Thursday, May 26, 2011

Anatomy of Worship

     What would you have done?  150 days on the Cruise ship, "The Ark" and now dry land.  I never forget my first trip to Brazil.  We were there for two weeks, building a church.  That was the longest I had ever been out of the good ole USA.  Guess what the first thing I did was.  Kiss the US soil?  Nope.  Hurry to the baggage claim area to meet our friends greeting us on our return?  Nope.  I walked straight to the Golden Arches and bought two "biggie" fries, dumped them into the bag and chowed down. 
     We had a great trip and accomplished something good for the Kingdom and for a group of people.  Some even entered the ranks of citizenship for heaven.  I know a good mission trip when I see one, but this no "Ark" experience.  Imagine feeling the boat hitting against the peaks of the Ararat mountains, bouncing from one peak to the other until it found a resting place.  Probably a lot of jarring going on.  Maybe a goat on top of a camel, or maybe a chimp squealing as the hippo has him penned against the stall wall.  Then all of the sudden, perfect stillness.  Door opens and everyone looks around to take in the view of  a flood washed cleansed earth.  A sense of awe as they stood there, reflecting on the last 150 days.  Then it happened.  Confetti, horns, everyone running around, jumping, yelling, back slapping, high fiveing (new word), kissing the ground.  That may be a little overkill, but I guarantee there was some celebration going on.
     Noah, more than the others, felt the magnitude of all that had happened.  Through him, God is giving the world another chance. He had saved mankind because Noah had walked with Him.  The flood is over and now it is time to start fresh and new.  Wow, where do you start?  In verses 20-21 we find the answer.  WORSHIP!  Noah built and altar "to"  God, not "for" God.  It wasn't a matter of  obedience at this point, but rather, a matter of expression.  Noah had gotten a fresh look (150 days worth) at God.  A God powerful enough to bury the earth in water, yet compassionate enough to save mankind.
     We all come to places in our lives where we since God is saying this is your second chance.  No better way to start over than at the altar.  As we look at Noah's "do over" , mankind's mulligan, notice the anatomy of  his worship.
  1. Worship involves action or effort.  "He built"  - Sometimes I think we believe worship is something we "feel" rather than something we do. 
  2. Worship involves our best .  "He selected"  - God did not get the leftovers.  Noah carefully selected what He offered to God.  God forgive me for giving you my leftovers.   Help me to put the effort forth to give my very best to you.
  3. Worship involves our all.  "from every species" - Noah did not want to miss anything.  He didn't just offer animals he didn't like.  He was thorough in what he offered God. 
  4. Worship involves our sacrifice.  "he offered...burnt offerings"   We sometimes excuse ourselves from sacrifice because He paid the ultimate sacrifice.  His sacrifice cleared the way to God, but our sacrifice clears the way to a useful, fulfilling life.  Paul implores us to give our bodies as living sacrifices.  
Remember our purpose here is to learn about God.  My take away is this:  God responds to real worship.   There is no better way to start fresh and anew with God than to life your hands, fall on your knees and worship Him.  Let us exhalt Him together.   JOIN THE JOURNEY of  worship.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Monday, May 23, 2011

