ON INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC IN WORSHIP, by Doy Moyer

My Friend Doy Moyer has written an interesting piece on the subject of how we approach God with the music from our hearts, maybe with your spare time today you could sit down and give it a bit of consideration. -PWM

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[A few disclaimers: 1) I represent no one but myself here. I do not speak for the “brotherhood,” the “Church of Christ,” a college, or anyone else. These are my conclusions. The reader is free to take them or leave them. 2) The intent here is not to cover every single facet of whatever touches on the question. I am making particular observations regarding the question of instruments in congregational worship. 3) I realize this can be an emotionally charged issue. I also know that many disagree with me and that I am in the minority today (though not historically). I do not claim to solve every question by some authoritative declaration. All I ask is for careful consideration of these issues. Please refrain from responses that would insult intelligence or call into question a desire to please God, for I know this much: we can please God without ever picking up an instrument in an assembly. 4) I’m not expecting to provide some all new groundbreaking argument. However, there are some points for consideration that some may not have thought much about, particularly in the latter section.]

The question of the use of instruments in congregational worship has continued to be one of the more emotionally charged issues of today. Some will argue that it just doesn’t matter, and some will charge those who oppose their use with being legalists. While emotions can run high on both sides of this issue, it is yet fair to explain why some of us continue to oppose their use in worship. This is not so much out of a desire to debate the subject as much as to provide reasons for a more well-informed discussion. Here, then, is a synopsis providing a few basic reasons why there are those who still argue against the use of mechanical instruments in the congregational worship of God. The arguments typically fit within the following:

1. While the Old Testament shows their use by God’s authority, the New Testament documents give no indication of God desiring instruments in congregational worship now. With no such indication of God’s desire for instruments under the New Covenant, we are without warrant in using them, and those who do use them have the burden of proof to show such a warrant. The issue then revolves around how to understand God’s silence on an issue. Some argue that silence is permissive, while others argue that silence gives no authority to act. There are many layers to these arguments, of course. The bottom line is that those who argue against instruments do so on the basis of authority. He is in charge of His worship, not us. God is particular about singing (e.g., Eph 5:19), which is one type of music, but gives no indication that He wants instruments, another type of music, added to the singing. Since God was so specific about them under the Old Covenant, His silence on the matter under the New Covenant is so conspicuous that we should be very careful about putting something into His worship that He gives no indication of desiring. Presumption is to be avoided.

2. Historically, the evidence that early Christians used instruments in their worship is lacking. The documented use of instruments does not occur for centuries later, within a Roman Catholic context, and even many of the reformers, like John Calvin, were solidly against their use. For example, Calvin, in his commentary on Psalm 33, argued in the context of speaking about bringing in instruments under the New Covenant, “To proceed beyond what we are there warranted by him [Paul] is not only, I must say, unadvised zeal, but wicked and perverse obstinacy.” It is not just a modern “Church of Christ” issue, as if only churches of Christ began opposing instruments (see, for example, Old Light on New Worship,by John Price, a Baptist pastor who opposes instruments in worship). The use of instruments outside of the Roman Catholic context is, historically speaking, relatively new. The weight against the use of instrumental music in worship is historically strong and not to be lightly discarded.

3. It is sometimes argued that assemblies of Christians were modeled after the Jewish synagogues, yet Jewish worship in the synagogues did not entail the use of instruments, for the Jews saw instruments as connected to the Temple. After the Temple was destroyed, they refrained from recreating those instruments outside of that context. Even many modern synagogues still refrain from instrumental music (though they are divided on the issue). A simple search will show varying perspectives on this. Jewish Rabbi David Auerbach, who defends instruments if they enhance “the mitzvah of public worship,” writes,

“There are those who claim that musical instruments should not be used in the synagogue service because it is an imitation of gentile (i.e. non-Jewish) practice. In its early years, the Church also prohibited instrumental music because it was considered secular and might lead to licentiousness. The Syrian, Jacobite and Nestorian churches still prohibit instrumental music.” (http://www.jewishperspectives.com/music.asp)

4. While everyone can agree that singing is desired by God under the New Covenant Scriptures, not everyone will agree on the use of instruments in public worship. Therefore, instrumental music is divisive in a congregational setting. Many, though not all, will concede that those who want to use instruments in their own private setting are free to do so as they live with their own consciences, but bringing it into the public setting will force it upon others and thus create a divisive situation. Others will respond that if the whole congregation agrees on their use, then no division has occurred and this objection is nullified. It is likely that this objection will not be quite as persuasive now as it might have been when instruments were initially being introduced and causing obvious splits. Yet, should unity not still be a consideration in what a group decides about a practice that will involve everyone? Pushing a practice out of self-will should never be an option for a Christian, especially when admitting that such a practice is unnecessary, if not wrong.

Instruments Under the Old Law

Here we will elaborate on the point about instruments being part of the old Law.

