Friday, September 27, 2019

New Music Dept. Staff Member

I'm happy to introduce to you Miss Erin Greene, our new Administrative Assistant to the Minister of Music at Grace Community Church!  Erin is a graduate of The Master's University and was music secretary for The Master's Chorale during her time there.

She is looking forward to learning all the ropes, and I look forward to teaching her!

Soli Deo Gloria!


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Church Dress Codes

Posted by Sherwood Ellsworth Haisty Jr.
June 3 at 7:58 PM

President Trump made a surprise visit to an SBC church Sunday and that is a good thing. The church didn't have Baptist in the name but it was supposed to be a Baptist church, if one can say that such a thing exist in America anymore.

I have a comment though about another fact that bothers me. Other than playing golf, President Trump's appearance at church is about the ONLY time, or really rather one of the FEW times I have seen President Trump without wearing a necktie. Now I am not actually blaming him for not wearing it. The pastor of the church, David Platt had a golf shirt own and no jacket. The President was more formal and had at least a jacket on. He probably had a necktie to wear but didn't to "dress down" to be in line with the pastor and the casual culture of the church.

So what is my gripe? It is this. Southern Baptist preachers and churches have over the last twenty years drastically downgraded into a very casual, comfortable, rather flippant and irreverent, approach to the worship of holy Almighty God!

It all began to change thanks to none other than Bill Hybels and Rick Warren and the worldly man centered misguided philosophy of the seeker friendly movement that took over Evangelicalism and Southern Baptist back in the 1990s.

Now what is the result? You have a conservative dressing President who seeks to dignify the office of President by looking proper and sharp everywhere he goes. His wife always looks her best too. They have brought a great deal of class, style, and reverence to the Whitehouse. Obviously, I am not referring to President Trump's tweets per say but his overall patriotism and reverence for his office and his very proper appearance at any event. But the President has to dress down to come to a Baptist church to not look to odd in comparison with the pastor and the people. And the pastor was recently President of the International Mission Board. This frankly is infuriating to me.

You may not understand, but the way I see it is that how one dresses when he is a preacher matters because you represent God as a Man of God. When you preach, you are handling sacred things, holy things, important things. When you proclaim the Word of God in a worship service, you are actually engaged in THE most important business activity of any kind on all the earth. Heaven and Hell are at stake. The glory of God is at stake. The everlasting Gospel is at stake.

I feel a pain I can't locate every time (I mean every time) I see a preacher in church get up to preach dressed in a casual manner. It is so irreverent, it is so irresponsible, it is so misunderstanding of the value of the work being done, and of the magnitude of the office and the task.

You say, one's attire is not the same as one's attitude. I respond that you can never divorce the inside from the outside. Like it or not, one's attitude is always to some degree reflected by one's attire. Just like the art of the artist reflects the world view of the artist. How a Christian views the act of worship will under normal circumstances where one has ability and financial means to express himself will be reflected in what he wears to church and his decorum while there.

I honestly grieve over the very casual attire that is now seen as acceptable now days in church. It really reflects a much more casual approach to God, the authority of God, and the importance of the worship of God. The pitiful state of this matter in many of our SBC Baptist churches today is such that now even the President of the US has to dress down more than usual to fit in at a church service on Sunday.

One other note. One of the things I truly appreciate about the Ukrainian and Russian and Slavic churches in America that I have attended and preached at is that these Baptist churches are, on the whole, much, much, more formal than today's typical American SBC church. The rare exception for American churches would be Grace Community Church where John MacArthur is pastor and some independent Baptist churches. The typical SBC church is now all in on going very casual in dress at church. My concern for the Slavic churches in America is that they not imitate the American contemporary church model. This is a potential problem in my view for Slavic churches right now.

