Friday, October 21, 2016

Does what we say match what we do?

This question is an interesting one. We say many things in our songs, hymns, and spiritual songs about who God is, what He does/did/will do, and what we will do for Him. We sing about His character, nature, and overall power and greatness, but do our actions throughout the week match what we say on Sunday?

This question goes beyond just the songs we sing. It can also be applied to the sermons we hear, the Sunday school lessons we are taught and the acts of giving we participate in during corporate worship. 

But there are so many phrases, words, thoughts, etc. that are used in hymns and modern songs that this topic bears thought. Do our daily lives match the songs we sing in worship?

Let's look at a few of these phrases. While the phrases below may not match exactly what you sing at your church, the concepts carry over, I think, no matter your church's worship style.

If we say "You are Lord" do we allow God to have lordship over our lives? Are our thoughts, actions, and tongue controlled by the Holy Spirit? 

Romans 14:8 says,
               For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; 
               and whether we die, we die unto the Lord;
               whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord's.

When we are saved, we surrender our lives to God. We are no longer in control of ourselves. If we put ourselves on the throne of our lives, then we are not truly allowing God to be the Lord. 

That thought brings us to another phrase we sing. "I surrender all". this phrase is used in many different songs, not to mention a famous hymn written by Judson W. Van DeVenter. This idea goes hand in hand with "You are Lord". If Christ is the Lord of your life, you will surrender all to Him. 

Romans 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 
               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.

When Christ is the Lord of of lives, we will surrender all to Him. Are there things that you are holding back from surrender? Are you truly surrendered to God to and His leading? We often hold back things in our lives we are not willing to surrender to Him. We have our areas, we have our dreams, goals, plans, that we want but often are not really willing to say God, what do you want?

Finally, if we say "You are Holy", do we live a life of honor and reflect His holiness in every way?
God is a Holy God. In Isaiah, we see in chapter 6 that He is so Holy, the angels around the throne said it three times. We sing Holy, Holy, Holy in our worship services. We say Holy is the Lord God Almighty in praise to God, but do we strive daily to live and show that holiness to the world. 

I Peter 1:15-16
            But as he which hath called you is holy,
            so be ye holy in all manner of conversation
            Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

The OT command to be holy is here carried over into NT principles. Peter here is teaching the relevance of OT passages that describe and support the holiness of God. It is our highest act of praise and devotion to reflect His character and His traits to the world.

Our lives need to reflect Christ in all we say and do. What we do tells more about what we believe about God than what we say. If we say these things in our songs, we should strive to do these things in our lives.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Worship in heart, soul, and might.

When we think of worship, we often think of a small part of worship, such as the music portion of a church service. Perhaps we picture raised hands, dim lights, people singing. One may also picture a quiet time of prayer alone with God. As we think of the word worship, we should remember that it originally was pronounced “worthship”. We are ascribing worth to God through our praises, our prayers, and our lives. 
In Deuteronomy 6:5, we find a verse which can help us shed light on the word worship and what it should mean. It reads, “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

Three areas of our lives we are to love God and worship him: heart, soul, might. Each area is important and it is important and distinct from the other and yet all work together as one. Our heart is the deep seat of emotion. It is where we “feel” love. This aspect of worship is the emotions. The thought of an all powerful God stooping down to rescue frail sinners like us should invoke an emotional response in us. Some show it more openly than others, but the fact that we didn't deserve this love should provoke us to an emotional response of some kind. In Psalm 86:12, we find this recorded by David,
                                    I will praise thee, O Lord my God with all
                                    my heart: and will glorify thy name forevermore.

There is a condition on this praising though as David reveals in Psalm 86:11:
                                   Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in
                                   thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.

David says I will worship with all my heart, but also teach me your ways that I can walk in them. If we are going to worship God with all our hearts, we must have His truth in us and be following it. We cannot worship with our whole heart if it is set on our way. We cannot worship with our whole heart if God does not have our whole heart. We like to keep portions back for ourselves many times, but that is not what whole heart worship looks like. Whole heart worship is giving everything to God and walking in His ways. When we unite our hearts to fear God, we have undivided reverence for who He is. We must always worship God in view of who He is. He is the High and Holy One described to us in Isaiah 6. He is above all, and there is no God like unto Him. We need to always remember who we are addressing in our worship. 

