Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Broken Worship

Psalm 51

This psalm is for the guilty. The author, David, is writing a journal entry after he has forsaken all he knew was right. David acted on his lust and committed adultery with another man’s wife. If that was not enough, he had the husband killed to cover up the fact that he got the woman pregnant. David’s heart had grown cold and desensitized to his wrong doing. Yet, God grabbed his attention causing him to see his destructive pathway. What you read in this psalm is the expression of a person guilty, crushed, and broken.

Brokenness comes from guilt (51:1-5).
David cried for mercy, begging God to wash away his sin. His failures haunted his heart and mind. He understood that his actions offended a holy God, he was guilty.

Most people try to avoid feeling desperate and helpless. Vulnerability is not easy when there are few people you can trust. However, it is at this point in our life when we experience brokenness or can become vulnerable that we can actually achieve the most growth. God waits for us to get to this point because it is at this time when we realize our need for him. God does his greatest work with broken people.

Guilt leads to repentance (51:6-12).
David’s knew where to go after his failure. Many times people allow failure to define their future. David confessed his sin, turned from it and begged for God’s cleansing grace.

Students often experience guilt from actions or attitudes they feel sorry about. However, the next step after guilt is what defines their maturity. People can stuff away guilt or completely ignore it, or they can allow it to lead to repentance; a complete turning away from the wrongs. God wired us this way that we might act on guilt the proper way.

2 Cor 7:10 “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Repentance turns to worship (51:13-19).
David’s receiving of forgiveness turned to praise and delight in God. Those who are broken from great sin understand the depth of God’s grace after repentance (
Luke 7:47). Following repentance a person is cleansed, forgiven and restored to fellowship. God lifts your head up to remind you that you are still one of his children. He has not forsaken you. This realization can bring tears of relief, joy, and celebration. This is what worship is all about. Praise to a merciful, loving God.

· Read Psalm 51. What words capture your attention? Why?
· What does it mean to be broken? Have you ever experienced this in your life? When do you feel most broken?
· How can guilt be a good thing?
· Explain Psalm 51:16-17 and why these are key verses.
· What is your typical reaction when you realize you are guilty?
· Who can you talk with about feelings of guilt and brokenness?
· Why is repentance the most important step following guilt?
· Read Luke 7:36-47. How does this story relate to worship?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Making Vision Stick (Andy Stanley)

The next few days I have some extra time on my hands to listen to some cool podcasts and cd messages. The reason is because my wife & daughter are away at the beach with grandparents. So, tonight I was listening to Andy Stanley speak from Thirsty 2007 conference on making vision stick. All I can say is "wow!". God has really gifted this man when he speaks on the topic of leadership and vision. Below are my notes from listening.

(from Thirsty 2007 Conference)

State it simply.
· Short, carefully-crafted sentences/phrases
· Memorable is portable
· In order to do this some stuff will be left out.

Example: My personal vision has become the title of this blog - "growing godly generations". Casting this vision in my ministry is a work in progress for me.

Cast it convincingly. (see Visioneering)
· Vision must compel people to action.
· Your ministry is an answer to some problem.
o You must define the problem. Your ministry vision is a solution to the problem.
o What would go undone if your ministry ceased to exist? How is your ministry different than others; where they are not meeting some problems?
o Your ministry vision must explain why & why now. What happens if your ministry fails to succeed? Why is urgency needed?
o Until you can answer the problem you should not cast any vision.

Repeat it regularly.
· Vision leaks. It’s like a car out of alignment where there is constant side-ways friction.

Celebrate it systematically.
· Recognize the “win” for your ministry. Pointing out specific wins will define to others what your ministry is about. It paints a clear picture and gives definition to the vision.
· Wins leverage momentum.

Embrace it personally.
· Vision is visible. “Your willingness to embody the vision will have a direct impact on your credibility as a leader.” Leaders should personally model the vision or it’s just another phrase on paper. People need to see your angst when you struggle fulfilling the vision. People need to see your inner delight when you are fulfilling the vision.

