Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Let God use you

     As the sun rises in the morning, the sky turned from black, to purple, to pink, and then blue. The men in their boats were accustomed to seeing the sun rise, they were fishermen. Their job requires them to fish at night when it was cooler so they could get the fish while they were active and eating. After a long night of fishing they were cleaning their fish so they could sell them to those who would take them and sell them in the market. For some of these fishermen it was a very lucrative business, their fish was salted down and sent all the way to Rome. As they were finishing their days work so they could go home and sleep to get up and do it all again that night, a man they all know walks up to the shore and speaks just a few words to them, but those words would change the course of their lives.

     That may have been exactly what it looked like that morning on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus walked by those boats where Peter, John, Andrew, and James were working. When He called out to these four men it forever changed their lives. The public ministry of Christ was just getting started, and one of His first acts was to choose these men to assist Him in His work. He was calling ordinary men to do God's work.
Even today Jesus is busy calling people. He is calling us to come to Him for salvation. He is calling us to come to Him for service. Friends, Jesus is calling. I wonder if He is calling you for something right at this very moment. 

     I am not sure about you, but if I were going to start a kingdom, I would probably look for some very specific kind of people to help run it. I would probably get some very skilled politicians, and maybe some great military leaders to help me lead my kingdom. I would probably recruit some great minds so I could have the most forward thinking kingdom. Maybe talk to celebrities and cultural elites to get them to participate in my kingdom, so it would be considered the hip and in place to be. Jesus called fishermen. Not the most likely candidates to call on when starting a kingdom. But, it is not unusual for God to call these kind of people. He called David, a Sheppard. He used Shipharah and Puah, two midwives who defied Pharaoh. He used Shamgar, who was only mentioned once in scripture, to kill 600 philistines and save Israel. These were people who the world might call nobodies, but these people were nobodies of whom the world was not worthy. You see, the truth is God chooses ordinary people far more than not. Maybe that is because He has so many to choose from.

     None of the 12 disciples brought high credentials into their roles. They came from modest backgrounds with little to no distinction what so ever. They were an eclectic group of ordinary, run of the mill people. None of them were educated in Theology, or fit the mold of "Super Christian" or a "Religious Super Star." Yet, they were chosen to carry the timeless message of Jesus Christ. For Jesus to leave His ministry to these 12 men was a huge gamble. What if they couldn't do it? what if they didn't do it? There was no back up plan.

     Twenty one centuries later, Jesus is still leaving His work to ordinary people. What are our credentials?
Super Heroes? Mega stars? No, just people who find themselves on our knees, Acknowledging that we are inadequate and utterly dependent. Sound a bit overwhelming? Guess what? It's not. That's because Jesus gives us a recipe that blends in with our ordinariness. You take a big bowl, add 1 serving of our weakness, and add His strength, stir and serve. Is it good you may ask? I say not just good, but perfect.....Amen



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Contemporary or Traditional?

     I have heard the questions and infighting about whether we should use contemporary music in worship and if it honors the Lord. It is something that has been debated for years or even decades. What should be a source of peace and love, very often produces among Christians hostile disagreements over the selection of worship music. In fact, it has become one of the leading causes of disagreement and fighting among church members, and has even lead to church splits. To our shame, there are believers who sulk and fume from their pews and threaten to stop giving money if their particular brand of musical tastes are not satisfied.
Musical tastes vary as much as the church members themselves. There are those who love the traditional hymns while there are those who prefer more modern contemporary worship music. Some churches have even added 2 or 3 services to appease everyone. Still, there are churches that refuse to change and even brag, "You won't hear any contemporary music in our church." What they fail to realize is that when those hymns were written, they were considered contemporary too.

     The contemporary church movement has tremendously impacted both the church and the culture. Many of the new churches that start are contemporary and a lot of traditional churches have added a contemporary service. A whole new generation of Christians are now trying church and finding that the contemporary worship brings them closer to God, And the contemporary services continue to grow. The appeal of the contemporary service is undeniable. Since it has started we have seen a good deal of growth, and the vast majority of that growth has come from those who have been nonchristian people. The contemporary service has become one the most effective way to reach spiritually seeking people, because there is a significant effort to make the Gospel message understandable to all the seekers who come. Because there is an openness to innovation and change the people will come.

