A Theology of Music: Discussion with Jon Markey and Michael Payne

Jon Markey and Michael Payne are accomplished musicians, songwriters, and producers, and in the latest episode of the Theology for the People podcast, I sat down with them to talk about the theology of music.

Michael is the Worship Pastor at White Fields Community Church in Longmont, Colorado. Prior to coming to Longmont, he spent 21 years as a worship leader and missionary in Hungary, and prior to that he served in the US Marine Corps.

Jon is a pastor and missionary in Ternopil, Ukraine. He moved to Kiev, Ukraine with his family in the 1990’s, when he was 5 years old, and earned a masters degree from the Ukrainian National Tchaikovsky Academy of Music.

Jon has been a guest on the podcast before, in fact his episode is the most-listened to episode on the podcast to date: If “It’s All Gonna Burn” Then What’s the Point? – How the Resurrection Gives Meaning to Work & Art

We recently had the pleasure of having Jon and his family visit Longmont and lead worship at our church, and while he was here, I got to sit down with him and Mike to discuss what the Bible has to say about music: its purpose, uses, and significance – including the “song of creation,” and how it serves to counteract pagan origin narratives, as well as Jubal: the first human musician, mentioned in Genesis 4, as well as other practical discussions which have modern application.

Check out Jon’s ministry: Room for More music on YouTube and his church: Calvary Chapel Ternopil (Ukraine)

Check out Michael on Spotify: Michael Payne and you can watch him on the White Fields Community Church YouTube page.

The book mentioned in this episode is Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity by Michael Card

A Theology of Music: with Jon Markey & Michael Payne Theology for the People

Michael Payne and Jon Markey are accomplished musicians, songwriters, and producers, and in this episode they talk with Nick about the theology of music. Listen in to this discussion of what the Bible has to say about music: its purpose, uses, and significance – including the "song of creation," Jubal, and practical discussions for today. Check out Jon's ministry: Room for More music on YouTube and his church: Calvary Chapel Ternopil (Ukraine) Check out Michael on Spotify: Michael Payne and you can watch him on the White Fields Community Church YouTube page. The book mentioned in this episode is Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity by Michael Card Visit the Theology for the People blog.

Contextualization and Engagement in God’s Global Mission: a Conversation with Benjamin Morrison

Benjamin Morrison

Recently we have had the pleasure of getting to spend some time with some of our missionary friends from Ukraine, who have visited our church here in Colorado.

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to sit down with pastor Benjamin Morrison from Svitlovodsk, Ukraine to talk about his life and ministry. Ben is the pastor of Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk, Ukraine, as well as the coordinator for City to City Ukraine and is part of the leadership of City to City Europe.

This turned out to be a great conversation in which we talked about how Ben came to be a missionary in Ukraine, what it’s like doing ministry in a post-communist context, and what “contextualization” means and how it works out in practice. We finished the conversation by sharing some practical advice for those who are seeking God’s leading and direction for how they can get involved in God’s global mission.

You can watch the video below, or listen to the episode on the White Fields Church podcast.

If “It’s All Gonna Burn” Then What’s the Point? – How the Resurrection Gives Meaning to Work & Art

In this episode I’m joined by Pastor Jon Markey from Ternopil, Ukraine. Along with being a pastor and missionary, Jon is a musician and producer. We discuss how the resurrection infuses our lives, including our work and art, with meaning and purpose.

Sometimes people have the idea that if the world is going to burn anyway, then there is no point in trying to invest time and energy into work or art in this world; it would simply be akin to hanging curtains in a house that is on fire. However, as Jon and I discuss, Jesus’ resurrection changes that story in a big way.

Check out Jon and Steffie’s work at Room for More on Instagram and YouTube.

Click here to listen to the episode, or listen in the embedded player below:

If "It's All Gonna Burn" Then What's the Point? – How the Resurrection Gives Meaning to Work & Art Theology for the People

In this episode I'm joined by Pastor Jon Markey from Ternopil, Ukraine. Along with being a pastor and missionary, Jon is a musician and producer. We discuss how the resurrection infuses our lives, including our work and art, with meaning and purpose. Sometimes people have the idea that if the world is going to burn anyway, then there is no point in trying to invest time and energy into work or art in this world; it would simply be akin to hanging curtains in a house that is on fire. However, as Jon and I discuss, Jesus' resurrection changes that story in a big way. Check out Jon and Steffie's work at Room for More: Instagram YouTube 

Was Jesus Racist? Why Did He Call a Gentile Woman a Dog?

