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Music Myth: Lyrical Content

I’ve been involved in worship ministry in one way or another since I was 4. My parents led the congregational singing and choir at my home church for years, and 36 years later, my mom is still preparing the music there for each Sunday. I’ve been in either part or full-time ministry as a vocation for the past 19 years, and in that time I have seen both the good and the bad of worship ministry. Over that span, I have worked in several different churches with several different Senior and Associate pastors. While each had their own unique leadership style and personal interaction with congregation members, each one of them had a similar thought. The good and the bad of ministry all revolves around people. The BEST  and the WORST part of ministry is working with people! We love to see people “get it” and grow in their relationship with Christ, but we also grieve when people “just don’t get it” and continue to struggle with the symptoms of an un-surrendered life.

That struggle manifests itself in many ways, and can create “myths” that lead people to take their eyes off Jesus and put them on selfish desires or personal preference. One of the most popular areas where myths tend to crop up is that of music in the church. Music is a deep and powerful gift from God that can be a great aid to spiritual maturity. However, it can also become an idol that takes the place of God and must be destroyed. If music is to be used for God’s purposes rather than our own, the idolatrous mythology that often surrounds it must be exposed and removed. With that in mind, I’m going to use the next few weeks to post on some of the most popular music myths in worship. Hopefully, this will shed some light on these issues and create opportunities for honest dialogue. This week’s myth deals with words.

Myth #1 – Lyrical Content

One of the largest fights I see in church congregations today is that of lyrical substance in worship music. Perhaps the largest issue here is the misconception that “modern” or “contemporary” music in worship has no true substance to it. Rather, it is simply a mindless repetition. Often, this manifests itself like the picture below:

 

Make no mistake, there is a valid point here. No one would argue that the lyrical content of “Be Thou My Vision” is much more rich and meaningful than the chorus of “I See You” when taken out of context (the song was written by Rich Mullins, and the verses are rich in content and imagery!). Even so, this instance (and others like it) are used on a regular basis to bolster the argument that the well-known hymns of the faith are “better” or “more powerful” or “more meaningful” than the stereotypical contemporary worship song. As a worship leader who sifts through both classic hymns and modern songs to build meaningful worship experiences, there is no question that some newer tunes simply cannot compare the the rich tapestry of songs found within the standard church hymnal. In fact, I’ve heard the term “7/11 song” attributed to modern worship music more than once. The idea there is that modern music uses the same 7 words 11 times in a row rather than having some real substance. The 90’s were filled with such songs, so I can understand the sentiment.  BUT… we must remember that there are two sides to every argument, and in our case, every myth. Take a look at this:

Now, before I suffer the slings and arrows of those who love Handel’s Messiah, please understand that I do as well. I’ve sung the first tenor part in the Messiah more times than I can count, and it is a wonderful experience. Even so, we must focus ourselves on the point of this post, which is the lyrical content. Musical composition aside, Handel used one word over and over and over again. In fact one might say that the Hallelujah Chorus is the epitome of a 7/11 song! Andrew Peterson is a modern worship writer, and just look at the word tapestry he created!! If someone had never heard the Messiah and simply looked at this meme, how would they respond to the 7/11 modern worship song myth? You see, we can make anything fit our own personal paradigm when we take it out of context and cherry pick for our own purpose. Taking things out of context is exactly what got this myth started in the first place! The fact of the matter is that both classic songs of the church and modern songs of the church have instances of repetition and instances of deep lyrical meaning. The question, then, becomes less about the lyrical content of the song and more about the personal preference of the listener.

Perhaps the largest reason this myth needs to be debunked has to do with the very people who make up the Church. I grew up in an era when traditional hymns were the norm in worship, but the switch to a more contemporary style of worship was happening. From birth to middle school, I attended a very traditional church with a very traditional music selection. But, when I got to high school, I started attending a youth group where more contemporary music was used in worship. Now, I serve in a church that utilizes both, and can easily switch back and forth because of my upbringing. However, there are those who grew up in a time before mine where traditional church music was the only way they connected to God in song. There are also those who came up after me who only connect with modern worship songs. There are also some adults my age who came to know Christ as an adult, so modern worship songs are all they know! They have no church tradition to hearken back to, so the lyrical content argument doesn’t make sense to them. If we are really honest, it shouldn’t make sense to any of us, because it doesn’t have anything to do with spiritual growth or kingdom building. Rather, it stunts spiritual growth and thwarts kingdom building.

