Articles

4 Ways Video Can Benefit Your Ministry

Media is evolving at a quick rate, and with the evolution of cell phone cameras offering HD video, pictures or a graphic won’t necessarily help your church stand out on social media.  According to a recent survey by Animoto, 4 times as many users would rather watch a video about a product than reading about it(1).

Video content has a lot of potential to be useful to your ministry and here are just a few its applications:

1) Testimonial Videos

A church member’s story of life change has a greater degree of authenticity than any degree of self-promotion your church could do. People love a good story, and all you have to do is tell a story that says something like this, “My life before this church was ______, I found out about _______, this church has made my life better by _______”.

At Fellowship, we had no idea of the power of a good testimony video.  We shared a video that was far too long, had terrible production quality compared to what we do now, but our social media following jumped up by over 200 people in the matter of a because of people who watched that video.  Why was the video effective, despite all of its cosmetic flaws? It told a great story of a former meth addict turning his life around after meeting Christ.

2) Highlighting and Promoting Annual Events

How do churches traditionally celebrate what happened at a big event? Usually, they have all of the volunteers stand up and give them an obligatory round of applause.  What better way to celebrate an Easter Sunday, Vacation Bible School, or a week of camp than a short video that highlights what happened, who served, and who was impacted by your event?

This is my favorite part about church highlight videos: Once you take the time to create a great highlight film, you can then turn around and use it the next year for promotion! You can also use that same footage when advertising your church in other contexts.

3) Announcement Videos

Let’s face it: nobody wants to hear the 3-minute list of announcements after sitting through a 40-minute sermon.  One way to freshen up one of the “deadest” times in a church service is to simply give your announcements by way of a video.  Not to mention, people would much rather give an announcement in front of a camera where they can do multiple takes than stand in front of a crowd of people.

Trying to give out information about an upcoming event at your church on social media? Use an announcement video! People will listen to an entire 45-second video before they ever click the “read more” button on your post.

Pro Tip: Don’t use a green screen.  It’s a church announcement video, use your church as the background! No church I’ve seen has managed to make a green screen video look professional.

4) Livestream

We live in a livestream age where any smartphone can be a livestream camera. Ever wonder why all of those pesky Facebook sales people always do live video? Facebook gives high priority to livestreamed content during and after the streaming, so this is a great way to get your posts to the top of your follower’s feed!

Video is a tool that your church can really leverage for God’s glory. Find somebody (or be that somebody) who loves using a camera, invest in their training and equipment, and watch how video can help your church stand out in your community.

Bonus: Ready to start using video to help your ministry, but not sure what equipment you’ll need? I’ve assembled common sense reviews of gear I’m familiar with here at kit.com/mikecollins. I have gear recommendations for beginner and advanced video creators.

(1) https://animoto.com/blog/business/video-marketing-cheat-sheet-infographic/

 

Psalm-Singing: The Composition of the Book of Psalms

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I’ve lately become very passionate about the art of Psalm-singing. I am convinced that is not only very helpful in our spiritual lives, but a biblical command as well. In this series on Psalm-singing, my goal is to argue for greater emphasis on singing Psalms both in private and church life. In my previous piece on Psalm-singing, I gave a brief introduction to the subject; now we will look at how Jewish music developed, culminating in the production of the Book of Psalms.

 

Early Jewish songs

            While many of the psalms were written much earlier, the Book of Psalms as we know it was most likely compiled after the exile of the Jewish people. One scholar said, “Rather than looking at the Psalter (Psalms) as an Old Testament worship hymnal, it is probably more appropriate to regard it as a final product of the Old Testament temple, compiled in preparation for New Testament Worship.”

 

Music has always been an important part of worshipping God. The first reference to a worship song is Deuteronomy 31: 19-25; God commands Moses to write a song and teach it to the children of Israel. The song is written not only to worship God, but to remember what He has done for Israel, and to teach and instruct them in what is right. Moses wrote a song for the express purpose of edifying the children of Israel! We see that God gave music an important role in Israel from the beginning, and Hebrew music continued to develop as time went on. Interestingly, there are references in the OT to two books that may have been songbooks:

 

The Book of the Wars of the Lord is quoted one time in Numbers 21: 12-15, its only mention. Many scholars believe this quotation is actually a fragment of a song! It’s interesting to note that two other song fragments are given in the same chapter, one immediately after the book is mentioned. We know very little about the book, but based on the name, many scholars believe this was an anthology of war songs.

 

We know a little more about The Book of Jasher. The events of Joshua 10:12-13 are said to also be written in the Book of Jasher. We have some more (very interesting) information in 2 Samuel 1. After the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, David writes a lamentation about their deaths. The word lamentation means something similar to a funeral dirge. David teaches this song to the children of Israel, and the song is (at least in part) recorded for us! Verse 18 says they taught the children of Judah the “use of the bow”, which is written in the Book of Jasher. Interestingly, the KJV has the words “the use of” in italics, meaning these words were not in the manuscript, but added for clarity. If you remove them, it could read as “and he bade them teach the children of Judah The Bow”. For this reason, some scholars believe “The Bow” to be the title of the song David writes. Regardless, it’s clear that this song is recorded in the Book of Jasher.

Based on the evidence we have, it is possible that the Book of Jasher was a collection of national hymns.

 

Temple Worship

While worship had previously taken place in the tabernacle, King David became burdened about building a magnificent temple for God’s worship. His son, Solomon, fulfilled this dream, and there was a new central location for worship. It is recorded that Solomon wrote 1005 songs, and an extrabiblical source credits David with 4,050. Hezekiah, Moses, Asaph, and others are also credited with writing songs. Surely many of these were worship songs.

 

You can imagine it would take a vast library to store all these songs! Imagine the vast storehouses that must have existed in the temple to hold the various texts, including thousands of songs. Temple services included a Levitical choir that surely sang many of these worship songs. The temple worship must have truly been something to behold.

