Tag Archives: India

Dance With Death

Dance The Night Away by Pennie Gibson--Public Domain Pictures“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’ And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.” Isaiah 6:1-4 (NKJV)

How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’”   Isaiah 14:11-14 (NKJV)

Music’s intended (and continued) purpose is to bring honor and glory to God. God created music as a way to express worship. Prior to his rebellion against God, Lucifer was responsible for the heavenly hosts whose primary job was to sing praises to the Most High. He has not forgotten the incredible, innate power of God-created music. Music reaches beyond our mind and heart and into the depths of our spirit. It expresses that which is often inexpressible and resonates with that which is eternal.

Music was meant to be a reflection of the glory and beauty of the Godhead. After God’s creation of man, music also became a portal through which we could enter into the very presence of God. It is for this reason that Satan is determined to corrupt music to reflect his perceived “glory.” Music can not be neutral, just as nothing else in the universe is neutral.

Music is as unique and varied as each person and culture. It is not my desire to discuss the merits of any of these varied musical styles. For the Christian, however, we have a specific standard by which we are to judge music (and everything else for that matter): does this focus our attention on God and bring glory to Him, or does it divert that focus, attention, and glory elsewhere?

If you do not already believe in the power of music to influence, pay close attention to the way music is used in every movie you have ever seen. Music sets the tone for each scene.  A musical score can be used to portray danger, love, sadness, humor, anger, and a host of other emotions. No producer or director would consider a movie to be complete without the music that enhances it. Every soundtrack is a deliberate choice; each note, each musical phrase, each sound effect, adds to that film something which can not be accomplished any other way.

It is the inherent power of music that makes it essential for us to examine the music we listen to. Music can either bring us into light or into darkness. Satan is not ignorant of music’s power and he will use any and all means at his disposal to influence music for his purposes.

Until the past several years, I lived, at least to some degree, as if there were elements in our world that were basically neutral, such as music, mathematics, or science; that it was possible God had no part in certain aspects of life. Needless to say, this is a dangerous presupposition.

As I have mentioned previously, I did not grow up with a completely Biblical worldview.  I was certainly aware that God was “in everything,” but for me and for most of the people I knew, life appeared to be lived on two somewhat parallel tracks. Even though Christianity impacted our daily lives, we lived them as if certain cultural and personal elements were “neutral.” The older I get, the more I begin to understand that there is no such thing as “neutral” anything in life. Every part of this universe either reflects life or it reflects death; it reflects God or it reflects the enemy of our souls. These are the only two options that God has given us. It is irrelevant that we wish it were otherwise.

We have a good friend who is closely connected with a missions’ organization in India.  He is also a musician (an opera singer and a pianist). He can tell you about the power of music, especially as it relates to missions. When Mission India holds Children’s Bible Clubs in various villages in India, it is the Bible songs which the Holy Spirit uses time and time again to seal the truth of the Gospel in these children’s hearts. The power of God manifested through music helps drive out the demonic influences that are so prevalent in their culture.

One notable example of “death set to music” in our own culture is some of the rap music that is so popular today. I have no “beef” with rap music per se (even though I don’t particularly enjoy it), only with certain rap artists who fill the airwaves with songs on death, murder, rape, violence, and a host of other blatant moral sewage. There are plenty of examples in hard rock music, as well as other musical genres. Most Christians would agree that this type of music is something to be avoided. However, so much of the music that we listen to doesn’t exactly take us to the moral high ground either.

Obviously, certain types of music are more blatant in their “dance with death” than others. It is in music where the darkness is more subtle, that we have to be most alert. With more subtle music, it is easy to ignore that vague sense of unease. Danger slips in the back door when we aren’t paying attention.

This is why it is so critically important to discern the spiritual impact of our music. Music has been, and always will be, a portal into the spiritual realm. We must guard our hearts by choosing carefully which spiritual realm the music we listen to takes us.

Lest anyone think that I am promoting any particular style or type of music, I am not. Each one of us is unique. Music affects us in different ways depending on our personality, our mood, our experiences, and our level of spiritual maturity. All I am advocating here is that we take a closer look at the music we do listen to. We need to ask ourselves this question:  does this music bring me into a place of peace, joy, quiet, meditation, and worship or does it take me into darkness, isolation, depression, discouragement, and into thoughts and behavior that are detrimental?

I have listened to many so-called “secular” pieces of music that have brought me into worship just as effectively as music that was considered “sacred.”  Our musical selections can not be made based merely on a certain type or style. We need to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in this area, as much as we do in every other area of our life, and make our choices accordingly. Because God has chosen to manifest Himself through music, we must ask ourselves:  If our music isn’t reflecting the glory of God, then whose glory is it reflecting?

Puts a whole different emphasis on what music we choose, doesn’t it?

