Friday, February 29, 2008

More Transforming Worship

You are the strength that keeps me walking.
You are the hope that keeps me trusting.
You are the light to my soul.
You are my're everything.

How can I stand here with you and not be moved by you?
Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?
“Everything” sung by LifeHouse

The assembly of Christians is critical for our exposure to the strength of the God, the truth regarding our hope in God, the light of God, and our purpose in God. When our songs, our Supper, our attention to the Word, our prayers, and our sacrificial offering are designed to direct our hearts, minds, and bodies to God Almighty, how could we not be moved by him?

“Viewing assembly as a means of grace means that God is at work through this event to transform us into his image. Encountering God transforms us. His holy presence sanctifies, encourages, and empowers us” (Hicks, Melton and Valentine in A Gathered People).

The words we say and hear, the memories and visions of the future, the bread and drink that demonstrate our fellowship, the participation in worship and encouragement are not merely sections of a one hour exercise that we leave behind like we are walking away from a gym. Our participation in the assembly of the saints is supposed to transform us. It will only transform us, however, if we participate with the goal of transformation in mind. We are not led into worship, we enter into worship. Our assembly is not a gathering in which we are passive observers who might be dragged into participation if the show is particularly good. From the first reading to the last prayer we engage because we know that our engagement will change our lives and we can then change our world. That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Recent Post on Another Site about Current Events

I make the case for a cappella music in the assembly like Everett Ferguson makes it. He examines the NT passages, considers the life of the early church, and considers any theological significance to the practice.

The New Testament delivers and reflects apostolic teaching, and playing is not mentioned. For 600 years instruments were not used. Jesus alwasy led us to the heart of the matter and perhaps the theological significance of apostolic teaching reflected in the epistles is the heart involvement in singing.

I make this case. And I believe it. I believe and teach that instrumental music in the worship assembly is outside of God's will.

For many people, the case for a cappella music is strong and convincing. I am among them. Many of these people I have found have a heart for God, a great desire to please him, and their lives reflect their commitment to godliness.

For many people, the case for a cappella music is weak and unconvincing. Many of these people I have found have a heart for God, a great desire to please him, and their lives reflect their commitment to godliness.

Those who contend so vigorously against the case for a cappella music would do well to admit that those of us who believe it are not stupid, we are not all legalists, and we don't come to our conclusions without evidence.

Those who contend so vigorously for the case of a cappella music would do well to admit that simply on the basis of godly people who don't believe the argument, the case is not as cut and dried for some as it is for others. It is not like the works of the flesh that are obvious. Instrumentalists are not stupid, self-centered, nor
do they draw their conclusions without evidence.

At the end of the day, many of us are going to believe just as we believed at the beginning. Some of us are going to have been convinced to change our minds in both directions. And we are going to have to deal with the bigger question of what do we do with each other; and the answer is going to refelct what Jesus is going to do with both of us.

Father, please deal mericfully with me. I want to do right, but I'm sure I've got some stuff wrong. Father, please help me deal mercifully with other children of yours who disagree with me.

In Jesus Name,

He is Perfect!

Perfect! He is perfect!

Some girls have said those words having gone out with the young man they have become convinced is THE MAN for them. I remember saying those words as I looked at the face of my newborn son. The words were slightly changed for obvious reasons as I gazed at my daughter. She’s perfect!

In a much grander way, Jesus is perfect. He is perfect! That’s important to say because not everyone believes it. According to some surveys by George Barna who does a lot of religious surveys, “Most people have traditional views about Jesus Christ: His historicity, virgin birth, humanity and deity, resurrection from the dead, etc. Many adults, however, remain uncertain about the perfect (i.e., sinless) nature of Christ, and have little knowledge regarding the prophecies preceding his life and death” (George Barna in The Index of Leading Spiritual Indicators).

Isaiah told his listeners years before Jesus that when the savior came he would take up our infirmities, carry our sorrows, be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:4). Jesus did all that; and he could because he had no transgressions nor iniquities of his own. He was innocent – totally, completely guiltless – and he died for all of us who are totally, completely guilty. Perfect! He is perfect! That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Back to the Heart of Worship: Transforming Worship

Spiritual transformation is the change in a person from the old way of living in sin to the new person living in the ways of the Spirit. Paul wrote about the Christian metamorphosis resulting from the renewed mind, the mind dedication to offering living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). As we are transformed, we no longer conform to the ways of the world.

