Tag Archives: Jesus

Worship in Spirit

Worship

Worship (Photo credit: Josa Jr)

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. (John 4:23 ESV)

As a worship pastor, I absolutely love to see people singing praises to God, who is worthy of our highest praise and adoration.  I love a good upbeat song sung by the choir or a solo that reminds me of the hope we have in Jesus.  We might call this spirited worship.  But is this what it means to worship in “spirit?”

Henry Blackaby and Ron Owens posed this question in their study on worship; Worship Believers Experiencing God.  You can purchase it here. What does it mean to worship God in Spirit? It’s a question worth asking.  For a more detailed answer you really should buy the study book.  But I’ll try to convey a couple of Blackaby and Owens’ points.

When Jesus says the Father is seeking “worshipers” who will worship in spirit and in truth, I don’t think he means that God is seeking a “spirited” display of music and singing.  In fact, it has little or nothing at all to do with music.  Rather, we become true worshipers of God by being born of his spirit.

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:5-6 ESV)

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63 ESV)

The Father is seeking true worshipers.  He desires worshipers whose hearts are filled with His Spirit.

  • Worshipers who worship in spirit have come alive in Christ.  They have been born of the spirit into the kingdom of God.
  • Worshipers who worship in spirit have hearts responsive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. They confess and repent, and offer worship from hearts that have been cleansed, forgiven and restored by Christ.
  • Worshipers who worship in spirit maintain a spirit of honesty with God.  When they disobey or otherwise fail to obey God, they confess it before Him and offer a broken and contrite heart. (Psalm 51)
  • Worshipers who worship in spirit focus on God with and without the use of music.  Music is only one vehicle of expressing their worship.  Their love is also expressed to the Father through obedience, service, loving others, and living out a testimony of grace that woes they lost friends to the Savior.

Father, I long to be the kind of worshiper You seek.  My heart is Yours.  Forgive me when I have sought to offer You worship through a heart of pride.  I repent and bend my heart toward You that I may know Your joy and worship You in the way You desire. May I worship You in a spirit of obedience and love that goes beyond an hour on Sunday and saturates my everyday life.

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Real Faith ALIVE

There are two statements that have stuck in my heart this as I listened to Jesus Manifesto, a book I had previously read.

  • “Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good.  he came to make dead people live.” -Jesus Manifesto
  • “It’s possible to serve God without loving him, but it is impossible to love God without serving him.” -Anonymous

 Our lives are a testament to the God we love and serve.  But the world is not always seeing the true testament of God through his people.  They only see a mere picture of our hypocrisy. What happens when we say we love God, but are afraid of taking scripture too seriously? The nonbelievers around us might never pick up a Bible.  They have only our lives as a window to the greatness and glory of God.  What do they see?  How do our lives translate scripture to the world?

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit the orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. -James 1:27 ESV

Instead of seeing James 1:27 lived out in our lives, does the world see something else?  Do they this:

Religion in its’ purest form before my neighbor is this: Dress up on Sundays, smile pretty and convince everyone that your life is a dream.  Carry a big Bible, sing and clap (but not too enthusiastically or they’ll think something is wrong with you) and attend church at least three Sundays per month.

OUCH!

The two statements at the top of this article remind me of what James says about faith.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,”  without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not  have works, is dead. -James 2:14-17 ESV

Serving God and loving others, is the natural product of a living breathing faith.  Because God loved us first, (while we were still sinners) and we are filled with his love (in Christ), his love will overflow and touch everyone around us.  If we love him, we will love others.

I want to be clear.  I am NOT saying that we work hard and discipline ourselves in order to prove our love for God is real.  What I AM saying that the more we fall in love with God, the more we will naturally obey and keep his commands – the more natural it will be for us to love others.  The anonymous quote above could be rephrased like this; It is possible to do good works without a living faith, but there is no such thing a living faith that does not produce good works.

