Tag Archives: worship

What Part of the Gospel is Optional?

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Read the bible like you listen to a symphony.

Watch NT Wright talk about how to read the Bible. Great Video.

The Whole Sweep Of Scripture from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

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Beautiful postmodern traditional church design

I came across this church and had to share…

 

The Maxim Velcovsky along with designer Jakub Berdych under from Qubus Studio redesigned the interior of St. Bartholomew’s church in Eastern Bohemia.

 

I know looks aren’t everything… but this is amazing!

 

I’ve always been torn between old traditional church building adorned with stain glass windows and stonewalls, and the postmodern interior design. This is a perfect blend of the two. You feel the connection with tradition, however it’s reimaged and connects speaks to the future. Moreover, it feels deeply spiritual. The chairs look like saints or angels on bended knee, yet with the four chairs in the front the idea of authority is not centralized in one place or figure. There is instead a panel or counsel leading in front of the community. And without a pulpit the leader is venerable and open to the people. Overall, the design is deeply authentic and welcoming.

For more about this church or its designers check out this link or search St. Bartholomew’s from Qubus Studio.

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Worship is a gift

Worship is a gift, not that we give but that we are allowed to give.

Worship is hindered by sin one has committed toward other people. When one worships while in sin their worship is reduced to vanity and is offensive to God.

True worship is the highest expression on man. It is a reversal of the great command and the second which is like it, to love the Lord you’re God, and love your neighbor, because we first have to love our neighbor before we can approach God and display our love to him in worship.

Furthermore, Jesus said he would receive our love and acceptance of him based on how we loved and acceptance the least of our brethren. So if one does not love his neighbor why would they want to worship God the maker of man?

Worship has been reduced to an individual expression. It has become something one does before God, instead of something that one does before God and man. Worship has been reduced to praise rather that a holistic expression of a life before God. What I mean is that one can sing praise songs for 30min on a Sunday without respect for their actions during the week and consider it worship.

Worship is the command we are privileged to participate in only after we have obeyed his command to love our neighbor.

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Wonderful cross or place of death?

We often sing of the wonderful beautiful cross. And because our mind cannot handle the intensity or cruelty of the cross we grow numb to the brutality of the cross. Yet, we have to remember the cross was torture leading to death. Jesus experienced pain at the highest levels of the human experience.

The cross was not just some uncomfortable experience, like the awkwardness of telling a stranger on the plain you’re a Christian, or the embarrassment of getting to front of the line at the grocery store with a cart full of items and realizing you forgot your wallet.

Jesus died on the cross. He bled, and breathed his last breath on the cross.

When we sing of the cross it should be in the sober reality of what happened, why it happened, who it was that died for us.

The cross is the anchor point of our faith, not some pithy poppy featurette of the Sunday lineup. Our God died at the hands of his creation; the creation he loved and formed. Our God suffered and was humiliated by the very people he gave life to.

The cross is not wonderful, it the shame of humanity, and the glory of God. The cross does not represent the best in man, but the worst. The cross is the premiere exhibit in our museum of disgrace.

I understand why people wish to forget the cross, and down play its reality. As a humanitarian why would I want to highlight the cross any more than I would want to highlight the holocaust as an act of human civility and love?

All one should do at the cross is fall down before it and cry out, “I will never deny you again. With my heart and with my actions I too crucified you, but never again. I will serve the King whom I killed. He will be my God.”

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A new way or and old way to read the Bible…

This entire post is based off of Robert Webbers writing in Ancient-Future Worship, and all quotes are taken from that book, except where otherwise stated.

A new way to read the Scriptures… or maybe the original way…?

Robert Webber challenges his reader to read the Scriptures as he says; the way the Apostles and early church read them.

Now, if you’re like me, and you have been taught how to read your Bible in the past 50 years or more, then you have taught to read the Bible literary historical grammatical approach. This way is not opposed to what Webber says, but its focus is misplaced.

As a foundation Webber says we must read the Bible and see Jesus as the focal point. I’d think most of us would agree, but do we really do that?

It easier when one reads the NT, because the authors make Jesus the center of everything for us. But when reading the OT one must make the effort to see Jesus in all things. There is a fine line in what he is saying here between allegorical reading and reading Jesus as the focal point.

Jesus Christ is the focal point of the Scriptures.

“The apostolic way of reading and preaching the Scriptures is to see Jesus Christ as the subject of the entire Bible, the subject of all of history.”

