Why Public Greeting is Vital in Christian Worship

Calvin and Hobbes GreetingThis morning I read an article forwarded to me by a friend entitled, “Those Who Really Don’t Like the ‘Stand and Greet Time’ in Church” (click here to read the article).   The main emphasis of the article concerned first time church goers who do not want to be encouraged to talk to other people in the worship service.  A large number of those people polled cited the “meet and greet” or “giving of the peace” element of Christian worship as socially uncomfortable and undesirable.  Many said that they wished churches would do away with this tradition.  I have just a few thoughts in response to the article.  As I view it, the “greeting” or “giving of the peace” in a worship service is not just an aside, it is a vital part of Christian worship.  In fact, the Bible is filled with passages that encourage the church toward love, relationship, fellowship, greeting, and welcoming.  A few examples… Continue reading

Vita Salutis – Pizza Infographic

Pizza Salutis High ResMy friend Daniel Wells, Assistant Pastor at Hill City Church in Rock Hill, said that he really liked to think of the “Ordo Salutis” (which is latin for “the order of salvation) as a big pizza where all the slices point to and are connected to a big slice of pepperoni in the middle, which is the Christian’s Union with Christ.  The logical order of each element found in the Ordo Salutis is indicated by a number.  Union with Christ is central and vital to every element of salvation.  Of course, the pizza graphic is for illustrative purposes only.  Neither Daniel nor I should be held responsible if, after seeing this graphic, every time someone thinks of the order of salvation and union with Christ, they immediately salivate like Pavlov’s dog and subsequently pound an entire pizza from Domino’s.  🙂

(Click Picture to view in high resolution)

Vita Salutis (The Life of Salvation) – Infographic

Ordo & Vita Salutis (w. trees)The “Ordo Salutis” is latin for “the order of salvation,” which refers to the logical sequence of conceptual steps involved in the salvation of the Christian.  (Romans 8:28-30, Ephesians 1:1-14)

The “Vita Salutis” is latin for “the life of salvation,” which refers to the vital or ‘living’ connection of each element of salvation to the Christian’s union with Christ.  For example, even though sanctification occurs after regeneration and justification, it is built on and receives power from a vital union with Christ. (John 15:1-11, Colossians 1:15-20, 2 Peter 1:3)

(Click Picture to view in high resolution) ______________________

Pastor Sammy Davies gives a great account of how the Ordo Salutis should relate to our Union with Christ.  He says, “(It may best) to understand the ordo as taking place within the union. It is almost as if union with Christ is introduced as a new stage in the ordo salutis, but is perhaps better thought of as, “the dominant motif in any formulation of the application of redemption and dominate feature of any “order” of salvation.” The ordo salutis takes place in union much like a fish resides within water.

Robert Letham expresses this understanding of union with Christ as “the foundation of all the blessings of salvation. Justification, sanctification, adoption and glorification are all received through our being united to Christ.”  Furthermore, “The whole process of the application of salvation to us by the Holy Sprit (what has been known as ordo salutis – the order of salvation) fits in here as part of what it means to be united with Jesus Christ.” Essentially union with Christ isn’t actualised (in the life of the believer) until the Holy Spirit works faith and repentance in a believer.  Perhaps one difficulty associated with this stance is a relegation of the distinctiveness of union. (One) must be very careful to not simply reduce union to a mere additional stage in the ordo, but (also) maintain it’s altogether different nature.”

Pastor Davies’ full article is found at:  http://saintbeagle.wordpress.com/papers/ordo-salutis-and-union-with-chirst/

The Emptiness of Dark Purposes

People need purpose. We need meaning.  In order to give shape and direction to our lives, we need to have an aim, a goal, a direction.  However, the purposes that we often embrace are not all the same.  Some purposes might be self-giving, while other are self-absorbing.  They may be creative or destructive, nourishing or poisonous, full of light or full of darkness.  Unfortunately, many of us choose destructive paths.  We embrace a life that is fueled by anger, or greed, or jealousy, or revenge.  We cling to dark purposes.  In the movie, The Princess Bride, there is a character named Inigo Montoya.  When we meet him in the movie, we find him in a lifelong quest to take revenge on a “six fingered man” for murdering his father.  Though Inigo is one of the most comical characters in the story, he is also one of the most tragic.  When he finally gets his revenge at the end of the story, Inigo finds that his life is empty.  He says, “I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I do not know what to do with the rest of my life.”  This is how it is for all those who shape their lives around dark purposes.  Even when we are successful, we will find that the victory will be empty.  Our hearts will be shriveled and toxic.  Our lives will be lonely and dark.  In the end, we will wind up like Gollum in the Hobbit, whom Tolkien refers to as “a small, slimy creature.”

I don’t want to wind up like Gollum.  I don’t want to be consumed by dark purposes that rot my heart and eat up my life.  “Spirit of Christ, rescue me from my ‘dark purposes.’  Form me in the image of Christ.  Restore the joy of your Kingly rule over my life.  Along with all those who trust in You, restore my trust in the gospel that I might be creative, nourishing, and filled with the light of Christ fueled love.”

