Attacks on Biblical Christianity

Attacks on Biblical Christianity found in the Winston-Salem Journal

This midweek article will be longer than usual, but my hope is that you will take the time to carefully read it to the end. Two important articles appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal last week. I say “important” not because of positive content but because of what they demonstrate about the world around us, even what many would call the “Christian” community at large. The fact that these articles have been published right here in our own community only deepens the weight of importance. The first article was on May 11 titled, “Moravian synod will let gay clergy marry” by John Hinton, and the second article was on May 12 titled, “Taking a closer look at the Bible” by Earl Crow in the religion section.

Now, the Winston-Salem Journal is not known for its conservative stance on anything, really. The paper continuously promotes the agenda of the left, like many news outlets today. Of course, we are not those who only want the right promoted. We want a balanced perspective. We want to hear things out of both camps, and we want the news to be reported fairly and consistently.

Another caveat before discussing the articles: Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not one to “cry wolf” about every little thing that happens. I have even been recorded as saying that Christians need to stop grumbling about things that are not really persecution, things such as “taking prayer out of schools” and “removing in God we trust” off of this or that. These events certainly mark a change in our nation’s history and speak of the fundamental changes in our culture’s thinking, but these things are not “persecution.” It is most likely good that prayer was taken out of school—I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a Mormon teacher or Muslim teacher leading my children in prayer. So, I’m not playing the victim role in this note. I intend to share a perspective on these things from a historically Christian and biblically orthodox point of view.

First, we received news that the Moravian Church has approved a resolution affirming homosexual “marriages.” Both members and the ministers of the Moravian Churches who identify as gay are now allowed to “marry” someone of their same sex. Of course, it did not take long for the Moravian leaders to be quoted using buzzwords such as unitywelcomingrespectfullovingdiversityopen, and affirming. All of these words are used with an agenda in mind and most of them have been redefined. This new out of the Moravians is not too surprising. Anyone familiar with the situation knew it was coming at some point. Yet, it really hits home because of the influence the Moravians have in the Winston-Salem area. Many of us already knew and now it is official that most Moravian churches and ministers cannot be trusted because they do not believe the Bible.

Second, we have all learned that Earl Crow is not an Evangelical, but let me say emphatically that he does not represent historic and biblical Christianity in any way. He represents his own beliefs and consistently shrinks away from honestly portraying and interpreting biblical doctrines. But, why would we expect anything different? He does not believe that the Bible is the Word of God and has stated that Paul was wrong on this or that, and the Old Testament saints were in error on many things. He began writing these articles about Christianity and the Bible in the Winston-Salem Journal by “beating around the bush.” At first, he would drop hints that he didn’t like this or that about biblical Christianity. Now, he flat out says that he does not trust the Bible. 

He was asked squarely in the last religion section article, “Do you believe [the Bible] is the word of God?” His answer in one word: No. He basically says that the Bible has errors, we can question passages, the Bible is merely man-made, biblical authors disagree with one another, he has “questions” about the Scriptures, passages are “troubling,” and he insinuates that it is absurd to believe every word of the Bible. He quickly gets to the issue of same-sex relations, as he usually does nowadays, and asserts that the Bible and Bible-believing Christians are wrong on the issue. He wholeheartedly believes that same-sex relations are acceptable and not sin. His argument in this article, and in many that have come before it, rests upon his own opinion and vague references to “most who study the issue” and science and the like. Let me say, there is nodefinitive research that affirms that anyone is “born gay.” Besides that point, Crow is saying that science can undo what the Scriptures clearly teach because biblical authors, in his opinion, were unsophisticated in their scientific knowledge. Well, we certainly see his understanding of the Bible. It is basically a book among many books that we can glean a few bits of wisdom from here and there. He makes it all about the “love of God” and about Jesus. Calling something sin, believing in right and wrong, is apparently not loving. What’s interesting to me is that Earl Crow must be skimming through the Gospels in his Bible because mine clearly records Jesus confronting sin, calling for repentance, forgiving sin but demanding that we go and sin no more, and even DYING FOR OUR SIN. The whole purpose in the incarnation was to “save sinners.” And, to the specific point of sexuality, Jesus Himself said that from the beginning God created us male and female, and God has ordained that a man leave his parents and be joined to his wife as the two are made one. Jesus taught marriage between one man and one woman.

