Humbled When You Least Expect It: Daniel Tosh Hits Home

I recently read through David Platt’s Radical. It has given me a new lens in which to view the world around me and what it means to be an American and a Christian. Blessed is word I don’t like to use, privileged seems more appropriate, and as Americans we are more than privileged. And we take it for granted. As I was working the other evening, in the background was a Comedy Central special in which the comedian struck a major chord. With a healthy dose of sarcasm and humor he was able to make me laugh and then poignantly describe the problem with our current American thought process. Here is a video (with no actual video just audio) of that particular joke. (warning – his comedy outside this particular clip is by no means clean and family friendly – you have been warned if you decide to search for more of his comedy)
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The American Worship Myth

I think we can easily misunderstand worship. We can easily relegate to a simple “just being thankful for the blessings” type of thing. I mean you know those dinner prayers we probably all say from time to time that are almost a flippant “thanks,” now get out the way of my grub.
Worship is a lifestyle, it’s sacrificial, it should make us uncomfortable at times as well as edify us. If we truly understood worship as an overflow of our gratefulness for the Love God has shown to us, we would never shut up.
I always go back to the story of Cain and Abel as well as Ananias and Sapphira. The story of Cain and Abel reminds me that worship is sacrificial and not just in the easy things, it’s a giving back the best of what God gave to us. Ananias and Sapphira reminds me to hold nothing back from God, especially when I have claimed my entire heart is His. (not to mention that in both aforementioned biblical narratives, a displeased God brings the thunder – imagine if we worshipped as we currently do under the old covenant).
We easily get comfortable and apathetic and forget how blessed we really are. I mean we have access to clean water whenever we want, we have roofs over out heads, we have shoes! People all over the world dedicate their lives to worshipping and following God with nothing more than a heart’s desire. They meet illegally for hours and hours and hours and don’t care if the message runs long, if the songs sang aren’t the ones they were hoping for, or if the thermostat is set incorrectly. They don’t have guitars or lutes (maybe), they don’t have screens, they don’t have giant buildings with millions of dollars, and I’m more worried about when the iPad 2 will come out.

If we truly understood what it means to worship we would never cease. Our church buildings couldn’t hold us (and would most likely look a lot different then they do currently).

And I am one of the guiltiest parties involved.

I am broken. Love interrupts.

Sometimes I am Reminded Gently… Sometimes Not

As I comfortably sit and type at my portable computer, while in the background my flat screen T.V. plays an HD movie whose budget was probably north of $25 million, millions of people are simply hoping for clean water and one meal. I came across this video and though I know the need for clean water and for food, it really hit me how real that need is. And we complain when McDonald’s serves a cold filet-o-fish.

It’s easy to get apathetic. The need is real. My prayer today is a simple one “Break my heart for what breaks Yours.” Eloquently penned in a song the lyric is a simple reminder of where our hearts should be – close to the heart of God. It’s the reason we get up and lead worship. It’s the reason we get up.

I Wonder What They Thought

I’ve been reading through Acts again (and normally when I read I take a section and read a different translation a day of that specific section – normally 4 different translations) and the first few chapters have really stuck out to me – in every translation. Shortly after the Ascension, the disciples were left without their teacher, mentor, leader, and Lord. Now we are not privy to anything other than what we have recorded there in Acts; no inner thoughts, group discussions, or personal prayers. After Jesus ascended to heaven, those who he had led were left to carry on without Him.

I started asking myself “I wonder what they were really thinking?”

At any time did they think “Now What?”

“How are we supposed to carry on?”

“I’m still not sure I completely understand?”

What about us? When we face those “now what” moments how do we respond?

Have you ever had a moment when you felt God is distant and your standing there asking “Now what?”

Have you ever followed God’s call on your life to the point where you are on the edge of a breakdown trying to understand why you are where you are?

The account of Peter we read in Acts shows a man on a mission. He seemingly wastes no time getting to the task at hand and without a missed step or moment of weakness and begins the process of changing the world. Surely he had a moment where he asked “now what?” Or did Thomas bemoan and question everything that happened post Ascension?

What about you?

Now what?

Magnify the Lord, O My Soul

During one of my scripture readings, I came across a word that caught my attention, magnify (Psalm 18:46, Psalm 34:3). If you are anything like me, that word harkens back to the bunson burners and microscopes of science class (or if you are really like me it reminds you of having water bottle fights in the back of the chemistry lab while the teacher played sim city on the computer). Magnify has always meant to make something larger. I like that, our worship should in part be focused on making Christ larger, bigger, and greater. When we magnify Christ others should be able to better see him.

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Contemplative Creativity: A Year in Review

It’s been a good year.  Basically I started blogging right at the beginning of 2010 and have been learning and trying to get better at it ever since.  Like any blogger, new or old there have been some good posts, and some not so good posts.  I look forward to the coming year and what all it may bring.  But for now here are some of my favorite posts from the past year.  I hope you enjoy/enjoyed them as well.  And please share them if you feel so led and leave your thoughts and comments.  I would love to hear them.

10 Things Every Worship Leader Wishes their Sound Person Knew, and Vice Versa

Creating Worship Space with Light

5 Reasons for a Choir in Modern Worship

5 Reasons Worship Bands Should Use Click Tracks

I Gave Your Tip to Jesus and Other Things Not to Tell Your Server

Confessions of a Worship Pastor

Lessons Learned from Conan O’Brian

Sunday Brunch: A Guide for Christians Going out to Eat

I’m not Religious, I’m not Spiritual, I’m a Christian

Environmental Projection: Take 1

Does Sunday Start Your Week or End It?

