Posts Tagged With: Bible Study

Silence Leads to Violence

The complacency of fools will destroy them. (Proverbs 1:32b)
One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys. (Proverbs 18:9)

We are all limited in our knowledge, to some degree or another. We are all also limited in our service to the Lord, in one way or another, either due lack of ability or lack of faithful effort. Anyone who fails to serve is subject to destruction. Jeremiah knew this full well:
A curse on anyone who is lax in doing the Lord’s work!
A curse on anyone who keeps their sword from bloodshed! (Jeremiah 48:10)

The reasons there are wars & rumors of wars at this time is because of the shortage of those doing the Lord’s preferred work of blessing the nations. If we do not bless, we will be accursed. If we do not build up the Kingdom of God among the nations, we will have to tear down the kingdoms of man called nations.

Ezekiel (3:16-21), who prophesied about the same time, received a message from God that made what Jeremiah prophesied clearer:

At the end of seven days the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.

“Again, when a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before them, they will die. Since you did not warn them, they will die for their sin. The righteous things that person did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the righteous person not to sin and they do not sin, they will surely live because they took warning, and you will have saved yourself.”

In other words, if a person does not share the wisdom that God has given them with those who are ignorant, the wise man must execute judgment. Silence leads to violence.

In what was likely one of the first portions of the New Testament that was written down and distributed, Paul wrote in Galatians: As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (1:9) Later on in the book, Paul expanded later in the book of Galatians how we are to identify with Jesus’ ostracism from the community of the self-righteous by setting the example: For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (2:19-20) So we see that there is a dying that must take place to identify with Jesus.

Paul went on to make it clear that:
For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (3:10-14)
To follow Jesus is to believe that His death on the cross was sufficient to take all the curses that you deserve, so that through the Messiah Who was crushed, you might be lifted up with Him Who is exalted over every other name and so receive the Spirit of God through the promise you trust. We who receive this promised spirit then are able to bless the nations.

Back to an idea in Proverbs about character: Who are we? Paul says, “We are fools for Christ …” (1 Corinthians 4:10a) To be fools for someone means you will do some things that seem foolish because of your attachment to that person. This may seem like a bad idea, but the alternative to being zealously in love with the Lord is not a good one. Paul includes in the conclusion to his letter to the Corinthians, “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord!” (16:22) Whoa! Either we love the Lord or we love the world. There is no middle ground. The world may seem good and full of goods, but God is the Truly Good.

Yet our love for the Lord should lead to a love for the lost that says, “Better I die & go to hell, than that many people would die & go to hell.” Again, Paul testifies in Romans 9:2-4a “I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” As he was about to go to Jerusalem and then on to Rome itself, he said, “I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:23-24) The only reason we live on planet earth after we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior & acknowledge Him as Lord is to make known the Kingdom of Heaven known on earth. God is patient with us so that we might make known His salvation known through our whole life.

Lest we think of this as merely exemplary living, Paul opens his letter to the Philippians with a meditation on his future on earth:
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. (1:20-26)

The point of his life is not himself, but Christ who lives in Him. Christ has become our hope of glory. Let us glory not in being right in ourselves or right with the world. Rather, let us boast of the Righteous One who has come to our defense.

Do you lack any joy? Stop looking for joy in special seasons or special saints or special gifts or special sources of happiness. Let all your springs be in the Lord Jesus. Take offense at no humbug this season. Let not death quench your happiness, but let all things lead you closer and closer to Jesus. Let Him be the Word of God to you. Let Him be the Open Door that is set before you. Let Him be your Bread of Life. Let Him be your Resurrection & your Life. Have you lost your way from the path of peace? Look to Him as the Prince of Peace and pledge allegiance to Him alone. Follow Jesus as the Way. Believe in Him as the Truth. Love Him as the Life. He will bring you to the Father from whom all family derives its name and your spirit will mingle with the Very Spirit of God this Christmas.

Let us go out and tell our families, our friends, our neighbors, and yes, even our enemies what the Lord has done for us not only at Christmas, but also on the cross. The devil also needs to hear more about the saving victory of the Lord Jesus Christ who is risen and coming quickly. Marana tha!

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Sing to the Lord a New Song

“If every promise in the book is mine, then I want this one,” I thought as I read in the Apocalypse the description of 144,000 male virgins who have not defiled themselves with women and followed him everywhere and didn’t lie, etc. These were the only ones who could learn to sing the new song. (Revelation 14:1-5)

“Wow!” I thought, “I want to learn that new song.” I wondered exactly where in the Bible I could find that new song or if it was something that would be revealed supernaturally through a vision. I didn’t take out commentaries on Revelation which offer explanations ranging as divergent as the churches which read the Bible. I began to pray and seek the Lord for wisdom or grace or power or whatever it would take to sing the new song. I knew it would be good, and I wanted the ability to sing this new song which seemed hidden from me.

Problem: I am far from musical. In high school, I learned how to play the French horn but didn’t practice much. The only thing I really took from that training is that I am always on the wrong beat when I clap.

While this passage in Revelation gave no indication that musical talent was a prerequisite, it seemed pretty important. At first, only the words to poetry came. I kept them in good rhyme and good rhythm, but I was had no music. You have no song if you have no music but just lyrics. I scored an F flat on the chart of getting a new song on the radio, so I tried to forget about it.

