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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Who has authority to lead worship?

Are Christian bands worship leaders? Are church choir directors worship leaders? Can anyone lead worship?
          There is a big church not too far from me and routinely, there are "Christian concert" held there.  There is a common argument that I have heard over the years, that these bands are, in a sense, worship leaders and do these concerts to lead people to the worship of God and it seems that fans are convinced that they are being led into worship and need to be led into worship.  John 4:24, when broken down, states that they who worship MUST CONTINUOUSLY worship in Spirit and Truth.  Furthermore,  Romans 12:1 beseeches the believer to present himself as a LIVING sacrifice. 

"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."

          But is there really such a thing as a worship leader?  Growing up in a Bible-teaching, independent, fundamental and nondenominational church, I was unaware of the title worship leader.  From what I understand and, infinitely more importantly, what the Bible says is that worship is strictly in the heart of a believer. (See post titled "Heart worship") The title worship leader is just that, a title.  The real question is, can a person lead worship, especially if it's in the heart of a believer?   I think it is safe to say that no one on earth can see into the heart of anyone else and so there are a few dangers in calling a person a worship leader.  First, it is inaccurate, since no one can actually lead someone's heart to the worship of God.   Second, a person may begin to, if there is consitency in being referred to as a worship leader, feel as though they are more capable than others in leading worship, which results in the thinking of entitlement.  Finally and probably most importantly, over time, the consistency of being called a worship leader, will diminish the true and Biblical appropriateness and importance of personal worship to each individual believer and the reverence of corporate worship. The thought of "I need a worship leader so that I can worship" becomes more and more common.  Somehow, thinking something more and more solidifies it to us and therefore if a person thinks they need a worship leader, over time they'll be convinced of that, that's it's true and that it's not up to them to personally worship the Lord, but that they NEED to be led into worship and only *this* band or *that* person (s) have the capability to do so.
           However,  there is a worship leader for the believer.   The One who knows all.  The One who knows exactly what the worship of the believer looks like, both outwardly, but more importantly, inwardly.  The One who wrote the utmost and authoritative instruction book on worship and the One who does not waver in those Biblical principles of worship.  Of course, I am referring to God Almighty.   God wrote the one and only manual of how he is to be worshipped.   Others have tried various ways and it has not ended well.  In Leviticus 10:1-2, Nadab and Abihu, though sincere in there desire to please God, were instantly struck dead.  There is no question that because God wrote the book on worship and will only accept worship that is biblical, there should be no compromise on the believer's worship.   So why are there so many different ways that people worship?  The main and number one reason is because of the sin nature.  Sin is innate in man, and has been ever since Adam took of the fruit.  Unfortunately, at the moment of salvation, the sin nature remains in the life of the believer.  Thus the ever present struggle between right and wrong.  One thing that is very evident in all people, to some degree, is selfishness.  Selfishness to always want to do things "MY" way and that "MY" way is the best way or even just that "MY" way is how I want to express myself.  The Lord commands believers to worship in a way that only God will accept.  So, what does God accept? 

See "Acceptable worship"posts.



Monday, May 30, 2016

What type of worship does God accept?

Is there worship that God accepts, and if so, what does it look like?  Are there examples in scripture?  Do we have a choice in how to worship God?  These are a few of the fundamental questions of the Christian contemporary worship movement.  All of these answers are found in scripture and scripture is the fundamental basis and rule book on worshipping God.  One verse that will help is found in Psalms 29:2.

"Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness."

