Monthly Archives: November 2012

Worshipper or a Worship Leader

There is a difference between being a worshipper and a worship leader


Worship Leader
A worshipper can close his eyes and be alone A worship leader needs to make eye contact with those he is leading and draw them into worship
Private Public
Soft spoken, quiet Louder, more expressive
Rely on natural style Expand your style – The bigger the audience, the bigger the gestures, facial expressions, the more expressive
Focus on personal needs Serve the needs of the congregation


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Posted by on November 30, 2012 in Worship


Worship wars

In his book, Who Stole My Church? pastor and author Gordon MacDonald gives a helpful discussion on the history of church music. These are my wife, Carol’s, note from that section.

Virtually every generation produces some kind of music that reflects its own view of reality. Both the notes and the words of their music will tell you how they see life and what’s most important to them.

Today’s music reflects the following:

  • feel fatherless
  • overwhelmed by the moral and spiritual challenges of the times
  • feel impotent

History—4 times in American church life when people went to war over music

1. 1674–Issac Watts, Wesley’s–from singing only psalms with no instruments…to songs that reflected the challenges of their time. More theology based.

2. 1859—Civil War time

Music became more personal, testimonial, more about one’s personal experience with Christ. The focus was on the individual.

Fanny Crosby–reflected the individual conversion experience that happens when people come to Jesus. (She wrote 8,000 pieces of music under at least 200 names.)

  • Blessed Assurance
  • Redeemed, How I love to proclaim it!
  • Rescue the Perishing
  • To God Be the Glory

Wesley tended to write about his relationship with God, Crosby talked more about her walk with Jesus. Ira Sankey (D.L. Moody’s song leader) said people called the new music (Crosby) “human hymns”… it was a critical comment…they didn’t think the new music measured up to Watts’ and Wesley’s songs.

3. 1920’s–Choruses were introduced–a quick perky tune that drives one basic theme or idea deep into the heart.

  • Zacchaeus was a wee little man
  • When we all get to heaven

Gospel music came from the south–it had a beat–the story of the gospel in graphic word pictures that common people could relate to. Critics said it was too worldly.

  • Precious Lord Take My Hand
  • We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations
  • Open My Eyes that I May See

4. 1969–Current

  • New popular instrument–guitar
  • Music has great passion and feeling
  • Generation thinks personal experience is everything “Genuineness & Authenticity”
  • Don’t need perfection or slickness
  • Want to reflect the moment and its ethos
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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Books, Music, Worship


What is the role of music in worship?

Music calls us to worship and helps prepare our hearts to enter God’s presence. 

Somehow, we developed the mindset that the people on the stage, the choir, musicians, preacher, etc. are the actors and we are the audience.  But we have it all turned around.  In fact, we’ve left someone out of the picture enitrely, God.  Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher said, “God is an audience of one.”  The congregation are the actors and actresses.  The preacher, choir, and worship team are merely the prompters helping us act out our drama, prompting us to worship God.

Music teaches us about faith

Paul says that teaching is linked with music.

Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

In this verse, Paul commands us to allow the word of God to have ample room in our lives, to let it be at home and have free access to all parts of our lives.  The results of the word dwelling richly in our lives are demonstrated in three actions: teaching, admonishing, and singing.  Teaching emphasizes the positive instruction of truth.  The essence of admonition is warning and correction.

This teaching and admonition is conducted by three means; psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  “Psalms” are the Old Testament Psalms put to music.  Believers compose “hymns” which consist of praises to the glory of God.  “Spiritual songs” are simply songs of a spiritual nature. These three terms emphasize the rich variety of music that we have.

In addition to teaching us about faith, music also helps us remember the lessons we have been taught.  They serve as stones of remembrance.  Music aids in cementing a lesson or concept in our minds.

In Exodus 14, we can read the account of how God parted the Red Sea and brought the children of Israel through on dry ground.  How were they going to remember that significant event?  Through a song.  Exodus 15:1-21 gives the song they sang.