There has been a rather surprising about of comments and back and forth on this post. Not that I didn't think my post was controversial, because frankly anything and everything is controversial now days it seems. Fifty years ago, my post would only have yawn and an amen. Now you are in danger of being called legalistic if you say a preacher should have the basic respect for his calling to wear a necktie in the pulpit. Our culture has truly invaded the churches and many just don't get it. So many of my friends have a different view than I do. That is fine, I am still happy to count you as friends if we disagree on this.

But I want to try and help the discussion and give an ordered list of ideas about the matter to see where the fork in the road actually begins. I would like to try to establish some common ground and then see at which point you begin to differ with me and I with you. If nothing else, we at least understand each other better even if no one’s mind is changed about anything. I like to think through things logically and progressively, so I will try to do that. After you read these numbered points, I would like to hear at which point you begin to differ from my perspective. So here it goes as I see it.

#1) A pastor should be an example to the flock. This includes modeling for the people a proper attitude regarding worship, ministry, and the task of preaching.

#2) The proper attitude one should have when approaching the formal worship of the Lord in church is first and foremost an attitude of profound reverence and respect and a holy fear of God. This does not contradict other attitudes of thanksgiving, joy, and deep love. The attitude of reverence and fear however is a biblical requirement in worship. One that is all too frequently overlooked by the contemporary churches.

#3) The pastor / preacher who proclaims the Word of God of all people more than others, should be concerned with approaching the worship of the Lord and the task of preaching, with utmost seriousness and reverence for God, the act of worship, and the ministry of the preaching of God's Word. The preacher of all people should see the task of preaching as the most important task on earth. As I said above, Heaven and Hell are at stake. Eternal destinies are at stake. The proclamation of the glorious Gospel is at stake. And above all the glory of God and the exhalation of Jesus Christ is at stake. So reverence for the Lord and the task of preaching is essential. In fact, ordained ministers are even given the title Reverend. As in the familiar name Rev. Billy Graham or the Rev. Jerry Falwell. A Reverend is supposed to be called reverend because he of all people is to conduct himself reverently with reverence for God and the things of God. The term reverend used to once mean something and stand for something. Sadly, that label has been often disgraced and even being called Reverend means much less to people today. However, a pastor and preacher is still to have a Biblically sound high and lofty reverence for the Lord and His worship and for the task of preaching.

#4) One's invisible inner attitudes are reflected by one's actions, conduct, and visible external matters. It has been pointed out above that man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. This is true. God does have a perspective that no other person can have. He alone can read the heart. Man is left with the outward appearance. Man cannot read the heart, he can only see the outward evidence of the heart from the outward appearance.

At this point we should point out that the passage in 1 Samuel where it says man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart has nothing whatsoever to with dress or grooming. The passage deals with the physical stature and youthfulness of David the shepherd boy as compared to his older bigger brothers. Samuel and Jessie had neglected to consider David the lad as the one to become king. This had nothing to do with David's attire but his stature at the time.

Now back to the point at hand. Generally speaking, I believe inner invisible attitudes are reflected by visible external actions. As I said above, this point is similar to the truth that the external artistic expression of an artist reflects the internal heart of that artist. This is a general principle.

I should make room for some exceptions of inconsistencies in this principle. Let me explain this. Not all artists are gifted enough or skilled enough to fully and faithfully express themselves by their art expression. It is there on the inside, but it is locked up and not freed up to come out due to an inability of the artist to express himself. A person may be able to imagine a beautiful work of art in their mind, but not be able to get it on canvas or get it in sheet music or whatever art form. By the same token, a person's true inner reverent attitude towards God in worship may not be consistently outwardly expressed due to limitations. In fact, this probably is often the case. A person may wish he presented himself to God in worship much differently than he is able to do.
With the above said however I do believe, generally speaking, outward expressions are linked to and gages of internal attitudes of the heart.

#5) If the above be true, then how a pastor dresses when preaching and leading in a worship service is a reflection of his reverence toward God, the worship of God, and the preaching of the Word of God. His external appearance will generally either reflect a high degree of reverence and fear or a lower attitude of reverence and fear. His dress will say that he deems the event as very important or as common and ordinary or routine.

