Tag Archive | Praise and worship music

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!

Was Lucifer a Musician? (Part 1)

Did I get your attention with the title? Thought I might! Through the years I’ve read and heard from childhood the stories of how Satan used to be an archangel in Heaven, became jealous and wanted to usurp God’s position, not being satisfied to be “just an angel”. Eventually he was cast out of Heaven by God.  Jesus speaks of this event in Luke 10:18, to his disciples: “And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’” (ESV) So we know in essence that this is the short version of what happened to Lucifer, or Satan, commonly referred to simply as “the devil”.

I decided to dig a bit deeper and see if I could find out in more detail who this creature really was and what happened to anger the Father so much that he actually threw him out of Heaven!

I went to the very familiar account in Ezekiel 28 often attributed to Satan. Verses 12b, – 14a state, “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers….” Verse 15 says, “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you.” Verse 17 adds, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty. You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground….” (NKJV)

I was always taught that this is a Biblical account of how the extremely beautiful angel, Lucifer, gave into pride, jealousy and sin, resulting in his expulsion from Heaven, taking one-third of the angels with him, known as demons, harassing and creating havoc in the lives of people who allow them in, those who are unaware of their position in Christ and the protection afforded them through His blood! I still entirely believe this!

But, what surprised me as I was doing research for this article, was “the rest of the story”!  Ezekiel 26 – 28 actually contains the Word of the Lord prophesied by Ezekiel against Tyre, a beautiful city located near Nazareth, the crown jewel of the Mediterranean, largely occupied by the descendants of the Israelite tribe of Asher! As we know by reading the historical accounts in I & II Samuel and I & II Kings, Israel and Judah had divided centuries before, had been in and out of war with each other, had separate kings and kingdoms, and, in short, had disobeyed God in most matters.  The majority of their kings were wicked; only a handful did what was right in the sight of God, serving Him and leading their kingdoms in His ways;  even most of these retained “the high places” (or altars to idols) probably because they were afraid of the repercussions if they destroyed them!  It sounds a lot like today…most things allowed to go on in our country and even in our churches remain because of fear!  Very few are brave enough to serve God entirely and speak out against sin, following the path of righteousness laid out in His Word!  I really don’t think things have changed much from thousands of years ago.  Human nature is still the same!

Given this background (I will get back to the story of Lucifer; please bear with me!)….God put upon the heart of the prophet Ezekiel to prophesy evil against many tribes and countries.  If you are interested, just begin reading a few chapters back and you’ll see that he went down the line against many kingdoms, pronouncing severe judgments against them if they would not repent!  Prophets are not very popular people, needless to say!  In Chapters 26 and 27, Ezekiel starts his lamentation against Tyre.  In verses 11 and 12 of Chapter 28, we read, Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God:’” (NKJV)  Then follow the verses previously mentioned, usually attributed to Satan.

So, I began to wonder about this place called Tyre, and looked it up in Halley’s Bible Handbook. Here is what it says:  “Tyre, located 60 miles northwest of Nazareth, was a double city, one part on an island, the other on the mainland in a fertile and welll-watered plain at the western foot of the Lebanon mountain range. A city of incomparable beauty, it was the great maritime power of the ancient world at its zenith, with colonies on the north and west coasts of Africa, Spain and Britain, controlling the commerce of the Mediterranean, with the wares of all nations passing through its port; a city renowned for its splendor and fabulous wealth.  With its subjugation by Nebuchadnezzar it ceased to be an independent power.  It was later subdued by the Persians; and again by Alexander the Great (332 B.C.).  It never recovered its former glory, and has for centuries been a “bare rock” where fishermen “spread their nets”, thus fulfilling Ezekiel’s prophecy (Ezek.  26:5 & 6).”

 The Catholic Encyclopedia continues this horrific tale of woe, stating that Tyre (known as the Mistress of the Mediterranean) was captured by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C., after a seven month siege.  6,000 defenders were beheaded; 2,000 were crucified; and more than 30,000 women, children and servants were sold into slavery.  In 1291, Tyre was finally captured by the Mussulmans (Turkish and Persian Muslims) and completely destroyed.  It was never fully restored and remains a very small community to neighboring Beirut, Lebanon to this day.  Its glory days, sadly, were behind it!  Could this happen to a “super-power” nation today that has forgotten God and His commandments?  I believe it could.

Tomorrow, in Part 2, I am going to explore the connection to Ezekiel’s warning prophecy to the King of Tyre (which unfortunately came to pass in entirety because the wicked did not repent), and Lucifer, the “angel of light” who, it appears, was a musical instrument, as well.

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!”