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It remains to be seen how a recent controversy will affect evangelist Greg Laurie’s annual SoCal Harvest Aug. 17-19. However, considerable media coverage in the Los Angeles area could ultimately boost attendance at the 29-year-old event.

Laurie, who leads the Riverside-based Harvest Christian Fellowship, was featured in a promotional billboard holding a generic Bible. After two weeks, the Irvine Company removed billboards from a Newport Beach mall and the Irvine Spectrum because of complaints.

In a blog post last week, Laurie pointed out the book didn’t say Bible or have a cross on it, although he affirmed it was a Bible.

“Why are people so frightened of the Bible?” Laurie asked. “Think of the words of George Washington: ‘It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.’”

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Here is a helpful article on the not-so-good direction modern is going in.

~ Bryan

Nine Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship

Worship leaders around the world are sadly changing their church’s worship (often unintentionally) into a spectator event. Before discussing our present situation, let’s look back into history.

Prior to the Reformation, worship was largely done for the people. The music was performed by professional musicians and sung in an unfamiliar language (Latin).

The Reformation gave worship back to the people. This including congregational singing. It employed simple, attainable tunes with solid, scriptural lyrics in the language of the people.

Worship once again became participatory. The evolution of the printed hymnal brought with it an explosion of congregational singing and the church’s love for singing increased.

Then came the advent of new video technologies. Churches began to project the lyrics of their songs on a screen. The number of songs at a church’s disposal increased exponentially.

[1] At first, this advance in technology led to more powerful congregational singing, but soon, a shift in worship leadership began to move the congregation back to pre-Reformation pew potatoes (spectators).

What has occurred could be summed up as the re-professionalization of church music and the loss of a key goal of worship leading—enabling the people to sing their praises to God.

Simply put, we are breeding a culture of spectators in our churches. We are changing what should be a participative worship environment to a concert event. Worship is moving to its pre-Reformation mess.

9 reasons people are not singing any more.

  1. They don’t know the songs.

    With the release of new songs weekly and the increased birthing of locally-written songs, worship leaders are providing a steady diet of the latest, greatest worship songs. Indeed, we should be singing new songs. But too high a rate of new song inclusion in worship can kill our participation rate and turn the congregation into spectators. I see this all the time. I advocate doing no more than one new song in a worship service, and then repeating the song on and off for several weeks until it becomes known by the congregation. People worship best with songs they know, so we need to teach and reinforce the new expressions of worship. (more)

  2. We are singing songs not suitable for congregational singing.

    There are lots of great, new worship songs today, but in the vast pool of new songs, many are not suitable for congregational singing by virtue of their rhythms (too difficult for the average singer) or too wide of a range (consider the average singer—not the vocal superstar on stage).

  3. We are singing in keys too high for the average singer.

    The people we are leading in worship generally have a limited range and do not have a high range. When we pitch songs in keys that are too high, the congregation will stop singing, tire out and eventually quit, becoming spectators. Remember that our responsibility is to enable the congregation to sing their praises, not to showcase our great platform voices by pitching songs in our power ranges. The basic range of the average singer is an octave and a fourth from A to D (more).

  4. The congregation can’t hear people around them singing.

    If our music is too loud for people to hear each other singing, it is too loud. Conversely, if the music is too quiet, generally, the congregation will fail to sing out with power. Find the right balance—strong, but not over-bearing.

  5. We have created worship services which are spectator events, building a performance environment.

    I am a strong advocate of setting a great environment for worship including lighting, visuals, inclusion of the arts and much more. However when our environments take things to a level that calls undue attention to those on stage or distracts from our worship of God, we have gone too far. Excellence—yes. Highly professional performance—no.

  6. The congregation feels they are not expected to sing.

    As worship leaders, we often get so involved in our professional production of worship that we fail to be authentic, invite the congregation into the journey of worship, and then do all we can to facilitate that experience in singing familiar songs, new songs introduced properly, and all sung in the proper congregational range. (more)

  7. We fail to have a common body of hymnody.

    With the availability of so many new songs, we often become haphazard in our worship planning, pulling songs from so many sources without reinforcing the songs and helping the congregation to take them on as a regular expression of their worship. In the old days, the hymnal was that repository. Today, we need to create song lists to use in planning our times of worship. (more)

  8. Worship leaders ad lib too much.

    Keep the melody clear and strong.

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BreakPoint: The Greatest Love

Memorial Day Memories

Today on BreakPoint, we hear Chuck Colson’s thoughts on Memorial Day and what he called, “The Greatest Love.

It was February of 1945—three months before the end of World War II in Europe. Eighteen-year-old Sergeant Joseph George of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, was stationed in Lorient, France. It was evening, and George was preparing to go on patrol. The Americans were hoping to locate landmines buried by the Germans.

