Defining the Holy Spirit

I’m am reading through a book with a slightly overdramatic title concerning the lack of attention given to the Holy Spirit. So far I am really enjoying the book. But I came across a part dealing with how we define the Spirit and it made me stop and think (which is a mark of a good book). The author stated that we too often think of the Holy Spirit as a power and not a Person. The author posits the Spirit as Person (unfortunately with gender specific language rather than gender neutral but that isn’t a huge theological point worth debating at this time) He/She (notice I didn’t use He-She which could spark a different type of theological debate) rather than It. I realize that I should have come to this realization prior to this moment or have at least dealt with it and be thinking about it being a worship leader (we worship more than just the Father, and the Son regardless if most worship lyrics don’t mention that). I guess I just pushed my pneumatology to the background and it took this passage to intentionally look at it again.

I agree that when we view the Spirit as an It, the term lends itself to the misconception that the Spirit is a power we can wield – which is thoroughly problematic to think we have and control or power over the spirit. Viewing the Spirit as Person give a more personal approach to understanding the Spirit in the same sense we understand our personal relationship with Christ and The Father. And since we should view all three as equal but distinct I like the view of Spirit as person.

It wasn’t till I read this part of this book that I intentionally spent time thinking about this again.
What do you think? How do you see the Holy Spirit? As outside power or person? Share your thoughts below, I’m interested in your thoughts and beliefs on the matter.

The Heart of Worship

Today I have been singing Matt Redman’s Heart of worship in my head. It’s a great and powerful song that has a tendency to shift my paradigm of worship. Even though it is a simple chorus it’s a very challenging one as well. I mean I love the employment of technology in worship and the use of huge creative elements but at the same time they can become more of the focus than what they are designed to point towards. As I sang through that song today I am reminded of the story behind it. You are probably already familiar with it but just in case here is the story from Matt Redman’s website back in 2006 (I used it in a college paper which is why you probably can’t find it on his website today but nonetheless there are many versions floating around the internets and all tell the same story).

A few years back in our church, we realized some of the things we thought were helping us in our worship were actually hindering us. They were throwing us off the scent of what it means to really worship. We had always set aside lots of time in our meetings for worshipping God through music. But it began to dawn on us that we’d lost something. The fire that used to characterize our worship had somehow grown cold. In some ways, everything looked great. We had some wonderful musicians, and a good quality sound system. There were lots of new songs coming through, too. But somehow we’d started to rely on these things a little too much, and they’d become distractions. Where once people would enter in no matter what, we’d now wait to see what the band was like first, how good the sound was, or whether we were ´into´ the songs chosen. Mike, the pastor, decided on a pretty drastic course of action: we’d strip everything away for a season, just to see where our hearts were. So the very next Sunday when we turned up at church, there was no sound system to be seen, and no band to lead us. The new approach was simple – we weren’t going to lean so hard on those outward things any more. Mike would say, ´When you come through the doors of the church on Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God? What are you going to sacrifice today? If I’m honest, at first I was pretty offended by the whole thing. The worship was my job! But as God softened my heart, I started to see His wisdom all over these actions. At first the meetings were a bit awkward: there were long periods of silence, and there wasn’t too much singing going on. But we soon began to learn how to bring heart offerings to God without any external trappings we’d grown used to. Stripping everything away, we slowly started to rediscover the heart of worship.
Before long, we reintroduced the musicians and sound system, as we’d gained a new perspective that worship is all about Jesus, and He commands a response in the depths of our souls no matter what the circumstance and setting. ‘The Heart of Worship’ simply describes what occurred.”
When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come / Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart… / I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, Jesus

If we have no music or modern amenities, will our substance still exist? That is the heart of worship.

Praise You in the Storm

Psalm 77

1 I cry out to God; yes, I shout.
Oh, that God would listen to me!
2 When I was in deep trouble,
I searched for the Lord.
All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven,
but my soul was not comforted.
3 I think of God, and I moan,
overwhelmed with longing for his help.    Interlude

4 You don’t let me sleep.
I am too distressed even to pray!
5 I think of the good old days,
long since ended,
6 when my nights were filled with joyful songs.
I search my soul and ponder the difference now.
7 Has the Lord rejected me forever?
Will he never again be kind to me?
8 Is his unfailing love gone forever?
Have his promises permanently failed?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he slammed the door on his compassion?    Interlude

Ever felt that way?  Ever felt alone when you come into a place of worship?  In your daily life have you been to that dry place where it seems like God is so far away?  I’ve been there.  And at times I still find myself in the preverbal valley.  It is very easy to come into a worship service when you are on top of a mountain, when life is great, you feel as close to God as Moses was (I mean that dude saw God’s backside).  But how do we continue to worship when we basically feel nothing, we feel that God has forsaken us?  First off don’t stop praying, don’t stop praising, don’t stop communication with God and most important don’t stop relying on God – we can’t do this on our own.  Just because God feels distant doesn’t mean God is distant.

