Worship

Let Us Consider: Neglecting to Meet Together

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“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 10:24-25

I’m sure these are verses that we all have heard quoted many times, especially by preachers who are trying to guilt us into coming to church. Let me say right now before we go any further, I don’t want to guilt you into going to church. I tell folks all the time, even the folks that I pastor, that it is not my job to beg people to come to church. Sure, I want you to know that I want you there. Yes, I want you to know that the doors are always open. Please, know that everyone is welcome. But, I will never beg you to come to church nor will I make you feel guilty for not being there.

Does this mean that I don’t think church is important? Absolutely not. There are few things in this world and in our Christian lives that are more important than worshiping corporately with fellow believers. In fact, as this passage from Hebrews shows us very clearly, corporate worship is a command from God. We are to “not neglect to meet together…” Why? So that we can stir one another up to good works, and encourage each other.

Likewise, in Ephesians 4 the Apostle Paul gives another powerful illustration of what is accomplished through the local church. Paul says that the saints are equipped…”for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God…to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine…we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

The picture we have throughout the Bible, ALL of the Bible, is that believers WILL gather with other believers in order to worship God and to be built up in their faith. It is through the ministry of the local church that we learn who God really is. It is through the ministry of the local church that we learn what God has done and is doing through Christ. It is through the local church that believers are built up in their faith, grow in their walk with Christ, and are shaped more into his image. It is through the local church that believers draw close to other believers and build relationships that help them to love God and love others as Christ has called them to love. It is through the local church that believers encourage each other, love each other, and build each other up.

This isn’t just a preacher talking, this is the Word of God talking.

So, no, I don’t want to beg anyone to come to church. But what I do want you to know is that if you aren’t a member of a local church, or if you don’t attend a local church and serve in a local church then your faith WILL suffer. Your Christian life WILL suffer. Your relationship with God WILL suffer. Your knowledge of and affection for the Lord Jesus will not be what it should be. Perhaps most frightening of all…If you are neglecting to meet together with other believers, you are neglecting and disobeying the clear command of the word of God, and this is called sin.

As a pastor, I don’t want to see people coming to church because it strokes my ego, or makes me feel more successful. As a pastor, I want to see people coming to church because I want to see people drawing near to Jesus and growing in their relationship with him.

I was reading this week about the persecution of Christians in many parts of the world, and I was reminded yet again what an amazing privilege we have here in the United States to worship and speak the name of Jesus freely. In other parts of the world there are believers who have to meet in secret, and literally risk their lives to speak, sing, and praise the name of Jesus. Believers in other parts of the world would literally die to do the things that so many of us take for granted, and even neglect.

I said previously that I don’t want to guilt anyone into going to church, and I don’t see it as my job to beg you to do so. Those things may be true, but I do want to leave you with this encouragement: PLEASE, for the sake of your own soul and your relationship with the Lord, find a local church. Attend that local church, join that local church, be faithful and serve that local church. This is the will of God for your life – Scripture commands it, a thriving and vibrant Christian life demands it.

Worship

worship

This week as I was preaching through Psalm 1, I made the observation that the Psalms are meant to draw us into worship. I defined worship as: Drawing closer to God so that we can see Him as He is in all his beauty and splendor and majesty, then giving Him honor and praise for who He is. I’m certain this isn’t a complete definition, nor the most theological definition, but still I think it helps us to get an idea of what worship should be.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us that the chief end of man is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” I tend to think this in itself is a pretty good definition of what worship is. There are many other definitions that I’ve heard for worship: To give weight to, to ascribe worth, to reverence or give adoration…

No matter which definition we like best, there is one commonality I see in them all: Worship works best when God is the object of our worship.

This seems like a “no-brainer” but my experience tells me this isn’t always how we approach worship. So often I see folks, myself included, think of worship as more of a performance than anything else. Now certainly, none of us will say this…but when we take a good look at ourselves in the mirror, I think you’ll see that I might be more right than you or I would like to admit.

