Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why Is There Christian Music?

It is Wednesday evening and I just checked to make sure there are plenty of hymnals in the fellowship hall. We always sing at least a song or two on Wednesdays. At Sunday assemblies we sing quite a bit, often half of the time is spent in singing. In fact, wherever Christians gather, one will often hear singing.

You may not realize it, but that is one of the objections many Muslims have to Christianity. The bands of the mega-churches are especially offensive to Muslims, but some of them object to any and all singing in worship assemblies. Muslim assemblies primarily involve three things. Prayer, preaching, and the reciting of the Quran. The reciting, and even the praying, may be done in such a singsong voice that it seems like music to us, but to a Muslim it is very different from our singing.

To Muslims (and to a few small "Christian" groups, such as the Reformed Presbyterians) hymn singing seems disrespectful. They would ask, "How dare you express yourselves to God in words of your own choosing? Chant back to God the inspired words of scripture, if you wish. But do not make up songs of your own, sing those, and call that worship."

I have to admit that these objections have some bite, at least with regard to some of the songs Christians sing. Some poorly written hymns are more self-promotion than praise of God. But there is a reason why Christians sing. We have a joyous message. The Gospel naturally inspires rejoicing; and rejoicing is naturally expressed in song.

Maybe you sing because singing is one of the "five acts of worship" and you feel that you must do it. I sing because, much to my delight and surprise, the Lord loves me and has saved me. That makes me want to sing. Seven days a week, fifty-two weeks per year, I sing out a bit of my joy to the Lord. It is not an obligation, it is more of a joyous compulsion.

(Psalm 5:11; 27:6; 63:7; 65:13 ; 67:4; 71:23; 81:1; 84:2; 92:4; 96:12; 98:8; 149:5; Isaiah 12:6; 24:14; 26:19; 35:6; 42:11; 49:13; 52:8; Acts 16:25; Romans 15:9; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 2:12; James 5:13; Revelation 15:3)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Are We Guilty of Theft?

A superficial reading of the Ten Commandments does not bother many people. They ignore the fact that they take the Lord's name in vain, justifying themselves by standing with the majority. They have not killed anyone, at least with their own hands. And they certainly have never broken into a house and taken things that belong to others. So, if that were all that is covered by "thou shalt not steal" then they would be safe on that count as well. But, of course, this superficial reading is inadequate.

Jesus taught us to look deeper. Jesus taught us that attitudes can kill as well as knives, and that if we harbor hatred we are guilty (Mt 5:21ff).

Other biblical spokesmen taught us that there is more than one way to steal. To keep back wages when they ought to be paid is a form of theft (Lev 19:13; Dt 24:15; Pr 3:28). To fail to give our proper contribution to the Lord's work is "robbing God" (Malachi 3:8). Paul tells us that we must pay everyone what we owe them, even if the obligation is to show respect rather than a monetary obligation (Rom 13:6-8).

We will never be convicted in a human court for most forms of theft. But God is not like man. He looks on the heart. He sees, he knows if we are failing to pay our due to him, or to any of his children.

"You shall not steal." It is easy to comfort ourselves with thoughtless claims that we are innocent of theft. But upon closer examination a very different picture emerges.

"I am so glad that Jesus loves me." Because if he didn't, I would be in big trouble. We all would be. We have all stolen from one another and from God. We have failed to pay our obligations - both of money and of respect - in a timely manner. Let us throw ourselves on the mercy of Jesus. And let's quit stealing.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Showing Appreciation

As I went through school, I was blessed with many great teachers and many enjoyable classes. The best individual classes I ever took were Homiletics with Stafford North and Introduction to New Testament Exegesis with Ian Fair. Also noteworthy were Introduction to the Old Testament with John Willis, Old Testament Theology with Tom Olbricht, and Communicating Christ in Animistic Contexts with Eugene Bunkowske. James Dretke's classes on Islam were very useful. Ed Mathews and Dan Hardin were great mission teachers, and I learned a lot from Carly Dodd's communication classes.

But I took more classes from Raymond Kelcy than from any other. He was my favorite teacher. I always did my best work in his classes. I would have felt that I had let him down badly if I had ever done "B" work in his classes. During my final semester I took his class on Romans. In that class I managed a perfect score over the entire course. I felt extra motivation when working with Raymond Kelcy because of a kindness he had done for me the year before before I entered Oklahoma Christian.

Raymond Kelcy had been kind to me, and I felt that in response I should do my very best for him. But, of course, his kindness to me is nothing compared to what we owe our Lord. Does our appreciation show in the way we take His lessons?

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (ESV)