If our lives are truly surrendered to Christ, then this myth becomes a non-issue because our personal preference is supplanted by a posture of submission to the Lord and to others. Only complete submission to Him will allow us His people to follow the instructions given to believers in Philippians 2.

Philippians 2:1-4 – “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”

As believers in Christ, we must put this myth to rest for the sake of other believers and other non-believers who are searching for something real and authentic in Christ. If all they see is church people grumbling and complaining about songs, how will they ever see the true freedom and joy there is in Christ? Let’s put selfish preferences aside, destroy the idol of lyrical content, and worship God together in spirit and in truth!

 

 

King of My Heart

As a Creative Arts Minister, I oversee many of the aspects of weekly church life that come into contact with our people. Website maintenance, graphics design, social media updates, etc… However, one of my greatest joys in ministry comes during weekly rehearsals and worship experiences when I have the honor of leading people in song. There’s something extraordinarily beautiful about hearing God’s people raise their voices as one and give honor, praise, and glory to the Triune God. One of the songs that has been very powerful for our congregation as of late is “King of My Heart” by John Mark and Sarah McMillan. Based upon Psalm 136:1 and Psalm 100:5, this song uses wonderful imagery to paint a picture of God being the mighty refuge we run to, and the song eternally on our lips. He is God, and He is good to us, even in the worst of times. Sarah McMillan speaks of how the song was written below:

“This song is about the tension we often find ourselves in this life. At the time I wrote this song, I was processing the divorce of my parents and at the same time experiencing the overwhelming joy of having children of my own. Both experiences changed my identity so deeply. I wrote ‘King of My Heart’ to remind myself that there was no joy or sorrow that could dilute the pure goodness of who God was. Everything I thought I lost, could actually be found in the Force of His goodness.”

 

While I have experienced different highs and lows (sometimes simultaneously!) than she has, I can identify with Sarah’s thoughts on God’s goodness to us. In fact, the Psalms have more to say about God’s goodness.

Psalm 31:19 – How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world.

Psalm 34:8 – Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength; an ever present help in trouble. 

 

In my own personal worship time, this song has become an anthem that keeps me focused on why I serve the Lord no matter what happens around me. I serve Him because He has been so very good to me! The tallest mountain tops and deepest valleys experienced in life simply cannot compare to the goodness of God. He blesses me in the good times, and He holds me together in the bad. Because of His goodness and unfailing love for me, I choose to make Him the King of my heart. It is my hope that this song blesses you as well!

 

King of My Heart

Verse 1

Let the King of my heart be the mountain where I run, the fountain I drink from, oh He is my song

Let the king of my heart be the shadow where I hide, the ransom for my life, oh He is my song

Chorus

You are good, good, oh

Verse 2

Let the King of my heart be the wind inside my sails, the anchor in the waves, oh He is my song

Let the King of my heart be the fire inside my veins, the echo of my days, oh He is my song

Chorus

Bridge

You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down

Ending

When the night is holding onto me, God is holding on

 

Spoiled Fruit and Yeast

“One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.” My Nana used to say that to me from time to time, usually referring to a newspaper story. It was usually a story about one person with bad intentions ruining something for others. Sometimes, however,  she would say it to me because my attitude, words, and actions were ruining things for myself and others around me. She wanted me to understand that how I acted and what I said had implications far beyond my own little bubble of personal preferences and desires. If I pushed, pulled, twisted, and deceived others to get my way, I would ruin everything for everyone else just to succeed in my own personal endeavor. 

The New Testament writings show the Apostle Paul dealing with the issue of personal desires being pressed through false teachings. In Galatians 5, he speaks to the church at Galatia about false teachings regarding circumcision. There were those within the church pushing for ritual circumcision as a necessity for “true believers” when Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection had removed the need for that Old Testament practice. And yet, some continually tried to reintroduce it as a necessity. However, Paul puts a stop to that issue in his letter to the church.

