Like Button

Monday, July 31, 2006

Bringing Down Fences

The people don’t really know how they ended up on the mesa. They only knew that they lived there. It was a large and lush mesa, quite lovely indeed.

Early on they discovered the edges. The drop was spectacular, and certainly fatal to anyone who stepped off the edge. So they did what any rational person would do; they constructed fences. These were important fences. They would prevent deaths. They were good, strong fences placed on the various sides of the mesa. They even named the edges. There was Murderous Drop and Adulterous Cliff and Deception Point. Ten fences in all went up, and the people were happy.

One day, the leadership got to thinking. Wouldn’t it be wise to keep people away from the edge entirely? They were pretty sure the fences would keep people from death, but it was still possible for the younger ones to climb the fence and ultimately fall to their death. It had happened on occasion. What were they to do? Perhaps it would be good to put another set of fences inside the fences on the edge. This would give a margin for error, a first line of defense, so to speak. Nearly everyone thought this was wise, so they set about putting up a second set of fences around the mesa. Inside of the fence at Purity Falls they placed a fence they called “Separation Point”. At the Idol’s Crag they put in the “Non-smoking Place”. All the fences were fortified with a new, inner fence. Of course, it inconvenienced some people. They liked to go to the fence and look out over the edge and enjoy the view. But there weren’t a lot of them, so it was certainly worth the extra layer of protection.

Time passed, and things seemed to be better. There seemed to be fewer incidents of people climbing over the outer fence and dying because, after all, it was much more effort. The complaints died down as the people that had enjoyed going to the edge died out, so all seemed well.

Still, there were still those who went as close to the edge as possible, and there were some who even climbed both fences and fell to their deaths. So the leadership met again and discussed what could be done. Someone pointed out that there were favorite paths to the edge -- ways that people commonly took to get there. Perhaps if they would put up another fence, just across those paths, they could stop this continuing trickle of problem areas. This seemed good to them, so new fences went up. The “Touch Not Gate” was located on the approach to Coveting Heights. “The Door of Modesty” was placed strategically across from Adulterous Cliff. Several other strategically located fences blocked other approaches. It was all working out nicely.

It was some time later that someone on the Board brought up the fact that other people had been erecting their own fences. After the initial surprise and, of course, soothing the bruised egos, they decided that it was probably a good idea. A little bit of personal safety would probably go a long way. After all, there were still people who ended up climbing over the fences and plummeting to their deaths. It couldn’t hurt.

So they thought, until one day they caught Robinson and his friend up at the top of the fence at 6th Day Crevasse. Fortunately, someone caught them and hauled them down just before they would have tumbled to their deaths.

“What were you thinking?” the elders demanded. “What made you climb over those fences?”

“Well,” Marissa responded, kicking at the ground, “there are so many fences all around the mesa. We have been climbing over fences for years. We never suffered any ill effects from them. Why would we think those ones at the edge would be any different?”

It was Harold who suggested it, after that. He was met with shock and dismay. Tear down the fences? How could they do that? Where would they find safety? Surely those outer fences weren’t enough. But Harold prevailed. It was a lengthy process. There seemed to be endless barriers. Those with their own private fences were the most stubborn. It actually took years, much longer than it had to put them up in the first place. But little by little, the fences went down. It was better, they figured, to leave fences that meant something than to confuse the issue with their own fences.

Funny thing. When the fences went down, and all that was left was the outer railings, the numbers of people going over the edge decreased. Why? Apparently when people could see the effects of those outer fences and the consequences of traversing them, they decided not to do it themselves. How odd!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

A Case for Predestination

Predestination is a touchy subject among Christians. The basic understanding is that predestination means that God chooses to send some people to Heaven and some people to Hell. This is a disconcerting concept at best, outrageous at worst. Is there a valid case for the doctrine of predestination or is this a fabrication of some confused people? I would like to suggest that the doctrine of predestination is biblical and, therefore, true.

Now, before we begin, it is necessary to define the term. A common understanding of the word being used is necessary for a common understanding of the doctrine. When the Bible talks about predestination, it does not use it in terms of God choosing who will or will not be saved. Here are the passages in which the word is used:
"For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur” (Acts 4:27-28).

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified (Rom. 8:29-30)

He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (Eph. 1:5-6).

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory (Eph. 1:10-12).
None of these uses refer to “God choosing who will be saved”. All of these uses refer to “God choosing what will occur.” Thus, by the term “predestination”, we mean that God determines in advance what will occur. To the staunch Calvinist, I should point out that who is or is not saved is included in “what will occur”. However, to limit predestination to the doctrine of election is to limit the scope of the biblical concept. Predestination, then, is the doctrine that God chooses from all eternity according to His own free will whatever comes to pass. I must also point out that this does not require that God cause all that comes to pass. The doctrine merely states that God determines what will come to pass. The “actors” in any given event may cause the events that God has ordained. The point in predestination is merely that God decided that those particular events would occur and others (that do not occur) will not occur.

Now let’s turn to the doctrine itself. Why would anyone assume that such a concept is true? I would think the answer would be obvious; I have listed four passages in which the term is used. Since the term is biblical, the doctrine must be biblical. The question now arises, “But is your understanding of the doctrine correct, or does the Bible mean something different?” Why, then, would I conclude that “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass” (Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. III, Para. 1)?

The premise for the doctrine is found in the passage quoted above. It is the biblical premise. We do not need to work to some human logic or convoluted reading of Scripture. Look again at Eph. 1:11. Here Paul links “our inheritance” to God’s predestination. On what does he predicate predestination? His basis for such a belief is the character of God “who works all things after the counsel of His will”. Plain and simple, if God is sovereign, then He must ordain all that comes to pass. Conversely, if He does not ordain all that comes to pass, He cannot rightly be called “sovereign” in any real sense.

We need more term definition here. The term “sovereign” means “One that exercises supreme, permanent authority.” In human terms, the best we can achieve is limited sovereignty, since no human can actually exercise “supreme, permanent authority”. So we bring it down a little and base human sovereignty on human standards. A human sovereign would be a human who exercises more authority than other humans. He might be a “lord” or a “king”. But no human can be said to “work all things after the counsel of his will.” Thus no human can be absolutely sovereign. God, on the other hand, is termed “the King of kings and Lord of lords”. God alone is the “one that exercises supreme, permanent authority”.

Scriptures are full of this fact:
"For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe (Deut. 10:17).

He rules by His might forever (Psa. 66:7).

The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty;
The LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength;
Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.
Your throne is established from of old;
You are from everlasting (Psa. 93:1-2).

He is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Tim. 6:15).

"We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign” (Rev. 11:17).
Thus, we have this starting point: God is sovereign. Oh, and the ending point, as well.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Marriage 101 - The Sum of the Matter

Imagine a marriage constructed like this. A husband assumes the God-given role of “head of household” and launches himself into seeking the best for his wife. He performs this by loving her as Christ loved the Church, without conditioning it on her response. He seeks to know her, to understand her, and is careful always to show her the utmost respect and honor. In turn, the wife holds her husband up as God’s instrument in her life, His director of operations. She submits to him as God’s representative in her life and seeks to show him the respect the position of head deserves, without regard for his “respectability”.

Together, these two leave off clinging to their families and become one in spirit as well as flesh. They have a common direction, a shared heart. They stand by each other. Problems that he faces meet with her ever-present support, and difficulties in her life are shouldered by his unflagging provision. They are not two individuals, but a unit. They are not entangled with cares for their own welfare, but devoted to the welfare of the other. Neither is deterred when their partner staggers because each is seeking the best of the other. Instead of a 50-50 marriage, they have a 100-100 marriage, where 100% of the aim of each is to meet the needs of the other.

This is marriage. This is God’s intent. If we are to call ourselves “disciples of Christ”, it must be ours as well.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Marriage 101 - Mutual Submission

Now we’re back together, both husband and wife, and ready to discuss some of the mutual aspects. Notice that a husband is never commanded to make sure his wife submits to him, and a wife is never commanded to make sure her husband loves her. Those were specific commands to specific people, and not to be confused with commands to both.

One of the most popular objections to “Wives, submit to your husbands”, as it is found in Eph. 5, is the verse prior to this command. Here we find Paul saying,
“Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph 5:21).

There you have it! Wives may need to submit to their husbands, but husbands must also submit to their wives, right? There is a problem with that notion. If both of the members of a family are in submission to each other, how are any decisions made? Some have suggested that the submission be “one at a time”. In some cases, the husband submits, and in others, the wife. But this would run counter to the passage, which doesn’t offer the “one at a time” approach. Further (and this is obscured by the chapter break), the next statement is “Children obey your parents.” Thus, if carried to its logical conclusion, parents must submit to their children. Now, an argument can be made that this is precisely what has happened in our generation, but that’s not a good thing, nor is it rational in light of the text. Paul goes on to instruct father so “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Thus, the idea of “everyone submits to everyone” just isn’t feasible.

