How Can Christians be Intentional About Hospitality? The Decablog’s “Rhino Room” panel answers

This week’s question for The Rhino Room was:

How Can Christians be Intentional About Hospitality?

Pastor Nicolas Alford
Pastor Nicolas Alford

Pastor Nicolas Alford answered:

Christian intentionality about hospitality is not complicated, we’re just complacent.

Invite people into your home on Sunday afternoon for a meal. No one cares if you dusted. Talk to people at church. If they’re visiting, be welcoming and helpful. When someone invites you into their home, make every reasonable effort to accept. Incorporate fellow Christians into your daily life. Build real relationships with unbelievers so that they know they are actual people to you, not mere evangelism projects.

This is not rocket science, and yet Peter has to tell us to do it without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9). Therefore, if we aren’t showing hospitality we are probably not lacking for opportunity or knowledge, we are probably lacking in motivation. The immediately preceding verse in 1 Peter tells us to keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Hospitality is really just living out that love.

Read the other eight answers.

The Regulative, Vertical, & Internal Principle of the Worship of God [5-Part Blog Series by Nicolas Alford]

Nicolas Alford
Nicolas Alford

In a series posted at The DecablogNicolas Alford (now one of the pastors at Grace Baptist Church of Taylors, SC.) explains not only the Regulative Principle of Worship, but also the Vertical and Internal Principle of Worship as well. He explains in the series introduction:

If the church at worship is the epicenter of our spiritual lives then it follows that our God would take a unique interest in what goes one there. He does. In fact, he has given us nonnegotiable Biblical principles to guide us as we think though what we do in worship and why we do it.

The three principles he talks about weave together to form and inform our worship of God. He explain in the series conclusion:

Imagine that in preparation for coming together as the church in worship, we are members of a symphony, getting ready for a concert.

The Vertical Principal of Worship has explained to us who we will be playing for. It is a concert for a King, and so while there are many others who can and should benefit from it, it is for the King. His desires and requirements must always rule.

The Regulative Principle of Worship has shown us how to build our instruments. It has shown us how to identify the parts; to indentify what is in and what is out. Using it we can build an instrument that meets the King’s design.

The Internal Principle of Worship has shown us that from within us must flow the breath that will take that beautiful instrument and make it perform the function it was designed for. The King doesn’t want us to just show him the instruments; he wants them played.

“Worship is a vertical act with horizontal impact.

We must worship God in all the ways and only the ways he has commanded in His Word.

The external act of worship must be an expression of true internal realities.”

When all the principles come together, then you have a symphony of beautiful music worthy to be offered to the King.

symphony worship

Read his “A Principled Approach to the Worship of God” series:

Series Introduction

The Vertical Principle

The Regulative Principle

The Internal Principle

Series Conclusion


Three Thieves That Will Steal Your Worship

Calvin and Hobbs on the Regulative Principle

God Hates Phelps? [Nicolas Alford]


 It is strange as a Christian to read of the death of a man with the title “pastor” and have a high degree of confidence that he is now in hell. The Bible is very clear that while salvation is by grace alone through faith in the works of Jesus Christ on our behalf, and that it is not given to anyone because of their good deeds in this life; the Bible is also very clear that people who have been saved by this free grace are in fact personally changed by that salvation, and that the fruit of their salvation flows out in their everyday lives. Fred Phelps has spent decades putting the rotten fruit of his fallen heart on display for all of the world to see, as he has spread as much hate and pain as he was able in his 84 years of life. Even worse, he has grossly misrepresented the God of heaven to an entire generation of spectators. Yet here as always, God will not be mocked. Although we must always make the caveat that only God knows the ultimate realities of the heart, the title of “pastor” is no barrier to my saying that if I think anyone went to hell when they died, I think this is true of Fred Phelps.