First, God was not silent about instruments in the Hebrew Scriptures, so their use was not presumptuous. They were commanded during the time of David in preparation for the Temple, and God was particular about them — what they were, who would play them, when and where they would be played, etc. In other words, their use of instruments was not a matter of self-appointed talent and desire that they expected God to rubber-stamp, but rather it was an issue of God’s authority: “for the command was from the Lord through His prophets” (2 Chron 29:25). Contextually, the playing of the instruments in Hezekiah’s reforms worked in conjunction with the burnt offerings (see 2 Chron 29-30 where all of this was re-established under Hezekiah as being what God wanted).

The same Law system that had them offering the burnt offerings also had them playing the instruments at the Temple. Let that sink in for a moment. This is the Law system that has been fulfilled in Christ. To take one part of that system as a justification for modern practice, but not take the other part, is to be guilty of proof-texting and misappropriating the passages to favor one’s desired position.

What if we used the same arguments to justify modern day animal sacrifices or a separate priesthood? Why are we not hearing those arguments for these practices? They are part of the same system. If the arguments work for one, they work for the other.

Is it not odd, then, that those who argue so strongly against a Law-keeping mentality (what they call “legalism”) will argue for a practice that is grounded in the Law system, then call those who oppose it the “legalists”? How is not wanting to be presumptuous being legalistic? If the argument for the practice is founded upon a Law system that they stringently believe is not a part of our system of grace, then why appeal to it as justification for modern practice under a New Covenant?

Aren’t there principles that we carry across? Of course there are (cf. Rom 15:4, and see below). What has changed are not the principles or the character of God, but the stipulations. The stipulations included the Laws, commandments, and expectations. Included in these commands, from the time of David, were God’s instructions on the use of instruments for His worship.

If people wish to find justification for the use of musical instruments in corporate worship today, they won’t find it based on appealing to the Law without also justifying continued ritual burnt offerings, circumcision (as a sign of the covenant), the Aaronic Priesthood, and the host of other Laws that went together. Those who would be offended at the suggestion that we bring back animal sacrifices based on the Law should also be offended at the suggestion that we bring back the instruments based on the Law. Why? Because they represent the same Law system we all agree cannot justify us, not the new covenant system of grace. If authority for the instruments is to be found, it will not be in the stipulations of the Law. Justification for the practice needs to be found another way or abandoned.

How, then, should we view instruments under that system? Rather than arguing that these have been “done away with,” I argue that they need to be thought of as being fulfilled in Christ, just as the sacrifices, priesthood, and other items under the Law.

How are Instruments of Music Fulfilled in Christ?

The more I study the Scriptures as a whole, the more impressive is the idea of Christ fulfilling the Law. The concept runs deep and wide. Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matt 5:17). We see this working in so many ways even in statements and events that are not necessarily “law”:

He fulfills the image of God perfectly (Heb 1:3).
He fulfills the Exodus by providing the greatest exodus of all out of the slavery of sin (John 8:31ff).
He is the Prophet like Moses (Acts 3).
He is the Lawgiver (James 2).
He fulfills the Passover as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (1 Cor 5:7; John 1:29).
He fulfills the role of High Priest (Heb 5-8).
He fulfills the Davidic promise of the King who built the House of God in the greatest sense (Acts 2, 13, Matt 16:18).
He fulfills the Temple as God dwelling among His people in the flesh (John 1:14).
He fulfills all the sacrifices (Heb 9-10).
He fulfills the seed promise to Abraham (Gal 3:16-17).

The list can go on, but it doesn’t stop with Jesus. His body (His people, His church), also, fulfills very specific aspects of what the Law represented:

We are the completion of the nation promise (1 Pet 2:9).
We are the fulfillment of the levitical priesthood as a kingdom of priests (1 Pet 2:9; Rev 1).
We are, with Christ, the fulfillment of the Temple (1 Cor 3).
We are, with Christ, the fulfillment of the sacrifices (Rom 12:1-2; Heb 13).
As the priests were to wear garments that represented holiness, so we put on Christ and are to live our lives adorned with holiness (Rom 13:14).
We are the fulfillment of the true circumcision, “who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil 3:3).
We partake of the Lord’s Supper as fulfillment of the Passover and feast of Unleavened Bread — feasts that showed the end of slavery and beginning of a new life.

I don’t want to overdo it, but it seems pretty clear that God intended for specific actions under the Old Covenant to represent spiritual qualities for fulfillment in the New Covenant. God didn’t do anything without meaning, and it is this very point that I want to explore with reference to the instruments of music, by asking this question:

How are instruments fulfilled in Christ? I believe that the instruments are fulfilled in Christ through His people. Like other aspects of the Law and promises, instruments have a typological significance in terms of praise. Just as there was a special priesthood under the Law, there were also special singers and instrumental players under the Law. While Solomon was still trying to serve God, we find this: “Now according to the ordinance of his father David, he appointed the divisions of the priests for their service, and the Levites for their duties of praise and ministering before the priests according to the daily rule, and the gatekeepers by their divisions at every gate; for David the man of God had so commanded. And they did not depart from the commandment of the king to the priests and Levites in any manner or concerning the storehouses.” (2 Chron 8:14-15) Though instruments are not specifically mentioned here, they were part of the very same order (2 Chron 29:25). Notice again the stress on all of this being by God’s command. The Levites had duties of praise.

