Songs Form Our Theology

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Hymns of old conveyed great biblical theology – though criticized for their use of secular tunes of the day, over the last 200 years or so, they have been embraced by churches all around the world, even the extremely conservative ones. Through the 1970s – 90s, many choruses were written for the church and they brought into corporate worship something that the hymn-writers have not emphasized – the element of personal communion & intimate conversation with God through songs of worship. “I worship You almighty God, there is none like You, I worship You, O Prince of peace, this is what I long to do ….”, “Within the veil, I now would come, into Thy holy place to look upon Thy face ….”, “O Lord, You’re beautiful, Your face is what I see ….”, etc. These are words of the choruses written in that era, an era characterized by intimate worship – deep personal expressions of desire, worship, devotion and surrender. Of course, there were also many songs written about other themes. For instance, songs about spiritual warfare that encourage Christians to fight and win spiritual battles against the devil – our unseen enemy. Today, there seems to be an interesting reversal to writing songs with lyrics and tunes similar to the hymns – but sung to modern musical arrangement. For example, 10000 Reasons, Cornerstone, etc. There is good solid theology in these new songs and that is always a good thing. There is also a strong emphasis on declaring the love of God the Father, the Father-child relationship (yet not so much on intimate communion and personal conversation with God; neither is our relationship with God as His servants found in most songs today). This emphasis on God’s love for us is also often expressed in the first person singular – “for me”. As a result, if the worship leader is not careful in his or her selection of songs, week after week, he or she will end up leading the congregation into a ME-focused, ME-centred worship (isn’t it supposed to be all about Him?). Isn’t that what worship means? Primarily to offer something to do the Lord – our hearts, our lives and our resources, and not primarily focused on receiving or being thankful for what we have received? While there is a place for songs of gratitude and even songs of comfort, these songs should not dominate our worship experiences which should be mainly focused on us offering something to God in worship. And it doesn’t help when our mindset is often about how to minister to the people forgetting that in worship, we are supposed to lead people to minister to the Lord! The other glaring thing for me is the seemingly absence of songs about spiritual warfare. What happened to words like, “Making war in the heavenlies, tearing down principalities, standing firm in Jesus’ victory; making war in the heavenlies, tearing down every high thing, that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ”, “Rise up, you people of power, stand up across the land, take up the Sword of the Spirit, pull down the enemy’s plans ….”, “Summon Your power O God, show us Your strength as You have done before!”, etc. All who are involved in leading worship ministries in church must not only think about polishing the skills of the musicians and singers, not only teach about having the right heart and attitude in leading worship, but also ensure that God’s people go away having had an intimate communion with the Lord that will result in real lifechange (not just providing a wonderful dose of high emotions) and receiving good, comprehensive understanding of God, His Word and our faith journey through careful selection of songs to sing. Many of us remember phrases from the songs we sing in church more than what the preacher said in his sermon! And the frequent recollection and singing of those phrases will eventually form our theology. How do we want people to leave church service feeling each Sunday? Feeling loved and comforted? That’s a good start. But what about also feeling strong and determined to fight the good fight, run the race and keep the faith? While I love to see people smile at the end of our service, I also love to see people looking intensely serious and radically focused on wanting to live it right and fight hard to win the spiritual battles that surround them.

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The Righteousness of Christ and the Importance of Its Practice

The righteousness of Christ is not only imputed on us but must be PRACTICED. John says in 1Jn.3 we are of the devil if we make a practice of sinning because no one who abides in Christ keeps on sinning. That means if a man or a woman keeps on sinning, even though they may say or think or believe they are Christian, they really are not! The evidence of true faith is not only in the receiving of the righteousness of Christ but the practice of it. So dear fellow believers, practice righteousness today and everyday.

“No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice if sinningis of the devil…..” – ‭‭1 John‬ ‭3:6-8 ESV‬‬

God’s love language

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Deuteronomy 23:1-25:19; Psalms 82:1-8

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
Deuteronomy 23:5 “But the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam; instead the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loved you.”

REFLECT
I wonder what was it like when the people of Israel heard these words “because the LORD your God loved you”. Did they recollect the way God cared for them? Or had they taken God’s love for granted? It was because of God’s love that all these statutes and commandments were given to the people after they were brought out of their slavery in Egypt. It was because of God’s love that their enemies were destroyed and some even barred from entering into the assembly of the Most High. It was because of God’s love that Balaam’s curses were turned into blessings. God’s love language did not dwell in the theoretical, but that His love is constantly demonstrated through His actions and power for His beloved. We worship a God of action and by right, we should be a people of action to show His love to others as well.

