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The Heart of the Worship Wars

By Jesse Jost

We just visited a church while on family vacation, and as I walked into the darkened auditorium, I felt tears welling up in a rush of strong emotion. Was this the presence of the Holy Spirit or a physical reaction to the pulsating music? The gathering was a campus church broadcasting a service in which a visiting worship band led music.

I grew up with the belief that drums and back beats were sensual or even demonic. While I now believe all musical styles can be redeemed and proclaim the glory of Christ, my staid and proper past sometimes colors my experience of worship music.

At first I settled in at the service, marvelling at the wonder of God, letting the music focus my mind on His glory. But soon, I found myself critiquing a style I am not used to. Thoughts cloaked in an air of righteousness intruded: Those pants are too tight. That dancing borders on sensual. Are they really worshipping God or simply performing? Do they have to jump around so much?

I stopped, forced to consider: Are these thoughts from God or some other place? What effect is my “discernment” having on me? Chastened, I closed my eyes and focused on God again.

My experience stirred up plenty of age-old questions. How should worship be done? What is true worship? Does God like the music loud or quiet? These questions split church after church, and bring division and tension into relationships as people contend for the righteousness of their view.

“We need to sing more hymns; these modern worship songs are bland, shallow and repetitive.” “These acapella hymns sound terrible and are putting our young people to sleep.” “We need excellence in our music, and a sound system that truly honours God.” “How can I be expected to worship when that song leader is dressed like THAT?!” Continue reading…

  • Ken Jost

    Jesse that was a beautiful revilation of worship as I have often criticized a rocking form of praise in my spirit. You nailed it.

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2016 Christmas Letter

fullsizerender-3Heidi here this year! (Can we all heave a big sigh of disappointment? I know, I’m not the one with the funnies coming out left and right. Hope you survive!)

Life through kids’ eyes is the best. When God walked the earth, He specifically welcomed children, and called us to have our eyes wide open, childlike, to seeing Him on the move around us and in us.

fullsizerender-4The other night, Sophia (7) stood by my bed and just started telling me the griefs weighing her heart down, and the ways she saw God more clearly through them. She misses our miscarried babies, Davey (2011) and Emmy (this summer), and Jesse’s grandma (2013). Emmy has been an especially difficult loss for her – for all of us! – because she was really hoping the baby would be her much-longed-for sister. But she said she has been learning to trust God more when she’s sad or afraid of loss. This conversation happened in a season when I have not been able to parent and disciple as much as I would like (morning sickness again), and God used it to show me that He is ultimately the One gently leading and guiding our children’s hearts. He is a good, good Father.

Most of the time, Sophia is a spunky ray of sunshine, busily experimenting with melodies on the piano and leading her little brothers in adventures, and these glimpses into her deeper thoughts aren’t common, so I treasure them. We are so enriched and comforted by her sympathetic heart. I’m 10 weeks pregnant now, in the thick of morning sickness, and Sophia says sweetly every day, “Aw, Mom, I hope you feel better really soon!”

img_6471Her brothers are no different. Elijah (4) often comes up and with those great big, soulful, long-lashed eyes, he says, “Can I do anything for you, Mom?” Sometimes he does, sometimes he forgets his good intentions and runs off in merry play. He is eager to do workbooks like the big kids, make jokes like the big kids, and stay up with the big kids, and yet when he gets time with just me and/or Jesse, he is beyond delighted and wants to know if the big kids can go away again so he can have another date with us. He’s such a sweet kid. And at devotion times when the others get scolded for being noisy, he chimes, “I want to know God better, Mom! I’m listening.” Hand him a halo, somebody.

img_6463John-Michael (9) is a champ. His brain never stops, which means his chores regularly take longer than I thought humanly possible, and his bath room visits (he’s going to hate me for this when he’s older) are record-breaking in length because he reads tomes in there. I know, you’re thinking, “ban the books!” Sometimes I do. And sometimes I let it go because I know how much a mind like his loves to eat up ideas. I’m married to a man whose mind works like that. An endless trail of activities, inventions, money-earning schemes, and learning opportunities follow J-M everywhere, some completed, some forgotten. Much of it is self-guided, and I don’t say this out of pride (“oh, look at my self-taught child!”). On the contrary, it’s because he tires me out. I’m thankful he loves to learn, and is passing on that passion to his siblings. And really, when his brain is directed to what’s at hand, he’s a very reliable boy. I lean hard on him, and see so much of his dad in him in the way that he looks out for his siblings, takes on responsibility at home, and wants God.

