Exploring Covenant and Kingdom

Discovering what relationship and responsibility are all about

A Life Of Worship

worthship

 

Dictators may demand worship or praise, but benevolent overseers inspire praise and thanksgiving.  Those who are in positions of influence and use their power for good we naturally respond to with honour and respect.  The same is true of extremely talented people; when we see them performing we are wowed and in awe which results in praise and ascribing worth to them.

The origin of the English word WORSHIP comes from the Anglo Saxon ‘weorthscipe’ which meant to “ascribe worth, to pay homage, to reverence or venerate”.  In time the word was modified to ‘worthship’ and then to what we use today, worship.  The word worthship was often used to address or describe someone of importance, someone worthy of honour or respect.  What a person values (or places a high worth upon) is what will be worshiped.

This past Sunday we kicked off a five week preaching series on WORSHIP.  As an introduction to the theme we examined the Bible and saw that worship matters to God.  Everyday.  If you do a word study of worship in the Bible you will see that worship honours God, is directed toward God, requires involvement on the part of the worshiper, and is available only through Jesus Christ (Tom Kraeuter in his book Becoming a True Worshiper).

How do we become true and natural worshipers?  We need to be reminded of who God is and what He has done for us!  Like those that draw natural praise out of us because of their incredible talents, so when we recognize God for who He is we will be compelled to worship Him-to ascribe ultimate worth to Him!

In 1 Corinthians 14:25 Paul says that if unbelievers enter our gatherings and  experience the power of God at work among us, their natural response will be to fall down and worship God.  If that is true of an unbeliever, how true should it be of us!  The fact that I don’t often have such involuntary experiences of worship convicts me of the fact that I don’t often enough fully experience or enter into the presence of God.  I have lots of room to grow here!

Worship is both an individual and a group activity.  If I want to become more engaged in the worship of the gathering Body of Christ instead of only being half present and distracted by others around me or what time it is, then I need to take the time to prepare myself both the night before and the morning of a gathering.  But more on that in a future post.

If worship matters to God everyday, and I am not gathering with the Family of God everyday, then growing as a worshiper needs to begin as a personal matter.  So how can I grow to become a better worshiper of the God who is worthy of so much more from me?  I believe a big piece of the puzzle is time.  There are things that I can do to prepare myself and set the tone for entering into a new day with the mindset of being aware of His presence with me.  If I am aware of His presence with me then there is greater chance that I will hear Him and see Him as I go about my day.  And as I experience Him my knowledge of Him and my love for Him will increase.  As that increases my heart will change.

What are some of those practices and rhythms that I can develop in my life to build an attitude of worship?  Reading the Bible and listening to worship music will fill my mind with truths about God.  Praying and being still to listen will facilitate my spirit connecting with His.  Getting out and functioning in the way God has wired me will help me to experience His presence and joy.  Gary Thomas has written a book titled Sacred Pathways.  which can be a helpful tool to discover how you can best experience God.  Is it acts of service?  Is it being out in nature?  Is it reading the Word?  Knowing how you are wired will make things a lot easier in this quest to become a better worshiper.

 

 

 

By The Book

life-by-the-book

“You just HAVE to read this book!  It’s life-changing”!  I’m sure you’ve had that experience of somebody trying to hand you a book and insisting you must read it.  What were they excited about?  The newest parenting theory?  Financial advice?  The latest dietary trend?  ‘Truth’ on those matters seems to change frequently.  And opposing viewpoints are each held up with the claim of truth.  It’s enough just to walk away with your hands in the air.  Or to surrender in dismay and choose to hold a neutral or apathetic position instead.  Who’s right and who’s wrong?  Maybe you can identify with these thoughts: “I’d rather not make that call!  Unless I run into trouble, I don’t have to worry about that.  I’m managing just fine.”

I had a conversation on faith with somebody the other week, and that was basically their posture.  It was expressed in a relativistic stance: “I’m for good.  So whatever works for you.  Just don’t push it on me.”  The problem with that thinking is that not all things can be equally true!  And the problem with deciding not to evaluate a position and find firm footing in advance is that when you get into trouble you don’t have the time to do digging and vetting of information; you’ll end up having to put complete trust in somebody’s recommendation that “worked for them”.

