Heaven on earth

“Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.” (N.T. Wright – Surprised by Hope)

As Christians look forward to heaven, let us not give up on earth! We have our kids to think about, and their kids, and their kids…

Wright also says, “The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth…”

Let us engage our culture – not turn our backs on it. Let’s be a light on a hill – not hidden.

Who you gonna call?

“The world can no longer be left to mere diplomats, politicians, and business leaders. They have done the best they could, no doubt. But this is an age for spiritual heroes- a time for men and women to be heroic in their faith and in spiritual character and power. The greatest danger to the Christian church today is that of pitching its message too low.”
― Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines : Understanding How God Changes Lives

A timely challenge for all Christians. The world and the world system can only be fixed by the wisdom of God. Who is going to spread the healing light of Christ into the world if not Christians?

Are you a reservoir?

“If then you are wise, you will show yourself rather as a reservoir than as a canal. A canal spreads abroad water as it receives it, but a reservoir waits until it is filled before overflowing, and thus without loss to itself it shares its superabundant water.” (Bernard of Clairvaux)

Are you taking care of your self? Is your tank full? Physically, mentally, spiritually?

In a passenger airplane, if oxygen masks are needed, you are instructed to put your mask on first. You can‘t help those around you if you are weak. Make sure you are strong. Then you can help others.

CEO, Mom, Pastor, Friend, Dad, Husband, Wife, Deacon, Soldier – the best way to serve others is to make sure you take care of yourself. From this wellspring will abundant waters flow issuing forth sustained nourishment.

Imprisoned Spirit?

“So, it becomes the devil’s business to keep the Christian’s spirit imprisoned. He knows that the believing and justified Christian has been raised up out of the grave of his sins and trespasses. From that point on, Satan works that much harder to keep us bound and gagged, actually imprisoned in our own grave clothes. He knows that if we continue in this kind of bondage…we are not much better off than when we were spiritually dead.” (A.W. Tozer)

The Dating Game

Ok, let me offend tons of people with this post. Not that I want to, I just know this topic will.

Dating – what is it for? You have to ask the why question before you can make good decisions on the how and when.

Our Middle School Ministry leaders asked Kristin (my lovely bride) and I to come in and teach on how to think about dating to 5th and 6th graders. Yes, that’s right – 5th and 6th graders. Dating seems to increasingly be more and more of a social issue among our teens and preteens at younger and younger ages. It is a huge problem, more so than most adults realize. It is even contributing to suicide and attempted suicide among our young ones. At that age, kids should not have to deal with the stress of boy/girl relationships! But they are…because they think having a boyfriend or girlfriend is the cool thing to do and they are being condition by society (TV, books, movies, friends, sometimes even parents) to see it as normal and even good. Well, it’s not. It’s not good at all. What 6th grader is mature enough to understand relationships and consequences and emotions and love?…and I could go on and on.

Ok, so back to the why question. Assuming that you agree with the biblical teaching of intimacy only within the marriage relationship (I know, many people including Christians, do not abide by that teaching), then the purpose of dating would logically only be for finding your future mate. I could go into more details about supporting that principle, but I think most Christians actually know it is a biblical teaching, they just choose to ignore it, right? So, someone might say, “holding hands and kissing are ok…” Well, is it really? If you are human, you know that doing such things as holding hands and kissing put teens in a position of great temptation where they are constantly battling or resisting the next step – if they resist at all!

As part of our teaching lesson with the middle school group, the leader showed a video of a scenario where they put kids in a room at a table and placed a marshmallow on a plate in front of them and then left the room. Then they were told not to eat the marshmallow until the adult came back. It was hilarious watching the kids struggle with the temptation to eat that marshmallow! That’s what we do with our kids and relationships. “Ok, kids, it’s fine to date and hold hands and kiss, but don’t do anything else…” Yea, right!

