Sunday Evening Service: In remembrance and protest.

I grew up as one of those “when the church doors are open…” kids. I can’t really say I remember a lot about Wednesday’s other than playing chess with Russ, but I am pretty sure I was in church nearly every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening.

In 2010, I became pastor of a church in rural Indiana about 45 minutes south of Fort Wayne. One of the things that stuck out as strange was the absence of a Sunday evening service. Soon I found out it wasn’t so strange. Hardly any church in a 20-mile radius had an evening service. On Sunday evenings we had youth group; or we just went to one of the strange churches with an evening service; or we just did what we normally did Monday through Saturday: watch PBS.

In August the wife and kids, and even I, moved back to northern Indiana. In the intervening five years, it seems churches in the area caught up with their brethren to the south-east. Most of the churches we have visited do not have a Sunday evening service. We visited one church that had over 200 in the morning service, and less than 20 in the evening service. The pastor of one church said they just liked it better to have family time Sunday nights. I guess if the pastor doesn’t want a Sunday evening service, there isn’t much point in having one.

All that to say, over the past five years I, we, have gotten out of the rhythm of Sunday morning and Sunday evening church.

Last night we set out to go to a church that I thought had an evening service. We got there and it was dark. We went by a couple of other places: dark. My wife reminded me of a church that had an evening service at 7. We had been driving around since 5:40 and we had five kids and a daddy who had not eaten since noon…but we made the trek. From Goshen, to Elkhart, to Goshen, to Wakarusa.

There, on a Sunday night, a missionary couple was speaking. There, on a Sunday night, were almost 200 people gathered to hear a missionary speaking: not bad for a town of less than 2,000. During the testimony and presentation of the missionaries, it hit me: what if tonight was the night? What if tonight was the night the Holy Spirit decided to call out one of my children to salvation or to missionary service? What if tonight was the night he wanted to open one of their heart’s to Christ or Great Commission service?

And we were at home. Reading a book. Surfing the web. Playing Small World. Watching Despicable Me: in Spanish now since we’ve seen it so many times in English.

The Spirit would just work some other time. Would He? “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.”

In all our evening driving, a question came to mind, “Does our forsaking of the Sunday evening service stand against our culture’s increasing ungodliness or simply mirror it?”

I am familiar with arguments. I know Scripture does not command us to have a Sunday morning and Sunday evening service. I will do you one better and acknowledge that Scripture does not even command we have a Sunday morning or Sunday evening service. The Word of God has given us freedom on when we meet, but how have we used it? We have forsaken a tradition of meeting together. Hebrews commands us to meet together “all the more’’ as we see the Day of Christ’s return approaching. Apparently Jesus has told quite a few of us that we don’t need to worry about that anytime soon.

But you have “life groups.” Oh yes. Where twenty-somethings, or home-school families, or gluten-free people all gather with other twenty-somethings, or home-school families, or gluten-free people to reinforce their peculiarities. Because, after all, what need does the eye have for the ear?

Maybe the way we did Sunday evening church was broken. Maybe it needed to be changed. Maybe it still does. But after 5-plus years of going without it, I am not convinced that simply going without it is the best remedy. Christ loved the church and gave His life for her. I think, if I have the opportunity, I should try to spend another 60-90 minutes a week with her. Christ has promised to bless the gathering of his people and the preaching of His Word. Why would I reject a blessing from such a One?

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Joel Beeke Reformed Rap Holy Hip Hop Mea Culpas and Why Christ Came: Will the Real Dr. Beeke Please Stand Up?

Dr. Joel Beeke, president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and prolific author on all things Puritan, has been “encouraged” to walk back comments he made when questioned about Reformed Rap. A panel at a Family Worship conference was asked what they thought about Reformed Rap. Dr. Beeke gave the “softest” most gracious answer of any of the panel members. But even that was too much for the gatekeepers. His good friend, Tim Challies, made it clear that such Christian liberty would not be tolerated and apologies were in order. Dr. Beeke apologized,

Recently I was asked to participate in a panel discussion at a Reformed Worship conference. In that discussion the panelists were asked to address the subject of Christian rap music (which I took to mean rap music primarily in the context of a local church worship service). To my regret, I spoke unadvisedly on an area of music that I know little about. It would have been far wiser for me to say nothing than to speak unwisely. Please forgive me. I also wish to publicly disassociate myself from comments that judged the musicians’ character and motives.

