Tag Archive | Religion and Spirituality

Studying Your Bible

by Jarrid Wilson

Over the last few months I have had hundreds of you request a post on “How to Study The Bible.” Well, here it is. I pray this post blesses you, challenges you, and inspires you to take the initiative to deepen your relationship with God.

Below is the formula I use when studying and journaling through the scriptures. This doesn’t mean it’s the only way to study, but I do believe this formula is a great way to strengthen your foundation in Christ.

1. Uncover

1. Time/Date/Author

2. Place/Location

3. Audience (who is the text directed to?)

2. Relate

1. How does it affect me?

2. How does it make me feel?

3. In what ways do I share a similar experience?

3. Apply

1. What did I learn?

2. How can it be applied to my life?

3. What is God trying to tell me through this text?

Selecting Music For Worship (Part 2): Know Theology

by Ken Puls

How well do you know the music your church sings in worship? Can you think, for example, of a song that teaches that sin corrupts and deceives the heart? Or a song that unfolds the work of the Trinity in our salvation? If you were to measure the depth of doctrine and the breadth of truth in your church’s music for worship, what would you find?

In my last post we began considering ways that worship leaders can best prepare for the task of selecting music for worship. My first encouragement was know the Word. The first and best way to prepare for the task is to be regularly and diligently in God’s Word.

But second, and closely tied to the first, those who lead music in the church must know theology. Music is tied to theology—our songs instruct us. Music gives us voice to rehearse and remember the truth. It helps us rightly respond and rejoice in the truth.

Except for the preaching of the Word, no other ministry in the church has such a profound impact on shaping our understanding of truth than music. The music we sing helps us declare what is true about God, ourselves, and the world around us. And it embeds that truth in our thinking and in our lives. Paul makes the connection between music and truth in Colossians 3:16. He instructs us:

“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, ESV).

We want to sing and celebrate what is true. We want our music to support and undergird the teaching and preaching ministry of the church. For this to happen we must be wise and discerning in what we choose to sing. We must know the truth and be able to recognize lyrics that are rich in truth, lyrics that are light on truth, and lyrics that stray from the truth.

So commit yourself to study theology. Read sound, theological books. Learn to think theologically about your church’s music. Peruse and evaluate the lyrics of music you are using or considering for use in worship. Along with looking for quotes, allusions, and connections to specific Scripture references in each song, ask yourself: What theological truths does this song teach?

One of the methods I have used to help me think theologically about music is to compile a Theological Index of Church Music. I started the index twenty years ago as a project for one of my PhD seminars in seminary. I created both an outline of theological topics and a list of song titles (psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs) that we were singing at the church where I was leading worship. Then I created the index by working through the lyrics of each song, line by line, listing the song title under each entry in the outline that was stated or affirmed in the song. The resulting index provided a valuable resource, not just for selecting songs by theological topic, but for evaluating the scope and content of our church’s music.

You can find the Theological Outline here along with a list of some of the books I used to compile the outline.

I have resisted  (for now) posting my full Theological Index of Church Music. I recognize that each church will have its own compilation of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs that it knows and sings well. I have also discovered that much of the benefit in having the list is the time spent creating it—thinking through lyrics and evaluating strengths and weaknesses.

Here, however, are a few entries from my opening questions:

Songs that teach that sin corrupts and deceives the heart

  • All I Have Is Christ (Jordan Kauflin – Sovereign Grace Music)
  • And Can It Be (Charles Wesley / Thomas Campbell – PD)
  • No, Not Despairingly, Come I to Thee (Horatius Bonar – PD)

Songs that unfold the work of the Trinity in our salvation

  • Heavenly Father, Beautiful Son (by Mark Altrogge – Sovereign Grace Music)
  • Come Praise and Glorify (by Bob Kauflin / Tim Chester – Sovereign Grace Music)
  • Wonderful, Merciful Savior (by Dawn Rodgers and Eric Wyse – Word Music)

The Holy Spirit and Ethics… Part I

by R. Keith Whitt

INTRODUCTION

Can the Holy Spirit make a difference in a person’s life? Of course He can. But that really isn’t the question most of us should be asking. If you are a believer or have been associated with a Bible-believing church for any period of time, you know the answer is “yes.”