What should be the reaction of the Christian? These moments are difficult to navigate, but here are six thoughts to help guide us along.

read more | listen [7 min]

Holy Hip Hop Roundup [Anyabwile, Alford, Brown, White, Waldron] Updated Dec. 3rd & 4th

holy hip hopThabiti Anyabwile did his own “Round-Up of the Holy Hip Hop Squabble” then gave his reactions:

  1. As I tweeted
  2. It’s good to see our white brothers take up arms so decisively against fellow white men in defense and confirmation of the truth.
  3. I’m glad for the restraint shown by the men who were the target of these comments.
  4. Finally, we need to be careful about extending labels in conversations like this.

Read [6 min. listen]


origin_138347281Nicolas Alford, over at The Decablog, gave his own little roundup then wrote a parody entitled The NCFIC Boldly Speaks Out Against Reformed Country-Western: A Parody with a Point

I applaud the recent bold stance taken by the NCFIC against the growing popularity of a certain so-called “musical form” in the church.  For too long, we have looked the other way as Reformed country-western has gained steam.  Look around.  Our young men have hats with ridiculously large brims pulled down low over their eyes, their headphones in, slowing strumming the air as though they were out riding the countryside looking for stray steer.  Country-western “music” cannot be disassociated with the culture from which it originated- a culture rampant with the abuse of alcohol and spouses, where the jeans are too tight and every one is cryptically told to “cowboy up”- whatever that means.  The crooners of this so-called “art form” think they are serving God.  They’re not.  What these cowards don’t know is the hand which picks up the Bible must first lay down the lasso…

Read [12 min. readout]


Scott T. Brown put up An Apology on the NCFIC Blog:

A few days ago I released a video clip from a panel discussion at our conference on The Worship of God. One of the panelists, Geoff Botkin, referred to the people driving Christian rap as “disobedient cowards.” I interpreted his statement to mean that, in every culture, Christians are often cowards in the face of various elements of their cultures that are infected with worldliness. Geoff has explained to me that he did not intend to impugn the work of sincere men, and that he would like to apologize for any confusion caused by his statement. Here is his apology…


scott brown

Please Forgive Me via Scott Brown Online [added Dec. 3, 2013]

During the panel discussion on rap I should have engaged such a controversial subject as this with greater discernment, explicit scriptural grounding, clarity, definition of terms (like “rap”) and precision that comes from a full grasp of the subject. These were lacking in the rap discussion. The very question itself lacked clarity and nuance which opened the door to the misrepresentations common to the broad brush. In framing the question, I failed to distinguish between the use of music in worship compared to simply listening to music. We failed to distinguish between the various expressions of the artists. I failed to correct a panelist who made an unsavory comment. Panel discussions, off the cuff are useful for certain things, but to use a surprise question to a panel to engage a broader audience on such a complex controversial topic as musical genres they may not have been knowledgeable of was unwise. I did not engage this topic with the required care. There were moments where it lacked the brotherly tone that is essential for our critiques within the body of Christ. In at least these senses, it was unworthy of our Lord. Please forgive me…



Three Dividing Lines This Week by James White via Alpha and Omega Ministries [added Dec. 3, 2013]

Thursday at 5pm EST I will be joined by Dr. Voddie Baucham, Shai Linne and Ivey Conerly to discuss the recent explosion of discussion regarding “Christian rap.”



Sam WaldronReformed Rap Ruckus: Comments from the Empty Chair by Sam Waldron via Midwest Center for Theological Studies: Owensboro, KY  [added Dec. 4, 2013]

…Being old (Well 62!) and not particularly “Facebook and blog aware,” I was alerted to this controversy first by a much younger member of my church. After viewing the video and reading Ligon Duncan’s related comments, I wrote the following email to the to my younger, but like-minded, brother in the Lord. It is slightly edited for this blog.


It is pretty well known–at least I have made no secret of it–that I enjoy Shai Linne’s doctrinally solid raps. I have played them for college students in college classes with a good conscience and with gladness that they present the Christian religion in a different and contemporary cultural form. I think that as an art form and performance this may give them a helpfulness that other art forms and performance styles may not possess for today’s generation.


