[AC] save us from our enervating celebrations

On Sunday I quoted an abbreviated passage from A.W. Tozer.  After the service a woman from our congregation went out and looked for the quote online and found the fuller version.  It’s truer now than ever before. “Christ came to … Continue reading

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[AC] worship, marriage and a redefinition of terms

One of my pet peeves is the way in which we refer to “worship teams” at church (and I do this, too).  At myImage church we often use that term to refer to the musicians who lead our corporate singing (which we unhelpfully call “worship”).  This, however, is not an accurate designation and its use diminishes what it means to truly worship God.  Worship is much fuller than any “worship team” could ever pull off, no matter how good they are at what they do (and our teams are very good at what they do).

When we refer only to the musicians as the “worship team” and to singing songs as “worship,” we misuse the terms.  Worship is broader and deeper than this.  Worship is the whole of what we do on Sunday mornings, for starters, not just the singing.  We worship when we pray.  We worship when we sit in silence.  We worship when we take communion or collect the offering or respond to the reading and proclamation of God’s word.  It’s all worship.  To worship fully in this context is to be fully present and to more fully participate in the goings on each Sunday morning.

But even that’s not enough, really.  What happens Sunday mornings (or whenever the Body of Christ gathers together) is worship, but it is not the whole of it, not by a long shot – any more than a wedding is the whole of a marriage.  A wedding can be beautiful and inspiring and deeply meaningful for all involved, but the real work begins a week later, when the honeymoon is over.  Healthy, loving marriages are not limited to date night, dinner and a movie or the intimacy of the bedroom.  No.  The real beauty and power of marriage is lived out in everyday acts of servanthood, sacrifice and commitment in parenting, balancing the checkbook, buying the groceries, fixing the meals, washing the dishes, mowing the yard and taking out the trash, to name a few of the most mundane.  Real marriage is much broader than the heights of romance and passion.  It finds its fullness in the ordinary expressions of love – heart, soul, mind and strength.  In the same way, real worship finds some of its greatest meaning and power in what the people of God do the other six days of the week – the sacred service of all of our hearts, souls, minds and bodies – beyond what we do corporately (and even passionately) on Sunday mornings.

As we continue this journey through the Advent Season, our calling begins with what it means to worship God in Christ fully – beyond Sunday mornings, beyond singing songs and praying, but in all of life – including the ways in which we celebrate the Christmas story.  What does worship look like for you during this season?  How might you choose to worship Christ more fully?

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[AC] some things are worth waiting for

I don’t like to wait for anything. Do you?  I loved it when Amazon.com came up with Amazon Prime, so that my books (or whatever) could arrive in two days, sometimes even less.  On 60 Minutes earlier this week, however, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, … Continue reading

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more bricks, less straw | exodus 5.1-6.12

ImageLife is difficult sometimes, though I’m fully and embarrassingly aware that my life is not nearly as difficult as that of so many more (people I know and people from around the world).  Maybe I just like to whine when things don’t go my way.  Actually, I’m certain of it.  Either way, some things can be difficult, and when they are, I want a way out.  I want to be liberated from that which weighs me down and “oppresses” me.  But it seems the more I cry out, the more God promises deliverance, the harder some things become.  I realize I’m making this sound worse than it is, but I think we all feel this way sometimes, when we are least objective.

In Exodus 5 God promises deliverance to his people from slavery, but the situation just worsens.  Pharaoh demands the same quota of bricks but no longer provides them with the straw to do so.  They are on their own.  Nothing but God and a promise.  It’s hard to hear, let alone believe, the promises when things go from bad to worse, isn’t it?

Not to over-spiritualize things, but isn’t this picture of the Israelites enslaved, oppressed and promised freedom and a land of their own a picture of our lives as followers of Jesus awaiting full and final vindication in the New Heavens and the New Earth?  Everything from very real and present evil at work in our lives, loss, grief and abuse, to the everyday mundane realities of a dead-end job (or no job), difficulties in school, broken relationships and unpaid bills can be oppressive to one degree or another.  We cry out to God.  We know he promises to walk with us, to sustain us and even, eventually at least, to free us.  But the demand for bricks, the short supply of straw and the harshness of our “masters” makes it hard to hear the Good News.  God sends us a spokesperson to declare our coming deliverance but because of our discouragement we do not listen or cannot hear.  “In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus tells us.  “But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” (John 16.33)

The Good News for the Israelites and for us is that even though we sometimes struggle to believe it and have faith that the promise will come to pass, one day it does and will.  One day the overcoming nature of Jesus with us will become a full and final reality.  And one day, though I whine and cry out and fail to listen to God’s promises at times, I know that hints and foretastes of that coming vindication will dawn on me even now.

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when Gatsby is great again

ImageA co-worker of mine recently told me and several others that he re-reads The Great Gatsby every year – sometimes more than once!  We were stunned.  Isn’t that the book I was forced to read back in high school and found boring beyond all measure?  I told him so and that the only thing I could remember was something about a billboard with eyes on it.

When we asked him why he re-reads such a boring book every year, he told us that he did so because it is beautifully written.  Really?  Then it hit me, of course.  That was then.  This is now.  My tastes have changed since high school (Thank God).  Maybe I should give the book another shot.  After all, I re-read To Kill a Mockingbird last fall and found it richer and more beautiful than when I first read it in high school – and I even liked it back then.  Maybe I should give F. Scott Fitzgerald another shot.

I did.  Consider this paragraph, fourteen pages in:

For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened — then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.

 

Amazingly lyrical.  And that’s only one example.  My co-worker friend told me that when he read that paragraph to his engineer spouse, she said, “So, the sun went down.”  I suppose it’s not for everyone, but I’m a mere 22 pages in, now, but looking forward to reading the rest of it.  In fact, I can’t wait.

All of this makes me wonder if it really did that much good to force me to read the classics I read back then when I simply did not have the life experience or awareness of beauty to yet appreciate them.  Who knows?  Maybe it was the reading of those books that awakened something in me to begin with.  Either way, now I’m wondering what else I need to go back and read again.  After all, I seem to remember my judgment not being at its peak when I was a teenager.  How about you?

What classics were you forced to read in high school, but have gone back and read, only to find them much more engaging than you remembered?  What books do you find powerful and beautiful today?

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one loaf’s worth of faith

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Kim and I were reading in Mark 8 this morning.  Recently we’ve simply been reading and perhaps re-reading a brief passage and sharing our thoughts.  Today’s passage (Mark 8.1-21) was about the feeding of the four thousand and the disciples’ … Continue reading

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GIGO in a media-saturated culture

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I despise trite, corny little sayings meant to teach us about life.  Especially when they are true.  That’s just annoying.  When I was very young in the faith one of those corny little sayings floating around was, “Garbage in, garbage … Continue reading

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