Now, we are not those who only want to confront one sin (e.g. homosexuality), but the liberal Christians and the “sexual revolution” agenda has made this one issue THE make or break issue. Here is where we must make a decision about God and the Bible, plant our flag, and hold our ground. We are not the ones who have highlighted this subject, but we have been forced into the battle. Let us take a stand and hold to our biblical convictions. If we give up ground on this issue, we will not only lose the battle, but we will lose the war for our Faith.

We should note that Crow is ordained by the United Methodist Church which has been trying for years to go down that same road that the Moravians have finally traversed. In fact, both denominations formed committees last year at their annual meetings to “study” these issues. Many have predicted that at some point soon, the Methodists will somehow push the “sexual revolution” agenda through, one way or another. Mainline protestants and Methodists like Crow have followed the culture and not the Creator, and their denominations and churches have suffered the consequences as they continue to dwindle.

I have called these articles “attacks on biblical Christianity.” The articles themselves somewhat indirectly attack us, yes, but the decisions and institutions they represent definitely attack us directly in that they are tearing down the authority of the Bible and the God who inspired it. They are spitting in the face of the Creator who has made us male and female. Once we redefine this termor reinterpret that passage, we have lost everything. So, what do we need to do in light of these two articles and the strong winds of political correctness blowing against us? We need to resolve to do two things:
(1) Remain steadfast and firm in our biblical convictions, and
(2) We need to share the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ more clearly and more passionately than ever. 

To conclude, let me quote the well-known, 19thcentury hymn: “We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Bear the news to every land, climb the mountains, cross the waves; Onward! ’tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!” The message we must proclaim is repent of your sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved!

Human Sexuality

Human Sexuality

As Christians and churches continue to take heat in our day over the issues surrounding human sexuality, it is vital that we continue to adamantly communicate what the Bible teaches concerning these things. We must maintain the fact that we have not dreamed up these things; on the contrary, our Creator God has created us in specific ways and revealed to us directly in the Scriptures how we ought to live and move and have our being. To recap, let me share with you my formal statement on humanity, again, and then make a few comments at the end.

“Human beings from every nation, tribe, and tongue are created in the image and likeness of God.  We would contend, therefore, that each and every human life is sacred from conception to natural death.  Moreover, each person’s gender is biologically established and is an intrinsic, immutable aspect of his or her nature and identity.  God created each person as either male or female, and these two distinct, complementary sexes together reflect the image of God among humankind.  As to the blessing of marriage, we believe both that it is a divine ordinance pertaining solely to the union of one man and one woman and that it is meant by God to bind each to the other for the entirety of their earthly lives.  God has also set sexual intimacy apart, intending for it to be an expression of love and commitment between wedded couples only. Any expression of sexuality outside of marriage is sin.”
{For biblical quotations, see the following for example: Gen 1:26-27; 2:7, 21-25; Exod 20:12-17; Ps 139:13-18; John 10:10; Lev 18; 20; Matt 19:4-9; Rom 1:18-31; 1 Cor 6:9-10, 15-20; 1 Tim 1:8-11; Jude 7.}

In this formal statement, we have summarized what the Bible teaches on humanity, including many parts that are “hot-topic” issues in the Western world today. As you can see, this statement covers fundamental doctrines of biblical anthropology including race, abortion, marriage, and sexuality. The Lord has given us clear revelation in both nature and Scripture to teach us how we are to live. He has created us with purposes in mind, and He wants what’s best for us. When we stand against those things that are unnatural and sinful, we are NOT doing so out of hate or judgment but out of genuine love for people. God calls us out of sin so that we may no longer be slaves of it, trapped in a world of misery and hopelessness. Yes, some sins are “fun” in the meantime, but what about throughout a lifetime? What about the long-run? What about eternity? God is Creator, and He is holy. If we want to live to be all that God created us to be, and if we want to know Him and enjoy eternal life with Him, then we must approach Him on the basis of His revelation in nature and Scripture. Let us hold firm to biblical teaching. Let us not waver as so many are in our day. Let us proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ—that if folks repent and believe on Him they will be saved from this present wicked age, the wrath of God to come, and for eternal life in a new heaven and new earth where there is no longer sin and sorrow but the joy of the Lord forevermore. 

