Wednesday, October 31, 2007

MY STORY (Part 3) Home Again!

Home Again

Through a loving, caring church known as Calvary Temple, now Northwest Family Church and a loving, caring Pastor, I learned the old story again, “Yes, Jesus Loves You.” Gradually, I began to climb out—I wish I could say it was instantaneous but it was not.

What I Learned

God never stops loving you! Even when I felt I was the farthest from God, He was there, loving me, protecting me, and answering the prayers of my loved ones. Every exit in the passages of life is an entrance: An entrance into another stage. And even if that step is away from God, He doesn’t abandon us. He loves us! That doesn’t mean he excuses or condones our sin, but it means that He is there to speak to us and lead us out. "But you were a Pastor didn’t you know that?" No, my friend, I did not always know that.

A Biblical parallel might be the story of Simon Peter, when he had turned his back upon the Lord and gone back to his fishing nets. To bring him back, Jesus let him fail—because He loved him! And when Peter obeyed, Jesus commanded him to throw the nets on the other side; He made him a success again. He let him win. It was Christ’s way of bringing him back. Later, you can read the account of how God used him in the Book of Acts; read his epistles, I and II Peter. Yes, he was fully restored and greatly used of God.

Now, I don’t put myself in Peter’s league, only in the sense that Jesus loves me just as much as he loved Peter. But Jesus let me fail—because He loved me. And when I obeyed Him he restored me. I am glad to tell you that our marriage is more blessed and happier than it has ever been. I thank the Lord daily for a Godly, faithful, loving wife, who should have left me, but I am so thankful she didn’t.

In 1994, Jim Filbeck became our Senior Pastor. I was still hiding out in the back rows of the church, not wanting to be too involved. It was Jim, who believed in me and involved me in the teaching ministry again. It was he who invited me to join the staff, part-time, in February 1999. And July 1, 2001, I became a full time associate pastor! I am once again ordained and enjoying the ministry, preaching, teaching, interacting with people, helping them. Something I thought would never happen. I can truly say, these last eight years have been some of the most fruitful and rewarding years of ministry I have ever experienced. My passion for ministry has been rekindled; my love for His people has been renewed. The heart of the Shepherd has returned.

I presently serve this great church:

Why do I tell you my story? Someone may read it (a man of or woman of God) that has reached a place in their life where they feel hope is gone; they’ve gone too far. I am here to tell you that God never stops loving you! He patiently waits for you to turn to Him. My message to you is—THERE IS HOPE! HE IS THE GOD OF THE SECOND CHANCE!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


In the spring of 1984, at 45 years of age, I sat down with the Board of the church, and sobbing, told them I could no longer carry on. I resigned from the Church. I didn’t want to preach anymore, I didn’t want to open my Bible, I didn’t want to counsel another person, and I wanted to run away. It was like I had run into a brick wall, an insurmountable obstacle. I did not fully understand what was happening to me, but as I look back, I realize that I had experienced burnout. I couldn’t go any farther.

I then began a slide down into a pit that would take me years to recover from. It was a trip for my family, into hell. I entered the automobile business and soon became associated with those who influenced me, rather than my influencing them for good. It wasn’t long before my routine changed drastically. I cut all ties to the church, gave up my ordination, and found solace daily, in alcohol and other vices.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had retreated into a dark, depressed condition where I reached the place that the only way I found relief was in the next drink. Within two years, this former preacher, pastor, church executive, who had never had a bad mark on his credit rating for 25 years, had to drag his wife with him into Bankruptcy court. It was one of the most humiliating experiences I have ever had to endure. We lost our beautiful home to foreclosure, and for the first time in our married life, we learned to live with cash. If we had the money, we could have it if we needed it. It was a new experience.

I took a job in retail automobile sales and Milbre went back to work with a Government civil service job. It was during this period that I reached the bottom of a horrible existence. I felt that all hope was gone. In fact, I was seeing a doctor and he asked me to write down my feelings. When I began to express my thoughts, I was amazed that I, who was usually a jovial, happy person, had reached a place of despair and hopelessness. My guilt and sense of depravity was overwhelming, but I felt there was no way out. I continued on this pathway for a few years, all the while my faithful wife was attending church, and I would pretend and go with her once in a while, when I couldn’t offer any other excuse. I didn’t know it then, but the bankruptcy was probably a slow turning point.

