• Praise is the heart of worship.

  • Pray without ceasing. Give thanks always.

  • Put your hand in the hand of God.

  • God is good. All the time.

  • The future is as bright as God’s promises.

Anchor

User-friendly devotionals with audio

  • Miracles from the Maestro

    By Peter van Gorder

    It is said that there are three artists that give us music: God, who gives us magical wood to make the instruments; the instrument maker, who after months of labor awakens the music dwelling in the wood; then the musical maestro, who liberates the music from its woody confines to set the listener free.

    I witnessed firsthand an illustration of music’s redemptive power when I visited a woman’s prison in Uganda. Many of the women there were imprisoned because they had defended themselves from violent abuse from their husbands, but it had ended tragically. In some cases, these women were pregnant or lived within the prison walls with their children in tow, as there was no one else to take care of them.

    I and a group of friends who were Christian volunteers had come to give the women some meaningful entertainment in the form of some rousing inspirational guitar music, a clown comedy and magic show, and a skit that I was to perform. In searching for a theme that would be relevant, I realized after finding out more about them that many of the prisoners felt that they were worthless and their usefulness in life was over. They were now just surviving day to day in hopeless mode.

    I came across the well-known story poem of “The Touch of the Master’s Hand” written back in 1921 that seemed perfect for the occasion. The story is of an old beat-up violin that is put up for auction. At first it only gets a low price of just a few dollars, but after an old man comes up and plays it, the violin fetches a high price of several thousand dollars. Why did the same violin change in value so drastically? It was the “touch of the master’s hand” that played such beautiful music.1

    These women, like the old “worthless” violin in the story, had great worth and were still able to “make beautiful music” in their lives if they let the Master touch them. We performed the skit in their local language using a real violin. I mimed playing it to a recording from a violin maestro. After some simple directions, the audience played the part of the people bidding for the violin. Afterwards, many commented on how the story had given them new hope.

    The story of how this poem came to be is also relevant. The author, Myra Welch, loved to play the organ in her youth, but because of severe arthritis, became bound to a wheelchair and could no longer play. One day she heard a speech given to students on God’s power to use people in spite of their shortcomings and handicaps. She said, “I became so filled with light that I wrote it in just 30 minutes.” The fact that she could write it was an amazing feat in itself. She had to hold a pencil end in her twisted arthritic hands to laboriously bang out each of the letters on the typewriter keys. Nevertheless, she said, “the joy of writing outweighed the pain of my efforts.”

    Even an old and seemingly worthless violin can transform lives. Something as small as a few fish and loaves can be transformed into a feast for thousands by the touch of the Master’s hand, as when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.2 Moses found out that despite his inadequacies, something as common as a stick can be transformed by the Lord into a rod of God to do mighty signs and wonders.3

    God often surprises us in how He works. There are many famous musicians who have overcome their seeming handicaps, such as the blind pianists Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder; or consider Itzhak Perlman, the great violin virtuoso who has won numerous awards for his performances, including four Emmys, who said, “I actually wanted to play the violin before I had polio, and then afterwards, there was no reason not to.” He contracted polio at four years of age, which took the use of his legs but spared his hands. He turned this liability around to become his greatest asset.

    One of the most extreme examples is that of Leslie Lemke, who was blind, autistic, and had brain damage and cerebral palsy. He couldn’t stand until he was 12 and was 15 before he learned to walk, but through much love from his parents and many miracles he became a great pianist.4

    I thought it would be good to hear a firsthand experience on this theme and I remembered my friend Steven Gilb, who is a blind musician and accomplished writer. He told me, “The value of what we have depends on how we use it, no matter how little or much it seems to be at first glance. I can say that I never felt like that seemingly worthless violin, because I have discovered the joy of using whatever talents I have.

    “I am living proof of the fact that God is able to take seemingly worthless things, such as our most annoying tendencies, and turn them into our best abilities.

    “I had a love for music since I was a kid; and at two years old, I would beat with my hands on anything I could find. While others thought this was annoying, my parents sensed my interest in music and eventually got me a pair of bongos. Today I play drums, among other instruments, and God uses these gifts for His glory.”5

    These stories should encourage us that if other people could overcome such overwhelming challenges, we can too. Our part is to welcome the Master’s touch in our daily lives so we too can play beautiful music.