“…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

Luke 24:27

“The narrative of the whole Scriptures is about Jesus Christ. We find him everywhere and in everything…

While the early church fathers are Christ-centered in their reading of the Scriptures, they do not neglect the Father and the Spirit. The life of the Son is in the communal life of the Father and the Spirit. The Father sends the Son to redeem, to rescue the world from the clutches of the evil one. The Spirit is the one who breathes life into the world and gives life to all the events and persons who prefigure Christ. He is present in all the events of the Old Testament, as well as the ministry and work of Jesus. He is now present in the Church and in God’s people providing us with a conscious and intentional life of Christ to all who live in his name. When we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is the one who gives us the new life in Christ. In this way we are brought up in the life of God’s community where we fellowship in the love of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

So the fathers of the church, while Chistocentric in their reading and preaching of the Scriptures, were also Trinitarian.”


“We must read and preach the Bible as true.”

This is not to say…

“Read it as if it were true.” That would be to read it mythologicaly.

“Read it and make it true.” That would be to read it to prove it.

“Read it for truths.” That kind of reading usually looks for principles to make life more successful.

How we do read the Bible as true?

1. Read the bible with an Ancient mind-set.

“The Fathers [Church Fathers & writers of Scriptures] did not see life as split between the sacred and the secular. For them everything is sacred.”

(This is the same proposition Rob Bell makes in his Everything is Spiritual DVD teaching.)

2. Read the Bible relationally

God is described through stories of relationship; illustrations of how He relates and acts toward man, not volumes of systematic facts (like this book).

“The Hebrew mind does not describe God intellectually in the abstract as though God is an object to be studied. Instead he is always pictured as the God who enters into relationship with his creatures…The New Testament images of God and church continue with this same emphasis on relationship. The church is the ‘body of Christ,’ the ‘bride of Christ,’ the ‘community,’ the ‘household of faith,’ the fellowship in faith.’”

3. Read the Bible in context, understanding its language.

The Scriptures are composed of many different genres of literature, such as law, historical narratives, letters, worship manuals, hymns, and both prophetic and apocalyptic writings. And at least one third of the Bible could be categorized as poetry,

“The ancient language was also one of paradox… So the narrative always has both a divine side and a human side. God chooses, calls, elects. God lives among the people speaking, chastising, directing. But the people live in the presence of God, who is among them. They respond and relate to God. They sometimes ignore God or outright disobey God and chase after gods of their own making. But God is always there.

Western thought—especially Enlightenment thinking—does not like paradox. Rational language cannot see how opposites are two sides of the same reality. So some want to read the Bible from the divine side emphasizing divine predestination and divine foreknowledge, but others approach the Bible emphasizing the human side of freedom and choice. In the Hebrew mind both are real and valid.”

Robert Webber would actually label this section, “read the Bible as metaphor.” He agues we come to Scriptures with our western mind seeking everything to have a literal meaning, when the ancient language was more of one that evoked a feeling.

4. Read the Bible so it reads us and speaks to our world today.

“It has the power to read us and the world because the text discloses the waywardness of the human heart. We should not read the accounts of the Human rebellion against God as a study of ‘some other person’ or of ‘that particular culture.’ Instead those accounts, while rooted in a particular history, reach across time to say, ‘you are there; that’s a description of your life, of your sin and rebellion, of your journey away from God, of your world’s rebellion… It is an interactive story of God and humanity. It reveals truth about God, but also it reveals truths about persons, societies, cultures, and civilizations.

The Bible also reads us because Jesus, who is our Redeemer, is also the model for our true living.”

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Justice or Charity?

justice-or-charity

Both justice and charity are mentioned in the Bible as qualities of both God and the faithful. Yet, it seems to me charity has somehow been subtitled for justice. People think they are supporting justice when all they are is being charitable. For example giving toys to needed Children during the Holidays is nice, its charitable, but its not justice. Those Children will still have to return to their families who are broken, possibly abusive, and most likely unable to provide adequately for them. Giving a sandwich or a few dollars to the homeless person standing on the corner is great and should be commended, however its still not justice. That sandwich only met the most temporal of his needs, and did not change his life, soul, or the cold park bench or overpass which he calls home.

Hear me correctly, I’m not speaking ill of charity. I know how hard it is to motivate people to be charitable, to bring in toys for children, or roll down their windows to give to the homeless. But justice is what is needed the most. Justice will help fight to root of the problem, greed, pride, and selfishness.Justice will help move a homeless person off the street permanently, by providing education and counseling. Justice will help end poverty, and war. The Kingdom of God is concerned about justice, as well as charity. But Charity without justice is like pouring water into a bucket without first plugging the hole in the bottom.

The Torah (the first five book of the Old Testament) imposed an obligation to maintain a society in which justice reigned. Maintaining societal Law was seen as maintaining Spiritual Law. You could not consider yourself spiritual if you did not carry out justice in your community. And when justice was not being maintained the prophets that their altars and places of worship would soon come crumbling down and they would be inhibited from worshiping God. Social Laws and Spiritual Laws go hand in hand. To live out justice is to take action against the evils of this world, but it is also to live out love, grace, and mercy. To live out justice is not only to stomp out the negative, but to live out the positive.

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Our love for God is expressed through our love for others.

