Exciting News!

Hello readers!

I want to let you know two things:

1. This week, I am guest writing on the blog scribblepreach.com. Its a blog run by a great friend of mine and I’m honored to be filling in while he’s getting some R&R.  Be sure to check out a new post from me every day this week.

2. In the near future, Re:understanding Worship is going to get a makeover!  I’ll be posting regularly, instead of every few months!  Whoohoo!

Thanks, and that is all!



“Marriage Equality”

Below is a letter written from the point of view of an unchurched person observing Christians who have come out in support of marriage equality.


To Whom It May Concern:

The recent controversy and ensuing debates over marriage equality and homosexuality have been very eye opening for me.  I have been struggling to understand Christians and their views for so long and up until recently I had rejected all their talk of Jesus, sin, and salvation, but now I see Christians in a new light that has really helped me to accept them.  I wanted to write a thank you to every Christian out there who put up a pink and red equals sign last week for helping me to finally “get” how they live out their faith.

You see, my biggest problem with Christianity up until now has been their holy book, the bible.  I mean I guess there are some ok Christian people out there who try to be kind, tolerant, and loving, but I’ve never been able to take any Christian seriously because I’ve actually read the bible.  There is some weird stuff in that book!  First there’s all this talk about blood, sacrifices, and rules to follow; there’s stories of genocides and books of songs with lines and lines of “prophecies” that I couldn’t make heads or tails of.  Then you get to all the parts about Jesus and his miracles and the cross and how he loves us.  Then a bunch of people write some letters about Jesus and sin and it’s all done.  It’s all pretty hard to get your head around.  How do you reconcile a God who tells his people to kill “sinners” in one book, then turn and say that God “so loved the world” in another book? I couldn’t understand how Christians could say they “lived by the bible.”  But now, thanks to the many Christians that I’ve observed who supported marriage equality and stand behind homosexuality I think I finally understand how Christians must read their bibles!

Here’s what I’ve come up with based on my observations of Facebook, twitter, and the like over the past week or so:

  1. When reading the bible, consider your preferences and feelings.  Sometimes what the bible says and what we want line up!  That’s great because it makes people feel good that they’re “living for god.”  But sometimes, the things the bible teaches run against the grain of what we prefer or feel.  This is ok, because its important to remember that our choices and thoughts are more important than what some outdated book has to say.  If loving your enemy, turning the other cheek, giving away your possessions, or calling homosexuality a sin doesn’t agree with you, you don’t have to listen to that part of the bible.
  2. When reading the bible, listen to the voice of your culture. Many of the things the bible encourages are what might be called “counter-cultural.”  From what I’ve observed, it’s ok for Christians to be “counter-cultural” in a nice way. Giving money to orphans, fighting human trafficking, buying shoes for barefoot children in third-world countries, or standing up for the environment is really cool.  When they support these things, Christians can say that they do it because Jesus said to take care of widows and orphans and that the bible “calls” them to love justice and do mercy and stuff.  These are all actions that are acceptable, though maybe not accepted by our culture.  This is not to be confused with the biblical teachings that our culture doesn’t like so much.  When the bible defines marriage as between one man and one woman, the reader needs to remember that this book was written thousands of years ago and that our government and popular culture has given a new meaning to the word “marriage.”  If the bible says that truly loving someone means calling them out on their “sin” remember that most people nowadays don’t really think about sin in that way anymore. Christians need to remember that they have an image to keep up.  If the bible encourages a thought or action that makes them seem mean, intolerant, “holier than thou,” or closed minded, it’s a good idea go with what the rest of culture is saying instead.
  1. When reading the bible, remember it’s only an old book.  This has been alluded to already, but really I think it should be emphasized because its what made it all click for me!  If you’re going to read the bible like a Christian, its important to remember that it isn’t a book of supreme truth that applies to every culture in every age.  It’s just another piece of literature.  I mean, how could the god who is supposedly over the whole universe be capable of communicating truth that is applicable and absolute for all time?  If you embrace this tip when reading the bible you’ll be able to feel good about yourself without having to change or become uncomfortable at all.  It’s a beautiful thing!

Sometimes I think about what it would be like if I became a Christian.  One of the things that I had previously feared when considering this decision is having to change my lifestyle.  It is comforting to know that while being a Christian does mean changing my lifestyle – it is not a complete change. I might have go to church on Sunday mornings instead of sleeping in, but I could deal with that.  The important thing to remember is that “following god’s word” as Christians call it, doesn’t really require much change in my heart, beliefs, or lifestyle.  Once again, I really have to thank the brave Christians who stood up along with the rest of culture and supported homosexuality and marriage equality last week for helping me understand this.  Homosexuality and marriage equality aren’t the only issues in which I see these handy principles applying, but it sure was clear that these tips for how Christians read their bibles where evident in all the pink and red equal signs that I saw.  Bravo!  Because of your influence, I’ve gotten to understand Christianity and the bible so much more.  Now I can appreciate your faith without feeling the need to make it my own.

