Shall we have praise teams?

The “praise team” is one of the sinful innovations that some of the congregations of the Lord’s church have copied from the denominations. Whenever the denominations come up with new innovations, some congregations of the churches of Christ are only one step behind them and are anxious to try anything they do. It does not matter if it is not scriptural. Just as the children of Israel in Samuel’s day wanted to be “like all the nations” around them 1 Samuel 8:5 with their sinful practices, today many congregations of the Lord’s church also want to be like all the denominations around them with their sinful practices.

Praise teams usually start in a congregation by micing certain people, including women, in the audience who have “great voices”. After the congregation has become accustomed to this, then the praise team is moved to the stage in front of the audience where they perform. The congregation ceases to worship God and is now being entertained by a choir. The worship service has now been changed to a performance and God is no longer being worshipped.

The whole congregation is to worship God with their singing. Every Christian is commanded, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” Ephesians 5:19. Also we read in Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Here we see that all Christians are to speak, teach, and admonish one another as we worship God in our singing.

With praise teams, women with the aid of microphones are taking part in leading the singing. Here we have women taking a leading role over man. This is forbidden in God’s word, “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve” 1 Timothy 2:12-13. Does it really matter if God’s word does “not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” in the worship service? Apparently not, because some have chosen to ignore what God says and to do things their way. This is sinful and blatant disobedience of God. This disrespect has eternal consequences.

Concerning our worship, Jesus says, “God is a Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). The word “must” is an imperative, which expresses compelling authority and absolute necessity. The only way that our worship will be acceptable to God is if it is “in spirit and in truth.” How do we worship God in truth? Jesus says to God in His prayer in John 17:17, “Your word is Truth.” So to worship God in truth, we “must” worship Him according to His word. One cannot worship God with a “praise team” and worship Him in truth.

The Bible says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). Everything we do in worship to God is to be done “in the name of the Lord” which means by His authority. But where in the New Testament can you find the authority that a congregation is to be entertained by the performance of a praise team, choir, and with women taking a leading role over man. There is no authority for this since it came from man and not from God. Jesus says, “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men” (Mark 7:7). When our worship becomes vain, it becomes useless and we will lose our souls as a result. The Lord’s church does not need to follow the denominations in their sinful practices.

The church of YOUR Choice

The slogan has existed for many years. In most newspapers that advertise the worship services of churches in that community you will find these words of encouragement: “Attend the Church of Your Choice.” These words please most people. It is the “democratic” thing to do. The majority of people believe such a statement brings glory and honor to Christ. But does it? This is the question for us to consider as we turn to the only book that can give us a truthful answer – the Bible.

Long before the birth of Christ it was prophesied that “in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44). Jesus, during His ministry on earth, said to Peter, “I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19). One will note that the word “church” is singular, not plural. Christ promised to build only one church – His church. Other inspired Scriptures affirm this truth. The apostle Paul notes that there is but “one body” (Ephesians 4:4). One will also observe that the Scriptures affirm that Christ is the “head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23). Paul also records that Christ has promised to save only His “body” (Ephesians 5:23).

Since God does not lie (Titus 1:2) and His Word is always true (John 17:17), let us ask some questions. If Christ were on earth today would He attend His church or some man’s church? Would the Savior attend the church purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28) or one purchased with man’s money? Would the Lord attend a church of which a man or group of men serve as its head or the one of which He is its head? Do you believe that Jesus Christ would attend a church governed by the creeds and votes of men that continually change or the church that is governed by His Word which has long been settled in Heaven (Psalm 119:89)? Does or does not the Lord’s choice in a church matter? Which church would He choose to attend? Would Christ choose the church that wears His name and thus gives Him the honor and glory rightly His, or would He choose some church wearing a man-made name that honors a human being? These are questions that cannot be ignored and they deserve an answer!

Most people today choose a “church” for the wrong reason. Some choose a particular “church” because of its beautiful architecture. We are not commanded to worship the building so this is not a valid reason. Some choose a “church” because of its size as if large numbers are to be equated with spiritual success. The truth is that only a few were saved in the ark (1 Peter 3:20) and a few, not many, will be in Heaven (Matthew 7:13-14).

