On Repentance

yellow stripes road Repent. It is just one word, often spoken in scripture as a command, but it has great power, if obeyed, to change the course of history. An overstatement? I don’t think so.

Imagine if dictatorial world leaders were to kneel before God and repent. Imagine if corrupt politicians in Democratic Republics across the globe were to humble themselves at once and repent. Imagine if every criminal, every liar, every adulterer, every thief, every drunkard, and every addict in every city and every home in the world were to obey this one word, humble themselves before God, submit to His will and repent.

What a change! What a revival of righteousness our world would enjoy. 106 occurrences of the word repent or repentance in the Bible and each one is commanding us to change our mind and turn from sin.

It’s a word we’ve forgotten and have fallen out of habit in proclaiming. We need to repent.

I want to give you 5 reasons for repentance:

1) The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand

Matthew 3:1-2 says, “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

This is one of the most often repeated reasons in scripture that we’re encouraged to repent. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. It’s here, working, and available to you! Something greater than anything on this Earth is accessible to you if you’ll repent of your sin, change your mind about God, and turn from your will to His will.

2) That your sins would be blotted out

Acts 3:19 says, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…”

This forces us to face a few uncomfortable truths. We all have sin in our life that needs to be addressed and God is the judge who will one day address them.

You are a sinner and you need a savior. I am a sinner and I need a savior. If our sins aren’t dealt with and blotted out, they will be held against us when we are judged by God. The wages we earn from our sins will be death but the gift God gives us is eternal life. The only way to access that freedom from sin and it’s wages is through repentance!

3) God Loves You

Revelation 3:19 says, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”

Repent because God loves you. The conviction that we feel when sin is addressed is a sign that His Spirit is drawing you to repentance. When clearly understood, and powerfully felt, His love is a strong motivation for repentance.

Luke 15:10 says, “…there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Heaven celebrates when we repent!

How could I continue to reject the self sacrificial and supernatural love that God has shown to me? You and I should repent of our sin, not only because God is our judge, but also because He is our advocate, our substitute, and our savior. We should repent because He loves us.

4) Because we should

Mark 6:12 says,”And they went out, and preached that men should repent.”

When Jesus sent His disciples out two by two to preach in the cities they went everywhere preaching that men should repent. Let’s face it, we need to change. That was the disciples sermon and it is still our sermon today.

We should repent. We should change our minds about God. We should completely turn from our sin. Our hearts are nasty and given to selfishness and evil. God is great, and worthy of our full devotion. Put simply, we should repent because we’re wrong and He’s right!

We need a change of mind. We need a change of heart. The way of the world just doesn’t work. It has consistently proven itself incapable of sufficiently dealing with the questions that consistently plague the soul of mankind. The disciples were right, men should repent.

5) To turn away God’s wrath

Luke 13:5, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

Romans 2:5-6, “But because of your hardness and [unrepentant] heart, you are storing up treasures of wrath against yourself on the day of wrath when the righteous judgment of God will be revealed, and He “will render to every man according to his deeds.”

God is love but He is also a judge. He will justly and fairly judge all those who continue practicing sin without repentance. That judgment will include exclusion from Heaven and the eternal death of the soul. We must repent in order to turn away from us the wrath of God.

On the day of Pentecost, when the listening crowd asked Peter what they should do in response to the message he had just preached to them about Jesus and His substitutionary death on the cross, Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38).

If you want to be filled with the Spirit, if you know God loves you, if you want to turn away the wrath of God, if you want your sins to be blotted out, and you want to walk in the blessings and promises of the Kingdom of God then you need to repent!

Advertisements

Our Father

old black pewsHelping us understanding who God is and how He relates to humankind, and how we relate to Him, is one of the primary functions of scripture. Using metaphors and anthropomorphism the Spirit, through the mouths of the Prophets and Apostles, teaches us who God is and who we are in relation to him. One of the most common designations we’re given in scripture of God is that of Father.

God is our Father.

He is the Father of the universe. The Father of all creation and all created things. The Prophet Isaiah declares, “But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; and we all are the work of Your hand.” (Isa. 64:8, MEV) He is the Father of every living thing and person that has ever been graced to enjoy His good creation. God is our Father.

Jesus affirmed this truth when He taught us to address God as, “our Father who is in Heaven” (Matt. 6:9, MEV).

