Monday, August 25, 2008

Be Real...

This past Saturday marked the one year "anniversary" of my Mom's passing. To be totally honest, it was a tough day and a tough week. Rarely does a day go by when I'm not thinking about or reminded of my Mom in some way. It is a weird and sad feeling to know that your "Mom" is no longer here on planet earth...there's a hole there. Click here to read a little more on this.

A couple of weeks ago I opened our church service by saying something like this;
"Church, I have to confess that this is one of those days when I don't want to be here. I've had an emotional couple of days, remembering that it's been about 1 year since my Mom passed away and to be honest, I don't really feel like singing and praising this morning. Still, God wants my worship. Church should be a place where you can let your guard down, be yourself. Some of us are hurting today, and we can worship through that pain. Others are joyful and your worship will come from a heart of thankfulness. The point is to be real. As you worship, as you pray, as you sing, do it in a 'real' way. Church shouldn't be a place where we always have to be happy and pretend we've got it all together. This is a place to come in your brokenness and pain, and lay it all before God."

I said something along those lines...maybe not those exact words. The point? I've heard from a few who were at church that day that somehow, me sharing a little of my pain allowed others to feel free to be real with God. I'm not sure how it works, but I am convinced that the more open and honest we are with each other, the more God can use us. Read this excerpt from Psalm 42;

"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
'Where is your God?' " (Psalm 42:2-3).

David is a man after God's own heart, and a man who was "real" with God. His prayers and psalms have absolutely no pretentiousness to them; no masks, no cover, no need to pretend he's got it all together. So why do I, why do we so often fee like we have to have this "front?" Let me encourage you to not only be "real" with God, but to be "real" with each other as well. Our pain can often be a source of hope to others...and in that hope, God redeems our pain.

"Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God." (Psalm 43:5)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Order to Worship

"Come, bless God, all you servants of God! You priests of God, posted to the nightwatch in God's shrine, Lift your praising hands to the Holy Place, and bless God. In turn, may God of Zion bless you— God who made heaven and earth!" (Psalm 134 - The Message)

Have you ever thought or said something like, "worship was great today. I loved the songs, they spoke to me. I hope we sing ____ . The band was good today...etc." In other words, we come to worship God hoping and expecting that our own needs and preferences are met...and if they are, we think worship is good. This isn't an indictment on anyone, we all do it...I do it. However, this Psalm is a good reminder for all of us as to our approach to worship;

I've said it before, but it bears remembering, there is an order to worship. Put simply, we worship God first and foremost simply because of who He is. He desires our worship. Remember the demands that Moses made on Pharaoh? "Let my people go so they can worship me." Our motive should not be self-seeking, but instead should be God-pleasing. And we know from John 4 that the kind of worship God is seeking is those who worship in spirit and truth. True, most often when we worship God He does choose to bless us, and loves to do that...however, this cannot be our primary motivation for worhsipping God.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

K.I.S.S.

Perhaps you've heard of the K.I.S.S. principle? If not, allow me...it stands for "Keep it Simple, Stupid."

I was recently reminded of this principle while attending a Leadership Summit. You see, I have a propensity to complicate things. It is a blessing and a curse. I am good at strategizing, and seeing details, and processing information...but sometimes this gift works against me as I over-complicate life and easily become overwhelmed...especially my spiritual life.

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

This is the simple command I was reminded of yesterday; it's simple, really. Stay connected to the vine, to Jesus, and you WILL bear fruit...you won't be able to help it. It's not really possible to be connected to Jesus and not bear fruit. On the other hand, when you're not connected to Jesus, nothing you do will matter...nothing you do will have any significance...in short, you will not bear fruit.

The point? If you're like me and you tend to over-complicate things, perhaps it's time to be reminded that spiritual growth is not as hard as we make it...it's simple enough that a child can "get it." Stay connected and bear fruit. The bearing fruit is a by-product of staying connected. It's that simple. Stay connected, bear fruit; disconnect, bear no fruit.

How do I stay connected? Ah, I will resist the urge to fall into the trap of prescribing some form of Christianity that replaces the relationship with a list of things to do; instead, follow your call to stay connected...you know what to do...

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