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Thursday, 8 March 2018

A saving faith in a saving God: Yeshuah/Jesus

Why does it have to be Jesus? "There are so many other teachers of truth surely? Isn't it pathetic to hark back two thousand years ago when everything else has developed far beyond the primitive world view of the first century Jews and Romans and Greeks? There are many ways to find god, you are mad to claim to know the truth when truths are so many. If anything can be true in a universe that has been proven to be relative. You are stupid in maintaining that Jesus lived and was what we are told, it is all fake news that you hold on to."

These and many other such responses come from people with whom you share your belief in Christ. They will amiably chat about everything from knitting yarn to politics, from carburettors to milkshakes, from soap operas to the latest Come dancing scandals, but when the topic turns to Jesus Christ, i. e. the one and only reason for the hope that is in us, then there are suddenly awkward birds on the wire. Now and then we get an interested responder who genuinely wants to know, but most often all kinds of protests are made along the lines above. What we do believe is really not comme il faut in our contemporary mindset. We appear to many as archaic draggers of feet, fossilized anachronisms, who have not managed to catch on to the news of the day.

There is something totally disdainful in our confessing Christ in the eyes of many. It stirs up a plethora of emotions and scepticism and downright frostiness in the relationship to the world around. So we are silenced at times because the very reactions bring us to our knees and  the rejection of our testimony feels like a rejection of ourselves. And we like to be liked. We can well understand how the modern 'seeker friendly' gospels preached have such a great following, they never affront anybody and give people what they want, or so it seems. Are they getting what they need, we may ask? Well that is no longer for us to wonder about, because each man is the only one who knows what he needs, and we have no business to say otherwise.

So the saviours preached are to each man what he wants and therefore nobody can say "this is the Messiah, and this only". The very exclusiveness of the claims of Christ as recorded in the bible are rejected as being elitist and exclusive. How hateful isn't that!  And when it is enclosed in a 'sine qua non' follow-up then things can get really ugly. "You are such a bigot, you claim to know what God wants from us! And who are you to talk, look at all your failings. How judgmental you are! God is only love, he never judges anybody!" Any hint of a demand for repentance before reconciliation is poo pooed, any smattering of "you must be born again" is met with blank denial that there is anything really wrong with us except a little ignorance. Anything that remotely sounds as you must become as children is considered contrary to the great human spirit.

So why insist on Jesus Christ being what he claimed to be?  Why keep on getting bad vibes from people when you could be getting all smiles with a less provocative statement? Alluring question, is it not? Why chase people out of church with the cross of Christ when you could fill it with "the unconditional love of God?"

Indeed why?  

Some good reasons why:

1. Unless what Jesus did and said was true then there is no such thing as either faith in God or a church to go to. Unless what has been reported about him in the holy scriptures is reliable fact then we have no cause for anything called christian faith and all its derivatives called "christian churches". 

Christendom has very little to do with what Christ calls faith as recorded in the bible. In fact the very existence of Christendom is the most effective way of hiding Christ from the world. People who are believers are that not because of the churches, but because they in simplicity and humility accepted the offer that God made through Christ. That happens where ever a human being means business with God. In or out of churches.

2 A saving faith is only a meaningful concept to a lost and faithless human. Without an acute understanding of the need for salvation  no Saviour is needed. But to reduce Jesus to be only Lord in some sense (a Lordship carefully monitored by the would be powers in the world and churches alike) and to deprive Him of the main reason for coming: "To seek and to save what was lost" is to tell  less than a half truth, and by definition it is then a whole lie. If nobody is lost in a biblically defined sense then there is no need for salvation. Obviously not. But Christ came to give his life as a ransom for many, a ransom without which they would remain lost for ever. 

The record shows that were soever Christ went people saw themselves as unclean and sinners, demons yelled confessions of his true status and begged him not to torment them before the appointed time. Where the fact of his death on the cross was preached there he caused a mighty upheaval in the souls of men and women alike and they shouted: "what must we do to be saved?" Are we then surprised when our mention of Christ stirs up anger? "We are not slaves, we are free!" Christ came to release the captives, but they may not like to be told that they have been the servants of God's enemy! The slave mentality functions best when they believe their slavery to be their freedom. And not seeing the need for salvation they keep on being willing to stay as they are rather than set out a long journey into the unknown. By faith in the guide!!

3 Jesus the Christ claimed to be the only way to the Father. As no other ways are offered it seems wise to tread that only. But why go towards the Father? Who is he? God is One we are told. In what sense is it then likely that the ways to God must be many? Oh for sure, every human must walk towards God on his or her own two feet, or shuffle on their underarms and bottom, or which ever way necessary, but irrespective of the manner of motion towards God they all come to the same gate. "I am the door into the fold" "I am the true shepherd." "No man comes to the Father but by me." It is a non-negotiable statement made by Him who is the door. And at that the only one.

Dare you call this a bluff, and will you call it?  Will you say, nay I can't imagine a loving God making such a  narrow door? What of all who have not a chance of knowing about Him? I turn the question against you: there is not only a door, but also a road to it: "I am the way, the truth and the life." By what fiendish imagination do you demand another and different and shorter or better? What can you find to improve on a manner of approach that The Only True and Wise God has defined and proclaimed? Are you God's counsellor? Have you been invited to advise God on the issue?  The way God made is simple, it demands that you become like a child before the Father, and that the one way of being well received by that same Father is to come as a lost child yearning for home. You do not negotiate better terms when you are offered salvation. It would be like being caught in a blizzard on an alpine rock wall and only accept rescue from a troupe of clowns from a circus.

Only when you come to yourself will you realize what you have lost and what you still may find if you go back to the Father, and to do so  you cannot bypass His son Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus is central and crucial.

4 "The words that I speak to you are spirit and life".  Existing and living are two different things. Exist we do because we are living souls, as vital as any cabbage, ox or butterfly, but neither any more and as unconcerned about eternity. Living comes in when you have been given the life quality of Him who is a life-giving Spirit. And it is  His word that creates that life in you in exchange for your existence as a egotist self. He gives himself to you. No part exchange. You have no genuine spiritual being until the Holy Spirit of God has been given to you. But that Spirit is the Gift of Christ to you, in order that Christ himself might live in and through you. Being a christian is not the mere acceptance of a statement of faith. It is accepting for yourself Him who is the one in whom you believe. Without the presence of Christ in a human, there is no rightful claim to be a christian.  The sole object of Faith is Christ.

5 The one and final arbiter of how we have lived and spoken is  Christ. "For the father judges no man. He has given over all judgment to the Son, ..He has given all judgment to the Son because he is the Son of man."  There is therefore no condemnation for them who are in Christ." "This is the judgement that they do not believe in Him whom God has sent." "For every idle word that men speak will be brought to account on the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned." These are the words of the gospels and the apostles who were with Jesus for three years. It takes a brave man to ignore Jesus Christ. And also a very very foolish one.

6 "We preach not ourselves, but Christ crucified and ourselves as servants for His sake." "The preaching of the cross is a folly to those who prefer to be lost, but it is like a welcome aroma to those who see their need for salvation." The one factor that nerves the christian ministry is the cross of Christ. Removing the cross is the same as removing the one stumbling block that brings men to their knees. And it is in vogue in our time to let people come into the church without the cross as a reality in their understanding of  what the cost has been to the Lord and Saviour to thus open the gates for all to come in. The cross has been ignored in many a way and the effects of it is also missing. 

