Archive for December, 2015

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 280

December 30, 2015 Leave a comment
  1. “and you also must testify” (John 15:27).

The Spirit of Truth will testify about Jesus…and you also must testify! That’s the ultimate message in this paragraph about impending persecution. Those who hated Jesus will hate His followers as well. They refused the evidence concerning Him, in spite of its amazing preponderance. The Spirit will further convince us, but we must testify. Knowing the truth is only the first half of this critical journey. We must also proclaim the truth. We are to testify as to Who we know Jesus to be. We must be a voice added to those who believe. Our silence leaves Him to face the accusers alone.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 279

December 23, 2015 Leave a comment
  1. “They have seen these miracles, and yet…” (John 15:24).

Seeing isn’t always believing. Clearly, in the experience of Jesus on earth, many saw the miracles He did without believing in the claim He made–that He is, in fact, the Son of God. We often want to think that a miracle or two will stir sudden church growth. Such an event may spur an attendance spike, but much as we see with crisis moments, the response is short-term and often fails to produce real faith. Miracles don’t generate faith by themselves. Instead, it is what one sees in the miracle–namely the evidence of God–that cultivates the response of faith. As Jesus points out in these verses, those who have seen and do not believe are left barren before God and without an excuse for their sin.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

What is worship? – Part 6

December 21, 2015 Leave a comment

Ah, the Western world…land of productivity. If it can be done, it will and with ever-increasing efficiency. That’s the unspoken mantra of American life. Some of us can remember the broken promise of technology–that faster machines would leave us with more time for leisure and ease. Instead, advancing capabilities only led to higher expectations, stretching life and everyone living it to unhealthy limits.

Somewhere buried in the ashes left by our high-speed advancement lies a biblical command to rest. Remember that one? Yeah, that one of ten commands we seldom preach about and practice even less. There’s simply no time for rest according to our day-planners. We fill days off and vacations (when we take them) with as much activity as possible. We don’t rest, and it may be because we don’t know how.

Yet, rest was a significant part of worship among those who lived Bible lives. Ceasing from everything except ceasing was the regular pattern of the ancients. Now some might insist that if we lived in their world we could practice such ideals, carrying forward the assumption that if they lived in our world, they’d not look so peaceful either.

But rest achieves numerous purposes. First, we find that we need the refueling that only rest can bring. Our non-stop onslaught of each day seems destined to prove that we’re more than human. I shake my head every time I hear someone brag about how they only need four hours of sleep a night. But their super-humanness isn’t real, just misguided. Someone has wisely said that we should consider what God intends when He turns out the lights each evening.

But rest also offers the chance to reflect, to look back, to evaluate, to be thankful. Little wonder that such things are rare in our lives. Who has time for yesterday when today and tomorrow confront us? So we learn fewer lessons, enjoy fewer relationships, and race from one moment to the next with little or no gratitude for the great moments of the journey. How much wiser would we be if we took some time each week to consider what the previous week wanted to teach us?

And, of course, rest demonstrates dependence. When I rest, I remind myself that I am not my own source–that someone Else is at the controls. Many people don’t rest because they’re afraid to. They can’t stop because they’re convinced that no one will pick up their slack. Like tithing, rest means I have less time or money to use for my purposes. Giving a tenth or a day to prove that I am trusting God looks careless or lazy to those who don’t know Him.

Of the five worship priorities we’re discussing that are demonstrated in Scripture, this one may be the most challenging. How will you encourage your congregation to commit to rest. What place does solitude have in their lives? Where is gratitude and the time necessary to express it? How much more fully might we know God if we spent a day each week focused on that relationship?

Self-sufficiency is a fundamental enemy of worship. When we rely fully on ourselves and our own ability to provide for our needs, what role would worship really have for us? We must rest…and those who lead us in worship must show us more than the frenetic pace of heart-pounding worship choruses. For if we cannot learn to rest, where will peace come from?

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 278

December 18, 2015 Leave a comment
  1. “for they do not know the One who sent Me” (John 15:21).

