Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Seven Convincing Miracles

Below are quotes from a book by Erwin Lutzer, Seven Convincing Miracles published by Moody Press. Pastor Lutzer is the senior pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago. He deals with the issueof miracles and whether or not they are necessary. This information may be helpful to you in dealing with some of the issues of miracles you may be confronted with from time to time in your ministry.

I really appreciate the following two quotes:

1. Miracles are insufficient to persuade the unconverted … even the signs and wonders recorded in Scripture were insufficient to persuade the unconverted to believe in Christ. The more miracles He performed, the more opposition toward Him grew. On the day of Pentecost, Peter said that Christ was “accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs” (Acts 2:22); yet most in the crowd were not brought to faith until they heard the gospel through Peter’s lips. [Page 81]

2. Signs and wonders
Interestingly, no church in the New Testament is chided for not doing more signs and wonders. But Paul rebuked churches for an unclear gospel (Galatians), an overemphasis on gifts along with a worldly spirit (Corinthians), and the dangers of accepting a gnostic view of Christ (Colossians). Christ’s rebukes to the seven churches addressed in the book of Revelation were ei¬ther doctrinal, moral, or both. Never once did He hint that they needed more signs and wonders.

Miracles are of lesser importance than a clear gospel witness and the quest for holiness All this is not to say that authentic signs and won¬ders cannot occur today, or even that they do not occur today. There is no hard scriptural evidence that the gift of miracles has been rescinded. What we do know is that such miracles are of lesser importance than a clear gospel witness and the quest for holiness.Yes, we can believe God today for miracles, but we cannot demand them; and we should not be led to expect them on a regular basis. And we most assuredly cannot ascribe to the modern notion that they are needed to do effective evangelism in a culture already saturated with bogus miracles of every sort. [Page 82]

Friday, July 24, 2009

Will we desire relationships in Heaven with anyone except God?

by Randy Alcorn

Genesis 2:18: The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him."

1 Thessalonians 2:17: Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again.

God has designed us for relationship not only with himself but also with others of our kind. God planned for Adam, and all mankind, to need human companionship. In other words, God made people to need and desire others besides himself. Think of it—God was with Adam in the Garden, yet God said that wasn’t good enough. God designed us to need each other. What we gain from each other is more of God because we’re created in his image and are a conduit for his self-revelation.

Matthew 22:37-39: Jesus [said], “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Jesus affirmed that the greatest commandment was to love God, but that the second, inseparable from the first, was to love our neighbor. He never considered these commands incompatible. He saw the second flowing directly from the first. One of the highest ways we love God is by loving people.

1 Thessalonians 2:19-20: What gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! Yes, you are our pride and joy.

Paul anticipates his ongoing relationship with the Thessalonians as part of his heavenly reward. Isn’t this emphatic proof that it’s appropriate for us to deeply love people and look forward to being with them in Heaven?

Some falsely assume that when we give attention to people it automatically distracts us from God. But even now, in a fallen world, people can turn my attention to God. Was Jesus distracted from God by spending time with people on Earth? Certainly not. In Heaven, no person will distract us from God. We will never experience any conflict between worshiping God himself and enjoying God’s people. Our source of comfort isn’t only that we’ll be with the Lord in Heaven but also that we’ll be with each other. We’ll sit at feasts not only with God, but with his people. That is his design, and we should look forward to it.

Randy Alcorn

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why and How I Am Tweeting

June 3, 2009
By John Piper

I see two kinds of response to social Internet media like blogging, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and others.

One says: These media tend to shorten attention spans, weaken discursive reasoning, lure people away from Scripture and prayer, disembody relationships, feed the fires of narcissism, cater to the craving for attention, fill the world with drivel, shrink the soul’s capacity for greatness, and make us second-handers who comment on life when we ought to be living it. So boycott them and write books (not blogs) about the problem.

The other response says: Yes, there is truth in all of that, but instead of boycotting, try to fill these media with as much provocative, reasonable, Bible-saturated, prayerful, relational, Christ-exalting, truth-driven, serious, creative pointers to true greatness as you can.

Together with the team at Desiring God, I lean toward response #2. “Lean” is different from “leap.” We are aware that the medium tends to shape the message. This has been true, more or less, with every new medium that has come along—speech, drawing, handwriting, print, books, magazines, newspapers, tracts, 16mm home movies, flannel-graph, Cinerama, movies, Gospel Blimps, TV, radio, cassette tapes, 8-Tracks, blackboards, whiteboards, overhead projection, PowerPoint, skits, drama, banners, CDs, MP3s, sky-writing, video, texting, blogging, tweeting, Mina-Bird-training, etc.

Dangers, dangers everywhere. Yes. But it seems to us that aggressive efforts to saturate a media with the supremacy of God, the truth of Scripture, the glory of Christ, the joy of the gospel, the insanity of sin, and the radical nature of Christian living is a good choice for some Christians. Not all. Everyone should abstain from some of these media. For example, we don’t have a television.

That’s my general disposition toward media.

Now what about Twitter? I find Twitter to be a kind of taunt: “Okay, truth-lover, see what you can do with 140 characters! You say your mission is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things! Well, this is one of those ‘all things.’ Can you magnify Christ with this thimble-full of letters?”

To which I respond:

The sovereign Lord of the earth and sky
Puts camels through a needle’s eye.
And if his wisdom see it mete,
He will put worlds inside a tweet.

So I am not inclined to tweet that at 10AM the cat pulled the curtains down. But it might remind me that the Lion of Judah will roll up the heavens like a garment, and blow out the sun like a candle, because he just turned the light on. That tweet might distract someone from pornography and make them look up.

I’ve been tweeting anonymously for a month mainly to test its spiritual and family effects on me. In spite of all the dangers, it seems like a risk worth taking. “All things were created through Christ and for Christ” (Colossians 1:16). The world does not know it, but that is why Twitter exists and that’s why I Tweet.

