At the foot of the Cross

At the foot of the Cross

Saturday, January 25, 2014

(1) LIVING THE LIFE of a Follower of Christ.

Too often we hear people pray, "help us Lord, to live so that when we die we can go to Heaven". 

Praise God, there is sooo much more to following Jesus! There is SOOOO much MORE to our walk with the Lord than waiting on a "Golden Retirement Plan!"

Christ calls us to LIVE in HIM and to FOLLOW HIM....and each of these two requests are abundant with PROMISE. The promise afforded those who LIVE the LIFE of a Jesus follower is His Presence with us each and every step until the end of time. Our blessings in the Lord are far beyond what we can ask or even think. 


It is in the NOW that we fulfill the mission of Christ. In the LATER, it will be tooooo late. It is in the NOW that we find all the spiritual blessings in Christ (peace, joy, love, hope, mercy, grace....). It is in the NOW that we celebrate victories in Christ (the faithful journey in hand with Him, sharing the joy of our salvation, discipling others to accept God Plan in baptism, the Thanksgiving Feast or Eucharist, the fellowship of the saints, rejoicing in suffering and service....and more!)

Christ calls us to mission work (Matthew 28:18-19). Christ calls us to follow. Christ calls us to CELEBRATE even in our suffering (1 Thess 1:6; Hebrews 10:34). 

The reality is that many Christians look, act, and react in exactly the same manner as those lost in darkness. The call to be different from the world has been lost to a culture of comfort and narcissism (self-centeredness). Essentially, this is idolatry with self as the idol of our worship, service, and continuous absorption.

Jesus has called us out of self-absorption to self-denial and sacrifice. Only those who hear His voice and answer His call will enjoy His rest, His peace, and His mercy. 


Keep in mind that most of what we traditionally cling to and experience in assembly worship was constructed by the c of C (church of Constantine).  If you are not familiar with this unconverted ruler, please read about the 7 malformations of Constantine's influence on Christianity

If you are ready to be challenged to LIVE the LIFE of a Follower of Christ, then please DOWNLOAD & listen to the following audio sermons. Take notes AND take note!



In the comment section, let us know what you have learned or have reaffirmed in your heart and mind.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lesson 16: Chapter 11 Crazy Love - We are the Weird Ones!

SIDE NOTE: Wow! What a timely Lesson! The focus of this discussion was how much we needed to stand humbly yet courageously for the Truth and then we get home and see the big blow up with Duck Dynasty and A&E. Was there a more humble and courageous move on the part of a true follower of Christ?


As we look back at our studies in this book, we should have come to some very essential conclusions. Here are just a few:

(1) I MUST change! “If we don’t actually change, we deceive ourselves”

Hebrews 12:14 “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”

Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

(2) I am a Missionary! As a child of God I am “on mission” and need to keep this a priority in my life.


2 Corinthians 5:18 “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,” 

(3) We must change the way we look at “church”, a word not in the original text. We must see ourselves as the “called out” to be “sent out” if we are to be the faithful servants of God.

John 17:18 “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world”

(4) If we want to Experience God, we must share our Faith!

Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

Matthew 28:18-2018 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Being able to verbalize what we have learned is one way to insure that we have actually internalized the true meaning of the message. Allowing children (and adults) to verbalize what they have learned is one way to evaluate our teaching methods. Parents should practice allowing their children to verbalize their understanding of the truth. 

PC3 2013 Christmas Card from PC3 Media on Vimeo.

(5) Courage and Humility Must Coexist (p. 254)

1 Peter 3:8 “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;”

James 4:6 “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Psalm 31:24 “Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the Lord.”

Philippians 1:14 “and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.

A TIMELY example of courage and Humility

Going Out of Business for Jesus  by Mark Driscoll

Several high-profile discrimination cases around the world raise the question: Will 21st-century society honor the Christian’s conscience, or destroy the Christian’s livelihood?

“This [suffering] will be your opportunity to bear witness.” —Jesus (Luke 21:13)

Good luck building any Christian tribe on an invitation to suffer. Western Christians are, generally speaking, bad at suffering.

You can’t major in suffering at Bible college. Preachers are reticent to speak on it because people don’t want to hear about it. 

God works through defeat.

Instead, we’d rather believe that faith is a stick and God is a piƱata, and if we swing hard enough, health and wealth will come pouring down upon us.

We don’t want to hear that we have to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” and so we keep buying books and listening to teachers who promise to give us a map showing us how to walk around the valley of the shadow of death.

We don’t want to embrace suffering. We want to avoid it.

God’s will, we are wrongly told, involves blessing. Yet, we fail to accept that suffering for Jesus is a blessing.

Who or what we fear determines what we do and how we live. What are you fearful of? Rejection, criticism, mockery, conflict, hatred, loneliness, unemployment, poverty, a loss of status?

Pastor Doug Wilson once quipped:

“a great reformation and revival ... will happen the same way the early Christians conquered Rome. Their program of conquest consisted largely of two elements—gospel preaching and being eaten by lions—a strategy that has not yet captured the imagination of the contemporary church.” 

