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Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Menace of the Religious Movie: Introduction

One of the many fruits of the flesh is selfishness, the strong desire to please our own wants with whatever makes us feel good.  This is a struggle for Christians and one reason may be because that selfish want is more pervasive than we might think.  In seeking truth from God's Word, we want to learn more and be drawn closer to God, but almost always only on our terms and with methods that we are comfortable with.  This was also true in the life of A. W. Tozer. (1897-1963)  Apparently, a lot of Christians felt the need to use worldly methods in their search of knowledge about God and other Biblical truths, even back then.  This will be the first of an 8 part series of a booklet by A. W. Tozer on the religious movie, however this is certainly true in regards to any entertainment or addition to the methods of imparting truth.

The Menace of the Religious Movie: Introduction
By A. W. Tozer

When God gave to Modes the blueprint of the Tabernacle, He was careful to include every detail; then, lest Modes should get the notion that he could improve on the original plan, God warned him solemnly, "And look that though make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount."  God, not Moses, was the architect.  To decide the plan was the prerogative of the Diety.  No one dared alter it so much as a hairbreadth.

The new Testament Church also is builded after a pattern.  Not the doctrines only, but the METHODS are divinely give.  The doctrines are expressly stated in so many words.  Some of the methods followed by the early New Testament Church had been given by direct command; others were used by God's specific approval, having obviously been commanded the apostles by the Spirit.  The point is that when the New Testament canon was closed, the blueprint for the age was complete.  God has added nothing since that time.

From God's revealed plan, we depart at our peril.  Every departure has two consequences,  the immediate ad the remote.  The immediate touches the individual and those close to him, and may expand so far as to influence for evil the whole Church of God on earth.

The temptation to introduce "new" things into the work of God has always been too strong for some people to resist.  The Church has suffered untold injury at the hands of well-intentioned, but misguided persons who felt that they know more about running God's work than Christ and his apostles did.  A solid train of box cars would not suffice to haul away the religious truck which has been brought into the service of the Church with the hope of improving on the original pattern.  These things have been, one and all, positive hindrances to the progress of the Truth, and have so altered the divine planned structure that the apostles, we're they to return to earth today, would scarcely recognize the misshapen thing which has resulted.

Our Lord while on earth cleansed the Temple, and periodic cleansing have been necessary in the Church of God throughout the centuries.  Every generation is sure to have its ambitious amateur to come up with some shiny gadget which he proceeds to urge upon the priests before the altar.  That the scriptures do not justify it's existence, does not seem to bother him at all.  It is brought in anyway and presented in the very name of Orthodoxy.  Soon it is identified in the minds of the Christian public with all that is good and holy.  Then, of course, to attack the gadget is to attack the Truth itself.  This is an old familiar technique so often and so long practiced by the devotees of error that I marvel how the children of God can be taken in by it. 

We if the evangelical faith are in a rather awkward position of criticizing Romance Catholicism for its weight of unscriptural impedimenta and at the same time tolerating in our own churches a world of religious frbble as bad as holy water or the elevated host.  Heresy of method may be as deadly as heresy of message.  Old-line Protestantism has long ago been smothered to death by extra-scriptural rubbish.  Unless we of the gospel churches wake up soo, we shall most surely die by the same means.

Within the last few years, a new method has been invented for imparting spiritual knowledge; or, to be more accurate,  it is not new at all, but is an adaptation of a gadget of some years standing, one which by its origin and background belongs not to the Church, but to the world.  Some within the fold of the Church have thrown their mantle over it, have "blessed it with a text" and are now trying to show that it is the very gift of God for our day.  But, however, eloquent the sales talk, it is an unauthorized addition nevertheless, and it was never a part of the pattern shown us on the mount.

I refer, of course, to the religious movie.

For the motion picture as such I have no irrational allergy.  It is a mechanical invention merely, and is in its essence amoral; that is, neither good nor bad, but neutral.  With any physical object or creature lacking the power of choice, it could not be otherwise.   Whether such an object is useful or harmful depends altogether upon who uses it and what he uses it for.  No moral quality attaches where there is no free choice.  Sin and righteousness lie in the will.  The motion picture is in the same class as the automobile, the typewriter, or the radio: a powerful instrument for good or evil, depending on how it is applied.

For teaching the facts of physical science, the motion picture has been useful.  The public schools have used it successfully to teach health habits to children.  The army employed it to speed up instruction during the war.  That it has been of real service within its limited field is freely acknowledged here.

Over against this is the fact that the motion picture in evil hands has been a source of moral corruption to millions.  No one who values his reputation as a responsible adult will deny that the sex movie and the crime movie have done untold injury to the lives of countless young people in our generation.  The harm lies not in the instrument itself, but in the evil will of those who use it for their own selfish ends.

I am convinced that the modern motion religious movie is an example of the harmful misuse of a neutral instrument.  There are sound reasons for my belief.  I am prepared to state them.  That I may be as clear as possible,  let me explain what I do and do not mean by the religious movie.  I do not mean the missionary picture nor the travel picture which aims to focus attention upon one or another section of the world's great harvest field.  These do not come under discussion and will be left entirely out of consideration here.

By the religious movie, I mean that type of motion picture which attempts to treat spiritual themes by dramatic representation.  These are (as there advocates dare not deny) frank imitations of the authentic Hollywood variety, but the truth requires me to say that they are infinitely below their models, being mostly awkward, amateurish and, from an artistic standpoint, hopelessly and piteously bad. 

These pictures are produced by acting a religious story before the camera.  Take for example the famous and beautiful story of the Prodigal Son.  This would be made into a movie by treating the narrative as a scenario.  Stage scenery would be set up, actors would take roles of Father, Prodigal Son, Elder, Brother, etc.  There would be plot, sequence and dramatic denouement as in the ordinary tear herder shown at the Bijou movie house on Main Street in any one of a thousand American towns.  The story would be acted out, photographed, run onto reels and shipped around the country to be shown for a fee wherever desired.

The "service" where such a movie would be shown might seem much like any other service till the time.for the message frome the Word of God.   Then the lights would be put out and the picture turned on.  The "message " would consist of this movie.  What followed the picture would, of course, vary with the circumstances,  but often an invitation song is sung and a tender appeal is made for erring sinners to return to God. 

Now, what is wrong with all this?  Why should any man object to this or go out of his way to oppose it's use in the house of God?  Here is my answer.

...until the next part of the series, we'll begin to find out the answer A. W. Tozer came up with.

Monday, October 17, 2016

What does apathy and irreverent worship lead to?

Earlier this year, a worship service in New York served as a modern day example of the lewdness involved with some worship. A new church was starting, a Hillsong church, and at the opening there was a women's conference which, of course featured Hillsong.  Thinking about the passage in Exodus 32 and the lewdness portrayed there, this was similar.  The article is found here, Please copy and paste:

Apathy and irreverent in worship, over time, will result in an "anything goes" and an "I'm doing this unto the Lord..." attitude.  The Lord has said in his word how he is to be approached.  Some churches might be a few years from this and others might be a few steps, but if Christians are not steadfast in the way they approach worship, God will not accept it and there will be dangerous consequences. 

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 are the key Biblical elements?  Are there examples in scripture?  Do we have a choice in how to worship God?  These are a few of the fundamental questions I ask whenever I hear a new worship song.  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 study what God says about worship.

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."