"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Worship As a Way of Life Rather than a Rule of Law

Anytime someone gives nearly six decades of their lives to vocational Christian ministry, there is an expertise that comes from both age and experience. Paul Burleson has been the pastor of small churches as well as some of the largest and fastest growing churches in the United States. He's an expert on true Kingdom ministry - he'd never say that, but I do! He writes imminently practical articles on the Christian life at his blog entitled VTMBOTTOMLINE (VTM is an abbreviation for Vital Truth Ministries)

Today my father posted an article entitled What I'm Thinking about Worship.  There's little I could add to the article. For anyone who has ever wondered what the Bible says about Christians gathering "corporately" (that means all together) and what "worship" should look like, you need to read this article - because it removes the word should from the Christians vocabulary when it comes to corporate worship. Enough said - just read:


What I'm Thinking about Worship
Paul Burleson

I'M THINKING____There is not A SINGLE verse in the New Testament that even hints that the PURPOSE of the gathering of the church is for worship. The New Testament text shows that the purpose of the gathering is all of the "One Another" verses. In other words, it is for the horizontal relationships [plural] and NOT the vertical relationship [singular] that the Church gathers on any given occasion. I'm NOT saying to worship as a gathered congregation is WRONG. I'm just saying it is NOT the PRIMARY purpose for the gathered Body of Christ in the New Testament. I'm thinking that's where we are to be today as well. John Piper said this, "The very epistles that are written to help the church be what it ought to be in this age [are] almost totally devoid of…explicit teaching on the specifics of corporate worship" There are some things that I disagree with John Piper about theologically, but NOT this.

I'M THINKING____Many churches today may be reflecting an "Old Covenant" way of thinking about worship rather than a "New Covenant" way of thinking? To "go to" a place and "to do" certain things a certain way, misses the boat on worship entirely as seen in the New Testament. In the Old Testament people DID COME to the Tabernacle/Temple [House of God] to meet with and worship Jehovah a certain way. They did bring such things such as sacrifices and offerings all the while performing their rituals regularly that led eventually to the High Priest entering into His Presence in the Tabernacle or Temple on that one occasion called the Day of Atonement.

But to see the Church in the New Testament trying to gather IN THAT WAY would be missing the point of the CROSS. Jesus Christ IS HIMSELF our sacrifice, our offering, our feast days, our cleansing, our sanctification, and all the rest that's pictured in the Old Testament Tabernacle OR Temple. Jesus IS our very life! We live DAILY in the presence of God and are to worship DAILY the One Who indwells us by His Holy Spirit. Worship for us is a life of obedience as we're recognizing His presence and enjoying HIM as being our source for All OF LIFE. Then there is a gathering occasionally to encourage and provoke one another. [See Romans 12:1-2 and Hebrews 10:25]

I'M THINKING____A debate about “music in worship” is a bit silly, if not totally futile. From" no instruments" on one side of the argument [Church of Christ], to those who enjoy what SOME MIGHT CALL "entertainment,” [Lights and Sound, drums and guitars, such as we have in my church called HHBC] ] there is a raging debate going on about it all. But my question is WHY does the way someone musically worships matter to us AT ALL?

In the New Testament music itself is simply NOT addressed, except being seen as a result of the Holy Spirit doing His infilling work. But things like washing feet, serving in love, sharing the Lord's table, teaching the saints and praying for others are addressed as a congregation. We call them the "one-another" verses mentioned in the first paragraph. Even were one to hold to the Old Testament as an example for worship, [I don't, as you can tell] it needs to be remembered that the Israelites many times used drums, trumpet blasts, silence, repetitions, singing, shouting, and numerous other interesting displays to glorify God. Nothing calm, cool or collected about that.

I'M THINKING____Jesus REALLY DID mean something special when He announced that the day has come when those who worship will do so in Spirit and Truth? NO LONGER is worship to be based on doing it a certain way, a certain time or at a certain place. Nor is it supposed to be based on one generation’s “form” of musical worship compared to another. IT IS A WAY OF LIFE!

