Archive for October, 2010

Here’s an article I recently wrote for my church’s newsletter, I thought I would share it with everyone. Maybe it will speak to your heart.

Once again we are putting together a mission team to go to the Mexican border and share the good news of Jesus Christ with those who need to hear it. This is always an exciting time as I know that God is stirring the hearts of those in our congregation whom He has called to pray, to give, and especially to go. All three of these are essential to being on mission with God but I put the emphasis on going because going carries the greatest risk. You see, every year as God begins to stir people’s hearts I get the same questions: “Isn’t it dangerous to go to Mexico right now?” “Are you concerned about safety?” The answer is… yes. I certainly don’t want to scare anybody but I must be perfectly honest. There is certainly some risk involved. I can tell you that where we’re going is not a “hotbed” of criminal activity (drug trafficking, kidnapping, etc) but there is certainly an element of crime that is ever-present on the border. There is also an element of crime in our own cities and neighborhoods and some are worse than others, but it’s always there. I have come to the conclusion that there are certain risks in life, and there are certain risks that are worth taking. Now I can’t presume to decide what those risks are for others, I can only decide that for myself and my own family, however, if we are going to consider all the risks involved (and we should) then we must also consider the risk of disobedience to the God who has commanded us to take the gospel to the nations; the God that we serve and worship. You see it’s not enough to sing “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey”, we must actually obey. God has called us to go to the nations with the gospel and because we love and trust Him, we must. Let me just say this, I don’t know whom God has called to serve Him by going on this particular mission or any other, I only know that He has commanded us as a church to go. All any of us can do is to be aware of the risks and prayerfully consider whether God is specifically calling us to go or not, and be obedient either way. Seek the peace that only God can give (Phil. 4:6-7) and together we will glorify Him as His body, carrying out His will.

 

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How would you define worship? What is it? Why do it? Who is it for? How do we do it? These are all good questions that I think every Christian should consider. We talk a lot about worship. We have worship services and praise and worship music but what exactly is it? I certainly won’t be able to definitely answer all of these questions or even come close to exhausting the subject of worship in this short post, even if I had all the answers. This is one of those things that I think we continually grow in as we walk in Christ. There is one question however that I do want to address and that is: Is there a right and a wrong way to worship? It seems that in many churches we have what is known as “worship wars”. That means people in our churches have different ideas about how the church should worship. Unfortunately many of us base our arguments on what we think or what we like. We have a preference for a particular style of music and we assume that since we like it and it makes us feel good and close to God that it must surely be the right way. We impose our preferences on God. There are a couple of problems with this. One, music is only one way to worship and two, we don’t decide what constitutes worship; God does. We need to look past our Christian radio stations and even beyond our hymn books and look to Scripture if we want to know how to worship our God.

In Deuteronomy 12:3-6 Moses is reminding the Hebrew people that God is very specific and particular when it comes to worship. They are not to worship like the people around them who are worshiping false gods their own way. Listen to what he says, “You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way. But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put His name and make His habitation there. There you shall go and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock.

Evidently there is a right way and a wrong way to worship God. The Old Testament spends a great deal of time on the subject of sacrifices and offerings and on the tabernacle of meeting (the place where God dwelt among His people and sacrifices were made). I think it’s safe to say that God takes worship pretty seriously. It’s also interesting to me that there is no mention of singing in this passage. Could it be that God is more concerned with our sacrifices and offerings than He is with the style of music we’re singing? So what does this have to do with us, I mean after all that’s Old Testament stuff, right? I don’t see anybody bringing any bulls or lambs to church as an offering to the Lord. In John 4:23-24 Jesus tells a woman that God is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and truth. We don’t bring animals to church with us to sacrifice because we don’t have to. Jesus was the Lamb that was slain for us, once and for all. God Himself is our sacrifice. So where does that leave us? What then do we bring? We bring ourselves. We offer to God complete surrender of who we are and everything we have. We express that through music but it must be more. We must live it daily. We are to be living sacrifices to God.

Our worship is very different from what God required in the Old Testament but it is just as serious. Let’s bring to the altar the sacrifice that God requires, complete surrender, rather than what we think He ought to accept. Remember that He is the object of our worship.

Sometimes the Christian life just doesn’t make any sense. I’m just saying. There are times that I read Scripture and what it says for me to do completely flies in the face of reason and logic. I’m told to give when I don’t have. I’m told to love when I’m hated. I’m told to trust when I can’t see. It doesn’t always make sense but here’s the thing: it always works. I have been a follower of Christ for seventeen years now and there have been plenty of times I did what made sense even though God’s Word was telling me something else. There have been plenty of times I’ve fallen flat on my face doing what made sense. There have also been times when I simply trusted God at His Word and did what He said, even though it seemed unreasonable. God has never failed to fulfill any of His promises to me, not one. Though I’ve failed Him many times, He’s never failed me. When will I learn?

I was thinking about this as I was driving to the office today and listening to the latest Sanctus Real CD Pieces of a Real Heart, which I highly recommend. There’s a song on there called Take Over Me and one line goes like this “I want to win the war between these skin and bones and what’s underneath so I surrender.” Okay, let me get this straight, he wants to win a war so he surrenders. I’m guessing you won’t find that tactic in any books on battle strategy. I don’t remember ever reading about any wars being won by surrendering. It doesn’t make any sense and yet I think Sanctus Real is on to something.

In Romans 7:15-25 Paul talks about a war that takes place between his mind and his body. His body wants to keep on sinning and yet in his heart of hearts he doesn’t want to. He wants to do what’s right and so he finds himself in this continuous struggle. I can relate. At the end of himself Paul cries out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25a). How does Paul win this war between his skin and bones and what’s underneath? It’s won through Jesus Christ.

The Christian finds victory over sin through surrendering to the Lord Jesus. “Surrendering what?” you might ask; our will, our desires…, our hearts. I know, it doesn’t make sense, and yet it works. We find victory by surrendering. We find life through dying. I’m glad the Christian life doesn’t always make sense; otherwise I would be missing out on some pretty cool stuff.