 

Compiling the Psalms

In 587 BC, the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and drove the people into exile. We don’t know what happened to the law books, song books, and other texts kept in the temple; they were likely destroyed or lost. Later, under Persian rule, the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild. Ezra, according to Jewish and Christian tradition, was the one who compiled the Hebrew Scriptures into basic canonical form (including the Psalms) in this post-exilic period. As Ezra compiled the book of Psalms, he surely put great thought into which songs to choose, and how to arrange them. Remember, he chose 150 songs out of thousands!

The Psalms are not just thrown in together like a random hodgepodge; there seems to be a distinct order to their arrangement. In fact, many scholars believe that the book of Psalms is divided into five books. The first three focus on Israel’s faith in God’s covenant with them through David, and the last two focus on their faith that God will restore the Davidic dynasty in the future. Books four and five answer the crisis of Books one, two, and three: The fall of the Davidic line, and the hope that it will be restored (in Jesus Christ) Serious and involved planning and theological reflection went into the compilation of the Psalm – it is a praise book formed in expectation of the coming Messiah, the Son of David, Jesus Christ.

 

The Psalms point towards Jesus Christ; can you imagine the joy the disciples would have felt, meeting the Christ they had been singing about since they were children? In the next article on Psalm-singing, we’ll examine the use of the Psalms in the New Testament, and throughout church history.

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Milk or Meat? Another Lesson on Spiritual Maturity

 Christ has commanded all believers to be teachers. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.” Specifically, we are to teach others what Christ has taught us from His Word – how to be saved, and how to live the Christian life. This doesn’t mean we’re all called to be pastors or missionaries – it just means we all should be giving the Gospel to unbelievers and edifying other believers. What you’ve learned, pass on to others – it’s a Biblical principle.

     Throughout the Bible, we see this principle.  Jesus passed on what He knew to his disciples, then told them to tell others. Paul told Timothy in II Timothy 2:2, “And the things that thou hast heard of me . . . the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” One generation passes truth to the next. God intended for the truth of His Word to be passed down this way. He gives us Spirit-filled men in each generation who can understand it and teach it to the next generation. We have a responsibility to our generation and to future generations to pass on the truth of God’s Word.    

     However, Hebrews 5:12 talks of people who “ought to be teachers,” but they needed to be taught! They should have been deeper in their understanding of spiritual things but were still getting confused on the basics. Chapter 6 tells us some of the basics they should have had down: the doctrine of salvation by repentance and faith in Christ, baptism, the resurrection. These are fundamental doctrines of Scripture. You don’t have to look deep into the Bible to find them.  

     The author illustrates his point by saying that they had “need of milk, and not of strong meat.” We understand the analogy. When a baby comes home from the hospital, you don’t throw a T-bone steak and some A1 in front of him and say, “Eat up!” Their digestive system is not yet able to handle that. They have to start with milk and work their way to being able to eat the meaty stuff.

     There’s nothing wrong with that! It’s natural! A newborn Christian should desire the sincere milk of the Word, Peter says. He may not be able to debate deep theology the day after he’s saved. He’s still learning and growing. 

     However, if a 13-year-old is still drinking milk from a bottle or eating baby food, there’s something wrong! Likewise, if a Christian who’s been saved several years still hasn’t learned the fundamentals of Scripture, doesn’t know how to lead someone to Christ, looks the same, talks the same, watches, and listens to the same stuff they did when they were first saved, still has the same friends, still just comes to church Sunday morning, still isn’t involved in ministries, only has 10 minute devotions occasionally, prays for 2 minutes a day – there’s something wrong!

     You may not grow as fast as others.  That’s OK – People grow at different rates. However, if you’re not moving forward at all, there’s a problem. How can you pass on your knowledge of God to others if you don’t have any knowledge to pass on? 

     Growth is always in a forward direction. What if you were still the same height today that you were at birth? What if tomorrow you were two feet shorter than today? That would look odd. Something would be wrong with the growth process. Whether a new Christian or saved for years, you should be moving forward in the Christian life.

     So how do we grow? Look at Hebrews 5:14: strong meat belongs to “those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” After you’ve learned and applied, or used, the Scriptures for a while, you’ll begin to take them to heart. You’ll be able to discern between right and wrong. You won’t get caught up in false teaching. You grow by learning and applying God’s Word!  

     Perhaps your church could be doing more if you put more effort into your growth. Perhaps you could have led more to Christ, given more, and served more. How much have we hindered God’s working by our spiritual complacency?

     This isn’t meant to be a criticism. It’s an encouragement to keep studying, reading, applying, and growing thereby. Listen up when your pastor is preaching and apply the truth to your life. Future generations are counting on you to pass on truth; how can you do that if you haven’t learned it yourself?

     I have a one-year-old son. He’s counting on me to teach him the things of the Lord. Someday, if the Lord tarries His coming, there will come a generation after him. He may have a son that will need him to pass those things along so future generations can learn it. Do you see how urgent this is?

     Is there some can of “baby food” in your life? Some area where you should be farther along, but you’re just sitting stagnant? Some area where you should be serving in church, or perhaps some childish thing you haven’t given up? Somebody you should be telling about Jesus, but you’ve just “never got around to it”?  

     Are you growing, or are you content to stay where you are? Even if you’re not a pastor, you can tell others your testimony! You can invite them to church and give them a tract! You can read your Bible and pray every day! You can clean the church or mow the church lawn! Future generations are counting on you to grow!  

     The author says, “You ought to be teachers, but you need to be taught yourselves because you haven’t taken the time to grow by learning and using the truth of the Bible.” How about you – are you growing?  

Mindsets for an Impactful Internship

MINDSETS FOR AN IMPACTFUL INTERNSHIP

A successful internship requires intentionality from two different people–the pastor and the intern.  While there are probably stories out there of pastors failing to give their intern adequate opportunities to prepare themselves for the pastorate, it is my observation that there are many interns that think that completing their term and fulfilling their basic duties automatically prepares them for the pastorate. That is far from reality.

