Thursday, September 17, 2015

What if our Worship Music was as Multifaceted as the God we Worship? (Part 3)

One of my pet peeves as a Christian and as a pastor is that even though we serve and love and worship and trust a God Who is interesting, inventive, and unique, our worship music could hardly ever be described with those same adjectives.

There are three main areas that I find especially saddening given the God we worship. First, we looked at The Lack of Variety in Themes and Subjects. Last post we talked about The Dearth of Poetic Genres in Christian Worship Music. This time we will cover the absence of diversity of musical styles in Christian worship. 

What is the number one joke (that's funny only 'cause it's true) people tell about Christian worship music? It's actually the same as the number one reason I've heard people give for not enjoying listening to Christian music. 

...  "It all sounds the same."

True that. Ok, fine, to be fair there are some exceptions...there are...right? 

Average answer: "uh...there's...uh...yeah, well, just 'cause I can't think of any right now, doesn't mean they don't exist." True. but the fact that many people would face such a difficulty illustrates the problem. 

I know that Chris Tomlin and Hillsong do sound different, but they do in the same way that I thought Justin Bieber was Taylor Swift singing the first time I heard him on the radio. See, just like Bieber and Swift are both essentially pop music, Tomlin and Stanfill are both CCM. They may have some slight differences, but they both belong to the same musical style. 

If we are honest for the most part on Sunday mornings, in many if not most churches in the U.S., we only worship God from within one musical style. Ok, for some the one musical style is "Hymns" while for others it is "CCM," and perhaps for others it is "gospel." But the fact remains that despite the fact that we worship the God Who invented artistic expression including music, and Who radiates His multifaceted nature in the colors of love, justice, wrath, gentleness, power, patience, creativity, and sovereignty, we worship our God in the same musical style week in and week out. 

I'm not suggesting that God is bored (although if we are, perhaps He is too), more like He is being under-worshiped. You see the nature of musical styles is that they typically allow for/generate a limited set of emotive responses, and usually cohere with a limited set of subjects and poetic expressions. 

For example, one style of music is blues, one which brings up and allows for the expression of sorrow, disappointment, and loss. It is given to talking about those subjects, and lends itself to laments. Rap on the other hand allows for the expression of anger, frustration, and even pride (often as a means of pointing out difficulties faced and overcome). This takes the form of boasting, confrontation, and declaration of the way things are. The form is also given to covering a lot of content quickly and memorably. Screamo, for contrast, tends to allow for super angsty, angry, or depressed subject matter, expressed in the form of wailing or screaming, venting raw emotions. 

Yet, doesn't God deserve us to worship Him in loss, in frustration, and in raw unbridled emotions?  Doesn't He deserve to be worshiped for all that He is and does? Doesn't He deserved to be worshiped in a variety of poetic forms? Doesn't He own and deserve all the musical styles to be actively used in giving Him glory through our interacting through them with Him? That's my biggest issue. Our Multifaceted and Totally Awesome God, the Holy Trinity, is being under-worshiped.

The thing is that while we might not always think of different musical styles being that important, the truth is that the absence of different musical styles in Christian worship music may have lots of unintended consequences. It may be one of the big-picture reasons that Christian worship music lacks all kinds of subject matter and many poetic forms. And those lacks may have other connected unintended consequences. 

The lack of musical genres may be one of the reasons that people in many churches feel a deficiency in their worship experience. They need to "have the blues", they need to confront terrible realities, they need to vent their deep emotions to God, but the music styles they are being offered by their worship leaders is to some degree holding them back from engaging with God on the levels they need to. Their personal spiritual growth is being held back. 

Another possible result in the contemporary American church is an overly simplistic understanding of faith in God. In other words, maybe our music is what is reinforcing the patterns of flawed thinking that many people have about God, prayer, and faith. 

And maybe what the researches call "moralistic therapeutic deism" is not merely coming poor sermons, poor discipleship, poor parenting, and poor perspectives coming from the non-Christian world, maybe it is also coming from poor worship. 

It is my hope through this short series that Christians will feel free to worship God about all subjects, in all poetic forms, with all musical styles, so that they can grow in their relationship with God personally, and so that collectively as churches and the Church we will give God the worship He deserves.

Please engage through the comments or share this post with someone who you think would have some good input in the discussion. 

Short Poem: Christus Victor

Light from the Tome.
Life from the Tomb.
Hell cowers.