    The Touch of the Master’s Hand
    ’Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
       Thought it scarcely worth his while
    To waste much time on the old violin,
       But held it up with a smile.
    “What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried,
      “Who’ll start the bidding for me?”
    “A dollar, a dollar. Then two! Only two?
       Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?”

    “Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
       Going for three…” But no,
    From the room, far back, a grey-haired man
       Came forward and picked up the bow;
    Then wiping the dust from the old violin,
       And tightening the loosened strings,
    He played a melody pure and sweet,
       As a caroling angel sings.

    The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
       With a voice that was quiet and low,
    Said: “What am I bid for the old violin?”
       And he held it up with the bow.
    “A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two?
       Two thousand! And who’ll make it three?
    Three thousand, once; three thousand, twice,
      And going and gone,” said he.

    The people cheered, but some of them cried,
      “We do not quite understand.
    What changed its worth?” Swift came the reply:
      “The touch of the Master’s hand.”
    And many a man with life out of tune,
       And battered and scarred with sin,
    Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd
       Much like the old violin.

    A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine,
      A game—and he travels on.
    He is “going” once, and “going” twice,
      He’s “going” and almost “gone.”
    But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
      Never can quite understand
    The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
      By the touch of the Master’s hand.


    1 You can see a short dramatization of the story at this link and a song at this link.

    2 See Matthew 15.

    3 See Exodus 4.

    4 You can see his story in this video.

    5  You can hear Steve’s story at this link. See shows 132 and 200.

  • Sep 21 Five Minutes Longer
  • Sep 16 Biblical Insights on Fire
  • Sep 15 Does God Really Answer Prayer?
  • Sep 14 Surpassing Love
  • Sep 9 Great Questions Lead to Great Conversations
  • Sep 8 The Measure of Success
  • Sep 4 Jesus Is Not a Role Model
  • Sep 1 You Are of Great Worth
  • Aug 31 “Jesus Really Loves You, Shirley!”
   

Directors’ Corner

News, writings and thoughts from TFI Directors

  • Jesus—His Life and Message: Are You the Christ?

    The Gospel of John tells of Jesus attending a religious festival during which His opponents demanded to know if He was the Messiah. His response almost cost Him His life.

    At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.1

    The Feast of Dedication (also known as Hanukkah) commemorates an event in Jewish history which took place in 164 BC. At that time, Israel was under the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the king of the Seleucid Empire. Antiochus IV desecrated the Temple by offering to Zeus a sacrifice of a pig, an unclean animal according to Jewish law, on the Temple’s altar. This led to a Jewish rebellion, spearheaded by the Maccabees (the five sons of a Jewish priest named Mattathias), who eventually defeated the Seleucids. After this victory the Temple was cleansed, restored, and rededicated.

    The Feast of Dedication is a yearly eight-day event commemorating this cleansing, and during this celebration Jesus was walking in the colonnade of Solomon. A colonnade denotes a roofed structure supported by pillars, and in this case seems to have stretched along the east side of the Temple. It was likely the place where Jewish teachers, such as the scribes, normally held their classes. Jesus was probably walking there in order to teach or to invite discussion.

    As Jesus was walking, a group of people, likely either some scribes or Pharisees, or both, circled around Him, possibly with hostile intent.

    The Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”2 

    Their question about who Jesus was echoes similar statements made and questions asked throughout this Gospel. For example:

    Some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee?”3

    Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.4

    Those encircling Jesus wanted a clear answer regarding who He was rather than metaphors such as Bread, Light, Shepherd, or Door, which He used throughout this Gospel.5

    Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.”6 

    Technically, Jesus had not specifically stated that He was “the Messiah” (which means the Christ) to these particular questioners.7 At this point in the Gospel of John, Jesus had only made such a statement to the Samaritan woman.

    The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”8

    However, Jesus immediately stated that the works (miracles) He did in His Father’s name testified about Him and who He is. These works were done in accordance with the Father’s will and were in agreement with all the Father stands for. As they were done in the Father’s name, they were the Father’s own works. He went on to state the reason for His questioners’ unbelief: because you are not part of my flock. Jesus referred back to what He had said in the earlier part of this chapter, when He was speaking of the sheep who enter the sheepfold, who hear and know the shepherd’s voice.9 Here Jesus defined hearing the shepherd’s voice as “believing.” Those who refused to believe were not His sheep, not part of my flock.