Our love for God is expressed through our love for others.

love god love others-love others love God

Love God love others-Love others love God

Jesus said our love of him would be expressed by our loved for others. As we love outwardly, we love upwardly.

In Church today our spirituality is often manifested by how ferequently we pray or read, how loud and free our worship is, or by what divine gifts we operatate in such as healings or speaking in tongues. Yet, Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth says you can have all these things in operation but if you have not love, you have nothing. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matthew 7:21-23). In fact the verse which preceed this one says, “by their fruit you will recognize them”(Matthew 7:20) The things we do can not stand alone, all we do must be rooted in love, genuine christ like love. The love we have for God should manifest itself as love for others otherwise it is selfserving love wihich is really no love at all.

Matthew 25:31-46

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

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What is the highest form of spirituality?

In the search for truth and life, one inevitability is force to grow. But what does that growth look like? A child progresses from crawling to walking, yet, the stages of christian maturation are vague. What is the highest form of spirituality? What does a mature follower of Christ look like, act like, think like?

Christendom has taught for years that the highest form of spirituality has been a aesthetic lifestyle. From this thought monasticism was birthed, caves were tunneled out, monasteries were built and simple robes were sown. It was felt it one truly wanted to serve God to their fullest ability they were to shrink back from the world and dwell within themselves. These groups of people throughout the centuries sought out a mystical expression of their faith separate from the world.

In most other types of Christianity the mystic experience is rated as the highest form of sanctification.  In Catholicism the monastic life is the way of perfection, and mystic rapture is the highest attainment and reward of monastic contemplation and service.  In Protestantism, which has no monastic leisure for mystic exercises, mysticism is of a homelier type, but in almost every group of believers there are some individuals who profess to have attained a higher stage of sanctification through “a second blessing,” “the higher light,” “complete sanctification,” “perfect love,” Christian science, or Theosophy.  The literature and organizations ministering to this mystical life, go on the assumption that it far transcends the ordinary way in spiritual blessings and sanctifying power.
Mysticism is a steep short-cut to communion with God.  There is no doubt that under favorable conditions it has produced beautiful results of unselfishness, humility, and undauntable courage.  Its danger is that it isolates.  In energetic mysticism the soul concentrates on God, shuts out the world, and is conscious only of God and itself.  In its highest form, even the consciousness of self is swallowed up in the all-filling possession of God.  No wonder it is absorbing and wonderful.  But we have to turn our back on the world to attain this experience, and when we have attained it, it makes us indifferent to the world.  What does Time matter when we can live in Eternity? What gift can this world offer us after we have entered into luminous presence of God?
The mystic way to holiness is not though humanity but above it.  We can not set aside the fundamental law of God that way.   He made us for one another, and our highest perfection comes not by isolation but by love.  The way of holiness through human fellowship and service is slower and lowlier, but its results are more essentially Christian.  Paul dealt with the mystic phenomena of religion when he dealt with the charismata of primitive Christianity, especially with glossolalia (1 Cor. Xii-xiv).  It is a striking fact that he ranks the spiritual gifts not according to their mystic rapture, but according to their rational control and their power of serving others.  His great chapter on love dominates the whole discussion and is offered as a counter-poise and antidote to the dangers of mysticism.

…A religious experience is not Christian unless it binds us closer to men and commits us more deeply to the Kingdom of God.

-Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel, pg104-105

Often the isolated mystical expression of life does make us feel closer to God as get further away from the world. However, if we were to graph Christian maturation, this form of Christian expression could be compared to infancy; where instead of engageing this world one withdraws. It is like a child who is scarred of the darkness in a unlit room will just choose not to enter, instead of turning on the light and entering. And in like manner, the christian after salvation who now clearly sees the sin and depravity of the world comparred to hollyness of God chooses to retreat to a meeting place with God in the closet of his house instead of bringing the light of God into the world. God’s purposes for us is not to flee from this world but to redeem it. We are called to bring order to chaos, not abandon ship. Seeking the Isolation with God feels good because it feeds our selfish wants. And if we come back to the definiton that sin=selfishness then seeking isolation with God apart from the world is not only neglecting our duty to redeem it but it isa willful act of sin. The main expression of the Gospel is to love God and love others. We can do this seeking God in our closet. And just like the child who is scarred of the dark, it may be a scarry proposition for the Christain to enter into this world fearing that the mud of this worlds perversion might stain the white clothes Jesus just gave us. But we have to remember our righteouness does not come from ourselves but from God, and nothing we do can make him dirty.

Jesus prayed that we may become on just as he is one with the Father ( John 17:22). So it would seem that the higest form of Spirituality is not isolation with God, but unity with man, that we do not mature the better we relate to God, but the better we relate to others. Jesus in Matthew 25 says he will judge our relationship with him not on how we treated him, but how we loved the least of these.

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