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Jesus, Eunuchs, and the (Almost) 30-Year-Old Virgin

Chelsea Kingston:

In a world where hedonism and gross individualism hold sway, the prominence of what a friend and pastor calls “the sexual fulfillment myth” is no big surprise, really. And so, in a way that our culture finds almost impossible to comprehend, celibacy in singleness demonstrates a most visible sign of authentic Christian witness. Perhaps this is why Jesus spoke so strongly on the subject.

7 Signs We May Be Worshipping Our Family

Jason Helopoulos:

I am thankful for the growing emphasis upon the Christian family in evangelical circles. Our two children are home schooled, so I am in no way opposed to homeschooling. We attempt to practice family worship each night of the week, so I am not opposed to family worship. For goodness sakes, I wrote on a book on the subject. I am passionate about it. We have attempted to have our children in corporate worship with us since they were babies. I am working on a book on that subject as well, so I am not opposed to children in worship. However, there does seem to be a tendency with the home school/family worship/children in worship emphasis that can turn this good thing upon its head. If we aren’t careful, instead of encouraging worshipping families, we become family worshippers. The following are possible signs that we have begun worshipping the family rather than encouraging our family to be worshippers.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today only, you can get Thom Rainer’s excellent book, I am a Church Member for 99¢.

Get The New Birth in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get Steven Lawson’s The New Birth teaching series (DVD) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Sola Scriptura by various authors (ePub & Mobi)
  • The Faith Shaped Life by Ian Hamilton (paperback)
  • Twelve Challenges Churches Face by Mark Dever (hardcover)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

Coming (Back) to America: Coming Back to Commercials

Thabiti Anyabwile:

Here’s the first thing I notice about living in the States again: commercials. Well, truthfully, I didn’t notice them. My seven year old son Titus noticed them. All of them!

Here’s the thing: In Cayman we never had cable or watched network television. We relied on DVDs, Netflix, or something on Apple TV. This meant commercials never interrupted our programming–not even during the annual commercial feast called the Super Bowl. Since Titus was born in Cayman, his entire seven years of life have been lived in our commercial-free Siberia.

But coming back to America means he has a Saturday full of commercials! He’s exposed constantly to product pitches and appeals.

Should We Stop Using the Language of “Personal Relationship” in Evangelism?

Leon Brown:

As far back as I can recall, Christians have utilized the phrase, “personal relationship” in evangelism. It is oft-times used as a synonym for “salvation.” Perhaps pressing the phrase to its unlikely meaning, we might suggest that the phrase, “personal relationship” includes one’s union with Christ, justification, sanctification, reconciliation, and eventual glorification. At a minimum, if the former is meant by the phrase, it seems like an acceptable set of words to utilize in evangelistic outreach.
The problem I have with the phrase, however, is not which theological categories it includes but which categories it obviously does not. I can only base my observations on personal experience, but I have yet to hear testimony, whether while witnessing or some other published work/blog/Facebook post/Tweet, that the “personal relationship” language epidemic includes both the wrath of God and the Church.

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Dealing with Prima Donnas

Chris Vacher:

Artists certainly have a reputation for prima donna personalities. So if you’re a worship leader or lead artists of any kind, you should spend some time thinking through a strategy for dealing with prima donnas in your midst.

I’m not sure I could give hard evidence of this, but in my conversations with worship leaders over the past few years, it seems like the popularity and prevalence of the Idol and Glee culture has opened the doors for prima donna personalities to be revealing themselves more and more.

First, let’s define what we’re talking about.

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Slow-to-anger parenting

Elisha Galotti:

The kitchen floor is covered in tin foil, saran wrap, and parchment paper. It’s everywhere. I can barely see the floor underneath. How is it even possible that she made a mess like this in a mere couple of minutes?

Because we’re rushing to leave, because I’m a parent who struggles with impatience to begin with, because tin foil and saran wrap and parchment paper aren’t cheap, and because I’m just plain old annoyed that Ella has chosen this moment to do this new thing, I feel a surge of angry frustration.

