A Word About Worship

Worship[1]Perhaps all of us have memories of walking in a forest or looking up at the stars on a clear night while worshipping and praising God for His creation!  However, how many times have we sat in a church pew on Sunday morning being critical, apathetic or “just there” physically, while our minds wandered to other subjects?

Even ministers, experts, and worship leaders have admitted they have had this experience, so should the rest of us be surprised if we also have trouble worshipping at times?  We face many obstacles in today’s active lifestyle and, in addition, Satan does his best to distract us and obstruct our true worship.  His desire to receive our worship instead of God results in his best efforts to distract and stop us from truly worshipping our Lord!  If successful, he has won half the battle. (Isaiah 14:12-14)

In 1961, the late A. W. Tozer rebuked evangelicals of his generation for their inadequate worship, in his book “Worship:  The Missing Jewel of the Evangelical Church”.  In 1982, Ronald Allen and Gordon Borror published a response in “Worship:  Rediscovering the Missing Jewel”.  They wrote, “The jewel is still missing, but at least now many of us know it, and miss it, and want to find it.”

For years some churches have prided themselves on free and spontaneous worship, while others have been equally proud of their staid and reverent attitude towards it.  Perhaps both have a point.  Could the ideal worship encompass both ends of the spectrum?  God is a God of balance and symmetry, and yet we as human beings tend to be off-balance on many issues, swaying first to the right and then to the left, when God is saying that somewhere in the middle we often find the ideal!

In a 1996 issue of “Moody” Magazine, published by Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, Bruce Shelley wrote an article titled, “Then and Now:  How Have Cultural Changes Altered our Expectations in Worship?”  In his informative article, Mr. Shelley details the explosive issues faced by churches attempting to change musical styles in their worship in order to improve their worship experience.  Although the need to do this was basically acknowledged by most, making it a non-controversial issue of the time, the difference of opinion as to how this should be accomplished was considerable.  In addressing the feelings that stir older members when churches change music styles, he told of the sanctified outrage he met with when he mentioned having drums in a service…”like a match dropped on a haystack!”  The room erupted in a corporate groan, followed by an outburst of laughter.  Remember, this article was written nearly twenty years ago when the changes in contemporary church worship were in their infancy.  Shelley went on to elaborate that churches across the country are “torn between the tug of tradition and the pull of style”.  Seniors want harmony; boomers want beat.  “What can be done to relieve this tension?” he asked.

Today, nearly twenty years later,  the “boomers” are the seniors in churches and the “millennials” have undertaken an even more radical approach to worship, shunning nearly all inferences to traditional church hymns or music of any sort, and imitating only the latest songs from the top “Christian” rock bands of the day or trendy pseudo-pop artists.  No matter that the music is absolutely “unsingable” to the average congregation (it sounds great on the radio where thousands of dollars have been spent to sync, digitize, loop and process each song); the lyrics trite and shallow; not to mention that the keys are pitched for high-voiced rock singers, not your average housewife or “man on the street” with zero musical ability.  Is it any wonder that when a person chances to look around the congregation, most of the audience is standing in silence, not even trying to sing?  Is this the way those attempting to come into God’s presence through corporate worship are encouraged to participate?

It is a fact that “loud cymbals” and “high sounding cymbals” are mentioned as a part of worship in Psalm 150:5 and elsewhere in the Psalms.  However, many other musical instruments used in praise and worship to God are mentioned, as well, such as the harp, lyre and ten-stringed instruments.  Should these be toned down and smothered in favor of the cymbals?  Could there be a musical balance that is pleasing to God that makes way for many instruments and styles of music?  Does the Psalmist speak about jubilant shouting in one psalm, as well as “waiting on God” and the “stillness of His presence” in another?  Are some of the anointed older hymns and songs of the past being shunned in favor of trendy fluff  with little or no theological or Bible-based soundness… not to mention, being poorly written from a musical standpoint, generally limited to three chords?  Who decided this appalling trend in music?

