Tag Archive | church

#CharlestonStrong

Emanuel AME2

A week ago, on the evening of June 17, Dylann Roof walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church — one of the oldest AME churches in the nation — with the alleged intention of starting a race war. Hiding a gun in his backpack, he sat and talked with parishioners during their mid-week Bible study. Approximately an hour into the study, Roof pulled out his gun, and began firing. When he left the building, 8 people were dead, with one critically injured who later died at the hospital.

Within hours of the shooting, reports began to fill the airways and internet of the tragic events at “Mother Emanuel“. With 9 people dead and the subject at large, tensions were high as people already began to assume that the shooting was racially motivated. The next day, Dylann Roof was apprehended in Shelby, North Carolina — some 245 miles away. He was returned to Charleston where he was promptly charged with the murders. As news crews and TV personalities descended upon Charleston, and images of Ferguson and Baltimore still vivid in the minds of people across the nation, many on the outside of the situation wondered if this tragedy would spark yet more civil and racial unrest.

The answer came on June 19 when, in his bond hearing, Roof was addressed by the people he had deeply wounded — the people of Emanuel AME and the families of the victims. They spoke of the hurt and pain he had caused in their lives — of the wounds born of his act of hatred. Yet, in spite of the pain in their hearts and voices, they had an overwhelming message for Dylann Roof…

“We forgive you.”

In the following days, as reporters broadcast from outside of the church, what they experienced was a wounded community coming together to worship and heal.

As the “usual suspects” of racial division and disunity began to sing their familiar song of prejudice and fear, citizens of the Charleston area joined hands and hearts across racial divides and came together over the next few days in churches throughout Charleston, including the following Sunday at Emanuel AME, where Reverend Norvel Goff had a message for the world…

“A lot of folk expected us to do something strange, and break out in a riot.
Well, they just don’t know us.
They just don’t know us because we are a people of faith. And we believe that when we put our voices and heads together, working for a common good, there is NOTHING we can not accomplish together in the name of Jesus!”

As politicians and activists began attempting to re-invigorate the “anti-gun” message, the message coming from inside the walls of Emanuel AME Church was one of love, forgiveness, and faith. It was also a message of warfare against the REAL enemy…

“… For those of us that are here this morning, I want you to know that  because the doors of ‘Mother Emanuel’ are open on THIS Sunday, it sends a message to every demon in hell and on earth that no weapon formed against us shall prosper… Some wanted to divide the race — black and white and brown — but no weapon formed against us shall prosper!” ~ Rev. Norvel Goff

There will always be people of every color in America. Because of our differences, and because we live in a fallen world, there will always be INDIVIDUALS — like Dylann Roof — who have a heart filled with racial hatred. However, I do not believe that America is a racist country. In a country with a population of over 300 million, you cannot ascribe to an entire population or people-group the actions or attitudes of an individual or minority. This is not the America of the 1960’s. It is time that all of us — red, yellow, black, and white — take a stand against the voices of fear and division that would try to use these types of tragic events for nefarious and self-serving purposes. It is time for we, as a united people, to stand up and say with one voice…

“No more!”

It is time that we, the church, follow the example of Jesus in heated and uncomfortable deed, and not just in air-conditioned and comfortable word. For the people of Emanuel AME to stand there, two days after such a tragic event, look into the face of the twisted, hate-filled heart that took away the lives of their beloved family members and friends, and say, “We forgive you” — It put the love of Jesus in full color, front-row view for the entire world to see. While those with no understanding of such love asked the question, “Why did God allow this to happen?”, Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of slain Pastor Daniel Simmons, summed it up in an incredible way on Fox New’s Hannity program…

“God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.”

What we have witnessed in the people of Emanuel AME is the example of Jesus…

  • In the shadow of His inevitable death, He shared a message that said…

“… Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and PERSECUTE you.” ~ Matthew 5:44

  • In the agony of His own undeserved death, He reached out to a thief dying next to Him and assured him…

“… Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” ~ Luke 23:43

  • As He hung between Heaven and Earth, Jesus pleaded for forgiveness for the very people who had put Him on the cross…

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” ~Luke 23:34

It is an example that the worldly mind will never understand.