I’m quick to become angry with my child.

Dare to Be a Daniel?

Ben Dunson:

Christians with a basic knowledge of the Bible know it is full of stories of people who have done great things in the service of God. They’ve heard of these men and women of renown in sermons, in Sunday school, in vacation Bible schools. But perhaps you have wondered: is there nothing more to the Bible than these tales of bravery and heroism? Isn’t there more to the Bible than mighty heroes carrying out mighty works for God? What about God saving sinners? Is there hope for the very un-heroic among us?

If you have ever asked questions like this you are not alone.

Almost too good to be true

David Mathis:

The Christian doctrine of glorification is stunning, to say the least. Not only we will see Jesus in all his new-creation glory, but we will share with him in it. “When he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

If the Scriptures didn’t make it so plain, we wouldn’t have the gall to make this up, even in our wildest dreams. But the apostle Paul tells us we “will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:3), and that awaiting us is “an eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:16). Jesus himself prays to the Father about us, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them” (John 17:22), and perhaps most shocking of all, Peter says we will “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

Links I like

Top Ten Bad Worship Songs

Worship pastors, you know it’s true.

 The problem with modern music

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few Kindle deals to start off your week:

Stories of my dad

Ray Ortlund:

God gave me a great dad.  He was the finest man I’ve ever known — and the best pastor, and the best preacher, by far.  I drew strength from his love for me.  I miss him today.  I miss him every day.

Here are some reasons why I honor him.  And these are just for starters.

If You Had a Big Red Button That Would Destroy the Internet, Would You Press It?

R.C. Sproul, Jr:

I’ve never understood those who take a principial objection to hypothetical questions. “I make it a point never to answer hypotheticals” they tell me. Really? The truth is I actually have no such button. But it is helpful to consider what I might do if I did. I know what I’d do first—wrestle with whether to push the button. That is, I suspect it would be something of a close call. Because, naturally, there are good things and bad things that come with the internet. That doesn’t make it, however, neutral. It makes it good and bad. Ironically, often its strengths and weaknesses are one and the same.

Me and My Ninety-Nine

Tim Brister:

We know how the story goes. A man loses one of his sheep and does whatever it takes to find that sheep. But when I dwell on this passage a little more and the unaddressed realities in my heart, a couple of things come to my mind. First, am I the kind of person who is not even aware of when a sheep is lost? Do I pay enough attention to the “sheep who are not of this fold” (John 10:16) to acknowledge when one is lost? Second, am I the kind of person who secretly tells myself, “Well, I only lost one. At least I still have the other ninety-nine. Why make the effort to go after the one who is lost anyway? Is that not a bad stewardship of my time and energy?”

An ocean of glories and wonders

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[God] is an immense ocean of glories and wonders. There is nothing in God but what would be marvellous and astonishing to us, if we had our eyes divinely enlightened, and our hearts fired with divine love. Every creature has something in it that surpasses our knowledge, and commands our admiration: But what are all these in comparison of God, the all-wise and all-mighty artificer, who made them all by wisdom, and the breath of his mouth? The soul that loves God is ready to see and take notice of God in every thing: He walks through the fields, he observes the wonders of divine workmanship in every different tree on his right-hand and on his left, in the herbs and flowers that he treads with his feet, in the rich diversity of shapes and colours and ornaments of nature: He beholds and admires his God in them all. He sees the birds in their airy flight, or perched upon the branches, and sending forth their various melody: He observes the grazing flocks, and the larger cattle in their different forms and manners of life; he looks down upon little insects, and takes notice of their vigorous and busy life and motions, their shining bodies, and their golden or painted wings, he beholds and he admires his God in them all: In the least things of nature, he can read the greatness of God, and it is what of God he finds in the creature that renders creatures more delightful to him. Creatures are but his steps to help him to rise toward God.


