November 26, 2007

Defense against slander

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.

1 Peter 3:13-17

I have always thought that 1 Peter 3:16-17 referred to non-believers speaking evil of believers. As I read this today, I realized that I may have been narrowing the field of slanderers more than the text calls for.

The context of this Scripture passage seems to indicate those of faith, not non-believers. In verse 8 we are given the directive to "be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing...." This is quite clearly speaking of the household of faith, in spite of the fact that it mentions evil against a brother and reviling against a brother.

I have at times been the recipient of such evil, reviling, and slander. And I have been the originator of such things as well. This scripture tells us how we are to handle such things when we are the victim: "be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed."

It is hard to not seek revenge against those who have slandered and misrepresented you. It is hard to maintain a humble and meek spirit when brothers in Christ commit evil against you. It is even harder to to bless them during these times—but that is exactly what we are commanded to do (v. 9).

November 19, 2007

Avoid foolish questions

From C.H. Spurgeon's Morning and Evening devotional:

Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.

Our days are few, and are far better spent in doing good, than in disputing over matters which are, at best, of minor importance. The old schoolmen did a world of mischief by their incessant discussion of subjects of no practical importance; and our Churches suffer much from petty wars over abstruse points and unimportant questions. After everything has been said that can be said, neither party is any the wiser, and therefore the discussion no more promotes knowledge than love, and it is foolish to sow in so barren a field. Questions upon points wherein Scripture is silent; upon mysteries which belong to God alone; upon prophecies of doubtful interpretation; and upon mere modes of observing human ceremonials, are all foolish, and wise men avoid them. Our business is neither to ask nor answer foolish questions, but to avoid them altogether; and if we observe the apostle’s precept (Titus 3:8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.) to be careful to main-tain good works, we shall find ourselves far too much occupied with profitable business to take much interest in unworthy, contentious, and needless strivings.

There are, however, some questions which are the reverse of foolish, which we must not avoid, but fairly and honestly meet, such as these: Do I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Am I renewed in the spirit of my mind? Am I walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit? Am I growing in grace? Does my conversation adorn the doctrine of God my Sav-ior? Am I looking for the coming of the Lord, and watching as a servant should do who expects his master? What more can I do for Jesus? Such enquiries as these urgently de-mand our attention; and if we have been at all given to caviling, let us now turn our criti-cal abilities to a service so much more profitable. Let us be peace-makers, and endeavor to lead others both by our precept and example, to “avoid foolish questions.”

November 14, 2007

Power to the people!

Deep within man dwell those slumbering powers; powers that would astonish him, that he never dreamed of possessing; forces that would revolutionize his life if aroused and put into action.
—Orison Swett Marden

November 13, 2007

Wisdom from C.H. Spurgeon

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
—Ezekiel 36:26–27

The hard heart does not love the Redeemer, but the renewed heart burns with affection towards Him. Many are the privileges of this renewed heart: it is here the Spirit dwells, it is here that Jesus rests. It is fitted to receive every spiritual blessing, and every blessing comes to it. It is prepared to yield every heavenly fruit to the honor and praise of God, and, therefore, the Lord delights in it. A tender heart is the best defense against sin and the best preparation for heaven. A renewed heart stands on its water tower looking for the coming of the Lord Jesus. Have you this heart of flesh?

November 12, 2007

High Tech In-fighting

Church life offers many new challenges. Worldly desires and methods can creep in and the sanctuary becomes a war zone. Church fights turn high-tech: Web is new weapon of choice tells a sad story about the state of many current evangelical churches. Not knowing the inside story on this, I cannot comment directly to the situtation. But whatever the leaders of this church are doing wrong, the internet is not the place to air dirty laundry. I believe this use of the internet directly conflicts with the biblical injunction against "casting pearls before pigs" (Matthew 7:6).

I have tried to use my blog to discuss general matters of culture, philosophy, and ecclesiology. But at times I have come perilously close to casting pearls before the pigs. I would like to thank "Steve," who responded to my post "Why Hymns" and reminded me of the danger involved in taking frustrations to a public forum. Steve was concerned, and rightly so, that I was heading the direction of the article linked above.

I have removed the post entitled "Why Hymns" for this reason. I may come back to address the issue of the quality of music in churches at a future time. But now is not that time.

May we all seek to live in such a way as would draw attention to Christ and his magnificent love for fallen mankind rather than seeking to push our own agendas, whether we are sitting in the pew and feeling powerless or have some sense of authority and power because of our position in the church. No matter what our strata, we are sinners saved by grace through faith, "and it is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.

