Category Archives: Worship

I Will Pray for You

This is our Worship Focus at Nuevo Community Church for March 4, 2012.  Text for the morning:  John 17.

“I will pray for you.”

Those are powerful words.  But like all good things, sometimes they have a dark side.  These powerful words are sometimes simply discussion “enders”.   At the end of a difficult conversation, or an uncomfortable one, “I will pray for you” becomes our transition away from the discomfort.  Sometimes it is reduced to the same platitude class of sayings as “How are you?”  We really don’t mean it; it is just how we open a conversation or greet people.  So, unfortunately, “I will pray for you” is sometimes dismissive.  I hope that isn’t true, or at least that this will challenge us to actually mean it when we use the phrase.

Even better than the phrase “I will pray for you” is what Jesus does in John 17.  In this instance, Jesus actually prayed for his disciples in their presence and John (God bless him) had the presence of mind to record it for us!  Paul practiced this as well.  He told people how he was praying for them.  Colossians 1:9ff is one of my favorite templates for praying for other people.

So, let’s deal with first things first.  Don’t use the phrase “I will pray for you” unless you mean it.  Second, when appropriate, tell people how you are praying for them. This built-in accountability will make a difference. It is hard to compound lies, that is, if I have made it a habit of turning “I will pray for you” into a meaningless platitude, it is harder to get around the habit of giving details of said prayers.   Third, today, know that Jesus prays for you.  He intercedes on your behalf.  He has your best interest in mind and He is all about bringing that best interest to pass.  As you worship, be grateful for a praying Jesus who prays for your well-being.

Jesus is praying for you.

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Capital S: John 4:23-24

John 4:23-24

These are my more in depth notes from today’s sermon.  I summarized these points this morning, here is the more fleshed out and technical background…

23 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
A main emphasis in worship is that we worship God in Spirit and in truth. What does it mean to worship God “in Spirit” (ἐν πνεύματι)? This post will examine this phrase. First we will discuss the preposition “in” drawing the conclusion that is used in the sociative sense as opposed to the locative sense. Secondly, in all the modern versions the word “spirit” is left un-capitalized, I will challenge that interpretive decision and make the case that it should be capitalized.

The preposition “in” (ἐν)

It may seem a small and insignificant word, but in fact determining the meaning and emphasis of this preposition is critical. Contrary to silly political evasion (remember Bill Clinton’s evasiveness concerning the word “is”), “in” can have different nuance of meaning. For instance, one way to understand “in” has to do with location: “she is in the kitchen.” But another way to understand “in” is call the sociative use: “she is in trouble.” It is not speaking of location rather she is “associated” with trouble.

Now the Greek word “ἐν” is not an exact equivalent to the English word “in” which sometimes causes the variations we see in the English translations. This is one of the challenges with the related phrase to ours here in John 4:23, like the phrase “baptism in the Spirit” in John 1:33. “ἐν” can mean: in, within, by, by means of, with, on, among, when. The meaning is determined by many contextual considerations. So determining what Jesus means by worshiping the Father “in spirit/Spirit” is not as simple as it may first seem. But we all make some conclusion upon reading the phrase.

Maximilian Zerwick in his helpful (highly technical – you won’t find this book at Berean) book Biblical Greek gives this explanation:

“The preposition “ἐν”, thanks in part at least to the influence of Semitic be, increases its scope to a very great extent. In Biblical usage the value of “ἐν” seems to be very ill defined, and often to be very far indeed from the local sense. Thus where Mk 5:2 speaks of a man ἐν πνεύματι ἀκαθάρτῳ (with an unclean spirit) one might feel that it would be more logical to say the spirit was in the man rather than the man in the spirit, and one might explain the preposition as meaning that man was in the power of the spirit. Later however, in the same chapter (5:25), such an explanation will not avail, for the woman with the flux of blood is said to have been ἐν ῥύσει αἵματος (with a flow of blood).
“The question has a certain importance when one wishes to understand what Paul means by saying sometimes that we are in Christ, or in the Spirit, and at other times that Christ, or the Spirit, is in us. Indeed the distinction in Paul’s mind between the two notions seems to be so small, not to say non-existent, that he explains and as it were defines the one by the other; Rom 8:9: “you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you”. So he is “in the Spirit”, in whom the Spirit is, or as the apostle goes on to say, who “has the Spirit”: “but if anyone have not the Spirit of Christ, the same is not of Him”. In John also the dwelling of God (Christ) are two correlative and inseparable aspects of the same reality, cf 1 John 4:13, 15, 16; John 6:56; 15:4f; in John 8:44 it is said of Satan that he is not in the truth because the truth is not in him. Thus “ἐν” (not without Semitic influence) is practically reduced to the expression of a general notion of association or accompaniment, which would be rendered in English by “with”: a man with an unclean spirit, a woman with an influx of blood.”

