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Friday, January 31, 2014

We need Sunday because all is not yet Sunday

I've been thinking and reading a lot this week about worship as I prepare to preach on this final avenue of how our church's leadership envisions carrying out our God-assigned mission to introduce people to Jesus and help them grow by his grace.

I am looking forward Zac Hicks leading us in praise and worship when myself and one of our elders attend the Liberate Conference in Ft Lauderdale, FL next month. He wrote a very thoughtful blog post entitled "Why the Tension between Public and Private Worship?" as to why we need to diligently drive ourselves to corporate worship every Sunday. His conclusion stems from the following quote from a book written in the 1960s (by a non-hippie named Jacques Von Allmen) called Worship: Its Theology and Practice. Von Allmen writes:
[Corporate Worship] is necessary because the Kingdom of God is not yet established in power. [Corporate worship] as such is necessary because the whole of life has not yet been transformed into worship. Thus it suggests that the Kingdom exists already, like the leaven in dough, but is not yet established. It shows that Sunday is other than weekday, that all is not yet Sunday. 
Hicks rightly relates Von Allmen's brilliant observation to the already/not yet tension of God's Kingdom that exists through Jesus Christ. One day everything will be perfect - including a perfected and constant community wearing white robes and worshipping the Lamb with no more hunger nor thirst to beset us (Revelation 7:13-17) - but until then we lean into little tastes of divine perfection to keep us going in advancing His Kingdom. God has called us to display saltiness to the world. What does this mean but a kind of set-apartness or difference that makes our lives attractive or 'taste good'.
"You are the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13)  
"Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again?" (Mark 9:50)
"Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person" (Colossians 4:5-6). 
Blanding through Blending. However, Satan, through the wicked tripartite combo of sin/demonic/world, seeks to blend us in and remove our flavoring (consider, for instance, Paul's description in Ephesians 2:1-3 of lemmings following what most think is just the way of the world, but is really Satan's way and increasingly adopted as our own stubborn way). So when we chicken out of sharing a little bit of good news about Jesus with a co-worker, tell & then convince ourselves: "Hey, I have rights too!" (self-serving act to follow), throw in your coarse joke you would never say around church peeps, thoughtlessly use the person working on the project with you for your own gain (or use your child or spouse for that matter) - these are ways we lose flavoring as we begin to blend in with everyone else and, suddenly, voila! : "See! Christians aren't any different." Yet, it's always a struggle to prevent blanding through blending. In fact, it's probably why you are reading this blog entry now: You're feeling tired/blah at work or beaten down by the same ole circumstances at home and could use a pick me up. So you read this in your inbox or clicked on a link that brought you here.

Sustaining your Flava. Sunday corporate worship then becomes essential as the start-to-the-week push you need - a reminder that there are others like you on the same mission, at the same well in need of the same grace, and opportunity to remind each other of God's goodness through hearing and singing the Word of God. Likewise, M-F, private prayer closet worship re-fuels us for the day ahead. God uses time in His Word both corporately and privately to remind us of promises that HE is better, to re-focus us on His mission, and to drink in the amazing reality of grace and forgiveness through a return trip to the cross. He brings you to focused time of worship with the entire church on Sundays or with HIm alone to pray against (and in some cases for - see: people) and re-arm yourself against forces that seek to make your life blander through blending. 

The Forever Sunday. Psalm 34:8 is one of Katie's favorite verses (it hangs above our kitchen sink): "Oh,taste and see that the LORD is good! / Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!"
The provocative language in this verse is the "Taste and See" as it hints that the God of
the Universe can be experienced as sweetly and readily as a good steak is tasted or a Cayman beach is beheld. But I've often failed to meditate on the means of such blessed and experienced goodness - namely, "taking refuge in Him." A refuge is not a place a person remains or lives out his/her life (notice the Psalmist doesn't say: "residence" or "place of business"), but a place to which a person returns or even runs - recognizing their need for help, safety, and re-fueling. We are promised that one day we will have no need of certain now-essential-items like four walls and a roof because God will be our home (Rev. 21:3), no need for tissues or therapists or pastors for that matter for their will be no more crying or pain (Rev. 21:4), no more places of worship because God the Father and God the Son will be ever available to satisfy our praises (Rev. 21:22), no more Sun because God will bring light through the Lamb our lamp (Rev. 21:23, 22:5), no fear because there is no one bad (Rev. 21:27). 