Jesus taught that we can address God as our Father but He also taught that God is not everyone’s Father.

In John 8:42-44 he said, to those who refused to follow him, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God . . . You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” So while it is true, in one sense, that God is our Father, in another very real sense, He is also not the Father of all.

God is the Father of all Creation but He can be called Father, and is the Father, of those who have received His Spirit. In Romans 8:9,14–15 (MEV) the Apostle Paul says, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if any man does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him … For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of slavery again to fear. But you have received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God.”

Not every one can lay claim to the privilege of knowing God as Father. The scriptures are clear that only those who have been born again of the water and of the Spirit have the right of inheritance and the privileges of sonship. Romans 8 maintains that those who have the Spirit of God have the Spirit of adoption, making them sons of God. The Spirit bears witness that God is our Father.

God may be everyone’s Father but not everyone is His son.

While everyone can say, in a very general sense, that God is their Father the Spirit filled believer, in a very specific sense, can additionally confess that they are His sons! This is why Jesus calls the baptism of the Holy Spirit “The Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4-5).

Those who are the Spirit filled sons of God have access to the promises and blessings of a generous and bountiful Heavenly Father! Promises like Matthew 7:11, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

The language of God’s Fatherhood is not merely an ancient cultural construction held to for the sake of nostalgia but it is a revelation of a truth of who God is and who we are in His plan. We are His children and He is our Father!

The privilege of prayer and the promise that God will work all things together for your good (Rom. 8:24) is part of the inheritance of sonship. To know we are called, justified and will be glorified (Rom. 8:30) is part of our inheritance in sonship. Paul concludes his teaching in Romans 8 regarding the believer’s sonship by declaring, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

In Romans 8:38-39 he celebrates the truth of our sonship by saying, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities nor powers, neither things present nor things to come, neither height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That is what it means to have God as your Father!

What Makes A Life

baby mobileIf there’s one thing the main stream media (MSM) loves it’s a juicy tale. Give us a celebrity divorce, a baby daddy, a hostage, some good old fashioned money laundering, adultery or murder. We’ll even take a cruise ship full of poop and make it a sensation!

However, something strange has happened the last few weeks. A man by the name of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortionist, is accused of some of the most horrific crimes I’ve ever read. Crimes so awful I will not list their details here. Suffice it to say the nickname his office has gained, “House of Horrors”, is appropriate. Yet the MSM says nothing.

The details are horrific. Horrific. I certainly understand the desire to avoid willingly letting oneself being awash in these atrocious details. But to ignore it completely is indicative of, at the very least, a bias and an a priori position regarding abortion. In her opinion piece for USA Today, which you can read here at your own discretion,  Kirsten Powers points out the near total media silence on the details and trial of Kermit Gosnell. It makes the claim seem true that if the facts contend with the MSM narrative of any given issue then their response is to simply ignore the facts.

My contention is that the media has not ignored this story because it inaccurately or unfairly depicts the abortion industry but because it all too accurately displays what abortion looks like and what it really is. The murder of babies.

Many pro-abortion activists have used a series of philosophical arguments to advocate for the legality of abortion. Let’s examine them.

Self-Awareness: One individual told me that the difference is self-awareness. His contention was that self-awareness is what makes us fully human and grants us the person hood that is so morally sacred and protected by the laws of the United States. Since an embryo has no self-awareness (that we’re aware of) then it has no person hood or value to protect. It can be removed, like a tumor, at the will of its host. Considering the claim that the capacity for self-awareness bestows value on human beings leaves me with more questions.

When we are asleep we are not self aware. Do we lose person hood when we are asleep? Or maybe when we’re comatose? Are individuals that are impaired, suffering from dementia or other neurological disorders void of person hood? Of course not. Even if they lack immediate self-awareness the potential is there for self-awareness and that is what makes us a human being as opposed to every other living thing on the planet. Our intrinsic humanity in design.

Self-Awareness is no more a reason to advocate for abortion than sleep is. Though an embryo may not be aware yet of its fingers, toes or heartbeat it retains the potential, if uninterrupted, to acquire that self-awareness of person hood and that is what makes it fully human and fully deserving of the sacred right to life.

Size: They’re so small. Not even .25 of an inch until the sixth week. Pro-abortion advocates would say that there is no moral problem with eliminating something the size of a pea.

