• Church Musicians, Lets Cut the Acting

    I have been a church musician for about 18 years now. I have played in front of ten people and I have played in front of ten thousand people. God has blessed me with great opportunity to serve his people through playing guitar. Which I am eternally grateful.
    Over the years I have seen in myself and other church musicians either a rock star mentality that lacks humility or a phoniness where you look the part of a “worship leader”, “worship guitarist”  or “worship musician” (i.e. eyes closed, head back, suitable hip yet not revealing attire, etc.) and yet your heart is far from God. Does this last sentence mean that I think all church musicians that have their eyes closed have hearts far from God? No not at all. But I have been around enough church musicians who do look and act the part on stage but when they speak they confess their hearts are from God or they live lives that are far from giving glory to God.
    Let me be blunt  it is stupid to raise your hands, close your eyes and look like you are worshiping God when you are leading people in God’s praise if your heart is far from him. I don’t really care if you close your eyes or raise your hands that is not my point. My point is the emotion that you are displaying when you lead God’s people in song has to come from your emotional connectedness to God and not because you saw some worship person act like that on a YouTube clip.
    Church musician, the biggest gift you can give your church is not your hip clothes that give you that cool “I want you to think I have got bad hygiene but I really don’t” look if you are a guy. Or that “sweet kind of sexy but very wholesome” look if you are a girl. The biggest gift you can give to your church is not whether you are raising your hands or not. Or whether you look like you are in touch with God when you sing.
    No, the biggest gift you can give to your church is a passionate love for Jesus and a life committed to his glory. If you live in that way it won’t matter if you have the clothes or the right vibe because you will be giving people the kind of leader they need one that is passionate about Jesus looking great and one that is not concerned with how they look.
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  • How do You Know if You Are Falling Away?

    In many and various places the scriptures warn us not to fall away from Jesus (e.g. Hebrews 6:4-6, Revelation 2:4-5). Therefore as Christians we should be rightly concerned with the real threat of falling away.  But how do you know if you are falling away?

    A while ago I came across this blog by Joe Thorn. He summarizes Richard Owen Robert’s book, Revival, where he lays 25 evidences of a backslidden Christian:

    1. When prayer ceases to be a vital part of a professing Christian’s life, backsliding is present.

    2. When the quest for biblical truth ceases and one grows content with the knowledge of eternal things already acquired, there can be no mistaking the presence of backsliding.

    3. When the biblical knowledge possessed or acquired is treated as external fact and not applied inwardly, backsliding is present.

    4. When earnest thoughts about eternal things cease to be regular and gripping, it should be like a warning light to the backslider.

    5. When the services of the church lose their delights, a backslidden condition probably exists.

    6. When pointed spiritual discussions are an embarrassment, that is certain evidence of backsliding.

    7. When sports, recreation and entertainment are a large and necessary part of your lifestyle, you may assume backsliding is in force.

    8. When sins of the body and of the mind can be indulged in without an uproar in your conscience your backslidden condition is certain.

    9. When aspirations for Christlike holiness cease to be dominant in your life and thinking, backsliding is there.

    10. When the acquisition of money and goods becomes a dominant part of your thinking, you have clear confirmation of backsliding.

    11. When you can mouth religious songs and words without heart, be sure backsliding is present.

    12. When you can hear the Lord’s name taken in vain, spiritual concerns mocked and eternal issues flippantly treated, and not be moved to indignation and action, you are backslidden.

    13. When you can watch degrading movies and television and read morally debilitating literature, you can be sure you are backslidden.

    14. When breaches of peace in the brotherhood are of no concern to you, that is proof of backsliding.

    15. When the slightest excuse seems sufficient to keep you from spiritual duty and opportunity, you are backslidden.

    16. When you become content with your lack of spiritual power and no longer seek repeated enduements of power from on high, you are backslidden.

    17. When you pardon your own sin and sloth by saying the Lord understands and remembers that we are dust, you have revealed your backslidden condition.

    18. When there is no music in your soul and no song in your heart, the silence testifies to your backsliding.

    19. When you adjust happily to the worlds’ lifestyle, your own mirror will tell the truth of your backsliding.

    20. When injustice and human misery exist around you and you do little or nothing to relieve the suffering, be sure you are backslidden.

    21. When your church has fallen into spiritual declension and the Word of God is no longer preached there with power and you are still content, you are in a backslidden condition.

    22. When the spiritual condition of the world declines around you and you cannot perceive it , that is testimony of your backslidden stance.

    23. When you are willing to cheat your employer, backsliding is apparent.

    24. When you find yourself rich in grace and mercy and marvel at your own godliness, then you have fallen far in your backsliding.

    25. When your tears are dried up and the hard, cold spiritual facts of your existence cannot unleash them, see this as an awful testimony both of the hardness of your heart and the depth of your backsliding.

    It is a challenging list. Do you agree with all of them?

    Can you see some of these evidences in your life?

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    Spiritual Warfare is More Boring Than You Think

    Why Are Christians Different?

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  • Spiritual warfare is more boring than you think

    Spiritual warfare is a constantly thorny topic. There seems to be people who see a demon under every bush and every spiritual attack looks like a scene from Paranormal Activity 4. (Which looks AWESOME by the way!)  Then there is other people who seem to downplay  spiritual warfare so much that it seems like we are to discount the passages in the Bible which speak of it.

    So how does spiritual warfare actually work?

