Generational Warfare

A harmful battle is being waged in many churches today that is violently destructive to our present situation, as well as disruptive to our future effectiveness.  I address the generational front of the war on worship.  It is the battle that pits the senior saint against the millennial “Jesus follower.”  It is the conflict that unnecessarily partitions the local body into age-divided worship styles and preferences.  Its stated goal is to overwhelm the orthodox system with a series of new ideas, emergent principles, and music that resembles the bar stool more than the piano bench.

Within the last week we were made aware of a local church heart-deep in the middle of this said conflict.  The church of which I speak used to be independent Baptist but was moved to a non-denominational identity.   Their music has been drifting liberal for many years.  The organ is gone, and the piano has been sold.  Their replacements are a series of electric guitars.  The emphasis is changing from the choir to the praise team.  Why would a once-dynamic ministry be in such transition?

The assistant pastor reported, “We looked across the congregation one day and saw too many senior citizens.”  In other words, “We took a census of our ministry and decided to get younger.  Sure, we understand that we will lose many seniors, and we are okay with that.  We are moving younger, and if you do not like it, leave.”  That is the prevailing spirit!

Consider another conversation this author had in which he was told by a millennial that the seniors in her church were so obstinate, stubborn, and resolute against change.  She said, “It’s just their way or the highway!  Compromise won’t work!  We tried to have blended services, and they still complain!  It is the new way or the highway!  If they don’t like it, they just need to leave!”  Sadly, the old church downtown was just torn down!  The generation that paid the price lost the farm!

It it saddening that this generational war has been waged in the first place.  Consider seven reasons as to why the battle is unnecessary, unbiblical, impractical, and ominous to the future spirituality of our local churches.

1- If the local church is a family it will have people of all ages

The local, New Testament church is a family…a family of faith!  In every healthy assembly there are people from all walks of life.  Only in Christ do rich and poor, educated and uneducated, and young and old seamlessly blend into a family for the glory of God!   That is the great message of the cross!  It does not matter who you are, where you are from, or what you have.  The unifying truth is this:  have you been washed in the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Healthy families have a diversity of ages, too.  There are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins!  It would make for terrible family life is everyone was young!  In like fashion it would be tragic if everyone were old!  Our family is diverse!

We need new blood as to encourage the elderly about the future, yet we need the maturity which often resides in the aged.  If your local church is a healthy family, it will have people of all ages!

2- Catering to only one generation is not found in the Bible

Each generation has responsibilities, but the purpose of starting churches and winning souls is not to cater to only one age group.  Jesus Christ Himself said, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)

How can you look at an entire age-bracket within your own nation and not be moved with compassion on them!  How can you as an emergent church leader say within your heart, “We are not interested in you for your age!  We want the young!”

The needs of the elderly ought to move us to compassion. They are nearer eternity than many of the young!  Additionally, the needs of the young ought to move us to compassion!  They have been fed a toxic soup of humanism from birth!  They are told that they evolved from the natural world and have been force-fed an atheistic approach to life and eternity!  They need Jesus, too!

May we seek to reach all people for the glory of God!

3- Church is timeless, not of the times

Our music connects us to our sacred heritage and gives us an identity to the ages past.  In an ever-evolving world, people need something permanent.  Believers need to be tethered to the holy heritage of God’s family!  We are not a modern experiment!  Our Bible is not the latest best-seller!  Our body of doctrine is not a cultic constitution, adrift through time!  When the local, New Testament church gets together on a Sunday, they connect powerfully to the works of our God in the past and His precious prophecies yet to unfold!

4- Generational Warfare is a Dangerous and Faulty Assumption

It is the assumption that all young people want contemporary music and that all senior citizens want their music old-fashioned.  That simply is not true!

I have encountered numerous young families who seek to rear their children in a church that still uses sacred, heritage music.   I have also interviewed numerous young families who have left contemporary churches due to the lack of spiritual depth and worldliness they have discovered in modern churches.  Let us not assume all young families want progressive music!

Let us also not assume that all senior citizens like it sacred.  Using only my pastoral experience as an example, I have had more elderly prospects leave our church over music than younger families.  It is silly to lump generations together!