“Failing to pursue God during these dry times and relying completely on our own ability or gifts to carry us through can cause us to fall in the trap of going through the motions, void of any authenticity an passion on the inside.” -Brian Orme from Neue Magazines article with Hillsong United Spring 2010

The biggest fear for worship leaders and worshippers alike should be going through the motions.  It happens when we allow our praise to just become routine and when we rely on ourselves through the dry times and don’t rely on God.  The valleys of our life are the times when we have the greatest opportunity to grow.

“Facing struggles honestly can actually serve as the catalyst to connect to a greater hunger and thirst for God.” -Brian Orme

Let’s look at another moment in the Psalms where the Psalmist cries out from a valley.

Psalm 22

1 My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
2 Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.

3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 Our ancestors trusted in you,
and you rescued them.
5 They cried out to you and were saved.
They trusted in you and were never disgraced.

We pick up later.

22 I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.*
I will praise you among your assembled people.
23 Praise the LORD, all you who fear him!
Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob!
Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy.
He has not turned his back on them,
but has listened to their cries for help.
25 I will praise you in the great assembly.
I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you.

It’s amazing to see such passion and emotion poured out through this poetry.  In both instances we see a writer who feels alone, but yet continues to worship God by remembering what God has done for them before.  This last Psalm we looked it precedes one of the most beautiful and memorable Psalms, 23.  We must not be afraid of those valleys but like Job and the Psalmists remember the faithfulness of God and continue to Praise.  I think of songs such as Blessed Be Your Name, and You Never Let Go from Matt Redman that perfectly frame these feelings and emotions yet allow us to pray and praise through them.

What are you thoughts?  Ever been stuck in that valley?  How did you find peace, comfort, and the strength to continue to praise?

Apathetic Worship

I am not a creature of habit. I normally fight routine and ruts as much as I can. While in college I had to keep a post-it note on my apartment door that listed the things that most people never forget because they are part of their daily routine. The note read; Wallet, Keys, Phone, Glasses. Yeah I can’t count the number of days I left one of those very important items behind. Nonetheless it is very easy to get stuck in a rut. There have been times and still are when as much as I fight it I get stuck in routines. Marriages struggle when things just become a routine, work, relationships, and so much more. And that goes for Church and Worship. I just go because I am supposed to. I sing the songs and just go through the motions (which is real strange when singing “The Motions” by Matthew West – it’s just so darn literal). Full disclosure – there are Sundays, even as a worship leader, that I feel more like I am going through the motions than anything else. It has to show, there is no way I can lead with an apathetic attitude and it not show. I never want to offer vain worship but I must admit there are days when that is what I am doing.

So how can we prevent our Sunday worship experience from being just another part of our routine? How can we prevent apathetic worship? My theory stems from Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” You see the people of Israel had rejected the covenant God had made with them, they had forgotten how God had brought them out of slavery. You see our public worship is only a small part of our total commitment to Christ and if Monday-Saturday we are not remembering what God has done for us and not worshipping days other than Sunday they how do we suppose we can just offer something on Sunday’s and it really be sincere? We must walk humbly with our God everyday to be in a correct attitude when it comes to Sunday worship.

John 4:23 reminds us that “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” One must come to God in complete sincerity and with a spirit that is directed by the life and activity of the Holy Spirit. Our life must be directed by the Holy Spirit, not just our Sundays. You see these things require intentional thought that can help us prevent the worship routine.

What do you think? How can we prevent worship from becoming just part of the weekly routine and something more intentional that we approach with a humble heart? Have you ever found yourself just going through the motions on Sundays (or any other days really)?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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

I am not a Christian in the sense that it is my ethnicity, in the sense that I was born into it.  I am a Christian because I follow Christ.  Too many people shy away from the label because of the negative connotation that has been brought upon it.  I am a Christian plain and simple because I follow Christ.

