God’s test?

God’s tests?

 

C002_Woman wCrumpled paper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear XY,

I think I understand how you feel about the tests – challenges – that life sets us. At times, most of us have felt that they are too difficult. That has prompted them to wonder why God sets such difficult tests.

I have not personally experienced some of the traumatic events that others have faced.  Yet through my experience as a Christian, I have come to the understanding that it is not God who is setting the tests. The tests came into being when man opted not to follow God’s plan. This created the environment in which all of us are caught up in the battle between good and evil and many “innocent” bystanders become casualties.

What I have found out through study, observation and personal experience is that while God does not set the tests, He provides the answers. Since the tests are not about avoiding crises, the answers do not tell us how to avoid them. Instead, the answers guide us as to how to deal with them.

Are believers sheltered from pain?

No, but they have access to a pain release valve that makes coping easier.

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Notes on Motes

Notes on Motes

Matt 7:
3And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Today, we present 4 points in relation to Motes. The NIV speaks of a speck.

Point #1: A mote or speck in the eye is irritating and needs to be removed.

We all know how uncomfortable even an eyelash is in our eye. The eye is not very tolerant of things that do not belong there.

This is the perspective that Christians should have of sin. Christians should view sin as an irritant and be as uncomfortable with sin as the eye is with a mote or speck in it.

Our discomfort should be so pressing and urgent that we will not stop until we remove the source of the offence. Yet, we all know about the concept of the besetting sin. (A wrong that keeps repeating itself in our life.)

In some instances, it is almost as if we have resigned ourselves to living with this problem. Yet, who among us is willing to ignore the mote in our eye and accept it as part of our reality?

The call today is for us to be intolerant of sin in our lives in the same way that we refuse to leave a speck in our eye. We should spare no effort to remove the offending behaviour from our conduct.

Sin is irritating not only to the individual but to God and the church. A speck in the eye distracts our whole being. The problem is not restricted to just the eye. Similarly, sin in a Christian’s life has wider relevance.

It has impact on the church and on others. It also has implications for the relations of the body to God. It has been shown to block God’s blessing on His people and to invite His wrath.

Joshua 7:
10 The LORD said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.
13 “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it.


Point #2: The mote is not easily detected by others

A speck in your eye is not readily seen by onlookers. For a similar reason, sin in a Christian’s life is often missed by brethren. This limits the pressure on the individual to remove the sin and some Christians continue in sin while remaining in the fellowship.

One important consideration is that our level of discomfort with a speck in our eye is not reduced because those looking on do not see it. It is irritating to us and we have the urge to remove it even though it is not visible.

That is the philosophy that we must adopt as Christians. However, well hidden we consider our sin to be, it must annoy us to the point where we do not stop until we remove it from our lives.

It helps to remember that while human eyes may not detect the sin, God knows everything and is fully aware of even our most secret of sins.

Point #3: To detect the speck in our life we only need to look at what we think we see in the eyes of others

Sometimes we are not certain about the substance that is in our eye. We sense that all is not well but we cannot pinpoint exactly what is the source. We are also hard pressed to prevent the invasion of our eye if we have are unable to readily identify potential contaminants.

One way of identifying areas of vulnerability in our lives is to carefully review the lists of faults that we are quick to point out in others. There is strong evidence to indicate that we tend to be passionate and alert to defects that that appear in the life of others when we ourselves are guilty of them.

Romans 2
God’s Righteous Judgment
1You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.3So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?
5But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6God “will give to each person according to what he has done.”[a] 7To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11For God does not show favoritism.

The mixture of denial and disappointment prompts us to see the flaw in others. The twin factors of denial and disappointment also has the tendency to make us less patient and tolerant with others. We are quick to correct, criticize and chastise.

So my message is for us to reflect in the things that upset us in the behaviour of others. Look at the things that we are critical about. The exercise might give us some insight into where we are vulnerable.

By looking at the motes that we readily see, maybe we can identify some potential beams that are growing in us.

Point #4: An effective way of getting a speck out of our eye is to flush it out

The equivalent of a water flush for the eye is the blood of Christ in the life of an individual.

1 John 1:
5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin.

What must WE do to flush our lives with the blood of Christ?