Using this logic we can conclude that larger people have more rights than smaller people. Embryos are smaller than newborns and toddlers are smaller than adults. My wife is smaller than me. Does that grant me more rights to person hood than her? Of course not. Size has no bearing whatsoever on whether it is morally or rationally acceptable to end a life. Size doesn’t equal value. If that were true than men, which are generally larger in size than women, have more rights as a person than women.

Furthermore, at 12 weeks, the average fetus weighs half an ounce, is 2 inches long and has almost all vital systems fully formed. At 16 weeks it weighs up to four ounces, is up to 5 inches long, has eyebrows, lashes, teeth and hair filling in. At 22 weeks the average size is 10 inches, weighing 12 ounces, the face is fully formed, gender is visible, the baby can hear and taste. It may be small but so is my sister. Size has no bearing on the person hood or value of a life.

Level of development: While it is true that a baby in gestation is less developed than a newborn it has no bearing on their person hood or the adults they’ll one day become. The only difference is a few days. Every living human was one day a fetus in gestation. It is the human process through which we must all travel. If anything, it is indicative of our humanity.

There is no moral or rational reason level of development should be relevant in determining person hood. A three year-old girl is less developed than a teenager. Should older children have more rights than their younger siblings? A newborn is far less developed than an adult male. Is David Beckham more of a person and endued with more rights than a newborn? Of course not.

What about those who never fully develop certain abilities or physical systems? What about the boy born without eyes or hands? What about the little girl born without legs? Is she somehow less of a person because she is not as developed as others? Do they have less of a right to life?

Acknowledging limited levels of development, instead of allowing, should actually deter from any pro-abortion position as it indicates the humanity and person hood of a body. If left uninterrupted it has the potential to fully develop into a self-aware human being. The key word there is, “uninterrupted”.

Environment: Some say as long as it is in the womb it’s not a person yet and it can be “terminated”. This to me is some of the most egregious logic used to defend abortion.

A mother’s womb should be the safest place in the world. Instead, the awful truth is, it has become as dangerous, particularly to African-American babies, as the most violent inner city in the nation. As Scott Klusendorf said here:

Where you are has no bearing on who you are. Does your value change when you cross the street or roll over in bed? If not, how can a journey of eight inches down the birth-canal suddenly change the essential nature of the unborn from non-human to human? If the unborn are not already human, merely changing their location can’t make them valuable.

We don’t gain or lose rights or person hood based upon where we are. Using location, and most of all the womb, to defend abortion is mind-boggling to me. A person outside the womb is a person in the womb. Just because we can’t see a baby in the womb does not mean it’s not a baby until it’s born. Environment has no moral or rational bearing on person hood.

Degree of Dependency: Some say that because the fetus depends completely on the mother for it’s survival it is the mother’s choice to keep or terminate the pregnancy. There are two problems with this reasoning.

First, it places the value of a human life on whether someone wants it alive or not. Why then not make murder legal? If a pregnant woman is assaulted and loses the child she is carrying the courts can charge homicide because the mother wanted the child. How then, if a mother chooses abortion, is it not also murder? Simply because she didn’t want it? An individuals worth to another individual has no bearing on it’s person hood, value or intrinsic humanity.

Secondly, it makes the degree of dependence one has on forces outside of itself the test of person hood. If that is the case then the handicapped, injured, comatose and those with medical afflictions have lost their person hood. Again, Scott Klusendorf weighs in:

If viability makes us human, then all those who depend on insulin or kidney medication are not valuable and we may kill them. Conjoined twins who share blood type and bodily systems also have no right to life.

Simply put, our level of dependence on forces outside ourselves does not reasonably determine our humanity, person hood or intrinsic value.

We may have different levels of self-awareness, differing sizes, location and levels of development but we are all human and all endowed by our creator with a right to life and person hood. I believe God is the giver of life and as such no man has the right to take it in the womb.

So what makes a life?

When a man and a woman conceive a child in the woman’s womb, from the moment of conception, morally, rationally and most of all Biblically, that is a child. Some may choose to call it an embryo, a zygote or a fetus. That’s fine. But it’s a baby and it’s a person and it has a right to live as much as anyone outside a womb.

The awful truth, and the story our culture is desperately trying to avoid, is that abortion ends a life and there is no good reason.

Born This Way

churchcemeteryIt seems as if the only thing the mainstream media and non-Christians know about Christianity is that we believe homosexuality is sin. It seems to be the first question always asked by an interviewer who has a moment with an Evangelical Pastor.