Thanks Again,


NOTE:  I hope that readers realize that this letter is satirical.  Please understand that my aim is to use exaggeration and sarcasm to show the contradiction and inconsistency of those people who call themselves followers of Christ, yet support and promote the homosexual lifestyle and/or so called “marriage equality.”  This is a letter meant for Christians to read and be challenged.  In a sense, this is “family business.”   Please know that I am trying to speak the truth to you in love – the sort of love that yanks a child out of a busy street or knocks the poison out of the victim’s hand.  It is jarring, but it is not cruel.  While the above words may cut deep, please do not jump to the conclusion that they are meant only to injure.  Instead, I hope that they might be part of a surgery that does indeed hurt, but in the end, removes the cancer.  Please remember that “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved, it is the power of God…God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak to in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are…”(1 Cor. 1:18 &27-28 ESV) 

To those who do not identify with Christ, please know that I am called by Jesus to love you and that my rejection of your sin (that is, anybody’s sin regardless of sexual orientation) does not lessen my love for you. 

Being a Real Man

NOTE:  The below article is a lesson I taught to a group of young men at a recent weekend retreat.  Since I was speaking to young men, the lesson is pretty gender specific.  I’ll leave it to my female readers to apply the truths I’m trying to communicate to their gender.  I believe strongly these concepts have bearing over both genders and apply to all of humanity.  


“Therefore brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

~Hebrews 10:19-25~

The First Man

 Once a man was born.  Not a baby boy from the womb of a woman, but a man born of dust and the breath of God.  The man.   He was a real man – the truest form of a man.  The manliest of men.  This man was a brilliant specimen.  I can’t tell you much about what this man could do.  He might have been the strongest, the fastest, the best looking, and the smartest man ever.  This man might have been all those things; but his ability did not make him the manliest of men.  No, what made him the most real man in existence was his confidence before God and his relationship with God.  This man worshipped God easily and freely without fear or unfamiliarity.  He worshipped God perfectly.

You see, this man was the first man.  His name was Adam and he was perfect.  God created Adam to worship Him and Adam did what he was created to do flawlessly.  Adam walked with God and talked with him like a son talks to a loving father.  He wasn’t afraid of God – he had a relationship with him like nobody who came after him could have.

Adam was a true man because his relationship with God was perfect, but sadly that perfection didn’t last.  We all know the story – Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the one tree that God told them not to touch.  They believed the serpent when he told them that they could be like God.  Instead of worshipping God, they tried to glorify themselves and in that first sin, Adam became less of a man.  He was broken because of his sin.  In Genesis 3 we see that after they sinned Adam and Eve hid from God because they were ashamed of themselves and afraid of their Creator.  Ashamed.  Afraid.  The confidence that Adam once had to come near to God was gone because of the sin that polluted his heart.  And when we read further in Genesis 3, we see that God drives them out of the Garden because of their disobedience.  He separates Himself from them because he is holy and perfect and he cannot have a relationship with unholy, sinful people.

Adam had once been confident before God; he had once had a deep relationship with his Creator, but after his disobedience he was merely a shadow of what used to be.  He was no longer a real man.  He was like the burnt out shell of a house – you can tell it used to be a home, but no one would call it a real home anymore.

Like Father Like Son

I’ve got bad news for you.  Adam was the first man, which means that every man in the world today came from Him.  You know what they say – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  We are just like Adam.  Since he was a broken down man, we are all broken down men.  We all try so hard to be “real men,” but we will never be able to reach that goal.  A real man is a whole man like Adam was before his disobedience – a man who worships God with confidence and has a relationship with Him.  We can never be real men on our own.  We are broken down shells of men.  We are sinful people who can’t do anything but cower before a holy God. We cannot worship God on our own.  And this, my friends, is bad news.

But there is good news!  God is a compassionate God who desires to take back the broken down, burnt out shell of what used to be a man and restore it, make it new and whole again.  He has a plan to restore broken men to true manhood.

Beginning in Genesis 3, right after the first sin, God makes a promise to his people.  He says to the serpent that is Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:15).  This is a promise of a man who will come and conquer evil and restore humanity to relationship with God.  And as the Bible goes on through the Old Testament we can see that God’s promise becomes clearer and clearer!