What is Worldliness?

What is Worldliness?

Everyone knows that the Bible says that God loves the world. Seemingly, America’s favorite Bible verse is John 3:16. For two consecutive years, I have volunteered to be a community judge for a national Christian organization that promotes public speaking and debating among high school students. I have worked in the area of apologetics (defending the Christian Faith). It is rare that a student makes a presentation without quoting that famous verse: John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall inherit eternal life.” (Okay, that’s from memory, so don’t fuss if every word is not in its place).

So, we all agree: God loves the world. The apostle John is the one who stated that fact. However, the apostle writes another letter that we call First John. In 1 John 2:15-17 he writes something quite different, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” God loves the world, we are to go into all the world preaching the Gospel, and yet we are told to “not love the world.” Do you find this curious?

The surface-level contradiction is easily resolved when we realize that words have various connotations depending on their context and usage. In John 3:16, “world” refers to all “people,” but in 1 John 2:15 “world” refers to the “corrupt world systems.” Jesus uses the term in the latter sense as well when He basically teaches in John 17:15-16 that Christians are to be in the worldbut not of the world.

So then, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are not to pursue the things of the world—self-promotion, power, money, sexual immorality, big houses, fancy cars, etc., etc. Our Lord teaches us to seek to be last instead of first, become the least and not the greatest, strive to serve as an alternative to being served. Sure, we battle temptation. Sometimes we fall prey to worldliness. Yet, on the whole, are you pursuing the things of the Lord or the things of the world? We all need to evaluate our lives from time to time to see where our hearts are and how our priorities stack up.

I Have Sinned, What Now?!

I have Sinned—What Now?

Lots of Christians continue to live a life of guilt even after coming to faith in the Lord. This is unfortunate because grace is available for all of us. Christ has secured our forgiveness in His death and resurrection. I’m afraid that many believers simply let their sins go without any attention simply because they do not know what to do with them, or they feel guilty because they know that Christians are not supposed to sin.

We all know that Rom 3:23 teaches that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Yes, we all repented of our old lives when we became believers. But what about our sins and shortcomings afterbecoming Christians? We know that this does not please the Lord, so what should we do? 1 John 1:8, 10 clearly states that Christians are not perfect, we continue to sin even as we pursue holiness and purity. The apostle says that if we claim to have no sin, then we are only deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us; we’re making Christ out to be a liar, and His word is not in us. The Christian life is one of progressive sanctification, that is, we are moving toward holiness. Little by little we are fighting to do away with our sinful thoughts, speech, and deeds. John Newton, the pastor and famous hymn writer of “Amazing Grace” once exclaimed, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.” This is progressive sanctification; this is the Christian life.

John goes on to say in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The first thing we must do when we have sinned is confess it to the Lord. We need to pray the prayer of the tax collector from Jesus’ parable about justification: “Have mercy on me a sinner.” When praying that prayer to the Lord, we need to specifically name our sin(s) to Him. We need to ask for cleansing and Spirit-given strength to fight that same sin in the future.

After confessing our sin to the Lord, we need to make peace with anyone we may have sinned against. Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount to “Be reconciled to your brother or sister,” and James piggybacked on that teaching in saying that we ought to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another. The New Testament commands us throughout to forgive one another and restore one another.

Lastly, for now, it should be said that we need to put a plan in place to defeat the sin(s) in our lives. We must submit to God, resist the devil, flee from the very appearance of evil, walk in the Spirit, pray that we not enter temptation, not be conformed to the world, be transformed in our minds, and by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body. We also need to find support from other Christian friends. 

Therefore, imperfection is expected, but growth toward perfection is demanded. Confess your sin to the Lord, reconcile with others, and plan to defeat your sin!

