Saturday, August 30, 2008

What is true worship?

(We're having an interesting discussion on the Free Believers Network forum and the discussion has turned to the topic of worship. I posted some comments on the forum and also decided to post another blog with some additional thoughts on worship.)

Worship, like everything else, has been hijacked by the institution and turned into a program. It's been robbed of its life. Instead of something that was meant to be relational, it's become a performance which is repeated week after week after week, year after year after year. The program is set up and planned so as to produce the desired emotional response. The songs chosen, the lighting, the tempo, the drum beat and so on are all planned to produce this response. Now, I'm not saying that every emotional response is of a fleshly nature but I believe the vast majority of it is.

What we call worship today doesn't, in my opinion, normally produce or encourage a relationship with Father. Instead, it produces a spiritual addiction which is why when we leave the system, we struggle with wanting to go back because of the music. The focus is not on loving Father or the people but instead the goal is to produce another high like we experienced the last time we were in a worship service. I'm not pointing fingers at anyone because I've been there myself and was highly addicted thinking I was worshipping God by singing and dancing wildly.

Now, I'm not saying corporate singing services are wrong. I'm not saying it's wrong to sit in a room with a bunch of Christians and sing songs about God or to God. This can be a very enjoyable time. What I'm saying is don't confuse this with worship.

To read more about this type of addiction, check out Darin Hufford's excellent blogs, Spiritual Porn Addiction and Going for the Worship.

A couple of years ago, I did a word search on the word "worship" and discovered that NONE of the meanings had anything to do with music or singing. ALL of the meanings are relational. In other words, worship has to do with our lifestyle - how we relate to God and how we relate to people. The first time the word is used in the Bible is in reference to Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him. No mention is made of a band or choir waiting for them at the top. Abraham merely told his servant that he and Isaac were going up to the mountain to worship God and they would return. (Genesis 22:5)

Ann, in response to the discussion on the FBN forum, shared about worshipping God by loving her family. I believe that's the heart of true worship. It's easy to fake worship when it's about music and singing. Anyone can sing a song with eyes closed looking upward with arms raised. We can even put a smile on our faces so others watching us think we're enthralled with the presence of God. It's not so easy to look the part when hubby or the children don't cooperate with my wonderful plans. However, I'm finding that as I grow in true worship, love becomes more of an automatic response.

I used to listen exclusively to what is called Christian worship music. Now, I don't much listen to music of any kind. If I do, however, it'll likely be easy listening unless Joel posts another of his Twisted Sister videos which of course I have to listen to. (I'm sorry, Joel, I just couldn't resist.) Anyway, back to topic. I don't normally listen to "Christian" music any more because I really don't need to in order to worship.

I've found that worship is meant to be spontaneous. It's not something that I can plan ahead and it doesn't fit into a set time frame. I believe it's something that's meant to be experienced in the every day circumstances of our lives. Hearing the birds singing praises to God reminds me of my Father who takes care of me. Seeing the beauty and grandeur of the mountains reminds me of his greatness. Chasing my grandchildren around the house reminds me of his love. Movies that I watch often remind me that Father is gracious to me.

Darin Hufford states that "Every part of the Christian walk has been romanticized and glamorized to the point where we have no concept of what God really wants to offer us." This is definitely true for worship. Worship is meant to be natural and not orchestrated. It should spring naturally from a heart that is filled with Father's love as a byproduct of that love. It's not something we conjure up to get an emotional response.

Darin also stated that "It is almost impossible for a Christian who has been raised on a steady diet of spiritual pornography to settle down and be content with the everyday life of REAL spirituality." That's why it's often necessary to separate from whatever encourages this type of addiction. Like any other addiction, this detox time may be difficult and the desire to run back may be strong. However, if we'll persist through the struggle in the end we'll begin to experience worship which is really done in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)

To read my other posts on worship, follow these links:

Does God need our praise?