The cross is not just the place of the death of Christ on our behalf it is also the point at which God reconciled the world to Himself. There He who had no sins of his own to pay for payed for ours, all of ours, that whosoever will look up to Him on the cross also will be drawn to Him and raised up from having stumbled onto their faces. "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me"  When there is no longer a proclamation of the mystery of the work on the cross, then another gospel is preached than that given by Christ to his disciples. And another gospel can no longer do what the preaching of Christ is called to do.

When Christ is no longer lifted up so that he draws all men to him, then he will be dragged down to the cheap common level of men and be used for their ends.

"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" That word is once and for all given to all the saints and is contained in that which we call the bible. So as truly as Euclides discovered some fundamental mathematical principles in the field of geometry, long before our time, but his findings are virtually identical to what we know today, and needed never to be improved upon, so the eternal principal teachings of and about Christ have been truly handed down to us.

The choice is ours

We have one choice to make: look at the things that scripture claims about Him, address Him personally, and then accept what is said and thereby become part of what He came to do, or study and deny Him and accept the loss of all that He is. But don't play games with the message. Like no other it has eternal consequences. If you reject Euclidian principles in geometry the only things that suffer will be some buildings on earth. Ignore the Bible and the message of Christ, and you will be naked before the throne of God and have no eternal home to go to. And while you live as they did in the days of Noah, eating drinking and playing all day long constantly on the chase for new temporary satisfactions, you will lay up for yourself no treasures in Heaven at all.

"This is eternal life, that they know you, Heavenly Father, and Him whom you have sent". And no, before you say that you are not interested in everlasting life, I must tell you that eternal life is not about time at all, but about quality of life now. Available in Christ Jesus  Alone. And now.

So tell me: how could I deliberately bypass all this on the spurs of becoming popular? Do you truly expect me to be quiet when I know all this about the Messiah, the Christ and Lord. And what better offer can you make? 

True, for the sake of Christ there are lots of things we can well do without. And we will seem unsuccessful and impoverished and living on a shoestring and never really landing in this world of vain emptiness. You see, we have been made for eternity, and will never be satisfied until the eternal becomes the core of our temporal being.

He is eternally The son of God and the Son of man. We are expecting Him back to earth to gather those who love him. Maybe soon.. maybe later, no matter, we wait.

Teddy Donobauer, Doncaster  February 8th 2018

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Blogtext: What the atheist should consider before it is too late.

As the atheists are becoming more and more vociferous, more and more dominant and more and more in command of the public mindset, and also seem to be "king of the hill" in most media, it seems necessary to ponder what they are ignorant of and what the consequences could and will  be if they are wrong about their basic assumptions.

"A-theist" from greek a=without and theos=god, is taken to mean that they do not believe in the existence of any god. It also nearly always includes the belief that since there is no evidence for God in the naturalistic sense of what can be proven by the normal scientific methods of proof for the existence of things within our observable universe, therefore God cannot "be". If a god exists, they argue, it is simply a construction by mankind. It is  a matter to be relegated to the realm of ideas, fantasy, wishful thinking or some such category of human thought. Science has proven long ago, they say, that God as such does not and cannot exist, there is simply no evidence for 'god'.

They know of course that their own position could only be possible in a world where the majority actually do believe in one or other God. They are also fully aware that they cannot prove the non-existence either. But they rest on their assumption that if they don't believe it, then what they do not believe must also not exist. Admittedly that is a great leap of faith.

One seldom addressed starting point in every debate about this issue is the absence of agreed starting point. The atheist adheres to a world view that says that nothing exists outside the scientifically observable universe. And that all explanations must be in accord with that limitation. The believer on the other hand knows that origins are never reproduced within the product created. In other words, the bread is never found  to contain the baker and therefore it is useless to find the evidence for a baker in the bread. The world view of the believer starts by the recognition that the things that are in existence have a non material starting point. Hence the material that can be studied is not very good at explaining how it came into being.

So the debates between the two parties about "god" have very different assumptions to start with, no wonder that most such debates are won only on rhetoric and who got most applause from the more or less informed audience.

One observable strain are the increasing bouts of very emotional responses, not seldom venomous and hateful, certainly none of those reactions  show forth a scientific mind. Many other elements beyond rational proof rear their heads when this matter is up for discussion. The faults causing them rest in attitudes on both side of the fence. Sometimes it looks as ugly as two pitbulls fighting for the same bone. Neither side fully understand the bone of contention but both think it to be theirs by right or might.

Atheism starts on the assumption that God must be part of creation. And as studies of creation do not seem to show God then God must be excluded. The apparent folly of that assumption is so obvious that it seems totally irrational. And the more rational they claim to be in their search for God where god is not, the more irrational they become. What are trade marks for? To show producer, to validate quality claims, to prove provenance and origins. Why is the world clamouring for products with status names such as Breitling, Dolce Gabbana, Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Dior, Vuitton and Rolex and a million others? Because origins matter and because unless the label is affixed and shown then the origin cannot be readily proven. But not one of the items in themselves prove their producers. Cotton is cotton, silk is silk, precision clockwork is just that and all makers put their marks on it. Because that is indeed important. And no atheist goes shopping believing that anything he wants has made itself. Nobody picks up a little black dress from Coco Chanel and expects to find Coco in it.

But they are fools enough to pick the world apart looking for God. And unable to do so they then deny the existence of what they could not find.

The starting point for the believer is totally different. It is totally rational, logical and self evident that as nothing on the shop-shelves is made by itself so nothing that is in existence of all the things that make up the known universe has made itself either. Thus the believer believes in a maker on the most sensible understanding that the maker of anything is outside of the thing. Just as the baker, thank goodness, is not a part of the bread. But the atheist position is cemented on the firm belief that the maker must be visible in the product.

"Quod erat demonstrandum". Latin for "What is to be proved". And not "quod erant demonstrandum"  "Which has been proved"  It has not ever been proved that the maker of something is part of and completely contained in the produced object. A thing that is made has purpose, has defined limitations and is based on a mass of information that is not in the product as such but remains with the maker. The recipe that I use for baking the bread is never found in the loaf. It stays in my head. But here the atheists have painted themselves into the corner and cannot get out. The one factor that would let them out is the realisation that there is a rational, intelligent, immensely sagacious owner and maker of everything, including themselves, outside of their observable realm.

The christian view is simple: "It is in God that we breathe, move, think, live and have our entire being." We are part of what God has made. and to step out of that domain in order to study it from the outside would mean first of all that we must leave behind the realm in which we already 'breathe,move, live, think'. By doing so we would no longer have either thought breath or mind to study anything and neither could we after the research is done climb back and tell of what we found.

As we cannot even exist outside of what God is the quest for finding God is seemingly a lost cause, is it not? No, for there is another issue here at stake. The christian also believes that "..That which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God as shown it to them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, and so they are without excuse."
God has made himself known in his creation. But God is not a part of it. God is not in it as if it was God.

