Thinking About Worship – Part 2

This past Sunday one of the most important things happened in our worship gathering since my arrival at our church and I’m not sure anyone even noticed. I know right now you are all filling your mind with that question – what happened? What did I miss?

Typically pastors are fantastic in their hyperbole. Pastors speak in a strange way they say things like:

 

This is the greatest

You are the best

This is the most amazing book

We have never done it that way

I will never do that

You are the best church

 

And on and on with the super hyperbolic descriptors. You all know what I’m talking about. Well, let me assure you when I say “the most important thing” I’m not using pastor speak. It truly was important. Has your interest peaked? Sorry, I’m not going to tell you what it was, but I’m going to share the reason why it happened and hopefully, these types of situations will continue to occur.

Setting the stage for something more –

 

Hunger

Are you hungry for something more from God? Do you want to drink from a deeper well? Our spiritual appetite will set the stage for a deeper worship experience. This is a positional attitude before the Lord. Come to worship hungry for the nourishment that only God can provide. Set the stage for your worship experience by increasing your hunger.

Clean Heart

This seems to be a consistent topic in my writings and teachings. Clean hearts – CONFESSION! What sin, bitterness, hurt, etc need to be confessed before the Lord? Is there a relationship that needs to be reconciled? Having a clean heart gives you the freedom to worship without hindrances. The heaviness is removed and the soul can sing to the Lord.

Psalm 51:10 – Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me

Take a Step

Within the worship setting, the Spirit of God is active. He is nudging you, calling you, comforting you, and asking you to take step towards Him. Taking that step is a risk. It is uncomfortable to respond to God, but I’m asking you to do. Respond to the Spirit’s leading by taking the step towards however He is speaking to you.

I believe these three things took place this past Sunday and something more happened in the room that was incredible. Set the stage for something more in your life and the life of the church by hungering for God, coming before him with a clean heart, and having the courage to take that next step in your walk with the Lord.

 

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Teach Me to Live – Lesson 1

I am pretty sure the Lord is working on me in a particular area, and I’m reminded each lesson how bad of a learner I really am. Remember, when I teach through a series, it always starts with me. What is God teaching me? Where am I learning or needing to learn? In 6 months of leading our church, it hasn’t failed yet, the very thing I’m trying to teach us a congregation I am learning privately.

A couple of weeks back, I shared a recurring dream that I was having. The dream typically followed the same pattern, me standing in the front of a beautifully ornate cathedral, the room filled will everyone I know plus some, and I’m always faced away from the people with the inability to lead or speak in their direction. In my dream, I would feel neutered and useless. As I was sharing that dream, it dawned on me that I was becoming consumed with leading and the accolades that come with the success of my leadership. I was interpreting the dream right in front of all who were there on that Sunday morning. The bottom line was regardless of my skill, talent, and desire, I still need help. I need help from the Lord to not make it about me and what I am doing. I need to be dependent on the Spirit of God to fill me and guide my leadership. Move forward to last week, the church hit an all-time high in plays on our podcast. My oh my was I hyped. People are hearing what I’m saying, and that is good. I felt super proud! Like before I felt a sense of accomplishment. We are doing it! We are going somewhere. All this prep and hard work are going pay off. I/we will get noticed, and we will grow.

Let’s move forward one more week. On Sunday we discovered that something went goofy with the soundboard and the teaching didn’t get fully recorded. This is no one’s fault, there really isn’t an explanation for it. This is why I say the Lord is working on me in a very specific area. I was immediately reminded that it’s not about me. During the teaching time, I had a small “out of body” experience where I thought to myself, this is good, people are going to like this when they hear it on the podcast. What on earth. I was focused on the attention received elsewhere rather than concentrating on the people right in front of me that God has graciously allowed me to lead. The people who needed to hear what was said were there to listen to it. I’m a slow learner. Jesus, Teach me to Live.

If I’m going to preach dependency on God’s Spirit, then I should be dependent as well. This is my confession that is very easy for me to slip into working in my own strengths and skill. My instincts and abilities are to promote and grow our organization. If I’m not dependent on Jesus, it will grow for all the wrong reasons. It can’t be about me. It is all about Jesus. I want to see people come to Jesus through Casper Alliance’s ministry. I want to see Jesus change the lives of all of us, plus whoever joins our community.

