I was riding around our downtown area looking for a parking place the other day and happen to see a bumper sticker that caught my attention, it said “VIOLENCE IS NEVER THE SOLUTION”. Well before I could turn my blinker on for a left turn, I heard “THAT’S NOT TRUE” coming out of my mouth. I understand the human abhorrence of violence, and certainly share the distaste for man’s expressions of cruelty to other living beings, and I cringe every time I read about more deaths in the war zones. However, far beyond the calculations of the producers of this bumper sticker and similar type expressions, lies the subtle manipulations of an enemy who is doing everything he can to discredit, in the human understanding, the overwhelmingly powerful work done on the CROSS, where the Lamb of God suffered a violent death in order that we might be reconciled to God. To quote Pastor Jack Hayford “The cross is a symbol of deliverance with violence at it’s center.” It’s very important for us to never let “slip away” into some greasy pit of diabolic truth distortion our knowledge of the true work that was accomplished on the cross and the horrific violence that was inflicted upon on the ONE that made it possible.
In our protestant churches we have an empty cross, and I believe rightly so, because He is risen, however to occasionally see Him depicted hanging on the cross might possibly be a good reminder. Our freedom from the penalty of our sin, the total defeat of our enemy, and our reconciliation to God, cost an unimaginable price. Our enemy is still trying to make us believe that it really didn’t happen, we aren’t free, and that violence is never the solution. Jesus violent death on the cross proves otherwise. Don’t believe the enemy’s lies regardless of how seemingly properly they are packaged.
Buck Herring 5/3/08
In Luke, chapter 7, Jesus goes for a meal at the house of Simon the Pharisee only to be visited by “a sinful” woman, who lavished her gratefulness and love upon Him, much to the disgust of Simon. Jesus, in the 47th verse says, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven- for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little”. This used to puzzle me because it seemed Jesus was saying that the length of the list of our forgiven sins was the determining factor in our capacity to love. What about people who had followed Jesus from a very young age ? What about people who were raised in a Christian home and never rebelled, but embraced Jesus from the first moment of decision ? Surely God is not going to limit the capacity to love for someone who’s actual sin list is quite short. This continued to puzzle me until the Lord, in His graciousness, let me understand. IT’S NOT THE LENGTH OF THE LIST, BUT OUR PERCEPTION OF WHAT GOD HAS DONE IN FORGIVING US THAT DETERMINES OUR CAPACITY TO LOVE. Love is the answer, and our capacity to do so will make possible all kinds of ministry, relational healing, and fearless expressions of Jesus to those who are in need. “Perfect love casts out fear”. So much of our motivation in this world is driven of various kinds of fear. To realize the magnitude of our forgiveness and expand our capacity to love, is a giant step which will cast out our enemy, fear. No more hesitating for fear of rejection or censure, but functioning from a huge core of love, we can do all that Jesus asks us to do, in deep gratitude. What a wonderful motivation to add to our reasons for worship and thanksgiving.
What is the purpose of most Sunday morning “worship” services? It seems to me that ever more frequently, the main purpose of Sunday mornings in American evangelical Christian churches is to make people “comfortable”. Comfortable in their seats, comfortable in their “flesh”, comfortable with one another, and comfortable in the presence of the Lord. I certainly have no problem with being comfortable in my seat,and with my fellow church goers, but I do have a problem with catering to the “fleshly” part of any of us by altering the style of “worship” music and presentation to accommodate the taste of any group, or individual so they will come to church because they like the music. In my understanding we are to change the world not bend over backwards to adapt to it’s tastes.
The music should only be a vehicle in which the true worshipper can communicate love, adoration, gratitude and deep commitment to the Lord, extolling His many incredible attributes. In my estimation, worship should be a spiritually “romantic” connection between Jesus and His bride. This does not eliminate well performed tasteful music, but is a precursor to it. Also, there are many well constructed songs being used in worship services every Sunday that do not convey worship. They either are focused on the needs of the worshiper or are songs of repentance, or pleas for forgiveness and proclamations of contrition. All of these songs are good sources of communication to the Lord about the person singing, they are not great songs that communicate the things about the Lord which we need to be communicating to Him in the context of worship. To truly magnify the Lord, requires one to humble himself, and out of a heart of deep gratitude, to sing and or speak love, gratitude, adoration, etc. to the only one in the universe that is worthy of such. It’s not about us.
