Worship and Emotion

Last week I started talking about worship. Today I want to take the thoughts a little further.

It is a fairly common usage for people to refer to the music portion of the service as the worship. As you saw last week I defined worship as the living out of your personal relationship with God. Music invokes emotions, and many people have mistaken the emotions as the worship.

Once you begin equating the emotions, the feeling of God’s presence, with worship, you also begin expecting worship leaders to take you there. No doubt a skilled music leader can do that, in fact a good sermon can do the same. So the next step in the progression is to put the responsibility for your worship emotions on the worship leaders, and therefore you have someone to blame for the quality of your personal worship.

There is more than one problem with this, but the one I want you to see is, the emotions are valued more highly than the relationship with God. The most important parts of a relationship are non-emotional, things like commitment and trust. The best worship will include a worshipper who trusts God to be present and working in them whether they feel it or not. The best worship will include a worshipper who has lived in obedience without expectation of an emotional payoff.

This is not to imply we should attempt to drive emotions out of worship. God made us with an emotional component, and having emotions is not a mistake. When the connection with God in worship touches our heart it is a moment worth celebrating. But let me encourage you not to be dependent upon those emotions, but rather consider them an additional blessing of the relationship with God. During those times when you are not feeling it, continue living it. Your obedience will glorify God, and strengthen your faith.

 

Baby Gambel’s Quail

Gambel's Quail Young (800x533)

Here are a couple of baby Gambel’s quail. In this picture the chicks are looking up at the bush because they are about to trim off some of the new leaves for a snack. As they get older they will be a little less choosy, but at this age, they are consuming foods suitable for their stage of growth. When they become adults they will eat a lot tougher foods, but at this age they only go for the easy stuff.

Spiritually we go through growing up transitions too. Last week I addressed this growth process from the perspective of the church, specifically the church’s responsibility to work with people of all maturity levels. But the immature Christian also has a responsibility, which is they must strive towards maturity.

Like anything else seeking to grow, what believers consume makes a major difference. The believer who is frequently exposed to Scripture is going to be healthier than the one who is only spiritually fed by an occasional sermon. A daily Bible reading, home Bible study, Sunday school class and a Bible memory plan will help you become spiritually strong. But the believer who consumes more video games, popular music or television than Scripture may never really understand what Spiritual maturity is.

“Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature —for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.” Hebrews 5:13-14 (HCSB)

Seeking Courageous Leadership

“Every day the sun comes up, it says something about us.” This statement was made by Kevin Costner, playing Special Assistant to the President Kenneth O’Donnell, toward the end of the movie Thirteen Days, which is about the Cuban missile crisis.

He was referring to the hard reality that ever since the nuclear proliferation of the cold war, humanity has the ability to end the world on any given day. This movie was about an event in history which if not stopped would have placed the rest of the world under Russia’s heel. Thankfully, they were backed down by courageous actions, and the world took a different shape for the following decades.

Now we are in a similar point in history.

Russia was prematurely declared dead. They are rising up with ambitions of restoring their former place, and those who should be standing against its ambitions in Ukraine are surprisingly quiet.

Nuclear proliferation is no longer descriptive of the US and Russia. Instead it is the growing number of countries which have nuclear capabilities, and the number seeking to gain this capability. Some countries are progressing toward nuclear capability, and political activity to stop them has taken place. But remarkably little attention is given to these issues either on the world stage or in the press.

I know the world has changed. I realize the challenges are different and bigger. But these trite explanations don’t change the fact we are once again marching toward the brink of destruction. I don’t wish for a return to simpler times; I know there is no going back. But I do wish for a return to the style of leadership would stand in the face of evil and stop its progress.

Expanding Horizons

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in sequence.

The first battlefield was The Battle for the Mind.  Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, ShanghaiedFirst MarkThe Pirate’s Life, Defensive Position, Adrift, Self Sacrifice, Crash DownThe Lake HouseDancing with Egopods, Lunch with Aliens and Kilkian Alignment

The second battlefield is The Battle of the Hands, Here are the previous episodes in this battlefield Learning to SeeMaintaining Common SenseMeeting CompagnoUnseating DibolocosThe Journey HomewardAmbush on Platinum 9, Refit, Retrain and Rethink, Saved by Rodent Weed, Convoys and Propaganda and Changing the Moon.  Today we get Episode 31

 

Expanding Horizons

Jamison was quietly freaking out, trying to come up with a plan to call his team back together without tipping off the enemy that he knew they were there. Colofer indicated it was under control, but Jamison still felt uneasy. It was one thing when he placed his own life in peril, but it was another to have the lives of these other people in danger because of him.

