Intimacy W/God

It’s All About His Presence

“It is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in their personal experience, they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into him, that they may delight in his presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God himself in the core and center of their hearts.”

Aiden Wilson Tozer
Chicago Illinois
June 16, 1948
From the Preface of: The Pursuit of God

What do you think the application is?

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Lights, Smoke, Worship?

Lights and smoke do not make what we do on Sunday a show, and the lack of lights and smoke do not make what we do on Sunday worship.

Lot’s of digital ink has been spilled recently about the “look” of worship in a lot of churches and why it either hinders or helps “worship”.

Many writers and leaders have diagnosed a problem. That problem being the congregation is not engaging. I believe they have correctly diagnosed the problem. However I believe the wrong solution has been prescribed. What has been missed IMHO has to do with the presence, or lack thereof, not the presentation, necessarily. The presentation can be the reason there is no presence in some settings but let’s start somewhere else. Let me give examples as explanations.

James K.A. Smith just posted An Open Letter to Praise Bands this morning.

It’s a good article. In it he gives three criteria to evaluate whether we are leading worship or delivering a concert.

1. If we, the congregation, can’t hear ourselves, it’s not worship.
2. If we, the congregation, can’t sing along, it’s not worship.
3. If you, the praise band, are the center of attention, it’s not worship.

In his final paragraph he says “My concern isn’t with style, but with form:”

I’m not saying he is wrong. What I’m saying is there is another aspect that is more important than style, or form.

Doug Lawrence also posted 5 Ways to De-Professionalise Your Worship.

Doug gives us these tips:

1. Stop being a slave to glitz
2. Start seeing congregations as people instead of numbers!
3. Let people see worship as part of their offering instead of just yours!
4. Stop competing with pop culture, you’re probably bombing there anyway!
5. Shut it down instead of whipping it up!

Again I don’t mean to criticize this critique. Although it does begin with an assumption that I am confident is not true of many churches. Most Church leaders and worship leaders I meet are great people who love God and love Gods people. Unfortunately We don’t have many fathers in the church. Many teachers but not many fathers. Seems like Paul mentioned something about this in 1 Corinthians 4:15. So most of todays leaders have not been taught incorrectly. They think the magic is in the media, or the presentation, or the show. “If you build it they will come” is true but what are we doing with them once they arrive?

I am not against the media, the presentation, or the show, necessarily. The issue is deeper and bigger than all of these things in themselves.

Late last year Matthew Sigle at Seedbeed, a Methodist blog from Asbury Theological Seminary. nails the main issue in his post called “Misplacing Charisma: Where Contemporary Worship Lost its Way.”

Among other things he says:

it’s important to point out that this theology of worship, while undergirded by “praise and worship” songs, understood the entire time of singing (the pauses, instrumental solos, spontaneous prayers, raising of hands, shouting, etc.) to be part of the progression from praise to intimacy. The songs themselves are only a part of the complete picture of what is occurring in a Charismatic praise and worship service. Something much deeper is understood to be going on in worship.

This needs to be couched in the next point he makes:

What’s missing? The answer is found in looking at what happened when “praise and worship” was adopted by mainline denominations. During the 1990’s many mainline congregations began to import the songs, sounds, and some of the sights (like hand raising and clapping) of the praise and worship style. In many cases, what got lost was the robust pneumatology behind this approach to worship. In other words, many mainline churches brought the form, but didn’t bring the theology of praise and worship into their congregations.

That last point is the main point and the reason we’re in the fix we’re in and is not exclusive to “mainline churches”. We do need to be careful about what elements we bring into the worship service. That is a much bigger conversation than I want to get into here but I want to note that we must evaluate why each element is present.

The bigger issue as leaders is our why. If get the why of worship right the how will take care of itself.

The only way to evaluate the corporate time of worship entrusted to us as worship leaders is did the Bridegroom meet with the bride?