Music weds the mind & heart

Music is also very powerful because it weds the mind and the heart.  “It has emotional-mental stimulation unmatched by any other means of communication.  Words alone can be and often are very strong, but couple them with the ‘right’ music and they can be burned into the mind and consciousness indelibly.” (Ronald Allen & Gordon Borror, Worship: Rediscovering the missing jewel.  Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1982, p. 160).

God has given us this gift of music in order that we might develop it and use it to creatively express our praise and worship to him.  Psalms 92:1-3 expresses this idea:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.

Isn’t it natural that when one is happy and full of joy to begin singing?  When someone is content or busily involved in a satisfying occupation, many times they begin to whistle. As you read through Scripture, you discover that each time God did great things for his people they burst into songs of praise.  Job 38:7 says that the morning stars sang together at the creation of the world.  The book of Psalms contains many songs of praise.  We’ve already referred to the song of deliverance from the Egyptians in Exodus 15 and the antiphonal song of the two choirs at the dedication of the rebuilt walls in Nehemiah 12.  In Luke 1, Mary sings the Magnificat after learning she is pregnant with Jesus.  There is the song of the redeemed and the angels gathered around the throne in Revelation 5.  Music expresses the emotions of our heart.

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Posted by on November 28, 2012 in Music, Worship


A definition of worship

Corporate Worship is:

an act of reverence (adoration)

by man (creature) . . . to God (Creator)

made in response to God’s revelation of himself (his person & his works)

expressed by an offering (sacrifice) of ourselves

  • life (trusting, obeying) Romans 12:1-2 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
  • substance (time, finances) Philippians 4:18 – I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.
  • praise (adoration, thanksgiving) Hebrews 13:15 – Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
  • service (good works, evangelism) Romans 15:16 – to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit; Hebrews 13:16 – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

within the community of believers

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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Worship


Thoughts on worship

On Saturday, November 24, Carol and I hosted a dinner with our combined worship teams. During the evening, I shared my philosophy of worship with the group. The next several posts lay out the thoughts I expressed.


Typical attitudes or approaches to worship:

  • “Preliminaries” – everything leading up to preaching is a waste of time
  • Worship ends when the music stops; everything else in an intrusion
  • Music only makes us feel good
  • Worship is whatever my preference is – we’ve drawn boxes around our ideas/preference of worship and anything outside that box is either not spiritual enough or unacceptable.  We limit our expression of worship by what we like or what we think God wants to hear from us.

Worship involves humility.

The word “worship” appears 192 xs in the KJV and 256 xs in the NIV and 183 xs in the NASB and 192 in the ESV.  A common element would be the idea of paying homage.

  • word used most often in OT = bow, bow down
  • word used most often in NT = fall on knees, kiss the hand

Worship is a celebration of God. 

Worship is focused on who God is and what he has done – Revelation 4:8-11

Worship is an active response to God whereby we declare his worth – Psalms 96:4, 8

Worship should include a wide range of expression:

  • Musical expression – Stringed instruments – Psalm 98:5; Trumpets, brass – Psalm 98:6; Cymbals, tambourines, percussion – Psalm 150:4, 5
  • Verbal expression – Praise, singing – Psalm 138:1-2; Joy, gladness, singing – Psalm 100:1-2; Creativity and new songs – Psalm 96:1; 98:1; Continual expression – Revelation 4:8-11; Silence – Habakkuk 2:20
  • Physical expression – Bowing, kneeling – Psalm 95:6; Dancing – Psalm 150:4; Clapping – Psalm 98:8; Service – Romans 12:1-2; Gifts – Philippians 4:18
  • Emotional expression – Joy, gladness, singing – Psalm 100:1-2; Humility – 2 Chronicles 7:3; Brokenness – Job 1:20
  • Volume – Shouting – Psalm 20:5; 27:6; 33:1; Silence – Habakkuk 2:20


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Posted by on November 26, 2012 in Worship


Is your heart enlarged?

During my educational pilgrimage, I attended six different colleges, universities, and graduate schools and encountered a wide range of teachers. 

I had one professor at Cal State Fullerton who announced on the first day of class, “I don’t care whether or not you come to class. I get paid the same amount whether you are here or someplace else on campus.”