img_6451We’re in the middle of a cold snap (-20s C), and I’m beginning to wonder if I can order a hamster wheel sized for a toddler. Because I have a hilarious, exuberant 2 year old named Justin who hasn’t been out to play for over a week, and needs a safe outlet for his energy. Jumping off couch arms doesn’t count as safe in my books. Or running down the hall with his head back, Eric Liddell-style. It worked for Eric Liddell, but he had better coordination. The other day J-M was watching Justin getting all wild, tried to calm him down, and shouted, “Dad, you’d better get the van ready! Justin’s going to need the hospital soon.”

Justin’s face is as lively as his little body. His delivery of statements or “jokes” makes us all laugh, which makes him giggle and try again for the same reaction. He asks a lot of questions about the how’s and why’s of things, and offers much commentary on life as well, with sage nods of knowingness. There are many times I look at him and thank God for this kid who makes us want more kids.

Of course, I don’t have to look far for inspiration on the kid-making front… (whistle) Enter Jesse. What a dude. What a guy. What a real man! I tell him he’s my dream: tall, dark, and handsome, and he says ever so humbly, “Well, at least I know I’m one of those.” Continue reading…

  • Norma

    Enjoyed your letter so much–even though I don’t know you (yet)! Look forward to meeting you at Taber CWC in a couple of weeks!

  • Nancy Bowman

    Oh, Heidi! Bless you for your open-hearted, charitable honesty! May you just keep on growing in godliness, you lovely woman of God. Thanks for this letter. You have plenty of laughs to share!
    Love,
    Nancy.

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Free Audio: The Life and Times of Martin Luther

dreamstime_xs_46929750At the end of the 15th century, the Church was in shambles, superstition and ignorance was rampant, the clergy were better known for their immorality than their knowledge of the Bible. Several attempts at reform had failed miserably. But just when things looked most bleak, lightning struck. In a few short decades, the landscape of Christianity changed forever. 
 
According to one historian’s estimation, more books and articles have been written about Martin Luther than anybody else besides Jesus. What made this man have such a huge impact on this world and the course of history? In this first podcast episode of my second church history series, I take a detailed look at the tumultuous life and times of Martin Luther and the bleak spiritual backdrop he was born into. Luther was a coarse and crass individual, but he found a fear bigger than the fear of man and it led to tremendous courage and conviction on his part. If you want to sample this church history series, I recommend this episode. Listen and see what explosive power there is in even one man truly understanding the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
To download from podbean click here.
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2015 Christmas Letter

IMG_2299This year we decided that the head of this family should write the Christmas letter. So even though I am only 16 months old, I, Justin, accepted the job. Some of you may be thinking “16 months? What’s he know – maybe 10 words? How interesting is that gonna be?” Well, let me tell you, I may be able to only speak a limited number of words right now, but in writing I have the vocabulary of a brilliant 33 year old. And as far as interesting goes, I’m too young to have inhibitions or know the difference between appropriate and inappropriate, so you should be entertained.

Let me start this letter by telling you about myself. My name is Justin Edwards and I am the youngest of 4 kids. Mommy and Dad just keep getting better and better at this kid-making thing as the quality has improved dramatically with each child (Sorry J-M, I got to be honest). I am a terribly busy man with big plans for this family, so be grateful I am finding time to write this.

I like to read, although most books are too simplistic for me and fail to hold my attention. I play an important job in this home as the chief safety inspector. It’s very time consuming as it involves climbing every possible bench, stool, chair, couch, and ladder and being constantly on the lookout for sharp items, as well as testing choking hazards. This is NOT a safe house. I have fallen countless times and made numerous appeals that go ignored. Sure, they think they’ve got the stools and marbles hidden, but I find them.

It’s also my job to inspect all the bags and containers that come into this house, such as purses and wallets. I’m a little suspicious my parents are doing something illegal because they keep pulling me away. Oh well, that’s what quiet time is for.

Another serious duty I perform is making sure this family doesn’t have more kids anytime soon. I’m not exactly sure how it works, but I keep a close eye on Daddy and Mommy and make sure they don’t have any time alone. This requires a short nap in the evening, but then I’m good till they go sleep. I’d be completely successful if it wasn’t for interfering aunties who take us away and leave Mommy and Daddy unprotected.