Perhaps, as “boomers” reach old age and “millennials” mature into middle age, there will be another generation that will emerge, seeking balance and wondering whatever happened to the hymns of old or the worship songs anointed of the Holy Spirit to bring people into a place of worship not readily experienced anymore.  Will they, then, return to the “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” mentioned in Colossians 3:16?  I pray they will!

The Power of Music to Lift, Heal and Inspire!

Worship[1]A few weeks ago my husband and I decided to take a trip to the Grand Canyon.  I had never actually been there before (only flown over it several times), and the whole experience was above and beyond my expectations!  I was simply overtaken with awe and wonder at the majesty and grandeur of this magnificent work of art which our Heavenly Father made for us to enjoy!

The verses in Psalm 95:1-5 came to me.  They read, “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!  Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.  Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.  For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods.  In His hand are the deep places of the earth; The heights of the hills are His also.  The sea is His, for He made it; And His hands formed the dry land.”  (NKJV)

The Grand Canyon, which is one mile deep, certainly demonstrates the height of the hills and the deep places of the earth.  We also read that His hands formed the dry land; He also made the sea.  Even if God used the erosion process from the mighty Colorado River to design the gorgeous colored rock formations, it was His hands that guided the flow of the river!

This passage speaks about singing before the Lord and coming before His presence with thanksgiving, joyfully shouting to Him with psalms!  Did you know that God loves to hear our praises?  He is the greatest example of someone singing to the ones He loves.  The prophet Zephaniah writes, “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”  (Zeph. 3:17, NKJV)

If God rejoices over us, His children, with singing and gladness, shouldn’t we do the same in worship back to Him?  We have so much to be thankful for, even when we experience sorrow and suffering.  We know that He will ultimately never give us anything to endure that is not for our good and that in the end we will come through each trial in victory!  This alone is something to shout and sing about!

Did you know that for years researchers have studied why and how music has such an enormous effect on people?  They have concluded that one of the most amazing properties of music is that it can reach parts of the brain and evoke memories that speech simply can’t reach!  This is the reason therapists often use music from a patient’s past to connect with them, often bringing dementia patients and stroke victims into the present through hearing a song and enabling them to connect with reality and speak again.  The reason for this is that a different part of the brain is used in singing and making music than in normal speech.  That is why many  people who have a stuttering problem can sing words with no difficulty!

Music has been found to boost athletic performance, help with science and mathematics skills, soothe and heal injuries, help depression, autism, and Alzheimer’s, as well as increase academic performance in general.  Don’t you think our Heavenly Father, the great God of the Universe, knew there was a certain compartment in our brains that only music could fill?  Shouldn’t we be using this beautiful gift He gave us to give back to Him in praise and worship?  After all, the primary reason why we were created is to give praise and glory to our Creator!  Our fellowship with Him will last throughout Eternity, so don’t you think it’s time we started using the gift of music He gave us?  Even if you don’t feel you have much musical ability; even if you don’t think you can hardly carry a tune; even if you don’t play a musical instrument, start in your own way to worship Him!  Try singing some of the Psalms or praise songs, or just worship Him with your own words!  You’ll be amazed at the uplifting effects!  Put on a praise CD and sing along if you are feeling down in the dumps; try singing along to some upbeat tunes as you do your housework or drive through freeway traffic; beautiful soothing worship music can help you unwind at day’s end and heal your troubled heart, helping you get to sleep faster.

We don’t need to know why music has such power in order to benefit from it.  Although it may remain an amazing and wondrous mystery, I believe God gave music to us, in the same way He formed the majestic Grand Canyon, for our enjoyment!  A great musician once remarked, “I believe one of the main purposes in God giving us music is to teach the spiritual principle of unity and oneness.  In a choir, band, or orchestra, each works in perfect harmony for a common goal.”  I agree!  Each time I have been a part of a musical group, the feeling of oneness during the performance has been exhilarating.  Could this experience give us glimpses into the spiritual unity of Heaven?

