And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” Exodus 19:12-13
From Cain and Abel to the Israelites in the wilderness to Ananias and Sapphira, God sets limits on the way we may approach Him. He has always said “whosoever will” may come to Him, but He is just as exacting about the way in which we come to Him today as He was back then.
It’s no small matter that many people in the Bible were put to death for approaching God in anything less than an attitude of utmost awe, fear, and reverence for His holiness. Uzzah touched the Ark of the Covenant. Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the Lord. The Corinthians took the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.
I recently heard Perry Noble, a well known leader of a seeker sensitive megachurch, who has done such things as having his church’s band play AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” on Easter Sunday, say, “I’m willing to offend the church people to reach people for Jesus.” When asked where he drew the line at what was too offensive in church, he went on to say, “I probably wouldn’t have a stripper on stage…” and continued to justify using worldly and irreverent antics in church in order to “bring people to Jesus.”
But Perry has missed the point. Worship isn’t about people and what they like or don’t like. It isn’t about entertaining people and making sure they have some sort of enjoyable or emotional experience. It isn’t about attracting the attention of people.
Worship is about God.
What does God think? How does He want to be worshiped? What does He find offensive?
God is not the God of “anything goes.” If you doubt that, go back to the Old Testament and read His precise instructions on constructing the tabernacle, offering sacrifices, the behavior and duties of priests and Levites, and so on. Anything goes? Far from it.
Christ should be the sun in our solar system of worship. Just as the sun’s gravity exerts just the right force on each planet, keeping them revolving around it in exactly the right path, so, when Christ is at the center of our worship, every song, every prayer, every word spoken will fall into exactly the right orbit around Him.
What about your church? The next time you attend a worship service, sit back and view it through the lens of discernment. Is it designed to make you happy? Comfortable? Entertained? Emotional? Or is every element of the service centered on Christ– His holiness, His sacrifice for sin, His love and grace — leading you to exalt Him and forget about yourself?
Pastors and worship leaders, one day you will answer to God for the way you led your church. Do you design worship services to attract and hold the attention of people, manipulate their emotions, and entertain them, or do you sit at your desk, pray, and consider what will please God, how you can best lift up the name of Christ, expose His glory, and keep things centered on Him? God has not called you to be a shock jock, stand up comedian, or motivational speaker. He has called you to preach Christ and Him crucified.
Let’s stop the silliness and stupidity, and repent. Worship is serious business.
I’ve just been in a funk, lately. Nothing out of the ordinary is wrong, but it’s been raining for eleventy two days in a row, and the constant darkness and dreariness seems to have wormed its way into my psyche and, I noticed recently, even into my prayer life.
A couple of days ago, I started out my prayer time with a huge sigh followed by a bunch of wimpering and whining about nothing of consequence. I was just moody. And I didn’t feel like praying.
And then God graciously brought a lovely little snippet of Scripture to my mind:
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Want to know God’s will for your life? There it is: give thanks in all circumstances. When you get a new car. When you catch your spouse cheating on you. When you’re on a glorious vacation. When you get laid off from work. When you’re happy. When you’re sad. When you’re in the mood, and when you’re not in the mood.
Give thanks in – not necessarily for, but in – all circumstances.
Well, this was certainly a circumstance. Why not give gratitude a try? I was in the car headed to pick up my boys from school, and I decided to spend the entire twenty minute drive just thanking God for things.
I started with the big stuff: salvation, forgiveness for my sin, times when God has miraculously provided, specific answers to prayer…
I was starting to slow down and I still had about half the drive left. Surely there was more to be thankful for! And that’s when it struck me. How often do we forget to thank God for all the (in our eyes) tiny little unnoticed things He does for us every day? We thank Him for the miracles, but what about the mundane? What “little things” had I forgotten to thank God for?
1. Air conditioning. I live in the South. Enough said.
2. I know where my next meal is coming from.
3. Social media and e-mail. I can keep up with far off loved ones, and I’ve “met” some awfully nice people.
4. I can see. I can hear. I can think clearly. I can walk.
5. I live in a country where Christianity is not yet against the law.
7. Cute baby animals.
8. I can read and write. That’s not the case for women, globally.
9. I was able to conceive and carry my children to term.
10. Warm quilts on cold nights.
11. The Bible is available in my native language, and I have several copies of it.
12. I have no fear of suicide bombers in my community.
13. The beach.
14. A crawfish boil with friends.
15. Reliable electricity.
16. Hearing my children sing when they think no one is listening.
17. My husband is a believer and is good to me.
18. Mountains. I miss mountains.
19. Indoor plumbing and clean drinking water.
20. Laughing hysterically with my family.
21. Level-headed discernment ministries.
22. Peanut butter and chocolate ice cream.
23. A roof over my head.
24. Home schooling.
25. People who are kind (or crazy) enough to read my blog articles all the way to the end.
Well, that was my list, and I think I’ll keep looking for things to add to it. Thanking God for the “little things,” realizing they might be big things to others, and recognizing the pervasiveness of God’s blessings and provision cheered me up and was truly a worship experience.
Next to Easter and Christmas, there’s no better holiday that Christians could celebrate than Thanksgiving. Scripture reminds us over and over that we have a precious Savior and innumerable blessings to thank God for. Here are ten of my favorite Bible verses about giving thanks. Feel free to share them around on social media. You could also print them out to use in your Thanksgiving decor…
As place cards at the dinner table.
As tags on goody bags
Print out two copies of each, scramble them up face down, and let the kids play “Concentration” or “Memory” with them. (Each player takes turns flipping over two at a time until they find two that match.)
Have one person read part of his verse and see who can finish it. Or read the whole verse and see who can guess the reference.
Is your family getting ready for Advent? Loosely defined, Advent is the period of time leading up to Christmas when we commemorate Christ’s first coming and anticipate His second coming. And what better way to do so than by making Bible study and worship part of your family tradition? Here are some awesome Advent resources for young and old alike. Most of them are free, but the ones that aren’t, I’ve marked with a 💰.
December Advent!– Here’s an advent calendar, craft, and devotional all rolled into one! Naomi’s Table is a women’s Bible study resource that I highly recommend for sound doctrine and right handling of God’s word. Have a listen to their daily Advent podcasts and make the Advent calendar that goes with them!
The Messiah is Born – Listen in to this Advent sermon series from the inimitable R.C. Sproul. “Though many people can recount the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus, fewer understand the true significance of the birth of the Messiah. In this series, R.C. Sproul examines various themes that we must consider when we look at the first advent of Christ. Dr. Sproul discusses Mary’s role in the nativity and the necessity of Christ’s birth for our redemption, reminding us that the glory of God seen in the birth of Jesus will be seen again at His second coming.”
Need a good Advent playlist? I’ve created one on YouTube. Your favorite Advent (not Christmas) song isn’t included? Leave a comment and I’ll add it if appropriate.
Songs of the Nativity – “Luke’s Gospel is notable for its distinctive songs, strikingly reminiscent of the Psalms. Chief among these are Mary’s song, the Magnificat, Zechariah’s song, the Benedictus, the Angels’ song, the Gloria in excelsis, and Simeon’s song, the Nunc dimittis. Together, they have nourished the prayer and mediation of countless Christians, and enriched the church’s worship. They are full of prophetic hope, eager expectation, and joyful thanksgiving. God’s great redemptive work is moving to is climax with the birth of the Saviour, Jesus, Son of the Most High. Luke’s ‘gospel of the incarnation’ was good news to all who, like the representatives of the old Israel, looked for Messiah’s first advent; it is good news to all who, today, look for his second.” Relish in these sermons from Luke 1 & 2 by John Calvin.💰
25 Stories of Jesus – This one is super DIY, and takes some good advance planning, but I know some of you ladies are up to the challenge.
Gather the family, and together choose 25 Bible stories from or about the life of Jesus. The stories could be parables Jesus told, events in His life, miracles He performed, Old Testament prophecies about His incarnation, New Testament prophecies about His return, etc.
Locate each story in Scripture, and make a list of the stories and their Scripture references.
Purchase or make the ornament for each story. You can buy ready-made Christmas ornaments, buy small items and turn them into ornaments (ex: buy a small salt shaker for “You are the salt of the earth” and attach a hanger to it.), print out images from the internet, make salt dough ornaments, or have the kids draw a small picture of the symbol and turn that into an ornament.
Decide how to display your ornaments. Purchase a small tabletop Christmas tree specifically for these ornaments, or hang them on your regular tree. If Christmas trees aren’t your thing, perhaps hang the decorations from your mantel or on a wreath.
Each day, December 1-25, read and discuss one of the Bible stories and display the ornament for that story. You might want to write the Scripture reference for the story on the ornament.
A couple of great hymns to learn and sing with each day’s reading: Tell Me the Stories of Jesus (Parker/Challinor – lyricslisten), and Tell Me the Story of Jesus (Crosby/Sweney – lyricslisten)
Once you’ve chosen the stories and made the ornaments, make the 25 Stories of Jesus an annual tradition. Or choose new stories and make new ornaments every year! (If you choose to do this activity, and you’d like to write it up as a “how to” guest post with some pictures and instructions, please let me know. I’d love to publish it next year!)
Do you enjoy learning more about the hymns you sing? The back story, the structure, the history? How about letting Incarnation Hymnody inform some of your Advent devotions and worship? Incarnation Hymnody is a series of articles at Religious Affections Ministries on a few of your favorite hymns surrounding the coming of Christ. Lyrics are included, so you can sing the songs after learning about them. Check out:
Joy Upon Joy – “In the classic style of Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening, each of the twenty-eight days contains a brief morning and evening devotional that begins with a Scripture and follows with a selection from Spurgeon’s advent-themed sermons. This all-new compilation of Spurgeon’s works includes space for journaling and reflection.”💰
Here’s a great activity for parties, Sunday School, or a brief dinner table devotional – theNames of Jesus Advent Game. Free, printable game cards and tips for making the game more festive and meaningful. If you want to make this a daily activity with your kids throughout Advent, print out the cards, shuffle them up, split them up among your kids, and do one card per day.
We’re wrapping up our study of Judges tomorrow here on the blog, and I won’t be posting a regular weekly Bible study between Thanksgiving week and New Year’s, so how about an Advent Bible Reading Plan? “This Advent Bible reading plan kicks off on December 1 and takes you through to Christmas Eve on December 24. It also includes readings for the four Sundays of Advent. Save this picture to your phone or print it out to use as a resource throughout Advent.
Drawing from both Old and New Testaments, these readings are aimed to help us remember the promises God has made to come to his people and establish his kingdom:
Week 1: Isaiah’s prophecies
Week 2: The Epistles on God’s Kingdom and the return of Christ
Week 3: Some other Old Testament prophecies
Week 4: God’s kingdom about to arrive…!
May we cling fast to these promises this Advent!”
(The link above is provided only for the Bible reading plan.)1
Check out this charming Advent Calendar Printable with Bible Verses. If downloading, printing, and cutting along the lines is about the extent of your craftiness, like it is mine, try this! Make the cards into a cute banner, as markers on a calendar, or in one of the suggested craft tips. And why not really put it to good use by memorizing a verse a day? By the time Christmas rolls around, you’ll have memorized 25 verses!💰
Which advent of Christ is “Joy to the Word” about?
Give it a listen!
25 Christmas Myths and What the Bible Says– Was Jesus Born on December 25? Did the angels really sing to the shepherds? And what about that inn keeper? In 25 Christmas Myths…,Gabriel Hughes tackles some of the folklore and false assumptions that have sprung up around the Christmas story and shares what the Bible really teaches. One lesson for each day December 1-25. Get a sneak peek below. Audio is more your thing? Gabe discussed myths 1-10 from the book on his podcast in 2018. 💰
What’s your favorite Advent resource?
1I do not endorse anything on any of these sites that deviates from Scripture or conflicts with my beliefs as outlined in the “Welcome” or “Statement of Faith” tabs at the top of this page.
October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and it’s coming up soon! Show your minister of music some appreciation by encouraging him.
Originally published November 18, 2014
Numerous articles have been written about how you, as a church member, can be an encouragement to your pastor- how you can constructively praise his sermon, pray for him, get him a great gift for Pastor Appreciation Month, etc. These are good things. Please be sure to support your pastor. Being a pastor is one of the toughest and most thankless jobs out there, and if you’ve read the statistics you know pastors need and deserve all the encouragement they can get.