Why should anyone expect to be comfortable in the presence of the Lord. I cannot think of one instance in the Bible where being in the presence of the Living God made the recipient of that visitation “comfortable”. “See My Face and die” is what I read in my Bible, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” I also read. The Lord, in His grace, through the blood of His Son, has given us access to His presence, but He has not abdicated His awesomeness, (a word that has diluted meaning in the world today, but throughout history has caused knees to bend and faces to hit the ground), “our God is an awesome God”ƒ.. let’s treat Him that way.
Abba Father, “Daddy God” to the redeemed, is truly who He is. I don’t know about your upbringing, but as much as my earthly father loved me, and loved to “hang” with me, transgressions were sternly dealt with and caused me to have great respect for his fatherly position of authority in my life. On those few occasions where I was “flippant” or disrespectful there were consequences. I don’t believe that the Lord gets uptight because of our “over casualness” about being in His presence, but I think His concern for our ability to disseminate His kingdom without understanding the awesome magnitude of His Lordship is something being expressed by His Holy Spirit to those who will quietly listen.
Hopefully, we will pursue having true worship services, where the Holy, Living God is richly magnified, and the teaching of the word comes by the revelation of the Holy Spirit, through a humble and yielded teacher, who’s only purpose is to see the Kingdom of God advance in peoples lives, irrespective of how many bottoms are in the chairs.
Buck Herring 8/6/2006
Recently Annie and I were involved in a meeting of several worship leaders from a midwest community, and although we spoke of many things relating to the current application of music in today’s Church “worship”, one comment has stuck in my memory. “Today, it’s not as much about Jesus, as it is about the song” someone said. Annie and I began to recall how “corny” some of the little choruses from the early years of our walk with Jesus were, and yet for the most part they only had one purpose, and that was to magnify the Lord. They weren’t anywhere near the level of musical sophistication of many of the songs that are sung in Church today, but there was a sweetness and simplicity that made them always available as a personal expression to the Lord, whether you were in devotions, walking through the park, or driving in freeway traffic. They were about Jesus, not the chord structure, or great melody, or danceable rhythm. They were about Jesus, not about a writer fulfilling a songwriting contract for so many songs each month. Most of them were written out of a need for someone to express what was in their heart , and were spred from fellowship to fellowship by word of mouth and interaction of believers in home meetings that were formed out of a desire to gather together ( rather than at the organizational promptings of Church leadership). The music we use for our expressions of worship today has become a commodity, and is distrubuted via recordings by publishing companies to churches, hoping to catch the ear of their song selector, consequently our “worship” has also become a commodity.
As people who’s financial needs God has met through songwriting, Annie and I are not throwing stones from our glass house, but saying “let’s write songs about Him, because He is worthy and we love Him more then we can contain”. The financial factor is up to Him who promised to meet all our needs, Phil 4:19 “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus”.
In 1978, long before christian songwriters were getting paid for the songs used in Church, (there was no monitoring mechanism in place yet) a dear friend, the late Roy Hicks Jr. called and asked if I would publish a little chorus he had written that was being sung frequently in churches at that time. I did publish his song, although at the time there was no reason to do so, except his friendship. “Praise the Name of Jesus” has been sung hundreds of times in almost every non-liturgical church in the western world, and since the advent of CCLI monitoring, has been a financial blessing to Roy’s household as well as mine. God blessed us “according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus”. CCLI has been a good thing, but it has also created a community of Christian songwriters that try to make a living writing songs they hope will be used in Church, as opposed to writing songs because they can’t contain the love and worship for the Lord and have to express it. I’m not saying these songwriters are mercenary, bad people, they’re not, but because worship and praise type songs are now more commodity driven than Holy Spirit inspired it ends up being more about the song than it is about Jesus, regardless of how many times His name is mentioned.
