Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Blast From the Past: Delight and Desire

This was first published on May 18, 2010.

Psalm 37: 4 says, "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." I was taught growing up that if you had God as your greatest delight, he would change your desires so they would be in line with what God wanted. and then those desires would be granted. This meant that our desires would become things like having bigger ministries, or other things that meant we were becoming better Christians. Another interpretation is that if we really delight in God, all of our wishes will be granted, even if those include a luxury car, a nicer house, and plenty of money.

Both of these interpretations have one thing in common. They both treat God as a kind of divine vending machine. If you put something in, you get something out. Usually the way you prove your delight in God is by doing more Bible reading and praying, by going to church more often, or by doing any number of practices. Any of these things are fine in and of themselves. The problem comes when we do them thinking that it will obligate God to do certain things for us. It doesn't matter if those things are material or not, if we see them as payment for the things we do, we are wrong.

We were talking about this in our gathering on Sunday, and I got to thinking. What if delighting in God is the desire? God doesn't put the priority on what we do, but rather on being in relationship with him. Jesus said that eternal life is knowing the Father, and knowing the Son. We are given life not just to live a moral life and then go to heaven when we die. We are given life in order to intimately know the Father and the Son. Everything we do comes out of that relationship.

When a married couple love each other, they each take delight in the other. That delight does bring about certain actions, but it is not the actions that bring about the delight, rather it is the other way around. The goal of the delight is not to get things from the other. Instead it is delight that is rewarded with greater intimacy, which brings greater delight, which brings...you get the picture.

I believe that it is that way in our relationship with our Father. When we delight in him, when our beings are wrapped up in getting to know him better and living in his love, God gives us the thing we desire, more intimacy with him. That causes more desire, which brings about more delight, and so on. As I look at Psalm 37, I see God blessing his people in ways that go beyond just material and physical.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Weekend Wanderings

A couple of major events dominated the news this week. And no, I'm not talking about LeBron or the World Cup. The first link deals with both of the major stories.

Here are the links:

Discussion on iMonk.
Eating together.
Emily T. Wierenga on letting go.
Richard Stearns on little children and borders.
Two side to the cross.

Desires of the heart.
John Frye asks a good question.
Scot McKnight on creeds.
Zack Hunt on the love of Jesus.
Booting compliance.

Spiritual discipline of scribbling.
For the weary.
Sean Palmer on making disciples.
Lisa Dye on busyness.
Matt Appling on doubt.

Things Jesus will never say to you.
Jesus at the Movies? Part 1.
Fighting God.

Well, that's all for now. Have a blessed week!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Church Signs: H.O.P.E.

The other day on my bus route, I saw a message on a church sign. The message was the acronym HOPE, with the letters standing for Hold On Pain Ends. As always, the wheels started to turn. I thought, "You know, that's true. Pain will end at some point, either during our lifetime or when we die." Then I thought of another way to look at it.

The message could be, "Hold on, pain will be redeemed." I know that doesn't work as an acronym, but that's the way it goes. In Colossians 1:27, Paul writes that the hope of glory for the Christian is Christ in us. Paul also says in that chapter that his sufferings serve in some way to continue or complete the sufferings of Christ himself. Paul saw his sufferings as part of the sufferings of the Messiah. The ancient Jews believed that Israel and the world would have to go through great suffering before the inauguration of the age to come. Paul, and the early Christians, believed that Jesus had undergone that suffering on the cross, and had begun the age to come with his resurrection.

Because the new age is not fully realized until Christ returns, there is still suffering to undergo. The early church got this. One of the reasons they could rejoice in the midst of persecution and suffering was the belief that the suffering they endured served to advance the kingdom in some way. They believed that because Christ in them was their hope of glory that their pain would not only end at some point, but that it would also be redeemed by God.

Much of the church today doesn't get it. A great deal of what is taught and practiced in churches is designed to alleviate and play down suffering, if not to pretend that it doesn't exist. Jesus told us that we would have trouble in this life. He never promised that life would be a piece of cake. Paul doesn't say that we have Christ in us, the hope of our best life now. It is true that we are glorified with Christ. It is equally true that the completion of that glory will only come when we see him. Our redemption is now, and not yet.