There is a page on this site where readers can submit questions or suggest topics. Recently I received the following question:

Recently [a friend and I] were talking about the event in Mark where Jesus encounters the Syrophoenician woman and the way he interacts with her – which can seem very cold or harsh. We did also read, but not focus our discussion, on Matthew’s account of it. My student leans toward Jesus’s behavior representing a racist shading to his approach.

I was wondering if you could speak into this, but also it may give an opportunity to speak into how this affects our modern lives.

Great question. I know many people have found this passage puzzling or even disturbing.

The passage in question is found in Mark 7:24-30 and the story is also told in Matthew 15:21-28. It involves a time when Jesus went to the region of Tyre and Sidon, which is in modern-day Lebanon. During his time there, unsurprisingly, he encounters a woman who is a Gentile (non-Jew), who appeals to him as the “Son of David” (a Messianic title), and asks that he heal her daughter. Jesus initially rebuffs her request, saying that it would not be right for him to give the bread which belongs to the children to dogs. She pushes back, saying that dogs are willing to eat the crumbs which fall from the children’s table. Jesus is impressed by her faith and persistence and heals her daughter.

Dogs and Puppies

If you’ve ever been to developing countries, you may have noticed that there are two kinds of dogs: street dogs and pet dogs. One of the biggest challenges for me when I visit places like Ukraine or Mexico is that I like to run for exercise, but there are sometimes street dogs who instinctively chase after people who are running!

Street dogs are often dangerous and diseased. They present a real threat to anyone walking down the street. Pet dogs, on the other hand, are companions who can become part of a family: “fur babies”!

This same distinction existed in Jesus’ time. In the Middle East at this time, especially because of the way that waste was disposed of in open dumps, there were packs of feral street dogs who roamed the streets and presented a very real danger to the people. On the other hand, people also kept dogs as pets, and part of the family.

The Jewish people were in the habit of referring to Gentiles (pagan, non-Jews) as “dogs” – essentially referring to them as “street dogs” who were diseased and dangerous, and therefore to be avoided. As you can imagine, this kind of thinking would have been entrenched in the minds of Jesus’ disciples, having grown up as Jews in Israel.

So when Jesus refers to this woman as a “dog” – part of what he is doing is playing into the Jewish culture of that day – which would have been held by many of his disciples – which considered the Gentiles to be “street dogs.” However, instead of using the common word for “dogs,” Jesus uses the word for “pet dogs” or “puppies.” By doing so, think about what he is saying: he is essentially saying, “Yes, many people where I’m from (including some of my disciples) might consider you a diseased and dangerous street dog, but I view you as a pet dog, i.e. one who can become a beloved part of the family.”

By saying this, Jesus was challenging the way that his disciples thought about Gentile people. They would have been looking around there in Tyre, wondering, “Why have we come here to these ‘dogs’ – these filthy, disease ridden people? And Jesus is saying, “No, these are people who can become a beloved part of the family.”

Was Jesus Ethnocentric?

In Matthew’s account of this story, Jesus states that he has come to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Does that mean that Jesus was ethnocentric, or perhaps a Jewish nationalist?

By calling this woman a “pet dog” he was insinuating that she could live in “the house” and be part of “the family.” These latter two metaphors are used throughout the Bible to describe the people of God. Following the metaphor, Jesus is describing that she, as a Gentile (not part of God’s covenant nation of Israel) could be brought into the house and become a member of the family. This is similar to what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 11, where he talks about how Gentiles have been “grafted in” to the “olive tree” of God’s people, which began with Israel.

God’s plan for salvation, throughout the Bible was for the whole world. In John 3:16, Jesus makes it clear that his mission is a global mission, for God so loved the world.

However, God’s plan for global evangelization was to work through Israel to the world. Israel was to be God’s missionary people, a light to the nations. In fact, in Deuteronomy, God tells them that the purpose of the Law of Moses, was so other nations would see who their God was by observing the goodness of those Laws. Israel was to be a lighthouse to the nations. This is why the Psalms and the Prophets talk about how the nations will rejoice, and the nations will come to the Lord. The word “nations” is synonymous with Gentiles.

However, many times Israel fell short of this, becoming ethnocentric and nationalistic, and taking their “chosen status” as a mark of superiority over others instead of what it was meant to be: the mark of them being chosen to carry out God’s work of bringing light to the Gentiles.