John 4 is the story of the Samaritan woman by the well. There was a turf war that went on between the Samaritans and the Jews. Jews worshiped at the temple in Jerusalem; Samaritans worshiped at Mt. Gerazim (although their temple at this time was in ruins). She asks Jesus for a location (we worship in this mountain, Jews worship in Jerusalem) and Jesus answers with:
“Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither ἐν this mountain nor ἐν Jerusalem will you worship the Father…but an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father ἐν spirit and truth.”

Our options are to take the phrase to mean “in the location of the spirit/Spirit” or “in association with the spirit/Spirit.” To take in the locative sense would require us to identify the where of the spirit/Spirit. So it could refer to the spirit of man, that inner place of man where the spirit is located. Or it could be referring to a location where believers gather and where two or three are gathered, that being characterized in Matthews gospel as a “place” where Jesus is present. Those views are both possible, and even accurate, but is that what Jesus is talking about? Is he saying that as opposed to Jerusalem or Gerazim, the “new” worship will take place in churches? or internally as opposed to corporately? I imagine that is possible, but as we shall see, it isn’t the strongest view. The context of chapter 4 and the gospel of John draws a more powerful conclusion that is connected to the temple (2:13ff, 4:20ff, 14:23).

The sociative sense of the word “in” would give the sense that Jesus is saying that true worshipers worship in association with the Spirit. Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman are both told that the key element in their encounter with Jesus has to do with the Spirit and his life giving operation. In the Nicodemus encounter, Jesus tells him that he must be born from above and equates that activity with the operation of the Spirit. He uses the metaphor of wind to dramatically describe the activity of the Spirit. In the story of the Samaritan woman Jesus speaks of the gift of God which he describes as the water of life, later identified with the operation of the Spirit (7:38).

It is safe to say that true worshipers are those who have been born from above and those who have drunk of the living water. They are true worshipers as a result of their “spiritual” transformation and it is in this sphere that they worship. They agree with the Spirit’s testimony regarding the truth who is Jesus as they are now believing. This is the characteristic of the new worship and worshipers, it is the direct result of regeneration; the new creation.

Jesus is contrasting the worship of the Jews and Samaritans in a certain location (Jerusalem and Gerazim) with the true worship which is not related to location but is associated with the Spirit. It is not worship in a particular place but with a particular person, the person of the Holy Spirit. The type of worship is being emphasized, not the location of the activity of worship. This doesn’t exclude the activity of worship connected with a location, but emphasizes the nature of the future true worship behavior – as it is going to be a global activity. The Great Commission moves the worshiper outside the boundaries of Israel and hence moves beyond location.

“Spirit” or “spirit”

Capitalization in the Bible is not always a straightforward translation issue. Since the Greek New Testament, the manuscripts, don’t have capitalization cues for the translator, the translator must designate where capitals should be used. This passage is one of the debatable “to capitalize or not to capitalize” passages. We don’t have access to the discussion that surrounded the decision to leave “spirit” in John 4:23 & 24 lower case on the part of the translation committees. I argue that it should, in fact, be capitalized, that is, as a reference to the Holy Spirit.

If you leave the translation “spirit,” it can be taken in at least two different ways.

First, that Jesus is saying that instead of worship happening in a physical place in the future, it will take place in the spirit of the true worshiper; maybe akin to the modern claim of being able to worship anywhere; therefore ,the “I don’t need to go to church” mentality. True worship takes place in the realm of my spirit; the essence of worship is, therefore, personal rather than corporate. Since my spirit is localized, the nature of worship is inward and independent.