By his grace and for his glory,
Pastor John

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Southern Slavery ... as it really was!

One of my side interests is studying slavery issues worldwide which include the United States. Over the years, I have gathered nearly 150 books on slavery.

From time to time, I read literature which paints slavery in a positive light instead of a negative injustice and cruelty of most slaves.

The following link ( will take you to an article in response to writings by Pastor Douglas Wilson and Steven Wilkins.

The article is a rebuttal of their teaching and is written by a layman. It is quite insightful .

Let me quote from a comment made to by author, “… ‘Biblical Slavery’ in my opinion is an oxymoron and contrary to sound Biblical teaching.”

Pray for us as we seek to minister the Gospel and compassionate care as it relates to slavery (especially to children) that is still taking place in many parts of the world.

Let me encourage you with the following, Pure and lasting religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit [care for] orphans . . . in their distress . . . (James 1:27, nasb).

Doug Nichols

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hey, Mister, can you spare a dime (10¢) for a cup of coffee?

I am now 67. This is considered old by many. When I was little, a cup of coffee was only 10¢. When someone begged on the streets, they would ask for a dime for cup of coffee. Now coffee is 75¢ to $1.

In these days of financial difficulty we are careful with our money; however, so much can still be accomplished with little. Even after giving to our church, most of us still have funds to use for God’s glory!

My wife and I give at certain amount regularly to our church and to ACTION. One thing I also try do daily is to set aside all my change at the end of the day, or at least one dollar. So monthly, the total comes to $30. All simply from the change in my pocket!

I use this change specifically for ministry to needy children. $30 means much to a needy child of the world. These funds take the Gospel to needy children; feed hungry children on the streets; send children to camp; and buy clothes, medicines, school supplies and uniforms, and Christian literature and Bibles.

It is wonderful to hear reports regularly from our team worldwide of the thousands of needy children who are reached with the Gospel and compassionate care simply as a result of prayer and a gift of 50¢, 65¢, or $1 from God’s people.

“So, dear friend, do you have some change to help a child?”

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Music of Worship: Pleasing God or Pleasing Ourselves?

by Becky Maceda

Source: Maceda, Becky, "The Music of Worship: Pleasing God or Pleasing Ourselves?", Faithwalk, Vol.3, No.1, 2003, p. 21-26.

You've survived one in your church. Or perhaps you've heard of a particularly grim one at another church.

I'm referring to the battle over worship music that has divided believers in too many churches. Should we sing the old-time, doctrine steeped hymns, or confine ourselves to the singable, catchy, praise choruses? Should our music be classical, contemporary, rock, country, Latin, disco, folk, or eclectic (read: "a little of everything")? Should we use organs or pianos? And what about drums? Should music be exclusively for praise or should it perform other functions as well?

In a world that increasingly devalues the primacy of objectivity and the ability to think antithetically and which, conversely, prizes subjectivity and the ability to see life and the world in pluralistic terms, popular music has become a global language.

And why not? Whether you are Buddhist or agnostic, "third world" or "first world," speak English or only Urdu, have a Ph.D. or finish only second grade, you can enjoy 'N 'Sync or Britney Spears or MTV.

This takeover of the culture by popular music is reflected in our churches. How many Christians today are serious readers? How many believers today enjoy solid preaching? Ask church members on a Tuesday how much they remember of the previous Sunday's preaching? Chances are, those very same Christians are still singing or humming the songs they sang during the service.

Music can and does powerfully engage our emotions. It is therefore not surprising that it has become a battleground for individuals and congregations.

Teaching Through Music
Today we live in a time when simple is seen as good and complex as bad. The tongue trips and the mind boggles at Charlies Wesley's "Long my imprisoned spirit lay, Fast bound in sin and nature's night" and even Dwight Lyles and Niles Borup's

Proclaim the glory of the Lord,
Give honor to the Prince of Peace.
For if we cease,
The stones will start shouting.

Proclaim the glory of the Lord.
With hands uplifted
Let us raise immortal praise
To Him who reigns on high.

Leonard Payton, writing in Modern Reformation says "'Simple' is not bad. However, when 'simple' is a virtue placed in rank above 'biblical,' then we are in trouble." What if being "simple" means we are no longer able to fulfill our responsibility to "teach and admonish one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs"? Payton warns: "It will not be long before we are writing a different Gospel on the tablets of our hearts."

Music is very powerful because it teaches whether or not we perceive that it does. And the more a person is inclined to subjective, relativistic thinking, the stronger music's influence will be on that person. It therefore a potent purveyor of heresies.

How then must pastors and church music directors, who seriously take their biblical mandate, evaluate the music the church uses in worship? By applying the regulative principle of sola Scriptura. John Calvin articulated it thus in The Necessity of Reforming the Church:

We may not adopt any device [in our worship] which seems fit to ourselves, but look to the injunctions of him who alone is entitled to prescribe. God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by his word.

Toward Biblical Worship
To evaluate worship biblically is to be willing to step back from our own preferences and experiences and ask, "what pleases God in worship?" We know that not all worship and music please Him (see Ex. 32:4-6). We therefore need to examine three aspects of worship music if we are to bring it in line with Scripture: 1) the words we sing, 2)the melodies of the words we sing, and 3)the instruments we use to accompany the singing.

The first and most important aspect is the words that we sing. The Word of God should be the basis of all that we sing in at least four ways.

The content of the songs of the church must be doctrinally sound. Worship must have a theological basis. The people of God must know whom they are worshipping and why. Because God is beyond our comprehension, we cannot know Him by speculating on His essence. Instead, we are to know Him by mediating on what He reveals to us in His Word.