Thrown to the critics.

Today, we are more likely to get thrown to the critics rather than the lions.

A number of high profile cases around the world will indicate whether 21st-century society will honor the Christian’s conscience, or destroy the Christian’s livelihood.

At this point, a favorable outcome only seems likely in the sense that we serve a God who works through hardship and defeat.

In the western United States, we’ve heard about the florist in Washington and the photographers in Albuquerque—all dealing with lawsuits after declining to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies. 

Those of us on this side of the pond may be less familiar with England’s Peter and Hazelmary Bull. Due to their Christian convictions, the elderly owners of a small bed-and-breakfast in Cornwall will only allow married couples to rent rooms with double beds.

This policy became a problem five years ago when the Bulls turned away a gay couple, who responded with legal action. The case is now headed to the British Supreme Court, but too late to save the Chymorvah Hotel. The Independent reports that the guesthouse went up for sale after vandalism and death threats started taking a toll on Peter and Hazelmary.

Thrust into the spotlight of public scrutiny (and scorn), the Bulls appeared on British national television to face a furious line of questioning from a pair of morning talk show hosts.

A chance to bear witness.

Somehow, the myth has gotten around that if something is difficult or if we encounter opposition, it must not be God’s will. God’s will, we are wrongly told, involves blessing.

Yet we fail to accept that suffering for Jesus is a blessing.

We serve a God who works through hardship and defeat.

Through Christ, God identified with us and suffered for us in order to save us. In turn, we identify with him and suffer for him in hopes of glorifying him and sharing his salvation with others.

Jesus tells his disciples to expect this kind of opportunity in opposition. In Luke 21:12–13, he says:

They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.

Christians will have more and more chances to “bear witness” through hardship in the coming years, I am certain.

I praise God that Peter and Hazelmary Bull have provided an example of what faithful witness looks like in our context today. As Hazelmary said, “God demands that our faith doesn’t end at the kitchen door. He means for your faith to run in every corner of your life.”

Please pray for this couple, and for the millions who will hear about Jesus through their story.

And get used to hearing a lot more stories like it!

(6) We are in a battle with Satan, not other seekers. To survive this battle there must be a unity through the Spirit in a bond of peace and love. God’s power is given to those who fully trust Him by walking in faith, without sight, towards His vision. This is very difficult for us because we fear suffering and uncertainty. This is a reflection of our lack of trust and faith. Our prayer should be that when we encounter the battle we have the courage and humility to work the works of God.

2 Timothy 1:7-8For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,”

Would you have stood up to A&E? How will your children stand in the world they will be living in?

We can be humble and courageous because God is With Us!

 Keep the faith!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lesson 15: Crazy Love Chapter 10 - Travel Agent or Tour Guide?


2 Timothy 3:7 “Always learning but never coming to the knowledge (epignosis – ABOVE knowledge --intimate understanding of the Divine) of the truth”

Those of us who are educators in the public and private realms have been schooled in basic theories of learning.  One of the theories we often use to determine if students actually learn is Bloom’s Taxonomy. This theory helps us to identify whether or not a student has merely memorized information or if they have actually incorporated the new knowledge into their “schema” (thinking processes and eventual behavior). 

Rote memory is the lowest form of learning and is not considered true knowledge (experiential understanding, intimate relationship with concepts, ability to utilize information in a real-world situation).

Paul was telling Timothy that merely learning to quote Scripture was not the same as living a life in true relationship with The Way, The Truth, and The Life.  One of the first steps in becoming intimate with Christ is to be able to confess Him among many witnesses, to give a coherent testimony of our relationship with Him, to express our trust and belief in Him as Lord, to be willing to share the Gospel with others as it was shared with us (Phil 2:11; Romans 10:9f; 1 Tim 6:12-14). 

The Master Teacher understood how humans "come to the knowledge of the truth" – through relationship with The Truth.

If we cannot articulate what we know, we really don’t know it. 

If we cannot verbalize our understanding then our understanding is superficial and short- lived. Many of the basic learning theories tell us that deep , long-term understanding can be easily articulated and will result in new skills and behavior patterns.  

Simply put, if we can’t talk about it, we really don’t “get” it. More importantly, if we really don’t “get” it, reflect on it, submit to it, then we won’t be changed by it. Perhaps that is why we do not see the life-changing transformation by Holy Spirit in many folks claiming to be Christians. Perhaps they have not allowed the Spirit to help them articulate and share with others the “hope of their salvation”.

Our testimony is only the beginning of our life in Christ and yet, many have never given time or energy into sharing their testimony. Until we can patiently, gently, lovingly, caringly, consistently, and faithfully share the good news, we stunt our process of intimate “knowledge of the truth.” 