Creation carries the evidence of the power and mind behind it. And as long as that evidence is taken in, then creation-studies will lead to God. But this is where things go so wrong: "Because that, although they knew God, they did not glorify God as God but became vain in their thoughts and began to worship creation, then they were on a track into the folly of exchanging the invisible and eternal for the natural and the temporal. Thinking themselves wise they became fools."

That is the  divine verdict on atheism. Looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place is excused by wrong thinking and leads to lots of wrong doing.

What should the atheist ponder?

1 What is the scientific evidence for the existence of his own rational thought capacity?  By what empirical methods has he proven the existence of his own rationality? Is it not more likely that he takes his ability to be rational by faith?

And by what stretch of imagination does he discount a rational reason for his existence by that same rational faculty? The ability to think rationally is not accidental. But that he must believe if there is no Rationality behind his own existence.
Can it not be shown that the atheist is very irrational on any number of other issues? What is the scientific basis for believing in concepts like "truth, honesty, democracy, love and solidarity, human rights and international agreements"? Those are softwares whose existence is unprovable by the very terms used to demand proof of God. They still believe some or all of them unless their intellectual despair has already put them in the hands of the psychopharmacologists. 

2 The atheist, as in deed any other person should  also consider this: any search done on any issue is not objective in itself but always is contaminated as it were by the presuppositions that the student brings to his studies. That means that whatever is found has to fight against both the intellectual and the presuppositional reluctance on the student's part to relinquish the previous position. 

The evidence is that people believe what they want, not necessarily the facts. If mankind was "innocent" and not morally preconditioned against God, things would be different. But such moral innocence is a myth. We may not start out weighted against God, (let the children come to me, to such belongs the kingdom of God) and only acquire a sceptical position from our learning from the world around us, but all society is nowadays only to eager to help in that wrong direction. I believe that children ask about God in one way or other, not because they don't know about God on a deep inner level, but because they want to know what is accepted among those older.  Whatever is the real truth in that, one thing is sure: nobody is a pure student accepting only what he finds. Even the choices where to look and how to search are loaded with presuppositions and often man-made prejudices.

The likelihood of a moral prejudice is at least equally as great as the desire to find out the truth. 

3 Few people would actually claim to be intelligent enough and intellectually capable of understanding a higher, more complex, purer and more complex mind than their own. So the need to first 'find fault' with God and reduce the matter to a caricature of their own making which they then turn away from often precludes them from seeing what is in view. When I am told what or which God they do not believe in I often find myself agreeing absolutely, because the effigy they reject has nothing to do with the God who has made himself known through Jesus Christ. Before the statement "I don't believe in God" has any practical meaning, you need to define what you mean by "God".

The major reason for avoiding the issue of a morally and intellectually superior being is that if it exists then my own morals are at stake. If you accept that God is maker, maintainer and owner of the world in which you are but a minion then your on the hard road if you then do not consider that this same God also has the right to tell us how to live in his world. Aye, there is the rub. More people reject "God" for moral reasons than for intellectual ones.

4 The issues of the knowable world in the scientific sense is what physics is all about. The issues of that which is the cause of this world and how it is structured are then metaphysics, and it is  quite unlikely that physics will say much about metaphysical things. The bread in my image is the physics, the brain behind the bread is metaphysics.  If the mindset denies the existence of a metaphysical world beyond the physical, then of course no amount of metaphysical data can be acceptable to the "physical" naturalist person. If you do not believe (note you do not know this, but believe it) that there is a metaphysical reality then no amount if information coming from that world will impress you. But don't call it scientific understanding. You may be very honest in not believing in anything but physics. But then you have no reason to expect anything but physical things. So you may have sex but cant know love beyond your usefulness to someone else. Why should anyone love you on the bare facts of your existence? 

Every claim that the christian faith makes is based on the metaphysical fact of a God who comes into the physical realm and demonstrates Himself to mankind.  That is what is meant by the incarnation. 

5 If God is indeed the very foundation of our existence then ignoring God and living as if God does not exist is a dangerous occupation. It is a most serious  denial of God as God is and substitutes the one and only true God for some other god. The atheist is not really atheist at all. But very likely is someone who has made him or herself their own ultimate judge of right and wrong, of good and bad and is also the very center of his or her own word. The passing from atheism to "egotheism", making the self god in God's place, was the first and most awesome temptation that mankind fell for.  And it is still so."I don't believe in God because I trust in myself to be good enough not to need any other god." That is the understanding behind egotheism. And it is not very different from the claim to atheism. Just a matter of spelling.

There is one final thought to ponder: "It is measured out to all men to once die and thereafter be judged". We shall all appear before God and be weighed in the scales and be found wanting. At that judgment we shall all receive according to our deeds. What will the egotheist and the atheist and the agnostic do when they stand before the throne of the Almighty and His Son? It ought to be a most serious question to answer before the end of life's journey.  It is only while the journey is still in progress that anyone can change it's direction. One day, for all of us, it will be too late to rewrite our itinery. When you stand before the Owner, Maker and  Giver and Sustainer of your life, what will you say?

"Sorry sir, we didn't believe in you, so you cant judge us!"

Our search for God is really commendable but there is another search going on that is even more important. God has been and is looking for us. The entire effort of God through history has been to seek and save that which was lost. The search has not finished.  But there is one prerequisite for the search to come to an end: "He that wants to come to God must believe that God exists and that those who turn to Him will be rewarded. Without faith it is impossible to please God." So a mere intellectual search for God on our own terms is a dead end for ever.

The only God that can be found is the God who is there. And we know Him because He has made H
imself known by his Son. That is what the Bible was written to testify to. I believe this  testimony.

Teddy Donobauer, Doncaster 7th February 2018

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Blogtext: "Doing church or being Church"

"When you come together, each one of you has something to share."

Have you heard of the 80/20 window? It is a way of describing a great number of things where people interact. Out of a hundred about 1/5th do all the work and the other 4/5th rely on it and support it in various ways but are rarely part of the 'producing' end but always on the 'consuming' end.

Whether you are talking of politics, sports, religion this pattern repeats itself to a high degree. It is also useful to understand many things in the world. If you want to pursue it then follow this link.  It is actually very prevalent in the world at large.  (

Following it has however dire consequences for the living body of Christ on earth. (It is not really applicable to a living physical body, for that would almost certainly mean that 80% of the body was inactive and almost as good as dead and only kept alive by the remaining 20%. That is being on a life support system like a respirator and  is not very desirable.) In the life of any church that would mean that 80 out of every hundred make very little contribution to the whole. If only 20% of the church's membership are accountable for the life of the whole then vast blessings are lost and the up-building of the whole is left to the few. The truth is that this largely reflects church-life as it is today all over the world.

You only need to look at the basic layout of every room used by the worshipping community. How much is podium, elevated platform, performance area and how much is seating for the audience, attending subjects and consumers of what is performed on stage? 20-80? More often even 40-60.

No way of getting out?

The lovely thing is  that this issue has solutions in the Word of God for the church worldwide. They have been there from the very beginning but are virtually ignored, also on a worldwide basis. The first insight comes from the wandering people of Israel. A short passage at the end of Exodus 15 and the first verse of ch 16 tell us: "And they came to Elim, where there were 12 springs of water, and 70 palm trees. They camped there for a rest. Then they took their journey from Elim and all the  of the children of Israel came to the desert of Sin." 

