Not Worrying About What Others Think: The Glorious Gospel

I want to take a quick diversion from the series we’ve been presenting over the past few months to speak on the subject of the glorious gospel. In my doctoral studies, I have been blessed with the greatest books and lectures from the most brilliant minds on the subject of worship and the church; one of which is Dr. Frank Page, current president of the SBC Executive Committee.  In a recent lecture about Nehemiah and leadership, Dr. Page made the statement: “If I am doing what God wants me to do, then I don’t worry about what people say.”1

Jonathan Dodson wrote a wonderful book we’ve been assigned this term entitled, The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing. In it, Dodson stressed that the gospel must be central to everything that a believer thinks and how they live. The misconception is that the gospel is operable only at the early stages of a Christ-follower’s life—when they are first saved. To the contrary, the gospel should be prominant throughout a believer’s life until they meet Jesus face to face. The confidence that the gospel brings helps a believer to have assurance, the kind of conviction expressed by Dr. Page in not worrying what people think.

Dodson expressed several ways that humans—Christians and non-Christians—try to find acceptance and significance in life:

Proving yourself to yourself; proving yourself to others; proving yourself to God. Each of these efforts to find acceptance has a different target: self, people, or God. As we have seen, our efforts are not enough.2

The hope humans seek can only be found in God. Justification by faith (Rom. 8:15; 17;
1 Cor. 6:17; Gal. 3:27; Col. 1:27) puts a stamp on our lives, sealing the unchanging fact that we are in Christ and have all of the benefits therein!

Many—including myself—have lived with a distorted understanding of the Good News that Christ brings to our lives. Dodson writes of the same confidence pointed out by Dr. Page when he said:

[The gospel] frees us from what others think by releasing us into what God the Father thinks — God, the infinite, all-loving, truly glorious, humanity-restoring, grace-giving, personally attentive Savior and Lord. He looks at us and says, ‘You’re accepted, loved; you’re mine. Now go have fun, be yourself in Jesus, and when you have opportunity and prompting, tell others what I think of you in Christ.’3

Can I hear a great big, “AMEN?”

The Word brings a promise to all believers: “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe” (Prov. 29: 25—ESV).


               1 Dr. Frank Page, “Presentation: Becoming a Missional Leader,” WRSP 845 lecture, Liberty University (accessed August 2, 2017),

                2 Jonathan K. Dodson, The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 149.

                3 Ibid., 108.

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Living and Worshiping with Purpose—Part 5: Worship and Prayer

Scripture directs believers to: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18, ESV). Prayer is meant for personal and public communication with God, and it is beneficial to have a biblical understanding of the rich variety of prayer. 

D. L. Moody once said about prayer: “My experience is that those who pray most in their closets generally make short prayers in public.”1 To help focus prayer, Jesus even provided a model for believers in Matthew 6:9-13.

Thoughts on prayer

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (1614 –1691) was a Roman Catholic lay minister who served in a Parisian monastery. A book compiled after his death—the classic The Practice of the Presence of God—presents the intimacy he experienced with God in prayer. He was known to live in continual prayer while accomplishing menial tasks in the monastery’s kitchen. Lawrence said of persistent prayer, “…we ought to act with God in the greatest simplicity, speaking to Him frankly and plainly, and imploring His assistance in our affairs, just as they happen.”2 

Oswald Chambers said of the power of prayer: “God has established things so that prayer, on the basis of redemption, changes the way a person looks at things. Prayer is not a matter of changing things externally, but one of working miracles in a person’s inner nature.”3 D. L. Moody echoes Chambers (pun intended!):

Prayer—prevailing prayer—involves the whole of our being. It affects our minds because we are occupied with God; it affects our wills because we desire to be yielded to God; and it affects our emotions because we are consumed with a love for God.4

Various kinds of prayer

Prayers from the Bible have been scrutinized and expertly organized by scholars such as Hughes Oliphant Old. The following categories (which are traditionally regarded) help worshipers to be mindful and purposeful while publically praying during worship. There is an art to leading public prayer: pre-written prayers can leave room for improvisation, and spontaneity must be accompanied with plenty of forethought.
1)     The Invocation

One may break down a proper invocation into three parts: 1) The naming of God; 2) the request that he accept our worship, and 3) the sealing of the prayer in the name of Jesus. An invocation is Trinitarian because, of course, wherein we name God the Father to whom we pray; it claims the promise of Jesus that he is with us when we meet as a body of believers; and names the Holy Spirit through whom intercession of Christ is received.5

2)    The Psalms as Prayer

The Psalms have been referred to as ‘The Lord’s Song.’ Psalm 42: 8 states that the song of the Lord can become the song of our own hearts. Psalm 42: 8 says “By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life” (NIV). Not only are the psalms useful for praying, they also carry a substantial teaching component. 

