Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Wretch Like Me

From Radio Free Babylon
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Fully Abandoned Worship

Another really good one by Lee Grady - Take the Test: Are You Fully Abandoned in Worship?
I was raised in a traditional church where people worshipped God reverently while holding identical blue hymnals. The only instruments in our church were a piano and an organ, and nobody got too excited except for the one old man on the front row who sometimes belted out an uncomfortable "amen" during the preacher's sermon.
Then, at age 18, I had a life-changing experience with the Holy Spirit—and I ended up visiting an African-American church on the other side of town. These people worshipped Jesus with no inhibitions. They flailed their arms, shouted "Hallelujah!" and swayed to the beat of drums. I was so energized by their passionate praise it that I couldn't wait for the next meeting.
I soon learned from studying Scripture that my African-American brothers and sisters were worshipping the biblical way, even though it was foreign to me. God never intended His people to hide their enthusiasm. The more exuberant I became in my worship, the more personal freedom I experienced. I began to leave the shallow waters of religious tradition. I ventured into the deep ocean of total abandonment.
I learned what it means to worship God with my whole heart—with no fear of people's opinions.
Many churches today have adopted a free style of worship, and some of the best praise music ever recorded is available to our generation. Yet I find that many Christians have still not learned the secret of uninhibited praise. Many of us are content to listen to a music team on stage when God never intended a worship service to be a concert. He invites all of us to be fully and radically engaged in extravagant worship.
Have you shed your inhibitions in worship? I often challenge people to compare their worship experience with the book of Psalms, which should be the standard for every church regardless of nationality, culture or denomination. Psalms calls us to joyful, energetic, unreserved, high-voltage praise.
Have you found the freedom to express your worship in these ways?
1. Declaring praise. The psalmist says: "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so." (Ps. 107:2). Praise is simply honoring God for His character and attributes. But it is not enough to just think nice thoughts about Him—you must verbalize how much you are thankful for His mercy, forgiveness and goodness.
2. Raising hands. King David said: "I will lift up my hands in Your name" (Ps. 63:4). I'll never forget the first time I saw a room full of Christians praising God with their hands in the air. It looked like a bank robbery! God asks us to raise our hands because our physical posture affects our hearts. Lifting your hands will help you surrender totally to Him.
3. Singing. Can you imagine a world without music? It lifts our hearts, releases joy and breaks the power of anxiety. The psalmist said: "I will sing of lovingkindness and justice, to You O Lord I will sing praises" (Ps. 101:1). Don't just listen to songs in church or mouth the words halfheartedly. Turn up your volume and belt it out—and don't worry if you are in tune. All God wants from you is a joyful noise.
4. Shouting. We don't think anything about screaming at the top of our lungs for our favorite sports team. But are you comfortable cheering for Jesus? The psalmist wrote: "My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You" (Ps. 71:23). The shouts of God's people caused the walls of Jericho to fall. Some types of spiritual resistance will not come down until you raise your voice.....
Much more at the link.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Big Difference

I've posted this before, but it's worth a re-post. From @CMichaelPatton

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When You Feel God Has Abandoned You

I recommend Amy Simpson's writing on mental illness from a Christian perspective. She knows what she is talking about. See Q&A: If you feel God Has Abandoned You.
I receive a lot of inquiries from people asking for advice about living with mental illness, loving someone with a mental disorder, and doing ministry to people with mental illness and their families. I can’t offer the kind of advice and help a mental health professional can give, but I can point people in the direction of resources that might help them. Sometimes it’s a matter of just introducing people to resources that are available. Sometimes it’s a matter of sharing my own personal experience and my own perspective.
Occasionally I’ll be sharing some of these interactions* here, for the benefit of others who may have similar questions.
Here’s one:
Question: I’ve been living with mental illness for a long time. I have worked very hard to be healthy, and I think I will always have to struggle hard against crippling depression. I know what the Bible says, but sometimes I feel like God has abandoned me. I won’t walk away from my faith, but why does life have to be so hard? Sometimes I doubt God loves me.
Answer: I can sense the tremendous pain behind your words. I’m so sorry for what you have gone through. I rejoice that God has brought you through such hardship, and I know that sometimes it’s hard to have that perspective for yourself. I also know that your survival did not come without a lot of hard work and hanging on to hope, and let me say I’m proud of you for pressing on.
The pain you experience does not mean God has abandoned you (Romans 8:35-38). It means you’re human and you’ve suffered–and your feelings have betrayed you at times. You have suffered in a way that most people don’t have to endure. And the good news is, God redeems our sufferings and has the ultimate remedy for them someday (2 Corinthians 5:1-5).
Please keep holding on to faith and hope in prayer and in Christ. I know that is not always easy, especially when you’re struggling with those very dark days. I hope you have someone to talk to, who knows what you’re going through and doesn’t judge you for it. Do you see a counselor? Have you considered working with a spiritual director? If not, I hope you’ll consider talking with someone who will walk alongside you and help you wrestle through this with God.
Also, here’s a Christian book I can recommend, written by a woman with bipolar disorder: Darkness Is My Only Companion
Are you familiar with Adrian Warnock? He’s a pastor at Jubilee Church in London and a trained psychiatrist. He blogs at Patheos.com, usually on other topics, but a couple of years ago he wrote a series on mental illness, which answers some questions and offers some hope. I think this article is the first in that series: Can a Christian Get Depressed?
And finally, I’ve written a host of other articles on this topic, some of which you might find encouraging or helpful. On my website, you can find a list with links. Scroll down below the video and the list of broadcast interviews. Here’s one you might find especially encouraging: When Mental Illness Comes Home.
I hope this is helpful and not overwhelming. I hope you will cling to the knowledge that God has never abandoned you and will not ever walk away from you. You have not let him down either. Your illness did not surprise or overwhelm him, and he is not disappointed in you. He loves you no matter what, and any message you hear or feel to the contrary is a lie. Please also know that while you may feel alone, you’re not the only person enduring this kind of trouble. There are others out there, and some of them feel alone as well. You may be able to find support with them. I’m sorry for your struggle and I will pray today that you will continue to be aware that the Lord is right alongside you. He loves you more than you can imagine.
*Questions have been modified to protect privacy.