 

Isaac Watts, The Works of the Rev. Isaac Watts, vol. 2, 526. | Photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

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“One anothers” I can’t find in the New Testament

Ray Ortlund:

The kind of God we really believe in is revealed in how we treat one another.  The lovely gospel of Jesus positions us to treat one another like royalty, and every non-gospel positions us to treat one another like dirt.  But we will follow through horizontally on whatever we believe vertically.

Genesis 1-11: an overview

This video from The Bible Project is really well done:

Five Benefits of Corporate Worship

David Mathis:

Worshiping Jesus together may be the single most important thing we do. It plays an indispensable role inrekindling our spiritual fire, and keeping it burning. Corporate worship brings together God’s word, prayer, and fellowship, and so makes for the greatest means of God’s ongoing grace in the Christian life.

But thinking of worship as a means can be dangerous. True worship is fundamentally an experience of the heart, and not a means to anything else. So it’s important to distinguish between what benefits might motivate us to be regular in corporate worship, and what focus our minds and hearts should pursue in the moment.

Six Principles For Youth Ministry

Jonathan Leeman:

“What does your church do for middle and high school students?” A pastor friend recently asked this question.

I have no special expertise with youth, and I tend to think there is some measure of programmatic flexibility. Do you host a weekly event? Who is it for? What do you do? Special projects or trips? I will leave that for you to sort out.

But here are a few biblical principles that we should heed no matter what, and my sense is the many youth groups don’t heed them.

Is Your Busy Season Becoming a Lifetime?

Melissa Martin:

“You just may not be in a season of life where you can serve right now.”

This well-meaning, godly woman’s advice to a room full of wives and mothers caused a little pang in my heart.

There is obviously a wealth of truth in that well-worn statement. I’ve been there. I know. I remember so clearly one evening soon after my daughter was born, my mother-in-law lovingly pushed my husband and me out the door for some time alone while she held our newborn. We slid into a booth at a ’50s diner on the beach, eyes glazed over from sleep deprivation, both sporting matching spit-up stains on our shoulders.

This season of life was not conducive to anything beyond barely keeping my head about water.

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My congregation barely sings

Jonathan Leeman and David Leeman:

Church leaders underestimate how deliberately they must push against these cultural trends to get their church singing; to teach them that the untrained but united voices of the congregation make a far better sound than the Tonight Show Band; to teach them that singing loudly in the presence of other people is not awkward; to teach them that all our emotions don’t have to be individually spontaneous to be worthy, but that there is place to guide and conform our individual emotions to the group’s activity.

If church leaders want congregations that will really “speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19), they will have to work at it. They will have to try things that might seem strange or unnatural for people who are accustomed to sitting quietly and watching the performance on stage. Here are a few tips, many of which, no doubt, fall into the realm of prudence.

Four ways to find grace in our failure

Joe Thorn:

If you haven’t figured it out yet let me encourage you to see something that will greatly help you. Not all of your ideas are good. Some of them are bad. And God will often let you flail and fail out there for very good purposes. And when you fail do not lose the opportunity to find grace in the midst of it.

I believe this is especially important for pastors to understand. It’s one of the most important lessons I have learned in 16 years of pastoral ministry: failure is to be expected and learned from. I have misspoke, misstepped, and missed the mark in more ways than I can explain here. And failing hurts. Most of us of are afraid of it. Leaders in particular are afraid of failure since it’s always a bit more of a public spectacle.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a few deals on some terrific books by R.C. Sproul:

Look for news on new deals from Crossway and other publishers later today or tomorrow.

Confessions of a Grown-Up Momma’s Boy

Marshall Segal:

Mothers are mind-blowing people if you stop to look at them.

In their body, they can carry, feed, protect, and eventually deliver a child — a human being, like you or me. They often set aside personal gifts and aspirations for the sake of the family. They very often are the ones to confront and conquer the warzone of the home — a world of overwhelming, ever-changing, and ever-undone demands. When life allows, they’re often the more present and available parent as boys and girls very quickly become young men and young women. And through adoption, many of them welcome sons and daughters into their home and heart whom they didn’t get to welcome into the world through birth.