But the pastor isn’t the only person on your church’s staff who needs your support. So does your minister of music. And, having been married to one for over twenty years, I can tell you there aren’t manyarticles out there letting you know how church members can encourage their ministers of music. Ready to show some love? Here are seven ways you can be an encouragement to your minister of music.
1. Make practice a priority.
Before you join the choir or praise team or volunteer to play an instrument, find out how much of a time commitment it will be, and consider whether or not you can diligently keep that commitment. Once you’ve joined or volunteered, attend rehearsals, worship services, and performances faithfully, and be sure to arrive on time. You have no idea how much it means to your minister of music that he can count on you.
2. Get to the church on time.
Think about how you would feel if you planned a dinner party, worked hard all week cooking and cleaning, and then one of the couples you invited carelessly showed up halfway through the meal. You’d probably think that was kind of rude and feel somewhat discouraged. That’s sort of the way a minister of music can feel when people (especially the same people every week) habitually arrive late to church for non-emergency reasons. Not only that, but it’s a distraction to others when you come in late, plus you’re missing out on praising God and getting your heart prepared to receive His word during the sermon. Being on time and ready for worship benefits everybody!
If you were in a meeting at work or in a college class, would you pick up your knitting, clip your nails, walk around the room chatting with friends, or bury your nose in your phone the whole time? Probably not, yet, over the years I have seen church members do all these and more during the music portion of the worship service. It’s disrespectful to the God we’re supposed to be worshiping and to the minister of music who is trying to do the work God has called him to. On the other hand, I love it when we get in the car after church and my husband says, with a smile on his face, “Wow, they were really singing today!” We have an incredible Savior who has given us the privilege of praising Him, so let’s take Him up on it. Sing out! You can worship and be an encourager all at the same time.
It’s pretty disheartening for a minister of music to stand up front, giving it all he’s got, and then look out over the congregation and see a bunch of people looking like they’d rather be at the dentist. Think about Who you’re singing to and all the reasons why you’re singing to Him, and I challenge you to keep a frown on your face! Just the simple act of smiling while you’re singing will do wonders for your minister of music (and for you!).
5. Think before you complain.
Has your minister of music said or done something that’s clearly a sin or false doctrine? If so, you have a biblical obligation to go to him -kindly and in love- and talk to him about it directly.
Is your complaint a matter of personal preference- style of music, whether or not he wears a tie, etc.? Give it 24 hours. Does it still seem just as important? Could you possibly be a servant to him (and others in the congregation whose opinion is the opposite of yours) by overlooking an offense and not complaining?
If you do feel the need to voice your concern (and there are valid concerns that aren’t sin-related), approach your minister of music the way you would want to be approached. Instead of, “Turn that dadgum volume DOWN!” how about, “I was wondering if it would be possible to ask the sound tech to lower the volume in the house speakers a little? My baby’s ears are very sensitive and she gets fussy when it’s that loud. I hate missing worship when I have to take her out to the lobby.” Instead of, “Hymns are so boring. I don’t see why we have to sing them half the time,” how about, “I really loved those two worship songs we sang this morning! Do you think we might be able to sing more songs like that soon?” Christ wants us to be kind to one another, so show your minister of music a little “Golden Rule” love.
6. Speak encouraging words often.
It’s been our experience, and seems to be the general consensus among ministers of music, that the most common kind of feedback they get is negative feedback. People are much quicker to complain than affirm. Buck the trend. Did he choose one of your favorite songs for the service? Did a certain song help you to understand one of God’s attributes better? Did the choir do a nice job on their anthem? Are you praying for him? Tell him. He appreciates it more than you know.
7. Show tangible appreciation.
It is amazing what even the smallest gift can do to lift my husband’s spirits. A card of appreciation (I have come across cards that he has saved for years), something related to one of his hobbies, a church member buying him lunch at a fast food place. They might be small items monetarily speaking, but their message is, “I care about you, and I appreciate your hard work.” And that’s priceless.
We have been blessed over the last two decades to serve at several churches that had members who were very good at encouraging their minister of music. Their love and support made my husband’s ministry a joy. What are some ways you can think of to encourage the minister of music at your church and spread that same kind of joy?