Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Prayer of Repentance and Mercy as the Storm Approaches

Almighty Father, we are once again being confronted by the manifestation of your wrath and eternal power as this unrelenting and fierce storm approaches. (Romans 1:18-20).

We confess that so often we do not get the message - we dismiss the storm as “mother nature”. If we acknowledge you in any way, it is typically in the form of a charge against you; accusing you of bringing such unjust and cruel devastation down upon the undeserving and innocent. (Psalm 18:26).  But where were our praises and offerings of thanksgiving on the days of safety and peace? Is it not our failure to honor you as God and to give you thanks the reason such storms come our way? (Romans 1:21). Are they not brought upon us for this purpose: to arouse and awaken us to the reality of our sin; to expose our pride and frailty and to turn our eyes upon a loving God who calls out to a deaf and defiant world with arms stretched out? (Jeremiah 6:19; Ezekiel 18:23; Luke 13:34; Romans 10:21) Father, there are none who are innocent or good. (Romans 3:9-10) We have all sinned and fallen short of your glory. (Romans 3:23) We all have gone astray and chosen a path that pleases us}

Forgive us of our manifold sins and our pride. Forgive us for our love of money, pleasures and possessions; of the particular sins of abortion, pornography, adultery, fornication, homosexuality; of neglecting the fatherless, the widow, the poor, and the least of those among us. Send Holy Spirit upon our hearts to convict us of these and many other violations of your Holy Law. And in convicting us, we also ask that you would humble, comfort and heal us with the gospel of your grace in Jesus. (John 1:14; Hebrews 4:16; James 4:6)

We can only look unto you and appeal to your great mercy and enduring love. (Psalm 25:6, 103:8). Grant repentance and faith! Soften hearts and open blind eyes! Help us to respond rightly to the warning message this storm brings in repentance and turning our eyes to Jesus who endured the fierce storm of your wrath on the cross! May we heed the warning and look unto you. (Jeremiah 36:7)

We also appeal to your great and abundant mercy on behalf of those who have already experienced your heavy hand of wrath through this awful storm. May they now experience the gentleness of your Fatherly hand. May your kindness and mercy surround them and turn every eye to our loving and merciful Savior.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

RACISM AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:1–5)



Several years ago, I met a Jewish journalist who, after learning I was a seminary student, asked me what the Book of Revelation was about. Without even much thought I said: “The return to Eden. At the end of the book the Tree of Life reappears, the curse of death mentioned in Genesis is no more. All things are made new.” “Oh, that doesn’t sound so bad!”, he replied. To this day I am surprised at how quickly I replied with such a simple concise summary of such a complicated book. But that is precisely what Revelation depicts: the removal of the curse of death, of weeping, crying and pain. (Rev. 21:1-5) The Tree of Life reappears and mankind once again has access to it. And the leaves are for the healing of the nations.


What an amazing concept - all the nations of the earth being given access to the Tree of Life and being restored and healed!  That’s the future of humanity in Christ Jesus. That is where we are going folks! That is why Jesus came into the world. And it is also why he has left us in the world, to give the world a glimpse into this glorious reality!


And this brings me to my main concern which has been weighing on me for some time and got heavier over this past weekend. It has to do with how we as Christians respond to issues of race in general, but particularly to the events of this past weekend in Charlottesville. I realize that what happened is like an onion and that we cannot simply peel back one layer and think we’ve gotten to the core of the problem. I am not claiming to have all of the answers, or understand all of the dynamics that were in play. But here’s what I know to be absolutely true: it is the duty and obligation of every Christian to be a window into this glorious reality which Jesus is preparing. I doubt any Christian would argue with that, but I am not convinced all of my brothers and sisters understand the full implications of this obligation. It means that we put the agenda of God’s Kingdom and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ ahead of every other agenda, whether that be political or social. It means that we Christians are to be careful about how deeply involved and entangled we get into worldly agendas and ideas. It means our future shapes how we live today, how we see the world AND how we view the past, including our heritage.


There is a lot of talk about ‘heritage’, particularly southern heritage these days. I say this as one whose heritage is southern. Everyone with the last name ‘Bradsher’ who fought in the war between the states fought for the Confederacy. So I understand that many southern Americans believe the heritage and history of the south is being wiped out by liberals and are upset by this. They claim that the battle flag and the monuments are not about racism, just about southern heritage and history. But those on the other side of the issue view these monuments as celebrations of a hateful ideology; reminders of racism, slavery and oppression. For them these emblems also represent the fact that racism is alive and well today. And this is only reinforced by what happened in Charlottesville. For them, separating southern “heritage” from slavery and racism is an impossible task.