The Believer's worship is not only unto the One, True Lord, who humbled himself for the salvation of all, and upholds our lives, and very beings, by his grace, but needs to be an appropriate reflection of the glory He should recieve.  So how much of or what does this glory look like that God the Father so richly deserves?  To begin with, God, the creator and sustainer of everything in life, needs to be given all the honor and respect that His children can give.  Of course and unfortunately, being fallen human beings, this is limited. Not only should honor and respect be given voluntarily, but it is also commanded in numerous other passages.  In previous posts, it was noted that worship is an appropriate expression of love towards God, and, in essence, an appropriate expression of love is obedience.  There is one account in scripture that I keep being reminded of and that is found in Genesis  22, where Abraham is told to sacrifice Isaac.  That obedience was not contingent on anything other than what God commanded.  The feelings, emotions, thoughts, reasoning, and human common sense of Adam all went against God's command to sacrifice.  Also, Abraham did not change anything.  He didn't  say to himself,  " well, I'll just sacrifice Isaac's hand." Or "God doesn't actually mean that.....I'll sacrifice  a lamb instead, like everyone else." Or even "God told me to sacrifice Isaac,  but what he really means is that any form of sacrifice is fine, as long as my heart is right."  No, when God makes a command, it is to be obeyed, wholly.  This is what He expects, and commands, and this is what our reasonable response should be (Romans 12:1) and every effort to adhere to God's commands with appropriate responses, so to not cause confusion, is part of the responsibility of the believer.  Since we are fallen humans, the demands of God also remind us how infinitely short we fall, and can not fulfill in and of ourselves and how infinitely understanding and gracious our Father in heaven is.

The middle of this verse gives believers a hint of the very appropriate practice that should be in our daily lives.  I say "hint" because....well...believers won't  completely understand  worship until we are in glory.  There are all types of worship described in the bible.  On the other hand almost all of the "experiences" and various worship music found in today's contemporary worship movement, are not the various types of worship described in scripture.  None of the worship found in scripture is contingent on the believer, but wholly on God's command. Scripture does describe different types of worship, as HEART worship, VOCAL worship, and worship in our THOUGHT life.  A few of these do have in common that they're completely personal and no one other than the believer and God are the participants of that act of worship.  The tricky thing is that no act of worship is separated  into these 3.  All of our worship includes all 3 of these and each of these are further elaborated on in earlier posts. 

"Music is used as a tool to reveal God to man and as a tool for man to respond to God" from God's Word, The Final Word on Worship & Music - Dr. Dean Kurtz

The final thought in this verse is that the believer is to worship in the beauty of holiness.  To find out the meaning of this phrase, we need to first understand what exactly the word holy means.  In all its essence, holy means to set apart, but also it is a two fold meaning.  Holy means to be set apart, but in two ways: to be set apart UNTO God, but also apart FROM the world.  The Believer's worship needs to be holy.  Also, beautiful.  In God's eyes, worship that is holy unto Him is beautiful  because there is beauty within holiness.  For instance:  God's creation is absolutely beautiful and spending a clear and cloudless night just looking at all the beautiful stars is beyond words.  In order to get see all the beauty in the night heavenlies, it must be a clear and cloudless night, away from the city lights or other distractions.  It's quite hard to see all the beautiful stars when there are lights from a big city, or even any artificial light.  Some stars may be able to be seen, but those artificial lights are distracting from the pure beauty.  God's creation is beautiful because God created it, not because we think or know it's beautiful.  Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, as the saying goes.  The worship of the believer is similar in that any artificial distraction, detracts from the pure and beautiful worship that God intended for us to use to honor Him.

To learn more about worship, explore other blog posts, order my book, or simply draw closer to God!

James 1:5-6

Monday, September 21, 2015

What Manner of Man is This

For the last 7 or so years, I've been enjoying the music of Benjamin Everson.   He is a Christian musician who creates a capella arrangements of various hymns and other God-honoring music.  The first arrangement I heard was "Complete in Thee".  Ever since, I've been hooked.  His latest arrangement, "What Manner of Man is This" is a song that emphasizes the person and work of Christ.  Here is the YouTube link.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Does CCM type worship destroy?

         If you have not heard, Clearwater Christian College announced that they will be closing the doors.  Of course, there are many reasons for this, however this pastor's article briefly mentions the approval of CCM worship. 