This poem is a modified haiku structure. It'd be great if you'd share your thoughts or your own poetic expressions in the comments.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

What if our Worship Music was as Multifaceted as the God we Worship? (Part 2)

One of my pet peeves as a Christian and as a pastor is that even though we serve and love and worship and trust a God Who is interesting, inventive, and unique, our worship music could hardly ever be called by those same adjectives.

There are three main areas that I find especially saddening given the God we worship. Last we looked at the first, The Lack of Variety in Themes and Subjects. This week we will also talk about the dearth of poetic genres in Christian worship music, while next week we will cover the lack of musical styles in Christian worship. 

You've been there before. You're in church. The band is playing. They are playing a song. It's a good song. But it's not the song you want to be singing. No, I'm not talking about a cover for the newest Hillsong hit. I'm talking about that time when you are there and you want to be singing your heart out to God about something going on in your life, but you can't. Not because you don't know what you want to say. Not because you don't feel like singing. But because the praise team is playing a song of worshipful celebration, and you want to sing a song asking God to actually show up. Or maybe you're singing a song about love and forgiveness, but you want God to bring your enemy to shame. 

Some people will tell you the problem is probably with you: "You are too depressed or too angry to worship God." But while for sure sometimes you are the problem, what if the problem this time is not a lack of faith or a lack of forgiveness, but the lack of a song of desperation in your praise team's repertoire, or the lack of a song of justice on the lips of  your brothers and sisters? 

Last week we discussed how our worship music as Christians tends to lack many prominent themes of Scriptural worship, in terms of what is said/sung about God. This may or may not be related to the problem we're looking at today. Someone could suggest that it is precisely because Christian worship music lacks certain themes and subjects, that it also lacks certain poetic forms or genres. While I suspect there is at least some correspondence between the two, I think it is also the case that the problem sometimes with our worship music is that we really only have one kind of worship music: praise music. 

The problem is that the Bible has way more kinds of worship music than just praise music. That means that the longing in your soul to sing something else in a moment of pain or oppression may not be your lack of maturity as a Christian, but the mark of the Holy Spirit working in your soul to express yourself honestly in His presence. 

Jesus is famous for saying in John 4.23, "But the time is coming, and now is that time, when genuine worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, and in fact the Father is looking for those kind of people worshiping Him." But gives us two questions: 1) How can we worship in the Spirit, if we don't allow for the Spirit to express Himself however He wants? and 2) How can we worship in truth, if our hearts are not able to express in worship what truly is in them? 

This is not just a question of content or theme, because in fact you can sing about the same themes if very different ways. For example, I can praise God for the love that He always gives me, or I can ask God to reveal  His love to me, or even I can humbly remind God that because He loves me, He is committed to keeping His promises to me. 

The point is the Bible gives us a lot of kinds of poetic genres to use in worship, or in other words God wants us to be able to praise Him in worship (Psalm 150) as much as He wants us to be able to cry out in pain (Ps. 88) and desperation in worship (Ps. 22) as much as He wants us to reflect on the nature of the world (Ps. 1) as much as He wants us to cry out for justice/vengeance (Ps. 137) as much as He wants us to repent of our sins in worship (Ps. 51) as much as He wants us to beg for the needs that we have in worship (Ps. 86) as much as He wants us to celebrate Who He is and what He has done (Ps. 136) as much as He wants us to claim the promises He has given us in worship (Ps. 50). 

The book of psalms has many examples of all those poetic forms of songs. Sometimes a praise song is not want the community or an individual needs, sometimes we need to beg for God to avenge the wrongs done to us, other times we need to lament the wait of Christ's return or intervention into our problems. 

So don't be afraid to look for worship music that allows you to express all you need and want to God, and don't be afraid to demand it (humbly) from your church leadership, since they owe it to God and to you to open up the beautiful bounty of God's given forms of worship music, as much as they owe it to God and to you to worship God in all His Multifacetedness. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What if our Worship Music was as Multifaceted as the God We Worship? (Part 1)

One of my pet peeves as a Christian and as a pastor is that even though we serve and love and worship and trust a God Who is interesting, inventive, and unique, our worship music could hardly ever be called by those same adjectives.

There are three main areas that I find especially saddening given the God we worship. Today we look at the first, over the next couple weeks, we will also talk about the dearth of poetic and musical genres in Christian worship.

First, unless we are singing about God's love, we Christians in the West seem to not know anything to sing about. Ok, so we also sing about His holiness and sometimes our commitment to Him. That's good, but we are still missing out on worshiping God for His other important attributes. But what could they be? How about His wrath? His Truth? His Creativity?  His Triunity? 

