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Monday, June 19, 2017

Angels Worship Unceasingly…

...and so should we

This material is borrowed from messages given at the worship services of Salem Bible Church on January 24, 1999 by Pastor James Delaney.

In Revelation chapter four we find another characteristic of angelic worship. Revelation 4:8 says, "they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty." Here we see that the angels round about God’s throne never stop. Their worship is with a sense of awe and of wonder and it is also unceasing. They never stop worshipping God day and night before His throne, chanting holy, holy, holy.

Worship is something that ought to characterize our whole lives, not just on Sunday morning, not just when we get together, but the sense of humility before our Creator ought to follow us around everywhere we go. It says in the gospels that it was the custom of our Lord on the Sabbath day to worship God. (Lk. 4:16) He made it His habit. He made it His custom. What we are seeing today is a change in the way worship is taking place.

We see in I Kings 12:28, a time when the nation was divided into northern and southern potions of the kingdom. There we read, "Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." Notice what the king is doing here. The nation was divided, so he told his people in the north, Oh, it is so far to go to Jerusalem. It will be so inconvenient for you to go way down there to worship God in the TempleWhy do we not worship right up here?There were three annual feasts in Israel in which every single male of a certain age group was to go to Jerusalem and worship. Rest assured that was very inconvenient for all those families. They did not just hop into an air-conditioned bus. They had to go by foot or on a donkey. They had a long way to go and some of them lived on the fringes of the land of Israel. Three times a year God had commanded them to interrupt whatever they were doing and come down and worship God. Looking at I Kings 12:27, why did this king want to make worship more convenient for his people? The king said, "If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, evenunto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah." Do you see what this apostate king of Israel was thinking? He was afraid that if these people went way down to Jerusalem, (that long inconvenient journey to worship the Lord), then maybe they would turn back to God’s appointed king. Maybe they would turn back to the old system of worship and he would be out. Maybe it would stir up a real love for God in their hearts. If the people turned back to worship the Lord that would mean disaster for the north. So, he devised a system of worship in the north that would be easier. It would be much more convenient. It would not interfere with their busy schedules and their lives. We see the very same spirit in our churches across the country today, exemplified in changing the worship service from Sunday to Thursday, (why interrupt our weekend?), canceling evening services, doing away with prayer meeting, casual kinds of services, dressing down, changing the times of services so that they will not conflict with all our pleasure and all of our fun, and bringing in the easy listening music. The trend is to make worship more comfortable, casual, easy and convenient. It is a new kind of worship geared to please those that are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. It has caught on as wild fire.

I would like to suggest that worship that is based on the convenience of the worshipper is missing the most essential ingredient in worship – and that is sacrifice. Open up your Bible. The very first time worship is ever mentioned in the Bible is when Abraham offered up his son as a sacrifice to God. That is worship. The first occurrence is sort of a foundation for the theme throughout the rest of the Bible. Worship, if it is anything at all, is offering something to God. It is giving up for God. It is sacrificing for Him.

In II Samuel 24, a plague had struck the nation Israel because of David’s sin. He desperately wanted to stop that plague. Therefore, David decided to offer a sacrifice. One of the farmers said, King David, I will give you my land, my animals, and all you need to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. David said, No way. I will not offer to God anything that does not cost me something. David understood rightly that worship, if it is worship as all, has to involve sacrifice. (II Sam. 24:21-25)

In Malachi 1:13, God is rebuking the priests and the way the system of worship had degenerated in Israel. He said, "Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD." Notice here that not all worship is accepted by God. God is telling the priests, that although they are sincere, and although they are working hard, and although they are worshipping God, and although they are worshipping the true and living God, He would not accept their worship. It was because of the attitude of heart of the worshippers. Notice, in verse 13, how He describes the attitude of the people in their worship: "a weariness is it!" All of these sacrifices, all on these animals, all of this blood shed, all of these trips we have to take to Jerusalem, it is such a burden, so wearisome! In Malachi 1:7 God rebukes them, "Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible." They were offering sacrifices that were polluted. They were offering in Malachi 1:8 "the blind… and… the lame and sick" animals instead of the animals without blemish. And God said they had removed the essence of true worship, namely, sacrifice. God was not going to accept their worship. Ultimately they came to the place (Mal. 1:13) where they said it is too much. It is so inconvenient. It interrupts my schedule too much. It is cramping my lifestyle.

I wonder, is worship wearisome to us? Is it a burden? It is a nuisance to have to get out of bed on a Sunday morning? Is it a nuisance to have to come to prayer meeting and pray? Is it burdensome to us to have to worship before God and to have to put God first? If it is, the problem is our hearts. Our attitude in worship is really a reflection of our attitude toward God. To lovers of pleasure, worship is weariness. To lovers of pleasure, worship is a burden; it is an interruption. But to lovers of God, it is delight! The angels loved worshipping God. Godly men and women in the Bible loved to worship the Lord. They came into His presence with singing and joy in their hearts. There was no thought of it as being burdensome. In Israel, families had to rearrange their whole schedule to get their family all the way down to Jerusalem. They had to rearrange everything and put all their plans and activities on hold in order to get to Jerusalem for the feast days. And they were willing to do so. We read the accounts in the secular writings of the Jews, and in the Psalms, that they came singing. It was a festive occasion. They came singing and praising God all the way there. They were willing to sacrifice to worship God.