In October 1989, Pastor Wayde Goodall was installed as Senior Pastor at Calvary Temple in Auburn, Washington. We had moved to Auburn and Milbre was looking for a church home, she visited there for the first time. It was a good beginning and a giant step forward for our family.

Soon, I attended with her, and had the opportunity to meet Pastor Goodall. It was a life-changing event, ordered by the Lord. He was the first Pastor that I met since my resignation that I felt I could share my deepest thoughts and trust him not to judge me, but help me. And help me he did! I had reached a place where I couldn’t go home after work, without going to the bar for drinks, first. About two hours before I would get off, I would start thinking about how good a drink would be. I realized then that I was becoming dependent on alcohol.

Pastor Goodall prayed and counseled with me and helped me slowly to begin to walk out of the muck and mire that I had put myself into. For the first time in years, I began to feel that there might be hope. I was not interested in ministry, preaching, or anything else, other than being restored.

Tomorrow--Home Again!

Monday, October 29, 2007

MY STORY (Part One)


My Family

One of seven children, my father was a carpenter by trade and my mother was a homemaker. My dad had known about the Christian faith, but was not a believer. We grew up in a very dysfunctional family with many problems that were created by my father’s abuse of alcohol. Mother was raised as a Christian, and was the backbone of the family. When we were very young, she saw to it that we went to Sunday school.

I first gave my heart to the Lord when I was around 12 years of age. I had joined a Boy Scout troop and the leader was a pastor of a Friends Church. When I was 14 years of age, Mom and Dad divorced, ending a tumultuous relationship and bringing peace to our home for the first time in many years. I was the oldest child at home at that time, and so I became the head of the family, so to speak, since there were three younger children than me.

At age 19, I recommitted my heart to the Lord and received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. It was then I began to get serious about this Christian walk.

When I was 21, I met and married the love of my life, Milbre Mock. We were married 47 years September 17, 2007. In 1965, our first son, Kevin Britt, was born. In 1967, our second son, Russell Vaughn was born. Kevin and his wife Pam are serving in music ministry with The Pentecostals of Alexandria, in Louisiana. Vaughn and his wife Josie, and our three wonderful grandkids, Christina, Donnie, and Aleesha, live in San Angelo, Texas. He is a 22 year, career, non-commissioned officer in the United States Air Force and is serving the Lord in ministry as well as our country.

My Calling.

Vietnam came and I had a choice. After counseling with my Pastor, I decided to opt for a deferment for ministerial study and in 1962, Milbre and I went off to Bible College in California. After two years, we moved back to Houston (Texas) and I finished my last year at a College there.

In March 1965, I was licensed to preach. I soon began commuting 400 miles on weekends to plant a church in Del Rio, Texas. In 1966, I was ordained to the Christian ministry. Kevin was born in May, 1965, and we moved to Del Rio in June. We spent three years there and in 1968, accepted the call to pastor Calvary Pentecostal Church, in Fort Worth. We were privileged to pastor that great church for seven years.

In 1975, I resigned the pastorate in Fort Worth, having served in the District as District Foreign Missions director, and served for a time as a District Presbyter. We moved to St. Louis and I accepted a position with the Radio Division of a large Pentecostal Denomination, as Secretary and spent the next two years promoting the Gospel through radio.

In 1977, we moved to Seattle, Washington, and accepted the pastorate of a small church in the Greenwood area. We later sold the property and the congregation bought property north of Seattle, in Lynnwood. This was a loving, caring, congregation that we were privileged to pastor until 1984, when I began to experience serious problems.

Tomorrow: My Story (Part Two) Burnout!