Side Street - Hope Sunday

     Hold on, we are on the exit ramp of our Journey.  We will return to see one more thing from the Noah story.  We will look at Noah's first act once he got off the ark.  It wasn't kiss the ground.  That's what I would have done.  That and ordered a "biggie fry" from McDonalds.
     Our side street today is in response to a great day at our church.  We had Hope Sunday, which is a day on which the church has the challenge and opportunity to sponsor children in third world countries.  World Vision was the organization that was featured today.  Just a bit of trivia, World Vision is the world's largest non-profit organization.
     I don't want to focus on World Vision, although it deserves all the attention it gets.  I don't even want to focus on the children that were being sponsored, as adorable as they each are.  What I do want to focus on is what it did to our church.  We sometimes fail to see all the peripheral benefits when we are responding to World Vision, Compassion Int'l, Feed the Hungry, etc.  All we see are the faces of these precious children.  However, it was far more than these kids getting sponsored.
     Let me make three observations of what took place Sunday.  Before I finish writing this, it might turn into 5 observations.  Some significant things happened that I feel will have a lasting impact on Crossroads Community Church.
  1. The Youth stepped up and took the lead without being asked to.  They did it on their own.  The first three children sponsored were by three teenagers who plan on using their own money to flip the bill.  That means that "things" moved down the priority list and the "least of these" moved up the list.  That is huge.  That first step or action toward a life of selfless response puts these young people on a course that will change their life forever.  It may have just saved them from the "American Dream" of more and better.  It shows a sense of personal ministry developing within their hearts.  It is easy to go to church for years without ever developing the idea that we are all ministers and must personally respond to God's tugs on our hearts.  Our young people provide a spark that we adults need.  Youth, I am proud of you!!!
  2. Our adults were challenged.  We should be the leaders, not the ones being led.  Masks seemed to fall and some real honesty showed its beautiful face.  One lady shared, "It's just a matter of making adjustments so we can do what is right."  That was truth unleashed.  Things that consume so much of our budgets have such insignificant value compared to investing in the lives of the poor and needy and in many cases the orphaned.  Once again, as with the youth, it is a step in the right direction.  It is step toward laying up treasures in heaven, rather than laying up earthly treasures.  Not only the desire to do it, but the desire to share it and validate it was evidence  that God was working in the hearts of our people.  We can go weeks without any tangible signs of God's working.  That is sad, but true.  Hearing the testimonies of those who have been sponsoring for awhile validates that obedience to God is a fulfilling experience.
  3. God responded.  The objective was to sponsor children.  The result was that hearts were moved toward authentic ministry.  We all felt the divine moments.  Our hearts were lifted as God responded to our giving and obedience.  When you do right, God deepens you, which will eventually expand you,  ministry capabilities grow.  Children were sponsored and that's a good thing, but as significant, hearts were challenged and changed.  Do we really need to pray about this kind of thing?  Do we need to ask God who we are to be neighbors to?  Do we need to ask if we need to help the widows? Do we need to pray about whether or not to witness, to serve, to love?  Of course not!  When we do these things we invite God into the equation. That is when the journey gets exciting.
I consider it a privilege to be a part of growing people.  People who are actively seeking to be real and make a difference.  Proud of my fellow travelers.  You moved me more in the right direction.  If you were one who was nudged, but not moved, you still were turned in the right direction and together we can JOIN THE JOURNEY.

Friday, May 20, 2011

God's Google Clock

     600 years old and the captain of his own ship.  That's what you call living a long full life.  Imagine, at any age, boarding the Ark knowing that when the cruise is over the only living things in the world will be what is on the cruise with you.  What went through Noah's mind when God Himself  "slammed shut" the door to the ark.  THUD!  It had to have been a solemn moment.  What was Noah thinking about God at this time?  Is He sure about this?  Me, my sons and their wives.  Why me?  God said, "In seven days"... I'll see you on the boat."  I bet that week went by fast.  Following the "thud" of the door came the sound of pouring rain.  Springs from beneath the boat and thunderstorms above.  For forty days and forty nights it did not stop.  I wonder how long it took before the boat moved.  "Did you feel that?"  "Feel what?"  "That! The boat moved."  "Are you sure? Oh, I felt it!"  Fear or fun?  The cruise lasted 150 days. The Bible is full of some really cool stories.
     What was God doing during those 150 days?  Interesting question.  Nothing alive outside the ark.  No disobedient wicked people to deal with.  No mountains to float into, they were all under water.  Twenty feet above the highest peak.  Just a free floating boat full of poop!
     I know one thing God was up to.  He was counting the days.  Chapter 8 starts with a cool statement, "Then God turned His attention to Noah..."  Chapter 8 gives us some insight into the mind of God.  13 times in chapter 8 we see "day", "month" and "year" mentioned.  There seems to be a significant attempt to frame the whole story in time segments.  It is as though God has a Google Clock.  We are all familiar with Google Earth, the ability to see the earth then zoom in to see your dog in the driveway.  It it amazing the see.  God has the ability to the same thing with time and our lives.  He is not limited to a 24 hour clock.  He sees the big picture and He knows when it all fits in.  He knew when the ark would nestle among the mountain peaks, when the water would subside, when the birds would find a place to nest.  He had it down to the day, the month and to the year.
     When we are in our "arks" and apparent destruction all around us, we are frantic because we are being swallowed up by the present.  Example: the disciples in the boat with Jesus asleep.  Life's splash gags us while God seems to be sleeping.  We have to understand that God sees the big picture and works accordingly.  What we see in hind sight, He sees in the present.  We have to trust the fact that God wants what is best for us and everything we are going through that seems to be crushing us is just a "day" or a "month" in the journey of where God is taking us.  I never doubt God's ability to handle my situation, but I do have a difficult time seperating my trust in Him from the pressure of the moment.  His timing seems to be off.  I find myself thinking, God where are you.  I need you to come through NOW!  Know this; He is looking at His Google Clock and is very aware of what is going on and when it will end.  It will end before it destroys you because He is in control.  So buckle up and JOIN THE JOURNEY!  Your ark will find its resting place.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