The Last Man

So God’s people all through the Old Testament looked ahead to one who would come to set things right again and the good news is that he came!  Jesus came!  He was the answer to the promise that began thousands of years before in Genesis 3.  1 Corinthians 15 calls Jesus the “last Adam” who became a “life-giving spirit.”  Its says, “The first man was from earth, a man of dust; the second man  [Jesus] was from Heaven…Just as we have borne the image of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”  Jesus, who was fully man and fully God, lived the perfect life that the first Adam couldn’t live, took the punishment that we deserved because of Adam by dying on the cross, and rose again to show that he brings new life that restores and rebuilds broken men into real men.  This last Adam restores the things that the first Adam lost.  Look at what the author of Hebrews writes, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus… and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart full of assurance of faith…” (10:19,21-22) Through Jesus we can worship God with confidence because our sin doesn’t condemn us anymore.  Through Jesus we can draw near to God in relationship with him because Christ’s blood makes us holy.

We are all broken down shells of men, but through Christ you can be a true man.  Only through Him can you be a real man!

Are You a Real Man?

Each one of us has been given the opportunity to be the kind of man we were meant to be, to give up the wimpy boy that we try to be on our own and commit ourselves to following the God who became the greatest Man for us.  Some of you might say that you already have done that, that you already follow Jesus, but here’s my question: does your life show it?  Remember that the first Adam was created to do something – to worship God.  Worshipping God is more than coming to a service once or twice a week and singing some songs or listening to a sermon.  Worshipping God means offering your whole life to him, striving to give him glory in all that you do.

Look again at the passage from Hebrews 10.  The passage begins by saying “Since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus…” Then it goes on to say “Let us draw near… let us hold fast the confession of our hope… let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good works…” The point is saying you believe in Jesus and saying you’re a Christian doesn’t mean anything unless you back it up by doing something.  Being a real man in Christ means you have to ask yourself “how am I going to live?”   The way you live your life reveals what you truly believe.

Now What?

So what does it look like for us to be real men in Christ?  It means taking a hold of the things that the first Adam lost: confidence before God and relationship with God.

If you claim Christ as your Lord and Savior the blood of Jesus covers over your imperfections and makes you holy in the eyes of God.  Because of Christ’s blood you can be confident in coming before God in worship, you don’t have to carry the guilt of your sin with you, you can confess it to God and other knowing that you are already forgiven because of Jesus.

This confidence in coming before God leads to a relationship with God – you have the freedom to draw near to God in prayer and the study of His word.  A man restored by Christ shows his restoration by seeking God in prayer, trying to know Him more by studying the Bible, living out faith with other Christians in community, and telling the world about the relationship you have with Jesus.

Taking hold of these things that the first Adam lost is part of what it means to live a life of worship.  Living out a confident relationship with God means that through Jesus we are doing what the first Adam could not do.  We are being real men.  Real Men worship THE real man – Jesus – with their whole life.

Go.  Do it.


For those of you who’ve read my last post entitled “Faking it,” I feel the need to try and make clearer the point I was trying to make originally.  In my last post I spent a lot of time writing about raising hands in church and generally being expressive in worship services.  I wrote some things that could have been taken as very judgmental about those who raise their hands at every chorus, etc.  Please understand, I do not presume to judge the physical expression of others as they worship. What I was trying to say is that it is very easy for us as humans to fall into mindless habit.  For some, the mindless habit is coming to worship stiffly and stoically.  For others, the mindless habit is throwing their hands up and being physically expressive.  In the end, my thoughts about raising/not raising hands in worship are neither here nor there.  The heart of what I was trying to get at is that the Christian life is FULL of opportunities for us to fall into mindless habit.  We can be involved in many different “christian” areas like Sunday School, Bible studies, praise teams, mission trips, youth group, etc, but they don’t mean anything if we don’t approach them intentionally seeking to know and serve Christ better through them.  

So if you read my last blog and came away thinking mostly about physical expression in worship, please take a second look at it.  This time read it knowing that worship encompasses all of life and for each of us it is so easy for us to be mere fakers in our (whole-life) worship.  Hopefully this is helpful and encourages you to intentional about what you do as a follower of Christ.  

Thank you for reading.  It is truly a blessing to be able to share my thoughts and convictions in this way.

Faking It.

