Tag Archives: church

No Lamb Cuddles

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This past weekend, I was able to gain firsthand experience of one of Jesus’ parables. A friend’s parents own a sheep farm, and while visiting him and his wife with another friend, he asked if I would like to see the lambs and possibly get a cuddle.

Umm, yes, please!

While giving a tour of the sheep farm, he explained that we would be going to a field where 1-year lambs were grazing with rams, rather than visiting the field where lambs were with the ewes, because the ewes can become feisty, while the rams remain chill. It reminded me of the difference between some mothers and fathers— mothers tend to be more protective and careful, while fathers tend to be more relaxed when it comes to their children.

As we drew near to the sheep, although they were mildly curious, they did not recognize our voices, so they would not come near, and some even moved further away. No matter how sweetly we spoke to the sheep and tried to convince them to come near, there were no lamb cuddles for us that day. My friend said that if his mother, their shepherdess, was with us, they would have come running as soon as they heard her.

Jesus’ parable, directed toward the Pharisees, stated that His sheep follow Him because they recognize His voice, but will never follow a stranger and will even run away, because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice. The point Jesus was making to the religious leaders, who were considered by most Jews to be closest to God, was they were not recognizing Him as being from God, because they were not His sheep and even accused Him of being a demon possessed sinner. Instead of recognizing God’s voice and following Jesus as the Good Shepherd, they refused to follow Him and were even trying to kill Him and steal His sheep by trying to convince people to believe and follow them! I have come across people who are so done with religion and traditional church, myself included, but still believe in God. Could it be that we are running away, because we realize some of the voices don’t really sound like Jesus’?

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Godly Songs Are Not Repetitious and Are Full of Doctrine. Oh Really?

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A few weeks ago, I attended a local event hosted by a church, which was also attended by several pastors within their association. Have you ever heard Christians dis other churches for singing anything other than hymns? They say things like, “Godly music must be rich in doctrine,” or “Songs of worship should not be repetitious. That’s what’s wrong with today’s contemporary songs. They’re just fluff,” and they actually call the songs that other churches sing “ungodly”. I often wonder if they have ever read, studied or been helped by the book of Psalms.

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Psalm 136 is an example of a psalm that contains a lot of repetition:

An exhortation to give thanks to God for particular mercies

O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.

O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever:

The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever:

The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever:

And brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever:

With a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever:

And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever:

But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:

And slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:

Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth for ever:

And Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endureth for ever:

And gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endureth for ever:

Even an heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:

And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever.

O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.

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Is Psalm 136 ungodly and unsuitable for church worship because it is repetitious? If not, then why are contemporary songs rejected simply because they contain some repetition?

The song in the video below is the cry of a broken heart, a crushed spirit due to the loss of a child. The lyrics reveal the struggle of the heart to continue trusting in God— “To think that Providence would take a child from his mother while she prays, is appalling.”

Wasn’t King David open and honest with the LORD? Can we not be as well, or is this song also unacceptable and ungodly?

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Psalm 6 is an example of a psalm that does not contain the kind of doctrine that the pontificators say godly songs should contain. It is a cry of the heart:

David’s complaint in his sickness

To the chief Musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David.

O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.

Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed.

My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?

Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake.

For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?

I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.

Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.

Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.

The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer. Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.

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The same pontificators talk about how things are a matter of the heart, and yet deny the same when they reject songs that are cries of the heart to God. Which is it? Is it really a matter of the heart or a matter of musical taste?

 

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Should Christians Be Happy All the Time?

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Three years ago, I had published a blog post that was inspired by a song taught to children in church, as well as an article by Russell Moore entitled Why Facebook (and Your Church) Might Be Making You Sad.  I had been considering posting it again, and although I could be wrong, I think the Holy Spirit gave me a nudge to go ahead and do so.

The song is high energy and fun to sing because of hand motions and increasing speed, but it hit me three years ago that it can also be very confusing and deceiving.  Why?  Well it goes like this:

I’m inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.
I’m inright, outright, upright downright happy all the time.
Since Jesus Christ came in and cleansed my heart from sin,
I’m inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.

Are Christians happy all the time?

When a little girl in a preschool class heard she would be singing the song, she cried out, “But I’m not happy all the time!”

Out of the mouth of babes.

Are Christians happy all the time?  Should we be?  We might try to pretend to be, but no, we’re not.  We have the same struggles as everyone else.  I think there are a few reasons we might put on a façade:  1) It makes us feel more religious/spiritual, 2) We have a sincere desire to glorify God, showing He is real and trustworthy, and we wrongly believe being happy all the time is most glorifying to God.  But can we truly reflect what’s real, if we ourselves are not?  Is that glorifying to God?

One of the things Russell Moore said in the article mentioned above is, “By not speaking, where the Bible speaks, to the full range of human emotion—including loneliness, guilt, desolation, anger, fear, desperation—we only leave our people there, wondering why they just can’t be “Christian” enough to smile through it all.”