We simply do not — and cannot — celebrate these women enough.

The “Jesus’ Wife” Fragment Is a Hoax

Michael Horton:

When it comes to Jesus, the gullibility of the religious academy and its media know no bounds.

This past Easter, the U.S. media buzzed with excitement over the announcement of an ancient Coptic (Egyptian) papyrus fragment with the phrase, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife….’” One more footnote for the story of how a powerful ecclesiastical elite suppressed the diversity of Christian voices and made its own variation “orthodoxy.”

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Are Your Efforts to Contextualize the Gospel All about You?

Eric McKiddie:

Although my theology of contextualizing has remained intact, since that morning I’ve been forced to reconsider how I go about doing it. Despite how selfless “becoming all things to all people” sounds, our deceitful hearts enable us to apply the principle selfishly.

Are you contextualizing the gospel in a way that is more about you than the people you are ministering to? The following three questions that rise out of 1 Corinthians 9 will help you find out.

Sympathy for the Devil

Brian Mattson’s take on Noah is excellent.

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Platt Wasn’t Enough For My Church

Andy Schmitz:

Five years ago, some Christians began meeting in a living room to watch sermons by Dr. John Piper. Their Sunday preaching was primarily supplied by streamed sermons from well-known preachers. By God’s grace, they grew. They grew to a point where they could afford to call a pastor to shepherd and preach for them.

But why would they? Why not simply continue to video stream an extraordinarily gifted preacher instead? It would certainly save a lot of money. And let’s be honest, the homiletical prowess of a 24 year-old fresh-faced seminary graduate would never come close to the likes of a Piper or Platt. So why hire me?

What Worship Style Attracts the Millennials?

Thom Rainer:

As in most of our speaking settings, we allow a portion of our presentation to be a time of questions and answers. And inevitably someone will ask us about the worship style preferences of the Millennials.

Typically the context of the question emanates from a background of nearly three decades of “worship wars.” In other words, on what “side” are the Millennials? Traditional? Contemporary? Or somewhere on the nebulous spectrum of blended styles?

And though Jess and I did not originally ask those questions in our research, we have sufficient anecdotal evidence to respond. And our response is usually received with some surprise. The direct answer is “none of the above.”

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When God Does the Miracle We Didn’t Ask For

Vaneetha Rendall Demski:

“No” was not the answer I wanted. I was looking for miraculous answers to prayer, a return to normalcy, relief from the pain. I wanted the kind of grace that would deliver me from my circumstances.

God, in his mercy, offered his sustaining grace.

At first, I rejected it as insufficient. I wanted deliverance. Not sustenance. I wanted the pain to stop, not to be held up through the pain. I was just like the children of Israel who rejoiced at God’s delivering grace in the parting of the Red Sea, but complained bitterly at his sustaining grace in the provision of manna.

But there is a problem…

Carl Trueman:

But I do think the response to Frye should not be ‘How dare you blame the Calvinists!?’ so much as ‘If there is a problem, and if true Calvinism should not create such a problem, what is going wrong in our churches?’ Here, the difference between a church’s doctrine and the reception of that doctrine by individual Christians and congregations is crucial. Calvinism, true Calvinism, is not to blame; but sadly there are Calvinists who are less innocent, who do reduce the problem of evil and suffering to tweetable soundbites which inevitably lack the complexity of the Biblical teaching, who do ignore the whole counsel of God in their teaching and preaching and choice of praise songs. And I fear that a failure to reflect the whole counsel of God in our teaching and worship has indeed left individuals conflicted over how — and whether — Christians should lament. The arrival of funerals that are ‘celebrations of life’ even within some Presbyterian circles witnesses to the reality of this problem.

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Does God Live in the Gaps?

Joe Carter:

Drummond, a 19th century evangelical writer and lecturer, originated the term “God of the gaps” while chastising his fellow Christians for their unscriptural view of natural history. Unfortunately, this confusion about “natural” and “supernatural” continues today even though it is, as philosopher Alvin Plantinga explains “at best a kind of anemic and watered-down semideism” that “is worlds apart from serious Christian theism.”