Forgiveness silences the critics.

Forgiveness takes the ammunition away from the agitator.

Forgiveness leaves the voices of hatred and assumed offense in stunned silence.

In the aftermath of the events in Ferguson and Baltimore, protesters and politicians were front and center in the media for weeks. In the case of the acquitted officer in Ferguson, although he was proven to be innocent, the false narrative of the tragic event was still being advanced by people with no regard for the truth.

But in Charleston, forgiveness took the teeth out of the story.

Anger never got the front page.

The root of bitterness never found fertile soil to grow.

The forces of hatred and racism never got enough traction to have to be reckoned with.

At the end of the day, Jesus showed up in the hearts, faces, voices, and actions of a group of hurting people who understood love and forgiveness are stronger than hate.

And to those who are trying to keep the story alive by focusing on some of the fringe issues like the Confederate flag or more gun control — please — let’s keep the story where it belongs, for now…

On the lives of the “Emanuel 9”.

If we do that, we might find the message of healing and forgiveness so absent in our culture today.

The message of what it means — REALLY means — to love like Jesus.

For THAT is the message a hurting world needs to hear.

Hope for a “Lost” Generation

MLK Lives QuoteOne has only to watch the news for a few minutes to realize we, as a “civilized people”, are in great peril. As the world focuses on the threats facing our world on a broad scale (terrorism, radical Islam, North Korea, Russia, etc.), the unravelling of the fabric of our society on a local level flies “under the radar.” The seeming collusion of a left-wing media and liberal Hollywood have created the “talking points” of what is acceptable and politically correct, and what will not be tolerated.

While cities like Detroit, St. Louis, and Memphis are besieged by violence, we are told that the greatest threat facing us is “climate change”.

While escalating terror attacks against our allies across the globe are marginalized by our leaders, accusations of racism and anti-police rhetoric are carelessly bandied about by those in authority – with deadly consequences.

While more and more over-reaching regulations are proposed in the name of “public safety,” common sense and “unpopular” laws have become the casualties of those who would try to fundamentally change the core Judeo-Christian values of our nation.

LL ArmThese actions do not take place without consequences — intentional or not. The underlying message being sent is that lives (black, white, or otherwise) don’t matter, that morality is subjective, and that, if one disagrees with certain laws, it is acceptable to ignore and/or violate those laws as long as “diversity” is the goal.

I – for one – have not given up on America. However, in order for us to see a brighter future, we must return to the faith of our past. The Church must draw a “line in the sand” and take a stand for truth and righteousness. It is time that we stop living cowed in the corner of society, and honestly, passionately, and intelligently speak life into this culture of decay and death. Here are a few common-sense ways we can start that conversation…

Stop mis-labeling the problem.

If a person goes into the hospital with all of the symptoms of appendicitis, referring to that person’s condition as an ear infection will do little to treat the problem, and could possibly cost them their life. When we fail to properly label what is wrong with society, we do nothing to cure its ills, and run the risk of doing irreparable damage to the conscience of our Nation. As believers, we stand on the unchangeable, living Word of God. In 1 Peter 3:14-16, the apostle Peter admonishes us…

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

Calling “sin” by its proper name is not politically correct in our society, but is necessary in diagnosing what is ailing us.

Abortion is not a “woman’s choice”… it’s sin.
Homosexuality is not an “alternate lifestyle”… it’s sin.
Adultery is not an “open lifestyle”… it’s sin.
Pornography is not “adult entertainment”… it’s sin.
Political corruption is not “the price of doing business”… it’s sin.

It’s not my label, or your label… it’s God’s definition. He made the rules, and He set the standards. As believers in Christ, we must be honest and faithful to His Word. However, we must also be sure to go beyond just pointing out the problems; we must share the reason for our hope, and offer a solution… the love of Jesus that has the power to change hearts, heal minds, and save souls.

Parents: Anyone can be your child’s friend; only YOU can be your child’s parent.