So until our worship looks like that, we must (and we get!) to gather on Sundays, each of us bringing along a gift to serve and encourage the other, building one another up for the week ahead so that those we encounter M-F might so taste and see God's flavor in us - the difference in us - that they'd join us first for the following Sunday and then the forever Sunday. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Talking Trinity with a J's Witness (or anyone else...)

This past Saturday was our last non-youth-sports Saturday in January so we were pleasantly enjoying the morning sun and the nonsensical notion of me building a tree fort (which, miracle!, happened much to the chagrin of two fingers on my left hand), r when I heard folks knocking at my office door. The gentleman and his wife were friendly, intelligent, and determined to ask me about whether I would want their literature. I admired their conviction and boldness knowing I can learn something from them about both. After saying, "I'll take it but my interest is mild in the literature itself but I'm interested in how it affects you," we soon approached a fork in the road when I admitted: "I think we share differences in what we believe about Jesus and the Trinity."

Jehovah's Witnesses espouse that all Christians believe, as the Mormons do, not in a Trinity but a Triad of gods (three separate gods with the same essence in various degrees). In fact, they'll try and convince you that the "Trinity" originates not in Christianity but from three ancient Egyptian gods: Osiris, Isis, & Horus. 

So I'm posting a wonderful little article called: Is God a Trinity or a Triad? from my friends at - not simply because I'm concerned how we respond to a Jehovah's witness but also because I'm finding little hints from dear friends in the church who are questioning if Jesus really is God or just a really, really blessed Son who is an important example and even died an effective death for our sake. The above article on the Trinity gives a simple yet brilliant analogy stating that the universe is composed of three elements - space, time, and matter - each of which reflects the Triune God who created them in that each has three manifestations. If this sounds complicated, it's not and I think you'll find it helpful for both yourself and to pass on. Check it out above.  

I recognize people are often afraid to ask such questions even if they are milling around in their own minds - but they need not be. We all have them, especially as we just begin to grow in Christ. So don't be afraid to ask your pastor(s) questions and, in conjunction, is also an excellent resource for reference.

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (II Corinthians 13:14).

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Free Audiobook for January: THE Book (ESV Audio Bible)

There is something about hearing the Word of God that gets in people. In fact, even among pastor friends of mine when one is expected to get nuanced and talk through biblical concepts in often enigmatic, smarty-pants ways, I increasingly enjoy simply hearing the Bible quoted to me - to discuss it, chew on it, and ultimately be further challenged and edified by it. In fact, please never hesitate to think you are sounding somehow brown-nosing, overly 'spiritual', or "he-probably-already-knows-this" by quoting Scripture to me. It will be a gift every time that I will hopefully choose to receive as such (I mean a friend did just this past Sunday refer to me publicly using Genesis 3:10 "I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid, because I was naked, and hid myself" [p.s. - I was apparently the one in the garden in this scenario] - so I'm a little hesitant to receive wholesale all verses directed toward me).

The apostle Paul says it like this in Romans 10 as he quotes Deuteronomy 30:14: "The word of God is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart so you can do it." Then later in verse 17: "Trust comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of Christ" 

It is so good to have His Word nearby to hear it & do it so that trust in our Savior grows as might the do-ing that so pleases Him.

So downloading this free version of the ESV Audio Bible is the ideal soundtrack to start the year. I should note that this particular audio version gives easy access to particular books and chapters as needed.