For Christians, though, a “natural” process is just a normal-appearing process which remains the providential design and control of God. The difference between natural-appearing and miraculous-appearing processes is not whether God is acting — his action occurs in both processes — but the way in which he chooses to act.

Multi-Generational Worship

Daniel Renstrom:

This is pure speculation, but it seems to me that when the modern worship movement came into town, churches became more and more age segregated.  There is probably a doctoral student somewhere in America working on this topic right now, so I’ll wait for that book to come out to tell me more about it.  But as a general observation, I do not remember churches in my youth having such radical age divides as they do now.  And my guess is that music is one of the main reasons for this change.

This is certainly an oversimplification of a larger problem. But music is one of the main ways that a church shows its stylistic preferences.  Thus, music becomes an important way for a church to identify itself.  My guess is that many people make the decision about where they will go to church based largely on the style of music.  It’s just easy to be around people who like the things we do.

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We Become How We Worship

David Murray:

Much worship today aims primarily at stimulating and exciting our physical senses. If we can provide a colorful spectacle for the eyes, spectacular musical sounds for the ears, a pounding beat to impact the body and get the adrenaline running, then the emotions are stirred, and there’s a sense of elation and excitement. But if we become how we worship, such sensual, emotion-driven, thrill-seeking worship will produce sensual, feeling-focused, thrill-seeking Christians.

It’s Time to Interrupt Someone

Josh Blount:

Eventually I came to agree that interrupting conversations is poor manners. But what about a different kind of interruption: interrupting lives? Have you ever thought about how many times God does just that? Consider Paul’s life. Paul, at the time Saul, was perfectly happy with his zealous persecution of the church – and then God interrupted him on a dusty Palestinian road, turned his life upside down, saved him, and gave him a completely new mission in life. The gospels tell the same story about the disciples. Here you have a bunch of fishermen in the midst of their daily routine, and suddenly a man shows up, interrupts the monotony of the mundane, and calls them to leave everything and follow him – and nothing was ever the same. The woman at the well, Lydia on a Philippian river bank, a Roman jailer and his household, even the thief on the cross – all people interrupted by the God who saves.

What’s Your Learning Style?

Aimee Byrd:

Todd wrote a great piece challenging Donald Miller’s recent post, excusing why he doesn’t go to church. It just so happens that science wouldn’t agree with Miller’s argument either.

In his post, Miller bluntly expresses, “So to be brutally honest, I don’t learn much about God hearing a sermon,” claiming, “I’ve studied psychology and education reform long enough to know a traditional lecture isn’t for everybody.” And then Miller educates us, “Research suggest there are three learning styles, auditory (hearing) visual (seeing) and kinesthetic (doing) and I’m a kinesthetic learner.”

Does it? Not according to Popular Science.

Donald Miller and the Myth of Isolated Worship

Derek Rishmawy:

So, Donald Miller wrote an article about why he doesn’t go to church much. You can read it here. I was surprised by how much I didn’t agree with it, given the way his earlier works blessed me when I was in college (especially some of the moving things he has written about needing community).

In essence, for this article Miller took some of the worst cliches and cultural trends of American life that contribute to our consumeristic view of church and handily bundled them all together in one article. I guess he’s performed us a service, though, because they’re kind of all there, ready to be dissected in one sitting.

Four Things a Pastor Should Consider Before Engaging in Social Media

Trevin Wax:

Some pastors may hear my encouragement to engage in social media and then jump in without much thought. Don’t. Better to have no social media presence than to be sloppy in your handling of this tool of communication.

Social media takes time and attention. Be strategic. Don’t take it lightly.

Misusing the Lord’s name and delighting in the Law

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This year, I decided to shake up my Bible reading. Normally, I tend to avoid using the reading plans—not because I have a particular problem with them, but because I generally prefer camping in one book for a long period of time. But, like I said, I decided to shake it up. So, for the last week and a bit, I’ve been reading through the Bible’s big story, hitting the major beats from Genesis through Revelation.