“And the Levites who were the singers, all those of Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, stood at the east end of the altar, clothed in white linen, having cymbals, stringed instruments and harps, and with them one hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets— indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying: “For He is good, for His mercy endures forever,” that the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.” 2 Chronicles 5:12-14 (NKJV)

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

Copyright © 2013 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

Perspective Is A Beautiful Thing

MASSquerade--Belhaven Fall Faculty ConcertThen Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them: “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!” Exodus 15:20-21 (NKJV)

My husband has just returned from a trip to India with Mission India. His tells of those he met who are filled with (and exude) the joy of the Lord, even in the midst of great poverty and persecution. The miraculous is common place there as people who have lived their lives in utter darkness are brought into the light of Jesus Christ. They don’t “know any better” than to take God at His word, believing that all the Bible says is true.

“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Luke 18:17 (NKJV)

They haven’t learned to play “church” or put qualifications on what God will do for them. If God said it, they believe He will do it. Their lives are filled with incredible joy and power. Life in India as a Christian is not easy. Even being in grave danger is no deterrent to them sharing the good news of the Gospel. Below are just a few examples of the power of Jesus Christ in their lives.

We heard the story of a man that had to walk on his hands due to a physical disability who travelled 200 miles by bus because he heard Mission India had children’s Bible materials. He was given the box of books he requested but no one quite knows how he got them home.

Or the story of a young lady requesting to enter the Church Planter Program. When asked why she wanted to undertake something so difficult, she told them that when she became a Christian, her family put a fatwa on her life. She didn’t know how much longer she had to live, but wanted to make sure others heard the Good News in whatever time she had left. Several months later, she was killed by her family.

Or the pastor who was beaten to an inch of his life, but returned to the same village after he recovered to continue preaching the Gospel.

Or that of another young lady who was spectacularly beautiful but when she became a Christian had kerosene poured on her and was set afire. When asked how she could be so radiantly joyful, replied, “With all my Jesus has done for me, how could I be any less?”

Or the joy on the faces of the children participating in a Children’s Bible Club that is held on the top of a garbage dump with smells so overpowering as to be almost intolerable.

While I do not make light of the current difficulties we face here in this country, many Christians won’t even bother going to church if it’s raining outside. Does this not tell us the value we place on our faith and relationship with Jesus Christ?

India is not an unusual situation for Christians in the world at large. Many countries have a similar hostile environment. And while we are blessed to live in the United States where we have had incredible freedoms, there are those who believe that persecution is coming–or has already started. I am reminded of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18,

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

These verses tell us to give thanks “in” all things–not “for” all things. God did not intend for His Church to become a punching bag for all the enemy throws at us. He has given us the Holy Spirit to overcome our challenges and difficulties. We tend to forget something our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world have not: we are meant to overcome the enemy. And we can do this because Jesus Christ purchased that ability on the cross through His death and subsequent resurrection.

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NKJV)

So, the next time we think we have it tough, we need to remind ourselves how much we have been given and should be grateful for. We need to remember the persecution of those around the world who are called by His name, praying for their protection and continued courage to proclaim the Good News under incredibly difficult circumstances. Because no matter what we face here, as yet, we do not fear for our lives.

Perspective is a beautiful thing.

(Author’s note: The above picture was taken during the piece “MASSquerade” presented at Belhaven University as part of the Fall Faculty Concert in 2011. The story depicted in this piece was of the games we play with each other in church. My daughter, Hannah, is the center young lady of the three in the front. My thanks to Matthew Palfenier for permission to use his photograph.)

Copyright © 2013 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

Jesus, Name Above All Names

First Advent and first candle is lit
Image by Per Ola Wiberg ~ Powi via Flickr

“Jesus, name above all names,

Beautiful Savior,

Glorious Lord,

Immanuel, God is with us,

Blessed Redeemer,

Living Word…”

Those last three names – “Immanuel, God with us,” “Blessed Redeemer,” and “Living Word” – captured our attention as we thought about Christmas in India. What does “Immanuel, God with us” mean? What is God’s presence? We get so caught up in temporal, soon-to-be broken or discarded presents that we forget the ultimate gift is the eternal, unending presence of Immanuel!

Just as cold is the absence of heat and darkness is the absence of light, so evil is the absence of the presence of Christ – but the Enemy is being pushed back in every corner of India. Jesus’ presence and His love will warm and shine light into the families and villages of the more than 5 million new Indian believers who heard the Good News in the last 5 years through a Mission India program. Jesus will be “home for Christmas” in their families as they celebrate “Immanuel, God with us” this Christmas.

And we remember that high-caste Brahmin lady in Bombay who told us of the horrible fear of the gods that drove her to keep on sacrificing to them. “And then,” she said, “I found the blessed Redeemer God who gave the ultimate sacrifice for me: His only Son.” Tears of joy streamed down her face as she looked up to heaven in pure gratitude for the gift of a Redeemer, for the gift of the Living Word who through His death showed her God’s infinite love.

It’s not presents but Presence that our souls truly long for. It is the Presence of the Beautiful Savior, Glorious Lord, Immanuel God with us, Blessed Redeemer, and Living Word who brings light in darkness, warmth in cold, and dispels sin and death with forgiveness, purity, and eternal life. The gift of His Presence is the ultimate Christmas Present!

Dr. John F. DeVries

Founder and former President of Mission India

Excerpts From:
The India Intercessor-December 2010 www.missionindia.org

Copyright © 2010 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved