Worship ~ part 1

The following is the article I submitted to The News Tribune (Tacoma) for Sunday, June 6. It is part one of two focusing on worship in what looks to be a post-pandemic period. Part two will be published on June 20 so keep your eyes peeled. To God be the glory!


A question was posted on social media recently; a question that harvested a number of responses. Mine was not one of them, but I was tempted. I held off to carefully consider my response and not risk a full-scale social media debate that rarely produces anything constructive. Rather, I am choosing to share my response with you as a way to discern what is next for the church in what looks like a post-pandemic world. So first the question:

Does a Christian have to go to worship?

There are a couple things being inferred in this question, intentional or not – both of which are beyond the scope of a 500-word article I am allotted each time in this paper. So, consider this article part one, with part two coming on June 20. I realize the suspense may be difficult but please hang with me. I believe it will be worth your time.

The two inferences to the above question are, (1) Does a Christian have to worship, and (2) Does a Christian have to go to worship? I propose these two inferences because “going to worship” can imply the act of worship or a place where others gather for worship.  And both of these questions are important to consider in a post-pandemic world.

The first inference question, “Do I have to worship?”, has two responses from me. The first is that everyone worships whether you admit it or not. Worship is simply whatever or whomever you give utmost importance and attention. The second response is this, the question is un-Christian. What I mean, is that a Christian, one who has the Spirit of God living in them, bearing witness to their spirit that they are a child of God (Romans 8:12-17), does not ask this question. Why? Because worship of God the Father is a natural outflow because of what you know of God and what He has done for you. Through Jesus Christ, you are made righteous and thus are no longer under condemnation. God condemned sin in Jesus, that you may live. And when the sinner realizes this through the gift of faith, one’s heart explodes in worship. Worship takes many forms, but however it looks, it is done joyfully and without asking, “Do I have to?”. For a saved sinner, worship is as natural as breathing.

Can you see how this is an un-Christian question? Therefore, the only proper response to the question is this: NO! A Christian does not HAVE to worship. A Christian GETS to worship this awesome God. But the issue is definitely not settled because the next inference is this, which I will deal with on June 20, Does a Christian have to “go to” worship?” Is corporate worship – worshiping with others – important?

This is my response to part one of this question. More can be said, but that is enough for now. Prayerfully consider this question: Do you have to or do you get to worship? So there you have it. I’ll see you on the 20th. To God be the glory, Amen.

Sacrifice

Freedom, grace, mercy, peace.
They are not free.
They are costly.
Many have given their lives.
Many have sacrificed much.
Oh so much.
But too many forget –
taking for granted,
simply enjoying a “long weekend”,
a peaceful life.
But what is peace?
Are you really at peace?
Many have died that we my ask this question.
One has died that true peace may be had.
Let us not forget the many,
and do not forget the One.
Freedom, grace, mercy, peace.
Given through the sacrifice of many – For now.
Given through the grace of One – Forever.
Remember now
Know forever.

Steal Me Away

Father God,
Steal away my affections from the world who holds me captive.
Steal away my affections from myself who clings to the lies sold to me.
Steal away my affections for false gods and worldly pleasures.
Destroy my misguded sense of obligation to satify the flesh; to pay it back for promises on which it cannot deliver. The flesh can only deliver death, but through Jesus Christ You are life.
Steal away my gaze that I may know You more intimately.
Steal away my heart that I may desire You more passionately.
Steal away my mind that I may long for you more deeply.
O God,
I am lost without You.
I am weak without You.
I am defeated without You.
Father God almighty, sovereign Lord of Creation, the great shepherd of the Sheep,
Steal me away and hide me in Jesus.
Secure
Safe
Forever
Father God,
Steal me away.

The River

Relentless
Powerful
Uninhibited
Purposeful
Your waters flow
To fall in I would be carried away in Your current.
To fight would be a losing battle.
To acquiesce
To surrender
would be to go with Your flow
Not mine
To be carried away is to end up,
somewhere.
You know
So here I go,
I want jump in.

Blind

It is You that I seek,
O God,
It is You.
I search and fumble.
I trip and fall.
I reach and grasp.
I seek and can’t find.
I am as a blind man in an unfamiliar room –
a fool seeking my own way.
O God,
I desperately want You.
Lead me by Your Spirit and may I not grasp with my flesh.

When I stray,
bring me back.

When I fall,
pick me up.

When I become conceited,
knock me down.

When I am lost,
show me I am found.

When I pull away,
pull me in.

When I get tired,
carry me.

When Satan comes for me
may I know that You are for me –
hidden in Jesus.

Yes!