    My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.10

    Earlier in this chapter, Jesus stated that the sheep hear the shepherd’s voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out … and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.11 Christ’s sheep hear His voice and they follow, and along with that there is the wonderful assurance that I know them. Added to that is the promise of eternal life, eternal safety, under the care of the Shepherd.

    “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”12

    Until this point Jesus had spoken of His disciples in relation to Himself: My flock My sheep hear my voice … and they follow me. … I give them eternal life … and no one will snatch them out of my hand.13 Now He makes the point that the “sheep”—His disciples—are given to Him from His Father. Because of who the Father is, His gift is greater than all. Believers in Jesus are God’s gift.

    In stating that no one will snatch them [the sheep] out of my hand, and then saying that no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand, Jesus showed that His hand and His Father’s hand were doing the same work in providing protection to the flock. He then emphasized this by stating, I and the Father are one.14 Jesus’ statement echoed what He had said earlier in this Gospel. “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”15

    The Jewish listeners considered His statement to be blasphemy, and therefore picked up stones again to stone him,16 as they did earlier in this Gospel when Jesus said,

    “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.17

    This time, instead of leaving, Jesus remained and responded.

    Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”18 

    Jesus didn’t respond to them by focusing on His statement that I and the Father are one; rather He pointed to the many good works He’d done, emphasizing that these works were from the Father. However, His accusers were focused on what they considered to be blasphemy, as He had stated that I and the Father are one.

    Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’”?19 

    Jesus responded by directing them to the Law, specifically Psalm 82:6, which states, I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.” This Old Testament passage referred to the Judges of Israel, and the expression “gods” was applied to them because of the importance of their position.

    Because Scripture referred to these men as gods, Jesus asked whether they could rightly say that He was blaspheming when He called himself the Son of God. He made the point that if the Psalms applied the term “gods” to men, then how much more should it be applied to Him who the Father has sanctified. While Jesus was a human being, He was more than that—He was the one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world.

    “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”20 

    Jesus pointed to the works He had done and stated that these works should be the criteria by which they should judge Him. If He did not do the works of my Father, they shouldn’t believe in or trust Him. However, if He did do the works of God, then the situation would be different. Even if they were not prepared to believe Him, they should at least believe in the miracles He had done.

    In the original Greek, the phrase that you may know and understand uses the same Greek verb, though in different tenses, for both know and understand. The first verb, know, is in the Greek aorist tense and expresses the meaning “that you may come to know,” while the second, understand, is in the infinitive tense, expressing the concept “and to keep on knowing.” Jesus wanted them to gain new insight and then to have it remain permanently within their understanding. The insight He wanted them to comprehend was the mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son. The works/miracles Jesus had done could not be done by a mere man acting on his own. He was able to do the miracles because the Father is in me and I am in the Father.

    Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.21 

    Earlier in this Gospel, the Jews had attempted to arrest Jesus.22 In that case, the attempted arrest was an official act of “the Pharisees” which involved a delegation of officers.23 In this instance, it appeared to be more of a mob action, as prior to Jesus addressing them, they were ready to stone Him, and then they switched to wanting to arrest Him.

    He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.24

    Jesus wisely left Jerusalem and fled across the Jordan River where He would be safe from those seeking to arrest Him. However, this change of scene didn’t represent a slowing down or ending of Jesus’ ministry. Though Jesus was no longer in Jerusalem, people sought Him out on the other side of the Jordan River.

    The people who came to Him remembered John the Baptist, his message, and his witness about Jesus.

    John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ … I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”25

    In contrast to those who lived in Judea who rejected Jesus, many of those in Perea on the east side of the Jordan River accepted Him and His message.


    Note

    Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


    General Bibliography

    Bailey, Kenneth E. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008.

    Biven, David. New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus. Holland: En-Gedi Resource Center, 2007.

    Bock, Darrell L. Jesus According to Scripture. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.

    Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 1: 1:1–9:50. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1994.

    Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 2: 9:51–24:53. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1996.

    Brown, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

    Brown, Raymond E. The Death of the Messiah. 2 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1994.

    Carson, D. A. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987.

    Charlesworth, James H., ed. Jesus’ Jewishness, Exploring the Place of Jesus Within Early Judaism. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997.

