Friday, November 22, 2013

BLAMELESS By David Ritter

God always seems to get my attention at the most unorthodox time...during the middle of the night!  It’s a sad indictment against us when we get so consumed with our daily affairs that we don’t “tune-in” to listen to the voice of the Lord during our waking hours. And I’m guilty!  I will often awaken in the middle of the night with a phrase emblazoned on my mind; and even though it may not make sense at the time, I have found that when this happens, God is speaking His word to minister to me.   In Job 33:14, we are told that God speaks to men in the night, to cause them to change their minds, turning them from sin, and keeping them from pride and from falling into some trap.  I know that I need God to speak to me and to protect me from sin and myself.   

Just a few weeks ago, I was awakened at 3:00 a.m. with the phrase, “The answer is on page 248.”  I wrote it down and didn’t look at it until the next day.  When I saw the note that morning, I reached for the closest book near my bed, which was my “Praise and Worship Study Bible.” I immediately turned to page 248, and there in bold print were the words, “You must be blameless before the Lord,” Deuteronomy 18:13.  I knew exactly what the Lord was saying and it wasn’t just for me, but rather, for all of us.  We have all been given a trust from the Lord with our areas of ministry, and God expects us to be faithful...not only in attendance, but with our hearts and with worship that is in “Spirit and in Truth.”  And Spirit/Truth worship can only happen when we recognize our sinful nature, ask for God’s forgiveness, and walk humbly before Him. 

Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you what is good and what the Lord requires of act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.” 

Acting justly means to walk in righteousness, being morally and spiritually be blameless!  Loving mercy is showing compassion, and walking humbly is simply recognizing we are nothing without God’s help, and that we daily need his forgiveness.   Since God gave us our gifts in the first place, we have nothing with which we can impress Him, except by acting just, loving mercy, and walking humbly... being blameless in God’s eyes.  

May our heart be to seek God’s attention for our lives, and may we all be found innocent and above reproach...blameless before the Lord!  

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Judges 6:1-12  Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites.  2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds.  3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country.  4 They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys.  5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it.  6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help. 7 When the Israelites cried to the LORD because of Midian,  8 he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  9 I snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land.  10 I said to you, ‘I am the LORD your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”  11 The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites.  12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

The Lord woke me up in the middle of the night recently with the verses, Judges 6:1-12, emblazoned on my mind.  The premise of this section of the Old Testament is how the Lord reminded Israel how He brought them out of slavery and gave them a promised land, yet they still turned to other gods.  The 12th verse is especially poignant...the Lord appeared to Gideon saying, “The Lord is with you mighty warrior,” which Gideon found it difficult to accept.

            This message to Gideon is a clear statement of consecration for today’s Christians:
             1.  Remember from whence you've come! (He has brought us out of darkness.)  (Verse 8)
              2.  Remember all the things He’s done!  (He cleansed us by His blood.)  (Verse 9)
              3.  Remember the Lord your God is one!  (God is calling us to separate ourselves apart for Him.) (Verse 10)
The call is for consecration, to put aside the things that hold us back from lifestyle worship: endless pursuit of pleasures, along with unhealthy relationships, television, videos, music and books that do not glorify Jesus Christ. I believe God’s heart is that we separate ourselves from the gods of this world.  Until we make a concerted effort to remember these 3 things, we cannot know the fullness of His presence.  As it was with Gideon, may the Lord approach each of us as “Mighty Warriors” and declare, “The Lord is with you!” AMEN!

Thursday, October 31, 2013


In I Chron. 21:18-24, King David speaks about offering acceptable sacrifices. He states, “I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing!” When is it an acceptable sacrifice? When we don’t feel good and yet we still worship. When we don’t like the songs, yet we sing them wholeheartedly. When we give of our tithes and offerings and it hurts to do so…THAT’S WORSHIP! The prophet Habakkuk says in 3:17-19, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vine, and though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food...yet will I rejoice and be joyful in the Lord.” To be able to make that statement and mean it is a true sacrifice! 

