Monthly Archives: March 2014

Now THAT’s A Good Question!

Here is my question:  What is your take on the “worship war” that seems to still be a hot-button issue for many Southern Baptists, i.e., the whole contemporary Christian music (praise and worship/choruses, especially) versus the traditional If-is-isn’t-in-the-Baptist-Hymnal-then-it-shouldn’t-be-sung-in-Church camp…or, maybe even a step further, Contemporary Christian music that is more rock music (or even rap or hip-hop) oriented versus its secular counterparts…is this music worldly (and evil) because of the beat, regardless of the lyrics?

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This question came via email several weeks ago. My response is below:

I thank you for this – very, very, very important question. It saddens me that it has to be a question – but it is one, and an important one at that.

It saddens me because music has become a ‘war’ in churches – especially Southern Baptist churches.
It saddens me because of what I saw/read happened by self-proclaimed “Christians” at a Switchfoot concert. I hate it for Switchfoot AND I hate it for the blind protestors who are obviously hate-filled crazies (to put it mildly).
It saddens me that the most difficult and stressful position to fill at churches like FBC El Dorado – compiled by many young and many old generations – is the Worship Pastor position.
It saddens me because I fear we have made the mode of music what we worship rather than the God the truths from all good Christian music points toward.
To answer your question, my “take” on the worship war is that – though it is a tragedy – it is something we cannot ignore. It is part and parcel to the way church is and operates. Right or wrong, it just is. Opinions about music in most traditional churches (such as FBC El Dorado) are alot like belly buttons – everybody’s got one.
Some want nothing but the pipe organ.
Some want a full band.
Some want just an acoustic guitar.
Some want no guitar.
Some want rap.
Some want choir robes.
Some want hymnbooks.
Some want screens.
Some want a music leader who waves his arms.
Some want him to have gel in his hair wearing skinny jeans.
Some want a guy who can lead a handbell ministry.
Some want a guy who can lead Sunday morning worship and do it perfectly for 500 kids during Vacation Bible School.
Some one a guy who will revive the great youth choirs of old (of which I was a part, by the way!).
Some like the old hymns sung the old way.
Some like the old hymns sung a new way.
Some like the praise choruses that repeat over and over and over.
Some like the 1st and 3rd stanza only.
Some miss 4-Him.
Others miss Stryper.
Some long for Sandi Patty.
Others long for Plumb.
Some listen to Gaither’s every Saturday night.
Others jam to David Crowder.
Everyone has an opinion. Including me.
In many churches – especially one like ours – it is simply impossible to please everyone with a particular style of music. It simply cannot be done. It has been and is a “worship war” and I am not real sure it will ever go away.
One solution, however, is to work hard – over and over and over – to emphasize that, at the end of the day, worship is not about style at all. It is about expressing our adoration and love and trust and faith in the God we SAY we have come to worship. I believe a primary job of any worship leader is to help us sing to and reflect on truth(s) about God Himself. Regardless of form or style – if the lyrics are dripping with biblical truths – BRING IT ON! Biblical truths set to music enable our hearts and minds to emotionally engage AND help us remember the truths throughout the week. I am much better at singing a couple of lines of a good hymn than I am at quoting Scripture. Music enables us to do this and remember it. Ultimately, it is about us focusing on the truths being communicated in the song itself. This doesn’t mean that style doesn’t matter and should be ignored. But it does mean style should not be the FIRST and ONLY factor involved.
I do think the words from Al Mohler (President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY), in an article about Christian rap music, are extremely wise and helpful in this regard:
Rap music is not my music. I do not come from a culture in which rap music is the medium of communication and I do not have the ear for it that I have for other forms of music. But I do admire its virtuosity and the hold that is has on so many, for whom it is a first and dominant musical language. I want that language taken for the cause of the Gospel and I pray to see a generation of young Gospel-driven rappers take dominion of that music for the glory of God. I see that happening now, and I rejoice in it. I want to see them grow even more in influence, reaching people I cannot reach with music that will reach millions who desperately need the Gospel. The same way that folks who first heard Bach desperately needed to hear the Gospel.
The good, the beautiful, and the true are to be combined to the greatest extent possible in every Christian endeavor, rap included. I have no idea how to evaluate any given rap musical expression, but rappers know. I do know how to evaluate the words, and when the words are saturated with the Gospel and biblical truth that is a wonderful thing. Our rapping Gospel friends will encourage one another to the greatest artistic expression. I want to encourage them in the Gospel. Let Bach’s maxim drive them all — to make (their) music the “handmaid of theology.”
To that, I say “AMEN!” This sentence is golden:  “I do know how to evaluate the words, and when the words are saturated with the Gospel and biblical truth that is a wonderful thing.”
If it is Switchfoot – and Switchfoot’s style includes language saturated with the Gospel and biblical truth – it is a wonderful thing.
If it is rap . . .
If it is country . . .
If it is Sandi Patty . . .
If it is Chris Tomlin . . .
If it is heavy metal. . .
If it is the Gaither’s. . .
If it is Tony Weston at FBC El Dorado – and the style includes language saturated with the Gospel and biblical truth – at the end of the day, it is a wonderful thing. . . whether we like the style or not.
Amen.
Thoughts?
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Five @ Free Flow Friday!

