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Archive for May, 2007

Worship-palooza


In one of his Reform & Resurge addresses, Ed Stetzer talked about a church planting-palooza.  He lamented that most speakers only got a few minutes.  He joked that it took Mark Driscoll more than 10 minutes to warm up.

But we want to hear from everyone.  The more big names the better.  So now there is what I am jokingly dubbing Worship-palooza.  There are SO MANY big names in the area of worship that I can’t conceive how they’ll have time to say anything meaningful.  But they’ve got Paul Baloche, Don Moen, Lincoln Brewster, Jack Hayford, Brian Doerksen, Robin Mark, Todd Proctor, Bob Kauflin, Hillsong London and so many more people it will melt your freakin’ mind.

The traveling show will appear in places like Columbus, Portland (OR), Springfield (MA), Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Lancaster, Atlanta, Chicago, West Palm Beach, Indianapolis and more…..

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(circa 2000, interacting with a section from the book I mention)

If you are in relationship with people, whether at home, church or work, it is impossible to avoid betrayal.

“Essentially, betrayal is the breaking of an implied or stated commitment of care” (Dan Allender, The Healing Path).

This means that betrayal involves a broken commitment to guard your well-being.  It can come from a friend who shares your darkest secret.  Or a co-worker who steals your work.  Betrayal opens the door for us to grow in faith, if we do not avoid all it brings with it.

Betrayal comes on different levels.  The damage caused by a break of confidence is less than that caused by a parent who abuses their child emotionally or sexually.  But the relationship intended to bring blessing has now brought harm.

The betrayal does not remain a private affair, but soon spreads to the community.  There is no way to keep a fight between two people isolated– others inevitably become involved.  This could be as simple as hearing one’s complaint, or as complicated as taking up one’s cause against the other to repay the damage.

Betrayal forces us to make choices.  We can deny the damage done to us.  Many choose this path.  Others recognize the damage, and use it as an excuse to justify their sins against the perpetrator.  The best option is to recognize the damage, and then marvel at the faithfulness of God in contrast to our instability.

What damage is done?  First, our sense of identity is taken apart.  As relational creatures, our identity is composed of our various relationships.  When one is broken, it casts a shadow of doubt upon the rest of them.  Will they betray me too?  This doubt eats away our relationships because the life we thought existed, doesn’t.

Our initial response is to blame ourselves.  We should have seen it coming.  Or perhaps we failed first, prompting this person’s sin.  We enter a period of self contempt or blame.  I was there when (an ex-)girlfriend left.  “Am I so stupid that I couldn’t see this coming?  The signs were all there, why did I give her my heart?”

For better or worse, we do not stop there.  We soon move to believing that someone must pay.  We desire revenge for the wrongs done to us.  I always think of Kenny, the stuttering thief from A Fish Called Wanda, clearly crying “REVENGE!” as he drives a steamroller over his tormenter Otto.

Since our hearts are deceptive, we do not always direct our rage at the one who hurt us in the first place.  It could be easy for me to make my next girlfriend pay for the wrongs of past girlfriends.  Severely abused people often don’t recognize how they harm those around them, or themselves.  This is particularly true with sexual abuse.  The victims often become perpetrators themselves, or destroy themselves through eating disorders or promiscuity.  The initial betrayal is not an excuse of later sinful choices, but we begin to understand why.  Then we address the broken parts of a person to bring restoration as well as repentance.

Then, at last, comes numbness.  We no longer care.  This is where most of us end up.  Life, so to speak, goes on hold.  We stop caring about just about everything.  “Yeah, sure.  Whatever you want.”  The pain overwhelms us, and we go on autopilot.  We stop living, but not functioning.

It is here that we lose faith.  God no longer seems faithful and true.  We forget the abundance of times He has been good to us.  Our legitimate desires go unmet, and our faith shrinks.  We enter into autopilot with God as well.  We don’t stray outwardly, but our hearts are numb towards him.  We become legalistic and distant.  “God failed me.  It doesn’t pay to pursue him.”  We become stuck; powerless and ambivalent.