In our country today there is a big push to make worship casual, convenient, easy, user friendly, and sacrifice free! (And pleasing to or ears) The very heart of worship has been surgically removed today. Worship has become little more than a religious entertainment center. This is part of the spiritual battle we are involved in today. These trends are all around us in Christendom. It is sapping the life out of real worship. The enthusiasm and excitement that we see in worship today is more closely related to fun and entertainment than it is to God. Instead of being amazed at the Savior, they are being amused by the latest gimmick. By God’s grace we must stand opposed to that. We must be willing to be different from the world and even different from other churches who seem to be following the world. We are going to encourage folks to come out to worship God, not to hear a famous singer… not to hear a famous basketball player or see a light show or some other thing, but to open up the Bible and to bow our hearts before the true and living God, and stand in awe of His person – because He is here. We need to adjust our lives and schedules to revolve around Him, not to adjust the worship of God to fit into our busy schedules.

Maybe some find morning worship, evening worship, prayer meeting, our quiet times to be burdensome. But if we love God it is a delight. I have found it to be so. We have had some young people in this church that have known nothing other than Wednesday night as a time for prayer meeting. They have grown up that way. Some of them as toddlers have come into prayer meeting and they slept through the whole thing. They did not get anything out of the prayer meeting but this: they grew up knowing that prayer is important to mom and dad. Worshipping God is important to mom and dad. It says in Revelation 4, that the angels worshipped God day and night chanting holy, holy, holy. They were not looking for a more convenient method. They did not grow weary in their worship. It was not a burden. It was their eternal delight to stand before the God they love and bow before Him in worship and adoration!

(Emphasis mine)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Angels worship in Wonder, Awe, and Fear

...and so should we

This material is borrowed from messages given at the worship services of Salem Bible Church on January 24, 1999 by Pastor James Delaney.

The writer of Hebrews (in chapter twelve), exhorts his readers to serve (and that word for serve is for priestly worship) with reverence and godly fear. That is what we see in the Scriptures when believing men gather to worship the Lord. It was with a sense of reverence. And to take that one step further, it was with a sense of awe and fear.

Job tells us in Job 38, that when God created the heavens and the earth, the angels were there. On the very first day of creation the angels were there and it says that "the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job 38:7) at the creation that came from God’s spoken Word. So, here we have a picture of angels standing in absolute awe and wonder and amazement at what they saw before their eyes. They were just recently created and suddenly they are seeing God put together the Earth, the Sun, the Moon and the stars and a vast universe. They stood there and observed, and their breath was taken away from them. They could do nothing but shout for joy. They watched God create and they did so in wonder and awe. They sang with hearts full of worship, and that worship was characterized by a sense of awe and wonder at the majesty of God.

The angel had a sense of wonder and awe at the mighty works of God. In Isaiah 9:6 we read of the Son of God: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful." The very first characteristic that Isaiah gives us of this God/Man child that was to be born into the world is that He is full of wonder. It is an interesting word that is used here. In Genesis 18:14 it is used in the sentence "Is any thing too hard for the LORD?" Literally it means: is anything too wonderful for the Lord? The term wonderful means something that is beyond our capability of totally grasping. It is something that is extraordinary, that fills us with marvel and awe and wonder. The very first description of the Son is that He is full of wonder. That ought to characterize our worship.

The Angel of the Lord appeared in the book of Judges unto Manoah and his wife. Manoah said to the Angel of the Lord, "What is thy name?" (Jud. 13:17). He sensed that he had seen God, and he said, what is your name? And the Angel said, "Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?" (Jud. 13:18). That word for secret is wonderful. It is the name of God. And everything about God and His name is full of wonder. It is beyond our complete comprehension. If we could understand everything there is to know about God, He would be pretty small.

Angels stood in awe and wonder when Jesus was born. They stood in wonder and awe when He rose from the dead. And angels attended Him in wonder and awe as He ascended into Heaven. As He was seated at the right hand of God, angels worshipped the Son. They stand in awe of God’s plan. As we come together for worship there ought to be a sense of awe and wonder in our worship too. There should be a sense of humility because we do not know everything there is to know about God. He is much bigger than we are. There ought to be a sense of mystery where we come together to worship God. Oh, we can know what is revealed about Him, but we are going to be learning about God forever and ever. We do not know it all. When we lose our sense of wonder and awe in our worship there can be only one reason. It is because of diminished view of Who God is. If we have the right concept of God, (that He is infinite in His understanding, He is omnipotent, He is everywhere, He is Almighty God), then we are going to stand in awe and wonder before our Creator. The angels have never lost the wonder of it all. And, we need to pray that by God’s grace, we will never lose the wonder of it all. When that happens, our concept of God is diminishing, and self is exalted. At times, in our pride, we think we have God all figured out.

If astronomers can stand in awe of the stars, should we not stand in awe of the God that made them? If scientists and physicians stand in wonder and awe at the marvels of the human body, should not we stand in awe of the God that created the human body? Good grief, we stand in awe of a computer! What about God? There ought to be that sense of wonder and of awe, when we come into His presence to worship