Pastor Rick Warren was interviewed on CNN recently by Piers Morgan and then again by a reporter from the Huffington Post concerning his new book and specifically his views on homosexuality. You can see the video here or scroll below.

 

 

The interviewer brings up a commonly asked question in regards to this issue. Why would God make someone with a desire that He would then call sin? The question posits a couple interesting theories. First, that God is the source of all of our desires and passions and second that possessing a desire alone is indicative of its legitimacy. The problem is, both conclusions are wrong.

An understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ instructs us in this regard. We are born into a fallen world with an active sin nature. It is natural to the hearts of all men and women to sin, that is, to violate the will, law and nature of God. Secondly, simply having a desire or passion speaks nothing to its legitimacy.

All sex outside of marriage is sin, whether its hetero or homo, and marriage can only be Biblically defined as between one man and one woman. The canard that, “Why would God create me with a passion He doesn’t want me to fulfill” is ludicrous. The fact that one has a desire they’re driven to gratify is immaterial to its acceptability.

Some men are born with inclinations to steal, lie, commit adultery, and all other sorts of evil. Why would God create them, driven to rape or cheat on our spouse let’s say, if He didn’t intend for them to fulfill it?

The Gospel tells us!

They’re right. We were all born this way. Born to sin, to lie, to steal, to pervert nature, to be unfaithful and to hate. We were born with a nature that would oppress and abuse if given the chance. Our natural inclinations and desires are inherently sinful and challenge God’s laws. We all, heterosexual & homosexual, need to be born again to get a new set of passions and desires, be filled with the Spirit and to align our natural passions with the Word of God.

Lady Gaga can sing, “I was born this way” all day long but it does not legitimate or excuse the presence of sin. We need to repent. We need to be born again. We need the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

On Egypt, Guns and Sin

church doorsThis past week has been a depressing week to read the news. It’s been full of tragedy and heart break and has given us many reasons to mourn the condition, not only of society, but of the hearts of men.

First there is the clash of ideology, religion and violence in Egypt. One of the more troubling aspects coming out of Tahrir Square is the unmitigated assault on women. A select few news outlets have been reporting on the rape and abuse of women that is going unchecked in the wake of the violence surrounding the Egyptian protests and demonstrations in Tahrir Square. According to an NBC news article sex mobs have been targeting Egypts women and they have no fear of being caught or punished.

And then there is the Kansas City Chiefs tragedy. A linebacker for the Chiefs, Jovan Belcher, shot his girlfriend, and mother of their daughter, then drove to the Chiefs facility, spoke with his head coach, and then shot and killed himself. One news article stated that he kissed his daughter goodbye before he left their home to commit suicide.

Horrible, horrible displays of evil, selfishness and sin. They make us want to revolt against these actions and demand things like this never happen again. It’s what caused Bob Costas and Piers Morgan to make statements calling for severe gun control laws. We want to do something to ensure things like this never happen again. Bob Costas stated here, “If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”

Maybe. Maybe not.

Bob Costas showed a lack of insight as to the real source of the tragedy. The cause was not guns but sin in the heart of a man. The gun was simply the tool he used to express the sin that was there. Many have believed through the years that if we can control tools we can control sin. It is simply not true. No amount of restrictions and laws can change the heart of man. If he wants to do something, he will find a way to do it. If not a gun then a knife, or a rope, or a car, or his own hands.

In Colossians 2:20-23 Paul asserts that strict laws and severe restrictions to “taste not, touch not, handle not” have no power to actually prevent sin because “they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (vs. 23). In short, if it’s in a person’s heart to sin no amount of law and restrictions will prevent it. To get power over the compelling nature of sin you must change the heart.

Jovan Belcher, and his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, didn’t need Bob Costas, Piers Morgan or Barack Obama to take the gun out of his hand to be alive today. He needed Jesus to take sin out of his heart.

Law itself has never been sufficient as a crime deterrent or a sin deterrent. Law abiding people don’t need laws. They possess a moral compass that inclines them to follow laws. Laws are for criminals who break laws anyway! I am not advocating for the abandonment of all laws. That would be anarchy. What I am saying is that laws have never stopped a crime or a sin from occurring. Despite the popularity of the TV program we do not have a system of law and order but one of crime and punishment.

