Author Archives: wheelsms

The transforming power of congregational singing

Book Review: Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church, by Keith and Kristyn Getty

The Gettys are all about singing. Keith and Kristyn Getty are well known for writing new hymns for the church. They have now turned their attention to talking about singing. “Not about up-front singing, but whole-church singing—congregational singing…. This book is about singing together as the church in a way that impacts all of your life.”

The book has five key aims:

  1. To discover why we sing and the overwhelming joy and holy privilege that comes with singing.
  2. To consider how singing impacts our hearts and minds and all of our lives.
  3. To cultivate a culture of family singing in our daily home life.
  4. To equip our churches for wholeheartedly singing to the Lord and one another as an expression of unity.
  5. To inspire us to see congregational singing as a radical witness to the world.

If you boil the book down into one paragraph, the book

…has a very simple aim: that you would sing truth, and sing it as though it is true. As you wake each day, and as you walk through your day, we pray that the lyrics and melodies of your faith will ring around the spaces where you live your life. As you walk into church next Sunday, we pray that you will be excited about sharing in the privilege of lifting your voice with God’s people, to “sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” And as you sing, we pray that you would experience the awesome joy of knowing that you are joining in with the great song of praise that resounds through every age, that stretches throughout this world and into every inch of creation, and that is being sung, right now as you read, in the very courts of heaven.

The book itself is very short—only 101 pages. Each chapter also contains discussion questions at the end so that you can think about it personally or discuss it in a small group. The final 40+ pages are written specifically for pastors and elders; worship and song leaders; musicians, choirs, and production; and songwriters and creatives.

Taken to heart, the book will change how you think about singing in general, and especially about singing in the church.

Disclosure: I received this book free from B&H Publishing through the B&H/Lifeway Bloggers program The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Posted by on September 12, 2017 in Books, Worship


Are you prepared to meet with God?

If you knew that (the mayor, the governor, the president, favorite sports hero, movie star, TV celebrity, etc.) was going to be in church next Sunday, how would you prepare? If you knew that GOD was going to be in church next Sunday, how would you prepare?

Exodus 19 describes how Israel met with God at Mt. Sinai. Through their example, we see four principles that can help us prepare to enter God’s presence. We should prepare our mind, heart, and will before we enter God’s presence. We must be ready to listen, obey, and honor him.

Three months after leaving Egypt, the nation of Israel arrives at Mt. Sinai (1). They will spend the next 10 months in this location. We have the impression from Hollywood movies that Moses only made one trip up the mountain. If you read the text closely, you discover he made seven trips up and down.

Before you meet with God (1-15), ask yourself:

Am I willing to obey? (3-8). After reminding the nation how he delivered them from bondage in Egypt, God explains an “if … then” responsibility. “If you obey … you will be my treasured possession.” Israel would be exalted above all other nations and have a unique priestly role of representing God to the world. The people respond enthusiastically, “Yes, we will obey.”

Am I ready to listen? (9). God is laying the groundwork for communication. However, he would not reveal new truth if the people were not going to listen to him.

Have I prepared my heart? (10-11, 14). God orders the people to wash their clothes, separate from any impurity, and even fast from normal marital relationships in order to set themselves apart for God. While we “come as you are” to God for salvation, we should cleanse our hearts to meet with him in worship.

Do I respect God’s presence? (12-13). Israel was to maintain a secure and sacred distance from the mountain of God. They were close enough to hear God speak to Moses but were to wait until Moses relayed God’s instructions to them. Sadly, we have lost this sense of reverence for God and treat him casually or flippantly. A shallow view of God leads to a shallow life.

God came down to meet with his people (16-20). It was not Moses who went up; it was God who came down. God descended in thunder, lightning, and an earthquake. It was a display of his majesty and glory. Moses later went up after God invited him.

God came down to establish a healthy fear of the Almighty (Exodus 20:20), to communicate written instructions for his people (Exodus 24:12), to reveal his word to his people (Exodus 31:18), and to reveal the design for the tabernacle (Exodus 25:8-9).

To meet with God, we need a place where we can go daily. We should ask ourselves the four questions to make sure we are prepared. We need to Scriptures since that is where God has revealed himself. We need a journal to record what we are learning.

Prepare your mind, heart, and will before you enter God’s presence. Be ready to listen, obey, and honor him.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 10, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on the life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


When I was a kid …

Interesting comics this week about the days when technology was not quite so modern.

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Posted by on September 8, 2017 in Culture, Non-Sequitur, Zits


Does God still speak today?

Book Review: Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God, by Mark Batterson

Does God still speak today? If the answer is, “Yes,” then what language does he speak? How can I train myself to hear his voice? These are the questions posed in Mark Batterson’s latest offering, Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God.