Dr. John D. Witvliet wrote that the Psalms are not only works of art, but they may also be used as a primer—a basic grammar for Christian worship.6 The psalms teach us basic forms of prayer.
3)    Prayers of Confession and Supplication

Worship must include confession of sin. “This is difficult for our age,” said Old, “but without it our worship lacks integrity. It is a matter of honesty. God is offended by sin, and yet he accepts sinners. Honesty demands that when we approach God sin be confessed. Otherwise, we have an uneasy conscience about it, and, even worse, we compromise the holiness of God.”7

4)    The Prayer for Illumination

The prayer of illumination brings to bear the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the doctrine of revelation. Old described these types of prayers as an epiclesis, which calls upon God from on high to reveal himself by the reading of Scripture and preaching.

5)    Prayers of Intercession

Prayers of intercession are a continuation of Jesus’ ministry today—a practice carried over from the synagogue; prayers of confession and supplication are more private in nature, intercession is more public. Praying for others is a relational activity, involving the help of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus to God, on behalf of others and us. Intercessory prayer is important for the Christ-follower, fostering a cycle of unity between us personally, the Trinity, and other believers.

6)    Communion Prayers

Communion prayers through history are derived from the Old Testament Passover, adapted from Jesus’ Last Supper, which displayed a thanksgiving quality, thus, the actual definition of the word the ‘Eucharist.’

7)    Prayers of Thanksgiving

‘Praise’ is more appropriately placed at the beginning of a service and ‘thanksgiving’ at the end. Praise acknowledges God’s presence in the sanctuary and thanksgiving acknowledges that God has provided for us.8

Even though many of the previous variations of prayer are not strictly practiced in many evangelical churches, it is helpful to understand the rich diversity of biblical prayer in the history of Christian worship.

1 D. L. Moody, Prevailing Prayer (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2016), 19.
2 Brother Lawrence, The Brother Lawrence Collection: Practice and Presence of God (Floyd, VA: Sublime Books, 2015), Kindle Editions locations 112-113.
3 Oswald Chambers, “The Purpose of Prayer,” My Utmost for His Highest, August 28, 2017, (accessed April 13, 2017).
4 MoodyPrevailing Prayer, 8.
5 Hughes Oliphant Old, Leading in Prayer: A Workbook for Worship (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 11-17.
6 John D Witvliet, The Biblical Psalms in Christian Worship: A Brief Introduction and Guide to Resources (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007) Kindle Edition locations 422-423.
7 Old, Leading in Prayer, 79.
8 Ibid., 296.

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Living and Worshiping with Purpose—Part 4: Worship and Giving

Giving generously to God with a grateful heart is an act worship!  

Our response with the giving of resources, our lives in service—to others and God—reveals character, obedience, and faithfulness. Also, our generosity is a huge witness to unbelievers.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:10-11:

He [God] who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God (ESV).

We give because of God’s goodness and faithfulness to us. Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old once wrote: “Christians have [historically] understood almsgiving as an expression of joy. Just as we give Christmas presents as a token of our rejoicing, giving gifts to the poor is a way of rejoicing in God’s goodness to us. It is in the same spirit that we give our tithes.”1

In 2 Corinthians 8-9 the apostle Paul makes these observations about stewardship and giving:

—Those who follow Jesus should excel in the grace of giving

—Giving is an expression of t love for Jesus

—God loves willing and cheerful givers

—A willingness to be generous in giving is more important than the amount given

—Our giving will result in praise and thanksgiving to God

—Our giving should be a natural response to God’s gracious gift to mankind 2

Essentially, being a true leader requires a biblical understanding of stewardship. Management expert Bill Peel said:

