Contemporary

Very recently I have ran across more and more arguments and people voicing their opinions over how worship should sound, what genre it should be, how loud it needs to be, how it should look, etc.  It is inevitable that people will have preferences in regards to worship music, but I believe there is an issue that lies deeper than this.  This was brought up to me as I read some stories in the editorial of our local newspaper, and they were clearly attempting to discredit the validity of “contemporary worship” and appealing to what we will call “traditional worship.”

I cannot stress enough that I am not attempting to banter or send some retort to these letters, but I want to share my own thoughts and convictions on this topic.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! -Psalm 98:4 (ESV)

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!  Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into his presence with singing! -Psalm 100:1-2 (ESV)

First, we are called to make a joyful noise to The Lord.  Now, what is a joyful noise to one generation is not the same for for another generation.  Music has changed drastically from one to the next, and no one style or genre is better than the other apart from one’s opinion.  My joyful noise may not sound like yours, and yours may not sound like mine.  But that doesn’t mean one of them is wrong, or that I have the right to judge you or you to judge me.  All it means is they are different.  God created us that way.  So, let’s not judge one another’s means of praise and worship, much less discredit it.
..For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but The Lord looks on the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV)
Just as The Lord looks on the heart and not the outward appearance, I’m sure God is not concerned with what music is playing during worship, but the condition of the hearts of those worshipping.  The Lord inhabits the praise of his people (Ps 22:3), and there is no disqualification clause in there contingent on the volume, style, genre, or repetition of the music.
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. -John 4:23 (ESV)
God is looking for us to worship Him in spirit and truth, so let’s focus on doing that in our own lives instead of critiquing others on what that looks like in their lives.  Maybe that means you find a church where it is easiest for you to worship.  Whether it is sitting in pews and singing hymns from a book along with a choir, or standing in facility decked out in colorful flashing lights while listening to a band blaring through the speakers and reading the lyrics off of a screen, let’s just worship God!
Don’t cut the next generation’s legs out from under them by discrediting their style of worship because it’s not your preference.  The church is fighting a tough battle as it is trying to win this next generation without other “church people” standing alongside the secular world casting their own set of stones at the next generation church.  How about celebrating the fact that someone is reaching out to your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren who are enjoying church! Sometimes it takes something different to reach the up and coming generation.  Personally I’m glad that the church is beginning to adapt and transition with the times so that it doesn’t die with the last generation.  Our greatest days are ahead.

See Jesus

When you think of Jesus what do you see?  There are countless answers to this question.  However, I want to share a view of Jesus that I recently picked up on.  Most people see Jesus as a miracle worker, father, sacrifice, epitome of love, king, healer, savior, etc.  None of these are wrong, but I think that there is one that gets looked over all to often.

In a world where most of the artwork of Jesus is either, Him surrounded by little children, glowing while wearing a perfectly clean white robe with a purple sash, or on the cross mangled and beaten up.  Overtime, the persona of Jesus has lost something through weak preaching and an incomplete view of Jesus.  He is a POWERFUL, FIERCE, WARRIOR who had His heart set on saving us.  Let me explain.

Jesus clearly possessed the ability to flee persecution.  He was never overtaken or overpowered.  We know this because in Luke 4:28-30 Jesus was being persecuted by his own people of Nazareth, and since it was not the time, He avoided the persecution and premature death of being pushed off a cliff to His death.  He literally just ascended through the people into safety!

Luke 4:28-30   28 So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 29 and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. 30 Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way. 

Furthermore, He tells us in Luke 10:18-20 that He actually watched satan fall like lightening from heaven, and He knows that He possesses the authority and power to defeat all the works of the devil.

Luke 10:18-20   18 And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

In John 18:4-5, Jesus and His disciples are in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before the crucifixion, and the soldiers and Judas came walking up looking for “Jesus the Nazerene.” As soon as He said “I am He,” all the people fell down!  Just by the mere words of His voice He possessed the power to take on anyone who opposed Him and avoid the crucifixion.

