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Posts Tagged ‘Worship’


Our worship has come a long way. Those who plan and play work hard and do well. I want to make sure I’m thinking and making good improvements as needed. I want our worship to be faithful and meaningful, not stale or divergent. As a result I still read books on worship from time to time. This might be my emphasis for the year since I’ve got one in my queue for vacation.

Recently I saw Rhythms of Grace: How the Church’s Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel on sale and picked up a few copies. One for me, and one for our music director. Seeing a liturgy that reflects the history of redemption is a good thing.

The book is by Michael Cosper who is worship pastor for Sojourn, which produces some music for churches. I don’t know much about the church aside from what he says about it but he comes across as a new Calvinist (baptistic, non-confessional, NCT & non-denominational) that has invested time to learn more about worship from church history. He’s read some of the books I have: particularly Bryan Chapell and Reggie Kidd. He’s also has spent time at the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship. Some of this may explain the inconsistency of the book.

In some ways it was like I was reading two different authors. The first sounded young, hip and trying to be cool (like I used to be, trying, that is). It had a Mark Driscoll-esque feel to it which I now find less appealing. The second half sounded like a mature guy, at ease with himself and how his church worships. But maybe that is just me.

The book has a forward by Bob Kauflin, and blurbs by Matt Chandler, Sandra McCracken, Al Mohler, Scotty Smith, Joe Thorn and Kevin Twit. That is a good cross section of people who are either “new Calvinists” or old school Calvinists connected with the PCA. I wonder if they felt the same thing as me. Did they overlook it in love? Am I being picky? I don’t know.

His goal is good. He’s writing because of concerns he has about church culture pertaining to worship. Many of our worship leaders have no formal training. This book is written, in part, to help them form a better theology of worship that helps the congregation grow towards maturity.

“You know,” I thought, “if the gospel is supposed to be central to the Christian life, we should craft our worship services in such a way that they rehearse that story.”

He also states that his book is not a debate about the regulative principle and normative principle. He was not going to delve into that so people interested in such a discussion should just move on. He also briefly stated what he means by worship:

“I go to some effort here to make clear that worship is both an all-of-life, “scattered” reality and a uniquely communal, “gathered” reality. I also want to make a significant effort to clarify that Jesus is our one true worship leader.”

So, with those caveats in mind, let’s press on to look at this book.

The first part of the book focuses on explaining the Story of Redemption. There is only one place to begin a book on worship that is patterned after redemptive-history: the Garden. That’s where he starts, with creation. He spends time talking about the Trinity and Adam’s role as worship leader among creation. Borrowing from G.K. Beale he writes about Adam as expanding the Garden, which is intended to be a temple for the worship of the triune God. On the next page he quotes N.T. Wright. He uses a diversity of sources reflecting his influences. There is nothing wrong with the Wright quote he uses. But the fact he favorably quotes him may put off some people. But since he’s not arguing for the Regulative Principle of Worship many of those people will be off put anyway. But his bottom line in this chapter is that we were made to worship.

When Adam sinned he continued to worship, but he worshiped the wrong things. We are incurably religious, but as a result of our fallen nature we are idolators.

“Worship is essentially about ascribing worth. … The broken worship they share with the serpent leaves them naked and humiliated.”

It is the next chapter, Worship in the Wilderness, where I begin to feel like I was reading a Driscoll book. He makes a number of good points in this chapter, particularly concerning idolatry and entertainment. My issues start with his discussion of Cain and Abel, and why one’s worship was accepted and the other’s wasn’t. While I’d just jump to Hebrews 11 and say “faith” in addition to the lack of the blood of a substitute, he seems to make it a bit more complicated. He does quote Bruce Waltke in his longer than it need be explanation. Abel, he says, recognizes God’s lordship over creation, and gives God the best. Cain, he says, “is just showing up.” Eventually Cosper gets to Abel offering the sacrifice by faith, but the problem still seems to be Cain’s “rote obligation” instead of unbelief resulting in no sacrifice for sin. He, interestingly, characterizes this as “the first of history’s many worship wars.” I thought that was a chapter earlier, in Genesis 3, but I get the point. People were fighting for the first time, even though one didn’t know there was a fight.

The next chapter, The Song of Israel, focuses on Abraham, Moses and David as key figures in the worship of Israel. On the first page of this chapter I wrote “Trying to be too hip?”. He states that both Abram and Sarai were sterile (not the word I use) but since Abram actually had quite a few kids this seems to miss the point. But in light of that in correctly pointing out that Abram was a broken man, talks about him “willing to prostitute his wife, and all too eager to jump into bed with one of his slave girls”. That he did, but I’m not sure how eager he was. He’s sinful enough, we don’t need to make him out as more sinful.

In speaking about his descendants this continues: “They are a family of lushes and adulterers, liars and lunatics, chasing voices in the wilderness,…” I missed all the drunkenness, except for his nephew Lot who was seduced by his daughters after they got him drunk. I’m not sure who the lunatics are either. He overplays it. The Bible isn’t hagiography but we don’t need to add sins and problems to their ledger.

Yet, he continues, “they are broken ne’er-do wells whose significance goes to highlight that God is the one who remains faithful.” Yes, they have faults, but again I think this is an overstatement. And on the next page, “The song of the patriarchs is a song born of weeping, of too much drink …”. Why does he keep finding drunks where I find none? Is this some Baptist thing? Additionally, “It sounds far more like drunken sailors, wailing a hazy lament in a land far from home…”. Is there some apocryphal book in there I haven’t read?

He shifts to the worship of Israel after the Exodus. It was a bloody mess, and he does well to communicate this. Sin’s cost is revealed. We generally view life as cheap. We regularly see people die in movies or TV. We play all kinds of shooter games. But as Covid-19 has revealed we have a real problem with real death. We live in a fantasy world where people don’t actually die. We, who let the butcher do our dirty work, would really struggle with worship according to the Mosaic Covenant.

This chapter does have a good section on worship, wrath and holiness. “We misunderstand the wrath of God if we think it’s only emotional rage, like an angry, frustrated parent.” We worship a God who has wrath because He’s holy. He rightly notes we underestimate both God’s holiness and our sinfulness. Proper worship has to grapple with these realities. We can’t avoid sin and wrath as if they didn’t exist. When we ignore them we distort the gospel and turn worship into superficial sentimentality.

After Creation and Fall comes Redemption, or The Song of Jesus. In the midst of this otherwise good chapter there is this: “The Lord of the Sabbath breaks the Sabbath laws.” Has he been listening to Steven Furtick? Jesus did not break the Sabbath laws. He didn’t celebrate the Sabbath according to the tradition of the Pharisees, that isn’t the law. This is a huge difference and this statement is problematic to say the least. He then talks about the crazy things we do for love, sounding a bit like Francis Chan. But it does get better as he writes about Jesus as the Temple, our Priest and Worship Leader. He discusses worship as participation in the life of the Trinity.

“That’s the story of worship: God creates, sin corrupts, but Christ redeems.”

Okay, he left out the hope of the consummation. But from here he focuses on worship, and the guy trying to be hip disappears. What leads up to this is essential, but the rest is the best of the book. He briefly discusses the worship wars. People argue about instrumentation, and depth vs. contextualization. Part of the struggle is between the attractional church and the missional church. Cosper reminds us of his definition of worship and then suggests a framework for thinking through these issues: Worship One, Two, Three.

  • One object and author (God)
  • Two contexts (scattered and gathered)
  • Three audiences (God, congregation and the rest of the world)

“The gathered body teaches the Word and proclaims it together: we speak the truth in love as we sing, read the Scriptures, and remember the gospel together.”

A few words about the third. God is part of our audience. Our worship is pleasing to God due to the finished work of Christ. This doesn’t mean we can do anything in worship. We still strive to please Him with our worship. The rest of the congregation is also our audience. We remind one another of the gospel as we sing. We are there not just for our own benefit, but for the benefit of the rest of the congregation (and they are there for yours). We also worship before the world as we proclaim the gospel to them, too. I generally put this as exaltation, edification and evangelism. But Cosper has a good framework.

He argues that many of our disputes in worship have to do with confusing categories. For instance, if we think we sing for an audience of one our worship doesn’t need to be comprehensible. But we also have 2 other audiences who need to understand our songs, prayers, litanies and sermons. Keeping the world in mind we keep our language simple and understandable. We can over-emphasize one context over the other instead of realizing that each reinforces and facilitates the other. He notes we can also overemphasize particular audiences. Ingrown churches emphasize edification. Churches that emphasize evangelism quickly become too superficial for growing Christians.

He then moves into Worship as Spiritual Formation. In the live CD from the Ryman, Kevin Twit notes that “worship is formative.” Cosper gets this. We are formed by the habits of worship. They should reflect and communicate the gospel to us so we learn how to pray, confess our sins and faith as Christians. He begins to explain worship as forming the spiritual community through story-telling and covenant renewal. Here he develops the difference between worship as concert hall and worship as banquet hall. The concert hall is a performance, though some in the audience sing along. But it becomes about the “show”. In a banquet hall there is community around a table, so to speak, as we tell stories and the Story so we are nourished and encouraged to face the realities of life after we leave.

He also sees worship as spiritual warfare. We turn from our idols to the living God each week. We declare that Christ is supreme and sufficient, while they are empty and worthless.

From there, he spends some time discussing the shifts in Christian worship over time. His focus is on the Western church. This is overly brief and at times seems a bit reductionistic. I’d say his grasp of English church history is a bit lacking. For instance, Presbyterianism existed long before Independency. Just saying.