I certainly do not agree with many of the things the panelists said. . . . I am glad that Botkin apologized for the unfortunate things he said. I certainly do not agree with the very negative tone of the video as a whole about Reformed rap…


Since I wrote the above email both Scott Brown and Joel Beeke have issued apologies for aspects of their comments.  I think their apologies show wisdom and humility.  Both emphasize the distinction I am insisting on in this blog.  Let me only add that my ministry at the NCFIC conference emphasized the crucial distinction I was making at the Worship of God conference between the corporate worship of the church and other situations.  The question of whether Reformed rap may be a good and useful kind of performance art and thus evangelistic tool is very different from the question of whether any such performance art has any place in the formal worship of Christ’s church. These questions should be separated for a more fruitful discussion.

Read [4 min. listen]


Jeremy WalkerAsking the right questions by Jeremy Walker via Reformation21 Blog

At the risk of being trampled by the ireful in the latest slanging match over rap and hip-hop, I wonder if I might interject? It seems to me, watching from a distance and not trying to read every contribution, that the debate quickly escalates into absolute and swingeing declarations that fail to take account of the various issues that ought to come into play. I may be wrong, but I hope I can lob a few thoughts into the debate.
I suggest that there are at least three questions that ought to be asked in assessing not just rap and hip-hop but other musical genres and forms.


First, and most generically, in what ways can a Christian appreciate, enjoy and embrace either a form or genre of music in and of itself, or a particular instance of that form?


Second, and a little more narrowly, to what extent is a certain form or genre an appropriate vehicle for the communication of distinctively Christian truth?


But third, and most specifically, is this question: is a certain form or genre a legitimate and appropriate means for the corporate worship of the gathered church? This brings us into a whole new realm, for it raises the issue of the artist and his or her audience and the distinctive dynamics of the saints of God gathered in one place for the purpose of worshipping God. The answers to these questions are sometimes assumed in the debate, but often they have been neither raised nor addressed. I have offered some thoughts on these matters [15 min. readout]before…

Read [9 min. readout]

We’ll continue to add more from fellow 1689rs as/if they come out.

Working on Sunday by Nicolas Alford

work oxI want to encourage us all to work on Sunday, and by that I don’t mean do the labors we ought to be pursuing on the other six days.  Rather, I mean let’s work on Sunday by working on our faithfulness, purposefulness, and delight in this good gift from our God.  Here are five ways we should work on our Sundays:

  1. We should work to structure our lives in a way that honors the Lord’s Day

  2. We should work to build up the body of Christ

  3. We should work to involve the totality of our being in the worship of God

  4. We should work to relieve the sufferings of our fellow man

  5. We should work to grow in our enjoyment of the gifts of God

Read the rest or listen to the eight minute readout.

Why is the Sabbath so Controversial? Nicolas Alford Answers

Nicolas Alford
Nicolas Alford

…here I simply wish to point out five reasons why I believe the whole issue of a Christian Sabbath has become controversial in our day.  Rather than going to the Scriptures and studying the issue on its own merits, people often develop views on the Sabbath because of extra-biblical concerns and assumptions, and then go the the Bible in search of confirmation.  I’m not trying to offend conscientious brothers and sisters who disagree with me on this issue by suggesting that they are duplicitous in their argumentation, rather I simply want to share some of those observations I have noticed which seem to lie behind their conclusions.  Often our own presuppositions and outside pressures are difficult to discern, so perhaps this will be both a challenge to those who doubt that a Christian Sabbath remains for the people of God and also a help to those who are in discussion with brothers and sisters who differ on this point.So without further introduction, here are five reasons the Christian Sabbath is controversial in our day:

  1. Living in a generally affluent society means that a “day of rest” often involves resting from play, and not work

  2. We have a tendency to focus on Sabbath restriction rather than Sabbath blessing

  3. Opposition to the Sabbath is representative of a wider opposition to the third use of the law

  4. Some legitimate instances of Sabbath legalism have alienated many Christians

  5. The Sabbath is not always defended in a helpful way, even where it is practised faithfully

Read or listen to seven minute readout.