Colofer said, “So that you may understand and learn to trust your king, your eyes will be opened.”

At that moment Jamison suddenly felt the presence of another Kilkian. Then he became aware of more. Finally he realized there were many more. He looked across the greenbelt and saw what might have been hundreds of Kilkians, shrouded from everyone else’s view. Some were guiding the men back to the transport, others were guiding the animals he had ordered to be collected to move in the same direction. There were some others moving in the lake, causing fish to respond so that exactly one of each of the five species were caught in a matter of seconds. Other Kilkian’s he could see were obscuring the view of the enemy.

He saw all this activity around him and was suddenly aware that the King was constantly more actively caring for his people than Jamison had previously understood. He silently asked the king’s forgiveness for his own lack of trust. And within a few minutes the entire mission was successfully finished. All the men who had come along realized that it had been a miraculous event, but only Jamison was aware of the Kilkians working together to produce the miracle.

Then just as quickly as they had been revealed to him, the many Kilkians around the island became cloaked once again. Jamison vowed to himself to remember this lesson and to not distrust the capability of his king ever again.

When they returned to the mining colony, Jamison assigned the animals to a research team. With the advanced scanners it was quickly dicovered that many of the animals were excellent for food. Others were good as pets. Among the fruit gathered in the greenbelt there was a variety of healthy and tasty options.

Over the next couple of weeks Jamison continued sending out teams, and found additional greenbelts all over the moon they lived on. He even proposed that one be built up as a vacation spot for future visitors. Platinum 9 now had several things to build a healthy economy upon. First they had the food source Platinum Sweet Moss, or rodent weed as they called it locally. Second, they still had the platinum mines. They also had several other types of food from the green belts that could be marketed in limited amounts as delicacies. Finally they had tourism, or they would have once they successfully developed the resort.

Jamison was excited about all of these possibilities, and looked forward to bringing them forward. But he constantly kept the others on his leadership team involved, both so that the work would develop faster, as well as to allow the possiblity that he would not be there to finish the tasks. This possibility seemed likely since his calling for the king had been to bring law to all the people, not just this small colony.

While these developments were taking place on Platinum 9, Chambers was continuing her job of driving back the pirates and as an agent of propaganda. She was instructed to highlight successes and Platinum 9 was the most successful story she was able to share. Every colony she visited was treated to the report of how this moon went from complete despair to great success. People were excited to hear about a return to normalacy. This included a return of a healthy economy, and the possibility of a successful government of the people. But for many they also sought to align themselves with the king because her videos highlighted his role in the achievements.

The end result was that many colonies experienced a revival as people aligned with the king and began living the lifestyle that went with it. Their were places though, where the message was totally rejected. The capital, the colonists center of operations landed in between the two extremes. But the capital did take extreme notice of one thing, they wanted a return of government. The people wanted a society of law and order, again.

People began to call on the CDF to establish a representative government. A few weeks later a notice was sent out for colonies to elect a candidate to gather and begin the process of establishing a central government. The military planned to help them get established and arrange a transfer of power once they were ready.

Naturally, Jamison was the candidate appointed to represent Platinum 9 at the capital. He worked with his alternate to become chancellor after he was gone. She was an older, well respected and very capable woman. He found her to be trustworthy, not just in her leadership and care for the colony, but also in her loyalty to the king.

Chambers was sent out to gather the candidates. The CDF still considered her their best bet at a successful run. Despite the success of her missions they did not yet trust other battle groups would come back again if sent out. Part of the problem with their mentality was they still had a disproportionate amount of leadership aligned with Dibolocos. The rest though was realism. Prior to the return of Chambers, they had a pattern of losing ships.

Chambers arranged to pick up Jamison early on. This gave him the advantage of being on ship and meeting the majority of the other candidates as they were picked up. A few were aligned with the king. Not as many as he had hoped for. More were aligned with Dibolocos. The few that were not aligned either way were purposefully shown the video footage of Platinum 9. To the surprise of both Jamison and Chambers, not a one of them made the personal choice to align with the king, even after seeing this evidence.

Since they were picking up elected officials, these guests were treated very well on the gathering cruise. They were fed the best of foods. Jamison noted with pride that Platinum Sweet Moss was among the foods being offered. They were given luxurious suites and were provided with staff who were charged to meet their every request with a smile.

