Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Confusion in Christian Music & Worship

An earlier post called Musical Unity? addressed the conflict between Christians who prefer contemporary music and those who long for the age-old hymns. Chapter Ten in my book addresses these issues at more length. Changes in Christian music spearheaded many changes in the church over the last thirty years. Many scholars and church leaders have addressed the “worship wars” as though the disunity was simply a matter of the seniors not being willing to adapt to the changes. Now some of them realize there is much more at stake than a generation gap. Music should unite, inform, and inspire congregations with biblically correct lyrics; music should encourage the corporate adoration of God.

James K. A. Smith, Philosophy professor at Calvin College, in an article titled Open Letter to Praise Bands lists three points:
1. If we, the congregation, can't hear ourselves, it's not worship.
2. If we, the congregation, can't sing along, it's not worship.
3. If you, the praise band, are the center of attention, it's not worship.

He elaborates on these three points and concludes:"This isn't just some plea for 'traditional' worship and a critique of 'contemporary' worship. Don't mistake this as a defense of pipe organs and a critique of guitars and drums (or banjos and mandolins). My concern isn't with style, but with form: What are we trying to do when we 'lead worship?' If we are intentional about worship as a communal, congregational practice that brings us into an encounter with the living God--that worship is not merely expressive but also formative--then we can do that with cellos or steel guitars, pipe organs or African drums."

In other words, in many congregations worship has been diminished; it has become entertainment, not because of the instruments used but because of the mindset of pastors and leaders. Also, the words to contemporary music are often not accurate biblically. They mislead seekers and even devout Christians.

Ron Rhodes in Christian Research Journal, writing in 1989 says, “a small but growing percentage of Christian songs have lyrics that are “shallow, confusing, doctrinally errant, or even blatantly unbiblical.”

He cites specific questionable lyrics:
Lyrics that portray Jesus as less than fully divine: For example, Jesus "was just an ordinary man--just a carpenter from Galilee."

Salvation is described inadequately. For example, "if you're sorry - I'll wash away your sin." Rhodes says, “There is no mention of faith even though faith is mentioned around 200 times in the New Testament as the condition of salvation. Being just sorry never saved anyone!” I would add, repentance is not mentioned and is not the same as saying you’re sorry. Repentance requires changing your direction.

Lyrics suggest “name it and claim it” theology. For example, "Let the weak say 'I am strong;' Let the sick say 'I am healed.' “With words of faith confess it. And in the name of Jesus claim it. Because what you say is what you get."

And what gives us the strength to get through each day? One song tells us: "In my heart I know there's someone [Christ] who believes in me. I know that He believes in me. He believes in me. That gives me the courage to be what I must be, He believes in me." Where's the supernatural empowering of the Holy Spirit in this?

Those of us who succeed in living a life worthy of God can look forward to the Rapture, according to another song. “We will be raptured ‘if to God we have been true, and we've lived above all sin.’ This ‘Rapture’ may be a peopleless event!”

Compare the above hymns with “The Old Rugged Cross” or "Amazing Grace" or contemporary songs such as “Majesty” or the “Blood Will Never Lose It’s Power.” Lyrics affect our worship engaging out hearts and minds to bow in awe to our God. Worship that is contrived by man to entertain us, or stir us or falsely reassure us does not compare with worship inspired by the Spirit of God.

Pray the Church will recognize the need to exalt God in music and worship.

