Try as I might, it's hard not to be a teacher. So, with apologies for giving way to the
pedantic, I'd like to help explain a perplexing phrase used by many churches in one of the
oldest praise songs still is wide use today.
While some evangelicals may not know it, a large number of
believers regularly sing a doxology called the Gloria Patri:
Over the next several months I will be involved in conversations with several local worship leaders (whether called worship pastors or ministers or whatever). A part of the conversation will be to dialogue about our worship needs. Is the worship they lead on Sundays enough? If they were able to go to a worship service they had not planned as nothing other than one of the worshipers, what kinds of things would they hope to find in that service?
Amanda was pretty excited to find out her husband, Jack, was
reading the new bestselling book in marriage enrichment, A Praise Centered Marriage.
It wasn't that their relationship was bad or anything. It just wasn't always as good as Amanda had
hoped it would be.
Her hopes seemed to all come true when, that next Tuesday evening, Jack looked
at her across the dinner table and said, "You are wonderful. You are simply the best. I love everything about you. You fill my life
What more could a woman want out of a marriage? At least, that's what Amanda thought six
months ago when the process started that would eventually ruin their marriage.
some ancient creature that does not know it
is long extinct, the typewriter plods along.
the cutting edge of technology, the
MacBook Pro of
some past age, it stands now only as a
a relic of forgotten years.
Yet, when animated by human flesh and muscle,
keys still miraculously snap shapes on to blank pages -
Preserving thought and idea for some future mind not
yet born to read and ponder.
All the trinkets of the now, with their bright
mise of a better world, have not deepened the mind or
made tender the human heart… although
now our rage
and violence can be communicated at light speed to
thousands of others who live vicariously
But still, somewhere, hands guide ink over
push keys that force metal forms over inky ribbons. Words,
at times, need to be slowed . . . backspaced . . .
corrected . . . easing out in a trickle,
not a flood.
Slow us down, O
Lord. To write and read and live deeply
may be better than to live quickly. Too
many words may
be worse than none at all.
May the value of words not be measured by
by their depth.
The small speaker crackled with static, and then they heard it. “Les sanglots longs des violons de l'automne blessent mon coeur D'une langueur Monotone.” The poem by Paul Verlaine was well known. Many listening had learned it in childhood. The melancholy words spoke of the long slow weeping of autumn’s violins.
This time the words held sensus plenior (fuller meaning). This time they were announcing, somewhere out there in the darkness, ships were plowing their way through the waters of the English Channel – among them a thousand Higgins boats – the landing craft that would bring soldiers of the Allied Expeditionary Force onto the beaches of Normandy, beginning the liberation of France.
Around the year 1900, Plymouth Brethren missionary Dan Crawford asked a Congolese woman why she got up and started dancing in church, "Oh! it is only the praise getting out at the toes."
Dancing is a form of art that you do. And I mean that in an absolute sense. You dance. You become the art. It is not something you do to someone or something else. People can play a piano, beat a drum, paint a canvas, lead a choir, carve a statue, or write a praise song. But, for people to dance you do not have to have a piano or a drum or a canvas or pen and paper. You just need willing and able to move your own body.
A man once mistook me for a hooker. I know what you're thinking. No, I was not dressed in drag and I was as surprised and ultimately pretty offended by the mistake. Perhaps more surprisingly, it all happened over the telephone.
There I was, peacefully sitting in my office grading exams when the phone rang. The man introduced himself. He was an elder at a rather large and very well-known church. The conversation began with small talk but quickly got around to the exchange of money for services.
They weren't a disappointing church at first. They were once
welcoming, warm, loving, spiritual, worshipful, and generally fun to be around.
That was then. This is now. Now they are a disappointing church. I've had time
for a good long look behind the scenes, and some of what's there just isn't
"Lord, listen, if you won't make me skinny, then just make all my friends fatter than me."
We see ourselves through the lens of relativity. Relatively speaking, we are people of faith. Relatively speaking, we are active in church. Relatively speaking, we like to study the Bible. Relatively speaking, we are pretty much the kind of Christian that the Christian people around us pretty much think is the kind of Christian a Christian person pretty much ought to be.
In this final post on the subject, I will explain how the changes introduced into Sunday worship by Charles Finney will ultimately damage both worship and evangelism in many American churches.
By 1850, Charles Finney had fully incorporated his three-stage
revival structure into the Sunday worship of the First Congregational Church in
Oberlin, Ohio. His "new measures" for revivals were already widely
known through his writings. Most American churches had no set structure or
liturgy for Sunday worship. Merging Sunday night revivals into Sunday morning
worship was an idea whose time had come.
This may step over the edge into the abyss of controversy... But, does anyone seriously think, on balance, the majority of large
and dynamic American churches face the constant danger of being overly
legalistic and narrow? I have no doubt I
can dig up quotes and stories to support that idea. But, it's obvious that's not representative
of where things are heading.
No man will change American evangelical worship as thoroughly or as radically as Charles Finney. How widespread and thorough are these changes? So thorough, in fact, that what many Christians today expect and would defend as biblical worship rooted in the first century is, at a fundamental level, unbiblical worship rooted in the nineteenth century.