We have a generation rising that has the potential for either great good or great harm. While I do see good and decent young people being raised up, I also see a lot who are reckless, thoughtless, and out-of-control. There was recently a case in Texas of a 16-year old young man who got drunk, got behind the wheel of a pickup truck, and killed four people (also injuring two others). During his trial, a witness was put on the stand who testified that the boy was the victim of affluenza — which could be defined as “being the product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits or boundaries.” This tragic story can be repeated over and over again… parents who set no boundaries for children who grow into young people with no concern for right and wrong, and no regard for the consequences of their thoughtless and careless acts.

Family mealIn Proverbs 22:6, we read…

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.

That’s pretty good advice from the person considered to be the wisest man who ever lived. Parents need to stop delegating God-given responsibility of raising their children to schools, recreation centers, and churches, and start being the voices of wisdom, protection, instruction, and discipline that God intended them to be.

Church: Start being salt and light again.

Over these past many decades, the Church has become known more for what we are against than what we are for. In the ’50’s and ’60’s, we took stands against things like technology, only to later discover it was neither good nor evil, but actually had great value in the spreading of the Gospel. While the Cold War raged in the ’70’s, and we seemed on the brink of nuclear catastrophe, the Church was more concerned about the length of men’s hair, the length of women’s skirts, the “Ju-ju beat” in contemporary Christian music, and a plethora of other things that did little to bring souls into the Kingdom, and even less to open up a dialogue with a world on the fast-track to Hell. One thing (of many) I respect about Rev. Billy Graham, and now his son Franklin, is that, when confronted with a question about a social issue, political controversy, or cultural hot-topic, he always steers the conversation back to the Cross of Christ, and mankind’s need for a Savior.

Jesus called us to be salt and light in Matthew 5:13-16…

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Do I think we should be like the world, and participate in sin for the sake of getting along and finding common ground? By no means. But we must be very careful in rightly-dividing the Word of God so as not to turn our personal preferences into God’s providence. We must let the world see the love of Christ in us, and be known for the God we love, Who changes lives, and not just be known for the petty and insignificant things we are against. Being a Christian will always put us at odds with a world that hates Him. However, the love of Christ in us — shown in practical ways — is what will silence the critics, bring healing and love to those who have lost all hope, and open the ears and hearts of the hungry, hurting, and desperate.

Remember that All Lives Matter.

All Lives MatterIn the wake of the tragic stories of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the mantra “Black Lives Matter” spread like wildfire. The fact is that ALL lives matter. But how can we say with any conviction that any lives matter when we have allowed the wholesale slaughter of the innocent in our nation? How can we be so hypocritical as to bemoan the tragic deaths of a handful of individuals when, from 1973 to January of 2014, estimates of the number of aborted children have topped 50 million? To put it into perspective, this would be the equivalent of wiping out the populations of the following states combined: Kentucky, Oregon, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Iowa, Mississippi, Arkansas, Utah, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Nebraska, West Virginia, Idaho, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming.

We must stop sending these mixed messages. If all lives matter, then we must put an end to this hypocrisy by putting an end to the holocaust of abortion in our nation. Then, and only then, can we put a serious emphasis on the value of ALL lives, and begin to heal the racial and gender rifts that are tearing our nation apart.

 There was a popular show on television called “Lost“, in which the characters were survivors of a plane crash on a remote island. As the series progressed, however, the level of danger and peril grew, and the island was more than it appeared to be on the surface. As I look into our society, I see a generation that is lost in the deception of self-interest, unaware of an enemy that is operating below the surface, feeding the fires of an ideology and mindset that are putting us as a nation more and more at odds with a Holy God. It’s time for the Church to step up and be the voice of truth, compassion, and hope that our world is crying out for.Blessed

Wisdom from the Sidelines

Through the Looking GlassBeing that we are in the heart of football season, I thought I would share with you a quote by the late, great Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys…

I don’t believe in team motivation. I believe in getting a team prepared so it knows it will have the necessary confidence when it steps on a field and be prepared to play a good game.

Mr. Landry knew what success looked like. As the coach of the Cowboys for 29 years (an NFL record), he led them to the Super Bowl 5 times, winning the Vince Lombardi trophy twice. With a reputation for being calm and in control, he knew that the secret of success was not hyping his team on the day of the game, but preparing them ahead of time through consistent practice and discipline… preparation that would carry them to success on the field.