Hear the Word – the Gospel
John 6: 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
Rom 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Believe
Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins
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Repent
Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.
Luke 13: 1 Now there were some present at that very season who told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered and said unto them, Think ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they have suffered these things? 3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish.

Confess Jesus is Lord
Matt 10:32 Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.
Rom 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Be baptized for the remission of your sins
Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
1 Pet 3:21The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Remain in Christ and walk in the light
John 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
1 Pet 2: 1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.

The time has not yet come…

The time has not yet come

Haggai 1: 1 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua[a] son of Jehozadak, the high priest:
2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.’ ”
3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

The time has not yet come …. that implies an inaccurate reading of the situation, procrastination, inertia, fear, lack of commitment.

Haggai wrote during the period when some Jews had returned home from the Babylonian exile. This remnant had the responsibility to re-build the temple. Led by Zerubbabel they completed the foundation within two years (536BC). This raised concern among the Samaritans and other neighbours and the work was halted.

When Darius came to power in 522 BC he facilitated the earnest renewal of the re-building process. Haggai was conscious of the fact that the Jews were more to blame for their inactivity, with respect to the re-building of the temple, than their opponents. His mission was to arouse them from their lethargy.
He sought to point out that the time has indeed come!

The question I ask today is: Has the time come for us today? What is it that we have been putting off in the belief that the time has not yet come?

What is the equivalent of a panelled house that we have built while neglecting the things of God?
Could it be that the reason why we plant much and harvest little is because we have failed to deal with something whose time has come?

Are we eating and never having enough because we have been pushing back something that needs to be addressed now thinking that the time has not yet come?

Do our purses and pockets have holes torn out because of neglect of action we should have taken but have put off because we feel the time has not yet come?

Today, devoted Christians are an embattled minority. We are the remnant charged with defending the faith. It is our responsibility to undertake the re-building process. We have to stand up and be counted.

Yet alas, like Haggai, I sense that we are guilty of thinking that the time has not yet come for us to take bold and decisive action in the process of re-building.

Like Haggai, I have a sense that we are using the cover of a number of factors and situations to mask and justify our inactivity. Today, the call is for us to arise from our lethargy and to be proactive in the service of God and Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

Do you have a sense that Church membership is growing by leaps and bounds or dwindling?

Is there a sense that those who are still attached to the Church are getting increasingly more active and dedicated?

Are we getting better at sending the Gospel message out to those who are perishing outside of Christ?

What about the number of Christians who are falling away or becoming lukewarm? Are we excelling in keeping on fire for Christ?

What of our fellowship? Are bringing more and more of our brothers and sisters into our inner circle? Are we more interested in their well being? Are we more integrated in their lives?

Like Haggai, I suggest that the time has indeed come for action!

The time has come for us to shake off sloth and lethargy. We must wake up to the reality that our inactivity represents a misreading of the situation. There is a compelling urgency to get active now. This is not a time for complacency.

The laid back, lukewarm, spectator approaches make a lie of the fact that as the remnant, God looks to us to defend the faith and to re-build the Church. As many walk aimlessly without Christ and our nation careens toward destruction there is an urgent call for us to get into action.

Haggai pointed to the Jews living in panelled houses while the temple remained in ruins. What is it that so engages us that we are unable to pay due regard to our responsibilities as children of God?

What is it that is so compelling that you are not able to consistently worship with the saints? What is it that detains you such that you cannot attend Bible Study or in some cases, even study the Bible?

The Jews are admonished to ponder on whether the hardships that they are encountering are not as a result of their misplaced priorities. Can this be true for us today?

Are we generating less income than we need? Are we persistently hungry and thirsty psychologically and spiritually? Do we have a feeling of emptiness?

Is there a sense that we are not filled spiritually? We want more and we somehow never seem to get enough and so frustration sets in and we become even more empty. Could it be that the root cause is that we have been living as if the time has not yet come?

Could it be that we have not been ready? Could it be that we have not faced the starter’s pistol?

While we have been on the warm up track getting ready, the race has in fact started. When we should be pushing toward the finish line we are still stretching and thinking about how we plan to run the race. The race is on in earnest and we are being left behind.

