I remember about this time last year, I first started to get an understanding about a virus, that had made it’s way to the United States, and was incredibly contagious and had the potential of being incredibly lethal if we did not get a firm grasp on it. Today, the world looks so different. So many things have changed, and somethings haven’t. But today, I notice this growing concern I have had for months now. Maybe it had been hidden from me because of the world that has been so saturated with politics, that I simply cannot think of anything else. Maybe it’s because I work myself so hard that I cannot stop for a moment to think of anything of real substance. Maybe its because of the mounting mental health concerns that each member of my family has to deal with. Maybe it’s something more. But I’m realizing that I deeply, truly miss being in Church.Continue reading “Is There A Place for Me?”
A few month’s ago, my step father handed me a book and asked me to read it. I’m always super apprehensive about taking books from people because I never know what I’m getting myself into. For the most part, I prefer to know a little more about a book than simply someone suggesting it to me. So, I figured my step father couldn’t be too bad, plus I was curious about the kind of material he was reading. He was definitely curious about my opinion as well. I took it, partially reluctantly and partially out of curiousity. That book was The Bible Tells Me So…: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns, published by HarperOne on September 15, 2015. Enns is the Abram S Clemens Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University and host of a podcast called The Bible for Normal People. While this book has been out for a few years, it certainly has many good thoughts and considerations that people need to take into account while reading the Bible.Continue reading “The Bible Tells Me So…: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It”
Worship is an incredibly important activity in the life of a Christian. There are thousands of books, articles, and blog posts written on the subject. Yet, no matter this truth, I find that in most churches it is simply meant to be the “music time” of the service. It does not matter if your church is “traditional” or “contemporary,” this truth is ubiquitous. I think that worship leaders can help this feeling. Often times we say “join me in worship” and “now it is time for the message.” Is it not true that the entire service is worship? Why do we section it out like this?
“I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the church, the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’ This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the public services which now passes for worship among us.”
— A.W. Tozer
I think there is something in our minds where we do not recognize that preaching is just as spiritual an activity as singing praises to God is. We expect the pastor to tell us what the Bible says, never mind the fact that understanding the whole Bible takes faith in God and the action of the Holy Spirit. Any good pastor knows that it is not their own minds that create the words that they speak to us on Sunday morning, but rather, it is the Holy Spirit influencing them to interact with us. Essentially this does segment our services, but not as worship/speaking blocks but rather “us talking to God” then “God talking to us” blocks. This is where we show God the honor and praise He deserves and then He tells us what He wants from us. Sometimes preaching is rough, but that does not make it any less of a worshipful experience.
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing on another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
— Colossians 3:16, NASB
This month my worship team is focusing Colossians 3:16. I love the way Paul put this together. He asks us to let Christ be within us, have wise teaching, and sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. This is what a worship service should be. We pray that God is with us, we have teaching that is inspired by God, and we sing songs that let God know how great He is. It is all worship. Not some lecture where we happen to also worship in song. I think this is where lots of Christians (including me) have failed. We forget that if we are participating in worship, that includes being present with the sermon. It’s not enough for us to sing and say “okay, I worshipped!” Worshipping includes listening to the Word preached.
Songs this Week
I overheard a conversation between two gas station workers today, and it got me thinking; are we so busy doing church that we actually forget to be the the Church? The question seems more complicated than it actually is. You see, I think there are a ton of Christians that get hung up on going to church, tithing, helping with ministries, baking pies, serving on committees, etc., rather than focus on why the church does these things. There are also people who seem to get so invested in what the Bible has to say, they miss the entire message!
I’m reminded of a story. I don’t know if this actually happened, or if it is a modern parable, but it is still worth listening to.
Pastor Jeremiah Steepek transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning.
He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him.
He asked people for change to buy food – no one in the church gave him change.
He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit in the back.
He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.
As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such.
When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation.
“We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation.
The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with all eyes on him.
He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited,
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame.
He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”
He then dismissed service until next week.
It really is amazing the things that we forget about this life we chose. Being a Christian isn’t something that you are born into, it isn’t something passed down, it is something that we have to chose. That choice can take us to some pretty hard places. Just like all the people in that church, we forget that we are called to love one another. When asked, Jesus said the greatest commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all you mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39 NASB). Paul writes in his famous chapter about love, “If I could speak all the languges of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body to be burned, but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NLT).
So if love is not in our hearts, we miss the point. If we don’t love, we get stuck doing church rather than being the Church. It is my prayer that we show the world the love found in Christ, not the condemnation without Him. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NASB).