  1. Did I prepare a place for the two to meet?
  2. Did I approach our time together with a deep love for the bride as the one Jesus bought with His own blood? (Acts 20:28)
  3. Did I prepare as one laying down his life for the sake of unity in the body?
  4. Did I prepare myself and my team well enough to recognize when the bridegroom enters and then get out of the way when He does? (John 3:29-30)

Before you reply let me clarify. I understand sometimes the bridegroom does not enter (Read Song of Solomon). I also understand your tradition may define “His entering” differently than I would. We also need to be sure we are not trying to manipulate a feeling or an emotion, although I defy you to come into the presence of God and have it not be an emotional experience, what we do is not about a specific outward response.

Having said all of this let’s make sure we begin from the right premise before we begin diagnosing a cure. Let’s do all we can to prepare a place for the Bridegroom to meet His bride and then get out of the way.

Would love your thoughts.

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The Father Heart of God

Yesterday my oldest son was having car trouble and I was the first call he made. As I was driving to help him I got a revelation.

I have always said your revelation of the father heart of God increases when you get married. It increases again when you have children. Yesterday I realized it increases again when your kids move out of the house.

Since my oldest moved out he’s been very busy. Working full-time, doing the band thing, managing several relationship including a fiance. I’m not the top of his priority list and rightfully so. He’s growing into a fully self-sufficient adult.

So every time my phone rings and I see that its him I smile. It must be how the Father feels when we call on him.

As I was driving to help him out I realized I was grateful for the car trouble. I didn’t cause it but it initiated a contact with me from one of my sons who I love very much and miss him being around all the time.

As with any analogy it’s not perfect and can be taken too far. Just a little insight into a greater revelation of the father heart of God.

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Where Are You In The Process?

I have been asking God to give me a glimpse of where I am and where He is taking me, and yesterday He showed me something amazing. It may not be just for me so I wanted to share it. I pray it will be helpful to you.

In Ezekial 36 from verse 16 to 20 we hear about the nation of Israel acting badly. I don’t want to draw any conclusions as they apply to me or to us.  I merely want to make the observation that Israel was not repenting or crying out to God. They were behaving badly.

God says in verse 22 when people see you they know you are my people and because I have concern for my holy name I will do this:

  1. I will take you from the nations and bring you into your own land.
  2. I will sprinkle you with clean water and cleanse you from your filthiness.
  3. I will give you a new heart and a new spirit.
  4. I will cause you to walk in My statutes and keep my judgments.

Then:

  1. You will dwell in the land you will be my people and I will be your God
  2. I will deliver you from all your uncleanness
  3. I will call for the grain and multiply it and bring no famine on you.
  4. I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations.

There are several observations and applications I could make but I just want to make four:

  1. The nation of Israel was not being good, spiritual, repentant, or anything else worthy of God’s favor. He did it merely because they were His people and He wanted the nations all around them to know “that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted what was desolate” vs 36
  2. Everything happened because God did it. Israel did nothing. (don’t take this too far)
  3. When you read; commandment, covenant, statutes, judgments etc. insert faith. We are under the new covenant. (again, don’t take this too far. keep it simple)
  4. Once He has done these things and caused us to live by faith. Then we will inherit the land and be blessed.

In order for this to be a theological piece it would have taken many more words than this and I’ve already abused the boundaries of a blog post. So please take some time to read Ezekial 36 and consider where you are in the process and thank God for the coming multiplication of grain and fruit. Then thank Him for His mercy, His long-suffering, His loving-kindness, and His grace. Submit to the process, He is good.

Selah.

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The Power of an Apology

Over the last several weeks, some would argue longer than that, I’ve been a little difficult to be around.

I won’t go into detail as to why, I guess the reasons are arguable as well, suffice it to say I’ve been grumpy and disagreeable.

Though it was not my intention; I was rude to a couple of my closest friends recently. Thankfully the Holy Spirit pointed it out to me and I made two phone calls.

