Monthly Archives: May 2016

True Christian Worship

Christians do not go to church on Sunday to worship themselves, but that is what many churches do today. You won’t hear the theme of their heart asking, “Was God honored and pleased by our service?” In fact, most people don’t even think of church as a place where God is adored, honored, and worshiped. Church is often seen as a religious gathering, a religious club, going to do religious things, which benefit those gathering. When this is the view, often this is what you hear being asked, “How was service(church)? Did you enjoy it? How was the message?” Then, as if this was a true Christian response, we say, “I didn’t like the sermon” or “the songs weren’t my favorite” or “I always feel so refreshed when I leave.” Since when did God care if you liked a sermon or not? Were you bought or did you buy him? Does God receive more or less honor from songs you like? When has church become about being refreshed and feeling good about yourself instead of being about God, and His being pleased?

I don’t mean to say that we shouldn’t consider our music, sermons, or general fruit of the services. We ought to and must. But our judgement of a service should always start with God and not ourselves. But that often means getting on our faces and asking God if He was pleased. It means not responding to these questions without conviction wrought by the Holy Spirit. It means not responding to these questions flippantly, and centering the questions upon ourselves.

When we do judge music, or sermons, or the fruit of the service, it always must be in accordance with God, His Character, His Nature, and His Holiness. We cannot believe God to be pleased with sermons that don’t speak with the pure and simple gospel. If they add to the gospel then they are preaching a defective gospel. We cannot believe music pleased God if that music or songs are ought of sync with what is being sung and are not praises or adoration or ascribing greatness to God. We cannot believe the fruit we see in our churches please God if there is no fruit. Wickedness does not please God. But love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control all please God, and all are fruit of the Holy Spirit.

If we want to truly worship as Christians, then we worship in spirit and in truth. We worship as a Christian to believes the gospel message that our savior died and rose. Our savior is God, and he demands from us everything. He wants all of it. And we are not worthy if we will not give Him everything. We worship as children of God who abandoned all things in the world and listen and obey Christ only. We abandon all of ourselves. We submit and subject ourselves to God. We worship by faith, the gift that God has given His children.

So when we talk about true Christian worship, we would do well to look further than the modern church that calls itself the church in the United States. We would do well to find men and women who care solely about pleasing their God. True christian worship is done by Christians who actually follow Christ. If you don’t follow Christ, then you aren’t a Christian. If you have a problem with that you must take it up with Jesus in Luke 14, not me.

True Christian worship desires God above all. It longs and pants for God. It desires for God to be glorified and honored and praised above all.

Christian worship focuses on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


Writing to the Glory of God (Part 3)

In two blogs last week I defined what I believe it means to glorify God by or through writing. I want to continue with that theme because there is much more to be said and added.

I want to first rehash what I said, and then add to it, or demonstrate some sub-categories.

“We write to the Glory of God by being Christians who know and love God above all things, and then writes about those truth’s or write’s stories that display those truth’s.”

This is a summary of writing to the glory of God, and there is much more I explained, and there is more to explain. For now, I want to add roots to my definition. I want to dig a little deeper underneath what I wrote to demonstrate where it comes from and how it looks like down under that soil.

The soil I have grown this definition in is God’s word, the Bible. One text that pops out in most Christians mind is 1 Corinthians 10:31. In this verse we see Paul commanding that we do everything to the glory of God. In the context of this verse, however, we see Paul talking about doing everything to please others, not offend others, and to edify brothers and sisters in Christ.

Read all of Corinthians and you’ll see this theme.

So apart of my definition in how to write to the Glory of God, I wrote, “and love God above all things.” Now, how do we love God? By obeying him and loving what he loves. God loves His people. And so one way we absolutely must obey God is by loving people above ourselves. We are to choose to love others over and above ourselves. I could get into much scriptural reference, but I will leave it at that.

So, part of Glorifying God in our writing is by writing for God, which means writing for the work of edifying and building up the church. God wants us to build one another up, love one another, and edifying one another AS believers. I am not talking about nonbelievers here. I am talking about other Christians.