Learning to Love the Church

Learning to Love the Church

I was raised in a Christian family and in a local church from the time I was born. I cannot remember a time that I was not in church. To be sure, neither my family nor my home church were even close to perfect. As a matter of fact, my parents were trying to figure out true faith and the Christian life as they were raising my brothers and me. I was actually old enough to remember the day that they were both baptized. So, I don’t come from a great family tree of mature and bold Christians, much less some generational ministry line. I am the first and only minister in our family, as best I know.

Our home church was small and simple. The teaching was biblical, but it was also shallow. The leadership was weak, and the congregation was spiritually immature. However, there was a family atmosphere. We lived life together; we spent all day every Sunday together and every Wednesday too. We went on camping trips in the mountains and beach trips as a whole church. We volunteered in the community and served one another too. I did not grow up in a “youth group” per se. There were not an overwhelming number of kids my age in the church. The ones who were around my age kind of floated in and out. The adults in the church, however, really gave me attention. They included me in things from a very early age. I was serving at the Lord’s Table, preparing Communion meditations, praying publicly, and reading Scripture in the assembly from a very young age. These things had a huge impact on my Christian life, maturity, and growing love for the church. I felt a lot like Joshua during the days of Moses. The Scripture says in Exodus 33, for example, that Moses and Joshua would go to the tabernacle together, Moses would speak with God and then leave, but Joshua, a young man, would not depart from the tabernacle. He wanted to be near the Lord; he wanted to stay close to that holy place. I was the same way as a young man. I loved the church, the building and the people.

There were many problems in our home church, though. And there were some very hurtful things said about my family and even me. I’ve never been hurt by the world as much as I have by the church (my home church and churches I have worked with). There came a breaking point, and forty people left the church to start another congregation on the other side of the county (I had just graduated high school). We thought that was the best decision to make. We were all tired of bickering and fighting and backbiting.

I say all of this to make an important point: While I have had lots of reasons to be bitter about the church and to be mad and to be pessimistic, the Lord has always kept a hopeful spirit within me. I have always believed that there ishope for each and every local congregation. A church canbe nursed back to health, nurtured, taught, shepherded, etc. A church canactually be united and healthy and relatively mature. The church canbe a group of people marked by love and grace and humility. To this day, I love the church, and I especially love the Rural Hall Church. Yes, I know, the Rural Hall Christian Church belongs to the Lord, BUT, this is also my church, in the sense that I belong to you and you belong to me. You are my people. I pledge my allegiance to the Lord, and I pledge my allegiance to you. Let me encourage you to let your love for the church flourish! Let the Lord give you a bright and hopeful spirit for the future of the church, both globally and right here in Rural Hall.

Marriage is a Responsibility

Marriage is a Responsibility

One of the most important and satisfying things in life is to marry and raise a family. I think women understand this a little better than men or, at least, sooner. Men, many of them, have a hard time figuring this out (that’s why guys float around and play video games until they’re late in life). Now, there are some women, more and more every day, who skirt family duties as well. More and more, it’s not just men who abandon their families but women too. Yet, we are created for marriage and family.

Of course, there are exceptions- some are called to celibacy and will never marry and some cannot have children. We know these things. Yet, satisfaction in life comes from fulfilling these fantastic responsibilities. For those who do not marry or have children, they often take on other great responsibilities such as public service, missions and evangelism, pouring into the lives of children at church or in their extended family, or something very similar. It is the responsibility and effort that gives purpose, and in the service of others there is wonderful meaning.

Thus, we need to take on responsibility, and we need to do it early in life. We do not need to wait around forever for the perfect situation. What is it that the wise say about having children? If you are waiting for the perfect time, you will never have them. So, just go ahead and have kids. We could say the same about other great responsibilities. Stop wasting your life! Go get married. Go have kids. Go make an impact. What are you waiting on?

We need to rise up, take on duty, and strive to bring about great service. We need to get married and have kids. We need to invest in the lives of others. And, as Christians, we are assured that this positive impact is not only for this life but also for eternity.