It is always fascinating to come across the number 12 in Scripture. Twelve sons of Ishmael, twelve sons of Israel, twelve wells at Elim, twelve stones; one for each tribe in the High Priest's breastplate, twelve pillars surrounding the altar, twelve spies to search out the land, twelve stones taken out of Jordan, Solomon's twelve regional officers for his kingdom, twelve bronze oxen under the laver in his temple, twelve apostles, twelve gates of the New Jerusalem, twelve foundation stones for the city of God, you get the idea. 

Also at Elim. Again it speaks of a full number and more than enough. It is according to the 20-80 window, what is needed to keep that particular business running. 12 wells for 70 trees. Shading light the trees are totally dependant on the produce of the waters. The shadow of the trees shelters the wells. The people dwell in the shadow for a while and drink from the wells. But it was not a destination. It was an oasis  on the route from slavery, captivity and bondage to the "promised land, flowing with  milk and honey." As such it was ok. As a permanent place of living it was meagre and stark and narrow and limited. Israel realized that quickly and stayed there no longer than absolutely needed.

"The Elim somambulance"
Not so the average christian church. "Elim" means 'oaks' or 'terebinths'. That is all that could grow there and their growth is slow. An Oak takes three hundred years to grow to maturity, three hundred years to die. And  here is a real eye-opener: In it's growing years it exudes a poison that preve
nts the germination and development of its own acorns. In other words it allows no competition even of it's own offspring in the area of it's establishment. The scientific name for it is  "'allelopathy". (I am often told off for mixing in natural science in the bible studies. My reply to that is that if I want to teach the way God Himself and his Son do, then keeping natural science out of it, isn't in it. It would be to deny that the Rabbi is the Rabbi of Rabbi's. He certainly does not keep creation out of the church. He sent us not only to baptize but make disciples by teaching them!) *see link at bottom of page.

The opposition party

Here is a sinister note to that: If the Accuser of the brethren and the blocker of all true light is in operation then how would he reason? First he would try to stop the establishment of the church in the first place. If that fails, he will gladly let them grow quickly until they were full of newly born children that had not enough spiritual parents to ensure growth and then let them engage themselves with only themselves for as long as possible. His calculus would be this: "Here in there are 65.000 people. the Christians have tried for years to establish a church here and if I can't stop them I will let them grow to five hundred or so. The faster the better. That will keep them occupied with teething problems for years to come and the remaining 64.500 in the town stay in my kingdom. They themselves have a proverb: If you can't lick them, join them. When they have reached their level of comfort in numbers they will stop being a nuisance to me. And if I can make them satisfied with being bottle Christians I can prevent their growth for the next three hundred years."(In case you should think that evil does not boost growth I remind you of the herbicide used in the Vietnam war by the USA. The herbicide used to defoliate the millions of trees, was really a super fertilizer which caused the leaves to kill themselves by growing rapidly. The cocktail was called Agent Orange from the orange stripes on the barrels, and its lethal effects came from being mixed with dioxin.)

The  20-80 principle guarantees a low growth rate. Growth? What is that?

In the life of the Church growth is several things.

1 Growth in numbers "And God added to the church daily such as should be saved." Acts 2:47 "and believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both men and women." Acts 5:14  "And the hand of the Lord was with them; and a great number believed and turned to the Lord" Acts 11.21 "For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and faith; and much people was added unto the Lord." Acts 11:24

2 Growth from spiritual babyhood to maturity. " I could not speak to you as to spiritual but only as to carnal, as babes in Christ. I have fed you milk, and not with meat. For up until now you have not been able to digest it, nor are you as yet." 1 Cor 3:1-2  "For by now you have had plenty of time enough to become teachers, but instead you have need of being taught the very first principles of the very words of God. Your needs are on the milk level and strong meat is not for you. Everyone who is on the milk level is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for such a one is a baby. Strong meat belongs to those that have grown up. To those who have trained their senses to discern both good and evil by repeated praxis." Heb 5:12-14  Childlike but no longer childish. No longer spoon fed but eating with own tools and teeth.

3 Growth is growing together into a living temple. "You are built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone in whom all the building, FITLY FRAMED together, grows into a temple, holy to the Lord in whom you are also built together into a habitation for God  through the Spirit." Eph 2:20 "Coming to Him as to a living stone, thrown away by men, but in the eyes of God precious and favoured, you make up those living stones that are built into a spiritual house, serving God as royal priests able to sacrifice spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God in Jesus Christ." 1 Pet 2:4ff

4 Growth is growth to full spiritual maturity. " He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, These are his gifts to the church so that the believers, the saints, should become fully equipped for their work, that of together building up the body of Christ, until every one of us comes to unity in faith and to a common knowledge of the Son of God, the perfect man. 
Yes until we all reach the measure of the fulness of the stature of Christ, so that we cease being children, easy to sway this way and that by every new doctrine, no longer becoming putty in the hands of suave talkers and easy prey to smart new deceptions. 
But learning to speak the truth in love  me may grow up into him in all things, into Him who is that head, yes Christ himself, from whom the whole body, fitly joined together and drawn into compact fellowship by the support that every individual member gives to the whole. 
All in accordance with the effective working of every part, this will cause the growth of the church and of the love that it is made by and for." Ef 4:11-15  If you read that and spend time on that image then you should at least become frustrated with the apparent absence or at least ultra slow motion of this growth.

Growth 1 can happen initially without 2,3 and 4. But not in the long run. If we think that growing out is true growth then we shall soon be out of both belts and braces. Unless the growth is upwards growth, then it will stop when the creche is full. Changing diapers on adult babies is hard work.

What about the 20-80 window?

The growth patterns of the church are diametrically opposite to the 20-80 pattern. The body has no dead flesh to carry along, the worship service has no  audience, the ministry of the church is on all hands, there is no such thing as a passive and active membership in the living church. There are not even laymen and clergy. There is no such thing as performer and public. There is to be no one man or one woman benevolent  tyranny of leadership. 

What is there then?

There is the conscious dedication by each member to the church as a whole. And I claim to have good cause to claim that the local church is the sum total of all those who are born again unto a new and living hope in one geographical location. And the gifts of God in leadership have been given to that entire church. When they each are limited in their gifts to one fifth of the church then we have 5 one/fifth blessed churches, and the deficit shows. Do not all need evangelists? Do not all need leaders with a missionary calling? Do not all need live prophets? Do not all need pastors and teachers? What if they are on site but not realized by the church?

There is a coming together in unity for one common aim. No 51% voting and carried,  but consensus in the Holy Spirit. Coming together cannot be  all that successful if the common aim is  dimly understood. All about trumpets with unclear sounds you know.

There is the clear understanding that if I withhold myself and the gifts that God has given me from the other's then we all suffer loss. If one member suffers we all suffer. If one member is glad and shares it not sadness deepens.

"How is it then brothers and sisters? When you come together, each one of you has a psalm, or a teaching, a message in an unknown language, or a revelation or interpretation, yes,each may have something to bring for the edification of all. The common up-building is the main thing, everything in your service must be aimed there unto." 1 Cor 14 The arena of the church meeting is for the saints to minster to one another. It is not the place to consume religious artefacts produced by some for the many. It is not a theatre of professionals to receive praise for their skills. The flesh shall not glory in the fellowship of the saints. Our God is not impressed.