Worship - Darin Hufford

Worshipping out in the wild

More About Worship

Friday, August 29, 2008

A God of love and justice

I've started re-reading Penal Substitution vs. Christus Victor. This is a wonderful teaching which explains the cross from the perspective of grace rather than legalism. I read it a while ago and enjoyed it but since the beginning of this year, Father has put me on a crash course of learning and understanding grace. What I've found is that a lot of what I believed had to be tossed when I held it up and looked at it through the lens of grace. So much has changed for me and I'm still growing in my understanding. Because of the changes I've experienced, I decided I needed to read this article again. While reading, I found this little gem that I'd like to share with all of you.

"There is a biblical concept of "judgement" or "wrath". Jesus warned frequently that the people were calling judgement on themselves and called them to turn (repent) from the course they were on. Judgement or wrath is the consequence of sinful or hurtful action. It follows from sin like falling is the consequence of jumping off a cliff. Paul writes in the Romans that "the wages of sin is death". The wage, the thing you get as a result, what you have coming to you, is death. "but the gift of God is eternal life". God who is a God of love (compassion) and justice (making this right) desires not to see us die, but to give us life. God desires to break us out of the vicious cycle of consequence and to therefore bring about justice - to make things right again, to restore us to where we were meant to be. Not by saying that it is of no consequence that we are bleeding and broken, but by taking us out of the treadmill of death, by liberating us from the tyranny of hurting and being hurt. That is what biblical justice is all about. It is not in conflict with compassion, it is rooted in compassion."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Jim Robbins interview

Jim Robbins, author of Recover Your Good Heart, was recently a guest on a Family Room Media podcast entitled A New Heart dated 8/20/08. It was a great interview which I think everyone would enjoy hearing. Jim's emphasis is that in Christ, we've been given a new heart which is good. This is totally different from what we're told in most churches.

During the podcast, Jim made some profound statements that really impacted me and I want to share a few of them with you.

He said, "It's not just about being forgiven; it's the offer of a new heart."

Regarding the message taught at most churches today, he said, "The message of you're not doing enough morphs into you're not good enough."

Referring to the New Testament function of preaching, he said " Preaching has to change from ' our job is to make you something' to 'our job is to help you release something'."

"Our job becomes to help you release those resources that are store up in your heart."

To listen to this podcast, follow either this link or this link.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Growing in the hard places

(I started this post several weeks ago but because of my crazy busy schedule I wasn't able to finish it. It's a few weeks late and may be ancient history by now but I still felt I needed to go ahead and post it so, here it is at last.)

Several weeks ago, we had a lengthy string of comments posted regarding one of Free Spirit's blogs. It began when I made the comment that Father had sent me to an abusive church. Free Spirit questioned whether that was really him sending me since she didn't believe that matched his character. I was going to add another comment but, when I started writing, it got longer and longer so I decided to post my own blog about it instead.

I don't know if this will answer her question, but I hope maybe it'll shed some light on the subject of suffering. Ouch!! That's a painful topic and I don't even like to think about it but, unfortunately, it's a fact of life. We will have times of suffering - sometimes because of our own poor decisions and sometimes because of circumstances beyond our control.

As I've shared before, I spent three and a half years in what later became an abusive church. Because of a number of circumstances that preceded my going there, I'm convinced that Father sent me there. I won't go into details now although I may at a future date. For now, I want to go in a different direction.

Although my time at that church was painful, it was actually one of the best times of my life. Before going any further, I know that some of you who read this post won't be able to relate to the positive aspects that I'll be sharing. Please don't read any condemnation into it. What I'll be sharing is only my experience. I know the horror of yours may far outweigh any positive benefits or you may feel that there weren't any positive benefits. Either way, I hope what I share will be an encouragement to anyone who reads it.

I've begun to think of my time there as the boot camp of my Christian life because it was there that I began to grow up as a believer. The pastor of that group taught me many things on which Father continues to build my life and what I believe today.

That pastor was the person who taught me how to think outside of the box. He taught me to question what I was told and this has resulted in a major change in how I view what I was taught in the system. Because of his teachings, I've been able to recognize the religious mindsets that had become part of my life. His out of the box thinking encouraged me to examine new thoughts and ideas rather than immediately shutting them out when they didn't fit my preconceived framework of beliefs.