    The answer is spiritual warfare is much more boring than you think! Here is what Kevin DeYoung says about it in his great book The Hole in our Holiness:

    “But we could also talk more broadly about faith in the Word of God. That’s essentially what spiritual warfare is: believing the truth of God instead of the lies of the Devil. Satan is the father of lies, and his basic weapon is deception. He lies about God. He lies about your sin. He lies about you forgiveness. He lies about the Bible. Resisting the Devil has nothing to do with haunted houses or spinning heads. It has to do with faith, trusting in truth instead of lies. That’s what Ephesians 6 is all about. Put on the belt of truth. Take up the shield of faith. Wield the sword of the spirit. In spiritual warfare you stand fast against the schemes of the devil by standing fast on the Word of God.”

    Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in our Holiness, 87-88

    So, how do you engage in spiritual warfare? Believe the Gospel. Read your Bible and pray. Tell people about Jesus. Be active in church. Listen to sermons for encouragement not for entertainment and critique. Read a good gospel centered book that will help you love Jesus more. Then you will be in the thick of spiritual warfare.

    Because, in the end, spiritual warfare is more boring than you think.

    What do you think about spiritual warfare?

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  • Why are Christians different?

    I read a Piece by Miroslav Volf titled Soft Difference: Theological Reflections on the Relation Between Church and Culture in 1 Peter today. If you haven’t read it do yourself a favour and read it. Here are some great quotes on why Christians are different:

    “The root of Christian self-understanding as aliens and sojourners lies not so much in the story of Abraham and Sarah and the nation of Israel as it does in the destiny of Jesus Christ, his mission and his rejection which ultimately brought him to the cross. “He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him” (John 1:11). He was a stranger to the world because the world into which he came was estranged from God. And so it is with his followers. “When a person becomes a believer, then he (or she) moves from the far country to the vicinity of God…. There now arises a relation of reciprocal foreignness and estrangement between Christians and the world.” Christians are born of the Spirit (John 3:8) and are therefore not “from the world” but, like Jesus Christ, “from God” (John 15:19).”

    “It would be a mistake, however, to describe this new distance as simply religious. In that case, the terms “aliens” and “sojourners” would have been used purely metaphorically and would indicate “no actual social condition of the addressees.”  Such a view would presume that religion is essentially a strictly private affair, touching only the deep region of a person’s heart. Surely this is a mistaken view. That religion takes place simply between a naked soul and its divinity is a prejudice, one which is nourished today by the fact that in modern societies religion has been pushed outside of the public arena. Yet even in the so-called private sphere — such as the personal life, family or friendships — religion continues to be a social force. [15] Religion is essentially a way of thinking and of living within a larger social context. Religious distance from the world is therefore always social distance. At least this holds true for Christian faith.

    How does this Christian distance from society that is religious and social come about? 1 Peter answers: through the new birth into the living hope. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into the living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1:3). The new birth, whose subject is the merciful and electing God (1:2), creates a two-fold distance. First, it is a new birth. It distances one from the old way of life, inherited from one’s ancestors (1:18) and transmitted by the culture at large — a way of life characterized by the lack of knowledge of God and by misguided desires (1:14). Second, it is a birth into a living hope. It distances one from the transitoriness of the present world, in which all human efforts ultimately end in death. In more abstract theological terms, the new birth into the living hope frees people from the meaninglessness of sin and hopelessness of death.

    This process of distancing by rebirth takes place through redemption by the blood of the Lamb (1:19) and through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1:3). People who are born into the living hope take part in the eschatological process which started with the coming of Jesus Christ into this world, with his ministry of word and deed and with his death and his resurrection. Christian difference from the social environment is therefore an eschatological one. In the midst of the world in which they live, they are given a new home that comes from God’s future. The new birth commences a journey to this home.”

    “Christians are the insiders who have diverted from their culture by being born again. They are by definition those who are not what they used to be, those who do not live like they used to live. Christian difference is therefore not an insertion of something new into the old from outside, but a bursting out of the new precisely within the proper space of the old.”

    “When identity is forged primarily through the negative process of the rejection of the beliefs and practices of others, violence seems unavoidable, especially in situations of conflict. We have to push others away from ourselves and keep them at a distance, and we have to close ourselves off from others to keep ourselves pure of their taint. The violence of pushing and keeping away can express itself in subdued resentment, or it can break out in aggressive and destructive behavior. The Petrine community was discriminated against and were even a persecuted minority. Feelings of rage and thoughts of revenge must have been lurking as a threat, ready to rise up either in aggression toward their enemies or at least in relishing the thought of their future damnation. But what do we find in 1 Peter? Exhortation is given not to repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse, but to repay evil with a blessing (3:9)! From the perspective of pop psychology or quasi-revolutionary rhetoric, such a refusal to vent the rage and actuate the mechanism of revenge would be at best described as unhealthy and at worst thought of as worthy only of “despicable rubble.” In fact, it speaks of sovereign serenity and sets a profound revolution in motion. When blessing replaces rage and revenge, the one who suffers violence refuses to retaliate in kind and chooses instead to encounter violence with an embrace. But how can people give up violence in the midst of a life-threatening conflict if their identity is wrapped up in rejecting the beliefs and practices of their enemies? Only those who refuse to be defined by their enemies can bless them.”

    “To be a Christian means to live one’s own identity in the face of others in such a way that one joins inseparably the belief in the truth of one’s own convictions with a respect for the convictions of others.”