Two more observations

Six days of the week most Christians battle it out along the demarcation lines between the world and kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. We are battered, wounded, worn and sometimes bleeding, but we are also blessed, encouraged, uplifted, and full of joy unspeakable, and we have made discoveries of both the goodness of God and the mayhem of the evil one. What is our coming together for?

Escape from reality? An oasis like Elim? A pause from the war? "I have in my heart a plant called reverence, it needs watering once a week?" 

It is at least two things
: a) a place for the battle weary to be bandaged, restored and strengthened. To be debriefed and open our hearts, to pour out all the heartaches to which we all are prone. 

b) And a place for being built up by the ministry of the individual body parts    body for each other. Of "continuing steadfastly in the teachings of the apostle's doctrines, of communion with each other, of the breaking of bread and of the prayers" . Of hearing teaching from the whole counsel of God, of learning and practicing the life of Christ in us. We expect to be warned of sins, admonished to love, encouraged to share the faith within, and to be built up in our relentless devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ and our God and Father. It is for us to be released of yesterday's burdens, restored by the day of salvation which is always today, and have bright hope for tomorrow.

We also have every reason to expect that we shall be called disciples, with lessons to learn and tasks to perform. That is what church is for. To do the work of the church, not merely to hear something new every Sunday. In every other field of learning we pass exams, show competence in doing what we learned and build more knowledge upon success in doing what is taught. Not so in the church. Not enough, not much. How else can we explain decades of no real growth in any direction?

Oh, we will still go to heaven on the conditions of the 20-80 window. But heaven was supposed to come here by the life-giving Lord of the Church in and through his people. "The kingdom of God is within you."  Luke 17:26  "..Hope never shames us, because the Love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us." Rom 5:5  

All that love is far to big to be locked into a 20%-80% existence. What would revival be in this context? Take down your tents, get out in the midday sun from under the shading oaks, fill the water bottles and leave Elim. Now!

Teddy Donobauer, Doncaster Feb 7 2018


Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Blogtext: Authority and women in the church.

It is not very often that there is any feedback on the things I write. But my text about the silence of women in the church raised  feedback with some questions that I do well to address. A medical student somewhere in the cyber world has read and commented and made some critical remarks.

I thank him for the feedback and will try to reply here.

First he makes the observation that " my own views on things have crept into the blogtext." Well I venture to say that he himself has never said one sentence  that did not have the same problem, and as far as I can see he voiced only his own opinion in his critique of my text. Seems a blunt weapon.

The major critique pertains to my 'threefold presupposition". I am not clear on which those three presuppositions are, but I can certainly say that I know what my presuppositions are for any interpretation of the word of God.

1 The first one is that which the NT repeatedly establishes: All things written beforehand are written for our times and for our wisdom to conduct ourselves wise at the end of the ages.

2 The second presupposition is that scripture explains scripture, making it necessary  to place everything in context with itself where it is written and compare it with what has been written in the rest of the Word of God on the same topic. That is how scripture teaches about scripture. Case in point: the temptation of Jesus in Matt 4 and Luke 4.  One of the most heinous sins perpetrated right through church history is the refusal to do just that.

3 The third presupposition is that the work of the Holy Spirit takes precedence over the direct instructions to individuals is specific situations  in local circumstances. A case in point: To Corinth Paul writes that he had only one message: Christ and him crucified and not human wisdom or mere intellectual reasoning. The back drop is that in Corinth there was a certain wisdom culture in place with which the church had to come to terms. To use that statement aimed at Corinth specifically as an excuse for only preaching the crucified Christ would be folly especially since the same Paul in his other letters writes about an awful lot of other things.

Those who maintain that the clear command that Paul gives about women being silent in the church always and unconditionally, must therefore do more than quote the Ephesian passage, they must explain a lot of other statements also made by Paul. I will list a few here in the form of questions.

1 Is it not clear that the arrival of the New Covenant would mean an equal blessing to men and women, an equal outpouring of the Spirit on young and old, male and female alike? What else does Joel 2:28 mean? "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men dream dreams and your young men shall see visions. Even on male and female servants in those days will I pour out my Spirit."

2 Is there any indication anywhere in the bible that salvation is different for men than for women? Is there not even in Paul's writing a totally covering statement made as to the equality in grace irrespective of sex? "But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian (chaperon?) for in Christ Jesus you are all the sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, there is not male and female, but ye are all one in Christ Jesus."  Gal 3:25-28  Who will tell me that Paul here is only speaking to MALE men about being in Christ, baptized into Christ and therefore no longer to be recognized by their former status "but by being one Spirit with Christ".

3 Is regeneration different for men and for women? "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is  a new creature: old things are passed away: behold all things have become new. And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." 2 Cor 5:17-18
Will my critic then stand up and say that this  is not true for women? They cannot have the ministry of reconciliation because they are women? 

4 Is God a respecter of persons so that God only calls male men to be his (verbal) witnesses? "These all continually prayed and interceded together with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers.... and when the day of Pentecost was fully come they were all with one accord in one place .. and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance." Acts 1:14- 2:4

They spoke, men and women, of the mighty deeds of God without respect to their sexual gender. And that is on the Birthday of the entire Church of Christ.

Is that not clear? The women are there as part of the universal break through of the church fulfilling the prophecy of Joel and doing exactly what God promised would happen, women would prophesy just as well as men.

5 Is female prophecy limited to a ministry to women only and outside the church? Anna the mother of John the Baptist is a prophetess daily in ministry in the temple. The four daughters of Philip, the ex deacon from Jerusalem are identified as having a prophetic ministry. Where is prophecy carried out? In the midst of the congregation where the gifts are given by God in response to the needs of the church, not according to gender but according to the sovereign decision of the Spirit. In 1 Cor 14 the matter comes to a head. "Desire the gifts" he says to all believers. " For the edification and up-building of all." The Spirit decides to give His gifts to men only? Oh My...

And that is where he puts in this contested limitation of women who are not allowed to speak in church but to be in submission " as the law " says. Elsewhere he refers to Sarah's submission to Abraham, and here he concludes that women should keep such business out of the church which belongs to the domestic domain, "if they have anything to ask, they should consult their husbands at home." At least then they are a) married  b) have husbands that they are submitted to and consequently are in a christian marriage where the husband is the spiritual head under Christ. c) the things not suited in church are not be discussed there.

An old testament illustration in point: Abigail and Nabal. Remember that story? If she had bent down under the authority of her fool of a man as my critic seems to indicate, she would have had a different fate and so would David. ( All things were written for our instruction.) I Sam 25

But what about the common dilemma: a non spiritually mature man with a spiritually mature wife? Will we tell that woman not to speak up? Is not the issue of taking authority a matter of deliberation depending on circumstances? Should women be silent just because the men are there, or are there requirements made on the men? For sure there are.

I claim: The authority of any man is not vested in him but in his Lord and manifested in the man's submission to Christ. If he is not obviously submitted to the authority of Christ he cannot demand to be considered an authority by anyone. The meaning of Eph 5:21-33 is to be taken as a whole text, not snipped in pieces to suit whatever male power fancy there may be. 