Galatians 5:7-10 – You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough!10 I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you.

False teaching spreads through the whole church like a little yeast spreads through dough to leaven the whole batch. One bad apple spoils the whole bunch. Sounds similar, yes? Paul’s words here are strong and to the point, but he doesn’t stop with coming against physical circumcision. Rather, he takes it a step further and speaks to the root cause of the dispute.

Galatians 5:13-15 – 13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.

This is the heart of the issue! For the Galatian church, the real problem wasn’t the false teaching on circumcision; it was the sinful nature of those pushing for circumcision cropping up and trying to take control. The “bad apple” was spoiling the barrel! Paul’s admonition shows he was aware of the true heart of the matter, and desired for the church to dig it out by the roots rather than simply treat the symptoms. Referencing Leviticus 19:18, which the false teachers would more than likely have been familiar with, he speaks against fighting against each other and encourages serving one another in love just as Christ commanded.

When we live for ourselves, we trend toward a “bad apple” existence. Paul names some of the “fruit” borne by those who live that way, including sexual immorality, idolatry, hostility, quarreling, anger, dissension, and division just to name a few. Not one to mince words, Paul calls these things exactly what they are: SIN. That’s right… they aren’t “mistakes,” “human nature,” or “just who I am.” They are SIN and must be rooted out through repentance and submission to God’s Will and Way. If allowed to continue, these actions and attitudes will most assuredly ruin whatever they touch.

Today’s church is no more immune to the dangers of “yeast” infiltrating our congregations. In fact, it is my opinion that we are more likely to deal with it now due to the “microwave culture” of instant gratification surrounding us. Thanks to companies like Netflix and Amazon, we can get what we want when we want it and how we want it… right now. From TV shows to appliances and more, our own personal desires are being catered to at an ever-increasing rate. While these things are not necessarily an issue in and of themselves, they can become a contributor to the push for personal preference over God’s plan in the church. We want the furniture, paint, lighting, music, classes, service elements, and message to fit our paradigm. If it doesn’t we complain until something changes, and if it doesn’t change, we get indignant. We pray for God to bless us and our church, all the while cursing those in charge because they won’t do what we want them to do. What are we doing??? Nothing more than acting like yeast in unleavened bread or a bad apple in a fresh apple barrel. Our actions “spoil” others around us, and cause dissension and division within the body.

God calls us to live differently. He calls us to share each others’ burdens… to look to the interests of others, serve in love, respect and honor those He has placed in authority, and submit to His Will. If we do so, our lives reflect being led by the Spirit rather than our own fleshly desires. Subsequently, the “fruit” we bear looks much different. That fruit is the only thing people see, and it is a telling feature of our lives and whether or not we have truly submitted ourselves to the Lordship and Leadership of Christ. May the following passage be what people see in you!

Galatians 5:22-25 – 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

Who’s in First Place?

If I were to ask you, “What place does Jesus hold in your life?” then what would your honest answer be? I mean, really… if you were totally honest with yourself, God, and me, what place would Jesus hold? I don’t know a truly committed Christian who wouldn’t want to answer the question confidently with Jesus in first position, but what makes this a hard question to answer is our human nature. That constant fight between the natural and the spiritual causes the answer to fluctuate more than we’d like. There are days when Christ is in first place in our lives, and it shows! I remember serving as the interim Youth Pastor for Tonganoxie Christian Church last year, and spending an entire week with 9 students and 3 sponsors at the Christ In Youth conference. What an amazing week!!! It was an easy transition to put Jesus first, because our entire lives were focused around Him that entire week. We had amazing times of worship, deep conversations, spirit-led study times, team-building challenges, and some serious stuff surrendered at the foot of the cross. Christ had it all, and we were free!!!

