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127 Responses

  1. Owen says:

    So, here’s something I’ve been thinking about….
    I was raised in a household where Christmas was a big deal. What I mean by this is, everything had to be perfect. Great and intensive planning went into the whole affair, and details were very important, and there was a lot of fussing about with them.
    I still see this going on with many households today. So I really start to wonder why we do this to celebrate the birth of Christ, when the actual event in history had absolutely no planning or fussing about involved, and nothing was perfect. It was a quiet, lowly affair.

  2. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Owen, there are 2 sides to the Christmas event – the civil celebration and the religious. Enjoy both but do not intermingle them.

  3. Em says:

    Good question..
    I grew up in my grandparents home and Christmas eve was a gathering of the whole family – a big production? Yes, but after the meal, the opening of presents, all quieted down, the living room lights were turned off and my grandpa read the real Christmas story from the Bible by the light of the big Christmas tree… Everyone hugged good bye and each family piled into their cars and drove home….
    Not sure how we were focused goin in, but i know where the focus was comin out….. 😇

  4. Owen says:

    Em, I like that last sentence…. 🙂

    MLD – I hear you. I think I’m just having more trouble these days getting into the civil celebration, because it often has nothing to do with the religious. But mainly what I’m talking about is the stress that seems to be created from the preparations etc… and the worrying about things being just right.

  5. Michael says:


    I hear you.
    Christmas is a major stressor for me.
    It’s a huge production number here every year and I hate it.
    This year, due to Covid19…it’s being very ramped down and it’s the only thing I thank the virus for.
    One thing that has helped me is not divorcing Christmas from the rest of the church calendar…observing Advent helps keep me on track with handling the civil and religious well.

  6. Michael says:

    One other thing…those who are really invested in and are investing in making this a big deal often are doing it with the best and most loving intentions…and I honor that.

  7. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Owen, it’s not like there was no preparation for the birth of Jesus – in fact there was tremendous preparation —- by God. All of human history was the prep for the nativity.
    Gal 4:4 = “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,”

    I don’t know how old you are but at my time in life, we spend Christmas alone and hang 1 string of lights on the porch, set up our fake 3 ft table tree and my wife bakes some cookies. We go to church Christmas morning.

    The day after Christmas I drive to California and pick up 5 of my grandkids to spend the week here — during that time we do Christmas dinner.

  8. Jean says:


    The first Christmas was a well planned event. God had promised it over and over again. he carried it out “in the fullness of time,” meaning at just the right time. It was such a monumental event that western civilization started the calendar over again.

    People celebrate Christmas for different reasons. Some emphasize the incarnation, the day when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This is the highest and best use of Christmas. It is why the day extists!

    Others celebrate by renewing family ties, through table fellowship, reunions and exchanging presents. If God came to reconcile mankind to himself in Christ, then reconciling and/or strengthening family relationships seems like a good use too.

    Some people celebrate by making charitable donations to good causes they support. When you’re gripped by the gift of Christ, it has a tendency makes one generous as well.

    Some people celebrate by taking stock in things and people to be thankful for. This morning I handwrote a few Christmas themed cards to people I work with. I am thankful for my job, colleagues and good management. I think we often get so busy with life and work that it takes a good holiday to slow us down to remember those who have made a difference in our lives during the past year.

    Regrettably, some people piggyback off Christmas to further their greed and/or consumerism. They don’t give a rip about God’s mercy and grace in Christ or about being kind to others, but are simply trying to make a buck or acquire more stuff for themselves.

    I personally hate the commercialization of Christmas, and while I go along with some of the hype to some extent in my own family, I chafe at it and try to influence it so that it’s done modestly amongst my intimate family. I would rather share meals and conversion with family, who gather together at holidays, than the ritual of exchanging and opening tons of wrapped gifts with obligatory photos, etc. But that’s just me.

    Aside from Christ as the central figure and thought in Christmas, the next best uses of the holiday IMO are those I mentioned above about about renewing family ties, being thankful, and helping others. I think they are very good uses of the holiday.

  9. Owen says:


    I too find Advent helpful. And I agree that many are doing all these preparations with loving intent. Which is why I usually don’t say anything. I just find that it’s all too often that the preparations and celebrations seem to leave the real reason hiding in the background somewhere.


    I’m 51, still have two kids at home. Your Christmas sounds a lot like what I’d like ours to be a few years down the road, actually. We have pared ours down considerably, partly because we wanted to leave more time to reflect. Also, the older we get, the more the importance of some things wanes. We will miss having church this year, ours is still closed. We meet online, but of course it’s not the same.

    When I was talking about “no planning or fussing” involved with the details regarding the birth of Jesus, I probably wasn’t clear. I meant that on the human level, there was very little that mankind really did to prepare. It just happened. And I mean, in comparison to the way many prepare for it now.

