When you’re involved in a capella congregational worship, something profound happens. Maybe you’ve noticed it, the thing that makes a capella worship services great. Good sound is nice, yes. Pretty voices are a plus, and the latest and greatest worship anthems are all wonderful. None of these, however, are the clincher for truly great worship. Do you know what the secret is? If not, your praise gatherings are missing out. The secret will be the topic of the Praise and Harmony Workshop.
This workshop will take place on Wednesday, May 6, 2015. (That is this coming Wednesday).
Keith Lancaster will be leading the Workshop. He believes that, whether you describe your Sunday morning worship as uninspiring or engaging, you can have more energy, better flow, more songs, more connection, more music competency, more emotional variety, and fresh arrangements of the classics by incorporating just a few, simple techniques that revolve around one goal: 100% participation. That’s it. That’s the secret.
Consummate praise is not achieved by execution so much as inclusion. We see this principle in scripture passages like Ephesians 5:19: “Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” In fact, God Himself sings over us (Zephaniah 3:17), calling us to join the song of the universe. Here’s the problem: 100% participation doesn’t always happen. In fact, it rarely ever happens, growing more infrequent each year. Each day, our consumer culture instills in us a craving for passive, vicarious, spectator experiences. Whether in television, concerts, movies, or sporting events, we look for exciting multimedia spectacle with little investment.
Of course, this is fine for entertainment, but when we bring such a mentality to our congregations, we assault the integrity of our worship together. God has invited everyone to join His choir, regardless of vocal ability, and we shortchange both our congregations and our Lord when we don’t do everything we can to muster every member to praise.
Please plan to be at the Praise and Harmony Workshop. Our learning of new songs has been to prepare us for this Workshop.
Note the Time Change: It begins at 6:30 PM and ends at 8:30 PM. This workshop is for the entire congregation.
Today is a special opportunity for Lakeview. We have two honored guests, Truitt Adair with the Sunset International Bible Institute and Behailu Abede, who is one of the principle leaders in the Church in Ethiopia. It is astonishing to think that one is among us, from a land that is rich in Christian heritage and whose story is connected with the first generation of Christians. We are indeed honored.
They are with us to let us know of a work called Solar Event II. It is familiar because we participated in the initial Solar Event by contributing funds that were used to provide solar-powered audio players that serve as teaching tools in developing areas. This phase of the project is significant because it has the material on it recorded in Amharic language, the main language of Ethiopia.
Sunset had the material on the Solar Player translated into Amharic and then took the recording equipment to Ethiopia where five of our Christian brothers spent several days recording all of the teaching on the solar player. Sunset then placed the recorded material on the solar players. Having the material recorded by people in the country means that when people hear the Bible teaching, it will sound “normal” and familiar to them and they would be more willing to listen and accept the teaching.
In a few weeks we will take up a special contribution to assist in this important project. Today, we will be encouraged by the teaching of these two committed servants of God.
While on vacation in New York, a French tourist named Karine Valnais Gombeau was deeply moved by the number of homeless people she saw. When she noticed a disheveled-looking man searching through the trash near Grand Central Station, she quickly offered him a bag of leftover pizza she was carrying.
When the surprised man asked what was in the bag, Gombeau replied, "Je suis désolée [I am sorry, but the pizza is cold]." The man thanked her, and she went on her way.
It was two days later that Gombeau learned she had given pizza to actor Richard Gere, who was filming a movie on location in New York City.
The story reminds me of a story that Jesus told in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus described what it will be like when people stand before the throne to answer for what they have done. To the righteous, he will say, 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 (Matthew 25:35-36).
When they protest that they have never seen him in those conditions, Jesus will tell them, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40).
You can help "the least of these" and really be doing it for Jesus. In the same way, he will speak of being neglected by others and will tell them: I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me (Matthew 25:45).
You will probably never get the chance to give pizza to a famous actor. But you can reach out and help Jesus today. You can serve the hungry, the thirsty, the lonely, the naked, or the prisoner. You can help "the least of these" and really be doing it for Jesus.
To those who show compassion to the people around them, Jesus will one day say: Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world (Matthew 25:34).