The Anticipation, the Dread, the Faking

You know that feeling of anticipation and dread that comes when you’re about to do something completely new?  Like jumping off the high-dive, or speaking in front of a crowd, or raising your hand in class?  I remember that feeling well.  I’ve never made it off the high-dive, and speaking in public doesn’t really bother me much, but I do clearly recall the flock of butterflies in my stomach as I raised my hands in church when I was a boy.  I grew up in a fairly non-expressive church culture; virtually no one raised their hands and it was a struggle to get people to clap and smile at the same time.  Sometimes people might venture into closing their eyes.  Suffice it to say, we were not a very rowdy bunch when we came together to worship God.  This lack of expression isn’t wrong, but when I was young I felt a tug to be more expressive as I sang the praises of God with the congregation.  For me, raising my hands, kneeling, or clapping as I sing signifies that I am being affected by the music that I am taking part in, that I’m taking joy and hope from the words, that the Spirit is convicting me… basically it means that, in that moment, I feel that I’m truly “getting it.”  So, now that I’m a worship leader, when people I worship with don’t participate in our congregational singing in the ways that I’ve mentioned, I can become discouraged and frustrated because I interpret that lack of action as a lack of care or understanding for what we are doing together.

I understand that people’s lack of action on the outside is not always an indicator of how God is working in their hearts, yet sometimes I find myself wishing that someone would just raise a hand or sway to the music with their eyes closed.  Bodily expression in worship is something that I crave, but do you want to know what really gets under my skin?  It really rubs me the wrong way when, while singing during a service, we get to the chorus of a song and all of a sudden people’s hands shoot up, as if they were waiting for someone to hold up a sign that said “hands up now.”  When I see this it aggravates me because it gives me the impression that instead of really “getting” what they are singing, these individuals are pretending to “get” it.  I interpret their actions as mindless, like they are just going through the motions, doing what they’ve always done without thinking about it.  To me, they’re fakers.

Ultimately, my thoughts about bodily expression in our worship services are just my opinion.  They’re perceptions based on my own preferences and interpretations.  That being said, I think they do provide a helpful metaphor for getting our minds around a question that every Christian needs to ask him/herself everyday: “Am I a faker?”  Or, perhaps more clearly, “Why am I really doing the ‘Christian’ things that I do?”

 Spiritual Inoculation

For many who identify themselves as Christians, it’s easy to become inoculated to Jesus – to get just enough of Him by going through the various routines of Christianity that we slowly become immune to the Him working in us.  So you come to church, sing in the praise band, volunteer in the nursery, read your Bible every morning, pray at meals… so what?  What is your motivation for doing these things?  Do you do them as a loving response to what the Father has done in you through Jesus Christ?  Do you do them because you really “get it”?  Or are you more like the people whose hands shoot up at the chorus, mindlessly going through the motions because that’s just what you’ve always done?

This is a vital question to ask because God hates the show and pretense of fakers.  Take note of what God has to say to the Israelites who thought they were worshipping God, but were really going through the motions:

I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.  Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them.  Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of the harps I will not listen.

Amos 5:21-23

In this prophetic book God is rebuking a people who had become fakers.  They mindlessly went about their rituals of worship.  They got just enough of God to be inoculated to Him and they forgot that “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit” (Ps. 51:17) – a heart that comes before him humbly, truly seeking to commune with Him.  He desires us to seek him with mindfulness and intentionality.  If we do anything less, we are fakers – just like the Israelites who God rebukes.

Now What?

If you find yourself challenged to guard your heart against spiritual inoculation, here are some practical steps to take.

  • Continually question your motives.  If we are constantly evaluating the intentions of our hearts as we go about our daily walk with Christ, chances are we will start to see ways in which we need to adjust our reasons for doing what we do.  Continually question why you are doing the “Christian” things you do.
  • Study.  Often the reason we resort to mindlessly going through the motions is because we don’t understand why we do things in the first place.  Take some time to search out what the Bible and other Christians say about why we practice things like communion, singing, baptism, daily devotionals, small groups, etc.
  • Stretch Yourself.  If your faith walk consists of things you are used to doing, try mixing it up by stepping outside your comfort zone.  God often teaches us the most when we are uncomfortable.  Going back the metaphor I used in the beginning, stretching yourself would be raising your hands and clapping if you don’t make a practice of those things and singing with your hands to your side if you do.
  • Serve.  The people God rebuked in the book of Amos were affluent and comfortable.  They had forgotten how to live out their worship by serving the poor and oppressed in their culture.  Sadly, much of America is in the same boat.  Take some time to serve others, make a point to share the gospel with someone, give sacrificially.  Living out this sort of worship makes gathering for worship so much richer!
  • Pray.  Ultimately the Holy Spirit is the one who causes us to grow as followers of God.  We can water a plant, and fertilize it, and make sure it has enough sunlight, but in the end God is the one who makes it grow.  The same is true of us.  Pray for God to intervene in your life – to stir your affections for Him and help you to truly “get” why you do what you do.