Our soul is the part of us that is associated with who we are. Our thoughts, our minds, our inner being. We need to engage our minds in worship as well. This could be through singing a theologically rich song, or it could be through the preaching of the word. We should allow God’s word to change our lives by letting the Word change our minds. Romans 12:2 says:

                                     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.

We are to daily renew our minds in the Word of God. We actively engage our minds in worship. We should not approach a worship service with our minds in "autopilot".

And finally, our might. In all we do physically, we should worship God. Our everyday lives must show and demonstrate the “worth” of God. Worship is even in the everyday life we live. 
Colossians 3:23 has this to say:

                                And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord,
                                and not unto men.

We are admonished in I Corinthians 10:31 this way:

                                 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do,
                                 do all to the glory of God.

When we do all to God's glory, we are showing the worth of God to those sound us. On the job as we work each day those who know we a Christians are watching us. If we show them that what we are doing is for God, and not for men, they see the gospel in the way we work. Even if no one sees us, God does and as we do our work, we can strive to do it for Him, knowing that even that is an act of worship. Not just at a work place, though. With all our might would be in our services. We should not come to church with a thought about when it will end. We should not be deciding what restaurant to eat at while listening to the preaching. We should not allow our selves to be distracted form the focus of why we have gathered in the first place. With all our might focus on God and His worthiness.

As we worship together, we must do so with all our heart, soul, and might. Are you?

Friday, July 29, 2016

Unison-One Sound

Unison is a word used in music to describe a section where all the voices or instruments are singing or playing the same notes. It is usually the simplest form of melody and is easily recognized as the main part of the song. The word unison is often used to describe music that is suitable for beginning players. Unison is usually followed by two part, three part, and so on as the student musician grows. 

Unison is the strongest sound that a musical group can produce. When all parts are together, the message is heard loud and clear! The composer of a piece may choose to use unison to emphasize what he or she feels is the most important theme in the music for the audience to hear.

The word "unison" itself simply means "one sound". It therefore can take on a much deeper sense of purpose in its use. It no longer means music which is "simple" or "easy". Each person in a musical ensemble should strive to have their voice or instrument blend in such a way as to make "one sound" with his or her fellow musicians. It should not matter whether that person id playing 1st or 2nd part. It shouldn't matter if it is melody or harmony. If one musician tries to "outshine" his fellow players, the sound is not unison and the music is no longer desirable to listen to. In essence the more unison you become the more pleasing the song is.

We are told in the Bible to be in unison with each other.  In Ephesians 4:4-6 we find that there is one body, one Spirit, and one hope. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Christ wanted us to be in Him as He is in the Father (John 17:21). There is one Body of Christ to which all saved people belong. Christ prayed for this. When the Body of Christ is in unison with one another, we have the strength through Christ to accomplish that which He called the church to do-spread the gospel to the world. This is the most important message in the world. God as the composer of this “song of salvation” prayed for unison in the church so that the most important message would be heard by the audience (the world He created and sent His Son to die for, so that He may redeem us to Himself). 

Another example of this is found in 1 Corinthians 12:12. Paul tells the church at Corinth that even though there are many members in one body, all the members are one. 

Verse 13 goes on the say:
                       For by one Spirit are we all baptized into
                       one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles,
                       whether we be bond or free; and have been
                       all made to drink into one Spirit.

We are one body in Christ and must make "one sound" here on earth. We must be in unison in order to truly reach the lost of this world.

Are you singing in unison today with God’s people?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Practice Makes...

In 1 Chronicles 15, we have a picture of a very important event in the history of the nation of Israel. The Ark of the Covenant is being returned to Jerusalem!! They had tried, unsuccessfully, to bring it before, but had forgotten God's instructions as to the handling of the ark. They place it on a cart and drove it towards the city. However, a well meaning Israelite touched the ark as the cart shuddered because the oxen stumbled. This resulted in his death. We may be tempted to look at this situation and ask God why he smote the Israelite, but we need to keep in mind that God has prescribed and shown the method for how He is to be approached. we can come boldly before His throne, but we must not approach Him flippantly, or without regard for who He is.

David now realized his error and had the Levites sanctify themselves and prepare properly for the return of the ark. There were singers, string players, trumpets, cymbals-so many instruments and voices! And then we come to one seemingly small detail about a man named Chenaniah.