5- Generational Warfare is a Diabolical Lie and Distraction

You can still build a church on conservative, sacred music!  You do not have to compromise to be used of God!  Hymns filled with the Spirit still work!  Sacred gospel songs still work!  Choirs still work!  Pianos and organs still work!  Congregational song leading done in the Holy Spirit power still works!

You will even find that to many millennials, congregational singing, hymns, and choirs are intriguing because to them they are new!  They have had their fill of two-bit praise bands!  They have been exposed to the sensuality of the stage singer in the modern church!  Their lives are filled with entertainment!  Many are looking for something real!

There is also the lie that you will be successful if you compromise.  Wrong!  If attendance numbers, buildings, and cash be the criteria of success, which are not (see Joshua 1:8), there is no guarantee that compromise will guarantee any of those things!  Satan is still a liar!

6- Church is Not All About the Music Anyway

The true business of the church is the Great Commission and the keeping of the ordinances.  Music is preparatory to those ends.  When we forsake our entire purpose to condone the presence of new music and methodologies, our true purpose fails and our perspective is faulty.

7- Dishonesty

If you incorporate some traditional music in order to appease the older crowd you identify exactly where your heart is— the offering plate!  How many churches do you know that use only as much conservatism as is necessary to financially fund the change to liberalism?

It is dishonest for a missionary or church planter to be conservative while he needs other churches money to build his work, only to change to contemporary music and emergent principles once their resources are no longer needed!

It is dishonest for a pastor to serve the Living Water out of two fountains— the sacred and the one borrowed from the world!

It is dishonest for church leaders to misrepresent their worship intentions when interviewing for positions of leadership, while having a new direction in mind before employment.

It is intellectually, spiritually, and biblically dishonest to have a traditional, contemporary, rock, and blended schedule of services on any given Sunday.  If you are a liberal, at least be a consistent one!  If you are conservative, do not flirt with the world!  How pedestrian and mercenary is it to provide just enough of one music style with the sole motive of mammon in mind!

Every real pastor carries the burdens of each segment of his congregation.  He is as interested in the nursery care as he is the hospice care!  May you and I never seek to build a church that caters to young or old alike.  May we truly care for all of those souls for which our blessed Savior died!  Selah!

It’s Time for Us to Pray

lanphier copy

Joseph Lanphier

At the noon hour on the twenty-third day of September, 1857 Jeremiah Lanphier sat alone in a room on the third floor of the Old Dutch North Church on Fulton Street in New York City.  Hired by the church for the work of visitation, he had spent the last three months in nothing but slow and fruitless visitation.

The bustle of the city’s streets, however, gave him a thought: what if the businessmen of the city would enjoy a short time of prayer at noon?

Lanphier, then, calmly waited.  Noon…ten after…now twenty… finally, at 12:30 six footsteps could be heard climbing the stairs to Lanphier’s Mt. Carmel.

The second week he welcomed twenty; then, the financial collapse of 1857 hit.  Within weeks, Lanphier was welcoming lawyers, bankers, porters and mechanics to the tune of 3,000 in number.  Revival had sprung from the wells of prayer!

The revival went worldwide.  From Philadelphia, Chicago, Pittsburgh to the British Isles, spiritual awakening had spread through prayer.  Charles Finney remarked, “People very extensively seemed to prefer meeting for prayer to meeting for preaching. The general impression seemed to be, ‘We have had instruction until we are hardened; it is time for us to pray’.”

The Bible says of the early church, When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).

We, too, need a moving of God in our day.  It is time for us to pray!

Pain

ts1471a_web.jpgI remember the first time I saw the t-shirt.  He stood about 6’6″ with a chiseled chest, telephone poll arms, tree trunk legs, and a v-shaped torso.  He was a Marine.  “The shirt inscription,” you ask?   It said, “Pain is weakness leaving my body!”  As I stood there and looked at him, all I could think about was the pain leaving my body if I ever angered him!  I could not even begin to imagine the pains of military service and purposeful work-outs he had endured to become such a physical specimen.

The second quote I remember just as well.  It came from Dr. Lee Roberson.  Dr. Roberson served as the pastor of the Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for “forty years and six months.”  During that time, he endured the loss of his daughter, Joy, and many others trials.  He commonly said, “Trouble borne in the spirit of Jesus Christ produces greatness in the life of the believer.”