Vision Evaluation Gauges
· New projects, programs, products or people have potential to stall the vision. New is exciting but everything must be vision centered.
· Prayer must be centered on the vision not peripheral issues. Listen to the prayers of your ministry members to gauge if the vision is captured. If not, recenter the prayers.
· Complaints should reflect the vision. Listen to the complaints of your ministry members to evaluate how you need to better communicate the vision.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Missionary Movements - Healthy Church

In our Sunday morning youth Bible study we are going through the book of Acts. We are seeing the church begin, expand and engage its world. It is good to make comparisons and contrasts to today's church from the Book of Acts. Not for the sake of complaining and tearing down the church. We have enough of that! But, for the goal of becoming a more healthy, effective and functioning body of believers that God can use for His glory. I am praying for my church and ministries I'm involved with have a fresh touch by God's Spirit to this end. I know I cannot do it with my own wisdom, skills, strength and definitely not my looks. We are helpless without God's Holy Spirit to work and bring renewal in our life and church.

One author says this, “The Acts has so much to say to our half-hearted and cold blooded Christianity in the western world. It rebukes our preoccupation with buildings and ministerial pedigree, our syncretism and pluralism, our lack of expectancy and vibrant faith. As such it is a book supremely relevant for our time.”[1]

Below are some characteristics I found from Acts 13:1-3 that begin missionary movements and are reflective of healthy churches. I am going to keep these in front of me as ministry and leadership goals.

1. There was foundational discipleship. Antioch was a home base for Christianity, being the first place believers were called Christians (11:26). The church at Antioch was a refuge to persecuted Christians (11:19). It was also a place of faith instruction for new believers, like Saul/Paul (11:26). Even more, the believers at Antioch showed Christian compassion and generosity to those in need by providing famine relief to Jerusalem, hundreds of miles away (11:29), and spreading the gospel through sending missionaries (13:1-3). All of this arose from the congregation as a whole, not hired staff doing the work of ministry. Antioch was a healthy, stable foundation from which effective ministry could be established and advanced.

2. There was developed leadership. At the very least there were 5 leaders who were said to be prophets and teachers. These men were recognized with specific giftings that aided the church to fulfill its mission and vision. The leadership was shared and diverse, representative of the larger Church. Barnabas was from Cyprus, Simeon probably from African regions, Lucius from Cyrene, Manaen was upper class related to the Herods, and Saul from Tarsus. They had varied backgrounds yet God blended them together to accomplish his world-wide mission.

3. There was authentic worship. Vital to the church’s mission was corporate worship. Noted elements in this atmosphere for worship included fasting, suggesting intense focus on God for specific purposes, and prayer which was reciprocal communication as the Holy Spirit spoke to the church. Thirdly, their worship was faith responsive as they acted on the Spirit’s leading, commissioning individuals to service. Antioch gave two of their best leaders for the cause of missions, no less! In all, worship has a broad meaning in the OT & NT but it is interesting to note these three specific elements.

4. There was evangelistic fervor. Antioch was hub for sending missionaries into regions where the gospel was vacant. This church took Jesus’ command to disciple the nations seriously and at all costs (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). Their strategy is important as they started with those who they considered receptive to their message, in Jewish synagogues. However, they also engaged people and places that were hostile to the gospel. Their evangelistic zeal shows how God uses obedience and availability over talent and personality (consider the fact that Saul was once a persecutor of Christians!).

[1] Michael Green, Thirty Years That Changed The World, p.5.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pure Worship

Imagine being in heaven and watching people worship Jesus. As you are watching them you realize you cannot hear anything. You cannot hear the melody of the singing, the words to the prayers or the declarations made by anyone. You ask Jesus why the sound is muted and He tells you that the reason the sound is mute is because that is what all heaven hears when a person’s worship is improper. Jesus only hears and accepts the worship that is proper.

In Psalm 24 you will see 3 keys to properly worshiping God.

Proper worship is God-focused (24:1-2).
The Psalmist, David, recognized God’s complete sovereignty over all the earth. God’s sovereignty is his control over all of creation. David specifically mentions those who live in creation (hey, that’s you & I). The point being made is that all of life must be focused on the fact that God is of central importance to the world. In fact, you cannot view creation without thinking about its Creator.

