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The Worst Consequence of Skipping Church

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We are a culture of convenience, of personalization, of individualism. We have a million ways of customizing our lives to perfectly suit our every preference. When things are difficult, we think little of pulling away from responsibilities, of reorienting our lives away from whatever causes inconvenience. This can even extend to something as good and as central as our commitment to the local church.

All of us who are involved in local churches have seen people waver and wander in their commitment. Most of us have had to extend the call to someone, to urge them back to participation, back to the worship services. When we do this, we often turn to our go-to text, Hebrews 10:24-25, to warn of the danger of “neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some…” We insist that those who neglect to participate in the local church will encounter spiritual temptation, spiritual decline, and even spiritual death. And while all of this is true, it is not the emphasis of that passage. In fact, when we use the passage in this way, we are not displaying the divine urgency behind the text, but our own deep-rooted individualism.

Here is what Hebrews 10:24-25 says: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This passage does, indeed, warn of the serious consequences of skipping church, but its focus is not what we might expect through our Western, individualized eyes. This passage does not warn us that when we skip church we put ourselves at risk. Rather, it warns us that when we skip church we put other people at risk. The first sin of skipping church is the sin of failing to love others.

Gathering with God’s people is not first about being blessed but about being a blessing. It’s not first about getting but about giving. As we prepare to worship on Sunday morning, our first consideration should be “how to stir up one another to love and good works.” We should approach Sunday deliberately, eager to do good to others, to be a blessing to them. In those times we feel our zeal waning, when we feel the temptation to skip out on a Sunday or withdraw altogether, we should consider our God-given responsibility to encourage “one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This text is not about us, but about them. This text is not for Christian individuals but Christian communities.

And, of course, our commitment to the local church is far more than a commitment to Sunday morning services. It is a commitment to other people through all of life. It is a commitment to worship with them once or twice a week, then to fellowship with them, to serve them, and to pray for them all throughout the week. It is to bind ourselves together in a covenant in which we promise to do good to them, to make them the special object of our attention and encouragement. It is to promise that we will identify and deploy our spiritual gifts for their benefit so we can serve them, strengthen them, and bless them.

Every Christian has a place within a local church. Every Christian is needed within a local church. Every Christian has responsibilities within a local church. Every Christian is to commit to the members of a local church and to love them, to encourage them, and to stir them up in zeal until the day of Christ’s return.

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rtreborb
26 days ago
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You can’t legislate morality

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I'm on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, if you're into that sorta thing.

Also: Adam4d.com is my full-time job and I'm funded by readers like you. If you're interested in learning more about that, check out my Patreon page.

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rtreborb
35 days ago
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Stop Using Your Personality Test as a Crutch

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Are you an otter or a golden retriever? Are you a “D” or an “I”? Are you an “ENTJ” or “INFP”? Are you a green or a red?

The list could go on and on, for this is the vocabulary of the personality test. I’ve taken several of them myself, and I am consistently amazed at how accurate they seem to be. In case you’re not familiar with the process, you answer a bunch of questions, and then the survey tool classifies you into one of a various number of personality types. You then receive a description of your personality which tells you about your tendencies, your reactions, your likes, and dislikes.

These can be very valuable tools. In the workplace, personality tests are useful for teaching teams how to effectively relate to one another. They can show you the kind of communication that works best for one person or another; they can also show you the “buttons” that another person has so that you can be careful not to push too many of them.

For the Christian, personality tests like this can be useful for helping us understand and embrace God’s unique activity alive and well in each one of us. They can help us understand how He specifically knit us together to the end that we might discover how to make the most of our personality and gifts for the sake of the gospel and the local church. It’s through tools like this that we can embrace the fact that we are “have been remarkably and wondrously made” (Ps. 119:14).

Unfortunately, though, personality tests can go very wrong in one simple way:

Your personality test is not a license to be a jerk.

We might tend to think it does. After all, we might reason, God has made me this way. Yes, I know my personality is a bit abrasive, but that’s because I’m this color or that animal or this combination of letters.

And yet if you’re a Christian, knowing your personality is not your end game. Neither is knowing what particular temptations you find most difficult is your end game. In the second case, we do well to understand our weak points not purely for the sake of knowledge, but so that we can pray about them. So we can trust the Holy Spirit. So that we can put up safeguards in our lives in order to avoid them.

This is because holiness is our goal. Self-knowledge is not.

