What Playing Guitar Taught Me about the Spiritual Life

An interest in my stepdad’s guitar at age 15 sparked an interest God has used to guide my life. I’m sure God works in a similar way with you. In fact, I know He does.

What Playing Guitar Taught Me about the Spiritual Life

(Photo: By Pisethinfo. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

More than 30 years ago, I started playing songs on the guitar by John Denver, Jim Croce, Don Francisco, Gordon Lightfoot, and Dan Fogelberg.

I was hooked. I lived and breathed with the instrument. In a few years, I had written more than 100 of my own songs. It seemed this is what God wanted me to do with my life. I decided to pursue the dream of becoming a Christian artist.

  • I majored in music (classical guitar) from North Texas State University (now UNT).
  • I attended Dallas Theological Seminary so that I could learn to write theologically sound songs.
  • I had an influential person with connections in Nashville who promised to introduce me to the right people.

I was ready. Cue the lights. Then God uplugged my guitar.

Playing guitar for all these years has taught me more than music. It has taught me these 3 lessons.

4 Reasons You Should Try Listening to the Bible for a Change

I recently completed listening to the whole Bible in a year while commuting to work each day. In years past, I had only read the Bible through. But listening was a marvelous experience.

4 Reasons You Should Try Listening to the Bible for a Change

(Photo by Photodune)

It took longer to listen to it, of course, but the experience helped me connect with the Word of God in a way much closer to the way the original recipients interacted with Scripture.

The Bible tells us, for example:

  • “At the end of every seven years . . . you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing.” —Deuteronomy 31:10–11
  • “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.” —Colossians 4:16
  • “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture.” —1 Timothy 4:13

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for reading the Bible. But the biblical authors originally wrote the Scriptures primarily to be heard—not read.

Here are 4 reasons why you should try listening to the Bible for a change.

If We Knew What God Knows

If we knew what God knows, we would choose to wait for His timing rather than push Him to act now. God made His creatures to live in dependence on the Creator. As such, we wait for the provision.

If We Knew What God Knows

(Photo via ooomf.com, by Tyssul Patel)

As much as we hate it, dependence demands waiting. Refusing to wait amounts to independence and even rebellion from the one who created us.

Insisting on instant gratification (even for good things) minimizes and overlooks the infinite worth of God’s sovereignty—a wisdom that sees beyond the next five minutes. Or the next five years.

Are you waiting for God to do something in your life?

If you knew what God knows, here’s what you would do.

Who is Guarding Your Great Wall?

I just returned from a trip to China with colleagues from Insight for Living. What a vast and beautiful country—and so much potential for ministry. While there, several of us got to visit the Great Wall.

Who is Guarding Your Great Wall?

(Photo: By Hao Wei from China. Flickr. CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

I was amazed at how vigilant the wall builders were to ensure the safety of their country against potential enemies. (See some of my pictures below from my Instagram Feed.) Of course, history reveals that a guard allowed the enemy to enter through a gate and compromise the wall’s security. 1500 miles of wall compromised by one traitor in the gate.

In our spiritual lives, we have that same traitor.

How to Quit a Life of Compromise

If you think about it, King Solomon never started out to build pagan shrines. It was his failure to deal with the tiny spiritual cracks in his heart that produced a life of compromise and dissatisfaction.

You can quit a life of compromise.

(Photo: Design Pics, via Vivozoom)

The backwash from Solomon’s life reminds us how we only kid ourselves when we think we can have a healthy walk with God and still keep our hidden life of compromise on the side.

The good news? We don’t have to.

What Do You Think of When You Hear a Rooster?

One morning when I was in Jerusalem, I chose to have my devotions on the Mount of Olives at sunrise. Making my way through the Old City’s dark and narrow streets, I passed beside the Temple Mount and exited the city on its east side.

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

(Photo: Overlooking Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Photo: צולם ע, via Wikimedia Commons)

After climbing the steep ascent of the Mount of Olives, I sat near its summit as the sun began to warm my back. Turning to Matthew’s Gospel, I read about Jesus leaving the Temple, predicting its destruction, and sitting on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24:1–5).

Looking across the Kidron Valley at the Temple Mount—now crowned with a Muslim shrine—I thought about how Jesus’ prediction proved true. Because Israel rejected Him, they ultimately lost the very objects they hoped to secure through His death—their Temple and their nation (John 11:48).

Suddenly I heard a sound that jerked my mind in another direction.

7 Questions I Answered on FaithVillage

This year, FaithVillage is highlighting 52 contributors in a weekly post called the FaithVillage Contributor Spotlight. I had the privilege of being first in the line up.

The weekly online interview affords its readers the opportunity to learn more about those who contribute to FaithVillage on a routine basis. They asked me everything from blogging to pitfalls to traveling in the Holy Land.

Here are the 7 questions they asked, as well as my answers.

Don’t Like Sweet Potatoes? Don’t Plant Them

Through the years I’ve noticed something when my wife plants sweet potatoes in our garden. Amazingly, corn doesn’t grow. Sweet potatoes do. (Brilliant, I know.) You’ll enjoy this scene from Secondhand Lions.

God has set up a system in the natural realm that works with remarkable consistency: you plant corn, you reap corn—not sweet potatoes. And vice versa.

This is true not only in gardening but with regard to every part of our lives.

Self-Control—It’s More than Sexual

Too often, self-control kicks in only as a matter of pride. We apply the brakes by asking questions like: Will I look foolish if I have a third slice of cake? Not terribly spiritual, but hey.

Self-Control—It’s More than Sexual

(Photo by Photodune)

Life hands us daily situations in which self-control seems impractical, irrational, and even impossible. And yet, amazingly, at other times:

  • While arguing with our spouse, and the phone rings, we answer the call and suddenly we have self-control.
  • Our boss lays into us about something that’s totally unfair. We fume, but bite our tongue.
  • Our tummies start to expand beyond our belts and bathing suits. So we cut back on sweets.

When our reputations, our jobs, and our physiques are at risk, we apply self-control. Why? Because something more important than immediate satisfaction seems threatened.

But somehow sex is different?

Why to Linger Longer Over Your Lousy Mistake

We all blow it. For us as Christians, what often makes it worse is that we knew better—but we did it anyway. Nobody forced us. We chose it. Now we’re feeling regret.

Why to Linger Longer Over Your Lousy Mistake

(Photo by oomph)

The emotional fallout we experience from grieving the Spirit of God feels like a literal weight on our souls. It’s not a weight of shame as much as it is sorrow—disappointment with having not loved Jesus enough to obey Him.

If we take the proper next step, we’ll recognize our folly and confess our sin to God. But understand why we confess:

  • We don’t confess in order to guarantee or keep our place in heaven. Our forgiveness of sins that would condemn us took place on the cross when Jesus died in our place (Rom. 8:1).
  • We confess in order to restore our fellowship with God—not our salvation. The result of our confession? He promises immediate forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

But before we move on—before we slap grace over our lousy mistake and forget it—I’m suggesting we linger a little longer over our sin.