Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

"Scripture...sets before us Christ alone ...

I’m not even sure this is the correct question.  The latest church gurus say that believers want to be a part of the worship gathering; they want to experience it and be active.  Now, from what I’ve seen and heard this is true (my survey) and I want to help the believers connect with God.  I know that we don’t like to sit for a long time and we don’t like to be talked at for a long time and we want to do something that includes using our brains and skills in our community worship times.

So I’m struggling with how to create experiences of worship for the believers.  Let’s review worship.

Worship is Expressing to God How We Feel about Him

We must keep in mind during this conversation that we are simply discovering the way we can best ell God how we feel about Him.  How can we best declare of express His worth?

 

 Psalm 51:15-17 –

15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;  you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;  a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

 Worship is about Ascribing Worth to God

We sing, proclaim and declare how awesome God is. This requires that we learn of God’s attributes and how He has worked through history and His plan of redemption.  When people encounter God it seems that the natural reaction is to worship Him.

 

1 Chronicles 16:23-27

23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day 24 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples  25 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise he is to be feared above all gods. 26 For all the gods of the nations are idols  but the LORD made the heavens 27 Splendor and majesty are before him;  strength and joy in his dwelling place.

Don’t get distracted by the argument/statement that “worship is about God not you.”  We can appreciate this, but WE are the ones worshiping and we’d like to do it the best we can.  Sometimes the sitting and watching doesn’t quite reach the level or worship we’d like.

How do we bring believers together and create an environment where they can express to God how they feel about Him? (I’m not addressing how we worship God all the time and not just at church).  The Scriptures give us plenty of examples of worship and from the Scriptures we can say that prayer, Scripture reading and hearing, confession of sin, sharing the Gospel, and proclaiming God’s awesomeness are all elements of worship.

Our challenge is to incorporate these elements into a worship gathering where each person can take part rather than watching the worship leaders do them.  I’m working on this right now.

 

 Hulk-Smash-31269096_51470_ver1.0_640_480

Step One: Focus your Fancy

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your  life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. – Colossians 3:1-4

Paul tells us to set our hearts and our minds on things above.

He means for us to focus our eyes, mind and our whole self on Heavenly, Spiritual and Godly things.

Focus your thoughts on the things of God not the things of the earth. He tells us this because our thoughts lead to our feelings and our behavior.  If I focus on worldly activities and desires I will behave in a worldly and sinful way.

So, how to I set my mind on heavenly/godly things?

I read the Bible, I memorize Scripture, I meditate on the Word, I pray, I obey God.

The natural result of your thinking is that your behavior changes to match.

Step Two: Finish the Flesh

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5 

Put to death means to mortify or to kill.  The famous phrase in the video game “Mortal Combat” is “Finish Him.”  When it comes to you flesh, you can’t control it, you can’t reform it, you have to “Finish” it.  You must put to death whatever belongs to that earthly nature.

He gives a list of this earthly nature.  The list is all sexually related and deals with everything of sexual immorality, plus the immoral thoughts, ideas and fantasies that come with it.  Paul continues adding to this the evil desires to sin and the deep dark evil sexualized passions that well up inside us.  He includes greed in the list because this form of sexual related sins always demands more and more until the sexual perversion becomes an idol, it is worshiped.

We live in a culture that has made an idol of sex.  It is pushed in every aspect of our life.  Constantly.  We are just as depraved and perverted as the first century Greeks and Romans mentioned by Paul.

These are all part of our sinful nature, they are sins of the flesh and we are not told to get our flesh under control or to reform our flesh, we are told to kill it, to mortify it, to finish it…

How do I do that?  By Focusing my Fancy on things about and not on earthly things.  I’m not looking at porn, or at ladies body parts, or at sexually suggestive television, or listening to provocative sexual songs, or reading sexual stuff…I’m mortifying the flesh…I’m killing those sinful sexual desires. (I highly recommend getting married and having a healthy sex life, though)

6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 

Step Three: Fire Your Fury

8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Colossians 3:8-10

The fleshly sexual sins are part of our worldly and earthly nature and must be put to death.  But this next list are part of our emotions dealing with anger and are not so easily “finished off.”  We are told to get rid of these items, like getting rid of a horrible employee.  You are fired.