It seems pretty clear that any kind of divergent opinion on such matters is strictly forbidden among Evangelicalism’s elite.

I had always thought pretty highly of Dr. Beeke. I don’t know him personally or anything, but I have never seen anything from him I found objectionable- (I mean, other than the fact that he gives babies baths in church…). For family devotions we are actually using his newly released book. Why Christ Came. Given his recent encounters with the Rap PC crew, I found certain statements in chapter 5 of that book pretty discouraging:

  • In cultures and thought systems that reject the very idea of absolute truth rooted in Christ, speaking the truth is not necessarily a virtue and lying is not necessarily a fault. (p. 16)
  • Today, even in Judeo-Christian contexts, people frequently question the existence of truth itself. Some people wonder whether truth matters. (p. 17)
  • Pilate questioned the existence of truth, and his life bore the fruit of his doubts. He lived in fear of losing position. Against his conscience, he gave deference to the requests of the people. (p. 17)
  • Do you experience true freedom in Christ? Or are you living in bondage to the fear of men, to the demands of your flesh, and to the guilt of lies? (p. 18)

Wow. A couple things stick out to me. First, it seems pretty cleat that Evangelicalism is no longer just “No Place for Truth,” it is now “No Place for Debate.” If the gatekeepers have rendered their verdict, that verdict is final and it will be unopposed. Secondly, I would really like to hear Dr. Beeke’s answer to those final questions that he himself asked.

I feel bad for a man who is not allowed to have personal standards of holiness. I feel worse for a church who will not let him have them.

Grant Horner’s Bible Reading Plan Revised

Grant Horner’s Bible reading plan takes the reader through 10 different sections of the Bible one chapter at a time. The profit of reading 10 chapters of the Bible per day should be evident to any Christian. Or, it should be. Reading 10 chapters a day, though, can be something of a challenge. The plan has at least two built-in features that offer some aid: first, you are reading in different parts of Scripture every day; 2)the reading sections are all different lengths, meaning you will never read the same thing twice. A secondary aid for those who like to read through the Bible every year is that Horner’s plan is not tied to a calender. You can start any time and in the back of your mind is always the knowledge that if you miss a day or two, or a section or two, you are still going to get through the Bible. Here is the plan laid out by Horner (the number following each section refers to the amount of chapters):

Gospels 89
Pentateuch 187
Rom.-Col, Hebrews 78
1 Thess-Phil, James-Rev 65
Job, Eccl, Song 62
Psalms 150
Proverbs 31
Joshua-Esther 249
Isaiah-Malachi 250
Acts 28

This is the plan I used in 2011 for my Bible reading. And I returned to it again this year with slight modification.

I have two issues with Horner’s original plan. The Old Testament readings have a major flaw: the imbalance between the Job-Song and the Prophets groupings. Job and Ecclesiastes are great books and can’t be read enough. But look at the size imbalance between those two sections and consider the implications. Is reading Song of Solomon four times for every time you read one of the Prophets really that profitable? How many times does the New Testament refer to Song of Solomon, and how many times to the prophets?

In the New Testament readings, there is just some tinkering. It is hard to know what to do with the epistles. You would like to keep all of Paul’s together and all of the generals together, but this results in an imbalance of 87 chapters for the Pauline Epistles and 56 for the General Epistles. It loses some of the balance Horner’s plan provides. So I like the balance of Horner’s groupings, but I am not too fond of having Hebrews read in a group with Paul. I also think Colossians and Philemon should be in the same reading group.

The basis for my Old Testament revision is theological- I think Horner’s original is faulty. The basis for my New Testament revision is practical – I think Horner’s plan is okay, but could be better.