If one is truly interested in the salvation of his soul does it not make sense to choose to attend the Lord’s church? One distinguishing characteristic of the Lord’s church is that it was established on the Day of Pentecost in A.D. 33 as promised in Holy Scripture. Any “church” that comes into existence after A.D. 33 cannot be the Lord’s church. The name “church of Christ” is not a man-made name and is a Scriptural term (Romans 16:16). It does not honor and glorify some man. It shows ownership and gives honor and glory to the one whose blood purchased the church – Christ (Acts 20:28).

What are you looking for?

When the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, he told them plainly, “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).

It is interesting to note that even in the first century there were those who were not content with the plain preaching of the Word of God, just as people today are not content with a “thus saith the Lord.” The simple preaching of the gospel no longer seems to suffice. Instead people want to be entertained, or they want to be told how to feel good about themselves. The biblical commentary on this generation would rightly be, “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).

How sad it is when those in the world and even in the church today ridicule those who choose to preach the Bible, (i.e. those who choose to preach God’s plan of salvation.) It is my prayer that sermons in pulpits today continue to close with the simple steps of salvation, because that is what will truly save someone’s soul.

It is disturbing to realize that people do not want to hear scripture. They would instead prefer some lesson in philosophy or psychology, or perhaps some lighthearted talk which has little or nothing to do with God’s Word. It is frightening to think that there are pulpits where little to no scripture is being used.

“My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

May we continue to look for the truth!

How Much Time?

An honest and sincere answer to the question of “how much time do I have left?” may just be one of the most important thoughts you could consider at this time. It might be of great benefit for you to switch your mind from the affairs of this life and think a little on the life that is to come. Calm and deliberate reflection on the next life may make a tremendous difference for you in that life.

Consider:

  1. You should realize that THERE IS MORE TIME ON THE OTHER SIDE OF LIFE THAN THE MIND OF MAN CAN FATHOM and that eternity stretches far beyond the time that you spend here on earth. Your time may be running out here but it will never run out in eternity. Actually, the clock is ticking for all of us, but some have more time than others. It is certainly not wise to spend the balance of your time as if you were in an endless summer. Time will run out at some point for every person (Hebrews 9:27).
  2. You should realize that NO ONE KNOWS JUST HOW MUCH TIME REMAINS for you (1 Thessalonians 5:2). It may run out today or tomorrow or perhaps years from now. We just do not know! Since we do not know how much time may remain on my calendar, is it not wise, then, for me to prepare myself for the next life? (Matthew 16:26) 
  3. You should realize HOW FINAL IT WILL BE WHEN YOUR TIME DOES RUN OUT. Do not be deceived by false doctrine which would try to convince you that there is plenty of time left. Men admonish “to live it up because you only go around one time.” How true it is, that we only go around one time; but how foolish the advice to live it up. If you’re “living it up” when your time runs out, then, unfortunately, you will have lost your soul. The risk is not worth it. As you leave this life, so will you be for all eternity.
  4. You should realize that you ARE WRITING YOUR LIFE’S HISTORY, page by page and day by day. You never know how many pages remain in your book. You certainly will want your last page and chapter to be your best. The wise person is prepared to close his book at any time. He looks for the end and the coming of the Lord.
  5. You should realize the SERIOUSNESS OF BEING LOST IN ETERNITY.If you lose something here you may well have the opportunity to recover it. You may lose a five dollar bill and find another one just like it tomorrow, but this will not be true in regard to your soul. You have but one soul created in the image of God, so please don’t lose it (Ezekiel 18:20).

Reality Check: Christians and Sin

It is important to note the wonderful benefits we have in Christ. Paul states in Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places IN CHRIST. One such blessing is the forgiveness of our sins” (Ephesians 1:7). As we have discussed, we will have to discipline members of this congregation in due time, but may we ALL understand that we ALL make mistakes (sin) and need to get things right while we have the time.

When we are baptized for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38), in order to be saved (Mark 16:16), God takes away every sin we have ever committed (Acts 22:16). He wipes our slate clean (1 Corinthians 6:11). He gives us a new beginning and we are born again (John 3:3,5) and we are raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).

But after we have been baptized and God has taken away all of our sins, what do we do when we commit other sins? How do we get forgiveness of these sins? For the answer to this let us look at the Epistle of First John. First John was written to Christians who had been baptized for the forgiveness of their sins, just as you and I have been.