An apology is a very powerful thing. I’m not talking about the politician non-apology, apology. The “I’m sorry if you were offended” apology. I’m talking about taking responsibility for your actions and asking for forgiveness. It’s the “I behaved in an incorrect manner and I’m sorry”. As the Australians would say “Full Stop”. No qualification, no justification just a flat-out I’m sorry for the way I treated you. This is a principle I have tried to live by even to the extent of several times as the boys were growing up I would be on the edge of their bed saying “I’m sorry for the way I treated you today”.

A few days ago someone told me they were sorry for something that happened and I was reminded how powerful it is to be on the receiving end as well as the giving end.

Right now, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you if you need to call someone and restore relationship and when He points it out to you. Make the call immediately. You’ll be glad you did.

Romans 12:18 NKJV says “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men”. We all know it doesn’t completely depend on you. But make sure you’ve done all you can.

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He Chose To Go

Happy Good Friday,

The pinnacle of Holy week is just three days away and today we remember what Jesus endured for us over two thousand years ago.

So many thoughts run through my mind. Messianic prophecy for one. The fact that without God the odds of all the prophesies about Jesus coming true are 1038 (1 in a 100 billion, billion, billion, billion).

But what is taking up most of my headspace today is the fact that Roman soldiers did not put Jesus on the cross and it wasn’t the nails that held Him there.

Over the last several years I have been engaged in conversations with those in and outside the Church who tell me its barbaric to believe a loving Father would  send His son to be brutally beaten and murdered in the most horrific way to glorify Himself. This line of thinking is based on a faulty premise. Which is the case most of the time in these conversations. We need to be careful not to accept a premise without consideration. Most of the time the question is irrelevant because the understanding behind it is flawed, as in this case.

The Father and the Son are not separate but with the Spirit are one in essence. Essence is the attribute or set of attributes that make an object or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity. They are three in one.

God chose, by Himself, to pay the penalty for sin so we can come boldly into His presence. Ephesians 2 explains that because of Jesus sacrifice we are seated in heavenly places with Him so that for all eternity He can point to us as an example of His goodness, grace, and mercy. God made a good world, we rebelled, but God had a plan. He chose to go the the cross and endure what He endured on Good Friday because He loves us.

It was sin that put Jesus on the cross. Not an angry Father or Roman soldiers and it was love that held Him there.

The mystery kept hidden for generations is now made known to the saints and the mystery is this; Christ in me the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:26-27)

See you Sunday. He is Risen!

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Times of Refreshing

This morning Carlos Whittaker posted about his recovery process. It got me thinking.

I haven’t had a “super high emotional and spiritual experience” but I have had a very busy and productive couple of weeks. In the midst of God doing a lot in our midst, seeing great things come to conclusion and great things beginning, I haven’t taken time to refresh.

Being outside is what feeds me. I love being outdoors usually on a bicycle. I’m also a wimp in the cold so I don’t ride in the winter which means I get fat, out of shape, and unrefreshed. Why do I live in a cold climate you ask? I don’t know.

Jesus spent lots of time going away to a quiet place to be with the Father. The sabbath rest is a big deal and I need to make it more of a priority. What’s your routine? What feeds you? What’s the biggest obstacle to your resting?

Would love your thoughts.

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To All People and For You

Two years ago almost to the day I had a small post entitled “To You“. Those words come back to me again this year.

The word “people” literally means “a people” which differentiates it from the word meaning “one’s own populace”. Jesus was born for everyone not just the Jewish Nation. He was born to be King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Savior of the whole world. And He was born

“To You”

I think of the scene in Aladdin toward the end when the villain is gaining power and Genie reminds him he still doesn’t have the power of a genie. He realizes this to be true and for his final wish he wishes to be an “All Powerful Genie!”. Instantly as he feels the power well up inside him he is sucked into a bottle. To which Genie states.

“Phenomenal Cosmic Power!! itty bitty living space”.

Jesus is the creator of the Universe yet He chose to leave the splendor and 24/7 365 worship directed at Him to be born in a manger. The manger speaks of the very purpose He came. To be the lamb of God. He was born to die. Simply because of His love for you. There was absolutely nothing in it for Him but relationship with you.