Here is what I came up with:

Gospels 89
Pentateuch 187
Rom-2 Thess, Philemon (read immediately after Colossians) 74
1 Tim-Titus, Hebrews-Rev 69
Job, Eccl, Song, The Twelve (Minor Prophets) 129
Psalms 150
Proverbs 31
Joshua-Esther 249
Isaiah-Daniel 135
Acts 28

For the Old Testament portion, this plan will have you reading each of the prophets twice in one year except once. (And reading Job, Eccl., and Song twice instead of four-five times.) The New Testament portion keeps the balance (actually improves it a bit) while keeping all of the General Epistles together. It still breaks up Paul,but at least does it in a more natural way: keeping all  of the “church” epistles and “pastoral” epistles together.

A more radical New Testament reorganization would be:

Luke-Acts         (52)
John, 1-3 John, Revelation      (50)
Matt, Mark, Hebrews, James, 1, 2 Peter, Jude (71)
Pauline Epistles (87)

While more radical, it is also much more “logical.” While there are advantages to Reading Acts every month, there is something to be said for a little more balance in the New Testament.

On Knowing and Worshiping God; Great Expectations; and False Humility

But someone will say, “If the Divine substance is incomprehensible, why then do you discourse of these things?”

So then, because I cannot drink up all the river, am I not even to take in moderation what is expedient for me? Because with eyes so constituted as mine I cannot take in all the sun, am I not even to look upon him enough to satisfy my wants? Or again, because I have entered into a great garden, and cannot eat all the supply of fruits, would you have me go away altogether hungry?

I praise and glorify Him that made us; for it is a divine command which says, Let every breath praise the Lord. I am attempting now to glorify the Lord, but not to describe Him, knowing nevertheless that I shall fall short of glorifying Him worthily, yet deeming it a work of piety even to attempt it at all.

Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 6, 5

To paraphrase a bit of Bohoeffer, there is a costly grace in worshiping God. It is grace that calls us to worship God. But it is costly to worship God.

God is worthy of perfect worship. But the sensitive worshiper knows even man’s best is not worthy of God in his glory. I don’t know how many flocks Abel worshiped the Lord with. Did he have ever occasion to ponder, “Last year’s flock was a little better than this year’s.” In one sense man can never really offer “the” best, but only “his” best.[1] God, in His grace, covers even the purest of our offerings and makes it fit for Him.

I am not sure pure worship is found by the one seeking perfect worship. The one loving worship more than God is not worshiping God. Widow’s mites always have more value than spare doubloons.

But it remains true that “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” The Lord accepts widow’s mites, not tycoons’. When someone has a suspicion that God might deserve or expect a bit more in corporate worship, it is not the time to revert to Adam’s, “The woman…” or Aaron’s, “You know the people…”

As far as I know, the first and second greatest commands have not switched rankings in the polls.

God calls us to worship him with our best. Pastors should do the work of elevating the congregation’s idea of what our best should and can be: always better, even if it is never good enough.


[1] Thinking musically, if we were really concerned to offer God “the” best, shouldn’t we have come up with a text for the third movement of Dvorak’s Dumky Trio already?

Tertullian: What is the fear of God? How do I know the fear of the Lord?

They say that God is not to be feared; therefore all things are in their view free and unchecked. Where, however is God not feared, except where He is not? Where God is not, there truth also is not. Where there is no truth, then, naturally enough, there is also such a discipline as theirs. But where God is, there exists “the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom.” (Psalm 111:10; Prov. 1:7) Where the fear of God is, there is seriousness, an honorable and yet thoughtful diligence, as well as an anxious carefulness and a well-considered admission (to the sacred ministry) and a safely-guarded communion, and promotion after good service, and a scrupulous submission (to authority), and a devout attendance, and a modest gait, and a united church, and God in all things.

(Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, 43)

 

I’ve struggled for quite some time with the explanation I often hear evangelical-types give about the phrase “the fear of the Lord.” “Of course,” we are told, “we do not really fear God, we just have a reverence, or respect for God.” Charmed, I am sure. I always got the feeling that whatever “fear of God” meant, I wasn’t being given a straight answer.

We are proficient at “interpreting” Scripture when it suits us. Rather, when Scripture is against us. Don’t feel like supporting your needy parents? Just say your goods are devoted to the Lord! Who can argue with that? It is not a new problem.

What Tertullian says about the fear of God certainly rings authentic to me. How do I know if a place, a people, is filled with the fear of God?

Is there seriousness?

Is there honorable, thoughtful diligence?

Is there safely guarded communion?

Is there submission?

Devout attention?

Modesty?

Unity?

How would these questions be answered at churches across the land? I fear to even contemplate. What if the answer to these questions is “no”? Then God is not there. Truth is not there.

No fear, no God.

Thank you for good medicine father Tertullian. O for more doctors so careful in their cures.

Why Praise and Worship Music Isn’t

Belinda Luscombe wrote an informative for Time magazine concerning Christian song-writer Chris Tomlin.[1] The November 19th, 2006 article alludes to the nature, sound and purpose of Tomlin’s music, and in so doing reveals the principal short-coming of Praise and Worship music.

According to the main licensing agency for Christian music (CCLI), Chris Tomlin “is the most often sung contemporary artist in U.S. congregations every week… that might make Tomlin the most often sung artist anywhere.” CCLI marketing manager Paul Herman says, “He has really captured the heart of the church.”

Since Chris Tomlin obviously has a tremendous role in shaping the worship of the contemporary church, he has a tremendous role in shaping how contemporary Christians conceive of God and proper worship of Him. As such, his music (and Praise and Worship music as a whole) certainly deserves evaluation and biblical critique.[2]

So what is his music like? “Tomlin’s How Great Is Our God … currently the second most popular modern chorus in U.S. churches…is not particularly profound–the title pretty much sums it up–but it’s heartfelt, short and set to a stirring soft-rock melody that sticks in the mind like white to rice. That’s Tomlin’s gift: immediacy.”

The secular evaluation of Tomlin’s music, or at least his most popular piece, is that it is simple and memorable, with a soft-rock sound. Tomlin himself states, “I try to think, ‘How do I craft this song in a way that the person who’s tone-deaf and can’t clap on two and four can sing it?’ I hope that when someone hears a CD of mine, they pick up their guitar and say, ‘O.K., I can do that.’” To this, Luscombe responds, “Which is not the way people react to, say, Handel’s Messiah.” This off-the-cuff comparison to Messiah deserves some pondering.

There is certainly nothing wrong with desiring to write accessible music– music that can be easily sung or played. It would be improper to criticize Tomlin or other Praise and Worship musicians for having this desire. While Messiah is more complex than anything Tomlin has written, complexity alone does not make Messiah better. As Christians, we are to strive for things that are “excellent, virtuous, lovely, pure, and praiseworthy” (Phil. 1:10; 4:8). The characteristics of simplicity and complexity can certainly contribute to the goodness of certain music, but by themselves they are not determinative of goodness.

One danger in comparing the complexity of Messiah with the simplicity of Tomlin is failing to take into consideration the intended performers of the music. Messiah was written for choral use, not congregational. As such, it is not an extremely difficult piece. We sang several selections from it every year in (public!) high school choir. Tomlin writes for congregational use, not choral. Since he intends the congregation to perform his music, it would be foolish of him to attempt to mimic the choral aspects of Messiah. Regular attenders of a church with a choir should be able to recognize this distinction. The choir sings a different type of song than the congregation. This does not make one or the other superior, or inferior. Rather, each group sings songs appropriate for them.

What separates Tomlin, and Praise and Worship music, from Handel’s Messiah, is not complexity, but sound and purpose. After describing the nature of Tomlin’s music as simple and memorable, the author describes the sound of Tomlin’s music as “soft-rock” and “pop-sounding.” With this, two questions come to mind: why would one choose to write music with such a sound for the worship of God and is such a sound appropriate for worship of God?