Friday, June 9, 2017

Exclusivity of Biblical Worship

For a scuba diver, it's critical to have certain equipment.  For instance,  an oxygen tank, a face mask and a wetsuit.  The roles of each piece contributes to the big picture of having the most beneficial time on your dive.  A person can not go on a scuba dive with only some of these things, or none at all, or even similar looking equipment.  This person needs this equipment and it needs to be working properly.  The oxygen tank needs to have oxygen in it, not helium or any other gas, the facemask needs to be made for diving and can't be sunglasses, although they both protect the eyes.  The wetsuit keeps the diver warm.  A tuxedo would not serve much purpose in the water.  Also, because all this is critical, a person can't go on a scuba dive with just an oxygen tank, or just the mask or just the  wetsuit or 2 out of the 3.  All the pieces fit together and contribute to provide the most beneficial experience of scuba diving. 
Let's think of this equipment as some of the vital elements of worship.   Let's think of the O2 tank as the spirit, the facemask as truth and the wetsuit as holiness.  No illustration will ever be enough to fully understand the whole of worship, but, Lordwilling, this will facilitate a start to understanding the exclusivity of worship, which is exclusive to God and God alone and what He has said in His Word.  On the other hand, worship is excluding of everything that is worldly.  Worldly likenesses such as an imitation of worldly concerts, worldly atmospheres and worldly emotionalism.  Back to our diving illustration.  Some of the vital elements found in Biblical worship are the spirit, the truth and holiness of God.  Biblical worship is not worship that is acceptable to God unless it is accompanied by spirit, truth and holiness.  Some think that if there is truth in the lyrics, then it is acceptable to God.  Not unless that truth is clothed in the beauty of holiness will God regard it.  The other side is also true.  Worship will not be acceptable if there is holiness, but no truth.  In the Greek, the terms "spirit" and "truth" are interchangeable and there can not be one without the other.  What is the truth that needs to be in worship?  God's truth.  The truth of the gospel, the truth of who He is and His character and as much truth about God and His Word that His children can obtain.  Without God's truth, our worship offering to God will not matter and will not draw us closer to Him. 
Worship to God also needs to be holy.  Holy unto God and completely apart from worldly likenesses.  Without holiness, the worship we offer may as well be like going scuba diving without a wetsuit, not acceptable and also detrimental to one's own walk with the Lord.  The Lord seeks worshippers......true worshippers. 

There's another dynamic in this illustration that is helpful.  Divers need to know what depths their oxygen tank can handle.  If they are only going 30 feet deep, a tank thickness of .5 inches may be ok, but if they are going 60 feet deep, their tank may need to 1.5 inches thick.  For every 10 meters of depth, there is an additional 14 pounds of pressure on your body and your equipment.  Pressure all around and a diver needs to be sure that his/her equipment can handle it and not cave under that pressure.  It would be deathly if the oxygen tank were to collapse under pressure and the diver wasn't prepared for it.  The more a believer studies God's Word results in a more solid understanding of His truth.  Obviously, we will never fully understand the whole of the Bible until Glory, but, like Paul wrote in Philippians 3:14, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Angels Worship with Reverence

...and so should we

This material is borrowed from messages given at the worship services of Salem Bible Church on January 24, 1999 by Pastor James Delaney.

Also in Isaiah chapter 6, we see that Angels worship not only with a sense of humility, but also with a deep sense of reverence.  They chanted before God's throne (in Isaiah 6 and later on in Revelation 4),  "Holy, holy, holy, (Isa. 6:3).  You see, holiness is the preeminent characteristic of God. It, above all others, is to be accentuated in our worship. God is faithful. He is just. He is kind. He is compassionate. But the angels are not standing before the Lord, and praising him for his wisdom or compassion. They stand before his throne day and night saying, "Holy, holy, holy".  His Holiness incorporates all these other attributes. So whatever we do in our worship time it should enhance our appreciation of God's holiness and our reverence for him. Anything that diminishes or detracts from this sense of awe before his holiness ought to be removed entirely from our worship.  That is one of the reasons you will never see Rock N' Roll music in Salem Bible Church.   Music, more than anything, creates a sense of atmosphere. The atmosphere that we want before our infinitely holy God is not the sensual type of music of the world, but rather that which is pleasing in God's sight. Good music is joyous. It is thrilling and exciting, but it also ought to be reverent.  It ought to be an appropriate form of worship for the Lord.

We are a little handicapped in this building because our assembly room is our hallway Grand Central Station all the rest.  But by God's grace with our building program we are going to put up an assembly room where we go to worship, where we go to quiet our hearts, and to prepare our hearts to worship and living God.  As the Angels worshipped before God's throne and chanted holy, holy, holy, there was no one snapping bubble gum in the background or sipping on a cup of coffee.  There was no one telling jokes or chatting about the Super Bowl in the background.  When they went into God's presence was to worship Him. It is our responsibility, as we gather together as God's people, to bring with us a sense of reverence for God. Really does not matter what the size or the shape of the building is.  There could be sense of worship when believers gather together to worship in a grass hut in a jungle.  The important element in worship acknowledging WHO God is, that He is Holy.  It is important that we bow before Him and express our appreciation, and that we demonstrate a genuine sense of reverence before him. He is worthy.

When a visitor comes here, he may not understand our doctrinal position.  You may not have a clue as to what we believe. But I hope and pray that he can sense the spirit of worship here-- that we honor God, that we want to worship Him our whole heart.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

THE ANGELS WORSHIP WITH SHAMEFACEDNESS

...and so should we

This material is borrowed from messages given at the worship services of Salem Bible Church on January 24, 1999 by Pastor James Delaney.

How do angels worship God? We have a picture of that in Isaiah chapter 6. We actually have quite a few pictures of angels worshipping before the throne of God in Heaven. In verse 2, it is interesting to observe the wings of these angels, the Seraphim. With two wings they covered their face. It is a concept that the New Testament speaks of as shamefacedness.  When the angels stood before the throne of God they took two wings to cover their face. It was not because they were sinners. These were holy angels, elect angels.  These were angels that loved and served God. There was not a trace of sin in them, yet, there was still this sense of utter humility before God Almighty so first of all, angels worshipped God in humility.