What is intended by “be subject to one another”?

The concept of “subjection” is the idea of “ranking under”. Paul puts it this way:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others (Phil 2:3-4).

“Regard one another as more important than himself.” What a concept! While we scramble about trying to meet our needs, the call of Scripture is “regard one another as more important than himself.”

So how would this work itself out in a marriage, given that wives and husbands have been assigned differing roles? In this environment of regarding others as more important than self, the two partners in this marriage would be most interested in looking out for the interests of the other. When a husband fulfills his role as head of household, he does so with his “self” disconnected. Instead, his direction is “What would be best for her?” And a wife, recognizing that she is called to submit to her husband, and recognizing that her husband is responsible, would be seeking to support him in his efforts to provide the best.

Now, do not be mistaken here. The question “What would be best for her?” does not always mean, “What would she like best?” Sometimes “best for her” entails difficulty and trial. He will be forced to make some hard choices, and she will not always be happy about them. But the goal must always be “What would be best for her?”

In this mindset, there is one serious lack from which very few marriages currently suffer – the “I”. This concept of mutual submission, of always seeking the best for the other, is entirely outward focused. There is no sense of “looking out for Number One”. This is a “faith fall”, releasing myself to the sincere belief that “since God put this together, God will support me – therefore, I can throw myself wholeheartedly into seeking the best for my spouse.” This mindset balks at “you deserve a break today” and learns instead to be satisfied in whatever circumstance befalls (Phil. 4:11-13).

This, in fact, is the primary point. Those who study such things have concluded that there are certain factors that are the primary problems in most marriages. At the top of these lists are things like money, communication, and sex. I am suggesting that these are all secondary. Instead, the single most common problem in any troubled marriage is “I”. Think about it. Isn’t the primary problem that “I” have expectations of what I should be getting out of this marriage, and my spouse is not meeting those expectations. If I remove the “I” factor in my marriage, I remove my conflict. How many times have you heard someone complain, “He just won’t let me love him” or “I want to treat her well, but she won’t let me”?

Now look back at those things commanded by God for wives and for husbands. In any instance does it say what to expect from a marriage? No! It says what each should do, but it doesn’t say what each should expect. That’s because the focus is outward, not inward. The thought process is “I will trust God for my well-being and …” either “submit to my husband” or “love my wife” regardless of the response. That is “mutual submission.”

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Role of a Husband – Summary

Husbands have a high calling from God. They are the ones that God holds responsible in a marriage. They are the ones that God calls to be the head of the family. He is responsible to God to be the leader without being the lord. It is a relationship defined by love that is conditioned not by her response to him, but by a life-long commitment to honor and understand his wife. The goal is to value his wife, to be satisfied with his wife, as a gift from God, a fellow heir. The husband’s role is not a small one, and not necessarily an easy one, but neither is it an optional one. Failure to be the husband you ought will have ramifications in your relationship with God as well as your wife.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Role of a Husband – Part 3

It would seem obvious from these three responsibilities that one of the primary jobs of a husband is to provide for his wife (and family) (1 Tim. 5:8). God calls husbands to be the “head”, and, in that, the provider. We are the responsible party, the one whom God expects to manage things. Wives may certainly contribute (as in the Proverbs 31 example of a good wife), but it is not her God-given task to do so – it is the husband’s.

Solomon calls us to enjoy life with your wife (Eccl. 9:9), to “rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Prov. 5:18). Of course that would require that we be faithful to her; this should go without saying. But it takes it a step further. Enjoy life with the woman you love. Drink from your own cisterns (Prov. 5:15). In Solomon’s own graphic words:

Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; be exhilarated always with her love (Prov 5:19).

This seems such a simple request, but the fact is that husbands spend much of their time in fantasy. Perhaps it isn’t “evil” fantasy – “Oh, I wish I could be with her.” More often it is more “benign” – “I wish my wife was more like her.” But it is in direct opposition to these commands to enjoy your own wife. It is, therefore, wrong to think in those terms. Let me state that in another way: It is sin to think in those terms. Instead we are to heed Paul’s instructions on thought-life:
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things (Phil 4:8).

Note that there is nothing in that list about “If only she was more …” or the like. This is a call to a radically different thought process for most husbands.

“Now, you know there will always be issues when it comes to sex.”

I won’t spend a lot of time here. I think the previous information – loving her as you love yourself, placing her interests before your own, being responsible to God, etc. – should really answer most of these questions. If they don’t, you haven’t been paying attention. Go back to the beginning. I do need to bring up one other pertinent, important passage for us to consider:
The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Cor 7:3-5).

Our first response is to read the “wife’s body does not belong to her” and get enthusiastic. But remember, I’m not talking to wives here. I’m talking to husbands. Thus we must see most clearly “the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.” When this sinks in, it might radically alter your bedroom approach. Your body does not belong to you! Biblically, sexual relations between husband and wife are a surrendering, not a taking. Let that sink in. (How often is the complaint “She doesn’t want to do what I want to do in bed”?)

This theme runs far beyond the bedroom, too. Your body does not belong to you! She needs someone to help her and your body will do fine. She needs someone to clean toilets and your body will do fine. She needs a hand with dishes and your hands will do fine. Just as we are to love as Christ loves, surrendering our lives, we are also to surrender our bodies as Christ did. It isn’t about our egos or preferences or wishes. It’s about our responsibility to God in regards to this wife that He has given us.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Role of a Husband – Part 2

“So what are the responsibilities of a husband?”

I’m so glad you asked. God has listed several tasks for husbands. Unfortunately, we husbands have spent so much time pointing out how our wives are supposed to submit and lording it over them, or bemoaning the fact that none of this is working like that, that we seem to have missed that God has a list of things to which we are supposed to pay attention.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body (Eph. 5:25-30).

Now, when was the last time you read that whole passage and tried to take it all into account?

We understand the “love your wives” part. We have wives who remind us of that. (I would suggest, however, that you go read 1 Cor. 13:4-8 to see God’s perspective on just what “love” means.) But look at the explanation of how we are to love our wives – “as Christ also loved the church”. If our example of love is as Christ loved the church, how did Christ love the church? He “gave Himself up for her”. And why? His aim was to “sanctify her” and cleanse her, presenting her with “no spot or wrinkle”, “holy and blameless.” Get hold of that for a moment. That is a large task. It is, in fact, larger than any human husband can accomplish. But according to Paul, it is our example. That is, our love should be volitional, intentional, and purposeful. It should exceed mere “warm feelings” and seek instead for every corner of good you can provide for her. Every corner of good, including physical, social, and spiritual endeavors. You are to help to “unwrinkled” her, to “sanctify” her (or set her apart). Her best interest in everything should be your first priority, even at the cost of your life. And when I say “at the cost of your life”, I include “at the cost of your pride, your comfort, your convenience, your preferences.” It’s a funny thing about many guys; we would willingly give our lives for our wives, but would we inconvenience ourselves? After all, it was a hard day. She should be able to do those dishes herself. We are, after all, the head of the house, right? Not when her best interest is your first priority.

Fortunately, Paul takes it down a notch from there. Here is his explanation in human husband terms: We are to love our wives as our own bodies. Now, here is a common mistake. “You can’t love others until you love yourself.” Apparently, according to Paul, we already do love ourselves. His proof is that we take care of ourselves. We eat, we sleep, we nurture ourselves. We may have self-image issues, but we definitely love ourselves or those issues wouldn’t bother us. We already love ourselves. The way in which we love ourselves ought to be the way in which we love our wives.

Now, think back. When was the last time you made yourself skip a meal because you had made a mistake? Or when did you fail to dress yourself because your boss chewed you out at work? Why, then, do we condition our love for our wives on their response to us? When we base our method of loving our wives on her attitudes and actions toward us, is that “giving yourself up for her”? Note that our example, Jesus, gave His life for people who were hiding and even denying they knew Him. This love we are to give to our wives is not conditioned by her response.

Responsibility #1, then, is to love your wife. That love is not conditioned by her response to you. It is conditioned, instead, by Responsibility #2:

You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

The second responsibility of a husband is to “live with your wives in an understanding way.” Now, any guy can tell you that this is an impossible request. Is it even remotely possible that a male can understand a female? The obvious answer, according to Peter, is “Yes!” Therefore, we must. We must become students of our wives. We must learn what makes her tick. We must find out her likes, her dislikes, her needs and desires. This is our task as husbands. Learn her!