Jesus loves the Little Children

Screen Shot 2013-07-22 at 5.15.48 PMThis summer Christ has given me and my family the great privilege of being engaged in something that we really enjoy and still feel a great passion for: spending time and sharing the gospel with kids.  Earlier this year, Justin Woodall and I were asked to go to Elevate, our annual high school retreat that is held at Covenant College in Chattanooga, TN.  I jumped at the opportunity.  Even though I have been out of youth ministry for eight years now, I still very much love students and I have a passion for sharing the gospel with them.  When the week arrived, we had almost 40 students who were signed up for the conference.  Wow!  During the week I was overjoyed to see Christ at work in the lives of so many students and leaders as they responded to the gospel in powerful ways.  It was amazing!  A week after we returned from Elevate, my wife Martha Jo was privileged to go as a counselor to Kulaqua (pronounced: “Kuh-lah-kwah”), our annual middle school retreat in Florida.  From all reports, that was also an incredible retreat where the Spirit of Christ moved powerfully in the lives of middle school students.  Martha Jo was so encouraged!  Charlie and DJ Phillips, our Youth Director and his wife, along with our youth leaders, did a remarkable job preparing the students, parents, and our church for these two very special weeks. Continue reading

Gospel Thought: Christianity is a Relationship!

When I was a younger Christian and Student Minister, I would often emphasize to my students over and over again that “Christianity is a relationship.”  Strangely, that was not always a popular thing to say.  In fact, I was often criticized by older pastors who warned me against saying such a thing because it was pietistic, mystical, and based on emotion rather than the firm foundation of scripture.  This always confused me.  Everything I read in scripture seemed to say the same thing.  In fact, the gospel of John seems to bleed that truth out in every single word.

  • “The Word became flesh and dwelt among you.”
  • “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.”
  • “(I pray) that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.”
  • “For God so loved the world, that He gave us His only Son…”

Continue reading

Gospel Thought: Laughter, Music, Heaven and Mocking the devil

Over the course of my Christian life, I have discovered that there is always something to worry about.  Worries, like weeds, choke all of the joy out of life.  Idols of “control” and “manipulation” possess our thoughts.  We stress out about our government, our family, our finances…it really doesn’t take much to get us going.  We put ourselves in a prison of worry, while the evil one, the devil (I refuse to capitalize his name – he’s not worth it), does all that he can to rattle our cage.  A couple of days ago I compiled a few quotes that are helping me to regain some perspective.  I sense the Holy Spirit reminding me that one of the ways that I should hide myself in the gospel is by enjoying the life that Christ has given me.  Out of a sense of worshiping Christ, I need to listen to good music, laugh with good friends, and give my life in service to others.  As theologian Eugene Peterson puts it, I need to learn “to care, and not to care.”  Below are few of the quotes I’ve read that are helping me with this endeavor.  Martin Luther has been especially helpful.

  • The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.  — Martin Luther
  • If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there.  –Martin Luther (1483-1546)
  • It is pleasing to God whenever you rejoice or laugh from the bottom of your heart.  –Martin Luther (1483-1546)
  • Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.   –Martin Luther (1483-1546)
  • Nothing on earth is so well-suited to make the sad merry and the merry sad, to give courage to the despairing and to make the proud humble, to lessen envy and hate, as music.  — Martin Luther
  • Music makes people kinder, gentler, more staid and reasonable. The devil flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the word of God.  — Martin Luther
  • Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. — (Luke 6:21)
  • “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven”  — (Luke 6:23).
  • C. S. Lewis depicts laughter in Heaven when his characters attend the Great Reunion on the New Narnia: “And there was greeting and kissing and handshaking and old jokes revived (you’ve no idea how good an old joke sounds after you take it out again after a rest of five or six hundred years).”  — C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
  • Father, today, right now, feeling as I do, with deadlines and health issues and friends who are hurting and world events in flux, I need to hear your promise that in Heaven we will laugh. I picture Jesus, laughing with his disciples, and I can’t wait to hear his laugh in person. I look forward to laughing with him at banquets and on walks and in conversations. Thank you for the gift of laughter. Thank you that you invented it. Thank you that we do not have to wait until Heaven to laugh, but that laughter can carry us on its back through difficult times. I think of the release that laughter brings at memorial services for people who have followed you faithfully, people who are already laughing on death’s other side. I have enjoyed rich laughter, mingled with tears, with friends and family in difficult days. When we weep now, Father, remind us that in Heaven, partaking of your joy, we will laugh.  — Randy Alcorn
  • In early Christian Greek tradition, Easter Monday was a “day of joy and laughter,” called Bright Monday. Only the followers of Christ can laugh in the face of persecution and death because they know that their present trouble isn’t all there is. They know that someday they will laugh.  — Randy Alcorn