The TRUTH is that true followers of Christ continually confess Him with their lips, continually share in discipling others, continually share the Light in dark places, continually pray for wisdom to walk through doors of opportunity, continually work the works of God. (Acts 1:14, 1 Thess 5:17; 2 Cor 9:12-14) But there is still more! 

God grant us the courage, faith, and humility to begin our journey into truth by following Christ in declaring the Kingdom to those who are lost.

Lesson 15:  Chapter 10 ---Travel Agent or Tour Guide?

Once on a trip from Moscow to St Petersburg, Russia, I had the opportunity to sit next to a young man who was interested in a conversation in English. This is always a great opportunity to learn about people and to plant a seed for Christ. During our exchange, I learned that this young man was a chemical engineer and had been hired by a very well known company to do research and development. I mentioned in our conversation how much I enjoyed science and research and was thankful to God for making Himself known to us through His creation.

The man slowly turned, cocked his head and said, I've never thought about believing in God. (Which, of course, was the door of opportunity!) We spent the rest of the flight discussing the major issues scientists had with believing in God. After sharing my faith and my reasons for believing, the young man turned to me and said, "This has been the most intriguing conversation I have had in a very long time. My mind will be more open to hearing about God." Well, in my mind that was all I could have prayed for in such a short flight.

Upon arriving at the airport in St Petersburg, the young man got up from his seat, but did not run off like "Wow! I'm glad that is over!" But instead, insisted on helping me with my bags and showing me where to stand in line for customs. Although this was about my 12th trip to St Petes....I let him assist me and share in the joy of trusting each other.

When we see our testimony as a way to plant a seed for the gospel and trust God to bring others who will water, we have a more relaxed, enjoyable, fearless, honest approach to our testimony.

When we fear about what we might say or not say, what we might leave as an impression, then we are only trusting in our own abilities.  We have failed to see how the God of the Universe is able to take our weakness and make something glorious. We show our lack of faith in the Gospel, when we feel powerless and unsure.

But Christ did not send His disciples out "cold turkey". He spent 3 years mentoring them in his teachings and in His commission. They came back from their limited commission with questions and concerns and Christ spent time "debriefing" them and helping them to get a better grasp of His Kingdom.

Christ’s methods included, teaching, demonstrating with visual cues, challenging, baptizing, mentoring, sending out, bringing back in, debriefing, re-training and extended learning, sending out again, and demanding a confession of commitment and love. When we see how the Master accomplished His goals, we would do well to mimic His methods.

Those who have little or no questions about their faith are probably those who have never tested their faith by trying to share it. More than likely, they have never shared it with people in utter darkness and made it compelling and glorious to those who are lost. When we step out in faith and share our understanding of God's plan, we inevitably come up with areas where we need to not only hone our skills, pray for guidance, and trust God,  but where we need help from others in determining how to better address our testimony to the current culture. 

We must continually learn through debriefing, re-examining ourselves, our motives, our understanding of Scripture, asking for wisdom, and participating in communal prayers of agreement for the lost. This is the best reflection of 1st Century Christianity.

Having never learned to lovingly and graciously share the gospel often results in a false sense of self-righteousness--"I know the truth and you don't" attitude. The truth is that the gospel, if sown, IS THE POWER of God unto salvation. If we are not sowing it in love, consistently, graciously, bravely and tenderly, then we are not living by the truth or by faith. Just "being nice" and living morally, makes us more like the Pharisees, than like Christ. Our love for the lost must EXCEED that of the Pharisees or we will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

What have we done today that required us to step out, "sight unseen" in faith for the gospel of Christ? How have we bravely pursued Christ this week?

What discomforts have we suffered for the gospel? What sacrifices have we made for the Kingdom? We say we love Christ and His church, but we have not demonstrated any crucial trust in the Commission of Christ to the lost and dying world.

“Do not be deceived, we shall reap what we sow”

Examine yourself. Are you a Travel Agent or a Tour Guide?

So let's list characteristics of each to see which one describes us best!

Travel Agent
Tour Guide
-Works in an air conditioned office
-Sits in a padded chair
-Plans trips
-Hands you a brochure
-May motivate you to go, but may have never been
-Says, “Have a nice trip!”
-You won’t see after you pay
-Goes home at the end of each day

-The expert who is side by side in the field with you the entire trip
-Experiences exactly the same conditions as you
-Understands hazards & warns you of dangers ahead
-Plans for rest stops and facility breaks
-Takes time to explain and educate along the way
-Makes sure all equipment is available and fits well
Spends time with each member


There is a major difference between a travel agent and a tour guide.  This difference is seen best in white-water rafting. There are plenty of rafting outfitters from which to choose along a white-water river trail. A travel agent will mail you brochures. A travel agent will suggest a few rafting outfitters and a river to enjoy.

But a travel agent’s role ends there.

A travel agent spouts out intellectual information, hands you some brochures and smiles. A travel agent tells you to enjoy the journey.

“Nice to meet you. Enjoy the trip.”

A tour guide is different.

