Coming Soon . . .

Hello faithful readers . . . those that are still around. Well I have been super busy over the last few months. I intended to finish my series and then give an update on life, but that isn’t happening right now. I will finish the CCLI series, but for now, the reason while I have been MIA. Back in August I graduated from Liberty University, with my Masters of Arts in Worship Studies in Leadership. Since then I have been working two jobs, and volunteering in two positions at my church. Needless to say, my motivation to write has been lacking.

While all this has been going on my wife found out that she is pregnant! So coming in late May is an addition to our family of 2 making us a family of 3! We are both extremely excited, and extremely nervous about becoming parents. As of now I am working in a coffee bar here in the Seattle area, and at one of the local Apple Store Retail locations. During Christmas life is nuts between the two jobs. My hope is that in the new year I will be able to write more often. And interact with my readership more often. I look forward to interacting with you all, and sharing my thoughts with you in 2013.

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Glorious

Alrighty, time for the third installment of my dream CCLI 25 songs. This time around I am going to be talking about Glorious by Paul Baloche. Baloche is such a wonderful guy. I’ve been able to see him teach and share his heart three times and this man just shines the love of God. He desires to pass on what he has learned through experience to those of us that don’t have as much experience to learn from.

On to the song. This song has a nice little intro tag that is so memorable, and it comes around to some ‘Ohs’ later on, you can’t help but singing. A few lines that make this song a must for me. Let’s start with the first line:

“Look inside the mystery

See the empty cross”

Ok so it was the first two lines. Sometimes Christianity seems to be about having all the answers, and understanding everything of God and Christ. This isn’t what our faith is really about. There is a mystery to our faith, Paul references the mystery of our faith a number of times in his letters. This mystery is what makes our faith exciting and helps, me at least, to keep on the journey. I want to discover the mystery that is our faith. The fact that it is coupled with the idea of the empty cross grabs me. I understand how we receive salvation through Christ’s sacrifice, but I don’t really understand it. This empty cross, the empty tomb, it is part of this mystery. Ok, lets look at some other lines:

“Glorious, my eyes have seen the glory of the Lord”

My last post talks about the glory of the Lord and this line, the first in the chorus, proclaims God’s glory. It continues to say that we have seen this glory! How can this be? Well if you have eyes you have seen the beauty of a forest, a snow capped mountain, the sun shimmering off the ocean, clouds stream across the sky. If you have ears you’ve heard the chirping of birds, the sound of the wind through the trees, the flow of a stream or river, the giggle of a baby. If you have taste buds you’ve tasted the sweetness of fruit, the complexity of coffee, and the fullness or beer (ok probably the first one for sure, and the others maybe). The point is, all of this demonstrates God’s glory because he created it all. God’s glory is all around us. Especially in the life of a human, perhaps especially a baby. We may have also glimpsed God’s glory in other ways, in special ways, heard Him speak to us, seen his miracles, felt His spirit.

I’m going to leave it at those two lines, mainly because I have written so much already, however, there are a number of other lines and words that make this song worthy. Baloche is an honest and amazing lyricist and composer.

 

The Worship Concert

Hey guys, sorry for the break, been busier than I thought and more tired as well. 

Over the past couple weeks, on my way to the gym, I’ve noticed a sign advertising a ‘Worship Concert.’ This term really bugs me. It carries some connotations with it that as a worship leader, I just don’t like. However, I am going to argue for Worship Concerts and that phrase to be tagged to it.

First lets define concert. According to dictionary.com “a public musical performance in which a number of singers or instrumentalists, or both, participate.” I bet right off the bat there are a few things that catch your eye as bad in a worship setting. “public musical performance”. This is definitely a danger, however, anytime you practice for something and then display the skill, even in worship, in front of people, it is a performance. Not only that, but all worshipers, in the congregation and those leading, are performing the act of worship before God. So while we should not make our worship an over the top blockbuster performance to put attention on skill and artistry. We should work to do our best as we lead worship in a church or in other worship settings. 

From a cultural stand point the ways in which concerts are attended is changing. While a concert used to be a passive event where one would watch the performance, more and more, the band, or artist, encourages those in attendance to participate and sing along. I myself love to sing along at concerts. In many cases I think to myself, “wow, this band is great at leading worship.” We have to understand that most secular bands are not pointing worship to God, but themselves, and in many cases don’t really realize it. 

So while I, and many of us may not like the term Worship Concert. It is perfectly legitimate to have them, and call them that. In reality it is a time of gathering together as believers and glorifying God. In many cases the change of scenery from our home churches and worship style, can either invigorate our worship, or give us a new perspective. So whether you are putting on a worship concert or attending one, praise the Lord.

A word of caution. While I have argued for the term and execution of Worship Concerts, caution must be exercised. It is easier to humble oneself in a church to worship and lead worship. However, in a larger outside of the church setting it may feel more like a concert, not a worship concert, but just a concert. Often times there are colored and moving lights, large back drops in which images and video clips or laser shows are included. While, none of these are wrong or evil, it can cause the worship leader to get a big head, or those worshiping to get distracted. Be sure that the focus is directed to our God, the three-in-one, triune, Father, Son, Holy Spirit God, Creator of the universe and all it contains. Savior of the world, Redeemer of the lost, Healer of the sick, the giver of strength, the Lord of Hosts, and Ruler of Heaven, forever and ever, Amen!

