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November 14, 2016, 9:07 AM

Bears, Endures, Believes, and Hopes


Those are the characteristics of what Love Does.  Love, one of the eternal elements of belief that will remain when all else fails (alongside faith and hope - 1 Cor. 13).  This all stems from a worship moment I had yesterday, when my brain decided to take a left turn during a song.  Instead of focusing on the heart of the song, I got bored with my prescribed 4 notes and spend time looking at the words...  What does Love do?  It Bears all things.  It Endures all things.  It Hopes all things.  It Believes all things.  (At least according to The Greatest Command).  

What can love bear?  It is not a muscle.  Yet Love bears the years we spend in grief, the hours of our heartbreak, the lifetime of our pursuit of the perfect relationship with Christ.  Love can carry the heaviest weight we have:  time.  

What does love endure?  It is not an object to punish.  Yet love endures our vain pursuits, our desires to be thought of well by the world, the days we spend seeking a better reputation.  Love endures our distracted hearts, drawing us closer and closer to Christ. 

What does love hope for?  Completeness.  Unity.  Love hopes for things far beyond our imagination... Love hopes for the very heart of God to be realized here on Earth. 

What does love believe?  The best of us.  Just like Jesus. 

The story that John tells in 1, 2, and 3 John is of the power Love has over this world.  It is the identifier of a follower of Christ.  It is what separates us from those without the Holy Spirit.  

What can we endure?  Not much...  but the love of God will endure eternally.  

1 Corinthians 13: 4 - 7  4Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud5or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.6It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.7Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 




October 31, 2016, 9:02 AM

Reversing Worship


In my sermon yesterday (10/30) I mentioned a trend that worship has taken that needs to stop - Bottom Up worship.  Let me walk through the idea:  We show up on Sunday morning (or your appointed time) and tell God what we think.  The songs/sermon/scriptures are chosen to be uplifting to us, and if they aren't we walk away unsatisfied, or unfed.  Prayers are expressed for our problems, the sick, the needy, the Country.  Everything focuses on us, and if it doesn't we look for a place that will meet our needs (or our children's needs, etc...).  
Now, yes, this is a blanket statement about the state of worship, and the state of "church."  Yes, I am a part of the system that has both created and cultivated this mindset.  So Yes, the fingers are pointing in ALL directions as we dive into this thought and challenge!  

This form of worship expression (Bottom-Up) creates virtues out of things that were never really virtues to begin with:  attendance, authenticity, habit, and consumerism.  When worship is all about US, just showing up is a virtue, is a celebration, is reason to think we've got something right in the world. After all, how many people dont make an effort on Sunday morning to gather in fellowship and worship?  Just showing up is not a virtue.  Neither is authenticity.  Many, many, many worship leaders (and preachers too) seek authenticity in their services.  Here's what it means:  "God, I REALLY mean what I'm singing and saying and praying right now.  Really, really."   

Why seek authenticity?  Because we're not authentic, by nature.  And when it comes to worship, we feel the need to convince our neighbors in the pew, the preacher, the worship leader, and God that we really mean it this time when we sing I Surrender All.  

Authenticity is not a virtue.  Neither is consumerism, or your habits.  Those are traits of a soul wrapped in the comforts of culture.  

So what SHOULD worship look like?  To be simple, its a Top-Down experience.  Yes it is VERY appropriate to speak/sing our hearts to God and tell him exactly what we're feeling and dealing with.  But that is not the focus of the experience.  What God has to say is what is important.  NO, that does not mean the sermon is more important than anything else.  God's Word incarnate in communion, in the call to live sacrificially and generously, and the example already given by Jesus are what TOP-Down worship looks like.  We cant really be waiting around for a new, fabulous, get rich quick, grow your church with one easy step program message to arrive every week.  God has already spoken his heart for his people, and has set the table for our worship experiences.  

He uses his word to speak of the virtues he seeks:  patience, love, compassion, generosity, sacrifice...  none of which look anything like the virtues we've made of our expectations of worship today.  When David prayed and sang through the Psalms he cried his heart out for deliverance and peace... but was willing to wait for God's will and timing and work to be done WHEN GOD WAS READY.  He displayed a Top-Down worship: --  "Here's what I'm feeling, God...  You are God, I'm not...  I submit to your will."   That sounds a lot like Jesus' prayer in the Garden before the episode of the Cross.  

Habakkuk got the same message across to God in his written works late in the OT, and well into the captivity.  "God, look at the ruin and mess and loss that used to be your people, Israel.  Restore us!!  But not on my time....in Yours."  (Chris' Paraphrase).  God speaks to Habakkuk (and us) with comfort and the expectation of God's virtues: patience in affliction, compassion to those in charge, repentance to wickedness, and a love of God's laws.  Israel was reformed by reversing worship... We can do the same.  

Habakkuk 3: 16 b - 19   I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us. 17Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, 18yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! 19The eSovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.




October 24, 2016, 9:01 AM

Why is the Good stuff always the Hardest?