Yesterday’s passage had me reading the Ten Commandments. While I’ve read these many times now, I keep thinking about this one, the third commandment:

Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God, because the Lord will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses His name. (Ex. 20:7 HCSB)

More familiarly, this verse is often stated as “do not take the Lord’s name in vain,” which we typically use to say don’t use Jesus’ name as a cuss word. While “do not take the Lord’s name in vain” and “do not misuse the name of the Lord” mean the same thing, there’s something helpful about this restatement, isn’t there?

If nothing else, it reminds us just how easy it is to violate this command.

Misusing the Lord’s name is far more than flippantly speaking his name—it’s actually about our lifestyle and our worship, too. Simply, this reminds us that it’s serious business to call oneself a Christian, yet behave no differently than the non-believer—mistakenly believing Paul’s hypothetical question, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” should be answered in the affirmative—or to heap a burden of rules and regulations upon oneself that the Lord has not, treating your behavior as the source of your salvation. Both are a gross misuse of the Lord’s name.

And as we worship, particularly our corporate gatherings, how easy is it to do the same thing—to put on a show in the name of “leading people into an experience of God’s glory” or some such thing. To put up our hands because the song says it, but not because our hearts are leading us to do so. To give in the hopes of getting.

This is an important reminder: the Commandments exist to remind us of God’s perfect standard, and to reflect to us our own failure. But they should also serve as a reminder that, once again, we can rejoice in Jesus’ fulfilling of the Law for us—and progressively his fulfilling the Law in us as he gradually moulds us into his image, so that we “walk in the light as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7).

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Worship in Spirit and Truth

David Mathis:

The issue is not whether we will worship, but what. Even better, whom and how.

On this Sunday, as many of us ready ourselves for corporate worship, perhaps the most significant single biblical text for guiding the essence of what we’re pursuing together when we gather is Jesus’s words in John 4:23–24.

Don’t Teach the Bible

Phillip Jensen:

There is an important difference between teaching the Bible and teaching people the Bible. It is easy to be so engaged in what we teach that we forget whom we are teaching. We can even be oblivious to the fact that we are not teaching anybody. This is particularly true of the sermon. The monologue engages the preacher’s mind but can completely miss the hearers’ thinking.

What Are Your Thoughts on “Minced Oaths?”

R.C. Sproul Jr:

A “minced oath” is a bowdlerization of words or phrases otherwise deemed offensive or blasphemous. Common examples would be the substitution of darn for damn, heck for hell, gosh for God. Some argue that when we use these substitutes we nevertheless stand guilty of using the originals, that gosh takes God’s name in vain, and darn belittles the reality and horror of damnation. While I am sympathetic to that perspective, and give thanks for those who seek to be deliberate and to honor God with their tongues, I do not share that conviction.

Work, value, and the gospel

Paul Grimmond:

Paul’s absolute conviction is that the church is made the way God wants it. So when I sit in church on a Sunday and I look around, I ought to find people there who are wildly different to me. I ought to meet toenails and pancreases, knuckles and elbows, kidneys and eyeballs. And more than that, as someone who belongs to Jesus, I am called to see how each of them is necessary to the life of God’s people. I am to learn to rejoice in the gift that God has given me in them and them in me!

7 Councils: The Council of Ephesus

Tim Challies:

This council came at time of conflict over authority within the church. The First Council of Constantinople had established the bishop of Constantinople as second in authority following Rome, whose bishop carried the title of Pope and who claimed his authority from the line of Peter. Alexandria and Antioch were also powerful bishoprics and their schools of Christology historically came from different positions. Leo Davis explains: “Just as all philosophers are said to be basically either Aristotelian or Platonist, so, roughly speaking, all theologians are in Christology either Antiochene, beginning with the Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels and attempting to explain how this man is also God, or Alexandrian, beginning with the Word of John’s Prologue and attempting to understand the implications of the Logos taking flesh.” This council would further expose the rift between the two schools of Christology.

