I have spent many years online discussing and debating issues with supporters of contemporary worship concerning what music Christians should and should not use in worship. I have had these discussions and debates on two Christian discussion forums, on Facebook, on my blog, and through email. Many of these interactions have involved daily conversations for extended periods.
Over the past 10 years or so, there have been quite a few occasions on which I have encountered notions from some supporters of contemporary worship that I knew to be false, but I did not know then how to answer them fully and specifically with Scripture. Through specifically praying and studying, God has granted me illumination of Scripture from more than nine key passages that specifically and decisively have answered these false notions!
In my praying to God about these matters, I have used several passages as the models for how I have prayed. I have not kept track, but I would not be surprised to learn that I have probably prayed along the lines of the following passages and sample prayers (some of these are not verbatim but only representative) many hundreds of times over the years:
2 Corinthians 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ
Heavenly Father, please grant me specific and clear insight into Thy Word that I would be mighty through Thee to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God in all my hearers, and please bring their every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
1 Kings 3:9 Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? . . . 12 Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart.
Gracious God, please give to me a wise and understanding heart that I may discern between the good and the bad.
James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
Heavenly Father, I lack wisdom to know how to answer this wrong teaching. You have said that if any man lacks wisdom, he must ask of You Who gives liberally to all men and does not upbraid; and it will be given him. Do as You have said and grant me the wisdom that I need to answer this wrong teaching.
Proverbs 26:4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.
Father, please grant that I would not answer these people according to their folly, lest I would become like them and please grant that I would answer them according to their folly so that they would not be wise in their own conceits.
Titus 1:9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
Holy Spirit, please fill me now and grant me all manner of skillfulness in every skillful aspect of answering these supporters of contemporary worship music so that I would be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince these gainsayers.
2 Timothy 2:7 Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
Lord, as I carefully consider what Thou hast said in this passage, please grant me understanding in all things that Thou hast said in Thy Word.
Psalm 119:18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
O God, I know and believe that the answers to every important question about what music is acceptable to Thee in worship are in Thy Word. Open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy Law.
I praise, extol, and thank our Heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit for answering my prayers richly and specifically for illumination and wisdom about these matters repeatedly over the years! To God be the glory, great things He hath done!
In God’s providence, He has directed me to spend a decade or more studying each of four different subjects. These subjects have been quite diverse.
Stewardship of the Physical Body
Prior to becoming a Christian, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Fitness Instruction and a master’s degree in Human Performance. After I was saved, God used that background to open up a graduate assistant position while I worked on a Masters in Bible.
After finishing that degree, He led me to serve on full-time staff for many years in helping believers be good stewards of their physical bodies.
During those years of coursework and ministry, I studied intensely everything that the Bible teaches about health, exercise, nutrition, and stewardship of the body. God gave me numerous opportunities over that time to speak to believers on these subjects.
Evangelism and Discipleship
Soon after I was saved, I became very active in evangelistic ministries successively in the two local churches that I have been a member of during my lifetime as a believer. All through those years, I studied intensely all that Scripture reveals about evangelism and discipleship ministries.
God gave me many opportunities to preach and teach on these subjects for a number of years, but it has been quite some time since I have had such opportunities. It’s puzzling to me that I have not had more opportunities to edify God’s people in this area.
Christ as God’s Judicial Agent
After having served for many years in ministering to believers about stewardship of their bodies and about evangelism and discipleship, God dramatically redirected me to return for seminary work in a doctoral program. During those very hard years of working on that degree, God directed me to study with a passion everything that He has revealed in Scripture about Christ as His judicial agent.
During the years of working on that degree and for about a year afterwards, God gave me many opportunities to preach and teach on passages concerning the topic of my dissertation. Remarkably, however, I have had very few opportunities to do so in the past decade.
Acceptable Music for Corporate Worship
For at least the last decade, God has dramatically shifted the focus of my studies and ministry opportunities to an exhaustive study of everything in the Bible about music and worship. He has directed me to immerse myself profoundly in the book of Psalms during these years, beginning in 2012.
God has led me to write numerous articles about what Scripture reveals about music and worship and has given me several opportunities to speak multiple times on these subjects in a few churches. I am also writing a book about what God has given me in this area of study over this past decade.
Reflecting on how God has directed me during my Christian lifetime, I find it striking that God has led me to so intensively study these four different subjects during that time. Seeing how God has dramatically changed the focus of my studies and ministries more than once in my life makes me wonder what God may have in store for me in whatever years He has left for me to serve Him in this life.