Children, teenagers and even adults could be left asking themselves, “What’s wrong with me?  Why am I not happy all the time?”  Not only that, but they can learn to not trust the Bible or church, because what they’ve been taught either doesn’t square up with real life or they later realize they were led to believe something that isn’t true.  Even Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

I mean no disrespect to anyone who has taught or still teaches the song or songs like it, because no one would knowingly seek to confuse or deceive children.  Sometimes we do things because it’s what we ourselves were taught or because it’s what has always been done.  But I think when children speak or react, we ought to take note and consider if perhaps changes need to be made in the way we present things.

Edited on February 24, 2014 @ 20:48 to add:  I should have said and need to add that the preachers and teachers of the church I attend do speak to the range of emotions found in the Bible, so this post is not an indictment of them. The purpose of the post is to encourage review and consideration of things we’ve always done and things that may sound good but may not be true.


Tickle My Ears, Tell Me What I Like to Hear

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.  —2 Tim. 4:3

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. —2 Tim. 4:3

Oftentimes when someone talks about people going to certain churches to have their ears tickled or who have ‘itching ears’, they describe them as people who want to hear only ‘feel good’ messages, teachings and sermons that lack Biblical doctrine. While that may be true, those who love hard messages can also be guilty of having itching ears.

A careful reading of both 2 Timothy 3 and 4 reveals it is not merely talking about soft and fluffy feel good messages, but any teaching that is unsound, especially concerning salvation, and that includes teaching man-made rules, also known as the traditions of men or traditions of the elders, as though they were commandments from God. Fluffy teachings can tickle our ears if we don’t like being told what to do. Hard messages can tickle our ears if we, not only like to live by a strict set of rules that make us feel like elite Christians, but like telling others how they should live, too. Oh sure, both fluffy messages and hard ones may contain some truth, but as a Yiddish proverb says, “A half truth is a whole lie,” and can lead people astray. Either way, if we tend to heap unto ourselves teachers who tickle our ears so we feel better about ourselves, we may want to consider if what we’re listening to and who we follow are sound in doctrine.


Feeling Ill-Equipped?

ImageHave you ever felt ill-equipped for something?  My daughter is preparing for a once-in-a-lifetime trip with some friends.  Part of her adventure will include hiking in Nepal, and the friend who invited her, gave a mandatory assignment— a book to read called Trekking in the Everest Region.  Having gone on only one other fairly significant hiking trip, and nothing like Everest, and after reading part way through the book, she remarked at how very grateful she is and how much more equipped she feels with the knowledge she’s been given.

I was reminded of how so many of today’s Christians feel ill-equipped, and I think it’s partly the church’s fault.  Yes, we, as individuals, are responsible, too, to read the Book and equip ourselves with knowledge, especially if we live in a country in which we are free to own a Bible and freely worship.  But the purpose of Christ’s gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers is to equip “the saints for the work of the ministry and for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11, 12).  (Some translations use the word perfecting rather than equipping, but the sense of the Greek word is to make a person complete or adequate for what is required.  2 Timothy 3:17 uses the same root word when it says, “That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works”.)

I have often heard Christians say, “Why haven’t I ever heard that taught before?” or “I didn’t know that was in the Bible.”  A few people have even said, “You’ve helped me understand more in a short of amount of time than all the years I’ve been in church.”  On one such occasion we were discussing the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man— not a simple subject and one I don’t fully understand myself.  So hearing a number of pastors and teachers over the years say, “People just don’t want to hear the Word of God anymore,” —a comment invariably made when attendance begins to dwindle, hearing it is discouraging, because blame is being laid squarely on the people.  While I think the assertion may be true to some degree, when I consider people I’ve talked with and some of the churches whose leaders are breaking away from three-points-and-a-prayer sermons and doing more teaching than preaching, as well as practicing and encouraging discipleship as part of the Great Commission, rather than primarily encouraging church attendees to be a witness and invite people to church to hear the gospel and get saved— when I consider these things, I have observed people who do want to hear the Word of God and become better equipped, effective and more confident to walk and journey through life.

If you’ve been feeling ill-equipped, don’t wait for someone to equip you.  Read the Book.  And if you have questions or there’s something you don’t understand, ask the Holy Spirit and find someone who has already been there, like my daughter’s friend.


A Family Is Like a Ship

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Years ago I read an article that compared a family to a ship.  Although I don’t agree with everything he teaches, I found the article Jumping Ship (Part 2):  Stagnant and Unpromising  by Michael Pearl very intriguing.  He likens the family to a ship with a captain and a crew.  Each ship may be different, but in order to keep its crew, it needs to have a clear purpose with each member involved in fulfilling its mission and reaching its destination.  And it must provide some source of entertainment along with rewarding labor.  If the crew sees other ships passing by that appear to be going somewhere while they just float along or remain stagnant… or if they notice the crews on other ships having fun while they seem to just work or have nothing to do, the captain risks having them jump overboard to join other ships that actually appear to be enjoyably going somewhere.  I realized this could apply to church families as well.

How’s your crew?  Are they looking to book passage on a different ship, or do they have the confidence to believe their ship is going somewhere and doing something worthwhile?

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