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.

The Importance of Reading and Meditating on Your Bible Every Day

I remember a little ditty I learnt as a youngster, to the tune of London’s Burning:

Read your Bible, read your Bible
read it daily, read it daily.
It’s a lamp; it’s a lamp,
and a light to your pathway.

The words are simple but they are so true. It’s based on Psalm 119:105, which says quite simply:

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

One of the most touted (and rightly so!) verses about the Bible, 2 Timothy 3:16 says:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

The Bible is so vital in everybody’s life. Without it, we can’t grow, we can’t serve God properly. There’s so much we can learn from God’s word, rich doctrine, practical helps; it’s everything we need for life – our ‘guidebook’ if you like. It shouldn’t sit on our shelf, collecting dust. It’s our Sword of the Spirit, our weapon. We must never be unarmed. It’s how we stay alive, how we tackle the trials and tribulations that come our way. It’s our most valuable possession.

What do you reach for in the morning, when you wake-up? Is it your Bible or your phone? We need to ensure we have our priorities are right, even if we have a busy day ahead of us. Devotional times set us up for the day. Martin Luther had a lot to do one day, his attitude was, “I’ve so much work today, I shall need at least three hours alone with the Lord!”

Just reading a daily devotional is not enough, we need to pray and dive head-first straight into God’s word. There is so much in scripture about the importance of growing as believers by reading and meditating on God’s word. How much does the Bible mean to us? Have a look at these Chinese believers receiving Bibles for the first time:

Contrast that with our reaction upon opening our Bibles…

The Importance of Routine

Ever since I became a Christian, as a young lad, something I’ve endeavoured to stick to, every morning, is to have a regular time with the Lord. I’ve found it an immense blessing, although I’ve failed miserably many times. Last year, due to changing circumstances, I fell out of my pattern. The devil had a field day. Once you lose it, it’s incredibly difficult to get back. They were a torrid few months and I’m still struggling to find that quality time to be alone with the Lord and His Word.

Some people dislike routines, as it can become just a routine; but it is so important to read your Bible every day. I accept that for many people, routines are not possible and they find better and even more regular times with the Lord ad hoc. A routine is better than not reading the Bible at all. However, we should aim far higher…

The Importance of Meditation

The Psalms, in hundreds of places talk about meditating at all hours of the day and night on God’s word.

“In the night I remember your name. At midnight I rise to give you thanks. I rise before dawn and cry for help. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night that I may meditate on your promises. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning. I will not enter my house or go to my bed, I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob. All night long I flood my bed with weeping, drenching my couch with tears. In the morning, as well, I lay my requests before you, waiting in expectation. Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord.” (Numerous places).

This total devotion to God is definitely lacking in many Christians. Christ isn’t where he should be, in our lives. It’s one thing to just read a portion of scripture, it’s another to take it in, to study, understand, meditate and carry into our day those words. Out of every part we read, we should look at what it tells us about Christ. Then we should be stirred to pray. We should strive for a deeper understanding and experience of God. There’s so much more we’re missing out on.

Paul’s prayer sums it all up:

“… that you, being rooted and established in love, may have the power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that You may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

What we then learn should stir us to worship and glorify our Maker. Paul then goes onto pray:

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

That’s our ultimate aim, to glorify Christ. A quote I came across recently puts it like this:

“Theology that does not lead to worship barely deserves the name.”

Every day we should be blown away by God’s mercies, His sheer awesomeness and power. Everything, our all, heart, mind, soul and strength should be geared towards praising our God.

Conclusion

The importance of reading and meditating on your Bible every day cannot be underestimated. It should be part and parcel of every Christian’s life, alongside prayer, worship and regular fellowship with other believers. Bible reading plans can be a help, and I would recommend Robert Murray McCheyne’s plan, which takes you through the whole Bible in a year and the New Testament and Psalms twice.

So with that, go, read and be blessed and be sure to keep your Sword handy!

Our Narcissistic Generation

Everyone lives for something – a philosophy that keeps them going, gets them through the week’s problems, acts as their final source of authority on the meaning of life, morals and other matters. This philosophy or ideology might come from anything or take different forms. There are many different ‘isms’. It might be a person close to you, a political figure, a historical figure, a holy book, or a mish-mash of different things (as is very prevalent today). For many of us, we wouldn’t even see it as a ‘philosophy’.

Narcissistic individualism is one such ism, founded upon sin. Narcissism is incredibly dangerous, and is strongly linked to depression and suicide. But even Christians can be grossly guilty of it, perhaps without even being aware of it. I hope to briefly consider narcissism, and then consider how we can get out of these mindsets, which can seriously stunt our spiritual growth.

This post is not intended to be too philosophical or overly morbid, so don’t be worried!

 

Why Narcissism is so nasty

Narcissus, as the legend goes, was a handsome young Greek man. One day he saw his own reflection in a rock pool and so fell in love with it that he didn’t move. Eventually he died.

Hence, we have ‘Narcissism’ – the worship of oneself, or excessive interest and admiration of one’s personal appearance. I believe we can all be guilty of this, to varying degrees, and without wishing to be judgmental (although I speak to myself as well!), I will explain how.

Narcissism is perhaps best exemplified with social media. Social media, for many people, is all about promoting yourself.