Religious enacts dogma, guidelines and rules.
Spiritual engages opinion.
I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

Religious sees image and perception.
Spiritual doesn’t care.
I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

Religious can breed legalism, bureaucracy and red tape.
Spiritual plants shallow roots.
I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

Religious lets history control the present.
Spiritual lets the present control all.
I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

Religious gives us solid ground on which to stand.
Spiritual gives us freedom from which to live
I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

The truth is when I say I am a Christian I am seen as the worst of both Religious and Spiritual.  And though I will never uphold the best of any label given, I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

My Daily Bread is Getting Stale: Passion Bucket


Devotional Idea for the Day

I was reading Pslam 23 not too long ago and stopped on verse 5:

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Now I’ve read this 100’s of times before but this time it really stuck out to me. God has prepared tremendous joy for us. Our cup should be overflowing with joy, grace, compassion, love, and so much more. I can’t remember how many times I have prayed that my cup be filled and overflowing. How many times I have longed for and overflow of Joy; a full cup. But I realized that while I am asking to be filled I am only offering a small portion to allow God to fill me. I ask for a cup overflowing but offer a shot glass.

I am not lacking because God is not filling my cup, I am lacking because I am not offering enough of myself; I am not offering a bucket, a drum, a container large enough.  I am not opening myself up to the blessings that God wants to pour into my life.

God may I offer you more of me so that I may receive more of you.  May I offer you all of me so that I may receive all of you.

In my worship, in my praise, in my life, in my self – Lord let me offer you more.

What Does Service Look Like to You?

As I watched the NBC Olympic coverage I was surprised over a story reported by Tom Brokaw that had little to nothing to do with the Olympics but rather with the September 11th tragedy and a small community in Newfoundland Canada.  Gander Newfoundland saw almost a double in it’s 10,000 person population in a matter of hours.  After terror struck New York City planes were re-routed to this little community.  Roughly 7000 people showed up in planes to a community that exemplified the phrase arms wide open.  The people of Gander Canada did everything include bend over backwards for the visitors to take care of them.  Lending their houses, showers, food, and more to the guests as they waited to see when they could finish their journey or return home.

I had a quick conversation about that story with a twitter friend who stated: @terryweaver “What if that story was about your church doing that for those in need. That story would be long but EPIC!”

Aren’t we called to love those who are fatherless, homeless, less fortunate, and the widows of our communities?  What if that story reflected the way the church responded to their communities who are also in need?

So comment below and tell me what service looks like to you?  Does it look like the people of Gander?  Does it look like the numerous people helping in Haiti?  Chile? What does your service look like to those nearest to you?  Maybe it’s something as simple as picking up trash along the highway.  Maybe it’s as simple as paying for the person behind you in the drive through at a fast food establishment.

What does your service look like?

At a certain point I just felt, you know, God is not looking for alms, God is looking for action. – Bono

The Time In Between: Worshiping Through Music

“Praise the Lord with melodies on the lyre; make music for him on the ten-stringed harp.”  -Psalm 33:2

A few years back, I was touring the east coast leading worship for different churches and events.  It was after one of these events that I was asked; “What am I supposed to do during the musical breaks?”  In essence this person was asking how do I worship when I am not singing.  Can I worship during a guitar solo? Can I give praise when the piano is being featured during a musical break? I came across a quote that was found on the wall of a German Opera House.  “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.”  In scripture we also find a number of references to music outside of singing used to worship the Lord. (Psalm 21:13, 71:22, 135:3, Ephesians 5:18b-19) Worship is a state of mind, a lifestyle, and a heart condition.  A few months back we talked about Preaching being worship.  Just the same, instrumentation is worship as well.  If worship truly is giving back to God the best of what He has given to us, then those who are gifted in that area need a chance to give back.  So in answer to the question I received a few years back, when there are no words being sung, continue to worship, to raise your arms in praise, to clap your hands, and to feel the presence of God wrapped around you in melody, harmony, instrument, and silence.

Christian Music or Christians Making Music: Into the Fray

Ok Ok I admit it, I watched the red carpet coverage of the 52nd Grammy Awards yesterday.  Make all the comments you want, I know, I regret the decision now but on the bright side I have a good jump on best and worst dressed – what?  Anyway now that it’s out we can move on.