If dating is for the purpose of finding the person whom you might one day marry, then it would only take place when you get to the level of maturity in your life when you know what to look for and are actually in the market for a spouse! Now, we could debate when that might be, but I am sure all of us can agree that a young teen does not meet that criteria! I want to encourage everyone, including parents, to get on board with being more outspoken on this topic. Our kids are hurting over this issue and we need to address it. Tell them they don’t need to date or do the boyfriend/girlfriend thing and teach them why! Even the school system promotes all this boyfriend/girlfriend stuff in several ways, such as sponsoring dances and dates, etc. No one is stopping to think about the consequences and ramifications!

One more thing – all this also applies to grown adults. Say, what? Really? Yes, really. Adults may have the maturity to date (some not so much), but you still have to ask the why question. Why are you dating? I can’t think of any Biblical reasons why someone might date other than to find a mate. If you have other goals in mind, then you are straying outside of a biblical lifestyle. And, all the same temptations apply. Remember, that person is not your mate until you say, “I do”. So, all that holding hands, kissing, hugging, etc. create a lot of tension that will only lead to more and more – you know what I mean.

I know this is not the popular viewpoint, but I believe it is the only biblical viewpoint and to the extent everyone ignores it we as a society suffer. Be willing to be different – as a teen, as an adult, and as a teacher/parent. This world needs people to take a stand. I mean, look around. Status quo is not working.

 

That’s Heresy!!!

What is Heresy and why does it matter?

We live in a pluralistic society that is tending toward influencing Christianity to be diluted in various ways. We are seeing a watered down doctrine that seems eager to please and not eager to offend. Within Christianity we see diverging views on issues of doctrine and morality. Issues like this have been around since the beginning of the Church, but there seems to be a surge in accommodation to the world and the Church needs to examine itself lest it continue to fall deeper and deeper (into a burning ring of fire – joke!) into heresy until it no longer can claim itself to be Christian! It’s not that we are supposed to be offensive as Christians, but the gospel itself can be offensive to those who do not like it.

The Apostle Paul talks in his letter to the Galatians about those who are teaching a different gospel. Then he clarifies that a different gospel is actually no gospel at all but rather a distortion of the gospel (see Galatians 1:6-10). Within Christianity we can and do disagree on a lot of things (Eschatology, Ecclesiology, current use of sign gifts, doctrine of heaven and hell, what election means, etc.). Heresy, however, is really concerned with the core doctrine of salvation (redemption) through Jesus Christ and only Jesus Christ. There is no room for plurality or in-house debate on this topic. To disagree with this is to move outside the pale of Christianity. This is the heart of the orthodoxy vs. heresy contrast.

For someone to be Christian, they must have an understanding of God, Christ, and humanity that affirms the principle of redemption through Christ! The early church affirms this by declaring there is no other name under heaven by which men may be saved (Acts 4)! Now, here is the interesting part. Disbelieving in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is not heresy. That is simply unbelief. Heresy is believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and savior but then perverting into something less or different that is inconsistent and/or inadequate. If you take away any of the tenants of the gospel to accommodate some kind of tolerance or universalism, you rob the gospel of essential ingredients. For example, Christ had to be human to be a mediator and sacrifice for us yet he could not have been merely human to qualify for the perfect sacrifice. There is no one else that will fit the bill! Only Christ! Any line of argument that allows for multiple pathways to God fails to understand the necessity of salvation in Christ and Christ alone. Without going into too much detail, it is very important (vital) for us to understand that our belief in Christ as God and man, and our need as sinners to have a redeemer (Christ and Christ alone) is fundamental to our faith and cannot be compromised.

