Music As a Form of Worship

The phrase ‘Let us start worship’ or ‘Let us begin worship’ is one that never sits easy with me. The term ‘Worship Leader’ for me doesn’t seem to be a biblical principal. In this post, I am to pick apart these terms and phrases and suggest what I believe we should be actually doing instead.

Is Worship something we turn on?

I do hope that no church flicks a switch and suddenly they are in ‘worship’ mode, I would be extremely concerned if it did! In my interpretation, worship is something that we are, we are made to worship. It is also not just solely music and singing, as we can sometimes think; in fact music is just a small part of what worship is all about.

So can we just turn it on with a flick of a switch? No! We don’t start worship, and we don’t just begin in worship, we should be worshipping God in all our thoughts and deeds, in our actions and in our words.

There is no start, and there is no end. To be frank, no one can lead you in worship. No man can lead you in worship to God, only the Spirit can give you the words to say, give you desire to praise such an awesome God we serve. You don’t just go to church where someone there helps your heart focus on God, that’s all through the Spirit, through your own heart and through you as an individual before the Lord. We worship collectively as individuals.

Music isn’t all worship

Let’s be straight here as well. Music is only a tiny fraction of what worship actually is. The Bible says:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

Worship is everything we do, it is a way we can communicate with God, it is a way we can give Him praises, and it is a way in which we can actually remember truths and passages from the Bible. If you look at hymns for example, their purpose is often to help people remember key truths about the Bible and about God. Are we losing that today?

Nonetheless, music isn’t worship. Music is a tool God has given us, to help us and to give it back to Him. Martin Luther said, ‘Next to the word of God the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.’ However, I think, we, the church, can get too focused on just one facet of what worship is. We will rehearse, practice and make a fantastic performance on stage, but what is our prayer life like? Do we spend time with God? Do we read our Bibles? Do we show a Christian life by our actions always? Sometimes we focus on one facet that we forget all the others which are just as, if not even more, important. We may get excited over a song, but we have to ask the question — do we get excited because we love the tune, love the music, but not what worship is all about?

I’m not against ‘Worship Leaders’ but..

I understand the need for someone to help keep everyone in tune, in focus and in musical cohesion, but let’s be straight here, no person actually leads worship. If anything the Spirit helps us in our singing praise, but again no person should be in a position like this, it is though as if it was just a title given to someone to sound spiritual.

Again, I am not against someone at the front helping the congregation sing and what not, but it’s the term that I have problems with, can it not be just an ego situation?

So is Music bad?

Certainly not! Music is a great gift! (Psalm 71:23; 105:2; 150: 1-5, Colossians 3:16; Revelation 14: 3-4) and one we should cherish and love to do, it allows us to be creative and it allows us to express ourselves when words fail us. Nonetheless, we must remember that it is all about Him, the mighty God, the One we are told to hold in reverent fear as well as love and adore. When we sing to our Father we do need to be serious and mean what we say. If we sing ‘I surrender all’, for example, then we should surrender all to Jesus, rather than merely singing for the sake of it (or because it’s catchy and modern) then going home and forgetting all about it. Jesus told the Pharisees that they were hypocrites and, to be frank, we can be very hypocritical in our music.

Music shouldn’t also be about using the latest snazziest catchphrases. For example, in recent times ‘oceans’, ‘waves’ and ‘storms’ having been doing the rounds. Before that it was ‘dry bones’ and I can keep going on. When we write music as worship, it should all be from the heart, about what God is telling us, and what we have been through, not what is trendy. Let’s be frank, modern songs/hymns have produced some amazing and great songs that really come from the heart, but there are also a number which just sound like they have been regurgitated time and time again, the same phrases, the same things being said. When we describe God, surely there are more ways of saying ‘You are awesome’ or ‘You are great.’ Don’t get me wrong, these are amazing truths, but sometimes it feels to me that less time has been put into the lyrics and more time into the production quality. Lyrics are important! Sometimes I can’t resist rewriting certain songs for my own personal use, and I’ll probably go on a massive rewriting spree now with many others because sometimes the tune is great but the words are so weak.

When we worship, via music, via songs, we must ensure it comes from the heart and that we mean it. We must also be prepared to learn, to be prepared to be challenged. We must acknowledge all aspects of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

Now I love music, I love music in churches, but I just wanted to write this. I think sometimes we get the wrong concept of what worship is. We don’t start or begin worship, when we sing we actually join in with the choruses in heaven, but our whole life is worship, of one form or another. Live a life that worships God, love Him with all your strength and yes praise Him in music, but always remember Who you are worshipping.

How Should Christians Respond to Terrorism?