#6) The above point of outward display of reverence is relative to the time, place, and culture, one lives in. This is an important point. While the need to demonstrate reverence is a fixed absolute, the cultural demonstration of reverence has and will vary depending on region and era of time. Fashion changes and culture changes from country to country and region to region. I believe one should dress to show reverence in worship relative to the location and culture and time one lives in. One is not bound to 1st century clothing or 17th century standards. If someone preaches in the West or in particular in North America, he is not bound to what would be considered reverent in Saudi Arabia, India, or China, or Africa. There may even be a little room for variations of norms within different regions within the United States. However, it should be admitted that much of American culture standards have been standardized by national news, sports and entertainment media. I have to honestly conclude that what appears reverent in one part of the country is really not that different from coast to coast and everywhere in between. Howeve, the larger point here I believe is true. What is considered reverent is relative to the culture you live in.

#7) When considering what general American culture deems reverent attire or at least attire for men who are doing serious professional work, I think the norm still is a suit and tie. This may change, and I am sure one day will change. However I don't believe it has changed yet. Here is why.

ü  Look at how the President normally dresses when doing formal business.
ü  Look at how most male US Senators, Congressmen, and cabinet officers and other department heads dress.
ü  Look at how professional news anchors and the Whitehouse press-corp dresses.
ü  Look at how local TV news personalities dress when doing the evening news.
ü  Look at how Fox News personalities like Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, or previously Bill O'Reilly dresses. You could say the same for CNN and others.
ü  Look at sports commentators on ESPN and on Fox. Those guys always have very professional attire on.
ü  Look at NBA and most major NCAA basketball coaches on the sideline in a game.
ü  Look at even late night host of stand up comedy like Jay Leno in the past and all the new ones now. These guys still wear a very professional suit.
ü  Look at most bank executives, and finacial professionals and many businesses CEOs, and most lawyers when in court. What do these men wear?

So, I think the cultural evidence in America is somewhat overwhelmingly clear that serious professional men who take their job serious are generally expected to dress the part and look professional.

I could add a question of what does a man normally wear when going to an important event?

What does one wear to a wedding or a funeral? There have been some surprising changes on this last point, but I think one generally has been expecting in most cases to wear a coat and tie.

#8) I do acknowledge that cultural norms change and are changing. As I point out in #7, I don't think they have changed yet when it comes to the coat and tie or business suit for men. But I want to make another point now. While norms for reverent attire will change, a conservative reverent position does not LEAD in the revolution for change. It will not LEAD the trend but will LAG behind until the new cultural norm is well established.
Let me give an example of changes in cultural norms that I think have swung back and forth much more than men's attire. That is the issue of facial hair and beards. If one looks at pictures of preachers in the late 1800s many if not the vast majority had beards or some facial hair. This is true of the US Presidents too. Lincoln and Grant had facial hair, but it would have been I think unheard of for a man to try to run for office after Woodrow Wilson till our time with a beard. Now in our time in recent years that is changing, and conservative leaders are returning somewhat little by little to wearing beards sometimes at least. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan wore a beard on occasion as House Speaker. He was probably the first one in nearly a century or maybe more. Senator Ted Cruz also wore a beard for a while. When I first started in the ministry I knew very, very, few men in ministry who wore beards. When I graduated from The Master's Seminary, I knew a large gathering of men who wore a beard including myself for a year or two. I am now fully comfortable with wearing a beard if I want to. However, in the mid-1990s, I wouldn't have at all felt comfortable wearing a beard as a conservative pastor. Then it would have been seen by some as a rebellion statement. In the 70s one would have been associated often with the hippy drug culture if he had a big bushy beard. I could never wish to identify with that subculture of that time. However, I Iove Spurgeon and John Broadus or B.B. Warfield and the likes who all have photos of them with good robust beards. The acceptability of beards changes. I admit that. I also admit that clothing styles change. What I am saying is that the conservative reverent leader doesn't get to normally lead in that change. If he does, he makes a statement and that may be counterproductive to the reverent statement he is trying to make.