God has been faithful in all these things in spite of much unfaithfulness on my part throughout these years. To God be the glory for all that He has done for and through me!
This morning, I finished reading through the Bible for this year! I praise God that He has allowed me to do so at least once a year every year of my Christian life!
Given the incredible upheaval that is happening in our country at this time, who knows whether the day may soon come when the Bible may be a banned book in our country. For as long as we still have the freedom to do so, I urge you to immerse yourself in the Word of God every year and every day of your life.
Thirty years ago, sometime in the first week of January 1990, God saved me. He opened my eyes and turned me from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to Himself. I received the forgiveness of my sins and an eternal inheritance among all those who saved by faith in His Son.
He translated me from the kingdom of darkness and put me into the kingdom of His dear Son. He put me in Christ and gave me hope for this life and the life to come:
Nearly 8 years ago, God answered my prayers by allowing me finally to have a website of my own! I would like to express my great gratitude to two friends who helped make my having a website a reality: Ashish Majmundar and Mark Ward.
Pace of Posting
From February 8, 2011 until today, I have posted 1000 times on my website! This total in slightly under 8 years averages to more than 125 posts per year and more than 2 posts per week.
I posted at least once a day from February 8 to June 5 of 2011 (119 posts in 118 consecutive days). My pace of posting has slowed considerably since those first four months. I now am trying to post at least once every two weeks.
Categories of Posts
I have posted in 10 categories on my site:
Discipleship 741 (Leading subcategories: Music – 278; Christian Books – 90; Bible Reading – 76; Exhortation – 77)
I find it rewarding and confirming that the categories with the most posts (Discipleship  and Interpretation ) are fully in keeping with my ministry burdens and my PhD being in NT Interpretation.
After I was saved in 1990, I had an intense desire to read the Bible. Praise God, He has sustained that desire in me to this day in spite of my many struggles over the years.
So far, I have completed reading the Bible twice in three languages, English, biblical Greek, and Spanish. This post relates some highlights of my Bible reading in these languages.
Bible Reading in English
In my first year as a believer, I read the Bible through three times in English. Since then, I have read (or read and listened) to the entire Bible in English every year except for one year when I read the Bible through in Spanish.
In 2016, God led me to read the Bible through in 59 days, which was both very challenging and extremely profitable! This year, He directed me to do the same thing in 87 days. I am grateful to have been able to read the Bible twice each of these past two years.
Bible Reading in Biblical Greek
Over a period of a number of years, I read the entire Septaugint (canonical books only) and the Greek New Testament. After having done that, I was greatly blessed to read the entire Septuagint (canonical books only) and the Greek New Testament in 2011.
From 2014 to 2017, I have been reading the Bible in Spanish in both the Reina Valera and the La Biblia De Las Américas versions. I recently finished reading the whole Bible in the LBLA version so God has now enabled me to read the entire Bible at least twice in three different languages!
How I praise God for the glory of His Word and the matchless privilege of knowing Him through His inspired, inerrant, and infallible perfect revelation of Himself in His Word!
My life is a testimony to God’s providential leading. My father produced television commercials in Japan, and my mother was a copywriter. From my childhood, my parents were interested in me going into some sort of show business. Even before entering elementary school, my mother enrolled me in piano, Kabuki dance (a traditional Japanese dance form), acting, and ballet lessons. I especially liked ballet–if you can believe it!
In addition to all those lessons, I also received roles in television dramas and commercials. I had a very busy childhood. Everyone expected me to go into show business, and I worked hard to achieve show business success. God, however, had a different and far better plan for me.
My father was a self-declared atheist and my mother was a Shinto/Buddhist (a typical Japanese family). Never once during my childhood did I ever meet a Christian or even see a copy of the Bible. At one point, I thought the Bible was a magical book that only priests could read. However, I knew quite confidently that there must be a God. Lessons from nature and history taught me that.
The thought of God’s existence always made me uncomfortable because I also knew that I was a sinner and somehow knew that God was angry with me. The frustration of a guilty conscience grew heavier as I grew older, and this in turn led me into deeper sin and into self-hatred. God was gracious and although I didn’t yet know it, had a plan to rescue me from my miserable state.
At the age of 15, God led me to the island of Guam to attend high school. This move was precipitated by a long series of events over a period of years, and if even one of these events had been altered, I would not have made the move. My ballet teacher and her family had moved to Guam, and they invited me to come with them since they knew me as one of their sons and they knew that I was looking for a high school to attend. My parents were convinced that it would be good for me to go outside Japan for high school to better learn English and to start a new life.