Now all of God’s people fulfill this purpose of praising God and proclaiming His excellencies (1 Pet 2:9). Under Christ, all of us form a kingdom of priests and all share in the duties of praise equally. God’s specified form of praise is through vocal singing, and the instruments are our hearts: “singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). Here the instrument accompanying the singing is the heart. All of us are the priests, all of us are the singers, and all of us are the instruments of praise–and this would extend beyond the assemblies into one’s life of holiness. Yet, as Calvin, again, wrote in his commentary on Psalm 33, when they “frequent their sacred assemblies, musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law.” The argument here is against resurrecting the shadows of the Law, of which instruments were a part.

We should clarify that our reason for refraining from an activity is not just because that activity is found under the Law. Those in Israel taught and sang, too. Yet God has specifically told us how to praise Him through song as we psalm in our hearts to the Lord. The fulfillment of these activities is found in the way that we tune our hearts to His glory. “I will put My Laws in their hearts,” God said through Jeremiah. This doesn’t mean that He didn’t want it in their hearts before, but it does show an emphasis that God intends. It is not through the outward ways by which He had Israel express themselves — a visible priesthood, animal sacrifices, instruments of music, specific clothing, etc. All of these are fulfilled in the hearts of God’s people as they offer up themselves as living sacrifices. Our clothing is Christ. We are His instruments for praise. We are His priesthood. So why do we still sing and teach? Because that’s what God has expressed as His desire. The bottom line is still that it is an issue of His authority. He has the right to tell us what praises Him.

Do I, then, believe in instruments of music today? In fulfillment, yes. I believe that we, His people, are the fulfillment of the shadow cast by the mechanical instruments under the old system. They were given for a reason in connection with the Temple. So we, in connection with being God’s Temple, are also the holy priesthood in holy array, offering ourselves as the spiritual sacrifices, presenting ourselves as the instruments for praise, and offering up prayers as incense. What began in the Temple is fulfilled in us and will find its ultimate completion before God in heaven (see Rev 15 where that imagery is carried forward).

My assessment, then, is this: when we focus on physical, mechanical instruments, we are missing the bigger picture. It wasn’t the physical Temple God was ultimately interested in. It wasn’t the animal sacrifices, the incense, the levitical priesthood or the instruments He ultimately wanted. All these were shadows of the greater fulfillment found in Christ. Instead, let us focus on how we, as God’s people, ought to be a holy Temple, a royal priesthood, and instruments of praise for Him now. Don’t focus on the shadow. Focus on the substance.

Doy Moyer

Keep it in Context, By: Doy Moyer

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As a principle, keeping in something in context is everything. In our Bible study, taking something out of context can be disastrous. It is easy to cherry-pick passages, use them as proof-texts, and make the Bible say whatever suits our fancy.

But sometimes the phrase, “keep it in context,” is also abused. It can easily become a phrase that substitutes for, “I disagree with you, and because I am always right then you are obviously taking things out of context.”

“Keep it in context” is not a catch-all for showing others how wrong they are when they disagree with us. Using the phrase (or other such terms like, “contextually”) does not automatically put a passage in context, nor does it prove we are right because we said the magic words. In all fairness, if we believe that someone has taken something out of context in a discussion, instead of just saying, “keep it in context,” we might want to point to what we believe that context is. If we cannot show how or where something is taken out of context, then do we have a right to say that others have taken something out of context?

In short, there is a difference between actually keeping something in context, and simply invoking the terminology to prove we are right.

To keep something in context requires a number of observations. For example, we might ask the following questions:

  1. What is the overarching context? What is the immediate context? What is the historical context? What’s going on in that time and place that may affect why or the way something is said?
  2. What is the occasion for the writing (particularly in the epistles)? What is the purpose of the work?
  3. What is the literary context? Is this historical narrative? Poetry? What is the genre? What is the nature of the symbolic language employed? How is language being used?
  4. Who is speaking? To whom? When? Why? How? (You know, the typical questions are never out of place)
  5. Is this meant to be limited to its own setting, or does it cross over time and culture? (Is anyone supposed to be building an ark today?)

This is not exhaustive, but these illustrate the kind of questions we would want to ask of a given text. Keeping something in context takes thought and study. Let’s not just say it. Let’s work at it.

via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/1/post/2013/12/keep-it-in-context.html

Armchair Bible Interpreters, By: Doy Moyer

“Well, you believe in a god who commanded murder, permitted rape, and condoned slavery and homophobia. The same Old Testament forbade wearing different fabrics in the same garment. How naive do you expect us to be?”

These types of comments are not uncommon in discussions about the Bible, particularly among atheists. They take potshots at Bible passages that think they demonstrate the folly of the Bible itself, and thus justify their disbelief, then give no real considerations to responses.

It is amazing how flippant some of these comments can be. They show little to no respect for historical or literary context. They give no thought to the overall themes of Scripture. They just cherry-pick passages that sound bad when they are isolated and then use them (abuse them) to make their point.

