Monday, January 04, 2016

INTERESTING E-MAIL FROM A STRANGER

I received this e-mail from someone I've never met. I've read after him and have to honestly say I wouldn't agree with his views on some things, but with this, I do agree. TOTALLY! [I've put in some clarification so as to express my own interpretation of some phrases.]


Relationship views everything in terms of a “person.” Religion views everything in terms of “place” or “thing.”

For example, people say, “I missed corporate worship.”  [Therefore I missed worshipping the Lord.] They are basically saying that they see worship as a “place,” something to attend, a “thing” to be done, certain songs to be sung, certain “things” you have to do.

People who see worship as a “person” worship the Lord wherever they are, in Spirit and in Truth. Worship is deeper than singing songs with other people. When you see worship as a “person” you never express a loss, [of worship] missing something or needing something you don’t have. You are satisfied with the “person” Who is with you always.

If you are satisfied with the “person” it doesn’t matter if you go to church or not. [This is NOT to say you don't desire to gather with believers, and DO!] Going to church will not add to or take away from that “person.” If you are not satisfied with the “person” then you feel compelled to go to the “place” or do the “thing.” That’s what leads people to say, “I’m going to church [to worship], and you should go too, because that’s the ‘place’ God wants us to go and that’s the ‘thing’ God wants us to do.” However “places and things” do not [always] lead us to the “person” and they can very often substitute for the “person.”

Even the Jews were so stuck on the “place” (Jerusalem) and the “thing” (the Temple) that they missed the “person” (Jesus). So God took their “place” and their “thing” away in AD 70 to show them (and us) that He wants us to be stripped down to a “person.” Yet here we are, in AD 2016, making the same mistakes. We haven’t learned anything.

If you are really touching the “person” then something like, “I missed corporate worship”  [Therefore I didn't worship] will never come into your mind or come out of your mouth. At its root, religion expresses itself as something lacking in your life when Jesus isn’t enough.


Paul here...


To read this and say or think, "Oh, this is denigrating gathering with believers," is to miss the point. Gathering with believers is a command, albeit, only commanded one time in scripture and that being Hebrews 10:25 and that without ANY time or place or sequence associated with the command. But gathering is a needed thing by all believers AND it will not be an issue if what is read in this e-mail were to be truly heeded by believers.

Paul B.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

MY WORLD-VIEW IN A NUTSHELL!

I make no distinction between sacred "things" and secular "things." ALL "things" are finite and only God is infinite. I view God as the "SOURCE" of all THINGS!  [That from which or from Whom all things come into being or are derived or obtained. See 1 Corinthians 3:21-23]  And, I view all "things" as simply RESOURCES. [Something that is available for use or can be used as a help in making life a little better]

"Walking after the "things" of the flesh" [ a no-no] is simply using or seeing "things" as the SOURCE for making life worth living. It can be ANY thing. American citizenship, family, appearance, relationships, job, recreation, preaching, church attendance, bible reading, giving, you name it. When THESE THINGS are seen as the SOURCE for what makes life worth living they have become an idol. God isn't, Himself, seen as the SOURCE for life.

"Walking after the "things" of the Spirit" [a yes-yes] is simply using or seeing "things" as a RESOURCE for making life a little better, but, all the while, seeing God as the SOURCE of it all. It can be ANY thing. American citizenship, family, appearance,  relationships, job, recreation, preaching, church attendance, bible reading, giving, you name it. When THESE THINGS are simply seen as a RESOURCE for making life a little better or more enjoyable they ARE NOT an idol. God is, Himself, seen as the SOURCE for life.

All finite "things" will pass away.  Only Infinite God will not pass away. Nor shall we once our mortality [finite] has one day at the resurrection put on immortality. [Infinite]  

So life ISN'T a list of WHAT to do or what NOT to do in terms of priorities. But it is experiencing and celebrating God in ALL OF LIFE and enjoying all the resources [the things mentioned above added to the things in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23] He has delivered to you in your particular realm of existence on planet earth.  AND, it is being a RESOURCE yourself for others along the journey choosing to introducing them to your SOURCE with the gospel message when possible. [Christ IS after all, the answer for life.]