All that to conclude with this. I intentionally refrained from using a lot of scripture for this blog post. I want you to see the logic of my point. The point is not whether or not Christianity is true. The point is that one cannot profess the truth of Christianity and then at the same time go along with or allow for any other kind of gospel. If there is any other way to heaven except through Christ then we no longer have the gospel. You cannot declare something to be the only way and then at the same time affirm other ways! You cannot change the gospel just because so many people want to walk a different path. Remember, Christ informed us that there would be many who take a different path and only a few who take the path of Christ. To allow for any type of pluralism is not helping the many at all – it is sending them on their merry way down the broad path…that leads to destruction. Let us love others enough to stand firm in our message of the gospel that they might hear it and receive it. Can I get an Amen?

Pointing To the Existence of God

Christians (followers of Christ) obviously believe in God. In Christian theology, Christ is God! In modern American history, there seems to have been a shift from defending Christianity to defending the very existence of God! Apologetics (defense of a religious doctrine), more so than ever, has to back up from a common ground of belief in God to a defense of a creator. For example, it is hard to argue for a biblical view of abortion when debaters do not believe the Bible was inspired by God or that God even exists! Our Christian worldview regarding the value of all life from conception falls on deaf ears of those who do not even share the foundational beliefs from which our assertions build upon.

So, while I believe no one will ever be argued into a belief in Christ (it is a supernatural calling), it is important to defend a Christian worldview if for no other reason than to promote ideology that is good for society (now, and for future generations – my kids and their kids and so on!). Christians believe that living life according to Christian values promotes a better world to live in (God knows what He is doing, right?)

In line with that, I now turn to some very important pointers toward the existence of God penned by Thomas Aquinas. These are not proofs in the scientific sense, nor do they need to be. However, they do meet logical observation criteria that falls within the realm of scientific study. We observe something and make assertions. When assertions seem to indicate one thing over the other, then it is logical to tend toward those indications (i.e. belief in God). Aquinas gave five pointers that I will shorten into a few major observations.

The first cause argument – As we look around us, we see things in motion and changing. We all know from observable deduction that things do not move unless something gives a push. So, why aren’t things static? Why is there movement in the world at all? Logically, something had to be the first pusher. While some try to argue an infinite number of causes, honesty would admit infinite pushers as preposterous. The origin of all causality is God! Aquinas used a couple of other arguments that I believe can be lumped under this same category. All of the effects we see in the world had to have a cause (God) and the existence of contingent beings (humans, for example) need an explanation (God).

Human Values – Aquinas noted that human values such as honesty, loyalty, and goodness must come from an actuality of those traits. In recent times, many critics have argued that these traits have come about due to the process of evolution and their practicality in preserving life. I say nice try. From a purely logical perspective, it is obvious that the human value system transcends any natural explanation. We tend to think being honest is a good thing because it is (Godly standard), not because it works best over time.

Design – Aquinas asserted that a design must have a designer. If something looks like it was designed then something (God) had to design it. We can easily understand this as we look at something intricately made such as a watch or a cellphone or a building (really, almost anything we can think of made by human hands is obviously made and not naturally formed through any process of coincidence). We can apply this same principle to all the many intricate things we see in the world not made by human hands – the earth, an eye, the solar system, etc. Some non-believers contend in various ways that over a long period of time these things can (and did) form naturally. It seems to me one would have to really want that to be the case to assert it because it is not the most logical conclusion by a long shot!

Actually, all the points Aquinas made can really be boiled down to one thing – existence (the world) and everything in it (design, values, motion) had to have a cause! This is really a rock solid argument for the existence of God that is rejected only because acceptance would be acceptance of God. Ok – now to scripture because all this was set forth in God’s word way before Aquinas said it.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)
“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:18-21)
So, it would seem that those who do not believe, choose not to believe. Not because of a lack of evidence but because of a lack of Godliness. Rather than cater to an unbelieving world by compromising our biblical beliefs, we must pray for the world and uphold truth – for the glory of God!

 

When does All Mean All?