This illustrates a problem with what we might think of as “armchair Bible interpreters.” These are people who sit on the sidelines in their comfy chairs while they take their shots at Bible passages. They haven’t done the hard work of really trying to understand the contexts, the covenants, or the themes. They see isolated passages that sound bad, pick them out, throw them at believers, then sit back and enjoy their self-proclaimed victory over those gullible nuts who accept those ancient myths and superstitions.

It is always easier to make a mess than it is to clean it up, and people know this. A sentence or two, or perhaps a paragraph, can make a real mess out of an issue, and it takes a much longer response to set things straight. One sentence can make a mess, and it takes a chapter to fix it. Looking at themes, contexts, and fuller considerations cannot be done in a sentence or two. It takes time, patience, and hard work, which is not typically what people want to do when they are trying to justify a preconceived position.

Bible study is indeed hard work. There is no short cut. There is no way to do justice to a passage or a context in a post of 140 characters. To do the work, one must be committed to it, roll up the sleeves (of the mind), and dig in. Once we do that, many of those alleged problems are not so much of a problem any more. I’m not saying there still won’t be difficulties; I’m not saying we’ll know all that we wish to know. I am saying that difficulties are exaggerated and worsened when given by armchair interpreters who are too lazy to dig in and do the work that is actually needed. Misrepresenting Scripture is easy. It is also lazy.

To clarify, I’m not talking here about an elite group of professionals who alone have the authority to interpret. Scripture should be in the hands of everyone, but that doesn’t make study easy. I’m speaking of the need for everyone to do the hard work of striving to grasp a text instead of just taking a cursory look and making major judgments about its meaning and application.

Even among believers, it is easy to cherry-pick and proof-text. We see a passage that says something we like for it to say, so we go with it before we’ve done any of the hard work of putting it in context and grasping the actual meaning. We might get lucky, but Bible study isn’t supposed to be about luck.

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).

Of course, this passage is more than just studying (as the KJV puts it). Our diligence needs to go beyond reading the text into the application of our lives. Nevertheless, handling the word accurately is a prime concern for believers, and proper application begins with the initial meaning of a text.

Armchair interpreters are content with finding statements in the Bible that say what they want, whether it be believers or unbelievers. We must not be content with such an attitude. Be diligent. Get in the game. Do the work. Only then will we be in a proper position to talk about the text with more than an unstudied opinion.

Authority: Are We Worshipping the Bible? By: Doy Moyer

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Sometimes, in discussions of biblical authority, we hear the derogatory charge that those of us who push so hard for authority are guilty of “bibliolatry,” idolizing or worshipping the Bible in particular. Since we put so much stress on the authority of Scripture, are we guilty of promoting Scripture over God Himself? Perhaps the better question is this: what is the relationship of God to Scripture?

Scripture is not simply words in black and white (and red) on a material page. There is nothing authoritative about simple words on a page by themselves. The issue is the source of the message that is written down. If we just coldly isolate the words and demand adherence to them without understanding their true relationship to God, then those who make the charge may have a point. On the other hand, making the charge could also be a subtle way of trying to distance oneself from Scripture. If Scripture really is authoritative because of its relationship to God, then there are restrictions to the way that we may acceptably serve God. If we can remove the restrictions by minimizing authority, then we will feel free to serve God as we please. In this sense, then, this issue may be more about self-will (or self-idolatry) versus God’s will. Who gets to decide how God should be served and worship?

The reason for believing that Scripture is authoritative is because of its relationship to God, not because it is someone’s creed from long ago written on paper. While this article is not about proving inspiration, the point should be understood: if Scripture comes ultimately from God, then it bears His authority. To the extent that Scripture is God’s word, then it is authoritative; if it isn’t His word, then it is no more authoritative than what any of us may come up with and put down on paper. That Scripture is from God is the very point reflected in Paul’s statement about the Hebrew Scriptures:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).

If it falls into that category of “Scripture,” then it is authoritative because it is God-breathed. This is not the worship of the Bible, but rather the worship and service of the God from whom the Scriptures come. Now the question would be this: can we truly serve and worship God when we ignore or minimize the message that He has given? God is directly tied to His own word, and Scripture recognizes this:

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two- edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Heb 4:12-13)

Notice in this text how the writer moves from “the word of God” to God Himself. There is really no way to separate the authority of God from the authority of His word. “Then God said” are some of the first powerful words of Scripture (Gen 1), and from this point, “Thus says the Lord” is a continual appeal of the prophets. If the Lord said it, it is authoritative and is not to be ignored. “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking” (Heb 12:25).

The word of God is not to be restricted only to written form, of course. The word of God has been much more than that which is recorded, and not every word God ever spoke (or everything He ever did) is recorded in our Scriptures (cf. John 21:25). Jesus Himself is the Word became flesh (John 1:1, 14). He is God’s message and communication in the greatest sense. But God’s message has been put down in writing, and that message is to be respected as much as anything the prophets, apostles, or even Jesus orally spoke.

The connection of Jesus to His words is vital: “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:48). If His “sayings” are written down on paper, does that make them any less authoritative and connected to Jesus? The words spoken by Jesus “are spirit and are life,” and He has the “words of eternal life” (John 6:63, 68). Whether these are heard orally or read from a book, they are still His words, His message, and His authority. “Lord, to whom shall we go?”

