Sunday, November 04, 2007

Restoring The Heart of Worship...

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. - 1 Corinthians 11:1

We all have someone or several people in our lives to whom we look to for guidance in one way or another. To be a leader is a big responsibility. And when writing to the Corinthians, Paul knew this. He knew that people imitated him and heeded his teachings. For this reason, Paul wanted to make one thing clear: that he should not be followed in word or in deed unless he was in accordance with what Jesus Christ would do or say.

Today, we are looking at Restoring the Heart of Worship. And in the context of I Corinthians, Paul was witnessing the worship of the church becoming a chaotic and charismatic exhibition that did not edify. In the last part of the Book of I Corinthians, Paul sought to restore the proper order to worship. To very-much simplify his teaching: True worship has nothing to do with attending a church service and everything to do with a personal response to God’s work in an individual’s life. In today’s world, Paul’s teaching suggests that worship on a Sunday morning is an end result of our walking with God Monday through Saturday. It has absolutely nothing to do with what today’s church refers to as style.

We don't have to look far to discover how sensitively God measures the worship of Himself. In Genesis, Cain was rejected by God and turned over to his degenerate and murderous heart all because his worship was wrong—in motive and in method. A bit further we find Nadab and Abihu severely judged with instant death for offering "strange fire" at the altar—an offense so serious to God He did not allow their father Aaron to mourn their death, but rather commanded him to mourn their great sin against a holy God. And then there is Uzzah, killed in an instant for touching the ark of God. And add Eli who, along with his entire descendency, was condemned for honoring his worship-despising sons rather than honoring God. In actuality the entire decline and subsequent captivity of Israel and Judah were primarily due to rampant false worship among these chosen nations. Looking further, we see Jesus Himself never more visibly full of animated wrath than in His "cleansing" of the temple—the place of His Father's worship, now corrupted by those who valued other things more highly. All of these examples, reveal to us that worship—including how, why, and whom we worship—very nearly tops the list of things God holds dreadfully I important.

And yet, we live in an age and culture whose church is as confused and varied in its choices for worship as it is over carpeting its rooms and painting its walls. For many churches, designing worship has become most closely associated with that which will best suit the attendees or best attract the hesitant church-goer or best reach the youth of society, rather than that which is most pleasing to God. What are the motives and methods that govern much of what we do in worship today? Are they Scriptural or are they merely self-seeking? Does our worship emphasize the way in which we appear to men, or is it solely concerned with how we appear to God? Does our worship tend to secularize the sacred in an effort to bring God down to man's level? Is our worship intended to soften nonbelievers into "liking" Christians and Christianity? Is our worship based on a philosophy that follows "the tradition of men" and "the basic principles of the world"? Is our worship designed in such a way as to make the nonbeliever feel comfortable, accepted, pleased, even entertained? Does our worship seek the participation of those who neither know God nor love Him? Is our worship exclusively led by, and does it exalt, those whom the world considers successful, attractive, "together," happy? Is our worship Christ-like? In posing these questions, I hope each of us search our own motives and ideas about worship and respond honesty.

I like this about Paul: He humbly recognized his faults (Read Romans 7:14-25) but still took great care to do the right thing and he wanted to make sure that first and foremost people were following Jesus. That is the essence of what Paul wanted. He wanted people to follow Jesus. I want to be like Paul. If what I say or do does not line up with what God says in His Word, than I don't want to be followed. Always test for yourself what I say, write or live, by the truth of God's word. Open your own Bible and read about the false worship in the Old Testament. Read Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians about the heart of true worship in I Corinthians.

Following Jesus takes work. Following Jesus is more than going to church and getting an emotional high with hands raised while singing a favorite praise song. Sure, that may be part of worship, a part that I believe cannot fully take place without some relationship with God. However, the heart of worship is more than an emotional response to an inspirational message or song or specific style of worship designed by a local church to evoke a reaction in the hearers. True worship is defined by how we live our lives in the day to day grind. True worship is seeking God through the pages of the Bible even when we don't feel like it sometimes. True worship is reading a passage of scripture and applying it to our lives even though we don't like how it makes us feel. True worship is a life of surrender, following the true Leader, no matter the cost.

One more question for thought: Put yourself in the Apostle Paul’s shoes: Would someone following you be following God as well? And how many times per week do you examine your life in light of what the Bible says?

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. - 1 Corinthians 11:1

- Pastor Mark

Giving Thanks In All Things. . .

As I write, it is a beautiful October morning. The sky is clear, the temperature is in the mid-60’s and the leaves on the trees lining Bergen Street where I live are vibrant with gold and red and orange. It is one of those days you would like to save in a bottle and set on your desk. That way you could pull it out and look at it in the middle of March when winter still has Minnesota in its grasp and spring seems an eternity away. It’s easy to be thankful on such a beautiful day. It’s hard to be thankful when the clouds roll in and the grayness holds on.

Besides admiring the view outside my window this morning, I just finished an introductory paragraph for the new church directory and I find my thoughts and memories split. It’s hard not the consider the clouds that have rolled in over the last years for Crane Chapel. Yes, it’s wonderful to reflect on the colorful mosaic of the body of Christ reflected on the pages of a new church directory. But there have been some dark days in Crane Chapel’s recent history. Days of warmth and fellowship were repalced for a season by the frigid air of broken relationships and divided loyalties. The horizon today is still clouded with the haunting memory of an arson fire, and the bittersweet sorrow over the passing of our beloved Pastor Joe Matt, Jr. The body of Christ is often hidden by what can only be characterized as frivolous and inconsequential in the grand scheme of God’s Eternal Plan. Yes, the clouds will roll in…. Nothing in Scrip ture supports a constant state of picturesque October mornings. But we serve a living and loving God who asks us to give thanks in all things: “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God….” (I Thessalonians 5:18).

So in this season of Thanksgiving, I am very thankful as I reflect on the body of Christ represented by this congregation. Despite the clouds, Crane Chapel is a vibrant, living, breathing part of the Body of Christ! I hesitate to enumerate specific ministrires, but some just stand out to me this morning: We have an exciting and effective AWANA ministry and I can only be reminded of John Hormel’s vision for a ministry reaching the children of northeast Austin. I am thankful for Paulette Lewis’ heart for ministry and her dedication to leading AWANA. And this past September, we launched a Wednesday night Soup Supper and with each passing week we serve more soup that the previous week and we reach out even further into the community. Again fullfilling the vision of John Hormel. And I am thankful: Thankful for Carol Tracy’s commitment to and enthusiasm for this ministry – along with the many hands of our Helping Hands Ministry. Our Teens are growing too. Both in numbers and in service to others. And I am thankful. Thankful for Amanda Kuns and her zeal and energy to lead our young people to the Lord. Our worship team has taken on new leadership and a new look. I am thankful for Vern Dunham’s heart for worship and his passion to be sensitive to God’s Spirit and presence in our worship services. I’m also grateful for the addition of an organ to our new building donated by Daryl and Nada Kilgore and the talent that Myrtle Bentley brings to the keys of this beautiful instrument.

Yes, God has more than blessed us and He continues to work in His people here at Crane Chapel. People are growing spiritually. People are seeking Biblical anwers to life’s troubles. People are getting saved! Crane Chapel is a living part of the Body of Christ! And in this – we ought be very thankful!

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, let’s be reminded that Thanksgiving is not a reaction to the realities of life, but a choice of the soul. As such, true Thanksgiving can only come from a soul given wholly to Christ. Let’s choose this season to follow Him completely and be truly and exceptionally thankful.

- Pastor Mark E. Goossen