     What is important to remember is that the contemporary worship or church is just that, Worship and church. The message is absolutely faithful to Jesus and the Bible, but the methodology is definitely modern.
Relevance is the word for the contemporary church as it tries to find a timely way to communicate a timeless message. The immense amount of change in our culture has necessitated a response from the Church. Computers, e-mail and the Internet were not even on the radar screen 30 years ago yet today they are such a part of modern life no one could live without them.

   the contemporary worship has been very effective in reaching the younger people and engaging them. There has also been an impressive movement in the diversity of people who attend a contemporary worship, people from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds. What connects such a diverse group of people is the vision. People find it quite enticing to experience worship in a culturally relevant way. Listening to music they hear on the radio, singing praise songs with a live band. Hearing messages that are practical and relatable to their lives are more important than different backgrounds. 

     There are still those who argue that the old hymns are tangible links to our past. This is certainly true, for these hymns have stood the test of time, and many are rich in Christian doctrine. The lyrics of Martin Luther for example, give excellent instruction in sound Christian theology, but there are also some wonderful Christian artists today glorifying the name of Jesus Christ with their gifts. People will always be asking if drums, guitars, and even keyboards belong in worship. All musical instruments in themselves are neither good or bad. So, the question is this. Does a piece of music educate and instruct believers, while bringing honor and glory to Christ Jesus? If so, what difference does it make if the accompaniment is provided by a piano or a guitar? Perhaps Ephesians 5:19 is the answer to this issue in that it promotes worshiping the Lord and encouraging others in 3 different styles of music. Speak to one another with Psalms, Hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord......Amen

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Why do you worship

     Why do you worship?  You could be a lot of other places, doing a lot of other things, so why do we go to worship? There is one thing we know that is consistent about Sunday, it comes every 7 days. I even checked the almanac, and we have not missed a Sunday yet. It is a continually occurring presence in our week. Not only can we not prevent it, we rely on it's consistency by marking it with worship. Laurence Stookey says in his book "Calendar" that Sunday worship is not simply an old habit  that the institutional church has not yet managed to shake. Rather, it is an affirmation of the continuing and dependable presence and activity of God in creation. Sunday worship and God's presence with us are all continuing and dependable. And in turn, we are all called to be dependable in our worship.
     There are many different reasons why we come to worship. In my discussions with fellow Christians we came up with many different reasons why people worship. Some of those reasons were: to renew ourselves, to take time to be with God, because we are free to do so, for the fellowship, or even because it is seen as an obligation. While all of these answers have some merit, if I truly understand worship, then these are not the reasons we are to be in worship.  There is only one reason why we worship, to praise God. We shouldn't go to church to see our friends, or to hear songs. We don't go to listen to a sermon or to take communion. We come to praise God, and all those other things help us to accomplish this goal. When we listen to a sermon, sing songs, have fellowship with others, and take communion, we are engaging in acts of praise, we praise God through our words and actions, through our relationships, and through our presence. Faithfully going to worship every Sunday is in itself an act of praise.

     Look at the word act, it is very important because worship is supposed to be active.
Also, the word liturgy, which is the order of the worship service, actually means the work of the people. The Psalms tell us to dance, sing, and to shout our praise. When we worship we are not the audience, God is the audience and we act for Him. Worship is something we do, it should be used as a verb and not a noun. There is a difference between going to church and worshiping. Worship is not a time to rest, it is not a time to kick back and put your feet up. Worship should not push us back in our seats to be comfortable, it should push us to the edge of our seats, anticipating the next great works of God in our lives. When we leave worship we should be energized, not from rest, but from being enlightened by God's word, and nourished at His table from simply being in His presence. By studying the scripture, the soul stirring singing, and the symbolism of the sacrament, we are acting out our praise to God

     Psalm 95 says, come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the lord our maker. That my friends is an act of putting a knee on the ground, an act of humbly praying, and laying ourselves at the feet of God. It may be only one time a week, but we need to say I am not in control, my life is not my own. I don't know what's best Lord, Your will be done. The mood we bring to worship helps determine what we get out of worship. If we come because we feel it is an obligation, our entire worship will feel like an obligation. So, why do we come to worship each and every Sunday? We worship because we need to do it. We need to be constantly reminded of our dependence on God, and our call to give Him thanks and praise. God is the Lord of our lives, and we need to come and say it with passion and faithfulness. That my friends is why we are here. Amen .