This is the place where God invites us to see our idolatry.  We expect others to be what only God can be for us.  No one, and nothing, has the ability to perfectly meet our needs (much less our desires).  When forgiveness can’t be extended, I must recognize I have not given them the freedom to fail.  I expect them to be perfect– and only God is perfect.  I have also made God into something He is not.  He does not exist to meet my every desire.  He’s no genie in the bottle to grant my wishes.  I worship a false god, which is also idolatry.  In my idolatry, I make myself an enemy of God (James 4:1-4).

I never ceased to be amazed at how God orchestrates circumstances to reveal myself to me.  It happened on the way back from GA.  A “quick” stop for gas turned into a nightmare.  I was angry and petty.  The next day I could see just how demanding I was.  I saw my need to having things go the way I want them to go.  In short, I was humbled by a glimpse of my utter sinfulness.  This was my invitation to repent of my idolatry.  Part of me hates that I am powerless to “keep” a girlfriend (whatever that means), prevent an elder from resigning, etc.  My longing to be god is exposed.

This is good!  For God gives grace to the humble, but opposes the proud (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5, 6).  This humbling brings me to the throne of grace, where I can find mercy, strength and grace from a faithful God.  One faithful enough to wound me and then heal me.  I walk what Allender calls the “healing path”, the road of sanctification.

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I lost all respect for A-Rod in the 2004 ALCS when he tried to cheat and got caught all while declaring his innocence.  Since then I have called him A-Fraud.  Some recently called him April-Rod for his hot start.  He cooled off, and the Yankees are in a very bad stretch of baseball (which I hope continues until after their visit to Fenway this weekend.  btw: Francona is putting up our best pitchers, having reshuffled the rotation with the off-day.).  He didn’t improve his stature with me by a lame, but successful, attempt to break up a double play with an elbow to Pedroia’s groin.  The slide was lame, the elbow a cheap shot.

Yesterday The NY Post pronounced to be Stray-Rod with a pic of him supposedly outside a strip club with an attractive woman who wasn’t his wife.  He refused to address the issue (it’s private) before the game.

During the game A-Fraud was the center of controversy as he shouted while passing the 3rd baseman who was lining up a fly ball.  The Toronto player, thinking the SS was calling for the ball backed off and it dropped for a single.  A-Fraud again protested his innocence in the matter.  The Toronto manager called him “bush league” and the umps had to make sure a verbal altercation didn’t turn physical.   Not all press is good press.

This morning, the NY Daily News Gossip page has C-Rod leaving their apartment with 2 suitcases (destination unknown) in a rush, and tales of Strip-Rod.  He is alleged to be quite the frequenter of strip clubs (both with Cynthia, and with other women when he travels).  The Post followed up their story with additional developments.

It’s all coming apart for A-Fraud.  It’s a sad story precisely because he doesn’t seem to care about his reputation as a player or a husband.  This is what sin can do- make us think we are right and everyone else is wrong.  It convinces us we “deserve” or “need” what we seek.  Unfortunately, with the ever-present press and the advent of camera phones, the private aspects of A-Fraud’s meltdown are now public.  We don’t know the truth, but nothing here looks good for the highest paid man in baseball.  What will be interesting is how this unfolds this weekend in Boston (where I am glad he didn’t end up- the Wade Boggs affair was bad enough).

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            Enter the Gospel.  Part of the Good News is that God becomes our Father.  The doctrine of adoption is one of the most neglected doctrines in the Church.  The Westminster Confession of Faith says the following in chapter 12.

 

All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, to have his name put upon them, receive the spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him, as by a Father: yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption; inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation.

