Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Lifestyle of Worship

We have all probably heard people promote “a lifestyle of worship” from time to time.  It is important to know what they are talking about when they say that. So, I thought I would write some brief thoughts about the phrase in order to avoid any confusion.

One pastor describes worship as “acknowledging the worth of something or someone.”  I think most Christians would agree that Christian worship is the acknowledgment of the ultimate worth of God in and through Jesus Christ. God is of ultimate, highest, undivided value.

When we gather in weekend worship services as a church, we sing songs to express the end-all-be-all value of God. The scriptures that we read and recite point to the end-all-be-all value of God. The words that are preached proclaim the end-all-be-all value of God. The Christian community gives its highest honor to God through various activities of worship.

With that said, how do we make that a lifestyle when we are only in the church building a few hours a week? Should we sing a song of praise at the DMV? Should recite scripture while we mow the lawn? Maybe. The DMV offices that I have been in could certainly use it! But these are only a couple of options.

When we recognize God’s worth above all else, God’s worth can be found in many forms of our daily lives. You might call this “derivative worth.” We can worship God by delighting in, and caring for, creation. When we do so, we recognize where Creation’s worth comes from. Creation is not of ultimate worth, but creation has value because it reflects the end-all-be-all value of its marvelous Creator.

We can also worship God by caring for the downtrodden. As Christians, we recognize that all peoples have worth regardless of what society makes of them. They are created in the image of God, right? So, we worship Christ when we care for the downtrodden because we serve the image of God in them (read Matthew 25).

As you go through the coming week, worship like you have never worshiped before. Proclaim the worth of Christ and His character in everything you do. It is my prayer that the people in your life today (insurance agents, grocery baggers, mechanics, et cetera) will take notice and join in. Glory to God in the highest!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done

This week, I read a sobering statistic about Christianity’s influence on the political views of American evangelicals. Only 12% of evangelicals (congregations like Faith Center) said their faith is the most important influence on their opinions about a specific political policy.  That means 88% of evangelicals like us are more influenced by personal experiences, the radio, television, and schooling than by Christianity.  The Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the Christian Church have little-to-no influence on political opinions.

Now, I understand the importance of avoiding political pageantry and punditry in the Christian pulpit.  Americans have a long history of abusing the authority of the church in order to accomplish certain legislative ends that have little to do with the gospel.  But, that doesn’t mean that we throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Christians should consult the Holy Spirit in prayer and the words of the scriptures over and above the voices of America’s culture wars.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus teaches His people how to pray.  This is the example Jesus gives: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  Jesus tells His disciples to invite God’s reign and God’s agenda to define all the things of this world.  There is no fudging on God’s will because it is politically expedient.  Christians are encouraged to submit every opinion to God’s will in prayer.
As you go through the coming week, let me encourage you to assess the foundations of your opinions.  Are your opinions rooted in your faith and relationship with Christ?  Or, are they rooted in the viewpoints of television, talk radio, and the internet? As you take stock, filter each view through the words of Jesus’ prayer: “Your kingdom come.  Your will be done.” 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Slow, Steady, Scripture

An old shepherd was tending his flock and noticed a tiny stream of water trickling down the side of a hill. He followed the stream to a ledge where the water dripped onto a big stone. Though the rock was barely wet, the center was nearly hallowed out. The steady drip of water, year after year, had carved a hole in the center of the rock.
The shepherd realized that the rock was changed by the small, steady exposure to water. If the same amount of water had washed over the rock all at once, the boulder would have remained unchanged. The steady drip of water over a long period of time is what brought change.
I wonder if our study of the Bible works in a similar way. We are changed by a constant, steady exposure to the scriptures over a long period of time. We are washed in the Bible in worship services. We are flooded with the scriptures at the holidays. But, we are transformed when God’s word is a steady, consistent part of our everyday lives.
In Psalm 119, the Psalm writer says, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.” The Psalmist lives a lifestyle of meditating and considering and delighting in God’s word. The scriptures are a steady, daily drip of life saving and life changing water.
As you go through the coming week, let the waters of Christian scripture become a steady part of your life. Let the Lord transform you from the inside out, through the scriptures.  Years down the road, we will look back at the effects of its living water and see miracles.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe, and God's Love

In his autobiography, the great playwright Arthur Miller describes a particularly dark time in his marriage to Marilyn Monroe.  During the filming of Miller’s screenplay The Misfits, Monroe descended into a deep depression.  Monroe became increasingly paranoid and dependent on barbiturates.  This left the couple estranged.
When things seemed to be at their worst, Miller snuck into his wife’s bedroom and watched her sleep under the aid of drugs.  Miller was a well-known atheist, but found himself wishing for miracles.  Miller writes, “I found myself straining to imagine miracles.  What if she were to wake and I were able to say, 'God loves you, darling,' and she were able to believe it! How I wished I still had my religion and she hers."

In the darkest of moments, the self described Atheist thought belief in God’s love would help.  What if she were to wake and I were able to say, 'God loves you, darling,' and she were able to believe it!  I can relate to the hope and wonder of Miller’s question.  If someone were to truly believe in God’s love for them, surely it would change things for the better.

It is hard to hate yourself when you truly believe God loves you.  It is hard to be self-destructive when you truly believe God loves you.  The reason being this: stuff that God loves has God given value and worth.   And, we are much less likely to hurt that which God Almighty has given value and worth to.

As you go through the coming week, believe that God loves you.  Ask the Lord to encourage that belief in you.  Read the scriptures as an expression of love to you.  Recite the famous verse, “For God so loved the world” over and over again.  Truly believe that God loves you and let that love influence every aspect of your life.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Attacking Allies and the Peace of Christ

The Chicago Tribune reports that a young man lost his life in a fight last week.  It all started when a car drove by a small party in a Chicago neighborhood, early Sunday morning.  A partygoer threw a brick at the car, mistaking the vehicle for a car owned by a rival gang member.  The car stopped and a fight broke out, leaving two people in the hospital and one dead.  When the police arrived and interviewed those involved, the gang members realized they were not rivals. In fact, everyone involved was a member of the same gang. In the confusion of the conflict, the gang ended up killing one of their own.

We shake our heads when we hear sad stories like this.  But, this story illustrates a common temptation in conflict: mistake allies as the problem and attack those allies instead of the problem.  It plays out in ordinary ways.  Challenging circumstances arise, we panic, and then we attack friends and family.  When the dust settles, we realize we’ve hurt those we love the most.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus promises to make His people into a people who avoid such mistakes.  Jesus promises to make us a peaceful people instead of fearful people.  By being a peaceful people, we far less like to be swept up in the confusion of challenges and hurt those we love.  Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give you what the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

This week, seek Christ so that your relationships might enjoy the peace He offers.  Spend time in prayer about your relationships.  Ask the Holy Spirit to direct difficult conversations you need to have.  Ask your spouse to pray with you about a challenging situation before you discuss it.  Seek Jesus and invite His peace into every area of your life.  As you do, enjoy the relationships he has given you.  Those relationships are ways that God can be glorified.