My natural personality is fearful and hesitant. I don't go into new situations easily and, up until that time, I would always take the easier less stressful route. I don't like to make waves and I'll gladly go along to avoid a conflict. I'm not one to leave the safety of the boat to walk on water - with or without Jesus. All that has changed because of my time in that group. I'm now a totally different person who is much more willing to take risks rather than stay in the safety of the boat. I'm learning to enjoy the adventure rather than wanting only safety.

Staying at that church was totally out of character for me. I knew the pastor wasn't accepted by the larger Christian community and neither was the group. In the natural, I tend to be a people pleaser but I see Father setting me free from the bondage of the desire to please people. I'm now learning to live in the freedom of who I am even if people get angry and offended. Despite my natural tendencies to bail out when things got rough, I stayed in that group.

My time there was really the turning point in my journey. Prior to that, I had been deeply immersed in religion and pretty much accepted what I was told. I was satisfied with the system and it was the center of my life. However, in that group, the seeds of change had been planted that would later sprout and grow. Today, the changes that I'm seeing have surprised even me. I remember Wayne Jacobsen saying that he had now become the person he would not have allowed in his office a number of years ago. I can really relate to that statement.

As I look at where I am today, I'm excited about the person I've become and am becoming. Knowing what I now know about that group, if I had to do it again, I'd do it. I've come to the place where I no longer despise my time there since it was part of my journey to the freedom that I'm experiencing today. This freedom as well as the joy and peace of knowing who I am has made the hardship of those days well worth the pain. As I think about my experience, I'm reminded of Paul's declaration.

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Choosing Fear

Darin Hufford has just posted an excellent blog about fear. Since fear is something I deal with, I was very interested in what he had to say. This is one post that I feel I'll need to read again so I printed it so I can refer to as needed. I've never experienced panic attacks nor has my fear been debilitating in any way. However, it has held me back from doing things I wanted to do.

Darin says that fear is a choice. When I first heard him say that, I disagreed but reading his explanation has helped me to see that it is a choice. When we choose to live in an imagined future of evil rather than in the reality of today, fear will be the result. Darin says, "Anytime we go down the road of 'What if,' we will inevitably become filled with fear."

Darin also makes a distinction between wisdom and fear. "Wisdom and fear are two totally different things and the moment we connect the two together, we are not only inviting fear into our lives, but are rewarding ourselves for having it."

"I understand that many people believe that fear can be a good thing, but I couldn't disagree more. All fear as we know it is BAD."

This teaching has the potential to set people free who have been bound by fear and panic attacks. Tina, who has dealt with panic attacks for years, spoke with Darin regarding his statement that fear is a choice. What he shared has put her on the road to freedom.

To read Darin's post in its entirety, follow this link. To read Tina's post regarding her conversation with Darin, follow this link.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A birthday to remember and other things

Saturday, August 9, was my birthday and it was a birthday that I will long remember. Of course, it wasn't as memorable as Joel's birthday when he was on television.

A couple of months ago, my daughter asked us if we would keep our grandchildren for that day since she and her husband had been invited to an out of town wedding. We agreed because the bride had been my daughter's best friend in college. So, I knew hubby and I would be spending my birthday with our four grandchildren ages 8 years to 9 months.

A couple of weeks before the day, my daughter informed us that the two year old had been invited to a pool party and it was our responsibility to take the three oldest children to the party. Since the guest of honor would be three on her birthday, most of the guests were three year olds. I absolutely hate swimming so I had to dig out the bathing suit which I hadn't seen since I bought it a few years ago. Hoping it would still fit, I put it on since I needed to get in the pool with the two year old. Fortunately, he was wearing floaties on each arm so I wouldn't need to brush up on my swimming skills for a rescue.