#9) Some will push back against the above and say we need the preachers to dress down to help make the lost less threatened and more comfortable, so they will come to church. I reply and say that I do think that a lot of good people are motivated by this concern. However, I think the approach is still misguided for several reasons.

1) The worship service should not be designed to cater to the lost. It shouldn't ordinarily even be designed to attract the lost. While we agree that to some degree we may accommodate the lost, (with incidental matters like making space for visitor parking) we should not actually alter elements concerning the worship service to make lost people feel comfortable. This is a big issue and it gets to the very heart of what has led church after church into all sorts of compromise. This is the error of the seeker friendly movement and the pragmatic philosophy it has set forth.

Rick Warren in his book The Purpose Driven Church himself redefined evangelism from (go-and-tell) to (come-and-see). After doing this, he asked why don't the lost come and see and what keeps the lost form coming to church and what changes do we need to make to attract them. He answers his question from surveys of lost people and discovered that long prayers, long preaching, dull music, boring services, and formal dress code were all factors that the lost said that they didn't like about attending church. So he sought out to change all of these perceived barriers.

I want to say that these perceived barriers are at best only symptomatic and are not honest for the real answer to why the lost are bored with the worship of Christ is that the lost are spiritually dead and don't know or love Christ. They are sinful so how can they love the beauty of holiness. Lost people are in a fallen state of rebellion and are by nature irreverent lacking a proper fear of God, so how then can they rightly appreciate anything that shows reverence for God as holy? Lost sinners love the world, that is why churches that pragmatically seek to attract the lost end up being worldly churches that have progressively compromised the worship of Christ with worldly entertainment.
All of this to say that the dressing down of the minister in church is only a part of a bigger picture that reflects a misguided approach to attempts to attract lost people to church. What is the corrective?

First the church must understand that most of its evangelism is to be done outside the four walls of the church. The failure of many to go-and-tell is really a huge problem. Church members often think evangelism is inviting someone to church rather than actually inviting them to Christ. While the preacher should preach the Gospel and call sinners to repent in the four walls of the church, and while we should welcome visitors and invite them, the church service should not be altered to cater to the desires, taste, or comfort of the lost.

Secondly lost visitors should actually feel a bit uncomfortable and intimidated with a measure of fear and awe when they come to church. I don't mean that the church is not loving, warm, and friendly or cheerful and joyful. It should be all the above. But there should be a sacredness and reverence about it too that is disturbing and unnerving for a lost sinner. The worship of God is a holy thing. It shouldn't seem like a common and ordinary or familiar thing. On this point I believe that many American contemporary churches have utterly destroyed any real meaningful worship in holy reverence. They may work up a lot of emotion, but they are very familiar, common, ordinary, and comfortable in the service. Little to nothing seems sacred. Just casually drop in and flop down with your latte and feel comfortable as you flip through your smart phone and observe the show while sitting anonymously in dim lights as you await a non-threatening casual preacher who sort of talks in a way that it doesn't seem like preaching.
This is now the trend and I assure you reverence for that which is holy is drowning in the ordinary and the vulgar.

At this point I want to make an important statement that is sure to draw opposition but here it goes.

How one dresses for worship, relative to his time and culture, IS a heart issue, and it like it or not, IS a theological issue.

But I have one more thing to say so . . .

#10) Here to fore I have been mostly addressing what the preacher wears in the worship service. I want to say a few things about the people.

First, I think the preacher and his wife set the tone as models and examples. That will go a long way to establishing a culture of reverence.

Second, I think elders and deacons and other visible leaders in the church should generally help set the same example as the pastor and his wife.

Third I think that there should be a lot grace extended on this matter to the people in the church. I think if the leaders set a good example that often that should do. I don't think it helpful or wise to try to make a big deal about the dress of others unless there is real reason for some special offense.

