~History Through Worship~

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In my haste and excitement to share this part of my life I left my greatest blessing of alliances out of the intro and for that I ask for Kansas Avenue SDA Church to forgive me of this monumental oversight. This church is a great model of being missional each day, children and families in many of the most disadvantaged communities face the daunting challenge of welcoming home the 1,700 fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and friends that are being released from prisons. And as the correctional system continues to be overloaded, many ex-prisoners are released without institutional support to ensure transition to the community as responsible family members, reliable employees and
productive citizens. Stunned by the prevalence of re-entry and its impact on children, families and communities,Men of Kansas Ave (MOKA)l and local leaders are exploring ways to understand and address the service needs of ex prisoners and their families and Maymie Chandler-Pratt & Aaron Prattwere blessed by this community to persevere in our quest for better life. They held us up in a Christ like manner..Thanks Kansas Ave. SDA for being Christ like in our struggles.

ICUC-PICO and #Livefree & Crown Of Life Ministries all supported our life this month with ministry and fellowship. Christ helped us serve with many in love with His “Finished work”

“The Seven Social Sins are:

Wealth without work.
Pleasure without conscience.
Knowledge without character.
Commerce without morality.
Science without humanity.
Worship without sacrifice.
Politics without principle.

From a sermon given by Frederick Lewis Donaldson in Westminster Abbey, London, on March 20, 1925.”
― Frederick Lewis Donaldson

I wonder if you have paused to ponder how simple and strange these Black History events are. Year after year—almost now decade after decade—what do they boil down to? It seems to me that they boil down to preaching and singing. Preaching and singing. Message and music. Message and music. Somebody speaks and everybody sings. Somebody else speaks and everybody sings again. There are some other pieces: community groups, earnest prayer holding everything up. Enormous amounts of planning and logistics. But the basic structure seems to be the same year after year: Preach and sing. Preach and sing.

Let that sink in, because there is not another religion or another movement on planet earth that does this—gathers together to hear preaching and respond with singing. Preach and sing. Preach and sing. Muslims don’t do this. Hindus don’t do this. Buddhists don’t do this. Sikhs don’t do this. Judaism doesn’t do this. Confucianism doesn’t do this. When Apple unveils a new image of techno-religion, Tim Cook may preach. But the audience doesn’t sing. Only Christianity does this.

So don’t miss the fact that what we are doing here is strange. It cries out for an explanation. Why do Christians do this? Why do we gather for preaching and singing, preaching and signing? Message and music. Message and music.

Why Do We Do This?

That’s what I want to talk about. Why do we do this? I don’t like to do things without a reason. I don’t like to do things just because they’ve always been done. I don’t like to do things just because other people are doing them. I don’t like to do things just because they’re fun. I like to do things that make sense in connection with ultimate reality. Because there’s a reason to do it that has roots in the deepest reality. There’s a reason to do it that has a goal that reaches up and attaches to the highest reality. I like to do things because I can see how they come from and lead to the biggest and best things—ultimate things. They get their meaning from their attachment to the bottom and the top of reality. I am different, My reason is because the Son of Man is 100% Humanity and He saved me from Iran, Kuwait, Beirut, Lebanon, and especially Libya and Somalia. I’ve seen Him work in my life lyrical theology and spirit infusing me in worship in a pit and behind prison walls, I seen Him work through my wife deliverance. I am radical about my King and Father and Holy Spirit.

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Crown of Life Ministries

To which some of you may respond: Good grief, lighten up. Do you have to have a reason for everything? Can’t we just do stuff? Well, yes you can. And there’s a name for living that way. It’s call instinct. You just do what you do. Eagles live that way. And sea turtles live that way. Elephants and frogs and butterflies and beavers. They just do stuff. And they do some pretty amazing stuff. But it’s just instinct.

But when I think about how very, very short this life is, and how long eternity is with God in everlasting, ever-increasing joy, or without him in everlasting misery, the thought using this life to just do stuff seems to me to be insane. You and I are not mere animals. We are created in the image of God. God did not make us to live by instinct. He made the animals to live by instinct—amazing instinct. And O yes, what they do does indeed fit in to the deepest reasons for existence, and the highest purposes of ultimate reality. The heavens are telling the glory of God, and so are the hawk and the hyena and the hippopotamus. They just don’t know it.