Some of today’s music, sadly, does not bring peace, nor does it edify; neither does it bring unity or sound harmonious.  Some music may sound more like tuning up part of a symphony orchestra, rather than of the symphony!  Great anthems and hymns of the Church, along with more contemporary praise and worship music that glorifies God, can bring a person into His presence like nothing else!  I challenge you to begin making music to the Lord in any way that you can….He loves to hear your praises!


Real Men Don’t Need Church?

  scared-man-5621790[1]              Chris_Kyle  

Guest Post by my husband, Russell D. Bafford, Sr…. 

Look around any evangelical church service on a Sunday morning and count the people you see.  It is likely women will outnumber men 2 or 3 to 1.  Why is that?  It is because the Christian churches in the USA have become feminized over a period of decades.  Some more so than others, but most have succumbed to the societal trend that shuns, or de-emphasizes, masculine interests, values, and goals in favor of “softer, kinder, gentler” interests, values, and goals of women.   Books, essays, seminars, conferences and a host of other forums have acknowledged this phenomenon, and there has been much collective hand-wringing about what should be done to reverse this trend. 

Worship music can help men feel welcome, or it can drive men away.  More on that later, but let me first share some observations I had as a young boy growing up in the Midwest in a mainline protestant church.  None of the men I saw in the church seemed to care much about what the Bible had to say.  It was just not relevant to their daily lives … or at least it seemed that way to this impressionable young boy.  I never saw my own father read the Bible or pray.  Then I encountered a man who had a profound, lasting effect on me.  He never spoke to me; I don’t know his name; but what I saw him do has been etched in my memory for at least 50 years.  While sitting in the waiting room of my dentist, I saw this man come in, sit down, pick up the Bible from the table, open it, and read it.  He didn’t flip through the pages quickly.  He actually read one whole page and then the next one and then the next …  I was amazed.  He didn’t look like a wimp.  He didn’t look crazy.  He looked like he was genuinely interested in the contents of that book.  He looked like a real man, and today I know he was just that.

Nearly twenty years later God would use the contents of that book to draw me, through conviction and repentance, to Himself.  As I read the Bible through for the first time, I saw God-fearing men portrayed in a different light.  They were courageous, brave, bold, stern at times, stupid at times, compassionate, warriors at times, and they could even be gentle.  The first century Christian men I saw in the Bible were not limp-wristed wusses who trembled at every peril they faced.  Their courage and boldness came from the Lord in a measure far beyond what they could muster on their own.  As a result of what the Bible had to say about men, my paradigm of a Christian man changed.

Fast forward to 21st century worship music.  When men are forced to sing praise songs to the Lord that contain romantic lyrics such as those that express a woman’s desire to be embraced by the strong man of her dreams, then many men lose interest.  Such lyrics might resonate with a single woman, a divorced woman, or a woman who has an unbelieving, cold husband, and there is a place for those expressions of love and desire in women-only events.  However, don’t be surprised if the men in the crowd are less than enthusiastic about mouthing those same words of romantic affection.

Want to really engage the men in your worship?  Sing songs about Christ’s kingdom, His power, His blood, His sacrifice, commitment to Him, service for His kingdom, and in general … what He has done for us.  Read the words Martin Luther wrote in A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, and you’ll better understand what concepts resonate with most Christian men.

Real men need to worship God with other believers, too.  Christian men WANT to do that!  Our churches need to encourage their participation without requiring them to leave their masculinity outside the building.

“…not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  (Hebrews 10:25, NIV)

Some Lessons from King David

As the world welcomes with great interest the birth of a new little prince who one day could become King of England, I’d like to take you back to another great king…the Psalmist David, anointed and chosen by God to lead His people, the Israelites.  Many people believe that the Throne of David is still very much alive today with his descendants sitting on the British throne (Jeremiah 33:17-26; II Samuel 7:11-16; Psalm 89:20-37).  Whether you agree with the position that David’s lineage literally refers to the unbroken monarchy in Great Britain descending from the Israelites, or to Jesus, whom we all know came from the “house and lineage of David” (Luke 2:4), we agree David was one of the greatest kings, warriors, musicians and mighty men of God to ever live!  In fact, God called him “a man after his own heart” (I Samuel 13:14), and we still read, sing and gain comfort from his words in the Book of Psalms today.