After the Reformation he talks about revivalism. From this revivalistic emphasis on emotions, John Wimber developed the Temple Model of worship where the goal is not the gospel but “moving into the presence of God”. Yes, the goal of the gospel is to bring us into the presence of God, but through the gospel sung, preached, read and prayed. The Temple Model focuses more on mood and style to create the feeling or experience of personal encounter with God. He compares it to Roman Catholicism with the worship leader as a new priest paving the way into the holy of holies.

Cosper then talks about liturgy. This subtly gets us back to spiritual formation. Liturgy is the habits of worship that form our community. He argues for a gospel-shaped liturgy similar to Bryan Chapell. This is Bryan Chapell for non-Presbyterians. He structures the worship by redemptive history (Creation, Curse, Cross, Consummation). In light of the Curse we should sing laments, and pray them too. Worship isn’t about being happy. It is about seeing life from God’s perspective and being honest about where we are. As he works through the liturgy he provides some practical suggestions.

He then moves the discussion to singing. This is a common command in the Scriptures. He gets into the issues of what to sing; preference and deference. He spends time unpacking Colossians 3. We are wise to sing songs for a variety of time periods in church history.

“Our faith is a sung faith.”

The body of the book finishes with The Pastoral Worship Leader. He moves from the liturgy to the leader. This is an important chapter. He mines the life of Isaac Watts to discuss healthy contextualization in songs. We want the songs to be understandable, to clearly convey gospel themes to people utilizing metaphors they understand. In this he discusses the Psalms and some criticisms of exclusive Psalmody.

In thinking about contextualization he asks: Who’s here? Who was here before us? and Who’s not here but we’d like to see here? You have to minister to the people you have because they’ve been entrusted to you. You also need to consider who you’d like to see there. He’s not advocating faking it. He wants you to identify your stylistic center, the place you gravitate toward naturally. But you can’t stay there all the time. At times you sing songs outside of the center to address the smaller demographic groups in your congregation.

The appendices have some helpful information with sample liturgies, resources and some technical advice regarding sound.

Overall this was a helpful book. In my opinion there were some factual errors, mis-statements and attempts to be hip that just distracted me. Those shouldn’t keep you from benefiting from the book. You could possibly have benefited more, but there is much that is helpful here.

As a result of this book I’m hoping to:

  • Make our implicit redemptive-historical pattern explicit.
  • Regularly explain elements of our worship.
  • Talk with our music director about our stylistic center. We struggled with this but in the last year I think we’ve gotten there. Now we can venture out for songs. Before it seemed we were struggling between two centers.

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Often Philippians is called “the Epistle of joy.” There is much there about joy. But as I preach through it, I’m discovering it is also “the Epistle of conflict.”

On Sunday I preached on Philippians 4:1-3. It was a short week of preparation, and a busy few days for the holiday. After I preached the sermon, I wish I had developed a few things more thoroughly. I needed to meditate on this text more thoroughly (more so than usual, I suppose).

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

This passage begins with a reference to the conflict without. Paul calls on them to “stand firm”, applying the realities of gospel humility and discipleship he’s been discussing since the 2nd chapter of this letter. They are to stand firm against the Gentiles who persecute them, and the Judaizers who seek to lead them astray into ritual. Both are enemies of the cross.

They were to stand together as “my beloved brothers (a better translation of the phrase), whom I long for, my joy and crown … my beloved.” Philippi was a Roman colony. Many of the people gained their Roman citizenship by their service in the military. They were familiar with fighting formations requiring them to stand firm together. Now they stand no simply as fellow soldiers but people bound in love by Jesus.

Image result for roman phalanx

Our conflict with them is about the claim of the gospel. It is about the contrast between living as good citizens of Rome versus living as citizens of the heavenly city (1:27; 3:20).

In this conflict we are truly enemies, citizens of two different and warring kingdoms. They may use earthly weapons against us, but we are not to use earthly weapons (material or immaterial) against them. We’ve been given the armor of God (Eph. 6).

We can find points of commonality with the surrounding culture. We won’t disagree on everything. Those points of commonality are windows of opportunity for the gospel (to borrow Rick McKinley’s terminology).

What we cannot do is compromise. Acknowledge common ground, but not compromise. There are also windows of opposition we must contend with. They must be converted, which includes changing their views that are out of accord with sound doctrine. Stand firm in the face of an intimidating enemy though outnumbered. Our God will be faithful.

But remember that at the moment, they are your enemy, not your brother, and should be treated as one.

Paul then addresses conflict within the congregation. You can’t stand firm together if you are at odds with one another. Internal conflict distracts us from mission, even if it is about how to carry for the mission.

Paul urges both women to work it out, come into accord. First this indicates that women are important and do important things. They were gospel partners with Paul. Their conflict was not incidental to church life but threatened it. No conflict between siblings in Christ is insignificant. They must be worked out, and both parties bear responsibility to do so. It was not just Euodia’s responsibility. Not just Syntche’s responsibility.

Image result for slippery slope

If we think of this in terms of the slippery slope of conflict these women were likely “peace-faking” by engaging in flight. They were avoiding each other, operating on opposite sides of the room, refusing to acknowledge each other. Perhaps there had been times of peace-breaking, fighting. There may have been verbal assault. Nothing as serious as Cain deciding to kill Abel, but still attacks upon one another.

Image result for cain and abelThey weren’t living like people who were beloved brothers & sisters. Instead they were treating one another as enemies. They needed help to begin treating one another as beloved siblings. They needed help to get on the same page when it comes to worship, discipleship or evangelism. Those are things that matter, but frequently we act like our way is the only way. The need to agree with one another is even more important when we are fighting about things unrelated to the gospel (carpets, paint, loans or which property to buy).

Paul calls the “true companion” to act as a mediator to make peace, a peace rooted in Christ’s dying on the cross for our sin. Unity was to be restored by repentance and reconciliation, which are impossible apart from the gospel which makes us sons of God in the first place. Because of the gospel we treat the sins of our brothers differently than the sins of our enemies. This is important because of how we engage in conflict. The issues we disagree on are likely not sinful. What is sinful is our peace-faking and breaking. That sin is contrary to our status as brothers. In the conflict with the world it is in keeping with our status as enemies.

We are to once again find the common ground, the places we agree. Stand firm in your agreement. Then find a place of principled compromise among options that fit within biblical boundaries. You don’t compromise with the enemies of the cross, but you do with your beloved brother.

Sadly we often reverse this. We compromise with the world and stand our ground with our brothers as if they were our enemies.

Paul wants gospel partners to sort it out, as much as it depends on them. He knew the pain of a sharp disagreement that dissolved his partnership with Barnabas (Acts 15). We know he reconciled with Mark. We don’t know about Barnabas.

Paul recognizes that we engage in two different conflicts: within and without. How we respond is different. Don’t reverse them or you’ll really mess it all up. Get it right and you’ll see the gospel work powerfully in your community.

 

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The first section of Organic Outreach for Churches by Kevin Harney covered motivation: love for God, the world and the congregation. He calls this the heart of the congregation. In the second section he addresses the mind of the congregation. The focus is on the administrative structure expressed by the heart that seeks to reach out with God’s love to the world around it through the congregation. Put another way, the first task of leadership is to cultivate love for God, the lost people around us, and our congregation. Until this is done, the administrative structure should not be changed. To borrow terminology from another book on ministry, there needs to be a vine before you put up the trellis.

“When our hearts are filled with love for God, for our community, and for the church, we are ready to strategize about outreach.”

This is one of the positives of his approach. He is talking about outreach as a (church) community project rather than focusing on preparing individuals to share their faith.

The first step in this process is the mind-shifts Harney believes need to take place so we can be productive. Here they are:

  • From random to strategic outreach
  • From famine to funding (making money available for LOCAL outreach)
  • From believing to belonging (as the first step in the process)
  • From us to them (regarding focus)
  • From programs to praying
  • From mush to clarity (regarding your beliefs)
  • From fatalism to faith

These are important shifts, though I would be hesitant to fully embrace the 4th one (us => them) for reasons I will develop below.

I will throw out a reminder. This all takes time. This morning I read about the building of the temple by Solomon. It took 7 and a half years. Just as the temple wasn’t built in a day, neither will a congregation’s outreach ministry. People are often harder to mold than stones. This is about cultural change, and that takes time, and undetermineable period of time.

He then develops the idea of from famine to funding, because you’ve gone from random to strategic outreach. Many churches provide money for missions, elsewhere. By someone else. Funding missionaries is a great thing. The point is not to eliminate funding to foreign (and even local) missionaries and ministries. The point is to add funds for your congregation to reach the people around you.

This also means that everyone is getting involved instead of paying surrogates to do the work for you. Not everyone will have the same role; the different gifts of God’s people will be engaged. This is one of the mind shifts he neglected: from them to us. No longer should outreach be the work of a chosen few who work on behalf of the rest of us (surrogates). An outreach committee would lead the strategies that involve everyone in various ways (even if all you can do is pray because you’re home-bound).

One common problem Harney experiences is that ministry leaders see outreach as an optional thing that competes with their ministry instead of being something that their ministry also participates in. As a result, they can ignore events, schedule competing events etc. The goal is for each ministry to see their place in outreach. To see it as part of their mission. The Outreach Team is then viewed as influencers. He finds it most helpful if all the ministry leaders comprise the Outreach Influence Team.

Harney then moves into the 6 Levels of Influence. It all starts with God. As a loving, eternal community (Trinity) God is a missionary God who has been sharing His love with people since the beginning of time. Between God and the world, Harney lists the Outreach Influence Team Leader, the Outreach Influence Team, ministry workers, and ministry participants.