Why charismatics are simply not Reformed [Tom Chantry] & Speaking Biblically about Miracles [Nicolas Alford]

Tom Chantry talks about ‘reformed charismatics’ here: 

In contrast to the Reformed consensus on the means of grace, charismaticism has always and inevitably engaged in the belittlement of the ministry of the Word.  What has been observed in charismatic churches for decades continues to hold true; no matter what is said of the importance of preaching, the real moment of communion with God comes when there is a prophetic utterance – no matter how banal.  Wherever the church adopts charismatic doctrine, emotions must increase and thoughts decrease.

read here or listen here [10 min]


Nicolas Alford talks about miracles here:

Miracles (signs, works, wonder and/or powers) were not a constant in the Bible.  Rather, they are generally clustered around major moments of revelation.  For instance, there are many miracles grouped around Moses, who in turn is the writer of the first five books of the canon.  The same goes for the Apostles and their inner circle, who had ministries marked by many miraculous signs, even as the Holy Spirit was inspiring them to write the New Testament.

read here or listen here [about 7 min]

The Anti-Gospel of Self-Harm [Nicolas Alford]

man_of_sorrow_by_pesi_flickrNicolas Alford:

Dear Hurting Friend,


I’ll be writing this short post as a personal letter to you.  No, I don’t have you personally in mind, and I don’t claim any sort of divine prophecy or special revelation, but I know you are out there reading.  I know it because there are so many just like you, so many who quietly struggle with the devastating weight of addiction to self-harm.  You are not alone.


Self-harm is a general term that can encompass a multitude of particular battles.  It can take the form of anorexia, cutting, putting yourself in abusive situations, alcoholism, and too many more to list.  It effects men and women, young and old, blue collar and white collar both.  Again, you are not alone.


Here’s what this simple letter is not: a complete answer to your problems.  Self-harm is a complex struggle, one to be engaged in the context of a support team that may include family, your pastors, and specialized medical professionals.  But I do want to say something that I pray might be a help, and might be an encouragement to those who are suffering in the quiet shame of isolation.  Perhaps this is the day when the brighter light of hope begins to break in upon your darkness…

Read the rest or listen to six minute readout.

What Does “Worship in Spirit & Truth” Mean? Nicolas Alford Answers

Over at the Decablog, Nicolas Alford wrote a post entitled Spirit & Truth. It begins:

We Christians can be a scrappy bunch, especially when precious expressions of our faith are critiqued or criticized.  Perhaps nowhere else is this more apparent than in the popular nomenclature assigned to internal church debates over the corporate praise of God.  We call it the “worship wars,” and with good reason.  Tell a sweet elderly church lady in a polka-dot dress that you are chucking the organ and the hymnal and she may get medieval on you in a hurry.  So too, tell the young hipster to turn down his amp and write a worship song with more than ten words and a chorus of “yeah, yeah, yeah” and you may get stiff-armed so fast you don’t even have time to read the Hebrew tat on his forearm.


Ok, so writing that first paragraph was fun, but this isn’t really a post about worship wars.  At least not directly.  And for the record, I’m a member of a church that has a blended approach to worship style- something I greatly appreciate.  Rather, I want to address a phrase that is often invoked by all sides of these debates and show why I think it is being seriously mishandled.


You may have found yourself in this situation: You’re having a conversation or even a debate about worship, and you feel like you are making great points when all of a sudden the person you are speaking with plays the trump card.  It goes something like this:


 “Well, I can see what you are saying, but I just don’t worship that way.  God wants us to worship in spirit and truth, and that type of worship just doesn’t move me.”


What presuppositions underlie that statement?…

Read the rest or listen to 10 minute readout.