This lesson of faith teaches us God’s providence, regardless of circumstances, suffering, or loss. Bring your mood to God...if it’s praise, then offer it up. If you’re tired, tell Him. If you’re stressed out, let Him know. If it’s depression, give it to Him with a vow to praise Him (just as David did in the Psalms.) To make this vow is perhaps one of the strongest affirmations of faith in the Bible, yet everyone has excuses when it comes to worship…“It’s just the way I am,” or “it’s my upbringing, or temperament, or just my personality,” yet God is saying “Change!” The word “worship” in the NT (Greek) means work! Let it show on the outside what God has done on the inside!

So often we come to church just to receive from God, and that will always happen if we first come to Give...our time, talent, money, and worship. Again, the great paradox, “Give and it shall be given to you” applies to the worship service. If we would come to the service knowing that we may not receive anything from God, would we still come? Of course, His word will never return void, and He is always doing a work, irrespective of whether we see something happening. If our mentality would be to make a conscious decision to worship God without any hidden agenda, then we truly release Him to do even a deeper work in our hearts and minds. 

The scripture says to “Bless the Lord and forget not all His benefits.” When we bless Him, we somehow bring Him beauty, and He is looking for it! True worship is the overflow of a heart that has no requests to make! Psalm 14:5, declares that, "God is always present in the company of the righteous!" May we bring Him acceptable sacrifices when we come into His presence!  And if Jesus is truly present, there will always be healing, restoration, and renewal…offering your sacrifices with a humble and repentant heart ALWAYS captures God’s attention…and I want HIS attention more than anything!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Naturally Supernatural! By David Ritter

It is inherent within God’s nature that all creation would praise Him. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”  Humans. Animals. Sea creatures.  Even inanimate objects. The scripture says that the oceans roar, the trees clap their hands, the rocks cry out, and the stars sing.  Everything that exists does so for the Glory of God.  But what if we didn’t praise Him?  Would that make God any less omnipotent?  Would He be hurt and disappointed?
Read what Charles Spurgeon wrote about it: 
“If all of mankind would suddenly disappear, then look at the heavens! See the starry host; see the mighty throng of cherubs and seraphs? Let men be gone and they shall praise him; there is an orchestra on high, the music of which shall never cease, even if mortals were extinct and all the human race swept from existence. Again, if all the angels were gone, still daily would He be praised; for, are there not worlds on worlds, and suns on suns, and systems on systems, that could forever sing his praise? Yes! And if these ceased to exist, the Father would praise the Son, and the Spirit would praise Him, and mutually blessing one another and rendering each other beatified, still daily would he be praised.”

As long as man exists, however, there will be the innate desire to worship God, although most don’t recognize it.  And, unfortunately, this desire is often misplaced by worship with idols.  People. Power. Positions.  So why does God need OUR praise?  He doesn’t! He has provided praise as the path to encounter Him!  For it is in praise and worship that God reveals Himself.  A divine appointment with God changes us…heals us…renews us…and restores us back to fellowship with Him.  And music of praise is the most powerful vehicle to approach the throne. It is the most natural “supernatural” way to encounter God!  

And we don’t have to wait until the Sunday services to explore what God wants to share with us.  Because David, Daniel, and Paul praised God throughout the day, everyday, He revealed so much of Himself that their names are now synonymous with the greatest spiritual leaders of all time.  And just think…God wants to do that for you, regardless of your position or lot in life.  He wants to make a David, Daniel, or Paul out of you.  Making music to God takes the natural and makes it supernatural!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Talent...use it or lose it. Hey, we’re taught that principle from the time we first started Sunday School, or just from reading the Bible. What we often miss, however, is that God is never impressed with our talent. Unfortunately, there is a lot of “talent” worship, but what really impresses God is when the attitude of our hearts is pure. It’s that simple. You don’t need a degree in theology to understand that this is probably the most critical element of the Music Ministry. On the flip side, when we exalt talent over attitude, we compromise the integrity of that Music Ministry. How many times have we fallen into the perfectionist mode, often forgetting our first worship God in Spirit and in Truth? Because God expects the very best from us, we must sacrifice everything else to provide Him with nothing less than our highest level of musicality.