Lastly: "I cannot accept women to be in authority over men, or to teach men." 2 Tim 2:12  The irony is that unless women had had at least some authority over men, Timothy would not have been a believer at all. Since it was his mother  Eunice and grandmother Louis who had brought him up in the all too common absence of a father.  It follows by Paul's further teaching that all women are to teach all their children and one another! The older to teach the younger: "Teach sound doctrine the aged men to be sober, serious. moderate in consumption, sound of faith, charitable and patient. Aged women in the similar manner in a behaviour that is fitting holiness, not talebearers or tattlers, nor lushes, but teachers of good things to the younger women. That these should  be sober, and love their husbands and their children. Tit 2:1-4

To usurp authority then is the key. Women are not allowed to do that. But let me ask you, are men allowed to usurp authority? Is any one in fact allowed to do so on the strength of their gender alone? Is not the entire gospel designed in opposition to anyone lording it over anyone else? Is it not true that the only way to become the greatest is by being the most humble servant? Is it not true that every attempt to claim authority for one self is strictly forbidden and frowned upon in the kingdom of God?

How often does Paul challenge people's authority? How often does he speak of false teachers and pretenders to apostleship? How often does he ask for the credentials of those who preach another gospel? The authority of Jesus, whence was it? It was from above. Not vested in Him but given by Him who had sent him. He spoke with authority because he never spoke anything but what he had heard from the Father. Who will tell the world that no woman can do that?

If any man or woman or even a donkey speaks the word of the Higher authority it is not usurping any authority at all. But if anyone claims authority on the basis of their gender, male or female, then they are to be admonished and demoted from their inflated ego as soon as  possible.

The churches suffer from lack of leadership. Many churches have an absolute majority of women in the church. Where are the men? Some of them sit and spend their time on defending men's natural sovereignty while being in no responsible leadership at all.

It never is about the gender of the servant, but of the true comitment to the Master who  calls, equips, establishes and protects his servants.  

Well Paul has one very important point to make. Those who do not submit to Christ but usurp authority  and aspire to lead without being first led will wreak havoc in the church, be they male or female, chauvinist or feminist. What do Mary Baker Eddy, The  Kate and Margret Fox, Madame Blavatsky, Ellen G White have in common? Errant women under no authority creating offshoots of Christianity that have deviation from the truth in various degrees. So yes: women are easily deceived.

But ere you fly at my throat: Charles Taze Russel started the Watchtower Movement of Jehovah's witnesses, infamous Joseph Smith started the Mormon church on the basis of more falsity than one can even conceive. John Thomas started the Christadelphians, Emmanuel Swedenborg his own oddity and so on.

Men or women, who usurp authority that is not theirs to begin with are always sooner or later lost cases. I insist that this must not be the only way. I firmly believe that God calls whom he will and when that calling is in a man or a woman it will be seen in their devotion and unselfish service to Christ and his church.

I fear that the issue of authority being so touchy is a reflection of the way the Church has lost its bearings. "You know how the princes of the heathen exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority over them- But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be chief among you let him be your servant. Even as the son of man came not to be ministered to but to minister, serve and give his life a ransom for many." Matt 20:25f.

People who aspire to become ministers on the basis of seeing it as a position of authority and power have fundamentally missed the point of christian and  spiritual leadership. Furthermore, no-one appoints themselves to a ministry. No one is a solo enterprise in biblical church leadership.The one pastor/priest/bishop pattern of virtually all churches is not the work of the Spirit. Ministering in the church of Christ is not a career but a calling.

It would to me seem as close to blasphemy as possible to claim that God  must only call men to lead and to teach. 
That is not the God of the true church, the assembly of the Lord.

 So whom does God call? Those who are born of the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, led by the Spirit, skilled in rightly dividing the Word of Truth, approving themselves as stewards of the sound doctrines.They live in submission to the Lord and are acknowledged by the church as God's gift to it. They do not impose themselves on the church, they qualify for ministry by service.

But we have changed all that. We produce religious broilers in seminaries and universities who are then put on the market for pastorship/priesthood. They come to churches with their own agenda and look for the available career leading to bigger and richer churches.. Do they listen to the Chief Shepherd? Are they familiar with the leading of sheep by first being sheep to the Shepherd? Will they give their lives for their sheep or are they hired hands with their hire as a first concern?

How many church leaders are engaged in doing what Paul did with Timothy? "What you have received from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to other's who in turn can instruct the next generation." Any leader worth his or her salt trains up their sucessor, and makes themselves superflous by discipling others. It is a far cry from anyone usurping authority. All such servants answer to their Lord. 

Fruit is what it is about, not gender.

Teddy Donobauer, Doncaster Feb 6 2018

Monday, 5 February 2018

Blogtext: To God be the Glory..

Another  case of Ichabod? 

How can the matter of praising God become a hot and debatable issue among believers? There is a lot of furore and the various positions taken up by brothers and sisters on the issue threatens to be as divisive as any other matter over which the body of Christ has been divided to the eternal shame of all those who set their theology above their duty to love God and their neighbor.

One of the  effects of sin is this constant pride over our own achievements. What we do is approved by us or by our supporters and must therefore also be acceptable unto the Lord. We can't be wrong can we now? The LORD God himself said in the very beginning that "nothing man sets his mind to will be impossible for him". (Gen 11:6) The end effects are, among others, several human inventions that harness and use God's creation in a manner that leads to the very real probability of successfully destroying all of life and the world as we know it. Man can, if any one can we can. But should we?

Even hinting at the possibility that our doing what we can could be a moral issue and should therefore not be handled carelessly, is rapidly met with loud cries of: "it is against science to question the inevitable development". And nothing is seen as so despicable as to be anti science. But there is a double issue here: there is the knowledge of what things are and there is the knowledge of how things should be used. The former is naturalistic science and accords with creation, the second is a moral science that comes from the owner of the things studied under the first science. Unless both sciences join forces any human achievement can run foul of either one or the other and ruin the usefulness of both.

Modern worship is no exception from this pattern. The immense gift of music is a wondrous marvel of creation. The very fact that it exists is as heavy a hint of God as anything that can be imagined. The soaring heights of musical expression brings us so close to 'seeing' God as anything on earth can do. It is no wonder at all that one of the questions Job is asked by God indicates that there was eternal music before any single composer had set his foot on earth: "Who laid the cornerstones of the earth when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" Job 38:6-7

The collective singing to God's glory is a standard feature along the entire history of God's people. They sing, sing, sing. All of them together sing their spiritual inheritance, declaring their salvation history in a multitude of ways as a constant way of remembering what they must never forget if they want to stay true to themselves and stay true to their God. They therefore invent musical instruments at the very dawn of human inventions: "His brother's name was Jubal, he was the father of all who handle the harp and the organ. (Read: all stringed and all wind instruments)" Gen 4:21 

After the narrow escape from slavery and a watery grave as told in Exodus chapter 15 we find percussion instruments in the hands of Miriam leading the chorus of Israeli women confirming  the message of praise which had been sung by all of the children of Israel: "Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances, and Miriam responded to them, Sing to the Lord for he has triumphed gloriously: the horse and rider he has thrown into the sea." Ex 15:20-21

Every major event in the life of the people of God will be accompanied by music with a divinely declared content. It has musical expression born out of the skill of the musicians and the quality of the instruments man has invented as he learns from creation how music is made by the other surrounding elements of the creation. From drilling skylark to susurrating brook, from roaring thunder to the chirping of sparrows, from the low frequency of the hump back whale to the high frequency whine of the locust, we hear and learn how to accompany the truth with our music. It is the flesh that submits to the spirit by using earthly means for spiritual ends.