So is there a better source for truth than human opinion?  Yes!  A couple Sundays ago we finished our sermon series titled FIRM FOUNDATION; five fingers, five non-negotiable theological truths for easy memory that will make for secure footing in our ever changing world.  Our 5th non-negotiable belief is in the ‘supremacy of scripture’.  We believe that the Bible is God’s Word.  It is authoritative.  God is the author of the Bible, and as such is the ultimate source of truth for our lives.  It can be trusted, unlike fallible human opinion.

What impact should belief in the supremacy of Scripture have upon our lives?  Confessing the Bible as authoritative should result in a life shaped by the Bible.  Do you have a Jesus shaped life?  Or do you have a life that looks an awful like the world?  Eugene Petersen’s rendering of the famous conformity passage Romans 12:2 says: “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”  Now that’s a great vision for a life: Well-formed maturity!

Adherence to the Bible as our rule of faith should lead to a lifestyle of seeking to grow in knowledge of what the Bible says, and to a lifestyle of obedience to what it says!  There are many paths to growing closer to God (i.e. Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas), but there is only one path to God.  Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”(John 14:6).  If Jesus is the only way to God, we better pay attention and learn from him.  Our trusted source of information about Jesus is his disciples who were eye-witnesses (i.e. 1 John 1:1-3; 2 Peter 1:16-21).  As we read about the life and teachings of the Word became flesh (John 1:14), the perfect one so full of grace, truth, love, humility, and power, we can’t help but be drawn to him.  And the invitation of the Risen One is to come and trust in him and develop a personal relationship with him.  And with that grand invitation to relationship he also offers us a beautiful challenge to change.  If we love him we will obey his commands (John 14:15,23).  If we believe in the supremacy of Scripture this challenge will be a easier to embrace, for we know the Creator of life holds the design and what he calls us to is for our own good. 

I leave you with the benediction of 2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”   

 

 

Love. It’s that simple.

love

Valentine’s Day was last week.  The annual calendar day when we are told to express love to those close to us.  Pretty silly when you think about it.  This is one holiday, along with Black Friday, that you could legitimately protest 🙂 .  The major winners of us celebrating it are the retail stores and their bottom line!  Especially as followers of Christ, we shouldn’t need a day to remind us to show others love because the Scriptures often remind us that love is to be a way of life for us!  God is love (1 John 4:8).  It only goes to follow that if we are to properly reflect who God is to the world, then we are to have love as our operating system! We are to speak the truth in love (Eph.4:15).  Paul reminds us that anything we do is worthless unless it is done out of love (1 Cor.13:1-3).

As we continued in our sermon series on 5 non-negotiable theological truths we embrace, we learned that #4 was The Great Commandments.  In Matthew 22 we read: “One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus says that the intent of all the various commands and laws is to engage us in loving relationships with God and with others.  In Luke’s parallel account of this narrative (Luke 10:25-37) Jesus launches into the parable of the Good Samaritan to define for his questioner who is our “neighbour” that we are called to love.  The Good Samaritan plainly tells us that we are to love all people, even our enemies.  As followers of Christ, a non-negotiable for us has to be to have our relationships defined by love.  There is no room for hate, rudeness, arrogance, resentment, pride, or the like (1 Cor.13:4-7).

Would others say you are characterized by love?  If not, today is an opportunity to confess, repent, and ask your Heavenly Father for forgiveness and empowerment.  Think about your upcoming day.  What do you have scheduled?  Who will you be interacting with?  Are you bathed in love so that even when the unexpected circumstances and unplanned for relational engagement happen, that your posture is one of love and you will fulfill The Great Commandments today?
Heavenly Father, I pray for every person who reads this blog post.  I pray that you conform them more and more to the image of Christ.  I pray that in their interactions with others, people will see and feel Jesus.  I pray that you will be honoured and lifted up as we learn to treat others the way we wish to be treated.  Emblazen the Golden Rule and The Great Commandments upon our hearts and minds that they will be our way of life, and not something second nature that we always need to think about.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Reflections

saskatoon-s-riverbank

In the last few years as I’ve come to enjoy a little bit of hobby photography, I’ve come to notice and appreciate the method of staging.  Not staging in terms of setting up a fake pose, but rather utilizing angles to get a richer end result in a picture.  One such technique is photographing an object AND it’s reflection in water.  An example of that is the picture at the top of this post (it’s a picture of the Bessborough hotel, famous landmark in our city.  I did not take this picture but found it on the internet).  The degree of wind at the time of a picture will determine how clear the reflection will be or how much distortion there will be due to waves or water ripples.  An absolutely windless day and still water obviously makes for fantastic “mirror” images.