Someone just choked on their coffee and destroyed their keyboard--"HIS WRATH!?! Why would anyone ever praise Him for getting angry? Anger is bad. It isn't nice. I thought God was nice. I don't like thinking about when God doesn't act nice like good people should." 

Ok, well for us in the west, we have believed a lie abundant in our culture that all expressions of anger are bad. Sure, many are, but not all. On top of that, if anyone has a right to get angry at the world, I'm guessing it's the One Who created it to be good and now is watching fill with more and more evil. Make no mistake. Our God gets ticked. Angry. Enraged even. Throughout the Old and New Testaments this has been something that God's people have celebrated, just read Revelation 6, Revelation 11.16-19, or Exodus 15.1-21. 

His Truth and His creativity, subjects of such grand importance one would think that they captured more of our attention given Isaiah 44.6-20 on God's Truth/Reality and Psalms 19 and 139 on His creativity and reality. Not to mention His Triunity, which distinguishes Him from all other so-called gods. 

This subject has come up to my attention again and again throughout my years in ministry. It is pressing in upon me again right now because I am preaching through the book of revelation, which is not really about the love of God. Yet, I want the songs we worship with to resonate with the passage we will be listening to and meditating on. For the past couple of weeks, and for the next couple God's wrath will be the main focus of the passages, so I have looked all over for a song that celebrates God's righteous anger and praises Christ for His coming ruthless victory over all those who oppose Him. I have found this song, written by the worship team at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville. It's called Warrior. FYI the Warrior is Jesus. Please enjoy it. Please leave a comment on your favorite line in the song (or least favorite, if you want to be that person). 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Pros and Cons of Gay Marriage

***This is a series on gay marriage. This is the first of two posts. This one aims to reorient the discussion and our perspectives on the SCOTUS decision. The second is an honest appraisal of the pros and cons of the decision.***

The Pros and Cons will be release in the next couple days, please check back then.

God's Perspective on the Supreme Court Decision in favor of Gay-Marriage

***This is a series on gay marriage. This is the first of two posts. This one aims to reorient the discussion and our perspectives on the SCOTUS decision. The second is an honest appraisal of the pros and cons of the decision. I would especially welcome comments and discussion in the comments section below.*** 

“You want gay marriage that much? OK, you can have it.” –God.

Surely that is the response of celebration of many people who have long been fighting for what various groups have called “gay-marriage” or “marriage equality.” They have been crying foul in society and I am sure many to God for what they have perceived as a great injustice. And with the recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, they feel like God has given them what they wanted. They feel a sense that justice has prevailed.

But others have been vigorously been fighting for a different vision of marriage, one in which the only participants are one man and one woman, Christians and non-Christians alike. Their vision has come in direct conflict with the version of it espoused by the other group. They hear the claim of the pro-“gay marriage” advocates that justice has prevailed, that God has said “If you want gay marriage that much, you can have it.,” and they grieve and bristle at the suggestion that God has given the pro-“gay-marriage” advocates exactly what they wanted.

But the question is: Who is right? Did justice prevail? Did God give gay marriage to the United States?

The answer I want to give you, the answer I think the Bible demands, is…

Yes…but not in the ways you expect. The truth is justice did prevail and God did give gay marriage to those who wanted it so badly. But the significance of those statements is not what you’d expect.

Justice?!! Some of you reading this, just had a heart attack. Is the CPR finished? Ok good, let’s pick up where we left off. God did give justice, but maybe not the justice you expect. Let’s read Romans 1.18-32 (or you can skip ahead to where I highlight the relevant parts).

18You see, God’s anger is being revealed from heaven on all human irreverence and unrighteousness by humans who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because what is knowable about God is clear among them, because God made it clear to them. 20You see, His invisible attributes have been being observed from the creation of the world understood by what was made, including His eternal power and Godness, the result being that they are without excuse, 21because although they knew God, they didn’t glorify Him as God or thank Him, instead, they made themselves empty-headed and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they were made stupid. 23And they exchanged the glory of the Immortal God for the likeness of image of mortal humans and birds and four-footed creatures and serpents. 24Therefore, God gave them over with the desires of their hearts to impurity resulting in dishonoring their bodies with one another, 25who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and worshipped and served the creation rather than the Creator—Who is praised forever, amen! 26Because of this, God gave them over to dishonorable passions, you see, even their women exchanged the natural sexual act for the unnatural, 27and similarly even the men, by abandoning the natural sexual act with a women, blazed in their lust for one another: men with men, producing shame and receiving in themselves consequences, which had to come from their delusion. 28And just as they did not approve of knowing God, God gave them over to an unapproved mind, to do the things that are not right 29being completely filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, badness, full of envy, murder, conflict, deception, meanspiritedness, gossipers, 30slanderers, God-haters, violent, arrogant, bragging, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31thoughtless, unfaithful, callous, uncompassionate, 32who, although they know the just verdict of God that people who practice these kinds of things are worthy of death, not only do these things, but also they celebrate those who practice them.