Friday, October 19, 2007


For much of this year, the leadership of our church has been involved in an in-depth look at Northwest Family Church. It has been a lengthy, painful process as we attempt to define who we are; why we exist; and who are we trying to reach? In a nutshell, how do we do church? I have just read a shocking blog from "Out of Ur" entitled "Willow Creek Repents". I post this blog for you to read, if you haven't seen their blog. This is apropos since we have a scheduled cohort next week to decide what ministry "model" we want to embrace for the future of our church.

October 18, 2007

Willow Creek Repents?

Why the most influential church in America now says "We made a mistake."

Few would disagree that Willow Creek Community Church has been one of the most influential churches in America over the last thirty years. Willow, through its association, has promoted a vision of church that is big, programmatic, and comprehensive. This vision has been heavily influenced by the methods of secular business. James Twitchell, in his new book Shopping for God, reports that outside Bill Hybels’ office hangs a poster that says: “What is our business? Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value?” Directly or indirectly, this philosophy of ministry—church should be a big box with programs for people at every level of spiritual maturity to consume and engage—has impacted every evangelical church in the country.

So what happens when leaders of Willow Creek stand up and say, “We made a mistake”?

Not long ago Willow released its findings from a multiple year qualitative study of its ministry. Basically, they wanted to know what programs and activities of the church were actually helping people mature spiritually and which were not. The results were published in a book, Reveal: Where Are You?, co-authored by Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek. Hybels called the findings “earth shaking,” “ground breaking,” and “mind blowing.”

If you’d like to get a synopsis of the research you can watch a video with Greg Hawkins here. And Bill Hybels’ reactions, recorded at last summer’s Leadership Summit, can be seen here. Both videos are worth watching in their entirety, but below are few highlights.

In the Hawkins’ video he says, “Participation is a big deal. We believe the more people participating in these sets of activities, with higher levels of frequency, it will produce disciples of Christ.” This has been Willow’s philosophy of ministry in a nutshell. The church creates programs/activities. People participate in these activities. The outcome is spiritual maturity. In a moment of stinging honesty Hawkins says, “I know it might sound crazy but that’s how we do it in churches. We measure levels of participation.”

Having put all of their eggs into the program-driven church basket you can understand their shock when the research revealed that “Increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities does NOT predict whether someone’s becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does NOT predict whether they love God more or they love people more.”

Speaking at the Leadership Summit, Hybels summarized the findings this way:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.

Having spent thirty years creating and promoting a multi-million dollar organization driven by programs and measuring participation, and convincing other church leaders to do the same, you can see why Hybels called this research “the wake up call” of his adult life.

Hybels confesses:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

In other words, spiritual growth doesn’t happen best by becoming dependent on elaborate church programs but through the age old spiritual practices of prayer, bible reading, and relationships. And, ironically, these basic disciplines do not require multi-million dollar facilities and hundreds of staff to manage.

Does this mark the end of Willow’s thirty years of influence over the American church? Not according to Hawkins:

Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how he’s asking us to transform this planet.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The "Emergent Church" Movement

Caution flags are flying in many Christian circles as this theme has become obscured with many different meanings and directions. I offer the following article for your comment and observation, neither embracing it or rejecting it, I find it intriguing.

The Emergent Church Movement

One of the most prominent and growing movements today is the "Emerging/Emerged/Emergent Church". They claim they are still rising up and their doctrines have not solidified, some claim they do not have any fundamental doctrines but their aim is apparent. These Emerging Christians" seek to deconstruct and reconstruct Christian beliefs, standards, and methods of the church to accommodate the postmodern culture. Proponents of this movement call this "conversation" to emphasize its developing and decentralized nature. The predominantly young participants in this movement prefer narrative presentations drawn from their own experiences and biblical narratives over propositional, biblical exposition.

Emergent methodology includes frequent use of new technologies such as multimedia and the Internet. Emergents communicate in open dialogue rather than the dogmatic proclamation found in historic Christianity.

Some Emergents have differing emphases, depending upon the particular author or institution. Much of the Emerging or Emergent Church meld with typical postmodern rationalizations of men in regarding relativism - any lack of standards of truth from scripture.

One common theme is their concern with today’s churches losing touch and remaining relevant with the modern culture. Emphasis is on the "need" to reformat the church and Christianity towards the greater good of building better inroads and relationships with the post modern culture.