This view is rejected. Jesus is not affirming a personal form of worship here. He is not interested in establishing individual temples compartmentalized from a larger body. He is not saying that Jerusalem/Gerazim are rejected in favor of the spirit of man.

Second, that Jesus is saying that worship is a spiritual activity and not a physical activity. We worship in spirit then has the sense that worship is a spiritual activity. The important part being that worship is spiritual and that the physical is peripheral. It is the heart of worship that really matters, not simply the physical location, activity or posture.

This view is rejected as well. It leads to an unnatural dissection between the physical and the spiritual. True worship is not worship that simply has to do with my spiritual side; we reject any gnostic notion that the spirit is good and the material or physical is evil. Jesus is not espousing a purely spiritual and non-physical expression of worship.

A third, mid-stream addition: I just heard a pastor use this phrase: “my parents are here in spirit”.   These kind of odd statements have a life that is not founded in the Scriptures or in reality. I think what he meant is that they would be here if they could, but since they can’t, they would be supportive. But not everyone dissects the statement that way; some believe that there is some actual spiritual presence. This kind of language was probably not in mind here.

Though there may be truth in these positions, I don’t see that as the thrust of Jesus’ teaching here or elsewhere, and I see no reason to not capitalize the word Spirit here as it is usually done elsewhere in the Bible. Of the 51 times this phrase occurs in the Bible it refers to the Holy Spirit. I don’t see a compelling reason to remove the divine dynamic from this verse, in fact the passage almost demands it.

John has a strong link between the Spirit and truth. He is called the Spirit of truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; I John 5:6). In John 14 there is a strong linkage to the Trinity, with Jesus also being identified as the truth. In this passage, maintaining the capitalization emphasizes that the nature of worship is trinitarian in nature, in keeping with the message of John: Jesus leads us to the Father and the Spirit leads us to Christ (John 14:26). In John 14:17 the Holy Spirit “abides with you and will be in you (could also be rendered “abides in you and will be in you).

The nature of worship is that it is performed by “true worshipers,” and true worshipers worship in/with the Spirit. It is the Spirit who makes the worshiper “true” and the Spirit who guides the worshiper. It is the Spirit whose presence makes known the truth of the Father and the Son. It is through His presence that we are able to experience the presence of God. It is through His presence that we are quickened and made alive to God. Without the Spirit, the spirit is incapable of worship.

Grammatically, if we take the “ἐν” in what is called the sociative sense (association) as opposed to the locative sense (location), it makes more sense to associate the true worshiper with the Holy Spirit in this context. So when we combine the two parts ἐν πνεύματι, it makes more sense to capitalize “Spirit.” The Trinity is present and the believer is invited into the relational wheel in the context of worship: The Father is the object of worship; the Son is the truth component who reveals the Father to us in word and deed and sacrifice; The Spirit is the activator who reveals the truth to the believer and enables him to approach the Father and the Son. The “true worshiper” finds his place in the dynamic mix of Father, Son and Holy Spirit fulfilling the prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one; even as You, Father are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

Maybe the most dramatic reason to take this passage as referring to the Holy Spirit is it’s connection to Ephesians 5:18: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,” where “with the Spirit” here is represented by the same Greek phrase as we find in John, ἐν πνεύματι. Jesus and Paul are talking about the same phenomenon. When you are filled with the Spirit you can worship in/with the Spirit, the result being an expression of worship as summed up by Paul:

speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;
21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. (Eph 5:19-21)

The Character of the Worshiper & Worship Leader

Seeing this strong association with the Holy Spirit and true worship leads us to ask how it is that we practice this “worship in Spirit.” The linking together of character and worshiper in this paradigm is inseparable. Since it is an association and not simply an activity, and since it is an activity linked with the person of the Spirit as opposed to a place the transformational and character issues are prominent. Worship is not simply an activity, it is part of my new nature in Christ. Worship becomes a work of the Spirit both individually and corporately. Worship becomes a work of the Spirit both in body and soul. Worship becomes a part of my waking and sleeping not simply my segmented and scheduled behavior.

Having said that, the fruit of the Spirit seems to be the best place to glean the directives with regard to the character of the Worship leader. If worship is a by-product of association with the Holy Spirit, the fruit will also be a by product of this association. The symbiotic nature of fruit and worship stems from the centrality of the Spirit in the life of the true worshiper.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).