Along the Ocoee, in the Smoky Mountains, there is a great tour guide named Tripp. The name fits. He literally is a trip. Unlike the travel agent who hands you a brochure, he goes with you on the journey.

“Nice to meet you. Get in. Let’s go.”

Tripp knows the Ocoee. He knows each rapid intimately and talks about them with great energy.  “Double Suck. Moonshot. Flipper” Tripp enjoys each stage in the journey. It is fun to hear him share stories about the different parts of the river. You fall more in love with the river and the scenery because of him. You are inspired by his passion.

What makes Tripp a great tour guide is not his information. Even some of the local travel agents have the information. Tripp is great because of his love for the journey and because he takes you with him.

He takes you along the journey he has traveled. He does not instruct from a distance. He is with you. He is on the bus with you from the outfitter to the river. He is in the raft with you. And, if things do not go as planned, he is in the river with you.

Tripp has been where he is taking you. He is able to instruct because he is familiar with the journey. He speaks from a place of personal authority, and you listen. He is not perfect. His boat may tip over with you in it. But he is credible.

People need spiritual tour guides. They have had plenty of spiritual travel agents. Be a tour guide through the process of spiritual transformation in your church. Take people on a journey with you.

If you get in the boat, the ministry process will come alive. The ministry blueprint will make sense then. It will be clear.

Do we walk the walk with those who need The Light?

Examine yourself are you the Levi or the Good Samaritan?


A minister transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the church that he was to be introduced to as the “new preacher” at that morning service. He walked around the building in his tattered clothes for 30 minutes while everyone filed in for service....only 3 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy one in the building gave him change. He went into the auditorium to sit down in the front of the church and was told by the ushers he should sit in the back. He greeted people only to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks.

As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new preacher to the congregation........"We would like to introduce to you our new preacher"....The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation.....The homeless man sitting in the back stood up.....and started walking down the aisle.....the clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him....he walked up to the pulpit and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment....then he recited

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison, and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers, you did for me.'

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning...many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame.... he then said....Today I see a gathering of people......not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples...when will YOU decide to become disciples? He then dismissed service until next week.......Being a Christian is more than something you claim. It’s something you live by and share with others.

2 Timothy 2:15:  “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed.”

Ephesians 4:28B “...but rather labor for what is good, so that you will be able to share with those who are in need.

I think the American culture and our "pursuit of happiness" syndrome have made us forget why God has blessed us as a nation with wealth and privilege.  Why do we have jobs? So we can become the rich man, who built bigger storehouses and who ignored Lazarus? Or did God bless us with our jobs so that we can share with those in need?

Have we barricaded ourselves in the Basilica or have we "Gone Out!" for the purpose of Christ? Are we piled up or spreading out for Christ.

“Christians are like manure: Spread them out and they help everything grow better, but keep them in one big pile and they stink horribly” (Chan, Chapter 10)

Examine yourself, humble yourself, deny yourself, be refined in the fire and prove your willingness to trust in the Holy Spirit and the Gospel of Christ.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Lesson 14: Who Really Worships "that" Way?

7 Issues Discussed Here from the internal workings of my limited mind with respect to Interpretation of Scripture

Some thoughts on recent terms used in "Contemporary Worship". Things included here are:

  • a view of interpretation
  • a view of musical instruments used in the assembly. This has nothing to do with my preference.
  • a view of tradition and liturgy
  • a view of expression and interactivity in the assembly
  • and other "cans of worms".....

Does it open a can of worms when beginning the topic of worship in the post-modern world? Well, yes, to some that is exactly what it appears to do. The tendency may then be to keep our traditions as they are and not attempt to change anything. Why are there so many ideas about how worship should be conducted and why do they seem to conflict with each other? 

Many would put evil ulterior motives behind the recent changes and different perspectives when in truth this may not be the case. We have so much more available to us today than we did 50 years ago. We have murals of early Christian worshipers standing and raising their hands in worship. We have translations of writings near to the time of Christ. 

We have unearthed houses of 1st  Century worship and we have great online lexicons that help us better understand the meanings of terms used in Scripture. We have more accurate contemporary understanding of issues faced during the writing of the original manuscripts and a deeper and broader understanding of the historical envelope wrapped around most of the New Testament writings.


In the world of information and access to instantaneous research materials, there are almost as many ideas floating around as there are people on the planet. We have never before had so much information and misinformation available to us at our finger tips. This is both a blessing and a cursing. The blessing is that there is hardly any excuse to not knowing God’s Word, His Vision for mankind, and His love for all of creation. The curse involves the author of chaos and confusion, the Devil has also taken advantage of the flood of information to turn “itching ears” in the wrong direction. Anyone, including false teachers, can publish their thoughts and gain an audience in today’s world.

In two clicks you can find a passage that will support whatever idea or thought you would like to support using Scripture. I heard a speaker say recently, “The Bible is like a human being, if you torture it enough, you can get it to say just about anything.”


