Do Furry Friends Wait For Us?

Are There Animals in Heaven?

There is place of which nearly everyone believes exist, a place of which the beloved John wrote about. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…” (Revelation 21:1)  Jesus spoke about the present heaven, the place were God resides and a place were there is much joy. (Luke 15:7)

How we feel about heaven, God and Jesus Christ determines how sensitive we are to the Holy Spirit. A heartfelt approach to studying the Biblical truth of heaven will set the focus of our thoughts and fill our hearts with anticipation. Understanding the truths of heaven not only breeds anticipation for the future, it lays down a foundation for us to find comfort when loved ones pass on. Heaven is a place of reunion. (2 Samuel 12:23) When Christians make it to heaven, they will receive a grand welcome. Is it possible there will be beloved pets in heaven? Lets look with anticipation what the Bible does tell us.

The Bible does not clearly state we will see specific pets or other animals we have been given stewardship over in heaven. The Bible does give us the character of God and His love for us. Jesus says that God gives “good gifts to those who ask….” (Matthew 7:11)  We know that God is aware of our love for our pets and how important they are. In 2 Samuel we read of the Lord sending the prophet Nathan to King David to give a divine message of correction. Nathan shares a parable of two men, one rich, one poor. The rich man has a large amount of sheep and cattle. The poor man had one ewe of which the parable says was very special to him, it had slept in his arms, the ewe lamb was like a daughter to him. When the rich man wanted to prepare a meal to entertain guest, instead of using one of his livestock for food, the rich man took the ewe from the poor man and prepared it for eating. King David burned with anger because of the disrespect the rich man had for the love the poor man had for his ewe. Although Nathan was dealing with David’s sin of adultery and murder. It is safe to say, God is aware of our love of the pets He has given us and their positive effect on our lives. What the New Testament does say is that God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17)

In Isaiah 11:6-10 we read of the Messiah’s kingdom to come, that place were the righteous will enjoy the Lord’s reign. (Commentary of the Old Testament; Isaiah 65:25; New Heaven and New Earth) “The wolf shall lay with the lamp, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow shall feed with the bear; their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, the young child shall put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord…”   In Revelation we read of Jesus and His army riding white horses when they come to defeat Satan and the beast. (Revelation 19:11-16) The armies with Jesus are those whom the Bible says are the “chosen and faithful followers.” (Revelations 17:14; 19:8)

There will be animals on this earth during the thousand years reign of Christ and there will be animals in the new heavens and on the new earth. (Isaiah 65:25)  This may be a Terry Laughlin 10:99. The Bible says God gives everything for our enjoyment, it would not be out of line to have blessed belief that God gave us pets for our enjoyment here on this earth, then our pets could very well be in heaven awaiting us in the new heavens and on the new earth.

What we do have is the promise in Romans 8:20-21. First the fruit of sin; “For creation was subject to frustration.” At this present time, everything is subject to the consequences of Eve’s and Adam’s sin. Second, is the promise, “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption [decay] and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”  Everything is going to be restored, us, this earth, heaven, animals, that could include our pets. Romans 8:22 tells us that “whole creation has been groaning… right up to the present time” for its future glory. This denotes a hope of new life for all creation. (The New American Commentary; Daily Study Bible Series; Matthew Henry Commentary; The Pulpit Commentary; Bible Knowledge Commentary; Willmington’s Bible Commentary)

One of God’s greatest gifts for our enjoyment are animals, this is especially true of pets. Too often theologians have worked aggressively to prove a point, thus causing many to live with the uncertainty of the eternal state of their pets and the animals they took care of for the Lord. Just as there are Biblical theologians who say we will not see animals on this earth in heaven, there are just as many born-again theologians who feel they have revelation of animals in heaven, and we can have a hope to see our pets.