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Worship as Response of Creation to Creator

This weekend we held our first of 5 Worship Summits at NCC.  We have several outstanding worship teams and had a gathering of 25 of them and covered topics under the general categories of Worship Theology, Worship Technique, Worship Planning and Worship Dynamics.  I want to post some of my material on Worship Theology for perusal and interaction, looking for some feedback.  I (as many others) view worship as primarily responsive and submit the first category here in this post:   Worship as the Response of Creation to Creator.

Response of Creation to Creator: Worship is the most basic human activity.  There is no more “human” expression than the response of worship.  One aspect of General Revelation (that God has revealed himself in what he has made) is that what He has made proclaims his glory.  The Psalmist says:  “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1).  Paul in Romans makes the case in reverse when he says that “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Rom 1:20-21).  God is evident to all, but all do not respond with honor and thanks (ie. worship).  The presumption here is that the normal and natural human expression in response to the creation is worship.  When we see other parts of creation we should give thanks and give honor as we rightly assign credit to the Creator for the presence and beauty and majesty of creation.

But it is more than response to creation, it is response to my own existence as a created being.  The Psalmist also calls us to worship God as “our maker”:  Come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker (Psa 95:6).  Our worship is an expression of recognition that God has made us, we are not our own.  We are not responsible for our life, we can’t take credit for our existence.  More investigation leads us to conclude that the reason for our existence is to bring glory to God.  Isaiah says it most plainly:  “Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made” (Isa 43:7).  Paul picks this idea up in Ephesians 1 when he links together the ideas of redemption (election and predestination) to the glory of God.  We were created for the glory of God and we are redeemed for the glory of God.  These twin actions of God set a stake of ownership in the heart of man and the required response of the creation to the creator is worship – bringing glory to the Creator.

It is man’s creative and redemptive purpose to worship.  In this way it is the most basic human activity.  Denying worship is to deny purpose.  To fulfill purpose is to worship.  This idea forms the foundation for the concept of worship as lifestyle as well as event.

In the high priestly prayer in John 17 Jesus speaks of the mutual “glory/glorifying” of the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father.  “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (Joh 17:5).  In the Trinity and by its very nature there is a shared glory, and a mutual “glorying”.  A mark of God, part of His behavior is to glory and glorify.  It is a corollary worship type phenomenon.  It is not the same as our worship, yet nonetheless the acknowledgement of glory on the part of the members of the Trinity is to be emulated by the creation.  In some sense this is what it means to be created in the image of God.  The reciprocal glory of God’s creation (I recognize God’s power and nature in what He has made and it elicits a response of awe and wonder in response) is directed by my mind to its rightful recipient, that is God.  To fulfill the image of God in man, man joins in the unity that God has with Christ through the process of redemption.  God places the Spirit within me and the activity of the Spirit is to glory in and glorify God (John 4:24, 14:9, 17, 20; 15:26-27; 16:14; 17:9-11).  The Spirit of God draws us into this Trinitarian activity of glory, it is for us pure worship.

The essence of our originally created nature and our re-created nature is summarized by worship posture and activity.  The essence of our fallen nature is a rebellion against the creator which is contrary to worship, or the bowing of the knee in submission.  Worship is the appropriate creative posture and goal, it is in large part the expression of the image of God in man. It is here where we can make the connection between the image of God in man and his natural response in worship and as a result holiness.  The recreative activity of the Holy Spirit is intended to make us holy.  Worship is an activity that is linked with holiness (1 Chr. 16:29; Ps. 29:2; Ps. 96:9; Ps. 99:5, 9; Isa. 27:13: Rom. 12:1; Rev. 15:4).  So we worship in a holy manner and we worship to become holy.

Future posts on Worship:

  • Worship as response to Grace
  • Worship as response to Glory
  • Worship as response to Revelation
  • Worship as response  to  Presence

Talk to me…

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How Not to Worship…

“To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”

William Temple

Here is an incredible contrast to this great quote:

Really?? the Hokey Pokey?
“In the Sunday worship service we rehearse the use of body, of emotions, of intellect and will in order that our bodies may truly be the temple of God, that our spirit may be moved by His Spirit, that our minds may be as the mind of Christ, and that our wills may be one with God’s.  The worship service is a rehearsal for life.  It outlines the dialogue which goes on constantly between God and believers.  In the worship service we give Him our praise and adoration.  We give Him our offerings of money and also of our service in ministry.”

