Monthly Archives: June 2014

About that song you were singing…

You listen to a preacher deliver a sermon from the pulpit that contains blatant false teaching, do you go out and proclaim it to others as though you believe it? Certainly not, because you do not want anyone to think you believe what he is saying. You turn on your car radio and hear that tune that everyone knows (you know, the one with the up-tempo beat), but then you get to that line in the song where there is the now-found-everywhere curse word, do you sing it? Of course not, because you recognize that singing a curse word in a song is just as wrong as saying one to another person. So, what’s the point?

Unfortunately, many members of the church will not apply the reasoning of the second question to the reasoning of the first question when it regards the songs that are sung in praise to God. It is unfortunate to see so many occasions where brethren will spend hours proclaiming one thing, only to completely ignore their own arguments when singing the exact opposite.

While we claim to understand the principle that our singing is intended to teach and admonish (Col. 3:16), as well as to bring honor and glory to God (Eph. 5:19-20), Christians have oftentimes seemed to miss the overall application of this idea. It means that we have the responsibility to ensure that the words, ideas, concepts, doctrines, and practices proclaimed in our songs are accurate and Biblical.

You see, most of the songs in our song books were not written by members of the body of Christ. They were written by those in denominations who carried their own beliefs and practices into the songs they wrote. While this by no means insinuates that a song written by a denominational individual cannot be right and useful, it does require that we do not assume that it is accurate based solely on its inclusion in the song book in the pew. There are songs in the song books of most congregations that teach erroneous doctrines about the Holy Spirit, the work of angels, premillennialism, salvation, and a host of other topics.

However, most of the time members sing songs simply because it is in the song book, or because they sang it as a child, or because it has a beautiful tune, without ever giving the first thought about what the song actually means. Very few Christians take the time to read the words of the songs they sing and even fewer consciously understand the details being portrayed.

Do not get me wrong, most of the songs in our books are just fine. Nevertheless, there are two extremes to this issue. There are those that desire to twist every song to make it scriptural (even when it blatantly is not) and there are those who try to twist the words of almost every song to make it unscriptural (which is equally wrong). It must be recognized that there can be ambiguity in a song and it not be unscriptural. If a concept is vaguely worded, it should not be assumed that it is intended in an unscriptural way. However, if a false doctrine or practice is explicitly stated, we also don’t have the right to ignore it as “poetic license” and sing it anyway.

Are we actually reading the words of the songs we sing? Could we defend them before God if he asked us to explain what we meant when we sang _________, because we knew he said something different? We need to be just as desirous for sound words in song as we are sound words in the pulpit. Unfortunately, it is often the case that the songs with the best tunes and the most lovely melodies are the ones that have the most problems (funny how that works, isn’t it?).

Make sure the songs you sing in praise to God are ones that praise him according to his will, doctrine, and commands; because there is nothing more insulting to the God of the Universe than to speak the truth in word and sing a lie to him in song. Know what you sing.

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Are you the same person today you were a year ago?

There are those who will speak ill of a person who has changed over time. They will complain that this person is not the same one they were friends with years before, began working with some time ago, or married in their younger years. They talk of change as though it is the plague and recoil at the thought of a difference being present. The same is often true in patterns of thinking as well. People, especially those in the public light, face ridicule or are called hypocrites and flip-floppers for changing their beliefs on a certain issue or study.

However, there are some questions that need to be asked: is all change bad? Is it wrong for a person to change, no matter what direction they are going? Instead of acting shocked at change, should we not expect it?

As people, we are not God. We do not have all knowledge, all power, and all comprehension. Therefore, it is necessary for us to learn and grow. As Christians, we desire to be more like God each day: to love what he loves and hate what he hates. This requires a continual progression of change (otherwise known as growth) on our part. Understanding such, it should be a part of our expectations in life that people change over time.

Peter wrote about the things that need to be a part of the Christian’s life in 2 Peter 1:5-8 when he wrote: “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The use of the term “abound” in verse 8 is very interesting. It is from a Greek word meaning, “to exist in abundance, to make to increase.” It is used, in this passage, in the sense of continuing to increase as time moves forward.

Therefore, if I am to develop as God desires, I must change over time. Additionally, I should be looking for others to change as well, not to remain stagnant with each passing year.