We’re all Fakers

When it comes down to it, on this side of eternity none of us are ever going to reach a point of perfection in our faith.  Everyone who claims to follow Christ is going to get to a point where they realize they’ve been mindlessly going through the motions in their relationship with Jesus.  In fact, I’m convinced that the more we grow in faith, the more we will see areas in which we have needed to question our motivation.  At some point or another, we’re all fakers.  The question is, as a follower of Christ will you live in such a way that fakeness is weeded out and authenticity is cultivated?  Only then will true growth happen.

An Exciting Opportunity!

Hello Readers!

I’m writing a short post to let you know about an exciting opportunity coming soon!

I have a friend named Nick who started a blog called “The Radical Journey.”  Nick is a talented writer and speaker and has tons of great thoughts that have proved valuable for me to think about and implement in my own life.  Due to an incredibly busy schedule, Nick has invited me and a few other trusted men to begin working with him by writing articles for “The Radical Journey.”  I want to invite you to join in on this journey with us!

Here is a bit about what  “The Radical Journey” is all about:

“The Radical Journey” is a resource that exists to bring gospel light to the masculine journey.  It looks at various aspects of a Christian man’s life journey through the lenses of the good news of Jesus Christ.

Topics we talk about include:

Money – How we steward God’s resources.

Leadership – How we serve those around us.

Mission – How we accomplish God’s purpose for our lives.

Marriage – How we portray God’s love through our relationship with our wives.

Family – How we become “Pastor Dads” in our homes.

Culture – How we think about current events and the world around us.

Fun – Something new, all the time.

Theology – How we think about God and His Character.

Please think about joining in with us in this radical journey.  My first article will be posted on Friday, but there are already some great articles to check out!

You can join the journey with us at:  www.theradicaljourney.com

Know God.

I have a wife.  Her name is Dana.   I lover her deeply and she has many other people in her life who love her and seek her out in friendship.  Now, suppose I run into you at the supermarket and you begin telling me how much you love and admire Dana.  You go on and on about how she is such a wonderful dancer, how you can’t believe her skill as a swimmer, and how you are jealous of her tightly curled black hair.  At this point I have to stop your flow of praise for Dana.  Dana is a phenomenal pianist, she has a beautiful singing voice, she has a heart full of compassion for others, and she always floors me with her grey/blue eyes.  She is not, however, the greatest dancer, she doesn’t particularly enjoy swimming, and she has wavy, brown/blond hair – its not black or curly!  I gently correct you about your misconceptions and make sure to tell you about her other great qualities, but you persist in praising her for her swimming skills and her curly black hair.  “Maybe we’re not talking about the same Dana,” I suggest, but you are adamant that my wife is the person you are talking about.  If this situation had really happened, your praise for Dana would be worthless and empty because it would be based on a poor conception of Dana.  You might say you were giving her encouragement and praise, but in reality you were not praising Dana at all.  There are plenty of good reasons to admire her, but you don’t know any of them.  You claim to know Dana, but you don’t know her at all.  You only know your idea of Dana.

This same type of confusion happens within the Church.  Many people call themselves Christians.  They attend church, pray, read the Bible, serve in various ministries, and live morally, but when they come to worship God their attitudes and actions are meaningless, worthless, and empty.  Now, don’t begin to think this is because their heart isn’t in it, like they’re just going through the motions and so the ritual becomes meaningless.  No!  A person’s heart can be completely invested ino worship, but their worship is worthless if their concept of God is wrong – based on something other than how God has revealed himself in scripture.   J.I. Packer in his book “Knowing God” writes,

How often do we hear this sort of thing: “I like to think of God as the great Architect (or Mathematician       or Artist).” “I don’t think of God as a Judge; I like to think of him simply as a Father.”  We know from experience how often remarks of this kind serve as the prelude to a denial of something that the Bible tells us about God… At best, they can only think of God in the image of man – as an ideal man, perhaps, or as superman.  But God is not any sort of man.  We were made in his image, but we must not think of him as existing in ours.  To think of God in such terms is to be ignorant of him, not to know him. (47,48)

These words are challenging for us.  Even as I write this my gut is rebelling against me, telling me not to be such a hard-liner.  Surely God is merciful!  Surely he looks at the heart of a worshipper and judges based on intention!  My gut wants me to believe that God judges our worship based on the heart, but that is only half true.  God indeed judges the heart, but he also judges the head.  True worshippers of Christ must worship Him in spirit (heart) and truth (head) (John 4:23&24).