Al Martin, Spurgeon & Dabney on the Call to Ministry (5-part blog series) – Nicolas Alford

Nicolas Alford, from The Decablog, writes:

This utilization of church history and key voices from the past is precisely what Pastor A. N. Martin prescribes in his classic lectures on Pastoral Theology entitled The Call of the Man of God. There he advises his students to mine the best gold offered on this subject from the library of history. Two of the voices from history which Martin highlights as particularly valuable are the 19th century Baptist Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and the 19th century Presbyterian Robert Lewis Dabney…


Martin recommends these two men because he believes that an accurate understanding of this topic exists somewhere between their two views.  He intends for his students to balance out the extremes of the one with the other.  In his second lecture on this subject Martin exhorts his listeners with some humor, saying


Don’t yield your mind to any one man’s counsel on this subject.  As you read Spurgeon, don’t accept him as the guru, as fully balanced and the final word.  If you do… some of you might not stay the rest of the week… On the other hand, if you take Dabney as the final word [there are] some of you that may feel you ought to move beyond your present sphere of usefulness in the church of Christ and aspire to the pastoral office without sufficient internal and external warrant to do that.  So please don’t read Dabney and fall asleep tonight without reading Spurgeon.  And if you read Spurgeon, be sure before you come tomorrow morning you read Dabney to balance yourself out…


It  would seem that what A.N. Martin has in view is a sort of sanctified regression to the mean.  This series of posts intends to take his advice.  As the various issues at play are discussed, the best of Spurgeon will be weighed with the best of Dabney, and the weaknesses of both will be weighed against Scripture.

Read the series:


Nicolas Alford’s two primary sources for this series:

  • Dabney, Robert Lewis.  “What is a Call to the Ministry?”  Discussions of Robert Lewis Dabney, Volume 2: Evangelical and Theological. Available here.
  • Spurgeon, Charles, “The Call to the Ministry,” Lectures to my Students.  Reprint, Grand Rapids: Zonde.rvan, 1954.


Boston Bombing: A Biblical Response By Nicholas Alford

Yesterday Nicolas Alford, of  The Decablog, wrote a Biblical response to the recent Boston Bombings:

boston bombingThis is heavy on my heart today, and so as I think through a Biblical response I wanted to share what I feel is an appropriate way for the Christian to respond to these horrific events.  Specifically, a Biblical response to the Boston bombings includes…

1. Appropriate Sorrow
2. Righteous Anger
3. Chastened Patience
4. Transcendent Hope
5. Eager Longing

Yesterday people gathered in Boston to participate in a sport that celebrates the joy of running- the undeniable lift that a human being experiences when putting his God-formed body to use in a display of God’s brilliant design and the admirable discipline of human training.  Yet wicked men instead made them run in panic and fear.  This inversion of God’s good creation is at its root Satanic- it is open service to the one who entered the Garden with a message designed to flip God’s good creation on its head.  But Satan doesn’t win, and the goals of yesterday’s attack are ultimately futile (Genesis 3:15).  We worship and serve the Christ who died to overturn death, who suffered to erase suffering, who is in the business of fixing broken things.

Read his explanation of each point

Nicolas Alford serves as a Pastoral Intern with Grace Baptist Church of Taylors, SC where he is also an assistant to the Dean and a student with Reformed Baptist Seminary.

Effective Prayer Meetings: 12 Tips

prayer meeting

Here are 12 tips Nicolas Alford , of  The Decablog, found helpful in conducting effective prayer meetings:

  1. Start with a SHORT devotion from Scripture. 
  2. Begin with a focused time of doxological Prayer.
  3. Use the “open floor” rather than the “go around the circle” method.
  4. Have your second season of prayer be a time for requests and intercession, but with a specific focus.
  5. Have your third and last season of prayer be open to the burdens and concerns of the people, but avoid spending more time talking than praying.
  6. If necessary, split up a large gathering into smaller groups.
  7. Don’t  do the “recap.”
  8. Encourage “piggyback prayers.”
  9. Don’t be afraid of silence
  10. Say Amen with gusto and encourage the people to do likewise.
  11. Make sure that the Prayer Meeting is saturated with gospel realities and gospel priorities.
  12. End the prayer meeting in a way that gives it structure and closure.

Read his explanation of each point

Nicolas Alford serves as a Pastoral Intern with Grace Baptist Church of Taylors, SC where he is also an assistant to the Dean and a student with Reformed Baptist Seminary.