 

Our heavenly Father’s not afraid to give us the good stuff we need to become healthy people.  What does our Father do for us?  He gives us access to Himself in prayer (Matthew 6:9-13; Ephesians 2:18), and promises not to abandon us (Hebrews 13:5).  In the movie Anna and the King, court stops when the King of Siam’s daughter enters the room.  He grants his beloved child all of his attention.  The perfect Father gives attention to all of His children.  He takes time to listen to them.  His ear is not cold toward us in distress, but we are pitied.  He empathizes with us.  There is no “big boys don’t cry” or “take it like a man”.  Rather, He pities us in our weakness and distress. 

In addition to pity, He provides protection. In his great treatise on adoption, Paul declares, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Rom. 8:31)?

Not only that, but He provides for us.  Our daily bread is His gift to us.  Lastly, He disciplines us as sons (Hebrews 12:5-11).  He wants us to bear the family likeness, and works to conform us to the likeness of His unique Son, Jesus (Rom. 8:29).  So we find a strong, but neglected, theology that addresses the situation of many Christians under our care. 

(more…)

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(I wrote this in around 2000)

If I were to say the word “father”, what image would come to your mind?  A man who appears around 6 PM to sit in a recliner, too tired to do anything but watch TV?  A person who is verbally or physically abusive?  Someone who rolls on the floor with young children, laughing out loud?

            We’ve all had fathers (or father-figures in their absence), but too often we don’t realize the impact they have had on our lives.  For better or for worse, they are our primary models of masculinity.  Little boys learn what it means to be a man from their fathers.  Little girls learn what to expect of men from their fathers.  Our fathers are God’s gift to provide many of the things young children need.  They help us learn about limits; that I cannot have all I want, and I must respect the rights of others.  Fathers should also encourage their children, helping them cultivate the talents and abilities God has granted. A good father shows appropriate affection.  In short, a father is a living incarnation of God.

If our fathers are healthy (not perfect), then we are usually well prepared for life.  But when they aren’t, then we miss out on something fantastic.  We all know abusive parents can create emotional scars, but how often do we recognize the abuse of neglect or abandonment?  When a father is uninvolved in his children’s lives a void in the soul is created.  In his book Life Without Father, sociologist David Popenoe details for us what happens to children who grow up without fathers.  One study found them twice as likely to drop out of school. Girls are more than twice as likely to be teen mothers.  They are more involved in violent crime.  Without their father’s protection, they are more likely to be the victims of physical and sexual abuse.  Boys, in particular, become out of control, abusing self, others, alcohol, and sex.  In the case of abandonment or divorce these problems are much more severe than in the death of a parent.  This is of great importance as a result of the increase in divorce and the bearing of children out of wedlock.  This crisis affords the church a great opportunity, if we are willing to accept the challenge.

Absent fathers are not the only problem, however.  The situation is similar if the father is emotionally unhealthy.  The good things they should receive from their father are missing.  The lack of health is passed down to the next generation.  Larry Crabb’s book, The Silence of Adam, wrestles with the way ungodly manhood is passed from one generation to the next.  I’ve found that children often walk in their father’s sinful footsteps..

            The song “Father of Mine” by the band Everclear wrestles with this issue.  It is the story of a man whose father abandoned his family (“you gave me your name, and you walked away”).  Now that the boy has become a man, he realizes he feels “weird inside”.  As he tries to raise his own children, he realizes this is more difficult than it should be.  He struggles mightily to be a better father than the one he had.  He wants to give his children more than just a name.

            They are on to something even though they don’t share our faith.  Having a bad father does not doom you to being a lousy person.  But it does make it more difficult to sustain healthy relationships.  This is  because you didn’t have one with one of the most significant people in your life.  Relating to your spouse and children is more difficult (often near impossible until you face up to the reality of what you received, or didn’t, from dad).  This problem is growing with the increase of single parent families.  Many young people have no long-term experience of healthy masculinity.  This increases their own tendency to pursue and remain in unhealthy relationships.  Many long for something better, but do not know how to go about pursuing it apart from changing partners periodically.

            Worse than societal issues however, are the effects upon how such a person views God.  This was most clearly, powerfully and brutally portrayed in the movie “Fight Club”.  Tyler, played by Brad Pitt, lectures his alter ego. 

