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Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Four Thoughts on Worship – Part 4 of 4

Posted by undergroundchurch on September 30, 2009


Part 3

Expand your horizons.

Over the last three articles, I have tried to show that Worship is not some organized, musical expression. Worship is an expression of relationship.  It is you telling God that you love him.

Comparing once again to the marriage, if I only show my love one way, it can get old and boring and could very easily become routine.  By only worshiping God one way, you run the same risks.

I want to end my little series here by expanding your horizons a bit.  Think outside the box. Add a little spice to your relationship with God.  In doing so, you may discover a deeper and fresher love and gain a stronger relationship.

  • Use the talent God gave you by returning it to him.
    • If you are an artist, do your art work for God, then give it away. During a prayer time, break out the canvas, chisel, or whatever tool you use and start creating.  Don’t sell it, but give it away.
    • If you are an accountant, secretly help others or a smaller church body with their finances.
    • If you are a computer programmer, build an app that can help the church, but don’t charge for it. Remember that you are doing it to worship the Lord, not for your gain.
  • Incorporate art into a music based worship time. Watch the following videos for examples.

Note: if you are viewing this in Facebook, you may need to click on the images and go to the Web Site to see the videos.

My personal favorite…..

  • If drama is your thing, perform – not just in the church, but on the street or in a homeless shelter, somewhere where your peers can’t praise you.

You’re getting the idea.  Pastors, try these combinations in your service.  Mix things up – don’t limit the worship to just singing.  There are a bunch of people that can’t carry a tune in a bucket, and so they listen to you are you worship.  Balance out the forms of worship to address everyone’s strength as much as possible.

Remember that the most incredible form of worship Jesus saw was a woman who poured out oil on his head and feet; she didn’t sing a word.

By worshiping the Lord through the variety of gifts, talents and strengths of the members of the body, it brings value, wonder, freshness and excitement to the whole church and can possibility ignite a fire that will transform your local church into a powerful force that can change the world.

Remember that Jesus started with 12 people, so if you pastor a church fellowship of a dozen, you have the capabilities to change the world!

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Prayer the Nehemiah Way – Part 8 of 8

Posted by undergroundchurch on September 8, 2009


See Part 7

Here we are at the final prayer of Nehemiah, and it is truly the final prayer recorded.

Remember me with favor, O my God – Nehemiah 13:31

Once again, we look at the motives of Nehemiah.  This seems like a selfish prayer at first glance, but it is the first time he actually prays simply for himself, and given his job performance, I’d say it’s about time.

This is the last verse in the book, and he has fought a hard fight; he has finished strong; he has run his race.  He has poured his heart and soul into the restoration of Jerusalem and now he prays to God, “Remember me”.

I don’t want this statement to be misconstrued, but you can unselfishly ask for blessing when your lifestyle isn’t built on being blessed; however, if you live for blessing, you might want to look hard at your motives.

Nehemiah sacrified. David sacrificed. Moses sacrificed.  Many in the scriptures gave all they had in their journey with God.  When they spoke of being blessed by God, their hearts were already in the mindset of serving God without self-interest.  The mission was all about God’s plan.  There is no shame in asking for blessing, especially when your life is devoted to the cause of God.

God loves to bless, but He is not frivolous about it either.  He doesn’t just aimlessly toss about blessings.  Blessings have a positive short-term effect, but if the one being blessed is not grounded properly in Christ, then the blessing will dry up and the one being blessed will not grow, but become dependent on receiving blessings in order to maintain their spiritual walk.

Blessing from God is always good, but if we are ill equiped to handle the blessing, then we can become prideful, selfsh, greedy, and simply unchanged.  Blessings actually have very little imact on our spiritual outcome.

I have often wondered why so many believers have so many struggles, so many heart aches, and so much pain.  I know this doesn’t preach well (as they might say), but it might be that the only way God can get us to the point of talking with him is when we are afflicted.

You know that I’m right; you just are having a hard time admitting it.  When is it tougher to get on your face before God in humility, when things are going great or when things are terrible?  The Bible tells us plainly that Suffering produced Perseverance and Perseverance produces Character and Character produces Hope! (Romans 5:3-5)  The path to hope begins with the fundamental understanding of suffering.

Paul understood this all too well.  In fact, he is the only person I know that was called by Jesus with these words, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:16) Tell the truth, would you become a Christian if Jesus said that to you?

Paul understood, as Nehemiah understood, because he said, “I want to know Jesus in the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering”.

If you don’t hear anything I say, hear this, “You will never know Jesus fully until you know him in his suffering.”