This is a great lesson for all of us as 21st-century Christians. To survive, thrive, and make a difference in today’s world, it’s not enough to show up at church on Sunday, go through the motions of a spiritual pep-rally, get an ecclesiastical “shot in the arm”, and think that is all there is to the Christian life. Don’t get me wrong… gathering together with our brothers and sisters in Christ is VERY important, but living an overcoming life in Christ is SO much more. It takes personal time in prayer, time in the Word, and time alone with God in worship and meditation. Paul knew, not just the importance of thoughtful and disciplined preparation, but the consequences of failing to adequately prepare when he said…

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. ~ I Corinthians 9:24-27

As you set about a new week of school, work, and play, now is a great time to get into the practice and habit of time in the Word, prayer, and seeking God’s face. Start today, and watch the difference it makes in your attitude and outlook.

A Time To Stand

Sometimes I feel like a man born in the wrong time in history…

BibleThere was a time in this nation when preaching mattered. There was a time when newspapers would print sermons, and preachers would not fail to take stands for Biblical truth. There was a time, not too long ago, when congregations could gather and count on hearing an unapologetic, Bible-based word spoken by a pastor who had spent time on his face before God.

Fast forward to 2014…

Today, we have preachers being harassed and scrutinized by public “servants” (I use that term loosely). Just recently, we have pastors in the Houston area being ordered (via subpoenas) to turn over their sermons, notes, and a host of other types of correspondence for legal review. In Idaho, a couple— both ordained ministers — is facing potential fines and jail time for refusing to perform gay marriages. An Oregon baker was forced to choose between shutting down her business or being fined into bankruptcy for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple.

I could go on and on… you get the picture.

ConstitutionWhile roughly 77% of the population of the United States claims to be Christian, less than 4% claim to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender*. Yet, in spite of this wide disparity, the silence on this matter by pastors and preachers in our nation is deafening. Our “leadership” in Washington is trampling on the very Constitution they swore to uphold and protect — the one that plainly states in its First Amendment…

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In spite of this very guarantee of freedom of speech and worship, the church has allowed itself to be cowed into the corner of silence and insignificance. The pop psychology pablum running off the pulpits in our country is challenging and changing no one. The problem has become that we have confused a crowd for a true church, and popularity for real ministry. We have sacrificed being righteous for being “relevant”, and “speaking the truth in love” for beating around the bush with psycho-babble that never gets to the heart of what is killing our nation and world today.

Where are the voices crying “prepare the way of the LORD“?

Where is the prophetic call to repent?

Where are the Elijahs, the Daniels, the Isaiahs, and the John the Baptists of our day?

With an end-time scenario in the Middle East, and the resurrection of the beast of the Ottoman Empire with its philosophy of genocide toward Jews and Christians, believers in Christ are fast asleep. The horde known as ISIS is sweeping across Syria and Iraq, destroying lives at will. The plague of ebola is sweeping across West Africa, infecting and killing thousands as the numbers continue to rise. Both of these calamities have spilled onto our shores, and while our leaders posture and preen in their attempt to appear effective while basking in their political correctness, the Churches of America fiddle while the nation burns.

It is time for the Church to stand… Stand with the poor. Stand with the persecuted. Stand with the voiceless and oppressed. Stand with those on the front lines of the war for our culture.

At our church — Abba’s House — we have made a decision: We will not be silenced. We will stand on the Word of God. We will stand for traditional marriage. We will stand for Israel, and its right to exist as a nation. We will stand for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We will stand for America’s Judeo-Christian heritage. We will stand on the FACT that we are still a Christian nation. We will confront Islamic terror with the Truth. We will stand on the battlefield of Spiritual Warfare, ready to fight.

I look around the city in which we live, and see nearly 1,000 churches constantly swapping members, while 230,000 souls won’t darken the doorstep of our houses of worship. Yet, I have a deep conviction that there are 7,000 in our county who have not bowed their knees to Baal, and that remnant will arise, cross over the barriers, and end the indifference. I believe that God is going to show up and awaken our cold and callous hearts once again.

