Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Life

In 2 Corinthians 5:22 we read that, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Our God is a God of redemption, and a God of new beginnings. He is always at his work and He is working in us! 
We just celebrated Christmas and the birth of Jesus Christ, who came to earth as a man in order to reconcile us to God. He did this through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. The Bible tells us that just as Christ lives, we too can live in newness of life. 
Romans 6:4, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” 
If we have given our lives over to Christ and made him the Lord of our life, then our old selves along with all our sin and wickedness have been nailed to the cross with Christ and we have been made new. This new life is worked out in us as we grow more and more to be like Christ. 
As we look forward to this New Year, remember that if you are in Christ you are a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come. We look forward to the opportunities we will have to grow in Christ likeness and we thank God for every day that we have to follow him and come to know him more. 
What is God planning to do in you, and through you this year?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Heart Deep

2 Peter 1:3-4 tells us, that by God’s power, we have “all things that pertain to life and godliness” and through His promises, we can “become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire”. The chapter goes on to say that because of these things we are to, “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” Sometimes when I think about this passage of scripture and the way that God desires to produce His character in me, I get caught thinking that it simply means changing my outward behavior. While it is true that God does want to change us on the outside, he also wants to change us much deeper than that.  
Jesus certainly is interested in much deeper things that outward actions. In Matthew 5:21-22 He says, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” He says a similar thing about the sin of adultery, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Our human minds often think only on the surface level. Anger isn’t murder, and lust isn’t adultery – or is it? We tend to draw the line of sin at the physical actions, but Jesus draws it in the heart. He sees all, and he draws the line there. I think it is very interesting how much Christ is interested in what is going on inside of us rather than only considering what is going on outside of us. 
I had a great conversation with my dad recently. He told me that he was concerned about a situation involving some young people that felt it was ok to go to parties where their would be under-age drinking, as long as they didn’t drink any alcohol. This decision got them into some trouble (traffic accident) but since they weren’t the one’s drinking alcohol, they felt that it was ok to be a part of this party atmosphere. My dad and I talked about how there may be a deeper problem than drunkenness. There may be a problem with the heart. We realized that if someone goes to such a party with the same rebellious attitude as the person who attends the party to get drunk, then maybe the two actions aren’t that different after all.
Well, we might find this whole thought to be distressing, because we know that we are utterly sinful from birth. Even when we try to do right things it is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Our hearts are so often full of sinful motivations. The Bible says that there is no one righteous, “no, not one” (Romans 3:10). However, we can praise God that not only does he call us to holiness on a deep, heart level, but he actually works in us to accomplish this. We can’t do it on our own; we need to allow God to work in us from the inside out. It’s not just a behavioral change that we need; it’s a change of heart. 
So, when we look back at the passage in 1st Peter and see the things that God wants to accomplish in us: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love; we know that it isn’t just the appearance of these things that he desires us to have. Rather He wants them to run deep. He works them in us so we not only act them out, but we think them too. We live them in public and in private, even down the privacy of our own hearts. Thanks be to God that he doesn’t let us stay in our wretched state, or allow us to be only skin deep!
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Tools of Worship