This information, gathered over time, will condition the first responsibility of loving our wives. We humans have a tendency to get confused and try to please others by doing what pleases us. This seems logical on the surface, but it fails to accomplish its goal (pleasing others) because it doesn’t take into account the “others” we are seeking to please. Most of us know, for instance, that giving a wife a power tool for her birthday, something that would likely please us immensely, will produce the opposite response in her. Instead, when we seek to love our wives informed by our understanding of her, we can begin to meet her needs rather than our perception of her needs through our desires. What we normally do is so convoluted. “I would want/need that. She must. So I’ll give her that … because I would want it regardless of what she would want.” No! Our love must be conditioned by our understanding. Sometimes that means giving her not what she wants, but what, based on sound understanding, she needs. But for love to be most effective it must be conditioned by understanding, and the argument that “Who can understand women?” must be discarded.

Responsibility #3 is also included in Peter’s remarks. He says, “Grant her honor”. Now, we guys, having read the information written to our wives, know that it is their responsibility to respect us. But somehow, amidst all the confusion, we missed the part where we are supposed to honor her. So while wives are supposed to revere their husbands (not your responsibility, guys!), husbands are supposed to honor, esteem, value, consider of great worth, our wives. She is to be treated as “a weaker vessel”, not because she is weaker, but because she is of great worth. She is a “fellow heir”. She may be constructed like Corning ware, unbreakable, but treat her like fine china. She is valuable.

Before going on, it is important to note that this responsibility carries with it a warning. Husbands, take note! A failure to do this – to learn to understand and to honor your wife – will hinder your prayer life. It is not possible to stand in defiance of God’s command to love your wife (which includes these aspects) and then expect to have your dialogue with Him unperturbed. So when your prayer life seems to suffer, check into how you are viewing and responding to your wife.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Role of a Husband – Part 1

Okay, guys, it’s time to look at God’s idea of what a husband should be. If you read the role of the wife, you were reading someone else’s mail. Shame! Set it all aside and let’s examine what the Bible says about the role of a husband. (Ladies, you’re peeking, aren’t you! None of that!)

The basis of the role of the husband is found in the initial creation of the human being. God made Adam. God made Adam first (1 Tim. 2:13). Now, while this may give a feeling of superiority, make no mistake. The position is not one of superiority, but of responsibility. Look at the first sin.

You all know the story. Eve was tempted by the serpent and “ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:6). Now, we can all see that Eve started this, but who does God hold responsible? It is Adam who gets the first inquiry from God (Gen. 3:9-12). It was Adam that bears, to this day, the responsibility for bringing sin into the world (Rom. 5:12-14). Paul says that “Eve was deceived”, which implies that Adam was not. So it is that God has ordained that “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman” (1 Cor. 11:3). God gives men authority and holds men responsible.

First Principles

This would, to me, seem painfully obvious, but it appears from experience that it is not as obvious as I would think. Let us examine for just a moment the biblical definition of marriage.

“A man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).

Perhaps it’s too cliché, but the obvious factors are “leave and cleave”. Step 1: Leave. There is a separation that occurs in marriage, a cutting of apron strings. A man is, by the very definition of marriage, to leave his parents. Now, we have a phrase for the guy who does not do this. We call him “a momma’s boy”. One would think that, between the natural ego of a male to be independent, and the sheer embarrassment of this title, this is would be a certainty. What we find, unfortunately, is guys who “stay home” when they marry. Dad is their support. Mom is their comfort. Any issue between husband and wife is often taken home first. But the definition of marriage is “leave and cleave”. Leave home, family, mother and father, and cleave to the wife. “Cleave” is an interesting word. It has the concept of glue at its root. There is to be a solid, unbreakable bond between man and woman that replaces that bond that was just broken with Mom and Dad. In this, then, “the two shall become one”.

Jesus puts another light on the very same topic. When He quotes this verse, He is responding to the question of divorce. Jesus says, “What God has joined together let no man separate.” It would appear, from Jesus’ words, that this unique “leave and cleave” is a product of God’s work. Therefore, marriage occurs from the basis of “God has joined together”, which ought to give it far more seriousness than too many afford it.

It is, in fact, from this framework that God calls husbands to be what He wants. They are to love, to understand, to be the “head” from the basis that the two have become one, joined together by God.

What is “Headship”?

Headship is not the same as lordship. In 1 Peter 5, Peter speaks to the elders, the “shepherds of the flock”. He tells them they are “over” the flock. As such, they are responsible and have the appropriate authority. However, he specifically tells them not to lord it over the flock (1 Peter 5:3). Instead, they are to be examples. Thus, headship is leadership by example. We find the same concept in 2 Cor. 1:24, when Paul the Apostle says, “Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy.” Co-workers – that’s the concept. Husbands are to be the heads that do the dirty work, not the lords of the castle.

It is important to note in our retreat from “lordship” to “headship” that we don’t pass too quickly from “leadership”. Biblically, it is the husband’s duty to God to be the leader of the house. By all means, any wise leader takes into account the wishes, desires, and ideas of others, and certainly those of his wife would be high on his concerns, but ultimately husbands are responsible to God and must, therefore, be the “tie-breakers”, the deciding factor. They must place their comfort on the line if need be and lead with integrity, even when the going gets tough.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Role of a Wife – Summary

Remember, the goal here is to be the wife as commanded in Scripture. Read over Proverbs 31:10 and following for a presentation of a wife of noble character. Look to the many passages directed to women regarding their overall behavior. Take, for example, Paul’s command for older women to “encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored” (Titus 2:4-5). (Note that the purpose of such encouragement is “that the word of God may not be dishonored”. This view of “outside myself” is the theme of biblical thinking.) Look at 1 Cor. 13:4-8 to see God’s definition of exactly what it means to love. I think you will find that it clashes with today’s romance novels and current views of love.

Most importantly, ensure your aim is submission first to the Lord and, as a result, to your husband. That submission includes love, respect, and support. Once you have achieved that simple instruction, you will have removed the log from your own eye and can proceed to remove the speck from your husband’s eye.

Now, wives, you must stop reading here. The next section is to husbands. It is not addressed to wives. You can start reading again when I start the “Mutual Submission” section to get the rest of the story.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Role of a Wife – Part 3

“But we all know husbands and their sex drives; do I need to put up with that?”

Again, the answer to this type of question all depends on whether or not you wish to submit to God. The question here is not, at the bottom level, submission to husbands, but to God. If your intent is to submit to God, then the answer is very simple:

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Cor 7:3-5).

This is the principle: “Do not regard your body as your own.” Now, that may sound odd, even frightening, but remember the previous topic. As long as he is not suggesting sin (and you are checking carefully to be sure it is sin, not just something you don’t like), you can be confident that it is God who is in charge. There is a section of this passage addressed to husbands (He is not to regard his body as his own), and if he is reading the next section as he should and following through, it gets even easier for you, but his acceptance of God’s principles is not the guideline for you to follow God’s instructions or not.

And this principle goes beyond the bedroom. “Do not regard your body as your own” when it comes to getting him something to drink or cleaning the house. “Do not regard your body as your own” when it deal with how he likes you to wear your hair, for instance. Again, I’m not including any demands for sin. But let’s face it, the normal objection is not to a sinful request, but to an inconvenient one. And if you are intending to submit to God, inconvenience is not the line to draw.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Role of a Wife - Part 2

Husbands ... you're still not supposed to be reading this. Now, be good!

“What about the husband who is not what he should be?”

I said, “If Christ is the head over the husband ... “ What if He is not? What if the husband is not in submission to Christ? This is often the complaint, partially from a failure to properly read Paul’s words in Ephesians 5. Some seem to think Paul says for wives to submit to their husbands “as they submit to the Lord”. But that’s not what the verse says. Instead it says that their submission to their husbands should be the same type of submission they are to offer to God. Not “as they submit to the Lord”, but “as to the Lord”. Thus, the wife is to submit to her husband “as the Church submits to Christ”. How is that? It would appear to be total submission, if Christ is Lord.

But what about husbands who don’t submit to Christ? What about husbands who don’t even know Christ? How can a wife submit “as to the Lord” when he doesn’t even know the Lord? Or, at least, isn’t the man he should be? Peter has answered that. When Peter tells wives to submit, he refers specifically to husbands who “do not believe the Word”. Now, that could be non-Christian husbands, or it could be husbands who are failing to follow the Word even though they are believers. In either case, Peter allows for no “out”. The command is to submit.