         The Bible is clear on the way a believer needs to approach God.  Many Christians believe that they can worship God their own way, based on how they feel or what the experience. No doubt that this article is saddening, but proves that biblical worship needs to be kept sacred.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Communication: Matching the message and content

The content of a believers communication will usually always be truths from God's word. Those truths, whether the gospel of salvation or the doctrine of separation, or the many other truths found in scripture,  all need to be a consistent presentation of that content. 
This is mostly and can be easily seen in music, but can also be seen in preaching and teaching.  For example: the great hymn "A Mighty Fortress is our God" speaks of the great power and sustaining stronghold of The Almighty.  The melody of that hymn adds to the content simply because there is a sense of strength and power in the very melody.  For instance: holding a note to emphasize a strong word or having a strong word land on a note that is prominant in the melody. There would be a very different message presented if that hymn was sung to, say a clown theme or happy birthday.  There isn't anything wrong with those other melodies, but there would be an obvious confusion about what the hymn is about.  Because there is that consistency in this, and so many other great hymns, there is also much more clarity and very few, if any at all, questions regarding the content and message.
In the midst of doing research, I came across the lyrics of a testimonial worship song.  The lyrics were beautiful and very obviously a proclamation of the author dedicating his life to Christ.  It was both an encouragement and convicting to read.  There is no doubt in my mind that the Lord was pleased with the heart of the author.  I downloaded the whole song and listened to it.  I was trying to follow along with the lyrics, however it was too difficult.   I could hardly understand the lyrics, though they were right in front of me.  I couldn't even tell when the chorus started or if the next verse had started.  The music and the way that this person was "singing" did not line up at all with the message that was conveyed through reading the lyrics. 
This can also be observed in preaching.   Almost all preachers today want what they say to be heard and understood.  Some pastors have preached messages that are uncomfortable,  yet need to be heard, but perhaps for fear of becoming unliked or offensive,  they will fill a lot of the message with feel-good stories or jokes. This is, not only inconsistent, but in opposition to the commands found in God's Word.  Perhaps,  a teacher will not take the time to explain the things he says.  This can create a lot of confusion.
Here is a little experiment that can be done with children.  Pay attention to them when they say "I love you".  Sometimes it will be with all sincerity, sometimes it will be joking around or with older kids, it might be said with eye rolling.  If not done in sincerity,  the parents can very easily tell the true content behind those words.
As Christians, and obeying the command to be good stewards of His Word, we need to make sure that what is being taught is God's Word,  but also that it is presented in an unquestionably clear and consistent manner.
Consistency in communication is key if the content is to be clearly understood by, and to not confuse the listener.
1 Corinthians 14:40 "Let all things be done decently and in order."

Communication: The content

How do people know the gospel of salvation?  To put it in its simplest form, someone communicated it to them, whether vocally or written. The gospel of salvation was communicated multiple ways, through the old testament prophecies, through the written record, and through the prophecies of the One who died to save all mankind from sin, and finally through the crucifixion of Christ. Moments after a person comes to the saving knowledge of Christ, they'll start to communicate that same knowledge to others.  I know a little girl who got saved when she was about 5 and it didn't take long before she started telling her little brother.  The Bible commands believers to tell the gospel of salvation to others.

The means of salvation is faith in the finished work of Christ, His death, burial, resurrection,  and ascension.   This is the very basis of what the believer is commanded to communicate and the only message we can communicate to others before anything else.  There is a tendency in us to start to communicate other truths from God's Word to an unbeliever, before they actually receive Christ.  Certainly, if they ask questions,  we need to be ready and prepared with answers, but it all needs to be brought back to the basis of fait in the finished work of Christ.  In the gospel of John alone, there are approximately 85 times that the word "believe" is used.  And, of course, that gospel is written so "that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." 