Indeed, where else shall we go for our authority? Shall we consider our own words more authoritative? Are our writings better than the first century New Testament documents? Where shall we go for the words of eternal life?  Is it worshipping the Bible if we give due respect to these words?

The reality is that if we don’t give Scripture its proper due when it comes to authority (as it is God’s authority), then we aren’t truly worshipping or serving God. To ignore God’s word is to ignore God Himself and give ourselves the authority that only belongs to Him. This isn’t about worshipping the Bible. It is about giving God the proper reverence and respect that only He deserves. We cannot give that respect to Him if we do not pay attention to the message that He inspired to be inscribed with ink on the pages of a material book. The material certainly won’t last, but the word of God will endure forever. If the word of the Lord uses the material for a time, then we are amenable to it and we will be held accountable. The word He spoke will judge us in the last day. Herein is the essence of the need for paying attention to His authority.

via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/6/post/2013/11/authority-are-we-worshipping-the-bible.html

Philippine Update

Harry Osborne passed along this update from the Philippines

“Since it will be Thursday before we can start to distribute the benevolence on Leyte where the need is the greatest, the funds already committed for sending via MoneyGram should be available before we leave from Cebu going to Leyte on Friday. The need here is so enormous that we have had to focus on meeting immediate needs for survival at this time and leave longer term efforts of rebuilding and other needs to be met at a later date. My plan is too also bring a bag of first-aid and sanitation supplies with us to Leyte. With the massive death toll and release of open sewage from the floods, the danger of disease taking another large toll is a very real and present danger. From what we hear, our brethren are in great need of such supplies.

To give you a sense of the enormity of the disaster, the major international rescue and relief organizations were saying the death toll may exceed 10,000! There is some speculation that number may be very low and may go much higher. The Philippine government said just yesterday that the number might exceed 1200. In other words, no one knows the magnitude of this disaster at this point, but time a new area receiving a direct hit is surveyed, the numbers keep going up. Today, U.S. Military helicopters and air support began an aerial assessment of the damage and they are saying the damage is unprecedented. One of the crews likened it to an F4 or F5 tornado, except it is 100 miles wide and several hundred miles long. There are hundreds of small, inhabited islands that the full force of the storm impacted. Each one presents a new challenge to reach, assess and get relief efforts going.

In our travels yesterday, we did not see a single national Philippine government vehicle or relief effort of any kind, nor did we see any international relief organization presence. If what we saw was the lesser problem compared to other places, I shudder to think what the situation is in such places. When people in the streets of Bogo saw me as a white American, it was obvious that they were looking at me in hopes that I would help. I don’t know if I will ever be able to forget the utter helplessness I felt on that occasion to see so many people in such dire need, looking for help, yet knowing that I had no way to help. Our brethren now have food to eat for several weeks, the masses of humanity I saw have nothing and no hope in sight. May God in His providence make a way to ease the tremendous suffering of these very poor and hopeless people — ultimately bringing them to seek for a way of hope that leaves the calamities of this life to forever rejoice in a heavenly hope that knows no sorrow and no end! God bless!”

You can follow Harry’s work in the Philippines @

http://harryosborne.blogspot.com/

He also passed along some photos to provide a frame of reference for the impact of the storm.

Though there are a few graphic images of the destruction, I have omitted ones far more graphic and disturbing. These will give a sense of the total destruction in Tacolban, mostly by the storm surge but also the intense winds.

On a Christians Commitment in Marriage, by: Doy Moyer

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While we need to be concerned about the influence our spouses will have on our spiritual lives (see On Christians Marrying Non-Christians), we must ourselves be committed to serving our spouses and helping them serve the Lord. In other words, marriage shouldn’t be all about me. It is about me to the extent that I must bear responsibility in glorifying God. It is about me in the sense that God calls upon me to glorify Him. But my focus must be first on God, then on loving my spouse as Christ loves His people (Eph 5:22ff). Therefore, while I must be concerned about the type of person I marry, for the sake of my own soul, I must be even more concerned about the type of influence I will have on my spouse. Not only do I need a spouse who can aid me in serving God and preparing for eternity, but I need to be a spouse who will aid her in serving God, also. A single Christian praying for a spouse should not just pray, “Lord, send me the right person,” but “Lord, make me the right person for someone else.” Focus on being the right kind of person and the right of kind of person will be attracted to you.

Dedication in marriage is not a 50/50 proposition, and if that’s how we view it, then we will feel justified in treating our spouses in a lesser way than we are capable of or responsible for. This means that even if a spouse fails to try or gives less than his or her best, we are still responsible to give our very best to the marriage. My approach to marriage must not be conditioned upon the way my spouse acts, but upon God’s will. This is because, as Christians, we are to approach all things with an attitude of service to the Lord.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col 3:23-24).

