Exploring Covenant and Kingdom

Discovering what relationship and responsibility are all about

Worshiping in Spirit and Truth

spirit and truth

Have you ever witnessed somebody out of their element?  You can tell the “thing” doesn’t come naturally or easily for them.  They bumble or fumble through it.  If we’re honest sometimes we’ve witnessed ourselves out of our element because we are forced by situations to do things that we aren’t naturally wired to do.  I never grew up in a home where my father did a lot of handyman stuff, and so “do-it-yourself” projects don’t come intuitively to me.  However, over the years I have come a long way.  In my earlier attempts DIY projects took tremendous thought, were extremely laborious, took significant time, and sometimes turned out ugly!  Instead, throw me into a pastoral task or into a floor hockey game and I’m your man!

“Part of the dilemma we face in our society is that as a [Western] culture we have adopted the Greek theory of man that separates the mind from the body.  The Jewish understanding, which is much more biblical, is holistic: the mind and body work together.”  This means that our intellect, our body, and our emotions need to be fully engaged and working together in expression in order for us to be fully human.  Our ‘inner man’ is our true self; it is our spirit which connects with God (who is spirit-John 4:24) in who’s image we have been created.  Jesus reminds us that we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength and mind (Mark 12:30).  That is integrated relationship.  When you witness somebody in their element you see their emotion, mind, and body all working together in beautiful expression.

Even the most reserved of us can get loud and expressive when it comes to things we are passionate about.  But when we are out of our element, there is a disconnect and breakdown in our integrated whole.  How does this relate to worship?  Well the question is, when we gather to worship with others, are we in our element or out of our element?

N.T. Wright wrote, “The great multitude in Revelation which no man can number aren’t playing cricket.  They aren’t going shopping.  They are worshiping.  Sounds boring?  If so, it shows how impoverished our idea of worship has become.”

Are we bored or distracted during a worship gathering?  Where is our mind at?  Is it on those around us, or on our agenda for the rest of the day?  Where are our emotions at? Are we simply singing words but not thinking about the words and meaning them? Where is our physical self at?  Do we think praise and worship is limited to a mental exercise?  If we are to be honest in our worship-not pretending-we must be truthful throughout our whole being.  Remember, worship (ascribing worth to God, and expressing praise and thanksgiving) is a response to experiencing God or a response to knowledge of who God is and what He has done.

If the worship services seem mundane to us, we need to do some soul searching and ask the Lord what needs to change.  Have we lost all sense of expectancy.  Have we lost an awareness of the presence of the invisible guest of honour?  Let’s not settle for such a lackadaisical attitude.  Instead, let’s ask the LORD to help us recapture-or perhaps find for the first time-a sense of awe toward Him.

 

 

language-of-worship

We worship what we value

language-of-worshipWe worship what we value.

Whatever it is that makes us think our lives would have more meaning, or be fuller and richer, is what we tend to worship.  If that is power, or success, or acceptance by the people around us, then those things tend to be what we focus on.  But when we begin to ascribe to God the value and the worth that belongs to Him alone, our focus changes and we can begin to worship authentically and completely.

When we worship God, we create a lifestyle of integrity in which we are continually giving back to God in every part of our lives.  Romans 12 in the Message says this about worship:  “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life–and place it before God as an offering.”

Our worship of God needs to be an “all in” thing!  It is much more than coming to a church building on a Sunday morning and singing some songs, hearing a message and visiting with our friends.  Those things are wonderful, but  they alone are not worship.

We worship God when we pray.  When our prayers lift up and acknowledge God’s attributes of holiness, mercy, grace, patience and sovereignty, they are the prayers of a worshiping people.  We need to be praying for the kingdom of God to advance in this world and asking God to use us as instruments to make that a reality.  This is worship.

We worship God when we confess our sins.  When we have unconfessed sin in our lives, that can create a barrier that prevents us from worshiping freely and honestly.  Yes, we know that we have forgiveness of sin.  But a failure to bring to God our daily shortcomings, our selfishness, our failure to act as the hands and feet of Jesus, gets in the way of worship.  Confession of sin orients or turns us back toward God’s generous gift of grace.

We worship when we give thanks.  We have so much to be thankful for!  We have been given the promise of eternal life.  Our sins are forgiven.  We have been given the right to be called sons and daughters of God.  But sometimes we focus more on what is not going right in our lives, or on what we think we haven’t received, than on these gifts.  And it is true, sometimes we do go through very difficult struggles and it can be hard to be thankful for those!  But in 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul tells us “Be thankful in all circumstances”.  Paul does not say that we are to be thankful “for” all circumstances!  Some of the things we go through are just too hard to be thankful for.  But through even those–through illness, unexpected or tragic death, bankruptcy, betrayal, we can worship our God who is actively at work in our lives.  He uses even our trials to perfect our characters and help us to develop endurance.

When we truly understand the value of God in our lives, we will worship Him wholeheartedly.

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.