How many Facebook friends do I have? How many likes does my Instagram photo get? Why hasn’t so-and-so liked my post? Take the test: how young do you look? How popular are you?

Our obsessive egotistical narcissistic outlook is most evident with pictures. Our profile pictures are always the most flattering, and often risqué. Look at the intense obsession we have with taking selfies of ourselves. Our phones have whole memory cards jam-packed full of selfies. How many do we have to take to get it right? How many do we delete, because they (quite frankly) were a bit of shock (do I really look that bad!)? Only the best will ever make it onto our Instagram.

Driving license photo v. FB profile pic
This hopefully illustrates the point.

When we go out, the highlight is often when we’re taking the photos that will go up on our social media profiles, rather than the fact that we are spending quality time with our friends or family.

Look at Snapchat, pictures visible for 10 seconds only, inviting the recent craze of posting nude selfies to select individuals. Hasn’t the world gone to pot!

Now you may just say “it’s harmless fun using cool or funny filters, I would never fall into ‘nude-selfies’, ‘sexting’ or anything like that!” But is it? You see, I think we deceive ourselves. We worry about our self-appearance. All good and soundly biblical, but we worry too much! We spend too much of our time worrying about it, or attempting to correct it.

“If only my nose wasn’t quite so wonky, I’d be a happy man!”

“Gosh, I look so ugly in that group photo.”

Needless to say, this mindset isn’t healthy for the Christian – or anyone for that matter. It can never make us happy. If it doesn’t matter to God, it shouldn’t matter to us.

“Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7.

And this is the great part. God doesn’t care about what we look like, whether we’re black, white, brown or blue. He doesn’t mind if we’re grey-haired, balding, too thin, too fat, ugly and covered in warts. He doesn’t mind even if we look like a turnip come out backwards in the wash with a face like a mouldy gingerbread biscuit. Why doesn’t he?

  1. Because he created you just the way you are, you are a work of God, a marvel.
  2. Because he doesn’t care what you look like, but he does care about what your heart looks like.

Society judges us on our looks. We can’t help that. God judges us on our heart. That doesn’t mean we’re better than society. It just means that we shouldn’t worry about what society thinks of us, we should worry what God thinks of us. Society can do what it wants, we will stand for Christ!

There is also a deeper, underlying problem. Selfies are just the tip of the iceberg. This underlying problem is – Self. Narcissism is by no means a new concept. It’s a battle that people have faced for a thousand years.

At its heart, narcissism is self-centred – what’s in it for me? How can this make me look good?

We don’t care for others. We only seek admiration from others, believing ourselves to be superior. We always want to constantly project a positive image of ourselves and desperately want to attract more followers.

But this is generally false; it is an elaborate outer façade built up to hide an inner loneliness and discontentedness. Your social media profile isn’t you. It never can be. It’s the me I want to be; hence, why we always present the positive image. I want to be happy, have fun, be seen to have lots of friends, go to lots of parties. I don’t want to be seen as an ugly loner with no friends, no people liking my posts.

It is fabulously superficial.

It is so sad. Yet I believe any social media user can be guilty of thinking in such a manner. But we can only find true contentment in the Lord (Philippians 4:11-13).

Young people, finding their way in the world are especially vulnerable. Peer pressure is intense. I believe we are by miles the most narcissistic generation in history. The problem is it’s so normal and so deeply-rooted in our everyday lives. Everyone uses social media. At the current average rate (1.72 hours per day), if we live to be seventy, we will have spent around five years on social networks. Yes, five years…

What else could we do in that time?

 

So what can we do about it?

Now with this in mind we might want to take dramatic action, selfies are wrong! Social media is evil! No more!

But it’s essential to note there’s nothing inherently wrong with social media or selfies. Social media is invaluable for keeping in touch; social networks can be great tools for communication, encouragement, evangelism even. Photographs are great to document important events in our lives. These things are useful. It’s our use of these tools which can be wrong. We must be immensely careful how we use them. What’s the first thing you reach for in the morning, your Bible or your phone? Watch yourself!

For some of us, perhaps it is right to come off social media completely and that’s something we should prayerfully consider.
Having a break from social media is a great idea, even if it’s just for a day or two. You could have a weekly day off social media; Sunday would be a good day to have social-media-free! Miss it too much? It’s likely you’re relying on it too much.

Our primary purpose in life is to glorify God. Take a step back, are we doing that?

‘Everyone does it’ is not a valid excuse. The desire to conform is intense. Don’t be afraid of being different.

Don’t check your social media feed merely for the sake of it, browsing without purpose. It’s a bit like me Christmas shopping, having no idea of what to buy and ending up spending hours wandering around aimlessly, uninspired, without buying anything at all; a total waste of time.

Don’t spend countless hours wasting your life away (I suspect many of us spend a considerable deal more than 1.72 hours on social media per day).

The Apostle Paul puts it perfectly in his letter to the Romans:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

With all this, I’m sure we won’t stop worrying about what others think. We face a massive battle. It’s not easy, there’s no quick fix; but such is the Christian life. We will fail, we will stumble; but thank the Lord we have a loving Heavenly Father and an atoning sacrifice for our sins!

Let us live true to our calling in life, to glorify the Lord before God and men.