In the wake of recent horrific terrorist attacks (which are now almost a daily occurrence) in Barcelona, Finland, Russia, London and many other places, there are many different reactions. Some people are inclined to panic; others put on a show of resilience, resolve and unity; and some angrily attack back, verbally or otherwise. But how should Christians respond?

Do not fear

First of all, we should not fear. People with guns, knives and bombs come and go. The Bible tells us not to fear such people, instead to fear God, who is Sovereign in all things:

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28).

In times of crisis and disaster Christians should shine brightest. We have peace and assurance, that whatever happens, Christ is our Saviour, and we eagerly await the heavenly home that awaits us. We are blessed beyond belief. However, this blessing is not reason to hide away in some hermit-hole up a remote mountain in Tibet or pretend everything’s OK and stick our heads in the ground like Winnie the Pooh. That won’t help anybody.

In times of war, everyone is mobilised and prepared for battle, and in the same way we all need to report for duty to our King and Commander. We all have a role to play within the world. We should not shirk from our duty (*wink wink* Jonah).

We don’t fear. We praise the Lord as we march out to battle (2 Cor. 20:21). He is the One we should fear. He is the One with almighty power who allows such atrocities to happen, and even uses them for good (Gen. 50:20, Rom. 8:28), so that He might unite everything together under His Son (1 Eph. 1:10) and thereby make known His Name and His Salvation to the ends of the earth.

Why?

Every day we read or hear the news of terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and horrendous accidents all with massive loss of life. Many ask how God can exist or allow such atrocities to carry on. Without wishing to get bogged down with this question, we must remember that this world is fallen, and it is not everything; there will be a day of judgement, where everyone will have to give an account for their actions, and then there will be a new heavens and a new earth.

One of the reasons I love the Psalms is that they were written by people who experienced the exact same problems as us. They are so exactly like us, it is remarkable. There is a psalm for every occasion. Psalm 73 is a great one to read when we feel like everything is going wrong, and people who do evil seem to be having a whale of a time.

The root cause of terrorism and this savage thirst for blood is, of course, sin. Terrorism and war brings out the worst in human beings, as well as sometimes the best in the aftermath. We are sinful fallen creatures, but we are still made in the image of our ever-merciful ever-graceful God.

Prayer

Our first reaction should surely be to pray. Prayer is our most powerful weapon, a direct channel of communication to our God which should be open at all times (Eph. 6:18). We pray for the families of the victims of the attacks, that they may be comforted and find strength in God. We pray for the security forces and leaders in the country, that they may be blessed with guidance and wisdom in protecting the nation. However hard it is, we should also pray for the terrorist organisations responsible for these attacks, for the poor deluded individuals who are so misled by false religions and ideas as to commit such atrocities. At the end of the day they are sinners just like us, the same uncrossable chasm that once separated us from God separates them also. Jesus is the bridge and we pray that all may know Him.

The West is trying to bomb Islamic State out; a much more effective means of removing them would be to pray them out. Can you imagine if world leaders were to call for an international day of prayer for terrorists and terrorism?

We must remember that the Lord is in control and that is not a throwaway statement. The more I look at the pattern of things in this world, the more I see the Lord’s hand at work in the course of events, ever merciful, ever just. God allows life to go on, and us to carry on.

Witness

Christians should show the world in these dark and desperate days the love of God. We love not only our brothers and sisters in Christ but also the people of the world who live a Christless existence (Luke 14:12-14), and this is a love that should not only be in thought or prayer but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:16-18). We mourn with those who mourn. Their loss is our loss. We love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44), we need to have hearts of love and forgiveness (Matt. 6:15).

One of my favourite examples is that of Elisabeth Elliot, who after her husband and four others were brutally killed by a tribe in Ecuador went back and ministered to that same tribe, telling the Gospel with such a love that spoke volumes to the murderers. Later, a son of one of the murdered men was baptised by the very man who had murdered his father and now come to Christ. That same love and forgiveness that so characterised her heart, although it was incredibly hard, we should have with us too. Read 1 Corinthians 13. We may not lose our loved-ones in such a brutal way, but we should remember our Saviour on the cross. The agony He endured for us, at the hands of those who had cheered Him into the city. Our trials and sufferings are as naught, through all suffering, all embarrassment received through the cause, we should love.

As Christians we should be calm, strong and sturdy witnesses, anchored so deep in Christ that the strongest storm cannot wrench us from our position. We should be ‘Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires’ (James 1:19-20).

We have the most glorious Gift, Jesus Christ, a gift that needs to be shared to all the world. The three ways we share with them and the three things the world needs are prayer, love and the Gospel.

Pray, pray, pray!