If an internship is going to be worthwhile, it requires a willingness from a pastor to let the intern practice ministry and a willingness from the intern to make the most of the internship.

Allow me to share three mindsets that I’ve learned from previous interns at FBC, which have helped make my current internship even more valuable.

I’M HERE TO MAKE A LONG-TERM IMPACT IN A SHORT-TERM WINDOW

Too often, interns become so focused on the destination of completing their internship that they pour less energy into the journey. A wise intern will emotionally invest themselves in the church as if they planned to be there for 10 years!  An intern who plans to make a long-term impact will do more than the pastor asks: they take initiative to see gaps in the ministry and fill them for their pastor.

I’M HERE TO REACH AND DISCIPLE PEOPLE FOR JESUS

I’ll never forget what Pastor Prater told me before I came on staff, “By the time you leave here, I need to be able to look out on our church and see multiple people that you’ve reached and discipled during your time here.  If you can’t reach people as a staff member at a well-established work, then you probably won’t reach many people as a church planter.”  This is huge! An intern must see themselves as more than a guy who does media, a youth pastor, a janitor, or a Sunday School teacher: they have to make every effort to win people to Jesus and disciple them during their internship.  It’s simply unwise for a man to start a church if he hasn’t first proven himself to be passionate about winning and developing followers of Jesus.

I’M HERE TO BUILD LIFELONG FRIENDSHIPS WITH THE PEOPLE OF GOD

While every intern must be focused on reaching people outside the doors of the church, it is also important that they build lifelong friendships with those inside the doors of the church.  The sending church relationship that Fellowship has with its church planters could not happen if there wasn’t a deep bond between church members and church planter developed during the intern phase.  One cannot enjoy the harvest of an invested sending church without first planting the seeds of relationship-building.  This means you have to establish a routine of inviting church people over to your home, having meaningful conversations with members in every age group, and going out of your way to show the love of Christ to others in the body.

The title of the intern is one that may describe your end goals as a staff member, but don’t allow the title to describe your impact as a staff member.  Dig in, reach people, and love the church members just as any tenured staff member would.  You’ll find embracing the journey will prepare you for church planting far more than obsessing over the destination.

Psalm Singing: An Introduction

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I’ve recently become very interested in Psalm-singing. I can’t say that there was anything in particular that sparked this interest, other than really taking a look at this verse:

Colossians 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

I’ve read this hundreds of times; I’ve memorized it, even; but it suddenly struck me that I had been neglecting singing Psalms. We sang plenty of hymns every Sunday in church, as well as specials; but what about Psalms? In both my personal devotional life, and as a music director, I began to feel that I had been guilty of not following a biblical command.

I started doing some research, trying to see what resources were available online. I found…hardly anything! It’s difficult to find Psalms arranged for congregational singing, and what I could find was of a low quality.

Since the internet failed to provide what I was looking for, I did things the old-fashioned way: I bought a Psalter. After some research, I chose the Book of Psalms for Singing, as it seemed to hew closer to the language of the KJV than some other alternatives. For those that may not be familiar with a Psalter, it is a book of Psalms set to chants or music. The Book of Psalms for Singing contains all 150 Psalms, set to multiple arrangements.

Since buying the Psalter, I’ve implemented it both in congregational singing, as well as my own personal devotion time. I typically read one Psalm per day, and it has been an absolute thrill to take those great Psalms and sing them to the Lord. In our church, we have begun featuring one Psalm per month during our growth hour, and I’ve fully enjoyed singing with our congregation as well.

Psalm-singing has a treasured place in Christian worship. The book of Psalms is a theologically rich book that covers every expression of human emotion. It contains jubilant praise to God for His goodness, as well as expressions of despair and cries for God’s mercy. Christians have been blessed by the Psalms for thousands of years, and enjoyed singing the Psalms for generations; in fact, in many times and places, the Psalter has been used as the primary, if not exclusive, songbook for worshipping God.

Yet it seems that the great practice of Psalm-singing has fallen by the wayside; I conducted a few polls, and 75% said that they never or rarely sang Psalms in their church. Only 25% said that they often (defined as once a month) or sometimes sang Psalms. These polls are by no means scientific, but my own experience would bear this out. I have grown up in church my entire life, but I don’t remember ever singing Psalms other than a few choruses at youth camp.

I’m determined to change that, at least, in my own personal life and in my church. To that end, I’ve begun doing research on the history of Psalm-singing, and how to implement Psalms in our lives today. I hope to dive into the history, but also the biblical commands to sing and how they relate to Psalms. I hope this will be informative and helpful to you, but let me encourage you, in the meantime, to begin using some Psalms in your private and congregational (if you can) worship. I think you’ll find it immensely beneficial!

Worhy of Worship: A Call to Lively Congregational Singing

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Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Kevin Higginbotham, Music Assistant at Southwest Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, OK.

There has been and will be many sermons preached, articles written, and cases made for enthusiastic congregational singing.  It is such a vital part of the worship service – as a pastor I know often points out, the music portion of a church service is the part of the service directed to God, whereas the preaching is the part directed to man.  Yet why is it so often that congregational singing becomes “filler time” that we use to get everyone to find a seat, or the pastor uses to make his way to the platform, or the musically-talented few use to try to impress everyone around them with their vocal or instrumental prowess?  I would submit that the reason for all of these things is that we’ve gotten our eyes off the One Whom we are to be praising during this time – and have thus forgotten that He is worthy of our utmost devotion and worship.

With this in mind, I would like to paint a picture in your mind of a scene described for us in the Book of Revelation, chapter 5.  We would understand this chapter of Revelation to be describing a time after the church has been raptured, because all the events after this describe the tribulation and what takes place for those who remain upon the earth as they face God’s judgment and wrath.  So first of all, it is necessary that you get in your mind the picture of every single saint who has ever trusted Christ as Saviour throughout all of time, standing in the throneroom of Heaven, and the following takes place.