Peter assures wives that there is a good purpose in this submission: “So that ... they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.” And of what type of behavior does Peter speak? First he refers to their purity and reverence. Then he points to the “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit”. Wives, ask yourself, are you known for “a gentle and quiet spirit”? Is your approach an inner beauty or is it with a frying pan. Are you “a wife of noble character” (Prov. 31:10ff), or “a quarrelsome wife” (Prov. 21:9)?

Neither Peter nor Paul, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, give room for a failure to submit. Peter specifically addresses the ungodly husband. Paul elsewhere offers some hope on the subject of “How can my husband lead me in the will of God if he doesn’t know God or is not in the will of God?” According to Paul:

There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted (Rom. 13:1-2).
Now, if you are a woman who loves God, that statement should give you pause. Having seen that God is the head over Christ and Christ is the head over men, we see the authority structure established by God in the home. According to Paul, if you defy that structure, you defy God . No longer is it a matter of failing to submit to that man. It’s a failure – a refusal – to submit the God’s authority. Now, to make things easier, you can have this confidence from the words of Solomon:

The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes (Prov. 21:1).
There is blessed assurance in that statement. While the authorities that God has ordained over us may or may not be what they should be, or even aware of God, we can have absolute confidence, not in them, but in Him that He is in charge and will direct the authority as He sees fit.

There are, of course, those instances in which the authority placed over anyone may call for the one in submission to sin. We can see that is unacceptable and a valid reason to refuse to submit. We see it in Acts when the Sanhedrin ordered the disciples to stop preaching the Gospel. Peter replied, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). This is valid, but there is a strong caution here. Only in the case of a command to sin can we say that we must not submit. Only when instructed to defy God can we choose to defy the authority God has placed over us. If we were to be honest, the actual incidences in which husbands are commanding their wives to sin are very rare. Before invoking this exception clause, check carefully to determine if this is a sin being commanded. You will find it to be very uncommon.

Please note that in this sin-sick world there are also going to be times that the husband is, well, dangerous. I just saw a news show about a husband who tried to poison his wife, and she worked hard at both submitting to him and not ending their marriage. Clearly this would be a case for the authorities that God has placed in society, and not submitting to being murdered is not considered “disrespectful” or evil in some way. The same is true for other conditions. A wife cannot submit to a husband who teaches their children lies. She can be respectful, but it is not in her husband's best interests or her children's best interests to simply “go along” with it. Again, however, the danger here is in their exceptional nature. Once we admit these exceptions - and we do - it becomes likely that they will be used incorrectly. “I don't like it” is not necessarily a reason to take this exceptional path.

The other common error is in the word “respect”. Wives are to “respect” their husbands (Eph. 5:33). So what about if he is not worthy of respect? This is a failure to understand the word used. First, respect is aimed at the position, not the person. As God’s representative in the house (regardless of his godliness), the position deserves respect. More importantly, the root of the word used in Eph. 5:33 is not so much “respect” as it is “reverence”, “fear”, “be in awe”. The Amplified Bible says, “Let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly].” When you conquer that list, you have arrived at “respect”.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Face Change

For all you vast numbers of readers out there (and you both know who you are), it's not your imagination. I just changed the face of the blog. The content is unchanged. You can breathe a sigh of relief.

The Role of a Wife - Part 1

I only approach this one first because it is, in fact, simpler than the role of the husband. Carrying it out may entail a large amount of effort, perhaps, but the instructions are fairly plain and straightforward. In fact, almost every husband can tell his wife the initial requirement of a wife: “Submit to your husband.” Plain and simple.

Of course, almost no wife would say “Plain and simple.” There is so much more to discuss, to be sure. So let’s address the primary issues.

“Why should I?”

Always important in biblical commands is the principle behind it. In some cases the principle is “Because God said so.” In others, God kindly explains why He said so. This is one of the latter. Paul says, “The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.” There you have it. Perhaps Paul says it clearer elsewhere.

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God (1 Cor 11:3).

God has established a hierarchy. It goes like this:
God at the top => Christ => husband => wife.
Now, before you women jump up and down and talk about how demeaning this is, notice that Christ is not at the top. That means that He is in submission. Now, certainly we would not say that Christ is “demeaned” for being in submission to God. So it would seem that the perception that “submission is demeaning” is incorrect. In fact, there is no connection of “submission” to “value”. It is not a valuation, but a ranking in terms of leadership or authority. Just as a janitor is every bit as important as a president, so is every person in this chain important. It is not demeaning to be outranked.

So, God has ordained that God be head over all, followed by Christ who is head over husbands who are then to be head over their wives. I see three important points here.

First, this hierarchy is God-ordained and, as such, good. If we say, “It’s not good for women to submit to their husbands”, we are saying “It’s not good of God to have set things up that way.

Second, it places men in an interesting position, ladies. If it is true that God has ordained a hierarchy of authority and responsibility, then it is men whom God holds responsible. On the plus side, this decreases the responsibility of wives. On the minus side, when wives fail to allow men that authority and responsibility, you diminish them. But they don’t answer to you for that; they answer to God.

Finally, it places wives in a very enviable position. If God holds husbands responsible, then the wives get a unique situation in which they can know God’s will for their lives in ways that others cannot. That is, if Christ is the head over the husband, then the wife can be sure that his leadership is the precise equivalent to God’s will. Of course, this naturally leads to the next issue.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Marriage 101 - Introduction

I do not claim to be an expert. I have no accreditation, no degrees, no "divine knowledge", no superior intellect in this particular field. I'm just drawing from what I see in Scripture ... and these are my thoughts.

(Note: This is “101”. It is not intended to be in any way complete or comprehensive. There is so much more to be said on the subject. This is just a starting point.)

I have an idea. We need to revisit marriage counseling and take a different approach. The approach I am going to recommend is not necessarily new, but it is counter to the current method and, as such, perhaps revolutionary.

I’m speaking of a biblically-based counseling. It would have no bearing on those who do not recognize God’s Word as a valid rule of life. But let’s look at the structure of biblical instruction on marriage to find my “biblical approach to marital counseling”. First we have Paul’s input:

22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church- 30 for we are members of his body. 31 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32 This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Eph. 5:22-33)

Then there is Peter’s point of view:
1 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:1-7)
Here we have the two major, explicit teachings on husband/wife relationships. It only takes a brief moment to see an immediate pattern, but it’s not the pattern you might expect. Notice that the first paragraph in each case has an addressee: “Wives”. Notice that the second paragraph in each case has an addressee: “Husbands”. Here we see a biblical pattern that must not be ignored. These authors, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, have addressed specific information to specific people. We cannot afford to skip over that.

The problem today is that it seems that all husbands know that wives are to submit, but most husbands don’t know what husbands are to be. The reverse is also true. All wives know that husbands are supposed to love them, but wives seem to have a real problem with the “submit” part. The problem is we keep reading other people’s mail.

So here’s my new approach. How about if we agree that until you (husband or wife) actually meet the expected conditions addressed to you, you are not allowed to complain about your spouse’s failure to meet the conditions addressed to them?

Now, as we proceed, we want to keep this idea in mind. Therefore, if you are a husband, do not read the sections entitled “The Role of a Wife”. Instead, wait for “The Role of a Husband”. Do not read the next few installments. They aren’t addressed to you. Wives, you read the sections entitled “The Role of a Wife”, but stop at “The Role of a Husband”. That is not addressed to you. At the end we will see what we can do about letting you each see how the role of the other might be of some importance to you, but not yet.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Hall of Faith Revival Meeting

From Hebrews 11, “the Halls of Faith”, this special Revival Meeting is held in an imaginary tent meeting to hear the testimonials and praise the Lord ...


“Welcome tonight to your Hall of Faith Revival Meeting,” the preacher says. “Tonight we have something special for you. I won’t be preaching tonight. Instead, we’ve invited people throughout time to testify of God’s faithful care for them.”

The congregation offers a polite applause, with a few “Praise Jesus!” calls barely audible mixed in.

“To start us off, we have Abel, the brother of Cain. Abel?”

Abel stands up. “I was a shepherd, and I offered a sacrifice in faith. God called me righteous!”

The congregation applauds, with a “Hallelujah!” and more calls of “Praise Jesus”.

“Over here we have Enoch,” the preacher says. “Enoch, can I get a testimony?”

Enoch stands up. “I put my faith in God, and he prevented me from dying.”

“From dying?”

“Yes, preacher ... from ever dying. One day He just took me into His presence.”

“Praise God! He is so good! Thank you, Enoch. Now we have Noah. Noah, tell us what God has done for you.”

“I trusted God, and He saved my family and I from a flood that killed the entire world.”

