“Inspiring Interviews”

The Sunday Sample: Episode 33

I’m launching an interview series. Please watch/listen and let me know when I could interview you.

 

Three questions are all we’re looking at:

  1. What is a particular strength of your worship team?
  2. What have you tried or are trying that is working?
  3. What is your one strongest conviction about leading corporate worship?

Please share your ideas here by leaving a comment.

And please pass this on to one other person.

God bless, Malcolm

“The Spiritual Benefits of Unbroken Focussed Worship”

The Sunday Sample: Episode 32

We tried something a little different this last Sunday – around 30 minutes of singing, prayer and readings at the beginning of our service.

See what you think of what we did. It is warts-and-all, so be kind!

Please share your ideas here by leaving a comment.

And please pass this on to one other person.

God bless, Malcolm

“How to be safe”, Psalm 100

"..we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”

How can we be safe? What is true safety? And what does Jesus provide that no other person can?

“Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” (Psalms 100:3 NIV11)

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

Do you have a question about the Bible or the Christian faith? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send us your questions or suggestions.

Thanks again for watching. Have a super day.

God bless,

Malcolm

“Amen, and Amen”

The Sunday Sample, Episode 31

How often do you say the word, “Amen” in a church service? Not as a response to a prayer or statement from another person, but as a filler word? It’s probably more often than you think. I do it more than what I would like to admit. The frequency has declined, but it still happens from time to time. Why does it matter?
It matters because the word, “Amen” is a Bible word rich in spiritual meaning. To use it loosely empties it of its potential power, and compromises its God-given purpose.
 
I would like to create some momentum amongst those of us who lead worship in eradicating the word “Amen” from any context in which it lacks meaningHow will we do this? Let me take you through five points inspired by the book, “participating in worship” by Craig Douglas Ericsson

“Amen” comes from the Hebrew verb ‘mn. When we say “Amen” we are saying a Hebrew word that has been used for millennia. It means: surely, truth, most certainly, so be it, to be faithful, reliable, steadfast, established, firm.

2. Origin of usage

The word, “Amen” was used in synagogues and the Temple. Since then it has become common in both Christian and Muslim circles. It has been adopted as a transliteration by many languages.

3. Biblical usage

The Hebrew version of the word is found in 25 verses of the Old Testament. The Greek version of “Amen” is found in 104 verses of the New Testament, translated in a variety of ways (Amen, truly, very). It is most common in the Gospels, with Matthew (31), and John (50) containing by far the most.
 
“In Biblical usage, ‘Amen’ is a formula that is spoken by the congregation at the end of the liturgy (e.g. 1 Chronicles 16:36) or at the end of the doxology (e.g. Romans 1:25).” Erickson
 
In the New Testament “Amen” is used as an indicator that something important is about to be said. Jesus said “Amen, Amen” (translated as “Verily, verily,” or “truly, truly”) before some of his most important pronouncements.

4. Historical usage

Most commonly, “Amen” is used after someone has prayed, and the congregation signals its agreement with what has been said. Augustine wrote, “to say ‘Amen’ is to subscribe.”
 
  • Agreement: a congregation might say “Amen” spontaneously in agreement with a speaker. In saying “Amen” we, as the body of Christ, are giving collective spiritual agreement to the truth of what has been said. There is much power in this corporate assent. Jerome recorded that the Amen of his congregation was “like thunder shaking the empty temples of the idols”!
  • Unity: “Amen can express unanimity of belief. This is the predominant sense at the conclusion of the creeds.
  • Sealing: “Amen” is appropriate when someone is baptised or married. For example, “I am now able to baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit and you will be added to Christ’s church. AMEN”

5. Modern usage

In the congregations I serve, “Amen” is most commonly used in corporate settings in the following ways:
  1. As a corporate response to someone leading a prayer
  2. As a spontaneous personal response to something said in the church service, most often the sermon.
  3. As a corporate response to a Bible reading. As in, “… and the church said – AMEN.”
  4. As a seal on baptism (as above in point 4).
  5. As a way for a speaker to get a response to his or her point. As in, “If you want to be confident of your salvation, you must make every effort. Amen?”
  6. As a filler between songs, at the end of speaking slots. Too often the word is used to mask insecurity in the speaker or worship leader or fill a moment of silence.