We are so angry.  We see this anger in the way we snap at people, the cussing, the passive aggressive facebook updates, the eye rolling, the arguments where we drag in events to happened a while back, the mean behaviors we do toward others, the lies, the slander.  We are angry people.

Bruce Banner (in the Avengers) revealed his secret as the Hulk.  He is always angry.  Most of us are the Hulk in waiting.  We are always angry and it doesn’t take much for us to turn green and smash everything.

Our anger is caused by hurt.  People hurt us and we get angry.  When we do not deal with the anger it turns to resentment which is that built-in never leaving anger.  We are hurt people and we hurt other people in our hurt.

Paul gives us the way to put off that anger in verse 12 to 14.  We must forgive.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

You can’t get even enough to take away the anger and pain of the hurt.  There is not enough vengeance, there is not enough telling off, there is not enough withholding love that will heal our hurt.  The ONLY healing is to forgive.

Fire Your Fury by Forgiving your Foe

Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Here is the key, Jesus forgave you for all the sin and hurt you causes him with your rebellion and your selfishness, your worldly thoughts and earthly behavior, your violation of his Law and His nature.  He forgave you for sin thousands of times greater than the hurt caused you by others.  If Jesus can die on the cross to forgive your sin, if he can forgive you, you can forgive others. You can forgive to the extent you understand this forgiveness.  That’s the secret…forgive.

Focus your mind on the things of God, kill the fleshly desires for sexual immorality, put aside the anger through forgiveness.  Get on it.

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

  1. He is the representation and manifestation of the invisible God. Col 1:15
  2. He ranks higher than all of creation.  Col 1:15
  3. God’s fullness lives permanently in Him. Col 1:19
  4. Jesus created everything. Col 1:16
  5. He is the head of the church. Col 1:18
  6. He holds everything together.  Col 1:17
  7. He has reconciled believers to God through His death on the cross. Col 1:22

I read a blog this week where the writer said we shouldn’t try to be the church down the street, or the awesome church in the news, but to be the church that does what we do well.  We should find out what we do well and do it.

We asked this morning what we (sojourn) do well.  Using our poor grammar, we asked, What are we good at?  Here are our answers.

We are good at;

Growing beards

Potluck Dinners

Hanging out

Eating Ice Cream

We also discovered that we are really good at meeting people, loving people, making people feel welcomed and accepted, and sharing the Gospel.  We are good at reading our Bible, praying, and obeying Jesus.  We are good at worshipping.

So, the goal isn’t to try to do something that we are NOT good at, but to “play to our strengths.”

Sojourn is good at reaching people with the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Let’s keep it up.

 

As we’ve discussed in our sermon series on Identity, people struggle almost constantly with these feelings of fitting-in and acceptance. They are unsure and insecure.  When the come to sojourn they are taking a huge risk.  They have plenty of reasons to NOT go to church and that fear wells up inside of them.  We must help them to visit us.  We can help them by making them feel totally accepted and welcomed.  This is not easy when their natural disposition is the opposite.  Here are some steps.

The Arrival

A person’s first encounter should be with a smiling and welcoming believer.  This means that there must be someone at each door looking out for them (much like the father of the prodigal son).  We’ve done a good job at making sojourn warm and welcoming but people need that friendly face to greet them and reassure them that it is ok to be there.  If their biggest reason for not coming to church is that they are afraid, this is the greatest ministry we can do.

1.  Look for people.

2.  Smile and greet warmly.

3.  Stay with them.

Be Hospitable

Let’s treat them like they are in our home.  We wouldn’t just expect them to walk around and find everything themselves and help themselves to everything.  We must stay with them.

