  God gives us only an inkling of all the splendor of heaven we will behold, “Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev. 21:2)  All the beauty of creation that we have here on Earth is no contest for the glorious days ahead for us as believers.  I can only imagine the perfect songs we will sing with angelic voices, when we are praising our Savior and our God on His heavenly throne.  If I had to compare, it would be like the difference between the children’s ‘Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah!’ praise chorus, and the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from Handel’s Messiah!  We have much to look forward to in heaven.   Will I have Palm trees that grow Almond Joys in my backyard?  We’ll see! 

The Gospel-In-A-Nutshell

  •  Capture

       This past week while visiting my parents I turned my attention to their TV.  They were watching the gameshow, “So You Want To Be a Millionaire” which posed the question “What is the Bible verse reference also referred to as the gospel-in-a-nutshell, found on In-N-Out Burgers’ soda cups?”  After the question is given, multiple choice answers are offered.  I was surprised when the contestant didn’t know the answer, and had to get help from the audience.  Then, I was even more amazed when only 65% of the audience knew the correct answer was John 3:16.  We take it for granted, I think, when we expect everyone to know the Bible like we do, but still at the same time it should make us all the more eager to spread the gospel.  That is why I feel privileged to be able to use singing and songwriting as my platform to share the Word of God.  

      I believe it’s important, now more than ever, to use every medium we have to let others know the gospel.  We have the Internet  at our fingertips as a way to reach so many people all over the world with the good news.  God has asked us to be obedient in fulfilling the great commission (Mtt. 28:19).  So, I encourage you to use any tools at your disposal, and to be bold as you see the Day approaching.  (Heb. 10:25)

      As an artist, I feel I must be advertent to include the gospel message in my songs; but, I also want my songs to relate to people so that they can connect with them.  So, I just try to creatively describe the bigger picture of what it is to be a Christian, without compromising, so that the Word of God doesn’t get lost in translation.  It would be very difficult for me not to talk about everything that God means to me.  I also want to make sure that I am not irreverent in any way, and that my songs are Biblically sound.

        It is absolutely necessary for us to be obedient to God’s calling to spread the gospel in whatever capacity God has given us.  There is just too much immoral counterculture being elevated in the world, and so many lost and dying souls, for us not to.  Music moves people and a great song has a way of really inspiring us for change, or lifting our spirits.  Therefore, I consider it an honor and a privilege to be a songwriter of God’s Word.  I hope that others will stand beside me in writing great songs for God as well.  We write songs for the furtherance of the gospel, and to build God’s kingdom here on Earth.