Thoughts on life and Scripture...

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Worship and Music

Music in the church; it is one of those topics that generate brisk and heated discussions. Some say we should only sing Psalms from the Bible. Some says we should not have any instruments. Some churches put on a rock concert every service. Should we sing only old hymns or new hymns and songs too? What instruments can we use?  Endless questions that can be confusing to sort through. These differences about music in church services can cause church splits. Part of the challenge is that God has given us some freedom on this issue and so differences are not necessarily wrong. I believe that God has given us principles about cooperate worship that we need to apply. Let try to look at some of them. Now I have to admit that I can't sing well or play any instrument with any level of skill. But I don't think that hinders me in understanding Biblical principles.

Worship is not just something we do in a Sunday church service. Worship is all of life. Worship can be cleaning your house or fixing a car. But on the first day of the week we gather to worship God together as a body of believers.This is not an option as we learn from Hebrews 10:25 where we are warned not to forsake meeting together, which usually happened on the first day of the week.

What is to happen when we meet together for worship?
 1) Prayer 1 Tim 2:8
2) Reading the Scriptures and preaching 1 Tim 4:13
3) Giving 1 Cor 16:2
 4) Regular celebration of Lord Supper  1 Cor 11:17-34
 5) Baptisms  Matt 28:19
6) Singing and Music Eph. 5:19

These are the elements that are to make up our worship service. All these elements are to be guided by scripture. We need Biblical preaching and singing. Baptism and Lord Supper are to be done as the Bible has instructed us. Prayer is shaped by the truth of God's word.

These different parts of a worship service are to be done together. That doesn't mean that everyone should be preaching or praying. The worship service is not a spectator sport. We are all involved even in the preaching for then our minds need to be engaged in listening. When there is praying, we ought to listen along and affirm what is being prayed in our own hearts. Even in baptism, those who are watching can be instructed and edified as they think of the beautiful picture of baptism and remember the saving grace of God in their lives. Singing praises to the Lord is to be done together as well. This is important for it helps us develop a Biblical guide to music.

The main principle for music in the church is that congregational singing guides the tune and the instruments. The instruments used and kind of music chosen must support and help the congregation sing. Any instrument can be used in a worship service so long as it helps rather than hinders the congregation to sing. If the instruments drown out the voices of the congregation, then it hinders the congregation's worship in song. Some instruments are more conducive to congregational singing. This will guide us when we consider what instruments should be used.

If this is a worship service and we are to worship together then the tune must be simple enough so that everyone can sing it. Most music written today is not easy for everyone to sing.Neither are they written for congregational singing. Some people can sing well, others only sing in one tone or croak like a frog. The tune must be simple enough that most if not all people can sing along without too much trouble.

The next principle for music in the church can be found in John 4;24. "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." The last word of this text is important. We must worship God with the truth. The truth fuels worship. Look at Col 3:16. "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." The truth of Scripture should permeate every part of our lives, especially our singing as you can see in the later part of the verse.
So then our songs must be theologically rich and accurate. We need to sing our theology. Too many of the songs used in churches today are like a thin watery soup instead of a rich meal of meat and potatoes. Some of these songs use a lot of words to say very little that is meaningful or they use endless repetition. We can't worship God well when our music has little truth in it. These theological bare bones lyrics reflects our current age's lack of interest in doctrine and expository preaching. While I believe it would be well for the church to sing the Psalms so long as we recognize the different context, the Psalms also provide for a pattern or template with which to write our hymns.

Lastly, even if we have theologically rich songs with good congregational singing and a balanced use of instruments, we still might fail to worship God in our music. The second part of John 4:24 says we are to worship Him in spirit. That is we are to worship Him from the heart. Our singing must flow from a thankful and reverent heart that loves God. We need heart worship; not just singing the words but really meaning what we are singing. God cares much more about what goes on inside us than outside. Both are important, but if our hearts are far from God, we aren't worshiping Him. I think we can all see how we have failed in this. Let us pray that God will make us passionate worshipers of our Great Lord and Savior.

"Hallelujah! Sing to the LORD a new song, His praise in the assembly of the godly." 
Psalm 149:1


Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Everlasting Arms

It has been some time since I wrote on this blog. I certainly have not been idle during that time. Much has happened these past weeks. Many big things have come up. Important and even life-changing issues are being considered. Troubles and sorrows are thrown in the mix as well. I have been crushed but held up. I have been perplexed and in despair. Fear and courage compete in my heart. There have been frustrations, disappointments, and joys. But in all this the Lord has been my strength.  He has heard my cry and answered me. 

I came across this line from a tombstone recently that summarizes my experiences and hopefully
  "A wretched, poor and helpless worm
    On Thy kind arms I fall" 

 These two lines originally come from an Isaac Watt's hymn. Later William Carey asked that they be inscribed on his tombstone. These simple words give us the whole of what the Christian life is. In the beginning we recognize that we are weak and vile sinners. We can do nothing to save ourselves. God's word tells us to trust in the work of Christ for salvation and forgiveness. So with a divinely given faith, we helplessly fall on God's arms for mercy. But this trust does not end here. The Christian continues to see that he is weak and helpless. There is more sin in his soul than was first thought. Trials and troubles come to show us how weak we are. In all these times of pain, trouble, sorrow and distress, we fall on the strong arms of our God. No Christian who has even trusted their Heavenly Father to catch them was ever let down. Those arms can hold the whole universe, how much more His child who was bought with the blood of Christ. This picture of the arms of God is not just found in this hymn. It is found in God's word as well. Deut 33:27 says, "The God of old is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms."  God is our home when we are pilgrims in this strange world. God's arms will hold us up though out our pilgrimage. He is always the same and His help is everlasting. Saints of today can be encouraged by the faithfulness of God to the saints of yesterday.

If you learn anything from this post, then learn this. God is reliable and faithful. I have found it so. It is when we see our weakness and fall on the kind arms of the Lord, that we will find that He will catch us and hold us close to His heart. 

"But He said to me,"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may reside in me." 
2 Cor 12:9