Some of you reading this, for one reason or another, are no longer in church. If you are in the Chattanooga / North Georgia area, and are looking for a church that preaches the Word of God unreservedly, I invite you to visit us at Abba’s House. I’d love to meet you. We are a truth ministry that operates in grace and mercy. If you have stumbled along the way, and are looking for a place to call home, you can visit us and find welcome and restoration. If you are living out of town, I encourage you to find a church that stands on the truth of God’s Word, and get plugged in. If you can’t find one, you can join us online at www.abbashouse.com for our online streaming during worship times.

The time for complacency is long-since past. It is time that we once again believe that we are, without question – “One nation under God”.

 

http://www.npr.org/2011/06/08/137057974/-institute-of-medicine-finds-lgbt-health-research-gaps-in-us

A Life In Disagreement

This week marks a milestone in my ministry. My son Ronnie and I recently wrote a book together called The Power of Agreement, and this week, it hit the bookstore stands.

Charisma House (our publisher) recently featured an article by Ronnie in their online publication (www.charismamag.com).  I thought, for today’s blog, I would share Ronnie’s article with all of you. Enjoy!

“Can we agree to disagree?”

How many times have you heard that? How many times have you said it yourself? It’s a pretty popular saying, especially in the political and socially diverse environment in which we find ourselves today, but it’s a sad thing when all you have in common with another person is the fact that you disagree. Amos 3:3 says, “Can two walk together, except they are agreed?” (NKJV). That’s kind of the million-dollar question—a question for which I had a resounding answer: Nope.

Growing up in the church, I had more than enough to disagree with. I’m not talking about theology, worship style, legalism or anything related to your admission into the pearly gates. My disagreements were far more simple and personal. As the son of the preacher, my disagreements were with unrealistic expectations placed upon me by those who thought they knew me by virtue of my name. My jumping-off point was with how “good church folk” treated my family (in particular my father) and the abuse we suffered at the hands of such people.

At the ripe old age of 23, I was mad at God, through with church, and living a life that in no way reflected my upbringing as a preacher’s kid. As a result of my poor decisions and the root of bitterness that had me firmly entangled, my relationships were strained, my marriage was a mess, and I was trying to deal with the pain, regret and humiliation of life by hiding inside a bottle. I was working my way up the corporate ladder in my secular job, but beyond that, everything else was crashing around me.

Yet in spite of the disagreements, fights, feuds and other assorted turmoil I had put my dad through, I still had to admit that he was my best friend. While I had done my best to push him away, my father, the son of an alcoholic-father-turned-church-deacon, knew what it was to be cast aside, knew the power and price of redemption, and knew that the best way to win over the object of your disagreement is with love.

Now, the problem with any disagreement is that the vast majority of the time, someone is in the right and someone is in the wrong. It pretty much went without saying that based on my lifestyle, I was wrong—although my dad would also be quick to admit he was not without fault. Still, I hung on to my bitterness and anger like a lifeline and refused to give an inch. I refused, that is, until I found myself on the bathroom floor—a total wreck—crying out and yelling at God. After consuming an inordinate amount of alcohol and a screaming match with my wife, I had collapsed on the floor of our bathroom late one night. Totally freaked out, she knew of nothing else to do than to call my father. I challenged her to do so, thinking he wouldn’t come. Ashamed and confused, I had no use for myself anymore. I figured he didn’t either.

In the middle of one of the darkest nights of my life, there was a knock at my door. It was my dad.

My initial reaction to seeing him was a hate-filled rant that quickly devolved into the cry of the prodigal. Once the angst-filled rebel gave way to the worn-down prodigal, the next couple of hours were filled with cries of remorse, tears of forgiveness, and promise—the promise of healed relationships and renewed commitment to my family, my heavenly Father and the calling He had placed on my life.

Someone smarter than me once said that the problem with running from God is that usually you end up running into Him. Living a life of disagreement with the godly people God has placed in our lives and being forever at odds with our gifts and calling will only lead to ruin and an up-close-and-personal view of the bathroom floor.

Is there happiness in disagreement? Sure. Even the Bible alludes to that in passages like Hebrews 11:25: “He [Moses] chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (NIV).

However, the momentary happiness that a self-serving life brings pales in comparison to the life lived in agreement with the call of God. Pleasures lose their luster. Riches lose their value. Prestige lasts until the next shiny new employee comes along. The only life that has any lasting, eternal value is the one lived for Christ.