Jamison took note that many of the candidates were taking full advantage of the opportunity. He looked on this behavior as more befitting spoiled brats than individuals who were responsible for the welfare of the colonies. In spending time with these people he realized that more than a few of them were self-appointed. They came from places where there was no structure yet, therefore they were not selected by their peers, but whoever could muscle themselves into the position filled it. This included a couple of thugs, at least one loan shark, and a couple of local crime bosses heading up large criminal organizations. One individual even described a race, whereby the candidates left the center of town and whoever made it to the pick up zone first, or alive, became the candidate.

Given the collection of representatives, he suspected it was going to be a difficult time forming one united government out of them.

Exploration of Worship

I believe one of the activities a Christian should participate in is worship, but I also believe worship can be a highly variable experience.

It can be either an individual experience or a group event. It can be a highly structured liturgical service or a single person in a stream of consciousness conversation with God. It can be centered on prayer, music, singing, listening, preaching, Bible study, rhythmic movement or any number of other things.

The only thing which is really fundamental to worship is human beings living out their personal relationship with God. God deserves to be worshipped. Humans have an innate need to worship Him. These two factors come together in the moment of worship. In this equation, God never changes. Therefore when the moment doesn’t come together, it isn’t the God side of the equation that is at fault.

Neither is the music, the message, the hardness of the pews, the passage chosen or the temperature of the room. It seems to be a common practice to blame something external when worship is dry or lifeless. But in reality it is always the fault of the individual, not the setting. We have gotten so spoiled by worship leaders taking us into the moment of worship, that we blame them when we fail to worship. Or even worse we have mistaken being entertained with worshipping God.

If this last conjecture is correct, then a lot of people in church, thinking they are worshipping, have never really done so. The reasonable response to this conjecture is to examine yourself in worship, even going back to consider the validity of your initial salvation experience.

Young American Coots

Coot Young

We normally think of baby birds as cute. But these young birds really don’t strike me as cute. Instead they seem kind of gangly, awkward, and maybe even clumsy. You guessed it! These are not babies, they are adolescents. While babies of any animal will evoke oohs and aahs, teenagers tend to evoke other emotions. I am sure you knew this about humans already, but this picture should help you to see it’s also true of many birds, such as these American coots.

Have you ever stopped to think about why? Although studying the stage of life may not make living with a teenager any more tolerable, it is possible to understand it. The reason for the awkwardness can be quickly summed up, they are the way they are because they are still growing up. Their size might well lead you to believe they are grown, but their experience level may not have taught them how to walk without tripping over their own feet yet.

I bring this up in this setting, because I think we would do better in many churches if we thought of Christians in more than two levels of growth. How is it that we expect believers either to be new believers, also called baby Christians or mature believers? What happens to all the awkward ages in between where they learn to walk and talk like a Jesus follower.

Given our habit of forgetting the growth process of a believer, I am not surprised so many Christians pretend to be more mature than they are. They have been a part of the family of God for too long to still be in diapers, and the only other choice they see is to be a person who has it all together. They know they really are not that person, but they don’t want to advertise their immaturity around the congregation, so they join the ranks of pretenders.

The situation is so serious that many Christians have no idea what a mature believer really looks like. The ranks are occupied by the pretenders. When this is the only example available, the higher mark of Christ-likeness is lost.

The only way to get beyond this malaise of mediocrity that has infested the ranks of Christendom is to undergo a God-guided growth process. Christ will point out sin in your life, and you go through the difficult work of dealing with it. A genuine Christ follower will be willing to work on themselves, will develop a record of successful character developments and will have their eyes on Jesus as their guide.

Ephesians 4:11-14 (HCSB) has a passage discussing what it looks like when we fully embrace this challenge in the church and its work. “And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.”

Welcome to the Information Age

We live in the information age. Somehow it turned out differently than I expected.

On any given day we can tune in to dozens of television stations, hundreds of radio commentators, thousands of internet news sites and hundreds of thousands of bloggers. They will all tell you their perspective on any number of different events.

But the plurality of voices has made finding the truth about any specific event increasingly difficult. Even the major news outlets are so slanted as to be unable to see unfavorable truths. It is no longer their practice to search for the facts, but rather to search for evidence and to promote information which will further their cause.

Society is moving further and further from being anchored in truth. Part of the reason why is that those giving out the information are only interested in it, if it is useful to them.

Changing the Moon

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in sequence.