    The hype really puts me off as well. I can’t really speak much to the renewing of family ties – outside of our own household (and our oldest and her husband), family ties have not gone well, unfortunately. There are no visits with grandparents, uncles, etc….. Our main family is the church family.

    Another thing that bothers me about Christmas nowadays – there’s talk of grace, compassion, and generosity during the season. But then it seems like it’s forgotten for the rest of the year – it’s like there’s an implication that “this is the season of kindness and generosity.” Just this season? Really?

    (Sorry folks, rant over…)

  10. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Owen, here is the difference in our Christmas preparation. I am 71 and my wife won’t let me on the big ladder any longer 🙂

  11. Owen says:


    Ha! Yeah, there’s some of that on my end, too….. my heart issues have restricted my physical activities. Wife and kids both will bark if they think I’m doing too much…..

  12. Bride of Christ says:

    Here is some perspective….our Calvary Chapel hosted a Christmas event for the ladies every year. It was an outreach event – non Christians were invited for Christmas music, special desserts, beautifully decorated tables, and an invitation at the conclusion of the grand Christmas affair to give one’s life to Christ. I was involved in hosting and it was a HUGE amount of work….but people attended for the festivities and they also ( surprise!) heard about the real meaning of Christmas, and some women were so moved that they gave their lives to Christ. My father used to complain about all the fuss that accompanied Christmas, and then a very wise counselor explained to him that THIS is the reason you remember your Christmases… the day is special and stands out in your memory because of all the love and effort that goes into the preparation for this special day.

  13. Jean says:

    A federal judge today ruled that the acting secretary of homeland security was acting unlawfully when he stopped new applicants to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (aka DACA). This came as as a relief to more than 600k young people in the USA who were brought to America as children and have grown up in the USA and have no experiential ties to the countries of their parents.

    I assume Christians would agree that it would be beyond cruel to deport children who know no country other than the USA (and possibly no fluent language other than English) to what would be to them foreign countries.

    I am grateful for this ruling and pray that it would be an early permanent Christmas gift to these youth (who did nothing wrong and had no say in their immigration), which will not be taken away from them by shortsighted politicians who appeal to fear and bigotry to further their aims.

    It’s a damn shame that anyone actually thought it is humane to deport these young people in the first place. I assume the Church of Jesus Christ is thanking God for this latest judicial decision.

  14. Em says:

    No child born and raised here should be deported – that said, i confess that i don’t see the logic in automatic citizenship if your non citizen mother happens to give birth here ? ? ?

  15. Jean says:

    Does this count as logic?

    “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (14th Amendment to the US Constitution, Section 1)

    DACA does not deal with children born in the USA, but with children brought here without their consent by their parents and raised here.

  16. Em says:

    Jean @4:24…..
    NOPE, but DACA is not the enigma that i was addressing

  17. Michael says:


    I think it goes without saying that I rejoice in this ruling of neighbor love…and pray that it is codified in law.

  18. Owen says:

    BoC – that is a good and helpful perspective indeed.

    About remembering Christmasses – I do have to say that I don’t remember very many of mine from childhood, just the fact that the closer the day got, the more stressed out things got to be about preparations.

    A good thing about what you described is that all those involved in the preparations knew the reason for doing it was outreach, in the name of Christ. Not just because “it’s Christmas, this is what is expected.”

  19. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    A good Lord’s Day morning to all – a hymn from a Lutheran youth gathering to get you started. The words are down in the You Tube comments. (I need to put in a request to my pastor that we sing this one of these Sundays.) Maybe I will lead this in my men’s group Friday morning – 40 old guys croaking this out might be fun. 🙂

  20. Muff Potter says:

    Em @ 10:50 am:
    ” Everyone hugged good bye and each family piled into their cars and drove home….”
    Not a good idea these days given the increasing virulence of the Pandemic.
    Be smart, don’t do it this season…

  21. Em says:

    Muff, can’t do it. Except for us scattered cousins, they’re all home with the Lord now. 😇
    That said, I’d think any family/household would benefit from ending their Christmas eve by reading the true Christmas story from Scripture before tucking in for the sugar plum visions.
    God keep…… 🙏

  22. Em says:

    MLD, baptized into Christ. – INDEED! ! !

  23. Owen. If there where no traditions they would need to be invented.

    I’m a non-Christmas guy. I get depressed and worry more yhen usual. Really dont like the Winter. I’m a Solstice guy. But Christians don’t celebrate Solstice, or value the Mazzoroth. It gets worse, I’m a teetotaler. So much for jumping around a bonfire, properly libated, especially with arthritis.

    That makes for a very lonely, if still contemplative Holiday, and it makes Christmas look a bit better by comparision.

