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Treading Very Thin Ice: Cheap Grace Redivivus

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.

How Charles Finney Ruined Worship 2: Reviving Worship

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.

How Charles Finney Ruined Worship 1: Sola Scriptura

In order to understand how it is that Charles Finney ruined worship, we need to look at what happened at First Congregational Church in Oberlin, Ohio in the 1840s and 1850s.

But, for us to understand how Finney changed worship, we need to first understand what the Sunday worship of ordinary Americans would have been like before Finney changed it.

Introducing: "How Charles Finney Ruined Worship"

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, 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.   

Following in Strange Places

This is an excerpt from the Ash Wednesday sermon Stephen shared at the Hopwood Christian Church.  It is well worth taking the time to read.

Crazy Worship

Love sometimes gets a little crazy.

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 boundaries.

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. 

February Fields and the Euchairst

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).

Loving Monsters (A Sermon)

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.

Download: Sermon: Love Your Enemies

Good Bad Worship

"So, you got your wife a diamond ring for your 25th anniversary?"
"I sure did. Two and half carets."
"That's great, Bill. One thing though, I thought you said she wanted a new SUV?"
"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.*