Monday, January 31, 2011

A Series on Worship (Part 7) - Fourth Piece to the Biblical Model - Our Spiritual Thermometer

From this then, I see corporate worship as our “spiritual thermometer”. When we come into a corporate service of worship we may think that we are in a good place, that we have been walking in the Spirit, and that we are pleasing God, only to find that when we go to sing with others our heart is far from Him and our spirit is painfully asleep. Or someone around us in the meeting may receive a word from God about our spiritual condition that we were unaware of and speak into an area of our life that we were comfortable with, only to show us that we are living in sin. On the other side, we may have struggled during the week with different things and felt beaten down by Satan, but when we gather together as a body and sing the praises of God, and we feel our hearts turned towards heaven, things can be suddenly put in perspective and we can see that we were struggling because we were fighting the battle and it can encourage us to continue. In this way, corporate worship should be our spiritual thermometer, our hearts, spirits, and minds should be laid bare before us so that we see ourselves as we are, and then our eyes should be turned back to God and who He is, as people speak into our lives, for the edification of the body.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Series on Worship (Part 6) - Third Piece to the Biblical Model - The Gospel

In all of this, our focus should be on the gospel (as in every area of life). As we gaze upon the glory of God we will be transformed from one degree of glory to another. I see the purpose of a corporate meeting as refocusing everyone’s minds and hearts on Christ Jesus. As we walk through life there are distractions and things that pull at our affections and seek our attention, but in a corporate meeting of the body these distractions should not be present so that we can, together, gaze upon the glory of Christ, speaking His words to one another, so that the body may be built up.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Jesus All Through The Bible

This video is pretty powerful, it gets especially intense at the end when he goes through Jesus in Revelation.  I don't necessarily agree 100% with the typology of Jesus, but the theme and point are well taken anyways.  Jesus says that all of the Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets, point towards him.  Enjoy.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Series on Worship (Part 5) - Second Piece to the Biblical Model - Spiritual Gifts

People at our meetings should feel free to express their spiritual gifts and speak the words that God has given them.  God speaks through people.  Yes, the Bible is our guide and is completely true, but we understand the Bible through prayer and the teaching of others.  The spiritual gifts are given for the edification of the body, so they must be used in a loving, unselfish way, but they MUST be practiced.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Yahoo! Mail Beta

This made me laugh, so I decided to share.

As a Yahoo! mail user for over 6 years (at least that's what the email told me, if I remember correctly I was 12 when I signed up and it was in July (I remember because I was at a friend's birthday party) so it's actually been 9 1/2 years) I have to say that I have never been disappointed by it in the least.  Also, I have subscribed to each new beta version when it came out, so here I go to load my new Yahoo! Mail Beta.
Wow!  Look at the confetti!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Series on Worship (Part 4) - First Piece to the Biblical Model - Edification

In the last post I introduced my understanding of the Biblical view of corporate worship.  In each of the next 6 posts I will identify one way in which we can reach that model in our worship services.  Some of these posts will be fairly short, I could have expounded on them a little more, but sometimes succinct and to the point is better.

Our meetings should be for the edification of the body. Over and over through the New Testament we are taught that our focus should not be on ourselves, but rather on the good of others. We should not live for what makes us feel good or what we enjoy, but rather to build others up and encourage them in their walk. When we come to a corporate gathering with other believers, in the forefront of our mind should be the needs of others and how we can meet them, not what we can or will get out of the meeting. When we speak it should not be for our own sake, but rather for the sake of those around us.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Spirit's Fire