Just because we can not find that one Scripture that clearly says our certain pets are in heaven is not evidence that animals down here vanish at death. Just as it is clear God created the moon, sun and stars and place each one in its proper order, (Psalm 8:3) we are not told specifically how He holds them in place. We as Christians often miss-handle the truths that are clear, how do we expect the Lord to give us all the details about everything. For example – consider Christmas, we do not know the exact time of Jesus’ birth. But we know that He was born of a virgin. Look at the mess of Christmas every year. There is no clear Scripture that says that animals on this earth do not go to heaven. However, there is clear Scripture that says Judas Iscariot is not in heaven. (Mark 14:21)  Consider this, if we believe that animals do not have a soul, it is easy to mistreat them, thinking there will be no accountability of our care of them.  That is the same basis the old slave traders taught about their black slaves. In fact, many of the slaves had more faith in God and Jesus, than the so called God fearing plantation owners. True Christians take the high road, realizing the whole of creation is moaning for its redemption and the further time of a new heaven and new earth, that time of perfection forever. (Isaiah 65:25)

There are people who have no problem with trusting the Lord to take charge of their pets and animals. There are people who still need His comfort. For those who are still seeking, put your trust in God who does all things well and He knows what is best for you for all eternity. In His time, He will reveal His truths to you in due season.

Singing Faith

The Character of the Song Service

1 Chronicles 25: 1 says, “David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals.”  Let us now go to verses 6-7 “All these men were under the supervision of their fathers for the music of the temple of the LORD, with cymbals, lyres and harps, for the ministry at the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman were under the supervision of the king.  Along with their relatives—all of them trained and skilled in music for the LORD…” 

Song services which are pleasing to the Lord

In 2 Chronicles 29 we read of a king by the name of Hezekiah.  The Bible says that he “…trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel.  There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.” (2 Kings 18:5)   His first official act was to cleanse the Lord’s temple of its pollution’s. (The Expositors Bible Commentary)  After the purification process, the Bible says, “He stationed the Levites in the temple of the Lord with cymbals, harps and lyres in the way prescribed by David and Gad the king’s seer and Nathan the prophet; this was commanded by the Lord through his prophets.” (2 Chronicles 29:25)   Hezekiah was putting together a gathering of the city officials, they were having a public worship service in the temple and Hezekiah was following the directions given by God through King David in order to have a service that was pleasing to the Lord.

King David, the man after God’s heart, (Acts 13:22) had a powerful desire in his heart to build the temple of God. (2 Samuel 7:2)  However, he was not permitted to undertake the construction of God’s house. (2 Samuel 7:5-7; 1 Chronicles 22:8)  Although he was not involved in the actual building of the temple of God, he did prepare for it in plans and material. (1 Chronicles 22:1-19; 28:1-29:9)  He was also God’s agent in setting in order the method of temple service.  We read all about that in 1 Chronicles chapters 23-26.  All this was the leading of God, through David to set in order corporate worship.

In 1 Chronicles 25 we see that music is to be considered and approached as being ministry in the house of God.  Therefore, the preparation of the song service should be approached and received with the same approach and reception as to the proclaiming of God’s Word.  Music is ministry to the Lord and to the Body of Christ and it must be blanketed in prayer and guided by the truths of God’s Word.  The worship leaders need to be at the altar on Sunday mornings just as much as the preacher of God’s Word, beseeching in Jesus’ Name the presence of the Holy Spirit.

There are churches in America and around the world that are humble enough to be in serious prayer before their services and they are enjoying all that God has for them.  They express Biblical character in the song service as well as in the preaching of God’s Word.

I would propose to you that that when the Body of Christ takes seriously the preparations of the song service, she will then be able to cast off traditionalism, legalism, denominationalism and faddism that is choking the life out of the song service.  I have had the privilege of setting in services that know the joy and the freedom that comes with singing unto the Lord in spirit and truth.

Psalm 98 holds Biblical truths that deserve our attention, meditation, obedience and endurance if we want to grasp the wisdom of God regarding the song service, thus destroying the conjecture of man.  Some truths are, “Sing to the Lord a new song…    ‘Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with harp, with harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn-shout for joy before the Lord, the King.’”  (Psalms 98:1,4-6)

Just what are some Biblical truths that express the character that is pleasing to God and is beneficial to the Body of Christ through the song service?

God does not work through buildings, plans or fads; He works through the Children of God who are sold out to His will and purposes.  It is His will that we praise Him in song and proclaim His truths with music. (1 Chronicles 25:1) The character of the “Song Service” is to reflect singing that praises God in such a way that it prepares the spiritual heart for the presence of God.