"Solomon is said to have spoken three thousand proverbs and a thousand and five song were attributed to him". 1 Kings 4:32
"Two hundred and eighty-eight singers were appointed at the first temple "to be instructed in the songs of the Lord" 1 Chron 25:7
"In the days of  David and Asaph there were chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God"  Neh 12:46
"Your ordinances have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage" Psa 119:54
"They shall lift up their voice and they shall sing: for the Majesty of the LORD they shall cry aloud from the sea. Therefore glorify the LORD in the valleys, even the name of the LORD God of Israel in the isles of the sea. From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even bringing glory to the righteous." Isa 24:16

"And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." Isa 35:10
"The LORD was ready to save me; therefore we will sing my songs with stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD." Isa 38:20

Put your feet where 
your mouth is!

But the music changed as they turned their backs to God while still mouthing his words in song. They would sing but not put their feet where their mouth was. A case in point: days after the song of triumph, full of confessions of faith, the very same choir of Israel came (by God's design) to the bitter waters of Marah. (Ex ch 16) Not a word of thanksgiving, not a mutter of praise was then heard. No songs at all, only complaints against Moses and against God.  Repeatedly in their history they maintained the words but lost the meanings. They continued singing the right words, but they did not agree with their deeds. And then the invention of Music as such becomes the very opposite of what it should be.

God says: "I will cause the noise of your songs to cease, and the sounds of harps shall no more be heard." (Hez 26:31)
"Take away from me noise of your songs, I wont listen to the melody of your violins." (Amos 5:23)
"And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, says the LORD. Amos 8:3-14 The end of the chapter gives a clue to when music in the church is empty and meaningless: when it no longer is inspired by the Word of God.

The prophets echo a realization that soon arises when you listen to some of the present day church music: "We have piped music to you, but dance you will not." Matt 11:17 When the content of the music does no longer change behaviour in the right direction it is merely noise, but for it to be a joyful noise unto the Lord it needs to be more than noise.

And that is getting to the root of the matter. We have much to sing and much to praise for with all kinds of music. But there are spiritual criteria that must be met.

If we are pursuing biblical and spiritual criteria then some questions need to be asked.
1 Cor 1:29 (God has chosen things that appear base in the eyes of the world in order:) "That no flesh should glory in God's presence".

So let us discuss how the flesh glories in the present day cultural expressions of christian music. Is God getting the honour, or are the musicians?

Is the ministry of music proportionate to the tasks of the church which have been given by the Lord? 

Does music teach the world the words of Christ? Is evangelism done by the musical expressions? 

Irrespective of who and when and how the music is written, it is the purpose and therefore content of the music that must be discussed. It is not a christian criterion to claim 'artistic license' and thereby get away from evaluating music. Unless it conforms to the God given purpose it  has little legitimacy. ("We must not judge", is the standard defense against that. But we must discern and evaluate.)

It would seem obvious that form is second to content on that basis.

"Those who worship God, must worship Him in Spirit and TRUTH." John 4:22-24  What does not have either the Spirit or the truth as it's basis cannot be worship in any shape or form. And it is not enough to have one or the other. The flesh can sing the truth, but it does not turn it into worship until it also is "in the Spirit." When is anything in the Spirit?

"When it is born of the Spirit, not out of any ambition on behalf of the flesh, accords with revelation of the truth in the Word of God, and brings the Lord Jesus Christ into focus and glory to God the Father." 

This is easily deduced from the teaching in Johns gospel about the work of the Holy Spirit. As it is clear that the work of the Spirit is to lift up and glorify Jesus and never to bring the lime light unto himself some songs directed at the Spirit itself would hardly be the fruit of the Spirit. Such divided hearts belong to humans, but not to the Holy Spirit of God.

The operating power in the christian life and in the church is the Holy Spirit or it is not of God at all. Having made the dynamic executive agent into an object of worship has seriously hindered the worship of the church of the only one worthy to receive Honour and glory. "You are worthy, Oh Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for you have created all things and they exist for your own delight." Rev 4:11  ""Saying with a loud voice: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and blessing." Rev 5:12

What is the 'praise culture' teaching about God? That is the matter under discussion. Again, what form or artistic expression it takes is second to that.

"It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is useless in that context. The words that I speak are Spirit and life." John 6:63
Don't imagine for a moment that you will be heard because you repeat the same words over and over, those are the vain repetitions of pagan cults. The unclear thinking behind the idea of chanting the same phrase a hundred times over needs to be addressed. If words of truth are sung, then they are true the first time and become no more true after the 50th singing. Conversely, if their meaning has not passed from being a sound in the ear to conviction in the heart by repetition 25 the problem lies not in the word but in the hearer. There is one criterion for all hearing of the truth:

"The Word of God; the gospel, came to us as well as to them. But for them it was useless and did not profit them at all because it was not mixed with their own faith after they had heard it." Heb 4:2

It is true that: "repetitio mater studiorum", (repetition is the mother of learning). So there is a pedagogic sense in repetition. But there are many other kinds of repetitions that are frequent in the world outside the church. They are called incantations, chants, mantras etc etc and typically occur in the worship of idols. And the need for a learning repetition is well met by three or four repeats when there are less than 20 words in the chorus repeated a hundred times. The rest is what?  Creating an atmosphere? Numbing the mind? Creating a trance like state of mind? Repeating something false until it becomes accepted by being entrenched in the memory despite being untrue from the start?

It needs searching out and addressing at it's root. When is a song of praise  merely a song? When is it a true song of praise? Scriptural pretexts and practices serve as good guides. But the actual reading of the whole Word of God is not high on the agenda in the praise culture. As far as I have seen anyway.

"Holy Holy Holy is the LORD God Sabaoth.. woe is me for having seen Him. I who am of unclean lips among a people of unclean lips (and uncircumcised hearts)." Isa 6:1f  Worship is biblicaly speaking always also the recognition of our need for a double bowing down before God. We bow in two ways. First 'metaphysically' as we recognize the quality difference between God and ourselves. We the created, He the creator, we the wood, he the Carpenter, we the clay, He the potter. Never will we tell Him what to do or be or say. "We will bow down before Him, we will worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, bow down before Him, His accents proclaim!" Never will He bow down to us except to see what ever new tower of Babel we are now building.
Second 'morally'. The moment we enter worship we become aware of the uncleanness of our hearts and lives and everything else. And this does not stop when we become believers but stays. Listen to Paul as he who would seem to be a 'super christian' confesses himself to be of the lowest order. Where then is the  "Holiness of God" in the praise and worship culture? I do not say it is not there, I have no normal access to those circles so have no means to claim to know. But I will ask the question.

"Be wise now therefore, O ye Kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son lest he be angry and ye perish  from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are they who put their trust in HIM." Psa 2 10-12  It seems little known that the word to worship is literally "to approach someone with a kiss of reverence, recognition, adoration and respect". Greek word is "proskuneo". It is alive in the Roman Catholic church where the kissing of the popes ring or feet is part and parcel of that meaning. It used to be a gentleman's way of appreciating his lady by kissing her hand.
To kiss is in the NT "fileo" and is also the word for respectful love.  Another part of worship then. "Katafileo" meaning to "kiss vehemently" is used only of Judas kissing Christ in the early morning hours on not so good a Friday.