The first rule of interpretation is to LOVE the Lord your God with all your HEART, MIND, SOUL, and STRENGTH. A lover of God who is filled with The Spirit is allowed to partake in the wisdom and understanding that illuminates the heart and mind (Eph 1)  And the Second rule of Interpretation is to LOVE others as yourself. These two premises must be well ingrained in our being, otherwise we will look to Scripture to please ourselves and our interpretations will be corrupt and divisive. 

No matter how off base some folks are, there are some very other good rules for gleaning truth from Scripture and the resources available to us today. 

Rules of context - knowing how to interpret Scripture include:
• When was it written? What was happening in the world? What was the historical envelope around which the book or letter was written?
• Who wrote it? What was the background of the writer? From what perspective did he write?
• For what purpose? Was there conflict? Sinning? A specific need?
• To whom? Who was the intended reader? What were their issues or beliefs? Why were they being addressed?
• What can I apply this letter or book to my life today?

An example of using these rules can be easily seen in this passage. (Ezekiel 4)

9 “But as for you, take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spelt, put them in one vessel and make them into bread for yourself; you shall eat it according to the number of the days that you lie on your side, three hundred and ninety days. 10 Your food which you eat shall be twenty shekels a day by weight; you shall eat it from time to time. 11 The water you drink shall be the sixth part of a hin by measure; you shall drink it from time to time. 12 You shall eat it as a barley cake, having baked it in their sight over human dung.”

Does this passage apply to us? Why was it written? To whom? For what purpose? What can I apply to my life? Taking passages out of context can become a very dangerous habit! Reading the entire book or letter will give you the answers to the contextual questions.

Rules of interpretation (hermeneutics):

(1) Christ-Centered Approach: Mimicked the exact strategies that Christ and the Apostles used to interpret Scripture would certainly not be incorrect. So if we use the same hermeneutics as they did, we should approach the truth they were trying to convey. For instance, a popular way of interpreting Scripture, especially in recently years, has been to look at Scripture using a Christ-centered approach. Seeing the revelation of Christ in Scripture follows the teachings of Paul in Galatians 3:24 “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” If the Old Testament was a tutor to bring us a deeper faith in Christ, then we should strive to see The Christ in its pages.

Even Christ confirmed this as a proper way to interpret Scripture, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.” (John 5:39) Jesus was speaking specifically of the Old Testament when he gave this lesson on interpretation (as the New Testament had not yet been written). Again in Ephesians 1:10, Paul states that “the summing up of all things [are] in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth”

(2) Dispensational Interpretation and Chronological Interpretations are also exemplified in Scripture. Using both the chronological and covenant views of God’s Word,  we see that biblical writers did make distinctions between the testaments and the historical envelop surrounding the time and events to assist in interpretation of Scripture. (Acts 14:16, 17:30-31; Romans 15:4; Eph 1:10, 3:2-3; 2 Tim 3:1)

Others have used some nefarious rules of interpretation to unwisely promote allegories, humanistic moral applications and social/political philosophies, secret metaphysical knowledge or codes, to “prove” the existence of a “rapture”, of a human throne upon which Christ will sit someday, prophecies about one-world religion or to predict the end of time, or the existence of a North American lost tribe of Israel. 

Although there are many other ways to look at Scripture some with value and some misleading, let it be said that seeking a deeper faith in Christ through the Scriptures most likely will not lead to misinterpreting the original intention of God.


What do we know about New Testament (and Old Testament) worship and what should we  glean from God’s original intent for the "called out" in their practices and pursuit of holiness? In order to see how God desires us to worship Him, we must make sure of several things:

1. It’s not about us, it’s about Christ. We must have a Christ-center view of Worship moment by moment throughout our day. In the assembly, He would have us remember His sacrifice and then mentor, encourage, and love those who attend and seek those who don’t. Christ-centered worship and communion, NEVER ENDS. It has no beginning and it has no end. We don't worship Him and then just stop. We don't commune with Him and then just stop.  

2. We must have a dispensational view (chronological view) of worship practices. We must understand the historical context of Worship. We no longer sacrifice animals because Christ fulfilled that practice.

The truth about worship is that it must take place in our lives all throughout the day and all through the week so that when we come together in assembly, we are prepared to share our best with the One who loves us best (Heb 13:15; 1 Thess 5:14-19; Romans 12:1-2; James 1:25-27; 1 Cor 15:31.) We are prepared to love our brethren and encourage them. 

Preparing our hearts to take the Lord’s Supper “in a worthy manner” does not involve only the 30 second contemplation of the cross just before the cup and bread are passed to us, it MUST involve a 24/7 examination of our lives and dedication of our whole self to the cross of Christ (Luke 9:23). 

We, then, come together to experience sacrificial praise, prayers of agreement, and “one another” fellowship with our brethren before our Lord and God (Rom 15, Gal 6:2, Eph 4:2, 32; 5:19-21; Col 3:16; 1 Thess 4:18, 5:11; Heb 3:13; 10:24-25.) to spur one another on to fulfilling our calling in Christ.