I am not looking to get into any sort of theological debate as to which day is the Sabbath or which the calendar is correct and why. This is more of a theoretical question. Does Sunday start your week or end your week? Simply this do you come into a Sunday worship experience looking to recharge your so called batteries after a week that has just drained them or do you come into a Sunday worship experience celebrating the great works God has done in your week? Many times I fall victim to the first. I come in hoping to re-charge to face another week. I use church as a way to cope through the week rather than a celebration of the week. I think we can cheat ourselves by coming into worship looking for anything other than letting all distractions go and just celebrating our Savior. What difference would it make if we all approached Sunday as an overflow of gratefulness for the week prior? What is we came to a worship service with and overflow of thankfulness rather than with an empty bucket looking for something to put in it?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

U N I T Y…

Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same [tuning] fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become “unity” conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.
~ A. W. Tozer

We are at the beginning of a new sermon series called Here I Stand: 40 Days of Foundations. This past week we talked about essentially, the split of the Protestant Church from the Catholic church. Kinda a big deal in church history. It forever shaped the future of the Church. It dealt with the specific theology that now as Protestants we hold true. But my mind quickly shifted to the whole idea of unity in the church. Grant it, this was something of a special case where disunity led to a better understanding of our relationship to God. But Jesus saw unity in those who followed him as very important.

Jesus is leaving. He knows the end of his work on earth is done. The next scene is Gethsemane, but before he goes, he prays. What is on the heart of Jesus as he’s preparing to die? He prays for us.

John 17:20-23
20″My prayer is not for them alone (the 12 disciples). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “

If this idea of unity is important enough for Jesus that it’s the last thing on his mind before Gethsemane, then it’s important enough for us to consider.
When I was younger, I didn’t understand why there were so many churches. We’re all Christians, right? We all love Jesus, right? Why can’t we just have one huge worship service every Sunday morning? That would be so cool!
Unfortunately, as I age I understand. One group responds to the excesses and mistakes of another. A second group likes their tradition; a third loves their lack of tradition.

We are on the precipice of something new for our church. We are close to building on our new property, we have a new Senior Pastor, and it is evident that God is doing and going to do great things if we will allow. As new vision or renewed vision is cast for our church, unity is something we should heavily strive toward. But we are only human and it’s hard. Leadership needs unity, ministries need unity and most importantly our Worship needs unity.

How then do we achieve that? How is it possible as a family grows larger for it to keep peace and unity? Lets look to scripture.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers [and sisters], be compassionate and humble. 1 Peter 3:8

Let us be compassionate, humble, sympathetic, encouraging and when appropriate challenging each other to keep our eye on this goal.

The Power of Music in Worship

“Bach gave us God’s word,
Beethoven gave us God’s fire, Mozart gave us God’s laughter,
God gave us music so that we may pray without words.” – anonymous (written on the wall of a German Opera house)

Music is uniquely connected us. Sociologists have told us that there has not been a people group that has ever existed without some form of music and more importantly music connected with spiritual activity. Music possesses a power that is able to connect the listener to “something else.” Music can capture a moment in time for you to relive even outside of the event that may be captured within the song itself. When you hear a certain song come on the radio you can instantly be transported back to your high school prom, or a peace rally from the 70’s, a concert you attended with friends where you first heard that song, or the moment you decided to dedicate your life to the gospel of Christ. Along that same line, music has the ability to embody a whole era or ethos, it captures the spirit of the moment.

Music also has the power to unify a group of people, their ideas and ideals, emotions and more. That is why it is such a powerful part of Christian worship. We are corporately unified in idea, spirit and emotion. It is why Wesley saw his hymns as sung theology and Augustine wrote, “I feel when the sacred words are chanted well, our souls are moved and are more religiously and with a warmer devotion kindled to piety than if they are not so sung.”

We must remember this when discussing music style for our services. Saying something against a particular style of worship music (traditional or contemporary) inherently says something about the people who connect or connected to God through said style. It’s our soul music, the music that takes us back to the moment we first accepted Christ. While some generations have Chris Tomlin’s 4 on the floor bass drum and meaty guitars that connected them to God others are taken back to the small country church singing hymns. Because people are fearfully, uniquely and wonderfully made, each of us have a particular style of music that best connects us to God. We can’t, however, relegate any other style of music as less effective or less important – modern or traditional. This is the reason for the “worship wars.” People want to be able to connect with the music that cries our from their soul – their soul music. That is why different churches sing different types of songs or even have separate worship services for particular worship styles. When you say something against a style of worship music, you are saying something against a generation that connects to God through it.

I Was Saved at a Puppet Show

No, really! You didn’t misread that, it is 100% true. I know, I know it can’t be, say it ain’t so, please tell me you are joking. Nope, sorry it’s true. I was 7 years old and with my family at Creation, a huge Christian music festival in Pennsylvania, and spending the afternoon in the children’s tent. Now also remember this was some time ago so even though they weren’t any cooler then puppet ministries were much more prevalent than what I hope is true today. But nonetheless something moved me and here I stand today.

I tell you that as a reminder that the church can try as hard as possible to be as cool and relevant and as much like MTV or whatever the kids watch these days, and it is completely and utterly powerless to truly impact and change lives. We are powerless to change hearts without the Spirit. That is why cheesy, hokey, out-dated, [place your adjective here] programs, churches, and events are still effective.

Grant-it I do believe we need to do our best to ministry to those around us (which also means this trend of just copying what other churches have found successful is not a good model for churches use – what worked for them may not be the best way for your ministry to function). I believe in ministry that speaks appropriately to the culture it is trying to reach. But I think it important that we be sympathetic to others who are striving to reach others even though we may not agree with the way in which they are going about it.

So the next time you find yourself at a church where a little old lady is playing hymns on an out of tune piano or a youth ministry playing the worlds cheesiest ice breaker games or anything you would cringe at if ever it were suggested you incorporate into your ministry remember, we are powerless to change peoples lives through our own power and actions.