Problem is, the week AFTER the conference came, and we all went back to life as normal. Work deadlines were still there, a return to school for the students loomed ahead, and the daily grind of life in a world where Jesus is decidedly NOT first began to take its toll. For me, the weekly grind of ministry began to unseat Jesus from first place. For our students, things like football camp, soccer camp, marching band, school prep, part-time jobs, girlfriends & boyfriends, “senioritis,” and even family got in the way of Christ having that first spot in their lives. Jesus was no longer first, and our lives showed it more than we wanted to admit.

In Colossians 2:6-10 Paul admonishes the readers: And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. 10So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” 

If Jesus is to be that “head” over us, we need to be deeply rooted in Him. We need to spend time with Him in prayer, in meditation upon His Word, and in submission to His Will for our lives. When I speak of submission, don’t get that confused with following a set of “do” and “don’t” rules on a piece of paper or written in a book. We can’t just check off some sort of list each day and expect that our lives will naturally place Christ first. Rather, we have to develop a deep and abiding relationship with Christ through prayer and meditation that leads us into a life of loving and voluntary submission to Him.

This is something Satan fights against tooth and nail. He will do whatever it takes to get believers off the path to a real and deepening relationship with Christ, and we must be aware of this if we are to combat his tactics! He will use anything and everything against us, including other believers who do not have Christ in the right position in their lives. Committed believers in Christ are not immune to this, and he works overtime against those who publicly declare Jesus as Lord!

So, I ask the question again: What place does Jesus hold in your life? 

Are your personal desires ahead of Him?

Are your spouse or children ahead of Him?

Are possessions, status, career, or reputation ahead of Him?

Are you struggling with sexual sin, either by yourself or with another?

Are you struggling with anger?

Are you trying to fill Jesus’ place in your life with food, alcohol, drugs, pornography, exercise, sports, or something else?

All of these and more can push Jesus out of first place in your life and plant themselves firmly on the throne of your life where He rightfully belongs. That’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that there’s never been a better time than right now to recognize the trend, repent through confession, and return Jesus to His rightful place in your life.

If you need some encouragement today, watch this video of Kristian Stanfill’s “Draw Near.” Skip to the 2:30 mark for the song, or watch the interview too!

Leaving Well Means Grieving Well

Sometimes being a pastor is one of the single greatest things I could ever imagine doing. It is immensely rewarding to see what happens when God makes His plan known and the congregation gets behind it. To see people fully engaged in the process of growing in their own faith and spiritual maturity while they engage their circles of influence to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commandment in Matthew 28 brings a feeling of accomplishment and being right in the center of God’s Will.

But… sometimes being a pastor is one of the single most excruciating things I could ever imagine doing. Standing by families as they lose loved ones. Watching individuals and families struggle personally, professionally, and spiritually. Seeing the division within the church body over various items that may or may not have spiritual significance… Each of these and more can leave a pastor mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually drained, and wondering how all of this can possibly be God’s Will.

Even so, there’s a natural ebb and flow to these things when you’re firmly entrenched in a ministry location and living life with the people you minister to and serve alongside. There are always highs and lows in ministry, but the relationships you’ve built and the teams you work with help to enjoy the good and cushion the bad. Perhaps that’s why the hardest thing a pastor has to do is follow the call of God to another ministry assignment.

When that time comes, I’m sure many of you have heard that a pastor is going to try their best to “leave well.” This means the pastor is working to put things in place, make sure teams and team leaders are well prepared for the transition, and ensure that their departure will have as minimal an impact as possible. If a pastor does this poorly, it has an opportunity to set a church body back in trying to achieve what they believe God has for them to accomplish. If a pastor does this well, the effect can be much the same as shoving your fist in a bucket of water, pulling it out, and looking at the hole that’s left behind.

The hope in every case is that a pastor desires to, and does, leave well. Regardless of the circumstances by which a pastor leaves one ministry assignment for another, people’s eternal lives are at stake. With that in mind, any other issues must be put aside for the sake of God’s kingdom moving forward in that place, which means leaving well must be the intent. However, there’s an interesting and sometimes painful side effect for pastors when they do leave well and watch their former ministry location flourish in their absence. Grief.

