The Christian Bubble

2 Timothy 4:3 ESV

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions

Matthew 6:33 ESV

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Corinthians 11:18-19

For first of all, when you come together in the church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and I partly believe it.   For there must also be heresies among you, that the approved ones may be revealed among you

I want to address an issue which I believe is quite a common occurrence amongst young Christians. I have been at university for seven years now and this post comes from observance over the seven years, but particularly I have felt the need to write this in the last few months.

We love to be around people who are like us; young, idealistic, fun and above all Christian. After all, in that environment we don’t have to address any issues such as drinking alcohol (there is no pressure to drink) or ideas which we find different from ours. We find our safe space.

Safe spaces are great; they allow us to find people who agree with us, who won’t challenge what we say. Or so we think. I believe that we often change ourselves to fit in. I don’t know about anyone reading this, but I often find that young Christians seem to almost be identical in what they listen to, what they enjoy, and the way they talk. It is all a bit weird.

I will be the first to say it; I’m not really your average young Christian. I have never found it easy to be around young Christians, and there are many reasons for that. That isn’t saying I haven’t found friends amongst young Christians, I can think of a few great guys who have been an absolute blessing to me. But I do think these cliques do not help. After all, I’m stubborn and won’t change my ways because other people don’t like it. I don’t fit into the stereotypical young Christian trope and I’m ok with that. I’m actually grateful for it. It means that for one, the focus goes to the Word, and the Lord. My Christian friends don’t make me fit a system but just want me to love the Word and Him and that is great.

You won’t find me around these guys all the time (most of them don’t even live where I live anyway). I love to spend time with non-Christians.; in fact, most of my friends aren’t believers and, as Christians, aren’t we meant to live in the world? I know Ryle argued otherwise, but I honestly believe we can play a big role in people’s lives.

And this comes to my problem with these cliques and bubbles. Apart from the fact I think they turn you into a generic young Christian (I mean literally its weird), they keep your light hidden. They water down your doctrine. I just think of the typical university Christian Union. Most treat the CU like a social club, a place to hang out, and have little interaction with non-Christians. Perhaps I am wrong but I don’t get any other impression. I have often heard the expression that the CU is a ‘home away from home’, but that shouldn’t be the case. Our churches are our homes; the CU is not a church. The ‘bubble’ means that rather than an evangelical centre and mission field, the society becomes a safe space; where they sing happy things that make them feel good, rather than sharing the love and light of Jesus Christ. Rather than standing firm in the faith, the doctrine is watered down so there are no disagreements. It is not wrong to create strong friendships in this environment, far from it, having close Christian friends is vital, but rather these friendships being a product of our labour, it is what we seek first and only.

It creates an isolating atmosphere. I know a few people know who do not go to CU because they do not fit in. If you are Reformed like myself, then I feel the CU is difficult, and personally for me, it became a no-go place. You feel as though you have to be one of them and that is just wrong. The cliques on the outside make you feel as though you miss out, that you are not part of them. If you just want to meet one of them, you find that you can’t because the rest of the clique say no or what not. Christians shouldn’t be like this. We should be accepting people, loving people, and not staying within our comfort zones.

It creates an unwelcoming atmosphere. Our churches, our societies should never be unwelcoming. Yet they are, because we prefer the safe space, rather than what is right. We water down our theology and doctrine to fit in. We keep our light hidden. Christians, we ought not to be in bubbles and in cliques. We need to be radical, be adventuresome and be courageous.

Christian Music: An updated opinion piece.

Psalm 96

Sing to the Lord a new song;     sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name;     proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations,     his marvellous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;     he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols,     but the Lord made the heavens. Splendour and majesty are before him;     strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,     ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;     bring an offering and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness;     tremble before him, all the earth. 10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”     The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;     he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;     let the sea resound, and all that is in it. 12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;     let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. 13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,     he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness     and the peoples in his faithfulness

 

Michael talking about church music, how uncommon! Well, I have been busy studying the theology of contemporary worship recently and I wanted to share some thoughts with you. I pray that you will find this a blessing and I hope we start to see a radical change amongst young people.