God's Aware of the Time!

     Hello!  It's me again.  Two weeks ago, I was on the road for a week and then, upon my return, Blogger was having technical difficulties.  So it has been two weeks since I've set at the desk and shared some thoughts about what an awesome God we have.  Feels like it has been months.  Your joining me along the journey trying to make sense of life is your ministry to me.  Just knowing that you are out there wanting to count for Him, encourages me to do the same.  As we journey together, we learn together.  Satan does not want that to happen.  It has been a challenge just to sit down at the computer and get rolling again.  Buckle up because we are on the road again, discovering more about the most exciting journey in the world.
     Let's recap for a second.  We spent our first couple of months looking at all the different ways God tells us He loves us.  He uses circumstances, people, nature, struggles, successes, blessings, Scriptures and and endless list that will continue to grow as long as we live.  God always wants us to relate to Him from the understanding that everything He does in our lives is based on His love for us.  That is so very important to grab hold of, because when life doesn't make any sense at all, knowing that He is at work on our behalf  simply because He loves us, gives us a anchor to hold on to.  Once that thought becomes a part of our fiber, we will face all of live differently.  I can't think of anything more important to know about God than the fact that He is passionate about you and I.  His power, His wisdom, His creativity means nothing apart from His love.
     We are now on the second part of our journey.  Examining the stories of the Bible to learn things about God that we can carry into our relationship with God.  We know why He does everything, LOVE, but how do we recognize what He is up to.  What has He done in the lives of those He loves.  How does it all relate to His big dream and how that trickles down to His plan for our lives?  That's the real question I think we are all asking.  What is God doing in our lives?  The more we look at His Story and recognize the different roles people have play in that story, the more likely we are to understand Our Role.  We sometimes have a tendency to separate His Story from Our Story when they are one and the same.  We are a part of His Story!  We have no real meaning apart from His Story.  We have to interpret our lives in light of His Story.
     Here is an assignment for you to help us get back on the same page.  We are looking at the life and story of Noah.  Look at chapters 6-8 and notice how many times there is reference to days, months and years.  On Friday we will try to draw some interesting observations from His attentiveness to blocks of time.  We will see that God's aware of the Time!  Glad you decided to JOIN THE JOURNEY!

Monday, May 2, 2011

See Ya Next Week

     So many of you have been so kind and such encouragers.  Join the Journey has been a good exercise for me.  It gives me the desire to look at familiar passages with a fresh approach, looking for nuggets I missed previous times.  I so appreciate you joining me on the journey.
     This week I will be on the road traveling and will not have access to a computer from day to day.  Take the week off.  I will return next Monday.  We will take one more look at Noah to notice God's attentiveness to timing.
     See you Monday.  Have a great week.

God Bless,  Keith S.