  24. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Em, “baptized into Christ. – INDEED! ! !”
    They sing of their experience being brought safely into the ark of the Church through the waters of Holy Baptism – it’s really good stuff. I love the 3rd stanza when it speaks to going to the baptismal font

    3. Satan, hear this proclamation:
    I am baptized into Christ!
    Drop your ugly accusation,
    I am not so soon enticed.
    Now that to the font I’ve traveled,
    All your might has come unraveled,
    And, against your tyranny,
    God, my Lord, unites with me!

  25. Em says:

    MLD, while o am convinced that water baptism is required of every Believer, i do belueve that it is the Holy Spirit that baptizes us into Christ…. No matter, though, whether tha act saves or is a required testimony of obedience to our Lord, it is a rquirement…
    Been Presbyterian sprinkled and SB immersed…. the immersion is much more humbling.
    God keep

  26. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Em, we don’t care about the mode of baptism – getting wet is sufficient no matter how you do it. But what those youth were singing about was not their obedience to God in their baptism, but God’s favor (salvation / protection from the devil) in their baptism.

    In our liturgy we have what is called the Flood Prayer – If you want to know what baptism is all about, it’s right here in the Flood Prayer.

    Almighty and eternal God, according to your strict judgment you condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to your great mercy you preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all. You drowned hard-hearted Pharaoh and all his host in the Red Sea, yet led your people Israel through the water on dry ground, prefiguring this washing of your Holy Baptism. Through the Baptism in the Jordan of your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, you sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood, and a lavish washing away of sin. We pray that you would behold (name) according to your boundless mercy and bless him with true faith by the Holy Spirit that through this saving flood all sin in him which has been inherited from Adam and which he himself has committed since would be drowned and die. Grant that he be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers and serving Your name at all times with a fervent spirit and a joyful hope, so that, with all believers in Your promise, he would be declared worthy of eternal life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

    I wonder – because I don’t remember – if Baptists or Calvary Chapel sing of their baptism?

  27. josh hamrick says:

    if Baptists… sing of their baptism?


  28. JimmieT says:

    Thanks Em- on target as usual! Thanks

  29. Em says:

    MLD, baptism as an act of obedience or in and of itself salvific?
    The day will come when we’ll know… Just as dispensations, millennium reign of Christ will all get sorted out… I’m good should i be corrected, buti think it will be you guys. 😇

  30. Jean says:

    The only acts of obedience that I recall in Scripture, regarding baptism, are:

    1. John’s obedience in baptizing Jesus;
    2. Peter’s obedience in baptizing the household of Cornelius; and
    3. Paul’s obedience to Ananias’ admonishment to be baptized for the remission of his sins.

    As far as baptizing for the purpose of signifying (showing, demonstrating) one’s obedience to the command of God, there is simply nothing in the Scriptures.

    In Colossians, Paul draws an analogy between circumcision and baptism:

    “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

    Just like an 8 year old baby boy would never be thought of as submitting to circumcision as an act of obedience, Scripture never speaks of the purpose of baptism being a showing or symbol or act of loyalty or obedience.

    It is just what the plain, clear words, with no tropes, say it is: “having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

    That’s something truly worthy of song. It is nothing less than new creation, being born from above (or again). Nothing surprises me more than the fact that the “born again” Christian movements deny the actual biblical means of being born again.

    And unlike the unscriptural ritual of obedience, one doesn’t need to repeat their baptism when later they question their obedience. God does the baptism once; God makes the promises that go into to Baptism; God doesn’t revoke His promises; and God is true though everyone else is a liar.

  31. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Jean is right. If there is any obedience going on in baptism it is God’s obedience to his own promise to save his people through the Holy waters of baptism.

  32. Em says:

    Well, MLD, we at least agree somewhat on a new (for me, spiritual) birth. ..
    Dead in sin or alive in Christ… I’ll take life. as do you and most of the folks who visit Michael ‘s blog, i think
    again, God keep

  33. bob1 says:

    Didn’t Jesus at the end of Matt. 28 command His followers (and I’d include us in this) to go into all the world, preach the Gospel and baptize those who believe? Isn’t that a command to obey?

  34. Jean says:

    Yes, Bob1, a command given to the baptizer.

  35. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Actually, and the order is important – is that we are to go into the world and make disciples (new believers / new followers of Jesus) and how do we do that? First we are to baptize them and then we are to teach them.

  36. Jean says:

    God desires to fill up His kingdom with sinners. Christ gave Himself for the whole world.

    But, how does God get His way? How does He elect sinners for salvation? How does He disarm the strongman and plunder his house?

    He sends out preachers to preach the Gospel and make disciples by baptizing and teaching. The Word of God does not return empty. It gives exactly what it commands.

    If you perceive of your baptism as your obedience to God’s command, the you enter into legalism, the very thing that Paul taught the Galatians is a dead end. If you agree to one law, then you are obligated to keep the whole law.