1 Chronicles 15:22 says:
                                        And Chenaniah, chief of the Levites
                                        was for song: he instructed about the
                                        song, because he was skillful.

In the midst of all this commotion and seeming chaos, we find a man who was selected to be the leader, and we are told why as well-he was skillful. The Bible does not say that he was a natural born talent. It does not say that he was a child prodigy. Too often in churches we depend on talent alone to accomplish God's work. there is not enough talent in a mega church to compare to the ability that God gives those whom he calls to fulfill His work.

Chenaniah was skillful. I imagine that he learned music the way that anyone else did/does. I imagine that he practiced what he was taught. That he spent time preparing and honing his skills to be ready not only for the event but for others as well. He was chosen out of all of the other musicians present to lead.

To those of us who are leaders of music in our churches, this should be a big signal to us first. We should never feel as though we have arrived. We should continue to sharpen and hone our skills in music as well. If you like to lead with guitar, practice guitar. If you like to approach things more traditionally and use the wave of an arm, practice conducting and how you will signal the congregation to sing each part of the music. Do you want to slow down? How will you show the people? Will they know what you mean by how you lead.

For those of you who are part of the team, but are not necessarily the "leaders", practice as well. When we bring our offering of worship before God, it should be our best, not the leftovers we had at the end. Remember that Cain's sacrifice was not accepted partly because it was not his best. It was merely an outward type of religion with no real belief or faith in it. Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice. (Heb. 11:4) We too should seek to offer that more excellent sacrifice to God as well.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Joyful, Joyful! We Adore Thee

One word. 

So small, so seemingly insignificant, and yet it is one of the most sought after things in life. People look for joy in so many different things. They look for joy in so many different ways. People don't want joy alone, they want real, lasting joy that stays with them. 

Many things in this life try to steal our joy. We often get so caught up in the things around us, good or bad, that make up our day that we forget to stop and take joy in what we have. We try to create our own joy in life, only to fail over and over again as we place that joy in something unstable or changeable.

One hymn speaks to the topic of joy well. A hymn that has been sung, arranged, and performed in many different aspects and venues through the years. That hymn is Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.

This week, our choir will be singing a modern arrangement of the hymn by Bernie Herms and Mark Hall. This arrangement is one of my favorites because it blends the modern and the traditional so seamlessly. There are still elements of the original music that are adorned with a contemporary flair. 

Written by Henry van Dyke in 1907, this hymn uses a very fitting piece of music-Ode to Joy from Ludwig von Beethoven's 9th Symphony. The words of this hymn express joy that can be found in God, His creation, and in the salvation we can have through Christ! 

We find our joy in God who alone deserves the glory and honor due His name. He is an unchangeable "well-spring of joy" as is reflected in a line from the 3rd verse of this hymn. Our hearts unfold like flowers-He opens our hearts to Him! Just as a flower will open to the morning sun, we too can experience joy as our hearts open to the SON! 

We have our true joy in Christ and in salvation alone. Joy is one of the Fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. It is a product of a changed life within. The Fruits of the Spirit are listed in contrast to the works of the flesh. The joy we try to manufacture in our own life does not last because only the Spirit can give true joy. We try to have joy through the works of the flesh apart from Christ, but those who are apart from Him are unable to experience the joy that only he can give. As Christians, we should not try to get joy through the unprofitable works of the flesh any more. 

Galatians 5 goes on to say in verse 24-25:
                                          And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh
                                          with the affections and lusts.
                                          If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk
                                          in the Spirit.

Our lives should no longer be caught up in trying to find joy in what the world says we should find our joy in. Our joy is now in Christ and is a product of our salvation and the Spirit within!

1 Peter 1:8 says:
                                          Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom,
                                          though now ye see him not, yet believing, 
                                          ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory
                                          Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation 
                                          of your souls.

We can have real joy through knowing and having a personal relationship with Christ! We can experience a joy that will never leave. A joy that won't fade when trials come. A joy that won't be built on the unstable foundations of this world. May this week, you find your joy in the LORD! May you come to know Him if you have not. May you put aside seeking to find joy in this world and find it only in Christ who is our salvation.

Psalm 71:23: My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you.

You can listen to a traditional arrangement here.