I’m not sure why they would want more kids, since I believe I am everything they could want in a child. I’m smart, cuddly, adorable, and for the most part have a sweet disposition. Enough about me (I can’t believe I just wrote that…). Let me tell you about my older siblings. Continue reading…

  • Grandma Wahl

    Justin, do you want to write G’ma & G’pa Wahl’s Christmas letter? We’ll even give you a cookie treat! Ha! We loved the family update and we’re so blessed to watch each little one grow up and discover God’s Word and world. Christmas joy to you all!

  • Rebecca

    Wow. Where do you get such smart kids? Actually, I kind of like mine just the way they are… I don’t think my brain could keep up with such a precocious child!!
    Jesse, my hat is off to you! You did it again. Kept the record of one of my top loved Christmas letters. = )
    Sure love your family…

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Church History pt 3 (1800-Now) Free Session Downloads

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-world-marketing-map-globe-image24418496“Church History Part 3: 1800 to the Present”

With Jesse Jost 

The audio downloads of the sessions from the final instalment of my church history series are now available below.

Please note: m4a files are designed for quicktime or iTunes, but later versions of Windows Media Players should also be able to play them. You will have to download the files to a computer before you can listen to them and add them to itunes before you can play them on your mobile device. Each session is about an hour long and the files are between 80 and 140 mb each so make sure you are on wifi.

Download Sessions: Here:

Download the Syllabus: Church History part 3 syllabus

To hear the first two parts of the series click here.

Friday 7:30 PM – Session 1 “Freedom’s Turmoil” (p. 8)

Historical background to 1800s: Decline of religion, common sense, French Revolution, the Great Awakenings, War of 1812, the birth of Canada, rise of nationalism and political freedom, technological revolutions, the train, the telegraph, industrialization, the telephone.

Saturday 9:30 AM – Session 2 “Imperialism and the explosion of missions.” (p. 10)

Colonialism, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor.

Saturday 10:45 AM – Session 3 “Revival and Strife” (p. 16)

Revival to revivalism, Charles Finney, abolitionism and the Civil War,

communes, Millerites, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventism.

Saturday 2:00 PM – Session 4 “Holiness and Reform”  (p.24)

DL Moody, Billy Sunday. The Holiness movement and the birth of Penecostalism: Phoebe Palmer, Asuza, Darwinism, higher criticism, and the rise of fundamentalism ( J Gresham Machen, changing eschatologies).The dark side of industrialization and the Christian response: progressives, the social gospel, Tommy Douglas. Capitalism, Socialism, communism, prohibition

Saturday 3:15 PM – Session 5: “The World at War” (p.38)

World War 1, the Great Depression, the rise of fascism and World War 2.

Saturday 4:30 PM – Session 6: “Social Upheaval and the Cold War” (p. 48)

The demise of the family. The pill, the sexual revolution, global tensions. Social change, the influence of movies, radio, the car, and television. The baby boom, the counter-culture revolution, the civil rights movement, the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Sunday 10:30 AM – Session 7: “New Awakenings” (p. 53)

The explosion of the church in Asia and Africa. The church in China. Persecution. The Evangelical Awakening. Truth and transformation. The power of the gospel to overcome the darkest times.

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Church History Lectures – Free Downloads

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-world-map-old-paper-image19606826by Jesse Jost

My first two series of lectures that I gave at “Weekend in the Word” on Church History are now available to download for free. I am planning to do the third and final series on church history this April 3-5, 2015 and it will cover the years of 1800 to the present. The links for part one (30AD -1500 AD) and part two (1500 AD-1800 AD) are available below at the end of each overview. So listen to them all or just the sessions that look interesting to you!

Please note: m4a files are designed for quicktime or iTunes, but later versions of Windows Media Players should also be able to play them. You will have to download the files to a computer before you can listen to them and add them to itunes before you can play them on your mobile device. Each session is about an hour long and the files are between 80 and 140 mb each so make sure you are on wifi.

