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By In Worship

I Give An Altar Call Every Week

When I was growing up my family attended Southern Baptist Churches. Many services ended with a hushed atmosphere. The piano would play one of great hymns such as “Just as I am” or “There is Power in the Blood.”  We would all bow our heads and listen attentively as the preacher urged, exhorted, pleaded with those who were lost or backslidden to come forward. As a kid, I always hoped someone would go forward quickly so the preacher would stop. If no one went forward he would keep on and on.  In my Christian psyche these altar calls hold great power and call me back to different time in my life.

The years went by and eventually I became a pastor at a Baptist church. There I read up on the idea of the altar call, where it came from, and why it was done. After some research, I decided not to do altar calls at my church. There were some who opposed my decision, but I think most were secretly grateful.

Now I am a pastor at a liturgical, reformed, presbyterian church. I don’t do altar calls, at least not how the ministers of my youth did them. But I do call upon men to follow Christ and trust in him as any good preacher should.  And I call them to this every week. When? At the Lord’s Supper.

One of the great reasons to have the Lord’s Supper every week is it provides a natural and Biblical (unlike the altar call) way for a minister to exhort his flock to renew their trust in Christ and to remind them of Christ’s gracious redemption for them upon the cross. This past Sunday I saw this very clearly in the way the sermon and the Lord’s Supper tied together.

My sermon ended with an imperative, a command.  I was urging my congregation to consider their loyalty to Christ. I called upon them to examine their lives and see if their professed love for Jesus matched their actual love for Jesus. I was telling them that the road for Christians is a hard one that will require daily sacrifice. Were they ready and willing to take that road? Had they counted the costs?  I knew there were sheep who had become sluggish in their walk with Christ. They needed the cattle prod and my text provided the opportunity to give it to them. I did not pass it up. Concluding a sermon in this way can be dangerous. It left out the cross. It was all imperative. No indicative. Tender consciences can be hurt or weakened when they are not taken to the cross.  But the text was a warning about sluggishness and not being prepared. It was not about the cross.  Too often we soften the power of a text by bringing in what is not there. There was no cross in the text. (I know some will say, “Find one anyway.”  But that is a post for another time.)  As the sermon ended the flock was left hanging and pondering their walk with Christ.

 Five minutes later we came to the Lord’s Table. And though there was no cross in my text there is always a cross at the table. Before we eat and drink together I give the congregation a brief exhortation that ties the word, the sermon, together with the sacrament, the Lord’s Supper. This week I encouraged the flock to look to Christ as their provision for the long journey ahead. I reminded them of the call to discipleship. But then I reminded them that Jesus has provided what we need to fulfill that call. Each week we go out and fight in the Spirit. We lose some battles. We win some battles.  But each week we come in here and Jesus feeds us. He nourishes us on his body and blood. We are refreshed. Our sins are forgiven. We are strengthened by his gracious provision at Calvary.  It was the perfect altar call, reminding the congregation to look to Christ in faith. It was a call to the faithful to keep believing and a call to wayward to return to the fold. I could tell in the eyes of the people that it was effective. Their love for Christ and trust in him was renewed.

Not every week requires this type of an exhortation before communion. But when my people need the cross of Christ I don’t have to tack it on to the end of a sermon like some strange appendage. Or bring it  into a sermon text when it is obviously not there.  I don’t have to hope they remember the cross as they walk out the door after a sermon filled with imperatives. When my people need the cross of Christ I know it is sitting right there every week on the table promising forgiveness, promising grace, promising strength to finish the race.

Peter Jones is the pastor of Christ Church of Morgantown, wife to Julie, and father to eight children. <>kontaktmasterпроверка а на seo оптимизацию

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By In Politics

Flywheel, Eustace, and Redemption

Eustace-Dragon

“I made Jesus Lord of my life.”  Jay Austin in Flywheel

 “The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right to my heart.  And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt.  The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off…Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt—and there it was lying in the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been.” Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader after Aslan had torn off his dragon skin. (more…)

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By In Politics

Faith and Immigration

By Peter Jones

Immigration1I am not an expert on immigration. I do not know the laws inside and out. I have paid little attention to the debate over the last decade or so.  But over the last couple of months I have become convinced that I need to do more thinking about it. It is not as important as the murder of babies or sodomy or even women in the military, but it does matter. Here are some of my initial thoughts on immigration in no particular order and subject to revision.

First, on principle Christians should have no objection to immigration. There is no biblical law or principle that would forbid people coming into our country from other countries. We have no reason to fear their presence. Most of our ancestors were immigrants. Our fathers in the faith migrated to Egypt (Genesis 47). There is an irrational fear of “losing our country to foreigners” or of “American culture being unalterably changed” among political conservatives which conservative Christians often adopt. Christians should not think this way. I know some Christians will say they only fear illegal immigration. That may be true, but the language is frequently applied across the board to immigrants.