So, as I read someone say and I paraphrase, whether in a room alone, or with others shouting and jumping with joy, or sitting in silence, or clapping to an electronic synthesizer, or with an organ or piano singing hymns, or just being intoxicated by his love as the Song of Solomon describes it, or even further, when we are reading aloud the Word, or feeding the poor, proclaiming the Good News to the broken-hearted in His name, laughing together, or giving our finances, LET IT ALL BE DONE to the glory of Jesus. We worship because we are reveling in His Grace and enjoying Him and wish to celebrate His matchless GLORY [Greek "Doxa" meaning His "manifested Presence."] whether gathered or scattered!

I'M THINKING____Wade Burleson got it right when he said this...

""Worship in many churches is either on life support or is dead. But it has nothing to do with whether saints play guitars versus Steinway pianos, or videos versus violins, or any other differences in style. Though many call the disagreements over 'contemporary' and 'traditional' styles of worship 'wars,' in reality, the REAL war in worship is the "internal battle in me." [All of us!] God calls me to rest in Him, to enjoy Him, TO BE SO captivated and enraptured by His love and grace for me, that I will burst unless I actively worship God and give expression to what's happening in my soul."

Wade goes on to say...

"Worship is an inner [spiritual] health made audible. If there is no soul-tingling, mind-bending, emotion-touching, will-transforming enjoyment of God, then there is no soul-tingling, mind-bending, emotion-touching, will-transforming worship of God! Worship of God is non-existent when enjoyment of God is non-existent. Sure, I can sing songs, play music, and 'do church,' but if there is no understanding of what it means to be fully satisfied in God, then there will be no desire on my part to publicly express my praise and gratitude in real worship of God." [Privately OR Corporately!]

Paul here...

I'M THINKING____I'll just quit typing and have a moment of worship myself.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Stillwater Strong: Jesus Saves Us to the Uttermost

Saturday brought tragedy to our state. A 25-year-old woman recklessly barreled her car through a crowded Oklahoma State University homecoming parade, killing four individuals and wounding forty-four more, some critically. We had church members just a few feet away from the tragedy as it happened, and one person told me yesterday that he will never forget the horrific sight of the dead and wounded lying on the street and sidewalks around him. 
Watching the news Saturday night, I heard someone who narrowly escaped being hit by the car say to an interviewer, "Only by the goodness and kindness of God was I not hit."  It seems programmed into every person to believe the evidence of God's goodness and kindness is material and physical blessings or the avoidance of temporal tragedies. It seems unnatural to say that God's kindness is present in the lives of those hit by the car as much as it is in the lives of those not hit by the car. But because such an idea seems so unnatural, maybe we ought to conclude there's some truth in it because God's ways are not our ways, neither His thoughts our thoughts (Isaiah 55;8).

Personally, I believe the gospel requires us to say that Christians who experience terrible tragedies are as much in the middle of God's kindness and goodness as those who don't experience such trauma.  

The writer of Hebrews makes an astonishing statement about Jesus Christ. "Christ saves to the uttermost those that come to God by Him" (Hebrews 7:25). Question: For "those who come to God by Christ," what is it that Christ saves us from? Answer; Christ saves us from ever "being cut off from the goodness and kindness of God" (Romans 11:22b). This is the teaching of the New Covenant, and Paul spends a great deal of time in his letter to the Romans teaching this principle. Paul says that believers in Christ abide in God's goodness, but those who refuse Christ are "cut off" from God's goodness and kindness.  There is a popular saying that "God is good all the time and all the time God is good." This saying is only partially true. God is good all the time to those "who come to Him by Christ." Those who refuse Christ are 'cut off' from God's goodness."