    Chilton, Bruce, and Craig A. Evans, eds. Authenticating the Activities of Jesus. Boston: Koninklijke Brill, 1999.

    Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1993.

    Elwell, Walter A., ed. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988.

    Elwell, Walter A., and Robert W. Yarbrough. Encountering the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.

    Evans, Craig A. World Biblical Commentary: Mark 8:27–16:20. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000.

    Evans, Craig A., and N. T. Wright. Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.

    Flusser, David. Jesus. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1998.

    Flusser, David, and R. Steven Notely. The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus’ Genius. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.

    France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.

    Gnilka, Joachim. Jesus of Nazareth: Message and History. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997.

    Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997.

    Green, Joel B., and Scot McKnight, eds. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

    Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

    Guelich, Robert A. World Biblical Commentary: Mark 1–8:26. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1989.

    Jeremias, Joachim. The Eucharistic Words of Jesus. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990.

    Jeremias, Joachim. Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1996.

    Jeremias, Joachim. Jesus and the Message of the New Testament. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002.

    Jeremias, Joachim. New Testament Theology. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971.

    Jeremias, Joachim. The Prayers of Jesus. Norwich: SCM Press, 1977.

    Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume 1. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.

    Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume 2. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.

    Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009.

    Lewis, Gordon R., and Bruce A. Demarest. Integrative Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

    Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976.

    Manson, T. W. The Sayings of Jesus. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957.

    Manson, T. W. The Teaching of Jesus. Cambridge: University Press, 1967.

    McKnight, Scot. Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.

    Michaels, J. Ramsey. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

    Milne, Bruce. The Message of John. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

    Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.

    Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992.

    Morris, Leon. Luke. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

    Ott, Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Rockford: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1960.

    Pentecost, J. Dwight. The Words & Works of Jesus Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.

    Sanders, E. P. Jesus and Judaism. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985.

    Sheen, Fulton J. Life of Christ. New York: Doubleday, 1958.

    Spangler, Ann, and Lois Tverberg. Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.

    Stassen, Glen H., and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2003.

    Stein, Robert H. Jesus the Messiah. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

    Stein, Robert H. Mark. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.

    Stein, Robert H. The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teachings. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994.

    Stein, Robert H. The New American Commentary: Luke. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1992.

    Stott, John R. W. The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1978.

    Talbert, Charles H. Reading the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004.

    Williams, J. Rodman. Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

    Witherington, Ben, III. The Christology of Jesus. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990.

    Witherington, Ben, III. The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001.

    Wood, D. R. W., I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, and D. J. Wiseman, eds. New Bible Dictionary. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

    Wright, N. T. After You Believe. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010.

    Wright, N. T. Jesus and the Victory of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996.

    Wright, N. T. Matthew for Everyone, Part 1. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.

    Wright, N. T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.

    Yancey, Philip. The Jesus I Never Knew. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.

    Young, Brad H. Jesus the Jewish Theologian. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1995.


    1 John 10:22–23.

    2 John 10:24.

    3 John 7:40–41.

    4 John 9:16.

    5 John 16:25, 29.

    6 John 10:25–26.

    7 John 1:41.

    8 John 4:25–26.

    9 John 10:1–4.

    10 John 10:27–28.

    11 John 10:3–4.

    12 John 10:29–30.

    13 John 10:26–28.

    14 John 10:30.

    15 John 5:17.

    16 John 10:31.

    17 John 8:58–59.

    18 John 10:32–33.

    19 John 10:34–36.

    20 John 10:37–38.

    21 John 10:39.

    22 John 7:30.

    23 John 7:32–36, 45–47.

    24 John 10:40–42.

    25 John 1:15, 26–27.

     

  • Sep 15 More Like Jesus: Reflections on Peace
  • Sep 8 Living Christianity: The Ten Commandments (You Shall Not Steal, Part 4)
  • Sep 1 Jesus—His Life and Message: Two Unique Healings
  • Aug 25 Jesus—His Life and Message: Jesus and the Scribe
  • Aug 18 More Like Jesus: Reflections on Forgiveness
  • Aug 11 Living Christianity: The Ten Commandments (You Shall Not Steal, Part 3)
  • Aug 4 Living Christianity: The Ten Commandments (You Shall Not Steal, Part 2)
  • Aug 1 God’s Footprint in Nature
  • Jul 28 Jesus—His Life and Message: Jesus and the Children
   

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