We can see this truth played out in the book of Exodus.  In chapter 32 the people of Israel tire of waiting for Moses to come down from meeting with God on the mountain, so they go to Aaron and say to him “Make us gods who shall go before us.”  So Aaron tells them to give him their gold and he fashions a golden calf and proclaims the next day “a feast to the LORD.”  Growing up, I heard this story and assumed that Israel consciously abandoned the LORD, Yahweh, to worship another God – the golden calf.  But that’s not what Aaron says.  He fashioned the golden calf and commanded Israel to worship the LORD, not a different god, but a horribly wrong idea of Yahweh.  “And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings… “   To Israel, they were worshipping the God that had brought them out from slavery in Egypt, their hearts lifted in worship, but God almost destroyed them in his anger at their perverted praise.  We see this happen again in the New Testament, when Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  Crowds worshipped him that day, crying “hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!” (Mat. 21)  But they were not worshipping the Jesus who came to cleanse us from our sins, they were looking for a king who would deliver them from the Romans.  Luke tells us that when Jesus drew near to the city he wept over it because it did not know “the things that make fore peace” (19:42).  Days later, the crowd that had cried “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” shouted, “crucify him.”   They were worshipping God, but they were not worshipping him for who he truly was.  They worshipped their idea of the Messiah, not the Messiah.  Their worship was empty and faded quickly.  They did not see Jesus as God’s messiah who would make peace between God and man and their misconception of Jesus caused him much sorrow.

People of God, in light of these examples, we must examine ourselves!  How easily we could fall into the same trap as the Hebrews, worshipping a misconstrued idea of God instead of the Lord of scripture.  Who is God to you?  Do you think of Him as a god who would not let you suffer hardship, or trials, or hell?  Is he here just to make us feel good when times get rough?  Is he merely the reason we use to get together and experience community?  Is he just the thing we use to keep our families to behave morally?  Do we really know God?  Do we strive to worship Him for who he really is, or are we content to pacify ourselves on our incomplete or misguided conceptions of Him?  Which god do you worship?

At this point the logical question to ask is, “what now?” or perhaps more specifically, “How do we begin to truly know God?” No doubt, a long and in depth answer is needed to answer the question of how to know God, but the answer I will give here is simple:  seek Him in his word and you will find Him.  Too often we view the Bible as a history book, a self-help guide, or a manual for life, but at its core the Bible is the God of the universe revealing himself to His children.  I said the answer was simple, but I did not say it was easy.  We cannot just read the scriptures – we must study the Word and prayerfully plead with God to open our eyes to see Him more clearly.  Oh how we desperately need to know Him – to worship God in spirit and in truth, abandoning our poor ideas of Him for the fuller picture given to us in His Word!  Will you join me in striving to know our God?

Why Do We Sing?

I was in high school when I began feeling the call to lead others in musical worship.  Before that time I had done some singing in church (and in the shower), but other than that my musical experience was rather limited.  So, when I began delving into leading musical worship, I was learning about music at the same time that I was learning about worship.   As a result, the world of music and the world of Christian worship were, in a way, fused together to me.  When I thought about music, I thought about worship and when I thought about worship, music inevitably came to mind.  Thanks to God working through great mentors and further education, I have since re-shaped my understanding of worship.  Now, while I love music and enjoy singing with the congregations I lead, I have come to see that the world of music is only a small part of the vast world of Christian worship.  Music is a part of worship, but worship is so much more than music.

Now that I have come to that understanding, there is a question that lingers in the back of my head: Why do we sing at all?  Why is music such an integral part of our gatherings?  What’s the point?  Sometimes I struggle to see why music is so important.  In a lot of ways, music opens up a big can of worms.  It is often a point of division instead of unity, It manipulates our emotions and has the potential to get us hooked on the emotional high instead of the truths of God’s word, much of the time the people I lead don’t look as if they care to sing anyways, and sometimes it is more of a distraction than anything else… Now, don’t misunderstand me here.  I love music!  I love worshipping God with music!  But sometimes, especially when I’m doubtful or frustrated, I question the importance of music in worship.  Can’t we worship God without it?

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has these questions.  Have you ever been singing with other believers and all of a sudden questioned why you were doing it?  Have you wondered why we sing every Sunday or why music seems to be so important to Christians as we worship God together?

As I’ve tried to answer my questions over the years, a worship leader named Bob Kauflin has helped me think about my questions and understand a bit more about the importance of music in worship.  He is the author of a book called “Worship Matters” which I highly recommend.  Take a few minutes to watch this video and write down a couple of the reasons Kauflin gives for why we sing. Hopefully it will help us think about this question.