Forth, I do think on the other hand that young people, in particular, should be instructed in Sunday school or youth group as to why it is good to dress up for church out of respect and reverence and such. The young people will not know why to do this if it is not explained. I think you can teach this without making a huge deal of it but be gracious and explain the heart issues and the need for reverence and why people dress up more for church because it is important. If the pastor and his wife and others are setting a good example, then the youth worker may point these out as examples.

Lastly and very importantly, I do not think the church should ever snob anyone in anyway because someone comes in clothes that are not as nice as others. In James 2:1-13, the Bible clearly states that showing partially to the rich in nice clothes over against the poor in shabby clothes is a sin and must not be done. I firmly believe this. In fact I think the church should really go out of its way to make a poorer person feel warmly accepted as they are no matter if they are a homeless man in rags who smells bad. I think you should overwhelmingly love such and give them the choicest seat in the house while on the other hand taking pains not to shame or embarrass them. So please do not misconstrue any of my above comments or concerns as contradictory of what I am saying here. I do believe that the general culture of the church can be to dress up for church in a reverent and respectable way and yet at the same time be genuinely loving and accepting of those who come otherwise for whatever the reason and to whatever the degree. I do not condone being snobbish or any such thing and find such utterly unacceptable behavior.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Your Brain and Singing: Why Singing in a Choir Makes You Happier

By Jaime Babbitt

Any of us who have sung in choirs know all too well the joy it brings not just the audiences, but also the choir members themselves. And why wouldn’t it? When we raise our voices with lots of other gorgeous voices in a big, beautiful space, it feels like we’re altering molecules. The power, the mojo that this (relatively) small time commitment offers…how is it possible? Well, according to various scientific reports, we are altering molecules…inside our brains, with different changes occurring whether listening to music, singing, or singing with others.

In Stacy Horn’s wonderful book, Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness While Singing with Others, we get a first-hand account of how music uplifts and empowers, with various scientific evidence cited. Horn has been singing with The Choral Society of Grace Church (in New York City’s Greenwich Village) since 1982; she evocatively describes her own experience while explaining how science is finally catching up with what vocalists have known since the dawn of time: singing heals.

Choirs are known for singing about somber topics, including death. Requiem masses by Mozart, Haydn, Verdi and Berlioz are extremely popular selections for choirs worldwide. Yet, even though the content isn’t necessarily joyful or soothing, endorphins — hormones produced by the central nervous system — release and interact with opiate receptors in the brain, diminishing pain and triggering an almost analgesic feeling in the body. Our brains get an endorphin “rush”, which apparently feels a lot like taking morphine. Singing (both listening to it and doing it) can also release dopamine, a chemical that works to help regulate the brain’s pleasure and reward centers. Music has also been found to release serotonin, a neurotransmitter found mostly in the digestive tract that helps regulate our moods, social behaviors and appetite; other studies have shown that cortisol levels can be lower when listening to music and singing. In addition, Dr. David Huron, a music professor at OSU, postulates that singing may increase prolactin production; prolactin is found both in tears and in nursing mammals, and it helps regulate the immune system.
Other forms of happiness await us via singing as we age. Neuroscientists have shown that musical memories engage broader neural pathways than other types of memories – that’s why hearing an old song can flood one with very specific emotions and visual cues. When dementia and Alzheimer’s patients are encouraged to sing along songs from their youth, they sometimes respond with wide-eyed wonder and exhilaration, and sing out in a way that surprises not only those around them, but themselves as well; it’s a beautiful phenomenon to witness. Additionally, doctors are now finding that singers have more circuit connections between the right and left sides of their brains than non-singers. Memorizing words (left brain function) and music (right brain function) could keep those nerve cells and synapses in excellent working order.
Dr. Gene D. Cohen of George Washington University kept track of a senior singers’ chorale in Arlington, Virginia. The singers’ average age was 80 (65 the youngest, 96 the eldest). Findings showed that the singers suffered depression less frequently, made fewer doctor’s visits each year, needed less medication, and increased their other activities. I can attest that some of my greatest memories are of forming and leading a choir at an assisted living facility and seeing with my own eyes how the songs from my elders’ era affected them; they laughed, cried and told stories about first hearing that song performed.