But what does that have to do with Justice? Well, it is really all about justice, God’s justice. The person being given justice in a positive sense in this passage is God. In a very real way, the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States is not about getting justice for humans deprived of justice, but God deprived of His.

But how does gay-marriage becoming the law of the land give God justice? Well, humans rebel, refusing to acknowledge Him as God of the universe, despite the amazing amount of proof in the world. God has been treated unfairly by humans, part of that rejection of Him as God involves humans duping themselves into idolatrous patterns of life, lifestyles that celebrate not the Glory of God, but the fading honor of creation.

But justice, how does gay marriage give God justice? Some of you reading this are thinking: God gets justice from this by humans embracing justice. But actually, the reverse is true.
God is getting justice from this decision not because humans are embracing justice, but because God is.


The answer is that God is getting justice because He is judging us. Make no mistake the most important judge in this Supreme Court decision was not the swing vote, Anthony Kennedy, but God, the Judge of the Universe. And while it may look at first that God has ruled in favor of those advocates of gay marriage the truth is far different.

You see, God, by giving the advocates of gay marriage what they want, was not saying “I am with you in your pursuit of a fuller embrace of a homosexual lifestyle.” Instead, He was saying “I am against you.”

But the judgment of God, as we see in Romans 1.18-32, often does not come in the form of fire from heaven or a holy war on earth, but the removal of His gracious restraint of our own human sinfulness. In the case of the recent Supreme Court decision, God was punishing the advocates of gay marriage by giving them what they want so much.

The truth is that sometimes the punishment for sin is not immediate destruction, but more sin. In a very real way, sin is a fate worse than death, because it destroys the soul.

But it is also a fate better than death, because it allows time for repentance. Although the recent passage of gay marriage is actually the judgment of God, it is also the opportunity from God for people to repent. Unfortunately, the curse of more sin, also pushes people further away from the God they need. Make no mistake, as gracious of a punishment as the passage of gay marriage is, it is still a punishment.

So, who is right? At the end of the day, it is the most important person: God.

Who has received justice? The One most deserving of justice: God.

What about advocates of “gay-marriage,” did they get what they want?

Yes and no. They got what they wanted, but what they have yet to realize is that what they have really received is the judgment of God.

What about the advocates of marriage, have they really lost? Yes and no.

They did lose their battle over the definition of marriage in this country, but they can now see not just the lack of support of human beings, but the full support of God, expressed not by siding against them, as it would be easy to initially think, but expressed by His siding with them, by giving the punishment of more sin. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Recommended Reading in Theology

I was recently asked to compile a list of 5 theological works that are readable and theologically useful. The following list are 5 theological books that I think every Christian would benefit by reading, even if I don't agree with everything they may teach in every minute detail. But all of them are written by people passionate about the Gospel, and will be very useful.

1. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem

This book is a must read for every Christian. It is clear, well-written, and does move from doctrine to application.
or if you are intimidated by its size, the condensed version Biblical Doctrine: Essential Teaches of the Christian Faith.

2. Center Church by Tim Keller

Even if you are not a church leader, this book is helpful for thinking about what the church is and how it should interact with the world. And since, last time I checked, you are part of the church and the might want to read it.

3. The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship by Robert Letham

I love the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and so should you. It is all about the God we worship. This book is so well written, thorough, and interesting that I have had it on my Amazon wishlist for years. Full disclosure, I've not read the whole thing, but it was so good that I actually want to at some point. If you know me, you also know that such a statement essentially means its a great book, because I hate reading.

4. Global Church Planting: Biblical Principles and Best Practices for Multiplication by Craig Ott and Gene Wilson

My friend is thinking of missions in the future, but the true is that all of us Christians are called to missions, whether God puts the focus of the mission either inside or outside of our default culture is the only question we must ask. That said, this is very helpful for planting churches, but also helping established churches become more effective in the mission of God. I have had Dr. Ott in class before and the man planted churches in Germany, so what he is talking about works no matter how hard or post-Christian the soil.

5. Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson

Please. Read. This. Your spiritual life will thrive more if you are able to avoid muffling God's voice with poor interpretation...also...this is a bit self-serving, because if you are better at reading and understanding the Bible, my job as a pastor will be easier. Haha. Yeah, so, while it is not strictly theological, it is helpful in constructing better theology.

Ode to the God of Light

A Spontaneous prayer of Praise, of varying meter

Good Morning Abba!
Today is beautiful--serene.

The sun is clear and beaming
light dancing and streaming.
all in the world seems so good, true, and right,
in the purity and bliss of the light.
A light and joy so pure as dawn
streaming in the room and across the lawn.
God, a taste of a world eternal,
a land rich with abundance vernal

You are God and Good and Righteous and Just,
to respond in praise is truly a must!
On days like these the peace is almost transcendent,
streaming in from Your Throne all resplendent!
The light is still but a faint echo of bliss
compared to the joy of Your presence!
The Spirit living with in me is a joy truly Divine,
to think that we so foolishly abandoned this design!
The fall into sin stole the light so sweet,
cursed as we are to return to the dust beneath our feet.

Yet on days like today, as I sit here in the Sun,
I am reminded that that curse was undone!
By Jesus, the Son--Your Son, my Sun--
a joy and pleasure so grand--

He rises to stand, to stand in my defense,
to stand for my reward, having paid my recompense!
I am a fool, cruel and dumb with drool,
yet sitting in something of a Heavenly school,
sitting in the light where all seems right,
sitting and waiting hope fixed aright
On Jesus

My light, my Sun beyond this sun,
Light beyond this Heaven echoing light
He is Right, the Light, the Winner of the Fight,
Whose life blazes bright, even in the darkest night,
of the soul, of the woe,
making the broken whole.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Pentecost Sunday: The Promised and Providing Holy Spirit (Acts 2)

Scripture: Acts 2
Translation: Acts 2.1And when the day of Pentecost arrived, all of them were together at the same place. 2And suddenly a sound came from the sky like the sound a violent wind brings. And if filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3And tongues like fire appeared being distributed to them. And it settled down on each one of them. 4And all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak different languages according to how the Spirit was giving them to speak out.
5And there were Jews staying in Jerusalem, God-fearing men from every ethnic group from all the places under Heaven. 6And when this sound came, the huge number of people gathered together and became confused, because each one of them was hearing them speaking in his own dialect. 7And they were shocked and amazed, saying, “Look, don’t absolutely all of these people speak the Galilean dialect? 8So how is each one of us hearing them in our own dialect that we were born in? 9Parthians and Medes and Elamites and those who live in Mesopotamia, as well as Judea and Cappadocia, Egypt and the parts of Libya that are near Cyrene, and the visiting Romans, 11both Jews and converts, Cretans and Arabs, we are hearing them speaking in our languages the great things of God!” 12And all of them were shocked and dumbfounded, one saying to one another, “What wants this to be?” 13But others who were making fun of them were saying that “They’re really just drunk on new wine!”
14And Peter standing with the Eleven lifted up his voice and spoke boldly to them, “Men, Jews, and all those staying in Jerusalem, Let this be known to you and pay attention to my words. 15You see, it is not as you suggest “these people are drunk,” because it is 9am. 16Instead, this is what was spoken about through the prophet Joel. 15“And it will be in the last days, God says, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams! 18And indeed on My male slaves and on My female-slaves in those days I will pour out My Spirit and they will prophesy! 19And I will give omens in the sky above and signs on the earth below: book and fire and billows of smoke. 20The sun will turn into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious Day of the Lord comes. 21And it will be that everyone who will call on the Name of the Lord will be saved!”
22Men, Israelites, listen to these words! Jesus, the Nazarene, a man who really was endorsed by God for you with miracles and omens and signs, which God did through Him in the middle of you just as you yourselves know, 23This Person by the determined plan and foreknowledge of God, who was given over, you killed via the hand of lawless people by nailing Him to a cross, 24Who God raised breaking the pains of death, given that it was not possible that He be held by it. 25You see, David says about Him, “I saw the Lord before me through it all, because He is at my right hand, so that I would not be shaken. 26Because of this, my heart is rejoices and my tongue celebrates, but moreover my flesh settles on hope, 27because You will not abandon my life in Hades, and You won’t allow You Holy One to see decay. 28You make me know the path of life. You fill me with joy with Your Face!” 29Men, brothers, I have to speak to you with boldness about David the Patriarch that he is both dead and buried. And his tomb is among us to this day. 30So, because he really was a prophet and knew that with an oath God promised him someone from the fruit of his loins would sit on his throne, 31looking ahead, he spoke about the resurrection of Christ that he was not abandoned to Hades and His flesh did not see decay. 32God raised this Jesus, which we are all witnesses of.
33So, after being exalted to the right hand of God, and receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, He poured This Spirit out, which you both see and hear. 34For David didn’t go up into the heavens, but he says, “The Lord says to My Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand. 35until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet!’” 36So, certainly, all the house of Israel had better know that God made Him Lord and Messiah—this Jesus Who you crucified!”
37And when they heard they stabbed in the heart and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, What should we do, men brothers?” 38And Peter said to them, “Repent and each of you get baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, 39because the promise is for you and your children and all those far into the future, as many as the Lord our God will summon.” 40And with many other words he was warning and urging them saying “Get saved from this warped generation!” 41So, those who accepted his message were baptized and about 3000 lives were added on that day.
42And they were focusing on the teaching of the apostles and on sharing, breaking bread, and prayers. 43And fear came over every life, and many omens and signs were happening through the apostles. 44And all those who believed were at the same place and they held absolutely everything as shared. 45And they were selling their possessions and properties and distributing them to all according to how someone had a need. 46And daily focusing with one mind on being in the Temple, and breaking bread in different homes, they were sharing food with great joy and sincerity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding the people being saved every day to their group.