The essence of stewardship implies a two-party proposition. One person owns the resources and the other person is entrusted with the resources. By definition, a steward is accountable to his master for how resources are invested. So how does this apply to us today? Since God owns all things [Psa. 24:1], he is the Master; he distributes gifts and resources at his discretion. We are stewards; accountable to him for all that we do with all that we are given.3

Scripture provides many examples of stewardship—good and bad:

Genesis 14—The tithe: Abraham gives a tenth of everything to Melchizedek; Exodus 25—God requested Moses to build the tabernacle and asked the people to bring an offering from the plunder of Egypt; Exodus 32—The people instead misappropriated the gold to build an idol, the Golden Calf; Exodus 36:3-6—People continued to bring offerings and were eventually restrained because of an overabundance; 1 Chronicles 29:5—David desired to build a temple, challenging the people to consecrate themselves with spiritual depth in giving.

One of the most profound passages in the New Testament (NT) about giving concerns a poor widow who made a great sacrifice and gave all she had, though, in reality, it was only the equivalent of a few pennies (Luke 21:1-4). On the other side of the coin (pun intended!), disobedience plagued a NT couple when they denied giving alms and were struck dead because of it (Acts 5:1-11).

Ultimately, giving “is an expression of our acknowledging that everything we have comes from God and belongs to Him.”4

1 Hughes Oliphant Old, Leading in Prayer: A Workbook for Ministers (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans, 1995), 296.
2 Ron Kelley, “Our Giving is an Act of Worship,” LifeWay, (accessed May 9, 2017).
3 Bill Peel, “Leadership Is Stewardship, Part 1,” The High Calling,, (accessed April 13, 2017).


Robert Morgan, “Presentation: Worship and Giving – Part 1,” Liberty University Online, WRSP 835 lecture, (accessed April 13, 2017).

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Living and Worshiping with Purpose—Part 3: Worship and Singing

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. (Ps. 95: 1– 3, ESV).

According to this passage, singing is a required activity among the saints of God. It is not mandatory, however, to be a professional vocalist in order to participate in congregational song; God allows His beloved to at least make a ‘joyful noise!’

There are physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits of singing in general. Singing increases the amount of oxygen to the body, and stress is reduced. It can improve one’s disposition, Also, singing with others increases attentive listening, and increases social interaction.1 Music can soften the hardest of hearts: even David’s music therapy worked wonders on Saul’s anguished spirit (1 Sam. 16:14-23).

Dr. Michael Connolly, a distinguished music professor at the University of Portland, wrote, “What a wonder this singing voice we have been given! How amazing that it can reproduce pitch and text in a huge dynamic and emotional range! It is a marvel when the singing voice can affect listeners in a way that speech rarely can.”2

When engaged in worshipful singing, one’s body, soul, and spirit join with other saints in a common key, tempo, and text to proclaim God’s glory. We sing Scripture, songs of His triumphant deeds, and simultaneously we are instructed and encouraged in the faith.  Scripture points out that: “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17, NIV). Don’t let that incredible reality go unnoticed: God delights in us with His own singing!

John L. Bell, an international expert on congregational worship, pointed out several things about singing. He said that we do not need any equipment to sing—it is natural. He stressed that an overwhelming majority of people can sing, and although we cannot all speak together, we can certainly sing together. Congregational singing helps celebrate a faith community’s uniqueness. And of course, congregational singing expresses emotion; it helps communicate deep concepts and thoughts and has an incredible ability to help people revisit their past.3 In his book, The Singing Thing: A Case for Congregational Song, Bell emphasized:

We are creatures of our past. We cannot be separated from it, and although we cannot always remember it, songs will unexpectedly summon portions of it into mind. If this is true of secular ballads, it is even more true of Christian songs and hymns, especially those which have been in currency since childhood.4

The church is instructed to sing God’s praises (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16); Jesus sang with the disciples at the Last Supper (Matt. 26:30), and continues to sing in the midst of modern-day worshipers (Zeph. 3:17; Heb. 2:12); the apostles and the early church persisted in their singing after the Ascension (Rom. 15:9; Acts 16:25; I Cor. 14:15). Singing is incredibly significant in personal and corporate worship.