TRADITIONS between the TESTAMENTS (Luke 4:16)

Jesus and the disciples attended synagogue worship “as was [their] custom” or tradition. Did you know that nowhere in God’s Word is there ANY command or direction from God for synagogue structure, guidelines, worship, or any command from God to have such an “animal”? It was purely a tradition of man formulated between the Testaments. Yet Christ participated.  Some of the feasts were purely traditions of men. The feast of Lights is one of these, but yet, Christ participated.

We will note that during the time of Christ's walk on earth, there were no musical instruments, except for, as some Rabbi’s have informed us, a ram's horn (shofar) being blown during several religious ceremonies. Again, this was more of a tradition of man, than a directive from God.

Having or not having harps or bells or lyres or horns was not directed by God, it was the choice of men. Nowhere did God command worship to take place without musical instruments. (Some might point to the book of Amos, but this reference has more to do with attitude and heart-condition than with musical instruments.)

As you may also know, the word, “psalm” in the Greek is “psalmos” which means to pluck strings, like a harp. As the psalms were brought into the Christian worship and approved of by Christ and the Apostles, some see this as approval for musical instruments.

Others see the directive to “speak to yourselves in psalms...” translated to mean, we are only allowed to "speak" the psalms. But we have been singing the psalms since the first century. Sill others, who look at the Greek text see the word "yourselves" as meaning you do this when you are alone. “Alone” is actually part of the preferred translation of this phrase. What follows in this same passage is another one of the “continuous” commands: “Giving thanks ALWAYS for all things unto God” which takes these passages beyond of the realm of corporate assembly worship and into the realm of continuous daily personal worship. Either way, whether you are given permission to pluck strings in assembly or to continuously give thanks outside of assembly, these passages are very often used in a manner to forbid instruments within assembly. Perhaps an unintentional result of poor interpretation.

Others will point to New Testament practices which continued to carry on the contemporary Jewish traditions of the time. We are without a doubt to sing and make melody in our hearts because we are to have a heart-felt relationship with our Lord. Singing stoically, stiltedly, unemotionally, without the heart, would be a trespass against this command.

What happened between the writing of the Psalms (with all those instruments) and the Jews returning to Jerusalem from captivity? Had God given some command to remove the instruments from worship? According to some rabbinical writings, the Jews refrained from using instruments upon their return from Babylon as a result of seeing them used in pagan worship. They came back to Jerusalem determined not to reflect the pagan worship they had seen there. They remembered WHY God had sent them into captivity in the first place--because of their pagan worship practices (Ezekiel 6:9)

Seven Important Things to Glean Here:

1. There has never been a command from God for the non-use of musical instruments in worship. The decision to remove musical instruments originated from man. Is it OK to continue this tradition? Well, of course. We see the apostolic fathers continue many of the Jewish traditions after the establishment of the Kingdom. Do we condemn those who choose otherwise? That is not our place. Consider David using instruments and the angels in Heaven using instruments to praise God. Is it OK for us to choose them in worship? Well consider item 2.

2. The existence of “synagogue” and synagogue worship, synagogue officials/rulers/chiefs are purely an invention of man. The synagogues arose between the times of the Testaments. They were vehicles for both good and evil (Luke 4:44, Luke 21:12). The term, “synagogue” in the New Testament, is often preceded by the word “their”. In other words, “their synagogues” as opposed to God’s synagogue. There was never a command from God on the guidelines or use of synagogue worship, yet Jesus participated in it and never spoke against this aspect of Jewish life, except when it became a vehicle for persecution of saints (take heed!). Was it OK for Christ to worship in the tradition of the Jews? (Luke 4:16)

3. During the 1st Century, there was freedom in choosing celebrations and traditions of men as long as they did not contradict or get in the way of God’s mission or there had not been a direct command from God. The Apostles, after the death of Christ, still visited synagogue, made Jewish vows, and kept the feasts and hours of prayer, much of which were merely traditions of men.

4. When envisioning worship we would do best to revisit the New Testament in earnest. What is worship? How was it laid out during the initial years? We see that the saints met daily and fellowshipped daily. They dedicated themselves to learning, praying, serving, teaching, testifying, baptizing, and sharing daily. There have never been just the so called “5 acts of worship”. 

These very familiar 5-finger sermons were vehicles to teach illiterate pioneers. They were easy to memorize when Bibles were scarce. These 5-finger sermons should not confine us in this present information age. We know that God commanded our worship to take on more than just 5 acts. We know for instance that we are to come together and confess our sins one to another, to bare one another burdens, restore the weak, to testify to the power of God working in our lives, to stimulate one another to love and good works. Are these acts of worship? Romans 12 says that they are!