Christianity is not meant to be pretty, it is a battle – a bloody battle that started with the battle wounds Jesus bore on the Cross.  We struggle and fight everyday, and we win battles everyday, and that is the point.  In winning a battle, we grow.  We struggle and train hard for this race.  We fall down, but we get back up.  We fight knowing that we will be the victors in the end.  It is the actual struggle that God uses to make us stronger.  Deliverance out of struggle never made any Christian stronger.

Too many preach a message of Christianity that gives the listener enough head knowledge to be dangerous, especially to themselves, but they aren’t taught that the Christian walk is not a cake walk. For when they find that the battle gets hot, they struggle and fail because they weren’t told ahead of time that while Jesus may have promised roses, he also promised thorns on those very roses.

Don’t be afraid of the struggle; dive right in.  Know that your successful journey gives you every right and privilege to pray as many have prayed in the past, “Remember me with favor, O God!”

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Prayer the Nehemiah Way, Part 4 of 8

Posted by undergroundchurch on August 31, 2009


Part 3

The prayer is not recorded, but the verse is very telling,

But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat – Nehemiah 4:9

There are three basic approaches to dealing with situations in your life:

  • Prayer and action
  • Action alone
  • Prayer with no action. 

As with most things, the choice you make does say something of your faith in God, and so, I want to look primarily at the first and last approach together since the second one is pretty much a lack of faith in God and more a faith in your own abilities.

Faith – Make Your Move

Many people say that “faith” is letting go and letting God do it, and it may be true in some cases, but not always.  The key to a prayer of faith is that you go to God first.  Faith is found in the action taken first.  If a overwhelming situation arises and you spend your first bit of time trying to resolve it, then your faith is more in your actions than in the ability of God. 

So the first move in any situation should be toward God, and it is the sign of a good relationship with God.  You understand who you are and who He is. 

Once you make that move toward God, you then have two options – wait and work. 

Faith that Waits

God is not confined by your timelines.  He doesn’t run a McDonalds.  He is very patient which can be very frustrating to us.  The reason His movements don’t match up with our reason is because He operates outside of the space/time continuum.  He sees the beginning and the end at the same time; we don’t. 

Sometimes, when we pray, we need to wait and do nothing.  But when do we do nothing?  When should we let go and “let God”? 

This question is found more in what you know you should do verses what you feel you should do.  Trust your understanding of God’s faithfulness and not your emotions.  He works in perfect wisdom. 

For example, if you see a need that your involvement in could jeopardize a Godly outcome because of you interference, it might be wise to just simply pray.  When in doubt, you can’t really go wrong just praying.  Become an intercessor; become a person that stands in the gap and help that person or situation through a spiritual battle.  They don’t need to even know, but I will say that if you intercede on someones behalf in a driven manner, you will make a huge impact in the spiritual world on their behalf.

Faith that Works

But there are times with faith needs to be followed with action.  Do you think that if you break an arm and pray to God, that you should just sit there and do nothing, or should you go to the hospital? If you go to the hospital, are you acting in faith or denying the power of God? 

By going to God first, you are demonstrating faith.  You are giving him the first move.  Sometimes, he answers yes, other times he answers no or wait, but should we just sit there if he seems silent?

Nehemiah didn’t pray the prayer he prayed, which was for protection from the enemy, then just foolishly go about his day.  He prayed for protection, then, as one writer wrote, “he picked up his weapons and went to work on the wall saying, ‘God I trust you, and I am picking up every tool available to me so that I will be ready when you call me to action.'”

Faith is like a battle our military fights today.  There are various elements involved from the bombers above, to the ships at sea to the troops on the ground. Each has a mission and it is a very bad thing when they all move at the same time.  If the troops on the front line go charging in just as the bombers are dropping their payloads, there are going to be a lot of dead allies. 

God moves and works in ways that we don’t always see.  Just go to him first, pick up every tool you can find and ready all weapons then wait for the call to march.

Don’t be afraid of praying then moving.  It is not a lack of faith, it is a voice that say, “Lord, here I am, and I am ready for what you would have me to do.”

This concept is echoed in the entire book of James.  So adamant James was about the link between faith and action that the early church struggled whether to include James in the Scriptures.  The key to understanding this link, as I have already shown, is to start with faith and end with works.  Works should only reflect the faith you have already. 

Trust God always, and ready yourself to be called upon if God decides He is going to use you to answer your own prayer.