“Hallelujah! Praise God! He is marvelous! Thank you, Noah. Over here we have two people you will remember – Abraham and Sarah. Don’t they make a cute couple? Tell us what God has done for you.”

Abraham stands with his wife. “God told me to leave my home and go to a place he would show me. I did, and He took me to the Promised Land. Then, my wife was barren for nearly 100 years, but God promised us a son, and He delivered!”

The congregation applauds. Several people stand with hands raised. Some shout “Hallelujah!” and “Praise Jesus” and “Praise the Lord!”

Abraham gestures for quiet. “There’s more. When that son was older, God told me to go sacrifice him – to kill him.”

A gasp and sudden hush falls on the congregation.

“I did what He said because I believed God could raise him from the dead. But when I put him on the altar and prepared to kill him, God stopped me and provided a ram to sacrifice in his place.”

The congregation applauds. People leap to their feet and shout “Praise God!” Some are waving their hands. More shout “Praise Jesus” and “Praise the Lord!” The preacher waits for the noise to abate, then speaks again.

“Let’s skip on over to Moses, now. How about it, Moses? Tell us what God did for you.”

A man who looks nothing at all like Charlton Heston stands and speaks. “I grew up in the palace of the Pharaoh, but I knew that I couldn’t place my confidence in man. I trusted God and left the riches of the palace. Although I went to the desert, I knew God had something better for me than the wealth of Egypt.”

The congregation listens with rapt attention. Their faces betray a mixture of puzzlement and anticipation.

Moses continues. “But God used me to free His people. I celebrated that first Passover with the people and we headed out of slavery! And when we got to the Red Sea, and ol’ Pharaoh was bearing down on us, God Himself opened up that water and we walked through on dry land!”

The congregation goes wild. People are standing, shouting, stomping their feet, applauding. They are glorifying God for His greatness and faithfulness. Again, the preacher waits for the noise to subside, then speaks again.

“Now, some of you may not be as familiar with this next guest, and may I say, shame on you.” His smile diminishes the sting. “She was a prostitute in Jericho when God found her. Her name is Rahab.”

“Yes, God found me when I was deep in sin. I lived in Jericho when the people of God sent spies. I recognized them as God’s people and protected them from the people of my city. Because of my faith in God, when the walls fell and Jericho was destroyed, God saved me.”

And as the congregation begins to respond, the preacher adds, “Some of you don’t know this, but God so thoroughly saved this woman that she is in the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ!”

The congregation applauds. People leap to their feet and shout “Praise the Lord!” Some are waving their hands. More shout “Praise Jesus” and “Praise God!”.

A few other quick testimonies are given.

“Hi! I’m Joshua, and God used me to capture the entire Promised Land for Israel.”

“My name is Daniel, and I sat in a lion’s den all night, but God shut their mouths and I was saved.”

“We are Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, but you probably remember us as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We trusted God, and he delivered us from the fire.”

A lone woman stands up. “You don’t know me, but my baby died suddenly. We prayed, and God raised my baby back to life!”

The congregation goes wild again. Almost everyone is on their feet shouting and applauding. They are praising God at the top of their lungs.

Another lone woman stands up. “You don’t know me, either, but I was arrested for being a Christian. They offered to release me if I rejected Christ ...”

An anticipatory hush falls on the crowd.

“... but I refused, and they left me in prison for the rest of my life.”

The congregation is quiet, stunned.

Someone else stands up. “Yes! I was arrested and beaten and chained.”

Another chimes in. “Me, too! But when they were done, they stoned me to death!”

With a rising fervor completely unmatched by the deathly silent congregation, more stand and shout their praises to God.

“I was fed to the lions for the sake of Christ!”

“I was cut in half with a saw!”

“I was stabbed to death with a sword!”

“We had nothing to eat, no decent clothing, and nowhere to live but caves in the desert!”

“I lived in a hole in the ground until I died!”

“I never received what was promised!”

Despite the jubilant-sounding tone of these last testimonies, the congregations sits soundless, bewildered.

* * * * * * *

And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Heb. 11:32-40)

Is it sufficient that God has provided something better, or do we require that God do “nice things” for us, that God bless us according to our narrow definition? What would it take for us to consider it worthwhile to not receive what we ask for or expect or even see as promised?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Israel at War

I read an MSNBC timeline of the events leading up to the current war between Israel and her neighbors:

March 29 - Abbas swears in Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his government.

June 9 - Hamas calls off 16-month truce after seven members of a family are killed on a Gaza beach during a day of Israeli shelling.

June 13 - Israel kills 11 Palestinians, including 9 civilians, in a missile strike in a van carrying miltants and rockets in Gaza.

June 25 - Gaza militants launch deadly raid into Israel, killing two soldiers and capturing Cpl Gilad Shalit. Three days later Israel pushes into Gaza.

How very odd! From this timeline, it appears that Israel, for no apparent reason, was shelling Gaza, and that was the cause of the violence against Israel. This is very strange, since a simple review of a variety of sources produces a radically different timeline.

Actual Timeline

March 29 - Abbas swears in Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his government.

June 1 - Israel identifies rockets that struck two Sderot homes as Hamas-built. Hamas government denies officially supporting attacks on Israel, but admits to providing cover for militants. Israel responds by shelling suspected militant rocket-launching locations.

June 9 - Hamas calls off 16-month truce after seven members of a family are killed on a Gaza beach during a day of Israeli shelling. Israel denies responsibility, and, after initially disagreeing with Israel's findings, Human Rights explosives expert agrees that the explosion was likely an unexploded shell.

Hamas militants continue to launch hundreds of rockets into Israel.

June 13 - Israel kills 11 Palestinians, including 9 civilians, in a missile strike on a van carrying a missile crew and rockets in Gaza.

June 25 - Gaza militants launch deadly raid into Israel, killing two soldiers and capturing Cpl Gilad Shalit.

June 27 - Palestinian militants kidnap and kill Eliyahu Asheri, an 18-year-old student, while demanding release of all Palestinian prisoners from Israel.

June 28 - Israel pushes into Gaza. Militants claim to have processed over 20 chemical warheads and are launching them into Israel. Israel finds no evidence to support the claim.

June 29 - Israel freezes military operations in Gaza to give diplomacy time. During the two days of the Israeli offensive into Gaza, no Palestinian fatalities have been reported.

July 2 - Israel begins offensive to stop Qassam (Hamas-built) rocket launches from Gaza strip. Since October, 2001, more than 1200 rockets have been launched into Israel, killing 12 Israeli civilians and a comparable number of Palestinians.

July 12 - Hezbollah militants kidnap two Israeli soldiers patrolling inside the northern Israel border. Three soldiers are killed in the incident, and five soldiers are killed in subsequent confrontations inside Lebanon. Hezbollah demands the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners and one Lebanese prisoner, the killer of two small girls and their father. Simultaneously, Hezbollah militants launch Katyusha rockets and mortar shells at Israeli towns along the border, wounding six Israeli civilians and five soldiers. Israeli forces attack installations and Hezbollah positions in Lebanon.

(Katyusha rockets shown here are Russian-made rockets supplied by Syria and Iran to Hezbollah militants.)

July 13 - The United States vetoes a United Nations resolution condemning Israel's military operations in the Gaza Strip.

July 14 - Israeli missile boat is hit by Iranian-built C-802 land-to-ship missile. Since Wednesday morning, Hezbollah has fired more than 300 rockets and mortar shells into civilian populations in Israel.

July 15 - Hezbollah fires more than 800 rockets into Israel. Israel continues to perform military strikes in Lebanon. Thus far, they have targeted the international airport in Beirut, the main roads between Lebanon and Syria, all radar sites, and suspected Hezbollah locations. Israel's Navy has blockaded Lebanese sea ports. More than 100 Lebanese civilians have died along with an undisclosed number of Hezbollah militants.

Here are some of the sources I found:

From the AP - June 13 - Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Tuesday that Israel was not responsible for a blast that killed eight Gaza beachgoers, rebuffing Palestinian accusations that blamed an Israeli artillery round.

An Israeli inquiry concluded the blast was caused by an explosive buried in the sand, not from Israeli shelling on the afternoon of the Palestinian family's beach picnic.


Israel has been pounding northern Gaza with hundreds of artillery shells for weeks, trying unsuccessfully to stop Palestinian militants from setting up and launching homemade rockets at Israel.

From Wikipedia - Mark Garlasco, the senior military analyst and battle damage assessment expert at Human Rights Watch, initially claimed that his findings showed that the nature of the injuries was "not consistent" with the Israeli explanation of an explosion originating from a buried object. ... Following a meeting with Major General Klifi on 19 June 2006 however, Garlasco praised the IDF's efforts to avoid civilian casualties and their professional investigation of the blast, saying he had "[come] to an agreement with General Klifi that the most likely cause [of the blast] was unexploded Israeli ordinance".