By the time we wake up to the reality it will be time for the awards and we will wonder in amazement how we could have missed. We did all the training signed up for the race. We were even there on race day but somehow missed because we failed to realize that the time had come for a different kind of action.

The time for preparation had passed but we did not we did not see that. So we continued in our getting ready mode. We act as if the race is some time in the future.

Does that apply to us collectively and to some of us individually? We are in perpetual preparation but never ever being engaged in the real action. We spend our time on the warm up track but never venture into the stadium where it really counts.

The vacuum that we sense is of our own creation. It is a result of our failure to be fully engaged in the process, individually and collectively. The time has indeed come for bold decisive action in the arena where it counts.

More people are dying in their sins than ever before.
More Christians are being enticed from the faith than ever before.
More Christians are living lives that are indistinguishable from those who are in the world.
More young people have the need for Christian mentoring than ever before.
More businesses need strong Christians to stem the tide of corruption and unethical practices than ever before.
More communities are need in Christian influence and outreach than ever before.
There is an ever increasing demand for resources that a proactive Church could provide.

The time has indeed come!

The time has come for us to be present physically, mentally and spiritually in our worship, Bible Study, fellowship and outreach activities.
The old rationalizations have worn thin. You are presenting them to God…not man. He sets the standard as to what is acceptable. He will be the judge.

The time has come for us to be more engaged in our study of Scriptures. The more informed we are the more we understand God’s will for our lives.

The time has come for us to be more willing to share the Gospel and the impact of God in our lives with others. Social networking is all the rage. The time has come for us to reflect God in our postings. Let people know where we stand in defence of the faith.

Friendship evangelism is the most effective means of encouraging people to come to Christ. The time has come for us to encourage people to want to go to heaven because that is where their friends will be.

The time has come for us to be more proactive in engaging our young. This is a time for Christian mentors to step forward and take charge of providing guidance to our youth. Dysfunctional homes leave many without any source of proper guidance. If ever there was a time for Christians to shelter and protect our youth it is now. Friends the time has indeed come.

The time has come for us to be generous in our giving – to the church and to those in need. Haggai links holes in purses to inactivity. Are we stopping God’s blessings in our lives because we are stingy in our giving to Him?

Malachi 3: 6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

The time has come for us to draw closer to our brothers and sisters. Again, the old excuses have worn thin. If you feel left out, who have you sought to let in?
So what if someone has said or done something that upset you? Ever had a little spat in your family? Did you abandon them because of that?

The time for reconciliation among brethren has indeed come. We need to move past whatever differences, reservations, hurts, mistrust, frustrations we are carrying. The time has come for us to pull out a clean sheet and start again. It does not matter whether the other party is a brother, sister, evangelist, group leader or not. The time has come for clean sheets… the time has indeed come for reconciliation and a new beginning.

The time has come for more high impact outreach activities. Even as we emphasize friendship evangelism we still need to increase our influence in communities. The time has come for vibrant and fruitful outreach programmes that impact the lives of those who might not otherwise be encouraged to give their lives to Christ.

The time has come for the renewing of our minds. The time has come for us to re-dedicate our lives to Christ and to re-capture that energy and excitement that accompanies the baptismal experience. The time has indeed come for us to set aside all distractions, to beat back all the wiles of the devil and to commit now to being proactively engaged in putting God first in our lives.

The time is indeed here when we need to be seen as beacons for Christ in a world that needs for each and every Christian to let their light shine brightly.

Will you recognize what time it is? Will you fully grasp that the time has indeed come?

Can Resisting Temptation be Contagious?

Can Resisting Temptation be Contagious?

According to new research…YES! Many people believe that “self-control” is an individual attribute, and if you are not one of the lucky few that possess this gift, it is unlikely that you will triumph over the battle to resist temptation. However, a new study by Michelle van Dellen, a psychologist at the University of Georgia, concluded that self-control does in fact have a social component and the ability to resist temptation is contagious.

In one study, a group of students watched an individual choose a carrot instead of a cookie, while the other group watched an individual eat the cookie instead of the carrot. Next, the students were put through a test of self-control and those who watched the individual choose the carrot displayed more discipline than those who watched the individual eat the cookie. The behavior of the students reinforces the idea that RESISTING TEMPTATION IS CONTAGIOUS.