Emergents allow for a plurality of Scriptural interpretations. They challenge to re-think, re-analyze, re-interpret, and rewrite the Gospel and scripture interpretations to many possible relative meanings and applications. Biblical truths become vague, and almost scorned, replaced by universalistic and syncretistic themes that resemble mystical concepts, subtly and overtly.

Proponents of the movement advocate a subjective view of doctrine in which they embrace a continual reexamination of and flexible approach to theology which causes them to see the faiths of all religions as a journey rather than a destination. Emergents claim to "hold in tension" even radical differences in doctrines and morals. Emergents see theology as an icon pointing to God rather than as a definition of God, they do not see any doctrinal expositions as definitive.]

Their universalistic concepts of "salvation" (that all the sincere find heaven) are usually regarded as "finding the god within you," (Panentheism) and god is in everything (Pantheism) . Evangelistic church missions are regarded as a waste of time, and church believers in ages past, who died for their faith in Jesus Christ, are regarded as unnecessary zealots.

The Emergent worship focuses on Centering Prayer as a method of prayer, which prepares them to receive the gift of God's presence. Centering Prayer is drawn from ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina, (praying the scriptures), The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. It was distilled into a simple method of prayer in the 1970’s by three Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating at the Trappist Abbey, St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts” (

The Cloud of Unknowing is an anonymous 14th century book presenting contemplative meditation as a spiritual process enabling the ordinary person to enter and receive a direct experience of union with God. This form of meditation, recently known as 'Centering Prayer' (from a text of Thomas Merton), says to be traced from and through the earliest centuries of mystical Christianity. The Centering Prayer centers one on the god within each individual. During a conference on contemplative prayer, Thomas Merton was asked: “How can we best help people to attain union with God?" His answer was very clear: "We must tell them that they are already united with God." Contemplative prayer is nothing other than coming into consciousness of what is already there. (A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen, p. 80).

Did Jesus or the apostles ever instruct us to pray this way? If not where did it come from? They call it alternative worship. Those involved in the Emerging church make use of liturgies, prayer beads, icons, chants and practices from Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, the Anglicans and Eastern religious practices. They see this as a return to the Ancient Faith that will give them a richer spiritual experience through practicing sacramental rituals. By making it their own experience many see this as privatization of their faith.

Their worship does not just involve old stylistic candles, crosses, and incense. They make use of multimedia- music, video projection screens, vivid fluorescent black lights etc. to bring one into a multi-sensory experience with “the divine.” They walk the labyrinth in the darkness lit by candles and have the fragrance of incense permeate the air as they stop and chant Christian words or Contemplative thoughts and prayers. It becomes a personal spiritual experience as each one enters into their own spiritual space.

“There is a movement in youth ministry that is taking us back to what some would call ancient spiritual practices, or different contemplative tools.” (Mark Oestreicher, President Youth Specialties)

Although some Emergent thinkers such as Brian McLaren, and many Evangelical scholars such as D. A. Carson use "emerging" and "emergent" as synonyms, a large number of participants in the emerging church movement maintain a distinction between them.

"Emergent" is sometimes more closely associated with Emergent Village. Those participants in the movement who assert this distinction believe "emergents" and "emergent village" to be a part of the emerging church movement but prefer to use the term "emerging church" to refer to the movement as a whole while using the term "emergent" in a more limited way, referring to Brian McLaren and emergent village. Many of those within the emerging church movement who do not closely identify with emergent village tend to avoid that organization's interest in radical theological reformulation and focus more on new ways of "doing church" and expressing their spirituality. Mark Driscoll, an early leader associated with the emerging church conversation, now distances himself from the "emergent thread."

Individuals questioning Emergent modern teachings are labeled as "misunderstanding", "judgmental," or "divisive."

Monday, October 8, 2007


Proverbs 22:28 (KJV) Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.

Proverbs 23: 10 (KJV) Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless:

What was the purpose of the boundary stones or landmarks? Beyond the obvious?