So I have a 2011 calendar hanging above my desk that has a verse for every Sunday.  This Sunday’s verse says “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire” – 1 Thessalonians 5:19.  There are many ways that we can go about putting out the Spirit’s fire and we often focus on these, but perhaps we don’t focus often enough on the things that fan that fire within our hearts and cause it to burn brighter.  Here are some things withing this passage which Paul mentions that will cause us to walk more closely with the Spirit, hearing God’s voice and obediently following.  Self-control, alertness, clothing ourselves in faith, hope, and love, encouraging one another, living in peace with each other, rejoicing, continual prayer, giving thanks to God in everything.  These are not things that we are required to do, but rather things of God towards which we are being pulled by the Holy Spirit through the work of Christ Jesus.  So do not put out the Spirit's fire!
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful and HE WILL DO IT.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Series on Worship (Part 3) - My Understanding of the Biblical View

In the last post I surveyed to extreme positions on worship that both base themselves in the Bible, however, I fall somewhere in the middle.  This is why I tend to emphasize verses like “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.  So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.”  and “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught”  “For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
It is clear to me through Scripture that God wants us to love Him with our heart, soul, mind, and body (Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength).  However, I really believe that God is not interested in our heart, soul, mind, or strength, He is interested in our love, and that should be the defining aspect of our worship, whether we are worshipping “in spirit” or “in body” or “in mind” or “with our heart”.  (Although I see it that our goal should be to learn how to make this one act, to see that all these things should be done equally, in equal proportions, at all times.  Serving can be as spiritual as singing, and singing can be as physical as serving.)  (1 Corinthians 12-14)
So in my picture of a church service, I think that it must flow out of and into a life that is lived in service to God.  I think that it must involve the mind, heart, spirit, and body.  In the following set of posts I will offer a few practical ways that this should happen as well as some other things I see as essential to a corporate worship experience.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

short story # 2

Here's the second short story out of the hundred themes that I am attempting to write on.  I'm not going to tell you the theme, you have to guess (if you go to the other blog, though, it'll tell you...)

He looked down at the blood dripping onto his t-shirt, the unmistakable effect of the boot that crushed his skull against the sidewalk.  He felt slightly nauseous, somewhat light-headed, and mostly unable to focus on his surroundings.  But above all else, more than the headache or the confusion, he felt welling up within him the intense emotion that would come to define his very being.  It pushed past the pain - the blood - swallowed up his hurt.  It was the intense desire and longing to heal the pain within the man who could do such a thing to him.

Can you guess what the theme of this story is?  Leave a comment

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Series on Worship (Part 2) - The Dichotomy of Worship in the Bible

As I think about worship and what it would look like if it were perfect, if it were exactly what it were supposed to be, my mind is drawn in two different directions.  I see Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, living in perfect communion with God.  Speaking God’s words and caring for His creation.  They had no need for singing His praises, because their lives were His praises.  They may have sung to Him out of joy, he may have even sung to them, but the basis of their worship was their lives, it was their lives that magnified the greatness of God.  After gazing upon this picture my mind is then drawn to the opposite end of the Bible and of reality, to heaven as described in Revelation.  If the Garden of Eden seems entirely physical, where God is actually pictured as walking with Adam and Eve and coming to search for them (a very physical idea), then heaven is the exact opposite, where there are spiritual beings constantly singing the praises of God who is spirit.  There are saints there, but almost no reference to anything physical, there is no eating or walking or sleeping, there is just singing and gazing upon God in his glory.  This is how God is worshipped, how He is magnified, in heaven.

These are two different pictures of worship, two different ways that people explain and describe worship, and I’ve heard people who are on both extremes.

One side looks to the verse “God is spirit and so His worshippers must worship in spirit and truth” and say, “See, worship is about worshipping in a spiritual way.  It’s not about the body, it’s not about the mind, it’s about the heart and the spirit.  We worship with our spirit, even as the worship in heaven occurs, and we worship in truth, meaning that we lay our hearts bare before God.”  This worship tends to look very charismatic, with movements of the Spirit, because these people are very intentional in their connection with the Spirit and seeking His voice and direction.  I see these things as good, we are to worship in spirit and with our hearts, we are to wait upon the Lord, we should see movements of the Spirit as God moves through us to communicate His words to the elect.  But in opposition to this we have people who would stand around the verse “…in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  They would say, “See, worship is about how you live in this physical world and about your mind.  We are truly worshipping when we are suffering for Christ, when we are serving in His name, and when our minds are being renewed by truth.”  For these individuals, the purpose of singing together is because song makes truth more memorable.  The “real stuff” is the preaching and what happens outside of the church, after Sunday morning.  I also see these things as good, we are to worship with our minds and our bodies, living our lives for God.