Hamas officially withdrew from its 16 month old truce with Israel, which it regularly violated by firing rockets at Israeli civilian targets and other attacks, and began taking responsibility for Qassam Rockets launched into Israel.

From YNET - June 1 - IDF officials said the Qassam rockets that struck two Sderot homes located not far from Defense Minister Amir Peretz’s residence were assembled by Hamas.

The incident marked the first time Hamas was involved in rocket attacks on Israel since the agreed-upon lull in violence was announced over a year ago.


Despite its commitment to the calm, Hamas has never denied its cooperation with other organizations, and Hamas Politburo chief Khaled Mashaal went as far as saying that “when we say we have abandoned the armed resistance – is cooperation with other organizations not resistance? Is providing a cover for the aid given to other groups not resistance?”


In a country where the freedom of the press and freedom of speech is so well protected, why do you suppose that some big name media outlets feel the need to torture the truth on this?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Heart of Worship - Conclusion

Worship is the assigning of worth to the One most worthy. To diminish that task with entertainment or mere emotionalism is to take away from the awesome worthiness of God. We must not surrender to the world’s concepts of entertainment or modern ideas of emotionally loving God. We cannot surrender to the notion that “people don’t understand that stuff”, to the dumbing down of the believer. We must press on to the highest places, giving to God more and more glory. We must decrease; He must increase. He must be the audience with we as the performers. We must teach and admonish with song, include the Word as worship, and engage the minds before attempting to drive by emotion. God deserves the best we have to offer.

A song entitled “The Heart of Worship”, by Matt Redman, has a chorus that goes like this:
I'm coming back to the heart of worship,
And it's all about You, all about You Jesus.
I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it.
When it's all about You, all about you Jesus.
Herein is captured chief among my concerns. We’ve made worship into something it’s not. It is not a warm feeling about God, although warm feelings about God may accompany worship. It is not a good song or well-done performance, although we need to give God our best. While we should certainly appreciate those who lead us in worship, they cannot be our focus in worship. God deserves more than warm feelings and good performances. He deserves a heart of worship. He deserves people whose lifestyles reflect His worth. He deserves our minds, transformed and new.

Consider, for a moment, the two approaches: “A good performance” and “leading in worship”. There will, of course, be striking similarities. Both should be well done. The worship team should be worshipping as they sing in both cases. There may be spoken interaction in both cases. But there will also be fundamental differences. When leading worship, the aim will be to direct the congregation in worship. There will be a constant sensitivity to the congregation. Are we bringing them along? Are we teaching and admonishing with music? Are they enjoying the music or participating in it? Have we given them a reason to worship, or are we just “showing the way”?

This attention to the worship needs of the congregation will manifest itself in many seemingly small ways. Is the sound balanced properly so they catch words rather than skillful playing? Are the ushers or others distracting? Are the musicians adding to or detracting from their attention to God? Are those who are in front dressing in a way that draws attention to themselves? Are they saying and doing things that point the congregation to God? The differences will seem subtle, but the overall effect will be large. The congregation may not be able to answer the question, “How was the worship team today?”, but they will certainly be able to answer, “How was worship today?”

We don’t need to come into the presence of a good worship team. We don’t need to come into church to be taught cleverly. We need to see God. We need to be in His presence. We need to worship Him in spirit and in truth. All in all, the pastor, the worship team, those who minister by serving in a myriad of ways must bring the church into the presence of God and leave them there. The church does not need to go home impressed with the sermon or the music – they need to go home impressed with God.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Heart of Worship - Part 4

The Aim of the Worship Service

There is one important aspect of worship that I have, thus far, merely danced around. We know that God alone is to be worshipped. We know that worship engages the mind. We know that the whole service is a worship service. We haven’t yet answered the aim of this service.

We live in an entertainment-driven society. Our highest paid individuals are not those who produce, but those who entertain – actors and sports stars. The principles of entertainment have eased their way into our worship. Instead of a chancel we have stages. Instead of a choir we have praise bands. The quality of worship is often measured in terms of the quality of their performance. Brothers, these things ought not be.

The aim of the worship service is to give to God the glory He so richly deserves. This is accomplished by means of “performance”, but not in the sense that it is done today. The “audience” in church is not the congregation, but God Himself. The “performers” in a worship venue are the worshipers. The function of the leadership is not to perform, but to direct the performance. We do not currently understand this in most churches today, as evidenced by the applause that follows the singing. When we “applaud”, we “apply laud”. That is, we offer praise. Thus to applaud a musical performance is to offer praise to the musicians. Yet we have already seen that the function of worship is to offer praise to God alone.

Therefore, the aim of the worship service is to direct the worshipers to God. This is accomplished in word and song. It engages the mind before it engages the emotions. This type of service teaches and admonishes, wit one of the results being the emotional response to God. It aims to focus the attention of the congregation on God, not on those directing the worship. And it removes those things that are not specifically commanded by God. This would include primarily the concept of “entertainment” that has so pervaded modern worship services.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Heart of Worship - Part 3

The Worship Service

I would suggest, in light of this, that our Sunday morning worship should look somewhat different than it currently looks. Let me add a key verse to the mix:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matt. 22:37).
We have already seen that worship is an ongoing act, a life of obedience, and that God wants purity in our worship. We have seen that it is dangerous to exceed the prescribed range of acceptable worship. But here I wish to examine Sunday’s worship. These two verses add an additional concept. In these verses we see something that is rarely found as “part of worship” in churches today – “the mind”.

In most worship services, we have boiled down our “worship” to that section called “singing”. Furthermore, that singing is almost exclusively aimed at encouraging believers to feel warmly toward God. That is, an enthusiastic leadership will try to impart some measure of their excitement about God to a hopefully receptive congregation. In so doing, we bypass the Scriptures I’ve included above as well as the human being himself. Allow me to explain.

When we set out to encourage a warm feeling about God, we are, in essence, encouraging worship from the emotional center. While it is certainly a good thing to feel warmly toward God, when that warmth is our aim, we have missed the mark. In the human being, emotions are the direct result of perception. Perception is how we think about things. Therefore, when we attempt to encourage an emotional response without engaging the brain, we are getting the cart before the horse. Furthermore, we are offering shallow worship. We are not loving God with all our minds – we aren’t using them at all. And if we do impart that warm feeling toward God, how long can it last without being sustained by our perception? It is like allowing someone to stand close to your fire. They get warm, but when they leave they have no sustained warmth. If, on the other hand, we could engage the perceptions, then they would have the opportunity to “self-generate” (so to speak) that warmth toward God. To reacquire that warmth, it would merely require returning to those thoughts.
Music itself is a powerful tool. It has the capacity to bypass the brain and impact the emotions. It is useful in the proper hands, but dangerous when handled carelessly. In one case it is supportive. In the other, it is manipulative. What does God say about how we are to use music?

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Col. 3:16).
Here we have Paul’s idea of the proper use of music: as a teaching tool. He offers music in three forms. Psalms are songs sung from the Psalms themselves. We have many of these in today’s contemporary music. Hymns are praise songs written by Christians. It appears, for instance, that Paul himself imbeds such songs in Scripture (Eph. 5:14; 1 Tim. 3:16; 2 Tim. 2:11 14). Spiritual songs are joyous pieces on sacred subjects. We have all of these available to us, but rarely do we find them being used to teach and admonish. Paul says we are to sing “with thankfulness in your hearts to God”. Does that not require that we have something about which to be thankful?

Of what then does the worship service consist? It must consist of purified people whose minds are being engaged through “the word of Christ” and through song. The announcements, the offering, the singing, the preaching, all are part of, not ancillary to worship. Worship begins before we start the service by setting ourselves right before God. The songs must engage the mind before we can expect them to engage the emotions. They must teach before they inspire emotions. The preaching, the imparting of the Word of Christ, is integral to worship. Giving to the work of the Lord is part of prostrating ourselves before our Master.

On a personal note, while I find modern praise songs to have admirable qualities in reaching the emotions, they are typically lacking in content that engage the mind. I am not implying in the least that these songs have no use in the worship service. I am merely suggesting that they be the response to the prior engagement of the mind with the glory of God. Modern songs tend to be repetitious and simple, while older songs tend to have more theological depth. When we exclude these from our worship, as is the habit of so many today, we are cutting ourselves off from some of the finest teaching tools in song available to us today.