So how should a Christian respond to this issue? What is the biblical response? The danger for Christians is to get sucked into the conflict by choosing “sides” and by losing our Kingdom bearings, forgetting that our primary citizenship and our primary heritage is not of this world, but is of the world to come.  And so the right response is the one that most clearly gives the world that look into that glorious reality which Jesus is preparing. This includes speaking out against the rhetoric of the White Supremacists and calling it what it is - evil and demonic.  Racism and the Kingdom of God do not mix. Racism and the Kingdom of God are opposites. Racism and the Kingdom of God are not at peace and cannot be at peace with one another. Racism will lose in the end. The Kingdom of God will overcome and destroy racism in all of its forms. The Kingdom of God will endure forever and ever!

In the Father’s house there are many rooms for all peoples, colors, tongues and tribes. (John 14:2). Therefore, our response to what we saw in Charlottesville, and even to racism overall needs to reflect this Gospel truth. Let us endeavour to bring the healing leaves of the Gospel of peace to our wounded nation.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

HOW PRO-LIFE ARE YOU?


“I admire your passion for these unborn babies, but if abortion is outlawed who’s going to take care of them?”

Someone asked this question of me recently on social media after I posted articles and made statements on my Facebook page during the Planned Parenthood revelations. This person was echoing many on the liberal side of the issue. They are under the impression that if these children were not aborted, they would be abandoned or grow up in deplorable circumstances. The accusation I have heard made is that the pro-life crowd want abortion to end but they are not willing to step up to the plate and take in these unwanted children. 

My response was if abortion became illegal, Christians would rise to meet the need, because, I believe in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit would bring great conviction upon the hearts of Christians to take in any and all unwanted children. I believe this because this is what Christians have been moved to do in the past. 

It was common practice in Roman culture to leave unwanted babies at the city dump.  “Roman law, religion and the entire ethos of their world saw nothing morally wrong with infanticide or with abandoning newborns.”[1]

Sometimes infertile couples would go and rescue these children and adopt them. Others would retrieve them for the purpose of slavery.  Christians would go and rescue these children from the dumps simply because they believed this was the right thing to do. Some of those children were already sick and dying. The Christians who found them cared for them until their death. “The catacombs [in Rome] are filled with very tiny graves with the epitaph “adopted daughter of…” or “adopted son of…” inscribed on them.”[2] Christians did it then, and they will do it again because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

That being said, I am not certain the present mindset of most Christians is prepared for such an undertaking. Many who wave the pro-life banner have not thought through what an abortion-free America would look like. Yes it would be wonderful were it to happen. But it also would require Christians do more than they are currently doing. Let's face it: taking needy children into one’s home is hardly the American Dream.  How much inconvenience are Christians willing to accept if Roe v. Wade is overturned?  Are we willing to show the defenders of abortion rights that their argument is a red herring? I am concerned there is some element of truth to the accusation.

Recently, God brought two little girls, ages 2 and 3, to us to care for while their parents get their lives on track.  These girls were prime candidates for an abortion. I am glad their mother and father chose life, but the way the champions of abortion rights would see it is it would have been better had they never been born. Children in their situation often become wards of the state. Many end up shuffled around in foster care which can be just as detrimental to their well-being as the environments that they were taken from. The logic goes like this:  If they had been aborted, then this wouldn’t happen.

How will Christians counter such a claim? Not by marches, protests or speaking in front of abortion clinics alone, but by standing in the gap and using whatever means we have been given by God to eradicate ALL and ANY perceived “need” for abortion to exist. For some of us that means being willing to take in kids who need a home. For some it means adopting children who might have slim chances of being adopted. If this is not possible, it may be supporting organizations and individuals that can do it. 

Many of our friends have expressed their admiration for our being willing to take in these girls because they recognized the sacrifice, the challenges and uncertainty that comes with such a decision. As much as my flesh wants to be seen as a hero, so much about this is basic to Christianity. We are just doing what needs doing, not because we are great people but because Jesus is a great savior. 

Psalm 72:4 says, “He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor.” This was the job description of the King, David’s son which means its also Jesus’ job description. If this is what Jesus is into – saving the children of the needy – then we should be too, inside and outside of the womb.







[1] Silver, Sandra Sweeny  Footprints in Parchment: Rome Verses Christianity 30-313 AD” (2013, Author House) P. 73
[2] Ibid. P. 74

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

CONFESSIONS OF A THANKFUL PASTOR


"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18)




In 1863, president Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation reminding the nation of the blessings which they have enjoyed by the hand of Almighty God. Bear in mind that when he wrote this the War Between the States was in full swing. Yet, Lincoln seemed to understand Paul's command to "give thanks in all circumstances." 