So, are you the same person today that you were a year ago? If the answer is yes, then maybe you need to step back and see if there is something missing in your focus in life. We are all human, because of this we are all imperfect and need constant work and attention to every aspect of our lives. So ask yourself…

  • Is your knowledge and understanding of God’s Word the same today as it was a year ago?
  • Is your prayer life the same?
  • Is your love for God the same?
  • Is your relationship with your family the same?
  • Is your understanding of the grace and mercy of God the same?
  • Is your devotion to God the same?
  • Is your focus in life the same?
  • Is your desire for Heaven the same?
  • Is your development and use of your talents the same?

If the answers to any of these are “yes,” why is that? Is it because you have perfected every aspect of knowledge, understanding and implementation in that area, or is it because you have not been giving it the attention it deserves?

We need to change and we should expect others to do so as well. In fact, we should be disappointed if there is no change in our friends and loved ones over the years, because it means they have not grown.

I am so thankful that I have had the opportunity to change over the years, because I believe that the man that is here today is a better servant of God than the one who was present years ago, and I pray that I will continue to transition into a better servant as days go by. I am equally thankful my wife is not still the woman I married… she is better, and continuing to grow every day. And I am so grateful to work with a congregation of people that have changed over the years… into better, more developed servants of Christ with more knowledge and understanding of his word.

Have you changed?

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Why is the Bible so hard to Understand?

It is not uncommon to begin talking to people about Biblical matters and to quickly hear phrases such as: “I think one opinion is as good as another,” or, “these things are so complex, I don’t think anyone can truly understand them.” Within the course of religious discussion, it has become commonplace to try to end the discussion almost before it begins, by either acknowledging every opinion/belief as equal or advocating the impossibility of true understanding. Therefore, the question needs to be asked: “Why is the Bible so hard to understand?” If all of these people believe the Bible is from God, and they believe that it tells what God wants us to do, why do they also believe that it is so difficult to truly understand? Consider a couple of answers to that question.

Because we have been told that it is.

For generations religious “scholars” and theologians have been telling people how difficult the Bible is to comprehend. Preachers in religious groups have admonished listeners to come to them to find out what God’s Word means, because it is too difficult for the average person to understand. Add to that the many books, movies, and other works that have been published speaking of secret codes, signs, symbols, and other such things within the Bible, and many are convinced that having a confident understanding of God’s Book is impossible.

While it is true that there are some things contained within the Scriptures that are difficult to understand, there is nothing contained therein that is impossible to grasp. Unfortunately, many people seek to grasp the most difficult sections first, without taking time to understand the basic principles necessary to understand those areas. How many times has someone opened a Bible and tried to start with the book of Revelation (because it is so recklessly utilized in the religious world)? There is a reason that the book of Revelation was the last of the books of the New Testament written, and is listed last in our Scripture order. It is a book of teaching through pictures and visual scenes that should not be undertaken without a responsible, basic understanding of the workings of Scripture and the communications of God to man. If a man has not yet grasped the basics of God’s Word he is ill-equipped to comprehend the depths of it.

Many have taken Peter’s statement in 2 Peter 3:15-16 and tried to make a universal application, not just to the apostle Paul’s works, but to all of Scripture. It is undeniable that some of the things Paul wrote are deep and difficult, but that is not the case for the majority of Scripture. The overwhelming majority of the New Testament (and the Old, when it comes to that) are straight-forward and understandable, to the point that young children can readily grasp the basic principles and tenets of the Bible.

Because we approach the Bible with our own beliefs already settled.

In a classic case of “putting the cart before the horse,” most people (including some members of the body of Christ) approach the Bible believing they already know what God was trying to say. They know what mom and dad, cousin Suzy, and preacher Jones have said about it; therefore, they are convinced that they already are fully informed as to God’s intentions.

However, this makes understanding God’s Word quite difficult when we then read something we were not expecting, or something that completely contradicts what we thought we knew. When such occurs we have 2 options: we either have to 1) ignore or explain away the inconsistency that has arrived, or, 2) change our beliefs and thinking to fit what God said. While neither option is easy (and one is logically impossible), most people will choose option 1 over option 2. This increases our difficulty in understanding God’s Word exponentially because men keep having to find creative ways to try to make God say something other than what he explicitly said. When this is done, understanding the Bible becomes impossible, because we are not being intellectually fair and honest with God’s Word.