1.      Structure
a.       The Coming of the Spirit (vv.1-4)
b.      The Response of those in Jerusalem (vv.5-13)
c.       The Spirit-empower Sermon of Peter (vv.14-36)
                                                              i.      Peter Explains the Languages as a Fulfillment of Joel 2 (vv.14-21)
                                                            ii.      Peter Explains Christ raised from the dead, not David (vv.22-32)
                                                          iii.      Peter Explains Christ poured out the Spirit and is Lord, not David (vv.33-36)
d.      The Response of the People in Jerusalem to Peter’s Sermon (vv.37-41)
e.       The Nature of the Early Church (vv.42-47)
2.      Themes
a.       The Holy Spirit
b.      The death and resurrection of Christ
c.       The killing of Christ by the Jews
d.      Languages/tongues
e.       Prophecies interpreted
f.       Calling on the Name of the Lord
g.      Conversion
h.      Church
3.      Doctrines
a.       The Holy Spirit comes from God via Jesus
b.      The Bible is reliable
c.       The Holy Spirit comes on every Christian at conversion
d.      The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts, boldness, insight, and empowerment
e.       The Holy Spirit transforms the human heart

1.      Outline
a.       The Promised Holy Spirit
                                                              i.      Promised by Jesus (Acts 1.4-5, 8)
                                                            ii.      Promised in Joel 2 (Joel 2.28-32)
b.      The Providing Holy Spirit
                                                              i.      The Holy Spirit Provides Spiritual Gifts
1.      He provided different languages
2.      He provides other gifts too, like leadership and preaching
                                                            ii.      The Holy Spirit Provides Boldness
1.      Boldness to speak up in general
2.      Boldness to say harsh and even dangerous things
                                                          iii.      The Holy Spirit Provides Words
1.      He will give the words we need when we need them
                                                          iv.      The Holy Spirit Provides Insight
1.      He enabled Peter to correctly apply Joel 2.28-32 to His coming
2.      He enabled Peter to correctly apply Ps. 15.8-11 to the resurrection of Christ and not David
3.      He enabled Peter to correctly apply Ps. 110 to the Lordship of Christ not David and in particular to the sending of the Spirit from God by Christ
                                                            v.      The Holy Spirit Provides Incentive
1.      The Holy Spirit is so awesome and should be such a part of our spiritual lives that He naturally comes up in evangelism as an incentive to convert
2.      The offer of the Holy Spirit can motivate people to come to Christ in faith
                                                          vi.      The Holy Spirit Provides Dedication
1.      Dedication to learning and following God’s Word
2.      Dedication to sharing our stuff generously
3.      Dedication to eating together regularly
4.      Dedication to praying consistently
                                                        vii.      The Holy Spirit Provides Generosity
1.      Through Him we can share our time
2.      Through Him we can share our talents
3.      Through Him we can share our money
4.      Through Him we can share our stuff
                                                      viii.      The Holy Spirit Provides Joy
1.      His joy is sometimes mysterious
2.      His joy is always overwhelming
                                                          ix.      The Holy Spirit Provides Praise
1.      He brings the praise of God out of us naturally
2.      He brings the praise of people to us naturally
                                                            x.      The Holy Spirit Provides Unity
1.      He brings people together from all the different languages
2.      He brings people together from all the different places
3.      He brings people together from all the different cultures
4.      He brings people together from all the different backgrounds
5.      He brings people together from all the different statuses
2.      Discussion Questions
a.       What do you think it would have been like to have the Holy Spirit rush on you with fire over your head and different languages coming out of your mouth?
b.      If you had been on the outside looking in, what would you have said about these Jesus-followers?
c.       Before today, did you know God promised through prophecy to send His Holy Spirit on all His people? Why is sending the Holy Spirit so important to God?
d.      How important is the Holy Spirit to your daily life on a scale of 1-10? Why do you say that number?
e.       What places do you want the Holy Spirit to have on your daily life? What is keeping that from happening?
f.       How can you rely on the Spirit while reading and applying the Bible?