Thus, I make no distinction between sacred "things" and secular "things." It's seeing the SOURCE that counts!

Paul B.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

REGULATIVE OR NORMATIVE WORSHIP, WHICH?

After my first article on worship someone asked the logical question, "How do you [asking about me personally] define worship?" Great question! let me introduce some of you for the first time, to the two words that are most often used to describe the methods/modes of worship and their content, in the present day. 

The REGULATIVE view of worship states [found in the Westminster Confession, chapter 21, paragraph 1] that ONLY those elements that are commanded or depicted in scripture are acceptable in worship. Some refer to this as an EXCLUSIVE view of worship because it EXCLUDES anything that is not directly instructed or at least pictured in the pages of Scripture. This view is generally found in the more Reformed or Calvinistic version of the theological spectrum.

The NORMATIVE view of worship teaches that whatever is not EXPRESSLY prohibited in Scripture is permitted in worship. Many people refer to this as an INCLUSIVE view of worship because it can INCLUDE things that are not directly banned by the Bible. This view is most often found in the less Calvinistic versions of the theological spectrum. 

These two views have been created basically by theologians [neither word appears in the Bible] to discuss the way worship services can/are to be done. As you can imagine, there is a rising theological argument as to which is correct view of worship for congregations in Southern Baptist life. 

My contention is that NEITHER view says it the way it needs to be said or understood. For example, sound systems are not mentioned or pictured in scripture, so having those would violate the first, I'm assuming. [Not to mention pipe organs or praise bands.] The second could have a visiting circus on any given Sunday, since those are not expressly condemned by scripture. If it would build a crowd some folks probably WOULD have a circus. [Just remember that whatever it takes to GET them there it will take to KEEP them coming.]  You see how we could parse the rules laid down by both systems of thought.

I believe there is ordered in the New Testament a "True Throne Room Christian Experience"  [my coined phrase]  of worship that is to be ours both individually AND collectively. You could call it "Relational Worship" or simply "enjoying Him!" This concept would have to be characterized by the word OBEDIENCE since that's the basic meaning of worship in scripture. [Abraham said, "The lad [Isaac] and I will go yonder and worship" meaning "obey!" Genesis 22]  The highest form of praise and worship in the Scriptures is obedience to Him and to His Word. This obedience is whether we are walking in life personally, or gathering together corporately, and that worship experience [privately/or corporately] will be NEITHER by rules NOR unruly as we engage in true worship. [The two-sided coin of true worship is obedience and enjoyment because He's truly worthy.]   

Here's how I would explain what true worship is all about. 

I'm afraid that most Christians do not realize that in the New Covenant [Testament] worship is NOT AN ACTIVITY like seen in the Old Covenant [Testament] with its Temple and feast days celebrations. [ALL of which Jesus fulfilled and accomplished] But rather, true worship is a way of life as we are "being" the LIVING TEMPLE in-dwelt by God and "experiencing" His very life. [Romans 12:1-2]  [Someone has called this "inside out" living, and I think that's a great way to say it.]

For the Church, whether individually [scattered] or collectively, [gathered] there are certain instructions made clear in the text of the New Testament, to be sure. But, those instructions are about "BEING" rather than "DOING."  [Think Be-Attitudes] As we're living/worshipping individually, we are to BE people who are BEING loving, BEING forgiving, BEING one who walks in the Spirit, witnesses, etc,. Then, collectively,[gathered] as we're living/worshipping, we will BE people who are provoking each other to love, prayer, encouragement, sharing the Word, singing or making melody, instructing the saints, baptizing or sharing the table of the Lord. [All the "One Another" verses]  When the scriptures DO speak of "doing" as in Lord's Supper, it's "as often as you do." 

But the WHEN or WHERE or HOW we are to worship assembled [gathered] ARE NOT things articulated in the text of the New Testament itself. The New Testament is NOT a book of regulations or rules that we are to "follow" by "doing" certain things a certain way. It is, rather, a book of guiding principles for us to "internalize"  [feed on the Word of God] for "being" the Living Body of Christ whether "scattered" or "gathered," BY FAITH!  So, to have organs OR Praise bands, or to have sermons OR testimonies are all valid tools, to be sure. But how you DO things [The tools you use] as the people of God is NEVER SACRED in the New Testament, It is how we are BEING/LIVING all of life, by faith, that counts as His people, THAT is what is the SACRED thing. 