I have never met a minister of music who has not fallen into this trap at some point in their ministry. In fact, I fell for it a few years back while I was teaching the choir the correct rhythms for the song “Change My Heart O God”. I got so caught up with fixing their mistakes, that I totally missed the writer’s intent, and the scriptural premise behind it; not once did I even mention that this was the kind of prayer that captures God’s attention. Big mistake! In the wee hours of that same night, I literally felt the anguish of the Holy Spirit as He reminded me that my priorities were not in sync with His. He also revealed the Truth behind my inordinate demand for flawless presentation...David Ritter wanted to make sure that the choir was singing perfectly so that he would look good!

That following Sunday morning, I asked for the choir’s forgiveness for “missing the mark,” and how I was convicted for “oops” (“Only Our Pride Syndrome!”) What I didn’t realize was that this was Communion Sunday and that God was going to use this as an opportunity for all of us to “check our hearts, so that we would not partake of the elements unworthily.” That’s the mercy of God...when He takes our arrogance and pride and crushes it into ashes in front of everyone you love. And then, when we least expect it, He takes those very same ashes and establishes a Divine appointment to reveal just a little more of Himself.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Good As Gold

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have those who will bring offerings in righteousness.”  (Malachi 3:3) 

In the industrial world, being “refined” means having impurities or unwanted elements being removed by a certain type of process.  And so it is with spiritual’s allowing God to cleanse us from those things that hold us back from His be purged of encumbrances that prevent us from “Spirit and Truth” worship so that we can walk in holiness.  Hebrews 12:14 declares, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; for without holiness no one will see the Lord.”  “Lord, refine me by the power of Your Holy Spirit” should be the cry of every Christian’s heart.

I read recently where a silversmith explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the metal in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest so as to burn away all the impurities.  It is essential that he be completely attentive to the heat and intensity, as too much could destroy the silver and all would be lost.  And, as in many such procedures with other metals, the refining is complete when the silversmith can see his reflection in the metal.

What a great analogy for God’s process of refining us in preparation for His Kingdom.  At many points in our lives (if not continually,) we must all endure the Lord shaping and molding us into His image, and it is often a painful process... in fact, it seems that God’s purest form of cleansing us and preparing us for eternity is through the fires of affliction.  We cry for holiness in our worship, yet purity comes with a price.  God never said that we wouldn’t experience trials and difficulties. But, He does promise that He would be with us through adversity...through the fire.  Sometimes, our own sin can cause suffering; even hidden weaknesses caused by sin can come to our attention through our pain...but God can use that pain to cause us to turn to Him.

Just as the three men were thrown into the furnace, God was with them and they came out unharmed; yet, they had to “go through” the fire before the Lord could reveal Himself in that furnace.  When God puts you through the flames, you will not be consumed or burned, for He is there watching and completely focused on you. (Is 43:2) He sees the impurities being burned away, and just as the silversmith, He removes you from the fire when He sees His image in you. 

During the difficult times of your life, remember...the Great Silversmith has His eye on you, and will continue to watch and purify you until you are made in His image...then, in God’s eyes, we are “Good As Gold!”  

"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship
of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:10-11).

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in
our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.  (C.S. Lewis)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sotto Voce Deo

Sotto Voce is an Italian expression which means to “speak under one's breath” or to speak confidentially…literally "under voice.” In music, the term refers to a dramatic lowering of the vocal or instrumental tone -- not necessarily whispered, but with a hushed quality translated as meaning "Soft Voice.”  Historically, God is known for speaking with a still, small voice; so, I’ve coined a new phrase that integrates music with scripture… “Sotto Voce Deo”… the “soft voice of God.”