There are many instruments found in Scripture of which man used by man for prophesying or rather singing about the truths and works of God.  And there are wonderful instrument man can use to prophesy today.  “Prophesying” (naba) here means to speak by inspiration. (The Complete Word Study Dictionary, Old Testament)   Prophecy is not always the sense of new revelations, but in 1 Chronicles 25 “prophesying” is used for praise through singing the psalms of David or the psalms of other holy men of God and proclaiming revelations that have already been revealed. (The Expositors Bible Commentary: John Wesley Notes; The Pulpit Commentary; Matthew Henry)  God has men today who are just as sold out to Him as anyone in the times of the writing of 1 Chronicles 25.  The Holy Spirit is anointing them as well to enable us to sing.

A practical application of this type of “prophesying” is seen in the book of 1 Samuel chapter 10, where we read of a “…procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they [were] prophesying.” (1 Samuel 10:5)   These prophets were most likely coming from the place where sacrifices were made unto the Lord and where there was worship and the teaching of God’s Word.  Samuel had established one of his schools of the prophets near Gibeah of God and they had been singing the praises of God with psalms that proclaimed His goodness.  As they were leaving the high place it is very likely that they continued to sing. (The Pulpit Commentary; Bible; Matthew Henry; John Wesley Notes)

As these prophets were coming down from the high place they met a man by the name of Saul, just as foretold by the prophet Samuel. (1 Samuel 10:6)  Saul was headed to Gibeah when he met these prophets and the Bible says, “The Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying.” (1 Samuel 10:10)    Samuel had told Saul that the Spirit of God would come upon him in power, that he would prophesy and that he would be changed into a different person. (1 Samuel 10:6)  I am in agreement with those who say that prophesying here is not a prophetic utterance of future events, but of singing the praises of God through songs that proclaim truths that had already been revealed.

It is safe to conclude that one of the character traits of the song service is to sing songs that please the Lord and proclaim His mighty works.  When this is done correctly by the devoted children of God, they can expect the presence of the Holy Spirit to empower others to sings praises to the Lord Jesus and of the mighty works of God.

The most useful and special instrument to the Lord regarding the song service are those who are trained and skilled in music for the Lord

Another character trait of the public song service is that they are often led by people who are trained and skilled in music for the Lord. (1 Chronicles 25:7)    This does not mean that they have to be professionals or experts.  The appointing of song leaders that are trained and skilled is one of the greatest things that can be done for corporate worship.  The most useful and special instrument to the Lord regarding the song service is that man or woman who will sing and especially lead the music.

It is just as vital today and so utterly important that people who have the gift of music be appointed for the song service unto the Lord, just as David set musicians apart for this ministry.  There should be time allowed for preparation for the song service, which includes training and developing talent and purchasing of proper equipment.  Leading the song service is much more than just getting up and singing or performing some music.  The church that will enjoy the blessings of the song service is the church that expects their musicians to spend as much time in preparation as the preachers and teachers of God’s Word do.

The congregations that get to enjoy worship leaders who are trained and skilled for music in the house of God are those who prayerfully search for them.  They seek the Lord asking Him to raise up families, either from within or outside the church to come in.  These worship leaders should be able to teach and be submissive to authority. The Bible says that the singers that David appointed were “…old and young alike, teacher as well as students.” (1 Chronicles 25:8)  It also says that they were under supervision. (1 Chronicles 25:6)

Every church that regularly enjoys jubilant life-giving song services are churches that protect the time of their worship leaders.  They allow them time to prayerfully prepare and work with the pastoral staff to create song services that go with the theme of the message the Lord has for the church.  They are given time to work with others in the church to allow them to grow in the ministry of music.

Churches that have discovered the value of seeking, training and allowing skilled song leaders to work Biblically in the church are churches that attract people that have musical gifts.  While attending a pastors’ conference in Birmingham, Alabama, I spoke personally with Jukka Palonne, one who is trained and skilled for music in the house of God.  He is one of the keyboard players in Times Square Church.  He also works with the Times Square Church’s outreach teams and goes all over the world leading the song services for Pastor David Wilkerson and Pastor Carter Conlon.  He flies from Birmingham, Alabama every week to be a part of the song service team in Times Square Church.

As I visited with him, he shared with me how he is blessed to work with congregations that do not have to be dragged into the song service.  He has always been blessed with the opportunity to work with and lead people who are respectful and responsive to the Biblical music minister.

