Saturday, August 5, 2017

Exactly what are you singing?

   I was reading a blog post today by a person in the church of Christ who seems to have a difficult time with many of the songs we sing in our worship to God today (click here for a link to the post in question). Now I'm not saying every song in our song books (which are written by men and not by God like the Bible is) is Biblically sound, but I do take exception with the author of the post in that he/she seems to be very narrow minded and fairly uneducated when it comes to prose and poetry which is what most hymns are.
  For instance the author points out in one of the examples ("Lamb of God" - #176 in Songs of Faith and Praise) that the words "The humble King they named a fraud And sacrificed the Lamb of God" indicate it was the crowd who did the actual crucifixion of Christ and it was a sacrifice. Now any person who has read the Bible knows Pilate gave Christ over to be crucified and he definitely was not a "sacrifice" from the Jews to God. Thus we can understand the songs writer (Twila Paris) is not claiming that the Jews sacrificed Jesus but that Jesus was a sacrifice. I believe in such instances the writer has taken a degree of artistic liberty in order to put the listener into a frame of mind of Christ's humility and meekness in the face of earthly death as well as his strength, power and love.
   Certainly we are to be mindful of the words we sing when we sing in worship. Our hearts and our minds must be focused on our words and the words must be a reflection of our hearts in much the same manner as when we partake of the Lord's Supper and the serious solemnity with which we remember Christ's death, burial and resurrection and what it means to each of us.
   Surely though we can sing songs in worship and the words can be taken in multiple ways.
   The author of the blog (and it is very annoying that the author did not have the decency to name themselves) picked several songs which he/she ascribes ulterior meanings to. "Shine, Jesus, Shine" (by G. Kendrick, #290 in Songs of Faith and Praise) is a beautifully penned hymn in which the author is asking Jesus to "shine on" him/her and asking the Holy Spirit to "blaze" and "set our hearts on fire." The blog author however advocates a position from which the singer is commanding God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to do things or basically commanding Jesus to "get busy" as he or she puts it.
    Again, the words we sing must be true and reflective of our hearts and we must be ever vigilant to fight against false teachings, however it is persons such as the author of that blog post who is doing more damage than good by inventing alternative meanings to songs where there is no alternative meaning.
    So "Sing On Ye Joyful Pilgrims" and "To Christ Be True!"

-oh, and by the way, my name is Charlton Wiggins and I wrote this blog posting!

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Sin of Condoning Sinful Acts

  As a Christian I am often erroneously criticized as a hate-monger because of my beliefs on subjects such as homosexuality. "How can you call yourself a Christian when you hate homosexuals?" - a question that has been put before me more than once. My simple reply is that I don't hate homosexuals, I hate the sexual act that is homosexuality and as a Christian I love all men and women. In God's eyes any sexual act outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman is a sin. So trying to be like Jesus, I hate the sin and love the sinner, be it heterosexual affairs or homosexual affairs.
  In fact, you can not be a true Christian and stand idle or condone those who are practicing homosexuals or those who engage in any sexual relation outside the bonds of marriage.
  Paul, in the book of Romans, instructs Christians to not condone or approve of those involved in any sinful practice, including homosexuality. In Romans 1:26-27 Paul exposes those who are homosexuals - both men and women - as engaging in unnatural relations, the result of "shameful lusts." In verses 28-31 he goes as far as to group homosexuals with a bevy of other wicked and evil sins such as deceit, murder, gossip, slander, God-haters, arrogance, and even those who simply disobey their parents to name but a few.
  For faithful Christians though God has given warning concerning condoning or tolerating sinful acts.  Romans 1:32 explains that they know what God has said concerning those sins and that simply approving of those who do them are worthy of death. The verse is principally speaking to those who are engaged in those sins, and by extrapolation it is applied to those who are faithful Christians as well.
  But this story doesn't end there. God is about love. The theme of the Bible is love. In fact Mark 12:30-31 puts it very plainly:
[30] "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. [31] The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
  So while we are not to condone the sinful actions of others, we ARE to love all mankind - even our enemies and those that persecute us (Matthew 5:43).
  Remember, none of us are perfect for ALL have sinned (Romans 3:23) and while we are not to condone the sins of others we ourselves must always look to correct our own sins too (Luke 6:42).

Monday, February 27, 2017

Worship vs Entertainment

  I was despaired watching an episode of the Tim Allen comedy Last Man Standing. This particular episode dealt with the church they attended and how the attendance was falling off because the services weren’t entertaining enough.
  It is sad indeed that people feel church is a place to be entertained. I often hear things like “I go to this church because they have a great band,” or “the preacher there is really entertaining.” Somewhere along the way people have decided our purpose for going to church is to be entertained. But what does the Bible say our purpose should be?
  Nowhere in the Bible does it state that our worship should be “entertainment.” Isaiah 43:7 tells us we are all created for God’s glory. Further along in verse 21 God says He creates us for the expressed purpose of proclaiming Him to the world. We are told in Philippians 2:12 to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. In James 6:10 the Scriptures say to “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and Colossians 3:2 instructs us to set our minds on things above and not on the things of this earth. Do those sound like attitudes of entertainment?
  Consider that the Bible constantly reiterates the ideals of piety, humbleness, reverence and fear when it speaks of our worship of God. To seek to be entertained in worship is nowhere to be found in the Bible and is a contrivance of the mind of man, which is by definition the exact opposite of piety and humbleness.
   In our worship to God we are instructed first to meet together to encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25) by reading the Scriptures and teaching (preaching) God’s word (I Timothy 4:13), to pray (I Corinthians 14:15-17), sing songs of praise and thankfulness (Colossians 3:16), and to observe the sacrifice of Christ on the cross (I Corinthians 11:28).
  Inevitably a conversation on worship comes around to the subject of instrumental worship. I’ve written on this subject before (click here to read my blog entry on instrumental music) and feel even more ardently that God does not want us to use mechanical instruments in our worship to Him and I urge you to read my blog post to understand why. I won’t rehash those points over again here but I will offer up the following additional thoughts to consider.
  God is a spiritual being. He is not constrained by a mortal body. The Bible references time and time again his spiritual nature and he constantly tells us our worship is to be in spirit and in truth. When we worship God it should be in Spirit as John tells us in John 4:23-24:
”But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

  Since singing is part of our worship to God it is to be done in Spirit, not with talent and skills as is necessary for those who play an instrument. If that were so He would have excluded a great many from the opportunity to worship Him. It is through our voices that God has chosen for us to worship Him so that ALL might sing in worship. But it does not stop there. Since God is spirit he desires our songs be sung in Spirit. We are to use our hearts, our spirit, to sing to God. When we sing and just mouth the words without considering their meaning he cannot hear our voices. We must understand and feel the words we are singing. Any less or any more is vanity and unacceptable worship.
   As I sat and watched the episode of Last Man Standing the story resolved the issue of the worship service not being “exciting.” Their answer to the problem was spot on. Tim Allen’s character concluded that the main problem was the lack of the congregation to invest itself in the worship. They didn’t get anything out of the lesson or the worship because they weren’t putting anything in to it.

  If we are not singing in spirit, if we are not praying in spirit, partaking of the Lord’s Supper in spirit and listening to the sermon in spirit (by following and paying attention) then we are not investing in the worship and will come away unfulfilled. It is our duty to God and our joy to worship Him in a way that pleases Him.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

To RIP Or Not To RIP

   An aunt of mine posed the following question on her Facebook page – “if one is not a Christian, how do they RIP?” Her question, in reference to an abundance of people who use that acronym to note the death of someone (especially celebrities), echoed misgivings I’ve had in my own mind when acknowledging deaths. After all, just wanting to go to heaven or wishing someone to go to heaven just isn’t going to make it so. Sadly there is a great epidemic of failure to understand the truth of the Bible in our country and the world today.
  The Bible is very specific about what is necessary for men to gain entry into heaven. It takes much more than just being a “nice person.” Consider Matthew 7:13-14 that says
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
  In other words there will be more people who don’t make it to heaven than there will be those that do make it. So why is this so? After all, the Bible was written on a level a fourth grade student could comprehend so why is it so hard to get into heaven? I believe the answer is in the nature of man. Man has free will, the ability to make decisions in this life for himself. He can decide if and when he wants to do something, including how he will respond to God’s instructions on how to attain eternal life in Heaven.  Often subscribing to God’s directions means leaving behind things of this world that provide excitement and thrills and for most men that is just too much to ask because they fail to see the “long game.”
  Of course no man knows with a certainty what state of submission to God another man is at the time of his death. Had he heard, believed, repented of his sins and confessed Jesus as the son of God? Had he been immersed in water (baptized)? Had he then continued living a life devoted to God? Those are the things we do not with a certainty know when someone passes away. In the case of celebrities we often have a good indication to the answer of those questions because they live their lives in the public eye, but then we still do not know with a certainty. But we do know with a certainty that had they passed away and had followed the “broad road” they most certainly will not be resting in peace.

  For myself I often said “RIP” more in a sense of compassion for the family of those who passed than for the deceased. But I believe in the future I can find a better way to express condolences to the family, after all expressing a desire for a departed soul to rest in peace is pretty well useless since their destination is in death determined.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

I Was Convicted.

  I know what it is like to be on trial and hear the words no defendant desires to hear - "We find him guilty!" I know what it is like to be bound in chains, and discarded from those you hold dear and love to enter a life of uncertainty, of fear, of knowing you are where you are because of your own decisions and actions, torturing yourself knowing the time you spend incarcerated could have been better spent, could have been spent in joy and happiness and love with a future to look forward to.
  Yes I know what that feels like. Not because I was a criminal and actually sent to prison, but because I was a child of God and turned my back on God and the church purposely. When I left the church in 2009, I didn't leave it suddenly, it happened over a period of weeks. At a time of weakness, at a time when I was not a mature Christian, I let evil into my life. Not once, but several times. Not in a huge ugly heap but with small little things that chipped away at my soul. I knew I was sliding downward even as I sporadically went to worship services.
  It was in those worship services I attended though that I learned and felt the anguish of being convicted. Convicted as I listened to the words of the songs being sung. Convicted when I partook of the Lord's Supper when I knew in my heart I was lost. Convicted when the heat of the words the preacher spoke singed my heart. Convicted at the invitation because I knew I was headed for death for not surrendering to Jesus.
  But especially the songs. The songs haunt me even today. For now my soul and spirit has clawed from the mire of a sinful world, I have been released from my prison, I have returned to the fold. I sing with joy and love the words of the hymns. And now I am revived, reborn, renewed and redeemed. Some songs are almost impossible for me to sing now, not because they convict me but because of the joy and love that wraps and protects my heart and knowing how close I came to eternal death.
  I was always told of how easy it is to fall away simply by missing a worship service. How easy it is to miss a second service after missing the first one, easier still a third service, then a fourth and on an on until one day you just stop coming to join the family and worship God altogether. Don't think "that's not me," or "I'm not worried about that," or "It's just one time." Falling away always starts with  "just one time."
  If I had an absolutely, positively, can't miss, sure-fire way to make a million dollars with virtually no effort you'd probably listen up and follow my instructions wouldn't you? Well, I have an absolutely, positively, can't miss, sure-fire way for you to live a joyous life both here and now and in eternal life. You see, there is another type of conviction. One that pierces your heart and soul. One that makes you fall to your knees and cry in joy and happiness. Will you listen? Will you follow my instructions? See me at worship services this Sunday and I'll tell you how. Hope I see you there.

Monday, December 26, 2016

When are we to go to church?

  I was asked the other day why I go to church so much. My initial response was “first, because I want to and secondly because God has directed his people to assemble to worship him on the first day of every week (Sunday).” 
  The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews points out that some of the early Christians had made a habit of not assembling together (Hebrews 10:25), indicating that coming together as a group of like-minded persons was an essential element of having a good Christian life. It stands to reason then that not assembling together to worship is not beneficial to those who desire a strong Christian life.
  But how often are we to come together as a group to worship?  Acts 20:7 says
“On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.”
  First let us note that this verse clearly tells us that the disciples met on Sunday, the “first day of the week.” There is no indication anywhere in scripture of a single week in the year that the first century Christians were to meet. Some try to say that “the week” refers to a single week and thus we as Christians are only required to meet on Sunday of a particular week. Nothing in scripture supports such a statement and the original Greek text for week (“σαββάτων”) does not refer to a single week but a plurality of weeks. So we can draw the conclusion that the first century Church met on the first day, or Sunday, of every week of the year.
  There are two types of commandments we must follow as Christians. “Direct” commandments and “Inferred” commandments. Obviously direct commandments are where the Bible tells us specifically what we are to do such as to be Baptized in order to be saved (Mark 16:16). Inferred commandments instruct us 
indirectly, largely by what the Bible doesn’t tell us. Such is the case with the frequency we are to come together as His church to worship Him. In every instance the Bible speaks of the disciples coming together to worship God it refers to them doing so on the first day of the week and because we know it is not a specific week we can conclude we are to come together (or “go to church” as we say these days) every Sunday of every week of every year. The wisdom of this is also manifest when we realize that coming together with like-minded people is also a way of building us up and edifying each other as we face the trials and temptations to come each week.
  And going to church twice on Sundays and once mid-week? Well, I’ll address that in another blog entry. See you at church!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Instrumental Music in Worship

  Did you know the use of instruments in worship in the New Testament church is never mentioned in the Bible? Early church leaders of the second and third century (as well as secular historians of the period) make mention that the Christian church only sang and did not use instruments.
"The unison voices of Christians would be more acceptable to God than any musical instrument." - Eusebius of Caesarea (263AD-339AD)
"Musical instruments were not used (in worship). the pipe, tabret, and harp here associate so intimately with the sensual heathen cults, as well as with the wild revelries and shameless performances of the degenerate theater and (Roman) circus..."-Augustine (354AD-430AD)
  In fact it wasn't until the mid 600'sAD that instruments, specifically an organ, was first introduced in worship by early Catholicism under Vitalian (657AD-672AD). So we can clearly see that it was Man who introduced instruments into the worship service. When man decides he knows better than God what God wants us to do to worship him the worship becomes adulterated and is invalid to God.
  How important is it to only do those things which the Bible mentions we should do in worship? Well, consider Nadab and Abihu from the Old Testament.
"And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before Jehovah, which he had not commanded them." Leviticus 10:1
  Both were sons of Aaron and both were priests who went to the temple to do their duty, but along the way they decided to do something different. Something God had not authorized. We don't know specifically what that was, only that it was offensive to God. The result was disastrous for the brothers.
"And there came forth fire from before Jehovah, and devoured them, and they died before Jehovah." Leviticus 10:2
  From this example we can see just how serious God expects us to be with our worship to him. But "what," you might ask, "does that have to do with using musical instruments in worship?" The answer is fairly straightforward... there is no mention of using instruments in worship in the New Testament or from early church history - only singing. When we introduce musical instruments as part of the worship then that part of our worship is offensive to God because it is not what he has commanded and when we insert our own human ideas into worship then our worship is in vain.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

What's in a Name

  Sometime ago I made an entry in my Handprints blog about my name. At the time I had intended to make a second entry about names in relation to Christianity.
  So, once again I ask, "What's in a name?" Just as a name is important because it gives us an identity, it helps others to know who we are. In the religious world names are even more important. In a very broad sense a name identifies a religion in general terms and encompasses many varied beliefs. For instance, in the Muslim world there are many different sects or religious factions but all have Mohammed at their core. So it is in Christianity. There are many religous sects that have Jesus at it's core. In a specific sense people take on the name of their sect - Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Protestants, etc., etc.. But where do they get the authority to call themselves such? The Bible certainly doesn't justify a religious body to name themselves whatever they want anymore than it justifies naming themselves after religious leaders such as Lutherans, Campbellites, Wesleyans, etc. In fact the Bible tells us quite the opposite. Paul addresses this trend in I Corinthians 1 when he says beginning in verse 10:
 10 "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? 14 I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
  This tells us that there is only one whom we should be named after - Christ. If the Bible is so specific about what we are called, it follows then that the name of his church would also be important. Ephesians 4:4 tells us that there is only "one body" (which is his church, Colossians 1:24), but what is that body called? Well, again the Bible gives us the answer. Romans 16:16 says
All the churches of Christ send greetings
 and I Corinthians 1:2 says
To the church of God in Corinth.
  Another name the Bible ascribes to the true church is found in Acts 9:2 where it states
  ...so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women...
The inspired writer there calls the church "the way."
  And so the TRUTH is that when you seek out the new testament church the first requirement is to find one with a scriptural name, a name which is authorized by God in his word.