May we not see Scripture as opposed to itself, but rather, looking into the paradoxes and dichotomies that we are presented with, let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds and come to a fuller grasp of who God is and what His purposes are in the world and in our lives.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Series on Worship (Part 1)

Back in December my pastor asked me to write up my picture of a worship service.  It has been very interesting being in the position of Music Director and the responsibility of planning "worship" that this brings.  If there is one thing that I have learned it is that everyone in the church has a different idea of what worship is, how one should worship, and what the Bible says about worship.  And it also seems that everyone is quite passionate about this (at least the people I have talked to) and sees their way as the right way.

What we refer to as worship is so important to us because it gets right to the core of our faith.  Most people see worship as an experience with or of God, and what can be more important to your faith than this?!

So it was a good exercise, writing out my picture of worship.  It was inciteful for me in examining what I believe, and also helped my pastor and I to be on the same page when it comes to worship and to understand each other better.

So, after working on this paper for a while, the thought dawned on me, "I should publish this to my blog".  Maybe many of you have ideas about worship and what it should be and how it should be done but have never thought through why.  Or maybe you have never enjoyed church services because you don't understand what's going on or why we are doing what we're doing.  So I decided to publish it here, the only problem, though, is that the paper ended up being 8 pages long.....(go figure, I wrote it).

So I've decided to take the next several weeks and publish sections of it here.  It actually broke down nicely, and I hope that it is encouraging, enjoyable, and inciteful for you as you read through it.  I would welcome any comments, critiques, or criticisms of the things that I said and of my opinions.  And I hope and pray that, no matter where you are at, you are able to learn from and benefit from this walk through worship.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Project

I was blog-hopping and came across something I decided to try.  My friend Nathan Lee is taking part in a 100 theme challenge. The basis of the challenge is to write a 100 word short story on each of the 100 theme words.  I am not much of a short story writer, but I have been wanting to get practice in on writing on themes, and I also would like practice at writing narratives, so this seemed like the perfect match.

While I will try to occasionally post some of these short stories, if you would like to peruse all of them, you can simply go to the blog I made for this purpose.  Also, you can go there at any time by clicking the link at the top of this blog titled "The Project".  I don't know how consistent I will be at it, but it should be fun.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Reaching the World at Their Level

 This is an example of why I love Christian rap, it has a tendency to be very biblical, and they love the truth.  Here da TRUTH follows the example of Paul in Acts 17 and Titus 1 to share the truth of the Gospel by mimicking and quoting poets from the world.

Our World - da T.R.U.T.H

You know, I be like, listening on some of secular hip-hop, and I can't help but notice how they invite us into their world, you know, girls, cars, clubs, money.  Well if you don't mind I'm just gonna take a minute to invite you into our world.

Welcome to our world
No killers, drug dealers
Guerillas, no villains
Christ told us that most of them won't feel us

Welcome to our world
No hustlers, customers
Everybody in the building
Get your hands up with the rest of us

[Verse One]
If The Game could give props to Biggie, Pac and Dre
And the whole rap world could give love to "J"
And they could pay homage to Jam Master Jay
And commemorate the heroes that passed away
Then I could proceed with what I have to say
And pay respect to all the godly men that passed The Faith
Yeah, they went ahead of us- now, the path is straight
And died so that we could have life passed the grave
From prophets to the priests- we trace it back to the greats
Take it back to the days when faith had a face
And not just a mouth when the saints grabbed the grace
And I ain't talkin' about the prayer before you pass the plate
I'm talkin' 'bout what taught them to stay fast and trade
The pleasures of this life for Ahaz's hate
Now, I know they "wasn't" perfect but play back the tapes
And history will show how the saints' path was shaped