Can this transformation be measured? In other words, is there a way that I can examine myself so that I can be sure that the transformation that Christ wants for my life is being accomplished? Yes, there is. One way is by considering carefully if these seven elements are present and growing in my walk in the Spirit: (1) Am I worshipping God intimately and passionately? (2) Am I engaging in spiritual friendships with other believers? (3) Am I pursuing faith in the context of family? (4) Am I embracing intentional forms of spiritual growth? (5) Am I serving others? (6) Am I investing time and resources in spiritual pursuits? (7) Am I having faith-based conversations with outsiders?

Those seven biblical points of self-examination are the seven elements on which the Barna Group focuses as they examine the passions that their research indicates that people moving from the old person to the new person in Christ possess (UnChristian by David Kinnaman). I’m going to be asking myself those questions? Will you do that, too? That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

We're a Bit Busy

My heart aches this week as I watch brothers in my own family fight with each other. The worship war spilled out into the street for everyone to see. An issue that few understand was taken to the world. The world watches and they report. What they say is not, “Those people sure know their Bibles.” They sure don’t say, “They must be followers of Jesus. Just look at their love for each other.” What they say is that the Church of Christ is fighting. Not fighting poverty. Not fighting addiction. Not fighting abuse. Not fighting biblical illiteracy. Not fighting Satan. The Church of Christ is fighting itself.

That’s a lose-lose-lose deal. Both sides in the fight lose. And the world that we are trying to influence for good and for God; the world that is supposed to see the light of Christ in us loses, too. The lost see in us the same kind of fight that they see in their homes, their hangouts, their alleys, their workplaces, their parks and their playgrounds. They have fights all around them all the time. Why come to Christ to find another?

Other churches don’t always do what we believe they ought to do in the way we believe they ought to do it. Still other churches who don’t like what other churches have done don’t always respond in the way that we believe they ought to respond. While all that has happened around us is very disheartening and tragic, this is a trustworthy saying: On our watch right here and now, there are orphans and widows who need care, families who need uniting, poor who need fed and warmed, addicts who need a hand, abused children who need protection, and unbelievers who need faith and hope. And we must serve them.

In our own local church family there are probably six hundred different reactions to the polarization occurring in the body of Christ in the metro – one for every person who assembles in our church home. I hope you’ll say with me that we are heartbroken over the fight, but God has a big job for us to do giving care, direction, food and warmth, a helping hand, protection, and hope to our communities – and we’re a bit busy. Definitely too busy to fight with our brothers. That’s Life at Work!

Trustworthy Things to be Stressed

As Paul closed out his letter to Titus, he seemed so concerned that the relationship that Christians had with other Christians and with the general population be healthy. The relationships would be healthy if Christians were subject to authorities, eager to do good, kind with their words, peaceable, considerate, and humble. He said that when we live that way we are accomplishing what is excellent and profitable for everyone. That means it’s good for you and good for me. That’s good!

The motivation Christians have for treating everybody, including unbelievers in a good way, is that we used to be unbelievers. Saved people ought to do what is good for unsaved people because we used to be lost. But God saved us. Even then, that wasn’t because we did something great. He didn’t save us because of who we are. God saved us because of who his is. He is kind, loving, and merciful.

Since we have experienced the baptism of rebirth and since the Holy Spirit has been poured out on us for the sake of our renewal, justification, and sonship; let’s do all we can to open the doors for the same blessings to come to others.

Paul said this is trustworthy information, and he calls Christians to stress it among ourselves so that all of us can do those things that are excellent and profitable for everyone. That's Life at Work!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Everybody Ought to Read

What Virgil Fry wrote about grieving.

I still have both of my parents. I've never had to bury one of my children. My wife of 21 years is still right beside me.

I had two childhood friends to die. I grieved when my grandparents passed away. I've presided at the funerals of a lot of my friends and sat quietly in many more memorial services while others led me in grief. I cried uncontrollably when my best friend's wife was killed within the first year of their marriage. My best friends from an earlier hometown called us to come to them when their son, our son's best friend in that town, was killed in a car wreck. I've grieved a lot. You probably have, too.

Unless my loved ones grieve over my passing first, I've still a lot of grieving to do. Thanks, Virgil, for your transparency. Thank you for your ministry. Thank you, God, for the impact that Virgil and Caryl have had on us. Amen.