The same principle translates over to our personalities. We might take a test that reveals all kinds of things about our personality. But this is not merely knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Instead, we have this self-knowledge so that we can know the particular areas into which the image of Christ must be pressed. So that we can know where we are vulnerable.

So, Christian, don’t use your personality test as a crutch. Use it as an opportunity to embrace the work of the Holy Spirit to make you like Jesus.

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rtreborb
38 days ago
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What We Lost When We Lost Our Hymnals

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I don’t think we should go back to using hymnals. But I do think there’s value in considering what we lost when, over the course of a relatively short period of time, we gave up hymnals for PowerPoint projection. Not all of us, mind you, but most of us. It’s worth considering because it helpfully shows what we stand to lose when we switch from one media to another, and especially when we do so quickly and without due consideration.

If we were to go back in time twenty or thirty years, we would find that most churches had hymnals. They had hymnals because it was the best way of providing each member of the congregation with a copy of the songs. You’d hear it in every church: “Take out your hymnal and turn to hymn 154…” And then hymnals went the way of the dodo and we began to look instead to words projected on a screen. Here is some of what we lost along the way.

We lost an established body of songs. Hymnals communicated that a church had an established collection of songs. This, in turn, communicated that its songs were vetted carefully and added to its repertoire only after careful consideration. After all, great songs are not written every day and their worth is proven only over time. Therefore, new hymns would be chosen carefully and added to new editions of the hymnal only occasionally. Churches would update their hymnals, and, therefore, their established body of songs, only once every ten or fifteen years.

We lost a deep knowledge of our songs. When we removed the hymnal, we gained the ability to add new songs to our repertoire whenever we encounter one we deem worthy. And we do—we add new songs all the time. As we add new songs with greater regularity, we sing old songs with less frequency. This reduces our familiarity with our songs so that today we have far fewer of them fixed in our minds and hearts. Few congregations could sing even the greatest hymns without that PowerPoint screen.

We lost the ability to do harmonies. Hymnody grew up at a time when instrumentation took a back seat to the voice. Hymns were most often written so they could be sung a cappella or with minimal instrumentation. For that reason, hymnals almost invariably included the music for both melody and harmonies and congregations learned to sing the parts. The loss of the hymnal and the associated rise of the worship band has reduced our ability to harmonize and, in that way, to sing to the fullest of our abilities.

We lost the ability to sing skillfully. As congregations have lost their knowledge of their songs, they have lost the ability to sing them well. We tend to compensate for our poorly-sung songs by cranking up the volume of the musical accompaniment. The loss of the voice has given rise to the gain of the amplifier. This leads to our music being dominated by a few instrumentalists and perhaps a pair of miced-up vocalists while the larger congregation plays only a meager role. In fact, it often seems like all we want from the congregation is their enthusiasm.

We lost the ability to have the songs in our homes. Hymnals usually lived at the church, resting from Monday to Saturday in the little pockets on the back of the pews. But people also bought their own and took them home so the family could have that established body of songs there as well. Families would often sing together as part of their family worship. It is easy to imagine a family singing “It Is Well With My Soul” after eating dinner together, but almost impossible to imagine them singing, “Oceans.”

It is probably too late to go back to the hymnal. I am not at all convinced we ought to. But it is still worth considering what we lost along the way and how congregational singing has been utterly transformed by what may appear to have been a simple and practical switch in the media. That little change from book to screen changed nearly everything.

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rtreborb
52 days ago
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rtreborb
52 days ago
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Lack of Oxford Comma Could Cost Maine Company Millions in Overtime Dispute

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Daniel Victor, reporting for The New York Times:

A class-action lawsuit about overtime pay for truck drivers hinged entirely on a debate that has bitterly divided friends, families and foes: The dreaded — or totally necessary — Oxford comma, perhaps the most polarizing of punctuation marks.

What ensued in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and in a 29-page court decision handed down on Monday, was an exercise in high-stakes grammar pedantry that could cost a dairy company in Portland, Me., an estimated $10 million. […]

The debate over commas is often a pretty inconsequential one, but it was anything but for the truck drivers. Note the lack of Oxford comma — also known as the serial comma — in the following state law, which says overtime rules do not apply to:

The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

(1) Agricultural produce;

(2) Meat and fish products; and

(3) Perishable foods.

The dairy company argued that “packing for shipment” and “distribution” were two different items in the list; the truck drivers argued that it was just one item: “packing for shipment or distribution”.

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rtreborb
64 days ago
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1 public comment
dannberg
67 days ago
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I've never heard a valid argument *against* using the Oxford Comma, except "that's just how we do it here."
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