There are some instances when things we learn from history can clarify or even revolutionize fundamental assumptions. In these times, history is less about old facts than current faith. It is discovering the lenses through which we have been seeing everything are distorted. Distorted lenses change how the world looks. Sometimes these distortions don't matter much. Other times, they matter a great deal.
In three upcoming posts on adorate.org, I am going to examine how events in the early 1840s in a church in Oberlin Ohio will fundamentally change how millions of Christians practice Sunday worship.
In college, a friend of mine wrote the love of his life a
long and deeply romantic letter on an entire roll of toilet paper (you realize this is
no small feat if you've tried to write anything on toilet paper). Other people
in love have rented out huge billboards or hired advertising
blimps. That's just crazy. There's something about love that pushes the
In Luke 7.36-50, Jesus is having a nice lunch with a nice
group of very nice people. It is a pleasant moment. No one has called him
names. The conversation has been civil and respectful. All the proper
boundaries have been preserved. Simon, who is hosting the luncheon, has not
joined other Pharisees in dismissively attacking Jesus. Simon isn't like that. He
has opened his home, his table, his hospitality, and has been decidedly
respectful to the less educated Nazarene.
The pleasant lunch abruptly changes when the town's best
known whore aggressively shoves her way into the room. Before anyone can stop
her, she throws herself at Jesus' feet and starts holding and intensely kissing
them over and over.
The Superbowl commercial using Paul Harvey's "And so God made a farmer" was very moving, although I'm not going out to buy a Dodge pickup.
The truth is this has been a warm limp brown snowless winter in southwest Missouri. Not far from where I sitting right now, spreading acres of dry dirt fields look sadly abandoned. They would look much better covered under a while blanket of snow. But, for now, the fragments of the remains of last fall's crop lie mingled acres of dirt. No one would call it a pretty sight. No one makes a landscape painting of a Missouri field in February (unless there's snow).
How can "blessed in the one who dashes your babies against the rocks!" and "love your enemies" both be part of the Bible? How is it that "love your enemies," a doctrine so central in Christianity it is widely known by those outside the church, seems to have had so little power to change the world?
In this message, I will explore the seductive attraction of hatred and the challenging teachings of Jesus in light of the real-world events that foster hatred in our lives. It is not message about the rightness or wrongness of war (a very important topic), but focuses on that area where we find Jesus' teachings the most difficult to live out: our own daily lives.
In addition to serving on the faculty of Ozark Christian College, I am also the interim pastor at the Christian Church of Liberal (MO). The message comes from our Advent to Holy Week series of messages through the Gospel of Luke. This sermon was given on Feb 3, 2012.
"So, you got your wife a diamond ring for your 25th
"I sure did. Two and half carets."
"That's great, Bill. One thing though, I thought you said she wanted a new
"She did. But, where was I going to find a fake jeep?"
Accidents and Substance
Gifts of love are wrapped in marvelous subtlety and nuance
that dramatically change them. The change is more fundamental than the fabled
curse of King Midas, turning ordinary cheap tableware into solid gold with a
touch. To employ the Aristotelian language Thomas Aquinas brings to play in his
teachings on the Eucharist, we can wholly change the substance of a gift, while
leaving the accidents untouched.*
People will not let the reality of the Jesus they encounter in scripture see the full light of day. For many, it is plain ignorance. For others, including those deeply committed to biblical truth and regular Bible readers, it is surprising that they also join in remaking Jesus of Nazareth into the Jesus of Hollywood. They learn to take scripture quite seriously and ignore some of it all at the same time.
Welcomed or not, the contemporary music-centered approach to worship that has been both dominant and effective most large and mega church worship service is being challenged. This challenge, however, does not come from traditionalists who are still demanding a return to the Hammond B3 and southern gospel. This challenge, which has been slowly growing over the past decade, is coming from the same age-group that once pioneered praise bands and raising hands: Teens and young adults.
Is the Lord's Supper just a memorial? Calvin says absolutely not. And, he's right.
Ironically, on something as central to the Christian life as the Eucharist, many Protestants would find Calvin's views sound surprisingly un-Protestant. As noted in an earlier post, Escaping Zurich, many evangelicals, actually hold views of the Eucharist consistent with Ulrich Zwingli (a reformer from Zurich a generation before Calvin), rather than Calvin. As such, this Zwinglian approach to Communion, one that is neither biblical nor consistent with the understanding of John Calvin, has come to be widely accepted as both biblical and Reformed.
The small speaker crackled with static, and then they heard it. “Les sanglots longs des violons de l'automne
blessent mon coeur D'une langueur Monotone.”
The poem by Paul Verlaine was well known. Many listening had learned it in
childhood. The melancholy words spoke of
the long slow weeping of autumn’s violins.
This time the words held sensus plenior (fuller
meaning). This time they were
announcing, somewhere out there in the darkness, ships were plowing their way through
the waters of the English Channel – among them a thousand Higgins boats – the landing craft that
would bring soldiers of the Allied Expeditionary Force onto the beaches of
Normandy, beginning the liberation of France.
When people walked into First Christian Church on a Sunday
morning not long ago, most of them were not prepared to see the newest fad in
popular worship music sitting in the front of the sanctuary. Some of them had enough musical background to
know they were looking at a percussion instrument. For a lot of people, the one thing they knew was it made their
church look like a bar.