To put it simply, the team leader encourages the team to maintain focus and develop the ways their ministry participates in outreach. The team provides training for workers in outreach, which helps instill the vision for outreach to participants so they begin to engage in praying for others, inviting people to events or ministry functions etc.

Then he moves into raising the evangelistic temperature utilizing the one degree rule. This is about accountability. And while it can be helpful, knowing the perversity that remains even in Christians, it can easily lapse into legalism and self-righteousness (self-condemnation if you aren’t doing enough). It is here that he starts to sound more seeker-driven than seeker-sensitive. It was here that I began to grow frustrated.

Why was I frustrated? The easy answer would be my flesh is resisting the call of God to engage in this process. I don’t think that is is (though he did talk about lots of meetings and I’m currently have meeting fatigue).

The other answer is a glaring lack of ecclesiology in the book. It is assumed, and you know what happens if you assume. Part of ecclesiology is the mission of the church. When there is no clearly developed mission of the church, an author’s emphasis becomes the mission of the church. There are subtle statements in this section that indicate that he thinks outreach trumps the rest, shapes the rest. Like most books on a particular goal of the Church, it becomes out of balance and begins to veer down dangerous roads.

Let me explain. I take a tri-perspectival view of worship (and most things, to be honest). I express this as worship is intended to exalt God, edify the Church and evangelize the world (in terms of unbelievers present). Worship cannot focus simply on evangelism as in the seeker-driven model. I think we should be sensitive to “seekers” (I don’t really like that word). By that I mean we explain things. We periodically explain some of what we do in worship. In preaching we explain “big words” and call people to faith for both conversion (justification) and sanctification.

Our mission, as expressed in the Great Commission, is not to simply make converts but disciples. We are to present people to Christ in maturity. Yes, you have to start with conversion but that is not the end all and be all of church life. Outreach is a part of our mission, not the mission.

If we are asking about outreach temperature, we should start asking about your marriage (if you are married), parenting, sex life, work life etc. because all of these are about being faithful to Christ in our context. Suddenly we have a long list, and even more opportunities to become self-righteous Pharisees boasting of our outreach righteousness, or parenting righteousness.

Taking part of the mission as the mission is just plain dangerous. No one comes out and says that, but it is expressed in terms of the “most important” part of our mission, or main emphasis requiring “inordinate amounts of time”.

So, while I agree that outreach should permeate all of our programs so it is an organic thing for the congregation, I don’t agree that it supplants or overwhelms all of the other ministries of the church. Our discipleship ministries should be welcoming to outsiders (and people should invite others as well as pray for the lost), should connect everything to the gospel (including calling people to faith as well as expressing that faith) as well as prepare people to share their faith (preferably in a tri-perspectival way, which is a separate blog post). Our worship should not be reduced to altar calls, “love songs” to Jesus with a great beat etc. I’m still a “Word & Sacrament” guy. Evangelism as well as exaltation and edification take place as we sing the Word, pray the Word, listen to the Word (preaching) and see the Word (sacraments). God works in that to bring people to faith as well as build people in their faith. We explain things, we don’t eliminate them precisely because worship is also for God and His people, not just the people who don’t believe yet.

Precisely because there is no explicit eccesiology, Harney is beginning to slip down this road though he may not realize it. There are some things that slow it: being clear about what you believe. He hasn’t gutted the faith like some do. But I find him beginning to move out of balance in this second section. In the third section, we’ll see where his trajectory leads us.

 

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Adam McHugh now wraps up his book Introverts in Church. In some sense this is a summary for much of it sounded familiar. This final chapter is the one that mentions postmodernism and its effects on church and worship the most.

What I think he struggles to say is that as a community, church involves compromise (in the positive sense of not needing to have your way on preferences). We are to stand firm on biblical principle (orthodox doctrine, the elements of worship, mission of the church), but any community, no matter how united on those principles will struggle with preferences as to how those principles are worked out. Often is the squeaky wheel, the loudest protesters or advocates, that may seemingly get their way. In this perspective, it may more often be the extrovert.

Perhaps his perspective is skewed. His pastoral experience seems to be in larger, multi-staff churches. The vast majority of churches in America are under 100 members. His research doesn’t seem to be thorough, but more anecdotal, even though many aspects resonate with my own experience and struggles as one who has been the pastor of average, ordinary churches.

I would say that I think the personality of our congregation is introverted: a congregation that likes to think, appreciates liturgical aspects, wants to sing and not feel like they are at a concert (when discussing music recently I was told not to have it so loud our ears hurt). But we also struggle with over-commitment. Our people are busy and pulled in many directions. They work long hours, have kids in sports or music, are involved with parachurch ministries on top of the primary responsibilities of marriage and parenting. It is hard to really grasp the primary obstacle(s) to outreach. Perhaps it is a lack of an intentional plan (we are working on one to reach a new neighborhood, and extend that to our current ‘neighbors’).

“Learn to say ‘no’. It will be of more use to you that Greek or Latin.” Martin Luther

Okay, back to the book. There are trade-offs in church life. I commonly say worship music is like the car radio on a long ride. You change the station periodically so there is something for everyone’s taste. Many people don’t like that. They want their station (be it Psalms, hymns, choruses or CCM etc.). There is a huge reason the “love chapter” is found right in the middle of Paul’s discussion of worship in 1 Corinthians. True, God-pleasing worship, requires not only love for God but also love for the rest of the Body. You consider their interests as well as your own.

Think of that! Do you consider what the person in the row in front or behind you needs in worship? Do you value their preferences, or just your own? This matters whether you are an extrovert, introvert, ambivert, non-vert, are a confessional Christian, neo-Calvinist, high church, low church, mid-church, amil, post-mil, pre-mil or prefer rock, folk, classical, jazz, blues or country. I forgot hip hop. Tough for public worship.

We could all share worship service horror stories. McHugh shares his worst which was at a church that had “quadrupled in six years” and was filled with college students and 20-somethings. (Can I say I hate the homogeneous principle?). He felt like it was entering an exclusive club where you had to get past the bouncer. Inside there was blaring music, flashing lights, rolling PowerPoint announcements, lots of chatter (and flirting, imagine young singles…). It was sensory overload for him (and anyone else who finds a need for some reflection and emotional space in worship). The 55-minute message was on sacrificial love (hmmm), and then back to the music. For him it was 2 1/2 hours of words (and loud music) that left him “feeling empty and disoriented. Never have I needed a nap so badly after church.”

This application of the homogeneous principle left him, older people (likely anyone over 30 or who has kids), and those who are nourished by more reflective worship out.

“When introverts go to church, we crave sanctuary in every sense of the word, as we flee from the disorienting distractions of twenty-first century life.”

I’m not sure about that statement as many still bring their phones and all those distractions with them.

“My point here is not that churches should coddle introverts. I do not intend to create yet another target audience for a church culture that is already marinating in consumerism. We should not cater our worship services to introverts any more than we should to extroverts. There are times when introverts should feel uncomfortable in worship, though we should be cautious as to the degree of discomfort. But if we are always comfortable, our faith goes stagnant.”

Correct, we should reject a homogeneous principle and recognize that a healthy community has different kinds of people: different ages, sexes, social standings, economic status, personalities, ethnic & cultural backgrounds. These differences require love! That whole thing upon which the Great Commandments hang. This is being a light on a hill and the salt of the earth. This is respecting the different ways our members engage with God and one another (keeping the biblical principles in mind as healthy boundaries).

Love, and such biblical boundaries, will not allow anyone to remain anonymous for long. That is not “a healthy form of belonging.” Such a ghost-like participation makes mission hard, and mission isn’t an elective.

“Through Christ we die to false identities and put away inauthentic behaviors.”

Your primary identity is always “Christian”. Not White (or other ethnic group), American (or other nation), introvert, left-handed, or another of the multitude of identities are culture seems to manufacture to create division and gain power.

Rather, we are to move towards community. We move inward toward self-understanding (not self-actualization), and outward in love. These two movements are meant to be complementary, not competitors. Understand yourself so you know who you are bringing into community: your gifts, weaknesses, priorities, preferences. Then, I think, the Body of Christ will be healthier, stronger, deeper and wider.

 

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In the first chapter of his book, Introverts in the Church, Adam McHugh left introversion (and extroversion) undefined. He aims to rectify that in the second chapter of his book. He approaches it both psychologically and scientifically (yes, you read that right), and then identifies some people in the Scriptures he thinks are introverted.

Before we go any farther it is better to think of both introversion and extroversion as continuums. You can be more or less introverted (extroverted). This means it is not a uniform experience for all who fall into the categories.

He begins with noting that inside of each of us a little Freud and a little Jung battle for our soul. He’s kidding, of course. Freud considered introversion unhealthy pre-occupation with the self on the slippery slide to narcissism (let’s ignore the fact that extroverts can be narcissistic). This means it is just plain bad. So, people who are introverted can feel shame about, as though there is something wrong with them.

Carl Jung, on the other hand, thought both introversion and extroversion were normal and healthy. Sadly he sees this as part of his collective consciousness theory. I think he defines it well even if he gets the source of it wrong. He was, generally speaking, far more optimistic about humanity and less sex-obsessed than Freud. One primary way of thinking about introversion is that one gains power from the self (rather being alone), while extroverts gain power from others (rather being with others).

The nature vs. nurture debate emerges as well. Freud saw these traits as the result of nurture. Jung saw them as hardwired into us, the result of nature. Either way, you can blame your parents (okay, just kidding).

“Introverts are targets for a variety of misguided arrows: we are shy, reserved, aloof, reclusive, melancholic, self-absorbed, passive, timid, social rejects, misanthropes, and the list goes on.”