    Therefore, please do not turn God’s grace into a law.

  37. bob1 says:

    A command is not a law.

    A command is a command.

    We do what Jesus commanded because we love Him. Out of gratitude.

    Your grace/law thing is not always helpful.

  38. Jean says:

    A command from God is not a law? LOL!

  39. bob1 says:

    In the Small Catechism, there’s a whole section called “Table of Duties.”

    I’m certainly not a biblical scholar, but I’ll bet duties ihere s pretty similar to commands.

  40. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    The idea of ‘commands’ / law is that we cannot accomplish them on our own. The fulfillment of the law is never done and it crushes us 100% of the time.
    The gospel, on the other hand is God’s promises – and they have already been done…for us.

    The command to love God and love our neighbor is impossible for us to accomplish.

    Do you what Jesus commands – the way he says to do them – perfectly?
    Do you love God the way he says to love him – perfectly? with your whole love god with you whole heart, mind and soul?

    I am the first to admit that I do not, and in my Christian life I have not.
    Making the law gospel distinction when applying scripture is the only thing that makes sense out of the scriptures.

  41. Jean says:

    Bob1, The Table of Duties is law.

    I hope you didn’t think they are suggestions.

  42. bob1 says:

    Well, I think it causes more problems than solutions.

    We obey God’s commands out of love and gratitude. Whether we do them perfectly doesn’t matter. That’s not the point, IMHO.

    And as far as the Law goes — well, just in the Psalms, there are around 50 different words for this term. Does God want each of us to go through and decide, “Well, this one is really law…
    etc. No. The point is that we obey God’s law with gladness. It’s not salvatory.

  43. I think the Law/Gospel divide is a mistake. I decided this when a Christian Psychology course was being taught. I raised the issue of the verse being misquoted. Grace and Truth where being defined as opposites, and Truth was being identified as interchangeable with Law.

    I pointed out that John 1:17 contained three, not two elements. This would make the oposite of Law, to be Lawlessness. The oposite of Grace, would be disfavor.

  44. bob1 says:

    Jean 5:13

    No need to be a smartass. Can’t we have different opinions without denigrating the other? You know, I’m not your enemy. I’m a fellow believer, for goodness sake. You’re not gonna bully someone into your POV.

  45. Em says:

    I believe the book of Matthew targets the Jew and was Jesus instruction before the crucifixion and resurrection…
    That said, i seem to see agreement on works. If they are fruit a natural production from living in Christ, they have merit, BUT there is nothing we can do that contributes to our own salvation.
    “The finished work of Christ Jesus on the cross” is our total hope of redemption – by God’s mercy in grace….
    Interesting that all see the need for qualified teachers, if we are to mature in the Faith…..
    I remember something with regard to a person thinking something a sin, then for him/her it is a sin…… ? ? ?

  46. Jean says:


    Yes we can have different opinions, but if you’re going to opine on Luther’s Small Catechism, you might want to do your homework before trying to school a Lutheran in what it means.

  47. bob1 says:

    Well, that’s all I need to know…

  48. Jean says:

    “I believe the book of Matthew targets the Jew and was Jesus instruction before the crucifixion and resurrection…”

    So, the Gospel written around 60 AD is a history book as far as Gentiles are concerned?

  49. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Nathan, you are mistaken when you call it a divide – it is a distinction. The law and the gospel are not opposed to each other.
    The are the 2 ways God speaks to us – in his law (commands) and in his gospel (promises).
    If you do not properly distinguish which is which, you end in confusion – golawspel

  50. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Em, Jesus’ instruction to make disciples by baptizing them in Matthew takes place after the resurrection.

  51. Em says:

    MLD, then i’ll have to recheck that – thank you..
    that said, it was an instruction to his Jewish disciples, i believe… but i will recheck the reference
    thank you again and God keep

  52. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Em, I don’t know if you are one of them – but there are some Christians who think that Jesus still honors a separate covenant with Jews today. I hope that is not what you are getting at – because they are wrong.

  53. josh hamrick says:

    I can appreciate the reductionist simplicity of Lutheran Dogma. I get why it could be appealing.

    It’s unfortunately wrong in a couple of major ways, but I don’t think in a way that would bring about damnation.

    So, to our Lutheran friends continue on your path and enjoy your life in Christ.

    To the rest of you…no need to get upset. Of course, they are wrong.

  54. Jean says:

    Because Josh says so.

    Josh, your response at 5:23 am is so vague that one doesn’t know what you’re talking about.

    What is reductionist?

    What are the couple of major errors (which we are not in your judgment damnable errors, which I was sweating until I read your generous indulgence)?

    What are Lutheran’s wrong about?

  55. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Perhaps Josh is taking exception to my comment that those who think Jews are under a separate Jesus approved covenant are wrong.