King David had a heart for the song service and he was a musician, writing songs that glorify the Lord and proclaim God’s mighty works.  He had it in his heart to have a public song service in the temple of God.  God raised up musicians for him to appoint because of his heart.  When he was old and full of years God made available 288 song leaders (1 Chronicles 25:7) and there were 4,000 who could praise the Lord with musical instruments. (1 Chronicles 23:6)

The church that is truly hungry as David was for music in the house of God may pray and ask the Lord for music ministers that are trained and skilled.  How is your hunger for praising the Lord in song?  Are you praying for worship leaders that not only have revelation of God’s Word but are Holy Spirit Illuminated about the truths they sing? What will be your response to those whom the Lord places before you as song leaders? 

The Song Service that has Biblical Character is the Service that has Songs which are Theologically Literate

Those who lead in the song service are God’s music ministers and there is another vital truth to expressing “Singing Faith.”  The song service that has Biblical character is the service that has songs which are theologically literate.  It is best that the writers of these songs and the song leaders have a heart that is after God.  Jesus said, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”  (John 4:23-24)

Steve Camp wrote, “Those who have the privilege to represent Jesus Christ in the arts should be galvanized by mission, not by ambition; by mandate, not by accolades; by love for [Jesus Christ], not by allurements of this world.”  Therefore, the song service is to have the mark of Christian character birthed forth through personal integrity in the leader or writer and there must be a heart for the holiness of God found in those who participate in the song service.  Those who want the Lord in their song services agree with the psalmist who wrote, “Your decrees are the theme of my song…”  (Psalm 119:54)

The song service that expresses the most about God, the Lord Jesus and opens the heart to enjoy the Holy Spirit’s presence is the one that has the holiness of God as the theme of its music, God’s Word as its song book and His statues for guidance in its songs.  The song service of true character expresses, “The law of your mouth [O’ God] is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.” (Psalm 119:72)   Steve Camp wrote powerfully in his call of “Reformation in the Contemporary Christian Music Industry.”  He writes, “Scripture speaks to all of life-therefore, our music may speak to the very aspect of living.  However, it must be based upon and not contrary to God’s Word in principle, ethic, content and conduct.”

Those who put together the song service have a great responsibility because they are teaching and proclaiming, thus the worship leader must be a prayerful reader, studier and doer of God’s Word.  They have these instructions in the New Testament, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)   And James gives them this warning, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1) The fact is you can teach and learn a lot through songs, whether healthy or unhealthy doctrine.  The character of the song service is to be that of healthy doctrine.

A faithful response to God involves a broad range of songs

The character of the song service is to be Biblically accurate and a faithful response to God involves a broad range of songs.  Ephesians and Colossians tell us to speak to or admonish one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  (Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:20)

With “psalms” we are to sing songs that consist of short sentences expressing praise for the Lord’s character or actions.  Many of our choruses fit into this category and they should be sung by all no matter what age and sung with the purpose of pleasing the Lord Jesus. At times when appropriate we are to sing psalms that express lament (Psalms 12; 44; 74; 79), confession (Psalm 51), of thanksgiving (Psalm 30; 66; 116; 138), and of wisdom (Psalms 1; 37; 49; 119)  as well as other types of psalms.

With “hymns” we are to proclaim the wonderful works of God.  Many say a hymn is an anthem.  A hymn can also be a proclamation of the promises and works of God.  We are to allow time for “spiritual songs” which are brought forth as the Holy Spirit moves upon the Lord’s congregation.

We Are To Worship Unto The Lord In Accordance To That Which Brings Glory to God

The character of the song service is to be that of one that is worship unto the Lord in accordance to that which brings glory to God. Psalms 29:1-2 says, “Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones, ascribe to the LORD of glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.”  (Spurgeon; Vernon McGee; The Expositors Bible Commentary; The Pulpit Commentary; Matthew Henry says that this verse can pertain the mighty men of power on this earth are to worship the Lord.)

These verses are a call to adoration and it is to be proclaimed with a clear appeal, such as the sound of thunder. (The Treasury of David)  The opening of the song service should be with that which draws attention to all in earshot that now is the time for singing the praises of God.  Unbelief and distrust, complaining and murmuring are not to be found in or about the song service for they rob God of His honor.

