Theology

How I see worship

cross-66700_640I want to talk about worship for a little bit...

I must admit I am not the most qualified voice on the topic of worship when it comes to worship services. I am not a worship pastor, I don't help plan worship services anymore, and I really don't like music all that much - HUH! surprised disbelief from my readers... But I am a worshiper of God...

I guess this brings me to my point. For me worship isn't necessarily about singing or musical instruments, or one hour on Sundays, or even about sermons. I have found that some of the most worshipful moments I have had were the times when I was sitting in silence, or having coffee with friends, or eating dinner with my family. Don't get me wrong I throughly enjoy worship songs and I am not advocating the abolishment of music in worship services. What I am saying is that true worship isn't about the actions of worshipping, but the state of the heart. I recently saw this quote posted by Timothy Keller on Twitter: "Worship is treasuring God." I feel this statement captures just that, the state of the heart. I believe worship should encompass every area of a person's life, not just their voice or ears.

My friend Devan Bumstead said it best this way...

"In short, we believe worship is a communal lifestyle of sacrificial obedience based on a grounded relationship with the triune God. Meet and respond. But perhaps what’s most important about this little definition is just as much what it doesn’t say as what it does. We don’t use titles around here like, “Worship Service,” “Worship Pastor,” or “Worship Songs” because we believe that kind of language limits worship to a particular time, place, person, and activity. Biblical worship is beyond that—it encompasses every area of one’s life, not just the time they offer for an hour a week on Sunday mornings. This is why we’ve chosen to call our gathering time a “Celebration Service” and refer to our time of singing as “praise”, which should be appropriately viewed as a subcategory of worship, not to encompass the whole spectrum..."

To read Devan's whole blog post on worship, check it out here.

C. S. Lewis ‏said, "Praise is the mode of love which always has some element of joy in it." When Jesus told the woman at the well that there was a time when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, I believe he was revealing to her that there was coming a time when it would be a joy to worship God and not a chore (John 4:23).

Does worshipping God bring joy to your heart or is it a chore that needs to get done? Do you treasure God when you worship Him?

Trayvon Martin, Justice, and the Church

justiceIn my forty years here on earth I feel I have witnessed two major landmark incidents involving racially charged accusations of white against black / Caucasian against African American injustice. In both of these situations, it has become very apparent that more than ever in this country we are fractured along racial lines. Accompanying these tragic incidents were riots and threats of riots, death threats, police negligence, alleged injustice, racial profiling. Both situations have caused societal reckoning and individual soul-searching. So much time has gone by between these two events, we would think that issues of race, social inequalities, and injustice would have long been identified and corrected in our society and culture; especially when it comes to racial divides. These two tragic events are the Rodney King beating (The beating in 1991.The riots after the trial and acquittal of four LAPD officers in 1992), and the Trayvon Martin shooting death (The shooting death took place in 2012 and the murder trial and acquittal of George Zimmerman in 2013). I call them tragic, because human dignity was lost and human life succumbed to the recklessness of sin, death, and Satan. At the end of it all when someone is beaten or dead, a man loses his freedom even though he is free, and everyone hates each other, and revenge is executed - NO one wins.

This blog post is NOT about whether someone is guilty or not guilty (I do have my personal opinions about both incidents). This blog post is about the response of the Church and every Christian regardless of your opinions of whether justice or injustice has occurred.

When tragic events like this take place people almost always we see three things to happen:

Blame: When something tragic happens people want to blame someone or something for the pain and confusion caused. We want to point fingers because we believe that this will alleviate any anger, hurt, or confusion that we might be experiencing. Blame might make things right, but it never brings about the end it only prolongs the issue, circumstances, and feelings.

criminal_justiceJustice: We want things made right don't we and we want people getting what they deserve. It seems to be a human condition. Since we were little and old enough to interact with other people, we have sought justice. Whether it's issue with our bratty siblings, encounters with our classmates on the playground, or coworkers who don't carry their share of the work load; we want "things made right or for them to get what they deserve." The problem with justice is that it can neglect the very things we all seek for ourselves like understanding, mercy, forgiveness, dignity, and love. Justice never makes things completely right; and getting what one deserves almost always is never a good idea for all involved, because it never leads to closure, it only leads to more desire for justice, hate, division, and ultimately revenge.