Sometimes, we feel like that dentist when we worship. We all have different worship tools that we have been trained to use, find comfortable or prefer more than others. These tools could be a number of different things ranging from a certain song choice or musical style to specific postures in worship, or even the order of a worship service. We get to be very comfortable and very good at using certain tools and if we are given a different set of tools we can feel frustrated just like that dentist would. However, if the tools we are given really are biblical and really are effective responses of worship (unlike the screw drivers, a calculator and WD-40 would be for a teeth cleaning) then we can learn to use these tools and benefit from them. 
There are a handful of Hebrew and Greek words that have to do with worship. One such Greek word is, proskuneo, which means to prostrate one’s self, or kiss towards, in order to pay homage and reverence. Proskuneo is the word translated as “worship” in Revelation 4:10 which says, “the twenty-four elders will fall downbefore Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who livesforever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne…” Therefore, an example of this might be when we sing songs full of adoration. In this instance we could say that we are worshiping with an attitude of proskuneo and during these times it would be fitting to bow down in reverence. 
A Hebrew word, yadah, is translated as the English word “praise” in Psalm 67:3 which says, “Let the peoples praise You, OGod; Let all the peoples praise You”. This same word is translated as “give thanks” in such places as Psalm 9:1 which says, “I will givethanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders.” The definition of yadah has to do with throwing or casting, thanksgiving, laud and praise. Worshiping in an attitude of yadahmight be conducive to praising God with loud instruments and boisterous singing.
One last Hebrew word we will look at is abad. It is translated into the English word “worship” in such places as, Exodus 3:12 where God says to Moses, “when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain." The definition of abad has to do with working and laboring as servants. Our whole lives are to be service to God and we are to honor him with our work. This means that even church workdays are an act of worship. In fact, some people seem to be wired in such a way that they experience worshipful moments more often during a church workday than they might during a candlelight service!
Biblical worship has room for many different expressions. Each generation and culture seems to find its own unique expressions ofproskuneo, yadah, and abad. No matter what style of expression, let’s understand that biblical worship is deeper than music and broader than style. It is an everyday lifestyle! Though awkward at first, we can learn to appreciate each other’s preferences and worship together in love and unity. The body of Christ is so diverse, and that is a beautiful thing. 
Let’s make room in our toolboxes for more tools!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Why We Sing

I often find it a little bit odd that we get together and sing at the beginning of our worship services. Besides church, there aren’t a lot of other situations where people gather to sing, especially to sing to God. I mean, if an unbeliever comes to church, do they feel awkward that we are having a sing-a-long to express ourselves to someone we can’t see? Even though we know that our God is real and present among us, do we sometimes feel this awkwardness? We all know that singing in worship is a very Biblical idea. There is even an entire book of the Bible full of songs that were sung for worship. But, I still wonder: why do we sing?

I remember leading worship for a youth group once. I could tell that the students weren’t really joining in, so I stopped and asked them to think about why we sing. One girl spoke up and said, “because, it’s a cooler way to pray”. I think she might be on to something. 

What is singing anyway? Well, singing is just putting words in rhythm, and adding pitch. We put words in rhythm by elongating the vowels. Elongated vowels are often used in everyday language when we want to emphasize a point. A mother might call her son in an uneventful way, “Johnny it’s time for dinner”. But if Johnny is late and his mother is irritated she emphasizes it: “Joooohneeeee!” Elongated vowels were used. We use this tool whenever we are emphasizing a point. 

When we add pitch it becomes music. The melody that pitches create help to express emotions. For example, it could be triumphant, eerie or sweet. We don’t really use pitch in our everyday language very much (our lives aren’t a musical). But we do realize it’s importance, and we use it to mark special occasions or to express feelings that are beyond words. This is where music can be somewhat mysterious. Often, we listen to certain music when we feel a certain way, because it accompanies our emotions. Sometimes music can even cause us to feel a certain emotion. Furthermore, music can be used to help us remember things because pitches tend to stick in our heads. On top of all this, music is just pleasant to listen to.

No doubt, there are many more reasons to use music in worship; but I think the girl in that youth group had a good point. Singing is a wonderful way to communicate with God. We serve such an awesome God and his praises are certainly worthy of elongating vowels for emphasis, and adding pitch for beauty and emotion. When we sing prayers our words are being emphasized and our emotions accompanied by music. When we sing truth about God the same thing happens, and the truths we sing stick in our heads. As we gather to communicate with God as a congregation, it is fitting that we use music and singing to help us express our emotion and emphasize truth. I’m glad that we have this tool called singing to express our worship to God. I’m looking forward to singing with all of you this coming Sunday!

“Music induces an attitude of worship. It elicits from deep within a person the sense of awe and mystery that accompanies a meeting with God.” – Robert Webber, Worship Old & New

Monday, January 31, 2011
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