If you are feeling that your faith is dried up or you feel burned out, then it may be that you have been attempting to do the good works on your own.  Perhaps you have previously thought of good works as a penance.  Maybe you thought you had to prove your love to God by doing good things for him.  There is a better way.  Fall in love with Jesus again.  Discover again in scripture how much you are loved and treasured by God.  His word is a love letter to you, not a check list of good works to do.  Let the power of HIS LOVE change you.  Transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Let him do it.  Just as we can not save ourselves, we also can not transform ourselves.  You are NOT the potter.  You are the clay.  It is Jesus who has brought you from death into life and Jesus who makes you new.

Trying to do good works without a living breathing faith is like manually tying ripened fruit to the branches of a dead tree.  The work is laborious and exhausting.  The fruit quickly perishes and the tree is incapable of producing more fruit to replace it.  So you begin the laborious and exhausting work all over again.  Burnout is inevitable!  Real living breathing faith that naturally produces good works is like a tree, healthy and beautiful, planted by streams of fresh water, whose roots run deep into soil rich with the essential minerals to nourish it.  It produces the best fruit season after season – fruit that is a blessing to all who encounter the tree.

Discipline is good.  A living breathing faith that reproduces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control is better!


Does God Feel Worshipped?

When it comes to worship, everyone seems to have an opinion.  What are the best songs to sing?  Should the emphasis be on congregational singing or should we highlight a special choir piece or a solo?  Is it more important to be relevant or foundational?  Do we attempt to be more creative even if it is not practical?  We throw around words like seeker sensitive, seeker friendly, relevant, creative, diverse and intentional all in an effort to present services of worship that people will “like.”

Now, I will admit that I have also used these words and phrases in considering how to design meaningful moments within a worship service.  But I’ve learned that they are more appropriately applied as the second question we ask when we involve ourselves in worship planning, rather than the first.  The first question should look a little more like this: “God, how do You want Your people to worship You?”  Have you asked that question recently? Even if you are not the one responsible for worship planning, you are still a worshiper. Have you asked the Father; “How do you want me to worship you?”

Once we answer this question, the next after it can be; “Okay, now how do we do that in a way everyone can understand and identify with?” and “How do we help our people become the kind of worshipers the Father seeks?”

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:23-26 ESV)

I realize that this is written as a conversation for worship pastors, or those who plan worship.  But, as a worshiper, I would encourage you to pray that God would show you what kind of worshiper He desires you to be. Let this request include your public and private offerings of worship. As a starting point, read Romans 12:1.I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1 ESV)


It Is Better To Suffer For Doing Good!

It’s been easy for me to get discouraged lately.  I read the news and watch the holy ordinance of marriage attacked by a godless society.  I read further and discover that religious discrimination is thriving in New York. There, it is not only lawful to deny churches the ability to rent public school space for worship, but it is mandatory – punishable by heavy fines.  Yes, in New York, it is a state mandate to discriminate against Christians!  At the same time Christian organizations are being forced to go against their biblical convictions regarding abortion.  Faith based companies are being forced to pay for healthcare that provides coverage for contraceptives including the abortion pill – deceptively labeled “emergency contraceptive.”  Don’t be misled.  This is not just an attack on Catholic hospitals.  This creates a problem for ALL faith based organizations.

Do you see why it easy for me to get discouraged?  Followers of Christ, we can not ignore this!  But we must also not be defeated in our minds and hearts.  Jesus said “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Do not be overwhelmed by this temporary suffering.  God is not mocked!  Christian, do not lose heart.  Jesus has overcome the world.  This world is only our temporary home.  Our victory, in Christ, is certain and eternal!

For a long time in the United States, we have heard and even joined the mantra “God and Country.” Somewhere along the way this changed.  While we were looking the other direction, our Country has declared itself to be god.  Now, it seems the government tells the church what is right and what is wrong.  The government has made it clear that it has no use for God or His church.  Our most treasured freedom is being dismantled.  Freedom of Religion and the free exercise thereof, has no meaning if our government mandates when, where, how, and to what extend the Church may practice Biblical teachings.

To the Christ followers in America this is unfathomable!  However, Christians all over the world and all throughout history have faced oppressions far greater than these – Yet They Stand!