Let’s examine a few interesting facts concerning this man chosen of God to be king of Israel.  In I Samuel we read that God spoke to the prophet Samuel and said, “Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite.  For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.” (I Samuel 16:1, ESV)  In verses 12 and 13,  God tells Samuel (speaking of David), “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.  Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” (KJV)

We see in this passage that God chose the one He wanted, anointed him, and from that day on put His Spirit upon David!  If God’s spirit had not been on him, how would he have dared to come against the giant Goliath and speak boldly to him the Word of the Lord, killing him in front of everyone?  If God’s spirit had not been upon him, how could he have played anointed music with his harp and lyre for King Saul when the evil spirits were vexing him?  This happened several times; the first account is in I Samuel 16:14-23.  If God’s spirit had not been upon him, how would he have been able not only to slay multiplied thousands at God’s command, but also to write some of the most beautiful psalms?

So, my friend, follower of Jesus, and fellow musician, if you know beyond a certainty that God has called you to your ministry, whatever it may be, and that God’s Spirit is upon you, does it really matter what anyone else thinks of you or says about you?  Don’t you have the boldness of the Holy Spirit within you to make you victorious in any circumstance?

You will notice that after David was anointed to be king and God’s Spirit was upon him he became the object of severe jealousy directed at him by friends and family.  Notice his brother’s angry reaction to his coming to challenge Goliath in I Samuel 17:28…not exactly a show of support from his family, was it? After the victory over the giant, while the people, particularly the women, were dancing and singing his praises, King Saul became insanely jealous of David.  I Samuel 18:9 says, “And Saul eyed (or envied) David from that day and forward.” (ESV)  Instead of being proud of him and grateful for his success over the enemy, he sought to kill him from that day on!

How often do we feel jealousy and envy directed at us, perhaps even from other musicians in the Church?   Song of Solomon 8:6 says, “…jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.” (KJV)  The Apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians 4:7, “What is so special about you?  What do you have that you were not given?  And if it was given to you, how can you boast?”  (CEVU)   If all gifts are God-given, we should never be jealous of anyone else’s talents!  Equally as sinful as having jealousy towards our brother or sister is boasting about our own gift. It’s clear there should be no jealousy, competition, arrogance or pride amongst any musical group or in any form of leadership in the Church.  Even when David felt this jealousy directed at him and had to run for his very life, often hiding in caves, he knew Who had anointed him to be king; he knew that eventually God’s plan for him would be fulfilled!  And, of course, it was.  God used this interim time, however, to do a work in David, molding him and mellowing him, teaching him to trust and obey Him, forming him into the great leader He desired him to be!

My husband had a wonderful comment on the fact that when Saul tried to outfit David with his armor as he prepared to fight against Goliath  (I Samuel 17:38 and 39), David declined, saying, ” ‘I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.’  So David put them off.” (ESV)  As Christians we cannot simply “use” another person’s armor; we must test the “whole armor of God” for ourselves, putting on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness,  and shoes of the gospel of peace; taking the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, “that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  (Ephesians 6:11-17)

David stood strong in the midst of persecution, jealousy and battle because he knew God had called and anointed him for a specific time and role!  He was willing to wait for this to come to pass in God’s perfect timing.  If we know our calling, why do we let the devil and others destroy our peace of mind and confidence in God?  Let’s take a lesson from King David…be strong in the Lord, for you are victorious today!

What is an “Anointed” Song?

Many times we hear people say, “That song is so beautiful and so anointed!”  What are they really saying and how can we tell if a song truly is “anointed”?