John 18:4-6   Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

However, knowing it was the right time, He freely handed himself over to them with you and me on His mind.  This is why He tells us that no one takes His life, but He freely gives it.  But, He doesn’t just lay His life down.  That would be a good story on its own, but He had the power to pick it right back up and defeat death, hell, and the grave!  By this seemingly passive and weak act of being an atoning sacrifice and propitiation for us, He actually took on the greatest battle ever fought and won it for all of us!

John 10:17-18   17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

This Jesus, who is our King, is incredibly powerful!  Make sure your perspective of Him reflects that, because it is only appropriate.  Only then will you understand how amazing it is that that the same Spirit who empowered Jesus can live inside of you!  In Christ with the Holy Spirit, you are incredibly powerful!  Start living that way.  And, when you worship Jesus, marvel at and celebrate the great phenomenon He truly is.

Keys To Freedom

I believe most people feel trapped in some way or another.  You have tried everything you can.  You have heard the sermons, read your Bible, and prayed.  You have done and tried it all, but it’s not working.  It’s like what’s wrong with me?  Why isn’t this Christian thing working for me?  Why am I still trapped?  Why am I still struggling with the same sin(s)!?!  It is very draining and discouraging.

Your trap might come in the form of an addiction, a problem, a stronghold, or an issue. Maybe it looks like one of these:

1.  Financially, it never adds up.  You budget and save, but you can’t get out of the red.  It is a constant uphill battle.

2.  Relationally someone has wounded you, and it won’t heal.  You can’t let go, forgive, and receive your healing.  You constantly carry around this hurt, and you can’t get past it.

3.  Your past haunts you.  You know you are forgiven, but all you feel is self-condemnation.  You feel like your past disqualifies you.

4.  Or, it’s your secret sin.  It would destroy your reputation if anyone knew about it.  You fight it everyday by yourself, but make no progress.

Whatever your trap looks like, no matter what you do, you can’t escape.  You can’t stop.  You have lost count of how many times you tried to quit.  Currently, you are sick and tired of taking your same problems to God over and over again.  You might be wondering, “Does God even take me seriously anymore?”

It may be you have given up.  You have reasoned and rationalized yourself into believing it’s just who you are.  That It just comes with the territory.

God has pressed it on my heart that a lot of people can identify with this.  It was me at one point.  I know how you feel.  I am here to tell you God is concerned about your freedom.  He didn’t stop at your salvation.  He wants you to experience victory, freedom, and peace in your life now.  I am going to tell you how.  Not my words, but His.

Matthew 11:28-30

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Does this strike you as odd?  It’s like what do you do?  “Oh I’m trapped.  I better try harder, do more, and change myself.”  This seems like the logical response.  I mean, God helps those who help themselves.  Who said that?  Not Jesus.  Actually He said the polar opposite.  He is telling you to rest.

How does that work?  Where do you come in?

You’ve probably heard that it’s up to your repentance.  You’ve heard that you need to straighten up, get some discipline, and stop.  But, do you know what repentance is?  It’s not saying you are sorry, and then trying harder to stop.  Repentance is turning from your sin and turning to Jesus. He does the work inside of you.

It’s so opposite from what feels natural.  We feel like we have to do for ourselves what Jesus has already done for us.   Jesus did not leave you any leftover work from the cross!  He didn’t give Himself up to help you; He did it to save you!  Your Freedom doesn’t require your effort.  In fact, all our efforts were good for was putting Jesus on the cross in the first place.  Let that one sink in… Yet, we feel like it is our efforts that will get us out of what they got us into.

Don’t cheapen or lessen the sufficiency of Christ’s blood and atonement for us by trying to pair it with your own futile efforts.

This message is hard to understand or compute when in your mind your life and your performance is a bigger deal to you than the life of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross.  Are you more focused on what you are doing and if it is good enough, or are you focused on Jesus and understand that He is enough in every category?

But, how do we do that?  How do we change this mindset, and start relying on Jesus instead of ourselves?

Matthew 14:28-33

28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous,[a] he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”  31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”

You’ve probably heard this story before in church or in a sermon.  More than likely someone took the spin on it that this story is about how great or little Peter’s faith was, and how it helped him walk on the water or caused him to start sinking.