 

And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.

And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?

And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.

And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.

 

So here we have a very significant scene.  It seems at first to be a rather odd situation, with the book and the seals and no one being worthy to open it, but it is significant when you begin to think about it.  Remember who would be in attendance here – the great saints of ages past, the martyrs, the apostles, the faithful missionaries we read biographies about, the powerful evangelists and preachers who’ve led thousands to Christ.  Yet not one of them is found worthy.  This is significant and sobering to reflect upon.  Paul, the greatest missionary other than Christ Himself, was not found worthy.  King David, great leader that he was, man after God’s own heart, was not found worthy.  Daniel, Joseph, Noah, Abraham, Job, Stephen, John the Baptist – these mighty heroes of our faith, along with others of a more recent time – were not found worthy.

For that matter, all the false prophets and idols that men worship today were not found worthy either.  Confucius was not found worthy.  Buddha and Mohammed were not found worthy.  Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were not found worthy.

Let’s hit a little closer to home – your boyfriend or girlfriend was not found worthy.  Your bank account was not found worthy.  Your favorite sports star or pop artist was not found worthy.  Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were not found worthy.

Let’s bring it full circle – YOU were not found worthy.  All the things and people we are so prone to “worship” by the way that we live our lives, all of those things that occupy the place of God in our day-to-day schedule, our conversation, our priorities, and our desires – all these are utterly worthless at this time.  And let’s face it – any time we replace God with something else in our life and worship, we’re really choosing to “worship” self.  But John makes it clear – he, you, and I are found unworthy as well.

To think that of all the great people who have ever lived, there is not one found worthy – this is a sobering thought.  It is a depressing thought.  It causes John to weep.  We are all, every one of us, together in this unworthy state.  However, the story does not end there.  Let’s continue reading:

 

And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.

 

All is changed in this instant – someone has been found worthy to open the book, to loose the seals.  He is described as the Lion of the tribe of Judah.  How John’s heart must have been stirred to hear this wonderful news.  Doesn’t the name itself, “Lion of the tribe of Judah” bring to mind power, majesty, and supremacy?  You don’t call someone a lion who is weak or insignificant.  The Lion of the tribe of Judah sounds like a mighty warrior.  The lion is called the king of the jungle or the king of the beasts because of his fearful might – and this Lion is to be feared even more so!

However, I want you to notice something very mind-blowing here.  It took me aback when I read it a week ago in my devotions, because I had never noticed it before.  Continue reading with me:

 

And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

 

Imagine you’re John in this moment.  You’re weeping because no one has been found worthy, and someone touches you and says, “Wait!  Don’t weep!  Don’t cry!  Someone has been worthy – the Lion of the tribe of Judah!”  John looks up to see this Lion, this conquering warrior, and sees instead – can you imagine it – a Lamb!  Not a Lion, a Lamb!

Not just any Lamb, but a Lamb as it had been slain!  This Lamb was slain, sacrificed, brutally slaughtered to pay the sin debt of His sheep.  Oh yes, He is indeed the conquering, mighty, fearsome Lion described in verse 5, but at the same time, He is the loving, gentle, sacrificial, loving Lamb described in verse 6.

Oh how the scene in heaven changes at this instant!  Continue reading:

 

And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.

And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;

Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.

 

Just imagine the scene – as this Lion-Lamb steps forward, the whole of heaven explodes with His praise!  Can you hear it?  The voices of every single saint who’s ever placed his faith and trust in Jesus for salvation, joined together in a mighty anthem like none heard before, a new song, shouting, making heaven ring with the refrain, “Thou art worthy, for thou hast redeemed us!”  Buddha, Mohammed, your wallet, your spouse, your father, your friend, your secular idol, is not worthy because no matter what they have done, they could not do anything about your sin and its penalty – but He could, and He did!  And it is precisely for that reason, John records for us, that He is worthy – of all praise!

One day, I believe you and I will get to sing in this choir of all choirs, lifting our voices in praise to the One Who is worthy, for He has redeemed us!  The One Who is worthy, because He was slain.  Because He’s the Lion-Lamb.

We will get to participate in this million-plus-voice choir, and on that day, I don’t believe anyone will pull out their phone to check the score of the ball game.  I don’t believe anyone will be thinking about what’s in the oven for supper after church.  I don’t believe anyone will be looking around at who’s missing or trying to outdo the person behind them.  No, my friend, we will all be belting it out with all our might, singing loud, triumphant praise to the Lion-Lamb Who loved us, died for us, and saved us.  I don’t believe there will be a dry eye in the place.  I am overwhelmed just thinking about it.

What an awesome picture!  What a great event to look forward to!  Yet, do we not get the opportunity every Sunday and Wednesday to lift our voices as a local body of those who have been redeemed by this Lion-Lamb?  Do we not get to join our voices as those who’ve been saved to praise His worthiness every week?  Why would this deserve any less of our attention, focus, praise, and energy?  Is He a different Saviour on Sunday in your Baptist church than He is in Heaven?

He’s there, you know.  He promised that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is in the midst.  So we can’t give the excuse that He is not present.  The Lion-Lamb who came forward as the only one worthy to open the book in Revelation 5 is the same Lion-Lamb who attends your Sunday morning worship service as the only one worthy of your praise, your song, and your worship.

There is no more room for apathy in your congregational singing at church on Sunday than there will be in Heaven!  And who cares if everyone around you is singing half-heartedly and you stick out?  If you’re that one voice in a church of half-hearted apathetic singers that raises your voice in loud praise to God, God bless you!  I like people that sing holding nothing back, because that tells me they have joy in the Lord.  When I see people singing barely moving their lips, yawning, looking dead or zoned out, or barely muttering out the words, that also tells me their view of God.  If you truly believe God is worthy, how can you not lift your voice in loud praise – who cares whether you’re the best singer or not!

