Truth is not a sport that wins with the score of popularity or power won. In our postmodern world, we can believe what we want. We can pay a company to spin information or post fake news on social media. Consequences do not matter. We are driven to win at any costs. Knowledge used to be equated with power. Today, popularity is power, regardless of facts or truth. A post-truth, post-fact world is one we have embraced. Faith, not always built upon empirically proven facts, causes many to still sacrifice their very lives. The ISIS beheadings of Christians is proof of this. In America, would our form of Christian faith pass the martyrdom test? Would we survive in our current squabbling? When truth impacts issues of life and death, you would think we would carefully examine it and be open to mastering it. The Bible may not be a scientific book, but we observe historically and currently the adherence to it as a matter of life and death. For us in America, faith exists mostly as a matter of post-truth that must fit our desired behaviors. There are all sorts of truth. There is historical truth, scientific truth, emotional truth and even faith-founded truth. With a new year comes a new challenge. What is truth? And, if we answer that question, will it change our…
As we reflect on an election season, here is a psalm to help us focus our worship–loosely paraphrased from Psalm 21. My eyes see have seen The Hill, My ears of heard the POTUS proclamations, My Twitter feed full of hateful power. But, where does my help come from? Does it come from political power brokers, Or entertaining media outlets, My fellow voter and citizen? Where does my help come from? The data of my life is watched day and night, But, only my Maker truly can see who I am. My Lord never sleeps as he cares for me, His aim is to never harm. As I come to worship my God, The idols of power are clearly before me. But, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord!
Do I really need to go to church as a follower of Christ? When Jesus talked with the “Woman at the Well” about places of worship, his point wasn’t that place was unimportant. Worshiping in “Spirit and truth” can be done anywhere, so we know it is not about the exact address. We know our place of worship is where the Spirit is and where truth is. Widely, worship is looked at as a personal choice and activity. In fact, that is quite true! We all have to choose to worship Christ. We all have a personal free will. But, what is missed is that gathering for worship seems to not be valued. Our worship services are more than an additional stop in a lifestyle of worship. They are the base camps to living life, connecting us to story that’s bigger than us. Worship is sacred. Discipleship is daily. Liturgy is a great word to use for what worship which happens and Sundays when we gather together at a particular place and time. Liturgy means the people’s service or our public worship practice. So, when we talk about living a life as a worshiper, there are things we do together as believers that are special. Worship of God, as some say, can be any act. All things we do should be an act of worship.…
Mystery cannot be contained by two dimensions. We seem to escape mystery within the walls of our binary reality. If life was as simple as a switch, we could simply turn off or turn on solutions. In fact, we do that very act every day to choose hot or cold water out of the faucet. We change the channel or swipe to the next stream of content on our smartphones with ease. Choices, no matter how full of first-world sophistication all reduce themselves to a binary question. With thousands of TV shows, hundreds of thousands of songs, and millions of click-bait articles to peruse, the choice is either a yes or a no. The muscle that might have once been used on imagination and wonder is now occupied to manage the firehose torrent of information and entertainment headed in our direction. Our schedule will not allow exploration, however. Reasonable people eventually see that there are more than binary choices in the complex landscape of our planet. We know, for instance, that our universe is in three dimensions and that cultures and climates color our patterns of thought and life experiences. If you happen to see the political postings on Facebook or Twitter this season then you are often led to believe that there are only two choices, regardless of who you may pick. Even the…
A few years ago, a young adult very openly expressed his frustration with worship at church. “Rich, why is it that I feel closer to God at a Coldplay concert than I do at church?” This was a stunning admission, because it represented not just his experience but that of many and perhaps spoke to some doubts in my own mind. However, what came from this conversation changed how I viewed worship in church. Worship at church should either be made more like the secular music out there, if that is truly more spiritual. Or, there is something missing in the worship at church that needed to be changed. I tried the first, making relevancy a goal, but I think that hand has been overplayed. So, I am left with the second idea. What is missing?
If you are an avid worshiper of Christ and attend church on a regular basis, you probably already know what a fantastic worship experience is to you, right? Or, maybe you don’t attend church as often as you might because your past worship experiences never hit the mark. Having been to church more than many, I see the gamut and know that even when one person is soaring in their version of a worship service, another may be unaffected. There are many factors that contribute to why there is so much disparity, but I think I found ten reasons that will aid you in your experience of worship. I hope these help you!
Old stories such as “Hansel and Gretel” and “Little Red Riding Hood” were meant to put fear into children. Lessons such as Aesop’s “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” were likely to prevent a child from basically ringing the fire alarm for fun. Fear is a motivator. It works. Fear of losing your job can be leveraged to keep you and your coworkers from offering legitimate grievances and used in turn to add hours and workload without additional compensation. From TV news to Facebook posts about the ending of the world, fear sells and gets our attention. Our fight or flight chemistry is amped to the max. It’s a science and it works.
I will be periodically posting a series of essays this year: “How We Worship Matters: Essays on the Worship Battles We Should Fight.”
As human beings, we live in the physical world. Our spirituality is connected to this and there is nothing like the Incarnation to give us a picture of how this mystery exists. Jesus is fully God and fully human. What did Jesus display to us? Spirituality is housed in people, not in stone temples or in only one physical spot.
The arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost only amplified this by entering the life of every believer on the planet. We can now pray in concert with people all over the world because of our connection with the Holy Spirit. Our worship is empowered, no matter at a mountain campground, warehouse turned house of worship, or country chapel.
We all need signs. Where am I? I love the arrows on maps that tell me exactly where I am and the context. Real life scares us because rarely are signs this clear. When it comes to faith, signs were sought by many of our Bible heroes. Whether I am praying and leaving out the fleece at night or putting my fingers into the holes in the hands of Christ, it is all the same. I need to see. Those that truly saw God like Isaiah wreathed in the fetal position. Honestly, I may ask for a sign, but may not want the real deal. If God truly shows up, it seems I might have to change as anyone is “undone” in his presence. This is the reason why Christ came as a baby. God knows we just can’t handle it.
Real life is never lived in a straight line. In fact, it’s the turns and bends that teach us about who we really are and reveal the Creator’s intervention. I confess that often I forge out straight into the gauntlet, hoping the speed of a dash in the right direction will get to the destination. I might fail as badly as Halo’s Master Chief would if he were to run–outnumbered and out gunned– directly into the “zombie-fied” flood. Unlike in a video game, there is no replay in life. Or, the replays are very limited. That straight line tactic simply does not work.