Therefore, the children of God make all the sacrifices that must be made in order to give true worship to God.  Christians are not to sing what they want but what the Lord wants and the song leaders are to live in such a way that reflects hearts that are able to catch God’s will for the song service.  They should be Holy Spirit-led so the congregation will have a trust that the songs they are singing are what God wants them to sing. When the church is Holy Spirit-illuminated of the truth that God guides His surrendered servants to what songs to sing, they will be singing the songs for the Lord’s glory in a manner due His Name.  These Christians want the holiness of God put into their hearts and lives.

A song service of real godly character will draw those with ears to hear into worship that is given not because God needs it, but because He is deserving of praise.  After all there is nothing we have that He has not given to us.  This song service is to draw worshipers to an awareness that whatever God has entrusted to them is for service to Him.  True worshipers will lay at Jesus’ feet their scepters, swords, keys, bank accounts, literally all that they have so as to be used for His purposes.

What is your heart attitude about the Lord’s song leaders?  Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to bring the Lord presence into your heart and causing you to sing the praises of God in spirit and truth?  Are you laying down all at Jesus’ feet so you can have a heart that is receptive to what God has for you in the worship service?

The Holy Spirit moved Steve Camp to write, “Music is a powerful tool from the Lord Jesus Christ to His church intended for worship, praise, encouragement, edification, evangelism, teaching, admonishing and exhorting God’s people to holiness.

Gordon MacDonald shared about a time when he and his daughter, Kristy attended the New Year’s Eve celebration at the Inter Varsity Urban Missionary Convention in 1976.  The night closed with a Communion Service.  After the benediction, 17,000 students began to head for the arena portals and their buses for the trips back home.  Someone in the crowd-not a song leader, but a worshiper—began the song “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord.” It is the one where the men sing a line and then the ladies echo back.

Some 17,000 people stopped in their tracks and sang!  They sang it over and over again without song leaders or musicians.  No one wanted to leave from the place that became holy ground.  No one wanted to leave the sacred hour to memories.  They just kept singing for a while.

It was after some time of singing into the night when Kristy, who was only nine years old at that time, grabbed her daddy’s hand and spoke softly, “Daddy, this is what heaven is going to be like.”  Mr. MacDonald felt that his daughter may very well be right.

The church that has true Biblical character in its song service is the church that will regularly spend more time loving God through personal and corporate expression in song.  It is up to the worship leaders and the congregations they lead to how much of God’s presence they want to experience.

A good song leader is a precious gift and a song service of Biblical character ushers in the presence of God.  The congregation that treats and responds to their song leaders in such a manor will know and enjoy God’s presence and people will leave the service saying, “This is what heaven is going to be like.”  The choice is ours. Let us now stand and “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord.”

Expressions of Worship

Connecting with God in the Song Service

 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”  (Colossians 3:16)

The heart attitude that is pleasing to the Lord is the one that says it is all about you Lord, and not about us

It should be noted that the entire church service is to be considered as a time were Christians can worship the Lord in spirit and truth.  Sunday school is a wonderful opportunity to study the Word of God with other people.  The announcements are a wonderful opportunity to share with others all of what God has coming up in the church.  The proclaiming of God’s Word should be prepared properly and received with expectation that God will have correction,   guidance,   and comfort for you.  Jesus said that God’s house should be called a house of prayer. (Matthew 21:13)   It is also a time in which all should gather together and sing praises to the Lord.

Psalms 147:1 says; “How good it is to sing praises to our God,   how pleasant and fitting to praise him.”  The heart of this psalmist reflects what should be in the heart of all Christians as they participate in the song service. The heart attitude that is pleasing to the Lord is the one that says it is all about you Lord, and not about us.

Steve Camp, in his written reformation to the contemporary Christian music industry wrote;     “Music is a powerful tool from the Lord Jesus to His church intended for worship, praise, encouragement, edification, evangelism, teaching, admonishing and exhorting God’s people to holiness.  Its chief aim is always to glorify God and worship Him.”

I would propose to you that God wants you to worship Him in spirit and truth.  He longs to deliver His people from the religious bondage that comes from legalism, traditionalism, denominationalism and faddism.  Our Lord longs for His church to look into God’s Word so He can birth forth worship in the song service that has freedom and actions that are a response from a joyful undivided heart.

