A funny thing happened while I was preparing the music for our Good Friday service. There was a creeping dissatisfaction whenever I got to rehearsing "The Wonderful Cross" by Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin. It was a song that said all the right things, fit into the theme of the night perfectly, but that chorus simply felt too happy for Good Friday. When I think about Good Friday, I get in the mood of hopeful solemness. It's a time for believers to remember and reflect upon the death of our Savior. Yes He is alive, but on that night we remember the price He paid to save us. It is a hopeful solemness.
So the night before the service, still dissatisfied, I sat down tried to capture that feeling. I went back to the hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" and within minutes I wrote a chorus and later the next day I reworked one of the verses into a bridge. What came out of that late night session were some of the most honest and simple lyrics that I have ever written: "When I look upon the cross, I see love."
The power and simplicity of the Gospel are displayed fully on the cross. We are LOVED. Church let us proclaim this message proudly and passionately. Let our lives serve to point our friends and family to the cross, and may they see the love of God. I hope this song blesses you.
The majority of our lives are spent outside the walls of church. Therefore we must ask ourselves: "Where is God in our everyday work?"
1. We were created for work.
The concept of work existed from the very beginning. Gen. 2:15 "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it." The word "work" in the original language means "work!" We were created to work, to worship, and to serve.
2. Work (paid and unpaid) has become a toil because of the fall.
The best thing you can say about work is that it doesn't feel like "work." Our lives and our work have become a toil because of the effect of sin. Gen. 3:16,19 describes pain in childbearing and sweat in working for bread, which is to say that all work, paid and unpaid, has been affected by sin. Even as Christians, we tend to view work as a means to end or an end in itself. What is the hope for our work?
3. Our work has been redeemed and is now a part of God's plan of redemption.
God created us for work and He has revealed His plan for redemption through His Word. Our whole lives have been redeemed by God, and that includes our work. We serve God by serving people in our work which means that all legitimate forms of work are sanctified by God. We don't all have to become full time ministers or preachers to do the work of God. God provides food, healing, and safety through the work of men and women.
4. We can find our identity in Christ instead of our work.
If we find our identity in our work, success will go to our head and failure will go to our heart. As Christians, our identity is in Christ. We can rest secure in what Jesus has done for us.
5. Our faith can help save us from being corrupted by our work.
In Luke 19, we learn that Zacchaeus was a corrupt tax collector, but after Jesus famously entered his life the first thing that was affected was his work. Instead of extorting his community, he chose to give back. Instead of greedily hoarding resource, he freely repaid anyone he had cheated. Our faith in Jesus can save us from being corrupted by our work.
God has made himself accessible to us anywhere and anytime, so work hard, work with purpose, and know that Christ is enough.
For more resources about this topic visit theologyofwork.org
Nothing hurts a church more than when its leaders burnout. Burnout is difficult for everyone and it often leads to a perpetuating cycle where new leaders are continually thrown into the fire of ministry only to end up burnt out. Here are three red flags along the way to spiritual burnout.
1. A lack of conviction
Do you know what drives you? Do you know why you do the things that you do? We need to have conviction and clarity about our mission if we are to avoid the road to burnout. Burnout begins when the "how" of ministry becomes more important than the "why."
2. A lack of support
Spiritually burnt out leaders are often found in isolation which is why leaders need to be rooted in a supportive community. A community that will encourage them through the tough times, accept them in their weaknesses, and be supportive and understanding if they need to step back from ministry.
3. Unrealistic expectations
A ministry cannot stand on anyone except Jesus. Let your spiritual leaders guide you, not save you.
Endurance is essential to being a follower of Christ. Salvation is a one time event, but to be a Christian is a continual process that requires endurance. So how are we to endure in our walk with God?
1. We endure when our mission is clear.
In the broadest strokes, our mission is to live out the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19) and the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37-40). Make disciples. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. In the everyday, we must continually filter our thoughts and actions through these ideas. Are we loving God? Are we loving our neighbors? Are we making disciples?