"Behold the severity of God" (Romans 11:22a). It is a severe thing to be outside of the realm of God's goodness and kindness. One is "cut off" from God's goodness. However - and this is important - "to be "cut off" from God's goodness can only be measured by your attitude toward Jesus Christ. Those who come to God by Jesus Christ are never cut off from God's goodness, are never outside the realm of God's kindness, and are never "cut off" from God's grace, because Jesus "saves us to the uttermost."

The King James Version word "uttermost" - which means "completely," "fully," or "totally" - is the best word to translate the Greek word panteles. It's much better than the New International Version or New American Standard word "forever." It is true that Christ saves us forever, but when the Bible says "Christ saves us to the uttermost," it means He "completely," "totally," and "fully" rescues us from ever being cut off from God's goodness. 

One of the worst things a Christian can do is to measure "God's goodness" in terms of health, wealth and other material or temporal blessings. These things are good and definitely comprise some of the blessings that come from God ("for it is God who gives you the power to have wealth'), but these are not God's greatest blessings nor are they God's surest signs of His kindness and goodness. A rich, healthy, powerful man can be 'cut off' from experiencing God's goodness in Christ and be utterly miserable spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. The internal belief that God is good to you personally, unconditionally, and eternally - regardless of your merit or ability to earn this favor - is a far superior gift than any external experience of temporal, material and physical blessings. Only the person who comes to God by Christ can have the assurance that cancer, job loss, accidents, and other tragedies are never a sign of being cut off from God's kindness and goodness.

Jesus Christ fully, totally and completely delivers us who come to God by Him from ever being cut off from God's goodness, no matter how things seem around us - even if we are struck by a car during a parade.

Friday, October 09, 2015

His Love Washes Over Us: Emmanuel Enid, Oklahoma

After the teaching time during the 11:15 am Sunday morning worship service, we have a time of corporate worship. Lives are being transformed; that's something to celebrate. Last Sunday Rachelle and I spoke with a woman who's been coming to Emmanuel Enid for just three weeks. She's been a meth and cocaine addict, and is now in the grip of alcohol addiction. She'd come Sunday morning "at the end" of her rope. During the service, the Holy Spirit gently drew this woman to Christ. With running mascara, a broken heart, and hope for the future, she surrendered her life to Christ. Truly, the love of Christ is washing all over this woman. The worship video below is from our corporate worship time after the teaching at Emmanuel Enid. I think you too will be able to sense the movement of the Holy Spirit. Come join us.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

ISIS Makes Russia a Friend to the U.S.

Yesterday I heard for the first time that the Russians were bombing targets in Syria.  In a previous Republican Presidential debate, Marco Rubio predicted that Russia would begin bombing Syria because "Putin desires to re-establish Russia as a geo-political force." In other words, Russia desires to be "the power broker" in the Middle East, replacing the United States' weak leadership in the region. Rubio is right. Russia is making her move. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Russia is pouring "gasoline on the fire" in Syria. The Obama administration is quick to make Russia the enemy.

I would caution all Americans about jumping to hasty conclusions, or believing everything you hear from the media or the United States government. Those with an understanding of past wars will tell you that often America must side with a perceived enemy to accomplish an even greater good. The greater good will sometimes turn a perceived enemy into a friend on the battlefield. This is precisely where the United States may find itself with Russia. Those wishing to remove President Assad of Syria are radical Muslims of the ISIS variety. Everyone knows what happened in Iraq after there arose a vacuum of governmental leadership. The Islamic State moved in. Russia is supporting Assad, and both Russia and Assad are arch-enemies of the Islamic State. So is America. During World War II America aligned with the Soviet Union to defeat the Nazis. After the war was over, Russia became our "enemy." But with our enemy as an ally during the war, Adolph Hitler was defeated.

America, don't be too hasty on choosing a side in this current conflict. Before you condemn Russia for her moves in Syria, ask who it is that Russia is fighting? It very well could be that a common enemy makes our perceived enemy a friend.