One way we glorify God in writing is by loving believers through our writing. Written another way: by seeking to edify and build up other believers through our writing. This, of course, will come about in different ways. One way is by making the process of reading your book easy and simple to understand. Which means the actual writing to be good. Another way, if you are writing fiction, is by making the story a story that is built and established in a Christian worldview that will feed and defend and nourish the beliefs of a believer, even if it’s not explicitly Christian. Similar to many Christian’s love for Lord of the Rings, and Chronicles of Narnia. Another way is by writing what is true. We ought not to feed one another lies, nor glorify evil or lies. Evil must not be glorified, and a Christian must not spread lies and must do their due diligence and making sure they are spreading and writing what is true.

If you are going to quote someone, make sure they actually said it. If you are going to use a study or a statistic, make sure you work through it to see if there is any mistake in the conclusion or if it’s misinterpreted. Don’t build straw-men, instead, if you are writing to destroy or attack or defend against a different worldview, let the worldview tell you what it  believes, so you can accurately describe and explain their belief, and then work at bringing down it’s argument.

Don’t lie or deceive others. We ought not to spread falsehood or deceptions.

So, one part of seeking to glorify God in our writing, is by loving God, and we do that by loving who He loves, and so we love His people and seek their good and not our own.


Finance Focus

I have been learning to budget more and there is this one phrase that keeps ringing in my mind: tell every dollar where to go. When learning how to budget I was taught that you want your balance to be zero. You want every dollar, penny, and cent, to know where it is going. You want your budget’s balance to reach zero.

Which means maybe putting more into savings, or putting some into giving. Free floating money is dangerous because then it will go wherever. And most people live with all their money free floating, not knowing how or where it’s going to be spent.

So, as I learn to budget, I keep thinking about where everything is to go, where I want it all to go, how much is coming in, and getting that balance to zero.

Which I believe also can apply to our time spent. As I wrote yesterday, I want to focus more on my family. Now that I’m endeavoring to do this I must be intentional with all of my time, and give my family an abundance of time purposefully. Instead of being on the phone I need to remind myself that my family is here and that means it’s family time. If I want down time I need to schedule it in. Otherwise our minutes are spent much like our dollars, without thought or intention, and going wherever.

Some people I know are busy doing many things. They are always running errands. Which isn’t good or bad, but I wonder if they planned a little more, they could get more done.

Sometimes the hard part is not planning but following through and focus. And that may be tomorrow’s topic.


Family Focus

God has recently moved me to focus more on my family. What this means is learning to spend my time wisely and not letting my minutes be wasted on trivial pursuits that are fruitless at the expense of my family.

Over the course of two years of marriage and being a father I have seen the need to cut time somewhere. The sad fact is often the time I cut is with my family, my bride and my son. Which should not be. God has given me a great responsibility as a husband and a father to care for my family. Every man who is the head of his household must be shepherd, priest, and prophet. He must provide and guide, he must lead in devotion to God, and he must speak into the lives of those under him. And I have failed in numerous ways.

Many people have looked at me and seen me as an example. But I admit today that I fail in being an example. By comparison to others, sure I may be better. But to compare man with man is folly. I can always find someone worse and I can always find someone better. What we as men need to do is follow Christ and compare ourselves to both, who he is, and also what he tells us to do.

We compare ourselves to who he is not so we can see where we fall but to see who we are. We are not Christ. We are not saviors. We are not redeemers of man kind. We are his children, his bride, the fruit of his labor, the building he is building up, his sheep. He is the big brother, the husband, the root, the cornerstone and foundation, the shepherd. We cannot be any of these things the way he is, but we can act like him in the context of our homes by obeying what he tells us to do.

And I have been told by God to remember that if I desire to please him then the first and primary place I must please him is in my home.

Which means that little to no time will be playing video games, on Facebook, watching TV, and the like. I won’t be hanging out with my friends as much. I won’t be going out as much. I will take every day captive and subject it to Christ. My time will be spent focusing on that which is to be primary in my life. Which is Christ himself. And from the joyful duty of seeking Christ and knowing him I will pour it out into my family.

 

I often think about how I want more Christian fellowship, and God has given me a place for that: my home. I want to worship him more with other believers. And that is within my home.