Here are some questions for you to consider after watching Bob Kauflin talk about why God wants us to sing.

  1. Do the reasons given in the video cause you to think differently about musical worship?
  2. Evaluate the reasons you sing when gathered with others to worship the Lord.  Do your reasons fit with the reasons given in the video?
  3. Apply this information to your life.  In light of these truths about why we sing, how will you think/act differently?



In Defense of Gathering Together

If you consistently read the thoughts posted on this blog, I’m guessing it would be relatively easy for you to see the main message that I’m trying to communicate.  My earnest desire as I write down my thoughts is that these discussions on worship would cause people who claim Christ as Savior and King to expand their understanding of worship beyond the Sunday morning parameters that many Christians have limited it to.  Understanding the whole-life implications of worshipping the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit was the “light-bulb moment” for me and I am passionate about helping my brothers and sisters come to this same conclusion.  So it’s not surprising that most of what I write tends to emphasize worshipping God outside of those instances when Christians gather together to hear God’s word, sing, partake in communion, and engage in other corporate expressions of praising God.  Because I consistently emphasize whole-life worship, I fear that some people might conclude that I am de-emphasizing the importance of gathering together to worship.  I don’t want anyone to read my thoughts about worshipping outside of Sunday morning and use them to justify their lack of interest in coming together on a Sunday morning.  So, in response to this fear I think I need to spend some time defending the importance of gathering together to worship as a unified body.  The truth is that whole-life worship is incomplete if we neglect meeting together.  A life of worship is meant to flow out of and into our gathered worship.

As I thought about how to communicate the importance of meeting together for worship, a passage from Hebrews came to mind.  While an argument for gathering together could be made from multiple passages in scripture, this particular passage seems to encompass the importance of both whole-life worship and gathered worship in a beautiful way, so this is where I’m going to spend my time for now.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”     ~ Hebrews 10:19-25

We can divide this passage into three sections: the “therefore” section, the “since we” section, and the “let us” section.  First, we need to look at the “therefore” section.  One of the first things you find out when learning how to study the Bible is to ask the question “what is the ‘therefore’ there for?”  The word “therefore” tells us to look back and find what the author has already written as the foundation for what he’s about to say.  In the case of this passage, we find that the writer of Hebrews has spent the first nineteen verses of chapter ten writing about how Christ’s sacrifice is better than the Old Testament sacrifices of bulls and sheep.   “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified,” declares the author (v.14).  That is what the “therefore” is there for. Now we can move on to the “since we” section.

In light of Christ’s all sufficient sacrifice the author makes two statements:  “Since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus…” (v. 19) and “since we have a great priest over the house of God” (v. 21).  These two statements are declarations about worship.  The  “holy place” was a place in the Jewish temple where the glory of God dwelt; separated from Israel by a thick curtain, symbolizing that our holy God could not taint himself by mingling with sinful humanity.  We read in Matthew, Mark, and Luke that when Christ died on the cross this curtain tore in two.  Christ’s sacrificial blood covers our sin and makes us holy to the Lord.  Because of His blood we can now confidently enter into the holy place to worship God.  Furthermore, we no longer need a priest to mediate our worship for us as they did in the Old Testament.  We have Jesus, the great high priest!  He is our mediator; through him we are able to worship God the Father.  In addition to the “therefore” section, the “since we” statements help establish a foundation, a reason for the challenge that the author of Hebrews is about to give his readers in the “let us” section.

Therefore brothers and sisters, because of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice, since we can have confidence in worship through the mediation of Jesus, let us:  “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,”  “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,” and “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together… but encouraging one another.”  In the “therefore” and “since we” portions of Hebrews 10:19-25 the writer reminds us of the reasons we have to worship.  Now in the “let us” section the writer gives us an overview of what our worship should look like – drawing near to God, standing firm in our faith, encouraging one another, and meeting together.  Here’s what is important to notice:  the author is painting us a picture of worship with a very broad brush, he does not write specifically about what these aspects of worship look like in practice.  Instead he gives us the bird’s eye view of worship, outlining broad categories that our worship should encompass.  Because of Christ’s blood, since we have confidence to approach God, and since we have a great high priest to mediate for us we are to live out our worship by drawing near to God (a personal act), standing firm in our faith (a whole-life action), encouraging one another (a communal act), and meeting together (a communal action).  In this broad picture of worship, the acts of gathering together take up half the painting!  The writer of Hebrews is reminding us of the vital importance of coming together as we worship!