Well, Friday night I was given my last minute instructions about the pool party as well as post pool party cleanup. All seemed to be going smoothly and then came Saturday morning with a whole new set of crises. My daughter's air conditioner stopped working and it looked like it wouldn't be repaired until Monday morning.

So, instead of us taking the children to their house after the party, we brought all four to our house for baths and shampoos. Since we'd never had all four over at one time, we had to figure out who would sleep where. That problem was finally settled and the children slept well until about 1 am when the 9 month old woke up screaming and wouldn't go back to sleep again so we had to call Mommy to come pick her up.

After she left, we went back to bed but during the night, the electricity went off and didn't return for a couple of hours. Needless to say, hubby and I didn't get much sleep that night. The next morning, my daughter came over and told us that there had been a really bad accident up the street from her house at 2 am. A car had hit a light pole and, since she lives in our neighborhood, that explained why our lights went out. We thought the driver had been killed but we later found out that he had miraculously survived.

When Monday came, the air conditioner still wasn't fixed and wouldn't be fixed until Tuesday. My three oldest grandchildren slept at my house Saturday through Tuesday and were there for most of each day. I went back to work Tuesday and the air conditioner was finally fixed. The children went back home sadly since they enjoyed staying at our house. Toys that were strewn all over our family room were picked up and we could finally walk without fear of stepping on something. Life returned to normal.

As grandparents, we've made the decision that we want to be involved in the lives of our grandchildren. It saddens me to hear young mothers say that their children's grandparents aren't involved in their lives. I don't believe our responsibility ends when we raise our own children. Having so many children at our house when we've adapted to quiet was difficult and required major adjustments but I want to be a positive influence in my grandchildren's lives. My daughter said when the children got back to their house, they complained the first day because they wanted to be at our house. What an awesome privilege it is to share in the lives of our grandchildren and to build memories with them that hopefully will inspire and encourage them.

Anyway, I know I owe some of you emails and I'm waaay behind on everyone's blogs. I'm playing catch up now so, if I owe you an email, I haven't forgotten. It may be a few days before I'm caught up but I will catch up. I know this post is long and I probably gave much more details than you needed to hear but I'm a storyteller and I've been known to take a short story and make it long.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Excerpts from Recover Your Good Heart

I finally got my copy of Recover Your Good Heart this week and I've been enjoying what Jim Robbins has to say. I haven't gotten very far into the book yet but I would like to share some excerpts that you may enjoy.

"Notice that salvation is a rescuing of the heart, for when you rescue the heart you rescue the person." (page 21)

"I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. (Jeremiah 24:7) (page 24)

"To return to God with a new heart is to return to the life we most truly desire. The Christian now wants God more than anything - in spite of his contrary actions, doubts, or false convictions - for he now has a heart for God. He may be choosing old convictions and habits that deny his new desires, yet the externals can no longer dictate the internal realities: He is a new creature with a rescued and redeemed heart. So when we speak of 'salvation,' we must speak of it beyond mere terms of forgiveness. Salvation is a rescuing of the heart, and therefore, the entire person." (page 24)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The church that Jesus is building

(Well, here it is - the blog that I've been trying to post since Friday. It's been a wild last couple of days because of the sitemeter problem. I miss my sitemeter but it will just have to wait a while before I feel comfortable about re-installing it. I'm just glad to have gotten my blog back. Anyway, back to the topic of this post.)

A few weeks ago, while sitting in the Sunday morning service, a man spoke who was part of a missions organization. He was excitedly sharing and saying that God is working throughout the world. Well, I got excited too. Of course, I know he was talking about missions and missionaries but my thoughts immediately went to blogging and the internet.

What an exciting medium the internet is for a growing number of free believers who are sharing freedom with others. Tim Kiser in a comment on my Learning to Give Out in the Wild post spoke about a "grassroots movement of freedom." What a marvelous description of what our Daddy is doing! I see it as a group of interconnected circles that are going around the world.