I ask that no one takes this out of context. This does not mean I won’t be meeting regularly with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. It means that I acknowledge that God has given me as a man brothers and sisters (my wife and one day my son) to worship him with. He has given me a place to minister. And I must labor and toil and work and sweat in this field, and because of Christ’s sacrifice the ground will not produce thistles but healthy and strong branches.

I desire to know God more and love my neighbor as myself. How can I love my neighbor if I ignore my neighbors within my own household?


Writing to the Glory of God (Part 2)

We now need to continue defining glorify. What would be a good definition of glorify when we are speaking about God?

As I pointed out last post, glorify doesn’t mean adding to God something he doesn’t possess. I will also say that glorifying God doesn’t mean exaggerating what he has done. When it was said of Saul that he slayed his thousands and David his tens of thousands, it was figurative language to show the kingliness of these men while also demonstrating who was the better king. The truth is, however, that we have no idea if David killed ten thousand people himself. His army certainly. And thus, we have figure of speech.

When it comes to speaking about God, there is no exaggerating. You cannot go beyond saying God is the creator of all things. There is no one greater. These aren’t exaggerations but facts. With God we cannot praise him figuratively. Our praise, even when we aim to accurately speak of his works, falls short of how glorious he is. Which is opposite when we praise others. When we praise others we take what they did and exaggerate it. David killed his tens of thousands. Molly wrote the best modern novel. Jack is the greatest mechanic. These statements aren’t fact but figurative language that is trying to demonstrate something about them.

So, to glorify God is to speak of him truly and to say it in a way that accurately and beautifully represents that truth. Take for example, “God made everything.” This is true but it’s not praising him if left by itself. “All of creation sings of his glory,” accurately and beautifully speaks the truth. Now someone might say, “but that’s figurative.” This is true if they mean that the only figurative part is that all creation can sing. All creation cannot sing, however, as John the baptist points out, God can even raise up children from rocks to sing praises. Or, as Jesus said in the New Testament, the rocks will cry out if the children don’t.

So even though figurative language is used, it is used because God is so glorious that we cannot begin to explain and declare it. So, we exaggerate reality in order to speak of God’s greatness. Where as we exaggerate the person when we are speaking of their greatness. We cannot exaggerate God. He is far beyond us, and so we will continue to exaggerate reality to try to begin to explain and declare his glory.

Now that is only one part of what it means to glorify. But, this is primarily how I would define it when it comes to speaking about God or writing about God. There is also the fact that one cannot please God apart from faith. If we desire to please him, we must do all things in faith. Which is a far bigger concept that I myself have yet to dive into all the implications, but I believe it would be suffice to say that if one believes God has called them to write for work or just do it for pleasure, as long as they do it in a context of loving God with everything, then they are glorifying God BY writing. By is a key word because I believe one can glorify God in the act of writing without actually writing glorifying things. But that’s another topic for another time.

Glory, then, when speaking about God, is the greatness and holiness of God, and to glorify him with words is to speak of him in a manner that matches the truth being spoken of. If God is good, then to praise him is to describe that goodness in a manner worthy of that goodness.

Now that we have defined writing (the act of visually displaying concepts into symbols) and glorify (to tell of the truth of God in a manner worthy of that truth), let’s answer the question of how a man write’s to the Glory of God.

To write to God’s glory is to write as a Christian, who believes in Jesus Christ, and believes all things of God, hopes in all things God has declared, trusts in God, and then writes with that as a foundation but by writing books that display, represent, and emphatically push forth the beauty of God. That may be explicit, as in Christian romance books, or it may be simply by the driving truth within a story, much like how a tree displays God’s glory but not because it says it does but because it cannot help but glorify God by being a tree. So a story that implicitly glorifies God does so not by explicitly being “Christian” but by demonstrating the truth of God that many people might reject when you mention Christ but love when you mention a firefighter who runs into a building to save a child, saves the child, and the firefighter still dies.

So we write to the Glory of God by being Christians who know and love God above all things, and then writes about those truth’s or write’s stories that display those truth’s.