Ahhhh, Friday of Spring Break.

Glad it’s still Spring Break week? Sure. images

Excited about the routine starting back on Monday? Nope.

Ready for the kids to be back at school? Ummmmmmm. . .

Either way – hope your Break this Winter, um I mean, week has been nice. . .

As I am sure you have heard by now, World Vision made some huge waves across – and then back again – the Evangelical ocean this week.

Today I want to point you to some articles related to this simply due to the fact that I believe it is imperative that followers of Jesus think hard, right, biblical, and with deep love for the world on such things. I hope I am wrong, but it’s not going to get easier for Jesus followers this side of His return. Let’s train ourselves to be as innocent as doves, and as wise as serpents – while we remember we have been sent out as sheep among wolves.

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#1. World Vision: Why We’re Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages by Celeste Gracey and Jeremy Weber (Posted 03/24/2014)

“In short, World Vision hopes to dodge the division currently “tearing churches apart” over same-sex relationships by solidifying its long-held philosophy as a parachurch organization: to defer to churches and denominations on theological issues, so that it can focus on uniting Christians around serving the poor.”

 

#2. World Vision Reverses Decision to Hire Christians in Same-Sex Marriages by Celeste Gracey and Jeremy Weber (Posted 03/26/2014)

We are writing to you our trusted partners and Christian leaders who have come to us in the spirit of Matthew 18 to express your concern in love and conviction. You share our desire to come together in the Body of Christ around our mission to serve the poorest of the poor. We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness.

In our board’s effort to unite around the church’s shared mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ, we failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.’s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith, which says, ‘We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.’ And we also failed to seek enough counsel from our own Christian partners. As a result, we made a change to our conduct policy that was not consistent with our Statement of Faith and our commitment to the sanctity of marriage.”

 

#3. World Vision: Adultery No, Homosexual Practice Yes by John Piper (Posted prior to World Vision’s Reversal)

This means that, without repentance and change, World Vision will go the way of worldliness and weakness. A great superstructure will remain for a season, but the Christian soul will disappear. And who will suffer most? The poor.

Therefore, for the sake of Christ and his call to true compassion, World Vision’s decision is tragic. I pray they will repent and turn back to their more faithful roots.”

 

#4. On World Vision and the Gospel by Russell Moore (Posted Prior to World Vision’s Reversal)

We’re entering an era where we will see who the evangelicals really are, and by that I mean those who believe in the gospel itself, in all of its truth and all of its grace. And many will shrink back. There are no riots if the gospel you’re preaching doesn’t threaten the silversmiths of the Temple of Artemis. And there are no clucking tongues if the gospel you’re preaching isn’t offered to tax collectors and temple prostitutes.”

 

#5. What is Marriage, According to the Bible? by Ray Ortlund

We can’t turn the clock back to the days of the Christian social consensus the West has foolishly thrown away. But we who say we believe the gospel can and must stand up for the biblical definition of marriage. We must cultivate beautiful marriages ourselves. We must suffer social rejection bravely. We must pray for revival. We must wait for the inevitable collapse of every false view of marriage. We must lovingly serve all who suffer for their foolish attempts at false ‘marriages.’ And we must go to church this Sunday and worship the living God with all our hearts, so that we ourselves are sustained for faithfulness over the long haul, because this isn’t going to be easy.”

 

Throw It Out There Thursday!

It’s no secret that I love Sundays.

I love every Sunday.

Every time God’s people gather to worship Him and sit under the preaching of His Word is a W-I-N.

Know what I mean?

But I especially love the Sundays when God’s people meet around the Table. The Lord’s Supper Table.

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So let me “Throw This Out There” today: In Part II of the “Membership DO’s” series I am going to be talking about the importance of church members constantly reflecting on the Gospel. At the end of the service, we will come together and partake of the elements together – “In Remembrance of Jesus.”

That’s right – this Sunday morning at FBC El Dorado – we will be observing the Lord’s Supper. I. Can’t. Wait.

Please, please, please make every effort to be here. It’s always good here on Sundays. But it’s especially good when we gather around the table together.

 

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By way of reminder – let me also “Throw Out There” that – during this 4 part series – I am giving away a bunch of FREE copies of Thom Rainer’s I Am A Church Member.

How can YOU get a copy? Quote these verses from memory on Sunday morning when I call on you at the beginning of the sermon time.

 

Wisdom for Your Wednesday

“The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.”

Proverbs 26:16

Quick! Somebody tell me! What do you call a guy who has all the right answers, all the time, and can correct every person that tries to convince him otherwise?

Lazy.

You may call it arrogance. images-1

You may call it pride.

You may call it “stuck up.”

All of these may be true.

But when we call him/her these things, it tends to take the focus off of ourselves.

You see, according to this Proverb, wisdom tells us that lazy people like to do it all themselves – in their own way – without the help or counsel or input of others. On the surface, it seems arrogant (and, of course, there is some degree of arrogance to it to be sure). But wisdom calls it lazy.