My heart is heavy that these circumstances seem so dark.  Maybe you are fighting the same sense of gloom in your spirit.  Take heart – Be encouraged.   I find clear instruction and abundant encouragement from the following words in Eugene Peterson’s The Message; from Ephesians 6:10-18

A Fight to the Finish

10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Because the trials of this life never take a time-out, because the world’s bombardment against Christianity never takes a break, we can not abandon the struggle.  I encourage you to pick up His banner and serve within your churches in community.  Serve outside the churches; everywhere you are. Stand up for what is good.  Let Peter’s words guide us daily as we seek to love those who hate the God we serve.

13And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good?  14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, 15 but honor  the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.  1 Peter 3:13-17


Be Careful Little Thumbs What You Tweet!

Remember the song you sang as a child?  Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.  That was the first verse.  The others were: Be careful little mouth what you say/feet where you go/ears what you hear/hands what you do… that’s all I can remember.  May I submit an updated verse to this song that has shaped the character of many young children? (That may have been an exaggeration)  “Oh, be careful little thumbs what you tweet.”

We live in the social media age.  Many of you tweet or blog or at least facebook.  These can all be very positive ways of communicating.  They can also be ways of spreading bad ideas or bankrupt theology.  Be careful little thumbs what you tweet.

First, the trend was emails.  Someone you new would forward an email that included a catchy little story or clever poem that sounded good.  It would be about God (after you scroll past the email addresses of  a thousand people you didn’t recognize.)  It would pose a thought or an idea that just wasn’t biblical ex. “now that johnny has gone, he is my guardian angel.”  Then it would conclude with the assault on your relationship with Jesus – “If you love Jesus, then forward this to everyone you know. If you are ashamed of Jesus click delete.” Where was the third option; If this is bad theology, click delete ALL and every copy will be deleted from every email account in the webniverse?

Can I get a witness?

In addition to my blog, I try to keep up with twitter and facebook.  I also monitor my kids facebook accounts to make sure they are safe and that their online witness remains untarnished.  It takes a lot of time to do all these things.  But I am confident that they have value.  We, as believers have the opportunity to shine the light of Christ with our presence on social media.  We are also accountable to God that we present Him in truth and do not misrepresent his character.

The church in Thessaloniki was wary when prophecy was spoken to them.  So much so, that it seems they were rejecting all prophetic word.  Paul encouraged them to be open to the prophecy, but to test it all in accordance with God’s word.

Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 ESV)

We would be wise to apply this to what we read and repost on social media.  Test everything; retweet what is good.  When you come across a spiritual tweet or facebook post and it sounds good, test it.  See if it stands up to a biblical foundation.  Does it agree with the character of God as He has revealed Himself to us in scripture.  Does it present Jesus glorified or cheapen His work of salvation?  Is it loving? Does it offer biblical encouragement toward others within the family of faith or does it merely attempt to make  the reader feel good with a clever but unbiblical cliché?

Paul gives a list of instructions to the Thessalonians at the end of his first letter.  These would make a good checklist for us as we contemplate our Christian presence on social media.

  1. Admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak – be patient with them all.
  2. Rejoice always
  3. Pray without ceasing
  4. Give thanks in all circumstances
  5. Do not quench the spirit
  6. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good
  7. Abstain from every form of evil

Social media is playing a larger role in shaping disciples.  You and I follow pastors and bible teachers and fellow believers through social media. And by our own tweets and facebook posts we sometimes influence the way others understand or misunderstand the Bible. We are called to Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)

So, the next time you read a post that sounds good, but something seems a little off – test is.  If it declares an unbiblical view of God or applies scripture out of context – Do not pass go, do not collect $200 and absolutely do not retweet it! Be careful little thumbs what you tweet.

Father, we are your servants.  You have told us that we are salt and light to a world living in darkness. Help us as we try to live our lives as a testament to the greatness of Jesus.  May the light of Jesus, who lives in us and through us, shine whenever and wherever we interact with others.  May our presence on social media build up and encourage everyone, especially those in the family of faith. (Gal 6:10) Help us to hold one another accountable for the way we represent Christ through social media interaction. May your name be glorified in every thing we do, every word we say, and every phrase we tweet.               – Amen


Sing, Sing, Sing!