5. You will find that Jewish writers often described the “what” but rarely the “how" to do something. Arguments began with early Christian fathers on “how to” baptize someone. Should it be in running water (stream) or stagnant water? Should the person being baptized be completely naked or clothed? Should you require a believer to wait before being baptized and show some form of repentance first? The “how to” in MANY areas of religious thought became the crossroads for many splits and arguments among not only early Christians, but up unto this very day.


If God did not give the “how to”, then do we have freedom to determine the “how?” Ahhh, this is the crux of the matter! When do we have freedom and when are we bound? We have had some directives from men that often determined our practices. These guidelines usually sound something like this:

• Is it commanded?
• Is it exemplified?
• Is it expedient?

The problems arise in the latter two. Is it exemplified? Is it expedient? We like to pick and choose which examples we follow and which verses we translate for use with expediency. Do we call the elders to anoint us with oil? Do we sell our goods and have everything in common? Do we meet daily in fellowship? Allow women to pray, speak forth, become deaconesses (Acts 2:16-18; 21:9; 1 Cor 11:5; Romans 16:1-2)? Are our collections only sent to non-local works (1 Cor 16:1-3) as directed by Paul? Do we lift holy hands (1 Tim 2:8)?

The Devil wins EVERY argument for or against any modern consideration of worship UNLESS we humble ourselves and love one other while re-evaluating our sacrificial life and worship to God. Would I recommend splitting a congregation over my preferences for worship? If I did that, I would be DEVOID of the Spirit. (Jude 1:19 These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.)

Please be aware that there are pitfalls no matter which tradition or format (the “how to”) you decide to follow. The stoic, emotionless tradition of “decency and in order” (a phrase taken WAY out of context!) or the “contemporary” version, both have the potential of Satan entering into the hearts and minds of those who participate in either version.

A. Contemporary Worship Pitfalls: Two videos to demonstrate how worship of self and self preferences can become a stumbling block to exalting God.

• Sing of your love on Sunday
• Contemporary Worship

These are critiques of what might go wrong in worship for those who follow “modern” worship practices. The Devil works on all of us to pervert our ability to truly worship God. Sometime we think we have to have an emotional high to say we have truly worshiped. If you have felt that way, then you might want to contemplate this video.

B. Stoic, Post-Constantine Worship Pitfalls: God wants our whole self (heart, mind, soul, and energy) He would be jealous if we did not give Him everything. 4th Century worship practices resulted in an audience with pulpit performances. Have you ever judged a “service” by the talent of the preacher, the length of the sermon, the song leader’s ability, the pace of the songs, the number of stanzas being sung, the length of a prayer or the announcements? Have you ever wanted to raise your hands or fall on your knees, but refrained for fear of what others might think?

Have you ever wished you could ask a question, get some clarification, or make a comment? Have you ever wanted to share a personal issue or give a joyful testimony, but realized it might not be an acceptable thing to others in the service? Have you ever felt like part of an "audience".  If you answered, “yes” to any one of these, then you have experienced the pitfalls of a post-Constantine worship service.

Sing, Shout, Praise, Call out, Rejoice, Bow Down, Lift Hands, Kneel, or Falling on the Face are some of the ways believers exhibited their love and thanksgiving to God according to New Testament Scripture. (Don't see "stoic," emotionless characteristics in Scripture anywhere in reference to thanksgiving, praise or worship.) Along the same lines, it might be important to note that there are other ways to demonstrate how we worship and express our thankfulness. Scripture tells us that we show our thanksgiving to God by the way we choose to live our lives.

Thanksgiving is more than words, it is action. 2 Corinthians 9:10-11 & Colossians 4:2-6 tell us that testifying and sewing the seed of the Kingdom are glorious ways to give thanksgiving to God.

Up until the late 4th century, worship was not stoic, subdued, stilted, or quiet. The Reformation Movement also had much to do with how we view worship, not Scripture. This movement began much earlier than the Restoration Movement. Thomas Paine’s, “The Age of Reason; being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology” refuted the supernatural working of God in the lives of the faithful, exchanging miracles and supernatural for reason and mental assent. Formulating worship as merely involving the reason and mind.

Many other writers and reformers influenced how the Restoration fathers campaigned against involvement of the emotions during worship. They saw Christianity as logical with ethical behavior patterns and rules of reason (checklists)—to be completely comprehended with the mind with no external reaction or involvement of the Holy Spirit necessary. Today we would call this “intellectualism” which Jesus shunned. Jesus was looking for the heart in relationship, rejoicing, sincere prayerfulness, thankfulness, faithfulness (stepping out without sight) and fearless trust. You might be interested in reading through this short resource:

6. It was Constantine, a non-baptized ruler, in the 4th century who took worshippers out of small interactive worship practices in the home and placed them in repurposed large pagan temples (Basilicas) with a podium facing a non-interactive, passive audience. He dictated a hierarchy of “ordained” clergy (people who told believers what to think, do and how to do it), and the liturgy (order of worship, i.e. 2 songs and a prayer, Scripture reading, lesson, and sacraments). He dictated when to worship and how to worship. He prescribed that clergy would be responsible for sharing the gospel, baptizing a sinner, and taking confessions.

