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For me, worshipping God through music is my way of connecting with Him. It is also how and when he speaks to me a lot of times. As for secular music, I do listen to it on occasion but have become very cautious about what I listen to. If there is a song that speaks negatively of God, or is about drugs, sex, etc. I will change channels. Not too long ago, my wife and I went through our CD's and movies getting rid of a lot of music and videos that we were convicted on and knew that it was not pleasing to God. I am of the firm belief that what you listen to and watch affects how you think and act. You may not think so at first, but over time it takes hold. We were amazed at how much music and movies we got rid of, including several that were our "favorites". But once we prayed about it, and thought about what was in the content we just could not keep them. Some questions we kept asking ourselves were "would God be pleased with us listening to or watching this?", "do they take God's name in vain at any point in the song/movie?" While it was hard to do, it was also freeing to get rid of the "junk" in our lives.

I really like Psalms 26:2, I've constantly questioned and examined my motives in my service to God? Not because I doubt God and what His word says, but wanting to make sure my motives are pure. Reminding myself that if I do anything for any other reason than I love Him, everything else is in vain. I have a mantra now, and I say it often "Glory to God", I mean it when I say it, it is praise, prayer,powerful, also a constant reminder to me that to God be the Glory. Be Blessed.

The commentary from bible.org about how God hardens the hearts of the Egyptians really got me thinking... The writer supposes that the hardening of the heart is a cooperative effort between Pharoah and God...that Pharoah sets his direction and God "hardens" it so that he cannot turn away from the consequences of his choices. He also began to discuss how believers' hearts are hardened...

It challenged me because I began to identify in the story with the Egyptians instead of the Israelites. Usually I think of how I am like God's people in the desert, confused, complaining, frightened, but ultimately under His grace. Instead I began to think of how I am like Pharoah and his soldiers--stubborn, set on my own course, deciding that I will take on the God of the Universe! But, ultimately, praise God from whom all blessings flow(!), I have been taken out of that hardness of heart, sometimes gently, sometimes roughly, and have been brought into a place of grace. I am grateful--because I know I am much more like Pharoah than I am like Moses and yet I am forgiven.

11Who compares with you among gods, O GOD?
Who compares with you in power, in holy majesty,
In awesome praises, wonder-working God?
No comparison! There is no one in heaven or on earth that can compare to our wonder-working God. He amazes mankind with the mysterious ways that He moves... the things that He allows to bring glory to Himself. I found it amazing last week to hear about how the church in many of the areas hurt by the tsunami has stepped out of the shadows to love their world and show the power of God in a way that they had not previously. Is the Christian message relevant? Is the church connecting to the world's needs today? To varying degrees, yes, but ultimately God is always full of compassion. The whole of creation is groaning, waiting for God's redemption to be completed.

In Matthew today, I am reminded of the challenge to "Walk the walk, not just Talk the talk". Whether it be Pharisees or "Bible-thumpers" - Jesus' message is the same. The Kingdom of Heaven is not for those who just talk about righteousness - but for those who rejoice in God's deliverance from their past lives, addictions, sin and condemnation through the blood of Jesus Christ.

In Psalms, I hear David leading a grand chorus of praise and it makes me want to join in also - praising God for who He is and for what He has done. Praise not just for creation and how He has worked throughout history, but I praise Him for how He has touched, cared for and protected me today.

I play the electric guitar in our church's praise and worship ministry almost every Sunday (both services). Music has always been one of my favorite worship outlets to the Lord. I listen to secular music, but not as much as I did as a teenager and young adult. Reading the bible has sharpened my discernment skills and I watch myself to make sure that the lyrics from secular music do not play over and over in my mind and "become" part of my behavior. We become what we think about.

Exodus 13:17-15:18
There are three things in this reading that stand out and speak to me. Two of them are different sides to the same coin and the last one speaks to me about what prayer and God’s direction is really about it’s about doing what God has told you to do.
1) Exodus 14: 3 (The first side of the coin) Then Pharaoh will think, `Those Israelites are confused. They are trapped between the wilderness and the sea!' 4And once again I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will chase after you. I have planned this so I will receive great glory at the expense of Pharaoh and his armies. After this, the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD!" So the Israelites camped there as they were told.

