Why I Think Differently About Worship

2017 was a very difficult year for me and the beginning of 2018 may have been even worse. So many Sundays, I would arrive at our church’s worship beat down and jagged and angry. But in the practice of worship and in the participation with the transcendent, I would be reminded of God’s glorious riches and his love for me. I would transport past the immediacy of my pain to sweet comfort of a Savior who hurts with me and knows my sorrow and grief.

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If you are not practicing worship then you are susceptible to “what have you done for me lately thinking.” Scripture talks about God’s glorious riches and out of those glorious riches come God’s strength. But if I am not spending time in awe and not willing to worship the God of these riches then I am just left with the immediacy of God’s action and there may not be much there to think about and be in awe of.

God is not only as good as his last action, he is vastly more great, more powerful, more loving, more dynamic, more glorious, and more beautiful than we can ever imagine in our current state of humanness. But in our fickleness and emotionally driven impulsiveness we will miss all of who God is unless we take time for worship.

I pray that you are taking time to worship and sit in awe of God and that you are constantly reminded of his good and beautiful nature. That knowledge was refreshing and healing for me, it can be for you as well.

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When God Came Near

I remember when I first truly felt the comfort of God. When I really had a sense of his presence. It wasn’t during a triumphant worship service or some rousing sermon.

I was a middle schooler, laying in my bed with the lights out. I was dreading the next day like I had dreaded many of the days before this. The guys I hung around with at school, the ones that were supposed to be my friends, constantly criticized me for every imaginable thing I did. They bullied me and made my life miserable. I have always been sensitive, too sensitive, and much of this was too much for me to take. I just wanted this to end.

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In those moments in the dark, God came close and provided deep comfort and reassurance of his love for me. I knew that I was not alone and that life was going to be better because he was with me and believed in me and knew what I was going through. The sense of God’s presence during those times was so unexpected, so right on time, and so needed. When people talk about the reality of God in their life and tell their story of God’s presence, I think of these times, alone in my room.

These are the kind of God moments that strengthen my faith, that encourage me, that inspire me to do and be more; to Grow Up.

I have the knowledge that in my deepest need, God comes close and pours out his love for me.

Do you have that kind of knowledge of God?

 

photo credit: michelle brea

 

Why We Are Partners With God and Not Puppets

“God wants partners not puppets.”

Jan Johnson, one of our master teachers at the Apprentice Experience, made this statement in a talk on God’s love during Gathering 1.

There is nothing about a puppet that is independent or free from the one who controls it. Puppets can’t move, talk, or participate in a story without someone directing their every move and choice. God doesn’t want puppets, he wants partners.

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Partners have similar values and work toward a shared goal. Partners bring their own unique set of gifts and skills to the partnership to make it better. Partners operate in tandem with a mutual understanding of what is needed from each person. Partners provide feedback to one another and communicate effectively.

Scripture tells us that we are God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved. We are loved because of who we are, not in spite of it. God wouldn’t love a puppet in the same way because the relationship is only one way. Our relationship with God is interactive.

Julian of Norwich says that God “wishes to be seen, and he wishes to be sought, and he wishes to be expected, and he wishes to be trusted.”

God is calling out to you for a divine partnership. Won’t you seek him and join him and trust him for whatever that partnership leads to.

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Two Purposes

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Diet and exercise has only two purposes. 1) Improve heart and overall health. 2) Lose weight.

In the same way, reading the Bible has only two purposes. 1) Teach you about how God is with his people. 2) Guide you to a better way of living.

If you are reading scripture to win arguments, defend a political opinion, appear smarter than other people, or personal pride, then you are reading for the wrong purposes.

Next time you read the Bible, try asking yourself – What does this passage tell me about how God is with his people? What am I learning that would be a better approach to the way that I am living?

Let’s try it with the following passage:

https://goo.gl/cTS0tE

photo credit: mnplatypus

23 Things – Week 2: Solitude and Silence

Week 2: Solitude and Silence

3. Read this article on solitude and silence.

4. Embrace pockets of solitude and silence today. Here are some ideas. Choose what works for you. Every time you find a pocket of solitude and silence, ask God to be with you in a special way.

  • Leave the car radio off while you drive
  • Take a walk around your work place during lunch
  • Limit TV watching to no more than one hour
  • Start a meal with everyone silent. Then have someone read a chapter from Mark before beginning speaking.
  • Park farther away from your intended location to give yourself more time to reflect while you walk.
  • Replay before falling asleep the day’s  events  and notice where God has been present.