"In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy." (Click HERE to read the full address)

I think Lincoln nailed it. We have a merciful God whom we often fail to thank for not dealing with us according to our sins. (Psalm 103:10) Especially when times are good and we enjoy the prosperity and bounty of his blessings, we forget God so easily. Learning to give thanks even in trying times is so vital to being a thankful people in general. If we can't see the blessings of God when times are hard, we won't see the blessings of God when everything is going well. 

I was reminded of this recently when a pastor friend of mine asked for prayer for some very difficult situations in his congregation. Yet even as he asked for prayer, he stated: I'm giving all this to the Lord and at peace, believe it or not. But at any moment it would be very easy to slip into a variety of negative emotions." 

It was when I read this that I realized how blessed and thankful I am to be the pastor of Grace Community Church. We have little to no controversy, feuds or strife because love, unity and joy in Christ abounds. On top of that, I received a phone call from a recent out-of-town visitor. She expressed her gratitude for Grace Community Church, for the friendliness, the welcome, the spirit of worship and the preaching of the Word. I can’t tell you how blessed I was to hear this and so thankful for each of you because this reflected the congregation’s love for Jesus and for each other which every pastor wants to see in his congregation.

Yet I must confess I struggle to give thanks in all circumstances.  I still look out on Sunday and allow empty seats to discourage me, rather than be thankful for whom God did bring. I am sure I am not alone. Discontentment and complaining is far too easy to slip into for many of us. So I am taking this time to give God thanks for each of you. Thank you for being such a loving, warm and inviting congregation. Thank you for the love you demonstrate towards one another, to the hurting and broken who come through our doors, and to me and my family. I do not profess to be very good at my calling, but I love being your pastor. I am so thankful that in spite of my many flaws and my weakness, Jesus is pleased to use me each week, often to my utter amazement. Wow - God is so good to us! God is so good to me!

May he continue to manifest his love and goodness to us in 2016 and beyond. May we continue to give him thanks in all circumstances with full assurance that since we are in Christ, the very worst that could ever happen to us happened to Jesus instead. Whatever else may happen in this world full of trials and pain, we have every reason to give thanks to the Lord! Amen!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

THE TENSION OF OUR DUAL CITIZENSHIP


Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1–7)


The entire book of Romans reveals something peculiar about the Christian life: it is a life of constant tension. The Christian lives in two worlds, two realities, which are opposed to one another. The Christian in this age is a new creation in Christ, but is still in many ways the same old broken creature. The Christian is free but you can still hear the broken chains clanking (Romans 7:21-15). The Christian is a citizen of the new world to come therefore he is not to conform to this world (Romans 12:2) but at the same time he must still live in the present world. And so we must learn to live in the tension which is what he is teaching the Romans to do in his instructions about interacting with governmental authorities. The government Paul refers to here is obviously the Roman Government which was NOT Christian nor even Christianized by this point. This is the government that unjustly crucified the Lord Jesus, would eventually behead Paul, crucify Peter upside down, and feed Christians to lions. Yet Paul tells the Roman Chriatians to be good citizens of the Roman Empire, perhaps because it would be too easy for Christians to see the government as the enemy to be resisted – the evil empire, instituted by Satan. If it is evil then it is a hindrance to God's kingdom purposes which can easily become an excuse to rebel. 

But Paul clearly states that all governments are instituted by God including the ones we did not vote for. Is this also true of the Stalins? Hitlers? The Kim-Jong Ils and the Chavez'? Yes – and also the Nebuchadnezzars, the Alexanders, the Caesars of ancient times. In Jeremiah 25:9, God calls Nebuchadnezzar his 'servant' whom he was calling upon to march against Judah. He was the Hitler of his day – put there by God. But this does not mean God is pleased with all those he puts in positions of authority. It does not mean God is responsible for their actions, nor does it mean they are excused for their actions. It simply means no king of the earth, no president or dictator of any nation is above God – no matter how powerful.  God is the supreme authority – second to none. He sets up kings and removes kings. (Dan. 2:21) Therefore, we must be SUBJECT to them. Paul is not saying there isn't ever a time when we must obey God rather than men. (Acts 4:19) What then does it mean to be subject (submit) to civil government? Douglas Moo exapins that to be subject means "to recognize one's subordinate place in a hierarchy established by God. It is to acknowledge that certain institutions or people have been placed over us and have the right to our respect and deference.”