2. We endure by digging deep into the Word of God and rooting ourselves in community.
It is essential for all followers of God to be investing in communities that are centered on the Word of God (Acts 2:42). When the hard times come, I have witnessed time and time again how God uses these communities as His hands of comfort, compassion, and provision. Are you spending time in the Word? Are you investing in a community centered on the Gospel?
3. We endure by fixing our eyes on our eternal hope.
When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we won't become overwhelmed by the problems we face in our walk with God (Heb. 12:1-2). It won't always be easy or comfortable, but knowing the end helps us walk through the present. We must shed our spiritual fat, the things that are weighing us down. What are the things weighing you down? Lay down your sins, burdens, apathy, and unbelief. Instead, pick up the yoke of Christ and endure.
As an Asian American, I confess that sometimes I feel like I have to force myself to care about issues of race. I tell myself that it's an issue for black people and white people to figure out, say a little prayer and move on with my own problems.
But as a Christian, I have been called to live in a way that goes much deeper than the color of my skin; for to be a Christian is to stand for what Jesus stood for.
Justice & Compassion
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Equality for Every Ethnic Group
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free,
nor is there male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.
If anyone slaps you on the right cheek,
turn to them the other cheek also.
Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
When we are reminded that racism is still alive in our country, we must remind ourselves to care. And we must fight to remind ourselves and the world what Jesus stood for.
When everything falls apart, where do you go running? We all take refuge in something when things go wrong. In the Hebrew language, the main thought behind their word "refuge" is security. Psalm 46:1 says that "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." What is your refuge? Why should we take refuge in God?
1. We take refuge in our strengths
This is somewhat obvious as it makes perfect sense to fall back on our strengths when things go wrong. We find security in our careers, education, bank accounts, family, and significant others. But this is not good because careers are uncertain, economies crash, and people can disappoint.
2. We take refuge in our comfort zones
We take refuge in our comfort zones because they are...comfortable. Our comfort zones are a place of zero risk, zero pain, and ultimately zero growth. Staying inside your comfort zone is not good because it hinders you from creating and growing. But we tend to take refuge inside of our comfort zones because we don't want to face the risk of failure or rejection. We don't want to risk upsetting a close friend, so we don't have that difficult conversation. We find security in our comfort zones to our own detriment.
3. We must take refuge in our God
The challenge to this is that God is invisible, inaudible, and intangible. We cannot pray to God and expect to hear sirens and a God squad car coming to rescue us in the middle of the night. But God is there, whether we have the faith to believe it or not. The fact is, God gives us the faith to have faith in Him.
God is our impenetrable fortress who goes with us (vv. 7,11), so we don't have to live in fear (v. 2). Nothing can go below, around, or above God's protection. All that God requires of us is to be still and know that God is who He says He is (v. 10). Therefore it is crucial that we instill the idea of stillness into the way in which we live our lives. Take time out of your busy lives to be still before God, for the most secure you will ever be is when you are still before our Almighty God.
Many Christians love the idea of evangelism, just as long as it's not them doing it.
I am a fan of evangelism, and should be doing more of it. Here are four things that we can learn about evangelism from Acts 2 that will give us hope and encourage us to evangelize.
1. Evangelism is not dependent on your speaking ability
Peter was used by God in this moment to speak the Gospel of Christ, but remember that it was the same Peter who spoke against even knowing Christ just 40 days earlier! Peter's sermon in Acts 2 was great, but an even greater work preceded it: the gift of the Holy Spirit.
When the time comes for us to speak, we do not have to depend on our own strength because the Spirit is already at work in us. There is no pressure on us to "convert" someone because in our own strength we cannot. But Spirit can. And the Spirit will.
2. We will face hecklers as well as inquirers
Some in the crowd thought that the disciples were drunk and mocked them for speaking in other languages. Others were amazed and inquired about what was happening. Peter addressed both groups, dismissing the mockers with logic and elaborating in great detail to those who inquired about Christ. We will face hecklers for our faith. It is important to address them graciously, but we must remember to focus on those who inquire. Go deep.
