Sing What You Mean

by Terri Pettyjohn

When do we stop singing phrases and begin to offer praise? There is an old hymn that says, “I’ll go where you want me to go”. How many Christians would never think about stooping to lying, but by singing words without meaning them, have lied? Not only do we mean we won’t go to the mission field, but we sure won’t go anywhere that is not in our dayplanner. But, when we close our eyes and shut the world out something begins to happen to our hearts and minds and what we are singing becomes our praise to Him, it is no longer vague and impersonal, it is our conversation with God at this special moment. When we sing the words of adoration to our God, make them the prayer of your heart. Be careful not to sing what you wouldn’t speak with your mouth. The Bible says that someday we must give account for every word we’ve spoken, so make sure your mouth and your heart are in sync before you sing what you don’t mean.

Matthew 12:36 “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”

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Do You Take Church Membership Seriously?

Do You Take Church Membership Seriously?

Thabiti Anyabwile

Earlier I linked to John Piper’s sermon on July 13, 2008 entitled “How Important Is Church Membership?” It’s an excellent articulation of the assumptions in Scripture that warrant a biblical belief in and practice of church membership.

Piper concluded with some excellent personal application questions and a brief appreciation of the church as the body of Christ. If you struggle with the idea or the necessity of membership, I pray you’d listen to the entire sermon and afterward ponder these questions”

Are you an accountable member of a local church? Not just: Is your name somewhere? But, are you committed to discipline and being disciplined according to biblical standards? Have you publicly declared your willingness to be shepherded and to be led by the leaders of a local church? Do you see yourself and your gifts as part of an organic ministering body? Do you show by your firm attachment to Christ’s body that you are attached to Christ?

Church membership is a blood-bought gift of God’s grace. More than most of us realize, it is a life-sustaining, faith-strengthening, joy-preserving means of God’s mercy to us. I urge you not to cut yourself off from this blessing.

Tips for Self-Discipline

Tips for Self-Discipline
By John MacArthur

Practically speaking, how can a person develop self-discipline in his or her life?

Developing Self-DisciplineHere are some things that have helped me through the years:

1. Start Small. Start with your room. Clean it, then keep it clean. When something is out of place, train yourself to put it where it belongs. Then extend the discipline of neatness to the rest of your home.

2. Be on time. That may not seem very spiritual, but it’s important. If you’re supposed to be somewhere at a specific time, be there on time. Develop the ability to discipline your desires, activities, and demands so that you can arrive on time.

3. Do the hardest job first. When you do that, you will find it easier to do the simpler tasks.

4. Organize your life. Plan the use of your time; don’t just react to circumstances. Use a calendar and make a daily list of things you need to accomplish. If you don’t control your time, everything else will.

5. Accept correction. Correction helps make you more disciplined because it shows you what you need to avoid. Don’t avoid criticism; accept it gladly.

6. Practice self-denial. Learn to say no to your feelings. Learn to do what you know to be right even if you don’t feel like doing it. Sometimes it’s even beneficial to deny yourself things that are acceptable to have, like a doughnut in the morning or dessert after dinner. Exercising such self-restraint helps you develop the habit of keeping other things under control. Cultivating discipline in the physical realm will help you become disciplined in your spiritual life.

7. Welcome responsibility. When you have an opportunity to do something that needs to be done, volunteer for it if you have talent in that area. Accepting responsibility can force you to organize yourself.

Honoring God in Gray Areas

By John MacArthur

If the issue you are wondering about is not specifically addressed in the Bible, then it’s helpful to ask these questions from 1 Corinthians to help you in deciding what to do. Asking these questions (and others like them) will help you make a wise decision based on sound biblical principles.

1. Will it benefit me spiritually? First Corinthians 10:23 says, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.”

2. Will it put me in bondage? First Corinthians 6:12 says, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” Any questionable practice that can be habit‑forming is not wise to pursue.

3. Will it defile God’s temple? First Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” We should not do anything with our bodies that would dishonor the Lord.

4. Will it cause others to stumble? First Corinthians 8:8‑9 says, “Food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” One should refrain from using his freedom in an area which might cause others to sin. For “by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore,” Paul said, “if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble.”

5. Will it help the cause of evangelism? First Corinthians 10:32-33 says, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.” We must think of the effect any practice might have on our testimony to the lost.

6. Will it violate my conscience? First Corinthians 10:25‑29 contains three references to abstaining from a certain practice “for conscience’ sake.” And Romans 14:23 says, “He who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.” If we are not sure whether an action is pleasing to God, we should not do it. That way our conscience will remain clear and our relationship to God will not be hindered.