Revenge: The only thing revenge does is fuel the cycle of anger, hate, division, pain, and confusion.. Revenge never satisfies. Revenge never quenches the desire or need to make things right. Revenge is incapable of making things right; it can only perpetuate the tension of people getting what they deserve - it is cyclical. Revenge ultimately leads to destruction and death.

So what do we do when there are events and circumstances where justice is needed or injustice prevails? As Christians our understanding and response should be one of peace, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and love. We follow and serve a God and Saviour who both deserved justice and had injustice committed against him. Yet he neither sought justice while he was here on earth, nor did he complain or cry about the injustice committed against him (Isaiah 53:6-8; Luke 14:43-65 & 15:1-37) .

lent-400WHAT DO WE DO... We are called as people of God to not live in anger, instead we are to demonstrate compassion and forgiveness to everyone we encounter (Ephesians 4:1-32). And we need to be aware of our words and actions. We need to live with wisdom and prudence. We are not to react foolishly or contrary to the ways of God, but make the most with our time here on earth. The Apostle Paul said it this way, "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16).

We are to serve as the reconcilers of cross-cultural divides and be advocates of forgiveness and healing for a society that is racially and culturally polarized right now (2 Corinthians 5:14-21 & Philippians 2:1-8). The gospel message is that Jesus through his death on a cross and resurrection, brought peace between God and man. We are also called to live in peace with each other and to demonstrate peace to those who need it (Ephesians 4:3; Romans 12:18; Colossians 3:15; 1 Timothy 2:1-3; Titus 3:1-3; Hebrews 12:14-15; & 1 Peter 3:8-12). Our message is one of peace through Jesus (Acts 10:36). I could go on an on, but I believe you get the point. Followers of Jesus are to be peacemakers.

What God requires of us is to be His people who act justly, love mercy, be humble...

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

Catch the line about justice. We don't seek justice, we act justly. To seek justice is to make everything right, but to act justly is to respond and interact with others through just motives and actions.

I know it is hard in our humanity to want justice when injustice has occurred. From a Christian perspective and as God's people we must not seek to be judge, jury, and executioner. We can trust that the one who created all things will in the end administer a righteous justice. Jesus will give to each person what they deserve, perfectly and absolutely. (Hebrews 1:1-12; Revelation 19).

I pray that the Church will be the demonstration of love and forgiveness during this time of pain, sorrow, and frustration, disappointment, anger, confusion, and pride. I hope we reveal to people a God who is just, but at the same time is merciful. Through His grace we have all escaped what we all justly deserve and instead have received forgiveness and restoration.

At the end of it all when someone is beaten or dead, a man loses his freedom even though he is free, and everyone hates each other, and revenge is executed - NO one wins.

BUT grace and love triumphs over all.

This Week's Top 5...

SONY DSCIf you missed a read this week… Here's the Top 5 most read posts for this week: 1. When is being selfish in the church okay...

2. You're more beautiful than you think you are... 

3. I just can't get rid of this burr under my saddle...

4. Monday Mashup

5. What's On The Other Side Of This Life

Thanks for reading this blog. If your not a subscriber to this blog, I want to encourage you to do so. You can follow along or subscribe here... Please, comments and feedback about this blog are valued and appreciated.

When is being selfish in the church okay...

(This post has not been edited for errors. These are my raw, honest thoughts.) Okay here you go...

One of the hardest things for me to hear and something that is really bugging me is hearing people talk about the church as if it is something that is consumed rather than something to be actively living out in our lives and community. I hear from ministry friends from all over the country that share in this frustration.