Pain is undoubtedly a pivot-point in our lives.  Because of it, we either flee to Christ or flee from the Lord Jesus.  Pain, channeled in a Christ-like spirit, can drive out spiritual weakness in us.

The Apostle Paul self-described himself as suffering the “loss of all things.”  He endured much pain.  On one particular instance, he was given an unidentified thorn in his flesh.  He called it, “the minister of Satan to buffet me.”  It was a pain from which he sought to be freed, but upon three seasons of prayer the pain endured.  Then, we read the voice of Jesus speaking to him,  My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (II Corinthians 12:9-10).

Paul came to realize that pain borne in the spirit of Christ produced greatness in him.  There was a strength that made him weak (the arm of flesh), and a weakness that made him strong (the power of Christ in us).

We may not wear the t-shirt around, but God can enable us to so endure our spiritual and physical pains that others will observe that we have been in the spiritual weight-room with God, strengthened with might in the inner man.   Selah!

I cracked!

Mud_cracksWhat can I say?  No excuses.  No context.  No explanation.  No kidding.  I cracked!

To be clear, it was the mountain air.  Spending a few days in that climate affected me.  My sinuses were clogged, and my breathing was labored.  Singing, “Hold me fast!  Let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,” I was holding on for dear life!  I had gotten through “How Great Thou Art” and “The Lifeboat.”  I knew I did not have full control of my voice as I normally do, but the disaster had yet to happen.  Needing water and a rest, my voice went on vacation all by itself!

It was more like a “break in the action” rather than a full blowout.  Opening my mouth, nothing came out!  Continue reading

I and the Lad will Go Yonder & WORSHIP

Matthias_Stom_-_Le_sacrifice_d'AbrahamAnd it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.  And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.  And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.  Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.  And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.”    [emphasis added, Genesis 22:1-4]

IF Abraham’s words regarding worship do no harmonize with our ideas regarding worship, Abraham does not need to change: we do.  This first mention of worship in our Bibles could go a long way in defining for you and me exactly what it means to adore and reverence our Lord.

Worship is indeed in the melting pot today.  Yet, while believers splinter and divide, our Lord is not divided and His Word cannot be broken.  ’Tis always best to agree with God!  Genesis chapter twenty-two is not only the locus classicus regarding the gospel but the classic passage describing the basic tenets of worship as well.

One great commentator stated it this way, “Worship is the believer’s response of all that they are – mind, emotions, will, body – to what God is and says and does.”  In other words, worship is “all that I am focused on all that He is.”  Worship is not the sum-total of public or private prayer + public or private Scripture reading + giving + public or private praise.  Rather, worship equals all of me given to all I know and love about my God.

That is the story of Abraham and Isaac!

The Apostle Paul stated in First Thessalonians chapter five and verse twenty-three,  And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us observe how Abraham focused all that he was on all that he knew about the Lord and achieved an act of worship regarding the offering of his son.

Abraham worshipped the Lord in spirit

This very act of worship was something the Lord dictated to Abraham as he communed with God.  The Bible says in verse two, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah: and offer him there for a burnt offering.  In other words God revealed this truth to Abraham.

We are not naive regarding the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the New Testament believer, and this article is not given to argue upon or defend the dispensational aspects of Spirit fulness.  However, Paul did say regarding you and me, For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit. (Phil. 3:3).  Through faith in Christ’s atoning blood, our spirit has been quickened by God’s Spirit.  In that way the Lord speaks to us.  We are able to receive the things freely given to us of God.

By virtue of Abraham’s receptive heart, which has led him all the way from Haran, he hears the voice of God and responds in worship to Him.  Also, benefiting from that communion with God, he also hears God’s word to stay his hands in not slaying his son (22:10-12).  It pays to be in tune with God!

As Abraham approached the mountain, he brought a willing spirit of worship.

The Bible says that he brought the entirety of his soul

That trinity of ingredients, including intellect, emotion, and will were brought without reservation.

His mind contemplated for three days the sacrifice of his son (22:4) and by faith his mind clave to the promises of the Gospel (22:5, Galatians 3:8) as he firmly states, I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you!  What resolve!