In the book of Nehemiah, the people were gathered together to hear the scriptures. As Nehemiah stood up to preach, the people worshipped, bowing
their faces to the ground.  This is a concept that we see in the Bible over and over again. The very essence of worship is bowing down before the Creator.  It involves two things. When we bow ourselves down as creatures, we are lifting Him up in our hearts.  That is what worship is all about. It is about exalting God and humbling ourselves.  Bowing down is the natural response of a creature that senses the presence of God. Our English word for worship comes from an Old English word that means worth-ship. It is attributing worth to God. It is exalting God for Who He is.  That is exactly how we see God worshipped in the scriptures. Blessed is God.  The Angels ascribe blessedness, majesty, and glory to God because of who God is.  These are His attributes, His characteristics. As God's worth is considered, it is humbling to mere creatures.  The creature is abased and the Creator is exalted.  As soon as we pause to think and meditate on the majesty of almighty God, we are humbled.  It exalts the Lord. When Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, he said "Woe is me!" (Isa. 6:5) He said he was undone and so are all creatures who come into the presence of an infinitely holy God.

In Genesis 17, when the Lord himself appeared unto Abraham, Abraham fell on his face before God. The book of Ezekiel begins with the same picture. When is Ezekiel got a glimpse of the throne of God in Heaven, (chapter 1) he fell on his face. Again in Ezekiel chapter 3, he got another glimpse of the throne of God and he fell on his face.  When Job finally understood who he was dealing with, he said, "Wherefore I abhore myself" (Job 42:6)  He had to rejoice in the almighty character of the Lord.  When Daniel, (Daniel chapter 10)  got a glimpse of God, his strength left him.  His strength just failed him. It was as if the wind was knocked out of him. Matthew 17 says when the disciples were on the Mt. of transfiguration they heard a voice, the voice of almighty God. The text says they fell on their face before him. What else can you do in the presence of God? In the very closing book of the bible, in Revelation chapter one, there is that vision of the risen, glorified, Lord Jesus Christ. And when John saw Christ, he fell down as a dead man before Him!

In the scriptures, God is worshipped with a sense of humility. It is a sense of unworthiness of even being in his presence. Keep in mind, this concept of shamefacedness, or bowing down before the Creator is not a response to a COMMAND.  It is not the physical bowing down God commands us to do.  It is not a ritual like genuflecting and nor is it a learned or a cultural response that varies from place to place. Worship at its very essence is the creature bowing before the Creator.  Whether we bow physically or in our hearts in the presence of almighty God. That is how the angels worshipped the Lord.

I can remember a few years back standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. It was so big that it just took my breath away. In New England the roads are so crooked that you can only see a few feet in front of you.  There you could see what looked like forever and I felt so puny.  If we feel so small before a little crack in the Earth, how much more humbling is it to stand before the creator of the universe? When David looked up into the heavens and saw how vast they were, he saw only a tiny fraction of their true size. He had no idea how many more stars and galaxies there were that his eyes could not see. But what he could see, humbled him. He said, "What is man?" (Ps. 8:4) It took his breath away. When he saw how immense the creation was, he thought how immense the Creator must be. You see, there is a tendency before God's presence to be shamefaced, to be humbled before him. This overwhelming sense of humility before God is not necessarily based on the guilt of sin because the angels were holy angels.  There was no sin in them whatsoever. Yet they were still humbled in God's sight.  Yes, it was true of Isaiah, that in part, shrinking away from God had to do with the fact that he was a sinner. He said, "I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips." (Isa. 6:5)

When Peter got a glimpse of Jesus in the boat, he said, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord." (Lk. 5:8) but when we see the angels standing before God in humility, with shamefacedness,  there is not a trace of the guilt of sin. The contrast is the infinite Holiness of almighty God, and a puny creature who is able to reflect just a tiny bit of that glory.  As majestic as we might envision the angels to be, they see themselves as quite small before God. True worship has to take place in an atmosphere of humility.  That is why there is no room for 1 ounce of showmanship in worshipping the living God.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

How The Angels Worship (Intro.)

This material is borrowed from messages given at the worship services of Salem Bible Church on January 24, 1999 by Pastor James Delaney.

PASSAGE FOR MEDITATION

Isaiah 6: 1-2 "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly."

In studying Hebrews chapter 1, 1 of the arguments the author used to demonstrate the superiority of Christ is the fact that the angels worship the Son of God.  If the angels worship Him, obviously He is a superior Person to th angels.  As I considered that, it made me a little curious how the angels worship.  Therefore, I'd like to look at the scriptures and see what the Bible says about how God is worshipped in the angelic realm.  There is SO much change in the air in America today and around the world as to how God ought to be worshipped.  I think it would be instructional and wise for us to look into the Bible to see how God is worshipped in Heaven.  We can learn a lot from the angels.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Comfortable or Uncomfortable?

It is certainly true that a lot of times, Christians are very comfortable resting in Christ, spending time in prayer, or in the work of the ministry.  In fact, we're told to rest and trust in Christ in everything.  However, there are a few aspects about worship that can be very UNcomfortable.

All throughout scripture, we can see that there is the element of sacrifice that is involved in worship.  I'm sure Abraham was not comfortable on his way to sacrifice his son. Sacrifice, is just that.  It can be painful for a person to sacrifice their things, because we've worked hard in getting the things we want or have such a strong attachment to those things thus making it difficult.  Sacrifice is uncomfortable.