1 John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Here this verse says we must be doing two things so that the blood of Jesus Christ will continue to cleanse us of all our sins. 1) We must “walk in the light”, that is we must be following God’s word in the Bible. 2) Also must “have fellowship one with another”, that is we must be regularly worshipping God in His church and working with other Christians. The original Greek word that is translated “cleanses” in this verse means that there is a continual cleansing going on. Herein lies the problem with those who have become unfaithful in their worship. Because they are not having fellowship one with another, they are nt longer receiving forgiveness of their sins.

Then we continue to read the next verse 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We must repent and ask God to forgive us, and He will. When we stand before the Lord on Judgment Day we will have no sins and we will go to Heaven. This is very comforting to know that we are being continually cleansed.

Offerings ~ Time, Talent and Treasure

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart; These, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:17). One of the hardest truths for us to remember is the importance of true penitence. Even when we’re conscious of a desperate need for God, we often seek His favor by offering Him nothing more than the outward actions of worship. But what God is more interested in is the condition of our hearts, and if our hearts are not truly given to Him in godly sorrow, then there is nothing else we can offer Him that will be acceptable.

However, when David said that the sacrifices God desired were those of a contrite heart, he did not mean that the physical acts of worship which God had commanded could be disregarded. It would be a mistake to use this text to support the view that it does not matter how, or even if, we worship God outwardly as long as we love Him in our hearts. The familiar “not . . . but” construction in the Scriptures simply means that the “not” is less important than the “but,” and that the former has little meaning apart from the latter. For example, when Jesus said, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life” (John 6:27), we do not understand Him to mean that working for our physical food is wrong or unimportant; rather we understand Him to be saying that our efforts in the physical realm are far less important than those in the spiritual and that the former has very little significance if it is not connected to the latter.

Similarly, David is teaching us in Psalm 51 that the outward aspects of worship are relatively meaningless by themselves. If these deeds don’t come from a humble heart that is conscious of its own sin, then God is not pleased by them. This, as we have said, is not an easy truth for us to remember. The temptation is always to give God this or that physical “offering” and suppose that He surely must look upon us favorably for having worshiped Him as we were commanded to do. But such “worship” does not honor God. The thing that He desires us to offer Him, far more than anything else, is “a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart”.

The world ending its “season of giving and thanksgiving”; Miami Gardens let us not forget our responsibility to honor God with our hearts and the first fruits of our labor in 2024!

Give me a pure heart — that I may see thee,
A humble heart — that I may hear thee,
A heart of love — that I may serve thee,
A heart of faith — that I may abide in thee.

New and Improved 2024
Time, Talent and Treasure

The word “intentional” was used quite often from the pulpit in hopes of encouraging saints to stop speaking in generalities and to speak and act with greater purpose. The word intentional is defined as: deliberate, meant, planned, or purposed. In other words, I KNOW what I am doing or planning to do.

Miami Gardens cannot grow without intentionality! To help us ALL resolve to do better in this New Year, here are some suggested intentional actions (resolutions):

  • Sincerely and humbly praise the Lord (Psalm 42:5; Psalm 43:5; Psalm 71:14; Psalm 89:1).
  • Look forward to attending every worship service (Psalm 26:8; Psalm 27:4; Psalm 122:1; Hebrews 10:25).
  • Love our brothers and sisters in Christ with an un-feigned (sincere) love (Romans 12:10; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22).
  • Be more diligent in Bible study and be ready to give an answer to every man that asks for the reason of the hope within us (Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15; I Peter 3:15).
  • Gladly bring our offerings to the Lord without grudging or stinginess (Deuteronomy 15:7-10; 2 Corinthians 9:7).
  • Use kind words when dealing with our fellow man (Proverbs 15:1; Proverbs 31:26; cf. Genesis 50:14-21; 2 Chronicles 10:6-7).
  • Pray more often (Mark 14:38; Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  • Send some cards or perhaps prepare a dish to carry to the sick and lonely (Matthew 25:35-36).
  • Discipline our bodies (1 Corinthians 9:27).
  • Bring captive every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
  • Confess our faults one to another and help one another conquer them through Christ (James 5:16; Galatians 6:1-2; Philippians 4:13).
  • Develop whatever talents God has given us for His glory (Matthew 25:14-30; 1 Corinthians 10:31).
  • Ask the elders for a job and do it to the best of our ability, becoming a laborer together with them and God (Matthew 20:1-16; 1 Corinthians 3:5-9).

If we as Christians will put these suggested (and challenging) resolutions into practice in 2024, not only will we as members become more useful in the Lord’s church, but we will experience spiritual growth as well (2 Timothy 2:19-21; 1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18).