Sergeant George had been on patrol duty the night before. As he told his friend Private James Caudill, he was tired—tired and scared. Private Caudill offered to take the patrol on his behalf. He pointed out that, at age 36, he was nearly two decades older than George. He told George—who had already been blown off a torpedoed ship in the English Channel—“You’re young. Go home. Get married. Live a rich, full life.” And then Private Caudill went out on patrol. A few hours later, he was killed by a German sniper.

The actions of Private Caudill echo the values and valor of generations of military men and women we remember today. And they are an example of the sort of behavior we almost take for granted when it comes to our men and women in uniform who fight just wars.

What is a just war? One that is defined as providing a proportionate response to evil, to protect non-combatants, among other considerations. Today, our military men and women around the world are fighting to resist evil. Ridding the world of Islamo-fascism—by just means—is a good and loving act.

This willingness to sacrifice on behalf of our neighbors is why military service is considered such a high calling for Christians—and part of what makes just wars just. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica puts his discussion of just war in his chapter on charity—the love of God and neighbor. John Calvin agreed; he called soldiering justly a “God-like act,” because “it imitates God’s restraining evil out of love for His creatures.”

A world in which free nations refuse to fight just wars would be a world where evil is unchecked and where the strong would be free to prey on the weak—as we are now seeing in Darfur.

Our soldiers’ willingness to defend the defenseless around the world makes me proud to be an American. Their willingness to lay down their lives is a reflection of how the Christian worldview has influenced our society, which is why American soldiers, by the way, are welcomed all over the world, as historian Stephen Ambrose wrote, while soldiers from other cultures are feared.

So what of Sgt. Joseph George? He returned safely home. He married, fathered five sons. One of them—Princeton Professor Robert George—is a good friend of mine. He’s devoted much of his life to fighting the moral evils of our time: abortion, embryo-destructive research, and efforts to redefine marriage in a way that would destroy it.

In John 15:13, Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that [he] lay down his life for his friends.” The story of Private Caudill and Sergeant George makes one realize more deeply what a tremendous gift this is. It’s why the George family has remembered Private Caudill in prayers for sixty-one years.

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On Wednesday and Thursday, the modern state of Israeli celebrated the 70th anniversary of its Declaration of Independence. Here are nine things you should know about the creation of the modern Israeli state.

1. In AD 138, the ancient nation of Israel ceased to exist when the Roman emperor Hadrian crushed the Bar Kochba revolt and banned all Jews from Palestine (i.e., the biblical regions known as the Land of Israel). The land was conquered by various nations until 1517, when it was controlled by the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans retained control until 1917, when the British captured Jerusalem during World War I.

2. By 1850, only about 14,000 Jews remained in Palestine. But in 1881, in reaction to growing anti-Semitism in Europe and Russia, a number of Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion) organizations were established with the aim of furthering Jewish settlement in the area. The Hovevei Zion groups were the forerunners of modern Zionism, the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel.

3. Theodore Herzl—officially referred to in the Declaration of Establishment of State of Israel as “the spiritual father of the Jewish State“—launched the modern Zionist movement in 1896. In his pamphlet Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), Herzl considers the “Jewish Question”:

Everything tends, in fact, to one and the same conclusion, which is clearly enunciated in that classic Berlin phrase: “Juden Raus!” (Out with the Jews!)

I shall now put the Question in the briefest possible form: Are we to “get out” now and where to?

Or, may we yet remain? And, how long?

Herzl answered that question by proposing a Jewish homeland:

The whole plan is in its essence perfectly simple, as it must necessarily be if it is to come within the comprehension of all.

Let the sovereignty be granted us over a portion of the globe large enough to satisfy the rightful requirements of a nation; the rest we shall manage for ourselves.

Herzl also proposed two possible locations for the homeland—Palestine and Argentinia. “We shall take what is given us, and what is selected by Jewish public opinion,” he said.

4. In 1897, Herzl began to put his plan into action by convening the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. At this symbolic congress—which was referred to as the Basel Congress—the group adopted the Basel Program with this stated goal: “Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law.” A few weeks after the event, Herzl wrote in his diary, “Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word—which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly—it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today l would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.”

5. During World War I, the Allies drove the Turks out of Ottoman Syria. In 1917, the British government announced its support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in the 67-word statement know as the Balfour Declaration:

His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

After the war the British controlled the area of Palestine and was given a mandate by the League of Nations to administer the territory. Under British rule, the land was sometimes referred to as Mandatory Palestine.

6. The Jewish population in Palestine grew between 1919 and 1923 as Jews began to flee persecution in Russia and Ukraine. This influx of Jews, along with the Balfour Declaration, led the Arab inhabitants of the land to develop their own political movement, known as Palestinian nationalism. A nationalist uprising by Palestinian Arabs led to the “Great Revolt” of 1936-1939. This insurrection led the British to propose a partition of the land into Jewish and Arab states. The Arabs rejected the proposal.

7. In 1939, the British began limiting Jewish immigration into Palestine. Even after the Holocaust began creating Jewish refugees in Europe, the UK refused to lift the immigration cap. Thousands of Jews died trying to flee to Palestine in small boats, and thousands more were caught and turned away. The American government supported a move to allow 100,000 new immigrants into the region, which prompted the British to abandon the Palestine Mandate and leave the issue to be resolved by the United Nations.