Jesus’ focus was to Israel, because it was through Israel that God wanted to reach the world. He had come as the Jewish Messiah and in fulfillment of the Jewish ceremonial system: as the ultimate prophet, priest and sacrifice, to fulfill all that was written in the Hebrew Scriptures. After his resurrection, Jesus commissioned his disciples to preach the Gospel to every creature, all the nations, and to take the gospel from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria(!), and to the ends of the Earth.

In the ancient world, it was common for each nation, and sometimes for each town or tribe, to have their own God. However, the God of the Bible claimed to be the God of all the world, and Jesus claimed to be the Savior of all the world. He was not just one of many ways to come to God, he was the way, the truth, and the life – and no one can come to the Father besides through Him. (John 14:6)

This was considered scandalous in the Roman Empire, where their governing mentality was that anyone can believe anything they want as long as they don’t claim that their god or religion is right and somebody else’s is wrong. That is very much like today’s modern Western culture, actually! But the Christians could not comply with this: the God of the Bible is not just a local deity, but the creator of the entire universe, and Jesus was the savior of the entire world.

Jesus’ focus on Israel was a missional strategy and calling, not a qualitative judgment on either Israel or other nations. In fact, multiple times in the Gospels, Jesus points out how a Gentile showed more faith that those in Israel.

What Does this Mean for Us Today?

There is no place for racism or ethnocentrism with God. This is not to say that you cannot or should not be a patriot, or someone who loves your country. What it means is that we recognize that other nations are made up of people created in God’s image, who have the same intrinsic value and worth. Since they are loved by God, they should be loved by God’s people. There is no place for any sense of superiority or disdain, when we recognize that we were also “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind, but God…made us alive together with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:3-4)

In Christ, we are now part of a new humanity, the “family of God,” in which there is no longer Jew nor Greek, and we will be part of that great multitude in Heaven made up of every tribe, tongue, and nation, which will worship before the Throne. To be chosen by God is to be chosen to be part of His mission to bring the truth of His love and grace to the world.

Does Proverbs Condone Bribery? – Interview with Benjamin Morrison

On this site there is a page where readers can submit questions or suggest topics . Recently I received the following question from a reader in Ukraine:

Outside of proverbs, bribery is spoken against. Inside proverbs we see both direct opposition to it, but also some almost-approving of it. I won’t list verses which speak against it because they’re numerous and easy to find, but I’d like to hear your thoughts regarding verses like these:

A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it; wherever he turns he prospers.
Proverbs 17:8 ESV

A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath.
Proverbs 21:14 ESV

Corruption and bribery are major topics here in Ukraine and we’ve dealt with this question a few times.

That’s a great question. To answer it, I reached out to a friend who lives in Ukraine where he serves as a pastor and missionary: Benjamin Morrison.

Ben has lived in Ukraine for 19 years and is the Lead Pastor of Calvary Chapel in Svitlovodsk, Ukraine, and the Director of City to City Ukraine.

We had a great discussion on this topic, which I think you will really enjoy and benefit from. In this video we discuss the nature of the Book of Proverbs, different scenarios in which bribes are asked for or offered – and how to respond in each, as well as some personal stories. Finally we end the conversation on a note of how the gospel helps and empowers us to face corruption and bribery and other things that are wrong in the world. Enjoy!

Ministry in the COVID-19 Crisis and Beyond

This past week I was honored to be interviewed by David Snead on his podcast. David is a missionary in Lviv, Ukraine – and he is one of the most organized people I know.

We had a great discussion about my background in ministry, ministering in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, Calvary Chapel, and expository preaching. Check it out:

Why Do Some Countries Celebrate Easter on a Different Day?

Today as we celebrated Easter at White Fields Church in Longmont, Colorado, we had a special greetings sent in from some of the missionaries we support around the world, including several in Ukraine.

See: An Easter Like No Other

Here’s the video of the Easter service, which includes the greetings from those missionaries:

Some of the missionaries in Ukraine mentioned that their country celebrates Easter a week later than we do in the United States, leading some people to ask why that is.

Council of Nicea (325 AD): Setting a Common Date for Easter

The First Ecumenical Council of Christin leaders around the world as held in 325 AD and is known as the Council of Nicea.

Prior to Nicea, churches in different parts of the world celebrated Easter on different Sundays of the year. In order to bring unity, council members created a formula to would calculate the date for Easter for all churches around the world: the first Sunday after the first full moon which follows the vernal equinox, after the Jewish Passover.