This is an over-riding principle for all that we do, and this should be no less true in marriage. It is the Lord Christ whom we ultimately serve, and therefore our treatment of our spouses and our commitment to marriage is built upon this principle rather than upon some quid pro quo with our spouses.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Phil 2:3-5)

This passage, though dealing with relationships broader than marriage, must nevertheless be applied within a marriage. Our commitment is to be like Christ, to have His attitude in everything. Once again, this is not based on how others act, but upon our primary commitment to God. In this sense, then, marriage is about my spouse, not me. Just as Christ did nothing through selfish ambition, so we must act in humility toward our spouses in order to serve them and their interests (primarily spiritual interests). If I make marriage about my own personal happiness, then likely I will act out in selfishness and end up destroying the marriage and the happiness of my spouse, not to mention my own happiness in the process. Make marriage about your spouse, not yourself, based upon the principles demonstrated by Christ in humbling Himself to die for our sins. In this way, the husband can love Christ as He loves His body (Eph 5).

Christians must also recognize that marriage is a direct reflection of God’s relationship with His people. This is Paul’s primary point in Ephesians 5. After speaking of the submission of the wife and the love the husband is to have for her, Paul then says, “I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (vs. 32). I believe that one of the main reasons God initiated marriage in Genesis was to showcase male and female as His creatures made in His image. He then used the marriage metaphor throughout Scripture to describe His relationship with His people — with Israel and then with His people under Christ. Prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Malachi stress the importance of this principle as the people had committed acts of adultery with foreign gods. Now marriage to Christ as His people is primary for the child of God. We are the bride of Christ, adorned for Him in covenant relationship (cf. Rev 21:2). Paul used marriage again as the illustration to show that we were made to be joined to Christ in order to bear fruit to God (Rom 7:1-4).

These ideas highlight the importance of physical marriage for God’s people. Marriage was made by God. He joins two together. Breaking the covenant is treachery (see Mal 2:15-16), and He hates divorce. God intends marriage to reflect His own covenant relationship with people made in His image. I believe that this understanding of marriage will help us realize just how important our commitment to our spouses needs to be. Marriage ultimately isn’t about us, but about God’s own commitments to covenant. Though God made marriage for mankind, He made it for the greater purpose of reflecting His image. May God help us to reflect it properly.

Doy Moyer

Via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/1/post/2013/11/on-a-christians-commitment-in-marriage.html

The Vision of a Blind Man, By: Doy Moyer

Picture
“Why was this man born blind?” the disciples wondered. Was it because he sinned or because his parents sinned? “Neither,” responded Jesus, “but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” The man didn’t know that he was about to become the object of a miracle. His purpose now was to display the greatness of God. People knew he was blind from birth; they also knew that one blind from birth doesn’t just start seeing. Jesus spat on the ground, made clay and applied it to the eyes of the blind man. He then instructed the man to go wash in the pool of Siloam. The man went and washed, and came back seeing (John 9:1-7). Oh, is that all?

This event is told in such simple terms — no fluff or pomp added. That in itself is amazing. Doesn’t that suggest that God wants us to be struck by the simple truth? Truth needs no embellishments. It is what it is. The facts themselves are awesome.

Now that’s not the end of the story. People were amazed at what happened. How does a blind man suddenly see? They took him to the Pharisees, who cross-examined him in no kind way; and the man held up quite well. Why? Because he caught vision — not just the ability to physically see, but a vision of who Jesus was: “Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:32-33). The man hit it right on the nose. Not only could he now see, he could now see.

Then there were the Pharisees, demonstrating once again their self-righteous inability to see what was most important. What was their first impression of the One who made the blind man see? “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath” (9:16). So much for Jesus — how dare He heal a man on the Sabbath! Some were a little more honest: “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” They basically dismissed the evidence because of their own bias. How did they respond to the man’s point about Jesus being from God? “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” So they put him out. How’s that for honesty? They could see, but they couldn’t see.

After the man was put out, Jesus found him again and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man responded, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said, “You have both seen Him, and He is the One who is talking with you.” The man said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him.

The point of this miracle should be clear: Jesus can open our eyes! His power to open the eyes of the physically blind demonstrated His power to open the eyes of the spiritually blind. But we must be willing. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Some Pharisees asked, “We are not blind too, are we?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” What does that mean?

Men are responsible for what they are able to receive and do. But if pride keeps one from receiving truth, he will be condemned. They thought they knew the law concerning the Sabbath better than Jesus, and they condemned Him for healing on that day: “We see.” Therefore, their pride and self-confidence left them condemned. As long as people are proud, self-sufficient, and confident in their own wisdom, they cannot receive forgiveness of sins from God: “your sin remains.” On the other hand, if people recognize their complete dependence upon God and His ways, coming to Him with humble hearts, confessing their ignorance and their sins, God will forgive.

This is where our vision begins. We are blind. We dare not trust our own wisdom and ways. We must see the vision of Jesus, the Great Redeemer and Savior, then respond in faith: “Lord, I believe.” We must worship and praise Him. As we humble ourselves before God, we will begin to see the light of the gospel shining on the path to heaven. But if we think, “we see,” that we have it all figured out by ourselves, the path will remain in darkness. It all starts with an attitude of humility toward God. Let us pray that Isaiah’s prophecy of spiritual blindness be not fulfilled in us (Matt. 13:14-15). Instead, may the Lord say about us, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” (vs. 16). What have you seen lately?