But, I believe this story is dealing with Peter’s focus more than it is his faith.  As long as Peter focuses on Jesus, walking on the water comes naturally.  But, when he focuses on trying to walk on the water, he begins to sink.  The same applies to us.  When we focus on Jesus, we will naturally escape from our trap, but if we focus on ourself trying to free ourself from the trap, we will fail.

And, we all have a list.  This list contains all that we are supposed to do and things we are supposed to avoid.  We think this list is how we will overcome what is trapping us.  But, following that list is as impossible as walking on water.  And, as long as you focus on that list, you will sink and fail.  But, if you make Jesus your focus, your list will come naturally.

Jesus even said that He is the fulfillment of that list.

Matthew 5:17

17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

We have created this list from the laws in the Bible right?  So, instead of trying to follow each one of the rules on that list, just follow and focus on Jesus who is the fulfillment of the law.  If you focus on Jesus, the supernatural will come naturally.  Trade in your list, and trust in Jesus.

Your key to freedom is taking your focus off of yourself.  Place it all on Jesus instead of your own attempts to free yourself.  He has already given you the keys to your freedom.  Don’t try to make your own set because they will not unlock what only Jesus can.

Be The Miracle

Posted: October 14, 2013 in Short Sermon
Tags: , , , , ,

Water-To-Wine

Have you ever thought to yourself, “If I could just see a miracle of God, my faith would be so much stronger.”  I know  I have.  Or, maybe you just have a craving to see a miracle.  We read our Bibles and see how God moved and performed great miracles, but we can’t help but wonder why we don’t see the same miracles today.  God hasn’t changed, so what gives?

Let’s take a look at Christ’s first recorded miracle.  It takes place in Cana at a wedding where Jesus turns water to wine.  Mary, The mother of Jesus, has just told the servants at the wedding to do whatever Jesus says, and this is where the story picks up in  John 2:7-10

Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”

It wasn’t until recently that I picked up on something in these verses that totally changed my perspective on miracles.  Notice in verse 9 that only the servants knew about the miracle.  Since we have the incite on what Jesus is doing, it’s easy to overlook the fact that nobody else at the wedding party knew about the miracle that just took place.  Only the servants knew about it.  How fitting it is that those who were involved in the miracle were the only ones to notice it.

Most people today see miracles as something God does without us but in our midst for everyone to see.  But, this is not what the Bible shows us here.  He used the servant’s natural abilities paired with His supernatural abilities, and the result was a miracle.  The majority of the miracles in the Bible consisted of God using people.  Maybe all they do is fill up water pots, but nonetheless, He uses people.  The vessels of God’s miracles are His people.

So, that poses this question, “Are miracles really not occurring, or are we just not noticing them?”  Are we the servants putting in the work, or are we the guests who are merely spectating.  Whichever category you fall in will determine if you actually witness miracles firsthand.  Sure, seeing a miracle would probably grow your faith.  But, imagine what being part of a miracle would do for it!  Stop looking for a miracle and start looking to be a miracle.  Your first step in this search is servanthood.  Now, see where it takes you and what it shows you! You will not regret it!

sideimage-con-ind

Most people, myself included, are very logic driven by nature.  For example, common sense and weighing out the pros and cons often acts as the compass when it comes to decision-making.  The majority of people hold a place for reason and critical thinking in the process of arriving at a decision, as they should.

In my life, once I had computed something and it made the most sense or it balanced out on both sides, that was typically the final say.  This was my standard approach to all of my circumstances and questions in my personal life.  “Just use logic, and make the most logical decision.”  This would have sufficed as my mantra when it came to decision making.  However not long ago, the Lord convicted me of this closed mindset and approach to so much of my life.

First, He lead me to: Philippians 4:6- Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

The first step in any decision making process, especially those that affect the direction of your life, should be prayer.  Prayer is a privilege, and it should be utilized for EVERYTHING.  The big and small decisions of life need to be constant material in your prayer life.  However, I had fallen into a bad habit of taking all of my decisions to my own drawing board instead of presenting them before the throne of God.  My fear and reason for sharing this post is that many others have unknowingly adopted this as the decider of the direction of their lives as well.  This is a very dangerous place to be because you become the one dictating the direction of your life instead of God.  This is right where the devil wants you to be because he can’t sway God, but he can you.