  56. josh hamrick says:

    So, to our Lutheran friends continue on your path and enjoy your life in Christ. 🙂

    Love you guys.

  57. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh is in one of his passive / aggressive stages – as he says enjoy your life in Christ and now shut up!!

    Look, a much as confessions are a feeble attempt to explain and discuss the faith – the Lutherans at least have taken 760 pages with the Book of Concord while the “reductionist” Baptists have reduced it down to 150 pages in the Baptist Faith and Message. 🙂

  58. josh hamrick says:

    BF& M is two or three pages tops.

    But here’s a bone for you – Baptists are wrong in a couple of major ways.

  59. Jean says:

    I am never here for the sake of putting one tradition down in favor of another. I would prefer to ask: What does the Bible say about this or that doctrine? I would be happy of all Christian traditions were orthodox.

    However, if you ever disagree with something theological I write, then through dialogue, if you expose my error, you are doing not just me a favor but also the readers, and if you realize your error, then you are benefiting from the discussion. So, it can be a win-win either way.

  60. josh hamrick says:

    This thread is Open Blogging?..Cool – Question:

    Technology in Worship Center / Sanctuary / Church Building…

    We all use it. How do you know where to draw the line? How much technology is appropriate on Sunday morning? Why?

  61. josh hamrick says:

    That’s the problem though Jean – many have been trying to expose your error here for the last decade. It’s a circular loop around the same few topics, and you are just as sure that you are correct, and we are just as sure that you are wrong. At some point, one must say, I understand you, I disagree with you…thumbs up to ya.

  62. Jean says:

    Over the course of a decade, new readers are added to the blog and (hopefully) both of our knowledge of the Scriptures increases. Thus, I don’t see any topical discussions are wholly redundant. Moreover, these are topics usually of fundamental importance to Christianity.

  63. Duane Arnold says:


    “How much technology is appropriate on Sunday morning?”

    Anything beyond candles is deeply suspect… 😁

  64. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, I have no problem with any technology in church (candles were great technology in dark early churches) – as long as it is used to amplify Jesus, his work and his promises.
    If it is used to emphasize or alter my feelings and emotions, I think it may be going too far.

  65. josh hamrick says:

    Jean – I was just letting the new readers know that we’ve been down this path a million times before and it is OK to think the Lutheran’s are wrong…because they are.

    Duane – I know that is tongue in cheek, but how much of this is down to preference?

  66. josh hamrick says:

    “If it is used to emphasize or alter my feelings and emotions, I think it may be going too far”

    I like that thought. I’m sure it would be tough to figure out if certain things were manipulating emotion or not, but I like it as a guiding principal of sorts. Maybe.

  67. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, it’s all in the motives of the leader – is it used to bring me Jesus, or is it used to bring me ME?

    Worst use is if it is to bring the pastor to the audience as the great high priest.

  68. Duane Arnold says:


    On a serious note, I think there are many factors at play – the architecture of the church, the liturgical tradition (or lack thereof), etc. I think when tech becomes intrusive it becomes a hindrance rather than a help…

  69. Jean says:

    If one reads in Hebrews 12 how the worship service was viewed in the earliest generations as a location where heaven and earth meet, e.g.,

    “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”,

    you can see why and how churches were designed and built historically to further that experience. In the modern, lecture style or pop music style service, all holiness of place and presence has been deleted, along with God’s sacraments, so that people are left to find God in moral therapeutics and emotional experience.

    Therefore, I think that in line with historic Christianity, I would urge an emphasis on reverence, holiness and a focus on Christ, and all technology should support and not detract from such emphases.

  70. josh hamrick says:

    MLD – On motives of the leader, I agree. However, in a congregational like yours or mine, there could be a number of voices with a number of different motivations looking to implement different technology for one reason or another.

    Duane – I think all would agree that “intrusive” would be bad. How do you discern when the tech has become intrusive?

    Jean – We agree on the focus. Do you think distraction from such is culturally embedded or an objective truth? Would it be possible that younger, more tech savvy people would be less distracted from Holiness by tech than someone not as ingrained?

  71. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I will give an example of how my local church is using technology in a way many Lutheran churches frown on.
    Our church is populated with at least 50% in their 80s and 90s (probably another 25% in their 60s and 70s) – these folks have eyesight issues and many are crippled to some extent with arthritis so it is difficult for them to hold the hymnal / service book to follow songs and the liturgy – so we have installed big screens and the prayers, liturgy, hymns are shown on screen.

    At the same time we do not use the screens for anything else – not for announcements, or videos of what the church is doing etc – just the liturgy.

  72. Jean says:


    In my sanctuary, the 8 sided font is a prominent feature at the front of the sanctuary, called a nave (which means “ship” and from which we get the word “navy”)

    The idea is that in worship we are on God’s ark sheltered and apart from the world around.