As Author Dan Delzell said,

The Law leads a person to Christ by showing him that he is a lawbreaker. It’s similar to when a doctor shows a patient test results which point to a terminal illness. The Law brings us face to face with our sin….and the awful sickness in our soul….and we see just how far we fall short of God’s requirements. Without that insight from the Law, man is left feeling pretty good about where he stands with God. Man generally feels fairly satisfied about himself and his level of morality. Why shouldn’t he? It is in man’s nature to assume that he is righteous enough to gain God’s approval.
The truth is that we are all guilty, and exceedingly so. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) The Law proves it. Before the Law leads a man to Christ, he tends to be deceived about his true spiritual condition. The Law cannot save his soul….it can only reveal his soul’s condition without Christ. So what is the solution to man’s problem? Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:7).

If you really want to change society, and rid our cities of crime and sin, you need to change the inclinations in the hearts of men and women. The only way to do that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pride & Humility

The subject of pride and humility is one we cannot exhaust enough. It is the basic failure and success in the human heart. Pride is the source behind all sin. We either believe we know better than God or He doesn’t matter. That’s pride. The exalting of self above God or of having an inordinately high opinion of one’s own self worth or achievements. The message pride sends is that you’re not just fine, you’re great operating under your own auspices. The Gospel of Jesus Christ says that we are sinners and without Him we could not be saved.

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Seattle recently posted a blog entry about pride and humility that I wanted to share. It is a quick and insightful article that will give you some things to remember and think about.

You can read it here at his site or scroll below.

7 things you should know about pride and humility

The worst decisions in my life, the times my anger has gotten the best of me, and the instances of my greatest regret were all the result of my pride. Pride never helped anything. Pride never improved anything.

I’m not qualified to write about humility, but you’re not either. Therefore, as the chief hypocrite, I’ll take the liberty. Here are seven things about pride and humility that I’ve learned, mostly the hard way.

1. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble

The most haunting verse in Scripture is found in both James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” If we insist on our way, our best, our fame, our glory, our best interest, the living God of the universe will work against us in direct opposition. Our pride puts us in this dreadful position.

2. Humility means knowing your place

Some of the earliest instances of the word “humble” refer to the position a person occupies. The Apostle Paul writes, “I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Rom. 12:3). Do you crave glory, recognition, reward, or attention that is beyond your present station?

3. Everyone is proud, just in different ways

You’re proud. They’re proud. I’m proud. But we’re all proud in different ways. It’s easy to point out pride in others while remaining oblivious to our own blind spots. Some of us think we deserve more money. Some of us think we deserve more respect. Some of us think we deserve more comfort. Before we judge and condemn other people for their pride, we need to ask, “How am I blind to my own?”

4. Humility is a direction, not a destination

None of us can say, “I used to be proud. Glad that’s over!” That would be proud. In his book Humility , C. J. Mahaney describes himself as “a proud man pursuing humility by the grace of God.” The same could be said for all of us. As Christians, we venture in the direction of humility, by the grace of God. The question is not, “Have you arrived?” but rather, “Are you even trying?”

5. Pride is about my glory, humility is about God’s glory

Once the question of glory is settled, everything is settled. Resolve to give God the glory, and you’ll know the answer to the vast majority of the decisions in your life.

If you’re fighting with your spouse, what should you do? Whatever brings God the most glory. If you’re disobeying your parents, what should you do? Whatever brings God the most glory. If you’re disagreeing with leadership, how should you conduct yourself? In a manner that brings God the most glory. If you have aspirations, what should you pursue? Whatever brings God the most glory.

What you do, why you do it, how you do it, when you do it—humility considers every decision by asking, “Who gets the glory?”

6. Pride bends inward, but humility turns out to God and others

Martin Luther described sin as the self bending in on the self. Pride makes it all about “me.” That’s why at Mars Hill we love to say, “It’s all about Jesus.” Humility turns our affections and energies toward God’s glory and others’ good. We start to ask how we can help. We start thinking about ways we could serve or bless other people. We start to forget our own needs. Pride leads us to focus on ourselves. Humility leads us back out to God and others.

7. Pride births death, humility births life

Augustine, the great church father, likened pride to a mother who is pregnant with all other sins. In pride, Satan rebelled against God because he desired to be God. In pride, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit because they wanted to be like God. In pride, we reject God’s wisdom, will, and Word because we think we know better. All sin comes out of pride—and all virtue, all holiness, and all glory to God are birthed out of humility. Is your heart pregnant with pride, or is it pregnant with humility?