Doy Moyer

Going “to Worship”, by Doy Moyer

The phrase is biblical. The basic idea of worship is to do reverence or bow down and pay homage to another. From this general concept, some have argued that worship is just everything we do as Christians rather than particular “acts of worship” (a phrase that has been disparaged). Instead, it is supposed to be our lifestyles as worship (“lifestyle” is one of those loaded terms). While it is vital that we sacrifice ourselves for the Lord (Rom 12:1-2), and we recognize that all of life is to be lived in reverence to God (and in that sense worship), the concept of worship in Scripture is used in an even more specific sense as intended actions. Paul speaks of going up to Jerusalem “to worship” (24:11). Worship is said to have an “object” (Acts 17:23; 2 Thess 2:4), who is supposed to be God only. Worship can be in ignorance if not directed specifically to the right One (Acts 17:23), and it can be “in vain” if merely on the lips but not in the heart (Matt 15:8-9). But if worship is just life in general, then wasn’t Paul already worshipping went he went up to Jerusalem “to worship”? Why would he want to go to Jerusalem “to worship” if it was just his lifestyle as worship? Unless there was some intended action he had in mind, this would make no sense.

It is true that any worship of God is to be an extension of who we are (i.e., not out of character for us), but it is still something we do with specific actions in addition to how we generally live. This is not about worship being confined to a church building. It is about intended and specified actions as worship, whether individually or together.

The Hebrew writer said, “let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Heb 13:15). Singing praise to God is worship as it renders special homage to God, whether done individually or with others (Jas 5:13; Eph 5:19-20; Col 3:16). Surely this also may be said about our prayers of praise (e.g., Acts 4:24ff). The praise Psalms should be sufficient to see that. If we speak of going “to worship,” do we not have in mind these very actions?

So, yes we can go “to worship” God as our divine object (an object with whom we share a fellowship), rendering praise to Him in a special way through songs and prayers. Our lives are to be consistent with this, but living our “lives as worship” does not entail foregoing the specific actions. Rather, those actions, especially when we are together, are only enhanced when done by those whose very lives are given as living sacrifices.

Doy Moyer

 

Via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/6/post/2013/10/going-to-worship.html

A People Set For Restoration

This week I posed what I suspected would be a valuable question: “In your experience, or studied understanding, what are some “poor excuses” for multiple churches/congregations who “teach the same things” in a given locality? Feel free to respond privately as well.” I received a wide range of responses both publicly and in a private format.  At a later point I will address some of those comments. For today I thought it best to consider how things are, rather than how did get here. With that in mind, and know that many hurt as I do about the deep divison among those who claim to follow the Christ

Be Forgiving

If you really want reconciliation, our foremost importance is the ability to forgive and let the hardness of the past fade. We all know it hurt, but will it not hurt more to let the injury exist untended?

21Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22J*sus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.g

23“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.h 24When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.i 25And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26So the servantj fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.28But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,k and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,l until he should pay all his debt. 35So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35 ESV)

Be Ready for Forgivness

I have lost track of how often folks worry so deeply if the one they hurt will or could ever forgive them. When they finally build up the courage they need to beg for forgiveness they often behave with such amazement! They wonder how it is they could ever have waited so long to have things right again. If you really want to be a person set for reconciliation, be ready to accept forgiveness openly.

7A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13Jesus said to her,“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.b The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” (John 4:7-15 ESV)

Be A Disciple

Jesus declared a simple truth:

15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15 ESV)

Instill within yourself a deep love of Christ, and you will find yourself seeking to be at peace with God and if possible all men. Were there one thing you could do to help build a bridge, it would be to teach people to love the Christ.

Be An Example

Finally make sure you show reconciliation both in matters involving those who claim Christ, but also to all men.

6If you put these things before the brothers,a you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10For to this end we toil and strive,b because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

11Command and teach these things. 12Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15Practice these things, immerse yourself in them,c so that all may see your progress. 16Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:6-16 ESV)

“You May Now Kiss the Bride” by Cindy Dunagan

via Focus Magazine, No. 98, April, 2008.

Sexual purity. What virtue is more difficult to instill in our teenagers than purity of heart? No one needs to tell you we are living in an ultra-sexualized culture where your teenagers will be continually surrounded with sexual temptation. This roaring lion (I Peter 5:8-9) is a computer click, radio station button, and TV channel away. Many of the ones your teens will spend the day with at school are not only sexually active — they are advertising themselves as so. It is no wonder we are losing more teenagers to fornication than any other temptation. I am the mother of a seventeen-year-old son and a sixteen-year-old daughter, and I share your concern — yet there is good news.

Recently I attended two weddings where the bride and groom experienced their first kiss together on their wedding day upon the words, “You may now kiss your bride.” The first time I attended such a wedding, despite being relatively well acquainted with the family, I did not know until sometime after the wedding that this vibrant, college-age couple had made such a goal. With the second couple, I only knew of their commitment to this atypical standard because we are very close friends with the family. Both couples were clearly motivated by a sincere desire to honor God and one another by making this sacrifice. Neither reflected an arrogant or “holier than thou” attitude. How admirable.