More on the Spiritual Life

More on the Spiritual Life

We talk a lot about growing and maturing in Christ. What do we mean by that sentiment, and how do we take the next step in our spiritual lives? First of all, we may consider a couple verses from the Scriptures concerning Christian growth. For example, Peter instructed, “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins” (2 Pet 1:5-9). Now, notice that the apostle affirms a few things in this passage (and its context). He teaches that if we are genuine believers, then we do not forget that we were cleansed from our old sins. One sign to know that we have been forgiven is that we continue to make progress. He also promises that Christian growth toward maturity protects believers from falling away. Jesus is the one who emphasize so clearly, “Those who endure until the end will be saved” (Matt 24:13). And, we endure by maturing. We persevere by making progress. Later, Peter will conclude his admonitions with the exhortation, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18).

We cannot remain stagnant. If you realize that your prayer life is lacking, then do something about it. If you notice that your church attendance is poor, then set an alarm on Sunday, get out of bed, get ready, and make yourself come to worship the Lord in the assembly of the saints. How astonishing it is that we so often get into spiritual ruts (and in many other aspects of life) that we remain in for weeks, months, and sometimes even years! Do not let this be you! Do not remain stagnant. Stir up the waters of your spiritual life.

Here are just a few very practical examples of how you could take the next step in your spiritual life:

(1) Pray at noon every day

(2) Get on your knees for prayer at least once a day

(3) Invite a friend to lunch once a week for a spiritual conversation

(4) Become a “+1 Member” (adding one class to your Sunday attendance)

(5) Ask (the minister?) for a book/podcast recommendation

(6) Go on a retreat or attend a conference

(7) Challenge yourself spiritually, set some goals

The Clean Life is the Good Life

The Clean Life is the Good Life

Despite all of the jokes and snide remarks made by some about living a moral life, Christians should be confident that the clean life is the good life. A pursuit of purity and godliness certainly does not promise that there will be no problems or exempt anyone from illnesses, but we can be assured that we are within the will of God when we follow His ways. Also, living the clean, godly life helps to shelter us from some of the mess in this world. We may not be able to dodge it all, but we can dodge a lot of it when we remain faithful to the Lord.

Think of those you know who have operated outside of the Lord’s will for their lives. You know those folks who have slept around, shacked up, become addicted to alcohol, are hooked on drugs, party all the time, and those who lie, and cheat, and steal, etc. Many of us know these folks up-close-and-personal. We may be related to them or work with them. These types of sinful behaviors are not just “religious stories” intended to make people feel guilty. As a matter of fact, the consequences of these actions are all too real. When sensual and selfish desires control us, there is nothing but heartache and misery for ourselves and others around us. The proof is in the puddin’, as they say.

Recently, many of our scriptural lessons have conveyed the theme of confronting sin, in our own lives and in our church. Now, to the unbeliever that may sound negative or even absurd, but for Christians that have any spiritual understanding and maturity in the faith at all, we grasp the practical wisdom of stopping sin before it mushrooms into something much worse. Sin breeds sin. So, it is very much a positive thing to learn from the Lord how to confront and defeat sin in our lives and in the lives of those we love and appreciate. Fighting sin (living the clean life) is the responsible and loving thing to do.

Keep fighting sin! Don't let others get you down. Live the clean life, and be happy in the Lord. That is the only true happiness that exists.

What's the Big Deal? Church Membership . . . Again

What’s the Big Deal? Church Membership . . . Again

As you probably know or could guess, I do a lot of reading and thinking about church life, including church attendance. And, yes, I am about to write another article about church attendance. For those of you who are with us every time the doors are open, take this letter as guidance for your own conversations with people. For those of you who do not attend church on a regular, routine basis, take this message into meaningful consideration. Seriously.

Every few months, I think it is necessary to teach on the subject of church involvement. Maybe this is so because every few months it begins to bother me again how many of our “members” are so lax in their participation in the local congregation. There are clear biblical commands and instructions about our service to the local church. There are many theologically practical reasons to be involved in the life of the local church. And yet, so many evade church gatherings on Sundays. How did we get to this point?