Luscombe uncovers the purpose for his style by writing, “Tomlin is the chief American practitioner of the pop-sounding ‘praise and worship’ music that has replaced traditional hymns in congregations looking for a younger crowd. ‘We’ve been closing the gap between what you would hear in church and on a rock radio station’ says Matt Lundgren, worship leader at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill. ‘Artists like Chris Tomlin help bridge the gap more and more.’”

The purpose of “Praise and Worship” music is to get the church closer to the type of music the world enjoys. Consider again the quote regarding the purpose of such music– “[to close] the gap between what you would hear in church and on a rock radio station.” Praise and Worship music is written and used because it sounds like the music on a secular rock and roll station: please note that this is not my evaluation, it is their own evaluation. The purpose of this music is to blur the line between what one would hear at church and what one would hear on secular radio. This is the reason that Handel’s music is “good” in the biblical sense of the term, and Tomlin’s music is not.

With his music, Handel meant to bring heaven to earth. With his music, Tomlin means to bring rock to the church. After composing the music for the “Hallelujah Chorus” in Messiah, Handel stated, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God himself.”[3] Those who write and perform Praise and Worship music on the other hand, apparently state, “I hope this sounds enough like the current Billboard top-40 that people like it.”

Here we are facing one of the questions of the age. What determines acceptability in worship? Popularity? Chris Tomlin “is the most often sung contemporary artist in U.S. congregations every week.” Pragmatism? “Tomlin is the chief American practitioner of the pop-sounding ‘praise and worship’ music that has replaced traditional hymns in congregations looking for a younger crowd.” Tomlin is unquestionably popular, and churches which use Praise and Worship music seem to attract large crowds with ease. Popularity and pragmatism, however, do not determine what kind of worship God delights in: His Word is the sole guide.

It is entirely possible to demonstrate that Praise and Worship is aesthetically inferior to Handel (or Bach, Mendellsohn, Haydn –and a host of other “classical” composers who wrote music for church use), but one does not need to do this since the purveyors of Praise Worship music have already admitted to a more grievous sin than just writing trite music.

God’s Word admonishes us to not be conformed to the world (Rom 12:1), and to not love the world (1 John 2:15). When used in this way, “the world” refers to all those elements of secular life that characterize mankind’s rebellion against God and desire for self-satisfaction. One does not have to listen to a secular rock and roll station very long to discover that the music it plays definitely qualifies as belonging to “the world.” The music you hear on secular radio stations is sinful because it is the music of life apart from God. It is the music of rebellion and sexual gratification that glorifies man in all of his fallen-ness. Yet this is the music that Praise and Worship musicians want to “bridge the gap” to. This is what we are supposed to think when we hear it: “Hey that sounds like something I heard on the radio the other day.” How can music meant to sound like a rock and roll station be called, “worship” when God calls it “worldly”?

Such music touches the emotions, often in a profound way: it is meant to. If Praise and Worship did not create fuzzy feelings, it would not be so popular. Perhaps you think, “It’s not that bad. After all, it only sounds like the ‘soft’ stuff.” Is our God the kind of god that is sung to as a woman being seduced by a man? Is God adored in Scripture with soft caresses and tender kisses? Is eroticism acceptable worship? Praise and Worship stirs the emotions– but which emotions; and are those emotions properly worshipful of God? Oh if only our emotions could be touched by James 4:4, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

God is not glorified by his enemies. And He is neither praised nor worshiped by the vast majority of Praise and Worship music.


[1]http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1561156,00.html (Unless noted otherwise, all quotes in this Music Notes from this source.)

[2] (1 Cor. 2:15; Phil. 1:9-11; 1 Thess. 5:21; Heb. 5:14; 1 John 4:1).

[3]R.W.S. Mendl, The Divine Quest in Music, (London: Rockliff Publishing, 1957), 63.