Two Recommendations

Using the word, “Amen” in our times of corporate worship is thoroughly biblical and helpful. However, we might want to rethink the habits, traditions and customs we have adopted. Let us consider whether the way we use the word, “Amen” is serving a useful spiritual purpose.
  1. Stop using the word, “Amen” as a filler in corporate worship. Instead, allow silence. Or say something more meaningful about what has just been said or sung, and what is about to be said or sung. The key to improving is to be better prepared and consider in advance what to say, for example, at the end of a song.
  2. Continue using the word, “Amen” in all other corporate worship circumstances.
Augustine wrote, to say 'Amen' is to subscribe. Click To Tweet

Questions

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you think it’s worth trying to eradicate the use of the word, “Amen” as a filler? Am I being too fussy? What have you done to reduce the use of filler words?
 
  • Please leave a comment wherever you hear or see this or read this. I would love to know what you think. We learn best when we learn in community.
  • Please pass the link to this recording/article to at least one other person who might benefit from it.
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  • If you have not already done so, please subscribe to the podcast or the YouTube channel or the website where you found this article. That will make sure you don’t miss future videos, recordings and articles.
Thank you so much for reading, listening and watching. I hope that the next time you gather with your friends to worship God, you will have a cracking time of corporate worship.
 
We can all say, “AMEN” to that!
 
God bless, Malcolm
¹ “Participating in Worship: history, theory, and practice”, Craig Douglas Erickson, Westminster/John Knox press, 1989, pp61-64

“The Lord is good and his love endures forever.” Psalm 100.5

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 34

We conclude our exploration of Psalm 100 by moving on to verse 5. As mentioned previously, I am planning a church service focussed on the message of this Psalm. I’m writing these blogs to ask for your feedback and thoughts.
 
 
“For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
 
The previous verse gives us an invitation and an exhortation. The invitation is to come into God’s presence, and the exhortation is to be thankful and praise God. Today we will explore the following verse which assures us of God’s love and faithfulness.
 

1. Long-lasting love

The word translated “love” is the important Hebrew word “chesed”. It involves the feeling of love, but it means more than feeling. This love is unfailing, loyal, devoted, kind and merciful. Really, it is a divine love.
 
God’s love for us can be trusted because he is loyal to us, just as he was loyal to the Israelites despite their rebellion, failings and weaknessesHe is consistently “good” to us, even when we are consistently “bad” to him. As Jesus said,
“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)
This is a love that cannot be thwarted. The Apostle Paul had a good handle on this kind of love. Have a read of the MESSAGE version of Romans 8:35-39:
 
“Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:
‘They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.’
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”
 
How do we know that God is love-loyal to us? The cross and the empty tomb are all the evidence we need. The cross tells us God has already made the supreme sacrifice of love so that we can experience his love. The empty tomb tells us God has the power to overcome any barrier to us experiencing his love.
 
God’s long-lasting love is a compelling reason to trust him with the here and now.

2. Forever faithful

The long-lasting love of God is the reason we can live with confidence. Confident in God’s love for us now, and confident about our future. Both our future in this life, and our future in the next life.
 
The Psalmist says, “his faithfulness continues through all generations” because it does. God’s faithfulness was not only to Noah and Abraham. It was not only to Isaac and Joseph. It was not only to Daniel and Jeremiah. It was not only to Ezra and Nehemiah. It was not only to David and Solomon. It was not only to John the Baptist and Jesus. It was not only to Peter and John. It was not only to Paul and Timothy.
 
God’s faithfulness began in Eden with Adam and Eve and continues today all these millennia later to every person on this planet. Billions and billions.
 
Our unfaithfulness is powerless to prevent God faithfully putting faith in humankind. As Paul put it,
 
“What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar.” Romans 3:3-4.
 
If God’s faithfulness is available to every generation, why do we fear what will happen in the future? If God promises to love our children and our children’s children with equal faithfulness to the love he has shown us, why do we worry about our children?
 
