Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Your Vote Counts

California residents, please vote "yes" on Proposition 8. Florida residents, please vote "yes" on Amendment 2.

Click here to learn more.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Worship: All about ME ME ME?

Take a look at this video. It's clever and it makes a good point. You almost don't know whether to laugh or to cry when you watch it. I'm not a big fan of Rick Warren, but he surely did hit the nail on the head with the first sentence of his book, The Purpose Driven Life:

It's not about you.

He's right. Life isn't about me. Worship shouldn't be either.

Naturally, in our churches we don't go around singing, "I Exalt Me" or anything else so blatantly ridiculous or blasphemous. (And if your church does, honey, RUN!) But, have you ever noticed how many of the songs we sing in church come from a "me" perspective rather than being "You" focused?

Lord I lift Your name on high

Lord I love to sing Your praises

I'm so glad You're in my life

I'm so glad You came to save us

I'm trading my sorrows

I'm trading my shame

I'm laying them down

For the joy of the Lord

I'm trading my sickness

I'm trading my pain

I'm laying them down

For the joy of the Lord

I am a friend of God

I am a friend of God

I am a friend of God

He calls me friend

Who am I that You are mindful of me

That You hear me

When I call

Is it true that You are thinking of me

How You love me

It's amazing

Me-centered songs talk a lot about people and the benefits we get from our relationship with God, while You-focused songs concentrate more on extolling the attributes of God:

Lord of all creation

Of water earth and sky

The heavens are Your tabernacle

Glory to the Lord on high

God of wonders beyond our galaxy

You are holy holy

The universe declares Your majesty

You are holy holy

Lord of heaven and earth

Alleluia alleluia for our Lord God Almighty reigns

Alleluia alleluia for our Lord God Almighty reigns

Alleluia holy holy are You Lord God Almighty

Worthy is the Lamb

Worthy is the Lamb

You are holy holy are You Lord God Almighty

Worthy is the Lamb

Worthy is the Lamb amen

Jesus name above all names

Beautiful Savior glorious Lord

Emmanuel God is with us

Blessed Redeemer living Word

Now don't get me wrong, singing about our relationship with God is important. The Psalms are full of songs that talk about how we relate to God and how He relates to us. The 23rd Psalm is a great example. So is Psalm 103:2: Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits. I like all three of the songs I've listed as "me-centered" and have used them in church on several occasions.

But consider this-- when searching for the lyrics for the songs I've quoted above, I went to the CCLI site I use when planning music for my church's worship services. The site has a feature that shows both the top 25 songs and the top 100 songs churches have used in previous weeks and months.

I found the three "me-centered" songs in less than five minutes. Two were in last week's top twenty and one was number 26. For the "You-focused" songs, I had to go to the list of the top 100 songs. It took me forty minutes to search through most of the songs on that list looking for songs that contained only lyrics centered on God and His attributes.

When I looked at the top nineteen songs my local Contemporary Christian radio station (KLOVE) played last week, seventeen of them are what I would consider to be "me-centered" or "people-centered" (numbers two and four would be the "You-focused" ones).

Look at Revelation 4:8-11. How do those who are actually face to face with God worship Him?


Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created. (11)

Should the majority of the songs we use in worship be from our perspective, about us, about what we get from God? Where is our focus? Who are we worshipping, anyway?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Kissing the Face of God

A few Sundays ago as we were getting ready to go to church, I picked up my five year old, hugged him, and asked, "Are you ready to go to worship?"

He smiled and nodded, gave me a kiss on the cheek and then said something which he will never recall, but which I will never forget. He said,

"I just kissed you and God at the same time."

I'm not sure what he, in his five year old reasoning, meant to convey by that statement, but I have been thinking about what God could have meant by it ever since.

Because I'm a Christian, my body quite literally houses the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11, I Corinthians 3:16-17, I Corinthians 6:19-20), so in a way, what my son said was true.

The last part of I Corinthians 6:20 says that because the Holy Spirit lives in me, I'm to glorify God in my body. Everything my body says or does is supposed to point people to God, so that when they look at me, they see Him.

Wow. That's a pretty heavy duty responsibility. Am I doing that?