King’s Way: Does Rick Warren believe Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

Rick Warren has again caused a stir in certain circles of the blogosphere. The newest occasion of controversy is the announcement of an agreement with a Muslim organization. The original article, Christian bloggers, and Islamic bloggers all understand the agreement to say that Christians and Muslims believe in the same God. Warren has answered that the agreement only states Muslims and Christians believe in one God. A few observations…

First, I find it particularly interesting that there are certain places that are saying nothing about this issue. In the past few months there has been considerable fallout about James MacDonald and his Elephant Room conversation with T.D. Jakes. MacDonald and the Gospel Coalition parted ways as members of the Coalition simultaneously equivocated (Justin Taylor) and criticized (Carson, Keller, Anyabwile) MacDonald’s conversation. At issue, supposedly, was the Trinity. There was never really a clear pronouncement on whether or not MacDonald was a heretic for hosting a heretic, but there was plenty of discussion. Now, in an even clearer example of someone who supposedly believes in the Trinity dialoging with people who have a clear denial of the Trinity there is nothing. Nothing from the Gospel Coalition or the men at Reformation21…why is this? Is it because of the past engagements of Warren and John Piper? As long as there is silence the void will only be filled by supposition.

Secondly, does Rick Warren believe Christians and Muslims worship the same God? I have tried to find the actual document in question and I have not been able to. Therefore, I can only take Rick Warren at his word that the statement agreed upon was that Christians and Muslims believe in “one” God and not the “same” God. There are still numerous problems with such a statement.

In the context of an interfaith agreement the statement seems to be rhetorically useless as it is parsed by Warren. A rough outline of the document’s three main points are: 1) We believe in one God; 2) We love God and our neighbor; 3) We will not seek to proselytize each other. In this context, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Muslims and Christians believe in the same God.

There is no logical necessity that flows from believing in one God to loving your neighbor. What if someone believes in the Hindu god of destruction?

If we both believe in one God and we agree not to proselytize one another there are only two options. We both believe in the same “one God” so there is no need to proselytize. Or we do not believe that our “one God” is the “only God;” thereby implying that there is in fact no such being as “one God.” In either of these two options Warren is surrendering the farm. In an interfaith agreement you cannot say “one God” without meaning “same God.” If you protest this, then you should have agreed that you believe in “a God.”

That this argument is correct demonstrated by the common reaction to the agreement. Once again, an impartial journalist, Christian bloggers, and Muslim bloggers, have all understood this to an agreement that Christians and Muslims believe in the same God. When representatives from these diverse groups agree on this implication, can Rick Warren really say they have all misunderstood the meaning?

Rick Warren has built his life on communication. He has sold millions of books. He is the pastor of one of the largest churches in the world. He knows how to speak and write clearly and persuasively. For him to protest that everyone has misunderstood his meaning is rather remarkable.

Warren’s assertion that Muslims and Christian’s believe in “one God” but not the same God violates the intended meaning of the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6: “For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”– yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

Warren’s interpretation of the joint statement makes him unbiblical. Everyone else’s interpretation makes him heretical. Neither option seems particularly appealing.

******UPDATE: 3/3/12 7:30 A.M.*******

Rick Warren has offered a rebuttal to the reports. Transcript of interview may be found by clicking here

A few observations:

  1. Everything he says to a member of the Christian media seems orthodox. But that doesn’t really address the issue at hand. All he has to do is make publicly available the text of the King’s Way agreement. My three year-old can tell me one thing and tell my wife something completely different, the question is what really happened?
  2. I praise the Lord for any and all souls saved as a result of Warren’s ministry. But evangelism is not a sign of orthodoxy- Matthew 23:15.
  3. Again, the simplest way to make this stop is to make public the King’s Way agreement. I find it interesting that the reporter who supposedly has or has seen the agreement has not changed his story. This is even after Warren accused him of false reporting. Why would the reporter continue to stand by what to him probably seemed a rather insignificant story?
  4. So Rick Warren has told Christians he believes in the Trinity and that Jesus is God. Great, but what has he told his Muslim friends and “brothers”?