May there be more of those raised up. May I be one of those.


Writing to the Glory of God

I recently joined a Facebook group called Reformed Writers. It’s a group where writers who hold to the Reformation band together to write, talk about writing, aid one another in writing, and do it all for God’s glory.

In thinking about writing to the Glory of God, I want to actually answer a question the statement should raise up in a Reformed person’s heart.

What does it mean to write to the Glory of God?

And before that question can be answered, I believe it would help us answer the question if we define these two terms: Writing and Glory(glorify)

I want to begin by answer the easiest question first: What is writing?

To put simple, writing is taking the language of a people, identifying sounds with symbols, and putting those symbols together to form a concept or idea which can be seen visually. Language is primarily heard, but writing makes language seen. Writing is taking the language that is heard and putting it in front of someone to be seen. I could get into what language is but that may be another topic for another time and it would be useful, but I am primarily answering “What is writing?”

Thus, writing is the action of portraying spoken concepts visually. The action of portraying language visually.

So, as I write, you see and process all that I would have said to you and communicated to you by your hearing and by the sounds of my voice.

So I would define writing as the visual communication of ideas through written symbols. The author makes two decisions: What am I writing? How am I going to write it? “What is being written” is to ask, what idea or concept is being communicated? Is this a true concept? Is this a speculative concept? “How it is being written” is to ask, what style is the author (or am I) using? In what way are they(or me) trying to communicate the idea?

Now, lets answer the second question and then hopefully bring it together: “What does it mean to glorify?”

This is a difficult question to answer because we would continuously use words to replace glorify. We would say, to glorify means to honor, or worship, or praise, or admire. But to merely replace the word with a string of words doesn’t get us much closer to actually defining glorify.

We must then get deeper into the character of God. One way that we will never be able to glorify God is by adding anything unto His person, character, or nature. We cannot do that. He is supreme and nothing can be added to him. So, however we define glorify, it is not an act or action that can make God into something he isn’t already. However we define it, glorify is an act that must do something with what he already is.

To glorify would be to say something true and make it match up to the beauty of that truth. For example: We can say, “God is good.” That is true but no one feels the beauty of that truth. We must take that truth and set it in reality. “God lets no injustice remain and will punish the wicked.” Now, we are getting closer to feeling the weight of the truth that God is good.

It would be enough to say, “God is good.” But all language is meant to be used with not only stating but also using it in such a way that makes the statement be felt. So, if you want to glorify God with your language, you not only merely say that He is good but you use your language to demonstrate it as well. “All the good acts of all men everywhere from the beginning to the end could never match up to the good acts of God.”

So not only must the language portray a true concept or idea, but the way the language portrays that idea must match up with the concept or idea.

Next blog I’ll follow up and keep defining “glorify.” And hopefully after that we can then answer the question, “How can a writer glorify God by his writing?”

How does one write to the Glory of God?

 


Who do I side with?

I remember a time my wife before we were married told me about a sermon she heard. The sermon was about how the church  needs to break free of its divisions and work together.

My first thought was this: If he’s telling us to break free of divisions, what’s his agenda? The logical conclusion of what will happen when you “break free of divisions” is you break your convictions and join a whole new set of convictions. And that isn’t “being free of divisions.” You’re simply changing what you’re going to be divided on.

There is no such thing as being free of divisions. That will always be. It’s part of the structure of how God made everything. You are either a sheep or a goat. You are either a man or a woman. You are either for God or against God. And yes, either you’re a baptist or a Presbyterian.

The only way to be free of a division is for God to recreate a whole new world where there are no divisions or distinctions in matter and things. Which can’t happen because you’d still have the creator/creation division.

Now, let me back up to what the preacher was saying. Obviously he wasn’t meaning to break free of all divisions. I’d assume he agrees with the creation/creator distinction. I’d assume he agrees with all sorts of distinctions and things that divide us. What he was getting at was mainly that churches need to work together. And this is where the problem truly began.

What is a church?

You see, to say we need to stop being divided and start working together isn’t helpful. Especially if you aren’t going to define who “we” are and “what we” are working together for. The we is “the church.” So, once he defines what and who the church is and what the church is to do then we can start doing that together.