A “layperson” (regular, “non-ordained” person, who does not have the knowledge or abilities of an “ordained” professional), had the responsibility to show up, shut up, and to give up a portion of their means.

It was also Constantine who made “church” a place instead of a “calling”. In fact the word “church” never appears in translations of Scripture until after Constantine. Pre-Constantine translations used appropriate contextual terms for “ecclesia” or “called out” or “house hold of God” all of which infer to relationship and purpose, not a place.

Constantine’s regime took all responsibility of being “ON MISSION” for God, called out and being sent out, from the repertoire of ordinary Christians. As long as members were “good”, nice moral folk who obeyed laws and legal edicts, attended services, and didn’t cause any problems, they were assured eternal life….. And that is how the “legalistic checklists” began. Unfortunately, we have not been very successful in shaking this vision of “church”. Yes, if truth be told, we have successfully restored the 4th Century church of Constantine (c of C).

7. If you had been raised in isolation on a desert island with a New Testament and wanted to honor God by imitating His Vision for the First Century Church, you would never imagine the post-Constantine legacy. Instruments or no, have nothing to do with how we have forsaken our first love – LIVING the Commission of Christ!

The question now remains, “What should be done?” Seeing how Jesus accepted the synagogue model which eventually transitioned into Christian tradition, it doesn’t seem detrimental to our spiritual health to give some credence to traditions of men when not specified otherwise by God. But the Devil will win EVERY TIME if we argue over our traditions among ourselves, especially when we don’t realize that most of what we see as sacred is truly 4th Century tradition and not God-inspired commands.

My dad preached for 55 years and raised his hands as he prayed over a baptism in the tradition of the Hebrew priests who raised their hands in expectation of God’s blessings. He also knelt to pray when he led a public prayer. I recently read a church history which denoted when the men stopped kneeling in leading the public prayer. Apparently, this change in posture was significant enough to be mentioned. The historical account spoke of the early 1950’s when the first microphones were added to the pulpit. These were big clunky, stiff devices which were not easily moved and thus the men began to stand to lead public prayer. Do we even know when and why our traditions change or where they originated? We often use poor hermeneutics to justify why we do what we do. When, in fact, we are following traditions of men.

We have spent sooooooo much time and energy arguing over our (3 songs and a prayer) liturgy that God must be truly pained and disappointed (they will know you by your love for one another). We must remember that early Jewish writers were concerned more with the “what” then the “how”. We are told to partake of the Lord’s Supper but never told the logistics of that command (one cup, one loaf, songs between the cup and the loaf, etc) but rather the motive. Worshipping God in spirit and in truth has to do with the heart, not Constantine’s legacy.

NONE of the judgment scenes in the New Testament depict us being taken out of the Book of Life because of “how to” practices in our 1 hour assemblies. ALL of the judgment scenes in the New Testament deal with how we approach our God-given mission of serving Christ and others through daily sacrificial living.

You might not want to know my opinion on musical instruments in worship and I am fully aware that my opinion accounts for nothing at all. However, I thought you might like to know that I don’t really have an opinion. I have been in both kinds of worship formats and seen performance-oriented vanity in both, apathetic participation in both, and been uplifted and full of praise in both. Will I force my preference on you? Absolutely not! 

I’m sure of this one thing…God will not accept worship that is heartless. God will not accept worship that does not bring Him glory, honor, and praise. God will not accept worship that violates His initial vision for the Bride of Christ. God will not accept worship that is "separate and apart from our daily lives" and only expressed during 1 hour a week.

We are often influenced by a few prominent writers/preachers and out-spoken popular publications which try to define us as a fellowship in ways that God never intended. Our prayer should be as Christ followers, “that we are all one as He and the Father are One”. That we spend our time in His mission instead of fighting among ourselves over things that have nothing to do with God’s intended purpose for us.

 We have fought over the 1 hour a week more than we have striven to fulfill the purpose of our mission from God—seeking and saving those who are in darkness. We made it “the most important thing we do” which is nowhere noted, inferred, or intended in Scripture, therefore, such a statement is a false teaching. The assembly is important, but not for the reasons we have often heard. It is important to motivate us to love and good works – to get out there, to GO, to make the Will of God priority in our lives. It is our refueling station, remembering who we are and who our Lord is and what He has done and is doing for us. It is our rededication to our mission. Assembly worship is NOT our mission! We have cloistered ourselves in our Basilicas long enough instead of “GOING” and we think we are worshipping in spirit and in truth.

MY PRAYER: God help us to wake up to Your call and to get out of our post-Constantine stupor before You return and find that we have “lost our first love”, that we are “lukewarm”, self-indulgent, and have “little power” because we have been blinded by the kinds of tradition that truly do keep us from the Will of God. (Rev 2 & 3).

Other Resources:
• What Happens When the Church Copies the World
• You will need to order it from MRN
• The “Shallow Small Group”