McHugh notes that they are not so much categories as two separate forces within each of us. We all have a capacity for looking in, and one for looking out. We have them in differing measures. He sees them as a preference, just like handedness. I’m left-handed. I write, eat, throw etc. with my left hand. When I started to play guitar I was advised to play left handed, that way my dominant hand would made the chords. Still didn’t feel right. One of my sons is a lefty, but he throws righty. We thought he was going to be ambidextrous, but he does most things lefty. But a few righty. So you have a preference, but it isn’t absolute. The degree of introversion (extroversion) may be influenced by family and culture.

In Jung’s theory, as developed by Myers-Briggs, this duality is part of a constellation of factors that “work together to shape how we act.” The other dualities are sensing-intuition, thinking-feeling, judging (structure)-perceiving (flexibility/spontaneity). So, no two introverts are identical. They may take in the world in different ways, make decisions on different criteria and need different environments to work.

Back to introversion. “Introverts are energized by solitude.” As he notes we are charged from the inside out. It may be completely alone or with a few good friends. But time in crowds are draining. Extroverts need interaction with others to gain energy. Along time drains them. They don’t make good monks.

These, again, aren’t absolute. I gain energy from alone time. But eventually I need to use that energy. Eventually I need to be with people. Each year I’m home alone for about a week while the rest of the family is on vacation. The first few days are great. Then it is not so great. I need social interaction that I’m not getting at home. So I’ll invite people over or go out a few times. Not every night mind you.

Introverts tend to process things internally. Our minds are often incredibly busy places. We need to filter information, and can experience sensory overload. I never liked studying in libraries, and can’t work at a coffee shop. I’m too distracted by all that is going on. Introverts and extroverts have different filtering systems.

I do have times when I have to process thoughts externally. I’ll talk them over with my wife or a friend. I’ll blog them. These help me think they through for when I finally express my ideas in my vocation. Sometimes I’ll just talk to myself or use a white board. Just because we aren’t making noise doesn’t mean our minds aren’t busy places.

It is helpful to understand these things about yourselves in order to avoid “introvert overload” and think there is something wrong with you, or get angry with others. One reason (among many) I don’t do conferences is introvert overload. I find that I am wiped out near the end and just want to be alone. When I go to General Assembly, I try to find time to be alone as well as with my closest friends.

Introverts tend to prefer to depth over breadth. I have a few very close friendships, or at least did. Being a pastor is difficult and I don’t live near my closest friends. If you are friends with an extrovert, you can often misunderstand the relationship and put too much of a burden on them. Many/most of your relational needs may be met in that relationship, but they are seeking to meet those needs in many relationships. This can lead to a sense of betrayal. Introverts can set themselves up for this if they don’t understand the relational dynamic.

Introverts also like to understand a few things deeply. Extroverts seem to prefer to know a little about a lot. Again, not absolute. At times I will drill down on a subject, reading a number of books to understand it better. There are somethings I know little or nothing about. But you’ve all met the guy who knows something about everything. Extrovert.

Jung argued for nature over nurture. It turns out it was (mostly) right. McHugh gets into the science of this that is now available through brain mapping. The one “flaw” is that we already know these subjects are introverts or extroverts. Which came first, the results of the mapping or the introversion. Are our brains the result of years as introverts or did our brain “cause” the introversion? The chicken, or the egg?

But brain mapping does reveal some very important information that indicates this is not simply psycho-babble. There are biochemical differences. First, introvert’s brains are busier places. The scans register more activity. They also register that blood flows differently in those brains. Introverts have more blood flow which moves along longer paths more slowly than in extroverts’ brains. It flows to other parts of the brain, focusing on internal things like “remembering, solving problems and planning”. Extroverts’ brains have more blood flowing to parts that process sensory experiences, in other words processing the world outside.

Chemically they have different balances. Extroverts use more dopamine. This helps them to generally think and act more quickly under pressure. It helps them access short-term memory. Introverts rely more on acetylcholine which makes them feel good when resting and thinking. This may explain why introverts pull up memories more slowly, and often don’t think well on their feet. They often prefer writing to speaking since it gives one time to properly process their thoughts.

I’m not sure why he included a section on echoes of introversion in the Bible. Yeah, Jacob was probably an introvert and Esau an extrovert. It is helpful to know that God made, redeemed and utilizes both introverts and extroverts.

Let’s think about this for a few moments.

Introverts will likely prefer smaller churches so they don’t feel lost in the crowd. There will be a manageable number of relationships.

Introverts will likely prefer churches with quieter worship. When worship feels like a concert, introverts experience sensory overload. I like concerts, but I need more space, quiet, in worship so I can think, pray. This points to the fact that they will worship differently. That’s alright.

Introverted churches will worship differently. They will avoid having sensory overload. There will be times of quiet for reflection. It won’t be busy, busy, busy. That’s a good thing too, for some of us.

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I’ve been reading the new Essentials Edition of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion since this summer. This is not an edited version, but a new translation of the 1541 edition of the Institutes. I am enjoying it very much. As I’ve been reading, I’ve thought at times, I should blog about this. Unfortunately, for much of the fall I was editing my own book so there wasn’t much time to blog on it. I have a bit more time these days, so I thought I would go back. My desire is to encourage others to read this volume.

It begins with a chapter on the Knowledge of God. This should be no surprise to anyone familiar with The Institutes of the Christian Religion. This volume is not broken up into 4 books like the one edited by McNeill. The material is, at times, covered in a different order. Additionally, this edition is not as exhaustive as future editions would be.

The first paragraph is familiar:

“The whole sum of our wisdom- wisdom, that is, which deserves to be called true and assured- broadly consists of two parts, knowledge of God and knowledge of ourselves.”

As made in the image of God, we cannot truly know ourselves without knowing God. As we know God, we discover that “he is the fount of all truth, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, judgment, mercy, power and holiness.” The purpose of this knowledge is that we would worship and honor him.

The purpose of knowing ourselves is “to show us our weakness, misery, vanity and vileness, to fill us with despair, distrust and hatred of ourselves, and then to kindle in us the desire to seek God, for in him in found all that is good and of which we ourselves are empty and deprived.” In other words, we see our depravity and the marring of his image that we might seek like in him. It sounds harsh, but it is similar to Paul’s discussion of the purpose of the law prior to conversion, to reveal our sin and drive us to Jesus.

This is why it is wisdom; this knowledge is to be acted upon, not simply studied abstractly. Knowledge of self is intended to encourage us to seek after God, and leads us to find him. Calvin then notes that “no one ever attains clear knowledge of self unless he has first gazed upon the face of the Lord, and then turns back to look upon himself.” This is similar to Isaiah 6, when the prophet saw God in his glory and then finally saw himself as he really was.

Calvin notes that an awareness of God is common to all people. We all have some “understanding of his majesty.” Calvin is quite dependent on Romans 1 as he thinks through all of this. He is not a speculative theologian, but one who seeks to understand what has been revealed to us in Scripture, and its implications. Romans 1 instructs us that people turned from the true God to idols, “exchanging the truth for the lie ” (Rom. 1). In rejecting the truth, we have become perverted by self-will. Instead of seeking all good in God, we have settled for the lie of the Serpent in the Garden and seek it in and by ourselves: for our glory, not his. Instead of seeking to submit to him, people resist and rebel against him. As Paul says in Ephesians and Colossians, people are at enmity with God. We fall prey to superstition and servile fear. People flee from him, as a guilty Adam and Eve fled from the sound of God approaching them.  This servile fear is “not enough to stop them from resting easy easy in their sin, indulging themselves and preferring to give fleshly excess free rein, rather than bringing it under the Holy Spirit’s control.” In other words, pride drives us to think we deserve better, and know better than God what is good for us. Fear leads us to believe that God does not have our best interests at heart and therefore his law is oppressive.

As we discover in the Psalms, he is good and wants good things for us, including trusting him to guard, guide, protect and provide for us. He wants us to trust him to redeem and rescue us.

Calvin briefly discusses the “Book of Nature” or creation which reveals his invisible qualities. If we study nature, and we should, we will discover much that testifies to his wisdom. We also see that he is revealed in his works of providence. We see that foolishness has consequences. (see Psalm 19 for instance)

But, as Romans 1 makes clear our thinking has become dark and futile. We don’t see what we should see, even though it is clear. The problem isn’t the Book of Nature (natural revelation) but how we understand and interpret it. We are without excuse. Instead of believing, we “so obscure God’s daily works, or else minimize and thus dismiss them” so that “he is deprived and robbed of the praise and thanks we owe him.”

We are dependent on God’s special revelation (Scripture) as a result (the second stanza of Psalm 19). We needed a book because we are prone to forget and are easily led into error. To know God we are utterly dependent upon the Scriptures (and the Spirit’s illumination).

Here Calvin reminds us that Scripture’s authority comes from God, as his word. It is not determined by the church (contra Rome). He briefly develops the ideas of the Spirit’s inner witness, it’s wisdom and truth and history of the truth which confirm the authority of Scripture.

“It is therefore not the role of the Holy Spirit, such as he is promised to us, to dream up fresh and original revelations, or to fashion a new kind of teaching, which alienates us from the gospel message which we have received. His role is rather to seal and confirm in our hearts the teaching provided for us in the gospel.”

The chapter ends with a slightly different form of “triple knowledge” than that expressed in the Heidelberg Catechism: “God’s mercy, one which the salvation of us all depends; his judgment, which he daily visits on the wicked, and which awaits them with even greater vigor, to their eternal shame; and his righteousness, by which his faithful people are generously preserved.”

“However, since God does not allow us to behold him directly and up close, except in the face of Christ who is visible only to the eye of faith, what remains to be said concerning the knowledge of God is better left until we come to speak of the understanding of faith.”