Taken from: http://www.heartlight.org/articles/201502/20150225_least.html
The Vine and the Branches – The analogy that is presented in John 15 gives us some important insights into the movement of Christian growth. One of the significant insights is the fact that God is the Vine Dresser. That means His action in this movement is the critical factor.
This truth establishes a couple of facts. One, the vine dresser is in charge of the movement. It is His agenda, His desire and His plan. Two, the vine dresser owns the vineyard and He will do what is best in His own eyes. His concern is for the well-being of the vine because the trunk and the roots provide the nutrition to the branches and ultimately, the fruit that result. And, three, the vine dresser eagerly engages in removing and pruning the branches. It is His job; not the job of the other branches.
Bible scholar Merrill Tenney, in his commentary on the Gospel of John, explains the role of the vine dresser. “In pruning a vine, two principles are generally observed: first, all dead wood must be ruthlessly removed; and second, the live wood must be cut back drastically. Dead wood harbors insects and disease and may cause the vine to rot, to say nothing of being unproductive and unsightly. Live wood must be trimmed back in order to prevent such heavy growth that the life of the vine goes into the wood rather than into fruit. The vineyards in the early spring look like a collection of barren, bleeding stumps; but in the fall they are filled with luxuriant purple grapes. As the farmer wields the pruning knife on his vines, so God cuts dead wood out from among His saints, and often cuts back the living wood so far that His method seems cruel. Nevertheless, from those who have suffered the most there often comes the greatest fruitfulness.”
We can create hard feelings when we take on the role of the vine dresser. We don’t have the expertise or the same concern as the vine dresser. We are branches. Branches can’t hold the pruning knife. If we are doing what we are supposed to do, we will be focusing our energy on “remaining” and bearing fruit. We will be dealing with the pain and struggle of pruning. We will allow the nutrition of the vine to flow through us, making us healthy and creating the opportunity for fruit that will endure.
The Power of the Resurrection
It is seen in the practical positive lifestyle that is lived by followers of Christ. Paul says that his way of life resulted from the grace of God operating in him, the least of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:9). His life and the change brought about by the presence of God in his life is an example to all of us of what it means to be a Christian. Not only does Paul say he is the least of the apostles, but he is the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). When a person has an accurate view of themselves, it creates a humble and submissive response that is often misunderstood by the prideful. Even if it means personal suffering, the Christian will remain committed to the cause of Christ.
In some research I was doing last week, I read an article that was critical and skeptical of the period of persecution of the early church. They interpreted the reports as exaggerated and untruthful because of the willingness of Christians to submit to the authorities, even be counted worthy of suffering. This is not a convincing argument, as it is not uncommon for a person to give their life for what they believe. The vocabulary of the martyrs is challenging, because it seems they are egging on their demise, but they were not. They were being brave and strong in the presence of those who would rob them of life and dignity. It is true, that they could have changed their fate had they, “pinched a few grains of incense” to the Emperor. Many people who called themselves Christians did, it was only reasonable. You didn't have to die for your faith. People who compromised their faith had both their religion and the status of acceptance in the community.
However, this was not the perspective of most of the early Christians. It certainly was Peter’s view that a person was going to suffer for their faith (1 Peter 4:12-14, Acts 5:40-42). Many who followed Christ indeed did suffer, and many continue to suffer. The reason they suffer is because they don’t accept the spirit of their time. They believe in something beyond themselves. The combination of humble submission, the recognition that the world is caught in a downward spiral and the knowledge of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, stumps the prideful, and the weak.
The conviction of Vibia Perpetua, a young woman who lived in Carthage during the early years of the church illustrates the power of the Resurrection in the life of a Christian. She died on March 7, 203, after her father and other family members pleaded with her to give up her faith. She could not be turned because she knew this power. When she was pressed, it was that same power that sustained her. It is not understood by the people of this world because it is not of this world, but her diary endures as a testimony to the power of the Resurrection. If that power could sustain her, it can sustain you, too. -Dennis
Atheists Are Not As Smart As They Profess To Be. This is a bold and perhaps offensive statement. I don’t mean to be so, but the claims made by atheists need to be contested. Statements like, “the Bible is so full of contradictions that you can’t trust it” are false. Even worse is the evidence used to back up those statements. People who claim to understand the Bible deserve serious scrutiny. I try to keep up on what the skeptics say, to be prepared to give a defense; but most of the time I am disappointed with the lack of integrity in the scholarship of the skeptics.