Jesus said in John 12 "I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness."  The only way of true salvation is to believe in the finished work of Christ.  Believe that he died for your sins and be saved.  John 17:3 "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Influences of Music

The Influences of Music

Music can be a sensitive issue for anybody, because it can be so personal, but the music we listen to, both in our worship to the Lord and in our personal lives, (according to Romans 12:2, our whole life should be a sacrifice to the Lord) is an important subject to look at if we desire to please the Lord.  As we look at some Biblical principles and Bible verses that can very much be applied to everyday life, maybe we could consider our own choices of music.  In this study, Lord willing, we’ll see how music can influence the thoughts, feelings, and also the behavior of its listeners.
The first thing we should consider is how much do we want to know God and are we willing to make sacrifices to be yielded to the Lord?  I pray that the answer is that we all have the same desire as Paul in Philippians 3:10.( Phil 3:10 “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;”)  If that is the case, then whatever we do will be yielded to Christ.  Of course, we’re sinners and will not always be yielded to Christ, however the first step to knowing God, is to have a desire to know him, to always be in prayer to be abiding in that relationship to Christ, and finally, do our best to be yielded in that relationship.  If there is anyone here who doesn’t know Christ as their personal savior, Jesus Christ said himself that you MUST be born again, or believe in the finished work of Christ and have everlasting life.  It’s that simple.  The only requirement for salvation is to believe and thou shalt be saved.  
Let’s consider how music can influence our thoughts and our perception of something.   (Smith, 2005) Think of the late 1890’s to the 1920’s when silent movies were popular. One particular scene that we can all picture in our heads is that of 2 women.  The heroin enters onto the scene accompanied by joyful, upbeat and lively music while the female villain is accompanied with dark, evil, perhaps sultry music.  The writers of this film certainly intended these 2 characters to have the perception of joyful and innocent or dark and sinister.  The audience was given this idea without even having to be told.  Music, by itself, has a very powerful way to suggest an atmosphere, emotion, attitude or behavior.  Another way to look at this is when I was younger and not walking with the Lord, I was friends with a DJ.  One night, he was going to be DJing at a club somewhere and wanted me to come.  I went and had my fun and at some point I must’ve been gone.  I came back and he told me “Man, you should’ve been here, I just had all the people up dancing and doing some crazy things!!”  Just from the type of music he played, the result of that was just repulsive.   
Secondly, think of the words to your favorite song.  Are those words encouraging to YOUR spiritual walk?  The words of the world’s music are, in all aspects, meaningless and empty, no matter the topic.  Music and the lyrics can be used to encourage or discourage our walk with the Lord.  The more we hear words, the more that we think about them (esp. when put to a melody) and therefore our thoughts are now influenced by the words of certain music.   At my work, the radio is turned up kind of loud so that people can hear the music.  Sometimes I hear the radio DJ come on and announce, maybe, an upcoming concert or some kind of event. He then announces that they will be giving away free tickets to this event. There is a catch with these free passes, if and when you hear a certain song being played between such and such a time, be the 50th caller and you’ll qualify for these tickets.  Someone that really wants those tickets, chooses to be a slave to listening to that radio station for so many hours, not to mention that those tickets are not even a 100% guarantee.
  The Bible tells us in numerous places that the mind is where the true struggle of the believer is.   
Eph. 6:12  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Rom 8:6  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Rom 8:7  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
There are also numerous places in the Bible where we are encouraged to keep our mind focused on things above.

Colossians 3:2 “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Phil 4:8  “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are TRUE, whatsoever things are HONEST, whatsoever things are JUST, whatsoever things are PURE, whatsoever things are LOVELY, whatsoever things are of GOOD REPORT; if there be any VIRTUE, and if there be any PRAISE, think on these things.”
Rom 12:2  And 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.
Romans 7:25 “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”

At the conclusion of the struggle of our 2 natures that Paul describes in Romans chapter 7, Paul is thankful that Christ has given him the intellect to know the differences among doing wrong and doing right, or discernment.  Discernment is VERY important when we have decisions to make, especially in this particular area when there are SO many so-called “Christian” songs.  A person that might not have a lot of discernment, won’t see any issues with listening to “Christian” rap, rock, country, metal and whatever else is out there being portrayed as Christ-honoring music.  Discernment is difficult, for anybody, and we need to pray for wisdom and discernment in EVERY decision. 