 

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Thursday and Friday was our stated Presbytery meeting in Flagstaff, AZ. This was the 3rd “short” week in a row thanks to a holiday, my son’s surgery and now Presbytery. Usually this means compressing the sermon preparation, but this week I have a friend from out of town preaching for us on Sunday. He was coming back to Tucson, in part to attend the presbytery meeting.

So he spent two nights at our house and was going to drive up with me. This also meant that I didn’t get my usual exercise. I was planning on leaving between 6-6:30, but the night before decided that 6:30-7 might work better for us, so we could get a little extra sleep in the morning.

I tried. We left shortly after 7 and were on the road for the approximately 3 1/2 hour trip to Flagstaff. I had kidded him about loading up my iPod with Deep Purple since he thinks Smoke on the Water is the only song they are known for. We ended up not even using my iPod as we talked most of the way up. We talked about the issues to be discussed in our meeting, the shooting accident that resulted in his hearing loss, church opportunities he is pursuing, the morality of football, and the Pope’s visit. Before getting on the highway we stopped so he could get a Coke to drink with his medicine. With no parking in front I dropped him off and then, without his realizing it, drove into the connector between the lots for Circle K and Wendy’s. It was a long line, and I was waiting thinking about having to make up time. When I saw him come to the door I pulled into the lot and toward the door. He missed me, and thought I’d parked around the corner. Though he knew I wouldn’t abandon him, he was still confused. So I honked at him, he got in and off we went.

We made one stop, on the north end of Phoenix. It is a new to me car and I wasn’t sure if I could make it to Flagstaff on one tank of gas. While I pumped gas, he went in. For another Coke. When he had come out, I had moved the car to a parking space. I kind of enjoyed messing with his mind. This resulted in a story of how they used to do this to one of their friends who was always the last one out of the store.

We actually made great time, and arrived into Flagstaff on time. (One oddity of the new congressional districts in AZ is that I drove 3 1/2 hours and ended up in the same district I live in.) When we had been looking at maps online it looked like I needed to get off 17 onto 40 and get of the first exit. Since Siri does not like me (to put it mildly), I asked him to use his phone to get the directions. Siri responded quickly to him. Unfortunately we were brought through the NAU area which gets clogged due to low speeds, pedestrians and buses. So much for being on time. We then discovered that Siri brought us to the old address, from like 2 years ago. We quickly pulled up their website to get the address and now were on our way again. We finally got to the church, and arrived about 20-25 minutes late for the committee meeting. The new building was pretty much at the intersection of 17 & 40. We wasted that whole trip thru town. I don’t like Siri- it is a mutual thing.

The big news for the balance of the meeting was simply the time frame for re-starting an RUF ministry at the UofA. We, the churches in Tucson,  have until 2017 to get the initial money together and hire a campus director.

We didn’t eat here.

After the meeting, we went cruising for a restaurant without any assistance from Siri. We settled, rather quickly, on Freddy’s Steak Burgers. Ed had eaten Italian food for lunch and dinner the day before. Olive Garden was out It was the first time either of us had been to Freddy’s even though there is one near my house in Tucson. The burger was good- mine was the double with bacon and cheese. I prefer Five Guys, and I had known there was a Smash Burger not too far away I would have wanted to eat there.

We began with a time of prayer. We focused on our marriages, and the physical, emotional and spiritual health of our members. We heard a report from our RUF campus minister in Las Cruces. The part of the committee meeting I’d missed. He told three stories of people impacted by the ministry since last we met. Their large group meeting has been running at about 75 students. Things are going well there.

Much of the afternoon was spent examining a candidate for ministry. He had received a call to one of the churches in Tucson, but was coming from a non-PCA and non-Reformed context. So we wanted to be thorough. And fair. His English Bible exam was very good (though I prefer more than one reference when possible), as was his history exam (though I mentioned that he never mentioned the ARP in his history of Presbyterianism). There were some small blips in theology w/regard to the 3-fold division of the law and the 3rd use of the law but nothing that appeared significant. He would preach later during our worship service that evening.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in executive session. So I can’t tell you about it. Those sessions are often very personal and painful, or they wouldn’t be in private. They are draining periods of time. We didn’t finish that work when the time for dinner arrived. It had been a busy 5 hours.

Dinner was Italian. I thought it might be Olive Garden since it was cheese tortellini, a Caesar salad, rolls and tiramisu, but it was catered by NAU food services (good to build that connection). I spent some time talking with one of the assistant pastors from Tucson and getting to know the new director of youth and family ministry at the host church. Since the latter will eventually come before us for ordination, he had a few questions.

Theirs is a new building, two stories built into a hill. The sanctuary seats about 150, has the high ceilings (like an A-frame) with a library above the foyer overlooking the sanctuary. The furnishings often looked like they came from the Adirondack’s: knotty limbs and blocks of wood for horizontal surfaces. Downstairs was the kitchen, nursery and classroom space. This is where we ate dinner.

In the week before the meeting I’d developed a boil on the underside of my arm in the pit. I’d soaked it the night before to try and get whatever was causing the swelling out. It was tender in the morning, and had grown increasingly uncomfortable as the day wore on. I checked on it in the men’s room after dinner and saw that my work had been successful and hoped to attend to it when I finally got to my hotel later that night.

One of things I usually like about presbytery is worshiping in other churches. You get to see how they worship. Often I am able to borrow confessions of sins, additional verses from songs etc. They had the lyrics up on a large flat screen above the pulpit area. Most of them were also in the Order of Worship, except the one we sing which had an additional verse I wanted to bring home. Sometimes a worship service will be a bit outside of your comfort zone. That’s okay, generally speaking. This was a bit outside of mine in some ways. The sermon by the candidate was generally good, but it hit me as focused a bit too much on the imperative at the expense of the indicative. As it turned out, I was not alone in that impression.

As we prepared for communion I noticed that my sleeve seemed to keep sticking to my arm. Wondering what was up, I looked and saw it was covered in blood. After partaking of the body and blood, I slipped into the men’s room to tend to my now-exploded boil. I’ll spare you more of the gory details. But it sure felt better.

After the worship service we tied up a few loose ends, including a task for me, in the executive session. Then it was time for fellowship. Of course we got turned around a few times trying to read those road signs. Finally we asked Siri for directions to the Beaver Street Brewery. She-who-hates-me was useless. Back to Google and we were soon there. Thankfully we passed my hotel, so I now knew how to get there.

We had a great turnout, and only a few other people were in the restaurant. The music was too loud, and sadly they had just run out of the steamed mussels in a thai curry sauce. But I had a glass of their stout (which was good) and what they call Bowl of Goodness, fries sprinkled with cheese and herbs with a dip. It was very good and a few guys “helped” me eat it. It is good being able to get to know guys you don’t ordinarily spend time with because they work hours away. Josh, who organizes these events and I’ve decided to call “the Party Starter” decided we should play a pool game. Everyone threw a dollar into the kitty and the one who took the fewest attempts to get all three balls in a pocket won. I managed to get one in, semi-acquitting myself, before exceeding the best thus far.

Soon 11:30 was creeping up, and I still needed to check-in to my hotel. Ed was staying with other friends, so I was on my own. I’d picked the Econo Lodge University. The price differences between hotels were fairly large. I paid only $50 since I was basically only going to sleep and shower there. The room was clean, so I was content. I was delighted to see that the shower head 1. was not for Hobbit-sized people, and 2. of the rain fall variety.

I cleaned up my armpit, again. Resisting the urge to watch TV I went to bed about 11:45. I woke up around 3:30 in the morning. I’m not sure why. But I had a hard time falling back asleep. The pillow wasn’t very comfortable being overly fat and fluffy, and there were unusual noises (the refrigerator?), and the room was a bit stuff. So eventually I turned up the fan and read. I finished 1 Chronicles, and then a chapter in a book on missions I’ve been reading. At 5 I tried to sleep again, and slept until about 7 when CavWife called.

From my trip there in 2010

I showered and dressed. The continental breakfast, and the lobby, didn’t look appealing so I went next door to Chick-Fil-A. I noticed 2 other guys from presbytery and ate with them talking about various aspects of the meeting and ministry in our respective cities. Afterwards, having finished my sweet tea, I went next door to Dunkin’ Donuts for a vanilla chai.

The air pressure warning had gone off the night before, and was still on when I started the car. I figured that if I filled up with gas, and had the air checked, I’d be ready to go once the meeting was over. I knew, due to the ideal gas law, that the pressure would drop due to those refreshing cooler temps at 7,000 feet. But I’d been having some trouble with air pressure and didn’t want a tire to go flat on the long ride home. I didn’t have my new digital gauge with me so I wasn’t sure which one was low. I spotted a Discount Tire and took advantage of their free air pressure check. Only a pound light, but I guess the sensors don’t work well at such elevations and read as if about 3 pounds light. They put a little extra in and I was good.

The rest of the meeting was mostly reports and prayer. We didn’t handle the proposed changes to the Standing Rules of Presbytery. This was good because the proposed “radical” changes had been replaced with some minimal changes. I’m not excited about the status quo which seems mostly maintenance not pressing the kingdom forward. We will talk about them at our next meeting.

There were lots of opportunities for congregations and individuals to be involved in missions connected with our presbytery, like:

  • Helping with church planting in Hondoras w/the Pettingills.
  • Teaching local pastors in Uganda.
  • Helping Barrio Nuevo, a mercy ministry in Phoenix
  • Helping Crossroads Ministry, a mercy ministry in Las Cruces
  • Supporting interns with the Hispanic Leadership Initiative
  • 2 Church Plants in Albuquerque.
  • Possible prison ministry in Phoenix/Tucson
  • Native American ministry east of Flagstaff
  • Ministry across the border in Juarez

The best line of the meeting was when one presbyter was disagreeing with the Parlimentarian about a particular section of the Book of Church order, to whom he replied “I wrote it” and therefore knows what it means.