I was conversing with a great friend and the topic of discussion sort of progressed (or digressed) into theological thoughts on Israel as a special people, and what that means for them today and during end times. Some hold that Israel has a special place and some hold that it is now the Church that has a special place, etc. (Yes, believe it or not, some people may disagree with your stance!). We began to go through an exchange on our viewpoints where it became clear that we agreed on some things and not on others, so, like any good Christian, we moved into the realm of theological debate! He would throw a punch and I would throw a punch all in the name of “iron sharpening iron!”

In order to keep this short, I won’t go into all the details, but we got around to the passage where Paul is talking about all of Israel being saved in Romans 11:26. As we discussed this, I made it clear that I was not dogmatic about a lot of the end times stuff because it was not an easy issue. At that point, he indicated that it might be because I try to make simple things complicated and that I should just take what God’s word says at face value and that I might be scared of the truth so I run from it – well! (he was referring to Calvinism, which, by the way, I don’t even think Calvin was a Calvinist!)

All of this was because we were debating what “all’ meant. He contended verse 26 is indicating that every single Israelite will be saved because it says “all” (I refrained from asking him if he meant all of Israel that will be alive at that time or all of Israel of all time – I decided to leave that for another day). I responded that ‘all’ didn’t necessarily mean every single person but rather that the nation as a whole will become a believing nation. He shoots back with ‘all’ means ‘all’ – period.

At that point I realized he was accusing me of making scripture say what I want it to say so I decided to give him a dose of his own medicine. I brought up some previous discussions we had regarding the topic of Calvinism and predestination. We had, on several occasions, debated what “all” means in the passage where Paul said that our Savior wants all people to be saved…(1 Tim 2:4). (This would also include passages such as John 3:16 where Christ himself said that because God so loved the world, He sent His Son to die for them. People often debate whether or not “world” means everyone or just the elect).

After bringing up those passages, I pointed out that in one instance he wanted to take the simple face value that ‘all’ means ‘all’ but in the other instance he did not want to take the simple face value that ‘all’ means ‘all’ – I was perplexed! He said it couldn’t mean ‘all’ in that context and then went on to explain how his theology of election would not allow for it primarily because that would make God a failure.

Now, what I took away from all that was that ‘all’ only means ‘all’ when it fits with a preconceived theology and all does not mean all when it doesn’t. I know many of you out there reading this are chomping at the bit to give your side of the debate on why I am wrong and my friend is right or vice versa on the issues of predestination or Israel, but the point is not about which theological framework is right. The point of this whole blog post is to point out how important it is to not let preconceived ideas determine what scripture means. This is very important! Does ‘all’ mean every person? it depends! It depends on context, the point the author is trying to make, how it fits with other passages, whether or not the translators used the right word, and other factors. We can’t just go by what we grew up with or what we have been taught (even in seminary if applicable), and, whether we like it or not, there needs to be a certain amount of humility when it concerns passages that seem hard to understand (I have heard some people teach that the Holy Spirit will guide into the truth of those hard passages if you allow Him to – well, if that were the case then we would have solved the meanings of all the hard passages a long time ago because many sound men of God have diligently tried to discern the truth of difficult passages with the help of the Holy Spirit over that past 2,000 years and many still disagree!)

When does ‘all’ mean ‘all’? When we want it to! Same for any other word or doctrine, etc. So, let this give all of us pause in our study and teaching of the word. As we study and teach, let us all make sure to give due diligence and be willing to question our own pre-conceived notions. If you do, then you will come to a realization that I am right about Israel and the elect – just kidding! (maybe)

A Verb Producing Verb – Love

“I love you.” Just think of how many lives have been turned around over those three words. Those three words are a big deal! Remember being on pins and needles when you said it to your spouse for the first time, hoping to hear it said back to you? “I love you” is certainly the primary way to express verbal love to someone we care about – a mother to her children, a husband to a wife, or friend to friend (however, when it is two guy friends the correct terminology is “love ya, man!”). But…true love is not expressed verbally…at least not only verbally. There is an emptiness to those three words if they are never followed up with supporting actions. The other side of those three words never followed up with action can be a devastating black hole of despair. We can feel cheated, betrayed, and hopeless. (I have seen this in pastoral counseling with couples, especially wives, who heard “I love you” but then experienced “I hate you and I use you.”)