Scripture directs the Christian to sing to God from both the heart and with understanding (1 Cor. 14:15). Therefore, as leaders in local church ministry, it would be wise to do everything—whether in promoting choirs, reading and writing musical notation, or sharpening skills as vocalists/ musicians—to make the most of celebrating and loving God through the voice. Singing is an important discipleship tool, and with it, the church sings the gospel—the focal story of our worship. Singing biblical, Christ-centered songs helps the congregation learn about God (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
How and when should we sing? Scripture calls us to sing with feeling and understanding. 1 Cor. 14:15 says, “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding” (NIV). We must also sing to proclaim the glory of God among believers and unbelievers. Romans 15:9 says that when we live out the gospel and worship Almighty God in song, “…the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, for this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name” (KJV). Paul, through personal example, encourages Christians to sing in desperate times; people see where our hope flows from through our worshipful singing. In Acts 16:25 we read: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them” (NIV). 

With singing clearly established as a significant part of daily personal and corporate worship,  Tim Keller urges the church to keep the appropriate focus: “The music must not turn the church into an audience enjoying the music but into a congregation singing the Lord’s praises in his presence.”5

1 Sally Garozzo, “Singing,” Businessballs website, (accessed April 12, 2017).

2 Dr. Michael Connolly, “The Singing Voice: A Basic Operating Manual,” GIA Quarterly, Fall 1991.

3 John L. Bell, The Singing Thing: A Case for Congregational Song (Chicago: Gia Publications, 2000), 13-21; 96.

 4 Ibid., 39-40.

5 Timothy Keller, “Reformed Worship in the Global City,” Worship by the Book, D. A. Carson, ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 257.

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Living and Worshiping with Purpose—Part 2: Worship and Preaching

It is not that preaching itself is central to worship, said Ron Man, “but the centrality of the Word in all of its expressions (preaching, reading, sung, prayed), and the people’s response to it in praise, confession, commitment, etc.”1 Of the profound significance of preaching, John Piper wrote:
The aim of preaching, whatever the topic, whatever the text, [will] quicken in the soul a satisfaction with all that God is for us in Jesus, because this satisfaction magnifies God’s all-sufficient glory; and that is worship. Therefore, the mission of all preaching is soul satisfying, God-exalting worship.2
In Nehemiah 8, the passage illustrates worship and the power that preaching has upon it. First, the passage mentions that all people gathered together, young and old, rich and poor. A wide gamut of citizens was reached with Ezra’s effective congregational preaching. Ezra was elevated above the crowd on a platform so all could hear—a physical acknowledgment of the importance of Scripture.
When the Word of God is skillfully proclaimed, the message will stimulate a response of worship, confession, and commitment. Isaiah 55:11 says, “…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (NIV). The response of the congregation in Nehemiah 8:11-12, at the ending of Ezra’s message, was that ”…all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them” (NKJV, italics added).
Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary of Nehemiah 8, said that the Word of God helps to cleanse and invigorate the hearts of God’s people. Three basic reactions arose from the congregation after the teaching: 1) they comprehended the Word [8:1–8]; 2) they celebrated in the Word [vv. 9–12]; and 3) they submitted to the Word [vv. 13–18]. Wiersbe said, “The whole person—mind (understanding), heart (rejoicing), and will (obeying)—must be captive to God’s truth.”3
Theologically, God’s Word is the authority governing true worship. Preaching is the proclamation of His glory and will, and worship will rise from the Saints in response to the revelation of His greatness. One’s philosophy of preaching in worship must contain passion for the Word and for people, fueled by the profound pleasure of God. Kent Hughes has stated: “The pleasure of God is a matter of logos (the Word), ethos (what you are), and pathos (your passion). As you preach the Word may you experience his smile — the Holy Spirit in your sails!”4

One’s method of preaching may be expository or otherwise, but unpacking truth in the midst of the congregation is scripturally mandated. 2 Timothy 4: 2 states, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (NKJV).

1 Ron Man, “Why the Study of Worship?”
2 John Piper, “Preaching As Worship: Meditations on Expository Exultation,” Trinity Journal, 16:1 (Spring 1995), 35.
3 Warren Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: The Complete Old Testament in One Volume (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2007), 775.
4 R. Kent Hughes, Philippians: The Fellowship of the Gospel (Preaching the Word) (Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishers, 2007), Kindle Edition locations 136-137.

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