After some good-byes, Ed and I were off for another largely uneventful ride home. I did spot 2 elk along the side of the highway that had been hit. They were actually quite huge so I wondered what the vehicles looked like. My ears popped repeatedly as we went from 7,000 feet to under 2,000 feet. We stopped for a late lunch in Phoenix at Pappadeaux which I’ve wanted to do for 5 years. It was excellent, though a bit more expensive than I was hoping. I was also surprised to see so many people with grey hair because it was a loud restaurant with lots of background noise that can make hearing difficult. We continued to talk family stuff, transitions in ministry and how my book is coming since he works for the publisher.

Still Deep Purple and iPod-less we arrived at my house at 4 pm. I think I will sleep well tonight.

[I meant to take some pictures of the building and sanctuary, but forgot.]

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The subtitle to Recovering Redemption is A Gospel-Saturated Perspective on How to Change. It was written by pastor Matt Chandler and counselour Michael Snetzer. I have some mixed feelings about this book. It says some good things, and makes some good points. On the other hand there are some theological weaknesses and a writing style that seemed far more conversational than well-thought out.

The Good Points

The books starts with creation and the fall to set the proper theological stage for talking about redemption. They also spend a chapter on our own lame attempts at redemption apart from Christ. It is important that we understand some of the ways the flesh seeks redemption without going to God. We tend to look to ourselves, other people, the world and religion (viewed here at simply religiosity w/out regard to faith in Christ in contrast to biblical religion).

They address the concept of “struggling well”. It is helpful to remember that we don’t arrive in this life. Our sanctification will experience many peaks and valleys. In this context they address the right and wrong kinds of grief.

They then have a too short chapter on “The Benefits of Belief” which covers justification and adoption. It is important that we grasp these as foundational to our sanctification.

They, I think rightly, view sanctification as synergistic. God works (first and effectively) and we work (in response and imperfectly). God is more fully vested in our sanctification than we are, but we are not passive in this process. We are to engage. They address mortification and vivification as the two essential aspects of sanctification. We put sin to death in the power of the Spirit, and the Spirit also brings fruit to life as we rely on Him. Paul puts this a taking off and putting on. Matt and Michael re-frame it in terms of renouncing and re-rooting.

They spend a chapter talking about issues of guilt and shame which can hamper our growth in Christ. Matt, due to his experience with cancer, talks about fear and anxiety next.

There are 2 good chapters focusing on relational issues of forgiveness and conflict resolution. Sin is relational, and when we fail to restore our relationships our sanctification is essentially sunk. We somehow think that holiness is separate from our relationships instead of lived out in our relationships. This is probably one of the more important contributions of the book.

They end the book with a chapter on seeking our pleasure in Christ instead of ourselves, others and the world. There is a brief epilogue on making much of Jesus.

“Our reconnection with God, so unquestionably strong and secure, means we can now reach toward others without needing the acceptance and approval we’ve already received from the Lord, but rather with the freedom to pour out into their lives the forgiveness and peace of Christ.”

The Weaknesses

They try to say too much in too short of a period of time. As a result they don’t really dig into many of these topics. It seems rather cursory at times. It would be a good introduction for newer Christians, but more mature people will not be very satisfied.

More problematic is the formulation of justification. The focus seems to be innocence instead of righteousness.

  • “declared innocent” pp. 86
  • “on the sacrifice and willing substitution of the innocent, crucified Christ.” pp. 86
  • “God has imputed to us all the innocence and righteousness and perfection of Christ.” pp. 86.
  • “pardoned and ascribed righteousness.” pp. 87
  • “We’re given innocence.” pp. 206.

Innocence is good, but no one is saved because they are innocent. We must be righteous. Christ’s satisfaction is effective because He was righteous. The lack of clarity annoyed me precisely because this is such an important doctrine. Particularly when dealing with younger Christians we should be clear, and not confusing.

There was also very little about union with Christ. Yes, that is a fairly abstract concept for people but it is really that by which we gain all that Christ is for us.

Stylistically I was not really enjoying the read. I noted early on that there were way too many one sentence paragraphs. There were also sentences what were not complete. It comes off either as an unedited sermon or quite poorly written (or written for nearly illiterate people).

Why does this matter to me? My publisher challenged me: did I want to simply get a book published or write a book that would still be read in 100 years. This reads like the former. That may be a result of the uncertainty regarding Matt’s cancer. He has already exceeded the doctor’s best guesses. He is living on borrowed time, from a worldly perspective.

“Gospel-motivated worship leads to gospel-empowered ministry and mission. Being gospel-centered and saturated leads to a joy-filled submission toward all that He calls us to do, based on all we’ve been given.”

As a result, this is a book I might recommend to some people. But it is not a book I would unreservedly recommend. I am iffy on it, which is unfortunate.

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In our men’s study last night we talked about 1 Timothy 3:14-16. We talked about a number of things but I want to focus on our discussion of verse 15.

14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
    vindicated by the Spirit,
        seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
    believed on in the world,
        taken up in glory.

Paul has a very high view of the church. He points out two things. It is the household of God, and the assembly of the living God.

Household! The household of the day was run by the pater familias. There would be a wife and children, perhaps extended family and servants. Everyone in the household was under the authority of the pater familias. There was a household code of conduct that was to be followed by all.

This is what is behind the idea Paul expresses about conducting oneself in the household of God. God, the Father, determines how we are to live as part of His household by adoption. He regulates the household, not us.

In a household there is love, acceptance and discipline (an essential part of fatherly love, see Hebrews 12). This means there is forgiveness. This also means there are relationships between other members of the family. We are connected to one another. We help another when one is hurting or sick. Yes, sometimes a household is like an infirmary ward. And a classroom. Sometimes it is a party hall, as the family celebrates a birthday, anniversary, holy day, etc. A household has many functions, which is why it is such a helpful metaphor for the church. Paul, and the Spirit, knew what they were doing.

Too often people treat the church as anything but a household. They often view it as a service center of sorts. Not realizing they are part of a family we often treat others like they are there to serve us. Not realizing we are connected, too easily slip from congregation to congregation whenever someone does something we don’t like. We can think little to nothing of the relationships we leave behind.

(Yes, sometimes you have to leave a church. Sometimes you can choose to leave a church. What we shouldn’t do is burn bridges by either how or why we leave.)

Another aspect of a household is that the pater familias assigns tasks within the household. Each family member has responsibilities, except maybe the youngest children. In our family our kids learned a song when they were very young- “Clean up, clean up, it is time to clean up.” This was so they would learn to … clean up.

If we are to view the church as a household, we should think along the lines of JFK’s famous words: ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church. Yes, you should receive benefits from your church, just like every other member of the family. But you also have responsibilities just like every other member. Your place may be to teach, or help others heal, perhaps helping everyone to celebrate, or enjoy a clean environment. There is something for everyone to do.

It isn’t about guilt. It is essentially about love. You are a part of a household formed from God’s adopting love. The ones we serve are supposed to be the ones you love.

The church is also the assembly of the living God. That word, ekklesia, is used in the Septuagint to translate the word for assembly or congregation. The church is not just those called out, but also called together. We assemble.

This is so different from the “de-churched” movement which thinks we don’t need the assembly but relies on Christian friendships. The Father appointed some to be pastors and teachers for a reason. He believes in the organized church, so to speak, even if we don’t. He gave instructions, like earlier in 1 Timothy 3, for how the church functions because there is organization to the organism called the church. The God who lives dwells in this living temple (1 Peter 2, Ephesians 2). To reject attendance, participation and membership is quite contrary to God’s revealed intention for the church.

The living God is present when the church is assembled in a way in which He is not when we are alone. I am basing this on Paul’s comments on worship in 1 Corinthians. He inhabits our praises, stirring us up to delight in Him, to confess our sins and our faith. We come together into His presence particularly as we pray and during the Lord’s Table. Corporate worship is distinct from our personal worship due to the preaching of the Word and the Sacraments. Those who neglect corporate worship miss the gracious presence of the living God for their maturity in a significant though hard to express way.

Paul’s vision of the church is far greater than the average American Christian’s. It is time for us to toss our meager conceptions of the church in the trash where they belong and receive God’s many, rich and high view of the church.

 

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I’m reading a book on sermons by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on John 4 in preparation for my sermons on that chapter coming up. The book is only 750ish pages. I have plenty of work ahead of me. But some of the sermons are well worth it, like one entitled Spiritual Dullness and Evasive Tactics preached in October, 1966. Think about that for a moment, 1966. Amazing to me how much of what he says fits our contemporary situation.

He begins with noting the essence of Christianity: “we have within us a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” The Christian life is a spiritual life under the power and direction of the Spirit. This great salvation “is to enable us to live in the world and to look forward to the glory that is to come.” This positive beginning shifts as the Dr. begins to lay the smack down. He gets quickly to exposing the sins of his time in England that mirror those of ours here in America.

“We face national prejudices, class prejudices, race prejudices, and so on. There is almost no end to them. What harm they have done in the life of the individual Christian, and what harm they have done in the life of the church throughout the centuries- the things we cling to so tenaciously simply because we have been born like that!”

He was addressing the Jewish-Samaritan prejudice. Later in the sermon he brings us to the problems of Apartheid and the Civil Rights struggle in the U.S. The people in England were denouncing the white South Africans and Americans. He admits, obviously, the sinfulness of racism, but takes this as evasiveness. The woman at the well used this prejudice to evade Jesus, and the Dr.’s contemporaries were using those prejudices in other nations to evade the truth about themselves.

