intentionality: do i need to go to church?

Category : taking action, worship

   

In the last few days I’ve touched on the need to intentionally choose God.  I also discussed how we have to make that decision, even when the path isn’t safe or easy.  But there is still another aspect of being intentional: our individual needs.   These are the things I consider the “personal preferences” of faith.  In other words, we need to understand what we personally need in our relationship with God. 

Paul said, “I have become all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 21-23) but he also said we should not cause others to fail (Romans 14:21).  We may have permission to do a lot of things, but doing so isn’t always the best option!  Recognizing what causes us to fail, and then avoiding it by changing our lives is important to our long-term relationship with God.  

I haven’t been to church in about 4 weeks.  To some that may not seem like much.  But to me it’s been a huge deal.  Part of how I’m wired is to need church.  Of course it’s not the building, the free coffee, or even the messages.  What I really need is the sense of community I get from the church.  Something important happens, which I don’t fully understand, when I go to church and see others excited about God.  

For me going to church needs to be a regular part of my Christian faith.  So what is it for you?  What do you need to do that keeps you centered on God?  What do you need to avoid so that you aren’t tempted?

Answer those questions and you’ll have a better idea of how you need to live your life to remain close to God.

worship: when it’s no longer fun

Category : Jesus, hope, sin, worship

   

“What has happened to all your joy?” (Galatians 4:15)

There are days when we get into a rut, where we lose the excitement in our lives.  It happens with work, with friends, and even with fun.  In fact, it happens with everything.  It’s too easy to lose sight of why you started on something as you get hassled with new responsibilities and new requirements.  Have you ever started on a project, something you really wanted to do, only to lose interest?  For me it was writing a book.  For you maybe it’s building a classic car or learning a foreign language, or maybe even just finding more time to spend with people you care about.

When you began didn’t you feel a bit of excitement?  Wasn’t there a time where you couldn’t wait to get home so you could work on it?  But that doesn’t last, does it?  Things start out with so much potential, but before long you’ve become bogged down in details and lose sight of why you started it in the first place.

In a way that was happening to the Galatians.  They had started enthusiasm for knowing Jesus.  They were living completely sacrificial lives.  So much so Paul exclaims, “you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.”  Now that’s commitment!  And yet, somewhere along the way they got bogged down in legalism and their joy was crushed.

Of course it’s not only the Galatians that have this problem.  We do too.  Or at least I know I do.  Some days I’m overwhelmed by what it means to be a Christian.  I begin to worry about sinning.  I worry about being generous.  I worry about being a good example of what Christ has done in my life.  I worry about my temper or my greed.  I worry that I’ll never be able to really live up to the expectations Jesus has of me. It becomes a burden instead of freedom.

When I’m feeling this way the first thing to go is the joy and the excitement I feel about worshiping God. I look at it as an obligation.  A formality.  A duty.  Just one more thing to “do.”

Of course this is entirely the wrong perspective.  Losing my joy at worship shouldn’t be a result of stress, it should be the sign of stress!  As soon as I begin to feel this way I need to stop and ask myself, “what’s the problem here?”  If I’m feeling burdened by my sins, I don’t need to, because Jesus has that covered.  If I’m feeling time-crunched, I don’t need to, because God tells us to rest even when we’re busy.  

We won’t always be joyful when we worship.  That’s part of what it means to live in a “fallen” world.  But if we lose our joy like the Galatians, we need to address that.  Paul clearly believes that joy is a natural part of knowing Jesus.  And I have to think he’s on to something there…

So the next time you don’t feel very excited to be worshiping God, stop and ask yourself why.  Are there serious problems in your life that you need to address?  Or are you just burdening yourself with useless legalism?

worship

Category : David, God, bible, different, worship

   

David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.  (2 Samuel 6: 14-16)

 

When I try and figure out how God wants me to act, I often look at people whose lives are clearly touched by him.  What is it that sets them apart?  What is it that they do differently than the rest of us?  A lot of times I turn to the Bible to find examples of behavior I should try to emulate.  As you can tell by reading the last few posts, David is a great example of this.

So when I think about worshiping God, what does that look like?  I think David’s behavior in 2 Samuel gives us some clues.  Worship involves giving everything we have to God, and not holding back.  For David that meant wearing a linen ephod (think mostly naked!) and dancing “with all his might.”  David was so devoted to God that he didn’t care what he looked like.  He didn’t care what people thought of him.  All he cared about was showing God just how much he loved him.

Now sometimes when we worship this way, when we give everything we have, we find people resentful of this.  David’s own wife, Michal, despised David’s behavior.  She was upset he was acting in an undignified way, and stripping down in front of other people.

“How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”  (2 Samuel 6: 20-21)

I think David makes an important distinction here.  Michal is upset because all she sees are the people around David.  To her worship is about impressing the people around us.  But David rejects this and says his worship is “before the LORD.” 

It is easy to become caught up in how others perceive us.  It’s easy to want to conform to how other people worship (or don’t worship).  But we always need to remember worship isn’t for others, it is a way for us to move closer to God.  And any obstacle in the way we worship will only create distance between ourselves and God. 

give thanks!

Category : God, Jesus, faith, worship

   

I’ve been trying to figure out what to write for the better part of 24 hours.  I hate wasting time, so I always feel a bit of pressure to write something “meaningful.”  How well I succeed in that is, of course, better left to you to decide.  But my prayer is that God always uses my writing in a way that helps at least one person come to know God a bit better.

But today I just didn’t have a lot to say.  I couldn’t find any pressing problem or fear I was facing.  There didn’t seem to be any great need to write.  So I was a bit stumped.  And that’s when it happened…God stepped in to remind me that writing isn’t for the sake of writing.  That R3 isn’t about posting stuff, or updating a blog.  And it’s not even about you reading it.  It’s about learning to keep the focus of your life on Jesus.  Something I don’t always do. 

So today I’m just grateful that God has brought wonderful people into my life.  And I’m excited that God is moving in their lives, in ways that will bring them closer to him.   I’m thrilled that God is the kind of God who cares about us, and is willing to get his hands dirty to help us out.  And I’m comforted to know that no problem I have is too big, or too small, for God to handle.  In general I’m just glad that God is God!

Sometimes we need to just stop worrying about what we are doing, and simply realize just how awesome God is.  And isn’t that really the point of everything?