His emotions, too, were offered in worship.  God said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest.  Maybe for us, it is not the sacrifice of his son that lays so heavily upon our hearts but rather the great love that he had for that only begotten son of promise.  With great emotion Abraham walked through the valley of decision up the mount of Moriah.  Take emotions away, and you cannot offer biblical worship to God.

Finally, Abraham’s volition yielded.  Willingly, he left Beersheba and his servants before the mount.  The Scripture says in verse eight, So they went both of them together.  He had decided to follow Jesus: no turning back!

Abraham’s body partook in the act of worship

The Scripture says, Offer him there for a burnt offering (2).  Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off (4).  Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand; and a knife; and they went both of them together (6).  And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood (9).  These are the physical acts of Abraham.  He worshipped with his hands, his eyes, his feet, and with his ears.  If Isaac be the dying sacrifice, a beautiful picture of Christ, Abraham is the living sacrifice, consecrating all of his physical body to the Lord.

Abraham brought all that he was and all that he had.  He brought his precious son, the promised one.  He spared not his only son in an act of inconceivable worship to God.  What greater proof could he have for his son that God is preeminent than his willingness to sacrifice his greatest earthly possession for the King of Heaven who had prospered his faith every step along the way!

Chapter fourteen and verse twenty says, And he gave him tithes of all, but now, simply this: He gave him…ALL!  He brought all that he was, and he focuses on all that God is.

Abraham and Isaac served in miniature as a picture of that which our Lord Jesus Christ and His Father fulfilled perfectly for us.  Abraham looked beyond this trial and saw God who is worthy.

He saw God as GUIDER

’Tis grace had brought him safe thus far, and grace would lead him home.  Alexander Maclaren said, “The conflict in Abraham’s soul had a still more painful aspect in that it seemed to rend his very religion into two. Faith in the promise on which he had been living all his life drew one way; faith in the later command, another. God seemed to be against God, faith against faith, promise against command. If he obeys now, what is to become of the hopes that had shone for years before him?”

Never a man so graciously sang,

Jesus led me all the way,

Led me step by step each day;

I will tell the saints and angels as I lay my burdens down,

“Jesus led me all the way.

He saw God as the PROVIDER and ARBITER

Faith looked beyond the trial and saw the triumph in the Lamb to come (John 1:29).  God had thus provided for Abraham and would provide again!  He shouts, “Jehovah-Jireh!”  Not, “God DID provide” but “God WILL provide” at Calvary.  Inherent in Abraham’s plea for mediation and substitution was not just the ram caught in the thicket but the Lamb who took on flesh!  Thanks be to God, two thousands years later in the land of Moriah, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world was carried by His Father to the top of Moriah’s hills!  Yet, this time, the Father’s hand would not stay.  The blows of the Father’s holy justice would meet on the suffering shoulders of the Son, but rejoice!  The Father hath given His Son!  Hallelujah!

He saw God as the MULTIPLIER

God did not just add to or multiply Abraham’s blessings.  The Scripture says, In blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed (22:17)!  He was no fool to give what he could not keep to gain what he could not lose!

You see, the very first described worship service in the Bible involved a man, the entire man, focused on his great God.  Have you and the lad learned yet to worship?  Selah!

10 Hindrances to Answered Prayer

maxresdefaultJohn R. Rice simplified prayer by saying, “Prayer is about two things: asking and receiving.”  There is power in prayer!  Prayer works!  You and I are the products of prayers prayed by us and for us.  “Does God do anything that is not in answer to prayer?”

There are, however, hindrances to asking and receiving.  If the arteries of answers are not flowing, consider ten blockages that might be at work in our hearts and lives.

1  Praying without knowing Jesus Christ through faith as your Savior  

If a man is unsaved, he has not taken Christ and his mediator (I Tim. 2:5, John 14:6).

Romans 5:2 says, By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

2  Praying with an unrepentant heart

The Psalmist said, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”  Be right with God and let your family take refuge in your relationship with God.   (Psalm 66:18)

3  Praying for show

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (Matthew 6:5)

4  Praying repetitive, empty words

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.  (Matthew 6:6-7)

5  Prayers not prayed

Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.  (John 16:24)

6  Praying with a lustful heart

God is not fooled by prayers that are more about how we can fulfill our sinful or selfish desires than how we can honor Him and fulfill His purposes.

Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.  (James 4:3)

7  Praying while mistreating your spouse

Someone said, “If you won’t listen to your spouse, then God will not listen to you.”