I’ve been a worship pastor for 18 years.  Much has changed for us with regard to worship in the church.  New technologies such as big screens with moving video backgrounds have found a home in our places of worship.  That’s not a bad thing!  It’s also not the “bees knees” as they say.  Well some people use that phrase.
It seems that the one thing that unites the churches of God today is that we love to fight about worship style.  As Stephen would say – “You stiff-necked people!”  GET OVER IT!  Are you too blind to see that it is not the Father who has caused you to be so opinionated about music or to prefer a certain style?  No, it is the evil one who divides us.  Too many of you have chosen to love your music style more than you love the One you’re attempting to sing to. You have forgotten your audience is the living God.  He is not impressed by your style!  He is interested in your broken and contrite hearts! Psalm 51.
When did it happen that we began to replace loving God with music appreciation?  Do we really expect that God will one day place a crown on our head and say; “I’m so glad you forced your new songs into the the fabric of church life, totally relevant, dude?” or will He say “Thank you for fighting to keep hymns in the church.  Those are my favorites too?”  Absolutely Not!
I understand all the reasons and all the arguments people offer for adding technology and for calling upon various styles and they are not bad reasons.  We want to be relevant in our methods.  This is a good thing.  We desire to sing our songs in musical languages that our guests, who may not have a church background, can understand. This is noble. I’m in agreement with these motivations, however (COMMA, DOT, DOT, DOT) let us keep our primary motivation for music and its accompanying technologies centered on Christ.
Colossians 3:16Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.
The psalms and hymns and spiritual songs help us fill our lives with the richness of Christ.  We sing the attributes to God to remind ourselves, Who it is we worship.  We sing out the truth about God’s love for us as an encouragement to each another.  We sing our praises to God out of thankfulness for all He has done and all He will do.  The body encourages the body.  There is just something about singing it out loud that helps us internalize the richness of Jesus and allows Him to fill up our lives.  It can’t be reproduced by listening to a song on the radio.  It must be done out loud and in cooperation. (It is called cooperate worship, right?)
Sing, Sing, Sing! People of God, sing TO each other and be encouraged. Sing WITH each other to God and give Him thanks and praise. Sing AS ONE body and dwell in unity!  This is what psalms and hymns and spiritual songs can help us do.  What God meant as a tool to remind us to be filled with His richness and to unify us, the evil one has used to divide us.  The evil one has no greater joy than dividing the people of God.
Father, forgive me when my pride has derailed my best efforts to worship You.  At times I have made an idol out of my own tastes and traditions.  Forgive me, Lord, when I’ve failed to encourage others because I pretended that style was synonymous with worship.  I long to be filled with the richness of Christ and to encourage others to be filled with the same.  Help me use ALL psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, new and old, as a medium for the body to worship and give thanks as one.

The Paradox Between Being Relational and Being Right

I see in my kids a reflection of myself.  We are caught in a paradox seeded in the blueprint of humanity.  An inner desire to be in relational conflicts with a passionate drive to be right.  For my kids, this comes out in epic sibling battles.

My kids love each other, and depend on that sibling relationship for encouragement.  Through their friendships with one another they gain an understanding of the world of High School and Middle School.  They share in common the burdens and blessings of being a child whose Dad is a Pastor of Worship.  They rely on each other to endure the German stubbornness and sometimes quick temper of their dad.

But, while they see their need for a sibling relationship, they are torn with a drive to be right.  Now, I don’t mean to say that they look for the right answer.  No, not at all.  They deeply desire to prove that the thoughts and opinions they start with are the right ones.  Scripture teaches that none of us, by nature, are right.  None of us, by nature, are even good.

Romans3:10 As the Scriptures say,
   “No one is righteous—
not even one.
11 No one is truly wise;
no one is seeking God.
12 All have turned away;
all have become useless.
No one does good,
not a single one.”
13 “Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.
Their tongues are filled with lies.”
“Snake venom drips from their lips.”
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “They rush to commit murder.
16 Destruction and misery always follow them.
17 They don’t know where to find peace.”
18 “They have no fear of God at all.”