But God made you to know it. God made you to be like him, and to do things because they make sense in the light of God and his ultimate purposes. Because they have roots of that reach to the bottom of God’s eternal being, and branches that reach up to the ultimate goals of God for all things. He made you to know why you do things, and to do them for the greatest reasons in the world.

So, preaching and singing. Preaching and singing. Message and music. Only Christians do this. Why? Why do we do this?

I want to give you two answers. One is the broad, general answer, which accounts for why Christians do this kind of thing all over the world. And the other is a more particular answer to why Passion does this. I’m not part of the leadership of Passion. I’m just an invited guest. One of the highest privileges of my life. So my answer to why Passion does this is not based on my participation in designing what Passion does. I’m not part of that.

My answer is based on almost twenty years of listening to what makes this leadership and this movement tick. So we’ll come back to that in a minute. And try to see some of the massive implications for your life.

So first, what is the broad general answer to why Christians do this kind of thing all over the world? Preach and sing. Message and music.

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Kansas Ave SDA.

Rooted in News

One of the main reasons is that Christianity—with its roots in true Old Testament promises—is the only religion in the world that was created by and sustained by news. News. In other words, before Christianity is a philosophy, before it’s a theology, before it’s an ethic or a way of life, Christianity is news. Staggeringly good news for weak and helpless and undeserving sinners.

“Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’” (Isaiah 40:9).

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (Isaiah 52:7).

“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10–11).

Christianity has a news character about it. Something has happened. Something happened at a place. At a time. Something that we had no hand in. We didn’t cause it. We didn’t shape it. God simply acted unilaterally, singlehandedly, to save his people. In the fullness of time God broke into his history in the virgin-conceived, God-Man, Jesus Christ.

  • He lived the perfection his people lacked.

  • He suffered the punishment his people deserved.
  • He rose with indestructible life which his people share.
  • He poured out his Holy Spirit which his people enjoy.
  • And he is coming again to complete the redemption of this world where his people will live in overflowing joy forever.

God has done this. It happened. Singlehandedly. There was no congress. No convention. No consultation. There was a sudden, unstoppable, unilateral thunderclap of divine action in history. And suddenly, as never before, there was news.

News of such scope (as wide as the universe), news of such duration (establishing an eternal kingdom), news of such global relevance (for every people and tongue and tribe and nation), news of such great joy, that it must be preached and sung. For two thousand years the church has proven over and over again that the truth of Christianity cannot simply be taught, or lectured, or analyzed, or explored, or discussed or debated or shared—it must be heralded. It must be preached. It creates its own unique form of expository exultation because it is first and foremost spectacular news.

It creates spirit-filled servants of the word who take a portion of God’s news in their hands and as they lift it up the people to see find that it is so sweet and so spectacular they dare not, they cannot merely explain it, exposit it. They must exult over it. And this expository exultation is preaching. And when it happens. People sing.

Preaching and singing. Preaching and singing. All over the world for 2,000 years. Why? Because Christianity is not first a philosophy, not first a theology, not first a moral code, not first pattern of devotion. It is first news. Behold, I bring you good news of great joy. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the King of kings, and Lord of lords.

Not other religion is created and sustained by news: God has acted unilaterally, singlehandedly, to save sinners. Trust him, treasure him. And it is all yours. All other religions are summed up in this: Do your best for God. Name your prophet, pray your prayers, give your alms, keep your fast, make your pilgrimage. And God may look with favor on you. That is not good news. And it is not true.

And therefore only in Christianity is there this strange and simple thing you see all around you: Preaching and singing. Preaching and singing. That’s why we do it. That’s the first answer: The broad one. The general one.

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 God Is Our Greatest Gift

Now for the narrower answer. Not just, Why does Christianity do this all over the world—preach and sing, preach and sing? But why does Passion do this? And keep in mind, I don’t write this answer into the creation of Passion. I read this answer out of the history of Passion. Out of 18 years of Passion emphases, and Passion preaching, and Passion music.

Passion is built around preaching and singing for all the reasons given so far, and because the leadership believes that the greatest good of the Good News is God’s gift of the beauty of God himself in Jesus Christ. I’ll say it again, We preach and we sing, we preach and we sing, because the greatest good of the Good News is God’s gift of the beauty of God himself in Jesus Christ.

