Friday, December 15, 2017

"Worship" and "Serve": The 3rd Temptation of Jesus

Recently I was asked about the last temptation of Jesus from Matthew chapter 4. Specifically, they asked about Jesus' response to the last temptation from Matthew 4:10. In verse 9 Satan says to Jesus: “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”Jesus responded in verse 10 saying: “Begone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

This is actually one of my favorite verses believe it or not because it gives a great charge to anyone who wants to be a follower of Christ. I think back and remember that Satan himself rebelled against God believing he was more worthy of worship. The belief we are better than or know more then God is the root of all sin and evil. Because the very nature of sin is a rebellion against what God has laid out, right? We try to mask it in other things, like the first two things Satan asked Jesus to do. It wasn’t directly self-worship or rebellion against God so it might seem easier to justify doing something that's our own way. However, they didn’t work on Jesus so in that last temptation Satan lays it all out; he tells Jesus he will give him all of “this” if Jesus will worship him. The greatest temptation we all face; the temptation to choose what we want over God. Jesus responds with the simple calling that he has for all of us that will choose to follow him; “Worship God” and “Serve him”. 

The word worship there is a cool image. It means to bow down and then to kiss the hand of a master, the way a dog does to his owner. It paints the picture of intimacy, trust, reliance and a relationship that is bigger than just “do what I say”, as it is rooted in love, not duty! The word “serve” is the evidence or that love. Like when I tell Amy I love her and we snuggle, go on a date, and have a great night, but then the evidence of the love shared in those moments must overflow into our daily life events. Putting her desires above my own desires. Seeking to know her needs and wants in everyday life in order to LIVE out the love and relationship I have expressed and committed to her. 

So Jesus is wanting us to see that he is not looking for drones to just do what they are told, but to have followers who love him, see him as their creator and trust him with their lives in how we live out that relationship with Him daily based on how He has called us to live through his Word. 

Like I said, its one of my favorite verses because it reminds me I am in a relationship with my Creator God. He is not looking for some obligational living from me. Instead, he is looking for a relationship rooted in love, in knowing him, trusting, and thus overflowing into living for Him. It's not just religions, it's a relationship he seeks with me as he said in John 4. That's encouraging and inspiring!

Friday, November 11, 2016

An Example Of Hope

I have felt this and wanted to share this after I have had a chance to reflect more. I don't share this to minimize the hurt  or abuse others have experience that I know can't speak to or fully imagine; and its in no way a support Trump whom I have no support for but alas, this has been my heart and I post this as a confused believer hearing from other believers (sorry its long but I wanted to share my heart clearly): 

We say the rhetoric "Jesus is still on the throne" but do we believe it? Do we believe that the authority in play, no matter how just in unjust, has been placed by God? Are we now worse off with Trump or Hillary, depending on which side would be mourning the day after, then the writers of the new testament and those christians who were under Nero as they wrote on how they see government and leaders?

I say this with no judgment but from a sincere place of reflection over the past few days: I don't understand a broken heart of an election of a nation that is not our kingdom (though I can understand hurting for those hurting). Do we believe what God said in his word about leaders? I didn't win in this election but I also don't think I can win in any election. No body was going to expand the kingdom of God by what they did based on anything they said. They have earthy values,  they try to mask them in scripture and religion, yet they are more rooted in great intentions but, at least from what I see, and miss what the "good" is we are called to live from a biblical standpoint and the reason for it. 

To me this is not a political response in what I write here but instead I write as a fellow Christian responding through my lens of faith based on what I see the Bible teaches us about situations just like this. Instead of mourning for the election being lost by the candidate we wanted and had "hope in", why don't we follow the call to weep over our own sins and the sins of our parents, both conservative and liberal, that brought us to this point? That's what the Bible says will bring a nation to a healthy place. Not weeping over the politics, but truly weeping in repentance of our own sin that brought the politics to where they are today. Why don't we have services that pray for spiritual change instead of political change? I honestly feel lost and abandoned in some way myself after the election. Not by the political outcome but by the response of my brothers and sisters in mourning (or celebration) over an earthy kingdom that we have no biblical citizenship to. If scripture is true, God put Trump in place, as he did Obama. There is no mystery to it if God is in control, but there is a mystery to me in why we respond in mourning to the fact our leader of choice lost. How much hope was in Hillary for believers that destained Trump?(How much hope is in Trump for many believers as well that celebrate him?) This is a time for the world to see a church that has hope in something greater then a political leader. Lets us raise our heads high to show our eyes are fixed not on this world but on the greater hope in what he has done and who he is as the creator of it all.

I fear we are loosing an opportunity to show where our hope lies and who we should all be turning to when things go in ways that seem messed up to us, and even hopeless. Here is a response I can say with confidence and authenticity: "I am so sorry you are hurting, I can't imagine the fear you might have now. Can I share with you why I don't have that fear and where I find my confidence in before and after the votes where counted and why I have peace in it all?" - Is this not the message of the gospel we should share and live out in these times? 