Second, Christians should love immigrants, legal or illegal because they are our neighbors (Leviticus 19:34). They are not political pawns to be used to gain votes or to bash the other party by showing that the Republicans have no compassion or that Democrats do not care about our country. They are people created in the image of God. Political expediency and love for America is not the primary concern. Are we loving them and are we helping them to love God.

Third, Christians are called upon to obey the civil magistrate in all circumstances that do not include disobedience to God.  Therefore illegal immigrants who are Christians should repent of the sin of disobeying the authorities God has placed over them and begin working towards legal status. This would include accepting any penalty the law may enforce for their disobedience. Christian business men should not hire illegal immigrants and should repent if they have and again take any penalty the government may enforce. Pastors who minister to illegal immigrants should call on them to repent of refusing to obey the God-ordained authority and work with them so they can get legal status.

Fourth, Christians should not oppose making it easier for someone to become part of our country. Looking at the USCIS page it appears that in order to become a citizen you have to have been here 5 years and pass a civics test and English language test, as well as be a person of “good moral character.”  I think the civics test and English language test make sense, but the 5 year wait could be amended. However, there are millions of legal immigrants who enter our country every year. So the effort must be worth it for most immigrants. Our goal, as Christians, should not be to make it as hard as we can for someone to participate in American civic life.

Fifth, magistrates have a duty to protect their citizens. Therefore it is not absurd for the government to try to keep out of our country evil doers and trouble makers.  Nor is it wrong to have a process for becoming a citizen. But criminals will be criminals. Conservatives say the same thing with guns.  We know that wicked men circumvent gun laws, so wicked men will get around our immigration laws. Just as someone going on a murderous rampage is not a good reason to punish law abiding, gun owning citizens, so a legal or illegal immigrant who does wrong is not a good reason to punish the millions who are here and intend no harm. The Tsarnaev brothers, who were here legally, have been cited as a problem with America’s immigration policy by conservatives. But this is hypocrisy, unless you also want to cite Adam Lanza as a problem with American’s gun policy.

Sixth, I am not sure what to do with the 11 million illegal immigrants in our country. As Christians we should not approach them with fear.  And yet, God calls upon us to obey the authorities. My initial (and very tentative) response is to create a streamlined pathway to citizenship, but keep them from voting in elections for at least one presidential cycle. This would prevent the passage of legislation for the sake of gaining votes. It does not seem that straight amnesty is a good choice. A price should be paid because they broke the law. In this case the price would be that they could not participate in elections.

Seventh, the biggest problem with immigration is not the immigrants, but the bloated, red-taped obsessed, welfare dispensing U.S. government. A lot of critiques of immigration focus on the financial costs of supporting them. But this would not even be a problem if our government did not provide free healthcare, education, welfare, etc. The current arrangement does make immigrants a drain financially. It should not be that way. Also the U.S. government does not truly care for her own citizens. She makes us dependent upon her so we stay on her leash. She spies on us and removes our basic civil rights without due process. Why would we assume they will treat immigrants any other way? Is it really loving our neighbor by encouraging U.S. citizenship? Right now, I still think yes. But the time could come where Christians might encourage potential immigrants to get out of Sodom.

As Christians we have a great opportunity to love those entering our country instead of using them and to call upon them to worship the living God, which would include submitting to the authorities God has place over us. Adopting conservative talking points on immigration will often put us at odds with the Bible. Therefore all of us, but especially those in states where immigrants are common, need to think carefully about how we can show genuine, biblical love for those legal and illegal immigrants around us.

Peter  Jones is the pastor of  Christ Church of Morgantown, he has eight children, but unlike Jacob only one wife. He also blogs at Singing and Slaying.<>поддержка а в месяц

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By In Culture, Theology

What’s In a Name?

by Peter Jones

Naming is an essential part of the human experience. We all place names on things around us. That is a car. That is a Toyota Sienna minivan. That is a 2001 tan Toyota Sienna minivan with three dents in the hatch. And on and on it goes. We follow after our Creator who named the night, the day, the sun, the moon, and man. But he did not just name things as nouns, he also declared them to be good or very good. After the fall he named things good or bad, righteous or unrighteous. The Scriptures explicitly forbid us from calling good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20). The Christian life is one of naming things correctly.

In our postmodern era, it is hard to hold this line. Our world is a complicated one. Things were simple once, back in the day. But now we have become more aware of the overwhelming complexity of this world. Names used to be so obvious. But we were deceived then. There used to be truth that we could name, but now there are only truths, socially constructed ideas that help us name our various realities.  We used to know a woman from a man. Now is it a woman or man? Who knows? (more…)

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