The author’s premise is that the God who spoke the universe into existence still speaks today. The title of the book comes from 1 Kings 19:12 where God spoke to Elijah in a whisper, or a still small voice. Batterson suggests that God has seven love languages that he uses to communicate to his people—Scripture, desires, doors, dreams, people, promptings, and pain. The author weaves together numerous stories, illustrations, personal examples, and biblical principles to communicate his ideas.

While I agree with his basic premise and while I enjoyed and was encouraged by his illustrations, I have three reservations about the book. One reservation is that he tends to put desires, doors, dreams, people, promptings, and pain on the same level as Scripture. While he argues that Scripture is the most important, the “key of keys,” he tends to elevate the others to equal or greater importance. In so doing, he makes experience equal to or more important than Scripture.

A second reservation is that he takes a single example, such as how God closed a door for the apostle Paul in Asia (Acts 16:6), and makes it a standard practice we should follow today. In contrast, Hebrews 1:1-2 says that in times past, God spoke in various ways but now he speaks through Christ and his Word.

A third reservation is that the premise of the book is more based on experience than it is on Scripture. His chapters start and end with illustrations, stories, and examples with Scripture used to support his ideas rather than teaching Scripture and using stories to illustrate his points. The bulk of the stories are personal ones about how God led the author and his church. By the end, you become a little weary of him always being the hero or focus of the tale.

A more biblical study would be Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. Blackaby argues that the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Bible and prayer and confirms it through circumstances and people. Blackaby’s approach keeps Scripture primary and circumstances and people secondary.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on September 7, 2017 in Books, Theology


Where should I send my child to school?

Book Review: Education A La Carte: Choosing the Best Schooling Options for your Child, by Dr. Kevin Leman

Parents are faced with difficult choices as to what to do about their child’s education. Public school? Private school? Home school? Charter school? How early should I put my child in preschool? Kindergarten?

Dr. Kevin Leman wants to help parents make the right choice for each child’s education. His latest book, Education A La Carte: Choosing the Best Schooling Options for your Child, takes parents back to the core issue. Education isn’t just about information, grades, tests, and report cards. It is about mastering principles that transfer into real-life situations.

In his book, Dr. Leman spends the first eight chapters discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the various schooling options, understanding your child’s strengths and weaknesses, how the parents’ expectations and background fit into the equation, as well as the key traits of the best schools. In the ninth chapter, he helps parents take all of the information and assemble it into a personalized menu to guide them in choosing the right school for their child’s success. In the final chapter, he does a Q&A, answering some basic and specific questions parents have posed to him about education.

Dr. Leman combines personal stories, biblical principles, interviews, statistics, and humorous examples into a very readable and practical book. The book is heavily influenced by Leman’s philosophy of birth order as well as his personal conviction that a classical model for education is the best approach. The author is upfront about the strengths and benefits of the Academy he founded in Tucson, AZ. The book felt fairly balanced until the final chapter which obviously tilted the discussion towards the author’s personal convictions.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Posted by on September 6, 2017 in Books, Parenting


Creation is groaning

Everywhere you turn, you read headlines about severe weather. Houston, Texas is underwater due to Hurricane Harvey. Puerto Rico and the East Coast are bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Irma. Heavy rains paralyzed India, Pakistan, and Nepal this past week killing 1,200 and shutting 1.8 million children out of school. Ash is currently falling like snow in Seattle from fires burning in Central Washington. In the past week, there were earthquakes in Portugal, Indonesia, Alaska, Iceland, Northern Mariana Islands, Idaho, Argentina, Chile, and Vanuatu.

We want to blame Mother Nature and lament these as acts of God. However, we should take a look in the mirror and own the blame ourselves. I’m not talking about global warming or climate change.

What we are experiencing in severe weather is one of the consequences of sin. Romans 8:18-25 explains the hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and other natural phenomenon are expressions of the earth itself crying out to be released from the bondage of sin.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Severe weather is like the earth going through labor pains prior to the return of Christ. The increase in frequency and severity may indicate that time is growing ever shorter. Perhaps it is time to repent, seek God’s face, and shout, “Maranatha! Lord, come quickly!”

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Posted by on September 5, 2017 in News stories, Scripture


Niagara Falls – Day 2

Our second day at Niagara Falls started at the Cave of the Winds, where you can walk to the base of American & Bridal Veil Falls. The majesty and power is breathtaking. We also visited the Theater to watch a 30-minute film on the history and background of the falls. We concluded the day with seeing the falls after dark. It was an enjoyable experiencing God’s creative wonders.

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Posted by on September 3, 2017 in New York State, Niagara Falls, Photos