There are several explanations of why folks do not attend church as often as they did just a few decades ago. For example, more people have more money, opportunities, and better transportation than ever before. Our country has also grown more and more into an entitled society. Many think that they deserve a mini vacation every few weeks. Moreover, there is the focus on youth activities that has grown and grown. Americans think that their kids need to be involved in multiple sports, activities, and lessons all throughout the year. And, surprise, Satan grabbed what was healthy and fun and has used it against us. Now our youngest are more and more depressed, they are acting out in ways they never have before, and many of those great activities are on Sundays, the Lord’s Day (do you think that’s by accident)! Another major reason/problem with the lack of full commitment and attendance to the local Christian body is the issue of blended families and single parents. Certainly, there are innocent parties in many of these situations, but are we working against these trends? It doesn’t seem like the church is doing much to help curb the unhealthy trend of sin in the home, problems in marriages, and the high divorce rate in America. Now, these are all “explanations” for the fact that overall church involvement has decreased over the years, but are they “good” reasons? We can do better. We must minister to one another and begin to realign our priorities; and gathering for worship, fellowship, and mutual edification on Sundays will go a long way to helping with these things.

Now, some of you may think that this is just a pastor who is upset about the size of the church. Honestly, being a small church is not the problem. Most churches in America, and around the world as a matter of fact, are “small” churches, 50 people or less. Being a small church is not the dilemma. The issue is the lack of devotion by those who claim the name of Christ (“Christians”) and who, at some point, pledged allegiance to the local church by joining (“members”). To be a Christian is to know Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord. To be present when the church gathers is one of the most basic necessities for the Christian life (the Lord commands it), and it is the most basic requirement as a member of a local church. Every believer has obligations to brothers and sisters in the local church. The only way to begin to fulfill all of those obligations is to gather with them at appointed times.

Not only are members skirting their duty to the Lord and His church by not gathering with fellow believers on Sundays (whether it’s because of work, vacationing, youth activities, or flat out laziness), but folks are hurting themselves and their families. The Lord designed the church and her structure for a reason. The God of heaven and earth, the one, true and living God, formed the church, organized the church, loves the church, died for the church, and wants what’s best for the church—His church. We rebel against God when we go our own way. And what does it say about the Lord to our children when we do everything but devote ourselves to Him every day, and especially on the Day when we are supposed to worship Him? Are we telling our kids that soccer is superior to worship; shopping is more enjoyable than Christian fellowship; swim lessons are more important than Bible lessons? Really—what does it teach our children when we only gather with the church when we have nothing better to do?

And what about you, personally? Do you think that skipping out on church has no impact on your own spiritual life? Think again. When you dodge the Christian assembly, you miss out on mutual edification, encouragement from other Christians, singing praise to the Lord with others, praying with the church, remembering the Lord’s Supper, solid Christian teaching, and the list goes on and on. Without these things, you are weak and vulnerable to the world and the enemy. You know, deep down inside, that missing church on Sundays hurts you spiritually and in many other ways. So, create some new habits, break some bad ones, make some adjustments, and get back into church on Sundays. Come worship with all of who you are. Come love your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Come sing your heart out. Come pray with all your might. Come remember and proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again. Come learn and grow. Renew your faithfulness to the local church, and watch the Lord do amazing things in your life.

*Disclaimer: Yes, occasional vacations are fair; the issue is excessiveness. Yes, working on Sundays is unavoidable at times; but why not pursue a new or better schedule or job? Yes, some folks are shut-in and unable to attend. Yes, divorce happens, but we must deal with it to the best of our abilities. And, finally, yes, there are some other exceptions to the general rule, but they are “exceptions.”

Creating Healthy Habits

Creating Healthy Habits

You know, some habits are actually good for you. I have never quite understood why some people question the routine of the Christian life. For example, we are told that, for ideal physical health, we are to exercise on a regular basis. What is it that say? Exercise four times a week with your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes? And, what about sleep? We are to have uninterrupted sleep for 7-9 hours each night, no matter our age. Now, we don't always fulfill these ideals perfectly. However, they are certainly goals for which to strive toward.

My intention with that introduction is to remind you that some habits are healthy for you. The same is true of your spiritual life. I am sure my own personal habits are just as poor as any other at times when it comes to regular, routine spiritual practices. Yet, I am constantly working on it and battling to do what I already know is best (just like that ongoing, lifelong battle against weight-gain!!!). Let me tell you what I have started recently in hopes that it may encourage/inspire you in your devotional practices.

