Tag Archives: worship

Is Your Spiritual Life in a Rut?

Because of a recent, week-end snow, many churches in the area canceled their Sunday activities. In our church, the decision was made Saturday to have one worship service at 1:00 pm Sunday, for those who could safely come to church.

That Sunday morning, the sun was shining and the snow glistened from the morning sun. It was a beautiful day. But the day was different from anything I had experienced for years. On a normal Sunday, my wife and I would attend the 10:50 am service. Since it would be lunch time when we got out of church, my wife and I would usually eat out after church.

The first thing we had to decide was what to do about lunch? Do we eat at home or go out and hope we are done eating in time for church? Most of the churches had cancelled services, so we really did not have to ‘beat the Baptists’ to the restaurant.

After we ate, we arrived at church a few minutes before the service was to start. We greeted our friends with “Good Morning” before realizing it was afternoon. We had the usual “congregation upset” where you greet the people around you. Again everyone was saying “good morning”.

We normally have two services on Sunday morning. We also have a lot of congregation participation in the service, so in some cases we had two different people to do the same thing, or we did not have anyone to do a given part of the service. But it was amazing. Everyone seemed to just step in and the service went smoothly.

The sequence of the service was the same as usual. However, I found myself a bit confused because it was afternoon and not morning. I had to think about what each part of the service meant to my worship that day. I realized that so many things we do have become so routine, that we miss the blessing God has for us.

As a society, we are moving at such a fast pace that our lives become routine. We do many things while we are thinking about the next thing we are going to do or say.

I ask you this question: “Is your spiritual life in a rut?” Are you going through the worship service thinking about what is next? Or, are you basking in an intimate relationship with God?

Hopefully your spiritual life is not bound up in just a church service. It should be obvious every minute of the day. Are we so wound up in following ‘our routine’ that we are unaware of God’s presence every moment of the day? Are we also unaware of the people around us that need a savior?

God made mankind so He would have someone with which to have a loving relationship. God loved us so much that he gave his only son so we could have a restored relationship with him. But we are so concerned about ourselves and what we are doing that we forget God.

The Apostle Peter says it best:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:11-17(NIV)

Enjoy the life that God gave you and do not let your routine activity destroy the relationship God wants with you.

NOTE: All scripture used in this blog was downloaded from www.biblegateway.com

Marching to the Beat of the Wrong Drummer: Rethinking Loudness in Worship

0718101523a What is the purpose of loud music in church?

Over the past several years, the loudness of music in churches has increased. This loudness can create a feeling of excitement. It can set the tone for the worship service. However, the loudness in many churches is above the threshold that is safe for the ear, this loudness requires ear plugs to prevent hearing loss. Because of the threshold of the music, churches should provide ear plugs for their parishioners and guests. In fact, our churches may be sued for hearing loss of the attendees if we are negligent in protecting our parishioners against physical damage.

When the Lord appeared to Elijah, there was a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire. Certainly there was an abundance of loudness during these events.  But God did not speak from them, in fact God spoke in a “gentle whisper”! 1 Kings 19:12(NIV) In other words, God may not be in the exciting situations we are involved in, but he is in the quietness we experience.

Dr. Barry Blesser (blesser.net) has done a great deal of research regarding loudness. Here are some things he says about loudness that I have applied to church worship. Loudness has three major functions: social reward, biological stimulation, and selective aural focus.

Social Reward

Loud music tends to cause strong group cohesion and a loss of individuality. For example, when we go to an athletic event, the fans are all encouraged to create a lot of loudness. This loudness draws the fans into a coherent group. It also causes a greater flow of adrenaline in the fans and the players.

This sounds like loudness is a great idea, it is good for the congregation to have a united sense of worship. However, what happens if the loudness that is caused by a group that is not there to worship God? What happens if the loudness is created for some other reason? What happens if the loudness is produced to get biological stimulation? What if that loudness is for selfish reasons?

Biological Stimulation

Music changes our emotion state. Soft music can provide relaxation or tranquility but loud music causes arousal. Soft music and loud music produce opposite changes to the emotional state of the individual.

Loud music stimulates the same regions of the brain as euphoria drugs such as cocaine. In other words, loud music functions as a self-medicating drug. Just as drugs tend to overpower cognitive judgment, so loud music also overpowers cognitive judgment.

Like the euphoria drugs, loud music helps us escape the guilt of our sin. It helps us escape the reality of our actions prior to worship. Turning a deaf ear to our sin and it’s guilt, does not prepare us for the presence of the Lord. But perhaps we go to church for the sole purpose of avoiding the guilty feelings we have about not attending or perhaps we didn’t especially want to be in the Lord’s presence anyway.  Like Adam and Eve, we are putting on leaves rather than seeking God’s forgiveness.

Loud music with a strong beat activates the sacculus – the inner part of the ear that controls balance. The sacculus is connected to the part of the brain responsible for all forms of pleasure. However, when the maximum threshold is reached by the ear, the small hairs in the ear that cause us to hear, will permanently break off damaging the inner ear. The maximum threshold varies from person to person. The threshold of the music in many churches is now well above the safe threshold of the human ear.

