Monday, August 3, 2015

Do Worship Preferences Really Matter?

Worshiping God with fellow believers is a beautiful experience. For nearly 3,500 years, congregational worship has gathered believers all around the world with one purpose: to praise the Lord of all.

In today's 21st century, there are insurmountable ways the church worships together. For instance, the Ethiopian church that worships in mud houses is vastly different from the Southern Gospel church that worships in Alabama.

One group of believers worships through drum beating and dancing; the other through four-part harmony and organs. Culturally, they're polar opposites.

Yet they worship the same God.

So, do worship preferences really matter?

Much of today's congregational worship habits are based off cultural taste. Whether we like it or not, culture shapes the world around us, and in turn, shapes our choice of food, clothing, speech patterns, and music.

Overall there isn't anything wrong with preferring one type of music over another. We are individuals created to be unique, after all. Most preferences are based solely on materialistic value, though, and it's easy to let those material preferences invade our spiritual worship. One example of this is when a Christian has such strong stylistic preferences that he or she is unable to worship outside those preferences.

John 4:24 says that "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." Anything outside the realms of the spirit and truth are dispensable.

But what exactly does that mean, "in spirit and truth?"

The Ryrie Study Bible explains in their notes that "the English word 'worship' was originally spelled 'worthship' and means to acknowledge the worth of the object worshiped. We should acknowledge God's worth 'in spirit' (in contrast to material ways) and in 'truth' (in contrast to falsehood)."

Let's break this down a bit.

First, we cannot worship God unless we recognize that Jesus is the "way, the truth, and the life...
" (John 14:6). We must realize that we are all in dire need of a Savior, and that Jesus became that Savior when He defeated death on the cross.

Second, to fully acknowledge God in spirit, we can't be focused on the things of this earth. This doesn't mean we shouldn't use music to worship. It simply means we have to give every aspect of ourselves to Him. We have to accept that whatever is here on earth is temporary, while God is everlasting. If we allow the kind of music we use in worship to take precedence over God, then it is no longer worship. Instead, our focus turns to our preferences rather than to God.

Dr. John Duncan, a professor on the theology of worship at Truett-McConnell College, penned this definition: "Biblical worship is the believer's sincere and spirit-empowered response to the redemptive action of God in Christ Jesus."

When we acknowledge God in spirit and truth, and respond to His mercy and grace in Christ Jesus, our worship becomes deeply personal and beautifully bittersweet. This is not reserved for congregational worship once or twice a week. No, this kind of worship is something God wants of us every second of our lives.

Believers can and should worship under all styles of music. Whether it's with a full band, flashy lights, and fog machines, or with bongo drums and interpretive dancing, true worship always leads us to the cross.

What are your thoughts on the subject? 
What ways have you worshiped outside your normal preferences? 
Comment and share your stories below!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Social Saturdays

Let's take a minute and imagine it's Saturday morning. You just woke up to the sun shining on your sleepy face. How you spend the next 12-15 hours can tell a lot about you. If you're anything like me, a typical Saturday morning means pulling the sheets up to your chin, fluffing the pillows, and obsessing over a good book. Or you're the mom wondering how you'll survive 3 kids playing 5 games on 6 different fields (trust me, it gets that crazy sometimes...). How about this: do you take a jog around your favorite park? Do you work in your garden? Walk the dogs? Binge on Netflix?

Here's another question for you, though:

How often do you engage 
with people with the end goal of 
showing them 
the love of Jesus?
Saturday mornings are spent in many different ways. Whether you rush around with a To-Do List or sleep in after a hectic work week, life is hard. And it can be even harder incorporating an Acts 1:8 mentality into your daily lifestyle.

Here are 3 simple steps toward using moments in your everyday life to share the love of Jesus.

1. LOOK -
Look for ways to open up to people. In a world surrounded by technology, people are conversationally starved. The neighbor mowing his lawn probably won't mind you offering him a cold bottle of water. The couple playing fetch with their dog in the park probably won't think twice about you asking to throw a couple rounds. And believe me, that mom cheering loudly at the baseball field would love it if you asked her which player is her child. Life presents unlimited chances to ask the simple question, "How are you today?" All you have to do is start looking for them.