Anytime a person is faced with the choice of humbling themselves or doing what they think is best so that they are comfortable, 99% of the time being comfortable takes priority over humbling ourselves.  One example that comes to my mind right away is King Nebuchadnezzar.  He didn't humble himself, so he was humbled by the Lord.  The essence of humility is to forsake all of OUR wants and desires and if we choose that, humility can become very uncomfortable.

Standing up for Christ is uncomfortable.  It's getting more and more difficult to share the unashamed truth of God with the world.  Christians are labeled as bigots, hypocrites, arrogant, or anything else.  Making a stand for Christ means that a Christian might be the only one making that stand.  Remember Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego?  They were the only ones that were standing up for Christ and His truth.  In Acts 16, Paul and Silas spoke up to share God's truth.  I can't imagine how uncomfortable it was for them, shackled in the dungeon, cold, and naked.  I'm sure, like many of us, they would have much rather curled up in a ball.  God saved them and also Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego. 

False worship often imitates true worship in many elements, but true worship should never imitate the elements of the world.  It seems like worship services in Christian churches are imitation of secular rock concerts.  The lyrics of the songs might contain the truth of God's Word, but that's it.  The lights, smokey atmosphere,  loud amplified speakers, and screaching guitars are there for performance purposes and are so loud that they take away the concept of reverence for God.  In every worship account or passage, according to what God has said and what is acceptable, is a strong element of reverence to God.  The element of reverence is a core characteristic of true worship. 

Isaiah 55:8 teaches believers that God's ways and thoughts are not the ways and the thoughts of any believer.  True worship is not characteristic of anything that a Christian thinks it should be like, but only characteristic of what God's Word mandates.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD."

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Music, emotions, and worship

Can music (christian?) change our emotions?  Perhaps our view of God? 

Instrumental music has just as much of an effect on the listeners as does songs that have lyrics.  This can be proven with a simple and fun experiment.  The very familiar tune and very patriotic tune of the 1812 overture is always played on the 4th of July, and usually always has the same reaction, especially in children, who are most likely marching to that familiar beat towards the end. 

Instrumental music effects the emotions too.  Listening to a resounding rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" would spark patriotism in any American and should also cause feelings of nationalism and the sense of American pride.  In the same way, listening to Beethoven's 5th symphony sparks different emotions then listening to "Flight of the Bumblebee" or any other instrumental.  In most instances, the composers had those emotions in mind when they composed that piece and those emotions have been assigned to that piece of music.  A simple example of the emotions that could be conveyed by certain instruments follows.

- The throb of low drums remembers the pounding stampede of a herd, the rumble of thunder, a shaking earthquake, aggression or anticipating potential danger.
- The oboe or cello is the mournful crying of a grown adult.
- The violin, the cries or playfulness of a child.
- The breathiness of a wooden flute, may recall the whispering of a loved one's sweet nothings in your ear, or simply the light-laden joy from childhood, bringing happiness and fond memories outdoors.
- The gentle shaking of percussion, remembers the wind through leaves, signifying calmness and serenity.

Instrumentals of all genres, have emotions already assigned.  The composer(s) of the music already had which emotions they wanted the listeners to feel in mind and therefore controls the way they want the listeners to feel in that moment.  One aspect of biblical worship is self control, which would include awareness over how we're made to feel and having control oher how we feel.  Since certain music makes us feel a certain way, and if we use that music in our worship to the Almighty, eventually our feelings towards God will change.  The emotional message in the music we choose in our worship should match the message in the lyrics, which will shape the way we view the person of God. 

Yes, there is great emotion in worship, but it needs to be appropriate and point to who God is.

Conduct your own little experiment and pay attention to how just music makes you feel.  How should we feel towards God? Does that music promote the appropriate feeling?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Call to Reverent Worship

Sadly, there are many today to whom the idea of reverence in worship sounds too old fashioned,  so out of step with the times, and at odds with contemporary worship trends.  Indeed, many believers seem to be strangers to the fundamental truths that form the basis for our worship.   The New Testament teaching concerning worship, the Lord's supper, and the person of Christ no longer seem to hold their interest.   These do not seem to be popular.   We are a spiritually carefree generation.  Unfortunately,  the broad road has always been more appealing than the narrow way.  But the apostle Paul's exhortation must not go unnoticed, "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit and rejoice in Jesus Christ, and have no confidence in the flesh."  (Phil. 3:3)  Therefore, let us draw near unto Him, who in mercy, first drew near unto us and humbly bow our hearts as worshippers in His holy presence.  May out reverent worship once again shine bright as the hallmark of our devotion to Christ. 