I get sad when I hear people church hop because the church community/family they have been a part of is no longer meeting their needs or no longer is the cool flashy place they can invite friends to. I guess in reality they really don't see church as a community or family, instead it is place to meet personal needs and desires... We people abandon a church for these reasons they show their true colors, they were only seeking to be a part of God's kingdom for selfish reasons i.e. "what can I get out of church." They are like the kid in high school who only hangout with certain people because it will benefit them socially, but once that person(s) can no longer benefit them they move on to a different friend or group...

I also get frustrated when people leave churches because of conflict they have with a pastor, church staff, or another believer. How can we expect to rule and judge alongside Jesus if we can't even settle hurt feelings, disagreements, character clashes, disputes, and the like amongst ourselves, the body, house, bride of Jesus? I think the Apostle Paul said something to this affect in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. When someone abandons the church they were a part of for these reasons, they are like the kid who doesn't like it that the pickup game of football isn't going their way so they get their football and go home...

The problem is that our North American culture allows for this kind of flippant Christianity, and our churches do as well... I dont judge a person's desire to keep from going to hell, but I do judge their selfish and consumeristic motivations for being a part of the body, the house, and the bride of Jesus.

DON'T get me wrong! Sometimes the only solution to a problem is to leave and find another church to be a part of, that is not what I'm talking about here. I am referencing people who for selfish-consumeristic motives leave churches.

The solution (Your are correct to assume that I have already premised the former is incorrect, unhealthy, and not what God wants His Church to demonstrate to a world that needs His grace and mercy)... Well there are many things that can be done to help the situation, but lets just take a glimpse of three ideas for this blog post... Abide in Jesus (John 15:1-11 ESV), Love one another (John 15:12-17 ESV), and do good works (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV). If we do these things then it becomes hard to be selfish and have selfish-consumeristic motivations, and people might actually stay at their church and BE the church. To answer the question in my title of this blog post - I'm not sure it is ever okay to be selfish if it blemishes the church...

Okay and done...

You're more beautiful than you think you are...

http://youtu.be/XpaOjMXyJGk I have been having many interesting conversations with both students and adults, of both genders, about what really matters to them in life. It seems that many people, myself included, live by the fear of man rather than the fear of God. It's as if we are slaves to what other people think of us and we become hindered and paralyzed by this. What's interesting is that many times how we think people see us and what we think about ourselves has become convoluted and twisted. How I see myself isn't necessarily how someone else sees me.

A friend of mine is getting married in a couple of weeks and I'm in the wedding, so this morning I went to get fitted for my tuxedo. As an employee called out my measurements to the another who was taking the measurements down, I became quite uncomfortable hearing the numbers called out aloud... Yep. I could stand to loose about 5, 10, okay about 20 pounds... In the midst of this my mind started racing. I was thinking that if I lost all that weight, I might look like James Bond from the film Casino Royale. How would people see me? Would I draw a lot of looks from the ladies (I say this in jest, just in case my wife reads this)? Would the guys envy me and think I have one of those cool cars parked in the parking lot? Then as the excitement and reality settled in, I came to the conclusion that I am who I am; and that while I do need to loose some weight, I should really be focused on the fact that I just spent the duration of getting fitted for my tuxedo wishing I looked like 007 from Casino Royale, something internally isn't right.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. To be honest I was dreading about getting fitted for a tuxedo. I was embarrassed about how out-of-shape I am. The first jacket they gave me to try-on was bit loose. I knew it! Instead of looking like James Bond, I was going to look like (insert embarrassing description here), and my dream of looking good was crushed!. I was getting a little self-conscious. Then the guy helping me shed some sunlight on my overcast moment; he said that it was much to loose on me and that I had a good physique which needed a jacket that would fit tighter. I realized that how I see myself isn't always the way how others see me. If we could be free for a moment with our thoughts and words we would admit that we are more judgmental about ourselves than others are with us.