Friday, February 27, 2015

50 Shades of Easter

On February 20th I visited our local branch of the Books-A-Million book store chain, and saw this display (pictured to the right) just inside the front door. My immediate thought was "50 Shades of Grey to celebrate Easter? Really?' Within minutes I tweeted the picture to the Books-A-Million twitter account with the comment "Really, @BooksaMillion? Really? Your recommendation for Easter is 50 Shades of Grey? #50Shades For Easter? Really?"

Within 30 minutes they responded: "Thanks for bringing this to our attention! It appears there was a misunderstanding. Could you tell us which location this was?" When I informed them of the store location they responded again "Thank you, I'll pass this along to my team so that we can get this resolved." I was hopeful that the offensive display was a local choice, and that the corporate office would reverse it.

Six days later (yesterday) I stopped by to see if the display was still there. It was. I tweeted @BooksAMillion again: "A week later this display is still up. Will anything be done? Does Books-A-Million support associating Easter with 50 Shades?" So far I have not received any response. If I do, I will update this post to include that response.

I also posted the picture yesterday to the Facebook page of the local store in question, with the comment "Based on this display in your Jackson MS store, should we assume it is consistent with your company values to associate the Holy Day of Easter with porn? Please take this down." Their response to me as posted on Facebook was as follows:
"As I personally am inclined to agree with your view, I would happily take down this display. However, Books a Million corporate does not view E. L. James work as porn, nor does a vast percentage of Americans whom purchased the book and/or viewed the movie. It is BAM policy to display seasonal titles at the top of our ranks and top selling items beneath. We do apologize for any discomfort this pairing may have caused and invite you to make a complaint with our corporate offices at your earliest convenience"
Notice that I was not trying to get them to stop selling the books. I know every book store is selling the books. I only asked them to remove the display associating it with Easter. Whether or not the book is considered pornography (and I do so consider it), we should all be able to agree that promotion of the book is is not appropriate for celebrating the Resurrection of Christ .I appreciate the store representative saying that he/she agrees with me, but can only conclude from the comment that the chain management considers Easter to be only a "season," not a holy day, and that the company has no problem associating Easter with the 50 Shades books and movie.

If this matters to you, please keep this in mind when making book purchase decisions. I do not think I will not be purchasing any more books or other items at Books-A-Million,

A Heaping Helping

From Radio Free Babylon
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It All Leads to Worship...

An important reminder by Darryl Dash - Theology is Doxology
When I sit on ordination councils, I begin with a mental checklist of theological issues to be covered. I want to make sure that the candidate is theologically sound, as well as someone who is qualified as an elder.
Usually I get a sense of the candidate’s suitability pretty quickly, and my focus changes. As I hear the doctrinal statement, I begin to realize again: This is true. This matters. This matters to me. It’s as if I lose my footing as a council member and stagger under the weight of the truth of what I’m hearing. It’s an awesome thing.
This is as it should be. I remember reading Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology for the first time, and thinking that he got it right when he wrote:
"The study of theology is not merely a theoretical exercise of the intellect. It is a study of the living God, and of the wonders of all his works in creation and redemption. We cannot study this subject dispassionately!"
I find myself listening these days to sermons by preachers who open the text and work their way into worship. They are theological to be sure, but they aren’t content to stop there. As they explain the text, they begin to be filled with wonder. It’s almost like their outlines are: This is true! Can you believe it’s true? Because it’s true, it changes everything! Somehow it never gets old to hear a pastor preach his way to worship.
Theology is doxology. It had better be, or something is seriously wrong. I never want to get over the truth of what I hear every week. What truth; what a God.