Shortly after one of these weddings, my daughter posted a little survey on her blog, which read,

[This couple] courted for a year and didn’t kiss before they were married…. What are your thoughts on what is appropriate physical affection before marriage? How will your children be raised to date/court compared to how you were raised? Do you ever wish your dating/ courting years were more or less physically involved?

As would be expected, responses varied greatly. One stated she could never resist kissing because she enjoys it way too much. I could see her point. What is not to like? Another respected those who chose not to kiss, but had once broken up with someone because she realized by kissing her boyfriend she was not physically attracted to him.

A mother of a bride wrote,

Not kissing before marriage was her choice, not our rule. But she came to the decision after reading about courtship, and deciding that purity begins in the mind and heart, and they need to be educated. [My husband] and I dated for a year before we were married, and did kiss. After reading the same things [my daughter] did, educating myself and looking back, I wish we had waited too. It’s a piece of your purity that is precious and should be saved.

How wise for this mother to realize that the only way her daughter was able to successfully achieve her goal was that it was deeply part of her own heart, and not something that was only valued in the hearts of her parents.
One young bride wrote,

[My husband] and I didn’t kiss before “you may kiss the bride” …it made our dating relation-ship unique to the others that we have had and made our relationship so much more than physical attraction. It also made our wedding day even more anticipated. However, I don’t believe that it is wrong to kiss your boyfriend/ girlfriend… but I wouldn’t change our decision if I had to do it over again!

She went on to explain that both she and her husband had previously kissed other people. How encouraging to be reminded that although a girl has kissed in her past, if she decides to save the rest of her kisses for her future husband, she can!

Another bride also had wise advice for those who would start afresh:

[My husband] and I kissed before we were married — but at a point in our relationship, we had to make the decision that we needed to stop because it was becoming a focus in the relationship. As we got to know each other better and learned to balance stuff in our relationship, we were able to gradually reintroduce it. … [My husband] was the only guy I’ve ever kissed and I feel like it’s a very special thing. I think it depends on the individual couple — if kissing is the focus of the relationship, it’s not a good thing. I think I definitely want to teach my kids that they shouldn’t devalue themselves or the importance of relationships by kissing every person willy-nilly.

What are some practical steps successful parents have taken to encourage purity in their teenagers?

  • Nurture a chose relationship with your teens and enjoy your relationship with them. Your opinion should be the most important influence as they are deciding whom they will date, and how they will date.
  • Sit down with your teens and discuss or even list the ways teens show affection in their relationships and where they have determined to draw the line to keep their own hearts pure. Lack of communication, gray lines, and blurry standards can lead to compromise and excuses.
  • List with your teens all the blessings and benefits you can think of for guarding one’s purity, and as many specific consequences for sexual compromise you can think of.
  • Delay dating years as long as possible. When your teens do date, consider confining it to double or group dating, or better yet, primarily in the presence of family.
  • Read books with your teens such as Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye (also available on DVD), which is really more about dating wisely than not dating at all. Another popular Josh Harris book is Boy Meets Girl. You probably will not agree with everything the author proposes in either book, but many successful families have found these books chock-full of practical, wise advice and motivation to present our bodies as instruments of righteousness (Romans 12:1-2).
  • Only allow media and technology in your house that does not put a stumbling block in the way of your teenagers. If you allow a MySpace blog, visit it frequently, and let them know in a friendly way you will be doing so. Many Christians are allowing http://www.pleonast.com as a safer alternative. Avoid televisions and computers in bedrooms. Even with parental controls and blockers, the spiritual disadvantages often far outweigh the advantages.
  • Many families present to their teens, on the birthday that marks for them the beginning of their dating years, a “purity ring” symbolizing their son or daughter’s promise to God and himself or herself to remain pure. It is often given by the father and is worn until it is replaced with a wedding ring. The ring is saved as an heirloom to give to the son or daughter’s own child one day. While the ring obviously has no inherent power, like a wedding ring, it is a reminder of a very holy commitment.

I see guarding the purity of our hearts when we are so very much in love with our future spouse as one of the most challenging expectations from God. Yet the reward of choosing to replace physical intimacy with emotional, mental, and spiritual intimacy during courtship has a definite advantage. It prevents the natural progression of lust, which by its nature grows more and more alluring. Not playing with lust also gives couples better clarity as to whether they are together for more substantial reasons than sexual chemistry, thus allowing a deep, real love to develop. Although it puts stress on the relationship to deny oneself the fun of kissing, it is less stressful than feeling guilt, being dishonest with parents, and trying to stop the lust that can feel like a speeding train, which so often follows kissing. No one is saying that it is always sinful to kiss, yet many wise young people are discovering a clear spiritual advantage to staying off “first base” altogether, in order to avoid “second and third base.”

Each and every one of us was created with no greater desire than to love and be loved. God promises in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” The two couples whose weddings I attended are beautiful and refreshing examples of love, self-control, and the full joy God wants for each of us. The word of God is powerful and by it you too can raise teenagers whose faith is stronger than the pull of sexual temptation.

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