Hide me in Jesus.
May I live by the Spirit

being lead

for that is the only way.
In this life I am blind;
on my own I am lost.
Find me and lead me,
for It is You that I seek,

only
You

More

I gaze at the glass-like beauty as it,
Reflects it’s surroundings
Hosts the song of birds
Teams with life unseen
Yet,
It is just a glimpse.
There is so much More that I haven’t experienced – More to be known.
I can’t take it all in with a single gaze.
But I know there’s More,
and I want it.
I want to gaze at Your full beauty.
I want more than what I know now.
This world reveals Your handiwork now,
and I praise You.
But it is not enough.
I know there is More
and I want More,
More of You.

One In Christ

The following is the article I wrote for publication in The News Tribune (Tacoma) for Sunday, May 16. To God be the glory!


I am beginning to become unsettled by something I am starting to see develop in this country. Recently, in the state of Washington, the governor has announced increased capacity for venues that have “vaccinated sections”. People would have to provide proof of vaccination. This is just the beginning of those vaccination passports about which we have been hearing. People would be divided – vaccinated people versus “those people” over there. It is a disturbing move as we begin to label people and, dare I say, segregate them. I understand (or at least I think I do) the spirit of this move. Many people are hesitant about these vaccinations because of how quickly they were developed, and our leaders want to encourage more people to get vaccinated in the interest of public health. There is also a sense of urgency to open things up since we are all very tired of the restrictions. But I also see a very slippery and scary slope when systemic separation of people is normalized in such a fashion. Are we really okay with this? Will people openly and wantonly accept this? How should Christians feel about this?

That final question is what I have been pondering recently. As a Christian, no matter your feelings on returning to some sense of normalcy, separating people like this should bother you. It should bother you because it is not biblical. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are united together in the true vine (John 15:1-17). And then we have the apostle Paul in Galatians 3:27-28, For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, there is neither vaccinate nor nonvaccinated, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. I fear there will be churches that will adopt this worldly mentality and create “vaccinated sections”. May that never happen. Even now in this world, may wiser heads prevail and not try to lead us down the segregation highway. Yes, returning to normalcy is desirable, but separating, labeling, and shunning people for not getting vaccinated is not the answer. How can we call ourselves the “United” States if we are not united? I am not suggesting that we are united now, but systemic labeling of people is not going to help. But even more than this little word in the name of our country, in Christ we are united forever.

In Christ, you are simply labeled a redeemed sinner and crowned with the title, ”Child of God”. There is no hierarchy of sinners. There are no levels of “children of God”. We are one in the Spirit; we are members of the same body; we are children of the same God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Politics aside, let us come together and remain united as Christians as a witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the oneness that we share in Him. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.

Royal Guard

I am in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho for the LCMC Northwest District Gathering. This year we get the joy of being at Camp Lutherhaven Bible Camp – A beautiful camp on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene. This afternoon, as I was sitting outside during a break, I began to gaze at and enjoy the plethora of Pondarosa Pines surrounding me and I wrote this poem. The words speak for themselves. To God be the glory.


Tall evergreens all around.
Majestic beauty
Strength
I feel enveloped in Your love – a royal protection as
surrounded by an army of soldiers protecting a treasure.
I feel safe
At peace
Close to You
For the first time in long time I feel –
Untouchable.
I see the lake through the Royal Guard.
Serene
Calm
Tranquil
I need this.
I need this reminder –
That Your Royal Guard is not stationed here.
It was revealed here.
And it’s always around me.
It is Love
It is Grace
It is Jesus

Read

O God, You are not silent, for You speak through Your Word.
Open my ears to hear.
Open my heart to receive.
Transform me and remake me that I may better glorify You.

[From my prayer journal]

I wrote that above prayer because of a quote that came to mind. I forget the source and the exact quotation, but the spirit of it was that if you think God is silent or does not speak to you, then open your Bible and read. The Bible is God’s inspired, infallible, inerrant Word.
Read and hear, for His voice is speaking to you.
Read and listen.
Read and obey.
Read and remember.
Read and be excited, for our creator God is speaking.
Read and wonder.
Read and read some more.
The Bible is timeless and relevant. As Dr Steven Lawson has said, “The Bible is more relevant than tomorrow’s news.” And it will always be relevant. It will never go out of style for it is the Word of Life, Jesus Christ, crucified for your sins and raised for your salvation. Everything of this world will eventually fail and fall away, but the Word of God is FOREVER.

So…

Read, read, read…

God is speaking.
God is speaking — TO YOU.

Pitiful But Redeemed

Father God
I am a pitiful sinner,
But Jesus Christ,
My Lord,
My Savior,
Over Satan is the winner.
My soul You did redeem.
My life You did set free.
And now, O God, I am filled,
With Your Spirit,
With Your life,
That I may know true glee.
Sustain me now in this life,
And keep me close by Your side,
That all may know,
And never go,
The way of eternal strife.