Youth ministry (as many others) has a tendency to create a mentality of crowd faith. What I mean is rather than individual students having personal faith focused in God they limit God to group activities. Students only read the Bible when they are in group study. They do not pray or enter into any kind of discussion because they fear “public speaking”. Yet ironically, they do not do these things privately either. Personal faith has been reduced to attending events, conferences and gatherings. Rather than having a divine encounter with the living God students seek sensory appeal and crowd buzz. God is calling for so much more. He wants students to meet him and know him, even as face to face (v.6). A lifestyle of worship must be radically centered on personally knowing God.

Proper worship is pure (24:3-6).
David continues his focus on God in asking, who can approach Him? The answer is “he who has clean hands and a pure heart”. This is symbolic language to describe someone with pure character. Unfortunately, there is no one who can ascend to this requirement. It’s a hill too large to climb, everyone falls short because by nature everyone is not God-focused. In fact, everyone is a God-substituter. That means that in our hearts we replace God with things that are our own desires. At its core this is what the Bible describes as idolatry. Our hearts are idol factories, creating gods in our own image to suit our own desires.

The simple fact of the matter is purity brings life. Without purity life is tainted. Randy Alcorn, in his little but profound book “The Purity Principle” explains further:
“Those who turn from God to embrace a God-substitute suffer terrible loss. Why? Because they were made to find joy in God, not the substitute. They swap God’s present and future blessing for something they can immediately see, taste, or feel. But that something never satisfies… Christian men and women forfeit future happiness for the sake of temporary sexual stimulation. Like drug addicts, we go from fix to fix, trading the contentment from righteous living for the quick hits that always leave us empty, craving more.” (pp 12-13)

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” Jonah 2:8

Proper worship is responsive (24:7-10).
David closes his Psalm with repeated declarations. He focuses on God, naming him the King of Glory, strong and mighty. It is likely that the psalm would be put to music and tradition states it was sung at the beginning of every week in the Jewish temple.

Worship is a way for you to respond to God. It is to be celebrative, declaring the greatness and goodness of God. When a person realizes who God is they will not be able to refrain from being in complete awe and wonder. The proper response is for you to lift your attention to the Almighty King.

Isaiah 55:6 “Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.”

John 4:23-24 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is SEEKING such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Once again, imagine being in heaven watching people worship God. This time, you not only can see them worship but you can hear them worship. You hear the rhythmic melody that draws you to sing out loud, you hear prayers being spoken and though you cannot make out what they are all saying you somehow know Jesus can. You also hear shouts of individuals declaring great truths about God. So, you look over to Jesus to observe His reaction and you see tears in His eyes as He smiles with great joy knowing that your worship and that of many others is gladly received.

Taking It Home
· Is my worship being heard and accepted by God? How do you know?
· Is my faith merely a group activity or is it personal?
· Write out a typical schedule for your day. List everything from brushing teeth to going to class to setting your alarm clock just before laying your head on the pillow at night. Where does God fit in your day? Is it the best time?
· What worthless idol am I clinging to?
· Am I merely settling for the appearance of purity?
· Who can I talk to about my purity struggle?
· What is God calling me to do in response to Psalm 24?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Walking Worship

I have always enjoyed walking. As a teenager growing up and going around the neighborhood to play street football or basketball on a dirt court two miles from my house I took lots of walks. On those walks I would often think about things going on in life with family, friends, school and whatever (Note: The whatever for a teenage boy is not rocket science. It is typically about girls, what's for dinner, girls, sports or girls. Hope that clarifies everything). Later on, as I left for college at times I felt lonely being in a place where I knew no one and was pretty unfamiliar with. I can remember taking many walks around the campus praying and talking to God about life stuff (Note: The stuff for a college guy rarely changes from a teenage boy). Even now as I'm married I enjoy walking in our neighborhood with my girls, my wife and daughter. It seems walking is becoming a way of life for me.

THE BIBLE describes our life as a walk as well. As we continue our series on what is worship note how most specifically the Bible speaks of worship as a way of life. That is what this post is about.

Worship walks with genuineness (3:12).
Paul challenges the Colossians to walk in the ways of God. Those who have been raised with Christ are to set their minds on eternal things (“things above”). They are to be different than those who do not walk in the ways of God (3:5-9). They have genuine compassion & kindness for others rather than negative stereotyping individuals. As God’s people they are marked with His character showing integrity and authenticity (3:12).