This type of grief comes with all the trappings of losing a loved one, and while that may seem strange when looking at it from a corporate business perspective, ministering in the church cannot be viewed as a move from one corporation to another. Rather, it must be thought of as a familial relationship, which is a much more personal connection. There are deep friendships, familiar surroundings, spiritual mentorships, and other strong ties which, while not completely severed, are stretched quite thin in the process of leaving one ministry location for another.

Even though there’s an excitement and a newness to getting involved at the new location, the lasting memories and familiarity of the old location can linger intensely for much longer than one might anticipate. It takes years to build the relational capital and trust to make hard decisions and change ministry culture, while the old location had enough stored up to perhaps make headway more quickly. When you see success and significance happening in the old ministry location without you, there’s a torn feeling inside. You’re happy for them; happy for the ministry teams, the other pastors, and the congregation. Yet, you’re also sad that you weren’t there to experience it with them. The ups and downs of ministry where you are remind you of similar events where you were. And there’s always the “firsts” once you change locations. First major ministry events, first holiday events, first team get-togethers, and even the monthly or weekly meeting times… all of it leads to feelings that are hard to deal with.

And so, to leave well means to grieve well. Ultimately, as time passes, these feelings fade and become fond memories and genuine admiration of what God is doing where you were. It also leads to that much more excitement for where you are. If God did that there, why wouldn’t he do even more here? This is the silver lining in leaving one ministry location for another. God used you in one way or another to prepare that ministry location for what’s happening now, and He’s going to do it again where you’ve been planted anew.

Jeremiah 29:11-14 speaks of God having plans for the nation of Israel. They had been grieving an extended period in exile, and here through the Prophet Jeremiah, God reveals His plan to bring them back and give them a hope and a future. BUT, only if they seek Him with all their hearts.

Likewise, the Apostle Paul speaks of present suffering for future glory. Romans 8:26-28 speaks to the way the Spirit intercedes for us when we are in the midst of grief, and that God is working everything for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Both of these passages can lend some relief in the grieving process for pastors. In our grieving process, we can sometimes feel like we are in exile, and especially so when our former ministry location is experiencing what appears to be great success while our new location may just be setting the stage for forward momentum. Even so, we know God’s plan is a grand one, and we can work through our grief by seeking Him with all our heart. Perhaps the growing pains of our new location cause us to wonder if our decision was the right one. Even in the midst of this grieving process, the Spirit intercedes for us, and we can trust that God is working His plan for not only our benefit, but the benefit of our new ministry location as well.

Pastor, are you leaving? Do your best to leave well.

Are you experiencing moments of grief after leaving well? Lean on God as you grieve, and allow Him to walk you through.

To Obey is Better than Sacrifice

 

Obedience is hard… I’m a headstrong type-A personality, and I really don’t like being told what to do. Just ask my mom! My kids are the same way, and she just laughs at me… The sad part is that I find myself doing the same thing with God. God tells me to do something, and I rationalize my way out of completing it His way. The Word clearly states how I am to go about my daily life, and I either pick and choose what I want to do and don’t want to do, or I read myself so far into the text that it becomes easy to justify my actions. The problem here is that God’s commands didn’t change, and neither did His character. He expects holiness, submission, and obedience from me in return for His love, mercy, provision, and gift of salvation through Christ.

I am reminded of the story in 1 Samuel where Saul is instructed by the Lord to go and destroy the Amalekites and everything that belonged to them. Saul did indeed attack them, but took their king captive and spared all the “good stuff” from being destroyed as God said. In other words, rather than obeying God completely, he chose to do his own thing and justify it later. Take a look at the conversation between Saul and Samuel:

1 Samuel 15:13-20 – 13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.” 14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” 15 Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.” 16 “Enough!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” “Tell me,” Saul replied. 17 Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?” 20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”

Notice how Saul tried to rationalize keeping the animals? To me, that sounds just like my children trying to rationalize why they either did I told them not to, or didn’t do something I told them to do. Much in the same way, I constantly hear folks trying to rationalize all kinds of things rather than actually following God’s commands to their actual conclusion. There’s always a reason why they didn’t, and yet they wonder why God didn’t bless them… Take a look at what Samuel says to Saul after he rationalizes his actions:

1 Samuel 15:22-26 – 22 But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LordTo obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lordhe has rejected you as king.” 24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. 25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.” 26 But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!”