Love defined – “1) Strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties 2) Attraction based on sexual desire: affection and tenderness felt by lovers 3) Affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

The above definitions hit on relationships that tend to spark love (family, lovers, friends, mentors, etc.) and the feelings associated with it, but not the verbs that actually demonstrate it is anything more than words – care, help, loyalty, faithfulness, sacrifice, etc. We say that a picture is worth a thousand words. The Apostle Paul said he would show his faith by his actions. “The proof is in the pudding.” In other words the test of whether or not the pudding is any good is only known when the pudding is eaten! Same with love – love is shown over time when it is demonstrated through acts of love and an attitude of love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Jesus said to his followers, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) It would be preposterous to suggest that Jesus meant that everyone would know we are His disciples if we verbalize our love for each other – no, everyone will know as they see our actions that prove our love for each other.

Paul said, “Love does no harm to a neighbor.” He said that right after he said that the commandments against adultery, murder, stealing, coveting, and any other similar commandments can all be summed up as, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:8-10)

So, next time you say “I love you”, make sure you are bearing that statement out in your actions.

  • Don’t tell your wife you love her and then cheat on her or never spend any time with her.
  • Don’t tell your kids you love them and then never give them any attention.
  • Don’t say you love people and then never help someone in need.
  • Don’t say you love the Lord and then not obey His commandments.

True love has words and feelings associated with it, but if love only has words and feelings then it’s not true love at all (or maybe just true love of self). True love for others compels us into actions that demonstrate our love. Love is a verb that produces verbs that show we mean it.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Let us love each other as he has loved us.

Old vs. New Music in Church

Had a conversation recently with someone over the topic of worship music in church. Some Christians believe that any modern day types of worship styles are not acceptable and are part of the church becoming more and more worldly. The people who have this view usually associate anything contemporary with such things as heresy, moving away from God’s word, taking on the world’s ways, having the wrong focus, etc. etc. While I am sure those accusations are true for some people in some circles, it certainly doesn’t ring true across the board. Rather than try to go into detail about this myself, I have decided to post an article I came across that hit on the major points very well. Tom Kraeuter is giving a rebuttal to the points made in Dan Lucarini’s book, “Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement.” While you may be on one side or the other concerning this issue, the article has some good points for both sides. Feel free to reply with your thoughts on this one – I am curious.

The following is “Reprinted by permission of Training Resources, Inc., 65 Shepherd’s Way, Hillsboro, MO 63050, http://www.training-resources.org”

Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement — a rebuttal

by Tom Kraeuter

Former worship leader Dan Lucarini has written a book, Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement, that has become quite popular. Because several people have asked for my thoughts on the book, I decided I should read it.

I’ll have to admit I was not nearly as put off by this book as I thought I might be. Having sat face to face with numerous opponents of contemporary music all over North America, I thought this would be just one more snarling adversary. I was wrong. I appreciated Mr. Lucarini’s heart attitude throughout most of the book. He rarely seemed vindictive and certainly not mean-spirited. He is, however, misguided.

Honestly, much of the book is not about music or musical styles. It is more about guilt by association. Because many churches who utilize contemporary music also do certain other things (as varied as a lack of emphasis on sanctification to gyrations and immodest attire of musicians) that are inappropriate, then the music style is wrong. Although I would agree with some of his assessments about other issues, how those things can be directly linked to music styles escapes me. I’ve encountered sexual improprieties taking place in churches where only pipe organs are used and Southern Gospel musicians dressed in ways that would make most senior citizens blush. However, these are separate issues and should be discussed separately.