When the Children of Israel settled the Promised Land, it was eventually divided between the 12 tribes of Israel. Each tribe had a specific portion given to them. It was a sacred trust because this was tied to the Abrahamic Covenant.

Remember the story of Ahab, the pouting Potentate? He wanted Naboth’s vineyard because it was close to his Palace: “Give me your vineyard and I will give you something better”. But Naboth refused because this was a sacred trust. When Jezebel came in and saw her husband Ahab with his bottom lip stuck out, pouting, she said, “What’s wrong honey-bun?” She then devised a scheme to lie and cheat and Naboth was slain and Ahab got the vineyard…but the story didn’t end there—God eventually made Ahab and Jezebel pay with their own lives and the dogs that licked Naboth’s blood, licked Jezebel’s blood in the same spot. So we conclude that the allotment of land was indeed sacred.

The second purpose was for memorials:

When the traveler in days of old walked through the land of Canaan, he came here and there upon significant memorials that had been established by those who had been recipients of God’s blessings and divine visitations. These places were marked by landmarks, stones, or other means. He might pass by the place where God had delivered Jacob from Laban, and where Jacob put up a pillar as a testimony that beyond that spot his enemies should not come over. As the traveler went on, he might come to the place where the great altar was built by the two and ½ tribes, to keep them reminded that they belonged to Israel, though they were on the other side of Jordan. Then, again, he would come to the place where the stones were set up at Bethel, as a mark that God revealed Himself to Jacob there. Next, he might come to Gilgal, where the Lord had caused the people to go over the Jordan on dry land; and afterwards to the stone of Ebenezer, which had been set up to show that the Lord had delivered them. And so when their children or strangers would pass by the stones they would be prompted to ask, “What is the meaning of these stones?” And—the people would tell them of God’s blessings of power and deliverance in the past, and God’s covenants of mercy for the future.

Do we have Landmarks?

When you sell or buy a parcel of land, as part of the process, a survey is called for. It is interesting to see how they come in and take the measurements, but before they start, they have to find the markers or pins that have been driven deep in the earth for all those in the future to be able to survey from those lynch pins. They are on record in the county courthouse. If you sell your land and they have to do a survey, the surveyors bring out their instruments and locate those old markers that have been there for many years.

What about the Believer?

As the Christian passes through the better land of God’s Word, he comes upon marker stones or landmarks; if you stop to observe, you will find stories and legends of what God has done. They are there for a reason—they tell a story! We have the assurance that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. There is proof of the fact that God is a covenant-keeping God.

These events are markers for us—for each individual believer—for the church. Think about some of these—you could have your own list, also, in your church.

1. The virgin birth.

2. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus

3. His sinless life, and many other markers.

4. Communion Memorial

The landmarks told a story. The landmarks were sacred. They marked the boundaries of their inheritance that was given to them by God. Do we value the landmarks of our Christian heritage?

Am I saying I would like to go back to sawdust floors, tents or brush arbors? No, I am speaking of the significant revelations about the power of God that came with the great revivals that birthed the movement that we are the recipients of. What are we teaching our children about our heritage?

Each new generation has new ways and new ideas. Time changes things and people. Music changes, styles change, but there should be some things that never change. We should have some boundary stones set out in our life, in our church that will cause the youth who come behind us to ask the question, “What does this mean?

As leaders and future leaders, we have a responsibility to pass along and keep alive those things that make us distinct.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Here's An Old Chorus

God Leads His Dear Children

In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet, God leads His dear children along; where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet, God leads His dear children along.

Chorus: Some thru the waters, some thru the flood, some thru the fire, but all thru the blood; some thru great sorrow, but God gives a song, in the night season and all the day long.

Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright, God leads His dear children along; sometimes in the valley, in the darkest of night, God leads His dear children along.

Chorus: Some thru the waters, some thru the flood, some thru the fire, but all thru the blood; some thru great sorrow, but God gives a song, in the night season and all the day long.

Tho sorrows befall us and Satan oppose, God leads His dear children along; thru grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes, God leads His dear children along.