But it wouldn’t go away, because every so often, I learned a new song that somebody else had written in contemporary music. I would sing along with the new song until I learned it and then added it to my memory banks. The college worship events I participated in were often attended by zealous souls who want to encounter God to the fullest. Music is part of that, and new songs seemed to be a regular occurrence. I even met a man who learned to play the guitar and write music even though he was middle-aged.

I gained no more skill in music, though I had been in a college choir that toured Sinaloa, Mexico to encourage the church and evangelize using English, translated, and Latino Christian lyrics and bells to share the message. My particular gift was to present the Christus Hymn in Spanish (from Filepensus 2:1-11, NVI) in a dramatic interpretation before the crowds.

Around that time, I went to the hospital with the first onset of a chronic illness. I had to do some rethinking: What can I do and what can I not do? What is real and what is not? What does Revelation really mean?

Once I returned to college, I learned more new songs. Once again, I wanted to sing a new song. In my senior year, I did an independent study on worship in the Old Testament, New Testament, and early church. But that produced no new music, though I did write a few new poems. After all, how does one write hymns based on an index of references to worship practices in the extant early church fathers? Not too inspiring, to say the least.

I was preparing for graduation in my senior year and dreading leaving my friends. Then in March of 1997, a tornado struck the town of Arkadelphia, Arkansas where I was finishing up my undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies. I volunteered to help sort and distribute food and clothes sent to the church I participated in near the epicenter of the disaster which also served as the hub for the relief effort.

I started to wear down. School, health, and tornado-related matters all converged to form a storm front in my mind. One day, as I was walking home from church, I began to hum-sing a few lines based on Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto Me, all who are weary / Come unto Me, all who need rest / Come unto Me, all who are tired / all who long for righteousness.”

I sang that a few times, each time with more confidence. Then I started a new stanza, as I thought about the fact I still had work to do, “Take up the cross, if you will follow / Take up the cross, if you know Christ / Take up the cross, if you love Jesus / for he paid the final price.”

After learning the new stanza, and repeating it with the first a few times, I was really excited and knew that the final line about the “final price” could not be the final line any longer. Reinvigorated, I headed towards my dorm room, “Tell the Good News to all your family / Tell the Good News to all your friends / Tell the Good News to all your neighbors / Ev’ry place the Spirit sends.”

Recently, friend wrote out this Gospel Song. Click Here to view a PDF score of the lyrics & melody.

God had done some amazing things in saving some people from the tornado and moving people to send and distribute supplies. He had done amazing work in strengthening me and would do amazing work in helping me complete my studies. And he had taught me a new song.

Later, while studying at Notre Dame, I led a Bible study on singing a “new song” and learned that all related passages have to do with salvation and, in context, at least half of them relate to God’s redeeming work among the nations*. (Psalm 33:3, 10; 40:3; *96:1; *98:1-2; 144:9-11; 149:1, 7; *Isaiah 42:10; *Revelation 5:9; *14:3-6) As Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology records, “One could say that there is one new song but this song has many stanzas. All of God’s redeemed will add stanzas to that song throughout eternity as they praise him progressively and continually for his mercy, love, and grace …”+

As I became involved more in missions mobilization, I realized that this just made sense: Each culture requires worship music in that culture’s language if it is to sing the praises of God most effectively. These musics change over time. When revival comes, new songs are written to speak to the new generation. Some songs are better than others, some are meant to persist. When those revivals take root and transform, missionaries go out to other cultures, carrying the Good News to new places. … And so the pattern continues to the present day.

This pattern has become such an art and a science that there are ethnodoxologists who specialize in advancing this work. The International Council of Ethnodoxologists has a site designed to help interested people find resources and training:
http://www.worldofworship.org/

One new song illustrates how this can work. As I was driving down the road one autumn day, I saw some African-American youth who were gathered around a car talking. I was happy and began rapping, “Break it down to the lowest level. Bring ’em up to the highest level. Jesus came to the lowest level. Jesus rose to the highest level. Hip, hop. Don’t stop. Get the Word to the world!” After learning the new rap, I went back and presented it to the kids. We talked. They affirmed the Gospel.

A couple years later, I was invited for a series of youth meetings at a church in a poverty-ridden African American neighborhood. I pulled out that song and rapped for the gathering. They loved it. They had their own rap. Afterwards, the youth figured out their own rhythm for the rap. God was at work.

Every now and then, I still sing new songs, either written by me or by others. Why? God continues to work. Are all of them of equal value or quality or of the same genre? No. Will any of my songs be sung 100 years from now? I would be surprised. Though I don’t get these songs from an audible voice, I do know of someone who heard the choirs of angels sing more than 10 years ago. My songs typically just come from Scripture or experience.

I have learned through many dangers, toils and snares how to sing the new song: Listen for the voice of the Lord and pour out your heart before Him. Though I may not hear them, I sing with the angels.

(You have full permission to sing the New Song, so long as you don’t seek to profit from others efforts without sharing with them. Contact me if you have any questions.)
mertaka@everybody.org
734-883-1831
PO Box 981215, Ypsilanti, MI 48198-1215

+ Elwell, Walter A. “Entry for ‘New Song'”. “Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology”. 1897.

Categories: Missions, Revival | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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