Abuses will always occur in nearly any area. They should not shock us. We should, as the Apostle Paul did, patiently teach and instruct in the ways of God. This does not mean we ignore wrongdoing or sin. We should not, however, throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. We also must not associate the inappropriate behavior with the area of ministry. Because a pastor acts like a jerk does not mean we discard the pastoral ministry. Because a worship musician acts like a jerk does not mean we stop using music or even a certain style of music.

Although Lucarini tries to make a connection between these peripheral issues and music styles, it reminds me of the evolutionist’s missing link. There is a piece of the puzzle that seems to be lacking. You can’t find it because it’s not there.

The author’s main argument against contemporary musical styles is that those styles are somehow associated with sin. Although he clearly had some situations in his life that would lead him to that conclusion on a personal level, he takes it further and superimposes his difficulties with contemporary music onto everyone else. He says, “I had to admit that I too was deceived by my own lusts and selfishness.” [pg. 46] Further, he refers to himself as “a person who was full of pride in the area of music ministry.” [pg 47] His shortcomings are then transferred to anyone and everyone else involved in contemporary music. Unfortunately, this is a fairly common but erroneous occurrence today in Christianity: someone realizes their own error and then assumes that everyone else must be guilty of the same.

His use of Scripture to “prove” how wrong it is to use contemporary music is sad. A person could use nearly any of the same passages to vilify practically anything new or different.

Near the middle of the book, Lucarini is apologizing to those who hold to a more traditional view of church music. He says, “We… portrayed our new music as evidence of greater spiritual awareness on our part, and made you appear, and perhaps feel, out of touch and out of date.” If he did that, he should apologize. However, that does not make it a universal, all-encompassing fact for everyone involved in contemporary music. Those who act like that need to repent. However, again, this is far more a heart issue than a music issue.

Lucarini frequently uses words and phrases that play well to his intended audience. “It is important to note that David chose Levites… Leading worship in the Old Testament was not something allowed for just any musician, nor would they use just any music.” [pg. 94] The part about the musicians is biblical; you can prove that from a scriptural perspective. However, the statement about music seems to be missing from my Bible. Of course it is only inserted to imply that proponents of contemporary music would use “just any music.” This is a blatant misrepresentation. Of course there may be some people who would use just any music. But that is heart and character issue and it has nothing to do with musical style.

At one point, the author is endeavoring to destroy the notion that music is amoral. He says, “No one actually plays or sings generic or neutral music in a service.” [pg. 90] I would agree with him. Every performance of any song will be affected by the performer. However, just because a performer can taint a particular song does not mean they can taint a style of music. To even suggest such a possibility is a gigantic leap in logic that cannot be substantiated.

At one point Lucarini is discussing a possible connection between the sinful beginnings of classical music (a style that he says is perfectly acceptable), a connection that proponents of contemporary music styles apparently like to point out. He says this, “…classical music today is so far removed from any of the supposed immorality of the original composers or performers, that no one can honestly claim it is generally and closely associated with evil.” [pg. 97] If you follow the logic in that statement, then as long as enough time has gone by, the sinfulness is no longer an issue. That’s a wrong assumption, a shaky foundation on which to build a case. According to the Word of God, the only thing that eradicates sin is the death and resurrection of Jesus. Neither time nor distance makes any difference. So if the style of music was sinful at its inception, then it is still sinful now. No amount of time will change that. The truth is, though, that there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that a certain style of music is inherently sinful.

One of his main arguments throughout the book is that we must choose a style of music that will not be offensive to people [see pages 84, 87 and 97 among others] based on Romans 14:21. However, for someone to declare how far each church carries that non-offense clause is going beyond Scripture. What if someone is offended by the color of our carpet? What if they don’t like the fact that we use wine for communion? What if they are offended by the message of repentance? There are some issues from Scripture that inherently will give offense. Additionally, every person has the potential of being offended by something we do. Not offending is clearly not the simple issue that Lucarini would like it to be.