David Dunlap, Bible & Life, March 2003

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

TRUE Reverence

It was not always this way.  In earlier days the assemblies were for men of God whose passion to worship the Son of God was unrivaled.  The believers in the Lord Jesus Christ might have gathered in a grange hall or a refurbished building, but the gathering place was not as important as the gathering Center,  the Lord Jesus Christ.  The hymns were sung heartily.  Worship was mingled with tenderness and devotion by men of God who know the Word of God.  There was a beauty of holiness that attracted all true saints of God.  The holiness and reverence that characterized the meeting were evident to all.  Concerning the character of those meetings, one writes, "I sometimes smile when I hear ministers state the assumption that a new type of building will create a worship atmosphere.  In my late adolescence I occasionally worshipped with God-fearing believers, meeting in the barest halls, adorned only with signs carrying Scripture verses, they had the most worshipful services I have ever attended.  Greeting, giggling, whispering, and coughing were all hushed by the miracle drug: REVERENCE.  Children were quieted people tiptoed to their places in the circle to sit with bowed heads or read their Bibles.  The keen anticipation of the movement of the Spirit of God in the assembly was evident in the singing of a hymn or the reading of the Scripture.  These moments of deep reverence sharply contrasts with the hubbub of many services today."  Reverence is not something we can bring to God or create in ourselves, but rather, it is a spiritual grace we receive when we begin to see God as He truly is.  Reverence acknowledges in our hearts the glory of God as presented in the Scriptures, and then yields to God His rightful place in our lives.  Reverent worshippers acknowledge their unworthiness and, in godly fear, bow before an awesome and holy God.  Concerning this source of holy reverence, the Swiss reformer John Calvin writes, "Reverence is that dread and amazement with which holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God...Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their own insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God."  Just a sudden glimpse of the holiness of God will change us forever.  As Isaiah is thrust into the presence of God and the seraphim cry out, "Holy, Holy, Holy", the prophet confesses, "Woe is me! For I am undone." Isaiah, the righteous prophet, in one brief moment, is exposed and broken under the gaze of the Almighty.  In an instant he is measured by the ultimate standard of holiness; he is weighed in the balance and found wanting.  The holiness of God has seized his heart, soul, and mind.  He cannot forget what he has seen. Boredom, casualness, and lukewarmness about the things of God are gone forever.  "Mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts" (Isa. 6:5)

David Dunlap, Bible & Life, March 2003

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The NEED for Reverent Worship

Many are concerned that today there is too much shallowness in our worship of God.  Irreverence in worship is now becoming all too common in modern churches.  Unfortunately, New Testament assemblies are not immune to this affliction.   Increasingly, believers are sashaying into worship meetings 10-15 minutes late without the slightest hint of embarrassment.  The retelling of personal anecdotes, the singing of favorite hymns (singing without conviction), and nonchalance have replaced holy and reverent worship.  Psalm 111:9 exhorts, "Holy and reverend is His Name."  Hearts full of Christ have now given way to hearts full of competing interests.  Many still attend times of worship, but have lost their first love.  The stirring hymns of the faith are sometimes still sung, but rarely with passion and conviction.  Gripping passages of Scripture about Christ and the cross are still read, but with little apparent devotion or heart-felt affection.  Eloquent prayers of praise and worship ring hollow.

David Dunlap, Bible & Life, March 2003

The need for true and sincere worship is leaving the church, and in a lot of churches has already left, being replaced with the superficial ritual of routine.  Of course, God's Word will never return void, but the receptiveness and sensitivity of God's Word is increasing every day. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Biblical standard for Reverent Worship

All too frequently churchgoers gather to worship God, but have never had a fresh vision of God's holiness.  Nice songs are sung, religious thoughts are offered to God, and well-crafted words are uttered, but all this falls far short of true worship.  This worship may be more psychological and fleshy than spiritual.  This kind of worship bears no resemblance to the worship we find in Scripture.  The psalmist writes, "He is to be feared above all gods...splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and beauty are in His sanctuary...O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before Him all the earth."  (Ps. 92:4-6, 9) Godly fear, majesty, the beauty of holiness, and splendor and majesty were ready themes in the hearts of the worshippers of old.  How this should challenge our hearts!! There are many who study theology, but where are those who study to be worshippers of God?  Where are the churches today whose passion is to "worship God in spirit and in truth"?  Where are the books exhorting, teaching, and equipping this generation to worship God?  A.W. Tozer exhorted the fundamentalist-Bible-believing church prior to his death in 1951, "Many of our popular songs and choruses in praise of Christ are hollow and unconvincing.  Some are even shocking in their amorous endearment, and strike a reverent soul as being a kind of flattery offered to One with whom neither composer nor singer is acquainted.  The whole thing is in the mood of a love ditty, the only difference being the substitution of the name of Christ for that of the earthly lover. How different and how utterly wonderful are the emotions aroused by true Spirit-incited love for Christ. Such love may rise to a degree of adoration almost beyond the power of the heart to endure, yet at the same time it will be serious, elevated, chaste, and reverent. Christ can never be known without a sense of awe and fear accompanying the knowledge.  He is the fairest among ten thousand, but also the Lord high and mighty. He is the friend of sinners, but also the terror of devils.  He is meek and lowly in heart, but He is also the Lord and Christ who will surely come to be the judge of all men. No one who knows Him intimately can ever be flippant in His presenceIf Bible Christianity is to survive the present world upheaval, we shall need to recapture the spirit of worship.  May God raise up such an army of worshippers, those who long to reverently remember Him who first remembered us on Calvary's cross.  Might God raise up tender-hearted worshippers; but more than this, may He raise up those whose passion and aim is to equip others to worship God. 

-David Dunlap, Bible &Life, March 2003

Emphasis was added. 

How true this is and a challenge for God's children and a prayer that true worship will return to our churches.  To learn more about Biblical worship, study God's Word, look through the other posts on this blog, or order your copy of my book, Pleasing or Deceiving: A Dangerous Compromise.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Traditional or "Traditional" music

Written by Steve Hafler

Having lived in Africa for more than a decade, the term “traditional music” strikes me a bit sideways.  Traditional music in sub-Saharan Africa includes indigenous music as well as dance. Singing in Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Madagascar, and their border countries is emphasized and is often accompanied by rattles, shakers, the mbira (thumb piano), the xylophone, various drums covered with either parchment or animal skin, and a wide variety of flutes made of bamboo. The African instrumentalist has also made great use of the guitar.  This only scratches the surface of the amazing instrumental selection to be found across Africa.  Worshipful expression is also seen in hand clapping, animated body gestures which communicate aspects of the song, and foot shuffling.  These are as common throughout Africa when the church gathers for worship as piano and organ are for westerners.  How do you navigate your way through the deep tradition of indigenous cultures, the wide selection of instruments including an assortment of drums, the associations they have to animistic ceremonies, and the use of clapping and shuffling when singing hymns?

