True Worship

The New Testament says a lot that makes me paranoid about my own worship habits. The Scriptures demand of me music from the heart, when I can’t even make music with my mouth. There are warnings of taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, a topic I’ve heard a great many sermons try to explain. For my worship to count, I’ve been told that I must already be saved, I must have real desire, I must be edifying. And above all this, Jesus gives the mother of all worship-commandments in John 4: worship in spirit and in truth.

This is the one I spend most of my mental energies on. I try to stay focused for the full hour and a half. No zoning out. I must analyze each lyric. “…With grief and shame weighed down…” I can already feel myself fading. Quick—have Lauren pinch me before I hit my head on the pew. When I’ve thought about worshiping in spirit and truth, I’ve always sought this sort of worship.

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But, as Leon taught, that sort of worship—being genuine and being focused—is only the beginning. It is the much-needed first step toward the event of true worship Jesus ushered in.

In John 4, Christ spoke of a worship unlike that of the Samaritans and the Jews, and until Sunday, it was hard for me to understand what that might look like. But I see now that a worship of spirit and of truth is one that is uninhibited by the law or priests—one that escapes the confines of ritual.

And this is exactly how Leon encouraged me. The goal of the faith has for the last two millennia been to let our worship move beyond a set time and singular rituals (while those are surely godly) and instead to  emanate through our entire lives. If I am to worship in spirit and truth, I must carry my worship with me, holding it in my heart and mind. It will, naturally, make my life into a peculiar sort of life. It will affect my ethics, how I drive, how I speak, how I chat at work, how I send emails, how I eat dinner. It’s an all-pervasive worship, a worship of spirit and truth.

Daniel Crouch

The Seeking Father

Imagine a young father who has carried his 2-year-old son to a football game with him for the first time. They are holding hands as they enter the stadium. The dad is both proud of his son being with him and nervous at the thought of having his young son at such a place with so many people for the first time. The nervousness soon dies down as they get to their seats and the game is under way. With their hot dog and Dr. Pepper’s they are ready to roll. After the game has been going for some time and everything was going fine, the home team scored and everyone was on their feet screaming to the top of their voices, when the dad looks down to an empty seat beside him. Where is he? Suddenly it didn’t matter about the game. All that matters is finding his son. How could I have taken my eyes off of him? He quickly started yelling his name and involved everyone around him in trying to find his son. Then, over the loud speaker the dad heard his name called. Come to the speaker box. Your son is looking for you.

 

Now change the scene and realize the father is God and you are the son that he is searching for. One of the most amazing pictures of God in the gospel accounts is of him searching for us as his children. Luke pictured God as like the shepherd with 100 sheep and one became lost so that he left the 99 and searched for the one that was lost until he found it and with great joy brought it back to the herd. He is like a woman with ten silver coins and one was lost. She lite a lamp and swept the floor until she found the coin then called her friends to rejoice with her that her coin was found. John gives us a different picture of God as the one who searches for us. In John 4 Jesus was talking to the woman at the well. When he really begins to get close to her, even pointing out that she had been married to five different men but the man she now lived with was not her husband, she asked him about worship. Where is the right place to worship? Is it in Jerusalem as you Jews say or at Mt. Gerizim as the Samaritans say? It’s not clear if this was a burning question on her mind or if it was a diversion attempt to get the focus off of her life.

 

Either way, Jesus used the question to give her and us one of the greatest statements of the Bible about worship.

“Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:21-24).

Notice the picture of God, our Father, seeking or searching for people who worship him in spirit and truth. It isn’t the picture of God as some recluse hiding from humans to see if they will seek him out and worship him. God isn’t reluctant to have people worship him.

 

Mankind, by their very nature, is worshipers. The question isn’t whether or not we will worship. The question is who or what we will worship and how will we do so? God is searching for true, genuine, or real worshipers. It is important to notice that it never said that God searched for true worship. He seeks for true worshipers. Notice there are three fundamental aspects of being a true worshiper. First, they worship the Father. The word used here for worship is active. It isn’t about a feeling that one has. It is to bow toward or to kiss toward. It is an action of devotion and worship to the Father. Second, they worship the Father in spirit. This has to do with the heart of the person worshiping. They pour their whole selves into the worship. Such worship requires a tremendous amount of effort on the part of the worshiper. Third, they worship in truth or as God directs them to worship. Since it is God that is worshiped, it makes sense that we would worship as He directs us to worship. It may feel good to us and not be at all what He wants. So, the question that must be raised is, no matter how I feel after the worship, how does God feel about it?

 

God searches for true worshipers. Will he find one in you?

 

Leon Barnes

So Crazy It Might Just Work

If God is a God of mission, then I need to have one too. 

Like Jeremy said this Sunday, God IS a God of mission, a mission of blessing to be shared through one nation to all the nations of the earth. And God, in His divine foreknowledge, has extended that very mission of blessing to ALL of His people. Shocking, isn’t it? To me it sometimes seems like a monumental error in cosmic judgment, that God would leave a crucial piece of his master plan in the head, heart, and hands of men.
But God does not make mistakes! He entrusted the salvation of mankind to his fully human son Jesus who successfully and overwhelmingly conquered sin and death. The way I understand it, as Jeremy reminded me this Sunday, it is my task to embody and reflect this new reality and the glory of what God has done through Christ to the world.
So what will I do? Well to be honest, I’ll probably keep doing a lot of the same things I already do, but I have to be more intentional, and definitely more vocal, about the new reality that Christ has ushered into my life and this world. He is making all things new, and He has infiltrated every aspect of my life, but I tend to hide that truth rather than purposefully reflect it to the people around me.
Jeremy also said that people are seeking a connection, a connection to LIFE to MEANING and to NEWNESS. My goal is to join in the mission of God by sharing my life and my meaning and my newness through Jesus to the people I am already making connections with. 
I am about to go disc golfing with a friend and student; so how can I share life, meaning, and newness with him in the ordinary rhythms of life? Maybe with a simple question about hope in this world, maybe with a statement about something God has made new in my life. I have to start somewhere.
Because God is a God of mission, I have to have one too.
Morgan Hines