Donald P. Hustad

Don’t watch this unless you want to be horrified:

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Silent Night

Our Christmas Carols are extremely influential in framing our ideas and beliefs about Christmas.  Most of the time this is a good thing.  As I sing Christmas Carols I am impressed by the clear gospel message and the statements of substantial doctrinal ideas.  In the next few days leading up to Christmas I want to point out a few of those that have impressed me this year.

Last night at our Living Nativity we sang “Silent Night”.  Here are the words:

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth ”

My understanding is that the carol began simply as a poem by Joseph Mohr that was given to Franz Gruber to put into a song in because the organ at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf Germany was broken and they needed a song to be sung with guitar.  Hence our most popular Christmas Carol was born.  Click here for a more extensive rendition of the story.

My interest was peaked this year by the last line of the song:  “…Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.”

The emphasis on the deity of Christ even at His birth is an important statement in this song.  We believe that Jesus the Son became incarnate, or took on human flesh at His birth.  He has a human beginning, but as the Son, he is eternally one with the Father and as such has no beginning.  Hence, He is Lord at His birth because He is Lord at all times.  There is no time where Jesus is not Lord.  He doesn’t earn lordship, or become the son at a particular time in His ministry (ie at His baptism).  At His birth He is fully God.  This helps us to understand later statements of Jesus that seem to impugn His divinity (No one knows the day or time, only the Father, not even the Son).  Jesus at His birth, unable to talk, with all the requisite restrictions of humanity still retains His Lordship/Divinity.

This theological construction is called the Hypostatic Union.  We believe that Jesus is one person with two natures: human and divine.  They are distinct and not mingled.  He is not some sort of hybrid, or superman.  He is fully human.  He is fully God.  He is not 50% God and 50% man; he is not a mixture of the two.  He is not a man who has some special dispensation of godliness within Him, nor is He just a good embodiment of the principles of God.

This doctrine was outlined by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

The theological terminology for the interaction of the two natures is Communicatio Idiomatum, Latin for “communication of properties”.  These doctrines are deserving of our time and study as many divergent theological positions held by aberrant Christian groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Oneness Pentecostals misunderstand and distort the truth of the nature of Christ at these points.

Silent Night got it right here:  Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth!

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Casual Sex with God

Some things need to be said in an extreme manner.  Many Christians are having casual sex with God.

I got a late start on the reading of the Shack, really thought that it was an innocuous work of fiction.  But since I have read it, reviewed it, and talked to people about it,  more needs to be said.  I also have been reading some articles on worship and worship music.  Much of the criticism of both the book and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) is similar, and valid.  There is a common element that needs pointing out.

In the Shack, the main character Mack is a seminary graduate and the author has him pondering the following after he finds a note left by God in his mailbox:

“Try as he might, Mack could not escape the desperate possibility that the note just might be from God after all, even if the thought of God passing notes did not fit well with his theological training.  In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course.  God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects.  It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while educated Westerner’s access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligentsia.  Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book.  Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that guilt edges?” (end of chapter 4, pages 65-66 in the paperback version)

This statement seems to be a major theological point in the book (I think that although it is a work of fiction, there is some theological axe grinding going on).  Apparently “Mack” didn’t pay attention in seminary.  Even the most cessationist perspective would distinguish between ongoing revelation and God’s means of ongoing communication. Most evangelicals would tend towards a fully closed canon, and allow for some measure of ongoing interaction and contact with God that ventured beyond simply reading the Bible.  The attack on formal training, sound exegesis as our foundation for truth (canon), and the necessity for gifted teachers and authorities in the body are slipped in here as an unassailable part of Mack’s experience, which is the new authority.

In the foreword the author in a not so oblique way, and with a oddly fundamentalist attitude, tells us all he is not interested in any sort of critique of his work, which I found oddly contradictory:

“A couple of final disclaimers: Mack would like you to know that if you happen upon this story and hate it, he says, `Sorry…but it wasn’t primarily written for you.’  Then again, maybe it was.”