Tomorrow as we begin to wind down from the hectic pace of Christmas and look towards the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day activities remember. Jesus was born for all people. But most importantly He was born to you.

Merry Christmas.

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The Love of God

Recently I’ve been struck by the love of God.

I’ve always known He loves me but the last couple of weeks as I’ve meditated on it I realize not only that He loves me but how much He loves you.

Again not that this is a great revelation it’s just that I’ve been thinking about how much He loves you and what that should mean for me.

I can get so frustrated with people. There are times when I’m behind someone on the on ramp to I-25 and they’re trying to merge with 75 mph traffic at 45 mph while talking on their cell phone and I just want to scream. Sorry if that shatters your opinion of me it’s just the truth.

However as I’ve been thinking about how much God loves all people and how He longs for everyone to know Him and walk in close intimate fellowship with Him it changes my reaction. I also realize He is my rear guard and I don’t have to worry about being crushed by the 75 mph traffic coming behind me.

C.S. Lewis in his sermon “The Weight of Glory” says we have never met a mere mortal. It is impossible to think too much about the potential glory of our neighbor and the weight of their glory should be placed upon my back. A load so heavy only humility can carry it and the backs of the proud will be broken. Everyone on earth is either an everlasting splendor or an immortal horror and all day long we are helping each other to become one or the other of these.

Everyone has a story. They are coming from somewhere and going somewhere. Before we make any judgments we need to understand their story and make sure we are helping everyone become and everlasting splendor not an immortal horror.

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The Prodigal

This morning I ran across a video written by the brother/sister team of Ryan and Meghan Baird on Bob Kauflin’s blog Worship Matters. As I watched I was reminded of something God showed me last year.

Before you watch the video let me share some thoughts:

We’ve all read the story of the prodigal son and heard it preached many times. When I was first walking with the Father it was easy to identify with the story. Even though I hadn’t said to my father “I wish you were dead, now give me my inheritance” it was easy to see how God had been reaching out to me and how I had, many times, walked away.

Having walked with the Father for over 25 years it became harder to identify with the story and I tended to listen passively and move on. But a truth remains in the story for we who have been walking with the Father a long time.

We all have seasons of spending our inheritance outside of relationship with the Father.

If you have applied, by faith, Jesus sacrifice for your sin you are, by grace through faith, made righteous and a child of God. Ephesians tells us it was the Fathers idea from the very beginning to adopt us as sons (inheritors) and give us an inheritance. To the extent we spend that inheritance outside of relationship with the Father we are prodigals. With that in mind watch the video:

Here are the lyrics:

You held out Your arms, I walked away
Insolent I spurned Your face
Squandering the gifts You gave to me
Holding close forbidden things
Destitute a rebel still, a fool in all my pride
The world I once enjoyed is death to me
No joy, no hope, no life

Where now are the friends, that I had bought
Gone with every penny lost
What hope could there be for such as I
Sold out to a world of lies
Oh, to see Your face again, it seems so distant now
Could it be that You would take me back
A servant in Your house

You held out Your arms, I see them still
You never left, You never will
Running to embrace me, now I know
Your cords of love will always hold
Mercy’s robe, a ring of grace
Such favor undeserved
You sing over me and celebrate
The rebel now Your child
© 2009 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP).

Deuteronomy 30:2-3 promises us if we will:

return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you. Deut 30:2-3

The Robe speaks of welcoming into the family and removing sin. We are clothed with His righteousness, made righteous. The ring is a sign of sonship (inheritors) being sealed by the Holy Spirit with second inheritance of wealth, dominion, and rulership. Sandals differentiate us from a servant. The feast declares to the world the Joy of the Father. Freedom and honor are restored in perfect reconciliation and all the son did was return.

He has not dealt with us according to our sins,Nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:10-14

Don’t wait. Relationship with the Father is to be valued more than our inheritance from Him. He wants to spend it with us. Wherever you are right now be purposeful. Don’t rehearse a speech. Just return, I’m going to do that right now.

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