Leviticus 10: Thoughts on the long obedience of the Regulative Principle

Leviticus 10:1-3  Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'” And Aaron held his peace.

I am a proponent of the regulative principle of worship.[1] I believe we should only approach God in worship on his terms. I believe the worship “it truth” means doing what God says: not doing more, and not doing less. Nevertheless, this ethos can be presented in a less than ethical way. Those who hold to the regulative principle can certainly include Leviticus 10 in their arsenal of passages. And I am afraid that this passage, and others like it, is too often used in just that way: as a weapon to bludgeon the opposition.

God is particular about how e is worshipped. He did not really leave anything to the imagination. God’s instructions for worship even included the recipe for the incense he wanted to be burned in his presence (Ex. 30:34-38). God was concerned about the smell of the place of worship. Selah.

For some reason Nadab and Abihu decided to innovate. Any probing into why they made such a decision is pure conjecture. Scripture simply gives us no indication why Aaron’s sons did such a thing. Outside of this passage there is no indication they were scoundrels like Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas.[2] In fact, Nadab and Abihu were given the privilege of going up Mount Horeb with Moses and seeing God (Ex. 24:9-10). The only possible hint as to the reason for their sin in Leviticus might be in 10:8-11 where Moses institutes the command that serving priests are not to drink any alcohol. Perhaps Nadab and Abihu entered their service drunk and offered their worship in a stupor.

Whether it was because of drunkenness or not, this account serves to remind us of one of the greatest dangers in worship: complacency. I do not think Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire for any nefarious purposes. I do not think they were trying to worship idols. I think they were simply bored with the mundane-ness of it all. Even if the reason for their sin was drunkenness, why would you get drunk before doing your job? You do not think your job is important enough to be sober for. Nadab and Abihu had seen indescribable things; they had unbelievable experiences. They ate meals with God! (Ex. 24:11) Then they had to- literally- come back down to earth. Perhaps they just got bored with the routine of it all.

In my mind this is one of the greatest dangers for those who hold to the regulative principle. How long can one continue to just sing, pray, give, read, and preach? You look around and see groups of people using skits, movies, performances, bands, etc. and their tribe only increases. People get worn down. How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever? How long do we have to sing the same tired old songs? How long do we have to listen to the preacher drone on…and on? We have been doing this forever and nothing happens. Everything is stale.

Why do people offer strange fire to the Lord? Why do they seek to be innovators in worship? There are times when people simply need to be told to toe the line. But wouldn’t it be more effective to get them to love the line instead? I am not sure how helpful it is to use Leviticus 10 to teach people to worship God God’s way, or else. Especially when they can look around and see that God is clearly not sending fire to consume everyone who worships him in ways he has not prescribed. In worship, as in life, we need to walk by faith not sight.

I pray that I never become bored with obedience. I pray that I never succumb to the allurement of relevance; the comfort of success; the excitement of innovation. But how is this going to happen? I must walk by faith and not by sight. I must content myself with the knowledge of God’s approval. His applause in my spirit must be reckoned louder than the applause of man in my ears. Apparently, God is not too interested in innovation. If he is not, why should I be?

“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Love is the issue. Following the regulative principle is to worship what marriage is to a man and woman. Many fall to the temptation of the excitement of an affair; to the freedom of non-commitment. It is no different in worship. Following the regulative principle is settling in for a lifetime of commitment. It is a determination to love: a determination to love the law of God and follow it. The road of faithfulness is long. It can be tiresome. It can be boring. But it ends in a good place.


[1] The regulative principle is the idea that God should only be worshipped according to the explicit instruction of Scripture: worship should only include what God has specifically commanded. This is in contrast to the normative principle which states that can be worshipped in any way as long as he has not given a command against it. And in contrast to the seeker-sensitive movement which states God can be worshipped in any way that attracts a crowd.

Do I have to go to church?

Here is a link to a 12 page .pdf file that attempts to answer the question whether or not Christians have to go to church. I would simply post it here, but it is in outline format and that is something that would take me too long to do at the moment!

Do I have to go to church?