 “Our fathers were our models for God.  They bailed.  What does that tell you about God?  Listen to me; you have to consider the possibility that God does not like you.  He never wanted you!  In all probability he hates you.  It’s not the worst thing that can happen.  We don’t need him! … F— redemption, we are God’s unwanted children!”

            Brutal and offensive to our ears, but it is a sentiment heard in pastors’ and counselors’ offices all around the world.  There is a natural and understandable connection between our experience of our fathers, and our understanding of the Father.  Just as husbands speak well or poorly of Christ by how they treat their wives (Ephesians 5), fathers speak well or poorly of God the Father by how they treat their children.  When our fathers abandon or abuse us, we live in fear that God will also abandon or abuse us.  We become self-reliant rather than depend upon God, since He won’t come through for us.  If dad was an absent provider, we tend to think of God that way.  He meets our physical needs, but don’t ask Him to be there and love me.  Others wrestle with a lack of dignity because their fathers put them down and mercilessly criticized them.  We do the same things to get God’s attention that we did to get dad’s attention.  Our relationship with God is unhealthy because our relationship with our father is unhealthy.  For the younger generations of Christians, there will be more and more distortions about who God is and how He normally treats His children.  We must have theology and praxis to answer this challenge.

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I didn’t hear about this until late morning.  Patriots defensive end Marquise Hill was missing after a jetski incident on Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana Sunday.  The young woman he was with says he saved her life.  She was rescued yesterday.  Apparently the area is known for some strong currents.

Sadly, search teams found his body today.  Although not a well known player, he was loved by family, friends and teammates.  They will all miss him.

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(this is the 3rd & final installment on Covenantal Worship by R.J. Gore)

Characteristics of Covenantal Worship

Simple– this is in distinction to the Old Testament pomp and circumstance.  Synagogue worship (upon which most early Christian worship was based) was simple.  The buildings were not extravagant, and the service was simple (not simplistic).  “New Covenant worship is preeminently worship in the Spirit, under the guidance of the Spirit, by the power of the Spirit (pp. 144).”  It is simple in that it is clearly understood, and reveals a progression in its parts that moves us from the presence of God to proclaim the message of grace to the world. 

 

Orderly– there is a structure to biblical worship.  Paul issues the command that worship be done “decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40) because God is a God of order.  Order is not to be mistaken for conformity.  Within the Created Order there is a great diversity of plants, animals, environments, sights, smells, tastes and… people.  Structure provides the boundaries for the exercise of creativity.  It does not stifle creativity, but prevents it from being chaotic.  As a result, our worship should be thoughtful (in preparation and execution).

 

Free– the conscience of the individual worshiper is guarded, so they are not coerced into participating in anything against their will.  People must not be chastised for not singing or participating in particular types of prayer.  Parents must not be forced to baptize their children.  Education and encouragement are not ruled out.  Leadership must also help them to not participate decently and in order.

 

Glorifies and Edifies– biblical worship must do both.  Congregations tend to gravitate toward one or the other.  God is the primary audience (though not the sole audience), and should be honored and glorified.  “Significantly, we serve a God who delights in blessing us (pp. 149).”  Those who faithfully worship will receive grace and encouragement.  Faith should expect this, but not make it the primary goal of worship.

The reality of community must be accounted for.  We do not worship as individuals, but as part of the Body of Christ.  “It is not enough that I am transformed by worship; I must also help to transform others, and I should allow other to be used by God to transform me (pp. 149).”

 

Catholic– as in universal (not Roman).  This means that “there must be a willingness to learn from others, a willingness to be taught by the entire breadth of the Christian tradition (pp. 151).”  As a result, the past is not to be totally discarded.  We can learn from the past, and incorporate some elements from the past.  The same can be said about the present.  “Worship that is catholic requires the willingness to hear the truth contained in other traditions, even when that truth has been obscured by non-biblical accretions (pp. 152).”

 

(more…)

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