Thank you for being willing to read this  and hear from me. God bless!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Keeping "Christ" in Christmas (Not What You Think)

We are about to enter the Christmas season and already I see the many articles, calls for boycotts, and arguments centered around the phrase “keep Christ in Christmas”; mostly coming from Christian circles. Well this year I have to say it has really gotten to me so here is my personal observation and response it it all:

I spend a lot of time around Christians hearing them talk about Christmas. I hear the discussion from moms and dads, grandparents, kids, teens etc. I have to say, from my observations, it is not the secular community that has taken Christ out of Christmas…it is the Christians. As Christmas approaches most of the times when I hear Christians mention “Christ” as part of their regular Christmas dialogue  it is when they are complaining that someone is not calling it “Christ”mas but instead calls it the “holiday season”. As they then declare their Christian value  for “Christ” in Christmas and declare that “He is the reason for the season”.

However, based on what I see I don’t think we, Christians, are keeping Christ in Christmas. As I listen to parents talk with their kids and each other their dialogue appears to be driven around meal plans, present ideas for the kids and family, who gets what from whom, where will they be going etc. As I listen to our kids I hear more about Santa and little to NOTHING about Christ. Now please understand me as I say this, this includes me. So this rant is not a declaring of “those people” but an observation of “us” which includes me. Are we keeping Christ in Christmas by how we live and in what we say? The fruit that I see happening brings about a clear and obvious “NO” to that question!

When Christ becomes the center of why we celebrate then he truly will be the reason for the season. When Christ becomes what we talk to our kids about more then presents, Santa and the tree THEN we will be keeping Christ in Christmas. When Christ is seen in our lives and interactions by giving and serving to others in a time of some of the greatest hurt and need in the community around us, over our own traditions and personal wants, THEN we will be keeping Christ in Christmas.

It is easy to get offended because of what others call it. I dare say Christ is less concerned with what we call it and is much more concerned with how we choose to live it. It is easy to say “Christ”mas but do we live out Christ in our Christmas lives and season?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Worship Songs and Singing in The Church

This is another post in regards to another post I have seen flying around the christian worship blog world called "Worship Songs Are A Bit Rubbish At Serving The Local Church". Since I see many having discussion on this exact post or many with similar ideas here are my thoughts on it.

The concerns this article points to reminds me of conversations that I have with worship team and church members and its divided almost right down a generational line (and/or church background history). Some of my worship team members over 50,that grew up in the church, have made similar comments while most of members under 40 (church and worship team) and the older ones over 40 who DID NOT GROW UP IN THE CHUCH WORLD would think this article is full of “rubbish” itself.

Music is a language of culture and the church at one time might have had a more understood universal culture, however that is just not true anymore. One great lesson learned from the Jesus Movement that brought about a revival in the church world in regards to worship music and the songs that came out of it was that the songs had significance because they belonged to new separate culture of the church and their songs spoke their language allowed them to worship, where as the "traditional" church culture was so far off from their language and culture it was foreign to them. As I read this article I feel it is written from a rulebook that has changed but the author either doesn't like the change or thinks the change is wrong. He speaks to some good practical realities for some churches but he sates them as if they are rules. However, they simply are not rules, even for small churches.
My 55 year old senior pastor with Baptist roots recently challenged me with a rule change. He asked me to introduce a new song every week. I am a younger worship guy but that went against the rules I grew up with in the church from the 90s. My pastor said, “Listen, if they are listening to Christian radio and Pandora etc then they are already hearing these new songs and they won't really be new to the church.” Well, he was right. We are now 6 months into doing a new song almost every week and most of the time you would never guess it’s a new song and the church can sing them (Bethel Church, Hillsong and all). Why because its not foreign to them. Its the music they listen to and also sing to, even with weird melodies or weird key. It is not hard for them because they sing along with them all the time in the car, even in those keys the author of this article thinks will make people stop singing.
The article speaks to a culture that still exists in some places but Is NOT the normal church world anymore, or at least it is shrinking more each year. I am in an Evangelical Free Church in the middle of Midwestern culture (Small Town WI) who is always seems10 years behind however I don’t hear the comments the article talked about except from the long term church goers who have been told “that  is the rule” apparently it only hinders them, not the regular believer coming without a man made rule book who is just ready to worship!

Its time to put away our rule books and always be open to what is changing and happening in our churches. If its not a rule in the Bible its time to chill out and end the attacks on others that do it differently.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Need For Art In Worship/Church

A fellow worship leader/pastor wrote a discussion blog about the role of art in the church. You can see what he wrote here. Below are my thoughts on the subject and response to his blog post.

Art is so powerful and I believe it is a much needed tool and element for churches and times of worship. As I look back through the Old Testament, even before music was a major part of worship in the tabernacle art pieces dominated the worship scene. With the power of symbolism being passed down from God, pieces of art like the ark of the covenant, alters,

tapestry, wood carvings etc where things created to be used in worship under specific desires and directions from God. Looking forward to the building of the temple we see how powerful art and forms of beauty built and created for worship was significant to God as he gave great detail to these things in his instructions in the building of His house of worship.

