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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Vocal Worship

    There are many, many references to vocal worship and singing in the Bible.  Moses writing songs for the nation of Israel to sing to God, proclamations to sing praise, Solomon writes a thousand songs, songs in worship, singers are separated unto God, God gives songs in the night and Job worshipping the Lord regardless of his earthly circumstances can all be found in the Old Testament and, of course, there are numerous exhortations in the Psalms.  There are, however; a couple verses in particular in the New Testament that sum up the vocal worship of the church age believer.  

John 4:24  "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."

Hebrews 13:15  "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name."

    In this post, only the first verse will be pondered then another post for the verse in Hebrews.  
    I have mentioned John 4:24 in previous posts, but it is absolutely necessary to see:1) who God is and 2) the need to worship God in Spirit and Truth.  Much can be learned about who God is, throughout scripture.  Yet, John simply states that God is a spirit.  Of course God is a spirit being, but the Greek word translated "spirit" in this verse is πνεῦμα (pronounced: pnyoo'-mah) in which this word refers more to the personality and character.  Because God is spirit (in personality and character), believers must worship with that same spirit (character) Other scriptures detail God's character further, and specifically are seen throughout the providence of God in the O.T.  Jesus knew this and knew that the woman at the well was familiar (to some degree) with the O.T. 
    Secondly in John, is the mention of the necessity for truthful worship.  Humans are very good at making things look good, especially ourselves.  God is only concerned about our hearts worship attitude towards Him and believers can only know how to worship God by reading His instructions and John 4:24 is a very good start.
   Previous posts have already addressed the hearts worship, worship in thought life, and when it is appropiate to worship.  This post is about the believers vocal worship and, though God is concerned with our hearts attitude, our vocal worship is heard by people.  Anything that a believer does that others can see and observe is a testimony to how we view God.  Believers are commanded to worship in Spirit (God - honoring character) and Biblical truth.  Our hearts may have the most Godly character and we may think we understand all the truth about worship, but if our vocal praise and worship to God is tainted (and it is by sin), by our preferences in style, our culture, or our impressions of how we should worship, it is not very truthful and spiritual and others are watching.  Along with proclaiming God's truth is that the context needs to also be truthful.  A lot of Christian pop music has some very good lyrics that contain a lot of biblical truth, but the envelope that that truth is carried in isn't always truthful or spiritual.  There are many, many ways to sing and I have heard many different versions of, " Great is thy Faithfulness", for instance.  Knowing the difference between what is pleasing to the Lord and what may decieve us into thinking it is pleasing to the Lord involves discernment in a lot of cases, however some cases seem to be very obvious in what is appropiate or inappropriate.  There are a couple of examples that illustrate this point and because this post is about vocals and singing that reflects a proper attitude for the song, it would be best to close your eyes while the video is playing. 

   This first video illustrates an obvious reverence and soberness in respect to our country.  This can easily be determined simply by the quality of the singing.  

Example A:  National Anthem sung by veterans.

   Listening to this next rendition creates a shrill and atrocious anxiety of what is thought of about the United States. 

Example B:  National Anthem sung by Roseann Barr

   The above examples, to some, may be extreme, but they make the clear point that just the singing of a song can have a huge effect on the overall message.  This point can also be made clear with hymns.

    The singer in this example is singing one of the greatest hymns that recognizes who God is along with numerous characteristics.  The heart attitude certainly seems to be present and there is no doubt that this man is trying his best to please the Lord, but at the same time, these vocals and the "playing" seem to detract from the message of the hymn anD puts some focus on the singer.

Example C: "Great is thy Faithfulness"

     In this final example, there is clarity in the lyrics and crisp distinctions made in the vocals.  It is not hard to sense the reverence that everyone in this choir has for the message of this great hymn.

Example D: "Great is thy Faithfulness"

    Vocals are just 1 aspect in the music and the voice is powerful in changing the message to anything that the artist or performer chooses, but standing firm in the principles that God has given has long been the struggle of believers. God is faithful and also requires faithfulness in His children, not just in music, but in all of life.

1 Corinthians 4:2 "Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Thoughtful Worship

       The Christian life is a mindset and this concept is all throughout the New Testament. If our life is to be worshipful; after our hearts worship attitude, the next place we find worship is in our thought life.  There are many passages that command, make reference to, and exemplify the proper thought life of a believer.  An example of each of these will be looked at.
"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"

       Philippians 4:8 is probably the most common verse that commands a holy thought life.  There are 8 root words in this verse that produce good fruit in the thought life and, unfortunately, no human can fulfill this command, unless they are walking in the spirit. Like Romans 12:1 says, these can only be fulfilled by the mercies of God.  An exercise can be utilized with this verse. Choose 1 of those 8 words and practice thinking only about pure, or true, or honest, etc.  It won't be long until you find that it is very hard to do and when left to our own abilities (rather, inabilities), failure is sure.  God's mercy and grace is needed for our thought life to be holy and acceptable and God desires for His children to kneel at the cross in humble submission with every part of our lives.  In fact, believers are commanded to shun away thoughts that are  inappropiate, in 2 Corinthians 10:5, and to bring every thought to the obedience of Christ. 

"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity 
every thought to the obedience of Christ"

       There are also verses that reference the importance of the thought life.  Colossians 3:1-3 indicate this.  

"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."
       There are a few key words in this passage that refers to the thought life, and to ponder on spiritual things.  First, in verse 1 is the command to seek things above.  This Greek word translated "seek", actually means to seek by thinking, meditating, reasoning, to enquire into.  We have a responsibility to study the scriptures, and to rightly interpret them, but also to sit and meditate about the truths God has richly blessed us with, and revealed to us. What a blessing it is, just to ponder on the thing of the Lord! 
       In verse 2, this sentiment is repeated, to set our affections on things above.  This word, "affections", again, pertains to the thought life. However, this word goes a little deeper in meaning.  Not only are we exhorted to meditate on the truths of God's word, but "aim to be wise" in our understanding.  How are we to be wise, by rightly interpreting scripture.  It would be unwise for believers to interpret the tables of the moneychangers in  Matthew 21:12 as the prophecy of the collapse of the world's economic system, when this parable was, in fact, a rebuke by the Lord Jesus of inappropriate behavior in His house.  God wants us to be wise in the handling of His scripture, and to set our affections on rightly understanding everything about them, even how to interpret. 
       In Colossians, the reason believers are to seek or meditate on things above and strive to rightly understand God's Word is because our life and every aspect of our life is hid with Christ in God.  Everything a person does is premeditated, in some sense and whether the motives are good or bad, but it only makes sense that the thoughts should be right if our actions are to be right.  Proverbs 7:25 exhorts to "Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths."  A literal translation would be to not let our hearts (or innermost thoughts) deteriorate and then follow in that way.
       Lastly, there are accounts in the Bible of believers in dire circumstances, yet their mindset is on things above.  For example, there is so much that can be learned from the account of the imprisonment of Paul and Silas in Acts chapter 16 in addition to this point, but reading the circumstances of this account reveals that Paul and Silas were naked, beaten and thrown in prison.  At midnight, they prayed and sang praise to God.  These men were probably very cold and hungry and sick, but their position in Christ and striving to set their minds on things above allowed the joy of the Lord to be in their hearts and minds.  There was nothing in those circumstances that would change that and this is a great example of what having the right thought life will result in: not only an overwhelming joy, but worship to God no matter what the circumstances. 
        Like Paul writes in Romans 8:35  "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?"