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.

 

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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.