One of my professors at Dallas Theological Seminary was Dr. John Reed. During my fourth year at DTS, Dr. Reed stopped me in the hallway one day and said, “Mark, you don’t smile as much as you used to. What’s going on?” We went into his office and I shared with him about my father who, during that semester, was dying of cancer.

My Cal State Fullerton professor taught World History. Dr. Reed taught students. My Fullerton professor cared about his material. Dr. Reed cared about people. Dr. Reed had an enlarged heart.

When it comes to our physical bodies, an enlarged heart is a sign of disease. It is a symptom of an underlying problem that is causing the heart to work harder than normal. When it comes to our spiritual health, an enlarged heart is a desirable condition. It is a sign of spiritual health.

In Colossians 2:1-5, the apostle Paul describes the symptoms of an enlarged heart. According to verse 1, a person with an enlarged heart cares passionately about people. 

In mentioning his concern for the Colossian church, Paul uses the word struggle. The word originally was derived from the place where the Greeks assembled for their Olympic games, a place where they agonized in wrestling and footraces, where they fought to win. Paul had been agonizing, fighting for the Colossians with everything he had.

What makes this truly remarkable is that he had never once personally visited them or their neighboring churches. He had no idea what the people looked like, he knew nothing of their personalities; yet he agonized for them.  

William Carey was a shoemaker in England in the 1780’s. He made a leather globe so he could pray for a world still unseen to him. Ultimately Carey’s “world-class” heart propelled him to India in 1793 as he became the founder of modern missions.

In the same way, Paul wrestled in prayer for the church in Colossae. Enlarged hearts always know the struggle. They have sleepless nights; they empathize; they struggle in prayer. But these big hearts also know the most joy.  

Paul went on to say in verses 2-3 that a person with an enlarged heart works to strengthen the perplexed. He wanted the believers to be encouraged in heart, united in love, and have a complete understanding of who Jesus is. Throughout his letter, Paul explained that Jesus Christ is the Lord of creation and reconciliation, the fullness of deity, the forgiver of sins, the conqueror of satanic forces, the resurrected Lord, and the one worthy of devoted service. 

If we want a healthy heart, we need to pay attention to the warning signs of heart disease. In verses 4-5, Paul pointed out two warning signs that lead to spiritual heart disease—the presence of false teaching and the absence of good teaching.

Paul was unable to be present at Colossae and to take a personal hand in refuting the error that was threatening the church. Though physically absent, Paul was concerned that they would stand firm in their faith. While Paul could not instruct the Colossian church in person, his epistle would be a worthy substitute. 

W. E. Sangster was a leader of the Methodist Church in Great Britain in the 1940’s and 50’s. On one occasion, he was interviewing applicants for the Methodist ministry when an interesting young man presented himself before the committee. When it came his time to speak, the would-be preacher said he felt that he ought to explain that he was rather shy and not the sort of person who would set the Thames River on fire—that is, stir up the city. Dr. Sangster responded with consummate wisdom:

My dear young brother, I’m not interested to know if you could set the Thames on fire. What I want to know is this: if I picked you up by the scruff of your neck and dropped you into the Thames, would it sizzle?

Dr. Sangster was looking for something apostolic, something passionate, something Pauline in the young candidate.

Take the time to examine your own heart.

  • Are you concerned about other people?
  • Are you doing what you can to encourage others? 
  • Are you a catalyst for unity?
  • Do you understand the riches available to you in Christ?
  • Do you tolerate the presence of error? 
  • Do you know the truth so well that you can easily recognize error? 
  • Is your life well-ordered spiritually so that you can stand firm?

Ask God to help you develop a larger heart so that you can care passionately about other people. Ask God for the strength so that you can help encourage the perplexed. Ask God for the wisdom to be able to identify the warning signs of spiritual disease. Together, let’s pray that God will allow us to grow larger hearts for him.

This message was preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on November 25, 2012. To download a copy of the sermon outline, click on the link.