I am reading the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. He makes great statements about the weakness and problems of the Christian faith, and religion as a whole. However, I was disappointed with his argument in the first chapter. In it, he acknowledges the amazing nature of the cosmos. He stands in awe, as a naturalist, though he sees it with a religious passion. That doesn’t make him a theist; far from it. After demonstrating his appreciation of the cosmos, he sets up a mighty, albeit, pithy straw man and proceeds to smash his pithy opponent completely. The straw man is this: Some of Albert Einstein’s statements makes one think he is a theist. Dawkins makes it clear that he is not. (It didn’t take a rocket scientist to make that point). However, some theists claimed that Einstein was one of them. He responds to the theists that he is not. The theists state that Einstein is destroying people’s faith with his rejection of religion. Since faith is threatened by the statements of the super-intelligent, there must not be much to support religious faith. If there is not much to support Christian faith, then all Christians are like those who believe in fairy tales. Really, that is all he has in Chapter One.
Another attempt to discredit the Bible is found in several different articles on the alleged contradictions in Scripture. An alleged contraction is found in Genesis 1 and 2. Genesis 1:24-28 states that humans were created after the animals. But Genesis 2:18-20 states that man was there as God was making the animals. The problem with this analysis is that Genesis 2 describes, not the creation of the animals, but the naming of the animals. God had a specific reason for having Adam name the animals. The man was to deduce that he was alone, and without another to complete him. The animals were already alive. God had them each brought before Adam so that they would be named. This is clear from a simple reading. People who see this as a contradiction are misreading the text. Virtually all so-called contradictions are examples like this.
Reading the Bible doesn’t mean you know the Bible. Paul warns us of “the untaught and unstable (who will) twist (the scriptures) to their own destruction”. We are individually charged to be “a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly handling the word of truth.” (2 Peter 3:16, 2 Timothy 2:15). Don’t take the word of the Pseudo-Intelligent, for it seems they often don’t know what they are talking about.
I knew a young girl named Annie who was born into a situation that is going to become more common. Annie’s daddy smoked pot.
Her mom and dad came of age in the days of the hippy, and they never really got over Woodstock. (The use of substances prolong adolescence). Their use of pot limited their ability to move up in the world. They never owned a house, never had decent cars and usually just made ends meet. What was in adequate supply in their home was pot, and usually beer. I should know; I helped her dad consume much of it. When work was over, it was time to head to Stony’s house and get wasted (his name really was Stony). It started on the weekends, but it became regular way to kill time and brain cells.
Annie was a normal American kid with normal responsibilities. However, the prevalence of stoned parents and second-hand marijuana smoke made it hard to be normal. She had to accomplish much on her own; dad was never able to help her once the fog set in. Mom did what she could. She would postpone her own escape until Annie went to bed. Someone had to be responsible.
The most difficult aspect of a daddy who smoked pot was the people who came around to drink and smoke. There were several times when Anne was at risk of being molested by the young men who came to Stony’s to party. Like other young people whose parents struggle with substance abuse, she had a steeper hill to climb to make life work. I don’t know what happened to Annie. I know her dad died when he was not much older than 50.
Chronic pot use negatively affects the heart and the lungs, leading to symptoms similar to cardiopulmonary disease. One day, Stony’s common-law wife came home and found Stony dead. He suffered a major heart attack. A joint has 4 times the tar as a cigarette and significantly increases the heart rate and causes cardiac arrhythmia.
You may say that I have never heard a story like this. It is because when marijuana was a controlled substance, stories like this were not that common, but that has changed. The more pot makes its way into the mainstream, the more times Anne’s story will be repeated. Do a google search and see how many stories advocate pot use and extol it’s virtue to a society looking for escape. The state of Washington now has a vested interest in making us think that pot is harmless.
The debate will rage on because people separated from their Creator will always look for ways to connect with something. Christians, Paul says, have a dog in the fight, but for a different reason. 1 Corinthians 6:12, states our position towards pot and other things that often result in addiction and destruction. “Everything is permissible”, is not really a Bible truth, but a cultural cliché. Even if it was, Paul says certain things are not beneficial. Be wise towards the things of this world. Make you aim to Glorify the Lord in all you do.