In listening to and answering questions about church music both in Africa and now in America, I am perplexed by the conspicuous absence of any clear argumentation from God’s Word.  I will keep saying that “God’s Word is sufficient for contemporary issues” (music, modesty, alcohol, worship, homosexuality, and other issues that demand our attention).  God, and what He has revealed in His Word, are enough.  “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3).

The arguments I often hear are people’s opinions unsubstantiated by the rightly applied truth of God’s Word.  We need the Word of God on this matter – God’s Word accurately exegeted and rightly applied. Our children need to see an authority higher than our opinions and preferences or they will make decisions using the same insufficient and errant measure (their opinions and their preferences). There is a better way!  The danger we create is the perception that the Scriptures have no answers for contemporary issues. Is this really what we want to communicate to the next generation?  Absolutely NOT!  What should we proclaim by our life and lifestyle choices? –  “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

What we will soon realize is that God wants us to praise, He wants us to sing, and He desires a song from His children. Silence is not an option – so we better grapple with the Scriptures to know what and how to sing.

The texts of Psalm 33:1-5; Ephesians 5:19; and Colossians 3:19 make clear that praise to God is not only acceptable but divinely mandated when believers gather to worship.

Part of authentic worship to God, therefore, involves the corporate singing of praises by His people. We often dichotomize our life.  What Christians believe and what they do often stand in sharp contrast.  Where there should be consistency, there is conflict and contradiction.  When I preach on Sunday it is my hope that the content of the sermon will be applied to the following week’s choices and relationships, but I realize this is not always the case.  This glaring inconsistency is also seen in the area of music.  It is rare that people apply theological truth to this area of their life. Applications are subjective but we must let Scripture guide our applications as we live in a post post-modern 2012.

So let’s begin with a few presuppositions:
(the outline and content below were taken from Wayne; Grudem, Elliot (2009-03-10). Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know (Kindle Locations 78-79). Zondervan. Kindle Edition).

Authority: The Scripture is authoritative because it is God’s breathed-out words. All the words in the Bible, therefore, are God’s words.  "The words in the Bible are God’s words. Therefore, to disbelieve or disobey them is to disbelieve or disobey God himself” (Wayne Grudem).  We must not create a false tension between the written Word of God – the Bible and the Word become flesh – Jesus (1 Thessalonians 2:13; John 1:14).  It is a gross error to say I follow Jesus but I do not adhere to the Bible.  Since the Scriptures are God’s Words they are authoritative for faith and practice (both narrowly and broadly).  Whatever the Bible affirms, we accept as true. No human opinion, preference, church creed, or tradition can supersede or equal the Bible (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

Necessity:  It is necessary to read the Bible or have someone tell us what God’s written Word says if we are going to know God personally, have our sins forgiven in the Person and Work of Christ, and know with certainty why God has created us and what God wants us to do (Rom. 10:14,17; 2 Tim. 3:15).  Necessity also means that the Bible is our only source for clear, definite, and accurate statements about God and how to become a Christian, live as a Christian, and grow as a Christian.

Clarity:  God has revealed Himself through His Word in such a way that everything necessary is clearly communicated and able to be understood (Ps. 19:7; Ps. 119:130; 1 Cor. 2:14).

Sufficiency:  Those alive during the Old Testament period didn’t have access to God’s complete revelation as we do. (the New Testament)  They did have access to all of God’s Words intended and sufficient for them during their lives.  “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!” (Ps. 119:1).  The Bible gives us instructions that equip us for “every good work” that God wants us to do. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)  This is what it means to say that Scripture is “sufficient.” It is enough.  Therefore, we should be content with what God has given us – it’s enough. God has revealed exactly what He knows is right for us.  It is sad to realize that many differences in church history that have divided people and churches are issues that the Bible places very little emphasis on.  We must be careful not to impose man-made rules on other Christians.  There are issues and situations for which God has not provided the exact direction that we sometimes would prefer, but since Scripture is sufficient, we must be sure we don’t add or subtract based on our predetermined belief system.

An argument often just thrown out is that “traditional” songs are superior to “contemporary” songs.  Really?  Why?  The argument itself is fractured since we first need to define our terms.  People mean different things by the words “contemporary” and “traditional.”  The very music being argued for by proponents of this group also sprang out of a modern culture.  The older hymns we sing were all contemporary at some point. I am not sure the Christians in the 1800′s restricted their hymnology to the 1600′s.  Even if there was a small enclave who held on to the “traditional” music of their day that does not by default mean the believers who chose to sing the hymnody we treasure today (modern to them) were wrong for using it for worship (with the organ and piano this may have seemed over the edge).

In a recent video forwarded to me a man said, “and the music at ___________ [Baptist] brought tears to my eyes cause it brought it back to home like we grew up.” I found this disturbing!  Sentimentality is not our authority and will prove an untrustworthy benchmark.  Watching Rudolph at Christmas causes me to think and feel of home like we grew up. ”Refusal to change” can not become our authority or we might as well become the Amish of fundamentalism (which hyper-fundamentalism is verging towards as it departs from historic fundamentalism). Our children will see it for what it is and depart in search for authentic Christianity.  I won’t blame them for “looking” either. We need in place the presuppositions that God’s Word is authoritative, necessary, clear, and sufficient.