I'm fairly new to this world of blogging. It was only in October or November of last year that I connected with my first blogger, Joel of Grace Roots. That led to connections with other bloggers and, in January, I started my own blog. Since then, I've been introduced to a growing number of bloggers. It's exciting to find new blogs that have been set up by people who are eager to speak and share this wonderful message of God's grace and freedom.

While in religion, we came to believe that there was only one acceptable way to serve God and to share our faith. It could only be done through a local church that was headed by a pastor. The only other alternative was to work for a "para-church" organization with the approval of "your" pastor.

While I'm sure this method has been helpful for some, for others it's been the same as being in a cage. We've been told what we could say and what we couldn't say. We've been told what we could do and what we couldn't do. And, we've been told where we should spend our time and money. Although we followed these rules as best we could, some of us have felt trapped and we've strained against the bars believing that there had to be more than this.

This grassroots movement of freedom is growing and spreading. As more and more people come to understand the message of grace, they are leaving the confines of religion and venturing out into the wild of freedom. Tracy over at The Best Parts has posted an excellent blog describing this life of freedom. She quoted a scripture that I believe beautifully describes the church that is coming out into freedom.

"And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall." (Malachi 4:2b)

What a glorious picture of the joy and excitement as believers are freed from their stalls! I see much of this joy and excitement spilling over into the blogs that I've been reading. We've been held back for so long that now that we're free, this wonderful message of Father's grace has to come out and it's coming out in the form of blogging.

Jesus is building his church. There was a season during which the institutional groups were in the forefront and I don't believe we should despise those groups. While it's true that the religion that tends to pervade them prevented us from coming into the fullness of life in Christ, these groups have been the nursery that protected us while we were infants in the faith.

However, many of us have come to realize that it's now time to leave the security of the nursery and venture out into the wild with Jesus. While this may seem to be a place of danger and insecurity, Jesus has promised that the Holy Spirit will be there to help us navigate through this unknown territory.

What excites me is that I see an ever increasing number of believers who have followed Jesus out into the wild. At times, it may appear as though we're few when compared to the total number of believers throughout the world. However, as more and more believers leave religion, I see the church that Jesus is building becoming a reality. No longer bound by religion, we're more and more being changed into the image of our Father. Now, like the wind, we're free to follow the desires that he has placed on our hearts. (Psalm 37:4)

"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (John 3:8)

Blog lock out

If you're locked out of your blog and have a sitemeter, I can definitely relate. I've been sweating it out since yesterday when I got locked out of my blog. It started when I tried to check my sitemeter and couldn't get in. Then, the situation escalated into a code red, when I couldn't get into my own blog. I could open all of the other blogs I checked so it looked like my blog had been singled out for a terrorist attack. Of course, given the brilliant nature of the blogs I've been posting lately, I can understand why.

I couldn't figure out how to deal with this dangerous situation. Should I contact the Department of Homeland Security? I knew they would be greatly concerned about the danger to the free believers in this country who couldn't read my blog. However, I decided to try a more cautionary approach so I talked to hubby instead. After much deliberation, he told me I needed to call Blogger.

Well, that posed a different problem because as we all know, due to the very sensitive nature of the work that they do, their phone number is not listed. Desperate for an answer, I did a Google search on Blogger and discovered that Blogger was experiencing its own set of problems. (Isn't that just like the enemy to attack the blogging community on two separate fronts?) Well, since my problem didn't seem to match the problem described, I continued my covert search operation and found an interesting link.

Simon, a blogger in Montreal, was able to do a search and rescue operation and had released his blog. As he studied the situation, a pattern began to emerge. Based on a hunch, he deleted his sitemeter code and instantly his blog was released. He was finally able to log in. Thankfully, he didn't keep this critical information to himself but decided to share it with the blogging community. After reading Simon's report, I immediately deleted my sitemeter code and my blog was also instantly released.

Simon's findings have the potential for a major breakthrough in the world of blogging and for that Simon will go down in history as a hero who stood tall in the face of much personal danger. Simon is truly a hero. All I can say is, "Way to go, Simon!"

To read in his own words, Simon's amazing report about his heroic efforts on our behalf, follow this link.