True worship is faithful to the doctrine of God as revealed in Scripture. Even the most well-intentioned believer may unwittingly end up in idolatry--worshiping a god he has fashioned in his own image.

Kim Riddlebarger argues:"This is not to say that worship is not to be emotional or that one is not to experience God during worship, but worship must be based on a correct knowledge of God, not an ecstatic experience of God. Worship has a doctrinal, and not experiential, context. This intellectual priority in worship is also seen in the prohibitions against idolatry."

We need to be careful then of such lyrics as these:

I just want to be where You are
Dwelling daily in your presence
Take me to the place where you are
I just want to be with You. [italics added]

Is God omnipresent? It is not clear from the words of this song, specifically the third line, even when the entire song is considered.

Or consider this song:

Jesus, we enthrone You.
We proclaim You our King.
Standing here in the midst of us.
We lift You up with our praise.
And as we worship,
Build Your throne.
Come, Lord Jesus,
And take Your place.

Ephesians 1:19-22 clearly teaches that God, "the Father of glory" (v. 17), raised Jesus from the dead, "and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things under His feet." Who then enthrones Christ? Is it us or the Father?

Contrast these songs with another contemporary song.

We are called to be a royal priesthood
That will minister to God.
Declare the wisdom of His ways,
Exalt His character in praise.
We are called to yield unto the Spirit
That He may form in us
The beauty of the life of Jesus.

And give to Him undying devotion,
Our full adoration that He may be pleased.
And set our hearts on this one endeavor,
To worship forever His majesty.

While the entire song is not based on a particular passage of Scripture, the thoughts it contains are all Scripture.

The content of the songs must be God-centered, not man-centered. Consider this example:

Things in the past, things yet unseen,
Wishes and dreams that are yet to come true.
All of my hopes, all of my plans,
My heart and my hands are lifted to you.
Lord, I offer my life to You.
Everything I've been through,
Use it for Your glory
Lord, I offer my days to You,
Lifting my praise to You,
As a pleasing sacrifice.
Lord, I offer You my life [italics the author's].

The purpose of music in worship is to assist the congregation in worshipping God, not to encourage believers to focus on themselves. Songs that are full of what is happening or not happening in the lives of those who are singing, according to their point of view, may not be the most appropriate for worship.

The songs must deal with the whole counsel of God as it pertains to worship. As the Bible says, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfullness in your hearts to God" (Col. 3:16). Church songs cannot focus exclusively on "singing with thankfulness " to God. They must also teach and admonish.

The Book of Psalms has given us a model for what we are to sing. The Psalter contains a rich variety of songs that we can and should sing to God--joyful praise and thanksgiving (Ps. 146-150); reflections on creation (Ps. 19, 104); a recounting of the saving work of God in Christ (Ps. 2, 22, 24, and 110); and meditations on God's Word (Ps. 119). There are also psalms of lamentation and repentance (Ps. 32, 51, and 137).

In some churches today, however, it seems only happy and joyful songs are sung. Is joy the only emotion Christians experience? Christian worship needs to provide expression for sad and reflective emotions as well. Here is one such song.

Search me O god.
Reveal my heart.
Expose my sin that it may be confessed.
Search, me O God.
Unveil each thought
And leave no hidden motive unaddressed.
Uncover every action born in pride.
Show me the worldly ways
I still embrace.
May every anxious thought be brought to light,
And each unspoken fear with faith replaced.

The songs must "handle accurately the word of truth." While we recognize a certain latitude of expression owed to poetic license, we cannot forget that worship music functions as an integral part of teaching ministry of the church.

Congregations who would never tolerate shoddy exposition from the pulpit at times sing songs that would not be out of place in a "prosperity" or "deliverance" or "miracle healing" gathering. Are we not undermining our own efforts to teach our congregations to view all of life and doctrine through the lens of Scripture?

Over sin He has conquered.
Hallelujah! He has conquered.
Over death victorious.
Hallelujah! Victorious!
Over sickness He has triumphed.
Hallelujah! He has triumphed.
Jesus reigns over all!

While there is scriptural warrant for the first two assertions, there is none for the third. We must be careful to choose music texts with as much theological clarity and linguistic skill as possible.

The second aspect which we must evaluate is the melodies to which we sing the words. While it is important that a melody is singable for the congregation, it must likewise support the content of the song. It is very difficult, for instance, to sing about God as the "consuming fire" (Heb. 12:28-29) in a samba or disco beat; or to sing as a lament the following lyrics:

Every perfect gift comes from above.
From the Father of lights
From the Lord of love
This joy that I have
That I'm singing of is from the Lord.

Determining the appropriateness of the melody must also pass through another sieve: does it "make provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts"? Does the melody truly exalt God or does it appeal primarily to the carnal tastes of man and his desire to be entertained? Does the melody serve to focus the believer's attention on God as He reveals Himself in Scripture, or does it cause him to focus more on the world or on himself?

According to Heb. 12:28-29, thankfulness and joy should be united with reverence and awe in our worship. These characteristics are complementary, as a study of psalms will show. Worship the Lord with reverence, And rejoice with trembling (Ps. 2:11).

Reverence does not always mean quiet, and joy does not always mean noise, says W. Robert Godfrey in Pleasing God in Worship. Joy and reverence are attitudes of the heart which we seek to express in worship. Joy may be intense in the singing of a very quiet song. Reverence may be expressed in loud singing.

Here is a song that is joyfully reverent:

What do I possess that You did not give to me?
What mysteries are clear to me that you did not explain?
When did I share truth I had not received from you?
What good works have I performed that You did not ordain?

Any strength I have, any good I do
Comes from the life I found in You.
So in all I am and in all I do
I give the glory to You.

The third and last aspect is the kind of instruments we use to accompany the songs we sing. What kind of instrument is biblical? In Old Testament worship, a wide variety was used in the temple. Yet in the New Testament, it is not clear what role instruments played in corporate worship (though obviously they had no central or independent role).

Today most churches use one or more instruments. Where they are used, a good guideline to follow is that they should aid the singing of the congregation, not overwhelm or dominate it. They should contribute to a sense of reverence and joy, not undermine it.

Music is a vital element in the worship life of God's people. And because it is so powerful in its effects, we need to consider it carefully. In its Cambridge Declaration, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals spoke of worship under the last theme, "Glory to God alone":

The loss of God's centrality in the life of today's church is lamentable. It is this loss that allows us to transform worship into entertainment, gospel preaching into marketing, believing into technique, being good into feeling good about ourselves, and faithfulness into being successful....We must focus on God in our worship, rather than the satisfaction of our personal needs. God is sovereign in worship; we are not. Our concern must be for God's kingdom, not our own empires, popularity, or success.

God is calling His church to repentance. Let us examine our own churches--have we been faithful in exercising pastoral oversight in this critical aspect of our teaching ministry, or have we neglected it? Let us cry out to God for His mercy and take back our authority over the music sung in our churches. Let us evaluate the entire collection of songs we are using and discard all that do not wholly conform to Scripture.

Becky Maceda serves the Lord at Higher Rock Christian Ministries and Hagios House Ministries, where she counsels and disciples women.

Source: Maceda, Becky, "The Music of Worship: Pleasing God or Pleasing Ourselves?", Faithwalk, Vol.3, No.1, 2003, p. 21-26.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How Shall We Sing to God?

by Leonard Payton
Source: Faithwalk, Vol. 3 No. 1, 2003, p. 16-20.

We are, more times than not, a people defined by our music. We fight over it in the church. We change congregations because of worship music style, with little concern for the theology of the new or the old congregation. Whole denominations are embroiled in debate over worship music style with no clear outcome in sight. My prayer is for a deep reformation in church music—that all alike will be led to insist, within their own spheres of influence, that comprehensive biblical principles be brought to bear on every detail of worship music.

Indeed the real crisis is this: Ecclesiastical authorities, while recognizing that music is important to congregational life, usually fail to see that its biblical role puts it squarely within the ministry of the Word as a partner to preaching. For, as the apostle Paul told us, the word of Christ dwells richly within us with all wisdom when we teach and admonish one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs and sing with gratitude in our hearts to God with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16).

If we are to recover the authority of Scripture in our worship, then we must likewise recover it in our music, which is an important element of true God-centered worship conforming to the principle of sola Scriptura. Just as the sixteenth-century Reformers gave major attention to this area, so must we.


I once examined the entire worship music repertoire of my congregation, most of which I had inherited, placing each song under one of three biblical categories: (1) “teaching”; (2) “admonition”; and (3) “singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Of some four hundred praise choruses and hymns, I found that most of them fit within category three, with about thirty in category one, and fewer than ten in category two. A new gnosticism’ has crept in, convincing us that feeling good is an inextricable component of orthodoxy. Admonition just does not fit “orthopathos,” an orthodoxy of shared feelings and experiences. Having stumbled onto this feature of my own congregation’s worship music diet, I then went to the 150 Psalms to see what the proportions of these categories would be. I read the Psalms with three colored highlighters in hand. I used one highlighter to mark teaching, one for admonition, and one for gratitude to God. More skillful Bible scholars than I will anticipate what I found: There was simply no way to separate the categories. Consider Psalm 103. The way we “bless the Lord” is to reel off a long list of blessings:

• He forgives all our iniquities
• He heals all our diseases
• He redeems our lives from destruction
• He crowns us with lovingkindness and compassion
• He satisfies our years with good things, and so on

Later in this psalm, it becomes clear that these blessings are given to those who fear the Lord. Taken together, we have a song of gratitude to God that teaches us about God’s provision and further admonishes us to fear the Lord. This is the nature of true biblical worship music. The glorification of God and the edification of the saints occur concurrently.


Until the time of King David, the role of music in worship was somewhat incidental. It was no accident that the man after God’s heart institutionalized the Levitical musicians. But just what did the Levitical musicians do?

In 1 Chronicles 6, we learn that the chief musicians Heman, Ethan, and Asaph came from the three separate clans of Levi. It may be that musical skill and wisdom necessitated drawing from the whole tribe rather than from a narrower pool, as was the case with the priests. Toward the end of the same chapter, we find that the Levites were given towns and accompanying fields scattered throughout the entire land of Israel. Thus, the land of Israel would have been sprinkled with “local” Levitical musicians.

First Chronicles 24 and 25 indicate that the priests and the musicians had two-week tours of duty at the temple in Jerusalem. This raises the fascinating question, “What were they doing the rest of the year?”

Part of this is answered in the authorial ascription of some of the psalms. It was Asaph who thundered that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps. 50:10). If a modern church musician wrote a worship text like Psalm 50, he would probably not get it published in the contemporary Christian music industry. And Heman’s Psalm 88 is incontestably the bleakest of all the psalms. In short, Levitical musicians wrote psalms, and those psalms plainly were not obligated to accommodate the gnostic, emotional demands of the twentieth-century evangelical church.

We know Solomon composed 1,005 psalms, most of which are lost (1 Kings 4:32). Nevertheless, this demonstrates that the writing of psalms was apparently a flourishing activity at the time. We also know that Solomon “was wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol” (v. 31). If Solomon had not existed, two of the wisest men in Israel would have been musicians! They were teachers of the highest order. This leads me to suspect that Levitical musicians, scattered throughout the land, served as Israel’s teachers. Furthermore, the book of Psalms was their textbook. And because this textbook was a songbook, it may well be that the Levitical musicians catechized the nation of Israel through the singing of psalms.

Most worship music traditions have failed miserably to see this teaching mandate. The revivalist music of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and contemporary Christian music have both been significant offenders on this score.

Consider the well-known chorus, Bless His Holy Name.

Bless the Lord, 0 my soul,
and all that is within me
bless His holy name.
He has done great things.
He has done great things.
He has done great things,
bless His holy name.

It is true that the opening sentence of the chorus is a verbatim quote of Psalm 103:1, and that is to be applauded. Beyond that, however, the remaining twenty-one verses of Psalm 103 are compressed into a scant eight words that give the vague notion that we should bless the Lord because of the great things He has done. What those great things are is left to the imagination, not the plain teaching of Scripture. The problem is that true, biblical gratitude must have its basis in objective facts or doctrine. If it doesn’t, it is mere sentimentality.

How odd it is that the current visible church is embracing diversity and multiculturalism uncritically, completely setting aside the wisdom of the early church Fathers. The lyrics in many of the praise choruses often contradict Scripture. Consider the chorus Highest Place directly associated with Philippians 2:9: Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name (NIV).

We place You on the highest place,
for You are the great High Priest;
We place You high above all else,
and we come to You and worship at your feet. 12

The trouble is that these lyrics indicate it is Christians—not God—who exalt Jesus to the highest place, directly contradicting the Scripture on which the song is based.

The larger problem with much commercial Christian music is not what is said but what is left unsaid. Two of the common troubling types of music that emerge feature God as hero and God as felt-need meeter. In itself this is not wrong, but it is consistently done at the expense of other essential doctrines.. Unfortunately, the gospel of the New Testament is offensive. It is a stumbling block. The fact that Christ died for sinners according to the Scriptures is the baseline article of our faith. And yet the blood sacrifice for sin, that doctrine that shows how disgusting our depravity really is, receives conspicuously short shrift in commercial Christian music. It just plain doesn’t sell.


The biblical church musician has the ministry of the Word and prayer just like the pulpit preacher, but with musical means. He needs a training corollary to that of the preacher. He needs to operate under the same standards of accountability and scrutiny as the preacher. And like the ox and the preacher, he must not be muzzled while he is treading out the grain.

To the overwhelmed pastor I would say two things: Take the long view and take heart. Here are some measures the pastor can take now.

First, retake ecclesiastical authority over the music and over every word sung in corporate worship and in small groups. When approached with a doctrinally inadequate special music project (usually an accompaniment track from some favorite commercial Christian artist), the pastor must be able to say, “You can’t have it because it is not good for you.” Remember, worship music is an issue of shepherding.

Second, vociferously denounce the widely held notion that entertainment is good whereas boredom is bad. Gene Edward Veith shows that the corresponding biblical concept of boredom is sloth. In other words, boredom is primarily the hearer’s problem, not the speaker’s. Until this point is won, much biblical teaching and admonition will remain off limits.

Third, read Calvin Johansson’s excellent book Discipling Music Ministry. Recognizing that pastors’ reading lists are already overburdened, I restrict my recommendation to one small book. A wise man once said, with all thy getting, get understanding (Prov. 4:7 kjv).

Fourth, register complaints with your seminaries over the minuscule and sometimes nonexistent place music holds within their Master of Divinity training.

Fifth, within congregational life foster children’s choirs that have as a major goal the teaching of great hymn texts. Start early. Children are not born believing that they should like popular culture while disliking great old hymns. It is amazing how many children enjoy Mr. Rogers’s operas. Children will acculturate to what is placed before them. Remember, worship music is an issue of shepherding.

Sixth, grow worship musicians from inside the four walls of the church under your theologically watchful eyes. Congregations should seriously invest in the continuing education of musicians. Remember, worship music is part of the ministry of the Word. We would be appalled by a preacher who read at a third-grade level and did not understand grammar, yet we handicap the ministry of the Word when we leave our musicians unprepared.

Should all these measures be implemented, I would not expect overnight and glamorous results. Still, if we care about our children’s children, we need to begin to take the tough, disciplined steps now. We need to seriously pray, Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10). Even better, we might consider singing it.

Taken from "How Shall We Sing to God?" by Leonard Payton, from The Coming Evangelical Crisis, edited by John H. Armstrong. Copyright 1996 by Moody Bible Institute.

Leonard Payton did advanced study in Germany and currently serves on ministry staff as chief musician at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Austin, TX.

Source: Faithwalk, Vol. 3 No. 1, 2003, p. 16-20.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How Shall We Then Worship?

by John MacArthur

All Rights Reserved
Source: Faithwalk , Vol. 3, No. 1, 2003, p. 10-15.

There is almost no limit to how far some churches will go to be "relevant" and "contemporary" in their worship services. And nothing, it seems, is too profane or too outrageous to be fused with "worship."

The Los Angeles Times Magazine recently reported on one Lutheran church in Southern California that distributes flyers advertising their church service as "God's Country Goodtime Hour." The flyers boldly promise "line dancing following worship." According to the magazine article, "the pastor is dancing, too, decked out in Wrangler boots and Levis." The pastor credits the campaign with revitalizing his church. The article describes Sunday morning at the church:

Members listen to sermons whose topics include the pastor's '70 Ford pickup, and Christian sex (rated R for "relevance, respect, and relationship," says [the pastor], "and more fun than it sounds"). After the service, they dance to a band called—what else?—the Honkytonk Angels.

Attendance has been steadily rising . . .

Clearly, the corporate worship of the Lord's Day is undergoing a revolution that has few parallels in all of church history. The resulting crisis within evangelicalism cannot help but be profound in its direct bearing upon the health of thousands of our churches.

True Worship
A few years ago while preaching through the Gospel of John, I was struck by the depth of meaning in John 4:23: An hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. I saw as clearly as I had ever seen before the implications of that phrase, "worship . . . in spirit and truth."

The phrase suggests, first of all, that true worship involves the intellect as much as the emotions. It underscores the truth that worship is to be focused on God, not on the worshiper. The context also shows that Jesus was saying true worship is more a matter of substance than of form. And He was teaching that worship embraces what we do in life, not just what we do in the formal place of worship.

That series also signaled the beginning of a new era for our church. Our corporate worship took on a whole new depth and significance. People began to be conscious that every aspect of the church service—the music, the praying, the preaching, and even the offering—is worship rendered to God. They began to look at superficialities as an affront to a holy God. They saw worship as a participant's activity; not a spectator sport. Many realized for the first time that worship is the church's ultimate priority.

Furthermore, as our congregation began to think more earnestly than ever about worship, we were continually drawn to the only reliable and sufficient worship manual—Scripture. If God desires worship in spirit and truth, then surely all true worshipers must fashion their worship in accord with the truth He has revealed. If worship is something offered to God—and not just a show put on for the benefit of the congregation—then every aspect of it must be pleasing to God and in harmony with His Word. So the effect of our renewed emphasis on worship was that it heightened our commitment to the centrality of Scripture.

Sola Scriptura
A few years after that series on worship, I preached through Psalm 19. It was as if I saw for the first time the power of what the psalmist was saying about the absolute sufficiency of Scripture:

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb (vv. 7-10).

The point of that passage is, quite simply, that Scripture is wholly sufficient to meet every need of the human soul.

How does the sufficiency of Scripture apply to worship? The Reformers answered that question by applying sola Scriptura to worship in a tenet they called the regulative principle. John Calvin was one of the first to articulate it succinctly:

We may not adopt any device [in our worship] which seems fit to ourselves, but look to the injunctions of him who alone is entitled to prescribe. Therefore, if we would have Him approve our worship, this rule, which he everywhere enforces with the utmost strictness, must be carefully observed. . . . God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by his word.

An English Reformer and contemporary of Calvin, John Hooper, stated the same principle this way: "Nothing should be used in the Church which has not either the express Word of God to support it, or otherwise is a thing indifferent in itself, which brings no profit when done or used, but no harm when not done or omitted."

The Reformers and Puritans applied the regulative principle against formal ritual, priestly vestments, church hierarchy, and other remnants of medieval Roman Catholic worship. The simplicity of worship forms in Presbyterian, Baptist, Congregational, and other evangelical traditions is the result of applying the regulative principle. Evangelicals today would do well to recover their spiritual ancestors' confidence in sola Scriptura as it applies to worship and church leadership. A number of harmful trends that are gaining momentum these days reveal a diminishing evangelical confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture. On the one hand, there is, as we have noted, almost a circus atmosphere in some churches where pragmatic methods that trivialize what is holy are being employed to boost attendance. On the other hand, growing numbers of former evangelicals are abandoning simple worship forms in favor of high-church formalism. Meanwhile, some churches have simply abandoned virtually all objectivity, opting for a worship style that is turbulent, emotional, and devoid of any rational sense.

A new understanding of sola Scriptura—the sufficiency of Scripture—ought to spur us to keep reforming our churches, to regulate our worship according to biblical guidelines, and to desire passionately to be those who worship God in spirit and truth.

Applying Sola Scriptura to Worship
Consider for a moment what would happen to corporate worship if the contemporary church took sola Scriptura seriously. Four biblical guidelines for worship immediately come to mind. These have fallen into a state of tragic neglect. Recovering them would surely bring about a new Reformation in the modern church's worship:

Preach the Word. In corporate worship, the preaching of the Word should take first place. All the New Testament instructions to pastors center on these words of Paul to Timothy: "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction" (2 Tim. 4:2). Elsewhere, Paul summed up his advice to the young pastor, "Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching" (1 Tim. 4:13). Clearly, the ministry of the Word was at the heart of Timothy's pastoral responsibilities.

In the New Testament church, the activities of the believing community were totally devoted to "the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). The preaching of the Word was the centerpiece of every worship service. Paul once preached to a congregation past midnight (Acts 20:7-8). The ministry of the Word was such a crucial part of church life that before any man could qualify to serve as an elder, he had to prove himself skilled in teaching the Word (cf. 1 Tim 3:2; Tim. 2:24; Tit. 1:9).

Many people see preaching and worship as two distinct aspects of the church service, as if preaching has nothing to do with worship and vice versa. But that is an erroneous concept. The ministry of the Word is the platform on which all genuine worship is built.

When drama, music, comedy, or other activities are allowed to usurp the preaching of the Word, true worship inevitably suffers. And when preaching is subjugated to pomp and circumstance, that also hinders real worship. A "worship" service without the ministry of the Word is of questionable value. Moreover, a "church" where the Word of God is not regularly and faithfully preached is no true church.

Edify the flock. Scripture tells us that the purpose of spiritual gifts is for the edification of the whole church (Eph. 4:12; cf. 1 Cor. 14:12). Therefore all ministry in the context of the church should somehow be edifying—building up the flock, not just stirring emotions. Above all, ministry should be aimed at stimulating genuine worship. To do that it must be edifying. This is implied by the expression "worship . . . in spirit and truth."

Music may sometimes move us by the sheer beauty of its sound, but such sentiment is not worship. Music by itself, apart from the truth contained in the lyrics, it is not even a legitimate springboard for real worship. Similarly, a poignant story may be touching or stirring, but unless the message it conveys is set in the context of biblical truth, any emotions it may stir are of no use in prompting genuine worship. Aroused passions are not necessarily evidence that true worship is taking place. Genuine worship is a response to divine truth. It is passionate because it arises out of our love for God. But to be true worship it must also arise out of a correct understanding of His law, His righteousness, His mercy, and His Being. Real worship acknowledges God as He has revealed Himself in His Word. Such worship cannot rise out of a vacuum. It is prompted and vitalized by the objective truth of the Word.
Honor the Lord. Hebrews 12:28 says, Let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe" That verse speaks of the attitude in which we should worship. The Greek word for "service" is latreuo, which literally means "worship." The point is that worship ought to be done reverently, in a way that honors God. In fact, the Authorized version translates it this way: let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear (emphasis added)—and the next verse adds, For our God is a consuming fire (v. 29).

Why would a church replace preaching and worship with entertainment and comedy in the Lord's Day services? Many who have done it say they are aiming to reach non-Christians. They want to create a "user-friendly" environment that will be more appealing to unbelievers. Their stated goal is "relevance" rather than "reverence." And their services are designed to reach unbelievers with the gospel, not for believers to come together for worship and edification.

What's wrong with that? Is there a problem with using the Lord's Day services as evangelistic meetings? Is there a biblical reason Sunday should be the day believers gather for worship?

Scripture suggests that the regular meetings of the early church were not for evangelistic purposes, but primarily for mutual encouragement and worship among the community of believers. That's why the writer of Hebrews made this plea, And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another (Heb. 10:24-25, emphasis added).

When a church makes all its meetings evangelistic, believers lose opportunities to grow, be edified, and worship. There is simply no warrant in Scripture for adapting weekly church services to the preferences of unbelievers. When the church comes together on the Lord's Day is no time to entertain the lost, amuse the brethren, or otherwise cater to the "felt needs" of those in attendance. This is when we should bow before our God as a congregation and honor Him with our worship.

Put no confidence in the flesh. In Philippians 3:3 the apostle Paul characterizes Christian worship this way: "We are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh" (emphasis added).

Experience and history show that the human tendency to add fleshly apparatus to the worship God prescribes is incredibly strong. Israel did this in the Old Testament, culminating in the religion of the Pharisees. Pagan religions consist of nothing but fleshly ritual. The fact that such ceremonies are often beautiful and moving do not make them true worship. Scripture is clear that God condemns all human additions to what He has explicitly commanded: "In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men" (Matt. 15:9). We who love the Word of God and believe in the principle of sola Scriptura must diligently be on guard against such a tendency.

Worship Is the Ultimate Priority
To Martha, troubled to distraction with the chores of being a hostess, our Lord said, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one" (Lk. 11:41-42). The point was clear. Mary, who sat at His feet in adoration, had "chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (v. 42).

Our Lord was teaching that worship is the one essential activity that must take precedence over every other activity of life. And if that is true in our individual lives, how much more weight should we give it in the context of the assembly of believers?

The world is filled with false and superficial religion. We who love Christ and believe His word is true dare not accommodate our worship to the styles and preferences of an unbelieving world. Instead, we must make it our business to be worshipers in spirit and in truth. We must be people who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. And to do that, we must allow Scripture alone to regulate our worship.

Taken from "How Shall We Then Worship" by John F. MacArthur, Jr. from The Coming Evangelical Crisis, edited by John H. Armstrong. Copyright 1996 by the Moody Bible Institute.

John F. MacArthur, Jr. is pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA, and president of The Master's College and Seminary.

Source: Faithwalk, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2003, p. 10-15.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Blog Entry from Randy Alcorn about Francis Schaeffer and Doug

Tuesday, May 26, 2009
A Life of Humility
After seeing my recent post about Francis Schaeffer, my friend Doug Nichols, founder and international director emeritus of Action International Ministries, emailed me this story. To me, given my respect for both men, it's priceless. Thanks for sharing it with us, Doug. And thanks for being the same kind of man Francis Schaeffer showed himself to be the night you met him.

Francis Schaeffer slept here
by Doug Nichols

In 1966 I joined Operation Mobilization for a year of ministry in France, but spent two years in India instead. While in London that summer, at the one-month OM orientation, I volunteered to work on a clean-up crew late one night.

Around 12:30am I was sweeping the front steps of the Conference Centre when an older gentleman approached and asked if this was the OM conference. I told him it was, but almost everyone was in bed.

He had a small bag with him and was dressed very simply. He said he was attending the conference, so I said, "Let me see if I can find you a place to sleep." Since there were many different age groups at OM, I thought he was an older OMer.

I took him to the room where I had been sleeping on the floor with about 50 others and, seeing that he had nothing to sleep on, laid some padding and a blanket on the floor and used a towel for a pillow. He said it would be fine and he appreciated it very much.

As he was preparing for bed, I asked him if he had eaten. He had not as he had been travelling all day. I took him to the dining room but it was locked. So after picking the lock I found cornflakes, milk, bread, butter and jam—all of which he appreciated very much.

As he ate, we began to fellowship. I asked where he was from. He said he and his wife had been working in Switzerland for several years in a ministry mainly to hippies and travellers. It was wonderful to talk with him and hear about his work and those who had come to Christ. When he finished eating, we turned in for the night.

However, the next day I was in trouble! The leaders of OM really got on my case. "Don't you know who that man is on the floor next to you?" they asked. "It is Dr. Francis Schaeffer, the speaker for the conference!"

I did not know they were going to have a speaker, nor did I know who Francis Schaeffer was, nor did I know they had a special room prepared for him!

After Francis Schaeffer became well known because of his books, and I had read more about him, I thought about this occasion many times—this gracious, kind, humble man of God sleeping on the floor with OM recruits! This was the kind of man I wanted to be.

Of course, I will never attain the intellect, knowledge or wisdom of Francis Schaeffer. But I can reach out to younger people and minister to them in Christ's name by living a life of humility. What about you?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Admonish Who? or I'm Certainly Not Going to Say Anything!

“… Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ,” (Colossians 1:27-28, nasb).

Have you ever been surprised or disheartened with the conduct or teaching of pastors of large churches or directors of large ministries? Discouraged by their rudeness, crudeness, anger, language, teaching, or lavish and ostentatious life style. Many of us are intimidated and fearful to say anything, for after all we may only be a pastor of a small church of 50, so who are we to confront (even graciously) a pastor of a church of 5000? How can we speak to the conduct of a famous Christian author when we’ve never even written a book?

But should not all of us in the body of Christ encourage each in the body in our conduct and walk with God?

A pastor of a mega church speaks crudely of sex from the pulpit, publically says he does not like people (except his own family), treats others rudely and is known as the “angry” pastor. I spoke at a meeting of pastors and was seated next to this famous young pastor. He spoke to no one at the table even when spoken to. When I sought to encourage and talk to him, he simply answered with an angry stare.

Was this a time to say something like, “Hey, brother, what do you think of Paul’s instruction to the church of Colossae in Colossians chapter 3, when he says in verses 10 to 12 that as a Christian, we are to put on (so the world can see) a heart of compassion, kindness, and humility. Brother, as a pastor and teacher of the Word, is it possible to be a true believer without the evidence in our lives of things that clothe a follower of Christ."

The reason most of us would not speak (even kindly) to a “big shot” church leader like this is because we are afraid they will answer, “Who do you think you are?”

Well, we do know (or should know) who we are; we are members to each other in Christ, in His body the Church!

So, don’t be a coward like me. Tactfully in love with gracious speech (or writing) speak to those who bring shame to Christ and discouragement to those in the church. Don’t be intimidated and fooled with statements like, “I know Pastor So and So is not perfect, but look at the size of his church. He may be angry, uses crude language, and doesn’t like people, but look at all he does for the Kingdom.”

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity,” (Colossians 3:12-14, nasb).

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear,” (Ephesians 4:29, nasb).

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you,“(Ephesians 4:31-32, nasb).

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come,“(2 Corinthians 5:17, nasb).

“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf,“(2 Corinthians 5:14-15, nasb).

If our teaching, life style, and conduct do not glorify the Lord Jesus, what good is it whatever size our ministry or church is?

Monday, July 6, 2009

I'm a Coward and Possibly You Are Too!

In the Philippines, I had breakfast with one of our older missionaries who, along with his wife, works in the international community in Metro Manila.

This gracious, loving couple also has a burden for the poor and are engaged in a very effective but difficult ministry among the 20,000 prisoners in the national prison on the outskirts of Manila. What brave people they are! Such a ministry would be very hard for me, and possibly for you too.

I am 67 years old and over the years I have worked in and started ministries in dangerous places including jails and prisons, but I am basically a coward and (again I repeat) possibly you are too.

At least we can recognize our cowardliness and pray for a measure of fearlessness to do what needs to be done, brave or not. We can also trust God to raise up fearless men and women with a holy boldness to work in dangerous situations for the gospel and compassionate care for His glory.

Let’s you and I, as cowards, also pray that God would continue to raise up men and women, like you and me, who are still cowards but who will trust God anyway to be used for His glory, fearful or not.

O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain. Through God we shall do valiantly, and it is He who will tread down our adversaries (Psalm 60:11-12 NASB).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Slapped in Texas (Momma Wasn’t a Racist)

“My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:1,9, nasb).

My mother raised me on her own when my father left. Yes, we were poor living in Lubbock in the panhandle of Texas.

I walked to school barefoot many days, and after school and on Saturdays we drove to the countryside to pick cotton. When I got tired of picking as a small boy, I would hide in the shade of the cotton wagon where my mother would later find me and whip me back to the fields.

With what little we had, Mommy Ruth was the best cook in the world. On Saturdays we always had beans, onions, cornbread and buttermilk. It was like dying and going to heaven!

Mother taught me how to work hard, be thankful, be kind to others (especially older folks), and to love blacks. I still remember when I was about six or seven, I saw my first African-American. He was walking in downtown Lubbock. I stared at him and said,
“Mom, look at that black...!”
My mother was driving, but immediately slapped me hard back-handed and said,
“Douglas Lee, don’t you ever call a black person those bad words! A Negro is just as good as you will ever be. Always show respect for all people no matter what color they are.”
Now, this was the South, in Texas, in the late 1940s! Prejudiced to the core!

I remembered that painful slap for many years! Once when I was about 12 year old, I was getting on a bus in El Paso, Texas, late at night. A large black lady was getting on in front of me struggling with her luggage. I picked up one of her bags, took her by the arm, and helped her. When we got on the bus, she turned to thank me and saw this little white boy. She immediately took her arm away and said,
“Young man, you can’t do that. Don’t you know where we are (meaning the racist South)?”
I simply answered,
“Ma’am, I am more afraid of what my mom will do to me if I don’t help you than what anyone else would do.”
She smiled and said,
“Well, young man, you can just take my arm and help me all you want! I sure like your mother!”
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6:9-10, nasb).

Basic Principles of Worship Music

Because worshiper and worship cannot be treated independently of each other, Christians must understand the biblical principles that apply to the use of worship music. Dan G. MacCartney, in his article, "Music and the Worship of the Living God," enumerates these principles:

1. The worship of God, and, thus, also the music of worship, should correspond to God's character. How we worship should reflect the kind of God He is. This correspondence principle underlies all other principles.

2. The worship of God, and hence, the music of worship, should exhibit the joyful reverence and awe. This we may call the holiness principle.

3. The worship of God, and , thus, the music of worship, must conform to God's own prescriptions for worship, as contained in His Word. This we commonly call the regulative principle.

4. The worship of God, and, thus, the music of worship, should involve the whole worshiper and not just cognitive but also aesthetic, emotional, and physical aspects of our being. This is a holistic principle.

5. The worship of God, and, thus, the music of worship, should embody the best the worshiper can do. I will term this the excellence principle.

Source: Faithwalk, Vol.3, No.1, 2003, p. 26.