1.  Give them a tour of the spaces.

2.  Offer a snack and drink.  Take them to the snack spot.

3.  Take them to a seat

4.  Introduce them to a few people.

Be attentive

They have come to check us out.  But they are also looking for a connection. We do a lot at sojourn about connecting.  Let’s include the new person.

1.  Include the new people in your conversations.

2.  During the welcome activities, seek out the new person and engage them in the activity.

3.  During anything interactive, attend to the new person.  Help them out.

4.  When they leave make sure you say good by and invite them back.

 

I was hiking down a road in Iowa (County Road L31) south of Council Bluffs when I spotted an old grave yard.  The ancient tombstones caught my attention so I went in to investigate.  There was a marker for Samuel Allis, the first Presbyterian missionary to this area.  (Moses Merrill was the first Baptist in 1833, Allis arrive in 1834).  Allis ministered to the Pawnee people who liked him and let him live with and among them.  There were no conversions to Christianity during his time with them, though by the 1920’s about 25% of the tribe were members of a Protestant Church.  Allis wrote in May of 1837;

“There are so many difficulties and hindrances at present, among [the] Indians, the prospect of introducing Christianity among them at present is rather discouraging … it is a mistaken idea that many Christians have at the present time, thinking that nations of Indians are to be born to God in a day … I believe that many years will pass first.”

Allis had some great missional ideas; he lived among the people, he travelled with them during their semi-annual hunts, he learned their language, he even suggested to his mission board that it would be a good idea to marry into the tribe (for stability and credibility). The Mission Board became upset that the missionaries spent so much time travelling with the Pawnee and not establishing a permanent mission station.  The board and the rest of this first missionary movement had a fatal flaw; they believed they had to get the Native Americans to give up their traditional lifestyle and begin to live and act like New England farmers before they could become Christians.

Now, the lessons from the past.

1.  Our mission is NOT to convert them to our culture but to Jesus Christ. 

These early missionaries spent a lot of time trying to convince the Pawnee to stop their semi annual hunts and take up farming full time. Their goal was simply to fit the Pawnee into the missionaries idea of a church community; a building with people living around it.

We’ve been trapped in this mindset for some time.  We get a nice building, a nice sound system, a great worship service and then expect the people to come to us.  When they come we bad-mouth everything they like; rock music, tattoos, long hair, video games, MTV, etc…

When they meet Jesus, He’ll clean up their culture.  Getting people to act like us in not the goal, following Jesus is the goal.

2.  Living missionally among them is the right way.

We need to follow their example of living in the community, learning their language, participating in their world, and having some legitimacy there (no need to marry for that any longer).  We can’t go to a church activity every night and then expect to have time to connect with the natives.  Meet some people.  If a non-believer invites you into his world, go.  Redeem what you can, don’t do what you shouldn’t.

3.  It takes time, obedience to God is the plan. 

We are living in a post-Christian America.  They do not know our stories, nor do they naturally respect the institution of the church.  So we can’t expect that they understand us.  The Spirit of God has to move people a long way from their pagan, self-worshipping ways to an understanding of the grace of God through Jesus Christ.  This will take time.  Let’s let the Spirit work. We must love people, remain consistent in our obedience to Christ and continue to serve and minister to others.  Don’t get in a hurry and “force” the conversion.  Don’t give up, either.

Philippians 2:7 “he made himself nothing….

Russian Orthodox icon of the Transfiguration (...

The Transfiguration Image via Wikipedia

The Greek word here is “ekenosin” which is the third-person singular aorist active indicative form of the verb “kenos” (BOOM: parsing). The word means “empties” and in the entire phrase we find “self-empties.” Jesus emptied himself. There is a lot of talk as to what this truly means and it has a name; the Kenosis Theory. Of what did he empty? How empty is that? What did He keep?

