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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Worship and Faith...continued

Kathy and I are privileged to be able to teach at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, – she in Psychology and Counseling and I in Music and Worship. One of the great joys we have is that we get to “go to work” together every morning. This is a great time for us to share and pray together without the interruptions that come during the normal routines of the day. A few days ago we had had our time of prayer and Kathy began sharing about an aspect of faith that I had not thought about: how our lack of faith is like falsely accusing God. None of us appreciates falsely being accused of doing or not doing something. It’s unfair. Yet, when we fail to trust God we are accusing God of neglect, of not caring, of not fulfilling to be who He said He would be.

I honestly had to stop and think. When I fail to trust God to take control of difficult situations, was I really accusing Him of neglect? Was I telling God, that He just wasn’t trustworthy, so I have to help Him out? It was cause for concern. My songs of praise on Sunday didn’t seem to match the fact that I was putting God on trial accusing Him of neglect throughout the week. No, I wasn’t saying this out loud, but my actions certainly were speaking louder than my words, and I’m sure that in the ears of the loving Father, these actions were louder than my praise.

Maybe I was just thinking that my lack of faith was only affecting me; after all I believed God, knew His loving care in my life, how could I accuse Him of anything but good? God is all powerful and exists self-sufficient without my praise, but my lack of faith failed to reflect His faithful nature and character. My response now is one of confession and repentance. God is faithful. I will trust. I must trust.

This really brings me to the trip home that same day. In the back of my mind I was still going over the “accusing God from lack of faith,” when we got into the car to return home. There were lots of things going on and circumstances still did not show this blazing light that God was in control. In fact, in some ways the problems that I had been facing were still as big as before. Then, as only God can do, He reveals a truth through some everyday common occurrence. As we rounded a bend, the sun was beginning to set and several clouds blocked the sun from view. Besides a beautiful site, God seemed to speak to me out of the sunset: “The power and brightness of the sun has not dimmed; it is just as strong as it was before, the only difference is a cloud has temporarily gotten between the sun and my sight.

The parallel was too clear. God’s power is never diminished by circumstances: He is God. He is never surprised at tragedy, never caught off-guard. He is God. In the light of eternity, my circumstances are as fleeting as a cloud, for nothing can really completely block out the Glory of God. My lack of faith had been partially based on the circumstances around me, and now I understood that these really could not diminish the glorious power of the Risen Christ, nor His control over all things. I trust Him.

What a day. From sunrise to sunset His mercies are everlasting!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Worship and Discipleship

Scripture admonishes us in many ways, but the Great Commandments, -(love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves,) and the Great Commission, (to go into all the world and make disciples) summarizes them all. In fact, we must be rightly related to God and others in order to share Christ and lead them in discipleship. The essence of worship is found in the phrase, "love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength," for worship is not simply a feeling, but the obedient response to the revealed nature and character of God. Love is tied to obedience, as Jesus said, "he that loves me must keep my commandments ."

"Loving God" will encompass all we are, our heart (our feelings), our minds (how we think, what we think), our soul (our very being), and our strength (our physical being). Every aspect of being human is devoted to loving the Creator, Savior, and Almighty God who desires fellowship with us, though we have nothing to offer but our gratitude. When our wills, our all, is submitted to God, we are in a position to really be able to love others as we love ourselves. Loving myself biblically entails the realization that my worth comes totally from what God has done for me, not from anything, any talent, or goodness that I might have or could give. I come to love that which God has created for His purposes and by His design. I can then love others in the same way, for they too are His creations, made for His purposes by His design.

Loving God also includes learning to be open and transparent with God in how we think and feel. Admitting to God that we are angry or frustrated is not easy, for as Christians we think that we shouldn't feel that way. The truth is that many times we just hide how we really feel and what we really think, without ever asking ourselves the hard questions of why we feel or think that way in the first place. Allow me to give an example. Without going into too many details, sometime back someone did something that really upset me. My personal reaction to what happened was in reality greater than what the incident might have incited. At first, I was upset at the action of the individual involved, or at least that is what I told myself. When the Holy Spirit began to work in my heart ask why I reacted as I did and why I felt and thought as I did, I came to the realization that the greater reason for my being upset was not so much with the action of the other person, who was without a doubt wrong; the deeper reason was pride and jealousy in my own heart, for which I had to confess and repent. I cannot maintain an intimate relationship with the Father and such sin in my life. I am not free to love God or love others if I have unresolved or unreconciled relationships in my life.

If I am loving my neighbor as myself, I am free to share the news that God loves us not for we bring to Him, but for Who He is and that He desires a personal relationship with us. Just as the person who has been cured of a terminal disease by a new miracle drug would want to share the news to everyone, my desire is to share the news of this relationship that God has provided, a relationship that is free to me but cost God the life of His Son. The liberation of trying to be good enough to become acceptable to God, that I must somehow earn His favor, is found in this relationship with Christ. Christ in me has given me worth! Christ in me has given new life, eternal life, and not just for me, but for all those who surrender to His will and authority .  I must not keep such good news to myself, such selfishness cannot be permitted; this is part of loving others as I love myself.

Discipleship is the coming alongside others with the goal of helping them live consistent, obedient lives, and begin to help them do the same mentoring with those that they know are young in the faith. It is the realization of carrying out the Great Commandments worldwide. As Acts 1:8 declares, we must begin with those closest to us and move outward. Sometimes we forget those closest to us are not just the neighbor across the street, but those in our own household. The greatest opportunity for discipleship is with our own family. It is also the most difficult to accomplish.  Teaching and modeling what worship is and how to do it must be an essential part of what we do as we disciple those of our own family, as well as others. Our children model what their parents do, both good and bad, which applies to our practice of worship (or lack of it). (This is one reason that children need the experience of worshiping with adults, rather than be separated from them.)

Worship must walk hand in hand with discipleship, or it will be incomplete. Just as a tree will reproduce after it's own kind, discipleship that fails in teaching and modeling biblical worship will reproduce a lifestyle that is lacking in the most basic and essential elements toward an intimate relationship with Christ.