Lay down the spear

How do you become a David when you serve a madman like Saul or are faced with a rebellious son like Absalom? How do you avoid manipulating people and events to grasp a kingdom before your turn comes? How do resist hanging onto a kingdom when someone tries to take it from you? How do you resist the temptation to move too soon or hang on too long? How do you avoid getting hit by a spear when your enemies start chucking them at you?

These questions are woven into Gene Edwards short book, A Tale of Three Kings: A study in brokenness. The book was referenced in the first chapter of Andy Stanley’s new book, Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend. Stanley credited the book for given him perspective during a difficult season of life. Curious, I found a copy at my local library and decided to read it.

The short book provides a profile of three kings—Saul, David, and Absalom. David was sandwiched between Saul, a madman who tried to kill David on numerous occasions and Absalom, a rebellious son who tried to kill his father and steal the kingdom from him. Recognizing that Saul was the Lord’s anointed, David resisted the temptation to become a spear throwing maniac like Saul. He walked away and allowed brokenness to become the condition of his heart rather than ambition.

David later faced a similar temptation when his son, Absalom, tried to steal the kingdom. Edwards describes David’s response when he says,

“I will leave the city. The throne is the Lord’s. So is the kingdom. I will not hinder God. No obstacle, no activity on my part lies between me and God’s will. Nothing will prevent him from accomplishing his will. If I am not to be king, God will find no difficulty in making Absalom to be Israel’s king. Now it is possible. God shall be God!”

In his response to both Saul and Absalom, Edwards points out that David chose to walk away alone. Rather than divide the kingdom, David simply left and allowed God to use brokenness to shape his heart for the next assignment.

I was encouraged by the message of the book. Having worked with a few Sauls and Absaloms over the years, I could identify with David’s plight. At times, I wanted to be a spear thrower like Saul. At other times, I wanted to steal the kingdom like Absalom. But I learned that walking away and trusting God to fight for me is much more effective.

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Posted by on November 24, 2012 in Books, Personal growth, Quotes


Was the bargain worth the jail time?

A Springfield, MA, resident made both the local and national news. It seems he desperately wanted a 51-inch TV on sale at Kmart on Black Friday. Since he was saddled with his girlfriend’s two-year-old while she was at work, he loaded up the child in the car seat and headed off to Kmart. He seemed to have been so focused on buying the TV that he left the child in the car in sub-freezing temps (28 degrees at 1:30 AM this morning).

That is bad enough right there, but then the story turned even more unbelievable and the guy more irresponsible. After buying the TV, he called a friend to give him a ride home and left the car and toddler in the parking lot. (I suppose the TV was too big to fit into the car.)

Store security called the Police who broke into the car to rescue the child and then tracked the bargain hunter back to his home. Then he had the audacity to say the child got lost in the store!?! (It doesn’t answer the question of how the two-year-old found his way back to the car and strapped himself into the car seat. But don’t let logic get in the way of an excuse.)

Now the mother has to get her child back from the Department of Children and Families while Police expect to arrest the man for reckless endangerment.

Black Friday indeed!

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Posted by on November 23, 2012 in Massachusetts, News stories


Thanksgiving Day Bonfire

First Central Baptist Church of Chicopee, MA, has an annual tradition on Thanksgiving Day. For the past 105 years, the congregation meets at Szot Park at 7am for a Sunrise Service. Gathering around a bonfire, the group sings, shares favorite Scriptures and answers to prayer, and praises God for what he did during the past year. Each person writes their verse or praise on a tongue depressor. After sharing their thought, they toss the “stick” into the bonfire.

The folks have met in the snow and cold. Only one time in recent memory has the event been forced indoors due to heavy rain. This year was Carol and my first as we joined the congregation back in September.

The verse I shared was Matthew 19:29. “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for my name’s sake will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” For whatever reason, God has never allowed us to minister near our families. But he has allowed us to have an ever larger family and FCBC is now part of our family.

What a great way to start Thanksgiving Day!


God’s providence

“From the fall of a raindrop, to the fall of an empire, all is under the providential care of God.” — Alva J. McClain

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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in Quotes, Theology