Jesus, Teach me to Live.


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Exploring Scripture – James 5:13-16 – Part 3

James 5:15 says this – “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”  

 

Have you ever asked someone to say a little prayer for you?  I know I have. I know that when I have a prayer request, it sounds a bit like that. It would sound strange and feel a bit weird to ask someone to “pray a prayer of faith for me, my back is really sore this week” or “pray a prayer of faith that I will perform well on my math test tomorrow.”  We typically just say, “pray for me about __________.”  

 

So let me explore the question, Is faith implied when I am are praying?  I would assume so, but I’m not convinced that is how I’m actually praying 100% of the time.  I believe this is the real heart of what James is teaching in verse 15. When I pray, I better be praying in faith because the prayer of faith has the power to heal the sick and the power to save one from their sins.   I’ve spent many lessons teaching people how to pray, but can I teach someone how to faith? The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, and He responded, “when you pray, pray like this.” When it comes to faith, the disciples didn’t ask to be taught, they asked to have their faith increased, and Jesus demonstrated His power and authority over creation, sin, and showed them God the Father through Jesus’ life on earth, and their faith was increased.  Faith, as defined in Scripture, is understood as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)”

I will rewrite James 5:15 with the Scriptural definition of faith inserted into it  

And the prayer of assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.  And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  

I’m not sure I’m always praying with assurance.  I think I’m praying in hope, but the distance between assurance and hope seems to be a long way from each other.   I want to bridge the gap between God’s assurance and my hope. My hope is flawed, and God’s assurance is perfect and faithful.    I picked up this study Bible a few years back that has some excellent notes in it.  The Bible is called the FireBible. The curators of the notes have included some compelling thoughts on faith.  

“Enduring faith involves trusting God in all circumstances.  Faith takes God at His Word and relies completely on His promises.  It does not base its hope on visible circumstances but on confidence in spiritual realities.”

That is a great word for me when pondering what it means to pray in faith.  Like John shows us in John 14-15, the more I know Jesus and abide in Him the more I will know the Father in Heaven and the more I will be aligned with His plans and purposes.  His precious promises are what builds my assurance and hope as I pray. My proximity to God will give me many experiences with His power and authority. When I’m familiar with God’s power and authority, I naturally pray with faith.  
 
The original question was, is faith implied when I’m praying?  I need to be completely honest with myself, I’m not always praying with assurance and hope that God will do what I’m asking Him to do.   This is my personal challenge to bring the distance between my hope and His assurance, and I’ve said many times in the past few weeks this has everything to do with God’s Presence in my life.  
 

My prayer is that I will live in His Presence so that  I’m entirely abiding in Him as I pray and day by day my hope will be aligned with His assurance resulting in praying with firm conviction.


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Exploring Scripture – James 5:13-16 – Part 2

Exploring Scripture – James 5:13-16- Part 2

I’m currently meditating and thinking through James 5:13-17.  The idea behind the “exploring” theme is to drill down a bit on a passage in Scripture and react through creating content on what the Spirit of God is teaching and revealing to me.  

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

In “Part 2” of Exploring James 5:13-16, let’s look at verse 16 of James 5 more specifically.  James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” I remember the first Sunday of my internship at Shepherd’s Gate Lutheran Church in Shelby Township, MI and how strange the liturgy(order of worship) felt to me.  At a point in the service, the worship leader came to a section in the service called “confession and absolution.” I had never heard of such a thing before. Here is an example of what the congregation was guided through:

Confession and Absolution – From the LCMS(Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) Website

We can indeed approach God with confidence. And yet, because we stand on this side of our Lord’s final return, we still have with us the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. We have not yet faced the final judgment. And so, with sin still working in us, the condemnation of God’s Law must still confront us, lest we have any delusions that we might have something to boast of before our mighty Judge. Above all else, Confession and Absolution keep us honest — honest with ourselves and honest before God. The act of confession is not some work that we lay before the Father’s throne; rather, it is the simple acknowledgment that God’s Word is true and right and that when we measure ourselves against its demands, we come up short.