I wrote to Louie Giglio on Monday and asked if God had given him sense of where we were going at Passion 2015. And among the things that he wrote back was a three word parenthesis, that probably did more to shape this message than anything else he said. Just before the parenthesis he said, “How does the Passion message . . .” and then, to capture the essence of that message, he inserted this three-word parenthesis, “(God’s beauty unmatched).”

Year after year, for 18 years, the central note that has been struck in preaching and singing is that the greatest gift of God’s love is the gift of God’s beauty. The final, all-satisfying joy in “the Good News of Great Joy” is the joy of seeing and savoring the beauty of God himself in Jesus Christ. So to put all that together, the reason we preach and sing and preach and sing at Passion is because greatest good of the Good News isGod’s gift of the beauty of God himself in Jesus Christ for everlasting enjoyment.

Now here’s the question: Is that a biblical way of viewing the good news? And if it is, what difference would it make for you to view it that way? My guess that for many of you this is a new way of talking about your faith in Christ. You may not grown up in a church where you ever heard anything like “the greatest gift of God’s love is the gift of God’s beauty.” And you would be hard put to think of your experience in these terms.

Let me see if I can help. I invite you to look with me at 2 Corinthians 4:3–4. Paul writes,

Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Focus on the phrase in the middle of verse 4: “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” Most of you probably know that the word gospel means “good news.” So this links the text to our theme that at the heart of Christianity is news—spectacular news. So let’s read the phrase like this: “the light of the good news of the glory of Christ.”

Next notice how Paul defines the content of the good news. It is the good news of “the glory of Christ.” If you have a paraphrase like the New Living Bible yours may read, “ the glorious light of the Good News” (NLT) or “the light of the glorious gospel of Christ” (NET). That’s a paraphrase. The ESV, NASB, NIV, HCSB, NKJV all agree in translating it more precisely, “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” In other words, one way to express the supreme good of the good news is to call it the “the good news of the glory of Christ.”

And the biblical word “glory” is inextricably interwoven with the word “beauty.” So we could translate: “the light of the good news of the beauty of Christ.” In other words Paul is saying, in news of God’s unilateral, singlehanded triumph over sin and wrath and death and hell in Jesus Christ the beauty of Christ shines more brightly than anywhere else.

Now look at verse 6 where Paul uses the same language with a just a few changes.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Notice the parallels. In verse 4 we have “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” And in verse 6 we have “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God.” Are these two different glories? “Gospel of the glory of Christ.” “Knowledge of the glory of God.” Probably not. Because look how Paul immediately qualifies each of them to show us that they are deeply one.

In verse four he says, “the glory of Christ” and adds, “who is the image of God.” And in verse 6 he says, “the glory of God” and adds “in the face of Jesus Christ.” It is God’s glory shining in the face—the incarnate person of Christ. It is Christ’s glory because he is thee very image of God.

So the gospel is the good news of the beauty of Christ because Christ is the very image of God. And the gospel is the good news of the beauty of God because God himself shines forth in face of Jesus Christ. These are not two glories but one glory. Not two beauties but one beauty.

And I conclude that, if Paul were to hear us say at Passion that the greatest good of the Good News is God’s gift of the beauty of God himself in Jesus Christ, he would smile and say, “I think you’ve been reading 2 Corinthians. So my answer to the question: is this a biblical way of viewing the good news, is yes. Of all the good things that the gospel offers, the sum and essence and apex of them all is the gift of the beauty of God himself in Jesus Christ for our everlasting enjoyment. Or, as Paul says it in verse 4: “The gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

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In my haste and excitement to share this part of my life I left my greatest blessing of alliances out of the intro and for that I ask for Kansas Avenue SDA Church to forgive me of this monumental oversight. This church is a great model of being missional each day, children and families in many of the most disadvantaged communities face the daunting challenge of welcoming home the 1,700 fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and friends that are being released from prisons. And as the correctional system continues to be overloaded, many ex-prisoners are released without institutional support to ensure transition to the community as responsible family members, reliable employees and
productive citizens. Stunned by the prevalence of re-entry and its impact on children, families and communities,Men of Kansas Ave (MOKA)l and local leaders are exploring ways to understand and address the service needs of ex prisoners and their families and Maymie Chandler-Pratt & Aaron Prattwere blessed by this community to persevere in our quest for better life. They held us up in a Christ like manner..Thanks Kansas Ave. SDA for being Christ like in our struggles.

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