Engage with people. One 5-minute conversation can create opportunities of camaraderie and openness to the Gospel. How exciting is that? Be honest and sincere, though. If you ask someone how their day is going, listen to them. They may not say much or they may tell you every little detail. That's okay. Look them in the eye. Get to know them a little. Getting a chance to share Jesus may not happen on a first encounter. That's okay, too. Try to see them again within the next week or so. Start up another conversation at the next sports game, or knock on your neighbor's door for a quick visit. Instead of texting your friend about your newest book obsession, pick up the phone and call. Engage!

3. PRAY -
Of course, always start with prayer. Pray specifically that the Holy Spirit reveals ways you can engage the people around you. Sometimes it takes having the scales removed from your eyes before you realize how blind you really were to the opportunities presented to you. Also ask God for courage to speak up when the right time comes along. It's so easy to retract to a personal bubble. But remember: things happen when you step outside your comfort zone.

The beautiful thing about this is it fits into your schedule. You don't have to put hours of your Saturday into it. Whatever you're doing, you can engage with people, too!

So, what are you doing this Saturday?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Forgotten Story of Noah

Have you ever stumbled across someone else's sin, only to turn around and tell your friends about it? Honestly, it could have been a complete accident that you found out. But how did you react once you gained that new information about that someone?

This question is so important, because it's not about mere gossip. It's about building up and tearing down the body of Christ.

Amazingly, there's a story in the Old Testament that touches on this subject. So let's dive right in together and read Genesis 9:18-27:
18) Now the sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem and Ham and Japheth; and Ham was the father of Canaan. 19) These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated. 20) Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. 21) He drank the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. 22) Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23) But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so they did not see their father's nakedness. 24) When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. 25) So he said, "cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brothers." 26) He also said, "blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. 27) May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant." (NASB)
Ham Mocking God, Bernardino Luini
Understand that Noah was human. He might have been a righteous man who walked with God (Genesis 6:9), but he still sinned. And believe me, his drunkenness mentioned above is not the only time he ever sinned. It's merely the only specific recording we have from the Bible.

More importantly, though, are his sons' reactions.

Ham dishonored Noah by looking on his nakedness. In this particular passage, the Hebrew meaning of the word "saw" literally means Ham "gazed with satisfaction." So, not only did Ham see Noah uncovered, he enjoyed the humiliated state of his father and could not wait to tell others about it. 

Also, when Ham told Japheth and Shem what he saw, it brought division between his entire family. Noah specifically cursed Canaan, Ham's son, instead of Ham himself. Noah's shame of Ham would be reciprocated onto Ham because of Canaan's curse. If you continue throughout Scripture, you'll see that Ham's descendants, the Canaanites, literally became the servants of Shem's descendants, the Semites. Eventually the Canaanites became extinct. The curse Noah spoke over Canaan came true. Fortunately, that also means the curse no longer haunts our generation. It died with Ham's lineage.

Notice, too, that the blessing Noah placed on Shem and Japheth came true. Instead of pointing and laughing at their father's weakness, they honored him by covering his nakedness. Because of this, their descendants spread across the world, and are still present to this day.

Noah's Wine
In the New Testament, Christians are considered part of the Body of Christ. Today, it still rings true. We've been adopted into the family of God. And when we spread the stories of another Christian's downfall, we are only bringing division to the Body of Believers.

When we see our fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ stumble in sin, we too must cover them with the blankets of love, mercy, and honor. Because truthfully, we're all sinners (Romans 3:23). If it weren't for Jesus Christ's death on the cross and His resurrection, we would all wander still in the mire that is our wickedness. Yet, God covered us in love by sending His Son to take on our sin (John 3:16). He covered us in mercy by offering us the free gift of eternal life with Him (Romans 6:23). He covered us in honor by adopting us into His heavenly family (Romans 8:14-17).

According to Galatians 6:1-2, we must "bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ." Are you carrying the burdens of your fellow Brothers and Sisters? Are you fulfilling Christ's law? Or do you burden the Church by eagerly spreading stories of your fallen Siblings in Christ? May the latter never be.

I charge you, my dear Brothers and Sisters, to love one another, even in our weakest moments. We all have them. You are no less guilty than me, and I you. Unfortunately, it's what makes us human. I charge you to build one another up. When one of us falls (because it will happen), may we be there to lift up, encourage, and pray for the Body of Christ. Only then will we be able to work as one for the Kingdom of God!