And that is why it’s a problem. People don’t want definitions because it’s those pesky definitions that cause divisions. “We believe in baptism!” Great, praise God. What is baptism and who is it for? “Oh, no. We can’t define that. It would cause division.”

“We believe in making disciples!” Great, awesome, praise God! What does it mean to “make disciples?” What is a disciple? How do you make one?

You see, in today’s social Christian gatherings done on Sunday mornings and sometimes evenings, perhaps even Saturday evening, definitions are things that must happen behind closed doors that only the elect few can know. To speak about it from the stage is pesky business. The people want a theatrical play and ambiguous words so they can get pleasure out of it any way they want and leave feeling good about themselves. They want to be “encouraged” and feel “refreshed” so that they are “recharged for the next week.” And to all that I say, whaaaaa?

What’s it mean to be encouraged; refreshed; recharged for the next week?

“Can’t ask those questions. If you want to know become a member of our staff, you’ll be told the secret things.”

No thanks. I pass. If you have secret things only an elite know then I can’t even say I know what you’re talking about. You may say, “Follow Christ.” I’ll take that to mean, “Follow the Christ described in the Bible.” But secretly you mean, “Follow a few of his words and ignore the parts that are difficult because that’s what I do.”

As you can tell, anyone telling me to “stop being divided and learn to work together,” is ignoring why we’re divided and if it’s division that’s actually preventing us from working together; and if we even agree about what we’re to work together for.

Division is fine. I have no problem with division. To be divided is okay in my book. But, to be divided on the wrong things is not okay. For example: Division in how one should baptize, no problem. Division on why we baptize, major problem. If one person says, “We’re baptizing you so you can be saved,” I go, “You’re redefining salvation.” If another person says, “We’re baptizing you because you professed Jesus Christ as Lord over all and you desire to obey Him,” then great, I’m okay with you and am glad to be unified with you.

You see, definitions have consequences. And if you’re trying to get people together by telling them to stop being divided then you have essentially done nothing. You lead people into working together by getting them to agree. Not on everything but on what’s the mission. What are we all doing?

What a church should be doing is preaching the gospel. But not every church preaches the gospel and some churches preach a defected and false gospel.

So if you feel the church is divided, maybe you need to realize that you’re the one dividing. Christ is ruler of His body and His sheep hear His voice. If other sheep hear His voice and follow Him then I know who those sheep are because they’re already walking with me. I don’t need to work on working together! I’m already working with them.

The person I’m obviously not working with is you because you’re telling me I’m not working with you. To tell me that I need to stop being divided I go, “Huh? Who’s side are you on if we’re divided?”

I’m not divided from Christ’s body at all. I am divided from those who think they’re in Christ’s body. And that’s a whole other issue.

So if you’re going to preach to me that the church needs to work together, I’m naturally going to ask: What are you talking about? God said in His word that we are being built up into a beautiful temple. God said we are His bride. God said He’s building us up. God said through Paul that we’re building one another up in love. So… If you’re not being built up with me and aiming towards what God desires us to aim towards, then perhaps you’re causing division because you are divided from us? Because from where I stand, all God’s sheep are listening to Him and following Him.

So who are you listening to and following? Who is your god and your christ? What is the gospel you believe? Because it sure smells like it ain’t the one I believe.

But now you’re being divisive Truth! Asking for definitions! How dare you. We obviously believe in the gospel, god, and christ!

Well, duh. Of course you do. They’re just a different gospel, god, and christ. That’s all. And God will divide the sheep from the goats.

Oh, wait. God divides? Weird.


Review: The Flash by Geoff Johns

The Flash, Vol. 1: Wonderland

The Flash: WonderLand by Geoff Johns

My Review: 4 out of 5 flashes

I enjoyed each the two different comic book stories in this volume and learned a bit more about the Flash, though I don’t feel as though I got a lot of the Flash’s abilities and it wet my appetite to know more about how he can use those powers. Most of the art I enjoyed but some of it wasn’t my favorite. The plot was enjoyable but there were parts that were somewhat dull but overall it kept my interest.