Monday, September 27, 2010


This past Sunday we did something a bit different at New Life.  What did we do?  We remembered our baptism.  In part this meant reflecting on events surrounding (leading up to and after) the personal immersions (baptisms) of people at New Life. It could be described as ‘testimony’ time, but there was more to it than that…

There is too much to explain for a succinct summary. I had thought about posting the whole service on-line at (it consisted of praising God in song, confessional readings, confessional prayers, teaching on baptism (biblical and historical), "remembering" our baptism, the Lord’s Supper, etc.), but due to the personal nature of some stories shared during the "remembering our baptism" part of the service I will not.

Sitting and listening to the stories of others I was struck that this needs done more often. What is “this” you may ask? Well, a better (more holistic) understanding of baptism is one. Yet another is remembering it (how has it shaped you; how should it shape you; etc.), which necessitates remembering and telling your story.

Hearing the stories of others is a part of living in community (to which Christians are called). This is so helpful because we may hear someone who (heaven forbid) had it “worse” than us and God saw them through the time; therefore we have a new found hope. In addition to that, we all know people; someone we know may be in a similar spot to a brother/sister in Christ and we only know that because of knowing their story. What then is the responsibility of the “story-bearer” (i.e., the Christian to whom God was faithful)? To share what God has done with the person who now finds himself/herself in a similar situation. It may in fact be the last thing needed for a commitment to a King and His Kingdom to take place.  

Oh yeah, and please do not make the mistake of thinking your story is "too much" or "too little" for others to hear.  God is bigger than everything; nothing is insignificant.  Let me clarify what I mean by “too little” - it is the false notion some may have that their story “isn’t any good because I grew up in Church and followed God then and still do now…”  THE TRUTH IS WE SHOULD ALL HOPE FOR MORE OF THOSE STORIES!!!  (I.e., people who have done their best to be faithful to God their entire life and never “walked away" from church or anything like that.)  There is power in someone who “gets it” at a young age…and continues to “get it” (in increasing measures) the rest of their life. 

What do you remember about your baptism? How has it shaped you? How should it shape you?

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Spirituality is becoming increasingly popular in America (and has been for quite some time); however church attendance is not.  I do not have the time nor the intelligence to delve into all the possible reasons why this is happening.  Therefore I want to pose a question: Is there an aspect of "spirituality" that does not fit under the Lordship of Jesus Christ? 

In other words...
  • many "spiritual" people are concerned about the environment.  Shouldn't Christians be concerned about the environment and therefore doing their part in taking care of it? 
  • many "spiritual" people are concerned about acceptance.  Shouldn't Christians love people because they are made in God's Image and allow the Holy Spirit to bring about conviction and change in them? 
  • many "spiritual" people are looking for a connection with God without the hindrances imposed by "religion".  Shouldn't Christians be the most connected people to God there are because we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us?  Shouldn't Christians be willing to do away with "cultural Christianity" for the sake of the Kingdom of God? 
Those are only a few examples - but the basic question remains: Is there an aspect of "spirituality" that does not fit under the Lordship of Jesus Christ?  I do not think there is...if there is I want to know.  With that said, I do want to be clear on at least one point. 

Just because something is acceptable to "spiritual" people does not mean it is godly.  In other words, some "spiritual" views may need refined based on what the Bible says.  After all, the goal of spirituality - from a Christian perspective - is glorifying God.  I repeat, it is not the "thrill of seeking God" that should consume a Christian.  What should consume and propel a Christian is the thrill of being used by God so He is glorified. 

One last note, if you have "spiritual" friends who are not Christian, talk to them about their passion for spirituality.  What is important to them?  Why?  How did this become important to them?  What is the end goal of their passion?  While doing this (over the course of time no doubt) be in continual prayer asking God to show you how their passion fits into His desire for humanity. 

In other words, while all spiritual paths do not lead to a common destination...all spiritual paths have at least one thing in common - there is something BIGGER than us.  Our job as Christians is to allow God to work through us so those who are "spiritually minded" can see their ultimate fulfillment will be found only in God.  Why?  Because spirituality for the sake of spirituality is unending - there is always something "more" to do, or another "experience" to have.  Admittedly, while for Christians there is always more Kingdom work to do and the overwhelming presence of God is quite an experience...we have something others do not.  Acceptance and peace given to us by a Heavenly Father who loves us... 


Monday, September 13, 2010

Shaped By...

There are a variety of things which have had a hand in shaping the people we are today. While it is not proper to lay all the praise or blame for who we are at the feet of others, a reality is a) culture, b) teachers in school, c) current friends, d) past friends, and e) our home environment (along with many other factors) have played a part in shaping us.

A startling reality portrayed in Scripture is we become like that which we worship. This is behind the unsettling words of Isaiah 6 - "Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed..." Do not think for a second God made the people of Israel this way...they made themselves this way by worshiping deaf, blind, and mute idols (e.g., Isa44:9-20; and other places).

No wonder the world is such a self-centered and dangerous place. By worshiping things other than God we take on their characteristics. Tied into this is the reality that by choosing what it is we will worship (if it is not God), we have put ourselves in the position of "playing God" and therefore (in a sense) we worship ourselves too.

This is a reason "why" for the current sermon series - "Shaped By Worship". The implications of worshiping anything other than the "one seated on the throne" (cf. Rev4:2) are frightening. Merely look around at the world for indications...

The series will last for nine weeks, but it will certainly not cover everything pertaining to worship. My intention is to take a step back and observe a portrait of worship painted in Scripture instead of focusing on the individual brushstrokes. What do I mean by that? On Sunday we read aloud and listened to chapters four and five of Revelation. It is a beautiful scene if the portrait is observed, but it can also be extremely puzzling - even contradictory - if the brushstrokes are the focus.

E.g., Jesus (while not named) is identified as "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" - but when John turns around he sees a "Lamb standing as though it had been slain". The brushstrokes are contradictory (Lion does not equal Lamb). Yet the portrait is magnificent. The foretold Messiah (e.g., Gen49:9) conquered not by destroying the "fleshly" enemies (as many Jews hoped the Messiah would) but by being sacrificed (e.g., Jn1:29); thereby giving us our modus operandi. [By the way - the real enemy Jesus faced on earth was spiritual; cf. Eph5:12.]

E.g., the Lamb is portrayed as having "seven horns" and "seven eyes". A brushstroke approach reveals a grotesque Lamb. Yet a portrait approach sees Jesus as completely powerful (7 is a number for completion and horns are a symbol for power) and completely wise (7 paired with eyes which are a symbol for wisdom). Hence Jesus is all-powerful and all-knowing - meaning He knows about the plight of everyone and is capable of intervening. Yet since He is all-knowing He may know intervening in the ways we desire are not in the best interest for the Kingdom of God (or us).

There is much more to the vision, but those will suffice for now. In keeping with the theme of worship we must not miss the Subject nor the Basis of it. God is worthy of worship because of who He is (Rev4:8) and what He has done (Rev4:11). Likewise Jesus is also worthy (Rev5:9-10).

The bottom line - when it comes to worship God has acted...we respond.

So, what are the things which have most shaped you to this point in your life?
How can true worship of God better shape you for His purposes?
How has God acted first in your life?
How can that reality shape you heading into your next gathering for worship?