    What I’m trying to say is not whether holiness and tech can be compatible, but that the worship service is to be different from the world and surrounding culture. It is not that church is folded into the world, but that the worship service is a time where worshipers depart from the world to be in communion with the Lord as a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.

    So, for these reasons, I would not want to bring in unnecessary modern innovations that say, “worship is just another meeting.”

  73. josh hamrick says:

    Jean – Again, hypothetically, we agree on the direction (though culture may influence that more that you’d like to think}

    In practice though, what technology is useable? We see now that MLD’s church has installed large screens (and I think for noble reasons). Would your church install screens or is that too similar to some other kind of meeting place?

  74. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    We also have headsets and transmitters for those who have hearing difficulties.

  75. Jean says:


    I do not want to create a law, or bind the conscience of someone, on a matter for which we have no clear command from Christ.

    Therefore, I do not say there is one size that fits all. I would take a holistic approach. Taking into account the architecture, furnishings, liturgy and all technology, “What are we saying in this place?” “Who are we lifting up?” Etc.

    A message is not only produced through speech, but also by the atmosphere and all symbols, whether architecture, furnishings, technology, etc. Almost everything says something or leaves an impression. I would look at it holistically.

    Even titles say something. Do you say, “worship leader” or “choir director”? Why? All these things produce an overall understanding and impression for the congregation and visitors.

    Screens have pluses and minuses. I wouldn’t fix a rule, but I think when implementing innovation into a service that is ancient by nature, the burden is always on the innovation to prove that its benefits outweigh its weaknesses (and by a lot).

  76. josh hamrick says:

    That is interesting, in theory…but I think you could easily follow that reasoning to have smoke machines on Sunday morning. Again, I agree with what you are saying on the direction and the mindset, but that application is then going to be wildly different according to the prevailing culture…and maybe you are saying it should be?

  77. josh hamrick says:

    I guess by one measure, the real question would be “How much ancient do we need?”. Because we are all picking and choosing which parts to keep ancient and which parts to update. Could a modern, tech heavy mega-type church says “we have the ancient Scriptures and are doing the things explicitly required for worship in those scriptures, and that is enough ancient”? Would that be valid? Or do we have to have ancient scriptures, teaching, so architecture…but certainly not ancient lighting. We all want electric lights, right?

  78. Jean says:

    One thing I like about the Eastern Orthodox Church is that it never bought into the fallacy of modernity and progressivism. One only would ask, “Who much ancient do we need,” if one has bought into the underlying thought that “ancient” means in some sense out of date or primitive (in a negative sense).

    The next move is to question, should we shake off the ancientness of Jesus Christ or Paul? Was he a misogynist? Should God be thought of as a she or an it, but not a he?

    Why isn’t the question, “Why should we give up anything of ancient faith and practice?”

  79. josh hamrick says:

    Oh, I disagree with all of that.

  80. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I think it is important that everything that happens in the church supports your core theology. Do the songs support your theology? – does the message support the theology? – does the building say anything about what you believe?

    Jean mentioned titles as being important. Many churches have a pastor / teacher and a worship leader. This tells me that the message from the pulpit is separate from worship.

    In my church the pastor is the worship leader and the singing is led by the choir director / song leader.

    Although this book is Lutheran, I would highly recommend it for the thought of practice matching doctrine.

  81. josh hamrick says:

    My title is Minister of Music, but our church has lots of worship leaders, including myself and the pastor.
    Members of the choir, those who read scripture aloud, offer prayers, or take up offering are all leading in worship.

  82. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    As an example – a Lutheran worship service could not sing “I have decided to follow Jesus” – the theology of the song is contrary to what we believe. I think that is obvious and it could be an anthem in some churches.

    But there are less obvious ones – we could not sing Michael W Smith’s “Above All” because of the chorus. Bad theology destroys that one and would contradict the message from the pulpit.

  83. josh hamrick says:

    My beef with I have Decided is not with the decision part. We all must decide everyday if we are going to follow Jesus, monergist and synergist alike. My problem is the song is about me. “I” have decided. Not a song about Jesus, so we try to avoid those kind of songs. Now, I’m nowhere near a sovereign dictator, and my opinion is not final, so some sneak in…including “I Have Decided”…and I just trust God to use what he will. I’ve also always struggled with that last line of Above All. I changed the “and thought of me” part for a while and kept using it, but it didn’t really work. Had to dump it.

    And that’s all part of what I do. Make sure that songs we are using are Scripturally accurate and theologically rich.

  84. josh hamrick says:

    MLD – How long have you had the screens in the sanctuary? Was there any major pushback on that decision?

  85. Jean says:


    “We all must decide everyday if we are going to follow Jesus, monergist and synergist alike.”

    Could you tell us with what power and where is it from that allows a human being to decide to follow Jesus? And, is this taught (and where) in the Scriptures?