Unfortunately, the answer is "no" more often than I care to admit.

I want to live that way, though. I want people to feel God's healing in my touch, hear His kindness in my voice, experience His forgiveness in my embrace. Because I'm the only Jesus some will ever see, I want to be Jesus to them.

Monday, October 6, 2008

How Should Christians Vote?

Election day, November 4, is right around the corner. How should Christians vote?

First things first. Christians, especially Christian women, should vote. Not voting would not only be an insult to the sacrifice of the dedicated men and women who have given their lives in the cause of freedom and suffrage over the years that we might have the luxury of having a voice in our governance, but voting is a gift from God. Should we treat this gift lightly by failing to exercise it?

If you have never had the opportunity to visit a country, such as those in the Middle East, in which basic freedoms and women's rights are limited if in existence at all, I urge you to do so if at all possible. After I returned to the U.S. from a visit to the Middle East a few years ago, I realized just how much we take for granted what an enormous blessing it is that God has seen fit to place us in a land of liberty, abundance, and opportunity. When I vote, I see it as a way of returning thanks to God for the gift of freedom, and honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to secure our liberties.

For whom should Christians vote? The Bible says in I Corinthians 10:31 that whatever we do, we should do all things for the glory of God. "Whatever" and "all things" includes voting. Christians should vote for the person they believe will bring the most glory to God. Considering the candidate options with which we're often presented, this, at times, seems an impossible task.

How do we know which candidate to vote for? Like all other decisions in a Christian's life, this one should be governed by God's leading through prayer and Biblical principles. Ask God for wisdom (James 1:5) to make a Godly decision.

Study the candidate's platform and where he stands on each issue. Is he a proponent of anything that clearly conflicts with Scripture? Would he push to legalize or undergird things God calls sin? Can we, as Christians-- whose goal in life is supposed to be turning from sin and pursuing holiness --knowingly and intentionally disregard the fact that a candidate would stand in favor of sin rather than fighting against it, and give him our support?

Sometimes we lean towards voting for the candidate who would benefit us the most personally. Perhaps he has promised a tax cut for our particular bracket, or said he would improve the roads we use for traveling to work. In and of themselves, those are good things, but does his platform also include favoring things which would hurt others or be detrimental to the fabric of our society in general? In other words, should a Christian vote for something or someone who will benefit herself at the expense of harming others?

I don't believe we can do that and remain true to Biblical principles such as:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; Romans 15:1-3a

As is frequently the case these days, the person we vote for, believing he will make the most Christ-like decisions, loses the election. I don't know about you, but I'm usually pretty disappointed when this happens.

I try to keep it in perspective, though. It's within the realm of possibility that the person who won the election will get radically saved after taking office and make even more Godly decisions than the other candidate would have made. It's also possible that he will unintentionally make the decisions God wants him to make for other reasons, such as political expediency or pleasing a particular special interest group. The Bible says in Proverbs 21:1, "The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. "

Not only should we pray before we vote, but we have a Biblical mandate to pray for the winner after the election is over:

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
I Timothy 2:1-4

Above all, we must remember that, while the upcoming elections may determine who will sit in the White House, the Congress, or the State House, they do not, nor will they ever, determine who sits on the throne of the universe as King.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

God is NOT Running for Office

Everybody seems to have an opinion about God. Some love Him. Some hate Him. Some will swear He doesn’t exist, while others seem to have Him confused with Santa Claus. Many complain that He isn’t doing His job.

If you were to ask a hundred people who they think God is you’d get a hundred different answers. We all want God to be who we think He is. We want Him to fit neatly into the little box we’ve designed for Him so that—like the perfect purse or pair of shoes to our favorite dress—He doesn’t clash with our lifestyles, but rather, fits right in and complements what we’ve already got going.

Over the course of the past few months, I’ve heard or read statements similar to these:

  • I think Jesus was a liberal because He did X, Y, and Z.

  • I'm homosexual. God wouldn't create me this way and then send me to hell because of it.
  • I think God is much less concerned with (insert sin being defended here) than He is with people being nice to each other.

  • Please pray that God will bless me as I move in with my boyfriend.