We were made to live in intimate relationship with our Creator.  Because of our sin nature it is impossible for us to have this Father/son/daughter relationship with God here in this life or in eternity.  This sin nature is our inheritance (Thanks grandpa Adam and grandma Eve). We have also inherited the penalty, which is death.

That sounds so harsh. “But, I’m a nice person.”  “I do more good stuff than bad.”  “I help the poor.  I go to church.”

Let me ask you a question.  Where did you ever get the idea that God has a scale and weighs your good things against the bad?  That’s not how it works. If the imagery of a scale helps your understanding of the judgement, then you should think of it like this.  If you were born standing one the side of the scale and you needed to throw your good deeds to the other side of the scale, you would not be strong enough to throw them that far. No matter how good your deed is, your arm isn’t strong enough. It’s not about how good your deeds are.  It’s about you not being able to reach the other side of the scale with them.

Romans 3:19 Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. 21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses[a] and the prophets long ago. 22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

Jesus came and poured out His righteousness for us. He substituted Himself for us on the cross. He died in our place. Because we were helpless to do anything, He did it all.  Every ounce of our salvation is the work of Jesus.  You can’t do good enough works to earn it and you can’t do enough good works to prove it.  Try as you might, you can’t even live up to the laws we’ve been given.

 Romans2:23For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

Made in the image of God to live in intimate relationship with God under the righteousness of God.  That relationship was broken by Adam who passed on to us an inheritance of unrighteousness. This unrighteousness first inherited then fully embraced by our own sinfulness. Jesus came to cleanse us from Adams stain and forgive our sins.  His work on the cross did it ALL!

I recently saw this tweet – “Supplementing God’s grace with your works is like supplementing the Arctic Circle with your ice chip.  You Are You Kidding?” – Scotty Ward Smith via twitter.


Tell the Story

I LOVE TO TELL THE STORY
by Katherine Hankey
I love to tell the story of unseen things above.
Of Jesus and His glory,
Of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story because I know it’s true.
It satisfies my longings
as nothing else can do.

My recent ambition to write comes from a deeper longing to tell the story of Jesus.  I’m enjoying the writing process, but as I attempt to write, I sense that I am drawing nearer to Jesus.

In my last blog entry, I discovered the definition of a disciple as one who “embraces” and “assists in spreading” the teachings of another.  For us it is Jesus teachings we embrace.  We assist Him in spreading His message, His gift of mercy, forgiveness, grace and eternity with Him.  His Story!  So many have not heard.

During the summer months I watched an interview with Eugene Peterson who wrote The Message, a “plain English” translation – considered a paraphrase by some – of the Bible.  In this clip, the interviewer ask Peterson; “Do you have any advise for…. people who think ‘I’d like to write, I’d like to be a storyteller?'” Peterson answers “Do it. We need all we can get.  There are never enough storytellers”  He goes on to explain that there are many who don’t want to go through the discipline it takes to be a good writer.

This interview and especially Peterson’s answer to that specific question pricks something inside of me that wants to step forward and take on the challenges of being a writer.  Disciplines at all.  It does take discipline to be a disciple.  Imagine that.  Disciplined in a way that “assists in spreading the teachings” of Jesus.

As a submission to that discipline and in recognition that I have much to learn, I’m attending the Annual Fall Writers Conference put on by the Heart of America Christian Writers Network.  I look forward learning the craft and pray that I retain every ounce of what learn this weekend so that I will better Tell The Story.

How do you tell the story?  Are you a writer, singer, preacher, teacher, social media aficionado? Please leave a comment below.


What Is A Disciple?