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Prayer the Nehemiah Way Part 2 of 8

Posted by undergroundchurch on August 27, 2009


Click here for Part 1

Nehemiah 1:4-11

Here’s the setup, Israel has been in captivity for almost 70 years.  Nehemiah inquires about Jerusalem and the land of Israel, and when he hears the report, he wept, mourned for several days, fasted and prayed.

I have to stop right here and ask a very probing question, “When was the last time you were moved to tears with the things that move the heart of God?”  I’m not talking about troubles you are going through; I mean the very things that drive the plan of God.  When was the last time you wept for a lost soul or the social deprevation of our nation or the nation of Israel (as in Nehemiah’s case)?  If we aren’t closely interested in the things that move God, we can’t expect to move God when we want something.

It wasn’t until after days of fasting and prayer that we actually get to see the prayer he writes down in verses 4-11. 

Notice the prayer:

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 5 Then I said:
       “O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. 8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’

 10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”
      I was cupbearer to the king.

It’s important to see the pattern of this prayer because it was answered in a big way (read the rest of the book to find out).

  1. He starts with worship.  Make a note of this… ALWAYS START WITH WORSHIP!!! You can’t do too much of this.  As a basic practice, I spend a majority of my time when praying in this mode.  Here’s why, when you get to the New Jerusalem (See Revelation 21-22), you will be in a constant mode of worship.  It is your eternal destiny, so if you don’t enjoy it now, you might be bummed.
  2. He repents (for himself and his nation). This is crucial.  If you aren’t humble and spiritually clean, your worship and prayers are going to be a stench before God. Also, we believers are the ones that are given the perogotive to pray for our nation.  Do you think the unbeliever is going to pray?  “We the people” makes us a nation of people… a team.  You can’t blame an individual for losing the game, it’s a team event.
  3. He stood on God’s promises.  What God promises, he completes.  You can’t go wrong believing God.  When you review His promises, you are showing faith in God.
  4. Asks to be part of the plan of God.  He takes a step of faith to believe God for his promise.  He goes to the king to ask for permission to resolve the problem, but first, he bathed it in prayer, fasting, the word, worship, repentence and faith.

Lesson to learn, Don’t be too one dimensional in your prayer life.

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Some Great Old Routines

Posted by undergroundchurch on July 11, 2009


I grew up listening to a group called Isaac Air Freight.  They had some great routines.  I since lost the albums, but I found the routines on Youtube the other day.  They are only audio, but that was how they were intended. They are good, even today. Hope you enjoy.

You can see more at the source in Youtube by clicking HERE.

Blessings

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A Martyr’s Death

Posted by undergroundchurch on June 22, 2009


Neda Soultan is becoming a historic icon through nothing that she did, only what was done to her.

Her fame has swept the world as today’s Iranian symbol for freedom. I’m sure that she did not travel into that street thinking that she could be anybody.  She probably had no ambitions of her own to think she could ever lead a revolution. However, her innocent demeanor has landed her on the front pages of a nation’s revolution, and her tragic death by the bullet of a soldier has fueled an entire nation’s rally cry. She is and forever shall be – a martyr for the cause.

Martyrs have always been a catalyst for revolution throughout history.  The word for martyr comes from the Greek and it means “witness”.  Their deaths testify or are witness to some cause, situation or movement and empower people to do more, be more and overcome more.

Most martyrs die never even expecting or possibly imagining the symbolism they would personify. Nevertheless, timing, circumstance and fate expands their seemingly small sphere of influence to a world changing stage.

Some martyrs, like Neda, are unwilling participants that become a symbol; others become a martyr because their passion and drive put them in situations that brought about sheer risk.  Martin Luther King Jr. is a good example of this.  He exposed himself to danger, but it was not his intent to die. He had a passion, a drive and a dream, but they did not including becoming a martyr.  That was for the rest of us to decide.

Still there is a level of martyrdom that even goes beyond this. It is where a cause or purpose is so important that death itself is possibly a byproduct for your belief.  Many people around the world die for a cause because they believe in something. 

Though he did not die that day, “tank man” became a symbol for the freedom in China that fateful day in Tienanmen Square where many others were massacred.

 He simply stood there knowing that it could very well be his last moments of life.  He didn’t really stand a chance against four tanks, but he was going to do everything in his power to make his belief made known to those who would try to kill him.

From a biblical point, Stephen was this type of martyr. He stood before the leaders of the Jews of his day who were accusing him, and testified of Jesus. He knew, as many others who were tossed to lions, burned on stakes and skinned alive, that his words could very well be his last. In fact, Paul the apostle, at that time called Saul, held the coats of the people that murdered Stephen giving his approval.