“You see, in denouncing somebody else, you are shielding yourself. While you are denouncing these people or friends in America or somewhere else over this racial problem, you are full of self-righteous indignation. That is very clever, but you are just evading the problem of your own life, the running sore of your soul.”

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In the earlier chapters of his book, The Creedal Imperative, Carl Trueman builds a biblical case for the use of creeds. He interacted with some of the contemporary issues that often undermine the use and value of creeds and confessions exposing their folly and short-sightedness. He then examined some of the ecumenical creeds and Reformed Confessions, giving insight into their development. The latter chapters of the book focus on the usefulness and value of these creeds and confessions in the life of the church and the Christian.

In the congregation I serve as pastor, we have a Confession of Faith as part of our weekly liturgy. We don’t use the same creed each Sunday. Sometimes we go through the Heidelberg Catechism over the course of a year. Right now we read the Apostles’ Creed on 1st Sundays, the Nicene Creed on 3rd Sundays and the other weeks draw from a variety of sources (Scripture as well as various creeds, confessions and covenants). This is a regular part of our liturgy because we believe that confessing our faith should be a regular part of our worship (just as we regularly confess our sin and receive the Lord’s Table). Confessions like this, Trueman argues, are acts of praise. The praise is expressed in the church’s theology, but it is praise.

“This is a vital point, and we do well to remember that our creeds and confessions are not simply boundary markers but also that they arise out of a desire to praise God, the content of which praise should be the same as that of said creeds and confessions.”

He gives the example of 1 Timothy 1:15ff, which is one of my favorite passages. Paul offers a theology of the incarnation in terms of its purpose, and offers praise as well. The truth results in praise, and its itself intended to be praise by saying in what ways our God is great.

“Thus, the Trinitarian controversies of the early centuries are nothing if not heated debates about the nature of Christian worship and the nature of Christian belonging.”

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In the 5th section of The Doctrine of the Christian Life, John Frame touches on the question of culture. This is an important question regarding the Christian life. No one lives it in a vacuum. We each live it in a particular culture, and that raises issues and questions. It is a big part of the circumstances making up the situational component of triperspectival ethics.

“So culture is not only what we grow, but also what we make, both with our hands and with our minds.”

He begins the section with a chapter on the question, what is culture? In terms of Scripture, this is a word not found there, but one that must be derived from good and necessary consequence. He starts with some basic facts about the origin of the word, and some definitions posited by others, like the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelism. He then distinguishes between creation (what God has made) and culture (what we make with creation). This, of course, leads us back to the Creation Mandate. Adam and Eve (and their children) were to fill the earth, subdue the earth and rule the earth. They were to utilize it, not preserve it (or exploit it). As a result, culture for Frame is what we make of God’s creation.

“God creates the world, but he does not depend on the world at all. The world depends entirely on him. But in human life, there is a mutual dependence between ourselves and the world. The world depends on us to fill and rule it, but we depend on the world for our very existence.”

As made in God’s image, the various cultures we create and maintain reflect something of the goodness of God. But as sinners marred by the Fall, our cultures also reflect that descent and distortion of God’s glory. No one culture, this side of Eden, is either all good or all bad but a rather tar babyish mix of the two.

Into this, Frame develops a view of Common Grace. This is another word not found in Scripture, but a concept taught in Scripture. It is gracious because it is undeserved. It is common because it does not lead to salvation. It does maintain the stage for salvation, like what we see in the Noahic Covenant.

By common grace we mean that God restrains sin. He actively keeps people from being as bad as they could be. An example Frame provides is the Tower of Babel, scattering the nations so they won’t accomplish their evil intent. Satan is on a short leash, as we see in Job; and even shorter as we see in Revelation 20.

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With General Assembly over, I could have a relaxing morning getting packed up. Check out time was 11 am so I enjoyed a cup of tea and did some reading. One of the other pastors asked me if the Paul Tripp book I was reading was new. Indeed! With some time to spare I called old friend Dr. Chris Probst to see how life in St. Louis was going. And I refrained from abusing him since the Red Sox are in first place.

Leaving Flat Rock took longer than anticipated for CavWife. You know how goodbyes can go. So they showed up a little late at the hotel. It was nearly time for lunch after I squeezed the burdened bags (all the free stuff and my notebook for GA were heavy), so it was off to Chick-fil-a for some lunch. Sadly, there was no play area at this C-F-A. But I enjoyed a reasonably healthy salad after all those not very healthy meals during the week.

We then made our way to the home of a childhood friend of CavWife’s. We enjoyed their hospitality, including crashing on the hammock in the backyard. My friend Eddie and his family joined us for a rather large dinner. We eventually put the kids to sleep in the room we were staying in. Yes, all 6 of us were in the same room- on a bed, on a futon and on the floor. After more conversation, and a phone call to an elder back in AZ I was ready to go to bed later than expected. We had an early morning coming.

Thanks to the white noise we used to help the kids sleep, a rain storm, I kept waking up having to go to the bathroom. It was a restless night and 6 am came way too soon. By 6:30 we were dressed, packed up and ready to head back to Atlanta for our flight up to NJ. This time it was a largely uneventful ride into Atlanta … until the airport. I found the signage inadequate again. But we figured it all out and returned the van. We had to re-arrange some things and rebuild the boxes for the booster seats. It took awhile with 4 kids continually finding a way to be in the way.

There were a number of differences between the rental Town & Country and our Town & Country. I enjoyed the improved fuel economy (5-6 mpg more than ours!) and the video when you are in reverse. I was not wild about the new placement for power supplies and shifter. But it served us well. And so did the car seats we left behind. Yes, they were set to expire so I didn’t have to lug them around anymore. My knuckles were thankful. New seats awaited us in NJ.

Now we had to make the trek to the tram, then ticketing, then the tram and the gate. All went well, and soon we were on our way to Chicago. This time we had a good layover so there was no rushing around. I was able to make a few calls. And then we were off to Newark- the flower of New Jersey. Thankfully another uneventful trip.

Dan picked us up in Mike’s Denali. Apparently the new Denalis have less storage space and more leg room. That was not the equation I really wanted. While CavWife properly installed the car seats I played puzzle with the luggage. We all fit in for the ride to Newfoundland. After passing the infamous Hibernia Diner, we got to the Hric home in time for some dinner.

After putting the kids to sleep, Dan and I tried to watch the Bruins’ game. They have Apple TV so there was no live network TV. Soon we found the NBCSports App to download so we could watch the game on my iPad. Good game, lousy outcome.

I had a rough night’s sleep on the Tempurpedic due to the heat and humidity sans a/c. We went to worship in the church CavWife grew up in. Of course it is much bigger, and different. The worship has changed considerably since the last time we were there about 10 years ago. Gone was the organ trying to play more contemporary songs. They had a worship team, and had a low or free worship style (pick your term) and some of the songs were new to us. Good, but new to us (and easy to learn). The sermon was from a series on Galatians, so that is always good. It was not a very long service, and we also enjoyed seeing some old friends.

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For the past few months I’ve been working on a seminar presentation about gospel-centered discipleship. It is part of a series of seminars some local churches are doing on the Great Commission.

In my preaching I’ve been addressing sanctification in the epistle of the Colossians. But with April here, our congregation is having a Missions Month. So I won’t be preaching. I am praying that God will stir up our hearts for missions.

Sometimes we struggle with putting these two things together. Some focus on mission as ultimate. Others see sanctification as ultimate. Obviously, some people have other views of what is ultimate (theological purity, worship, social justice etc.).

God’s glory is ultimate. God’s glory is to be revealed in sanctification (being conformed to Christ!), mission (seeing people come to faith in Christ), worship (worshiping Christ), social justice and theological purity. When we make one (or more) of them ultimate we get into the petty bickering that distracts us from doing what we ought to be doing in all its fulness.

For my seminar, I’ve been reading Following Jesus, The Servant King: A Biblical Theology of Covenantal Discipleship by Jonathan Lunde. Overall it has been a good read (I’m about 2/3rds thru it). I was intrigued by that “covenantal discipleship” idea. There are many good things about the book. One critique I have is that he makes mission ultimate.

But he rightfully sees a relationship between sanctification and mission. He points out how they were related in the OT such that Israel’s holiness was intended to make here a light to draw others to faith in the one, true God.

Obviously we see them joined in the Great Commission- which must be seen within a covenantal context (the whole point of Matthew is to see Jesus, the son of Abraham and the son of David, as the fulfillment of God’s covenants with Abraham and David). Mission is intended to produce obedient Christians. Obedient Christians are on mission as salt and light. They are inter-related instead of one having priority over another.

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Nearly 2 years ago I preached on God as the Creator of time, and Lord over work and rest. He made us to work AND rest. There are limits to each.

One of the young moms, no doubt stressed by the realities of raising kids, asked me about how this applies to moms. I intended to think through this a bit more, and just got mired in other responsibilities. So, here are some thoughts about how moms can find the Sabbath a delight, and opportunity to rest from their ordinary labor.

It is more difficult when the location of your ordinary labor is where you live (working moms are a different matter, obviously). But even if you would outside the home, at home there are always things that need attention whether they are urgent or not.

Take the day off from cleaning the house. In most families, moms do most of that. I remember a time we were eating with my siblings and their spouses at my parents. After dinner, Mom got up and started clearing dishes. CavWife was shocked that no one stood up to help. Mom always did it (though one chore of mine for awhile was cleaning the dishes). Husbands or older children can step up on Sundays to give moms a break when it comes to the dishes. But lay aside the laundry, floors, dusting etc. The home will not fall apart prior to Monday. And if you find that you will go crazy if you won’t- then there is a deeper issue to address.