Selective aural focus

In a quiet environment, one can hear a pin drop or hear people breathing. Loud music makes one deaf to the sounds that we hear in a quiet environment. In other words, loud music tends to dominate our aural focus.

Loudness tends to transport us to another world. It takes us into an environment where we are totally controlled by the loudness. You do not have the ability to block out the music you do not what to hear. We do not have ‘ear lids’ that can close and open to protect us from damage to our hearing. You cannot escape loudness.

Loudness overpowers the inner space of self-generated sounds or pictures. It overpowers our individual ability. It wants to control our entire being.  Loud music overpowers our ability to worship God.

Conclusion

Loud music causes us to lose our individual identity, causing our actions to follow what the crowd wants us to follow. Our Christian walk is individual.  God did not give everyone identical plans for their lives. Psalm 139:14 says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. God did not use a cookie cutter to make our lives. God wants us to live our lives in unity not uniformly.

Loud music in our church service results in blocking other sounds. In fact, it may even block the very words that God wants us to hear.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians says:

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:15-20(NIV)

As Christians, our social reward, biological stimulation, and aural focus should be determined by the Holy Spirit, not by the effects of loud music. Paul says we should be ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’, not loudness. And it is to come from the heart, not from an man made instrument.

Perhaps it is time for us to rethink the use of loud music in worship?

We live in a society where the number of suicides, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and illicit sexual activity is at an all-time high. People are searching for hope. They are unable to find it, while the Christian faith is built upon the hope that we have in Christ Jesus, we are ashamed to tell others about the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. Is our worship music bringing hope to the world or is it covering it up with loudness so the world cannot find it?

 

NOTES:

  1. All Scripture used in this article is downloaded from biblegateway.com
  2. The loudness research in this article was done by Dr. Barry Blesser and others.
  3. The application of the research to worship is that of the author.

The Model Prayer: Developing a Relationship With God

Matthew 6:9-15 (NIV)

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,  your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:9-15(NIV)

In Matthew 5 and the first part of Matthew 6, Jesus has just talked to the people about sins against others: murder, adultery, divorce, promises, vengeance, loving our enemies and giving to the poor. Jesus is attempting to teach his disciples about their relationships to their ‘neighbors’.

After these instructions, the disciples ask how they are to pray. So Jesus gave them a model to use in their prayers.

In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus gives us a model for prayer.

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,  your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.Matthew 6:9-13(NIV)

First, Jesus tells us to honor God, Our Heavenly Father for who he is, what he has done, and will do. He is talking about our relationship with God. In Christ’s ministry, He taught that the Greatest Commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37(NIV))

Second, Jesus is addressing the second greatest commandment. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39(NIV))  Just as God loved us enough to forgive our sins, we must also love our neighbor enough to forgive them of their sins against us.

It should also be noted that in the model prayer, the act of forgiving our neighbor is in the past tense. It is not something that needs to happen in the future but rather something that has already taken place prior to praying. We cannot properly worship God if we have not forgiven our neighbor.

Just prior to Jesus giving the disciples the model prayer, Jesus was talking about forgiving others, which is an act of worship, he said:

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24(NIV)

Immediately after giving the model prayer, in verse 14 and 15, Jesus emphasizes the importance of forgiveness. It needs to be noted that in these verses when Jesus is talking about forgiveness, he is talking about the forgiveness of the sins (debts) between us and other people. If we want God to answer our prayer, we need to forgive others.

Jesus  goes on to say that if you don’t forgive others, God will not forgive your sin. In other words, He will not hear our prayer if we have not forgiven others.  We cannot expect God to forgive our sins if we are unable to forgive others of their sin against us. We cannot demonstrate our love for others until we can forgive others.

In the model prayer, we are asking God to forgive us just as we have already forgiven others. In other words, if we haven’t forgiven others, we are asking that God not forgive us. When we continue to live in sin, our relationship with God is weakened.

God also knows that we are going to be tempted not to forgive others. Therefore in the model prayer, Jesus says that we are to ask for God’s help in protecting us from those situations that cause sin; those situations where Satan would interfere with our relationship with God.

The model prayer was not given to everyone, it was given to the disciples and, followers of Jesus. It was given because the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Because they were followers they already had a relationship with God, the reference about forgiveness is not talking about a prayer of salvation but a prayer of a believer or person that is already a follower of Christ. In other words, this prayer is not about losing one’s salvation if they don’t forgive others. But rather it is a prayer about maintaining a closer relationship with God by forgiving others.

The Lord’s prayer takes us in a complete circle. The goal is to have a relationship with God. For us to have a relationship with God, we must (1) worship him. For us to worship God, we must first (2) forgive others. Because we have difficulty forgiving others, we must (3) trust God to keep us from sin. When he keeps us free from sin, we are free to worship him.

 

Note: All scriptures used in this article have been downloaded from http://www.biblegateway.com/?version=NIV unless otherwise noted.