Both of these statements reflect  the new epistemology that has begun to make its way into the church:  It is true if it makes me feel good.  If it makes me feel better, then it is true.  If the facts get in the way of my feeling better, there must be something wrong with the facts so let’s ignore them.  This is different than a previous epistemological problem in the church  that is similar but not the same, that is, the attitude that says I don’t care about the details just tell me what to do.  At least in the latter attitude, there was an acknowledgment of truth content back there somewhere, I just don’t need to know the details, a kind of taking my car to the mechanic pragmatism.

The sentiment I get from people who like the Shack is reflected in this statement is that I really don’t want to be corrected or challenged about the statements in the Shack because I liked it, it made me feel good.  And so with Christian music, it doesn’t really seem to matter what the content of the song is, it just needs to make me feel good.  And so it comes full circle, these attitudes then attach themselves to what the people in the body take from the church:  only that which makes them feel good.  Everything else is indispensable or debatable, not on solid doctrinal or biblical grounds, rather on purely emotional and individual grounds.

Now I understand this need we have for a good feeling.  I think peace is a good feeling, love has good feelings attached to it, security is a good feeling, harmony with my wife is a good feeling and feelings in general are important and not peripheral to life, nor to my relationship with God.  Evangelicals have underemphasized and diminished the importance of feelings in many areas including worship.  Sometimes I should feel the burden of my sin, the elation that comes with the joy of salvation, and everything in between when we encounter the Creator.

The problem with the Shack, and inane Christian songs like “Your Love is Extravagant” is that they aim for the feeling without regard to the truth content which necessarily distinguishes our books and songs as “Christian”.  One of the criticisms of CCM is that it views Jesus as my boyfriend (there is even an acronym now “JIMBee” songs: Jesus is my Boyfriend).

Those of us who are critical of mindless material, material that ignores truth content as it strives to elicit a response, find ourselves having to defend our posture.What is disturbing to me as a pastor is that this sort of valid criticism is often ignored.  We are told that we just need to relax, no one is getting hurt.

For me, it is like having casual sex with God. We woke up the next morning, rolled over and asked:  By the way what is your name?   It really doesn’t matter what his name is, I just like feeling good.  My apologies for saying it in such a way that seems to be in the same tradition as the things I am criticizing, just being shocking is not a guarantee of accuracy either.  Many seek to be heard by being provocative.  I hope that I am not simply being provocative with this post (although I know that the title is provocative, and potentially offensive), but that it also is an accurate assessment and critique, spoken in a way that will be heard by people who so easily dismiss criticism of their “feelings”.

What is so disappointing is that truth content and sound doctrine are  not contrary to the production of good feelings, or the accurate production of conviction, which would include emotions.

Our relationship with God is sometimes described in the Bible by using the sexual relationship as a model.  The Church is the bride of Christ.  If we understand the Song of Solomon as more than a marriage manual or love poem between two humans, then the metaphor of physical intimacy paints for us a parallel to the intimacy that we desire in our relationship with God.  As such, “casual” would not be a term we desire to describe our relationship with God.

By definition, casual sex is sex that is not linked to the intimacy of relationship.  In order for relationship to be truly intimate, it must be accompanied by knowledge.  That knowledge must be personal and accurate.  Foregoing the pursuit of knowledge reduces the level of intimacy and causes our relationship to move more toward the casual which ultimately is unsatisfying.

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Amazing Grace in the Coliseum in Rome

Here is a great rendition of Amazing Grace, tough to do an old classic impressively, but the environment helps, and they sing pretty good too.

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more about “Il Divo – Amazing Grace“, posted with vodpod

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Free Christmas Music

Go to the Garritan Christmas Project for 19 free MP3 downloads.

“A community of musicians from all over the world met on the Garritan community forum and agreed to submit their own recordings of holiday music, to be freely distributed. Each of these orchestral recordings were made not with large live orchestras in vast recording studios at huge expense, but rather were created by a single person working on their own desktop or laptop computer. What they have in common is the use of Garritan libraries representing software musical instruments based on samples of real instruments.” (From the Garritan website: http://garritan.com/Xmas.html)

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