Will I yield to the Holy Spirit so He will enable me to make ethical decisions? This is the right question! The central truth of this lesson is “The Holy Spirit influences Christians to live ethically.” One of the Holy Spirit’s roles here on earth is to lead us in truth. Truth enables us to make right ethical choices, regardless of how difficult some of the choices may be. Although Scripture doesn’t always provide a “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not” statement for each of the situations we encounter, the principles are there. We then must have the wisdom and strength to make the right choice, regardless of the economic or positional impact.

The desires of our flesh are often at war with spiritual truth. In those situations we need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to forge ahead and do what is right. No one is exempt from these settings; however, some believers may face more of them due to the nature of their work and their personality. For example, if you are a person who greatly desires the approval of others, you might be prone to make decisions that make you “look good” and receiving the acclaim of others. Or, perhaps your income is determined by sales and commissions. Will you “stretch the truth” to make the sale?

When believers allow the Holy Spirit to guide their lifestyle and decisions, there will be no ethical conflicts or compromises. We will do what is right, even if it hurts. However, doing right always brings the blessing of God’s favor despite the discomfort of our choice.

Making ethical decisions enables a believer to “sleep soundly” at night, knowing truth based on the Word of God and the guidance of Holy Spirit has prevailed.

I. SPIRIT-TRANSFORMED LIFE (John 16:8; Titus 3:3-8; 1 Cor. 6:19-20)

A. Freed by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8; Titus 3:3-8)

John 16:8. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.

Titus 3:3. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.

4. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,

5. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

6. Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

7. That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

8. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

One aspect of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is clearly stated in the initial verse of our lesson (John 16:8). He is here to repress the actions of sin. One dimension of that occurs within the life of believers. If believers cannot live ethically and eradicate sinful tendencies in their lives, how can they expect sinners in their fallen moral state to follow paths of righteousness?

Usually we see the role of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter – the One who stands alongside to defend. However, here we see the Spirit on the other side of the legal fence. He stands as the prosecutor bringing attention to people’s sins. The purpose isn’t just to cause people to feel guilty, but to bring them to righteousness.

The Holy Spirit’s convicting work in a person’s life is what causes her or him to realize their pitiful condition. As Paul writes to Titus, he lists specifics of unbelievers’ sinfulness. We understand not all unbelievers are involved in every type of sinful activity. However, the unbeliever is heavily influenced by personal passions and the desire for pleasure which may be immoral and/or illegal (3:3). This leads to foolish and disobedient actions which may result in ongoing consequences.

Paul emphasizes how sin deceives. It may cause us to assume we are having “the time of our life” or on the road to great happiness when in reality this is a major deception. Instead of being on the road of freedom we are enslaved. This enslavement could be to drugs, sex, greed, or frivolity. All of them speak of being in bondage to the enemy of our soul who seeks to destroy us.

Rescue from this state of bondage cannot occur by our own attempts to do good. No number of positive deeds will change our sinfulness into righteousness; only “the kindness and love of God our Saviour” (v. 4) can save us. Verse 5 emphasizes the process of spiritual renewal being the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, which makes us “heirs having the hope of eternal life” (v. 7 NIV).

The freedom we experience through the work of the Holy Spirit isn’t totally separated from our own actions. We cooperate and maintain what has been done in our lives by daily following a lifestyle of holiness which is in accord with God’s Word (v. 8), but even that is made possible through God’s grace.

B. Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

19. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

20. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Though we are freed by the Spirit and enjoy Christian liberty, there still are rules of conduct which govern how we live. Here at the end of a definitive statement on sexual immorality (vv. 12-20), Paul presents the biblical view of the believer’s human body.

He clearly underscores the unity of the spiritual and the physical. Our physical body isn’t an entity separate from our spiritual nature. Unlike those who say the actions of the body have no connection with the spiritual relationship with God, Paul points to our body being “a temple of the Holy Spirit” (v. 19 NIV). His indwelling and covering of us places us at the service of God. We are not being independent self-serving agents. At the price of Christ’s sacrificial death, we can be free from the bondage of sin. Once we accept this offering, a transfer of ownership occurs. Now we are Christ’s! The Holy Spirit’s regenerating work places us in the privileged position of glorifying God (v. 20). This is to take place in the words of our mouth and the actions of our bodies.