As powerful as the faith based martyrdom is, there is another more powerful and potent martyrdom that lasts beyond death.

This martyrdom isn’t about ideologies or belief systems, it is not about politics, movements or fate.  This martyrdom is about one thing only… Love.

This is the martyrdom that Jesus says is the greatest love that any person can show another person, “That you lay your life down for your friends.” (John 15:13) This description of perfect love comes right after he challenges his disciples to “love each other as I (Jesus) have loved you”.  He not only tells them to love each other, but he shows them how to do it by laying his own life down for them, you, me and everyone in between through his voluntary death on a cross.

The famous scripture posted at every sporting even (John 3:16) tells the whole story of the love of God.  He loved us, not just in word, not just in life, not just in healing a few people, not just in preaching a good message, making bread out of nothing, turning water into wine, or even creating the heavens and earth.  He loved us “so much”, the verse says, “that he gave us his only son” to die for us, that if we “believe on Him, we will have life everlasting.”

You can tell me you love me, you can write it down, you can live it out, you can do everything for me to show you love me now, but when you die for me, you are showing me that your love is not constrained by our temporal existence, your love is for now and forever and that you are willing to give it all to prove it. That is what Jesus did for you.

He was the greatest martyr the world has ever known.

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A Fair and Balanced Gospel – We preach, You decide

Posted by undergroundchurch on May 2, 2009


I’m stealing this title from Fox News, and I think we the church need to take our cues from this philosophy.

The purpose of the Bible is to present a true and accurate depiction of God’s interaction with humanity.  In it we see his love, holiness, kindness and justice.  Someone reading it might even think they are seeing mixed messages – how can a loving God let evil reign or send down judgments on the human race, or my favorite, how can a loving God send people to Hell?

Part of the confusion is found in how the church understands the balanced nature of God. God does not change, he is the same yesterday, today and forever.  The God of the Old Testament is alive and well today.  The question is how do we reconcile this in our hearts.

I have listened to many sermons in my life and watched the evolution of teaching in the church throughout the years.  Two hundred years ago in the holiness movement, the messages were more about repentance and righteousness than the love of God. 

A hundred years ago, the messages evolved into the movement of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Fifty years ago, they translated into a global outreach with crusades, evangelism and building the church body through salvation of the world. 

Thirty years ago, a movement known as the “Jesus movement” began a transition the church into seeing God as a loving savior and deserving of our worship – accepting of anyone and everyone. 

Twenty years ago the church began to be marred in the eyes of the world through pride, and in some ways sort of lost its identity.  It began concentrating on building big churches, programs and other off message works.  

Each era of the church tended to concentrate on one side of God with an emphasis toward one characteristic or another. Today, I would say that as a whole, the church is floating.  There is a movement within it to move, but complacency runs amok and it’s going to take a change of heart to get it going.  A sign of the times is that many in the church feel that we are ok and that there is nothing really wrong, but  we have lost our relevance. Just lookat society around us.  We used to set the tone for society, now our voices are ridiculed as intolerant when the opposite is true. 

The question is where will the church go?  What will the church of the next decade look like?

For all my criticism of the current situation within the church, I am exceedingly optimistic and excited for its future.  The church is the tool Jesus is going to use to change the world, and it is going to go through a dramatic transformation to get there.

I have spent some time studying the rising movement within the church, I want to give a glimpse of where I feel the church will transition.

First, the church will balance its teaching.  The most prevalent teaching in the church today is about the goodness of God, the love of God and the mercy of God.  These are all good and true, but like the generations of the past, they look at God rather one sided.  The next transformation will be in the balance of teaching.  It will be a culmination of the last 200 years of church history with a flavor of first century methodology.  It will be strong in every area by balancing the love of God and the fear of God, balancing the mercy of God with the justice of God. 

Second, it will see salvations like never before that really impact those being saved through real repentance, change and power.  No longer will we just pray a prayer from the stage and leave it at that.  You will see people broken before God in their salvation experience.  They will not be getting saved on Sunday mornings only, but throughout the week.  Believers will be sharing the good news of Jesus with those in their workplace, grocery stores and restaurants and witnessing transformations that turn people from their sin and empower them to chase after God – an element lacking in many being saved today.

Third, you will see a fear of God arise that will drive believers to powerful prayer.  The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Fear is not the kind of fear you experience going to a horror  movie, it is the understanding that God is everything and you are nothing.  It is knowing that this God who loves you cannot let sin abide in his presence.  The believer will no longer live two lives – one of sin and one of Sunday morning facades. Holiness will be a sign of the believer’s life.