I cannot but wonder if the term 'groovy' for worship singing is not the same as "katafileo". All depends...

"If you say that I am your Father, where the is my honour? Why do you call me Master when your respect and reverent fear is nowhere to be seen? This is what the LORD Sabaoth says to you priests who disrespect, disregard and despise my Name. What? you reply, When and how do we disrespect your Name? By bringing unclean gifts to me!" Mal 6:1ff  The critics of the praise-culture tend to see this uncleanness in various ways. It seems, so they say, it is born out of a kind of "anything goes" that tickles the ears and gets the body moving. Call it worship and it is immune to scrutiny, for to question it would be to question God! (Woe is me: what wide open doors for every evil that opens up.) 

Celebrate creativity for it's own sake, allow many flowers to bloom. Be generous to those who want to shine on stage for God. Huh?

But has God then not told us how He wants to be worshipped? Hmm.. Reducing God to a cuddly bear or a chummy pal is blasphemy. No second opinion invited or asked.

Lastly: The modern day church offers a high tech and high energy consuming stage event. Seeing all the invested technology and even guessing at the cost of it is a daunting thing. It is only possible in a very artificial environment and could barely survive in the street or on any of the old mission fields where one hand cranked generator is still the order of the day. How do we put that into perspective?  What was our mission? "Stay in the building and sing? Make records, DVDs and tour the world with a praise train?" Standing on the promises of God is not the same as singing about them on the premisses. Does the praise culture draw people to the churches? Undoubtedly!! Well that is good!! They sure are not drawn any longer by the hymns of Wesley, Watts or Stainer. Neither will the music of today draw crowds tomorrow.

Do they also come to the new birth? To repentance, conversion, conviction and sanctification? They may, and sure enough unless they come within earshot they cannot hear that good news which is needed before they can  have the faith that saves.  So as a hook to draw them near it most certainly has a legitimate place.

BUT: The music as such never saves any one for the kingdom of God. And that goes for Johan Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang A Mozart, Gabriel Fauré and George Beverley Shea. It is no more right to routinely sing a hundred psalms of the Scottish Psalter without ever approaching God Himself as a result, than it is to repeat a few lines of words in an up-tempo body-shaking rhythm in a Bethel Church or Hillsong event.  That is not where it is at.

Musical seduction.

Singing praise to God is then not a debatable issue in itself. It becomes an issue when it brings musical offerings to God that God himself rejects.  It becomes an issue if the music that is a gift from God for man to be aware of God, becomes an instrument for leading away from God. There is plenty of that going on in the world. The most notable biblical case is found in the book of Daniel. (=God is judge)

Nebuchadnezzar is the mighty, almost omnipotent and grandly selfconfident ruler of Babylon, but suffers from the same megalomaniac tendencies as all tyrants. There can never be enough of the policy of "May they hate, if but they fear." (Latin: Oderint dum metuant). The need of the godless flesh to have all praise can never be stilled or satisfied. The very essence of Ego is to have, to extort, to manipulate and to demand that others should give ME all possible attention and all praise.

To that end He has a statue of gold set up and feigning humility he does not say it represents him, but  he still demands that everyone should fall down before that image and worship with face to the ground. The signal for the start of this false worship is the first cord struck by the orchestra. Consisting of cornets, flutes, harp, sackbut ( early bagpipes), psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musical instruments it would certainly be loud. It was also decisive. Not the music as such, but the expected result of listening to it. Hear and fall on your face!  Buy whatever message is behind the music or you will die!

Problem! No true child of Abraham, Isaac or Israel would ever bow down on command to any other man or that man's image. And there were such men in the very center of Nebuchadnezzars dominion. Bow they did not, seduced by the music they were not. They knew their God and no musical expression in the world would change their allegiance. To withstand whatever seduction lies behind this or that music you need to know a God worthy enough! One for whom  it is totally normal to give your very  life, if that is the only option to idolatry.

"(Nebuchadnezzar:)Oh you are believers? So you do not serve my gods, nor worship the golden image I have set up? Ok. I am giving you one more chance. If you now fall down when you hear the music then all is well, if not you will be cremated alive. Take your pick. The young men replied: "Well  we don't really need to reply to such nonsense. If you do what you threaten, then the Lord whom we serve is perfectly able to deliver us from any fiery furnace, and even more so out of your hand, O king. But should God so decide that the fire would have us, then so be it. But falling down to your image, serving your homemade gods? Think again...not in a million years!" Dan 3:1-18

What is the power behind any music in the church?  Those who say that the present day wave of worship culture is wrong must answer that question in no uncertain terms. And those who hold their present culture to be better or different and out-of-habit ok must do the same.

Music is and has always been used for different purposes. For good and bad. The christian faith has found many different ways of adapting music to its life as a church. Musical tastes  change and what is cherished by some is despised by others. That however is a secondary matter. How it is used is the primary matter! No music is right which does not accomplish the following:
"Wherefore be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is, you will not intoxicate yourself but keep on being infilled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. Giving thanks for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our  Lord Jesus Christ." Eph 5:17-20

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God and the Father by him. " Col 3:16-17

(Music and teaching is in order that)" The Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles and sing unto thy Name." Rom 15:9

"He is not ashamed to call them brethren but says: I will declare your name to the brethren and in the midst of the church/congregation I will sing praise to you." Heb 2:11-12

"And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God, the other inmates heard them. Suddenly an earthquake shook the prison, doors unlocked, chains flew off and all awoke, prisoners and guards alike. The chief warden feared God and fell on his knees before Paul and Silas and asked: what must I do to be saved?"  (How in the world could they sing without  microphone, drums, keyboard, hammond D3 organ or mixer panel, strobelights and loudspeakers? Just asking!)

Takes no genius to see what christian music is to be used for. But it takes the Spirit of God to make the musicians able to do what they hear.

I have been here long enough in the proximity of many christian practices in this field to have fairly wide insight into the variety there is. I have sung all the major works on the Choral society lists of choir favorites. I have even written a few pieces of music for bible texts myself. I have sung almost every hymn Wesley ever wrote. I am familiar with many variants of church music. 

I  am a little confident that I can recognize the word of the Lord in and  behind any music. And I am also quite good at seeing when it is the flesh trying to be religious. I know my own. It is easy to fall for the trap of producing something of my own and presenting it to God and asking him to accept my effort.

Abraham did. Yes, even he did that. Having blown a fuse or two and short circuited  his heart he accepted the idea of having a son by Hagar. It was a good idea. Ishmael is born. God visits:
-Abe dear you will have a son. 
-Ach, well Lord, I already fixed that for myself. Nee bother.. See my boy Ishmael over there.
-Nay nay me old friend, sure a nice lad but not what I said I wanted. You will have a son of my making, after my promise, not after your flesh.

Oh dear..what glory is there to God if all you have to offer is the best you can do without Him? That goes for everything, including music in the assembly of the saints.

Teddy Donobauer, Doncaster  Feb 5th 2018

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