Here’s a sobering thought – your praise tells an unsaved person who walks into your church your view of God as well.  If you’re singing heartily and merrily to God, people will notice.  If you open your book and mutter your way mindlessly through a song, they will also notice.  It sends a message, and even if you think you have a proper view of God, what sort of view are you giving others of your God by the way you sing?  Are you displaying Him as the Lion-Lamb worthy of all praise?  Or are you displaying Him as someone some 18th century people wrote songs about but Who doesn’t really affect our lives, and Who doesn’t even deserve our full attention when we’re worshipping Him?

He is always worthy – and though we are not yet in that multitude in Heaven, we can have a foretaste of that glorious scene here below every church service when we open our hymnals to join in congregational singing.  How sad if we miss out on it because we’re too preoccupied with self to notice the worthiness of the Lion-Lamb Who has redeemed us!

Expressive Praise and Worship: Is it Biblical?

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a guest post from Micah Bosworth, Music Pastor at Moses Lake Baptist Church in Moses Lake, WA

 
When I was a kid, and even in my teenage years, I would often make fun of, and mockingly mimic people who were expressive during congregational songs of praise and worship. It seemed to always get a laugh with my friends in the youth group since I grew up in a pretty conservative church. Whenever we would see “hand-raisers”, “swayers”, “shouters”, or the occasional “kneeler”, we would think of them as overly emotional. Because of our church’s culture, we would make sure to keep our eyes on the words, not get too emotional, and avoid being a distraction at all costs!

Today, as a music pastor, I evaluate praise and worship quite often. I watch videos of myself leading our church in praise and worship. I watch our choir to see if we are communicating the messages of the songs with true praise and worship. And I observe the congregation every service, as I watch and hear them joining me in our songs of praise and worship.

Then one day, I started to consider my personal walk with the Lord. I started to evaluate how I personally praise and worship my Saviour, behind closed doors. And I began to think about how I personally led the congregation in praising and worshipping. At first, I thought to myself, “I know all the songs! I’m confident in leading them. I’m consistent in reading my Bible. I’m praying constantly. I think I’m doing pretty well!” However, I couldn’t shake the conviction from God that something was missing. The Lord was trying to show me that there was more to praising and worshipping Him than just these things. And although I didn’t know it at the time, the Lord was about to show me that I was actually limiting myself in my praise and worship.

And I don’t think I am alone in doing so! I believe that there are believers all over the place that are limiting themselves in how they praise and worship our Saviour. Some do so ignorantly (they just don’t know what the Bible says). Some do so out of pride (they are afraid what others might think). And others do so out of tradition (I’ve never expressed myself that way, so I feel uncomfortable doing so).

However, the Bible tells us how to praise and worship the Lord. And although it does include music, it is almost exclusively expressive. But don’t take my word for it! Let’s look at what the Word of God says!

Bowing Down
Psalm 103:1
Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Psalm 72:15
And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised.
The words bolded in these verses are translated from the Hebrew word bārak.
H1288 bārak- to kneel; by implication to bless God (as an act of adoration), —(Strong’s Concordance)

Psalm 103:1 has always been one of my favorite verses! And after finding out what the Hebrew words translated “bless” mean, I couldn’t help but love it more! In fact, most of the times the word “bless” is used in the KJV, it is derived from this word. With this meaning in mind, that verse gives the connotation that we would be humble before the Lord. All that is within me…bow before his holy name. My heart…bow. My mind…bow. My soul…bow. My body…bow!

This isn’t necessarily a new concept! If you were to look up all of the Hebrew and Greek words translated “worship” in the KJV, they all allude to the act of crouching low, kneeling, and bowing. God is very interested in His people bowing before Him. In fact, Jesus said to the woman at the well: “…true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship (bow before) him.”

It’s a humbling act! But it’s a reverent act! Our heavenly Father wants us to praise and worship Him by bowing.

The Lifting of Hands
2 Chronicles 20:21
And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.
Psalm 67:3
Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.
In these verses, the word praise comes from the Hebrew word yādâ.
H3034 yādâ- literally to use (i.e. hold out) the hand; physically to throw at or away; especially to revere or worship (with extended hands) —(Strong’s Concordance)
This Hebrew word, yādâ, is translated praise, in our King James Bible, 52 times. We lift our hands to praise many things, and God desires that we would lift our hands to Him in praise.

Darren Whitehead says it this way: “Is there any more natural expression of excitement, wonder, or awe than raising your hands? Whether it’s the excitement that comes when your favorite sports team scores a goal, the joy of receiving an unexpected promotion, or the elation that comes with a declaration of victory in battle, aren’t we prone to expressing enthusiasm with upshot hands? It’s almost a primal instinct, something coded in our DNA. And regardless of the language you speak, the color of your skin, or your country of origin, haven’t you felt this urge?”

I would say that all of us have experienced this kind of praise at one point in our lives. And although Psalm 67 was surely written for the Hebrew people, verse 3 implies a broader meaning, for sure. Let ALL the people praise thee. We should all be raising our hands to God in praise.

 
Looking Foolish
Psalm 149:3
Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.

Psalm 150
Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.

H1984 hālal- to be clear (originally of sound, but usually of color); to shine; hence to make a show, to boast; and thus to be (clamourously) foolish; to rave; causatively to celebrate; —(Strong’s Concordance)

Now, before I even speak on this one, let me say this: I do not condone, nor do I encourage people to be a distraction during church services. I do not believe one needs to head bang, run laps, or go into an all out dance frenzy to praise in the capacity in which this Hebrew word expresses. However, I do believe that this word challenges us to go outside of ourselves, go beyond our pride, lay aside our solidarity, get past our culture of lethargy, and praise our Saviour in a more fervent, passionate, and enthusiastic way.
I’ve seen men like evangelist Dave McCracken wave a hanky in praise! To some that looks foolish! Are we willing to praise the Lord emotionally and expressively, even if it might seem foolish?