Each individual assembly will need to make some very difficult decisions.  Many will remain in a vacuum caught in time because that is “safest.”  I will argue, however, that incorporating well written, singable, and doctrinally orthodox modern hymns after evaluating them through the grid of Scripture in light of our present culture is not questionable, it’s not unsafe, it’s not even the dreaded “slippery slope.”
It will be helpful to understand that the church I have been given the privilege of pastoring is not trying to be like anyone else’s church or Bible college.  We don’t spend a lot of time trying to be “like” or “unlike” this or that church.  We still sing Amazing Grace even though the Mormon temple around the corner from our church building sings that hymn.  We are an autonomous assembly of believers with God-ordained leadership.  We consider it our duty to shepherd in such a way as to avoid being “conformed to this world” (Romans 12:1-2) while at the same time encouraging “growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus” (2 Peter 3:18).  We are not trying to be like the world and we are trying to be like Christ. Our mission is to love God, love our neighbor as ourself, and take this Gospel to the world.  What fuels our pastoral decisions is higher than simply trying to be like or unlike other churches (this guide will ultimately break-down at some point and will prove unreliable).  Our benchmark is the authoritative Word of God.  My desire is that each generation of Christians know the Word and understand personally how to exegete it for matters of faith and practice regardless of cultural norms or sentimental traditions of the past.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

20 ways to be pleasing and acceptable in your worship

1)  SEEK TO PLEASE GOD

(2 Corinthians 5:9) Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.

2) SEEK TO GLORIFY GOD

(1 Corinthians 10:31) Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

3)  BY HIS ENABLEMENT

(John 15:5) I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
(Eph. 5:18)  And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.
(Heb. 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.
(1 Peter 4:11)  If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

4)  BE SCRIPTURAL

(Col. 3:16)  Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

5) BE SUBMISSIVE/YIELDED/SACRIFICIAL

(Rom. 12:1-2)   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.
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.
(Heb. 13:15-16) 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. note
16  But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
(2 Sam. 24:24)  ...neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing...

6)  BE HUMBLE

(1 Peter 5:5)  Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

7)  WITH THANKFULNESS

(Col. 3:15,17)  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
17. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
(Eph. 5:20)  Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

8)  WITH GRACE

(Col. 3:16) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Compare "grace" in Col. 4:6)
(Heb. 12:28) Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

9)  IN THE FEAR OF GOD

(Eph. 5:21)  Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
(Heb. 12:28) Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

10)  BE COOPERATIVE

(Phil. 2:13-14) For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings.

11)  BE ENTHUSIASTIC FROM THE HEART

(Col. 3:23) And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.
(Eph. 6:6) Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.
(Eph. 5:19)  Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.
(Col. 3:16) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

12)  NOT MEN-PLEASERS

(Gal. 1:10)  For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

13)  NOT IN THE FLESH

(Rom. 8:8)  So then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

14)  IN THE NAME OF THE LORD

(Col. 3:17)  And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

15)  DECENTLY AND IN ORDER

(1 Cor. 14:33)  For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
(1 Cor. 14:40)  Let all things be done decently and in order.

16)  TEXTS AND MUSIC TESTED AND PROVEN

(1 Thess. 5:21)  Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
(Eph. 5:10)  Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

17)  THOUGHTFULLY/INTELLIGENTLY

(1 Cor. 14:15)  What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding [literally the mind] also.

18)  BY FAITH

(Heb. 11:6) But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

19)  NOT A STUMBLING BLOCK TO OTHERS

(Rom. 14:13)  Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
(1 Cor. 8:9) But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.

20)  UNTO EDIFICATION OF THE ASSEMBLY

1 Cor. 14:12) Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
(1 cor. 14:26) How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Compromising Situation

Picture this.  A little 5 year old girl how loves her mom and wants to make her happy. While outside playing on a warm and sunny spring day, sees some beautiful roses and decides to go over and pick them to give to her mom, simply because she wanted to express her love for her mother.   I don't know a mother that wouldn't be pleased that her daughter picked her some flowers just because she loved her.  However, these roses are a beautiful expression from her daughter.......they were not from their own garden.  Although mom is pleased and thankful for these roses, her daughter needs to understand that she stole them from the neighbors garden.  Obviously the mom has no choice but to explain to her daughter that even though these roses are a beautiful expression of love and admiration, it's not the right way to express it.  If things go unexplained, their could be consequences both from the neighbors and the mother, and there will definitely be consequences in that the little girl will continue thinking it's a perfectly acceptable thing to do, when it's not.

There are 2 types of ignorance that result from this.  If the property rules and overall apropiateness of that situation is not addressed by anyone, neither the mother nor the neighbors, and the little girl continues picking roses, then that is true ignorance where she does not know nor understand the wrong she's doing.  On the other hand if the mother or the neighbors explain to her and make sure she understands the wrongful behavior, yet she STILL picks the roses, that is called WILLFUL ignorance and she is choosing to ignore the right only to continue in that wrong.

This is very similar to Christian worship in that the Bible clearly tells the believer how to express their love and devotion in worship to the Lord and also what the improper ways of worship are.  Unfortunately, all are sinners and fall short of our callings in the Christian life.  James 1:5 is one of my favorite verses that encourages a believer to seek wisdom from God and assures the believer that God grants discernment when sincerely sought after.  There are so many examples in Scripture of right worship, wrong worship, and all the different aspects of worship that God has revealed for believers to explore and practice in their personal worship and cooperate worship and it's the responsibility of all believers to "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15. 

Psalm 29:2 "Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness."