Tag Archive | Lord

Selecting Music for Worship (Part 1): Know The Word

Leading God’s people in song is a great joy. It is a rewarding responsibility to sing and play psalms and hymns and spiritual songs in praise to God. But like other aspects of worship—reading and preaching God’s Word, lifting up prayers in behalf of the congregation—with the joy comes labor. It takes time to plan and prepare music for worship. This is especially evident given the reality that the task of worship is ongoing. Week by week, music must be selected, ordered and rehearsed. There is always a service coming.

So what is the best way to plan music for worship? How can worship leaders, given the task each week to select music for the services, make the best use of their time and efforts? How can they avoid the ruts of simply resorting to favorites or choosing what’s trendy? How can they guard against weariness and wearing out over time?

There is no simple solution to finding the right songs for the right service, but there are some vital ways that worship leaders can prepare themselves to be ready for the task. Those who give direction to the music of the church must learn to be students, and not just students of the music itself—giving attention to tunes, lyrics and arrangements. In the next several posts, I will explore three areas of study that every worship leader should seek to master:

  1. Know the Word
  2. Know Theology
  3. Know Your Church

My first encouragement to those who lead music in the church is know the Word. This of course applies to all worship leaders—to those who read and preach God’s Word, to those who lift up prayers in behalf of the congregation, as well as to those who lead in singing God’s praise. We must immerse ourselves in Scripture. The first and best way to prepare for the task of selecting music for worship is to be regularly and diligently in God’s Word.

In John 4 Jesus taught on the essence of true worship:

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him (John 4:23).

If we are to worship God rightly, we need to preach, sing, and pray the truths of the Bible and we need the life-giving work of God’s Spirit quickening our spirits that we might understand, embrace and apply those truths to our lives. So as we plan for worship, our two greatest priorities should be to 1) saturate our services with the Word of God, and 2) pray earnestly for the power of God’s Spirit to illumine His truth that we might walk in its light.

Paul echoes this emphasis of spirit and truth when he teaches the church about music. In Ephesians 5 he exhorts the church to:

…be filled with the Spirit,  addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart (Ephesians 5:18–19).

In a parallel passage in Colossians 3 he says:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).

It is essential that our music be rooted in the truth of God’s Word and in the work of His Spirit. As we preview the lyrics of songs, we should look for quotes, allusions, and connections to God’s Word. If we are to sing in a way that lets the word of Christ dwell in us richly, we need to:

  1. Sing the words of Scripture (from Psalms and other passages)
  2. Sing words that are filled with the truth of Scripture
  3. Sing words that help us rightly understand Scripture
  4. Sing words that help us rightly respond to Scripture

Consider, for example, the hymn How Firm a Foundation. One of the reasons this hymn has endured the test of time is its faithfulness to Scripture. The opening verse speaks of the value of resting our faith in God’s “excellent Word.” The remaining verses then rehearse several promises from the Bible. Read through the lyrics and see how many passages come to mind.

How Firm a Foundation
(from John Rippon’s Selection of Hymns, 1787)

1.  How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

2.  In every condition—in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home, or abroad, on land, on the sea,
“As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.”

3. “Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed;
For I am Thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”

4. “When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”

5. “When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
May grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.”

6. “E’en down to old age all my people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.”

7. “The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

(Click here to see the lyrics of hymn with the passages of Scripture listed)

We want to select and sing music in the church that will let God’s Word dwell in us richly. We want songs that are biblically sound, songs that will teach and edify, not amuse and entertain. We want to recognize and cast aside songs that are in error or are lacking in truth. We want to identify and keep songs that will help us interpret, verbalize, and respond to truth, songs that will serve and undergird the preaching and teaching ministry of the church.

But in order to recognize such music, and find fitting places for that music in the life of the church, we need to know the Word of God. So commit yourself to being a student of God’s Word. Be in the Bible every day. Read it, study it, memorize it. Take notes as you read. Look for connections between the lyrics of your church’s songs and the verses of Scripture. Note where those connections are lacking. Highlight where those connections are strong. As a worship leader and musician, aim to be well-rehearsed, not just in the music you plan to sing, but in the Scriptures you intend to teach, proclaim and celebrate. Know the Word!

Quiet Time

Bible Study

A quiet time is an intimate, face-to-face, heart-to-heart connection with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. It’s the time when you actually build your relationship with Jesus. Specifically, it is a time for you to get up every day and read the Bible and pray and get closer to Him.

A lot of people say to think to themselves: “I prayed a prayer, but I don’t feel closer to God; or I felt really close to God when I was at that retreat or camp, but now I don’t feel very close to Him.”

You’re not going to feel close to anybody if you’re not spending time with them.

If you were married and didn’t spend time with your spouse, the two of you would not grow any closer. Actually, you would move farther and farther apart.

A quiet time is an expression of your commitment to be a true follower of Christ. It’s as if you’re saying, “Lord, I’m going to make sure that I don’t accidentally get farther and farther away from You. In fact, I’m going to use this time to get closer and closer to You.

I’m going to use it as a time to get fed by You and to get filled up with You and to understand more of You.” Before you do anything else, start your day with God. Talk to Him, seek Him in His Word and pray through your day.

Make it your top priority.

Maybe you’ve never had a quiet time with God before. Start thinking about what kind of quiet time you want to have and where you want to have it.

Think about what time you need to get up in order to have enough time to read your Bible and pray before you start your day with the world.

Your personal relationship with God is the dynamite that it will take to affect this generation. You will begin to spread the gospel as your character becomes like Christ. This transformation process can only happen in direct relationship with Christ.

The more we know Jesus, and look like Him, the easier it will be to lead people to him.

by Ron Luce

Wisely Handling the Bible’s Wise Sayings

by R.C. Sproul

Every culture seems to have its own unique, collected wisdom, pithy insights of the wise. Oftentimes, these tidbits of wisdom are preserved in the form of the proverb. We have proverbial sayings in American culture. I am thinking of sayings such as “A stitch in time saves nine” or “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

The Bible, of course, has an entire book of such pithy sayings — the book of Proverbs. However, this compilation of proverbial wisdom is different from all other such collections in that these sayings reflect not just human wisdom but divine wisdom, for these proverbs are inspired by God.

Still, we must be very careful in how we approach and implement these wise sayings. Simply because they are inspired does not mean that the biblical proverbs are like laws, imposing a universal obligation. Yet, some people treat them as if they were divine commandments. If we regard them in that way, we run into all kinds of trouble. Even divinely inspired proverbs do not necessarily apply to all life situations. Rather, they reflect insights that are generally true.

To illustrate this point, let me remind you of two of our own culture’s proverbs. First, we often say, “Look before you leap.” That is a valuable insight. But we have another proverb that seems to contradict it: “He who hesitates is lost.” If we tried to apply both of these proverbs at the same time and in the same way in every situation, we would be thoroughly confused. In many situations, wisdom dictates that we examine carefully where we should place our steps next so that we are not moving blindly. At the same time, we cannot be so paralyzed in our evaluation of the pros and cons of our next move that we hesitate too long before making a decision and lose opportunities when they present themselves to us.

Naturally, it does not really bother us to find seemingly contradictory proverbs in our own cultural wisdom. But when we discover them in the Bible, we find ourselves wrestling with questions about the trustworthiness of Scripture. Let me cite one well-known example. The book of Proverbs says, “Answer not a fool according to his folly” (Proverbs 26:4). Then, in the very next verse, we read, “Answer a fool according to his folly” (Proverbs 26:5). How can we follow these opposite instructions? How can both be statements of wisdom?

Again, just as in the example I gave above, the answer depends on the situation. There are certain circumstances when it is not wise to answer a fool according to his folly, but there are other circumstances when it is wise to answer a fool according to his folly. Proverbs 26:4 says, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself” (emphasis added). If someone is speaking foolishness, it is generally not wise to try to talk to him. Such a discussion will go nowhere, and the one who tries to carry on the discussion with the fool is in danger of falling into the same foolishness. In other words, there are circumstances when we are better off saying nothing.

At other times, however, it can be helpful to answer a fool according to his folly. Proverbs 26:5says, “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (emphasis added). Although it was made an art form by the ancient Greek philosophers, the Hebrews understood and in biblical teaching sometimes used one of the most effective ways of arguing with another person. I am referring to the reductio ad absurdum, which reduces the other person’s argument to absurdity. By means of this technique, it is possible to show a person the necessary, logical conclusion that flows out of his argument, and so demonstrate that his premises lead ultimately to an absurd conclusion. So, when a person has a foolish premise and gives a foolish argument, it can at times be very effective to answer the fool according to his folly. You step over onto his territory and say, “Okay, I’ll take your position for argument’s sake, and I’m going to take it to its logical conclusion and show you the foolishness of it.”

So, the book of Proverbs is concerned to give us practical guidelines for daily experience. It is a neglected t treasure of the Old Testament, with untold riches lying in wait in its pages to guide our lives. It holds real, concrete advice that comes from the mind of God Himself. If we want wisdom, this is the fountain from which to drink. He who is foolish will neglect this fountain. He who is hungry for God’s wisdom will drink deeply from it. We need to listen to the wisdom of God so that we can cut through the many distractions and confusions of modern life. But, as with the entirety of the Word of God, we need to be zealous to learn how to handle the book of Proverbs properly.

 

Evidence of Real Change

Focus Verse of the Week

“If you return, O Israel, declares the LORD, to me you should return. If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver, 2 and if you swear, ‘As the LORD lives,’ in truth, in justice, and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.” 3 For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. 4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.” (Jeremiah 4:1-4)

Classic Commentary

In Jeremiah and Deuteronomy 30:6, we find the spiritual significance of circumcision. A prophet like Jeremiah was not likely to attach much importance to an external act like circumcision. He bluntly tells his countrymen that they are no better than Egyptians, Edomites, Moabites and Ammonites. They are uncircumcised in heart. Paul uses the term concision for this outward circumcision unaccompanied by any spiritual change (Philippians 3:2). The question of circumcision occasioned a protracted strife among the early Christians. Judaizing Christians argued for the necessity of circumcision. It was a reminiscence of the unrelenting particularism which had sprung up during the prolonged oppression of the Greek and Roman period. According to their view salvation was of the Jews and for the Jews. It was necessary to become a Jew in order to become a Christian. Paul consented to circumcision in the case of Timothy “because of the Jews” (Acts 16:3). But he saw that a principle was at stake and in most of his epistles he points out the sheer futility of the contention of the Judaizers.

(Adapted from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.)

A Thought to Keep

Outward forms of faith do not impress God if there’s no evidence of a changed, repentant heart. Examine yourself to see where you stand.

 

Hardship and Opportunity

By Ed Welch

“What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about conflict?”

Ken Sande asked this question at a conference I attended. He could have asked “what is the first thing” or “what are the first fifty things.” For me, the answers would all be variations on the same theme. I hate conflict; I want to run from it. The “things” that come to my mind about conflict are: hate, loathe and avoid.
Then he asked, “How many people thought “opportunity?”
Not me. Not in a million years, even if I could cheat by consulting a dictionary or Wikipedia. To me, conflict is misery—not an opportunity. But the word opportunity is gradually sinking in because it is crammed with prominent themes from Scripture.
Think about this:
Start with how our God—our Father—sovereignly reigns.
      No detail is random and haphazard.
Add that he will accomplish his good purposes.
      He will make us more and more like Jesus.
Now add hardships.
      Our sufferings have new meaning since the cross.
What you get is opportunity.
Since God is sovereign and has good purposes, hardships are opportunities. They must be.
Many people have already learned this. Here is what some of them have said.
That “C” on the exam—is an opportunity to live by faith in Jesus rather than in my perceived successes.
That hard marriage—is an opportunity to love as I have been loved.
That miscarriage—is an opportunity to know that my Father has unlimited compassion for his children and I can trust him.
That cancer—(and this is really a hard one) is an opportunity to die well and show my children what it means to live and die by faith.
And we could go on. That traffic ticket, that car accident, that lost job, that plumbing problem, that neighbor . . . . how different life would be if we snuck in an “opportunity” or two each day.
Joseph understood. “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). His time in an Egyptian prison was an opportunity.
Paul understood too. “We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 2:9). His near death experiences were the perfect opportunity. You can almost hear him say, “These are just what I needed.”
There is no stiff upper lip in these opportunities. Hardships can be so painful, and our Father certainly encourages us to speak of those hardships to him. But opportunity says that hardships, for God’s children, never come without hope. And, with practice, we can discover that hope carries the most weight.

 

How Jesus Emptied Himself

by Dr. James MacDonald

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. — Philippians 2:5-8

This passage is so rich; we only have space to examine one jewel. It’s the phrase, He “made himself nothing” (v.7a). Notice, Jesus “made Himself.” He didn’t get a memo. He wasn’t pushed out of heaven. He was fully engaged in God’s whole plan!

That phrase there, “made himself nothing,” is actually the basis for a lot of false teaching. Some translations rightly put it, “He emptied Himself.” Then the question becomes, emptied Himself of what? Some falsely suggest that Jesus emptied Himself of Deity and that He literally became a first-century Jewish man; that there was no God, just Jesus, the man. But the Bible teaches the Incarnation of Jesus, 100 percent God; 100 percent man, undiminished Deity dwelling in humanity.

You ask, “Well, what did He empty Himself of then?”

Answer, at least five things:

He emptied Himself of glory. In John 17:5, Jesus prayed, “Glorify me… with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” He gave up the adoration of the saints and angels when He came into this world.

He emptied Himself of independent authority. In John 5:30, Jesus said, “I can do nothing on My own.” He brought Himself into a different relationship with the Father, where ALL of His activities and actions had to be cleared in that unusual way. Though equal with the Father, now uniquely submissive to Him.

He released the voluntary exercise of His divine attributes. Compare John 1:43-51 with Matthew 24:36 to see how Jesus sometimes was omniscient and sometimes not.

He gave up eternal riches. I just want you to try to imagine for a moment the treatment that the Son of God, the King of the universe, gets in heaven. Yet 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “…though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

He gave up His intimate relationship with the Father. Who can describe the fellowship that exists between the first and second Person of the Trinity? And to hear Jesus on the cross in Matthew 27:46 shouting, “My God, why have You forsaken Me?” He made Himself nothing—for you and me

 

Are You Concerned About Your Future?

by Kay Arthur

O Beloved, do you know that what concerns you is of the utmost concern to God? If you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, every need, every trial, every temptation that touches you, touches God, because you are part of His Son. You are bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh. You belong to Jesus. He is your Savior, your Lord, your Head, your Elder Brother—a joint-heir with you.

As His child, this is why God tells you to humble yourself by casting every single care, everything that makes you anxious, worried, or upset upon Him. You are His sheep. He is your Shepherd.

Cast your cares on Him! Do not walk in pride, thinking you must bear it alone, figure it out, and somehow “make it” on your own. Humility admits need and says, “I cannot, but, God, You can!”

First Peter 5:6 and 7 says: “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

Did you notice that I underlined the word “because” in that verse? I want you to see and know just how precious you are to Him. You have worth, value, purpose! Whether you believe it or not, it is true.

If there’s a little voice inside you saying anything to the contrary, just know it is the voice of the serpent of old, Satan, who is the personification of doubt. He is the father of lies. He wants to convince you that whatever happens, you are on your own. Everything depends on you. That’s a lie.

That is why the exhortation in 1 Peter 5:7, “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you,” is followed by these words: “Be of sober spirit.” In other words, don’t let your mind take you where you shouldn’t go; keep your thoughts under control.

First Peter 5:8 says: “Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

When you forget how precious you are to your Father God, when you think He doesn’t care, or that He won’t or can’t care because of something you have done, or because of who you are, then, dear one, you are being devoured by the devil, and believe me, he is not toothless! He can chew you up and spit you out emotionally if you don’t do what God says.

If you are afraid to commit yourself to God, to roll your burden onto His shoulders and leave it there (that is the metaphor behind “casting all your anxiety on Him”), then I can tell you this with utmost certainty, you don’t have a proper understanding of God’s character nor of His sovereignty.

The movie Braveheart was based on a true story of a Scottish hero who captured the hearts of millions. One of the main characters from the original story was Robert Bruce. The story is not in the movie, but Robert Bruce, like the movie character, Braveheart, endured persecution.

At one point when Robert Bruce was fleeing from those who would take his life, he ducked into a small cave. His persecutors searched the countryside for him, inspecting every possible hiding place. When they came to the cave where Bruce was actually hiding, one of the men ducked to go in and check out the cave, and noticing a spider’s web, called to the others, telling them there was no need to go into the cave. They were convinced he couldn’t have entered the cave without breaking the spider’s web.

Overhearing them, and with a sigh of relief and trembling lips, Robert Bruce breathed this prayer: “O God, I thank Thee that in the tiny bowels of a spider you can place me a shelter.”

Yes, God is able to care for you right down to sending spiders to hide you. And He will, because you are precious to Him and what concerns you is of the utmost concern to Him.

My friend, every single detail of your life is important to God. Continue to know God by studying His Word for yourself. Keep seeking Him daily, for He cares for you! Give Him this day, this month, this year, and give Him your future.