Now, years later, I’ve left the parties with my friends for the peace and contentment of my family. I’ve given up the life of egotistical and selfish disagreement for agreement and harmony with my fathers (earthly and heavenly). I traded in the confinement of self-imposed loneliness and unworthiness for the wide-open spaces of promise and hope that only a life in agreement with God’s call can bring.

And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

The Rhythm of the Saints

 

Several years ago, 60’s music icon Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel fame released an album entitled The Rhythm of the Saints. On this recording, he utilized musicians and musical instruments from all over the world to create a compelling, “world music” experience. As I thought about this title (with it’s obvious spiritual overtones), and thought about the debate over music that has raged in the church for years (decades, centuries, etc.), it begged the question…

What should the real “Rhythm of the Saints” look and sound like? How should we as believers approach music and worship?

The instructions for true worship and praise are clearly defined in the scriptures.

  • We should worship Christ continually.

Our lives, not just our church services, should be a reflection of praise.

“Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and let those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘Let God be magnified.’” ~ Psalm 70:4

  • We should worship Christ in the church.

“I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people.” ~ Psalm 35:18

  • We should worship Christ with the lost present.

“He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.” ~ Psalm 40:3

  • We should worship God so that praise can be heard.

“O bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise be heard.” ~ Psalm 66:8

These sounds of worship could include:

Shouting—

“… let Your saints shout for joy.” ~ Psalm 132:9

Singing—

“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~ Ephesians 5:18-20

Laughter—

“…then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with singing…” ~ Psalm 126:1-3

Musical Instruments—

“…play skillfully with a loud noise…” ~ Psalm 47:1

Clapping—

“Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph!” ~ Psalm 47:1

  • We should worship God with our bodies.

How should we use our bodies in worship? We are commanded to “present your bodies a living sacrifice…” (Romans 12:1-2). We should not hesitate to follow the example of “the man after God’s own heart” — “… David danced before the LORD with all of his might…” (2 Samuel 6:14)

  • We can lift up our hands.

“Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.” ~ Psalm 63:4

  • We should worship God with our soul and spirit.

You are body-world conscious, and you are soul-self conscious:

“Bless the Lord O my soul…” ~ Psalm 103:1

In addition, you are spirit/God conscious. When you are saved your spirit comes alive in Jesus Christ. Praise is the exercise of the Spirit. Praise brings strength to your spirit.

“…which worship God in the Spirit…” ~ Philippians 3:3

Mary praised God by saying, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:47)

  • We should worship according to the Word of God.

Everything David did in worship was from the Word of God…

“In God I will praise His word.” ~ Psalm 56:10-11

The Pitfalls of Preference

Worship is not about musical styles and personal preferences. It’s not about “warm fuzzies”, “nice feelings”, and staying in our comfort zones. Worship is about getting into God’s presence and seeking His face above all. What may sound to us like a joyful noise (emphasis on noise) may be wonderful praise from a pure heart to the ears of Almighty God. On the contrary, what may sound reverent, impressive, and inspiring to us may be a clanging noise to the One who knows “the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

The ark of God was the very throne and dwelling place of the presence of God on earth. When David and the children of Israel wanted to bring the ark of God up from Kiriath Jearim to the City of David, they had the best intentions at heart. It seemed like the right thing to do. There was much rejoicing and celebrating. They gathered all the people together, lots of music and dance, put the ark on a “new cart”, and headed out. However, God had already specified the manner in which the ark was to be carried, and a cart pulled by oxen was not in the instructions. The ark (His Presence) was always to be carried upon the shoulders of men, not on a cart pulled by a beast. So, when the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out to steady the ark, he paid for his irreverence with his life. God struck him dead on the spot, which angered the king. However, it wasn’t long until anger turned to fear in David’s heart. Instead of continuing with his ill-fated plan, David turned aside to the house of Obed-Edom, where the ark resided for the next three months (2 Samuel 6).

David had a good idea, but he did a good thing in a bad way. Worship is not about our opinion — it’s about His Presence. Following His design for how we approach Him is the key to finding His heart, and experiencing the joy, peace, awe, and wonder of His presence. When David returned three months later to move the ark to the City of David, he had a new perspective, a new attitude of worship, and approached the ark of God with sacrificial worship and praise.