Chorus: Some thru the waters, some thru the flood, some thru the fire, but all thru the blood; some thru great sorrow, but God gives a song, in the night season and all the day long.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Story Behind Great Hymns

All Hail the Power
Revelation 19:12, 16

by Written by Edward Perronet, 1726-1792

This hymn is often called the "National Anthem of Christendom." The hymn first appeared in the November, 1779, issue of the Gospel Magazine, edited by Augustus Toplady, author of "Rock of Ages". This text has been translated into almost every language where Christianity is known; and wherever it is sung, it communicates to the spiritual needs of human hearts. One writer has said, "So long as there are Christians on earth, it will continue to be sung; and after that, in heaven."

Edward Perronet was born at Sundridge, Kent, England, in 1726. He was a descendant of a distinguished French Huguenot family who had fled to Switzerland and later to England because of the religious persecution in France. Edward's father, a pastor in the State Church of England,was strongly sympathetic with the evangelical movement spearheaded by the Wesley's and George Whitefield.

Edward, too, became a minister in the Anglican Church but was always critical of its ways. Once he wrote, "I was born and I am likely to die in the tottering communion of the Church of England, but I despise her nonsense." Soon, however, he broke from the Church and threw himself strenuously into the evangelistic endeavors of the Wesley's during the 1740's and 1750's. It was during this time that the Wesley's and their followers suffered much persecution and even violence from those who disagreed with their ministry. Concerning these experiences, Wesley made the following notation in his diary: From Rockdale we went to Bolton, and soon found that the Rockdale lions were lambs in comparison with those of Bolton. Edward Perronet was thrown down and rolled in mud and mire. Stones were hurled and windows broken. Another interesting account regarding the relationship between the Wesley's and Perronet concerns the incident when John Wesley announced to a congregation that Edward Perronet would preach at the next service. Being eighteen years younger than Wesley, Perronet had always refused to preach in the elder statesman's presence. Desiring to avoid a public conflict with Wesley, Perronet mounted the pulpit but quickly explained that he had never consented to preach. "However," he added, "I shall deliver the greatest sermon that has ever been preached on earth." He then read the Sermon on the Mount and sat down without comment. Eventually, Perronet's strong-mindedness and free spirit caused a break with the Wesley's, especially on the issue of whether the evangelists as well as the regular ministers could administer the sacraments. Perronet continued to the end of his days as pastor of an independent church at Canterbury, England. His last words have also become classic: Glory to God in the height of His divinity! Glory to God in the depth of His humanity! Glory to God in His all-sufficiency! Into His hands I commend my spirit. Though Perronet wrote many other hymns and forms of poetry, most of which he published anonymously, this is his only work to survive. The success of this text has, no doubt, been furthered by three fine tunes. "Coronation," composed by Oliver Holden, a Massachusetts carpenter, self-taught musician and respected singing-school teacher, is most widely used in America. "Miles Lane" by William Shrubsole, Perronet's personal friend, is the most popular in Great Britain, while the festive "Diadem" tune, composed in 1838 for this text by James Ellor, an English layman, is frequently used as a choir number.

Many interesting accounts have been associated with the use of this hymn. One of the most remarkable is a story told by E.P. Scott, a pioneer missionary to India. One day he was waylaid by a murderous band of tribesmen who were closing in on him with spears. On impulse the missionary took his violin out of his luggage and began to play and sing this hymn. When he reached the stanza "let every kindred, every tribe," he saw to his surprise every spear lowered and many of these tribesmen moved to tears. Scott spent the remaining years of his life preaching and ministering God's love and redemption to these people. God in His providence used a simple hymn as a means of introducing the gospel to a group of needy pagans.