God’s Word says “you shall not give false testimony,” but in truth, we have lied and gossiped and slandered. And so, the Christian confesses: “Lord, Your Word is true; I have sinned.”

There are three basic ways to handle sin and guilt. One is to ignore or minimize them. We’ve all been tempted in that direction more than a few times. Isn’t that, after all, what our sinful human nature is all about? Another way is to institutionalize them, especially the guilt part. After all, if you can keep people feeling just guilty enough, you will keep them coming back for more. The third way is to give sin and guilt their proper due, and then to silence them. That is the way of God’s absolution. With his forgiveness, our sin is removed from us as far as the east is from the west.

Christians know that, but they also need to hear it often. We need to be reminded that those familiar words, “I forgive you all your sins,” are not just some impersonal announcement. They say what they mean and accomplish what they promise. Jesus himself said to his disciples that the sins they forgive are forgiven (John 20:23).

 

So during the service, I was asked to confess my sins along with the 700 people sitting there with me.  What a strange phenomenon. It was scary and amazingly freeing. I was reminded of my failures. The Spirit of God brought those sins to my mind, but instead of feeling the guilt and shame, I was immediately ushered through the promises of Scripture that if you confess your sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.  It was indeed a faith-strengthening experience for me and something I will never forget as I lead a church. Confession and absolution must be a regular part of our personal 

walk with the Lord and our corporate church life within our worship gathering.

When James writes, “confess your sins to one another” he is tapping into this spiritual need that we all have.  We need to be freed from our sin. Our sin is a hindrance to life. Our sin is a weight on our shoulders. Our sin is the shackles that separate us from God.  Our sin holds us back from experience something more from the Lord. When we confess our sins and are absolved our sin by the work of Jesus Christ, we are restored.  Confessing our sin is embracing the promises of Scripture. James states one of those promises, “we are healed.”

Confession is a crucial part of the Christian life.  Confession is an essential part of church life. As we continue to develop our own liturgy(order of worship) let us think of ways to encourage confession as a component of our worship.


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Exploring Scripture – James 5:13-16 – Part 1

Exploring – Part I

I’m desiring to see God move in my life, my family’s life, and within our church.   Being the lead pastor of our church has given me a platform to share and teach,

 

but it is impossible for me to share everything on a Sunday morning so I’m going to expand my voice a bit through writing and creating content.  The purpose of all our church content is to inspire growth, grow in discipleship, experience something more from God, and shape the DNA of our church. I’m sure I could add more to this list. I want us to be a church that is offering help. Where real people are given a real direction to their lives on this side of heaven.  

James 5:13-16

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the 

church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in 

the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

 

This is a loaded passage.  Wow! There is so much to think about when reading this.  Recently, as a result of preaching on prayer, I’ve been thinking quite a bit on the manifestation and presence of God within my life and the life of the church.  As part of that thought li

ne, the idea of confession has been coming to mind. I decided I’d type confession into my study software to simply see what came up. My initial thoughts were to do a doctrinal or theological study on confession and help create a framework for its place within the church environment.  James 5:13-16, was the first scripture offered to read and like I wrote before, WOW!

2 Initial Takeaways from Exploring James 5:13-17

  1. You are normal –  James uses the word “is” multiple times when writing this passage: Is anyone among you suffering, Is anyone cheerful, is anyone sick?  He’s not asking this as if he didn’t already know. He’s reminding them they are all normal. They experience sickness, they are suffering, they are cheerful, and all of that is part of the human condition.  They are all completely normal. It’s remarkable what the human being can adapt to. It’s easy to settle into life’s struggles and that eventually feels normal. The human struggle is normal.
  2.  Be Weird  – James is offering an option to be different.  That option is to be weird. To be counter-cultural.  The option is to not settle into life and allow yourself to adapt to the human condition.  It is practical advice to counter the effects of the human condition. He’s reminding his readers that their lives are normal and he’s asking them to be weird.  If you are suffering be weird and pray, don’t settle. If you are cheerful be different and worship the living God. If you are sick pray for healing, don’t fight it alone invite the elders to join you in the fight.  All of those responses to the human condition push a person into alignment with God and His Spirit activity. If we were to be transparent those responses aren’t second nature to us, but the more we are living in God’s Presence the more being weird will become the new normal.    

 


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