James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

The next part of music we’ll look at is the melody.  There are songs written for the purpose of making us FEEL happy, sad, angry, or excited.  There are even some songs that are intended to make us want to FEEL certain ways that the artist and songwriter wants their audience to feel.  How often have you put on your favorite music when you feel a little down or when you feel excited? I think all of us here have. Our emotions are influenced by the type of music we listen to.  Let’s try another experiment.  Most likely, we’ve all seen a horror movie.  We can all anticipate when something is about to happen and we “sit on the edge of our seat” simply by the music in the background.  Try turning off the sound when you watch that movie.  You won’t know if something is about to happen because the music won’t be there to influence your emotions.  When I was in high school, we went on a trip to Arizona to march in a parade for a big football game event.  There was a video made of the trip and everyone got a copy.  One scene on this video was of the football team tackling each other and whatnot, and the music in the background was hard pounding heavy metal to give the audience the FEEL of aggression and hostility. That scene would be somewhat different if the music had been ballet or classical.  Various styles of music have various effects on their perception of things and a person’s attitude.
On the other hand, one benefit of listening to music that is poised or calm, (rather than agitated or excited, which might detract from the message of reverence or praise to our God), along with scripture is that the Lord uses His scripture or hymns, like “Sweet HOUR of Prayer” to convict, HOUR?...of prayer, or maybe you’ve been encouraged by hymns like “Be Still My Soul” or even challenged by a hymn like “I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go, Dear Lord”.  Not all of us here enjoy being convicted, but the more of a desire we have to grow in our relationship with God, the more we want to have that dross burned off.  Some believers enjoy listening to modest music with words of honor to God, like “Wonderful Grace of Jesus, Greater than all my sin; How shall me tongue describe it, where shall it’s praise begin…” and this, too, edifies and encourages our relationship to the Lord in the sense that our thoughts are pointed towards the majesty and glory of our wonderful, all sufficient creator.   God’s word is powerful and whether we hear God’s word in a message from Pastor or in a song or hymn, His word speaks to our hearts, if we have a humble and tender heart.  When we choose to be drawn closer to the Lord, the Lord is delighted and will draw nigh unto us, as we’re told in James 4:8a.  There have been so many times when I have felt discouraged or sad or whatever else and I would put on some hymns or praise music and I will just feel SO encouraged.  The words to the hymns that we sing in church or, of course, scripture verses are what encourage our spiritual growth, among other exercises, and as was mentioned earlier, if we have the same goal as the apostle Paul in Philippians, we’ll WANT to draw closer to the Lord.

If the words of a song can manipulate how and what we think about, and the music itself can influence our emotions, the way that music is arranged or the rhythm can influence our body. 
According to the Bible, we are always being changed into God’s likeness and there are numerous places in the Bible that remind us that we are a new creation with a new nature.  The types of behavior that are endorsed by the world’s music is, in all aspects, fleshly.  In the Bible we are told to put on the new nature and walk in newness of life and to yield, not only our minds, but our bodies to Christ.

Eph 4:22  That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
Eph 4:23  And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
Eph 4:24  And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

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.
Putting on the new man means that NOTHING from that old man should be relevant to us. Although we fail at this over and over again, we need to remember to walk in newness of life because the devil uses whatever he can to distract us from our Lord and Savior. Music is one way, and a powerful way, that the Devil is using to  pull more and more Christians away.  We know that our struggle is in the mind, for the most part, and just being more aware of the distractions in our lives that could distract us from our walk with the Lord would be beneficial. 

There is only 1 verse in the Bible where the Greek word from which the word rhythm comes from is used.

John 7:38 “He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall FLOW rivers of living water.”