Just what does the Bible say about “Expressions of Worship” in the song service?  What can we or rather how are we to express our love while singing praises to God?

The New Testament does not give any pattern for conducting a specific corporate worship service in the Lord’s churches.  It does not tell how long the services are to be,   how many psalms, hymns or spiritual songs are to be sung and it does not tell us how long to stand or sit down.  The New Testament does not tell us the styles, types of music or what instruments can be used.

The Bible does tell us what expressions are to be used in our worship to the Lord.  The child of God who looks attentively into the Word of God and then meditates on how to implement His instructions is the Christian who will overcome the conjecture of men and sing praises to God, which ushers in the presence of the Lord into his heart and life.  There are church services that are experiencing the Lord in great measures because of their heartfelt song services and powerful proclaiming of God’s Word.

All through Biblical accounts of the song service unto the Lord we read it ushering in a powerful presence of God, thus, lives are touched, empowered and comforted.

Terms to describe the Music that Comes from a Spiritual Heart 

There are truths that are worth grasping in God’s Word in regards to expressions of worship.  Let us began with His simple instructions found in Colossians 3:16 and from Ephesians 5:19.

Ephesians 5:19 says, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.”  This text is breathed forth by the Holy Spirit of God and therefore must be used in guidance to expressions of worship in the song service.  Paul uses three terms to describe the music that should be coming out of the spiritual heart.  The first is psalms.

Psalms (psalmos) are sacred songs sung to musical instruments and they may be referred to as a chant. (Spiros Zodiatiates)  Psalms of praise consist of short sentences expressing praise for the Lord’s character or actions.  Many of the modern day choruses fit into this category and they should be sung by all no matter what age and sung with one purpose and that is to please the Lord Jesus.

There are various types of psalms that can be sung unto the Lord in the song service such as psalms of praise (Psalms 8; 29; 33; 104; 111; 113), psalms of thanksgiving (Psalms 30; 66; 116; 138),  psalms of lament (Psalms 12; 44; 74; 79)  or psalms of wisdom (Psalms 1; 37; 49; 119).  Matthew Henry writes; “By psalms, he may have meant to sing the songs written by David or such other composers, they are to be sung with musical instruments.”

The child of God who has Holy Spirit illumination about the singing of psalms will not be saying, “This is what I like, or we like and always do.”  No, they sing knowing that it is not about them;  they have died to self-pleasure and take into consideration of what the Lord wants.

The second term used by the apostle Paul is hymns (hymnos).  The Greek word hymns is only used twice in the New Testament. Some say a hymn is an anthem. The words in a hymn are to be a direct address of praise and glory to God.  Augustine writes, “A Hymn has three characteristics: It must be sung; it must be praise, it must be to God.”  It is not for self-pleasure but for the pleasure of God, and then in return this makes a heart ready to enjoy the presence of the Lord.  Abboth Smith describes a hymn as a “festal song in praise of gods and heroes.”

There is the wonderful hymn that is an anthem that should be sung often within our hearts and in the song service, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.”   In this hymn there is a stanza that is a proclamation of a truth which says, “Let every kindred, every tribe, on this terrestrial ball, to Him all majesty ascribe, and crown Him Lord of all.”  The most distinctive feature that is to be heard in the Christian hymn is that it is to express a confession of faith, which praises the redeeming power of God in the gospel.  This is wonderfully expressed in the Hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story.”  I think of the stanza, “I love to tell the story, for some have never heard, the message of salvation, from God’s own holy Word.”

JBH wrote:    “There is something about a fine old hymn.  That stirs the heart of a man.  That can reach the goal of his inmost soul, such as no preaching can.  It is more than a tune of the song he sings.  And more than the poet’s rhyme.  It’s the Spirit of God working through them.  That gives them power sublime.   So we thank thee Lord, for the grand old hymns.  May we use them again and again, as we seek to save from the grave, the souls of our fellow man.”  Dr. Ralph Earle writes on Ephesians 5:19, “It may not be out of the way to observe here that hymns should be regularly used in the Sunday morning service.”

It must be remembered, that the power of the hymns comes from the Holy Spirit.  Not from the style it is proclaimed in, or that it is in the hymnal or on a screen.  The Holy Spirit is not aroused through legalistic control, tradition or following the fad of the day. His presence is embraced only by a seeking heart that longs to proclaim the truth of and express love toward Jesus Christ.