Many will say that they have never heard the voice of God, yet He is ALWAYS speaking to us…we’re just not listening.  And sometimes, even when we’re listening, we don’t always recognize that it’s the Lord’s spirit speaking to us or directing our daily lives.

Over the years, I’ve had many ask me how to know when God is speaking to us.  Discerning His voice is not a special gift from Heaven, but rather, just taking the time to do so.  Taking time to listen, seek, read, absorb, experience, rest and wait. Sometimes He speaks so softly so that we have to lean in real close to hear Him.

In I Kings 19:11-12, the Lord spoke to Elijah and said, “Go stand on the mountain, for the Lord is about to pass by.  And then a mighty wind tore the mountains apart but the Lord wasn’t in the wind.  Then there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  Then suddenly, after the fire came a gentle whisper.”  This whisper was the voice of the Lord!  We often expect earth-shattering moments, smoke, mirrors, and pyrotechnics if God should speak to us, yet He seems to revel in that still, small voice. 

I have always believed (and experienced) that God speaks to us in a myriad of venues.... through the Word, Dreams, Visions, Music, Sermons, Circumstances, Events, Confirmations from others, Godly Counsel, Prayer, and even the Voice of God Himself.  Sometimes He whispers, and other times He hits us over the head with a brick.  I would rather hear the whisper! 

Many years ago, in the middle of the night, I woke up begging God, “Lord, I need to hear from you!”  And immediately I heard a quite, yet powerful voice speak the following statement to my heart:  “How do you expect to hear from someone you don’t know?”  It really shook me up when I heard this, so I opened up my Bible and researched passages on “knowing God.”  In John 10:14, 27, Jesus said, “"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  I realized immediately that I had not been obedient to what the Lord had asked me to do, and I understood why I had not heard from Him.  In other words, we listen and then obey.  And if we don’t obey what He has already directed, it is unlikely that we will hear His voice speak to us!     The sheep (believers) will hear the voice of the shepherd and then they will obey what they have heard.  This then becomes a perpetual promise… obey the Lord, and you will hear from Heaven!  Fresh bread daily!

There is a deep hunger innate in all of us to commune with God and hear His voice speak to our hearts.  Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.”  And that can happen as often as we are able to quiet our bodies, minds and spirits to “tune-in” to what He has to say.  However, let’s make sure we’ve already done what He has asked us to do so that there is no “break” in the flow of communication with Heaven!  And the best news of all…God wants to speak to us more than we want to listen! Sotto Voce Deo!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Times...They Are A' Changin'

Music is constantly changing, and how much more so with Christian music.  It’s been said that most churches don’t split over theological issues; rather, they split over worship styles.  What works in one congregation doesn’t necessarily carry over to the next.  Dr. James Dobson said that, without a doubt, the most controversial program they ever had in the history of “Focus on the Family” was about church music, because music styles are so personal.  No matter which church one attends, music will define “who” the church is in the community!

Change isn’t new to the current culture. Every generation has had its own “contemporary” music.  I know of a very famous music director and worship leader who is also a terrific composer and songwriter. At one church, he was criticized for confusing the congregation with new types of orchestrations and was even chastised publicly for lengthy intros to his songs. So, to counter the criticism, he wrote some songs that were too short, which brought complaints from the other side. He also got into hot water by changing the songs that had been chosen by the pastor, and for introducing too many new songs into the traditional services. Sound familiar? The period was 1685-1750, and the worship leader was Johann Sebastian Bach. Things haven’t changed that much, have they? 

When I was a teenager in the 70’s, I was a songleader. We had times of worship, but it never seemed to be while the music was being played or sung. After the Maranatha revolution, we started entertaining the concept of “worship” during our music...and then we found ourselves immersed and enamored by the Integrity Music paradigm. This was exhilarating new worship which infiltrated our congregations, and although I was apprehensive, the congregation embraced it...and there was a subsequent explosion of new worship material by many new artists! 