7. Will it bring glory to God? First Corinthians 10:31 summarizes all these principles by saying, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Bible Interpretation

10 Tips from Grudem on Bible Interpretation

Grudem’s chapter in Preach the Word offers some helpful reminders on correctly interpreting the Scripture.
1. Spend your earliest and best time reading the text of the Bible itself.
2. The interpretation of Scripture is not a magical or mysterious process, because Scripture was written in the ordinary language of the day.
3. Every interpreter has only four sources of information about the text: (a) The meanings of individual words and sentences; (b) the place of the statement in its context; (c) the overall teaching of Scripture; (d) some information about the historical and cultural background.
4. Look for reasons rather than mere opinions to give support to an interpretation, and use reasons rather than mere opinions to attempt to persuade others.
5. There is only one meaning for each text (though there are many applications).
6. Notice the kind of literature in which the verse is found.
7. Notice whether the text approves or disapproves or merely reports a person’s actions.
8. Be careful not to generalize specific statements and apply them to fundamentally different situations.
9. It is possible to do a short or long study of any passage. Do what you can with the time you have, and don’t be discouraged about all that you cannot do.
10. Pray regularly for the Holy Spirit’s help in the whole process of interpreting the Bible.
Grudem goes on to encourage his readers to keep the “big picture” in mind with 6 other reflections.
1. The Bible is a historical document. Therefore, always ask, “What did the author want the original readers to understand by this statement?”
2.. The original authors wanted the original readers to respond in some way. Therefore always ask, “What application did the original author want the readers to make to their lives?”
3. The whole Bible is about God! Therefore we should always ask, “What does the text tell us about God?”
4. The center of the whole Bible is Jesus Christ. The entire Old Testament leads up to him and points to him, and the entire New Testament flows from him. Therefore, we should always ask, “What does this text tell us about the greatness of Christ?”
5. All history can be divided into several major “ages” or “epochs” in salvation history. Therefore, we should read every passage of the Bible with a salvation history timeline in our minds and constantly remember where every passage fits on the timeline.
6. Themes: Because the Bible is a unity (it has one divine Author though many human authors), there are many themes that develop and grow from Genesis to Revelation. Therefore, for each significant element in any text, it is helpful to ask, (a) Where did this theme start in the Bible? (b) How did this theme develop through the Bible? and (c) Where is this theme going to end in the Bible?

A matter of confession

A meditation on confession from J Tripp’s Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy.

It wasn’t a big deal in one way. Just a small conversation that had turned a bit ugly. It wasn’t a dramatic life-altering moment. It was in the privacy of my home with one of my family members. But maybe that’s the point. Perhaps it’s very important because that’s where I live everyday. You see, you and I don’t live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We don’t careen from big decision to big decision. We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn’t set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in 10,000 little moments of everyday life. It’s the themes of struggles that emerge from those little moments that reveal what’s really going on in our hearts.

So, I knew I couldn’t back away from this little moment. I knew I had to own my sin. The minute I thought this, an inner struggle began. “I wasn’t the only one at fault. If he hadn’t said what he said, I wouldn’t have become angry. I was actually pretty patient for much of the conversation.” These were some of the arguments I was giving myself.

Isn’t this interesting. Rather than appealing to the mercy of the Lord in the face of my sin, what I actually do instead is function as my own defense lawyer and present a list of arguments for my own righteousness. The theology behind the defense is that my greatest problem is outside of me, not inside of me. In so arguing, I’m telling myself that I don’t really need to be rescued by the Lord’s mercy. No, I’m telling myself that what I need to be rescued from is that sinner in the room who caused me to respond as I did.

Here’s the point. Before you can ever make a clean and unamended confession of your sin, you have to first begin by confessing your righteousness.. It’s not just your sin that separates you from God, your righteousness does as well. Because, when you are convinced you are righteous, you don’t seek the forgiving, rescuing, and restoring mercy that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

What’s actually true is that when I come to the Lord after I’ve blown it, I’ve only one argument to make. It’s not the argument of the difficulty of the environment that I am in. It’s not the argument of the difficult people that I’m near. It’s not the argument of good intentions that were thwarted in some way. No, I only have one argument. It’s right there in the first verse of Psalm 51, as David confesses his sin with Bathsheba. I come to the Lord with only one appeal; his mercy. I’ve no other defense. I’ve no other standing. I’ve no other hope. I can’t escape the reality of my biggest problem; me! So I appeal to the one thing in my life that’s sure and will never fail.. I appeal to the one thing that guaranteed not only my acceptance with God, but the hope of new beginnings and fresh starts. I appeal on the basis of the greatest gift I ever have or ever will be given. I leave the courtroom of my own defense, I come out of hiding and I admit who I am. But I’m not afraid, because I’ve been personally and eternally blessed.. Because of what Jesus has done, God looks on me with mercy. It’s my only appeal, it’s the source of my hope, it’s my life. Mercy, mercy me!

What is Healthy Church Member?

by Mark Dever.
Topics:
1. A Healthy Church Member Is an Expositional Listener
2. A Healthy Church Member Is a Biblical Theologian
3. A Healthy Church Member Is Gospel-Saturated
4. A Healthy Church Member Is Genuinely Converted
5. A Healthy Church Member Is Biblical Evangelist
6. A Healthy Church Member Is a Committed Member
7. A Healthy Church Member Seeks Discipline
8. A Healthy Church Member Is a Growing Disciple
9. A Healthy Church Member Is a Humble Follower
10. A Healthy Church Member Is a Prayer Warrior
As you might guess from the title, it is a companion volume to What Is A Healthy Church by Mark Dever. Both books are in the Crossway series of 9Marks titles.