My parents and I looked at every private school on the island. All of them were either Catholic or liberal Episcopalian, and all of them had a full enrollment for the upcoming year. The last place we visited was Harvest Christian Academy. This was our last choice because we didn’t like the idea of attending a “Christian” school and somehow Baptist sounded more “seriously Christian” than Catholic. Harvest Academy had one opening for a 10th-grade boy, and we had no choice but to accept.
The excitement of attending Harvest started while the filling out of the application. The first question was “What is your religion?” I was startled. No one had ever asked me that question before. I looked at my mother and asked, “What is my religion?” She thought a little and then said, “Just put down Buddhist.” It is not that unusual to be a Buddhist at Harvest, since Guam is a melting pot of different Asian cultures and religions and the school exists for mission outreach, but I was marked by teachers and administrators from the beginning.
My first year at Harvest was difficult. I didn’t know how to behave, and for once, I couldn’t get away with all the mischievous things that I used to do behind my teachers’ backs. I frequently ended up in the principal’s office, and my name was often mentioned in faculty meetings (so the principal has since told me). I felt caged and miserable. Because of my limited English, classes were difficult–Spanish class was the worst–and I could not converse with my classmates.
Thankfully, there was one boy, Ryan Izumihara, in my class who could speak Japanese. Since he was the only one I could speak to, we talked a lot and became best friends. Ryan had been saved the year before, and he had presented the Gospel to me and talked about how it had changed his life. We would often argue about religion, and I would tell him that I believed in UFOs, reincarnation, and the mystical nature of our afterlife.
One day Ryan told me, “Yoh, I just want to tell you that you are my good friend, and I want you to go to Heaven. I want to see you there too.” By that time, I had begun to admire and even envy Christians for their joyfulness and peace, so it was easy for me to respond to that invitation. After chapel that day, I responded to the invitation, trusted Christ, and began living a new life. From that day forward, God has continued to show me the greatness of His grace.
The preaching and Christian fellowship in Guam helped nurture my love for God. During my senior year, I learned about baptism and desired to testify publicly my love for Jesus. My baptism brought about great trials in my life. When my parents learned of it, they thought that they had lost their only son to a cult, and they tried everything in their power to pull me away from Christianity. They even considered bringing me back to Japan in the middle of my senior year.
In time, they relented and allowed me to finish at Harvest, but they absolutely condemned the idea of me attending a Christian university like Bob Jones. I persistently pleaded with them, and tried to be the best possible testimony to them. Eventually they relented and promised that I could attend Bob Jones if I would first go for two years to a conservatory in Japan (they were hoping that I would change my mind).
I auditioned for a small, private conservatory started by a famous Kabuki actor, and I was one of four students accepted. Although my major emphasis was ballet, I also had to take voice lessons. I have always loved singing. In fact, my elementary school teachers would often write on my report cards, “Yoh loves to sing–loud.” Taking voice lessons was a dream come true. Learning to sing loudly for a long time without hurting my voice was exhilarating (I didn’t yet care about sounding beautiful). Singing was more enjoyable and less strenuous than ballet, so I changed my major to musical theater.
Contrary to my parent’s expectations, my determination to come to Bob Jones University did not wane. I had planned to major in math at BJU, since I obviously was not going to be able to study Kabuki or ballet, but now I determined to major in voice performance. My parents seemed pleased with that choice and decided to come with me to BJU to see what kind of place this “Fundamentalist Christian University” was. After seeing the beautiful campus and the well-dressed friendly people, my mom was convinced that she could entrust her son to this school.
In fact, the Lord used the visit to begin to soften my mom’s heart to the Gospel. That fall we prayed for my mother nearly every night in my prayer group, and on Christmas day, she responded to an invitation at Harvest Baptist and trusted Christ as her true God and Savior. She has grown in grace through many different trials, and I can boldly say that now I have a Christian mother.
During my senior year at BJU, the Lord directed me in another marvelous way. My plans were to audition for a conservatory after graduation and to pursue a professional singing career. That fall while on a choir tour, we received news that Dr. Bob Jr. had passed away. I knew that he was a very talented actor and poet but that his real passion was for preaching the Gospel. The Lord spoke to my heart and during Dr. Bob’s funeral service, I dedicated myself to the Gospel ministry, and then I enrolled in the Master of Divinity program.