Quoted from "101 Hymn Stories" by Kenneth Osbeck. Kregel Publishers, P.O. Box 2607, Grand Rapids, MI 49501, 1982.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Rest of the Story (Behind Great Hymns)

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Psalm 46

Words and Music by Martin Luther, 1483-1546

Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483 in Eisleben, Saxony, Germany. He was educated at the University of Erfurt, later becoming an Augustinian monk, teaching philosophy and theology at the University of Wittenberg. On October 31, 1517, sometimes called the "4th of July of Protestantism," Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the Cathedral of Wittenberg, Germany. These theses condemned various practices and teachings of the Roman church. After several years of stormy disputes with the Pope and other church leaders, Martin Luther was finally excommunicated from the fellowship of the Roman Catholic church in 1520. One of the important benefits of the Reformation Movement was the rediscovery of congregational singing. Luther had strong convictions about the use and power of sacred music. He expressed his convictions in this way, "If any man despises music, as all fanatics do, for him I have no liking; for music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men. Thus it drives out the devil and makes people cheerful. Then one forgets all wrath, impurity and other devices." Again, "The Devil, the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless troubles, flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God." In another place, "I wish to compose sacred hymns so that the Word of God may dwell among the people also by means of songs." Finally, Luther wrote, "I would allow no man to preach or teach God's people without a proper knowledge of the use and power of sacred song." The single most powerful hymn of the Protestant Reformation Movement was Luther's "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," based on Psalm 46. This hymn became the battle cry of the people, a great source of strength and inspiration even for those who were martyred for their convictions. This hymn has been translated into practically every known language and is regarded as one of the noblest and most classic examples of Christian hymnody. It is said there are no less than sixty translations of this text in English alone. In England the version by Thomas Carlyle is in general use, while in this country the translation by Frederick H. Hedge, a professor at Harvard University, is used most frequently. This translation was not made until 1852 and first appeared in a book entitled Gems of German Verse by W. H. Furness, published in 1853. The first line of this national hymn of Protestant Germany is fittingly inscribed on the tomb of the great reformer at Wittenberg, and may still be read with appreciation by travelers to that historic spot.

Quoted from "101 Hymn Stories" by Kenneth Osbeck. Kregel Publishers, P.O. Box 2607, Grand Rapids, MI 49501, 1982.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

"The Issue of Balance"

Dan Betzer, prominent pastor in Ft Meyers, Florida, has written a daily by-line. He is retiring from his column soon, but this is one of his by-lines on worship, from 2004.
"ByLine with Dan Betzer" Program #2751
Monday, April 19, 2004
"The issue of balance"

I have been deluged with responses to my ByLines concerning hymns in the church. They have run about ten to one in favor of singing at least one hymn in every service. It is interesting that the no’s have come from young worship leaders who have protested that their church would lose its young people if hymns were sung.

None of the protesters mentioned the older adults they are losing in the meantime. Why is it so hard to understand that this is not a “one or the other” situation. I love the chorus, “Like a rose trampled on the ground He took the fall and thought of me above all.”

Wonderful song! But then so is “The Old Rugged Cross.” The detractors tell me that attendance declines if hymns are sung. Not so. Our church is filled with thousands of people, over half of whom are under the age of 30. Only 15% of them are my age.

The issue, it seems to me, is balance. As a pastor, it is my responsibility to reach as many of our area’s half million residents as possible. That means our approach has to be varied, anointed, interesting and relevant.

I suspect that if many of the young worship leaders would lead the singing worship with their eyes open, they would see many folks not singing, not responding, some even leaving. One other question: is there some scriptural admonition demanding that we sing the choruses six or seven times in a row?

If we are really singing them to God, do you not think He understood the lyric the first time around? Oh, by the way, it is possible to sing sitting down.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Minding My Own Business--continued

4. Inappropriate comparisons divert me from what God wants me to do.

God has a plan for my life. I need to discover it and get on with what God wants to do in me!

5. Not all comparisons are bad.

While comparisons harm us in many ways, certainly some are helpful. Comparisons benefit us when we look up to others as good examples, models, or leaders. I had a great role model as a young person in the church—my pastor. I wanted to emulate him. I have found that if I only critique myself against myself, I can grow accustomed to serious—yet correctable—weaknesses. For example, several months ago another preacher’s message caused me to realize my sense of urgency had diminished. As a result, I intentionally worked on better preparation of my heart before preaching. Many great preachers teach and challenge me by the quality of their ministry. One difference between beneficial and inappropriate comparison, then, is my attitude toward the other person. Do I respect and admire him, or do I have a sense of competition and envy toward him?