To avoid confusion, it determined that the vernal equinox was on March 21. This system guaranteed that all churches around the world celebrated Easter on the same day.

The Great Schism and the Introduction of the Georgian Calendar

In 1054 the Eastern and Western churches split. The division was for theological, cultural, and political reasons. Shortly after this, Pope Gregory VIII introduced the Gregorian calendar, whereas the Eastern Empire continued with the Julian calendar, which had been used since the time of Julius Caesar.

The reason for the introduction of the Gregorian calendar was the realization that the Julian calendar was discovered to be 11 minutes too long, which, though not much, led to the spring equinox no longer being on March 21 by that time. The Gregorian calendar sought to bring correction to this issue, whereas the Eastern Empire (and its churches) continued with the Julian calendar despite the fact that according to it, the vernal equinox was no longer on March 21.

By using two different calendar systems, the vernal equinox now fell on March 21 under the Gregorian calendar and April 3 on the Julian calendar. The two empires (and their churches), as a result, began celebrating Easter on two different days, though on occasion Easter date does still fall on the same day for both calendars (e.g. in 2017 and next in 2025).

As for the question of why the date of Easter changes every year, see: Easter Math: How Does It Add Up?

Ministry Trip to Hungary and Ukraine

When I left on March 5 to Hungary and Ukraine, there was no recommendation not to travel to those areas – and even now there are very few cases of COVID-19. I am deeply concerned by the threat that this virus poses to the vulnerable and immune-compromised around the world, and am committed to doing my part to prevent the spreading of the virus.

That being said, here is an update on what Mike and I were up to in Hungary and Ukraine:

Expositors Collective Budapest

The Expositors Collective is a growing network of pastors and leaders who are committed to raising up the next generation of Christ-centered Bible teachers and preachers through interactive training seminars and a weekly podcast. 

Just last week, the Expositors Collective celebrated two years since our first training weekend in Thousand Oaks, CA! 

Since that first event, we have hosted 8 training seminars, the latest being the one in Budapest, which was a bit of a hybrid: as opposed to our usual 2-day format, we condensed it into a 1-day event, which required leaving out some aspects of our usual training. 

Budapest was also our first time working in a bilingual setting, as we had people in attendance not only from Hungary, but from surrounding countries, including Slovakia, Serbia, and Romania, as well as students from Calvary Chapel Bible College Europe.

The training went very well, and there is interest for Expositors Collective events in other European countries, as well as for the full 2-day version in Budapest at some point in the future.

Visiting Missionaries & Speaking at Churches

White Fields supports several missionaries around the world, mostly in Eastern Europe. (See: White Fields Missions) On this trip, I was able to visit all of our European missionaries except one, beginning with the Németh family in South Budapest. I had the opportunity to preach at their church, Golgota Dél-Pest. I loved getting to preach in Hungarian again. The video of that sermon is embedded below.

On Monday, March 9, Mike and I flew to Kyiv, Ukraine – where we were met by missionaries and friends: George Markey (senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Kyiv), and Nate Medlong, who serves in Kharkiv, Ukraine with Calvary Chapel Kharkiv and Fostering Hope ministry to children in foster care. Mike then took a train to Ternopil, in western Ukraine to visit missionaries there, and I went to Kharkiv with Nate to spend a few days with him, his family, and people from their church.

I taught the Thursday night service at the church in Kharkiv, after a quick trip up to Kyiv Thursday morning to speak at Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary, where I taught two 80-minute classes on Spiritual Formation.

This past Sunday I taught at Calvary Chapel Kyiv, their last service before the national quarantine began. Video of that message is embedded below as well.

Calvary Chapel Ukraine Leadership Conference

On Friday-Saturday we had 65 Calvary Chapel leaders from all over Ukraine gather in Irpin for the annual leadership conference. This was a time of teaching, training, and discussing leadership principles from God’s Word in order to help us lead our churches well. Click here for photos of the conference.

With the spread of COVID-19, these gatherings are no longer possible or wise, but in God’s providence we were able to hold them while it was still safe and wise to do so.

It was a fruitful time of ministry, and great times of fellowship with people who are doing important work in a place where it is very needed. Please keep the work of these leaders and churches in your prayers that God would bless and use their ministries for His glory and for the good of many people!