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A reason to be suspicious of worship bands

Zac Hicks:

I was at a worship concert a few years ago with a friend who remarked that the leader up front was singing in such a beautiful and un-follow-able manner that all my friend felt encouraged to do was to sit back and enjoy the leader’s worship of God. “Why do I need to worship? He’s worshiping for me, and he’s looking like he’s having quite a moment!” My friend was saying that sarcastically, but fairly, to point out precisely what von Allmen here is illuminating. Sometimes we, as leaders, can get so caught up in either our own special “worship moment” or in the glory of the music or service-structure that we fail to realize that we’ve left on a train that no one else is on. Sometimes, the worship band can either be so amazing or so loud (and I honestly believe, from experience, that these thresholds are context-specific and case-sensitive) that they become, in effect, the only ones worshiping in the room. The rest (the silent majority…the congregation) become passive receptors and spectators.

Why Jeremiah Steepek is a Terrible Pastor

Mike Leake:

Jeremiah Steepek is hired to be the new pastor of a megachurch. On the Sunday that he was to be recognized, this sly pastor transformed himself into a haggardly old beggar and walked around the 10,000 member church for 30 minutes. His experience was not good. He then shocked his egg-faced congregation by walking on stage—in full homeless garb—as he was introduced as their new pastor.

This story has been circulating through the interwebs recently. If you do a little research you’ll quickly discover that this story isn’t true. There is no guy named Jeremiah Steepek that pastors a megachurch. And the picture floating around of this pastor in his beggar outfit is that of a real homeless man living in Richmond.

So, it’s not a real story…but what if it was? I have to wonder…

How was his second sermon?

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug—now in LEGO form!

This. Is. Great:

HT: Kevin DeYoung

What Small Churches Can Do (Pt. 4)

Joe Thorn:

My wife and I once attended a Reformed Baptist Church that fits my current definition of a “small” church. There was no worship leader. No choir. No instruments. No overhead projection. No cool lights. The building was plain-Jane. Yet their gathering was powerful. Why?

On the one hand they had all the essential elements needed for corporate worship. Yes, some things are required: the word of God read and preached, the prayers and songs of God’s people lifted up in the name of Jesus Christ, and the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But having these elements in place is not enough. With these things there must be focus, depth, clarity, purpose, or passion.

My Ministry Is Harder Than Yours (and other lies we tell)

Mez McConnell:

There seems to be some sort of (urban?) myth that working with the poor is especially ‘hard’. As if somehow in the pantheon of Christian ministry ours is out on its own as the difficult one. That, somehow, our kind of ministry needs your prayers more than other kinds of ministries. That our workers are ‘hardier’ than any others. That to live and work in a poor area is a larger sacrifice than to live and work in a more upmarket area. I don’t know if it is because of how we communicate the needs. I don’t know if it’s because of the stories we sometimes tell of individuals saved out of frightening circumstances.

The terrifying sound of silence

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The worship gathering is coming to a close. The pastor makes his final comments. “Let’s pray,” he says. Everyone bows their heads and close their eyes, and all feel the movement of the worship team taking their position on stage.

The pastor begins to pray… and before long a soothing “ha-wooh” sound emerges from the keyboard, floating through the room.

The “spirit chords” are at work.

Some of you probably never notice this, and if you’re one of those I apologize for bringing something to your attention you won’t be able to unsee (or rather, unhear). But it is something maybe we should be talking about.

Music, like nothing else, has the ability to signal to us how we should feel. Music filled with major chords and a fast tempo amps us up and gets us excited. Minor chords make us more reflective or, if you’re a fan of the Seattle sound from the early nineties, make you feel sad and drink coffee on a rainy day in a plaid shirt. When you watch a television show or a movie, you’ll notice cliffhanger moments (usually at commercial breaks) are capped by a short piece of music that gradually builds in intensity as the scene reaches its climax. For example:

Sometimes the spirit chords feel like this in a worship gathering. Like they’re intended to manipulate us into feeling a certain way—to bring about a “me and God” moment where the Holy Spirit will impress upon us the key take away from the message.