[Verse Two]
People got questions like-
How come ya'll don't talk about Martin and Malcolm
But y'all always talkin' bout Calvin and Luther
'Cause these are the dudes that introduced us to truth
And the fruit that's produced in us is the outcome
So from now until the day that we die
We'll occupy with the things of God while our mouths run
That's unique to the saints- you know how roots run deep in the faith
Let me explain what I mean
You know I mean what I say
We're following after the pioneers leading the way
Apostles like Paul and others that were labeled the way
It was either all or nothing- there could be no more gray
These were the writers of the Bible we believe in today
I know they're gone but not forgotten- when we read them their sway
Is so strong we say so long to the evil- I pray
That His people would read those leaders and say


[Verse Three]
Y'all know we're the legs and feet of the legacy
Predestined to be- before the pregnancy
We're all just a piece of the puzzle- if I could speak for myself
I'm walking in the footprints that were left for me
Now, I know I just quoted one of their poets
But take note- I just stole it to help show them the recipe
How the past and the present- once plastered together
Led up to the path of our destiny


[Verse Three Countinued]
Since the baton has been passed
We want to write 'em a pass and invite them to our world
Where the mind has been transformed
By the power of Christ, we draw lines in the sand
That would explain the unpopular stance
Like pro-life that wouldn't heighten the chance
Of being liked- do we care- I wouldn't lie to my fams
So, while the wicked sing songs that got them in a trance
We sing psalms and hymns like the bottom of your pants
'Cause we're different- we bless those that hate us
While in the West Coast, they say let's load the bangers
Over-dress codes— no dress clothes— we're strangers
Saints in the foreign land— where the best road to fame is
Playing low— praying and saying no
To our fleshly impulses post weighing the pros and cons
We don't close our eyes- we stay sober
So you know we're opposed to wine
Or at least getting drunk— we propose to our wives
And say I do before we close the blinds
No boasting and pride, no boasting in "I"
Pray that you and I would be a poster child
In the Kingdom of God where Christ is Lord
We submit unto the authority— His righteous sword
Life in Christ— otherwise life is a bore
So we abhor evil— that which is a sight for sore eyes

We believe that there's one God not three dudes, and He sees to it that all roads don't lead to Him.  I'm trying to breeze through, it's black and white like the Three Stooges, there's one way to God and He's Jewish, we embrace Him, salvation by grace through faith.  [Psalm 34:20]  They didn't even break a bone.  It's sinfulness that makes us groan, so we anticipate the day that He comes back to take us home.

That's in our world

Listen on grooveshark

Friday, January 7, 2011

Worship Matters - What are we proclaiming?

This is a quote from the book Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin:
"People come into our churches proclaiming all sorts of things with their words and actions.  Through close-fisted giving, some are asserting how much their own personal wealth matters.  Others, by their complaining, are declaring that personal comfort matters.  Teens in the latest fashions may be proclaiming that being cool matters.  Others confirm through their smiles or frowns that their musical preferences matter.
But we want each of them to leave proclaiming this: The gospel of Jesus Christ matters."

It's easy to lose focus when leading worship week after week about what we're really doing.  It's easy to get preoccupied with how smoothly things run, how close to on time the service leaves out, whether people are singing or not, whether I talked too long or not, and all of these things are important in their own right, but when it comes down to it the most important thing is whether the people who came in left with their vision more firmly focused on the cross of Christ and it's influence or lack thereof in every area of their life.  I need God to continually refocus me on this in my own life, and I hope and pray that He will use me week after week to make this a reality in the lives of those He has given me to serve.