The FORMS [tools for doing things] our living takes, whether individually or corporately, will certainly vary. Those tools will even ebb and flow and change WITH THE CULTURE. Church buildings are a cultural concept and may vary according to the culture in which we are living. All of our life reflects this variation of tools of course. Driving cars, owning houses in neighborhoods, having air conditioning in homes and cars and church buildings, pulpits, choir robes, lights, drama, short sermons, long sermons, overhead projectors, multiple screens, are all examples. These FORMS [tools for doing things] are NOT DEVELOPED in the New Testament materials  themselves, even the tools used in worship. 

But our FUNCTION [how we're to BE] as Christians individually or corporately is certainly DECLARED in the scriptures.

I read someone who said this, "Evangelicals tend to reduce the Corporate experience of worship [the WAY or TOOL used to do worship services] to certain styles:  1)__ Worship becomes a classroom for learning [Maybe Bible churches]; 2)__ Worship becomes a family reunion for mutual encouragement [Maybe congregational churches]; 3)__ Worship becomes a welcome wagon for visitors and seekers [Maybe Seeker churches]; 4)__ Worship becomes a hospital room for spiritual, psychological, and even emotional healing [Maybe Recovery churches]:  5)__ Worship becomes even an experience that is highly entertaining." [Maybe Modern churches]  I've experienced all of them. And, as you can see, I believe NO ONE of these modes or methods of doing church services is totally inappropriate nor does any one of these necessarily rule out the others as legitimate.  

But, here's the deal!!  I AM thinking that when ANY ONE OF THESE  is championed as the ONLY one or RIGHT one ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE, there is something wrong with our understanding of scripture itself. 

On top of that, I believe any one of these forms can BECOME an IDOL in a Christian's life! You might ask, "What are the indicators that it has become an idol?" My thinking is when someone DEMANDS all others fall down before and AGREE with a certain way of doing things they've overstepped SOME kind of line. But If they then get ANGRY when someone disagrees with them about it, you might want to assume they have taken it WAY too far, if not made it an idol. As I said, no one of these models is entirely wrong, but when any one of these is declared to be the ONLY model for corporate worship, it's dangerously close to becoming idolatrous,


New Testament instructions for individual OR gathered Christians are instructions about "BEING" rather than "DOING." As we're living/worshipping individually, we are to BE people who are BEING loving, forgiving, BEING people who walk in the Spirit, witnesses, etc,. Then, collectively,[gathered] as we're living/worshipping, we will BE people who are provoking each other to love, prayer, encouragement, sharing the Word, singing or making melody, instructing the saints, baptizing or sharing the table of the Lord. [All the "One Another" verses] Worship will be this kind of experience for us all!

Paul B.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

WHAT I'M THINKING ABOUT WORSHIP

I'M THINKING____There is not A SINGLE verse in the New Testament that even hints that the PURPOSE of the gathering of the church is for worship. The New Testament text shows that the purpose of the gathering is all of the "One Another" verses. In other words, it is for the horizontal relationships [plural] and NOT the vertical relationship [singular] that the Church gathers on any given occasion. I'm NOT saying to worship as a gathered congregation is WRONG. I'm just saying it is NOT the PRIMARY purpose for the gathered Body of Christ in the New Testament. I'm thinking that's where we are to be today as well. John Piper said this, "The very epistles that are written to help the church be what it ought to be in this age [are] almost totally devoid of…explicit teaching on the specifics of corporate worship" There are some things that I disagree with John Piper about theologically, but NOT this.