Don’t you just love Psalm 96, it is a Psalm full of praise to the Lord. The Psalmist has such a heart for the people of God to worship the Lord. Yet at the same time, it is a theologically rich Psalm, full of the gospel, of the Word and evangelical. It is complex like every Psalm in its own way and it’s beautiful.

Worship music is not here to fix our feelings. No, it is to feed us scripture, to help us praise the Lord Almighty, to help us memorise truth, help us see the gospel and also is a way in which we can evangelise. Imagine singing

God all keeping, omnipresent, in the passing days of man First to last, not one forgotten by his strong and steering hand He the Sovereign Lord now praise we, he the fount of Providence On his word we rest unwavering, yes his perfect word shall stand”

When you sing this for example, you are singing Biblical truth! How awesome is that. Rather than singing ‘God is good…whoop, whoop’. You are singing deep amazing truths, which edify you, others around you and stand as a witness to the non-believer! How amazing is that!

It’s not about new or old, but about God-Honouring worship

I have often talked about traditional worship versus contemporary worship, but neither is good. Psalm 96 tells us to sing new songs, as do other passages in the Bible; it is probably true that Paul quoted new hymns in the Bible as he spoke to the churches. New songs are great, but so are the old. They are timeless, they are what our spiritual forefathers sang. They helped them in their journey as they too can help us in our journey. They taught people doctrine, and they were focused on Him and Him alone. So both are great, debate settled? Well no, for me I’ve realised thanks to the Lord that this was never the issue or should have never been the issue. What is important is not new and old, but what is God Honouring. Psalm 96 tells us to sing all the aspects of the Lord, to explore Him, to praise Him and to honour Him.

Our songs must be God-Honouring. That means they must be Christ-centred, biblical, true to the Word, and that which help us grow in Him. Sadly, much of my generation do not seem to honour Him in music, and can be lost in the music of the age, influenced by churches which are not soundly biblical and it hurts me to see.

The Problem in the Modern Church

So what is the current problem? Well it is the self-centred nature of modern worship. Young people are not discerning regarding music and will listen to anything labelled as ‘Christian’ yet it is mainly focused on the self. If you count the number of times ‘I’ appears in a song, it often appears more than ‘God’. The word ‘I’ is not wrong in of itself, but it must be in relation to the Lord.

What is wrong with self-centred worship? Well its idolatry, it’s all about what God does for me. It’s all about how important I am, rather than how awesome HE is. Rather than explore the complex nature of the Lord, we want to sing about our feelings and how great everything is.

Another problem is that the theology is either heretical or just weak. God is Good, God is Love, God is Great. True themes no doubt, but there is no explanation. There is no focus on growth. In fact I argue this is a way that false teaching has gotten into the church. What better way to mislead the saints than in something that has grown into an industry and plays off our self-centred behaviour? A reading into Galatians 1:10 or 2 Peter 2 and you just get a glimpse of the Wolves in Sheep’s clothing. The bible constantly warns us of false teachers, and we must also look to our songs.

So let’s just nail down the problems:

  • Worship music is now an industry
  • Worship comes from Heretical churches such as Hillsong and Bethel (Prophecy doctrine which can also be seen in the New Apostolic Reformation as well as Prosperity Doctrine)
  • We have celebrity artists
  • We have self-centred lyrics
  • Theology and Doctrine are Missing from our songs
  • Music is not God-Honouring

These are hard truths perhaps but it is true. To be frank, I am embarrassed by my generation and I fear for the future of the church.

Just do not get me started on playing music whilst prayer is happening. It all links to what modern worship is all about, and that is emotion building; building up to a high point to get yourself into a spiritual frenzy/moment. The words actually do nothing, it’s the tune, it’s the drum beat, and it’s the changing temp. Now tunes and melodies are vital to a song, of course they are, but the Word must be central to the song and sadly it is not.