Let’s first of all explore what the word “anointed” means.  Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines “anoint” as “to apply oil to as a sacred rite especially for consecration”.  We know of several instances in the Old Testament where the priests or kings of Israel were anointed.  There was a special ceremony and they were “set apart” or consecrated for this office.  Some verses about this are found in Exodus 28:41, Leviticus 16:32, and I Samuel 15:1.  You can look up many others, as well.  This brings us to the other definition for “anoint” which, according to Merriam Webster is “to choose by or as if by divine election”.  In my concordance, the word “anointed” gives the subtitle, “consecrated”.  This brings me to my real question:  Can a song truly be “anointed”?

First of all, let’s explore what the term “the anointing” we hear used so often is not:  It is not necessarily chill bumps all over your body when you hear a good song, although this definitely can be a part of it!  It is not tears or emotional responses to a certain song, although this may, also, be a big part of it!  If this is all the “anointing” were, then many  secular love songs and patriotic songs which invoke similar responses would also be “anointed”.  So, what is this term we often uses so loosely and why is it so important to a song’s ability to speak to hearts and change lives, often turning them towards God in a way not possible through mere spoken words?

The Word of God speaks of “the Lord saving His anointed” (Psalm 20:6) and the “saving strength of His anointed” (Psalm 28:8).  Psalm 105:15 also says, “Touch not mine anointed…” (KJV)  It appears from these and other similar verses throughout the Word that God has special ones that He has “anointed” and that He guards and watches over them diligently!  Could this be the converted, elect children of God?  Could it be that when we place our trust in Jesus as Savior and choose to follow the Lord in all of our ways that we then become His “anointed” and that we are saved for Eternity and protected with His divine provision from harm and danger?  Even though we may “walk through the valley of the shadow of death we will fear no evil for He is with us!” (Psalm 23)

So what does being “consecrated”, or as the dictionary definition puts it, “dedicated to a sacred purpose” have to do with anointed music?  Can we feel this “anointing” in a song?  I think the answer is simple:  When a person becomes a Spirit-filled child of God, this anointing, the “oil” of the Holy Spirit spoken of in the Old Testament,  overflows from our lives, making the words or songs given by the Holy Spirit “dedicated” or “consecrated” as well, or in essence, “anointed”.  Words or songs given to that person by the Holy Spirit will be “anointed” because He is enlightening our minds with the words of God!  That is why I believe the entire Word of God is totally inspired; every word is anointed and valuable to us.   II Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  (KJV)  This means that if God through the Holy Spirit gives someone a song, that song, including the words and the music, is inspired and “anointed” to bring Him glory!

So, can a song be anointed?  The answer is an emphatic “yes”!   The reason?  Because the person who wrote the song under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was “anointed” and God’s words and melodies flowing through the writer’s pen bring to bear that same anointing on the song they have written!  Do some songs, even supposed “Christian” ones, leave you cold and flat emotionally?  Perhaps they are not really “anointed”.   Some hymns that have come down through the centuries are just as poignant with emotion and God’s Word beautifully set to poetry as the day they were written.  For example, how can you improve on best-loved songs of all time such as “Amazing Grace”, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”?  Hard to compare these with some of the current dribble that passes for music!

One of my friends who happens to be the wife of a pastor of a large church really summed it up for me.  She told me of a recent experience where her daughter who is in her late 20’s decided to buy a CD of just hymns to play on a lengthy trip she needed to make with her two small children.  She told her mother she put the hymn CD into her player and  just couldn’t stop listening as tears ran down her cheeks.  Her two children were quiet and slept most of the way and they, too, seemed to sense the “anointing” coming from the words and music.  Her last comment to her mom is one I will never forget.  She said, “Mom, these hymns are so different from the standard “praise” music we usually hear.  Those songs are ‘all about me’; these hymns are ‘all about Him’!”  I couldn’t have put it any better!  The anointing of the Holy Spirit is real.  It truly can even “fill a song with God’s presence!”