  86. josh hamrick says:

    With the power of the Holy Spirit…but it will feel exactly like your own willpower most of the time.

  87. Jean says:

    So, are you saying that the Holy Spirit gives a man/woman the power to decide to follow Christ?

  88. josh hamrick says:

    Wait – 2020, I better ask…what is a man/woman?

  89. Michael says:

    Quick note;

    Discussions like this are fine as long as they stay irenic and productive.
    We have turned over about half our readership this year…meaning a lot of people have left and we’re in the process of bringing new people in.
    For the new ones…the “official” stance of the blog is ecumenical and the two primary writers for the site are Anglicans.
    Everyone else is commenting from their own perspectives and traditions…which we encourage as long as the interactions are gracious.

  90. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    A Lutheran point of view ‘deciding for Jesus;

    The 3rd Article of the Apostles’ Creed
    I believe in the Holy Spirit; one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

    What does this mean? — Answer.
    I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.

  91. josh hamrick says:

    MLD – Agreed. Standard Christian confession.

    Now about those screens…

  92. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, are you saying the explanation is compatible with Baptist thought?
    If so, why would you have an altar call and have folks say the sinner’s prayer?
    That very answer is why we don’t.

  93. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    About the screens – that was done about 7 yrs ago – so probably 3 yrs before my arrival – so I don’t know of any pushback.
    We have a total of 5 screens in the sanctuary – the floor plan is a cross. But one family picked up the tab for all screens and installation – that smooths out a lot of issues. 🙂

  94. Jean says:

    When I read the Bible,

    I see the dichotomy between non-Christians and Christians set out as

    dead vs. alive
    slavery vs. freedom
    domain of darkness vs. kingdom of the Son
    enemy vs. friend

    But, Josh, you appear to create a third category: someone who the Holy Spirit

    revives a little, not quite to life, but more than dead;
    frees from slavery, but not quite to freedom, but a neutral in between;
    removes from darkness, not quite into the kingdom of God, but to a neutral setting;
    who removes man’s enmity with God, not a friendship, but offers a friendship.

    In this new middle or neutral state, created by the Holy Spirit, you believe that man is free to decide for or against God. And if he chooses for God, then God will give him a new spiritual birth, a new heart and renewal by the Holy Spirit?

    Do I have your position described accurately? If not, what would you correct?

  95. Xenia says:

    My parish church has some electric lights and that’s about it. No sound system or mics. Sometimes a Reader will read something off his cell phone if we don’t happen to have that particular day’s hymn in print. Mostly candles, lots of candles.

    Welcome to all you new folks! It’s good to see you all here.

  96. josh hamrick says:

    “Josh, are you saying the explanation is compatible with Baptist thought?”

    “If so, why would you have an altar call and have folks say the sinner’s prayer?”
    While there is a large range of thought on this within the SBC, not all have altar calls or use a Sinner’s Prayer, you could say that God could work during that time. I’m against the “repeat this prayer” kind of thing, but have no problem inviting people down for prayer at the conclusion of the service.

  97. Xenia says:

    We couldn’t possibly have screens because they would cover up the icons!

    Come to think of it, icons are “screens” into heaven…

    But it is kind-hearted of MLD’s Lutheran church to accommodate members with diminishing hearing and eye-sight.

  98. Xenia says:

    There is never going to be a satisfying solution to how a person “decides” to become a Christian but we know that God is not willing that any should perish yet many do perish.

    I remember “deciding” to become a Christian when I was 12 at my rural Baptist church yet I cannot deny that there was a supernatural aspect to my “decision,” as I was pretty much propelled to the front of that church without much prior consideration on my part.

    So who knows how God manages His flock. It is futile to spent too much time debating it, in my opinion.

  99. josh hamrick says:

    “But, Josh, you appear to create a third category: someone who the Holy Spirit

    revives a little, not quite to life, but more than dead;”


  100. josh hamrick says:

    Xenia – Do you have heating and air?

  101. Xenia says:

    Even among those of us who believe Baptism saves us, adult converts have to make the decision to be baptized. And parents have to decide to baptize their babies. And all of us have to make decisions every concerning how we should live our lives in Christ. In my own life, I made the decision to become Orthodox but there was definitely a supernatural aspect to it, as I have related here in the past.

  102. josh hamrick says:

    Xenia – Seem He works in mysterious ways.

  103. Xenia says:

    Josh, yes, I forgot to mention the furnace. There is also a window air conditioner in the altar area. And an alarm system! This is coastal California where it is almost always 65 degrees.

  104. josh hamrick says:

    That sounds nice 🙂 Don’t know if you remember 100 degree, 80 % humidity North Carolina.

  105. Jean says:

    I think part of the problem occurs because one thinks that their “will” and their “decision” are two independent events. However, people make decision for one of two reasons: (1) The want something, or (2) They are coerced into choosing something.