g.      Of the 10 things the Spirit provides mentioned in the sermon today, which 2 things do you want Him to provide to you the most? Why? Which 2 things do you want Him to provide the Universal Church the most? Why? 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Making Major Life Decisions

Scripture: John 6.66-69; 15.4-5; Matt. 26.36-46; Rom. 12.1-2; I Cor. 10.31; Mark 1.35-39; Acts 1.23-25; Josh. 9.14; Matt. 7.7-8; James 1.5-8; Gen. 12.1-4; Acts 10.1-48; 15.28; 16.6-10; Matt. 4.1, 18-22; 16.21-28; Gal. 5.16-26; Prov. 3.5-8; 15.22; 14.8; 20.4; Heb. 13.7, 17; Ps. 90.12;
Translation: Gen. 12.1Go for your own good away from your land, from your birthplace, from the house of your father to the land that I will show you. … 4And Abram went just as Yahweh told him. And Lot went with him. And Abram was 75 years old when he left from Haran.
Psalm 90.12Teach us how to count our days, so that we can get a heart of wisdom.
Prov. 3.5Trust in Yahweh  with all your heart; don’t rely on your own understanding. 6Know Him in all your ways, and He will straighten your paths. 7Don’t be wise from your own perspective; fear Yahweh and turn away from evil. 8It will be healing for your body, and refreshment for your bones.
14.8The wisdom of a shrewd man is understanding his path, but the stupidity of idiots is deception.
Prov. 15.22Plans fail when there is no advice, but with a lot of advisors you will succeed.
Prov. 20.4The lazy person doesn’t plow during planting season; he looks in harvest season, but there’s nothing.
John 6.66At this point, many of His followers left for what they left behind and didn’t walk with Him anymore. 67So Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go too, do you?” 68Simon Peter responded to Him, “Lord, who will we go away to? You have words of eternal life! 69And we really do believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!”
John 15.4Stay in Me, and I will stay in you. Just as the branch can’t produce fruit from itself, unless it stays on the vine, in the same way you can’t either unless you stay in Me. 5I am the Vine; you are the branches. The person who stays in Me and I in him—this person will produce lots of fruit, because without Me you can’t do anything!
Matt. 26.36Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane. And he was saying to the disciples, “Sit here while I go pray over there. 37And taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to express sorrow and emotional turmoil. 38Then He was saying to them, “My soul is depressed to the point of death. Stay here and hold vigil with Me. 39And going ahead a little, He fell on His face praying and saying, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup away from Me! But now how I want it, but how You want it.” 40And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And He was saying to Peter, “How are you not strong enough to stay awake with Me for one hour? 41Stay awake and pray, so that you don’t go into testing. Although the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.” 42Again, for a second time, going off, He prayed saying, “My Father, if it’s not possible that this pass except if I drink it, Your Will be done.” 43And coming back, he found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44And leaving them, going back, He prayed for a third time the same sentiment saying it again. 45Then He came to the disciples and He was saying to them, “Sleep the rest of the time and rest—look, the time has come and the Son of Man is being handed over into the hands of sinners! 46Get up. Let’s go. Look, The person betraying Me has come.
Rom. 12.1I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God to offer your bodies as a living, holy, and pleasing sacrifice to God, your logical act of worship. 2And don’t be conformed to this age, rather be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you can prove what really is the Will of God, which is good, pleasing, and perfect.
Mark 1.35And really early in the morning while it was still dark, He got up, left, and went out to a deserted place and He was praying there. 36And Simon and those with him were searching all over. 37And they found Him and were saying to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38And He was saying to them, “Let’s go somewhere else to the nearby market-towns, so that I can preach there too, because I set out for this purpose. 39And He went preaching in their synagogues, in all Galilee, and casting out demons.