But, as Horn will agree, the most remarkable phenomenon that a choir vocalist experiences are the many “take your breath away” moments that come as a result of being one of many voices coming together in harmony. I’m sure many of you reading this have had your own version of these types of experiences: goosebumps on your arms, hair standing up on the back of your neck, bursting into tears (that would be me), and more. A 2004 study by Dr. Gunter Kreutz showed that singing in a choir–as opposed to simply listening to choral music–increases SIgA production (antibodies in saliva that help immune function) and other positive physical responses.

The even better news is that while we always strive to be the best choristers we can be, our voices don’t have to be “professional strength” to derive these myriad health benefits. Horn cites a 2005 study that showed that singing even at an amateur level was beneficial to people’s emotional, physical, and cognitive well-being. Before moving back to New York, I joined Nashville in Harmony, a talented and love-filled group of largely non-professional singers in Nashville, Tennessee. Being one of 150 voices banding together for the common good has brought me exhilaration I’d not felt in all my years of singing…and that’s a lot of years. Back when we recorded to tape.

Here we are at a 2016 rehearsal. The exhilaration is palpable:

So please, sing. Sing a song. Sing out loud. Sing out strong. (See what I did there? C’mon, who remembers Sesame Street? The Carpenters? Sigh.)

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Update on The Martins

Thank you, dear praying friends, for your continued love and care for the Martin Family!  Baby Jack has remained stable, although he is still being watched very closely following Thursday's procedure. There was good news from the doctor that a head scan revealed no bleeding on the brain; something they're very concerned about, especially after a procedure like this one. Praise the Lord!

Jack's nurse has been anxious for Lisa to hold him, because of how much his vitals improve whenever she touches him. John says it's amazing how much better his numbers get when she sings to him and holds him. His blood pressure and oxygen levels stabilize and his breathing becomes regular! 😍💙 Lisa has been going back to hold him for 2-3 hours at a time.

Another praise is that John and Lisa have been able to secure an apartment near the hospital, and are beginning the process of moving into this temporary home.

Please pray:
*that the drain does its job and the bowel perforation heals on its own.
*that Jack will remain free from infection or additional complications.
*that the Lord will continue to grant John, Lisa, Ella and Rosie the physical and emotional strength and stamina they need for this journey.

"For you formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." Psalm 139:13-14

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Baby Martin Has a Name!

Jack Henry Martin 

Jack: great grandpa, his papa and his daddy (Jack being a diminutive of John). It means God is Gracious.

Henry: after his great grandpa who was a brave survivor and godly man. It means ruler.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Help for Baby Martin

As some of you know, last week Lisa Martin gave birth prematurely at 24 weeks to a baby boy.  He survived the critical first 48 hours and currently is stable, but has a long fight ahead of him.  If you would like to help John & Lisa with hotel/gas/food expenses, there are four ways to donate:

2. PayPal, account:
3. Venmo, account:
4. Some of these will take a percentage of the donations, so if you want 100% of your gift to go directly to the Martins, please give Logan Carr cash in person on a Sunday, or make out a check to John Martin and mail it to:
Logan Carr
17548 San Fernando Mission Blvd.
Granada Hills, CA  91344

Lastly, does anyone know of a guest house or apartment near Children’s Hospital in Loma Linda where John & Lisa could live temporarily?  They are in for the long haul, and it would save much time and gas if they had a place to stay locally.

Thank you, and keep praying!


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Hymns of Grace

Hymns of Grace produced a music CD of 14 songs used at the 2017 Shepherds' Conference.  Through the month of June, 2018 you can receive this CD free with the purchase of two pew editions or one premium edition of the hymnal.  Click here for more details.