Thursday, November 24, 2011

John's beatific vision of God

Revelation 4
 ¶1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
 2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
 3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
 4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
 5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
 6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
 7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
 8 ¶ And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
 9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
 10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
 11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

    In Chapter 4 of Revelation we are ushered by John's vision to join in the Heavenly worship of God.  What Heavenly sights and sounds do we see and hear about?  There's the door, the voice as clear as trumpet, the Heavenly throne, the one who sits upon that throne, the precious stones, the emerald-like rainbow, 24 seats (also thrones), and 24 elders, powerful voices come from the throne accompanied by thunders and lightnings, seven lamps of fire burning, the crystal sea, and the four beasts.  With all that was going on it isn't a mystery how we may perhaps miss the forest for the trees.  God is worshiped.  Heaven is occupied with the worship of God.  If you took the time to read the Scriptures above (as you should), you would know that Heaven was just scaled back for us.  And what were they doing over there?  Worshiping God.  It is all about God.  Are we concerned about God's worship?  What are we about?  What are we occupied with?  There's a lot going on down here on Earth, you know.  Many things, people, and events can easily persuade us to give of ourselves over to them (our time, talents and treasures for instance), but there is only but one who is truly worthy.  We could say, now that we have the Bible in its entirety, that John saw what Isaiah and Ezekiel saw.  How wonderful it must have been to be there to see all this.  But we have a more sure word of prophecy.  God is so gracious to let us in on this.  We may not see the vision that John saw, but we can see it through the pages of Scripture, the sufficient Word.  What are we going to do about this Heavenly vision?  We can humbly join in the worship (as we should), or we can just go on living for ourselves.  Let's determine to remember that God is the center-piece of our lives, and let us worship Him personally first, with our families second, and then thirdly, from that heart attitude of surrender to God, corporately through our church.  Have a happy Thanksgiving!  Worship Him, and Him alone, for He alone is worthy.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A reply to a YouTube video called "Untangling the church music debate"

      I realize this video is satiric.  I like satire, even when the shoe is on the other foot.  This video made me laugh, angry, and jealous.  There are people who have legitimate questions about church music.  Though not everyone approaches the topic with a sincere desire to know the truth from God’s Word, there are those who do.  Often the answers to their questions are just as hollow as the answers from the character purported to represent the conservative.  The stupidity of certain responses made me laugh.  What made me angry is the serious tone (that aspect of satire) that is supposed to reveal the folly of its recipient.  Basically, godly music advocates are ridiculed.  I could have easily dismissed this video as a time waster.  Perhaps I should have, and perhaps it is.  But then as I thought about how I would respond towards a serious seeker about godly music, I would hope that I could give a more substantive answer than what was portrayed.  This is where my jealousy kicked in.  Not that I am a spiritual giant of any kind, but I am jealous for God’s holiness.  God is gracious in giving us His Word.  His Word is the substantive answer that I would hope to ever give.  Therefore, If no one else benefits from this reply, at least I have gotten a little more exposed to His Word.  Naturally, some would say His Word is vague, and that what I present is merely my opinion on the Bible.  Anyone looking at the evidence can conclude that these responses are quite objective.  The Bible is simple and clear on the topic of music.  I do not intend to transform my blog into something like Religious Affections (which has terrific information about godly music, and many would do well to consult).  I only wish to reply ever so briefly, hopefully even more ephemeral than my introduction.

1.  About those drums
     Rhythm is a part of music.  Melody, harmony, and rhythm are what constitute music.  The Bible speaks of melody directly (Isa. 23:16; 51:3; Amos 5:23; Eph. 5:19) harmony (2 Cor. 6:15), but doesn’t refer to rhythm at all.  We shouldn’t infer that rhythm is bad (even if it causes our foot to tap), what we should infer is that rhythm isn’t priority in the musical component of godly music.  The problem with bad music is its emphasis of rhythm.  Contrary to the video, the Bible doesn’t say anywhere to praise God with the drums.  Instruments are regulated in the Bible.  For example, in the Old Testament out of several instruments only four instruments are sanctified for direct corporate Temple worship.  The "backbeat" is the main characteristic of the rock genre.

2.  About holding the microphones
     Moot.  I would take more issues with the message of the music and how a song or a piece is performed.  I prefer not to hold a microphone, but that’s just me.

3.  About sensual music
     Sensual pertains to the flesh as opposed to the spirit or the soul.  The Bible recognizes that wisdom can be characterized as sensual in James 3:15.  People can also be characterized as sensual (see 1 Cor. 2:14; Jude 1:19).  Musically speaking, sensual music is flesh-gratifying, rhythm-driven music.  Godly music is similar to godliness in the Christian life, it isn’t dominated by the flesh, rather it is dominated by the Spirit which is ever opposing the flesh (Galatians 5:16-26; 1 Pet. 2:11; 1 John 2:16-17).

4.  About those standards
     The issue of standards relates largely to one’s hermeneutics.  Faulty and liberal hermeneutics result in disaster.  Our standards (conventional walls) are in place to protect our convictions (Bible-based beliefs).  While standards change, convictions don’t.  We believe the Bible gives a number of principles about music; therefore we apply them to today.  The principles (though I am not going to enumerate them at this time) are plainly laid out in the Scriptures.  This would be a worthy blog article for sure.  Many books reiterate the Scriptures here.  (like "The Battle for Christian Music" by Tim Fisher,  "Sound Music or Sounding Brass" by Pastor Kent Brandenburg).

5.  About majoring in music at a Christian College
     You don’t need to major in music to speak about music.  The Bible isn’t a textbook.

6.  About music which is godly and not just what we are accustomed to
     Music has a natural or inherent distinction in its message.  This can be conventional or communal, but isn’t just limited to one’s tradition or culture.  The American Flag has some colors that are conventionally recognized, largely in this country.  A foreigner may not associate the colors red, white and blue with the American flag.  The colors carry a conventional meaning.  But if you place anyone in the middle of a brewing storm, and the dark clouds signal to all, that it is about to rain.  The dark clouds carry a natural meaning regardless of convention.  Basically, you can tell whether music is good or bad through listening to its distinguishing element or message. 

7.  About the saxophone
     We dealt with instrumentation on point number one.

8.  About classical and jazz music
     Many people don’t "get" Classical music.  I don’t particularly care for it.  It seems obvious that Classical music is an expression of excellent and beautiful music.  We can listen to secular music as long as it isn’t worldy.  The issue of jazz relates more towards the question of association, and I have not thought through that topic as of yet.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Deconstructing Jacob's prayer

Gen. 32:9-12
(9)  And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:
(10)  I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.
(11)  Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.
(12)  And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.

1.  Jacob addresses God by acknowledging his personal relationship with God. (v.9a)

2.  The basis for Jacob's prayer is God's promises. (v.9b; 12 cf. 31:3, 13) - see also Ps. 119:49.  The key to effective prayer is claiming the promises of God in His word.  This is also another reason why we want to be students of the Holy Bible.

3.  The attitude of prayer - humility (v.10).  In the N.T. the Lord Jesus was moved by people who approached Him with humility of heart (example:  The centurion in Matt. 8:8;  the woman of Canaan in Matt. 15:27-28).  Praise God for His mercies (see also Lam. 3:22).

4.  Jacob was direct and specific in his prayer (v.11).  He expressed to God his request for deliverance from his brother, Esau.  Through prayer, Jacob was able to speak to God about his fear.  God is really interested in hearing all about our trials.  In Jacob's case his was "greatly afraid" and "distressed." (see also Phil. 4:6, Heb. 4:15 and 1 Pet. 5:7).

Lots of good lessons and more we can learn about prayer through Jacob's prayer.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A USA TODAY article on church music

Here is an article in the USA TODAY newspaper.  The topic is basically traditional music vs. contemporary "Christian" music, and styles of worship.  The article I would say is quite objective.  Both sides of the coin are presented.  Ms. Grossman (journalist) even quotes David Cloud (which Bro. Cloud never said - come to find out there are some inaccuracies with the article.).  The article explained that 50% of Protestant churches (of the 14,000 which was surveyed) now use electric guitars and drums in worship, which was a jump from 35% in 2000.  Here are some of the reasons used by the CCM proponents in the article, and what follows are my own reflections.

1.  "Just because you don't like the tunes, doesn't mean it is theologically incorrect." -  Music isn't simply a matter of taste.  Yes, there is room for preferences, but when the music crosses Scriptural boundaries it becomes sin, and to indulge in it is sinful.

2.  "The Bible doesn't have an official soundtrack." - I wish it did.  It would make all of our lives easier.  The Bible does have guidelines, plenty in fact, and some of them relate to music both directly and indirectly.

3.  "...we don't worship music, we worship God." - I am not calling into question his motives.  I like it when people worship God.  God deserves our worship.  The Heavenly host is occupied with God's worship (Rev. 4-5).  The question is, does God receive the worship we give to Him?

4.  " long as people are worshipping [sic] in spirit and in truth, we can worship in any way that reaches our hearts." -  Worship isn't about reaching our hearts.  It just isn't about us period.

Music, as an artistic medium, communicates.  A song is controlled by the music, not the lyrics.  It really doesn't matter what the lyrics say because the music itself presides.  Bad music with good lyrics makes bad music.  Just like with mathematical integers a negative times a positive will always result in a negative.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Disciplines for New Believers (paperback)

"Disciplines for New Believers" ($5.00 + s&h) is now available in the paperback format besides the Kindle format.  If you would like to place an order please feel free to email me at "hardecker-at-google-dot-com"  please include your name, address and qty.  I will do my best to get it out to you a.s.a.p.  or you may use PayPal if you wish:

Monday, November 7, 2011

A short study of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts (part 2)

The Person of the Holy Spirit in Acts:
                It cannot be true in any stretch of the imagination that the Holy Spirit is merely an influence or a force, as taught by some cult.  A person is a being who has intellect, emotion, and will.  Although the Holy Spirit is incorporeal, He still possesses intellect, emotion and a will.  We readily see this as He administrates church affairs (Acts 1:2).  He told Philip what to do (Acts 8:29), He told Peter what to do (Acts 11:12), He called and appointed Barnabas and Saul to the ministry (Acts 13:2), they were acknowledged as being “sent forth by the Holy Ghost” (Acts 13:4).  The Holy Spirit exercises volition in forbidding Paul and the missionary team to preach in Asia (Acts 16:6) and also forbid them to go to Bithynia (16:7).  He also exercises His will in choosing pastors (Acts 20:28).
                His divine nature can also be seen in Acts.  In dealing with Ananias, Peter declared the nature of the Holy Spirit in Acts 5:4 – “…thou hast not lied unto man, but unto God.”  The Holy Spirit demonstrates omniscience in Acts 1:16 concerning Judas’ betrayal.  The Holy Spirit demonstrates supernatural powers with Philip in Acts 8:39.  In Acts 10:19 the Holy Spirit told Peter about the three men looking for him in order to take him to Cornelius.  These accounts prove that the Holy Spirit is divine.  He is also a distinct person from the Father (Acts 1:4) and the Son (Acts 1:1-2). 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Isaiah 40:12-17

Isa 40:12-17  Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?  (13)  Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?  (14)  With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?  (15)  Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.  (16)  And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.  (17)  All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.

These verses demonstrate the magnificence of God.  V.12 tells us of His power to create. V.13-14 speaks of His infinite wisdom, and omniscience.  V.15-17 talks about His greatness.

Friday, November 4, 2011

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Three online tools to learn more about Mt. Zion Baptist Church

1.  Our church website.  Obviously, this is the most elaborate tool.  It contains everything you would want to know about MZBC.  You can look at current events and calendar items, read our doctrinal statement, a succinct background on our Pastoral Staff, see the various ministries and so much more.

2.  This online tool archives our audio and video sermons.  We also live stream our Sunday morning service at 10:45am EST.  If you are like me, you like listening to the preached Word, then help yourself to some good old fashioned preaching.

3.  Follow us on Twitter @mtzbc.  If you would like to receive announcements, updates, and more information about MZBC, then feel free to follow us on Twitter.  Send us a request, and if we determine that you aren't a spammer, we will gladly add you to our Twitterverse.