Calvary Chapel Ukraine Leaders Conference

For the past week I have been in Ukraine to work with Calvary Chapel churches here. On Friday and Saturday Mike Payne and I spoke at the CC Ukraine leaders conference in Irpin, near Kyiv.

I taught on discipleship pathways and leadership pipelines, and Mike spoke on leading in a supporting role. There were also a few Q&A sessions where leaders from different churches were able to ask questions about things they are facing or are curious about.

On Saturday evening, after the conference, Mike went to Ternopil in western Ukraine, while I took a train to Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, and we both spoke at churches in these cities on Sunday.

The pastor of Calvary Chapel in Kharkiv, Victor, contracted measles and got very sick, to the point where his life may have been in danger. He is doing better now, but is still under quarantine. I spent the weekend with the assistant pastor, Nate, who also leads a ministry called Fostering Hope, which provides a home and family for several children. To find out more about Fostering Hope Ukraine, click here.

I am currently on my way back to Kyiv for a series of meetings tomorrow, and after that I will head to Budapest on Wednesday, where I will speak at Golgota Budapest and then spend a day in Eger, where my wife and I lived for 7 years and planted a church. On Friday I will be heading back to the US, just in time to preach on Sunday at White Fields.

God is continuing to do a great work here in Ukraine through these churches. Pray for them as they plan to plant new churches in Kyiv and develop a Leaders Training Program in Kharkiv.

Recap of Recent Travels

I just got back on Saturday night from a 2-week trip, during which I was in NYC, Turkey, Hungary, Ukraine – then a quick jaunt to Southern California, before making my way back home just in time for daylight savings! My internal clock was so confused by that point that losing one more hour of sleep didn’t even register.

Hungary

The purpose for the European trip was to visit White Fields‘ missionaries and ministry partners in Hungary and Ukraine. I got to spend time with Pastor Jani and others from Golgota Eger, the church my wife and I started back in 2005. We also spent time in Budapest at Golgota Budapest and with the leaders of the Anonymous Ways Foundation which helps to rescue women out of sex-trafficking.

Ukraine

After a few short days in Hungary, we flew to Kiev, Ukraine where Mike and I taught at a Pastors and Leaders Conference for Calvary Chapel Ukraine. Our topic was “movement dynamics” and we gave biblical and practical instruction about leading missional churches for about 50 pastors and church leaders from all over Ukraine.

Kiev

On Sunday morning I had the privilege of preaching at Calvary Chapel Kiev. Here is the video of that service if you’d like to watch it:

After church we spent some time with George Markey, one of the pastors of Calvary Kiev, and he shared with us the vision for urban church planting in Kiev – a city of about 5 million people. Their vision is to plant 30 churches in Kiev in 5 years! This year their goal was to begin with 2 church plants, and God has already raised up people for those in the northern Obolon region of the city and in the southern Teremky region. Please join in praying for God’s work in Kiev through Calvary Chapel and for this big vision they have for church planting!

Ternopil and Kharkiv

Sunday evening, three of us got on an over-night train to Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine, near the Russian border – while Mike and his wife Marika took a train in the opposite direction, to Ternopil in Western Ukraine to visit friends from Calvary Chapel Ternopil.

In Kharkiv, we visited with friends from Calvary Chapel Kharkiv, including Pastor Victor Fisin and Assistant Pastor and missionary Nate Medlong, whose aunt is a member of our church. Nate and his wife Diana are on the front lines of ministry to orphans and children in the foster system in Kharkiv. God is doing great things through their ministry, so please keep them in prayer.

UETS

Returning to Kiev, I got to speak to the students of Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary on Tuesday morning, and then we spent time with one of the teachers and the director of the seminary afterwards. UETS is a doing a great work, raising up pastors and leaders from all over the former Soviet Union. They have a strategic partnership with the seminary I am currently attending: London School of Theology (LST), and they have several hundred students attending their many campuses all over Ukraine and one other former-Soviet country. Pray for their work!

California

While the others from the team came back to Colorado, I had one more trip before I came home: I went to Thousand Oaks, California for the first Expositors Collective – an interactive seminar for young people who have a desire to preach and teach the Bible well. As one of the leaders, I coached a group of young men who had a range of different experiences: from Bible college students to interns, to a staff pastor who sometimes preaches at his church. It was a great event, and one that was geared towards ongoing mentorship. This was only the first of what will hopefully be an ongoing collective to encourage expository Bible teaching in the next generation. For more information, check out expositorscollective.com

It was a great trip, but I’m glad to be home, here where God has called me to be!