  • I’ve decided _______ isn’t a sin.

  • We shouldn’t be preaching about this or that Biblical principle at church, because people might get offended and stop attending.

I’ve got news for all of us, myself included:

Who God is is not determined by opinion polls.

He’s not a politician who will change His personality or his stance on the issues to please us, because we are not His constituents—we’re His creation.

So just who is this God anyway? Moses had the same question when he was first starting out. In Exodus 3:13-15, God has just told Moses that He wants him to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. Moses, trying to wrap his brain around this unforeseen turn of events, says to God in verse 13 (my paraphrase here), “Ok, when I get there and tell the Israelites that God has sent me to them, and they say ‘Who is this God you’re talking about? What is His name?’ What am I supposed to say?”

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” (14a)

This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations. (15b)

God is who He is. Not who we think He is. Not what’s convenient and palatable to us. Not who we want Him to be. He has always been that way, still is, and always will be, as we see at the end of verse 15.

Alright, so we know that God is who He is. How do we go about finding out what “is” is? Well, if we want to know who a human being is, we spend a lot of time with that person, we talk to him, we listen to what he has to say, and we watch him in action.

It’s the same with God. We spend time with Him. We talk to Him in prayer. We listen to what He has to say about Himself in His word, the Bible. We observe the way He acted in the Bible and the way He acts around us today.

As we get to know a person better, we may discover some things about him that we don’t like or don’t understand. Maybe he puts ketchup on his eggs (ick!), or roots for the wrong football team (anybody who plays against LSU), or—horror of horrors—puts the toilet paper on the roll so that it comes out from the bottom rather than over the top (We all know that’s the wrong way, right? It goes over the top. :0)

As we discover things we don't like about a human being, does our dislike or lack of understanding about one of his particular quirks or habits change said quirk or habit? No.

Again, it's the same way with God, and even more so, because while a person might be willing to change some of his ways to please another person, God is not. And if we think about it, why should He? And would we really want Him to bend to suit our fancies even if He were willing to do so?

Imagine you bought an over the top, fantastic new car and had the opportunity to meet the car's designer. At this meeting, he tells you all of the things you should do and not do to keep the car running in tip top shape. He even gives you a detailed owner's manual reiterating everything he's just told you. Would you believe what he says about taking care of the car?

How much more should we believe and obey what God has to say about the way we should live? He designed us. He knows exactly how we work and what is good for us and what isn't good for us. Moreover, He loves us and always wants what is best for us. We didn't design us or anything in our environment. We don't know everything. Lots of times we don't even want what's best for ourselves because we don't know what's best for ourselves. Who are we to tell God how He ought to run things? (Job 38:1-42:6)

When God says something is a sin--harmful to us and an affront to Him-- it is. When He says something is good and holy, it is. End of story, no discussion, period. You and I don't get to change those things to suit ourselves. When we try to, what we're ultimately saying is that God is wrong and doesn't know what He's doing. That we know how to handle things better than He does. That we are more qualified for the job of being God than He is.

This is the absolute antithesis of Christianity. Jesus said, "...If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." (Matthew 16:24) There is no such thing as a "Christian" who willfully, purposefully, and continuously decides to immerse himself in, and pursue, a lifestyle of anything God calls sin. Becoming a Christian requires that we put ourselves, our opinions, our feelings and our impulses aside and submit to the authority of Christ. Salvation does not take place until we embrace the fact that He is God and we are not.

When we refuse to bow to who God really is, who He says He is in the Bible, and start redesigning Him according to our own opinions, according to what's popular, or according to what is politically correct, what we have done is to set up an idol, a false god, to worship. Take a look at Exodus 20:1-4, and notice that in the middle of verse 4, it says we are not to "make for [ourselves] ... any likeness of what is in heaven above". While we may not be carving a literal statue of stars or planets to worship, which is the context of this passage, we frequently figuratively carve out our own likeness of heaven's God.

God is who He is. We can take Him or leave Him, but we can't re-make Him. We were made in His image, not He in ours. He isn't going to formulate a platform we'll like so He can earn our vote. He already holds the office of King, and even though He's frequently opposed, He's not going to be deposed.