Or, if you prefer, you can listen to the modern arrangement here.

Friday, July 8, 2016

He Leadeth Me

When I think of some of the greatest hymns of the faith that have been passed down to us, I feel a connection to Christians of the past. Many of them with the same struggles and faults we have. Many of the same issues we face. While it is true that the specific type of issues may differ, the overall struggle and desire to serve God and to worship Him remain the same. They expressed their joys, struggles, trials, defeats, and victories in song just as we do today. One such hymn speaks to the joys and hardships of following Christ-He Leadeth Me. This hymn by Joseph H. Gilmore and William B. Bradbury expresses deep comfort to us in happiness and in tribulation.

The first line silly says, “He leadeth me! O blessed thought! O words with heavenly comfort fraught.” we can relate to these words today just as easily as those Christians of the past could. What a blessed thought that God leads us. He doesn't walk behind and push us forward. He doesn't say to us, “You’re on your own now.” He takes and active role in leading us through the times and seasons of our lives! 

Ps. 23:2b says: “He leadeth me beside the still still waters.” At times in our lives, we are beside the still waters, enjoying the pleasure of being at Christ’s side. At times, we are also led by the “troubled sea”, as the hymn says. In these times as we walk through trials, God is still with us. It is a comfort to know that God is beside us even in the hard times. His leading is constant and sure. I hope you can say today that you are aware of Christ’s presence in your life. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Resonate Part 3

Today's post will conclude a series on the word "resonate" that I began with the start of my blog. We have already discussed the word resonate with two previous definitions:

1. Sound produced in one object caused by another. Jesus begins the work in us who, apart from Him, can do nothing on our own.

2. To have repetitive pattern that resembles resonance. We are to pattern our lives after Christ who gave us the model for how we should live as Christians.

Today, I wan to look at a last definition of resonance that not only has musical "overtones" but also architectural ones as well. the definition simply is this:To expand, to intensify, or amplify the sound of. We are to expand, to intensify, and amplify the sound of salvation to all. We must expound the praises of God, who alone is worthy to be praised.

Resonance is something that must be taken into account in architecture. An easy example is a swing. As you push, the energy is transferred from you to the swing, and the swing goes higher and higher in the natural resonance or rhythm. 

Structural resonance must be taken into account in building. Bridges have collapsed because of resonance.  Two bridges, one in England and one in France, collapsed as soldiers marched on them. The soldiers cadence as they marched expanded and intensified the vibrations of the bridges which resonated with the soldiers and eventually could no longer withstand the shaking, causing structural failure.
The tower in Taipei has a 660 ton tuned mass damper in it to compensate for the natural resonance of the building so that it does not topple over. This damper reduces stress and aides in comfort of the people inside.
Most cars have several dampers to reduce noise and shaking of the engine. 

All of these examples demonstrate a certain level of compensation for the vibration that naturally occurs due to the resonance and vibration of various materials and components. This is an awesome picture of how we are to expand, intensify, and amplify the sound of salvation and the praises of God!
Isaiah 6:4 demonstrates this resonance: 
                                        And the posts moved at the voice of him that cried, 
                                        and the house was filled with smoke.

Its interesting how the Bible speaks of natural things.The posts moved because they became resonators of the angels’ voices.We are the resonators of His glory. We resound and intensify His glory to the world around us.  

Look at Psalm 75:9
                                       But I will declare forever
                                       I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.

Just as a swing goes higher and higher as a result of natural resonance, we should as a result lift His name higher and higher. Our life is to be a lifestyle of praise. It is not a one day a week activity. We glorify God through our life by living for Him. (1 Cor. 10:31)

As Christians, God wants to use us to amplify the sound of the gospel to the world. He wants our lives to show others who Christ is. This world desperately needs to see the power of Christ and the salvation provided through His atoning death alone. There is no political, social, economic, military, commercial, or other movement or religion that can take the place of salvation through Christ. We must continue to expand the sound of salvation's call. We can best glorify God when we are doing what we were created to do: praise Him!

Our lives each day should be this:
Let all nature sing, let the earth rejoice,
We will resonate your glory.
Let all living things, praise you with one voice

We will resonate your glory.

Check out Resonate as sung by Sonicflood, it is the song that originally inspired this Bible study on the word resonate. 

Go out today and RESONATE God's glory!!