1.      Outline
a.       Step # 1: Get God
                                                              i.      Get a relationship with God
1.      If you don’t have one, get one—right now, it’s easy.
2.      If you do have one, get it healthy—right now.
3.      Life with God is not life; it is nothingness
a.       John 6.66-69
b.      John 15.4-5
                                                            ii.      Get a passion for God’s Will
1.      Matt. 26.36-46
2.      Rom. 12.1-2
                                                          iii.      Get a passion for God’s Glory
1.      I Cor. 10.31
b.      Step # 2: Get Praying
                                                              i.      Example: Jesus prays before making a major life decision (Mark 1.35-39)
                                                            ii.      Example: the Apostles replace Judas with Matthaias after praying (Acts 1.15-26, esp. 23-25)
                                                          iii.      Example: Joshua and the Israelites get tricked, because they fail to ask God about their possible alliance (Joshua 9, esp. v.14)
                                                          iv.      Example: Jesus prays about going to the cross (Matt. 26.36-46)
                                                            v.      Instruction: Jesus tells us to pray for what we need (Matt. 7.7-8)
                                                          vi.      Instruction: James tells us to ask for wisdom if we need it (James 1.5-8
c.       Step # 3: Get Direction (from God)
                                                              i.      Listen to God
1.      Gen. 12.1-4
2.      Acts 10.1-48
3.      Matt. 26.36-46
4.      Acts 16.6-10
                                                            ii.      Follow Jesus
1.      Matt. 4.18-22
2.      Matt. 16.21-28
                                                          iii.      Walk in the Spirit
1.      Gal. 5.16-26
2.      Matt. 4.1
3.      Acts 15.28
d.      Step # 4: Get Wise
                                                              i.      Trust Yahweh (Prov. 3.5-6)
                                                            ii.      Fear Yahweh (Prov. 3.7-8)
                                                          iii.      Study the Bible (Ps. 119.105)
                                                          iv.      Get Advice from Wise People (Prov. 15.22)
1.      Parents
2.      Pastors
3.      Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, etc.
4.      Older brothers and sisters
5.      Wise friends (but not all friends are wise friends)
6.      Experts on the issue
                                                            v.      Consider your options (Prov. 14.8)
1.      Figure out what your options are
2.      Evaluate your options
a.       Costs vs. benefits
b.      Pros vs. cons
c.       Rightness vs. wrongness
d.      From your own perspective, from others’ perspective, from God’s perspective
                                                          vi.      Follow Godly examples/Obey the instructions of your leaders (Heb. 13.7, 17)
                                                        vii.      Plan ahead (Prov. 20.4)
                                                      viii.      Consider the Consequences (Prov. 20.4)
                                                          ix.      Know /Discover your Calling
                                                            x.      Recognize how short life is (Ps. 90.12)
e.       Step # 5: Get Sober (Don’t Make a Major Life Decision…)
                                                              i.      IF you’re emotionally unstable/disoriented
1.      Like after a major breakup
2.      Like after a major failure
3.      Like after losing your job
4.      Like after a death of a loved one
5.      Etc.
                                                            ii.      IF you’re extremely tire, sick, injured, etc.
                                                          iii.      IF you’re drunk, high, or unable to think clearly
                                                          iv.      IF you’re depressed
                                                            v.      IF you’re really angry
                                                          vi.      IF you’re really scared
                                                        vii.      IF you’re far from God
f.       Step # 6: Get Going
                                                              i.      Don’t hesitate to do what you need to do, once you know what right decision is and it is the right time.
                                                            ii.      Don’t procrastinate, waste time, or miss the opportunity (Prov. )
                                                          iii.      Don’t let fear, worry, apprehension, or pain hold you back from doing what God is calling you to do. (Matt. 26.36-46)
g.      Step # 7: Get Praising
                                                              i.      WE are in it to win it, not for ourselves, but for the glory of our God (I Cor. 10.31)

                                                            ii.      Ultimately, it is God who makes all our success and ability possible (Prov. and Phil. 2.13)