He says that because contemporary music “has a sensual beat, is closely associated with worldly lifestyles, or splits churches” [pg 108], then it will cause people to stumble. Let’s look at these three arguments individually.

Sensual beat. J.S. Bach was once nearly removed from his position in his church because people thought his rhythms and harmonies were too sensual. Bach! What societies consider to be “sensual” changes dramatically and quickly and can vary greatly from one individual to another.

Worldly lifestyles. Every music that was ever current was associated with worldly lifestyles. We live in a fallen world and anything, music or otherwise, that is considered “in vogue” has the potential of being associated with a worldly lifestyle. If we as the Church must use music that is clearly outdated, then why should we not force our people to speak in old English? Or wear outdated clothing or hair styles? Exactly where should we draw the line? Scripture does not give us the exact place so we cannot draw that line for one another either. If the author wants to refuse to use a certain style of music, that’s fine. For him to tell everyone else not to use it, though, goes beyond Scripture.

Splits churches. I’ve encountered churches where the choice of Sunday School curriculum (or the lack of a Sunday School program at all) has split churches. Do we cease having Sunday School? Many churches have been split because of the pastor’s preaching style. Do we cut sermons from our services? Clearly, none of these three arguments have any honest validity.

Late in the book, Lucarini talks about what a typical service should look like [pg. 127] if it is done correctly (from his perspective). Among the things you would see and hear:

  • A grand piano and an organ
  • An orchestra with strings, brass and woodwinds
  • An enthusiastic, well-rehearsed choir
  • Soloists who sing with live accompanists

First, let me dare to declare that there is no scriptural basis for the use of a piano or an organ. This does not mean that using them is wrong. It does mean that for Lucarini to declare that they are essential is wrong. Second, the average church in America is attended by fewer than 100 people. A church of that size simply cannot support Lucarini’s ideal. They have neither the financial resources nor the personnel to make this list a reality.

In the same section, he also suggests that lyrics without “real music” should never be projected onto a screen. Why not? Scored music—especially music available to average people—is a relatively new phenomenon. If having scored music available for attenders is mandatory, then for thousands of years God’s people did it wrong. For centuries of Christendom and for centuries before in Jewish history, songs were learned by ear. Why is that suddenly a bad idea? At least we offer the words in plain view. That’s one less thing they need to work at memorizing.

Near the end of the book Lucarini offers a chart [pg. 120] contrasting the way Traditionals do things with the way that Contemporaries do them. Of course the idea is to show how much superior the Traditional way is compared with the Contemporary. One point made me laugh out loud. The question is asked, “What is the primary motive in selecting music?” The answer he gives for Contemporaries is, “Do the people like it?” The answer for the Traditionals is, “Does God like it?” Wow! This was a real revelation to me. Someone has enough of a hotline to God to know which is His preferred style of music. That’s amazing!

In the same chart was a comparison that shows a basic misunderstanding of why the people of God worship. The question is asked, “What is the primary purpose of the worship service?” The answer for Traditionals: “To prepare hearts for the preaching.” The Contemporary answer (according to Lucarini) is, “To usher people into the presence of God.” There is no way to go into the details here because of lack of space, but both answers miss a biblical understanding. Look at worship in the book of Revelation. It is not to prepare for the preaching. Worship is to honor and glorify God. Yes, it can prepare hearts for the preaching and it can usher people into the presence of God, but if either of those is your main emphasis you’ve fallen way short of God’s best. True biblical worship is to honor and glorify God because He alone is worthy.

Though I fear that this rebuttal has only skimmed the surface of this book, I hope you’ve gotten the point by now. Throughout the book Lucarini offers some worthwhile warnings to those involved in contemporary music in the Church: be careful with performance issues, heart attitudes and keeping the focus in the right place. Anyone using any style of music in church would do well to heed his advice on these issues. However, although his heart seems right throughout most of the book, his thoughts on music and musical styles have been very tainted by his own experiences. This is a book that would have better served the Church by not being published.