3. We must take one bold step in our relationships
Gone are the days of handing out gospel tracks on the street. Instead we have pushed towards being "relational" with our non-believing friends and family. Relational evangelism is great, but it is too often reduced to simply building friendships. In order for the Gospel to be proclaimed to your friends and loved ones, you must take one bold step, a risk, in your current relationships. Let them know you're a Christian. Offer to pray for them. Invite them to a Bible study. Be loving. Be bold.
4. Evangelism begins at home
Acts 2 comes to a close with a beautiful image of the early church.
"And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved."
The joy-filled, compassionate, prayerful fellowship of believers was the evangelistic tool that God used to bring people to Himself. Evangelism is often thought to only occur outside the church, but we must remember that our evangelistic witness begins at home, in our local church communities. It makes sense right? No one wants to be a part of a shallow, judging, unforgiving club of hypocrites.
Love one another. Especially your brothers and sisters. It's the first step of evangelism.
I love the fact that God's Word speaks so powerfully that I can just let the Word speak for itself.
Here are four truths from Psalm 23.
1. God leads us through good times
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
2. God comforts us in difficult times
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
3. God is with us now
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life
4. God will be with us forever
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
We operate in the gray areas between "love" and "worship." We confuse the terminology and even some of the emotions associated with "love" for "worship." In part 1 of this blog, I mentioned that one key distinction between love and worship is the idea of "fear." The second and perhaps more obvious distinction is the object.
The object of worship is what separates worship from the idea of love. First of all, love is for both God and man. Jesus said this much in Luke 10:27. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” We are to love God and love our neighbor, but worship is reserved for God alone. He is the sole object of worship. It's right there in the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:3-5 says “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them..." Worshiping anything other God is idolatry. For those of us who have grown up with this knowledge, we understand intuitively that we are to worship God alone. But many times we trade the object of our love with the object of our worship. In most cases it's not flat out, textbook level idolatry. There is no golden calf in our living room. Instead what I see more often is that what we love gradually becomes what we worship.
What happens when what what we love becomes what we worship? Let's look at the story of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah.
In Genesis 29 we find Jacob fleeing from his brother Esau after stealing Esau's inheritance. Jacob was basically looking to get out of town because his brother was out to "get him." So Jacob ran away to his uncle's place, and once he got there he stumbled upon Rachel. Rachel was beautiful and Jacob fell in love with her immediately. He was so in love that he ran to find his uncle and ask for Rachel's hand in marriage. He then offered to work seven years for Rachel, which was far above any bridal price! Jacob's uncle was a shrewd (and not very compassionate) man, and he readily agreed to Jacob's self-appointed terms for marriage. So Jacob slaved away for his uncle for seven years, unknowingly marrying Rachel's less beautiful sister Leah, and then agreed to work for seven additional years to marry Rachel.
Three things happen when what we love becomes what we worship. The first is that we lose our identity. Jacob was a kinsman of Rachel. If you are familiar with the book of Ruth, we find another kinsman by the name of Boaz. Boaz was a good and compassionate man who rescued Ruth and Naomi out of their misery. Jacob was a kinsman like Boaz and had the potential to be as good as Boaz right from the start, but he traded his identity of kinsman for the identity of a servant because what he loved, Rachel, became what he worshiped. The kinsman turned into a servant.
The second thing is that we hurt others. Everyone knew Rachel was the object of Jacob's love and worship, including Leah. Leah was hurt because she was not as loved as much her sister. So Leah tried to earn Jacob's love by bearing children. Leah and Rachel became rivals, competing with one another and trying to out do each other. Leah was hurt. Rachel was hurt. And Jacob was stuck in the middle. When what we love becomes what we worship, we hurt others.
The third thing is that we waste our time. Jacob spent fourteen years serving his uncle! Seven years in order to end up with Leah and seven more once he married Rachel. Imagine voluntarily spending fourteen years working to marry your spouse when all along you could have easily spent only a few months. It is foolish and a waste of time.