In conclusion, the best thing we can do right now is to pour out our hearts to our Heavenly Father for mercy on our world. We must come ‘boldly before His throne of Grace’, and lift up the poor people of this world who go about their day-to-day lives without a thought of God. We should pray that the Lord will draw them to Himself and that they may know Christ for themselves. We should pray that the Lord would send forth His Spirit into the world, into the Church, that we might have a real full-blown revival in these dark times. We should pray for strength, love and faith for ourselves and our Christian brothers and sisters scattered throughout the world. The battle-song of John Bunyan springs to mind:

Who would true valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather;
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.

Whoso beset him round
With dismal stories
Do but themselves confound;
His strength the more is,
No lion can him fright;
He’ll with a giant fight;
But he will have a right
To be a pilgrim.

Hobgoblin nor foul fiend
Can daunt his spirit;
He knows he at the end
Shall life inherit,
Then fancies fly away,
He’ll fear not what men say;
He’ll labour night and day
To be a pilgrim.

Christ is our hope. He will never fail us. Until He comes, we must be ever watching, ready at a moment’s notice to leave all and go with Him to glory.

Fear and Faith: Some thoughts on the General Election

I think we can all agree elections and election campaigning are extremely divisive. Many worry about the outcome of the election. Meanwhile the politicians sling insults at each other, sharing untruthful and misleading memes and videos to try and win more support. They declaim the other side as evil and wrong, ‘we are the only ones that are right’. Love and godliness in any shape or form is conspicuous by its absence, as is any heart-felt calling out to God.

It’s almost impossible not to be involved in it in some shape or form. So in such a divisive and mean-spirited environment how should Christians act?

The Christian’s Calling

Our main calling in life is to glorify God and to spread the message of the gospel of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes this calling includes involvement in politics, other times it doesn’t. Yes it is important that Christians play an active role in proceedings and, where possible, act as a force for good in shaping our future as a country. But I believe we must be very careful in all our discussions and debates not to do anything to stir up hatred, anger, or otherwise bring dishonour to the name of Jesus Christ. We must not act like a bull in a china shop with all guns blazing; instead we should be gentle and considerate, especially when others disagree with our views. We should disagree well and amicably.

Above all else, above journalists, politicians and prime ministers, above our political allegiances we have an allegiance to the Almighty Sovereign God who takes a meaningful and merciful interest in all the goings-on in the world; indeed, God is in complete control. Whilst His people continue to cry out to Him, He will not leave us alone to wrack and ruin, indeed God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5). This fact should unify us. I know Christians on all sides of the political spectrum (examples of these include the Conservative Christian Fellowship and Christians on the Left), but we don’t let our politics define us or divide us, instead we have unity in Christ.

We should not put our faith in any political leader however good they might seem, even though may talk a lot of good, promise a lot of things and perhaps have a profession of faith. At the end of the day they will let us down, they are human and all human beings fail. Their promises will most likely be proven empty and hollow. Instead we should put all our faith in our great and Almighty God, that He might be glorified even through such a discordant environment. He will never let us down, ever. The Bible, the ultimate authority on life, says quite simply:

“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. [But] blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.” (Psalm 146:3-4).

Pray

We are called to pray for all leaders and for all those in positions of authority, whatever we might personally think about them, their supporters or their policies. The Bible says:

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people –for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

We should pray for guidance and wisdom for the party leaders and other leading figures. We should pray for a government that brings glory to God’s name by being peaceful, loving, merciful, just, free, honourable and humble and preserving freedom of religion, so that we can freely proclaim our Saviour to the world.

Prime ministers, parties and individuals come and go. The Bible says:

“All men are like grass,
and all the glory of man is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord endures for ever.” (1 Peter 2:4).

Where we would despair and fear we should know that God is in control and seek to feel and witness His loving arms surrounding us. We shouldn’t expect much from this election, we shouldn’t worry about how things might turn out, we should never fear man and all his plans, rather more fear and trust God (Proverbs 29:25, Matthew 10:28). We should vote (it’s our democratic right and duty after all), and we should use our conscience and prayerfully consider everything (The Christian Institute offer some helpful resources) before casting our vote. Then, whatever happens, we should just remember Psalm 20:7:

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

 

Looking Heavenwards

As Christians we are merely passing through this world, on towards a better place.  When we reach Heaven there won’t be any politics, just glory, and that is something we can look forward to.

No matter who is in power or who wins, they can’t fix everything in the world  because it’s a fallen world, broken to its core.  No party will make this world better, it won’t really make a big difference (although people can quite easily mess it up even more!). What will make a difference is how we live our lives. We should fix our eyes on Jesus and love our neighbour as ourselves.  If we want to make this world a better place, then we must love and act as Jesus acted, rather than having fanciful notions that our political heroes can perfect the world. We already have a hero, a champion who has changed the world, with the biggest revolution ever; His name is Jesus Christ!

Too many times do we put our hope and faith in man to achieve things that they will fail at. We must put our faith and hope in God, and in God alone.