This past Sunday we looked at non-negotiable belief #3 which is UNITY.  In John 17 we read of Jesus’ prayer that his followers would be one (John 17:20-21 “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one”).  The Apostle Paul continued Jesus’ concern by repeatedly including that appeal in his letters.  As we mentioned Sunday, unity doesn’t require, nor is it humanly possible, one hundred percent agreement.  However, a spirit of unity is characterized by humility, love, and co-operation while a spirit of disunity is characterized by pride, hate, division, and destruction.  An illustration of the latter is the fresh news story of the riots at Berkeley yesterday.  Disagreement expressed through destructive and hateful protest.     

Jesus’ desire for our unity is rooted in our identity and his identity.  John 17:21-23 “ that all of them may be one,Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—”

As there is unity in the Godhead (between Father and Son in this passage, but the Holy Spirit too in other passages), Jesus desires we have that same intimacy, that same unified heart.  He wants our relationship to be a reflection, a mirror of the relationship that exists within the Godhead!  The three persons of the Trinity-Father ,Son, and Holy Spirit- are one, yet they have distinctive personhood.  Their unique personhood in no way interferes with their oneness.

Just think of Jesus’ desire for us.  We get to taste, we get to reflect to others who God is as we are united!  Wow.  That kind of imagery also recalls to mind the Creation narrative.  In Genesis (1:26-27) we read how mankind was made in the image of God.  That is reflection as well.

Unity is important because Jesus said it was and prayed for it.  We need reminders often that our lives and the mission of the church are so much bigger than ourselves and our preferences.  How we relate to one another reveals who God is to the world.  If we are of one heart and mind then it is like photography capturing an image reflected perfectly in still water.  However, if we are squabbling and in disunity then we are poorly mirroring to the world who God is.  May God unite us and others come to love God because of the peace and harmony they see in us as we co-exist despite our differences and disagreements.

 

 

Holiness: Set apart for God

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Do you own a set of “good dishes”? Dishes that you only bring out for important company or on special occasions?  Or do you have a special outfit of clothes that you only wear when the event is really important?  If you said yes, then you have some belongings that are set apart.  These are things that are so important to you, so treasured that you don’t want them mingling in with the everyday stuff that gets handled roughly.

We are like these special treasures in the eyes of God!  When we become Children of God, through surrendering of our lives to Jesus Christ, we are also set apart for special use.  Being set apart by God, is called Sanctification.  God wants His chosen people–you and I–to be set apart from the rest of the world.  By that I don’t mean that God wants us hidden away–like the dishes in the back of the cupboard–He wants us out there mixing it up with our friends, family and neighbours who don’t know Him yet.  But He wants us to look differently from the rest of the world while we are doing it!  He wants us to be holy because He is holy. We are called to holy living as Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:15, “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.  For the scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.'”

Maybe right now you are thinking to yourself that this sounds okay for some people, but that there is no way you could be holy.  Maybe you are thinking about all the bad stuff in your life that still seems to take you captive, even though you really want to be free.  The really good news in all of this is that we don’t have to work out our holiness on our own!  The Holy Spirit was given to us for several important reasons, and this is one of them.

Holiness is about the Holy Spirit living inside of us, transforming us gradually, day by day.  Holiness is an inside job.  It starts on the inside and works its way out.  When we become believers in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven of our sins.  That was the work of Jesus on the cross.  But what the Holy Spirit does in addition to that, is cleanse us from the place within us where sin originates.  We receive a new standard of what is now acceptable thought and behavior planted in our hearts.  What was once okay for us to do and think now becomes unacceptable.  It is not that sin is impossible, but it now is possible not to sin!

Holiness is our ultimate destiny.  But we can move the process along more swiftly if we draw on the power within our reach.  Ask the Holy Spirit living within you to help you to turn away from the sins that entangle and trap you.  Surrender to God–give every day to Him from start to finish.  Obey faithfully from the little things to the big ones.  And believe that the Holy Spirit is going to finish this work that has been started within us.