Beauty is as much an inner thing as it is an outer thing and probably even more so. Many times we feel outward appearances are the factors in which we are either approved or disapproved by people. So much time and money is spent trying to improve our outward looks that we neglect what really matters and that is our heart. If we come to understand that the heart is where beauty truly is formed then what we look like on the outside really doesn't matter (Please understand that I do believe we need to take care of ourselves physically as well - I'm not discounting that). 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us that God does not concern himself with the things that man uses to judge someone's worth which is the outward appearance. Instead he deems someone worthy by looking at their heart. Jesus said it another way when he addressed the religious leaders, who by the way were more concerned with outward appearances, by telling them that it's not what goes inside a person that makes them defiled (outward appearances), but it is what comes out (the heart) of a person that defiles them.

Jesus said, "For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” - Mark 7:21-23

Our hearts drive our true beauty both inward and outward. Jesus came to mold our hearts into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:16-17). And because of this God sees us differently than the way we see ourselves. Just like at the end of the video sometimes we need to ponder how other people see us - You're more beautiful than you think you are.

What's On The Other side Of This Life

journey Journeys are not something to be taken lightly. I remember when my family went on a journey to Joplin, MO it began over twelve years ago. We left all that we had and all that we had known back in Sonoma County, CA. We journeyed through the Southwest part of the United States on our way to the heart of the country. My wife and I had never ventured that far out of our motherland before, so we took as much safety and precaution as we knew how; and hit the road with our three little kids in-tow.

We saw beautiful country along the way, desert, mountains, high country forests, and big open blue sky. It wasn't before long that we found ourselves on winding detours, tornadic storms, and even experiencing bad gasoline for our van. In between the serendipitous and tumultuous moments we found a rhythm that centered us back on the purpose of our journey...

We were headed to Joplin, MO to attend Ozark Christian College and prepare for fulltime vocational ministry. Or more precisely, we were moving out of and with the overflow of our love and passion for God and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit - we were being obedient because of love and devotion, not because of obligation and duty.

 

The real purpose of the journey was to grow deeper in our love and passion for relationship with the Father, it was not the destination to the college nor the vocation of ministry.

 

The Journey Is Still Going...

In many ways the journey is still going. We have moved geographically again on this journey and have found a home Colorado just like we did in Missouri, and the journey could very well pick us up and change geography again; who knows... However, what is still on going is the internal part of the journey, and this is the hardest part of the journey, moving through the constant ebb and flow of understanding our relationship with God, keeping our passion for Him, and obediently living out our love and devotion to Him.InnerJourneys

Too be very frank. Changing geography isn't hard to do! Moving from Northern California to Southwest Missouri and then to Northern Colorado isn't that difficult to adjust too. Leaving friends and family is hard, but eventually you make new friends and thanks to Facebook and vacations you can still see the people you love and care about...

What's hard is keeping focused on growing deeper in our relationship with God... Let me be even more upfront. I mess-up my relationship with God sometimes. I let everything else take precedent over this relationship, things like the type of ministry job I have, money, pleasing people and being who they want me to be,making a name for myself or for others, cars, electronic gadgets, vacations, things to complain about, ideas, philosophies, ministry methods, what we're having for lunch or dinner, and the list could go on...

 

I've let all these things whether good or bad corrupt the rhthym and purpose of my journey... The reason for the journey isn't the journey or the desitnation, the reason for the journey is the person we are on the journey for. I am learning not to take journeys lightly, but to cherish every moment and keep focus on the one who was the reason for the journey.

A good friend of mine, Brian Mavis, shared with me a prayer that I am going to pray first thing every morning, that's if none of these other things get in the way...

Here it is:

"I will live every day as if it is my last, knowing by God's grace and love the Savior waits for me beyond the grave." -- Chuck Colson

Ugh! It's so easy to forget that there is something else on the other side of this life.