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Standing Against The Ecumenical Monoculture

Standing Against The Ecumenical Monoculture

Standing Against The Ecumenical Monoculture

Standing Against The Ecumenical Monoculture

God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform; He plants his footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines Of never failing skill He treasures up his bright designs, And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, The clouds ye so much dread Are big with mercy, and shall break In blessings on your head.

Judge not the LORD by feeble sense, But trust him for his grace; Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour; The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err, And scan his work in vain; GOD is his own interpreter, And he will make it plain.

--William Cowper

Saturday, May 27, 2006


When Acid Burns


In his book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Daniel Dennett calls Darwinism a “universal acid,” referencing a children’s story about an acid that eats everything it contacts, including its container. Explaining this concept he says, Darwinism “eats through just about every traditional concept and leaves in its wake a revolutionized world-view.”


Whether you recognize it or not your worldview, the overarching interpretative framework through which you interpret the world around you, has profound implications on every aspect of your life. Your worldview is like the glasses through which you view life; they determine not only what and how you see but if you see at all.

Throughout the Scriptures God is spoken of as a burning fire, a consuming fire. The prophet Jeremiah speaks of how God’s Word is like a fire trapped in his bones that he cannot contain. As followers of Christ we should seek to conform every aspect of our life to the Scriptures. We should allow the “universal fire” of God’s Word to consume every aspect of our lives and ignite in them a burning passion for the glory of God.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


What is Worship?

This is a very difficult question and my definition will likely have many inadequacies. My goal is not to start an argument; I hope that this post will foster edifying conversation on the subject. In most situations, one would want to define something in the narrowest of terms. Worship, however, is not a narrow subject; it encompasses a variety of things. I intend to, as best as I can, holistically define worship in such a way that it is clear what worship is and is not while providing a definition that most will agree upon. We were created for God’s glory and the redeemed will spend eternity worshiping the Lord. Defining worship is not a peripheral issue; it lies at the heart of the Christian life.

Spirit and Truth

In John 4 Jesus informs a Samaritan woman, “23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Here Christ gives us the barebones definition of worship, or rather, what is necessary to worship.

The word “spirit” when speaking of God is in reference to His invisible nature and when referencing man it is in reference to man’s spirit, or heart. The word “truth” simply refers to the divine attributes of God, as revealed in His Word. Worship must also be a truthful non-hypocritical and non-deceptive act. “True worshipers” (alhqinoi proskunhtai is derived from proskuneo meaning to bow a knee) are therefore those who know God, as revealed in Scripture, and whose hearts are humbled before the Lord. True worship only occurs when we know God and our hearts are humbled before Him; inward attitude/action, not outer conformity, is the mark of true worship.

Fun with Greek

Below is a list of Greek words, commonly translated as worship, and there definitions (thank you Woody).

  • Proskuneo: this is the most frequent word rendered to worship. It is used of an act of homage or reverence, John 4.
  • Sebomai: to revere, stressing the feeling of awe or devotion, Matt 15:9
  • Sebazomai: to honor religiously, Rom 1:25
  • Eusebeo: to act piously towards.

All of these definitions define action, or rather an act, something done or performed. My question is this: “Does merely performing the physical actions implied by these words constitute true worship?” A similar question filtered through the implied humility of John 4: “Is true humility found in the mere physical expressions of humility? Or is true humility the attitude of the heart behind those humble actions?”

Themes from Scripture

I Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”

God does not desire the actions of worship; He desires a people who listen to and heed His voice.

Isaiah 1:11, 16-17 “11What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 16Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.”

God is disgusted with the abundance of Israel’s sacrifices (OT worship) and no longer delights in them. Later in the passage, God commands them to cleanse themselves and obey His commands. Likewise, I think God is disgusted with our abundance of singing and is seeking a people who will wholly submit to Him.

Isaiah 29:13 And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men.”

God desires a people who worship in spirit and truth. He does not desire our lip service He wants our hearts to honor Him; He also wants our hearts to have a truthful knowledge of Him and not a knowledge distorted by man. Later in Isaiah 29, the Lord speaks of how the humble are those who will rejoice in Him but the proud will be destroyed; worship is a matter of the heart.

Jeremiah 12:2-3 2You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit. You are always on their lips but far from their hearts. 3Yet you know me, O LORD; you see me and test my thoughts about you. Drag them off like sheep to be butchered! Set them apart for the day of slaughter!