Overview of Church History Part 1: AD 30-1500

There seems to be an epidemic of historical amnesia in today’s church. To some, it’s as if true Christianity disappeared for 1900 years and suddenly resurfaced with their modern denomination. This ignorance of history is dangerous. An old Russian proverb states, “Dwell on the past and you will lose an eye; forget the past and you will lose both eyes.” For many, history is nothing more than by-gone eras, dusty facts, and long-since-departed souls. However, history is not only a fascinating study of our ancestors – it is also a treasure chest full of wisdom, which Jesus and the apostles repeatedly drew from to teach valuable lessons. Because Christ entered His-story, all history has been infused with purpose. It is the profound story being written by the greatest Author of all time. God sits as Lord of the Universe. He laughs at empires and dynasties, but loves to change the world through the weak and simple. A trip through the colorful centuries of the Church reveals a God who is holy and awesome, His purposes that are beyond comprehension, and His reality that shatters man’s small-minded notions of Him.

When you study history, you will glimpse that plan, buried and concealed by our foolish choices, but there for those with open eyes. History is moving toward a thrilling conclusion in which every enemy of God will be soundly defeated. In the meantime, we would be wise to glean from the past and learn from the mistakes and victories of godly men and women who walked this path before us. Come on this life-changing journey to the first century, and follow the halting progress that the church, with all it warts and wildness, has made through the centuries.

Continue reading…

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Calvinism, Arminianism, and What’s at Stake

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-gavel-book-black-background-closeup-image28250587By Jesse Jost

When we try to wrap our finite minds around the magnitude and complexities of an all-powerful God, we are going to fail. For starters, how can God be in complete control of this world and have perfect knowledge of the future, yet still grant us the power of real choice?

Because our tiny minds are trying to grasp realities way above our pay grade, we will inevitably have a very poor understanding of all the issues. This has created strife and division among Christians who have reduced these awesome mysteries to a self-titled war of “Calvinism versus Arminianism.” There are complex theological systems with these names that do genuinely differ from each other, but few Christians today fully understand them. Calvinism has become shorthand for believing in the sovereignty of God, and Arminianism is often the insult thrown at those who wonder what role our ability to choose plays in our life and salvation.

The problem here is that both sides have biblical truth, and both accuse the other of ignoring an aspect of truth. Both sides also raise troubling issues: Was it fair for God to create people he knew would reject him and let them suffer in hell? If God graciously chooses to awaken some who are spiritually dead, why doesn’t he choose to regenerate everyone?

A younger me set out on an epic quest to forever resolve the sovereignty/free will debate. I was going to find the perfect scriptural balance. I read books on both sides and carefully studied the relevant Bible passages, and all I got was a giant headache. I realized it was absurd for me, a little speck of dust in our swirling galaxy, to be arguing about what God could and couldn’t do.  I gave up.

But since that point, I have realized that, while I will never be able to grasp how these seemingly contradictory truths resolve, I need to be careful that my meditations and efforts to understand do not lead me away from the truth that God has revealed in His Word.

If I am not careful, I can take one aspect of truth, and then twist it into an untruth by use of misinformed logic. For instance, I can focus on the truth that God is in complete control of this world but then twist this into the idea that I am simply a character in God’s novel, and whatever will be will be.  Whatever sin I commit or choice I make is just part of the predetermined plot: I have no real choice so why bother with careful decision making? This can produce apathy about effort, or lead to abandoning my responsibilities. Of course, the complete version of this pseudo-fatalism is unliveable, not to mention that God’s sovereign grace prevents me from fully embracing such error.

However, what I believe does affect my actions and when I lose sight of God’s control, and instead focus on man’s choice, a whole new set of perversions can enter: anxiety, pride, self-reliance, etc.

My purpose is not to resolve the mystery or answer all the questions, but to urge you to not lose sight of the biblical boundaries for exploration of this topic. Continue reading…

  • nicodemus

    I agree with you Jesse that many of the errors and arguments are based upon extrapolations and presupposed ideas of what passages say instead of the true meaning of texts.

  • Jesse Jost

    For those of you who are curious about where I stand in regard to these two views: I think everything that my friend mentioned in his concise Calvinist definition is pretty clearly taught in scripture. Emotionally, I struggle with the flip side that God could save certain people if he wanted to but chooses not to. But since Scripture does not specifically state this reverse of Calvinism (at least as far as I can see) I just choose to be thankful that my own Salvation is graciously and undeservedly being secured by God and trust that God will treat the non-elect in way that accords with his intrinsic love and kindness. When all is revealed I believe that we will have nothing but an overwhelming sense of awe and gratitude and worship Him for doing all things well.

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