To have a loving concern for our children is healthy, but to worry about them not only creates tension but is an implicit assumption of God’s unfaithfulness.
 
If God has loved you, he will love the next generation, and the one after that, and the one after that…
Psalm 100 ends by looking forward with optimism. God has given us many reasons to be thankful, grateful and joyful. We are secure in our identity and safe in his flock. We have good reason to shout and sing his praises.
 
What we see in this Psalm provides a good model for most personal prayer and our times of corporate worship. Pray over it, meditate on it. Let it sink into the mind and the heart.
 

Question

What helps you to believe that the LORD is fundamentally good? In what way have you seen his love remain consistent in your life? How do you feel about the next generation?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 
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“How to teach a new song”

The Sunday Sample: Episode 30

Psalm 33:3, “Sing to him a new song; play skilfully, and shout for joy.”

What is the best way to teach a new song? We look at a four-step process:

  1. Go through words
  2. Play audio track
  3. Sing along to backing track
  4. Sing with own instruments

Please share your ideas here by leaving a comment.

And please pass this on to one other person.

God bless, Malcolm

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving. Psalm 100.4”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 33

We continue exploring Psalm 100 by moving on to verse 4. As mentioned previously, I am planning a church service with a difference based on this Psalm. I’m writing these blogs to solicit your feedback and thoughts.

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“Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.”
(Psalm 100:4 NIV11)

The previous verse reminds us we belong to God and that “we are his people, the sheep of his pasture”. Today we will explore the following verse which issues us with another invitation and an exhortation.

1. The invitation to enter

The scene is the temple. Imagine yourself there, standing before the enormous gates. Inside you can see the courts. Crowds are praising God. Someone beckons you, and says, “You are welcome here. Come in. Pass through these gates and enter God’s courts.”

For a moment you wonder if you are worthy. According to the Journal of Biblical studies,

‘The Mishnah specifically states that those “unable to go up by foot” were exempt from temple attendance (Hag 2a), and it argues from Ex 23:14 that “the pilgrim must have use of both feet” (Hag 3a). Thus “going by foot” or “walking” was a significant aspect of pilgrimage to the festivals. In order to participate in a feast, a man had to be able to walk…. Lev 21:18 bans a lame priest from approaching the sanctuary.”1

Everyone is invited, but not everyone is permitted. Are you allowed to enter? A new covenant image similar in its significance is found in Revelation,

“Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27 NIV11-GK)

The kingdom of God is shut to the unclean. And we are all unclean (Romans 3.23). What is there to do about this tragedy?

As Paul said, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25 NIV11)

It’s possible to forget how privileged we are. God cherishes our presence and invites us into a personal relationship with him. For this reason we not only accept God’s invitation to enter, but do so with joyous abandon.

2. The command to give thanks

The excitement appropriate to the privilege of coming into God’s courts is illustrated by the healing of the lame man in Acts chapter 3. After Peter heals him at the site of one of the gates, the lame man,

“…jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.” (Acts 3:8 NIV11-GK)

What a terrific illustration of not only joy following healing, but thankfulness of finally being able to worship at the temple. All his life he had watched people pass by and go through the gates into the temple courts. They were able to worship with other Israelites. They could express their joy in praise. He could only look on longingly.

On the day he met Peter and John everything changed. Now he could join in. Now he could not only observe, but participate. His joy is an example and an inspiration to us.

What do we give thanks for? Why do we praise his name? Above all things, we are grateful for our salvation. For our relationship with God.

The New Testament is full of exhortations to be thankful.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” (Hebrews 13:15 NIV11)

“..always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20 NIV11)

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17 NIV11)

“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV11)

The normal, healthy perspective of a Christian is one of thankfulness. We have our ups and downs. We do well to be honest with God when we are sad or grieving. But, the standard attitude of a heart connected with God is one of praise and gratitude.

Conclusion

Verse four is unusual in that it contains four Hebrew words for praise: todah; tehillah; yadah; barak. They are all connected with grateful worship of God. In piling these words up in just one verse, the author of this Psalm is inspiring us to overflow with gratitude, thankfulness and praise.

It is as if he is using exclamation marks and CAPS.