The truth is that the Bible is not as hard to understand as most people make it out to be. God wanted man to know and be able to follow the things he gave, and he delivered them by a means man could readily understand. The greatest barrier to a man being able to understand the Scriptures is himself. If people are willing to step back from what they already think they know, stop listening to all of the religious money-grabbers and peddlers, and look at the Bible sincerely and honestly, with open hearts and minds, it is not difficult. As a matter of fact, you will step away from it wondering why it took you so long to see what was right there in front of your face. It does not mean you will never need guidance or have questions along the way, but it will mean you will be able to see past the liars and thieves that purport to be lovers of God and speakers of truth, to see them for what they really are.

Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). He also said: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). If we let God do the talking, we can know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

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Have You Forsaken the Assembly?

Most members of the body of Christ are familiar with the oft-quoted statement of Hebrews 10:25, where it is written: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” This passage has often been used as a proof-text for the necessity of Christians being at every service. Brethren have been accused of forsaking the assembly for all kinds of different reasons: some legitimate, some not.

Unfortunately, it is clear that many of our brethren do not truly understand what the writer was admonishing his brethren to do (or not do) in this verse. The word “forsake” comes from the Greek word egkataleipō meaning, “to abandon, leave behind, leave helpless, desert.” The word is only used a handful of times in Scripture: among the most notable is Paul’s statement concerning Demas in 2 Timothy 4:9-10 that Demas had “forsaken” him.

Within the context of the book, it must be understood that this letter is being written to Jewish Christians who are considering trying to go back to the already destroyed and completely non-functional Old Testament system. The entire letter has been geared toward showing them how much better they are under Christ, the shortcomings of the Old Law and the lessons from days gone by that they must not forget.

Now, at the climax of the letter in chapters 10-12, the author is pleading with them not to give up and turn back. Therefore, he tells them in verse 25 not to abandon the “gathering of ourselves together.” They must not abandon their brothers and sisters in Christ who are still trying and struggling to remain where God wants them to be, even though some have already left (“as the manner of some is”). Instead, they should be encouraging, uplifting, and strengthening one another with each passing day. Now is not the time to quit, the writer says, it is the time to grow stronger!

He  continues with the admonition to recognize what will happen if they abandon God and their brethren: there is nothing left but condemnation (Vs. 26-31). He follows that up by calling on them to remember what they have already come through (Vs. 32-34), to not cast away their confidence (Vs. 35-36), but to keep living by faith (Vs. 37-39).

Brethren, we do ourselves, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and the Scriptures a grave injustice when we try to use this passage of Scripture to brow-beat an individual for missing a service. Do not accuse a brother or sister who is doing their best to serve God, but is sick (or having to deal with a family member who is gravely ill) of abandoning God and his people. Do not accuse a person who loves God and wants desperately to serve him, but has to work occasionally during a service on Sunday to provide for his/her family, as being one who is abandoning God.

Am I saying that it is not important to be at every service possible? Certainly not. Am I saying we shouldn’t confront those who are shirking their responsibilities by putting luxury and leisure before God? By no means. However, there are many ways to illustrate from Scripture the need to be present with the saints, the blessings and responsibilities that are a part of it, and the dangers that come from ignoring it. Many times those that struggle the most with these things are ones that are spiritual babes in Christ. They are immature in their understanding of Scripture and are still needing to develop the knowledge and understanding necessary to be what God wants them to become. The last thing they need is a well-meaning, but misguided, member accusing them of abandoning God because they were not present for a service.Instead, we need to teach by Scriptural example and personal lifestyle; encourage and strengthen through time and effort; and with patience and long-suffering bring that child of God to maturity.

Brethren, “let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb. 10:24). In doing so, let us utilize this verse in the context in which it was given. This beautiful passage is one of the greatest places to go when dealing with a brother or sister who is considering giving up on God, or “quitting the church,” because of things that are going on in their lives. Use it for them, try to help them to see vividly the decision they are about to make, and with all your might try to keep them living by faith. But let it never be said of us that we have laid a stumbling-block before a brother trying to do his best, and become better, by laying such a serious charge before him through a misuse of Scripture.

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