Ouch… Saul’s refusal to obey cost him the throne of Israel… Now, I am not the king of any nation, nor am I royalty of any earthly type. I’m just a guy who has the honor of leading people in worship out in the beautiful small town of Tonganoxie, KS. BUT… that doesn’t make me any less susceptible to the sin (yes, SIN) of rationalization rather than complete submission and obedience to the Lord. How so you might ask? Simply put, there are times when my humanity sneaks out and ruins my reality.

So many of us fall prey to this on a regular basis. Something doesn’t go our way, so rather than loving our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22), we choose to gossip and backbite. One of our pastors doesn’t do something the way we think it ought to be done, or they change something that’s been a certain way for as long as we can remember. Even if it may be the best thing in the long run, it raises our ire and causes us to look to our own interests rather than to the interests of others (Philippians 2). Instead of laying ourselves on the altar as a living sacrifice (Romans 12), we choose to crawl off the altar and spread vitriol rather than Christ’s love. Why? Lack of obedience to God’s Word.

So, how do we apply this. In a word, OBEY!

Frustrated with a friend, a coworker, your boss, or your spouse? Pray for them. Encourage them. Be a positive influence in their lives as much and as often as you can. Do everything you can to point them to Jesus by representing Him with your obedience to Scripture. Don’t agree with a decision your pastor has made? Don’t like the music picked by your worship leader? Don’t understand what direction the church leaders are taking things? Give them the benefit of the doubt. Honor them as your spiritual leaders. Pray for them. Encourage them publicly.  Believe they have your best interests at heart, and talk about it with them privately so hearts can be shared and understanding can be generated.

Obedience is greater than sacrifice. Follow His lead and see if He won’t bless you more than you’ve ever been before!

 

Love All, Serve All…

“Love All, Serve All.”

For those who are old enough to remember when the Hard Rock Cafe first opened their doors, this was their mantra. A battle cry, if you will, for all who walk through their doors to love everyone they come into contact with and make the world a better place by adding their gifts and talents to the mix for the betterment of all humankind. While the food at HRC can be marginal at times, their mission (including the building of a hospital with the revenue from the sale of the business and subsequent brand licensing in 1989) has always been stellar.

Although their business and philanthropic practices are built on the five Vedic Values of Hinduism, there is something the church needs to hear in this: the mantra of “Love All, Serve All” is not just a Hindu value… it is a Godly value as well.

Matthew 22:34-40 [NIV] – Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

As we love God with all we have and all we are, we are also commanded to love our neighbors. Loving our neighbors also means loving those with whom we have heartburn.

Matthew 5:43-47 [NIV] – “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

Luke 6:27-31 [NIV] – “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

If the words of Jesus weren’t already enough, Paul goes on to state this in a different way.

Romans 12:16-18 [NIV] – Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Hebrews 12:14 [NIV] – Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

Ephesians 4:1-3 [NIV] – As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

In other words, if we want to truly show the miraculous change God makes in our lives to the world, we “Love All, Serve All” in a way that allows that change to be seen. Problem is, that’s really hard to do when the world only sees what we are against and who we dislike.

Brennan Manning stated it quite eloquently when he said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Church, if we spend our time continuously railing against gay marriage, Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner, President Obama… if we keep calling for boycotts of newspapers, magazines and theme parks… if we continue to treat people differently because of the color of their skin, their financial disposition, their past mistakes… all people will know is what we are against when what they REALLY need to know is who we live for.

All of us have been made in the image of God. All of us are loved by Him. All of us have the same opportunity to embrace salvation or to reject it. The question is, will the Church follow Jesus’ command to love and serve, or will the Church deny that command for the sake of trying to fill the pews with people who look exactly like we do?  The Word doesn’t say they will know we are Christians by our t-shirts, buildings, bumper stickers, bullhorns, signs, bracelets, concerts, revivals, or movies.  It says they will know we are His followers by how we love one another.

John 13:34-35 [NIV] – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

May we love as Christ loved us, and as He has called us to love the world. “Love All, Serve All.” Amen.