Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pentecostals, Spirit and Truth!

Pentecostals are known for their back talk.  During church, the preacher will make a good point and someone will yell, “Amen!”  The preacher will illustrate the point and someone will respond, “Preach!”  Every once in a while, when the preacher really gets going, someone will yell, “Truth!”

When Pentecostals talk back, yelling “truth,” they are not being disrespectful.  The congregation is agreeing with the preacher, recognizing the truth of the preacher’s message.  Because the congregation talks back, the sermon is more than an exchange of information between pastor and pupil.  The sermon is a celebration of God’s truth.  That celebration of truth is a vital part of our worship.

Jesus emphasizes the importance of truth in worship.  In John 4, Jesus tells the woman at the well, “true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”  The celebration of God’s truth in worship is important to worship like God’s Spirit is important to worship.

When you pray this week, take time to declare God’s truth.  Recite the 23rd Psalm as a prayerful declaration of truth.  Make statements about God’s goodness.  When praying in group, agree with your friends in prayer: “That is right.  Amen!  Truth!”  Celebrate the truth of who God is.  As you do, you will see Jesus lifted high by your back talk.  That is the ultimate goal of every Christian – Pentecostal or not.  Truth!  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Basketball and Being the Church

A couple weeks ago, a basketball player named Kevin Ware broke his leg while playing in the NCAA tournament.  The break was severe and happened in front of a national television audience.  Onlookers were shocked by the severity of the injury.  The crowd gasped, referees looked away, and teammates cried.  It was a sad and gruesome turn of events.

One of Ware’s teammates responded differently.  Luke Hancock made his way to Ware, knelt on the floor, took Ware’s hand, told him it would be ok, and then prayed: “Lord, watch over us and let Kevin be OK during this tough time."  The media broadcast the touching turn of events.

We’ve seen the Christian church do this a thousand times.  Things go terribly wrong.  While everyone turns away from the tragedy, church folks rush toward it.  I know countless foreign missionaries, urban clinics, and church based recovery programs behaving just like Luke Hancock.  People get hurt, the church takes their hand, comforts them, and prays for them.

The Christian church has been doing this a long time.  In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus sends out His disciples to do ministry, saying,  Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.”  Jesus sends His people to the hurting, to comfort the afflicted, and assure them of God’s presence.  From the beginning, the church has been obedient to Jesus’ call.

As you go through the coming week, be on the look out for opportunities to be the church like Luke Hancock is the church.  Give generously to a ministry in need.  Stop to talk a person who is living on the streets.  Take time to visit that friend who is in the hospital.  Whether it be in your neighborhood or at center court of the NCAA tournament, fulfill the mission that Jesus has given His church.  Be the church.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Going to Church

You’ve probably heard folks promote “a lifestyle of worship.”  They say we Christians worship God through a variety of activities.  Example: caring for the poor or creating art can be acts of worship.  That is good and true.  But, it is important to note that those activities don’t replace worship in church.  Worship in church is an important part of “a lifestyle of worship.”  Worship in church has a few important qualities that shouldn’t be lost.

First, worship in church communicates that God is worthy of praise just because God is God. When we come together as a church for Sunday worship, those worship times have one purpose: communicating the end-all-be-all worth of God. There is no other goal, no other agenda. While a lifestyle of worship honors God with the way we accomplish a multitude of tasks, worship in church worships God for God’s sake.  Worship in church treats the worship of God as a good in and of itself.

Second, worship in church gives Christians the opportunity to glorify God together. Much of our world emphasizes our individualism. In our devotional lives, we use terms like “personal devotions” or “prayer closet.” Such phrases can be undergirded with the assumption that connecting with God involves withdrawal from other people. That assumption is false. We are called to worship Jesus together and apart. In church, we get the chance to worship together. Once a week we have the opportunity to say, “For this hour or two, we as a people are going to focus on Jesus and tell Him that He is of the highest, end-all-be-all value.” We can do this individually all the time, but we get to worship together in church!

Third and finally, worshiping God (1) as an end, (2) together, empowers us to live a lifestyle of worship. Christians have worshiped on the first day of the week for centuries. This practice allows us to keep “first things first.” We proclaim God’s ultimate worth on the first day of the week. This then gives us the correct perspective for the rest of the week.  So when we care for the poor on Tuesday, we are drawing on the resources of Sunday (worship). When we are gracious with the rude waiter on Friday, we are drawing on the resources of Sunday (worship). The lifestyle of Christian worship draws on, and is empowered by, the worship of Jesus’ Church.