(The other disturbing trend is this. Try looking in a topical index of contemporary worship music for such things as "the Cross" or "the Blood of Christ". You will find it completely lacking. Look in a hymnal, and you'll find lots of such themes. If the Gospel is "Christ and Him crucified", why this disturbing trend away from mentioning the Cross?)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Heart of Worship - Part 2

Obedience in Worship

When it comes to life, God actually has comparatively little to say about day-to-day experience. What kind of car should I drive? How much TV should I or should I not watch? What type of music is “good” or “bad”? Many have attempted to create rules on these issues, but Scripture is clear on these:
Let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God (Col. 2:16-19).
We are told “whatever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23), but beyond that the rules begin to diminish. There are givens, such as not murdering, committing adultery, stealing, or committing fornication. Very clearly God has “opinions” (and God’s “opinions” are not like Man’s “opinions” – His need to be heeded) on such matters as homosexuality and witchcraft. We certainly have Ten Commandments. I don’t mean to imply in the least that God had nothing to say about daily living. However, the biblical principle is this: If God does not expressly command or forbid it, we recognize Christian liberty.

Worship, on the other hand, falls in a different category. Look at some of the examples in the Old Testament. The first incident of unacceptable worship is found in Gen. 4:4-5, when Abel’s offering was accepted, but Cain’s was not. Hebrews 11:4 indicates that the difference was not in content, but in the heart. Abel offered his sacrifice in faith; Cain did not.

When God first ordered the worship process, we have the strange account of Nadab and Abihu, who offered “strange fire”. No one is really clear what that means. Yet God struck them dead on the spot with this simple explanation:
"By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored." (Lev. 10:3)
Nadab and Abihu weren’t alone in this. God was irate with the children of Israel when they had Aaron make a golden calf for them. Now Aaron’s intent was only to make worship relevant (Exo. 32:4), but it cost 3,000 lives (Exo. 32:28). Uzzah was doing the noble task of returning the Ark of the Covenant to Israel, but when he reached up to steady it, God struck Him dead (2 Sam. 6:1-8). Touching the Ark for whatever reason was forbidden.

There are multiple examples of this in Scripture. When it comes to non-essentials, liberty. However, it would appear that God considered the method of worship to be among the essentials, and, as such, not open for modification. He ordained worship to be of a certain type, and a violation of that type was deemed worthy of death.

This concept is called “The Regulative Principle of Worship”. It applies only to worship, and it states essentially the opposite of the biblical principle concerning living. In life, we are allowed to consider that which is not expressly commanded or forbidden. In worship, however, we are allowed to only include that which is expressly commanded. Now, admittedly, some have taken this principle to extremes. They have categorically ruled out musical instruments and hymns, opting only for a cappella Psalms. They use this to determine the architecture and decorations of a church. They use it to take matters to unsupportable excess. This misuse of the principle, however, does not negate the validity of the principle. It merely demonstrates Man’s failure to fully comprehend.

What type of things, then, does God command for His worship? First and foremost, as we have already seen, He commands obedience. Beyond that, worship in the house of God is clearly ordained by God. It includes purification and singing (Neh. 12:44-46). There is certainly a need for reverence (Psa. 2:11). It is described in Psalm 29:2 as ascribing the glory due His Name. It should go without saying, but Scripture is absolutely clear that worship is reserved for God alone (Luke 4:8).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Heart of Worship - Part 1

Keeping with the theme ... more on worship.

People complain about church for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it is “We’ve never done it this way before.” Often it is “I don’t like it that way.” Since opinions and preferences have no bearing on the question, I will try to write this as informed by Scripture alone.

What Is Worship?

The New Testament word used most often, proskuneo, is a Greek compound word that means literally “to kiss the hand of the Master”. The Old Testament word, shachah, is a Hebrew word meaning “to bow down”. Both carry with them the idea of paying homage, acknowledging oneself to be the servant of a master. In English, the word is rather descriptive. It is rooted in the idea of “worth”, applying “worth-ship” to God.

What is worship? It is our assigning to God the value that He deserves. It is our bended knee, our recognition of His absolute Lordship. This recognition takes many forms. First and foremost, it takes the form of obedience. This makes absolute sense since it is an acknowledgment of His Lordship. Thus, we see that we are to “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship” (Rom. 12:1). Paul refers to the “obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5; 16:26), the obedience produced when we believe that God is who He says He is. Jesus informed us that true worship is “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). True worship, then, is reflected in a life that is on its knees before its Master. This is the life reflected in Paul’s words:
I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:8-11).
There it is; “the surpassing value of knowing Christ”. That is true worship – worth-ship. Worship elevates God and lowers all other things to their relative value (“rubbish”) including self-gained righteousness, comfort, well being, even life itself. Worship places “knowing Christ” of ultimate worth.

Thus, our narrow idea that worship is contained in the songs we sing on Sunday morning is extremely anemic. As Samuel told Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22). Of course that music we offer on Sunday mornings is, indeed worship, but it is clearly insufficient when it comes to recognizing God’s true worth.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I Will Be Regarded As Holy - Conclusion

Worship is no small matter. It is to be the lifestyle of the believer. It is to be the day-by-day attitude. Bringing glory to God must be accomplished every day in all we do. When it comes to Sunday worship, it should exemplify this concept both in the congregational and leadership attitudes and actions. As life is to be lived to the glory of God, the church service must be conducted with God’s glory as the focal point. Everything we do must be worship, in life and in church. If the business model of church is to be used, then the customer is God, and the customer is always right. If the “seeker-sensitive” model is to be used, then the seeker is not Man (Rom. 3:11), but God (2 Chron. 16:9). He is seeking a people who will worship Him. In all cases, God is the primary focus, not the people who attend. It is Him we seek to glorify.

God is a holy God and demands that all who come near regard Him as holy. The human tendency is to shift the focus from God to the things that are intended to point to God. We tend to focus on the wonderful singing, the warm emotions, the moving preaching, and forget about the God of whom we are singing, feeling, and worshiping. To engage in trivial entertainment or, worse, idolatry of worshiping anyone else but God in church is blasphemous. We must move toward worship as God would have us worship. The primary purpose of the human being is to glorify God and enjoy Him. We must not disengage from that marvelous purpose the moment we enter the church service. If sin is defined as falling short of the glory of God, then worship would be the opposite of sin. Let’s not let our worship be an affront to God. In the words of the hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of Earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
In the words of the apostle Paul:
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

Monday, July 10, 2006

I Will Be Regarded as Holy - Part 4

Scripture teaches that the battle in which the believer is engaged is largely a battle for the mind. We are to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23). We are to “set your mind on the things above” (Col. 3:2). Paul lists things on which to let our minds dwell (Phil. 4:8). One of the blatant items on the list of the Great Commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God”, is “with all your mind”. Scripture repeats over and over that we are to think rightly. Thus, it should be no surprise that God’s word commands that we should be “teaching and admonishing one another with songs, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Col. 3:16). When was the last time you were “admonished” with songs? Music, in fact, is a powerful tool. It is capable of bypassing the mind and eliciting emotional responses. Music is as close as humans come to real magic. Chord structures and sound combinations can actually affect the feelings of other humans. This makes music a wonderful, although potentially dangerous tool. The difficulty comes from two directions. First, when we fail to recognize the real capability of music to induce emotions, we can run roughshod over feelings without paying attention. Second, if we do recognize the ability of music in this regard, we run the risk of using it to manipulate responses. We may feel that this is a good thing – attempting to encourage warm feelings toward God – but in so doing we entirely bypass the higher concern, the mind. If we keep at the forefront this purpose of engaging the mind, it will alter how we build the song service. It must include instruction. It would need to include important truth. The move today away from hymns and toward the contemporary is not, in itself, evil, but in our haste to remain “relevant”, we are discarding deep theological truths for warm, fuzzy ditties. And while hymns are not, in themselves, sacred, it is dangerous to throw them out because people feel they are “outdated” or “no longer appropriate”. (An interesting, if not disturbing, side note: Do a survey sometime of the content of contemporary worship songs. If the primary focus of the New Testament is “Christ and Him crucified”, you will be troubled to discover that an amazingly small number of the modern songs bring any focus to the Cross. Why is that?) Even without the old hymns, however, it would seem that if we are to be obedient to Scripture, it is necessary to engage the mind when engaging in singing. If this is done, then feelings will follow. And when the mind, turned to the sweet character of God, produces the inevitable warm feelings, and these warm feelings are fed by the music, the result is far better than the manipulated feelings produced when the mind is bypassed. In this sense, the emotional responses produced by the mind whose attention is on God will be accompanied by the emotions engendered by the music, not produced. The music, then, becomes the accompaniment of the soul’s expression. Whether, then, you sing hymns or contemporary songs, let all be done to the glory of God.