Fourth, you will see the gifts of God explode in the church.  Gifts that far too many in church believe are extinct will rise to a prominent state.  Miracle, signs and wonders will happen in fulfillment of Jesus’ own words in ways that have never occurred in common man.  The power of the Holy Spirit will empower the believer with all boldness, fruits and gifts necessary to usher in day of the Lord.

Fifth, Sunday is not going to be enough.  Like the first century church, the place to be will be with fellow believers.  You will begin meeting daily together because you will find that Jesus is showing up every time you get together.  Home churches, fellowships and just get togethers for prayer, teaching and worship will be in every neighborhood.  The church will blend into the lives of people and not be relegated to a building.

Finally, (and I’m sure there are more) the church will make an impact once again. Make no mistake, the world will hate the church more and more as we stand in righteousness, but the mercy of Jesus will shine through us as we reach out to meet the needs of the downtrodden.  We won’t be just about ourselves; we will have most of our ministries focused on those outside of our local churches where it should be. 

Ever notice that Jesus ministry was mostly to those that weren’t following him? He simply taught those following him, but to those that weren’t he healed, fed and brought the good news. 

Our preamble will be something like this… 

We the church, in order to form a more perfect union in Christ, will establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense of the Gospel, promote general welfare of the downtrodden, and secure the blessing of liberty in Christ  for ourselves and those living around us, to ordain and establish this Gospel of Jesus Christ for the people of the world.

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It’s a Brain Thang

Posted by undergroundchurch on April 30, 2009


So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. – Ephesians 5:17-19

Only God can change the heart of man.  He never repairs, he only replaces. I think this is probably due to the fact that our “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” – Jeremiah 17:9

But the battle for men’s (and women’s for those that only speak politically correct language) hearts does not take place in the heart.  It takes place in the mind. 

When a battle is fought in war, the battle field is usually in a place that does not contain the actual goal.  For example, to win a castle, most of the battle takes place in the courtyard or fields outside the castle walls. In the battle for the human heart, the battlefield is the mind. 

“Futility of their thinking”.  The world is stuck in a box fabricated in the recesses of their mind.  Science is a great example.  Mankind determines what is true only by using the tools of science. If it doesn’t fit in the mold of scientific proof, it can’t be. 

That’s like using a ruler to measure the size of the universe.  Science only pertains to the limited functions of this world’s design. It does not apply to the designer. 

Look at it this way. If I drew a picture on a piece of paper and could bring that world to life, it would function is a way no where near as wonderful as mine.  For example, it could only function in a two diminsional fashion. It I intersect that world as an artist with a pencil being pushed through that piece of paper, the people of that world could only interact with the part touching their world.  My pencil to them would seem like a flat circle.  They couldn’t tell if it were solid or empty and certainly couldn’t understand that it is a 3 diminsional object.  In fact, they couldn’t even fathom three diminsions because it is outside the capabilities of their “science”.  Three dimensions to them would be “scientific theory”. They would be limited in their minds to the reality that is all around them. There is not scientific tool they could use to measure my universe.

We are those people drawn on paper compared to a God who is the artist.  We can’t understand the tools he used to fashion our world. We can’t see the brush or pen He used to draw its concepts.  God is operating in a sphere outside our time/space continuum.

The people of this world only think in terms of the limits of this world – not the potential of a world beyond science.  Science can sometimes see the fingerprints of God, but it does not have the capabilities of putting human rationale around the spiritual world in which God resides.

Since this world is limited to the thinking of their own universe, their desires are only to seek satisfaction in the realm of their universe and not the awesome infinite nature of God’s kingdom.  God has so much more for us than animalistic instincts of lust, greed, selfishness and desires that only this world can offer. He offers a new heart and a connection to His world. 

But to get there, the mindset must change.  The thinking must change so that God’s realm of possibility becomes your realm of possibility.  The Bible says it this way, “Faith comes by hearing”.  Hearing is not just listening to words. Listening is actually taking it in, listening and responding with affirmation.  But if you are set in your mind that you will not change because the “science” isn’t there, then you will be sitting alone for a long time on a park bench to nowhere.

God is a rewarder of those that dilligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6), but to find him, you must first take off the blinders of a futile mindset and trust that there are just things beyond your understanding – things that you have to take by faith.  Once you accept this, and take that step, you will open the avenue for God to come in a replace that heart of stone for a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19). Then you will begin working in God’s science.

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