Think of how Scripture teaches wives are to submit to husbands, how church members are to submit to church leaders, and how we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Submission is not mere obedience to whatever is commanded by those who are in authority. This question comes up with married couples: does submission mean do whatever my husband demands? No! There are limits to their authority and limits to your obligation – same is true in the church and the government. What limits all earthly authority is the heavenly authority of King Jesus who has all authority in heaven and earth! Submission does not mean we should be silent about injustice or about leadership failures or abuses. But it does mean when you speak out, when you confront, challenge that even then you respect their position or office. 

If you have been keeping up with the news then you know about Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk of court who refused to issue marriage licenses because of her Christian convictions.  Many have said she should not be forced to do anything that violates her conscience or religious beliefs. Some have said, she should have resigned if her beliefs keep her from doing her job. A few weeks ago I posted a link to a sermon by Sandy Wilson, pastor of Second Presbyterian in Memphis. His perspective is someone in Kim Davis' situation ought to issue the marriage licenses to same-sex couples, not because he is flimsy on his view of marriage, (he is solidly reformed and holds to the biblical view of marriage) but because he makes the distinction between a Christian approving of something and simply performing a civil function. A biblical case could be made either way. Personally, I agree with Sandy Wilson's perspective and tried to think of the situation in different terms which I offer for your own reflection. What if I was the one who issues building permits in my county and found myself having to decide if I should approve or deny a building permit for an adult entertainment business? In this case I am not giving approval of the business itself, I am only giving permission for them to build a building. So in this case I could issue the permit. 

But at the same time, I am reminded of Martin Luther's famous saying when urged to recant of his teachings at the Diet of Worms: "...to go against conscience is neither right nor safe." I commend Kim Davis for refusing to go against her conscience and would never suggest she disregard her conscience. It may be her conscience is sensitive because it is misinformed...maybe. But I believe she was doing her best to live in the tension and for that I commend her and praise God for her, EVEN if I might have made a different decision were I in her shoes. She sought to appeal her case lawfully and tried to find a way to make it all work in a manner that put her conscience at ease.  She was not trying to disrespect the judge who declared her in contempt of court. And when asked on what authority she was refusing she declared it was on God's authority. She appealed to higher Laws that are not subject to change in the shifting winds of culture. But at the same time I believe the accusation made against other Christian clerks of court as "caving in" or "wimping out" (which I did see alot of on Facebook) is unfair. If they have a clear, biblically informed conscience and they feel issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples does not equal personal approval, then I do not view them as compromising their faith or guilty of sin. 

The point is, living in this tension is not easy and the answers are never simple and are seldom clear. But what is clear according to scripture are two things: 

(1) Jesus is our Supreme Ruler whom we follow above civil rulers. 
(2) Christians are to be noted for their civil obedience and be esteemed as upright citizens. 

As far as it depends on us we must strive to demonstrate what kingdom living is like through our behavior. By this we demonstrate that God's kingdom is about righteousness peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. By being such citizens we become the city on the hill. This is just one area among many of how we let the world see the glory of Christ and his kingdom in our lives.

I believe we can expect persecution in the days ahead and I believe that the intolerance of the culture towards genuine Christianity will grow. Meeting for public worship may become a crime one day. If and when it happens we will find great comfort in Jesus' response to Pilate. 

Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. (John 19:10–11). 


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

IS JESUS AGAINST BEING RICH?

“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

I occasionally get phone calls at the church from people who want to argue about the Bible. Recently, a fellow called wanting to argue about where the Bible teaches on the Trinity. A few years ago, I received a call from a woman who wanted me to explain the gospel to her, only she had a specific "gospel" in mind: a gospel that required every believer to sell all they have. She believed Jesus' instructions to the rich young man was a universal command to all who want to enter the Kingdom. Unless we sell everything and give it to the poor, we will not enter.

This idea is not new. Many have taken Jesus' statement to this young man to mean he is against anyone being rich, and that if you have riches it can only be because you are a greedy, wicked person. But this interpretation is influenced by modern negativity towards those who are wealthy. The culture of the Bible viewed wealth as God's blessing bestowed on the righteous. Today, those with wealth are first assumed to be full of greed, and to be crooked until they prove otherwise. This is a general sentiment we sometimes witness today especially among more liberal minded people.

But both sentiments, though they each have a grain of truth in them, broadbrush the issue and lead one to significantly flawed thinking. Consider the following verses and what they say about being rich and being poor.


"Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine." (Proverbs 3:9–10)

"The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life." (Proverbs 22:4)

"A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich." (Proverbs 10:4)

"Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways." (Proverbs 28:6)

"Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him." (Proverbs 14:31)

"Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty." (Proverbs 22:16)

"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God...But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation." (Luke 6:20, 24)

As these scriptures show, being rich MAY mean a person is greedy, or it may be God has blessed them with riches because they love the Lord and will honor the Lord with what he gives them. We also see here that being poor MAY be the result of sinful choices, but it may also be the result of injustices done unto them, possibly by those trying to amass wealth for themselves. We cannot broadbrush the issue. It isn't that simple!

Back to the question: is Jesus against being rich? Yes and no. Certainly riches can be a problem for people and in that case, the answer is yes. The rich young man was fairly certain he had the right to enter the kingdom because he was rich. He was gravely mistaken. Likewise, those who are poor might read Luke 6 and conclude that because they are poor they are entitled to enter the Kingdom. This is the same egregious error made by the rich young man.

Being rich does not mean a person is righteous, nor does it mean a person is wicked. Likewise, being rich is not what keeps a person out of the Kingdom anymore than being poor gets one in. The issue is are you aware that you cannot enter apart from total dependence on the righteousness and sacrifice of Christ? In the next section of Mark 10, Jesus tells his disciples his plans to suffer for the third time. He came to suffer for rich and poor alike because both need the salvation he provides.

So if you are rich, the important question for you to ask is how important are your riches to you? Are they hindering you from fully resting and trusting in Christ alone for salvation? Are you honoring God with your wealth? Do you find it hard to be generous with your wealth? If the answer is yes, or even maybe, then you might have a problem, and at that point Jesus' instructions to the rich young man may be for you also. But again the problem is not the riches themselves. The problem is the place riches occupy in the heart. Even someone who is poor may be guilty of of bowing to the idol of wealth if he sees wealth as his savior. In that case the words of Christ to the rich young man would also be for the poor man.

Both rich and poor alike are spiritually poor apart from the generosity of God. Both come to the gates of the kingdom empty handed. Both come singing together "nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling. Naked come to Thee for dress. Helpless look to Thee for grace." Both must become like little children and receive the Kingdom neither deserve.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

WORSHIP & EVANGELISM

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him! (Psalm 67:1–7)

The reason God selected Israel to be his chosen nation was not so they could keep the revelation and knowledge of God to themselves, but so they could share it with the world. "... in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Genesis 12:3) God's ultimate redemptive purpose was always global and international. "You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus 19:12) Peter explains further what this means: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9) The nature of their priesthood was to serve as ambassadors to the nations with the purpose of declaring the praises of God who has called us out of darkness, into his light. All of this is present in the words of Psalm 67. The Psalmist has recovered the very purpose for Israel's blessing - to be a blessing to the world and to make the name of the Lord great among the nations so that they too might praise his name and rejoice in his salvation. God's purpose and plan is unchangeable, therefore all of this is true for the Church today.

But notice something - the chief goal is not to simply do missions and evangelism. Rather, the chief goal is worship. As John Piper reminds us, "Missions exists because worship doesn't." He explains that missions is simply the necessary means to achieve the goal.

But at the same time, if worship is evangelism's chief end, then it only make sense that worship itself should bear witness of the gospel of Christ. As the people of God sing together, they are being witnesses of the majesty of God, the wonder of the cross of Christ and the hope of resurrection. The question then is this: Does our congregational singing bear witness to these truths? This speaks not just to what we sing but to how we sing. Timothy Keller, speaking on John Calvin's views of worship, points out, "The “core commitment” of Calvin’s corporate worship was his rediscovery of the biblical gospel of unmerited and free grace. God’s grace comes to us as a word to believe, rather than as a deed to be performed."[1]

That may appear to be an obvious statement, but so much of what is called "worship" in the church comes across as a deed to be performed rather than a word to be believed. How many see showing up for service or playing their instrument skillfully as deeds to be performed? Certainly, our attendance and the quality of our musicianship is important, but if we see these as what makes our worship acceptable, then we are teaching a false Gospel of works! The matters pertaining to attendance and skill find their proper place when we understand them to be responses to all that God in Christ Jesus has done on our behalf. The question then is which one are we communicating to those who do not know Christ? Are they hearing the gospel in the music and lyrics of the songs we sing? Is there clear evidence in of Gospel joy in the demeanor of the worshipers? Corporate worship services are primarily for God's people, but what makes us God's people ought to be central to how we worship. We should be worshiping God in a manner that bids the lost peoples of the world to put their hope in Christ and to sing with us.



[1] Ashton, Rev. Mark; Hughes, R. Kent; Keller, Timothy (2010-05-05). Worship by the Book (p. 208). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.