The word translated “flow” in this verse is the Greek word rheo which means to flow or to pulse.  I’m sure that most of us here have heard of Rheumatoid arthritis.  This basically hinders the flow of blood to the joints in your body.  In neuroscience, rheobase, is a term that’s simply assigned to the brain when it sends an electric current to tell how much blood flow is needed for the muscle.  I’m sure that we’ve all experienced a shock of some form.  I remember when I was younger, and quite dumb in this instance.  I was at a friend’s house and we were repairing an electrical outlet. Well, the wires were exposed and I think we all know what comes next.  I decided to grab two of the wires and see what happened.  I think it’s pretty obvious to us all that kind of exposure to electricity directly affects that part of the body, and in this case, my hand.  For that few seconds, I had no control over my hand.  We can see from this how the flow of electrical currents directly provokes our muscles to contract. 
There can also be outside influences that control our muscles.  Everybody here knows someone who has a little toddler running around.  Toddlers don’t have a clue about the affects of music and yet when they hear a beat, they start to move around to that beat. We all think it’s cute, but it only proves that much more how much music can have an influence on us, physically. The Bible tells us to yield the members of our bodies, or to have control over ourselves.  When we listen to music with a prominent back beat, we might not feel the effect directly, but have you ever found yourself tapping your foot or snapping or keeping the beat in some way?  In this small way, the music is influencing part of our body.

This last section might not seem all that important.  In music that has a prominent rhythm or upbeat pulse, the most important instrument to emphasize this beat, are the drums.  A lot of people argue that drums don’t hurt anything and if used in the right circumstances, could serve as a benefit.  I would like to suggest that even good music that have drums needs to be carefully considered.  Perhaps a person with a strong stance on Christ honoring music hears a hymn variation that has a very light drum beat in the background.  Over time that soft drum beat, not always, but might want to be heard more and more.  What is a soft and light sounding drum beat to start, in time, might turn into a heavier sounding beat. 
I think most of us are aware that drums were originally used in the tribes of Africa by the people to conjure up evil spirits and introduce everyone into a trance state of mind, or pretty much a hypnotic state. 
Let me read a quote from a website I came across that speaks about the influence of rhythm and the way the drums were used.

“Studies have shown that vibrations from rhythmic sounds have a profound effect on brain activity. In shamanic traditions, drums were used in periodic rhythm to transport the shaman into other realms of reality. The vibrations from this constant rhythm affected the brain in a very specific manner, allowing the shaman to achieve an altered state of mind and journey out of his or her body .” 
(Later on in this series we will see a little more about the occultic influence on rock music.)

The use of drums in music is not a wrong thing in and of itself, however , the way the drums are used or played does have an influence on us whether we know it or not.  In fact, I have read a lot about today’s Christian rock groups being influenced by secular rock groups.  (One of Relient K’s influences is Led Zeppelin)  Secular rock groups are heavily influenced by the occult and to listen to Christian rock bands that look up to, and sometimes even duplicate the rhythms of these secular groups, is a danger that we need to be aware of.   Let me read another quote.

"My true belief about Rock ‘n’ Roll — is this: I believe this kind of music is demonic . . . A lot of the BEATS in music today are taken from voodoo, from the voodoo DRUMS." (Charles White, The Life and Times of Little Richard, p. 197)
The Bible says that we need to walk with our Lord circumspectly. 
Eph. 5:15 “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,”
This is the starting phrase in which our parallel passage is found.  The first thing that we are told is to walk circumspectly.  The Greek word that is translated circumspectly means perfectly.  This, of course, covers A LOT MORE than what we are focusing on here, but we need to be aware of the types of things in this world that would hinder us from having that perfect walk with the Lord.
As you can see, there is a lot about music that we can learn and, Lord willing, we will see in the next messages some examples of different types of music that is being justified as Christ honoring.
The issue of music in the Christian’s life is an area that is greatly effecting the church and individuals and therefore we need to pray for discernment and wisdom. James 1:5  If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.The Lord doesn’t mind when we ask for wisdom especially when we are seeking HIS will.