The Finality of Heaven and Hell

  Consider for a moment that you know with a certainty the day and time of your death. How would you change? Would you change? What would you do differently than you are doing right now? How would you treat those around you - your family, your friends… your enemies? Now consider the truth - you are for a certainty going to die one day. Period. There is nothing you can do that will change that. So I ask the question, slightly reworded, once again… How will you change? What will you do differently? How are you going to treat those around you? 
  If you believe in God then you believe in Heaven and Hell. I don’t know much about what Heaven or Hell is actually like but I do know they share two qualities. First that they are permanent. There is no changing or leaving one to go to the other, once you are there then you cannot leave. Secondly they are eternal. In life if you don’t like a job you can quit and get a new one, if you don’t like your situation in life you can take steps to change it. Not so in eternity. Once you are in Heaven or Hell there are no second chances, no do-overs, no rebooting, It is final.
I know another thing about Heaven and Hell. Heaven is going to be joyful and we won’t have worries or cares, sickness or hunger and Hell is going to be a place of torment and anguish (Luke 16:19-28). It sickens me when I hear someone tell another to “go to Hell” or say “I’ll see you in Hell.” Our society tries to sell us on the idea of a fun Hell, saying “That’s where all the rock stars and porn stars are going to be. Wouldn’t you rather be there having fun instead of singing and playing a harp all the time?” Sadly those rock and rollers and porn stars who end up in Hell are not going to be partying, playing gigs and having huge orgies. The Bible tells us those in Hell are going to be in anguish and pain - and not just for a little while but for eternity (Revelation 14:11, 20:10). Remember eternity? That thing that will last forever, that will never, ever change, no second chance, no do-overs. That place.
  In this day and age the old “fire and brimstone” approach is said to be archaic and we need to be preaching love and forgiveness because we can reach more souls that way just like you can attract bees with sugar better than you can with oil or vinegar. Though I believe we should be teaching love and forgiveness we do a great disservice when we ignore the “fire and brimstone,” when we fail to teach the consequences of failure to humble ourselves, follow God’s word and love him. It’s not about trying to scare ourselves or others to heaven but about being realistic about the consequences of not following God.

  So I ask a third time. What will you do now? What will you do differently? How will you treat your fellow man, your loved ones and your enemies? Your God?  Man’s purpose on this earth is to fear God and keep his commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Are you doing so?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Tolerant or Intolerant?

We often hear the battle cry in the news and in social circles today that we are to be tolerant. We must tolerate this person or that one who is different from us. But is tolerance a good thing? Well, that depends on just what it is you are tolerating. If a person is doing something contrary to God’s will we should love that person but we should not tolerate their sin. But isn’t that contradictory you might ask? No. If you are a parent and you have told your child to not do something but the child does it anyway do you just turn your head the other way and let the child do as he or she wishes? No. A good parent will discipline their child because they love that child and have their best interests at heart. In other words, the parent is intolerant of the bad behavior but still loves the child. Through discipline and instruction the child will learn to do what is right. In the same way, Christians should be intolerant of sin but still love the sinner.
 Take for example the lifestyle of homosexuality. Homosexuality is a sin (I Cor. 6:9-10) and as such it should not be tolerated. That does not mean we turn our backs on homosexuals or hate them. It means we should show love towards them and admonish them in love and kindness to turn from that sin.
  Some would accuse me of judging others and judgment is for God. Judgment IS for God to do, and he has given us the Bible so that we might know those things for which we will be judged or condemned. As Christians we must share that knowledge and when it illuminates sin it is God who is doing the illuminating, showing us by his word what is sin and what is not.  Most people will quote Matthew 7:1 which says “Judge not, that ye be not judged” but they stop there. Still later in the same chapter Jesus instructs Christians to “Beware of false prophets” (vs. 15) and still later that we will know evil by their fruits (vs. 17-20). How are we to discern false prophets and evil fruit unless we have the ability to recognize them and point them out?

  As Christians we must stand firm against sin. We must be intolerant of sin, yet we must tolerate the sinner in is as much as we are commanded to love them and try to illuminate that which is wrong.