Maybe you’re like me and it’s easy for you to become frustrated with church – the ritual, the politics, the people…  the list could go on. I have a critical eye and often its easy for me to dwell on the things I think need to be fixed rather than glory in what God has done and is doing in the church.  For people like me who can get easily weary with gathering together, it is important for us to remember this passage in Hebrews and how the author reminds us that because of Christ’s blood, since we can draw near to God, and since we have a great high priest to mediate our worship for us we are not to neglect meeting together to worship.  Do you see the significance of the “therefore” and “since we” sections?  Together they explain to us the gospel – Jesus coming, dying, rising, and opening a way for us to worship the Father.  This is the foundation, the reason, and the motivation the author gives before challenging us to worship as individuals and as a community by meeting together.  The gospel is good news that is to be celebrated and gloried in!  When your favorite team wins the championship would you rather jump around alone in your living room or celebrate the victory with other fans that have the same excitement?  Furthermore, does the team receive more glory when you shout their praises to the T.V. and couch cushions or when you are in the stadium joining in the roar of the cheering crowd?  Clearly the team is celebrated and gloried in more fully when people come together to do it.  This is more deeply true in our worship of God.  As we celebrate Christ’s victory for us, we should long to gather together with others who also know His sweet triumph. In this way we glorify him more intensely.  This does not diminish the importance of individual, whole-life worship, for if we spent our individual lives not celebrating and glorying in the gospel, we would have no reason to worship when we gather.  Our gathered worship would be inauthentic, conjured, and forced without our individual, whole-life worship.  Our lives of worship make our gathered worship complete and, in turn, our gathered worship spurs on our lived-out worship.   One is not fully realized without the other.

I began this blog committed to taking a break from writing about worship in all of life, but it seems its significance for the Christian life cannot be avoided.  We cannot neglect meeting together; we cannot afford to forget its enormous importance for us as we seek to worship on a daily basis.  As we remember our “therefore’s” and “since we’s”- our foundation: the gospel – let us draw near to the Father, standing firm in our faith, spurring one another on, never neglecting to meet together.

Worship and Mission

I’ve been thinking, talking, and brainstorming a lot with my wife about the relationship between Christian worship and Christian mission lately. Within church life we often see things like worship committees and missions committees operating under the same Christian umbrella, but hardly ever do the goals and objectives of the two mix. If pressed on the issue we might say that of course there is an essential relationship between worship and mission, after all if we love God in worship, we will in turn serve Him in missions, which will lead to more people worshipping Him. But the way we talk about worship and missions in everyday church life does not reflect this. We’ve compartmentalized them. Worship is one area of Christian living and missions and evangelism are another. Our everyday language of worship and mission leads us to a poor understanding of the relationship between the two, which leads us to incomplete execution of both. In reality, worship and mission are intrinsically connected. In fact, I believe that worship and mission are so connected that there actually is no relationship between them because they are one in the same.

These are some things I know about worship: (1) I am always a worshipper of something, no matter what – it is something intrinsically part of me. (2) Christian worship is a response to what God has done for us in the redemptive work of Jesus. (3) Since I am a constant worshipper and I now worship Christ because of what he has done in me, it follows that worshipping God encompasses the whole of Christian life. To be a disciple of Christ means to be a life-worshipper of Christ. So, in light of that truth, lets take a look at the token “missions verse.”

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go        therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” ~ Matthew 28:18-20

In this passage Christ comes to the eleven disciples having won the victory through his death, burial, and resurrection and gives them their marching orders: “Go therefore and make disciples.” What I want us to see is that if we think about what we know about worship as a response to the gospel, we have to see that mission must be a natural extension of worship. A personal response to the gospel of Jesus without a personal proclamation of that gospel to the world is no response at all. Furthermore, if worship encompasses the whole of Christian living and to make disciples is the mission of the Christian life, then mission can be seen purely as a part of worship.

As a result if, we approach missions without thinking about it as a worshipful response to the gospel of Jesus we will come at it in an incomplete manner. I think, however, that it is easier for us to look at missions as an extension of worship than it is for us to view worship as incomplete without mission. This is mostly because we tend to box worship into a service, building, style of music, etc. Whole-life worship makes this sort of thinking impossible – we must see worship as deficient if it lacks a call to go make disciples. Our response to what God has done in our individual lives as well as in our corporate gatherings must include the spreading of the gospel. The gospel that stirred in us worship of God must be taken to the rest of the world.  We must do this both individually and corporately.

So, to sum it up: missions are a natural extension of worship because worship encompasses the whole of the Christian life. They are not separate disciplines that can be compartmentalized; they have an intrinsic relationship. Worship is mission. Mission is worship. One without the other makes them incomplete. Case made.