Why?

Because it takes work to get help from others.

It takes effort to reach out to others.

It takes humility to acknowledge that “two heads are better than one.”

It takes diligent, grinding it out to get things done and done well.

Let’s all be honest. Sure, we like to do a lot of things ourselves in the name of “I can do it better myself anyway.” Sometimes that may be true. But not always. Sometimes it may just mean we are lazy.

Wisdom says its wise – very wise & very diligent- to seek counsel from others. . .

What do you need help with today? I can almost guarantee you will be worse off trying to figure it all out yourself. Get to work. Get some others involved.

Timothy Tuesdays!

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. . .”

1 Timothy 2:1

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If you are a member of a church – think about this, please.

We will get to the “WHY?” behind this “urge” from Paul next time. Let’s not worry about the “WHY?” yet. Let’s just think about what he tells Timothy to get his church doing – FIRST.

It’s pretty clear, isn’t it?

After taking the first 20 verses (chapter 1) pleading with Timothy to remain faithful to right and true and biblical and Gospel-saturated doctrine – he then shifts to instructions on what Timothy should lead his church to do – FIRST.

“First of all” Paul said to this pastor-friend – “I urge you to pray for all people.” In other words, “Timothy, first and foremost, get your people to be a praying people. Get your people to be a people who talk to God. Get your people to habitually and consistently and constantly intercede with God on behalf of others.”

To put it yet another way – “Timothy – make sure your people understand that what we are trying to accomplish cannot be accomplished. . . unless God does it.”

This grips me.

It grips me personally and it grips me pastorally.

There are a lot of things I/we give ourselves to in church, aren’t there?

I wonder if we have forgotten THE FIRST and MOST IMPORTANT thing we must give ourselves to as a body of believers – PRAYER?

Would you do something with & for me?

Would you pray to our great God, asking Him to please show me and FBC El Dorado how we, as individuals and body of believers, can give ourselves to this “first and foremost” privilege? Ask Him to show us what this looks like for us.

If the Apostle Paul thought it that important – to mention & plead for it FIRST – then I/we might need to step back and reevaluate all we are doing and line it up under the priority of prayer.

God, help us.

Now THAT’s a Good Question!

When you talk about Jesus not “coming back” before the whole world hears, are you referring to his coming back as the event of the rapture of the Church or as the event of His earthly rule after the Tribulation?

To put it another way: “Do you believe the rapture of the Church will not happen before everyone hears, or do believe everyone will have heard at the time of Jesus’ 1,000 year reign here on earth?”

This question was asked me via email recently. Below is my response:
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Whoah! You’ve asked a GREAT one!
When I reference Jesus not returning until everyone has heard, I am basing it off of Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:14 – “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
The answer to your question really is determined by one’s view of the end. As I am sure you know, the opinions are rampant as to when Jesus will return for His Church: before the Great Tribulation; during the Great Tribulation; after the Great Tribulation; before – during – after the Millennial reign; etc. Guys and gals much smarter than me continue to debate these things and provide great support for their opinions.
Based on what Jesus says in the context of Matthew 24:14, however, I tend to believe He is referring to prior to the rapture of the Church. In verses 9-13, Jesus speaks to the disciples of how they will be treated prior to the ‘end.’ History tells us that, sure enough, the men hearing Jesus’ words were delivered up, hated, and put to death because of their testimony. These things continue to happen to Jesus’ followers all over the world. The disciples then, and many persecuted followers since, have lived with a sense of divine urgency. So must we.
So, yes, I believe (and what I mean when I talk about it) that the rapture will not occur until the Gospel has been made known to all the nations of the earth.
As I heard Tom Elliff say recently (my paraphrase): “No one should have to doubt that if they hang on just a little longer, someone will get to them with the Good News.” This sense of urgency is imperative.
I hope that helps you understand somewhat where I am coming from.
Okay. . .
What else would some of you out there add to this?
What do you think?

Membership DO’s – DO #1: GROW – “What’s the Take Away?”

Membership Do's

Jesus’ brother warned against the danger of merely listening to the Word without doing what it says. This morning, at the close of the message, I suggested that all of us church members should develop the habit of asking the question, “What’s the Take Away?” every time we encounter the Word. This will help us apply what we read and/or hear to our lives – immediately.

Every time we encounter the Word, we should go to it with the mentality of wanting to do something with it. Asking “What’s the Take Away for Me?” forces this pattern.

Here are some questions to get you started thinking about how to do this with the Word:

  • Is there a sin I need to confess to the Lord?
  • Is there a sin I need to confess to another person?
  • What specific action should I take right now?
  • Is there an attitude that needs adjusting?
  • Is there a praise that needs to be expressed?
  • Is there a thought pattern that needs to be rearranged?
  • Is there an area in my heart that needs to be transformed?
  • Is there a word here for how I can bless or impact or encourage someone?
  • How would doing this, or not doing this, reflect a love for Jesus?
  • Is there a person I need to share this with today?
  • How does this help me better understand the greatness of God?