And yet few, if any, worship leader mean it that way (except those that do).

So why do we do this? I’ve wrestled with this for a while, but it wasn’t until I was speaking with some friends over lunch a few weeks back that I think I landed on an answer:

Silence is terrifying to us.

We live in a world that’s constantly trying to drown out silence. We always have music around us. When we shop, when we drive, at the gym, at the office… It’s like we’ve set life to a soundtrack, hoping that it will make the day-to-day a little more interesting.

Or perhaps it’s just an attempt to hide from what happens in those moments when silence does overtake us. When that happens, when the soundtrack is on pause, we have nothing to drown out our thoughts. We have nothing to distract us from what’s really going on in our hearts and minds. We can’t ignore the voice of our conscience—and we can’t run away from the Holy Spirit Himself.

  • It’s in those moments of silence that conviction comes upon us.
  • It’s in those moments of silence that we most strongly feel our need for repentance.
  • It’s in those moments of silence that we tend to most clearly “hear” the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures.

Is it any wonder silence is terrifying to us?

This brings us back to the irony of the spirit chords. When the soothing “ha-wooh” begins, it may be doing the exact opposite of its intended effect—instead of helping us ease into a time of prayer, they drown out the Holy Spirit.

So what can we do?

Brothers and sisters, turn off the music on the commute. Sit in the silence and take note of what you “hear.”

Pastors and worship leaders, take a break from the spirit chords for a few weeks and see what happens.

Let’s let silence terrify us a little, and maybe see conviction and repentance come about.

Cultivating a culture of worship: four practical suggestions

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Today’s post is by Nathan Clark George. Nathan is an award winning singer/songwriter, and serves as Chief Musician at Parish Presbyterian Church in Franklin, TN.


As God called Adam to tend and care for His creation, God calls the church musician to name, distinguish, care for and cultivate musical settings and compositions that enable and promote biblical, meaningful and vibrant congregational worship. Over the years I have done my best to stay out of the worship wars, but from my experience and what others have taught I do have practical suggestions that I hope are useful when considering music in the context of worship:

1. Focus. Our focus must be on God’s Word, for our singing is, in almost all cases, prayer. In prayer we usually spend less time talking about how we feel, and more time speaking about how God feels about a subject. Therefore, most of our music and its text should be God oriented, much like our spoken prayer.

2. Congregational vs. Individualistic. I have had several people ask if they can use my older settings of the Psalms, which were written for the purpose of presentation and performance and personal meditation, in congregational worship. My response is usually “good luck.” Now, there is certainly room to train, learn parts, practice, and get better, and we should do so, but there is also a reason Come Thou Fount is going nowhere soon. It’s singable. It’s not individualistic pop music. The rhythm and melodic movement employed is predictable, simple without being simplistic, and is accessible to the folks – it is true folk music. It is congregational.

3. Style. If we get sidetracked into thinking about how someone may or may not like our style, we will have gotten off track already. Remember, as John Frame pointed out, it’s less about style than content. I would add to that it’s less about style than purpose. Is our purpose to impress? Is our purpose to sound like Bach or Vaughn Williams? Then we have miss God’s purpose.

4. Sing the Psalms. Though I do not fall in the exclusive Psalmody camp, the importance of singing Psalms can barely be over emphasized. I would challenge us to look hard at our song choices and see how often we are singing the Psalms. Is it once a month? Once a week? Never? I would humbly and forcefully suggest that we begin to sing and write with the Psalms as fixtures before our eyes.

Above all, the Word of God and the worship of God must be the fertile soil in and out of which a musician cultivates a culture of worship that reflects God’s nature and glory.


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Nathan’s new album, To Live is Christ, is now available. You can download “Calm Content” free here.