And worship is still evolving. New worship CDs seem to come out every day and it’s impossible to keep up with them. There is undue pressure placed upon worship leaders to sing the hottest, latest, greatest worship songs and to present them to the congregation as fast as the team can learn them. Yet, the Lord still blesses time-honored music as much as the new. What’s a worship leader to do? Sing the old? The new? Blended? What kind of music pleases the Lord?  If God would answer that question, I believe he would say, “Any music that causes a change in your behavior to make you more like Christ is the kind that captures my heart!”

So...with these changing times, what is the secret to a successful music ministry?  Psalm 45:7 and Hebrews 1:9 both declare how we can receive the anointing of God on our music, our ministry and our lives.  “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness, therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”  When we pursue righteousness, God anoints us. And when He anoints us, it’s because He has others in mind! As a worship pastor, I try to “tailor” the worship experience to incorporate a mélange or “potpourri” of styles that all might be drawn into fantastic, genuine and authentic worship, allowing people to encounter God. 1 Peter 4:11 says,
“If anyone ministers, let him do it with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen!”  That should be the goal of every music ministry... to provide an atmosphere where others can encounter God!

Despite our challenges with the “styles” of worship, the Lord said, “Whosoever will may come!”  May He help us be vessels of His Spirit to change the hearts of those who “won’t” to be those who “will!” We need that same power of God to take our dry songs, whether old or new, and breathe in anointed life! Amen!

Bulgaria - Week #4

We have witnessed first hand the persecution of Evangelical Christians at the hands of the Orthodox Church here in Bulgaria, yet the believers are still thriving and turning the hearts of the nation to accept and bless them with favor!

Dale Rhoton, the International Director of Operation Mobilization wrote the following note to me in a personal Email today: “For 7 years we lived in Austria working with a team taking Scriptures and other Christian literature into the communist world. The saddest country we visited was Bulgaria!”

Signs of the communist influence are still evident…hundreds of huge complexes of apartment “flats” are evident in every city we’ve been to…and most are painted a depressing dull gray, and many are dilapidated. There are newer areas popping up in every place we’ve been, but it seems that all construction has come to a halt because of lack of finances to build places for people to live.

Also, the Gypsies here are not looked upon favorably…even the Christian Gypsies who are doing marvelous work with their churches in their “areas” of each city and village.

I preached on Sunday at Sion Church in Varna, and there was a wonderful response of people coming forward for prayer and rededication. It is humbling to pray for these people who have so little but give all they have to the Lord! The pastor of Sion Church had been persecuted during communism (less that 20 years ago) and was even tortured and imprisoned for the cause of Christ. In fact, he spent 3 months in solitary confinement in a cell about the size of an old phone booth!  Now, God is blessing him with a growing church and even the finances to buy the building where they are worshipping! AMAZING!

We were in Shumen leading 2 conferences over 2 days at EPC Church with Pastor Plamen Vassilev, and worship leader (and interpreter) Ivo Gorchev. The church is filled with talented musicians and singers and they worshipped the Lord with great confidence, ability, and in the power of God…it was another remarkable experience!  Pastor Plamen was a leader in the communist youth party until he accepted Christ and then dedicated his life to full-time pastoring.

After the Seminar, the attendees asked to hear Brenda sing, so she sang the wedding song that David wrote called “You Will Be” (which many of you have heard).  When Brenda read the words to the song, a young newlywed couple were looking at each other and smiling…then, when she started singing, they got up and went to the back of the hall and started dancing in a Christ honoring way between husband and wife! Since the words are Christ-centered it was actually a beautiful and moving experience watching them!

We then went to Shalom Church in Sevlievo and to Sion Church in Veliko-Tarnovo and the people overwhelmed us with their spirits and heart for worship! In fact, every church to which we’ve been we’ve seen a remarkable outpouring of the Lord!