The first battlefield was The Battle for the Mind.  Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, ShanghaiedFirst MarkThe Pirate’s Life, Defensive Position, Adrift, Self Sacrifice, Crash DownThe Lake HouseDancing with Egopods, Lunch with Aliens and Kilkian Alignment

The second battlefield is The Battle of the Hands, Here are the previous episodes in this battlefield Learning to SeeMaintaining Common SenseMeeting CompagnoUnseating DibolocosThe Journey HomewardAmbush on Platinum 9, Refit, Retrain and Rethink, Saved by Rodent Weed and Convoys and Propaganda.  Today we get Episode 30

 

Changing the Moon

Back on Platinum 9, Jamison had made great headway.  The people were organized into a temporary government and when it came time to elect regular representatives, the people had asked for Jamison to consider running for Chancellor, the post they had determined would be the highest office.

Jamison had originally declined, but Colofer suggested he change his mind. When he announced his candidacy, he also was obligated to discuss what his operating principles would be. He used that chance to tell the people about the nature of the warfare going on around them between the Kilkians and the Dibolocos. He told them his own history and how he had been led to the rodent weed by the Kilkians. Finally he explained what it really meant to be aligned with the Kilkian king and invited any others who wished to make this choice to join him.

In the days that followed, Platinum 9 began changing very quickly as large numbers of people also aligned themselves with the Kilkian king. Those who had aligned with the Dibolocos were hostile to the whole transition, but the majority of the people understood this hostility and were not dissuaded by it. Jamison made sure he began carrying a side arm again, because he knew the battle of ideas often spilled over into a more physical battle.

When the election came he was elected Chancellor, and to his surprise every single member of his governing board was aligned with the Kilkians. He took this as a mandate to set up a society operating on the principles of the Kilkian king so he immediately set about making laws affecting moral behavior. Severe penalties were put in place for causing injury or death, theft, sexual crimes, and many other activities which harm others. In addition to this, sexual entertainment was outlawed, as was most forms of chemical recreation. The proprietors of these businesses were uniformly under the control of Dibolocos and Jamison knew outlawing them would invite trouble. But he also knew removing their influence would help even more people accept the Kilkian king.

Regarding trade, they determined they needed a way to market their rodent weed. So a signal was sent to the capital city seeking a partner in marketing the product. It only took a short time before a businessman contact them back offering to trade water and cash for the product which he would then package and sell. Jamison believed this negotiation was critical to the future of the colony so he took on the task of finalizing the negotiations and signing the agreements personally. When he did, he found out the businessmen was his friend, Compagno.

Compagno insisted on giving him better terms than previously negotiated, and the deal was finalized. One aspect of the deal which was normally in place during this time was agreements over who took the losses due to pirating.  Compagno and Jamison both felt there would be no pirating, having been so led by their Kilkian advisors. The product would be marketed under the name Platinum Sweet Moss.

In the meantime, the colonists had harvested enough extra rodent weed to fill the first order. They discovered that it would keep very well as long as it was kept cold and moist. Jamison sent out a general request for traders to work the short route between his moon and the capital, but got no immediate response. After a couple of days the message reached Chambers. She would be able to bring her convoy by on their return trip. They could expect her to be there in two weeks.

For Chambers on the convoy, the two weeks went very smoothly.  She was surprised that there had not been another pirate attack on her trip. She decided this meant a few things, first no one with her was communicating their plans to the pirates any longer. Second the pirates themselves were having to find a new tactic. If any of the pirates were truly just human and not guided by Dibolocos then they would not be anxious to attack an entire battle group.  But she doubted there were any in this category. She believed all of the pirates were guided by Dibolocos and this explained their great success. Now that four CDF ships were controlled by Kilkians, the Dibolocos no longer held the advantage in battle.

When she pulled up to Platinum 9 she was amazed at the transformation of the colony since their last visit. She made sure this fact was recorded and added to the video documentaries they were preparing. She also spent some time with Jamison. She attended a Chancellor’s dinner and met the governing board. More interviews were done and additional footage was available to show the other colonies what success was possible when governed with a moral standard and under the leadership of the Kilkian king.

The visit of the trading convoy also meant the resumption of business on platinum 9. Store owners could stock their shelves, the colony government had cash to restore public services, and most importantly they had fresh water. This allowed Jamison to do several things he had been pondering since he took control of the local government. He wanted to know what else was on this moon. Were there other resources and supplies that could be useful to the colony?

Since the records held by the previous mining interest had been erased, the quickest way of knowing was going out and exploring. So he immediately sent out parties with this purpose in mind. They had very few vehicles for this kind of operation, but they did have some of the best scanning and survey equipment in production.