This is week two of 23 Things. See last week’s post for the first two things and an introduction to 23 Things. If you want to be eligible to win a free book, post a comment under each week’s session. Those who complete all 23 Things will be placed in a drawing for a free book.

What Do A College Library And God Have in Common?

Photograph of BlitzMail terminals in Baker-Ber...

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I am a librarian at a Christian college and this week starts a beginning of the semester ritual in the library. Everyone wants to know if our library has the textbook they need for their class. What has fascinated me about this seasonal phenomenon is that in many cases this will be the only time in the semester when I will see most of these students. Somehow between the beginning of the semester and the end, the library becomes an afterthought. I have determined that the reason for this is in the power of incentives.

Apparently, the incentive of finding your textbook, even if it is an older edition, without having to pay bookstore prices, is so great that students will risk the library stereotypes and anxiety that is often prevalent among college students. But, when these same students have to complete a research assignment later in the semester, the appeal as to what the library can bring them over other options is low. The other options available to the students for research are vast, convenient, and often appropriate but the options that the library can bring them are all of these things plus better suited for academia, closer to the expectations of professors, and advantageous to better grades.

What does this have to do with Christian living? Just as using the library to find textbooks becomes a desperate attempt at convenience and cost saving, seeking God when we are desperate  becomes highly attractive. Also, just as the student often forgets about the library when in other circumstances, the Christian often forgets about God when faced with ordinary living. Similarly, the student fails to realize how much better their academic existence would be if they were more familiar with the library’s resources. The Christian fails to realize how much better their existence would be if they were more familiar with God.

The role of Christian teachers and evangelist and even bloggers is to demonstrate how multiple  incentives exist through a daily relationship with God not just in times of emergency. I would even venture to say, at least from my own experiences, that the God of desperate times is great but the God of ordinary times is even greater.

Let Him Hear: Reading Revelation For Spiritual Growth #16

Here are the names for Jesus used in Revelation 19:

Lamb

Faithful

True

Word of God

King of Kings

Lord of Lords

Here are my reflections on these words:

Lamb – God’s sacrifice on our behalf. Given to death in order to remove the penalty due to us for our sin.

Faithful – He is who he says he is and has proven it over and over again.

True – All wisdom and all righteousness are found in him.

Word of God – God’s revelation to the Earth. To know the Word of God is to know God himself.

King of Kings – There is none greater. He has overcome the world and all of our allegiance belongs to him.

Lord of Lords – Our physical allegiance doesn’t just belong to him but also our heart allegiance.

Let Him Hear: Reading Revelation For Spiritual Growth #10

Teddy Bear

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A false narrative about God that James Bryan Smith mentions in his book, “The Good and Beautiful God“, is that of a “teddy bear” god. This is a god who is soft on sin and not willing to judge and certainly not likely to send anyone to hell. This false narrative is an overreaction to the “angry God” narratives that present God as mostly angry and desiring to strike humans down whenever he feels like it.

Anyone who takes the “teddy bear” God narrative obviously has not read Revelation. In chapter 11, a great battle breaks out between the Angel Michael, and his angels, and a dragon, which is Satan. Satan is eventually defeated and hurled out of heaven and into the Earth.

In Revelation, we see a God who takes unbelievable steps in ridding the Earth of sin and destroying that which is against Him. There is no soft and cuddly images in Revelation except when you look closely and realize that God is doing all of this for us. His love is so great for his people that wars break out on our behalf, God’s son take the throne of the Earth so we can reign with him, and those who want to destroy God’s people are themselves destroyed. We do nothing except remain obedient; God handles the rest. If you don’t see love in this then you are missing the meaning of the word.

Let Him Hear: Reading Revelation For Spiritual Growth #6

I have two observations from reading Revelation 8:

1. When the Lamb breaks the seal there is silence in heaven for 30 minutes. Silence is jolting; silence can take your breath away; silence leaves you helpless. I imagine the silence felt was like the silence after Jesus calmed the storm or the silence Elijah heard on Mt. Horeb after the wind, earthquake, and fire passed him by. This kind of silence is not one that takes you by surprise but one that envelopes you and one that you will never forget. Silence in heaven, who would have thought?

2. The prayers of the saints mixed with the incense of heaven filled the golden altar and went up in front of God. Whether or not this is how our prayers are always handled by God is not really the point. What is meaningful to me is how our prayers are a part of the heavenly environment. With incense you can often see it burning, you can smell it, and you can sometimes feel the smoke. I imagine the prayers of the saints being visible in some way, being felt in some way, and even being smelled in some way. Maybe I am being too mystical but this whole image of our prayers filling the area around the throne of God is somehow comforting to me and makes me want to make my prayers more heartfelt and meaningful.