“Hālal” is the primary Hebrew word for praise. Therefore, I believe the Lord would have us forget what others might think, get out of our comfort zones and “hālal”. We have a

God who is worth making a show of! We have a God who is someone to boast and rave about! We have a Saviour who was willing to look foolish, shameful, and scandalous for us as He took our place on the cross of Calvary. And yet, instead of looking “clamourously foolish”, we would rather stand still, stare at words, and sing within our comfort zones. Instead, we need to bow, dance (gasp!), shout, sing out loud, and raise our hands in praise and worship to our King.
There are other words in Scripture that tell us what praise is:
• H2167 zāmar has to do with making music (Psalm 144:9)
• H8426 tôdâ references extending the hands and a choir of worshippers
(Jeremiah 17:26)
• H8416 tehillâ talks about songs and hymns (Psalm 22:3)
• H7623 šābah gives the idea that we would shout (Psalm 145:4)
We say that our God is worthy of ALL praise. God desires for us to give Him ALL praise. And we offer Him our praise and worship through music, but often fail to lift our hands, shout, bow, and “look foolish” for Him. And I believe that for us to neglect these other aspects of praise and worship is to essentially offer insufficient praise and worship to God. Anything less than ALL praise is insufficient.
So let’s evaluate ourselves. How is our personal praise? How is our corporate worship? Let’s get past our comfort zones and personal thoughts, and truly offer our God the same passionate, heartfelt, emotional, and “foolish” praise that the people of the Bible did. He is worthy of it all!

How Giants Fall: Grace to Overcome

GRACE TO OVERCOME

Learn from the world’s best.  That’s the slogan of a new online tutorial website called MasterClass.  It’s a genius idea if you think about it: If you want to get better at something, who better to learn from than the best? If you want to get better at basketball, there are not many better options than Steph Curry. If you want to get better at cooking, there aren’t any better teachers than Gordon Ramsay.

But who would you learn from if you wanted to learn how to overcome your giant? David, of course! The last section of 1 Samuel 17 gives us David’s example of how he overcame Goliath, and it provides a pattern for those of us trying to gain victory over the giants in our lives.

SEE THE BATTLE FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE

What makes David stand out in this story is not just his choice of weaponry but the fact that he was the onlyIsraelite who seemed to take notice of Goliath’s blasphemous words against God Almighty.  While the rest of the army saw a giant, David saw an enemy after God’s territory.  The soldiers focused on the physical, but David saw the spiritual.

If you and I hope to win the battle over our giant, we have to see the battle from God’s perspective. Too often, all we see in our sin are the external issues: we don’t like the way it feels, we don’t want to face the consequences, or we want to earn the rewards of getting victory.  But the battle is bigger than that! The battle is about God’s glory and not about you.  Victory begins when our mindset shifts onto a purpose much bigger than ourselves.

PLACE FAITH IN GOD’S POWER

The scene of David walking down into the Valley of Elah to battle Goliath had to be dramatic.  Nobody else in the entire army was willing to step out there except for David.  They had to be thinking, “What is this guy thinking? Doesn’t he know he is gonna lose?

But I love the confidence David showed as he talked to Goliath.  Every word he spoke of victory was spoken with confidence rather than timidity, “I willsmite thee, I will give, this assembly shallknow.”  How did David had such faith that he would overcome? He had such great faith because David already knew what God had said about the Philistines. David knew that God had promised that piece of land to Israel, and that God was going to keep His Word.

As intimidating as sin can be in our lives, we have to realize that our giant is already dead. Your sin lost power over you the day that Jesus rose from the grave.  God has already made it clear, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace”  (Romans 6:14). Because of Jesus, we don’t have to sin! His power has promised the victory to all who are willing to take it.

TAKE ACTION BY GOD’S GRACE

One of my favorite things about 1 Samuel 17 is the fact that Samuel spends 46 verses building tension for a battle that only lasted 4 verses. Why was the battle so easily won for David? Because David’s decision to fight for God’s glory guaranteed that he would be backed by God’s power.  David doesn’t deserve much credit for the victory in the Valley of Elah: he only won the battle because of God’s unseen grace accompanying him every step of the way.

It doesn’t matter how motivated you or I may be to kill our giant if we never take action!  For some, the stone they need to pick up is the decision to get honest about secret sin. For another, it may be as simple as deleting an app on your phone, seeking out counseling, or breaking ties with a friend.

But whatever action you must take, just remember that God’s grace will be there to help you.  When you are at a loss of words to explain your sin, God’s grace will be there. When everything within your flesh wants to tolerate this sin just a little longer, God’s grace will be there.  When you’re scared to pick up the phone and ask for forgiveness, God’s grace will be there.  When you fight for God’s glory, you will be backed by God’s power.

Did you notice the similarity between all three principles? Here they are again: See the battle from God’s perspective, place faith in God’s power, and take action by God’s grace.  There are no cute tricks to defeating your giant.  It all comes down to your willingness to let God do what only He can do.  And that will only happen when you pick up your sling and your stone and do what only you can do. Fight for God’s glory, experience His power.

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Graduating Bible College? Consider Helping a Church Planter

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I was facing most Bible college students’ two worst nightmares coming into my last semester:

I had no idea where I was going after graduation, and I was single.

Thankfully, God soon opened a door for me to go to Foundation Baptist Church in Sammamish, WA; getting married took a little longer, but that’s happening next month.

If you’re in Bible college, you might be like I was; I don’t have any advice right now when it comes to singleness, but I’d like to point your mind towards one post-graduation possibility: find a church planter, and go help him.

I know the feelings of fear and disappointment that come with not knowing what you will be doing after your senior year. It’s scary! It’s hard not knowing if you’ll have a chance to serve God in the way that you hoped for, after preparing for it for four years.

I think most students in this situation either go home, or simply stay at the church they’re at while going to college. Most Bible colleges, at least in the circles I run in, are heavily supported, if not run by, a local church.

