Hey, Calvary Fremont –
Come, let us reason together. I wrote a blog on worship yesterday and received almost 30 comments. My friend Bill Holdridge published it on his Facebook page and received more than 55 comments. It’s a popular topic with a lot of opinions and passions. And that’s a good thing. We should be passionately opinionated about the worship of our Great God! I received some anticipated pushback and I’d like to address that today.
I wrote about the semantic dynamics in the song “Reckless Love.” There are two main concerns that some churches and worship leaders have with this song. The first concern has to do with the connotations of the word ‘reckless.’ That is a theological concern which I addressed yesterday. The second concern is an ecclesiastical one – if people like the songs of a certain church or cluster of churches, they may be attracted to the teaching of those churches and therefore susceptible to any wrong doctrine these churches may teach. And so, by not including certain songs in our worship rotation, we are protecting susceptible souls from possible deception. OK, I get that. Calvary Chapel was blackballed in similar fashion. Many churches were told to stay away from the Maranatha worship choruses sounding forth from Calvary Chapel lest they get sucked into the Charismatic Movement and all that comes along with that – the baptism of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, laying hands upon the sick, etc. Calvary Chapel also believes in the pretribulational rapture of the church, is non-Calvinistic, and uses drums and guitars in worship. I can sympathize with the ecclesiastical concern. If that is your position, please consider the following.
“How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how can I denounce whom the LORD has not denounced?…He has not observed misfortune in Jacob; Nor has He seen trouble in Israel; The LORD his God is with him, And the shout of a king is among them. God brings them out of Egypt, He is for them like the horns of the wild ox. For there is no omen against Jacob, Nor is there any divination against Israel… Numbers 23:8, 21-23
This powerful cluster of prophecies uttered by Balaam is recorded in Numbers 22-24. He must have been an awesome, top-shelf prophet. Yet here’s what the Bible says about the career and character of Balaam.
The sons of Israel also killed Balaam the son of Beor, the diviner, with the sword among the rest of their slain. Joshua 13:22
…forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 2 Peter 2:15
Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam…. Jude 11
But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. Rev. 2:14
Why did the sons of Israel kill Balaam? He was a false prophet whose prophecies were true! The New Testament authors tell us not to follow the way of Balaam, the error of Balaam, or the teaching of Balaam. Balaam was a bad dude. I would not recommend that you attend his church. On apostolic authority we are told to stay away from the error of Balaam. But what pastor worth his pulpit would skip over Numbers 22-24 and not teach the prophecies of Balaam because they come from a poisoned well? Read his prophecies – if you allow it, they will move you to tears. The power of God to shield His people, the comfort of God to calm the pounding heart, the promise of God to ensure a future and a hope are among the most grand and powerful prophecies in the Scriptures. What is the rationale for avoiding some songs that are believed to come from a poisoned well and yet embrace and celebrate the prophecies of bad-man Balaam?
Note Numbers 23:5, “God put a word in Balaam’s mouth.” Into the mouth of this selfish, compromising, money grubbing prophet God put His word! I would argue that even those in churches considered theologically compromised, God can inspire their musicians with Christ-honoring praise and worship. I had someone visit and leave our church because I wouldn’t conform to their philosophy of worship. They told me that such-and-such a church taught diluted doctrine and we shouldn’t sing the songs coming from that church. I asked them if they could identify one song from that church that contained theological error, diluted doctrine, or wasn’t Christ-honoring. They couldn’t point to one line in one song.
Whether it comes from Bill Gaither, Big Daddy Weave, Bethel, or Balaam – if it glorifies God and praises Jesus and lifts our eyes on high – I’ll sing it!
I would ask you to tell me what you think – but I already know you will. (And no, this isn’t a war – this is a discussion.)
Be blessed and stay healthy and follow Jesus – Pastor Tim