What has been your greatest worship concert experience?

The Worship War: Civil Wars

The Worship War series has (more or less) followed the Biblical Narrative, as different key battles in the Worship War occurred. Now we are going to turn to the present. Or more perhaps more appropriately take a look at worship history briefly. Check out Jubilate II by Donald Hustad for more detail on all of this. For the first 300 years of Church history Christians were, more or less, forced to worship in secret and in small house style churches. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part Christianity was considered treason because it rejected the Imperial Cult of Rome. In the mid-300’s Constantine Emperor or Rome was converted to Christianity and it then became the State Religion. Basilicas were made into churches, and Cathedrals began to be built, we thus have the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church. They, for the most part, ran the show in the western world of Worship. Interestingly enough, Eastern Orthodox worship is virtually unchanged, with the exception of language, for almost 2000 years now. Around the mid 1500’s we have Luther and his 95 Thesis that challenged the Catholic Churches authority. After the reformation took place (inadvertently started by Luther) many different traditions sprang up. Some adhering very much to a similar style as Catholic worship, others rejecting singing in church. In a way a contemporary movement began, mainly allowing worship in the native language as opposed to Latin. The main songs sung were Psalms put to modern well-known tunes. About 100 years later hymns began to appear, though were controversial. Hymns then were the norm for about 300 years (that statement is very simplistic, and the history is much more complex, but this is a blog and I don’t want to go super long here, just give a quick over view.)

This brief history shows us one thing, worship stayed very constant for long periods of time, and then was changed or challenged. That change then becomes the norm that is again challenged after a long long time. However, more recently (1970’s) the Jesus Movement challenged the norm of hymns. The free spirit of the Jesus people drove them to write songs that fit their culture, more Rock like in nature, with their own language. The tension between those that love hymns and contemporary worship music has stayed since. While the ‘style’ of contemporary worship music has changed with the modern pop music, for the most part, the tension remains. Since the 70s worship has changed more frequently than over the first 1900 years Christian worship existed.

Now in many places the battle over hymns (or traditional) vs. modern (or contemporary) as the proper means for worship is in full swing. This issue has divided churches and denominations. In a sense this has become the Worship War battle that is internal and not against the true Enemy, Satan. What caused this Civil War to break out? At its core there are two issues. (1) Self-entitlement, this attitude kills the true heart of worship and makes worship about the worshiper (thus causing the worshiper to become an idol) and not about God. (2) Lack of worship education. The church, as a whole, does not understand what worship truly is. I’m not saying that I do, I don’t understand it either. The problem is that worshipers see worship as music and nothing more. It is up to the Church to educate its congregation on what worship truly is and what actions it fully encompasses.

I am striving to do my part through this blog, I hope that I do so clearly, humbly, and do not muddy waters that should otherwise be clear. As a blogger I ask that if you believe I am being over-zealous or arrogant in my presentation to call me on it. That is the last thing that I wish to do. My goal is that the entire Church, regardless of tradition, background or denomination will worship God as fully, truly and authentically as possible!

Psalm 150

Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heaven!

2 Praise him for his mighty works;
praise his unequaled greatness!

3 Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn;
praise him with the lyre and harp!

4 Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;
praise him with strings and flutes!

5 Praise him with a clash of cymbals;
praise him with loud clanging cymbals.

6 Let everything that breathes sing praises to the LORD!
Praise the LORD!

The Worship War: Battle for Salvation II

In the last post we looked at the temptation of Christ by satan. This is an important event in the life and ministry of Christ. While I did not do the event justice in my treatise of the events and it’s ramifications, there are two important points to focus on from this event. First, Christ, like us was tempted, there is no evidence that he was ever tempted again, but I would be surprised if this was the only time he was, the point of putting these instances down is to show that in this way Christ can identify with our condition here, and is proven to still be sinless. Theologians have called Christ the ‘Second Adam’. From the events of Christ’s temptation we are also shown that this Second Adam succeeded in thwarting the plot of Satan where the first Adam (and Eve) could not. Christ’s resistence to temptation and sin allow for the work salvation (justification, regeneration, redemption and sanctification) all to be possible.

There is however, a second event that occurs that completes the process. The four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) all contain the ‘Passion’ story. This is the narrative of Christ’s trial and execution via crucifixion. During the last Passover Supper, which occurs just before these events, Christ re-interprets the elements of the Passover meal through the lens of this crucifixion. In effect he states, that his broken body (like the bread) and the spilt blood (represented by the wine) designate a new covenant between man and God. A covenant that was not bound by law or religion but by a relationship with our God!