Christian Worship celebrates the Christ-Event. In both Old and New Testaments, worship is rooted in an actual event. The event deals with the circumstance and need of the people. In the Old Testament, God’s people were enslaved and oppressed. God acted and brought about freedom and hope. He has done the same in the narrative of the New Testament. God first reveals himself. God’s message to the Jews was through Moses. For people today, He revealed Himself first to Elizabeth, then Mary, and ultimately in the man named Jesus. The Magnificent (Luke 1:46-55) is a breaking forth of praise for the fact that God has once again revealed Himself in history.
As God reveals Himself, the second element of the Christ event is evident. God has come to redeem those who are oppressed and yearn for freedom. This carries the idea of regaining something that was once possessed. We belong to God and He has paid the debt that we created in our rebellion. As Jesus is presented in the Temple, Simeon takes the baby Jesus in his arms, praises God and said, “My eyes have seen your salvation.” (Luke 2:30)
The third element of the Christ event is that God has fashioned a people of His own. As we accept His redemption for ourselves, we become the people of the covenant. That makes the people of God a unique and purposeful community. There is a place to belong and a place to serve. When people discover that God created them to do good works, it releases a sense of wonder and expectancy (Ephesians 2:10). One can not help but praise God and celebrate the work that He has done.
As we spend time together in worship today, I pray that your heart is drawn to the thrill that God has revealed Himself; that He has redeemed us and has given us a place to experience community; to experience Him.
In these challenging times, followers of Christ need deep faith. Deep faith does not happen outside the activity of the Holy Spirit in your life. The puzzle above gives us a picture of the priorities in scripture as it relates to the Holy Spirit. As we seek God’s will for our lives, these passages should guide our process of maturity.
We also have to put into practice the spiritual discipline of specific prayer. Several have asked me about the prayer of Brother Lawrence. This is something that can focus and center our lives on God’s priorities. You could also consider praying key passages like 2 Peter 1:3-11, specifically pray verses 5-7. The purpose is for you to increase in “having the mind of Christ” and deepening your experience of faith. Make a commitment to using these tools, or other prayers, either your own or written by someone else. These prayers should help you know the heart of God and understand His priorities. As you do, you will marvel that all of God’s fullness is yours and available to deepen your faith.
“O God, since you are with me, and it is your will that I must now apply myself to these outward duties, I ask you to assist me with your grace that I may continue in your presence. To this end, O Lord, be with me in this work, accept the labor of my hands, and dwell in my heart with all your fullness.” ~ Brother Lawrence
Acts 9:31 - So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace, being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, and it increased in numbers.
This verse is important to believers today because it teaches that the Holy Spirit is acting in His primary role, as the church carries out its mission. The primary purpose of the Holy Spirit is to be our helper. A form of that word is translated “encouragement” in Acts 9:31. Four times in John, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Counselor (HCSB). When we transliterate the Greek word, the term in English is paraclete. The basic meaning is someone called to one’s aid. It is made from two words, παράκλητος (paráklētos) - pará, "from close-beside" and kaléō, "make a call". Properly, a paraclete is a legal advocate who makes the right judgment call because he is close enough to the situation. This gives us the basic role of the Holy Spirit. A helper who is crucial because He is close enough to help at need. He is close because He is in us. He knows what is going on. He knows what is best.
The four passages in John teach us what the Spirit means to our lives. It is loyal companionship, dependable guidance, reliable prompting and a valuable advantage. The disciples had all this when Jesus was physically with them. Disciples today have this in the movement of the Spirit. As the church began to grow, the give and take of daily life began to press on Christians, who share in the mission of the church. More than mere mortal strength is needed. The encouragement of the Spirit is essential.
The encouragement of the Spirit strengthens and fills the follower of Christ. Good counsel, comfort and perspective comes during times of peace. The paraclete prepares us for the next battle. The Christian knows that whatever place they find themselves, whether the marketplace, the outlets of culture, defending our country or teaching the next generation, we will be battling the spirit of our time and we must be ready to match power with power. Always remember, “Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.”