I get it; I thought about going home myself, before my current pastor called me. Home is comforting (for many, at least); and if you don’t know what to do, why not go there? Same with your local church. At Heartland Baptist Bible College, where I graduated, almost every student goes to Southwest Baptist Church. It’s a great church, and most students come to love it! Why not stay there, if it’s comfortable, and you are already serving?

Going home, or staying where you are, may be the right choice for some, and it’s certainly not my intent to denigrate anyone who does so; but it may be that you could be a greater blessing, and have a more meaningful ministry, by finding a church planter who needs help.

Let me use myself as an example. I went to Southwest Baptist Church, and was active in serving there. I enjoyed getting to work on their bus routes, and help in Sunday School classes. Certainly those are important things! But SBC has thousands of people attending; they had lots of people to draw from; they had so many people, that most did not have a chance to serve the Lord to the full extent of their abilities. It’s easy to get lost in that shuffle, and more young people came in every year through Heartland.

My church back home was similar; I would have had chances to serve there, but there certainly wasn’t a need for me to go back. I come from a wonderful church that’s full of people who are faithfully serving God.

On the other hand, I look at the church I’ve been at for the last three years. Foundation Baptist Church is a fantastic church, and I am blessed with a wonderful, faithful, church family. Our membership is not 500 or 1,000, however; it’s closer to 50. We don’t have a choir; we have 4 or 5 people in our music ministry. We struggle to have enough teachers. There is a lot to do, and not enough people to do it!

Our church isn’t alone; there’s church plants across the country that need faithful people who love the Lord. In fact, we started a new church almost two years ago; that church still doesn’t have a pianist, music director, youth director, or any staff besides the pastor. They need some faithful Christians to go and serve! In one year, we are starting another church in Seattle. That church will need faithful people, too!

I get that most people want to go to a church that has a lot to offer them, like full-time salary, an office, maybe even housing; but every church can’t offer those things. There are small churches that are still deserving of someone to go and invest in them. There are teenagers who need a youth pastor, even though their church can’t pay. There are congregations that need a faithful music director.

When my pastor interviewed me, he read me this wanted ad that Ernest Shackleton posted when he was looking for sailors on his voyage to the Antarctic:

Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.

That’s what a lot of church plants have to offer. You may get little (or no) pay; you may get no housing; you may not be full-time within two years. You may, in fact, never be full-time at all. You may not get recognition or attention. But you will have an opportunity to serve the Lord in a place where you are needed! You’ll have an opportunity to be used by God to make a difference in people’s lives. You’ll have an opportunity to see God grow and develop His church.

If you are graduating and need somewhere to go, think and pray about going to help a church plant. Don’t wait to be asked; call a pastor! If you don’t know any, ask your school to give you a list. Tell him you want to come out and visit; tell him you are interested in coming to help him, if he’s interested. You may not get any awards at graduation; you may not be a group member, or an RA, or have the best homiletics grade. But faithful pastors need faithful men and women. If you have four years of ministry training, you could be an incredible asset to a small church. You have no idea what a blessing you could be to a church planter just by serving faithfully.

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No-No’s, Scissors, and Meat: A Lesson on Spiritual Maturity

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I am the proud father of an 18-month old ball of energy, drool, and curiosity named Parker. Parker is at the stage where he is beginning to explore his surroundings and, in his own way, ask questions about them. He is also at the stage where whenever he decides he wants to do something, he throws his entire 30 pounds into it. He is a force to be reckoned with, and woe to the person who decides to get in his way when his mind is made up.