Take heart in your suffering. There is hope. Christ in you seals your glory. Your suffering will end, some day. It will also be redeemed for good.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

World Vision Wednesday

World Vision staffer James East writes about the continuing crisis in South Sudan. To get details, go here.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Weekend Wanderings

The last few weeks have been very busy around here. In the midst of the busyness, there is also waiting. A number of things are up in the air and there is a sense of not knowing what is next. well, this is neither the time nor the place for that, so...

Here are the links:

Fast food culture wars.
Oh By The Way Church.
God's will.

Jared Lafitte on expectations.
Abby Norman on being messy.
Chaplain Mike on reunions.
Keith Giles on hard lessons.
John Frye on the old rugged words.

Yeah, I do this sometimes too.
Slow church and the missional movement.
A simple faith?
Ignore the reviews.

David Fitch on caffeine free diet coke.
Adam McHugh on blood from a stone.
Good post from Miguel Ruiz.
Matt B. Redmond on the only really good news.
Rob Grayson on the long walk home.

Have a blessed week!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Blast From the Past: Worship, or Something Else?

This was first posted on April 19, 2010.

Christianity Today has an article about research that has been done that shows that taking certain hallucinogenic drugs can provide an experience that is similar or identical to religious experiences. Aside from jokes about staying home and just popping a pill to get a church experience, there are a couple of important implications of these findings.

Many churches work hard to provide a "worship experience" for their members and any visitors that may be attracted. The leaders strive to create an atmosphere that draws people into a sacred encounter with God. Things such as music, lighting, candles, incense, and structures can all be used to evoke a sense of awe and sacredness. My son, Josh is an architect and firmly believes that church buildings should be designed with that end in mind.

Some people go from conference to conference, from worship concert to worship concert. They continually look for a bigger, more meaningful experience. I can understand the feeling. I remember a few years ago I was at a conference where the music and singing was great, and I felt very let down during the service the next day at the church we were at. I think some of the excesses seen in some of the charismatic meetings led by Bentley and others is fueled by this desire for a bigger and better worship experience.

I have no problem with churches doing the best they can to create an atmosphere that helps people worship God. I enjoy a good band and good time singing. I'm one who likes low lighting, candles, incense, etc. I value times of silence, and times of call and response. I believe communities of faith should gather together for times of corporate worship.

What we need to be careful of is the danger of letting the "worship experience" become the the main thing. Whether it's in a Sunday morning church service, or a Saturday night concert put on by a renowned worship leader, some folks make it the center of their faith. It becomes all about the experience. Somehow the rest of life seems to just not be as important.

If our faith is nothing but times of "experiencing God" in between the normal events of life, then we really have nothing to offer those who do not know Jesus. There are many other religions that offer mystical, ecstatic experiences, including those that ingest mushrooms or other substances. If all we have is a way to have another experience, then we are really no different than anyone else. I know, we are experiencing the true God, while others aren't. Telling someone that we gather to worship the only true God isn't likely to convince them that what they worship isn't God.

When we place too much emphasis on the event, we do folks a disservice. When we neglect to teach them what it means to follow Jesus in the day-to-day, and give opportunities to live that out by interacting with each other through the week, we fall short. When we limit "discipleship" to a Sunday school class, or a small group, we fail.

Jesus didn't establish the Church as a place we go to, or as an event we attend. The Church is something we are 24-7. Discipleship is something that happens as we interact with our brothers and sisters in the trenches of daily life. Worship is what happens when we undertake every activity with the objective of loving and glorifying God. We show we follow the King of Kings by our love for each other and for those around us.

If the Holy Spirit leads us into a mystical experience with God, we can rejoice. That is not the thing we should be chasing after, and that is not going to be the case with most of us.

World Vision Wednesday

Thousands of children are fleeing Central America and streaming across the border into the United States, causing a humanitarian crisis. For more on why the children are fleeing and what can be done about it, go here.