    When someone believes what they hear, a later decision adds nothing to their faith, which they had before any decision. That decision only confirms their desire. I make a decision to buy salmon at the market, because I like the taste of salmon. My decision to buy salmon, however, does not create my taste for salmon.

    “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

    If faith is what justifies, which I think is pretty clear in Scripture, and if faith comes from hearing, as Paul says, then it does not come from a decision. It is created by the Holy Spirit who works whenever the word of Jesus Christ is proclaimed.

    Moreover, and from a pastoral perspective, when Paul says things like,

    “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified”,

    Paul is emphasizing God’s work and His effectual call, so that we might have assurance that we are His children. He didn’t say, “For those who made a decision for me….” He actually wants us to have assurance, and who would have assurance if the burden of our sonship rests on our decision?

    Does that make sense to you?

  106. josh hamrick says:

    Yep, we don’t disagree on this.

  107. Xenia says:

    Josh, I absolutely remember NC weather!

  108. josh hamrick says:

    At some point here, people survived without AC, but I don’t know how they did it 🙂

  109. Xenia says:

    We sat under the pecan trees and drank Dr. Pepper as the guinea hens roosted nearby.

  110. josh hamrick says:

    Wow! Now that’s rural NC 🙂 I love it!

  111. Duane Arnold says:

    An opinion on AV screens: In a liturgical church, I don’t think screens work architecturally. The focus of the architecture in such churches is the altar and the AV screens tend to distract. Additionally, liturgical movement (processions, minister approaching the altar, lay readers going to the lectern, the Gospel procession, etc.) is, I think, diminished by the AV screens. Just my opinion…

  112. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, the only difference I see if you are using the liturgy is that at key moments your eyes will be on the screen or on the hymnal / service book.

    During the times of liturgical movements the eyes are up front.
    (Actually when I look at the screen I still see all the activity going on in the chancel area. With the book, my eyes are down)

  113. Em says:

    This may seem coarse or crass to some…
    I think, as we present Christ to the world in our daily kiving, that God/Jesus courts the human race and a pastor’s invitation to accept God’s redemption offer is not out of line. As a man courts a woman, so Christ courts His Bride. Some respond and as some of the men here may be able to confirm, others tell the Lord to get lost – living happily in darkness away from the joy of God’s light and life.. 😇

  114. Jean says:

    “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
    ‭‭John‬ ‭15:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  115. josh hamrick says:

    I do find the technology question fascinating. As much as wish there were concrete answers (because I am responsible for this stuff) it comes down to culture and preference. Appreciate all of your input.

  116. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Em, mankind is born telling God to get lost – this is his natural state and he is dumb, fat and happy in this way.
    The question is what changes a man from, (and I don’t like using the term, from his total depravity) but from his bound will to even being able to hear God’s word let alone respond?

    One more chorus of “Just as I am” while you try to decide will not do it

  117. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    josh – as far as technology in the church goes – I am big on indoor plumbing and flush toilets 🙂

  118. Duane Arnold says:


    In seminary, did you do any work on Church architecture, sacred space, etc.? Not a “gotcha”, just wondering…

  119. josh hamrick says:

    Duane, yes, a little. Certainly not a big point in Baptist education.

  120. Em says:

    Yes, God is omniscient, has a holy immovable standard….. BUT the offer of redemption was offered to the WHOLE human race – that fact does not negate predestination IMHO

    One more chorus of “Just as I am…?” Going forward to the foot of the chancel to declare your decision is good, but is not salvific – it just declares your Faith to the congregation there

  121. Duane Arnold says:


    When I taught Liturgy and Church History on a post-grad level, I always included a full section on Church architecture after I realized how the three subjects were so closely inter-related. Most seminaries no longer provide a background in the subject, which I think is unfortunate.

  122. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Since the topic of new readers was brought up, I thought perhaps I would post a simple, short article (with scripture hyperlinks) to give the Lutheran position on baptism.
    My disclaimer – this is Lutheran and should not be confused with what the Anglican main writers here or the Baptist / Evangelicals here may or may not believe. 🙂

    Welcome to new readers.

  123. josh hamrick says:

    And I will beg everyone else to not take the bait. It never ends.

  124. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, what’s the bait? don’t you want people just passing by to learn from your perspective? You’re not trying to hide your beliefs under a bushel are you?
    Hey, it’s Open Blogging – a free place to get away from the political nonsense.

    Post the SBC view of baptism.

  125. josh hamrick says:

    Peace, y’all. I’m checking out for a while.

  126. Jean says:

    Lest we loose sight

    The COVID Tracking Project

    “Our daily update is published. States reported 1.8 million tests, 210k cases, and a record 106,688 COVID-19 patients in US hospitals. There were 3,054 reported deaths today — the highest single-day total to date.”

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