The prophet Jeremiah is lamenting the proud and arrogant who are appearing to prosper (bear fruit) even though their hearts do not honor God; His cry is that God will destroy these men and prosper those who truly worship Him in their hearts.

Malachi 1:6-7 “6A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ 7By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD's table may be despised.”

The priests in Malachi still perform their priestly duties; however, they do not do so out of a fear of the Lord or to honor Him, they perform their duties out of obligation. God does not desire rote obedience He desires a humble heart that submits itself to Him.

Malachi 2:1-2 “1And now, O priests, this command is for you. 2If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart.”

The priests in Malachi are performing their sacrifices, albeit with imperfect animals, and doing their duties so what is God’s complaint? Their hearts. “If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name;” God desires that they worship Him from the heart, that they honor Him from the heart.

Romans 12:1 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Worship within the new covenant is not a matter of animal sacrifices it is a matter of self-sacrifice. The resounding theme throughout the whole of Scripture, Paul writes that we should be living sacrifices and that is how we worship. Notice that it is our “spiritual worship” and Christ clearly states that we must worship in spirit and truth.

II Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

God’s delight in our giving is not in the mere action of giving but in the cheerful heart attitude behind our giving.

Bringing it all Together

It is obvious throughout Scripture that we must know God to worship Him. We know God through living His Word, not merely being taught or studying His Word. Knowledge of God must be experiential; we must know Him because we experience Him by submitting to and living out His word. We cannot know God, and subsequently worship Him, if we do not submit to and live His Word.

It is also obvious throughout Scripture that because God is spirit we must worship in spirit. Singing songs (or anything else that is considered worship), like the OT sacrifices, is only considered worship when the right attitude of heart is what compels those actions. Worship is not a matter of the physical realm; worship is a matter of the heart that at times manifests itself in tangible physical ways. It is also important to note that the physical manifestations of worship (singing or whatever) are a hypocritical abomination when they do not proceed from a heart of worship. We must caution ourselves against defining worship by its mere physical manifestations because worship is a matter of spirit and truth.

Monday, May 15, 2006


What is the Role of Music in Church?

This post is sort of an addendum to Music is not Worship…Breathing is posted by Justin Sok. Just so, no one is confused this post only addresses the role of music; I will be doing a follow post entitled What is Biblical Worship? That post will attempt to set fourth how worship is defined in Scripture, please reserve your comments concerning the nature of worship for that post.

Throughout the whole of Scripture, the corporate singing of songs is presented as a means by which we are taught (Exodus 15, Deuteronomy 31-31 specifically 31:19,21, Judges 5, I Samuel 18:7, II Samuel 22, I Chronicles 16 and that is just a small sample).

This is why Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). There are several implications of this passage.

First, our songs must be Bible-saturated Christ-centered songs. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” if our songs are to be effective at teaching and admonishing then they must be saturated with Scripture; because “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16).

Second, our songs must teach and admonish. If the word of Christ must dwell in us to sing such songs then it naturally follows that the word of Christ will flow forth when singing (Luke 6:45). Since the Word of God is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” it also naturally follows that songs based upon God’s Word will do such things. Teaching (didasko) means to instruct, impart doctrine, tutor, or to advise. Admonish (noutheteo) means to warn, exhort, rebuke, or to set right. Our songs should be those that, by the Word of God, lead us into submitting ourselves to Christ and rebuke or set us right when we fail to do so.

Third, the singing of such songs always results in and flows forth from a thankful heart. Scripture is God’s gracious self-disclosure; a gift that we are immeasurably unworthy of. We should always be thankful that we have received this Word and that after receiving it God is so gracious as to lead us in obedience to it and patient enough to correct our disobedience.

The ultimate purpose of the local church is to glorify God. The specific means by which it glorifies God is through the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). This is also in accord with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) which sets fourth the task, of the church, as the teaching others to obey Christ, to the glory of God. In the same way, music and songs ultimately exist to glorify God; however, the primary means by which they do that is by teaching the saints to submit themselves to God, for His glory.

Without question the role of music, in the corporate gathering of the local church, is to teach and admonish God’s people by His Word.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


How Can We Break the Cycle?