The early trips found that this moon truly did have a remarkable amount of platinum. There were trace amounts of other minerals, but in order to make mining them profitable they needed more concentrated finds. After a few days of these explorations a group came back with a very surprising report. Their scanners had shown ground water. This led them to a small lake and an area of only a few square kilometers with a lush life belt. Jamison figured something like this had to exist because there was no other explanation for the source of the rodent weed, and rodents.

The team that found it encouraged him to come and see it for himself. He found the idea to his liking and loaded up with them for the trip.  But when he set foot on the land-barge he immediately felt a sense of danger.  Looking around he realized it all settled on one of the men in the expedition. Colofer confirmed this to him, and noted the man planned to kill him if he got the chance. Jamison simply handled the situation by having the man assigned to a task which required him to stay behind.

Upon arriving at the life belt Jamison was surprised at how lush it was, given its small size. There was a a variety of game, fish in the lake and fresh fruit. He decided a sampling could be taken back without depleting the resource and assigned men to gather these products. But he also sensed they were not alone. A Dibolocos was a couple kilometers across the life belt. He was aware of the presence of Dibolocos from time to time even back in the mining colony. They would come in and manipulate the unaligned or directly control the individuals who were aligned with them. But finding a Dibolocos out here was surprising.

It took him a few minutes to realize that with the Dibolocos was a man with a sniper’s rifle. Jamison knew that his side arm did not have the range that this weapon did and likely if he came into view he would be killed. Other members of his party were probably also in danger, but he had already sent them out. Even worse, if they heard the firing of a weapon, they would likely just attribute it to the hunters gathering game.

Hastening the End

I believe the world, as we know it, is temporary. God will wrap up this world and through a series of events, He will destroy this planet and will replace it with a new heaven and earth. The Bible gives a surprising amount of detail about these events. But in addition to what the Bible says, there are a multitude of things people have assumed about the end times.

In Matthew 24:14 (HCSB) Jesus said, “This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.” This of course is a passage intended to be about the end times. In recent years it has been common to discuss the word ‘nations’. The Greek word refers to people groups. A people group would be a population that share a common language, common culture, likely a common ethnicity and also have barriers preventing them from integrating with the groups around them. I believe these relatively new assertions are correct.

But one thing I don’t believe about this passage is that it indicates we can hasten the end, by doing a better job at missions and reaching every people group. I mention this because I hear it either implied or stated with increasing frequency that a part of the Christian’s responsibility is to usher in the end times as quickly as possible.

Take a good look at the verse. It only says all nations will have heard the gospel prior to the end. It doesn’t say this proclamation will allow or cause the end to come. It only says, “And then the end will come.” This is a statement of sequence, and while it implies the end will happen soon thereafter, it is not stated as a promise. Nor do the commands telling us to reach the world with the gospel make this connection.

So I believe the idea that we can hasten the end is a mistake. Jesus indicates no one knows the exact time except the Father. This means the Father has already chosen the time, but it also implies He did so in an independent manner, rather than timing it based upon human activity.

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

This is a house sparrow. 175 years ago this bird did not exist in the United States. In 1851 a group was imported from Europe by people who missed seeing the bird after moving to the Americas. By 1900 it had spread to the Rockies. Today, this bird has since become one of the most widespread bird on earth—it might even be the most widespread bird. It has covered all of North America, half of South America as well as the original range in Europe and Asia.

These birds are called house sparrows, because they love to build their nests in man-made structures. If you hear chirping in your attic; it’s probably these guys. If you see a bird darting in and out of your roof tiles; it’s probably these guys. If you discover a mob of birds sheltering in a shed; well, you know.

Birders look at house sparrows as junk birds. That is the term used for birds you see and list but don’t necessarily want to see as often as you do. Since they are not natural to our area, and they can displace normal birds. Since they are so prolific they compete for resources native species need. Some people are so adamantly opposed to the species that they put specialized food in their feeders to dissuade house sparrows.

I wonder if the original importers new what it was they were starting. It seems obvious their intent was for the birds to survive, but were they really expecting them to thrive as much as they have?

Believers might want to take a lesson from the house sparrow when they willingly introduce some types of sin into their lives. Like the sparrow, sin can spread and multiply in ways we do not expect. In some cases the sin not only takes on surprising proportion in your life, but also carinfects future generations after. Unfortunately we seldom think about these possibilities while making decisions. Hebrews 12 refers to sin as being able to easily entangle us. Never is this truer than when it has our open cooperation.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. Hebrews 12:1a (NLT)