The thing is...great things can become great idols. We are not presented with the proverbial golden calf to worship here in the 21st century. Instead we are presented with great things which we should love: relationships, careers, ministry, health, wealth, friends, and family. All of these things are intrinsically great and good and that is why they can become great idols in our lives. As Christians we must make sure to watch that what we love does not become what we worship. Even something as sacred as church can become an idol if we are not careful. To those of us who have faith, when we see other people chasing after these great things, worshiping them, and sacrificing everything for them, it should sadden us. We cannot hold these people who don't know God to the same standard to those who do know Him. But we can point to a better way.
Our worship is our testimony. When we gather together on a Sunday morning, we doing so much more than just making music and listening to a speaker. When we gather, we are declaring that the object our worship is the Almighty God. Not some American Millennial Dream or an easy life of retirement. When we sing, when we pray, and when we offer ourselves as a "living sacrifice" every single day, we are showing the rest of the world that there is a better way to live. Our worship is our testimony to a world full of people chasing after great things. So we love God and love people, but we worship God. Not people.
Mother's Day is an amazing day of appreciation and love. As children, we call our moms, cook for them, and pamper them with gifts and flowers! This past week as I was preparing my sermon for Mother's Day, my mind was clouded with the idea of honoring our moms. It was somewhat frustrating, but the cloudiness brought on by Mother's Day actually helped me to see that oftentimes we operate in the gray areas between "love" and "worship."
We do so because there are many similarities between our understanding of "love" and our understanding of "worship." The way we talk about both topics are fraught with similarities. Words like "adore" and "sacrifice" can be thought of in an equally secular and sacred way. We write poetry of adoration to our loved ones. We sacrifice greatly for our loved ones and children. Parents work hard to raise their kids. The same language is used in worship. In the OT, God commanded His people to offer sacrifices of animals and grain to Him as an act of worship. The NT switches things up a little and instead calls for Christians to offer themselves as a living sacrifice. Romans 12:1 says that this living sacrifice is our true act of worship. Adoration and sacrifice are sung about in both love and worship. If you have ever listened to a worship song and wondered if it was about God or a girl, you are not alone!
While there are many ways in which "love" and "worship" overlap, there are two main differences between "love" and "worship." The first is the element of fear. Fear is seldom associated with anyone's idea of "love," but it is essential to a Christian's understanding of "worship." The fear of the Lord is mentioned throughout Scripture, we have trouble separating our understanding of our phobias (being afraid) from the fear of the Lord. I find this lack of understanding to be true for Christians both old and new. So when we talk about fear in the context of love and worship, we are not simply talking about being afraid, even though we should be most afraid of God! Matthew 10:28 says to "not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."
The fear of the Lord is far more complex than phobias and the emotion of fear, so to help us better understand the fear of the Lord I have boiled it down to three main points: Reverence, Repentance, and Revelation.
The fear of the Lord is about reverence. Phil. 2:12 says to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." We are to view our calling and mission with the utmost reverence. We would all behave differently in the presence of royalty and celebrity. You might be more mindful of your appearance or demeanor. You might even use different language to address this person. Whatever it is, the idea of reverence is on display in those situations. The fear of the Lord means that we have reverence when we think about and approach the Lord.
The fear of the Lord is about repentance. Prov. 3:7 tells us to "fear the Lord and shun evil." The fear of the Lord is connected to turning away from evil, meaning that as we repent of our sins and wrongdoings we are growing in our understanding of the fear of the Lord.
The fear of the Lord is also about revelation. Psalm 111:10 says that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise." Our revelation of God (wisdom) springs from the fear of the Lord. Prov. 14:27 says "The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,that one may turn away from the snares of death." We understand more of who God is when we fear Him.
But the fear of the Lord is especially present in the context of worship. Psalm 33:8 says "Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!" The fear of the Lord does not drive us away or cause us to flee from God's presence. Instead it causes us to stand in awe and wonder of who He is and what He has done and what He will do!
Part two: "When What We Love Becomes What We Worship"