While watching the red carpet coverage I was excited to see The Fray do a quick interview.  I wasn’t as excited to see it with Ryan Seacrest but hey what do I have to argue I was watching the red carpet pre-show on E!  Here is what struck me to start a debate in my own head (those happen quite often).  Surprising to me, Seacrest asked about the bands Christian (faith based) background.  He asked if that type of lifestyle made it hard to to exist in a Rock-n-Roll world with a different moral center.   I was actually taken back a bit when the question was asked.  I didn’t expect faith to make it into the discussion at all.

I wasn’t surprised by the response from The Fray but at the same time I was.  Their response was simply: “when we set out we had no specific message, it was all about the music.”  It’s the same thing you have heard from many artists of faith – We are not a “Christian” band we are just Christians in a band.  I get it.  Heck I’ve used that to describe myself and my band in the past.  It was really coined to distance a band from the CCM world.  Than in itself is not a bad thing.  Let’s face it CCM music has a history of being poorly written, poorly produced music that lacks soul (my personal opinion views todays popular music in the same way).  When you heard the term “Christian Band” you automatically associated it with less than professional music.  So I get it, I really do – most CCM today is worship music anyway, which is it’s own sub-genre of a beast.  I also get the whole “known by our actions and not just by our words” thing too.  Positive lyrics, and being different than the industry around you is a good thing – good role models are much needed.

But on the other hand what is wrong with saying “Yes, I am a Christian and I write music from my life experience of being a Christian.”  Or saying that “My faith has made me live a life different from the world and I hope that comes through in my music.”  What if “Christian’s who make music” wanted to actually change the perception of Christian music rather than remove themselves from it.  Just thinking out loud here and trust me I totally get the argument for making music and letting people interpret it themselves.  Sometimes I just feel as if it is a copout.  It’s an easy way to keep a target off your back.  It’s a way to keep the mainstream audience interested.

If all the world knows of you is your music, lyrics, and what you say in interviews or in concert and all you do is shirk the title of Christian because of a bad association then what are you really saying?  Again don’t get me wrong I am torn on which side to fall.  I think that the Christian hipster quiet witness is cool but at times I also feel there are times to stand up and say “Yes I am a Christian and it effects every aspect of my life.”  To just say that it’s all about they music seems wrong to me.  It’s all about Christ, the sacrifice and the grace.  If that doesn’t make you want to let the world know in direct terms then I don’t know what would.

What do you think?  Which side do you fall on?  Is there a right side?

Just thinking out loud.

What You See and What You Get

Have you ever ordered something off of one of those home shopping channels only to find that the product didn’t live up to the hype? As a kid I remember saving box tops to send in for “great” and “wonderful” items that always showed up and deflated my excitement like a day old birthday balloon. Since the advent of advertising people have become accustom to the letdown that comes from the product that had so much promise before purchase.

Take a look at the Big Macs above. On the left is the advertised product while beside it is what you actually get. There are special food paints and products manufactured specifically to dress up the advertised product while very little time, care, and effort are put into the product that millions of people actually receive. My guess is that food ads are as doctored as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Think about that. The Big Mac is treated like a rock star at photo shoots with special lights, make-up, dressers, and more. Plus there are people dedicating time to “enhance” the photos (I can just imagine someone making sure the burger didn’t look too thick or thin, enhanced the sesame seeds to sparkle and draw the eyes in). But no where close to half that much effort is put into the substance of what actually matters.
I can’t help but draw a comparison to the church today. We spend so much time doctoring up what we are trying to feed people with that we forget about the actual substance behind it. Now don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy thoughtfully planned and executed production. I enjoy the lights, the slick designs, the professional music. And lets face it there is nothing we can do to doctor up the message that would outdo the actual message. Please don’t confuse the analogy above, i am not stating that the saving grace of God is in any way inferior to anything. It is just that we put so much time and effort into preparing it in ways to be “seeker sensitive” to not offend people new in our churches that we forget how powerful the Holy Spirit actually is. The problem is we think people expect slick and professional and grand. And why wouldn’t we think at that look at our culture. Look at the two Big Macs above. But didn’t the Jewish people of the Old Testament expect the same thing. They were looking for this grand King to come in and lead with grandeur, gold, glitz, and authority. But what they really got was something way better than they could have ever imagined in a lowly servant.
We can dress church up all we want to make it as appealing as possible to as many people as possible but we need to remember the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. God works in spite of humanity’s attempt to make God work. Amidst the lights and sound systems we need to remember to step aside and think about what we are really sharing not what we are doing to try and make it more appealing.