Thank you Steve.

November 05, 2007

Why hymns?

I recently heard a new praise song that I believe demonstrates the horrendous slide past mediocrity and into absolute garbage in the realm of church music. By way of comparison, the words to this song, "Father of Lights," and the words to "Holy, Holy Holy" will be presented below, followed by a verse that directly applies to the discussion.

Father of Lights

Father of lights
you delight in your children
Father of lights
you delight in your children

Every good and perfect gift comes from you
Every good and perfect gift comes from you
Every good and perfect gift comes from you
Father of lights

In defense of this song—it is taken directly from scripture (James 1:17—Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.)But the overly repetitive presentation of the lyrics is an example of extremely bad poetry and lyricism. The presentation of this song that I recently heard included the singing of the chorus five times and the first verse twice. There was one additional verse in between the two repetitions of the first verse, which said no more than the first verse, but said it in just as repetitive a way.

By way of comparison:

Holy, Holy, Holy

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. —Matthew 6:7 ESV

November 04, 2007

Cell phone jammers and worship jammers

I have recently been considering the issue of so-called "vertical worship"—the concept that when we worship God in church, we are to have a one-on-one relationship and communication with God. This trendy concept completely abandons the historical "corporate worship" tradition. Yes, we are to have and cherish our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We are to be grateful to God the Father for His providence and for preparing a way to overcome our sins and the damage our sins caused. We are to seek the personal guidance of the Holy Spirit. But when we come together for fellowship with the saints, we are to worship corporately. This means keeping in mind the worship of those around us. We should seek to help our brothers and sisters in Christ to worship God along with us.

An article about cell phone jamming technology brought this consideration to the forefront of my mind. Here is a quote from that article:

“If anything characterizes the 21st century, it’s our inability to restrain ourselves for the benefit of other people,” said James Katz, director of the Center for Mobile Communication Studies at Rutgers University.

I think Mr. Katz has hit the nail squarely on the head. And the problem is seen well within the walls of the church.

Just as the inconsiderate cell phone users chatter away in their one-on-one conversations with whomever, many well-meaning Christians chatter away with God in their one-on-One vertical worship, completely disregarding and totally disrespecting the gathered saints around them.

Cell phone chattering is quite annoying, but is not usually too much of a problem. It can be more of a problem when someone is trying to give a speech and the people in the audience continue to pursue their one-on-one conversations through their cell phones. But when the speaker decides to pursue a personal one-on-one conversation in the middle of his speech, the problem has gone way over the line. This video shows such an example:

What does this have to do with worship?

The goal of the worship leader should be to help those in the congregation worship God together in an organized manner—singing as one. When our worship leaders decide that they want to pursue their personal one-on-one vertical relationship with God by using the music that they personally find worshipful in spite of the fact that there are many people in the congregation who prefer to speak to God in a different genre, Guliani's gaffe has entered the church.

The Church, becoming more like the world

In this regard, the Church is way ahead of the world in showing disrespect to each other and in valuing ourselves more highly than anyone else. It is the duty of church leaders to provide an opportunity for everyone to be corporately involved in the music of the church. This must take into account the tastes and musical traditions of the saints. As they are led by the Holy Spirit, they will also desire the benefit of those around them—thus, they will not force their own musical desires on everyone else. But rather, everyone will be presented with something that helps them to worship God and everyone will be introduced to cross-cultural worship (different genres of music or presentation style) as well. This is the entire basis for congregational church government and for the biblical concept of freedom of conscience.

When we force our favorite musical genres on others, we set them up to be just as selfish as we are. Eventually we end up with what has been called "the Worship Wars."

It's a sad state of affairs for present-day evangelicalism. May God forgive us for our selfishness.

November 03, 2007

Sound thoughts, solid advice

You can stand tall without standing on someone. You can be a victor without having victims.
Harriet Woods

Follow an old path and you find the expected. Blaze a new trail and you have an adventure.

Be still and know that I am God
—Psalm 36:10

And we were told it was just a "tissue blob"

Which of these two would you choose to murder?

This story tells us about a fetus who refused to die when the doctors attempted multiple abortions. Those "tissue blobs" can really be survivalists at times—obviously a source of great frustration to those who refuse to admit that abortion is murder.

We cannot try to undo what God has done. It is just as important regarding the sanctity of every human life as it is regarding marriage.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
—Psalm 139:13