Go out for lunch, maybe. Some people are not comfortable with this due to their convictions about others working on Sunday. They are working whether you go out to eat or not. They are suffering the consequences of the worship of money and comfort. If your conscience won’t let you, don’t do it. But the restaurant workers won’t condemn you, and could use the tip money.

Eat leftovers. The big Sunday meal may be a great tradition to build memories and a special time to be together, but it puts an unfair burden on moms (unless you grab take out). But Sunday can be a great time to clear out the leftovers from the fridge, or at least eat something simple. Most dads or older kids can operate a microwave.

Allow Dad to cook! It could be a time when he cooks for the family. Homemade pizza, BBQ or some other dad specialty allows mom to get some much needed rest (imagine how less stressed, and irritable they’d be).

Take a nap. One of the benefits of having younger kids is nap time. It is often a great time to get stuff done. Most Sundays CavWife and I use that to enjoy some time together. Sometimes, it is a great time to catch a few winks after not sleeping well all week.

Enjoy some sex (with your spouse). You didn’t expect that, did you? In doing research for a sermon years ago on the Sabbath, I ran across the mention of the Jewish practice of Sabbath sex. The slower pace of the day should help you to enjoy some time together enjoying the marriage bed. We have some friends who really appreciated this suggestion.

Pursuing Christ through the means of grace. God mercifully gave us a whole day to pursue Him. It is about more than public worship, however. There should be family and even personal worship. Moms often have a hard time finding time to read their Bibles or other books, pray, sing, etc. I put this near the end because this is all some people think the Sabbath rest should be about. But the phrase is redundant- Sabbath means rest. As Christians we rest in Christ from our works. But Sunday is a great day to read things that will point you to Jesus and the sufficiency of His work for you. It is a great grow in grace kind of day.

Works of mercy. It could be as simple as inviting a lonely person over to help you with the leftovers. Or someone who is struggling financially. Simple works of mercy, like hospitality (you don’t need to do anything fancy) restore their souls, and yours.

Anyone have any other ideas for moms to enjoy some rest in accordance with God’s merciful law.

Update: Here is a good article by Dr. Bill Evans on the Sabbath principle.

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Uneven.

If I were given one word to describe Disciple: Getting Your Identity From Jesus by Bill Clem, that is the word I would use. It is published as part of the RE:Lit line and has a forward by Mark Driscoll. It comes with blubs by people like Paul Tripp. In other words, it intrigued me.

Bill is trying to create a paradigm shift in how we think about discipleship. Someone in the church I pastor has been asking me questions about discipleship recently. My answers were in many ways close to what Bill is shooting for. But this runs against the grain of a church shaped by life in America which is filled with standardized tests and a concept of time consumed by efficiency. Programs aren’t discipleship. They can be a means of discipleship, but aren’t necessarily discipleship. Communicating theological knowledge and understanding isn’t either (though people need to grow in their biblical and theological knowledge to grow as disciples).

Bill Clem’s premise is that disciples primarily image God to the watching world (and unseen world). We were created in God’s image. As image bearers, Adam and Eve were to reflect God’s glory, and represent Him to the rest of creation. In their sin, the image was marred.  In redemption, Christ’s work in us (sanctification) is to restore that image in us. We reveal God’s character and represent Him more clearly over time. This premise is a giant step in the right direction. It is a necessary corrective to our thinking about discipleship.

Back to my one word assessment of the book. There are some very good chapters in this book. They are filled with red ink from my pen. And there are some chapters that have little additional ink, or the red ink is expressing my confusion. There were times when I was really tracking with Bill Clem, and there were times when I was under-whelmed or just plain frustrated.

“To disciple people is not to make them like everybody else; it is to shape them into the image of Jesus.”

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“Do you like dahgs?” So the Piker asked Tommy when he went to buy a new mobile home for Turkish.

If you don’t like dogs, don’t go to Mexico.  They are everywhere.  It is difficult to tell if a dog is feral or not.  If they actually wear a collar, they probably belong to someone.  We saw one dog being walked on a leash.  Other than that the vast majority were wandering around loose.  Bob Barker needs to make a whole lot of public service announcements and pay for a wandering crew of veterinarians to fix all those dogs so they don’t make more dogs.  It has gotten to the point in America that it is rare to see and “intact” dog.  Looks nearly obscene though it was quite common when I was a kid.

For breakfast on our last day at work we had hot cakes.  We were all dragging.  I work behind a desk much of the time, so the physical work was exhausting (and the lack of sleep didn’t really help).  But all of us were feeling it.  We had to push through though.  We were in the 4th quarter and needed to finish strong.  Most of what we had to do was the dry wall near the ceiling.  Lots more measuring and cutting.

The BEAMM missionary we worked with was working on the budget.  We’d gone over on construction supplies, and our food budget.  But had saved lots of money on housing.  When he made the budget, it was based on the hotel they’d used in Mexicali.  It was $70/night.  The infamous Motel Continental was $45.  If we upgraded it would have been about $100.  Quite the difference.  So thanks to our time “living it up at the Motel Continental” we were actually under budget.  The question was what to do with the extra money.  We decided to buy them all they needed to install the ceiling, tape and mud the dry wall and do a few other necessary projects.  They don’t lack the will or the skill.  The problem has been lacking the resources.  It is a small church and the people don’t make much money.  One woman who worked at a tortilla factory made under $10/week.  They put their “widows’ mites” into the offering plate, but there is not enough to do projects like this. Hopefully this will help them grow spiritually and numerically so they will have more to help others in the future.

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One of the things I told CavNav on the way down to Mexico was that I didn’t need to bring my travel clock since hotels have alarm clocks.  Wasn’t I surprised to discover that they did not have alarm clocks at the Motel Continental.  It was quite a surprise, but far from the last one I would have during our stay.

I can’t remember when we woke up, but that was when I got a few more surprises.  As I prepared to take a shower in the large but suspect shower,  I discovered that they did not provide any shampoo.  Really, was anyone surprised?  Thankfully I have a habit that annoys my wife.  I take the shampoo from hotels.  I had a bottle in my travel bag.  Problem solved.  I also had a big bar of Ivory soap just in case I had to do some laundry.  The sink was a bit small and lacked hot water, but at least I had plenty of soap for showers.

There were 2 towels.  2.  One looked like a bath mat.  Okay, it was a bath mat.  I suppose they could have expected us to share a towel, but I was not going there.  Instead I dried off with the bath mat that barely went around my waist.  We were told that they did not provide wash cloths.  Someone joked that they did, it was towels they didn’t provide.

Then it was time for breakfast in the motel’s restaurant- El Sarape.  Today we could choose what we wanted from the menu.  Monday – Friday we would all get the same meal.  I don’t do eggs, so I went with the hot cakes and bacon.  I tried some of the tortilla chips and salsa.  The chips tasted like corn flakes.  By the next day I would rethink the idea of eating salsa with breakfast.

Then it was off to the church for the morning worship service.  When Pastor Cesar and I talked the night before he asked if I would pray or read during the evening service.  He didn’t say anything about the morning service.  But there I was, offering the benediction.  We always said about mission trips: be flexible!  Since it was heating up we sat on the side of the sanctuary with the swamp coolers (I inadvertently sat right in front of one).  The other side had the cushions.  Choose your pleasure!  And pain.

The service was a little different than I was used to.  The main elements of worship were there.  CavNav says that the piano, played by Cesar, was 1 1/2 step flat but in tune with itself.  Instead of a sermon, we broke for Sunday School. Noah (pronounced No-A) taught the lesson from Genesis, the story of Abraham & Abimelech.  He focused on walking blamelessly before God, and how God keeps His promises even when we don’t.  Then it was time to get back together and share from our lessons.  Then the worship team led us in a few songs.  In America we nearly worship professionalism.  What they lacked in expertise they more than made up for in earnestness and sincerity.  Later, while playing around with the electric guitar I discovered only 1 of the 3 pick ups worked.  This is one of the themes in their church life: make due.  They just don’t have the resources to fix everything or buy new things.

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In his newest book, worship leader and song writer Matt Redman, uses a Mirror Ball as a metaphor for the main message of the book.  The mirror ball is not a source of light, but does reflect light so that light is sent into many different directions and many different places.  The glory of God in the gospel is like light (2 Cor. 4) which transforms us (2 Cor. 3).  This is essentially what the book is about.

Worship doesn’t start with you.  It begins and ends with a merciful, majestic, and powerful God.”

When most of us think about worship, we think about worship services, songs, prayers and the like.  But Matt rightly (biblically) expands that notion to all of life.  The words translated worship usually mean service or to pay homage to someone.  You serve the one you worship.  His point is about integrity of life.  We can sing and wave our hands all you want, but if you live the rest of your time as if God didn’t exist you are not a worshiper of God.

“The true test of our passion for God will always be our lives. … It involves a life laid down in service and adoration.  The concrete evidence of whether our worship has lived or died in us will always be our lives.”

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Some time back I did a rather brief review of Paul Tripp’s new book on marriage, What Did You Expect?”  As I mentioned there, I think this is one of the best books on marriage.  Tripp goes beneath the surface of marriage (and this is applicable to ANY relationship).

In the DVD, taken from a conference, is similar but not identical to the book.  In the DVD, he focuses on the big picture of marriage.  And that heart of a marriage is determined by worship.  What you worship will determine the quality of your marriage, and other relationships.  The more you worship someone or something instead of God, you will be in conflict because you don’t have the same desires and priorities.

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