Bad drivers and reconciliation

Morning traffic. Trying to get to the school to drop off one of my kids and then trying to get to the office to cram in as much work as is possible before making the return trip to pick up.
It starts with a neighbor from down the street zooming up behind me and tailgating me all the way through our 25 mph streets and then transitions to a stoplight intersection where a guy pulls out of a McDonalds right in front of me and I have to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting him.

I’m in a hurry and so are they – all those bad drivers out there. In my mind, I’m frustrated and angry with them and occasionally a sentence will slip out.

“No. Way. Did you just pull out. In front of me. Like that!”
And from the back seat comes an eight year old voice saying, “Did they do something they shouldn’t have done?”
And in that moment I realize my demeanor and my word choices are saying many things to the innocent questioner in the back seat.
I realize that I am subtly saying to him:

· “It’s me against them.”

· “Other people are a problem.”

· “Their bad choices inconvenience me.”

· “The most important thing is my convenience, my goals, etc.”

I’m not saying a person can’t have an opinion about the quality of other people’s driving skills, but I realize that, for me, my reaction to other people and situations that I find myself in, shows me the direction of my heart.

The inclinations that I have in day-to-day situations show me how quickly I can drift from being a person who sees all people through the eyes of God and toward being a person who sees people from a very different point of view.

If I want to be a person whose life is aimed at helping others be reconciled to God, I’ve got to think through traffic and bad drivers, and all other people who I can easily categorize and write off as “people don’t count when it comes to all this Jesus stuff” because the situation in which we meet puts me at odds with them.

And it’s not limited just to traffic and bad drivers.
Lord, help me realize that everything about my life can be an extension of the reconciling message of Jesus and not just the “church parts”. Help me see that it can be the opposite of that.

I give you my alone time. I give you my church time. I give you my work. I give you my shopping time. I give you my family time. I give you my neighbor-and-complete-stranger interaction times. I give you my driving time.

Let your Spirit speak a little louder to me when I’m tempted to think “this moment, this person doesn’t matter”.

Remind me that your heart is for them, just as it is for me. Lead me to act and speak accordingly.

Thank you for times when your Spirit surfaces what’s in my heart through the question of my own child and other people or events that unfold around me.

Thank you that you are still reconciling parts of us to you that we don’t realize are not yet in your control.

May we see more clearly the reconciling you are doing in us so it will motivate us to live so others can be reconciled too.
Wade Poe

Broken messengers of reconciliation

If I were to be completely vulnerable with you, I would say that lately my heart has been burdened and broken. Recently I have found myself getting caught up in what is broken in this world. I look at news clips and article headlines, and I see brokenness. I listen to my students talk of what they view as normal, and I see brokenness. It makes me feel broken, and it makes me feel sad and just plain weak.

This morning listening to Jeremy speak, my heart was again broken. However, this time my heart was broken in a beautiful way that humbled my spirit. If I were to even be more vulnerable with you, I would confess to you that lately I have majorly struggled with trusting God as well as trusting in His timing and power. I have struggled with this in my personal and professional life, as well as globally. Every fiber in my being was created to crave peace and unity, and when I don’t see it, I allow myself to slip into dangerous territory. We’re called to be messengers of reconciliation, and as I look into this world that is craving reconciliation, I ask myself, “How in the world can I fix this? How can I bring restoration and reconciliation so that the world will stop the arguing and violence? How can I possibly save these people from the harm that is being caused through division?”

And that is where I must stop. I have to stop. And that is where I was stopped this morning and was humbly broken.

We are messengers of reconciliation and not the reconciler. We are conduits of His power and not the power giver. We are connected to Him and serve as “aqueducts” and “hot spots” to the healing and new life that He provides. We are not the healer and the creator of new life. So how can I fix and save the world? I can’t. However, I’m connected to the One who can. I feel broken and weak because that is what I am! However, just as Jeremy mentioned this morning, God has been choosing the weak to share His power since the beginning. He spoke of how Israel was a nation that had ups and downs (with a whole lot of downs), yet God still used them to show His power. God reconciled Israel, just as He has reconciled me.

God is at work! Praise Him. In the midst of what I see as brokenness and weakness and chaos, God sees a world craving restoration and seeking connection to a new life. Unfortunately, us humans often have a way of asking for love in the most unlovely of ways. Yet God sees right through that and knows what the world needs, and He is using us to carry out a message of restoration and healing. When Katie mentioned how God was at work in her neighborhood before they even arrived, and how they had been waiting 15 years for someone to come study the Bible with them, my heart clenched in awe of God’s amazing power. God’s power was at work before my existence and will be at work long after I’m gone, but He is using me right here and now to be His conduit. As I start this week, I pray that my eyes are opened and my spirit is emboldened knowing that I am connected to something far, far greater than me; it’s God’s power at work in me and not my own. I pray that I continually remember God has reconciled me and created me to show ultimate healing to the broken hearted and to show freedom to those stuck in darkness.The message of reconciliation is a message that is shared through small daily interactions, and I so desperately want to remember the power of the small.

 

Samantha Covalt