The commonly quoted, yet seldomly followed verses Proverbs 3:5-6 guide us away from this attitude and approach: Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.

We would like to think that God’s way always lines up with our human logic, but stories like Gideon and his army in Judges chapters 7-8 demonstrate otherwise.

Most of you are familiar with this story; Gideon had 32,000 soldiers who were about to engage in war with the Midianites.  Now, the Midianite army was described as having camels as innumerable as the grains of sand on the shore.  However, The Lord told Gideon he had too many troops, so Gideon obeyed and told all of the fearful and trembling soldiers to go home.  22,000 soldiers left leaving Gideon with an army of only 10,000!  Once again, the Lord told him there was still to many troops.  Gideon obeyed a second time, and he lead his army to a stream. From there, he released everyone who drank by lapping the water while on all fours, but he kept those who dipped water out and sipped it from their hand.  After this process, he was narrowed down to only 300 men!

Regardless of numbers, the story ends with The Lord leading them into a miraculous victory and handing the Midianites over to them.  This most definitely defies logic!  Most people in this situation would have been pulling out all of the stops and trying to recruit everyone possible.  The Lord had different plans though.  Sometimes, we are supposed to obey first and understand later. That is faith.  This gives God more room to move on your behalf and receive all of the glory.

Isaiah 55:8  states: “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”

There are times when God will confirm your logic, but other times He wants to surpass our logic and do the supernatural in our midst.  Don’t limit God to your own box of thinking and understanding.  I encourage you to take every situation and decision you are facing in life to the Lord with an open mind.  He may have more in mind for you than you do for yourself.  Don’t fall into a habit of thinking you are always supposed to figure it out on your own. Instead, leave room for God to lead and move in your life.  Don’t always settle for logic and leave it at that.  Allow God to have the final say.

Bible

Recently, I was reading a passage of Scripture that I have read several times, but this time God spoke something entirely new to me.  Don’t you love when He does that?!

It was Luke 5:4-6  When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”  But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your Word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. 

It is important to know the context of these verses in order to receive their full meaning.  Simon is at Lake Gennesaret which was the fishing hotspot of the time.  Additionally, fishing was done during the night instead of during daytime.  Two verses earlier, we learn that Simon is finished with his futile fishing session, and he is washing his net and preparing to store it until the next trip out.

Simon Peter is a fisherman by trade which means his productivity fishing determines his income and means of living.  Simon is most likely frustrated with his last fishing trip, and he is putting up his fishing gear so he can go to the closest McDonald’s to get a bite to eat and then go home to sleep.  At least that is what I would be doing!  However, Jesus tells him to push out to where it is deeper and drop his nets again.  The last thing Simon Peter probably wanted to do was go back out and drop his net one more time.  Not to mention, he would look silly for fishing during the day, and everyone at the lake would laugh at him.  Peter expresses his doubts, but he says something very profound.  He said, “Nevertheless, at Your Word…”  He took Jesus at His word and nothing else.  The reward for his obedience was huge! A couple of verses later, the Bible tells us that the catch was so big that the net was breaking, and it filled up two boats to the point that they were both beginning to sink and everyone who saw it was amazed!

These verses teach us a very valuable principle.  We need to take God at His Word.  Too often, we see the Bible only as something God did, but we fail to recognize it is something God still does!

Hebrews 4:12  tells us: For the word of God is alive and powerful. 

Isaiah 55:11 reminds us: It is the same with My Word.  I send it out, and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.  

Finally, 2 Timothy 3:16 declares: All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

God’s Word is very much alive and still reaps blessings and favor today when we apply it to our lives!  We need to dig into His Word all we can, so we will know the truth and how to apply it in our lives.  Don’t get caught up in the circumstances of life and of the systems of the world.  Instead, stand firm on God and His Word, and say, “Nevertheless, at Your Word…”  Put your faith in His Word because it never comes back void, it is powerful, and it will lead us to do what is right!  Take God’s Word at face value and see what He does in your life!  Sometimes, obeying God’s Word will make you stand out and even look strange to some, but His reward will outweigh anything this life will throw at you!