This independent spirit, unfortunately, leads to troubling and sometimes dangerous situations. For instance, he loves to point at and even touch wall outlets and items plugged into them, even being so bold as to say something like, “Dats a no-no” while touching them. He understands he is not allowed to do it, but does it anyway, of course not understanding the power that wall socket holds to deliver quite a shock! So we tell him “no,” and spank him if he persists, but still he rebels day in and day out.
Welcome to Parenting Life. All of us who have kids, especially young kids, can relate. They know what they are supposed to do, because Mommy and Daddy said “Do this,” or “No-no,” but they can’t possibly understand why. Can you imagine me trying to sit my eighteen-month-old son down for a lecture on electrical outlets, how they function, electrical engineering, and kinetic energy? That would go over about as well as trying to get him to sit down for an entire episode of Looney Tunes, or to stay in his highchair during an actual entire meal, usually goes.
Of course, he wouldn’t understand the why; he is only a child. He has not matured enough to be able to fully grasp the risks involved in playing with electrical outlets. But as parents, we have a concern (that he will be harmed), as well as a desire (that he live long enough to make it to school and learn about kinetic energy for himself), so we set and enforce a boundary – “No no!”
The Bible is full of boundaries. God gives us many clear-cut boundaries in His Word about things we are not to do as Christians. We are to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage, we are not to steal, or murder, or lie, or take the Lord’s name in vain, just to name a few. God sets these boundaries because He has a concern (that our lives and the lives of others not be hurt) and a desire (that we please and glorify Him).
However, there are also many things that the Bible does not specifically address. Your favorite TV show is probably not mentioned by name in Scripture, nor is your favorite genre of music. The address of your favorite date-night restaurant isn’t listed in the Holy Scriptures, and neither is the full name of your favorite actor/actress. How do we know what activities are right and what activities are not?
Well, there are some things that, while not specifically addressed in Scripture, can be addressed using Scriptural principles. For instance, using recreational drugs or smoking may not be specifically addressed, but keeping your body pure as a temple of the Holy Ghost is. The specific medium of pornographic websites may not be mentioned, but looking upon a woman to lust after her is.
But it gets better — as believers, the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, and as we study and read the Word, He guides us into “all truth,” so that we may understand what is right and what is wrong. Paul wrote in Galatians 5 that if we walk in the Spirit, that is, live a life yielded to His leading, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh, and we are not under the law. In other words, if you “obey every impulse of the Holy Spirit” (as one of my Bible college professors worded it), you will not do anything contrary to God’s law, because God in the person of the Holy Spirit cannot contradict His own law!
But all of that is introductory to what I really want to get across today. I’m talking about the subject of spiritual maturity and the kind of lifestyle it brings about. The fact is, most Christians have no problem with anything I’ve discussed up to now. We fail and sin on a daily basis, sure, but we understand that these things are wrong. We understand the evils of lying, stealing, killing, and pornography. Those boundaries that are set, either directly or indirectly, through the Word of God, are usually not an issue.
However, in I Corinthians, chapters 8 and 10, Paul addresses another set of activities: those activities which God has not placed boundaries upon, either through His Word, its principles, or through His Spirit. In other words, those activities that, as being free in Christ, we have liberty to partake in and not be sinning per se. I am not going to get into too many specifics, but these could perhaps include a favorite TV show, movie, book, style of music, entertainment/activity choice, and the list goes on.
Unfortunately, these areas of personal standard choices can lead to disunity and contempt among brethren. If you want to hear some heated debate, just get around a group of three or more Christians and start talking about entertainment choices and personal standards, and watch the sparks fly! This is what was taking place in the Corinthian church. Certain believers were very weak in Christ and were very concerned about eating meat offered unto idols. They thought that somehow the meat was a wicked thing in and of itself because it had been offered to idols. Other Christians realized that offering something to idols did diddly-squat to it — those false gods are either long dead or completely non-existent entities. How can they bestow any significance whatsoever, either good or bad, upon someone’s meal? They recognized the liberty that they had in Christ — but they were flaunting it. They were looking down on the weak brethren as not being smart enough to realize they had liberty, and some of the weak brethren were giving in and eating the meat, and in so doing, committing what they believed was a sin, because the other brethren were doing it.
Paul wrote to straighten that problem out. He addressed it in chapter 8 by telling these believers who have liberty not to use that liberty to cause problems with a brother. Here’s the thing — if someone can not do something in full faith that it’s right, the Bible says they’re sinning in doing it, even if the act itself is not condemned by God! That’s what Paul meant when he said, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” to the Romans when addressing the same subject in Romans 14:23. If you can’t do it in full faith, it’s a sin!
So therefore, if you do something around another believer that you feel spiritual liberty to do, but they think it might be wrong, but they do it anyway because you’re doing it — even though you may not have been sinning by doing the act, you have caused them to sin by doing something their conscience told them was wrong! Can you see how this is a serious matter? Someone can unknowingly be pressuring a fellow believer to sin! That’s why Paul said to pay attention and not be a stumblingblock to others, and to consider those weaker in the faith — in other words, before doing something, don’t just think, “Is it ok for me to do?” but think also, “Is it something that might cause a conflicted conscience in another brother watching me?” In other, other words, get your mind off just yourself and onto those around you!
Paul said, “All things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” in I Cor. 10:23. He was saying that even though there’s no piece of meat that in and of itself is evil and of the devil, partaking of it just might not edify, or build up, another brother. Therefore, Paul said he would eat no flesh as long as the world stands if it makes another brother sin. (I Cor. 8:13)
The phrase “all things edify not” also raises another valid point — not only should you consider whether or not that activity, TV show, movie, or choice would edify or harm other brothers, but also consider your own life. Can you honestly say you are drawn closer to God by that movie or show? I’m not saying we can’t ever enjoy good entertainment, but there may be times when something that may not be inherently wrong has started to put distance between you and God. In other words, is it hindering the growth or edification of myself or others? If the answer to that question is yes, according to the words of Paul, steer away from it.
If it’s something you feel liberty to do, but it bothers another Christian brother, then stay away from it when you’re in their view. You may need to turn off certain TV programs when you have another Christian brother over, or not go certain places with them. Also, don’t forget that in our hyper-connected world of social media, you’re more under scrutiny than you thought — posting or tweeting pictures of you doing those things that may hinder another could be a stumblingblock as well.
Now, let’s bring this full circle, because I started off talking about maturity, and I intend to conclude with that point. Here’s where it all comes together: Those who are immature focus on the boundaries — what they are allowed and not allowed to do, what the rules say and what they don’t say. Those who are mature understand the concern and desire behind the boundaries and rules, and instead focus on what best accomplishes the big picture. To sum up, the immature person focuses on what is allowed, while the mature person focuses on what is best, both for himself and others.
When a Christian says, “Show me in the Bible where it says I can’t do that,” that reveals something about their maturity in Christ. When a Christian says, “No, I’m not allowed to do that,” instead of, “No, that isn’t pleasing to God,” it reveals something about their maturity. It reveals a person focused on the rules instead of the relationship, the boundaries instead of the best course of action.
Imagine me as a twenty-five-year-old young man walking around my house playing with all the electrical outlets, running around with scissors for fun, and doing all the other dangerous things my son would love to do if I allowed him. Imagine someone coming up to me and questioning my actions, and implying that they were not good, and imagine me replying, “Well, there’s no rule that says I can’t run through my house with scissors!”
That’s ludicrous — of course there’s no law that says a twenty-five-year-old man can’t run around his house with scissors. My dad’s not going to drive hundreds of miles to my family’s house and spank me for “breaking a rule.” I have liberty — but by the age of twenty-five, I should have enough maturity to realize that running with sharp objects is dangerous, and be able to choose not to do so without having to be told. In other words, instead of asking, “Am I allowed?”, I would ask, “Is it best?”, and the answer would be — of course not!
I say all of that to say this — Christians, let’s have some spiritual maturity. Next time you’re confronted about an action you’re doing, stop thinking about what you want, and start thinking about how it’s affecting others. Next time you’re trying to decide on a course of action, don’t just think, “Is it allowed?” but “Is it best for me and for those around me?” I believe that if you have the Holy Spirit of God inside you and you truly seek to know the answer to that question, He will use God’s Word to guide you into the right course of action every time. Let’s be mature Christians, not “Dats a no-no!” Christians.