The bad news: we will lose the battle of pride vs. humility every day. The good news: we have perfect humility in Jesus. Unlike Satan, unlike Adam and Eve, and unlike us,

[Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6–11

Jesus was humble, and God glorifies him as a result. Likewise, if we repent of our pride and pursue humility in Jesus instead, by God’s grace we will be glorified with him as well. We war against our pride not by focusing on our humility—which is just another way of focusing on ourselves)—but rather, the humility of Jesus Christ.

Hymns

I was raised singing hymns from a hymn book. The church I attended, from the time I was born until I was 18 and went to college, was in the South Suburbs of Chicago and we sang hymns every Sunday. Not the boring kind of high octave soprano hymns but the black gospel, hammond b-3 organ driven, foot tapping, hand clapping kind of hymns. Songs about the blood and victory and heaven. I love the old hymns of the church.

I also like some of the new songs. If the reason we worship and sing is to express our hearts and devotion to God in song then every generation deserves their worship songs. Just because something is old does not make it outdated and just because something is new it is not necessarily better. And vice versa.

Charles Stone recently posted a blog entry about Hymns and what they mean to him and the church. I found it interesting, worth considering, and wanted to pass it on to you. You can read his blog post here or scroll below for the full article.

Last Sunday night I attended an old-fashioned Gospel sing at a church near our home.

It was out of my comfort zone because the last 25 years I’ve served in churches that primarily used contemporary worship music in their services. Yet, from toddler age through college I attended churches that primarily used hymns.

When the seeker movement became widespread, I and many other like-minded pastors classified traditional hymns as barriers to church growth. As a result, I seldom used them in the churches I served except for the occasional “Amazing Grace.”

However, as I sat through the Gospel sing, something stirred deep within me.

Had I neglected an important part of my Christian heritage by not incorporating them in the churh services? Should I reconsider them going into the future?

The Gospel sing worked like this. The song leader invited those who attended (a couple hundred) to pick a hymn from the hymn book. They then raised their hands and he’d pick someone. They’d call out the hymnal page number. We’d turn to that page. The pianist would start playing. We’d sing.

After 30 minutes of suggestions and singing, probably 20 songs, we’d take a short break from singing. The pianist then played a medley of hymns and a duet sung a couple hymns. Then we sang for another 30 minutes, prayed and dismissed for ice cream sundaes in the gym.

I thought I’d be bored and planned to surreptitiously follow NFL games on ESPN’s Gametracker on my iPhone. Was I surprised.

Here are several lessons I learned that night.

1. The majority who attended were clearly older than 65, many in their 70s and 80s.
As I watched these seniors sing, their faces glowed with a deep love for Jesus. God reminded me that preferred music styles don’t indicate a person’s love for Him. The builder generation, which is quickly declining, has shown incredible commitment and sacrifice to the cause of Christ the last several decades. Just because they prefer a different music style than my preference doesn’t mean I’m any closer to Jesus than they.

2. I was surprised at how well I recalled these songs I hadn’t sung in more than 20 years.
I seldom even needed to look at the hymnal for the words. I realized how grateful I was to my parents for the rich Christian heritage they gave me. Those many years they took me to Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night services along with revivals and vacation bible schools had left an indelible imprint on my soul. Those hymns had deeply imbedded the truth of God’s word into my heart that I’d never forgotten.

3. I marveled at the magnificence of how God created our brains.
Music increases our ability to recall truth because it enhances long-term memory. Even after decades of not reading the words or singing the hymns, my mind easily recalled them. This thought reminded me how important music should play in our services to imbed theology into the hearts of believers.

4. I felt sad as I watched my youngest daughter who sat next to me.
As my wife and I sang, she followed along as best as she could, yet she hardly knew a single hymn. Either my naivety or my pride (or both) had caused me to neglect this powerful medium to teach the essence of the Faith. My kids had become the losers.

5. Finally, I resolved to bring hymns back into the churches I serve.
While updating their tempo and style a bit, I want those young and old in the faith to encounter the living Christ through the power of God’s word hitched to the medium of hymn music.

What are your thoughts on hymns? Do you believe we have neglected them? If so, how have you incorporated them into your services?