RELATE
I will always remember the times when God communicated His love for me. His timing in the communication of these simple but powerful words are always perfect. It was during these moments that I was deeply encouraged to carry on the things that He wants me to do and be the person that He wants me to be. Yet, God did not merely communicate “about” His love for me through His Word, He constantly demonstrated His love for me as well through actions. Such is the extent of God’s grace for our lives. He cares for the little details that we, in our finite understanding of God’s character, wonder why He even bothered!

In reflection, how can i also show such love to the people around me? For example, how can I verbally communicate love to my children and at the same time, demonstrate to them that I truly mean what I say? Have I been a hypocrite by verbally promising them love but have not done so regularly through actions? Or how can I in action, care for the poor and needy within my immediate community? Do I preach to the congregation about what we can do and yet turn a blind eye to them at times? May i learn more and more from the character of God, who do what He say all the time. For His love language is not only of words, but of action. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

REST
Lord our God, help me to be a man who love not merely in words, but action. Help me to love in accordance to Your Word and even in the most dire of circumstances, as You have purposed. Amen.

Boundaries of Mercy

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Deuteronomy 18-20; Psalm 81

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Deuteronomy 19:14
“You shall not remove your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.

REFLECT
This was a simple but important command – don’t try to gain a little bit more land by shifting your neighbor’s boundary fence. Given the large areas that agricultural families might own, the adjustment would not even be noticeable. But the principle remained. What belonged to another was not for one to take freely. Personal ownership was respected. But generosity was also expected. (See e.g. Deuteronomy 15:7)

RELATE
Today, my thoughts turned towards the millions of desperate people leaving their own country in search of safety and survival. At present, many countries in Europe have decided to close the door to migrants. They have sealed their borders and erected soldiers to guard them. Even when these migrants were dying at sea, they have not been allowed to land on European soil. How did personal ownership become the reason for cruelty? If someone dying knocks at our door, do we have a right to chase him away? What would Singapore do if one day a boat full of Rohingyas is discovered just 100m off East Coast Park?

REST
Lord, help me to never shut the door at anyone who needs a place of refuge.

Your Church – A Community Or A Commercial Entity?

IMG_5948 - old chapel-near-fflad-y-brenin copyDoes your church feel more like a community that is caring, supportive, real, authentic, unconditionally loving, warm, friendly, serious about teaching God’s Word, uncompromising in discipleship to help fellow believers faithfully live out what we believe, passionate about winning souls to Christ and about life-change OR does your church feel more like a commercial entity where the above qualities have been compromised? When you attend your church service, does it feel like you’re truly worshiping God and that there is sincerity and earnestness in people on the platform reaching out to you to encourage you, comfort you, teach you and correct you where necessary OR does it feel more like you’re attending some sort of a mass music event and public talk that lacks authenticity and heart-to-heart connection? Are the people serving in your church busy with the works of the ministry or busy with touching lives one by one – making time to connect with you at a genuine and personal level? There are many more questions to ask but I think the above are more than sufficient for now. If you are currently in a church that feels more like an authentic Christian community, great – and please contribute unconditionally and sacrificially to your amazing community. But if you are currently in a church that feels more like a commercial entity, don’t be quick to judge, instead lovingly seek to make a difference one life at a time. BE THE CHANGE and before long, you’ll find yourself making the change. Kindness breeds kindness. Generosity breeds generosity. Unconditional love breeds, you guessed it, unconditional love. “Be excellent in what is good, be innocent of evil.” (Rom.16:19)

Grace + Holiness

Think of all the scandals in churches, families and the marketplace – I believe most of them would not have happened if Christians involved were committed to be holy just as the Lord is holy, if we had chosen to walk on the path of righteousness for His name sake, and if we were really convinced that there is judgment and hell in the end for the ungodly. Did they receive grace and forgiveness of past sins prior to the scandals? Of course they did. The problem is not that they didn’t receive grace, the real problem is that the kind of grace they had been taught does not lead to obedience, righteousness and holiness. That is also called cheap grace – which is not the grace of God at all. Grace + Holiness brings GLORY to God every time!

Holiness Revolution

We need a HOLINESS REVOLUTION today! “…. without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb.12:14)! With Christians committed to being holy and with the Holy Spirit enabling us from within us, our children, teenagers and young adults will see what holy living looks like and hopefully emulate it. When that happens, a new generation of holy saints of God will rise up to God’s call and bring God’s presence and influence to their generation!