8. On May 15, 1947, the United Nations created UNSCOP (the UN Special Committee on Palestine), with representatives from 11 “neutral” countries: Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, India, Iran, Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay, and Yugoslavia. UNSCOP offered two proposals to solve the “Palestine Question.”

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Years ago, I heard a speaker say at men’s retreat that every man who follows Jesus can fall into sin. Hopefully, these allegations are false. May we all avoid sexual immorality by God’s grace. Bryan

April 11, 2018 at 2:03 PM

Prominent pastor Bill Hybels announced April 10 he is stepping down from his Chicago-area megachurch Willow Creek, saying an investigation that cleared him of sexual misconduct had taken its toll. (Reuters)

Prominent pastor Bill Hybels announced Tuesday he is stepping down from his Chicago-area megachurch Willow Creek, just weeks after the Chicago Tribune published allegations of misconduct from several women. Hybels, who with his wife co-founded one of the nation’s largest churches in 1975, was a spiritual adviser to President Bill Clinton around the time of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

He told the church publicly last year that he was planning to step down in October, but he resigned Tuesday, saying he would be a distraction to the church’s ministry. Some members of his congregation shouted “No!” in response to his decision, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation following his address.

The stories surrounding Hybels have been part of a series of recent high-profile allegations of sexual misconduct among some evangelical leaders.

In March, the Chicago Tribune published allegations that Hybels made suggestive comments, extended hugs, an unwanted kiss and invitations to a staff member to hotel rooms. The newspaper also reported allegations of a consensual affair with a married woman, and the woman who said she had an affair later retracted her allegations. Hybels has denied all the allegations and said on Tuesday again that the church’s investigations found no evidence of misconduct.

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He Gave His Life to Change the World

Article by John Piper

The racial world I grew up in, and the one we live in today, are amazingly different. Racism remains in many forms in America and around the world. In fact, the last two years have brought a disheartening setback, as advocates of white supremacy have been emboldened to be overt.

But in the days of my youth in South Carolina, it was worse. So much worse. The segregation was almost absolute, its manifestations utterly degrading, and the defense of it rang not only from street mobs, but also from the halls of political power — without shame.

  • In 1954, seventeen states required segregated public schools (America in Black and White, 99);
  • In 1956, 85% of all white southerners rejected the statement, “White students and Negro students should go to the same schools”;
  • 73% said that there should be “separate sections for Negros on streetcars and buses”;
  • 62% did not want a Negro “with the same income and education” as them to move into their neighborhood (144);
  • In 1963, 82% of all white southerners opposed a federal law that would give “all persons, Negros as well as white, the right to be served in public places such as hotels, restaurants, and similar establishments” (139);
  • And in 1952 (when I was six years old), only 20% of southern blacks of voting age were registered to vote.

The upshot of those statistics was an unjust, unsafe, condescending, unwelcoming, demeaning, and humiliating world for blacks. Have you ever paused to ask yourself what separate water fountains and separate restrooms could possibly mean except, You are unclean — like lepers? It was an appalling world.

Enter MLK

Between that racially appalling world and this racially imperfect one strode Martin Luther King, Jr. We don’t know if the world would have changed without him, but we do know he was a rod in the hand of the all-ruling God. Leave aside his theology and his moral flaws. They do not nullify the massive good God wrought through this man. He was used in the mighty hand of Providence to change the world so that the most appalling, blatant, degrading, public (and usually legal) expressions of racism have gone away.

For that alone, the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s tragic assassination, and loss to the cause of justice, is worthy of heartfelt focus.

Martin Luther King gave his life to change the world. And toward the end, he was increasingly aware that “the Movement” would cost him his life. The night before he was assassinated by James Earl Ray outside room 306 of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968, he preached at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple. He had come to Memphis to support the badly underpaid black sanitation workers.

His message came to be called “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” He began it by surveying world history in response to a question from God, “When would you have liked to be alive?” King answered, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy.” Why? Because “I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men in some strange way are responding. Something is happening in our world.”

What was happening? “We are determined to be men. We are determined to be people.” We are standing up. “A man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.” For a brief window of time — just long enough — MLK was able to use his voice to restrain violence and overcome hate: “We are masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces. They don’t know what to do.” He kindled a kind of fire that no firehoses could put out, and a kind of courage that no dogs could defeat.

Oh yes, there was violence in the sixties. But three years before his final message, when King was asked whether the riots occurred because the leadership of his people was no longer effective, surely King was right to say, “The riots we have had are minute compared to what would have happened without their effective and restraining leadership.”

To the Promised Land

He continued on that last night: We have pursued “a dangerous kind of unselfishness.” Like the Good Samaritan. “The Levite asked, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But the Good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’ That’s the question before you tonight.”

A dangerous unselfishness.

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