The third term Paul used is “spiritual songs.”  According to Alpha – Omega Ministries, the Greek word for spiritual songs (Penumatikas) in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 is the very moving of the Holy Spirit, not the worship leader.  Thayer’s Greek – English Lexicon tells us this is “…divinely inspired, and so redolent of the Holy Spirit.”  The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament tells us that it is “…those composed in the Holy Spirit…”  Practical Words Studies tells this Greek word is used referring to the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the source.

Tod Williams of Times Square Church and John Oldfield tells me it takes a mature worship leader,  who is sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s moving on the congregation to bring them into a time of intimacy during the song service.  The worship leader simply introduces this time to the congregation during the song service and allows them to worship Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.

It takes a complete trust of the Holy Spirit’s working and a complete surrender on the worship leader’s part in surrendering the congregation into the hands of an all loving God, who is fully able to move His people to express themselves as He so desires.  The question is, “Will the worship leaders and the congregation allow the Holy Spirit freedom to move in the body of Christ?”   Fear, unbelief and a lack of spontaneity have robbed most congregations out of this special part of the song service.

God’s people have every reason to rejoice and sing and make music in their hearts unto the Lord, singing with their voice from the heart with various forms, styles and mixture of music.

We Are To Be Expressive

We are to speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  And we are to be expressive in our worship unto the Lord.  There seems to be little concern about worshiping God on His terms and through His instructions.  Traditionalism and sensationalism has replaced worship in spirit and truth.  The guide that the Holy Spirit is going to use to instruct the Body of Christ in regards to expression of worship is the Word of God.  All forms of worship are to find their place within the guidelines of the written Word.  According to the Word of God we can be and should be expressive in our worship to the Lord, however, not through theatrics that draw attention to one’s self.

We are never to use bodily expressions to work up the congregation.  Our expressions are to be shown forth through heartfelt affections.  When this is done under the moving of the Holy Spirit, God is blessed, Jesus is glorified and the church of Jesus is edified.

Did you know you can dance before the Lord?  Psalms 149:3 says; “Let them praise His Name with dancing and make music to Him with tambourine and dancing, praise Him with the strings and flute.”  Matthew Henry wrote: “Dance includes moving of the feet.”  Yes, in church, we can get all excited and dance.  The Bible says let them praise His Name with dancing!

King David knew how to have expressive worship.  In 2 Samuel chapter six we read, Now King David was told, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went down and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.   When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets. As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD,”  (2 Samuel 6:12-16)

It is important to note that the Ark of the Covenant denoted the presence of God and a type of Christ. (Thru the Bible; The Pulpit Commentary; Matthew Henry’s Commentary)    Michal, David’s wife and daughter of Saul, despised him in her heart. (2 Samuel 6:16)  King David and his wife had words over this issue and he told her, “I will celebrate before the Lord!” 

Bonnie and I found great joy in taking Caleb and his brothers to watch the Norton football games.  I found it interesting that certain proclaiming Christians would go crazy, jumping up and down when we made a touchdown,   especially when the game was close.  There is nothing wrong with that.

However,   I have also attended their special worship services, services beyond the regular Sunday morning service.  I notice they don’t show that kind of expression in their special worship services honoring God and recognizing God’s mighty hand upon them and His presence among them. As a matter of fact, I have a concern they may even despise those who are expressive during worship services.

There is a warning for us in 2 Samuel 6:20-23.  David and Michal are having words over his dancing before the Lord.  David’s answer to Michal was, …It was before the LORD… I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.” (2 Samuel 6:20-23)

At the crossing of the Red Sea, “…Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing.  Miriam sang to them, ‘Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and rider thrown into the sea.”  (Exodus 15:20-23)

Matthew Henry gives us this advice, “We should be afraid of censuring the devotions of others though it may not agree with our sentiments.  Who are we to despise those whom God has accepted? Let us never be driven from our duty by the fear of approach, let us not be ashamed to own it.”  To bring clarity, let us not be too reserved in our expressions of worship, when it is to be done unto the Lord.