6. To overcome irrational comparisons I must call them what they are.

a. Envy.
b. Self-Pity.
c. Selfish comparison with others always leads to sin. If I come up short, I fall to envy; if I come up tall, I sink into arrogance.
d. It is a disease of the spirit that will do great harm.
In Corinth, it tore the church apart.
When Cain compared himself to Abel, he came up short and wanted more and committed murder.
When Saul compared himself with David, he eventually became subject to evil spirits and tried to murder David.
When Satan compared himself with God, he didn’t measure up, wanted to be exalted, and turned into the personification of evil and the bane of humanity.
To realize this will give us new perspective. Instead of feeling God is letting us down, we will see that we are letting God down.

7. I must find new ways to compare myself with others.

Sin finds a way to mutate and in its new form goes unrecognized for a time “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Conviction-based ministry

Like lust, wrongful comparisons are a spiritual battle that through Christ I must guard against and defeat—one day at a time. Consider a Christ-centered view of ministry based on ten convictions:

1. God is the one who assigns my task (1 Cor. 3:5).
2. God determines the scope of my ministry (2 Cor. 10:13–16).
3. God gives me the gifts he wants me to have (1 Cor. 12:4–11).
4. God is the one who makes me fruitful (1 Cor. 3:6).
5. God opens and closes doors (Col. 4:3).
6. God is the one who lifts people up (Ps. 75:6–7).
7. God bestows positions of high visibility even to the lowliest of people. When God gives great authority to someone, it does not necessarily mean that he approves more of that person or that they are more spiritual or holy than I am (Dan. 4:17).
8. By the grace of God we have our own ministries (1 Cor. 3:10).
9. No ministry deserves more credit than another (1 Cor. 3:7).
10. What matters to God is our faithfulness (Matt. 25:14–30).

These beliefs can enable me to persevere with contentment in the places God has commissioned me to be.

After a meal of fish on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, when the resurrected Jesus had finished reinstating Peter, he concluded with the simple words “Follow me!” True to form, Peter immediately blundered. He turned to the disciple whom Jesus loved and could not resist comparison.

“Lord, what about him?” Peter asked.

“Don’t worry about him; you do what I said.”

This is roughly how Jesus responded to Peter: “If I want him to remain alive until I return,” he said, “What is that to you? You must follow me”.

In other words, what the Lord does with someone else is none of my business. My concern must be with the command of my Lord to me. I cannot allow comparisons with others to distract me from the one thing that truly matters: following Jesus.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Minding My Own Business

Consider the following scripture verse when tempted to compare yourself with others.

2 Corinthians 10:12 (NIV) "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise."

Not all comparisons are foolish but they can be destructive. In today's post and the next one, there are seven things I want to share about comparisons:

1. Comparisons make even the most advantaged persons feel dissatisfied.

Comparisons lead to dissatisfaction because they are relative; no matter how well off we are, someone else always has more.

2. Inappropriate comparisons focus on what we don’t have rather than on what we have.

Ahab, King of Samaria, had a lot: money, power, land, and more. One day, though, he realized that the vineyard of his neighbor, Naboth, would make a nice royal garden. He set his heart on it and made an offer: “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden,” said Ahab, “since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.”

That sounds fair. But we have little or no grasp of the significance of an inheritance to an Israelite. To Naboth, this was not merely property; this was his family’s inheritance from Yahweh, going back generations. This land represented their security, their heritage. A noble Israelite did not offhandedly sell a few acres of his inheritance and buy something else. With revulsion, Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”

Ahab went home sullen and angry, like a spoiled rich kid whose mother had refused him a candy bar in the checkout line. Ahab lay on his bed feeling sorry for himself. He was oblivious to his vast holdings and was fixated on a little patch of potential garden. Such is the pathetic sight of an advantaged person who has indulged in irrational comparison.

3. Inappropriate comparison is selective and therefore deceptive.

I fool myself when I compare myself with a few desirable aspects of someone else’s life, ignorant of the undesirable side. Do I really want to step into that person’s shoes?

There are two sides to every coin and two sides to every life.

To be continued…