The second issue is execution. It should be obvious that, if we are to incorporate the ideas I’ve presented, the actual implementation of the song service will change. How would that look? In point of fact, it may not look any different. The real change would be in the attitudes of the “prompters” rather than in the selection or presentation of songs. If my attitude as a worship leader is to prompt the congregation to perform their best for the Lord, it will necessarily affect what I do in front of them. The goal, rather than singing well or obtaining a response from them, will be to point them to the Lord. Leadership will do what it takes to do to remove distractions, insure they are up to speed on the songs, engaged in the content, etc. The performance of the prompters becomes support rather than primary. For musicians, questions will change from “Can they hear my instrument?” to “Is my playing distracting or enhancing?” For singers, questions will change from “How do I sound?” to “How am I directing their attention to God?” The worship leader will ask less of “Is this a quality presentation?” and more of “Is the congregation being set up to worship God?” Necessarily, the answers to these questions will vary, but asking them will change the character of the entire process of leading worship. In this type of atmosphere, the ultimate compliment that can be paid to a worship team would be, “We were so caught up with the Lord that we hardly noticed you were there.” And, perhaps, the ultimate insult to a worship team seeking to direct the congregation to worship is to receive a round of applause. Applause is praise, and praising the prompters means the whole things was derailed someplace.

There is one more thought I need to impart. God details structures (such as elders and deacons) and approaches (such as praise, prayer, singing, preaching) for church in general and worship in particular. The danger in all cases is to believe that the structures and approaches are the end. There is a tendency to think that if we get these structures and approaches correct, all is well. What we have seen throughout Man’s history with God is that even when structures and approaches are correct, if the heart is wrong, the correctness is nullified. We have a predisposition to be distracted from God. We often do that by sinning, but those with the best of intentions can do that with “programs” and “systems” intended to point us to God. They set out to be a finger pointing to the moon and end up focused on the finger, not the moon. We tend to be like the parents of the bride, anxiously and eagerly going about the preparations for the wedding, forgetting all about the bride herself. The structures and approaches ordained by God are not the singular answer to the problem. The answer is a heart that pants after God. His view on worship is of sole importance, and it is incumbent on us to approach Him as He would be approached, but we must never do so mechanically. The approach is never the answer. A heart for God is the answer, and this heart will certainly take into account God’s demands.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

I Will Be Regarded As Holy - Part 3

If worship, then, is to be an everyday act, an ongoing lifestyle, where does the typical Sunday morning come in? Corporate worship is an integral part of the lifestyle of worship. Most American Christians have lost sight that the primary thrust in Scripture is toward corporate worship as opposed to private worship. Our great love for the concept of a “personal Savior” has blinded us to the large emphasis placed on “us”, the “Body of Christ”. Worship is not about us as individuals; it is about the corporate Body of Christ joining together to glorify God. While this is made up of individuals, we are focused as a single organism to be a display of God’s glory to the world. Thus, the importance of corporate worship in the Church can hardly be overstated.

In its original design, the worship service was not a “refilling station”, but a download of a week of worship. Thus Paul says, “When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification” (1 Cor. 14:26). Corporate worship is designed to be a sharing time in which we mutually impart God’s work in our lives and encourage spiritual maturity for the purpose of edifying one another (Eph. 4:11‑16). Further, the gathering place is not the local church building. According to Heb. 12:18-24:
You have not come to a mountain that may be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word should be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, "If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned." And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, "I am full of fear and trembling." But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.
We differ from the Old Testament approach in which they could be struck dead for approaching God. We are now allowed access in the name of Jesus into heaven itself. All true worship occurs in heaven, “Mount Zion”, “the city of the living God”, “the heavenly Jerusalem”. And true worship is corporate, including “myriads of angels”, all believers everywhere, “the spirits of righteous men made perfect”. (Note that believers, not unbelievers, enter into true worship – the focus of so many churches on the unsaved is not biblical.) All true worship occurs in the presence of “God, the Judge of all” and “Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant”. This type of worship cannot be entered into lightly. As the author of Hebrews goes on to say, acceptable worship must be “with reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28).

How would that affect the typical Sunday service? I’m afraid that the disparity between what is and what should be is so large as to be an unbridgeable gap. The biblical picture of church, such as in Acts 2:42, 1 Cor. 14:26, and Eph. 4:11-16, is so different from what we see today that I believe a church that practiced it today would be considered cultish and renegade. (In light of the Regulative Principle of Worship, this is an alarming thought. The people of God are not interested in doing church in the way God intended?) So what type of changes would one see if we began to concern ourselves with biblical worship versus contemporary views? The first thing that would have to go would be the idea of a stage in the front of the church. A “stage” speaks of performance, and the concept of performance smells more like theater than worship. In fact, the function of a church service is not to entertain believers (or, worse, unbelievers). The function is always to glorify God, call attention to Him, and edify the Body of Christ. The confusion, these days, seems to be the focus of attention. Is the attention to be focused on the front and the people doing the work on the stage (preacher, worship leaders, etc.) or is the attention to be focused on God? While most would certainly answer, “God”, current practices indicate otherwise. Lighting, musical approach, sound, stage presence, and arrangement all point to a performance to be enjoyed by an audience rather than a worship service located in heaven in which a congregation is to be engaged.

If, on the other hand, worship is to be focused on God, then He would be the audience, not the congregation. In this scenario, everyone shifts. The “performers” are not those in front; they are the congregation itself. Those who lead are not the performers; they are the prompters. If there is a “front” of the church, it would be as prompt box. Perhaps you remember the idea in the old theaters where a sunken box was in front of the stage for a prompter to feed lines to the actors. In these arrangements, the prompter was not to be visible to the audience; he was only for the performers. And in these situations, the orchestra was not lighted; they were below the audience’s line of sight. The spectators needed to hear them, but they didn’t need to focus on them. They were accompaniment, not the focus. All that went into making the show was behind the scenes, with the show being simply the performers, their acting highlighted by sound, lighting, music, etc. In churches today we have turned this whole concept around. We’ve lit up the orchestra, put the prompter in front stage center, and turned the lights out on the performers. Often, when the worship team has finished their “set”, we applaud their performance, completely missing the fact that we were to be the performers, not them.

If worship is first defined as bringing glory to God, then bringing glory to the performance on stage is not only incorrect, it is sin. If worship is defined as a focus on God’s worthiness, then we have entirely missed the boat and elevated people above God. We have sold biblical worship down the river in favor of our culture’s competing offer – entertainment.

A typical Sunday morning worship service, then, would look radically different. Even if we choose not to accept the biblical examples of Acts 2:42 or 1 Cor. 14:26, our services would change markedly. Currently we have, typically, several components of a worship service. There are announcements, a necessary but obtrusive process that keeps people informed while interrupting the worship. There is the song service that carries varying weight, from the primary focus for a half hour to a fifteen-minute warm up band for the preacher. There is the preaching, apparently the ultimate purpose in a Sunday morning service. And there is the collection of money, a distasteful but necessary practice. There will sporadically be other parts, such as baptisms, baby dedications, or the Lord’s Supper, which must be dealt with as they come.

Imagine, then, a worship service in which all parts of the service were . . . worship! Imagine a service in which announcements are intended to spur us to love and good deeds rather than distract us from worship. In this vein, the announcements would exist to point to God and His work in the church. Far from detracting from worship, this approach would stimulate us to focus on God. Imagine a service in which the singing was aimed away from performers (“worship team”) and their performances and toward the character of God. This is a particularly tenuous concept. It is necessary, for instance, for singing not to be haphazard or poor quality. If it is, it becomes a distraction. On the other side, if the quality is the emphasis, it becomes a performance rather than a pointer. The singing, then, would need to have sufficient quality not to put people to sleep or offend the ears while not being a “professional” event. Two clues here would be a total disinterest from the performers (congregation) or, on the other side, a round of applause from the performers (congregation). Imagine a service in which the collecting of money was an act of worship, the natural response of a grateful people. Giving would not be a necessary evil, so to speak, but the delight of a blessed congregation. It would be part of the performers’ (congregation) act of worship to the Lord. In this atmosphere of announcements, singing, and giving that are focused on God, the heart attitude would naturally be focused on listening . . . to God. The sermon would no longer be from a skilled orator, but from the Lord through His word. This would be what a worship service would look like without actually switching to the totally unfamiliar concepts of 1 Cor. 14:26.

Before I go on, let me spend a moment more on the singing portion of this worship service. Two aspects of the singing of worship music need to be addressed. The first is the purpose and the second is the execution of the singing.