5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. I Corinthians 3:5-8

In my previous post, I addressed the issue that the abandonment of God’s Word as the source of both theology and methodology by modern evangelicals does not represent a shift in the historical church polity/planting/growth paradigm; it represents their abandonment of God. If that is the current pattern then how do we break out of it?

In the Paul’s epistle to the church at Corinth we find them in a similar state; they are finding their identity in an individual and placing a higher value the oratory finesse of these individuals than they are placing on the content of their message. Within this passage, we also find the solution to breaking free from this cycle.

What is Man?

Paul refers to himself in the third person and asks, “Who am I?” “Who am I that you would follow me?” “Who is Apollos that you would follow him?” The Corinthians had been arguing with regard to who they followed (1:11-12). Paul answers his own question and informs the Corinthians that they are all mere men, servants of God, whom God has sent to them. There is nothing about Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or any one else that should warrant the Corinthians’ attention except that they were sent by God.

We too must gain a proper understanding of who man is. No matter how compelling, charismatic, passionate, or sincere someone may be the only thing that warrants our attention is if they serve and are sent by God, namely the preaching of and submission to God’s Word.

What is the Seed?

In verse six, we find that Paul planted something and the Sunday school answer would be that he planted the Gospel and in I Corinthians 2:2 we find that to be the case; “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Paul decided to know nothing except the Gospel while he was in Corinth. It is imperative that we note that this means the entirety of Paul’s life was governed by and consumed by the Gospel. Paul’s theology was founded upon the Gospel, his evangelism was fueled by the Gospel, his service was encouraged by the Gospel, his endurance was sustained by the Gospel, and his methodology was formed by the Gospel.

We too must realize that the seed is the Gospel and this Gospel seed determines how, where, when, and why we plant it.

What is the Water?

In verse six, we find that Apollos watered something and once again, the Sunday school answer would be that he watered with the Gospel. In Romans 1:15 Paul writes that he is, “eager to preach the gospel” to them. This is the church in Rome and they would not be the church apart from the hearing of the Gospel; why then does Paul desire to preach it to them again? The answer is found in both verse thirteen where Paul says, “in order that I may reap some harvest among you” and verse eleven where he says, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you.”

We too must understand, like Paul that the Gospel seed is watered by the Gospel to bring about spiritual birth (justification) and the continuation of this watering then brings about spiritual growth (sanctification). We must never tire of the Gospel, it is then message by which we are saved and by which we grow.

What is God?

God is the only one worthy of any admiration in this entire story. Paul and Apollos are called by God, send by God, bearing a message from God, and delivering it in the way in which God has specified. God then takes this Gospel message and causes it to grow. No amount of sowing and watering can cause the Gospel seed to grow apart from divine intervention.

We too must recognize that it is God alone who causes the Gospel seed to grow. If a church is truly growing, it is not because of the leadership or the church growth program; it is because of God. Now we must not assume that leadership and church structure are unimportant. Just as the Gospel shaped Paul’s theology and methodology, we must do likewise if we expect God to cause what has been sown and watered to grow. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18).

Friday, May 05, 2006


Israel Demands a King

4Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 6But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. 7And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 9Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” I Samuel 8:4-9

I love the Old Testament; so much of Israel’s history, their failures and successes, so closely mirror the modern church that we would do well to study it often. Like many judges before him, Samuel was a man faithful to the Lord; however, his sons were corrupt and abusive and this led the people to desire a king. In this passage, the whoredom of Israel is revealed in several ways that closely mirror the failures of the modern church paradigm.

They Desired to Live like the World

Israel cried out “Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” They were surrounded by pagan nations who were ruled by kings and Israel wanted to be like them. In verse eight God reminds Samuel that this is nothing new, ever since their deliverance from Pharaoh in Egypt the Israelites have exhibited a pattern of unfaithfulness, which God foretold in Deuteronomy 17:14.

This is exactly what is happening in modern churches, church planting strategies, and church growth programs that are based upon secular marketing strategies rather than Scripture. Modern Christians, and I use the term loosely, have looked enviously upon the marketing and growth strategies of corporate America, and have sought to grow the kingdom of God in a similar manner. Like Israel’s desire for a king, this modern trend is nothing new but rather the culmination of the long-standing unfaithfulness of American evangelicals.

They Desired to Fight like the World

Despite Israel’s presence and responsibility in them the Lord was the one who fought their battles in the past (Exodus 14:14, 25, Deuteronomy 1:30, Joshua 10:25) and apart from God they could not succeed in battle (Deuteronomy 1:42). Their desire for a king marked their abandonment of His power and provision for their strength and strategy (v.20).