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!

The Light of Faith

Focus Verse of the Week

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. (Philippians 2:14-16)

Classic Commentary

[The believers were called to] unity of spirit by grace, and a walk according to God, so that they may be as heavenly lights amid the moral darkness of this world. [They were] to always carry, and thus hold forth, the word of life: such was Paul’s desire. Thus, they would give proof by the constancy and practical effect of their faith, that the apostle had not run or labored in vain; and they would themselves be his glory in the day of Christ. (Oh, if the church had continued that way! Be that as it may, Christ will be glorified.)

The apostle unites his work and the reward in the day of Christ with the blessing of the assembly. He would not be separated from it in his death. This union of heart and faith is very touching. He presents himself as capable of being poured out (that is to say, his life) upon the sacrifice and service of the Philippians’ faith.

(Adapted from the John Darby’s Synopsis of the New Testament.)

A Thought to Keep

Is your faith lived out so consistently that others see you as being a light that shines in a dark world?

Keep Moving

keep going or moving don't stop continue don't give up

“Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the Israelites to move on.”  Exodus 14:15

Moses had brought the whole nation of Israel, approximately 600,000, to a dead end in the desert. The only thing between Israel and Pharaoh’s pursuing army was the Red Sea. This was after ten plagues God had inflicted on Pharaoh to motivate him to free the Israelites. Finally, Pharaoh had freed Moses and the people, and they left Egypt. They thought they were home free.

“Freedom at last,” they said.

But God did a strange thing. He directed Moses to take a route that led to the Red Sea, instead of the northern route around the Red Sea. God explained that He didn’t want them fighting the enemies they would have encountered on this route. But still, there was the issue of the Red Sea.

They finally arrived at the Red Sea, and the people were wondering where they would go from there. News hit the camp: Pharaoh had changed his mind. He was coming after them with his army. Panic set in.

God sometimes brings each of us to a “Red Sea” in our life. It may be a work problem that can’t be solved. It may be a marriage that seems to be failing. It may be a debilitating disease. Whatever your Red Sea, God tells us one thing: “Keep moving.” The Red Sea was before them, yet God was angered at Moses and told him to “Keep moving.”

“But Lord, the Red Sea is before me.”

“Keep moving.”

When we live by sight, we act on what we see. God sets this stage in dramatic fashion. God is into the dramatic. There is no way out without God here. That is just the way He wants it. No one will get glory except God.

A friend once admonished me when I was in the midst of an extremely difficult time in my life, “You must not withdraw from being proactive in your faith just because of this trial that you are in. God’s hand is on your life. There are too many who are depending on you to fulfill the purposes God has in your life. Keep moving! Keep investing yourself in others.”

I didn’t feel like it. I was in too much pain. But I did it anyway.

God met me at the point of my greatest need once I decided simply to be obedient. Getting past myself by investing myself in others helped heal the pain.

There is great healing when we look past our own problems and seek to invest ourselves in others for the sake of Christ. This is when our own Red Seas become parted. We begin to walk to freedom.

But we will never experience the miracle of the Red Sea in our lives if we don’t first “Keep moving.”

–by Os Hillman


Chained to the World

Focus Verse of the Week

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. (Ecclesiastes 3:14)

Classic Commentary

Every thing is as God made it; not as it appears to us. We have the world in our hearts so much and are so taken up with thoughts and cares of worldly things, that we have neither time nor spirit to see God’s hand in them. The world has not only gained control of the heart, but has formed thoughts against the beauty of God’s works. We are mistaken if we think we were born for ourselves; no, it is our business to do good in this life, which is short and uncertain; we have but little time to be doing good. Therefore, we should redeem the time. Satisfaction with Divine Providence is having faith that all things work together for good to them that love Him.

(Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible.)

A Thought to Keep

Are you tied up so much in the world that you miss what God is doing? Pay attention to the good He does for you this week

Credit: (BibleStudyTool)