Several years ago there was a story showing a lack of genuineness. In 1979, distance runner Rosie Ruiz won the New York Marathon. She set a new record at the time of 2:31:56. A year later she did the same in the Boston Marathon. However, after further inspection it turned out that her time lacked validity as she was cheated in both marathons. In NY she was seen catching a bus for a portion of the race. In Boston, she only ran the last leg of the race appearing as if she ran the entirety. Unfortunately, Ruiz lacked the character and integrity that is often missing in our society.

God calls for his people to be real. Too many people are only Christian in name; in other words they are not genuine in their beliefs or behavior. True worship goes beyond mere assent to God, an event or a style of music. Worship is all of life and reflected in a person’s lifestyle. This can often be evidenced by a person’s character.

“Therefore, I urge you brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1

Worship walks with grace (3:13).
Another way to walk in the way of God is to be like Him in the area of forgiveness. Paul commands the Colossians to forgive others as God has forgiven them. Rather than seeking revenge, holding grudges or becoming bitter we are to view relationships in view of eternity. In doing so we realize most things we get bent out of shape about do not ultimately matter. Even more, we should ask ourselves if we would want God to use the same standard of forgiveness that we use against others. God’s people are marked with grace.

“if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift… For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 5:23-24, 6:14-15

Worship walks with gratitude (3:14-17).
Above all things, God’s people are to be thankful for His faithfulness, His grace and work in your life. Whatever we do in word or deed should be marked with love and reflect our gratitude for Jesus. Jesus has done so much in giving himself – his sacrifice on the cross, his faithful presence that never abandons, his promise of eternal life – and Christians must look at life with an eternal hope.

-Read through Colossians 3:1-9. Which character qualities do you struggle with the most?
-Choose one of the godly characteristics in 3:12 and commit to implementing it this week 3 times.
-Why should God forgive you of your sin and wrongs?
-How does your forgiveness relate to God forgiving you?
-Who in your life is waiting for you to forgive them?
-Thankfulness brings peace. Write out 10 things God has given you and for which you are thankful.
-Thankfulness motivates devotion. Do you cherish time in God’s word? Time in corporate worship? Time with other believers?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Away But Not Alone

My wife has been away at a weekend ministry convention. She will have been gone four days tomorrow. This also meant that I had the pleasure of watching our daughter for a few days. Actually, on Thursday she stayed with a neighbor from our church. Then when I got home we went for a walk around the neighborhood and spent the rest of the evening crawling around the house eating leftovers from the fridge and hanging out. Friday was much of the same and then a youth ministry planning meeting for our upcoming Fall Retreat (which I’m increasingly looking forward to… hope our students are getting pumped). When we got back Alethia had bath time and then was out like a light. Saturday we slept in til about 9:22am (I like to set my alarm for random times rather than plain round times like 9:20. That’s just me). It was good to sleep in since I was up til 2:30 reading and watching a bunch of random things on the television. Anyways, later on in the afternoon I took Alethia up to her grandparents where she’s staying for the night. She was having a ball attempting to ride her tricycle before I left. When I got back to the house I cut the grass while listening to Matt Redman’s “Face Down” album on my ipod. Oh yea, all through this weekend were about 30 text messages back and forth from my wife saying how much we missed and love each other.

I write all that to say this: My wife was away but I was never alone. I appreciate the fact that we have neighbors and church friends who babysit our daughter. I love living close to family to see them and be a part of our routine life. I am thrilled to be a part of weekend ministry planning’s and praying for God to use our ministries to expand His kingdom. Even more, I am overwhelmed that God’s Spirit fills my life and never leaves me alone. God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” What an amazing promise to embrace, recognizing I will never be alone because of my faith in Christ.

The next time your spouse goes away on a trip, or your kids are out for the evening or perhaps you are away from everyone you know feeling alone in a college dorm, remember to cultivate relationships with others. Go out and meet new friends. Even more, spend some time with your Heavenly Father. He longs to be with you and for you to know Him in deeper ways than you can ever imagine. When you have Jesus you really are never alone.