I'M THINKING____Many churches today may be reflecting an "Old Covenant" way of thinking about worship rather than a "New Covenant" way of thinking? To "go to" a place and "to do" certain things a certain way, misses the boat on worship entirely as seen in the New Testament. In the Old Testament people DID COME to the Tabernacle/Temple [House of God] to meet with and worship Jehovah a certain way. They did bring such things such as sacrifices and offerings all the while performing their rituals regularly that led eventually to the High Priest entering into His Presence in the Tabernacle or Temple on that one occasion called the Day of Atonement.  

But to see the Church in the New Testament trying to gather IN THAT WAY would be missing the point of the CROSS. Jesus Christ IS HIMSELF our sacrifice, our offering, our feast days, our cleansing, our sanctification, and all the rest that's pictured in the Old Testament Tabernacle OR Temple. Jesus IS our very life! We live DAILY in the presence of God and are to worship DAILY the One Who indwells us by His Holy Spirit. Worship for us is a life of obedience as we're recognizing His presence and enjoying HIM as being our source for All OF LIFE. Then there is a gathering occasionally to encourage and provoke one another.  [See Romans 12:1-2 and Hebrews 10:25]

I'M THINKING____A debate about “music in worship” is a bit silly, if not totally futile. From" no instruments" on one side of the argument [Church of Christ], to those who enjoy what SOME MIGHT CALL "entertainment,” [Lights and Sound, drums and guitars, such as we have in my church called HHBC which they would say qualifies it as entertainment, an assessment with which I disagree] you have a raging debate about which is RIGHT

But my question is WHY does the way someone musically worships matter to us AT ALL?  

In the New Testament music itself is simply NOT addressed, except being seen as a result of the Holy Spirit doing His infilling work. But things like washing feet, serving in love, sharing the Lord's table, teaching the saints and praying for others are addressed as a congregation. We call them the "one-another" verses mentioned in the first paragraph. Even were one to hold to the Old Testament as an example for worship, [I don't, as you can tell] it needs to be remembered that the Israelites many times used drums, trumpet blasts, silence, repetitions, singing, shouting, and numerous other interesting displays to glorify God. Nothing calm, cool or collected about that.

I'M THINKING____Jesus REALLY DID mean something special when He announced that the day has come when those who worship will do so in Spirit and Truth? NO LONGER is worship to be based on doing it a certain way, a certain time or at a certain place. Nor is it supposed to be based on one generation’s “form” of musical worship compared to another. IT IS A WAY OF LIFE!

So, as I read someone say and I paraphrase, whether in a room alone, or with others shouting and jumping with joy, or sitting in silence, or clapping to an electronic synthesizer, or with an organ or piano singing hymns, or just being intoxicated by his love as the Song of Solomon describes it, or even further, when we are reading aloud the Word, or feeding the poor, proclaiming the Good News to  the broken hearted in His name, laughing together, or giving our finances, LET IT ALL BE DONE to the glory of Jesus. We worship because we are reveling in His Grace and enjoying Him and wish to celebrate His matchless GLORY  [Greek "Doxa" meaning His "manifested Presence."]  whether gathered or scattered!

I'M THINKING____Wade Burleson got it right when he said this...

""Worship in many churches is either on life support or is dead. But it has nothing to do with whether saints play guitars versus Steinway pianos, or videos versus violins, or any other differences in style. Though many call the disagreements over 'contemporary' and 'traditional' styles of worship 'wars,' in reality, the REAL war in worship is the "internal battle in me." [All of us!] God calls me to rest in Him, to enjoy Him, TO BE SO captivated and enraptured by His love and grace for me, that I will burst unless I  actively worship God and give expression to what's happening in my soul." 

Wade goes on to say...

"Worship is an inner [spiritual] health made audible. If there is no soul-tingling, mind-bending, emotion-touching, will-transforming enjoyment of God, then there is no soul-tingling, mind-bending, emotion-touching, will-transforming worship of God! Worship of God is non-existent when enjoyment of God is non-existent. Sure, I can sing songs, play music, and 'do church,' but if there is no understanding of what it means to be fully satisfied in God, then there will be no desire on my part to publicly express my praise and gratitude in real worship of God." [Privately OR Corporately!]

Paul here...

I'M THINKING____I'll just quit typing and have a moment of worship myself.



IT'S SHOUTING TIME!

Paul B.