In the context we find the emptying has to do with his equality with God (His Deity) and the humbling has to do with his becoming a servant and a man (Incarnation). So of what did He empty himself? The context tells us the “very nature” of God which means the characteristics and attribute of God. We can safely say he didn’t keep his omnipresence while in the flesh. We can also say that He somehow subdued his Glory, also. (He did reveal it in the flesh during the Transfiguration). But we struggle with his other incommunicable attributes like omnipotence and omniscience. We can see in His life that he kept the communicable attributes of Love and Mercy and Justice but did He keep the full extent of those attributes? A. H. Hodge explained When Christ became incarnate, He was one person with two natures, divine and human, “each in its completeness and integrity, and that these two natures are organically and indissolubly united, yet so that no third nature is formed thereby. In brief, to use the antiquated dictum, orthodox doctrine forbids us either to divide the person or to confound the natures.”

We don’t want to fall into the mistake that he quit being divine for a time, this would be wrong. He is always 100% God and 100% man, it’s just difficult to grasp in our finite minds.

BART: Safe area

Connecting with people and telling them the good news of Jesus Christ is difficult.  The problem we face is that the world, the flesh, and the Devil have successfully put people on alert to “religion” and they are on guard against “pushy” religious folks.  However, we know that people are interested in spiritual conversations and that they seek to be right with God. How do we get past their shields in order to communicate the good news?  How do we share the Gospel without sounding crazy, religious, pushy, or like a salesman?  How do we effectively reach people with the Gospel?

The following is a quick summary.  I’ll blog more details in the near future.

1.  Create the Environment. In order for people to hear the Gospel they need to feel welcomed and comfortable.  We don’t want to seem like we are “selling” them or being pushy.  We want to convey that they are real and important people to us and that they are safe and free to be who they are.  This is created both in the safe area in which you speak (like a fast food restaurant) and in your body language. If you truly love people like Jesus loves people your body language will show it.  Regardless of the energy you spend hiding it, a judgmental or hypocritical attitude shows in body language.

2. Create the Opportunity.  We must figure how to connect with people without being a “creeper.”  Having some attention getting device helps.  Your clever and “not lame” t-shirt, a copy of a current best seller, a really cool car, or a sign “ask me about _____”. Also, a few interesting conversation starters would work fine. Complimenting something about them is always a great way to start a conversation as well as a comment about something you are both experiencing.

3. Get Approachable.   You need to be and look friendly, but not crazy and eerie.  Ask your friends how you look sitting there in McDonald’s.  A friendly face is very approachable.  A smile is invaluable, but insanity and psychotic is not.  Find a good balance.  Be prepared to talk about topics that are relevant to non-believers.  Make sure you are living in the same reality as they are living.  Be real.

4.  Eliminate conversation killers.   People carry with them a stereotype of what they expect Christians to be like.  Let’s not act the negative way they expect.  Do not verbally condemn anyone.  Keep all your negative opinions to yourself.  Don’t tell the a bunch of rules about following Jesus, don’t tell them what they “ought” to do, don’t lecture, don’t drop cliches, don’t correct their opinion, don’t speak poorly about anyone.  These behaviors do not help you share the truth of Jesus Christ nor do they help you get closer to the person.  Also, plan to listen a lot more than you speak and keep your comments to under 40 seconds at a time.

5. Connect their story with Jesus’ story.   This is a challenge.  You’ll need to listen to the people speak while constantly praying and an thinking of where this person’s life intersects with Jesus.  If you are having a healthy back and forth conversation you’ll be able to quote someone or tell a story about Jesus during the conversation.  Your comments must fit the context.  God is always at work and if He has worked out this encounter He’ll move the person in the conversation to a connecting spot.  You have to be ready.  Then you simply make the connection in your conversation.

If the person is listening and feeling the pull of the Holy Spirit he’ll connect with your “Jesus comment” at which point they will ask a question or two about Jesus or church or salvation.  Now, you can share your story or answer their question with a simple Gospel presentation.