This is exactly what is happening when modern churches rely upon secular marketing strategies to grow God’s kingdom rather than the Holy Spirit transforming the hearts of men through the proclamation of God’s Word. In Israel’s past God had spoken to Moses, Joshua, and the Judges who then proclaimed the Word of the Lord to the people of Israel. Israel’s request for a king represented their abandonment of God’s Word for the wisdom of man. Just as Israel’s desire for a king led to their destruction and enslavement modern evangelicals’ desire for worldly wisdom will lead to false growth and an inability to battle the enemy.

They Desired to Submit like the World

In verse nine God commands Samuel to “solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” In the verses following Samuel describes at length the ways in which the king will abuse Israel and yet they replied “No! We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles (v.19-20).”

In the same way, that Israel desired a king, despite severe warnings of his abuses, modern evangelicals tolerate ministries whose founding values are more psychological than theological because they would rather submit to a man rather than the living God.

They Desired to Worship like the World

Ultimately, Israel’s actions were the manifestations, not the ultimate end, of their thinking. The end result of their desire what not the abandonment of God’s Word, or God’s rules, or God’s provision; the ultimate end of their desire was the abandonment and rejection of God (v.7-8).

Likewise, the abandonment of God’s Word as the source of both theology and methodology by modern evangelicals does not represent a shift in the historical church polity/planting/growth paradigm; it represents their abandonment of God.

Many of you who read this will find it to be a far cry from my previous post; in which I gave the following quote by David Prior.

“Paul looks at the Corinthian church as it is in Christ Jesus before he looks at anything else that is true of the church. That disciplined statement of faith is rarely made in local churches; the warts are examined and lamented, but often there’s no vision of what God has already done in Christ.”

I think there is continuity between these two posts in that you cannot view a church “as it is in Christ Jesus” if Christ is not taught there; the only way you could view it would be as an object of His wrath. More importantly it is only through understanding where, why, and how we fail that we can overcome these failures by the grace of God.

Monday, May 01, 2006


The Humble Cross-Centered Heart of Paul

Ever since I attended Resolved, Humility: True Greatness by, C. J. Mahaney has been at the top of my “to read list.” Over the past week, I have had the pleasure of reading this wonderfully challenging book. This is not intended to be a formal book review; I just want to share some of my reflections on this book in light of recent conversation. While not a book review, I highly recommend this book to everyone.

I Corinthians 1:4, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.” This verse must be one of the most oft quoted verses in personal correspondence, I have written it at the end of many letters my self and yet I never gave the context in which this verse was written a single thought. Paul is writing the church at Corinth to confront numerous issues and serious theological error. They were often drunk at the Lord’s Supper, they were divided, some had denied the resurrection, and they were sexually immoral to a point that appalled even the pagans. The church at Corinth had serious problems and yet Paul always thanks God for them. Paul continues to display this love as he writes, “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (I Corinthians 4:14-15).

While attending Together for the Gospel last week I was very interested in seeing how these men, who have poured their lives into the local church, addressed the gaping failures of modern Evangelicism. Much of our conversation negatively focuses on the failures of local churches rather than the active work of God’s grace within them. Yes, there are serious problems, problems that cannot be tolerated and must be addressed; however, we must do so in a gracious and loving way, as Paul does. David Prior, in The Message of 1 Corinthians: Life in the Local Church, describes Paul’s perspective as follows,

"Paul looks at the Corinthian church as it is in Christ Jesus before he looks at anything else that is true of the church. That disciplined statement of faith is rarely made in local churches; the warts are examined and lamented, but often there’s no vision of what God has already done in Christ."

How does Paul cultivate such a perspective? In Humility: True Greatness C. J. Mahaney unfolds the profundity of Ephesians 4:29 as the answer to this question. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). The verse is very straightforward; however, we must be careful not to miss the profound simplicity of what Paul is saying. Our talk is to be constructive and build up so that we may give grace to those who hear. Where do we find the most profound expression of grace that man has ever known? What is the blazing center of God’s grace and the Christian life? Paul is saying that our language should be Cross-centered, God-glorifying, and Gospel-saturated language. Is their any greater means of grace towards an individual than the Gospel? Certainly not, may all of our language bear this good news.