What are you proclaiming today?  Are you proclaiming comfort, rest, riches, education?  Are you proclaiming the value of cleanliness, order, spontaneity, fashion, ingenuity, freedom?  Or are you proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ through your words and actions?  May we all grow into the image of Jesus Christ more and more everyday, walking in the Spirit, connected to the vine, so that our thoughts, words, and actions might continually lead others to a deeper understanding of and love for the God who saved us while we were still His enemies.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How to Deal With Paradox

At the crux of every Christian paradox is God.
The more I learn about the Bible and truth the more I find truths that at first glance contradict each other.  I find that so much of what is true is in tension with itself, so that to present some truths simultaneously almost certainly results in seemingly contradicting oneself.  As I considered these paradoxes and why they exist so rampantly and why it seems that in the reality of time and space and human wisdom they cannot dwell together equally true every moment of the day, it occurred to me that it was because, at their very root, these things dwell outside the realm of natural everyday existence.  The truth of these paradoxes, and the resulting tension, lies in and can only be understood through the very nature of God.  The supernatural acting upon and interacting with the natural makes the natural seem....unnatural.
I then realized that there are only three possible responses to Christian paradox:
     1) Discount it as untrue nonsense that is implausible.  People who do this are seen as the "world".  Because they have rejected Jesus as God they are left in their sin with no glimpse or understanding of God. Unable to grasp salvation that depends upon works but has no basis in works, a man who is simultaneously 100% human and 100% God, or a loving God who created the world with the intention of sending people to Hell, they simply reject Christianity all-together.  Individuals who deal with Christian paradox by simply marking it off as untrue foolishness subscribe to the wisdom of the world, which God's wisdom surpasses.
     2) The second possible response is blind "faith".  People simply take these things to be true, they see contradictions in Scripture that they neither have the desire to understand nor the courage to reject.  They are Christians because they are and accept what is handed to them because they do.  We typically see these people as "nominal" Christians, but one quickly sees that this approach leave one alarmingly short of God.  Rather than seeing God, rather than pursuing God through truth, they are satisfied to have truth and leave God out of the picture.  Like the demons in James they affirm that there is a God, they affirm truth, but they know neither the Way nor the Life.  They are lukewarm.  They feel no tension resulting from conflicting truths, they have no problem with affirming the deity and humanity of Christ but at the same time they have no explanation for how these can exist together.  However, in order to "believe" two things that are entirely opposite, one must either be crazy or actually believe neither of them at all.  If you feel no tension resulting from contradictory concepts then you do not fully subscribe to those concepts as true.  While the first group at least had the wisdom of the world, this group has no wisdom at all.  And on the last day God will say, "Away from me, I never knew you" because they were so quick to "accept" truth without ever taking the time to know and love God, who is at the root of all truth.
     3) The third response to Christian paradox is to search it out.  Things in Scripture that make no sense, such as the unity of heart and mind, or the very nature of our covenant being simultaneously new and old.  The third group of people dig into these things and cry out to God for an understanding of these things because they are not satisfied with anything that leaves them short of knowing God.  They love God so intensely, and desire Him so fully, that they are not satisfied with truth, but rather look past it and into The Truth.

This leaves me to wonder if we should even teach the answers or solutions to the great paradoxes of the Christian faith, or whether we should rather, like Scripture and the apostles (Luke 24:25-27; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31) only teach Christ's suffering and glory, clearly presenting the paradoxes that exist, and then leaving it up to the hungry and the thirsty to find the God of all wisdom and truth and to worship with their faces to the ground.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Book Review: "A New Kind of Christian" by Brian McLaren

A New Kind of Christian (2001) by Brian McLaren  I have heard a lot of bad things about this book, which caused me to be extremely surprised to find that I actually agree with him on many counts.  There are a lot of problems that I have with Christianity as we know it, and what we've come to make our Christian culture, and he addresses many of these things in this book.  There are some things that I definitely disagree with, and I have heard that since this time Brian has gone on to universalism and some other theological intricacies that I would disagree with, but I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who struggles to separate Christianity from the culture we find ourselves in and wonders how to reach out to a culture that is rapidly changing.