If you are lacking self-discipline and easily succumb to temptation, MedHelp offers tools and online community support to help you succeed. In their new Tracker Gallery, you can view other member’s trackers for motivation and share your own to help inspire others. So what are you waiting for? Log on now and kick that habit today!

http://www.medhelp.org

That is one of the great benefits of staying in fellowship with Christian believers!

Uniting in Christian Love – A thought on Valentine’s Day

Uniting in Christian Love

Today is celebrated as Valentine’s Day and has the theme of LOVE. I will explore some foundation principles related to bonding that can be applied to our families, a congregation and any team or group to which we are attached.

Why is cohesiveness – bonding, unity, team spirit – relevant?

1. As the popular saying goes in a team – Together Each Achieves More. Team and group work is more effective that independent individual effort.

2. Despite His mighty power, one of the first things Christ did at the start of His ministry was to pull together a team that would lead the process and sustain it after His departure.

3. Even among His elite team, cohesiveness challenges were present. Why should we expect to be different?

If we think of our bonding as improving teamwork then it is useful to reflect on a definition of TEAM:
“A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”

What can we learn from this definition?

1. People with complementary skills

It is important to note Team work and Team Cohesiveness do NOT mean that everybody has to be same. We do not have to be clones to achieve unity and have high team spirit.

Even a quick examination of God’s handiwork will show that He wants to promote diversity. He introduces variety at every opportunity.

Calls for unity and commonality of purpose should NOT be equated with stripping us of our individuality. Successful teams need people to bring different talents, perspectives and ideas to the table.

I put it more strongly: One sign of a successful team is the fact that it helps its members to achieve self-fulfilment. Members feel empowered and move closer to the vision that they have of themselves in fully functional teams.

2. People who are committed to a common purpose.

The glue that holds the entire thing together is the commitment to the common purpose. Without the commitment to the common purpose the team loses its compass and finds it impossible to steer a clear and predictable path.

Without the commitment to the common purpose, members do not have any point of reference that can hold them together. It is like using rubber bands to tie a team of wild horses together and expecting them to pull your chariot along a prescribed path.

This requirement has two distinct and critically important components:

There must be a clearly identified purpose that is understood in the same way by all the members of the team. The purpose cannot be something that one person dreams up and fails to share with every member of the team.

The second component is that all the members of a functional team commit to the same understanding of the common purpose. One indelible sign of a dysfunctional team is the fact that some members are wavering in their commitment to the common purpose.

The importance of this focus on commitment to a common purpose is not lost in the scriptures:

Eph 4: 4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Phil 1:27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.

3. People who are committed to a set of performance goals and approach

Successful teams know where they are going. They also know how they are going to get there. In addition, they know if they are on track.

Successful teams are clear on the strategies and the activities that will lead them to the achievement of the common purpose.

Successful teams have guidelines and yardsticks that indicate to them whether they are on course or not.

Successful teams do not lose bearing and lose momentum because they have set performance goals that keep them on track.

In successful teams members know and commit to the performance goals. They understand that the guidelines and yardsticks are directly linked to the attainment of the common purpose. Consequently, the failure to meet a performance goal is a step away from achievement of the common purpose to which they are committed.

In successful teams members buy into an agreed approach. One that is tied to performance goals that lead to attainment of the common purpose.

In successful teams members strive to understand the agreed approach and its implications for them and for the team.

In successful teams members do NOT come up with their own approaches and guidelines as they deem fit. This is NOT what is meant by your being able to keep your individuality.

4. People who are mutually accountable
Jesus was an exceptional team coach. Flip through the Gospels again with a mind set to look for issues related to working in groups, team spirit and team cohesiveness and see how Jesus handled them.

He understood the importance of the internal workings of the team. Issues concerning how members interact with each other.

Matt 12: 25:
25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.

The ultimate advice with respect to unity and bonding for the Christian is given by Christ himself:

Matt 22: 34 – 40

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: ”‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

What are the characteristics of this love that we ought to have for our neighbours:

1 Cor 13:

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

For me, some of the clearest instructions on how to Christians are to bond is reflected in Romans 12:

Love
9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d]says the Lord. 20On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Also Col 3:
12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.