And the second side of the same coin

2) Exodus 14: 31 When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the LORD had displayed against the Egyptians, they feared the LORD and put their faith in him and his servant Moses.

3) 15 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! 16 Use your shepherd's staff--hold it out over the water, and a path will open up before you through the sea. Then all the people of Israel will walk through on dry ground. 17 Yet I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they will follow the Israelites into the sea. Then I will receive great glory at the expense of Pharaoh and his armies, chariots, and charioteers. 18 When I am finished with Pharaoh and his army, all Egypt will know that I am the LORD!"

The two sided coin (1 & 2) says to me that the God needed to let Egypt and Pharaoh know that their power, their gods, their strategies were trumped by Israel’s God because their gods are no gods at all. Israel, had been molded by slavery and had the mind of a slave, told what to do and when to do it. There was no hope and no future. God was giving them a hope and future in Him. Egypt was the slave master, superior in status, cultural and mental acuity, so they thought. Oppressors like to kid themselves in thinking that without them those they oppress would be lost in their own stupidity, but God knows how to humble the proud.

In the third I see a “prayer meeting” where people are praying for a change, deliverance, but after the meeting, they do nothing but stand around waiting for God to do something. The bible says that God doesn’t change, He is the same yesterday, today and forever so His purposes and patterns can be discerned by studying His ways in the Bible.(Hebrews 13:8). James 1:17 says that God doesn’t change. Every time God does a miracle, moves on someone’s behalf, He always seems to ask something of us. Jesus healed ten men with leprosy as they went … (Luke 17:11-17). A blind man was “sent” to the pool of Siloam to go wash and came back seeing (John 9:6-9). Lazarus, the friend Jesus loved, brother of Mary and busy Martha was called out from the grave, but not before he told them to “move the stone.” (John 11) Naaman, the commander of the Aram army (2 Kings 5), was told to go dip seven times in the dirty Jordan River to be healed of his leprosy. God, Jesus makes us partners in our own deliverance it appears we must do something. Standing around watching what God would do without doing anything is does not appear to me the way God works.

Regarding music and worship. The only creative power is God anything else is counterfeit. The word says that God’s gifts and callings are without repentance. God gives us the gifts what we do with them is on us. Also if you research the history of some of the beloved hymns then you will find that many of them have music borrowed from folks songs, bar songs and other secular forms of music. Just like we need to be redeemed, music and other art forms need to be redeemed and given back over to God.
Matthew 21:32-46
If someone talks long enough they will tell you who they really are. No one will have to judge them because their words will both convict and condemn they. As Jesus gave the religious leaders two stories, one about two sons and the other about tenant farmers, the leaders responses convicted and condemned them. There questioning of Jesus’ authority to clear out the Temple came despite them seeing Him perform miracles and hearing Him teach and the Parables came as a response to their challenging His authority.

Psalm 26:1-12
3 For I am constantly aware of your unfailing love,
and I have lived according to your truth.

The above verse is what stood out for me. So many of us, myself included, look for a “truth” other than what God says. We line up and adjust the Word to our experiences are what we think, when we should be lining up are lives, our thought patterns; our beliefs are to be confirmed to the Word not to our experiences.

Proverbs 6:16-19

These “six” things, no “seven” that the Lord hates are a summation of the character traits listed yesterday of “worthless and “wicked people.” (Proverbs 6:12-15)

Grace and peace,

About secular music, I used to listen to secular music up until a couple years ago. After sophomore year of college, I felt convicted to stop listening. Christian music to me is so much more uplifting and there is music for any genre. I used to listen to a lot of hip hop and rap because I like the beats and it's fun to dance too. Well, there are Christian rap artists out there! Same beats...much cleaner lyrics and I love it!!

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