At my church, we are in the middle of the series we’ve titled The Original BIG XII:  That is the 12 disciples.  So I thought I would look up the definition for disciple.  Here is what I found.  Disciple – “One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another.”  Have you ever been convicted by the dictionary? (I know that the Holy Spirit is the real one who convicts all men.)
We have assumed for too long that just because we have been saved that we are automatically “disciples.”  That is our mistake.  As the saved church of Christ – His body, His bride, His beloved sons and daughters – we are called to be disciples, but not every one of us who is saved answers that call.
I think there are a number of reasons or obstacles that keep us from being disciples.  One reason, I just mentioned; we assume we already are disciples.  We make the hearing the call with answering the call.  You’ve been told that you are called, but just being called is not what made the original BIG XII into disciples – Answering the call did.  They “embraced and assisted in spreading the teachings of Jesus.”
A second reason we don’t answer the call is because we think it is too difficult.  A narrow path and filled with many trials it is. (Did that just sound like Yoda?) Personally I’d rather walk the narrow path, where my guide is Jesus himself, than walk the easy path, where my guide only has one thing on his mind – my destruction.
The original BIG XII understood that Jesus was calling them to “embrace and assist in spreading his teachings.”  He was called Teacher by Peter in Mark 9:5.   Even Pharisees called Jesus teacher. (Mark 12:13-14) (John 3:2) The disciples embraced Jesus’ teachings.   And as far as the second qualification for a disciple – as assisting in the spreading of Jesus’ teachings – Jesus let them know, from the beginning, that this was why he’d called them.  Mark 1:17 “And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”  And that is exactly what they became.  In fact, the original XII – minus Judas – died because they would not stop spreading the teachings of Jesus.
These are the men who, along with Paul, penned the New Testament.  These are the disciples God is calling us to join.  This is the original BIG XII whose examples we are invited to follow.

What Am I Afraid Of?

We all have things that we are afraid of. Some are small fears, some are bigger fears. For instance; some people are afraid of heights or spiders or clowns.  To my knowledge I don’t have any fears that cripple me like that.  But I do have some smaller fears.
It could be said that I’m afraid of ketchup. It’s not really so much a fear as it is just being really grossed out.  More specifically, when a glob of spilled ketchup on the table that has reached a state of being half dried out, but is still gooey and sticky so that it hitches a ride on your sleeve and you find it later on the front of your shirt from when you crossed your arms or on the inside of your jacket sleeve.  Has this ever happened to you? – (me either.)  I’d swear that the evil, half dried, sticky, ketchup glob inspired the comic villain known as venom.
Well that’s an example of small fear – minor, insignificant, not really life shaping.  Other fears can shape our lives.  Worry can cripple us from truly living.  We fear something bad will happen to our families or to us.  We fear not being able to succeed at our jobs or not having enough money to pay the bills.  These are reasonable fears and it is very understandable that we would have them from time to time, but we cannot live there. We have a hope in Christ and he has promised to meet all our needs.  We must pray for wisdom to recognize the difference in ourselves between needs and wants. ex. I want to drive a newer car, but I don’t NEED one.
Personally, I have a fear greater than these.  And I know that God is bigger than our fears and that He is sovereign, but I can’t help but fearing that the church is falling/has fallen away from her first love. Some churches have traded the gospel in for a gospel of works, adding to “by grace through faith alone.” Other churches have exchanged the gospel for a health and wealth gospel, that if you really love Jesus, he will make you healthy and wealthy.  Jesus is their Prince of prosperity rather than the Prince of Peace.  This false gospel is a contradiction to the very teachings of Jesus.  If you are praying for God to bring you wealth, then you love a another god. (Matt. 6:24)  If you are keeping your wealth for yourself, while reading the story of the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-24), then you have stored up your treasures where moth and rust destroy. Yet, this is not my greatest fear.
My greatest fear is that the church in America won’t be able to get their focus back on Jesus.  I’m afraid that Christians who fill our churches everywhere will remain silent about their faith.  I’m afraid of seeing people love the ways they worship more than they love the person of Jesus Christ.  I’m afraid that if it came to a choice between Jesus and the church, most Christians would choose the church.  I’m afraid of believers being more interested receiving the blessing than in giving sacrifice.
Father, call us back to You and open our ears to hear You.  More than knowing about Jesus, help us to know the person of Jesus.  You are a relational God.  As you have blessed us, help us to bless others, and to recognize that You have indeed blessed us so that we can give as You gave.  Let us not cheapen the work of Christ on the cross by proclaiming works as an added requirement of salvation.  Jesus death was payment in full.  “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” May we worship You as You truly are and lay aside the way we think you should be. You created us in your image, forgive us when we try to redefine You in ours.

“An idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.” A.W. Tozer