My father passed away during the first semester of my graduate study, causing greater financial need. As my graduate work progressed, I greatly desired a position as a teaching assistant, so that I could study languages and prepare for comprehensive exams in the summers. Eventually the Lord provided me with a teaching assistant position in the Division of Music. This provided for my financial needs and gave me an opportunity to experience the joy of helping to equip Christian young people to better serve the Lord.
I finished my Master of Divinity and my doctorate at BJU and then thought about returning to Japan to help train Japanese pastors for the ministry. After having been at Bob Jones University for ten years, I was looking forward to passing on to others what the Lord had taught me there.
Instead, I went to Singapore as a missionary replacement for Dr. Steve Reynolds for a year. I stayed on after the Reynolds returned as his assistant pastor and a teacher at Asian Baptist School. After being in Singapore for 3.5 years, the Lord led me back to Guam in 2010 to teach at Harvest Baptist Bible College where I currently serve as the dean of academic affairs and the mission’s pastor for Harvest Baptist Church.
I did not grow up in a Christian family and had little acquaintance with the things of the Bible as a child and as a teenager. I had heard the name Jesus but mostly it was when people used it as an expletive.
From watching movies like the Robe and Ben Hur in my childhood years, I did see a moving presentation of the Crucifixion of Jesus and remember being distinctly and at the time inexplicably moved by viewing those scenes, even though I was not saved until many years after seeing those movies.
It was not until I was in college that I was exposed in any continuing way to some things from the Bible. When I would regularly visit a Catholic Newman center on the campus of Western Illinois University, I did not follow much of what was said in the homilies given in those services, but I distinctly remember being strangely moved when we would sing the Model Prayer that Jesus taught His disciples to pray.
I also visited a few churches with friends during those years, but I do not remember anything about what was preached in those churches. My exposure to Bible truth in my college years also included a movie about Christianity that I saw with some Christian friends.
Having had a habit for many years of browsing in bookstores, I encountered in a Christian bookstore some books about the New Age movement that warned that some of the things that I was involved in at the time were of demonic origin. I bought those books, and God used them to speak to me although I was not a believer yet.
God continued to work in my life by directing me to the religion section of the Public Library in Cookeville. From the hundreds of books in that section, He led me to read several that gave me a good overview of the story of the Bible.
God then directed me to some apologetics books in a Christian bookstore in Cookeville. Those books presented me for the first time in my life with the objective historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
About the same time, someone put a tract on my windshield that I read the day that it was put there. Through my praying through the suggested prayers in the back of the apologetics books and at the end of the tract, God saved me!
I am confident that the person who put that tract on my windshield prayed for God to use that tract to reach someone with His truth. God answered that person’s prayers by using my reading of that tract as part of how He brought me to saving faith in His Son.
Soon after I was saved, I wanted to go to church but had no idea about what church to go to out of the dozens of church names that I saw in the phone book for Cookeville. I prayed, and God directed someone to come up to me at work and invite me to his church.
The person who did so did not know that I had been recently saved. God answered my prayer by leading me through him to the only truly independent fundamental Baptist church in Cookeville!
Many years after I was saved, I learned that I had been born in a missionary hospital run by Canadian Presbyterian missionaries in a small town in India. Those missionary doctors and nurses prayed over every baby that was born in that hospital.
Until I am with the Lord, I will not know for sure what they prayed for when I was born. It is entirely possible that they prayed for me to be saved one day, and if they did, God has answered their prayers!
Whether anyone else prayed directly for my salvation, Scripture reveals that Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnate Son of God, prayed for me to the Father (John 17:20-26). I praise our Heavenly Father for giving me to His Son in answer to His prayers and in fulfillment of His glorious promise to His Christ:
“Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Ps. 2:8).
Having been saved by the Father’s fulfilling His promise to His Son, may we all be used by Him to reach many others who will also be saved in fulfillment of the Father’s glorious promise to His Son that He would give Him the heathen for His inheritance. Knowing these things, let us all be diligent to pray and share the gospel of God concerning His Son to people in the power of His promised Spirit whom His Son has given us in fulfillment of the Father’s promise (Luke 24:49; Acts 2:33).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who is faithful to keep all His promises to His Son and to everyone and everything else, including every living creature (Gen. 9:9-17). “Even so, come, Lord Jesus (Rev. 22:20).
This morning, I finished reading through the Bible in English for this year! In my 25 plus years as a believer, I have now made it through the Bible 30 times (27 times in English, 2 times in Greek, and once in Spanish).
I praise and thank you, Heavenly Father, for giving me the priceless blessing of reading through your Word over and over again!