I feel like (and this is selfishness talking here) that Jesus could have made the REALLY important stuff we are supposed to do as Christians a whole lot easier.  Forgiveness is really, really difficult.  No matter how well you forgive a wrong, forgetting it is another matter all together.  Repentance is really, really difficult.  Habits are hard to break for a reason, we're built with them in our very nature and fiber as beings.  So stopping one is not an easy prospect.  

Confession, thats an awkward and uncomfortable prospect.  Peacemaking means we get thrown under the bus at times, not being able to fully realize the fruit of our efforts (of having them be reciprocated even).  

Why is all this stuff, the IMPORTANT stuff, really difficult?  Well, Selfish Chris, its not difficult.  You've made it difficult.  

We have trained ourselves to avoid something that makes us look less.  Can you imagine if someone labeled you "James - the Less" today?  We'd have a fit!  The act of Confession means we've made a mistake in which we need to take accountability.  Forgiveness means we need to put ourselves second, shuffle our priorities to include those of others.  Peacemaking means we dont get to say those witty comebacks we've been practicing in the shower.  

We've been trained to THRIVE in those moments that make ourselves bigger, stronger, more dominant.  Jesus calls us to the back of the line, to the bottom rung of the ladder... to the places where confession, repentance, and forgiveness THRIVE.  

For me, golf is difficult.  You know why?  Because I've played it twice in my life.  I know that if I played it regularly, I'd get better... exponentially.  Maybe forgiveness and confession are so hard for us because we've never really done them.  I bet if we try, and practice the characteristics of Jesus more they wouldn't be so difficult.  In fact, I bet the Church could get pretty good at them.  

 




October 17, 2016, 8:56 AM

Honestly...


Honesty.  Honesty is a dangerous trait, not to mention very uncomfortable to encounter.  We tend to like the glossed over, sugar coated, quick hit responses to life.  "How are you?" "Fine."  "Good to hear, see you later!"  

Sunday morning (or whenever you gather for a worship service) is no exception to the rule.  We like the glossed over, comforting messages of a community that looks like it has it all together.  Yes we're a flawed people with sinful natures... just don't show it when we're all dressed nicer than average and sitting in orderly rows preparing to worship and commune with our Creator.  

Then David shows up in the Psalms.  And boy is he honest.  We hear him cry out in anguish, we hear him shout with joy.  He questions God, he accuses God, he feels abandoned by God, and we read it all.  He holds nothing back from how he feels and how he communicates that to his Father, OUR Father.  Do you ever want to look up to God and say: "He doesn't speak for me necessarily! I think you're doing a great job!"  

We are uncomfortable with that level of honesty, not that it would surprise God.  He's seen and heard it all before, not to mention seeing fit to have it printed for all time in the text of the Psalms.  Truthfully, I think we think God only wants to hear the exaltations and the "We're fine, thanks for asking" songs from us.  We choose inspirational snippets of text to adorn our walls and Bible-covers.  

David's honesty is the first step (in my opinion) to true worship and forming a purer relationship with God.  His heart is contrite, he holds nothing back ("I am a worm...").  Confession and repentance are foundational pieces of David's character.  Are they even the tiniest portion of our character?  

We cant pretend to have it all together on the outside, worshipping with "abandon" while writhing in agony internally.  God does not desire those types of sacrifices.  He wants a contrite (Honest) heart, profession a desperate need for his strength, compassion, and mercy.  That is the first step in finding ourselves immersed in Worship.  The first steps towards becoming a people after God's own heart.  

Psalm 13: 1 - 3

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?
    How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
    Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.




October 10, 2016, 10:00 AM

Coming home to a clean house


We just got back from a trip North and there is something relevant here I wanted to write about:  Coming home to a clean house. 

I need to be transparent here:  I do not like cleaning up.  BUT I like coming home to a messy house after a vacation even less, so cleaning is the plan.  However, I need you to know that my definition of cleaning up is WAY different than those with higher standards (my wife).  For me, a room is clean if I can stand in a doorway and not see the mess.  No, I do not condone sweeping things under the rug, but I'm usually pretty content with toys in the right pile, and general orderliness. 

That doesnt usually work though, and only adds to the general disorder of things when someone with standards actually tries to clean up after me.  Their eyes are trained to see the mess, seek out the dust in the corners and leave the room actually.........clean.  Whereas I like to leave the room.......... sort of clean. 

Do you wonder if thats what Jesus sees when he looks at us?  He is coming back.  That is truth.  We have staked our entire faith existence on the fact that we know he's coming back.  What is he going to find?  His standards are high.  The dark corners WILL be exposed and any things we've swept under the rug will be brought into the light.  

Are we still trying to keep those habits and sins in the dark, where we think they'll never see the light of day?  Do we live as though we'll have another day to tidy up?  I'm not one for doom and gloom, but there's a reality that has to be faced concerning our laziness for confession and repentance.  "It will wait..." "There's always tomorrow... (insert the rest of the Annie lyrics here)."  

There is NOT tomorrow.  There is no time to wait.  Jesus' message to his disciples was to face those dark corners immediately and to not fall into the trap of the Pharisees (whom took pride in their outward appearance but were ignorant to the darkness inside).  

The time for sweeping up is now. 

 


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