Recently, I have made up my mind, again, to begin each work day with simple Bible reading and prayer time (I say simple reading and prayer time because this is different from biblical studies for lessons and sermons and the rapid prayers I fire off throughout the day). For the reading, I selected the book of Acts, and I am reading half a chapter or a whole chapter each time. I am also doing the reading out loud. There is something different about it that way. I am also getting down on my knees to pray afterwards. My prayers have been fueled by what I have just read in the book of Acts. I'm praying for myself, my family, my ministry, members of our church, and, especially, for the salvation of a few key people that I know and am working with in various ways. *We need to spend significantly more time praying for souls to be saved than for colds to be cured. This is just the simple truth of the matter.*

Now, I have been interrupted a few times, even though I am doing this first thing in the morning when I get to the office. Phone calls, text messages, and people coming over are things that are always going to happen, but I have made sure to go back and finish the reading and/or finish the prayer just afterwards or even a little while later. The Lord knows our hearts, and He knows our lives. We are all busy and find ourselves in all kinds of situations. Sometimes our prayers are short and sometimes they are longer. The vital thing is to have our thoughts set on the Lord.

So, I have not written this to put myself on any pedestal. If anything, I am confessing my sins of omission, and my recently renewed commitment to Scripture reading and prayer. I hope that you will brainstorm after reading this post and put a plan in place to set aside even just a few *concentrated* minutes each day to worship our Lord by reading the Word of God and by calling out to Him in prayer.

Congregational Singing

Notes on Congregational Singing from a Recent Sermon

Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Eph 5:18-19 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.

Our Guides for Singing
The first thing we notice in these passages is that our worship and our singing, specifically, are governed by (1) The Word of Christ and (2) The Holy Spirit. Both are said to reside within us, individually and as a church. The Word is to dwell richly in us (make a home in us), and the Spirit is to fill us. Our worship and our singing in particular is not biblical, is not Christian, is not received as praise before the Lord unless it is prompted, regulated, and guided by the Gospel and the Spirit.

Application: What does this tell us practically? We shouldn’t sing songs just for the sake of singing songs, or just because we like the music, or just because they are popular in the culture (even in the American church culture). We should be careful and thoughtful in picking out the songs that we sing. They should be biblically informed and theologically rich. They should be spiritual and Gospel focused. So then, taking these guides, we should probably rule out many contemporary songs as well as several songs out of the hymnbook. We should not just be guarded against songs that have bad theology, but we should also be defend ourselves against songs that have no theology.

The Purpose of Singing
Next, we learn that we are to teach, admonish, and speak to one another through these various forms of singing. Our worship, totally governed by the Word of Christ, is to be, in all aspects, an opportunity to teach one another over and over again the glories of Christ. There is a pastor/teacher who is responsible for most of the teaching ministry in the local church, but you are also to take part in it through various means but especially by singing out loud. Let your voice be heard! To “admonish” is to exhort, to persuade, to correct, to emphatically encourage. Don’t we all need it?

So, there is the aspect of ministering to one another through song. However, there is also the aspect of singing “unto the Lord.” The gratitude and love we have for the Lord in our hearts is verbalized and expressed through song unto Him.

Yes, you have always been right to think about your singing as your opportunity to praise the Lord, but do not forget that the Lord calls on you to minister to others through your singing. There is even more reason to sing out loud so others can hear you!

Application: Again, practically speaking, this tells us that we ought to choose songs for congregational singing that are “singable.” We should not pick songs that require too much musical talent. They should not be too high ranging, or low, or with music too difficult to figure out. This, too, rules out a lot of music, both contemporary and traditional.

Various Types of Singing
Psalms: Old Testament songs, set to music.

Hymns: Christian songs newly written. There are many examples in the NT like Phil 2 and Col 1.

Spiritual Songs: This seems to be a catch-all category that may include songs of testimony and witness as well as spontaneous songs.

Application: These various forms of singing described show us that the Lord is pleased with us to sing all kinds of songs. We may sing Scripture, ancient hymns, old hymns, new hymns, contemporary songs, acapella, accompanied, bluegrass, Southern Gospel, country, old spirituals, etc. etc. The key is not the style but the content of the songs.