When appropriate,   we can express worship to the Lord in a dance.  However, it must not draw attention from worship to the Lord and attention to us. While attending a David Wilkerson pastor’s conference in Birmingham, Alabama, I saw people off to the side dancing and some were waving banners that brought people’s attention to the Lord.  The Holy Spirit so anointed the service, that I was able to see so many different expressions of worship and not one bit of it was distracting to the song service.

Baptist Theologian Dr. Jay Vernon McGee writes, “Personally, I would like to see more rejoicing as David did in praising God today…   God does not like it my friend, when he sees long faces, we are to enter his presence with joy.”  May I add with Biblical expressions of joy?

Let Us Bow Down 

When the time is right and when it adds to the song service, there should be some dancing before the Lord and the Bible also says we can bow down or kneel down to the Lord.  Psalms 95:6 says; “Come,   let us bow down in worship,   let us kneel before the Lord our maker.”

When someone feels like coming to the altar and without drawing attention to themselves while their doing it, they may bow down.  Someone may slip into the isle and kneel down to worship when it is appropriate, it pleases the Lord.  To fall to the ground is a gesture of worship.  In Matthew 2:10-11 we read the Magi, When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”   Never is this posture out of place or should be peculiar to worship in times of great joy or in great sorrow, especially while expressing one’s self during the song service.

Christians Should Be The Most Expressive 

Christians should be the happiest and most expressive people around. When Holy Spirit led, they can dance, bow, clap and shout.     Psalms 47:1-2 says, “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth!”  I like the way the King James puts it, “Clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with a voice of triumph…”

The most natural and most enthusiastic expression of exultation should be used in view of the victories that Jesus Christ won upon the Cross of Calvary and in His resurrection.  Our joy in the Lord may be demonstrative and I can assure you that God is not going to censure it.

Our family owns a video made in 1997 and it shares the history of the Green Bay Packers.  In that video the narrator says, “Thousands gather at the cathedral of Lambo Field.”  In another place in the video it refers to the Green Packer fans as worshiping.

There are three brief definitions in the Winston Dictionary on worship that deserve our consideration here. 1.) The act of paying reverence, adoration or homage to God.  2.) Excessive admiration.  3.) To perform religious services.  The New International Dictionary of the Bible tells us this about worship. It is “The honor, reverence and homage paid to superior beings or powers, whether men, angels or God.  The English word means “worth ship,” w-o-r-t-h-s-h-i-p and it denotes the worthiness of the individual receiving the honor.  …Worship in the New Testament consisted of preaching, reading of Scripture, alms giving, prophesying and tongues and singing.”

During the football season of 2004-2005, many times the Green Bay Packers were behind in the last two minutes of the game.   The fans did not just set down quietly and wonder if their star quarterback, Bret Farve would be able pull out some miracle and win the game.  No, because of the worthiness of his skills, endurance and faithfulness, they were on their feet, clapping and shouting.  Showing him the honor he so long worked for because many is the time he lead the team to triumph in such an occasion.

We have a faithful God who called us to Christ through the Holy Spirit, it is Christ who paid the highest price that can be paid for the redemption of sinful man, and it is the Holy Spirit who seals and sanctifies us for the glory of Christ.  Because of Christ living in us through the power of the Holy Spirit, we may choose to have victory over the sins that once held us in bondage and kept us out of fellowship with the Lord.   Jesus Christ is worthy of our standing, the clapping of our hands and giving shouts of triumph for without Him we cannot live a triumphant life.

There is a popular expression today that says, “It is not about me, but you Jesus.”  That is truth  and those who have Holy Spirit enlightenment no longer speak about the song service with words like, “This what I like or what we want.”  No, their singing and worship style is birthed forth from God’s Word.  Nothing else satisfies and brings unity in the song service.

What then is the essence of the song service?  It is the celebration of and to the Lord Jesus Christ.  When we sing songs for His glory, we exalt God and Christ.  Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is only pleasing to God as we sing them in spirit and truth.  The song service is not to be done haphazardly or poorly; it is not even to be done merely as a performance.

We celebrate the Lord when we look into His Word, enjoy and  participate according to His prescribed ways, thus, throwing off legalism, traditionalism and avoiding faddisms. When visitors walk in our church what do they sense in and during the song service?  Is it life, freedom and Holy Spirit led?  Is there work that still needs to be done in our song services and more precisely, are we willing to allow the Lord to do His work?