 

Songs which are God Honouring

So what is God-Honouring? Well it’s a congregational-focused worship. Paul says in Ephesians that we must sing to one another! We also need to sing as one people to Him, and not as individuals. Psalm 96 is a congregational based psalm that urges the people to Worship the Living God. That is not saying that there is not a place for the I, but it needs to be in relation to the Word and to the Lord always!

The congregation needs to be gripped with the truth of the Word. It needs to be taught through the songs we sing. Songs which honour God explore His Justice, His Omnipresence, His Love, His Glory, they turn our eyes towards the cross and towards eternity.

Songs which honour God don’t make everything out to be rosy and great. They are real. They are personal. They show sadness, questions, pain, as well as happiness, joyfulness and beauty.

Songs that honour God come from the Word. Not randomly picked verses thrown together as 90% of the music today is, but from what the Word teaches.

 

Time for action

I really do believe that we are on a clock. I think the church is in a dire situation. Some stay with the old traditional but that does not honour God as we are told to sing New songs. Many sing news songs, but are not discerning. They sing anything and have been led astray as a result. We must sing new songs but we must be discerning with our choices.

We must take a stand. We must fight for what is right. I know what damage the worship wars have done in the past, but this is for God-honouring songs and hymns. It’s about the integrity of our churches, of our theology. It is about future generations. More importantly it’s about getting rid of the wolves, it’s about coming back to what Worship really is about and that is Christ.

I want to see the church grow in faith and theology. I want to see the church love their Lord with a burning passion. I want to see Christians strong in the faith. My heart burns for Christ-centred theologically rich worship. I know that the Lord has made be focus on this for a reason. He wants his Church to honour him once more, and I intend to serve Him in doing do.

This is not about instruments, or about style. It’s about what we sing, it’s about Him and it’s about the Glory of God.

Remembering the Wars: 100 years since the end of WWI

On the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 2018 we shall stop to remember once more all those who have fallen in conflict. I like to remember more than just the last century: for all those who have died to conflict; I think of the warfare of the Thirty Years War and remember the great destruction caused by conflict and war. But what makes this year even more special is that it is also marks a hundred years since the end of the First World War.

Why is it important to remember?

The conflict was one of the worst this world has seen, and remembering it is important. The First World War teaches us many lessons, it warns us of the danger of nationalism. It shows the dangers of the glorification of warfare and battles. It demonstrates the futility of war. These lessons are ones we should never forget, for the sake of all.

It’s not a political or national event

Remembering is not only for those killed on ‘our side’ so to speak, but it’s for all, remembering that these were real people – on both sides – who gave their lives for their respective nations. These were individuals who lived lives just like ourselves, had dreams and ambitions, who loved and were loved. Each one had a story, and each one should be remembered in kind. Remembering should never be a political event, but one where we all stop, reflect and be thankful for those who died, who came back, and for the lives we live now.

Remembering should not just be sombre, but joyful

Interestingly, in the years after the First World War, Armistice Day was actually a joyous occasion, people celebrated their lives. Today we mark it with silence and sobriety, and quite rightly as we pause to reflect. At the same time however, remembrance should also be a joyous act – that we have lives to celebrate, lives given to us by a great God, and freedom because of what happened in those dreadful years.

Remembering as a Christian

I think Remembrance Day and all that comes with it is an important act for the church. The Bible often talks about remembering the past, and this day gives us an opportunity to do so. But we should never get involved in the politics of it. May we just remember and give thanks for those who gave so much for us. May we not stop learning from the past, and at the same time, may we not live in the past. It is very easy to start comparing generations and time periods, but that takes away from the point of remembering. Be thankful, be joyful, and be respectful – it is important.

The church should also remember sacrifice.  After all our Lord Jesus Christ sacrificed it all when he died on the cross for us; these men and women sacrificed their lives for peace and for us.

The First World War was meant to end all wars, but it never did. More warfare would follow, and millions of lives would be lost. Warfare does not solve anything, may we pray for peace and love to overflow in our hearts in the present age.