I have a group of pastor friends I talk to on a regular basis. We send each other encouraging words and pass along our prayers each Sunday morning. On Sunday afternoon and Wednesday nights we will often ask each other how the day went…More times than not, we will discuss how we feel we preached. Instead of focusing on the goodness and graciousness of God…which I know is the message that we’ve preached…we are instead focused on our performances in the pulpits. If there is a technical difficulty in the leading of the worship, or if I forget the words to a song (I’m also my own worship leader) I’ll tend to dwell on it. I pay way more attention to the areas that I feel I messed up, than I do on the God whom I was there to proclaim and worship, and lead my people in worshiping.

This is not how it ought to be.

But I don’t believe this just happens among those in the pulpits. I know, because I’ve been on the other side too. How many times do church goers leave talking more about whether the worship band or choir had a great day(or off day), or how well the preacher did that morning?

Is this really worship? I don’t think so.

Worship is focusing on, rejoicing in, and resting in the one to Whom we came to give our praises to.

Worship is not a performance, and it must never be…or else it ceases to be worship at all.

It doesn’t just happen in church either. We are called to live lives of worship. But how many of us are more focused on our performance or the performance of others than we are on the God for Whom we are to be living our lives for?

There is much more we could say here, but I fear I may go beyond the scope of this blog post, so I will leave us with this…

Worship your God today. Draw near to Him, so that you can see Him as He is. Gaze upon His beauty, be awed by his splendor and majesty…honor Him as best you can. Praise Him for who He is.

On Writing

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I have a love-hate relationship with writing. I love it because I love words. I love searching for just the right word at just the right time, and being able to construct a beautiful sentence. I’m not always great at doing this, and I fail more times than not, but I enjoy trying. On that rare occasion that I get it right, it’s pure magic. I love being able to impact people with the words that I write. It is an amazing thing to be able to help people discover, or perhaps just think about things in a new way. Writing is one of my passions.

I hate writing because writing is hard work. I hate the way in which it can consume your mind, even when you aren’t writing. Sitting down to write takes effort. Finding a block of time is not always easy, especially when you have a real job and a large family. Writing is terrifying. You are often bearing your soul to the world. Writers by nature are often very sensitive, and I am no different. When someone hates what I write, it often crushes me. Recently I had someone refund one of my books, for reasons I’m not sure of… But, for over an hour it was all I could think about. (I feel ridiculous for admitting this)

Because I hate writing, I will often go through seasons in which I hardly write at all. Because I love writing, I always come back to it. Recently I’ve decided to become more serious about my writing. So, the question is…Why?

Do I think I’m a great writer? No. I think I’m a decent writer, but by no means am I a great writer. Do I think what I have to say is more important than what other people have to say? Absolutely not, but I do think I have important things to say, and I’m willing to say them. In a world in which many people are afraid to voice their opinions about anything of substance, this is not a small thing. Not only this, God has given me a love for writing, and at least in some measure a gift for it. This being true, I should use whatever gift God has given me in order to serve him and his church. As I view my writing in this way, my writing becomes a form of worship. This is a beautiful thought to me.

So here is my exhortation to all of us. If you have a passion for something, do it. Don’t be afraid to take that step. If God has given you a gift, don’t keep it to yourself. You don’t have to be great at it, you simply need to be willing to share. You don’t have to be a best selling author, or a gifted orator in order to be used of God. You simply need to offer whatever talents you have as a sacrifice to the Lord, and trust him to bless it. Use your gifts, whatever they may be to bless the church.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6-8

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

“Psalm 1” A Poem

My personal poetic interpretation of the first Psalm…

How blessed is the one who forsakes the world and all its evil ways.
How blessed is the one who seeks Your precious face.
How blessed is the one who loves Your Word, and obeys it all His days.
Oh that blessed day when I will look upon Your face.
Help me Lord, for without you, this is an impossible race.
I beg You Lord, please teach me Your ways.

I will absorb Your Word. I will drink Your living water.
Through life’s storms I cannot fall. You are my Father.
Plant me firmly in Your Word, In Your streams of living water.
Let the fruit I yield be proof to the world, that You are my Father.
Your Word says the wicked cannot prosper.
Yet ALL things work together for good, for Your sons and daughters.

How blessed is the one who forsakes the world and all its evil ways.
How blessed is the one who has called You Lord and felt Your precious grace.
Oh that blessed day when I will look upon Your face.
Search my heart and make it whole, for You know all my ways.
The wicked will perish, their ways are evil, why do they live lives of waste.
That was me before You saved me, oh who can know Your ways?