Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Thank You

And be thankful. -Colossians 3:15b

For some time now I have waged worship war in my own heart and mind.

You've heard the controversy. What forms of worship are fitting?  What music is appropriate? Dress-up or casual?

I have been a performer. I have been paid to do something which I would certainly have done for free: to make music with my friends and receive the approval of my listeners. If you made the statement that performing is a drug (of sorts), you would get no argument from me.

It would be a temptation for me to turn an act of praise into an exercise in self-gratification. You see the problem. Vertical worship becomes horizontal.

Yet as one blessed by God with a certain musical talent, I have been called upon to assist in worship. To facilitate the worship of my brothers and sisters, if you will.

And so, "to the teaching and to the testimony," as Isaiah counsels. What guidance can I get from Scripture?

Throughout the Old Testament we see God's people using every musical instrument imaginable in worship. Everything, it seems, but Marshall stacks!

Oh there were very precise instructions for the rest of worship. "Reverence and awe" are definitely indicated and indeed required.

New Testament instructions for worship seem sparse by comparison but two passages stand out in my mind. Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 are nearly identical.

Both are part of longer passages addressing how we are to worship. In Colossians especially, we find the concept of thankfulness. Three times in three verses, the word, or a form of it is used.

Servanthood is also an important concept in NT teaching and must necessarily, I think, be applied to our worship of God. Not only in our relationship to Him, but also to each other.

Paul reminds us that we are each gifted in various ways to serve one another. It goes back, then, to the call to assist in worship.

Outward form is still very important, I think. I would be extremely uncomfortable trying to worship in a setting where the Marshall stacks of amplifiers were used. In fact, I admit to being disinclined toward the use of contemporary music at all in worship.

The New Testament has given us fairly specific instructions on how the church is to be governed. We have a session in place, of elders, who make the necessary decisions (prayerfully) of how we conduct our worship.

My duty, I believe, is to serve in whatever capacity I am asked. I have a further duty, I believe, to express any concerns or reservations I might have, but to bow ultimately to the wisdom of these men we have selected to shepherd the flock. And to serve gladly.

But most importantly I am required to bring a thankful heart to whatever I do in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Monday, February 16, 2015

What Kind of Man?

...but Eleazar stood his ground and struck down the Philistines til his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. -2 Samuel 23:10a

When I first encountered Eleazar, a single thought occurred to me: what kind of man was this?

I was not incredulous at the numbers of the slain. I have read The Book of Five Rings and the accounts of the samurai warrior Miyamoto Musashi. I have read of how Horatius and his two companions stood against the Etruscan army at the bridge.

One might be inclined to discount these stories as exaggerated hero-worship. But then I have also read the Medal of Honor page online http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-archive.php  and know that these accounts are no exaggerations but carefully documented descriptions of actual occurrences on the field of battle.

The thing that was most striking about Eleazar was not incredible number of Philistines he killed. But that his "hand grew tired and froze to the sword."

He could not put down his weapon and I wondered, what caused him to take it up in the first place? Surely one does not simply decide to be a "mighty man" and immediately set about slaughtering the enemy.

What was this man's story?

So I began to tell that story. It was easy to imagine the rhythms and patterns of life lived in an agricultural setting. The changing of the seasons and the times of planting and harvesting are very near to my own experiences growing up.

Who hasn't experienced disappointment to learn that people we admire (and perhaps follow) have feet of clay?

Who has not basked in the comfort and quiet joy of friends and family?

Perhaps you have even experienced the disruption of that joy and felt the grief caused by the intrusion of death.

All in all, an easy story to write, though at times bogged in the technicalities of writing and the pursuit of countless details needed to lend a sense of time and place to the account. But the story, nonetheless, of a man with whom I was very familiar.

Solomon, on the other hand, has been more difficult. He is viewed through the eyes of the story's narrator; a policeman, a spy, a secret agent of the king.

How to begin to tell the story of this wise but apostate king? A man who turned away from his God, but still penned inspired verses that we read in Scripture to this day.

Solomon is an enigma to me. I can only hope to make sense of him through sketchy accounts of his relationships even though he seems at times to be a shallow son of privilege. 

Most intriguing, I think is the deep love expressed for the woman who is the central character for The Song of Solomon.

Some deny Solomon's authorship of this book, but the emotion expressed here is deeply appealing and perhaps the most accessible trait of this mysterious king.

Shall I name this nameless young woman? Shall her story be an integral part of this story and somehow shape the actions of the secret policeman who narrates it?

How shall I attempt to answer the question: what kind of man was this?