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.  (I Peter 3:7)

8  Praying while ignoring the poor

If we do not cultivate a generous and compassionate heart, we become spiritually impoverished and the Lord ignores us.

Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.  (Proverbs 21:13)

9  Praying with bitterness toward another

Unforgiveness expresses a resistant heart in which God has not been allowed to work.

And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.  (Mark 11:25-26)

10  Praying with a faithless heart

If we don’t really believe He can, then He won’t!

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.  (James 1:6-8)

Our families and our country need our prayers.  May we not be hindered today as we approach the Father’s throne.  Selah!

Family Dynamics

o-CHEMISTRY-EXPERIMENT-facebookI failed high school chemistry.  Okay, I almost failed high school chemistry.  Having done enough to pass it and kiss it goodbye, I have succeeded in my adult life without the truths I gained or lost in that class.  Let’s go with, “It was the teacher’s fault; he was boring!”

Truthfully, many of us may not have succeeded at scholastic chemistry, but the consequences of failing the chemistry of family life can be fatal.

Over the last two summers, our eldest daughter has had the privilege to spend elongated times with family members who live out of our area.  Accordingly, one of our nephews has filled the gap left in Phebe’s absence.  Our nephew is a fine, young man who is the same age as our son.  However, living eleven months of the year with four of our own children, including three daughters, the presence of two nine year old boys in the house creates a different dynamic in our home.

This, of course, is not the first time we have experienced dynamic changes in our family.  As our children change at different intervals and in different ways, our home is always in flux.  My wife and I do not mind it, but we have to be prepared for it.

Recently, I have been preaching through the family section of the book of Genesis.  Beginning in chapter twelve, we are introduced to Abram and his wife, Sarai.  They are childless seekers of Jehovah.  As the story develops, Sarai offers her handmaid, Hagar, to lie with Abram in order to raise up seed to him.  The birth of Ishmael creates a new and unwelcomed dynamic into the home.  Years later Isaac is born and when the son of promise is weaned, the dynamics of Ishmael and Isaac vying for prominence becomes a teaming cauldron of explosiveness.

As your family and mine endures these changes, may the Lord help us to enjoy all of them.  Consider a few tips that might help your family in your next dynamic shift:

  1. Keep the Lord at the center of your home

    Our relationship with the Lord is the glue that must hold our family together.  In consideration of all the changes that life may bring, do not allow those things to change your love for the Lord, time in His Word, or faithfulness to His house.  How can we expect God to bless our family if our spiritual lives are a mess?

  2. Love one another

    True love is not conditional.  As God’s Word says, Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.  The love of the husband for his wife, the love of the wife for her husband, or the love of the parent for the child, must be constant and unchanging.  If our “love” does not remain constant through life’s changes, it is not an indictment regarding the changes happening in our loved one.  Rather, it is indictment on the unfaithfulness of our heart.

  3. Communicate

    When my wife or myself feels those dynamics change, it is time to talk things out.  Those three daughters that I have will experience changes that I, obviously, as a man cannot understand.  I need my wife to help me understand how they are feeling and how I can help them.  Without proper communication, those changes can explode if overlooked.

    Also, we want to foster open lines of communication with our children.  We want them to be able to come to us with any problem, because a world of ungodly and unbiblical advice lies at their fingertips via google. Our children need to know our hearts!

  4. Be ready to call an audible

    When how we are leading is not working or the changes we face demand a new focus or direction, we must be sensitive to the Lord in calling an audible.

    Abraham and Sarai got into this mess when he listened to Sarai and not the Lord.  He laid with Hagar against God’s wisdom.  Now Isaac is in the home and Ishmael, a teenager, is mocking the “baby of the family.”  Sarah comes unglued!  For the second time, she says to her husband, “They have to go!”  Abraham thinks to himself, “Sure!  I’m going to listen to you!!!  You got us in this mess and your advice is not going to get us out!”  But the Lord appears to Him and in essence says, “Hearken to your wife, Abraham.  She’s right this time.  Call an audible!”  He did, and his family succeeded.

If your family is changing before your eyes today, keep the Lord preeminent, love one another, communicate, and be ready to call an audible.  It might just save your family and mine from a real crisis.

Selah!