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


The romantic stage is easy, almost effortless, and we expect our marriage to continue on this high note. But no marriage does. Once we’re married and the newness has worn off of our relationship we become lazy and take each other for granted. We put less effort into the marriage. We also begin to see our partner in a more realistic light. There are traits we don’t love, ways in which we’re different and things we disagree about. We become disillusioned. 
We enter marriage not knowing much about it. Our only lessons on marriage have been watching our parents’ interactions and these are often dysfunctional or misunderstood by us as children. We never learn what it takes to make intimate relationships work. We don’t realize that marriage takes work. We need to put as much time, effort, energy and planning into our relationship as we do into our career, our children, or even into our yard.  
Working on our marriage may be painful.  We often bring childhood scars or deficits into marriage expecting our partner to make everything right. Sometimes marriage can heal old wounds or satisfy longings never met before. More often, we expect too much from our partner in this regard. We need to recognize that many of our marital conflicts have to do with stuff from the past. Dad ignored me so I flare up when my partner does the same thing. Or Mom was so controlling, I’ll never let anyone else tell me what to do.  We must learn to let go of the past. 
There are many ways to learn about and work on relationships. Couples can read books or watch videos on marriage and discuss them. Marriage Encounter weekends and Weekend to Remember will help couples with communication. The Third Option group for couples covers fourteen different topics having to do with making marriage work. This will help you understand where you need to grow and it will give you the tools and skills needed to improve your marriage. Third Option Sharing Couples will convince you your struggles are normal and that marriage takes work.  Counseling can also teach much.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you.” Proverbs 3:3

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Enter Through the Narrow Gate

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate. Small is the road that leads to life and few find it.

Matthew 7:13-14 You can enter God’s kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way. But the gate to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it. NLT

Luke 13:24 Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.

John 5:23 He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

John 6:29 The work of God is this; to believe in the one he has sent.

John 6:40 My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day.

These scriptures tell us that Jesus is the narrow gate. He is the way, the truth and the life. (John 14:6) We must lose our self-focus, our pride and surrender our will to Him. This is why it’s described as narrow and difficult. Our salvation isn’t earned. It’s a gift of grace which we humble ourselves to accept and trust.

Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy says, “The narrow gate is obedience - and the confidence necessary to it. We can see that it is not doctrinal correctness because many people who cannot even understand the correct doctrines nevertheless place their full faith in him...The broad gate, by contrast, is simply doing whatever I want to do.” 

Lord, following you is not easy but it is a marvelous way. Help us stay on the narrow road. Help us seek your face daily and become more like you.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cultural Confusion & the Church

A secular worldview has infiltrated the church. The values of our culture are pragmatic, narcissistic and relativistic – and these views have seeped into the church. We must wake up to these influences and stem the tide of unbiblical changes, beliefs and practices INSIDE the church. We also can and must winsomely engage others in turning to the Truth.

Chapter 13 in Changing Churches describes in detail the impact of secular influences including new age beliefs in our culture, church and even in our family.  Ravi Zacharias speaks to some of these cultural changes. (Quotation edited for clarity and brevity.)
     Spirituality is writ large in the West as gurus come and go…
·        How is it that a culture that once frowned upon certain sexual practices now frowns upon those who frown upon them?
·        How is it that from the normal use of language in public broadcasting in [the past] even mild deviations were viewed as serious infractions, [while] we now experience on a daily basis entertainment that has moved…to the crassness of shock and vulgarity?
·        Why is it that the more perverse the story, the greater the audience it draws on television or at the theater?
Has all this happened because our taboos were wrong or is it that, in a very real sense, we have pushed the Replay button on the saga of Eden and can now look, touch, and taste anything we wish to because we have become gods, determining for ourselves what is right and what is wrong?

A couple of years ago I reread George Orwell’s book, 1984, a dystopian novel published in 1949. I noted in my journal the haunting nature of the book in which citizens are taught slogans redefining truth — “War is Peace”, “Freedom is Slavery,” and “Ignorance is Strength.” I included in my journal a quote from the book spoken by one of the totalitarian Big Brothers: “In the successful manipulation of the mind the person is no longer saying the opposite of what he thinks, but he thinks the opposite of what is true. Thus he has suspended his independence and his integrity completely.”
Truth is further being redefined today. We can all think of examples of this.
John MacArthur says “Truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory and being of God. “ Christians, we need to be strong in our faith so we can stand firm against the assaults on the truth. We know the Truth.
Jesus is the Truth. Guard the Truth.                
Blessings, Dottie