One final thought…

The passage states that, “The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed him and his entire household” (2 Samuel 6:11). Obed-Edom didn’t just stop by occasionally and visit the ark. He made his home — his dwelling place — the habitation of the presence of Almighty God. Could it be that we are not experiencing more of His power and blessing because we are apathetic in our treatment of His presence in our lives? Could it be that if, instead of showing up at His house on Sundays and Wednesday nights, we make our own homes and our very lives habitations for His throne to reside 24/7?

Combine that attitude toward worship with the spirit of unity of believers in Jesus, and I believe that you find the unstoppable, unmistakable “Rhythm of the Saints” sounds surprisingly like the very heartbeat of God.

Find Your Way Back

StatueYesterday, many of us commemorated the 12th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on our nation. We remembered the event like it was yesterday. We remembered the horror and anguish we felt as we helplessly watched nearly 3,000 of our fellow citizens be whisked away into eternity. We remembered the uncertainty of facing an enemy we could not see coming. We remembered the promises we all made to “never forget”. However, there is one thing we seem to have forgotten…

Our dependence on God during our darkest of nights.

Flag half-mastIn the days following 9-11, Americans flocked to churches. Some were looking for answers. Some were looking for peace. Some were looking for consolation. All were looking for something…

Many didn’t find it.

The cry of so many in our culture could be summed up in the words of an old ’80’s song by the group Jefferson Starship

I know it’s too late now
But I wish I could go back in time
And start all over somehow
And get it right from the start

Many people carry unnecessary regret. Many think it is too late to change, or wish they could go back in time and get a “do over”.

Well, this Sunday, you can.

Sunday, September 15, 2013 is National Back to Church Sunday. If you are currently involved in a church, I challenge you to invite someone who isn’t to join you at your house of worship. If you are not involved in a church, I invite you to visit a church in your area, and see how you can get involved.

You may say, “I’m just not sure I can find a church that is right for me.”

Well, you won’t know until you try, and with 20,000+ churches participating this Sunday, the odds are pretty good that there is one that is right for you. And just remember: You have to start somewhere. If you don’t find it the first time out, keep trying. I believe the church where you belong is out there waiting for you.

“Well, I have a lot of questions… maybe some of my questions are dumb”

Church is a great place for asking questions. The Bible is filled with people who “inquired of the Lord.” If it is an easy question, we should be able to find you an answer quickly. If it is a tough question, we may just have to find it together. The only “dumb” question is the one you don’t ask. Wouldn’t it be great to find a group of people you can grow with?

“I just feel like my life is a journey.”

Life is a journey, and the church is not a destination. It is a place to stop, rest, and find encouragement to continue the journey. It’s about finding a fire, and spreading it to others to light their way. Isn’t the journey always nicer if you have someone to travel with?

“Maybe I’m too different.”

The first church in Jerusalem as described in Acts had a wide diversity of people: spiritually-mature, physically-challenged, ex-cons, religious professionals, widows, foreigners, new-believers, problem-makers, problem-solvers, and more. Sadly, the 21st century church is the most segregated place in our nation. Let’s work together to change that.

“But I’m a sinner…”

Welcome to the club… we all are. The Bible says that “all have sinned”. It is why we need Jesus.

“I’m broken…”

What better place to find healing than a hospital? The church is a hospital for the downtrodden and weary of heart. Come find rest and healing in the hands of the Great Physician.

“Well, the church is full of hypocrites…”

True, so you should fit right in. <<wink>> Seriously… we are ALL hypocrites in one way or another. Unless you live 100 percent of what you believe 100 percent of the time, you are, by definition, a hypocrite. However, our goal as Christians is to be more like Jesus. We may not always succeed, but most of us are trying. That is the great thing about grace and mercy.

So, the ball is in your court. Maybe you were involved in a church and left. Maybe you’ve never darkened the doorstep of a local church. Whatever your condition, why not find your way back (or to) a church this Sunday? I know that we would love to see you at Abba’s House, if you are in the Chattanooga/North Georgia area.

Blessings,
Pastor Ron