The reason I consider this a war is because of the events that occur in the Garden of Gethsemane before Jesus is arrested. Here he prays and pleads with God the Father to make another way. There is no Biblical support for what I am about to say but, it could be that Satan again is tempting Christ to bail out of God’s ultimate plan. Christ ultimately ends by praying, “not my will, but Your (God’s) will be done.” The innocent death of Christ is a parallel to the sacrifice of animals in the Jewish temple. The blood was to wash away the sins of the offerer. When Christ offered up his life, willingly, his blood washed away our sins, once and for all. We do not need to kill animals as sacrifices to God anymore. Instead our lives become our offering.

The final nail in the coffin of sin, is the resurrection of Christ. The act of bringing salvation to the world concludes when Christ raises from the dead, conquering death. Through the act of his death and resurrection, Christ first offered his life for ours, covering our sin, with his sinless life, then with his resurrection, he conquered death taking away it’s final sting, for those that would put faith in God through Christ Jesus. Satan is ultimately defeated through these acts. Satan knows it, and is desperate to take as many souls as he can with him into his defeat.

Perhaps the most famous verse out of the Bible is John 3:16 the discussion leading up to this is about salvation. Christ says, that one must be born again, not of flesh, but of water and spirit. In the final album released by David Crowder*Band they have a song called ‘Oh My God’, in this song there is a line that says, “Born all over again, death will lose and we will win.” This is a true statement, but only if you choose the right side. Only if you choose to worship the right God. As I stated in my first post, you either worship God the Father, or you worship Satan the deceiver. God is not going to force you to worship Him, he grants you free-will to choose for yourself. The choice is yours.

Who will you decide to worship?

The Worship War: Battle for Salvation

Sorry for the long break, school, life and work have been crazy!

I have been trying to work through a series called ‘The Worship War’. You can read the previous blogs in this series on my previous blog posts. This next post is the second to last post. Up to this point we have seen Satan be defeated by God, and thrown from heaven. We have also seen Adam and Eve defeated by Satan and thrown out of Eden. This next battle, or two battles really, is the battle that decides the victor in the war. The major players in this battle are Jesus Christ, God incarnate, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior! He is being confronted by the Deceiver, Satan!

The battle begins after Jesus has spent 40 days in the desert fasting, alone. He is physically weak, and is vulnerable to spiritual attack. Satan approaches Him and says “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” This seems like a trifle of a comment, however, Satan is tempting Christ with selfishness. The holy power Christ possessed was not to be used for personal gain, even turning stones into bread. If Christ yielded to this temptation, the sin committed would have been selfishness. Christ responds, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.'” quoting from the scriptures.

Satan then attempts another temptation: Satan shows Christs all the kingdoms of the world, and offers them to Christ if He will only bow to Satan, Christ responds, “It is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” Satan combines selfish ambition, with idolatry, the same sin that we all have fallen too, and Christ once again deflects the temptation with Scripture. By bowing to Satan Christ would have been, in effect, worshiping Satan and offering to serve him in the way that only God is due!

The final temptation happens like this: Satan takes Christ to the highest point of the temple and says, “If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written: ‘He will command HIs angels concerning You to guard You,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear You up so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.'” Satan attempts to use scripture against Jesus in this case. However, Christ response, “It is said, ‘ You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” This story can be found in Luke 4:1-13.

This is the first half of the Battle, verse 13 says, “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.” That ‘opportune time’ came approximately three years later, and this is when the Crucifixion events occur.

Those events we will look at next week! For now note that this temptation experience sets Christ, and humanity up for victory! If Jesus had given in, just like Adam and Eve, then Satan would have won here. In a way Jesus is ‘the second Adam.’ Because the second Adam succeeded where the first did not, salvation is made available through Christ!

The Worship War: Battle of Heaven

“The Battle of Heaven” really is where the Worship War begins. The three major battles that we will look at have one player in common, Satan. The war is between God and Satan. The Bible tells us that Lucifer was an angel, specifically a Cherubim (Ezekial 28:14), basically Satan started on the same side as God. However, in his pride at being the Archangel of God he decided to set himself up over God (Isaiah 14). Despite the fact that Satan was created by God as a being of free-will and great wisdom and power and position in heaven, it wasn’t enough. As Dr. Whaley puts it, “Though God had created the angels to serve Him, Satan coveted their service – and worship – for himself. he wanted not only to rule over the angels, but the whole universe”. (Whaley 2009, page 28-29) Ezekial 28:17 says that Satan allowed his ‘splendor’ to corrupt his wisdom.

Although it may have appeared that Satan had taken the throne of God from Him, Satan was tossed out of heaven. Revelation 12:4 tells us that ‘the dragon’ or Satan took a third of the angels with him from heaven (aka demons). Although God won this first battle decisively the cost was great, and even the earth was handed over to Satan along with a third of the angels. Lets be honest about this then. If we are worshipers of God we are stuck in the land of Satan, C.S. Lewis very bluntly stated we are behind enemy lines in Mere Christianity. If we do not worship God, well we are on the loosing side, but are in our own territory. Why is this opening battle important? Well man lives in Satan’s “Kingdom”, we are fighting this war whether we know it or not. This battle sets up the rest of the war, the rest of existence and informs and leads into the second battle: “The Battle of Eden.”

We will look into the Battle of Eden next week.