Physical art has been a significant part of worship since God first encountered his people and I believe even has more potential and power to lead in worship then music alone. As the saying goes "a picture is worth a thousand words". I believe symbolism and art has a power to connect with the soul and lead in worship in powerful ways, and based on what I see in scripture, I think God sees this as well. 

Due to the Protestant Reformation many moved away from anything that even felt like Catholicism and the Evangelical world lost the powerful use of art. However it's a loss we do not have to accept. We can return to values the early church had for art without making it an idol like seen in some historical aspects of Catholicism. 

I think the important thing for any artist in the church world to remember is that art in the church will always have a different standard and purpose then art outside of the church. Art in the church must, just like in the Old Testament, point people to God and be something people can understand and connect with. Art outside of the church is for the artist to say whatever they want and if their audiences misses it's meaning or purpose that's ok. But in the church art always has a purpose and
value to communicate in a way that points people to God and brings revelation of truth. I think this point is often missed by many artist in the church and is why many struggle with the role of art and artist in the church.

What we need is leaders who see the biblical value and significance for art in worship and the church but can shepherd and lead the artist to fulfill their calling as artists that point people to the creator of it all, the Creator God!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Will They See Jesus Better Now?

This past week many Christians celebrated the court ruling allowing for prayer to be said at the opening of government meetings, such as a town counsel meeting. The justices spoke to how this is a practice even seen in our congress today.  (For more information see ruling details here). Again this was celebrated by many Christians as the news moved through Facebook like a storm. As I read the news, the celebrations, and posts, I found myself wondering if I wanted to celebrate. Or maybe it might be better said; I found myself wondering what they were celebrating.
            I often hear many declaring how this country was founded and first established under the value of religious freedom. Something I agree with. Yet they also say the country was rooted in and many of its values found in Christianity as seen by our laws and quotes from many of the for-fathers. A statement I kind of a agree with, kind of.
            So now people have the right to prayer before a government meetings. So, do my Christian friends support anyone’s rights to pray before a meeting? What if Monday was Christian protestant prayer, Tuesday was a catholic prayer, Wednesday was a Muslim prayer, Thursday was a Hindu prayer, and Friday was a Wicca prayer? Would you still be celebrating? These named faiths are all religions that are represented by the people of the United State of America. These are their religions and they live in a nation founded on religious freedom.
            Many have attacked the group that brought the lawsuit; wondering what it matters if a prayer is offered if you do not believe in it? So then what will your reaction, as a believer, be if a prayer is offered by a faith you do not believe in? How will you respond? Even if you don’t believe in that faith, or believe it is a false religion, would you still celebrate the religions freedom to practice that faith? Are you ok if they also pray publically to open a government meeting, even if they are not Christian? Because it’s going to happen. In fact is has happened and look how the “Christians” handled it...

Now what I want to know is what are you celebrating? As I study the Bible and look at the writings of the Apostle Paul and of Jesus I wonder; would the Apostle Paul be celebrating? Would the Apostle Paul care? What would he do if he where in a government meeting? Would he respond the way the Christians did? Would Jesus respond that way?

This whole situation got me thinking. I admit I have many thoughts and I am not sure how to get them out there. Honestly I hesitate writing this out of some fear of how people will perceive me and think about me. But what I do know is that I am not celebrating right now. In fact I am sad…

I find myself wondering: What did Jesus win because of this ruling? What is now better off in the Kingdom of God because of this ruling? Will more be saved because of this? Will more people see the Gospel lived out? After watching the Youtube video I seem to think they wont…

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Contradicting or Complementing?

I recently read two articles from the same issues of Worship Leaders Magazine. One of them was titled “Open Your Eyes: The Worship Trialogue”. You can give it a quick read but the article basically gave a loving rebuke to worship leaders (meaning the entire band) that the role of being on the stage is not just to worship themselves but it is to lead the congregation and even relationally engage with those they are leading. It says that people need to feel that worship is a part of a community and the leadership from the stage plays a major role in that. It emphasizes the role of a leader and the need for the people to have that connection with those leading worship. It did not dismiss the moments of worship where an entire team does find themselves in an intimate place in their worship; eyes closed and hands raised. It merely showed the need for the worship team to function as a part of the community of worshipers within the church and to own their leadership role so as to help and not hinders those they are leading into worship.

Then a few links down I found this article entitle “Should Worship Leaders Leave the Stage?” The title is pretty self-explanatory. It explores the idea of worship leaders needing to leave the stage, take on a much less prominent leadership role; all in the name of people being distracted by the worship leaders and other creative things on the stage area. It suggested ideas like moving them to the floor, or moving them to the back, or even having them in a separate room. All in the name of not being a distraction or hindrance to others worshiping.

Neither of the articles said something I have not heard before but what surprised me was that I read them from the same source, the same issue, just a few pages apart from each other. To me they seem like they are contradicting each other. That each expel a completely different understanding and perspective of corporate worship and the role of a worship team/worship leader.

So what do you think? Are they contradicting or are the complementing...or something else?