“Enter his gates with THANKSGIVING!!!
and his courts with PRAISE!!!
give THANKS!!! to him and PRAISE!!! his name.” (Psalms 100:4 NIV11)

Why not reflect on the New Testament passages about your identity in Christ. Think on how lucky you are to be one of his people and invited into God’s presence. Let your thankfulness pour out.

We will continue to explore the Psalm between now and 6 May. Pray over it, meditate on it. Let it sink in to the mind and the heart.

Question

What helps you to be confident in coming into the presence of God in prayer? What is it about being a follower of Jesus that creates the most thankfulness in you?

Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best, when we learn in community.

I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.

God bless, Malcolm

1: From: http://journalofbiblicalstudies.org/Issue3/Articles/keys_to_the_gate_beautiful.htm

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“How to keep the worship flow going”

The Sunday Sample: Episode 29

How do we keep the worship flow going? What prevents the songs from being separate items? I share something we tried at church last Sunday.

Please share your ideas here by leaving a comment.

And please pass this on to one other person.

God bless, Malcolm

“To dance or not to dance?”

The Sunday Sample: Episode 28

I received a question recently. It asked whether we, as worship leaders, should be leading the congregation in dancing? Here is my answer….

Please share your ideas here by leaving a comment.

And please pass this on to one other person.

God bless, Malcolm

“Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” Psalm 100:2

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 31

We continue our exploration of Psalm 100 by moving on to verse 2. As mentioned in previous blogs, I am planning a very special service based on the Psalm. To make sure that it’s focused in the right way, I’m devoting time and energy to studying, praying through and meditating on Psalm 100. I’m writing these blogs to help me with this, but also to get your feedback and thoughts.
 
 
“Worship the Lord with gladness;
Come before him with joyful songs.”
(Psalm 100:2 NIV11)
 
The New Bible Commentary (IVP) sees this verse as intimately connected with verse 1. We have three invitations in these two verses: to shout, worship and come.
 
We dealt with “shout” last time. Today we will consider the invitations to “worship” and “come”.
 

1. Worship the Lord with gladness

To worship is to serve. Some translations have the word “serve” here. As Warren Wiersbe said, “Joyful noise leads to joyful service”.* Why are we glad in God’s service? Because, just as the Israelites were liberated from their slavery in Egypt, we…
 
“…have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:18 NIV11)
 
Hence, we delight to offer ourselves in worshipful service,
 
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1 NIV11)
 
Are you grumpy about serving God? Perhaps you have forgotten God’s mercy. Are you moody when joining your brothers and sisters in corporate worship? Perhaps a prayer for renewed gladness would be appropriate before entering the building. Resist the temptation to be like the older brother who found little about which to be glad and refused to join in the gladness of his younger brother and his father (Luke 15:32).
 
Refresh yourself with the correct vision of the future. We have much to be glad about:
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7 NIV11)
 

2. Come before him with joyful songs

We are invited into the very presence of God. The word translated “before him” is the Hebrew word ‘paneh’. It means ‘before’ and ‘face’. In other words, we are coming face to face with God.
 
That’s a wonderful invitation for us. All the more so for an Israelite, who knew he could not see God’s face and live (Ex 33.20). Although no one may literally see God’s face in this life, God is signalling his desire that we would know him personally. And he is signalling his vision that one day this will be the case.
 
What could be more appropriate, when coming face-to-face with God, than to sing joyful songs? One of the ways we serve God is by coming together to worship him in song.
 
The implication of the “joyful songs” is that we sing with confidence. Not confidence in our musical ability, but singing without hesitation. We do not hesitate in singing to God because we are confident in his mercy to us and, as we shall see in verse three, confidence in our acceptance as God’s people.

Conclusion

Today, and this week, why not explore serving God with gladness? Take some time to reflect on how lucky we are to be able to come face-to-face with him. Make it your intention to sing joyfully the next time you participate in corporate worship.
We will continue to explore the Psalm between now and 6 May. Pray over it, meditate on it. Let it sink into the mind and the heart.
 

Question

What gets in the way of serving the Lord with gladness? What helps you to be joyful in your singing?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 
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