This might end up being a good thing, because we seem to act as though songs are the only way to express worship.
The Lord might get so sick of our musical expression which is less about His Son and more about the quality of the song, that He will take it all away from us and we will have to find more spiritual and truthful ways to worship.
We are men numbed by the scenes before us, paralyzed by the defiant taunting of the enemy’s champion, a seasoned giant bred for intimidation.
Israel’s army stands at a safe distance, “talking” about victory. Their shouts rain down thick, dark clouds of arrows, but they are shafts without feathers, sticks without points. Their plans, planned for tomorrow, will cut the enemy down, as imaginary waves of victorious warriors trample retreating aggressors. But their plans for tomorrow, and tomorrow, then tomorrow, are plastic swords against coats of mail.
Where is the son of Jesse, that ruddy shepherd tending his father’s flock, naive enough to believe, compelled by the Spirit, Jesse’s son who fell in love before he went into battle, who went into battle because he fell in love?
How many desert rocks and clay pots felt the sting of a stone propelled with precise aim from the sling of Jesse’s youngest son? How many times had he practiced this battle, rehearsed this victory, sharpening his skills on some mock battle field, while protecting the flocks entrusted to his care? Hear him yell, “God will deliver you into my hands, as He has the lion and the bear!”
Where are these sons of Jesse now who run at giants with nothing more than a sling and stone, who throw off man-made armor, and deflect the talk of talkers who stand at safe distances? Where are these sons of Jesse, the last in line, called in from the field, who fell in love in the desert places on mock battle fields, who but for the discerning prophet, disregarding envious brothers, will be overlooked and counted out, robbing nations of shepherds, and armies of victories?
Hear the harps they skillfully play, and songs their hearts were taught to sing, while “warriors” raise their plastic swords and sticks that look like arrows, who have not learned a shepherd’s song or felt the power of the love that courage gave a shepherd boy, Jesse’s youngest son.
Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean revel in him!
– Phil 4:4 The Message
It occurs to me that in order to revel in God I must be filled with a great sense of wonder at the thoughts of God. Webster’s Dictionary defines wonder as “a cause for astonishment or surprise; a feeling (of astonishment or uncertainty) aroused by something extraordinary or affecting”.
Can I revel in anything when all thoughts and feelings, when all astonishment and amazement are missing? If I completely understood God, there would be nothing for me to revel over or wonder about. Persons who insists that the fullness of life can’t be enjoyed until all questions are answered, rob themselves of the wonder that exists in the magic of the mysteries of life. Can we worship when wonder is gone? Being filled with awe, standing in amazement, being in love; none need be diminished by the absence of information and answers. In fact, the richness of our experiences can be enhanced by the absence.
If I completely understood what makes my wife so lovely, I would be robbed of the magic that is present in the mystery. Part of what makes her lovely is the mystery itself. The lack of information does not ruin the wonder, it heightens it.
I would not trade the feelings of awe and astonishment I felt when each of my five children was placed in their mother’s arms for the first time, for more data that thoroughly explained the science of each. My inability to comprehend the mystery and complexity of each of those five very distinct moments was in no way ruined by that inability. Tears of joy refused to be dammed up by a limited capacity to understand.
The deeper science reaches into the mysteries of life; the farther it reaches out into the vast questions in the galaxies, the more complex the mysteries become. In his quest to answer questions and to solve the mysteries before him now, man has only accomplished one real thing. The deeper he looks the greater the wonders become.
Has God limited our capacities for understanding all things in order to expand our ability to enjoy all things? Is there a connection between wonder and worship? Can we revel in what we can not wonder over? Perfect knowledge and wonder can not coexist, and I doubt that man can exist well in a world devoid of revel and wonder.
Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean revel in him!
Gary Little 03/17/2007