Letting Go or Hanging On?

leech

Leeches.  Nasty little organisms.  They hang on for dear life.  It takes great effort and tricks of the trade to be set free from them.  We have some leeches in the lake by our Bible camp.  For some who love the water and water activities that is no deterrent to them from enjoying the lake.  However, for others, leeches are big enough in their minds that they choose to stay out of the lake.  Leeches make a wonderful metaphor for things that cling to us and keep a hold of us that prevent us from being completely free.

This past Sunday we began a five week sermon series titled ‘Firm Beneath Our Feet’.  It is about knowing our identity, being certain about what we believe, which creates a firm foundation for our daily lives in the ever-changing world around us.  Non-negotiable truth #1 is that JESUS IS LORD.  ‘Lord’ isn’t a word we use very often in our modern English language.  Basically it denotes a person exercising absolute ownership rights.  Therefore, to say that Jesus is Lord is to proclaim that he has absolute authority over our lives which should result in complete surrender.

Easier said than done, though, right?  To submit all of who we are to his control.  That means my money, my leisure, my attitude, my desires, my ambitions, my possessions.  That is a tough sell for those of us who grew up in the Western World where we have been incubated in a culture that idolizes individuality and autonomy.  We don’t mind submitting parts of our lives to God, but all??  That cramps our style.  That impinges on my freedom of choice and the enjoyment of the lifestyle I lead.  If we cringe at any of the previous thoughts there’s a good chance it is revealing leeches in our lives.  What are we holding onto that we’d prefer is off-limits to God’s dominion?         

If you were with us a year ago we began a preaching journey through the New Testament book of Hebrews.  A repeated phrase in Hebrews is the exhortation to hold firmly to our “confession”, or to the faith we profess (i.e.Hebrews 4:14).  To confess something is to declare something or admit something.  And so in converting people made a confession of faith that included “Jesus is Lord” (cf. Romans 10:9)  The people that the letter of Hebrews was written to were facing persecution for their faith.  They were becoming weary in holding onto their confession that Jesus was the Messiah.  They were tempted to blend back into Judaism in order to feel temporary reprieve from the persecution.  Hebrews was written to those wearied people encouraging them to hold on!  Because this pressure is just temporary.  Remember, eternity is a blink away.  Don’t deny Christ for the momentary relief.  Don’t miss out on the Promises to come, as their ancestors in the Old Testament repeatedly did!

 

Denying Christ is not an unforgivable sin.  Just look at Peter before the crucifixion!  Thank God!  However, denying Christ puts us on a slippery slope that could easily lead to a hardened heart and an eternal separation.  It is important to hold firmly to our confession.  But that doesn’t mean merely the verbal acknowledgment.  Does it translate into the way we operate and live daily life?  We are fortunate in the West not to be put in life or death confession situations, however, reports out of the Middle East and other parts of the world tell us that Christians are constantly put in that very same situation.  ISIS, and persecutors over the millennia, give Christians the chance to save their lives by denying Christ and converting.  If they instead hold on to their confession they are killed.  That is 100% all-in confession that Jesus is Lord of my life!  May knowledge of our brothers and sisters martyred around the world for holding on to their confession be an inspiration for us to flick off the leeches that would keep us back from full surrender to the One who loves us with an incredible love and desires better things for our life than we imagine for ourselves.

 

 

The Artist’s Canvas

 

Image result for artist's canvas

After we are born the empty canvas of our life begins to take form as picture after picture of our life is painted on it. The canvas is rough and pitted with the flaws (sins) of our living. The longer we live the rougher and more pitted the canvas picture becomes.

After Jesus comes into our life, that canvas is washed with his blood making it as white as snow. Hebrews 10:17 tells us that He will wipe the slate (canvas) clean of our sins. It is smoothed out much like an artist sizes the canvas preparing it for the picture that will be painted on it. We become the object of that canvas; the artist is God himself.

We have just finished another year and if you’re like me there are a lot of rough spots still. What I, what we need to remember is that the artist is not yet finished. He will continue to size the canvas as often as is required to produce a beautiful picture fit for the King. This will continue until we die. That’s when the picture will be complete, perfect in Jesus.

Question is—-do we want the artist to paint our canvas or do we?