Here is the line that reveals the source of evil. They do not know God. Like Paul’s words in Romans 1, this lack of knowing God propels people down the nearest destructive path available to them. To not know God leaves one with no center to life, no understanding of its beginnings, and no direction for its future. To not know God proves catastrophic, not just in the day of Judgment, but every day, as choices are made with only a self-made understanding of life. Do we despise them? pity them? or do we sacrifice ourselves so that they might somehow know Him? How we answer such a question will likely shape how we manage ourselves in the midst of the persecution they inflict.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 277

December 16, 2015 Leave a comment
  1. “No servant is greater than his master” (John 15:20).

For those who want to be kings, the call to servanthood is hardly attractive. That was the initial problem plaguing Jesus’ disciples. They wanted to rule, to be first, to gain everything the rest of us are prone to chasing too. The Crucifixion and its surrounding sufferings would reveal a very different destiny, both for their Master and for those who were following Him. Rejection and sacrifice marked the path before Him, and therefore, them. It’s typically not a road we’re prepared for. We want God in our lives to do God-like things for us and through us. With Him on our side, we expect to win every day, not just on some distant day. We want to be on top and most of us chose to follow God when we figured Him to be the best Helper to get us there. But then, we encounter the Cross…

What is worship? – Part 5

December 14, 2015 Leave a comment

While we can easily make the case for relationship with God as a priority idea in our thinking about worship, relationship with one another must be incorporated as well. Now, this gets interesting because we sometimes seem almost apologetic for the fellowship aspect of our local church ministries.

I can remember my student years when every church activity seemed to require a devotional component or it didn’t count as a church event. You know, pause the music and lights at the roller skating party so our youth pastor can preach to us for a few minutes. Once, we had to stand and join hands in a restaurant (30 of us) and sing the doxology as our pre-meal food blessing–that way everyone in the restaurant would know we were a church group.

Couldn’t we have just prayed at our tables or been content with skating to Christian music and holding hands with the especially cute fellow believers? Why the apology for “just fellowship?”

In both the Old and New Testament, one of God’s clear agenda items in our worship is relationship with one another. Certain sacrifices and all of the feasts were built around community engagement. Jesus pushed us together as well when He said that “where two or three” of you are together, His presence and the whole idea of Church would be in evidence.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that a God who reveals himself as three-in-one would have strong leanings toward relationship. In fact, Jesus’ priority command–love one another–was seemingly more us-focused than Him-focused. Indeed, some scholars believe that the so-called Greatest Commandments were just one command and the means of obeying it. So, Love the Lord your God by loving your neighbor as yourself.

Ours is clearly a God of community. In both testaments He sought to establish one–Israel and the Church. These so-called “families of God” would be the means and the method of His self-revelation.

So, how is relationship with one another demonstrated in our worship? Do we act on the behalf of others as an expression of obedience? Do we purposefully sing together and pray together because we are trying to grow in our relationship with one another as well as with God?  What else might we do in community that could be offered as worship?

It’s clear from the Bible that our love for one another demonstrates our love for God, so how can we think of connecting as solely relating to our guest hospitality on Sunday mornings? We should be growing in connection with one another as well. Those pot luck dinners from the past that we giggle about today may have really been achieving something. We are designed to be a family of followers and we can almost argue that without one another, we can’t fully worship God.

Biblical worship always includes a friend.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 276

December 11, 2015 Leave a comment
  1. “If you belonged to the world…” (John 15:19).

You don’t. It’s hard to imagine Jesus making a point more clearly. You will be mistreated by the world because of Who you are following. If you were following the world, you would be embraced by the world. But you’re not. Surely this is a clear warning against careless behavior. Surely this is a clear call to obedience that establishes your separateness. Surely this is a caution against a pursuit of relevance that causes the road you’re walking to fade from evidence. You ARE different! And the price of such difference will be rejection, not popularity. So if the masses are applauding you, one must wonder at the path they think you’re walking.