Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Overcoming the Generational Language Barrier in Worship

parent megaphone
It has been said that "worship is the language of heaven". Not sure who first said that but I have heard that phrase many times over the years. We live in a culture that is becoming not just bilingual, but multilingual. On a missions trip to Romania I was amazed by the fact that most people in Europe speak several languages. My missionary friends tell me that is the reality of most of the world today, with the exception of America. The vast majority of Americans only speak one language - English. In fact, in many corners of our country there is a fierce battle to keep our educational system "English only". Is that such a good idea? In my opinion it is a big mistake. The reality is that America is slowly becoming more and more irrelevant to the rest of the world. Could it be because we are refusing to adapt to other cultures and learn their languages which would help us be better global communicators? I'll let you decide that one.

I see a huge parallel in modern day worship in America. I was listening to a young preacher in a high school chapel not long ago speaking to students about my generation (I am a Boomer) passing the worship baton to their generation (they were Millienials). His take on the subject focused on admonishing them to reach out and take the baton from us and he asked them, "Who will stand up and take the baton?". This was met with about 150 blank stares and dead silence. I think that young preacher interpreted this to mean that they were just apathetic, uninterested and downright rebellious. He asked the question several more times, gradually increasing the volume, but to no avail. I really felt for him. But I also felt for those young people. I am convinced that I was witnessing a classic case of a language barrier. Let me venture to try to interpret what those teens were trying to say by their silence - "Why should we embrace your generation's worship when you are unwilling to embrace ours?" I think that is a very profound question.

It was almost 40 years ago that I was that age and worship was changing fast then as it is now. The late 60's and early 70's saw the birth of the Worship Chorus. We had never heard anything like that before and it was wonderful. Those songs let us go beyond just singing what we believed to telling God how much we loved Him. We could express our feelings! The generation in charge of doing things back then told us that worship like that was improper, too emotional, too wordy , and irrelevant. Sound familiar? I find myself struggling to connect with some of the latest worship songs and styles of today just like the rest of the generation in charge of doing things today but we better be careful not to make the same mistakes my parents' generation made.

I close with this thought. Why must each generation insist that everyone speak their language? I think the Church in America needs to become not only multi-generational but multilingual in its worship. I have decided to become a student once again and learn the worship language of my son's generation. I want to learn how to worship in abandon - a no holds barred, extravagant love kind of worship to God. That's their language and God speaks that kind of language too. Inf fact, he invented it. Maybe if we learn their language, they will in turn embrace our language which will help them stay Biblically solid. We need to break out of our worship speak and understand that the language of Heaven is beyond our own and never unilingual. I see the day when the youth don't just do their worship thing on Wednesday night and we adults do ours on Sunday morning, but we come together with one voice, embracing each other's language, and as a result enjoying a much richer, meaningful corporate worship experience! The book of Revelation tells us that is how worship in Heaven will be so we might as well get used to it now. Who knows, we just might see my generation actually enjoying a Bethel Live worship song while at the same time my son's generation actually loving a good old-fashioned hymn.

"He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord." Psalm 40:3

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Friday, January 23, 2015

How the Pursuit of Happiness Is A Dead End

dead end
As Americans, we are taught from day one that our Constitution guarantees us the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It's a noble goal and has helped our country become the great country it is today. But on a spiritual level, living life this way doesn't work.

The foundational principle to this concept is based upon the premise that I have a right to pursue these three things and it is a violation of the Constitution to deny me those rights. Jesus taught us that the true way to life, liberty and happiness is found the opposite way. He tells us in Matthew 10:39 that whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Man's method is living for himself. God's method is living for others. That is the key that unlocks real life, true liberty and real happiness.

Jesus not only taught this principle, he lived it. Philippians 2 gives us a snapshot of the life of Christ lived out. It says that even though he was God, he emptied himself and become nothing, taking on the form of a servant so that he could come to earth and bring us eternal life. He laid down his life for us. He showed us that the secret to real life, liberty and happiness is only found when we die to ourselves.

Does your life seem a little empty? Do you feel trapped by life? Are you unhappy? Perhaps you are pursuing these three things from the wrong direction. Start doing things backwards from the way you are used to. Instead of living for yourself, live for others. As you begin to do this you will then begin to experience a dimension of life, liberty and happiness that you never knew you could have. What do you think would happen if all Americans lived this way?

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Real Cost Of Abortion

Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion in the United States. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, it is estimated that a total of 56,622,159 babies have been aborted in the United States alone since 1973. The population of the U.S. is now at 313.9 million so the number of abortions that have been performed in 41 years equals more than 18% of our total, current population. That averages out to over 1.3 million babies aborted every year. To put it in even better perspective, that is equivalent to the total population of the 30 most populated cities in America, according to the  2009 Census estimates. To break it down even further, that averages out to 157 babies aborted every hour for the last 41 years, or 2.6 every minute. In the time it will take me to write this post over 100 more babies will have been aborted. In my opinion, that is a tremendous price to pay for convenience.

In 2002 there were a total of 100,693 murders by firearms around the world (SOURCE: The Eighth United Nations Survey on Crime Trends and the Operations of Criminal Justice Systems (2002) (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Centre for International Crime Prevention). When you compare the statistics, which one deserves more outrage and attention? Which one should our legislature being more concerned about? Which is the bigger atrocity? Abortion! Yet more money, time, energy and resources are spent on gun control legislation than overturning Roe vs. Wade. In America, one is called a crime while the other is called a right. Only in America can you go to prison for killing your family pet and be applauded for killing your unborn baby. More laws are passed every year to protect our environment while state laws restricting abortion are declared unconstitutional. There is something horribly wrong with a country that values the life of a dog over the life of a fetus.

I believe that God forms each and every human life with a divine purpose and the potential to change the world. For the sake of convenience or a woman's right to chose, did we sacrifice our only chance for world peace? Did we forfeit our only opportunity to cure cancer? What world changing opportunities did we throw away in the trash? How many potential Billy Grahams did we throw away, and as a result, how many souls were never given the chance to hear the gospel? With convenience comes a tremendous price tag and one I don't think anyone considered in 1973. Who knows what it has cost us so far, but this I can tell you - there will come a day when the final price for our convenience will be demanded of us by our Creator whom we stole those lives from.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

3 Keys to Keep Your Life On Track

3 keys
In my post, Take A Walk, I talk about the challenge to position ourselves in the place where God is already inhabiting and walk there rather than setting our own daily course and asking Him to bless that. This spiritual truth simplifies our quest to discern God's direction and plan for us. However, it is no simple matter to make this a daily habit. There are obstacles and barriers that come across our path and Satan will surely do whatever he can to knock us off course. The good news is that God has laid out a strategy that if followed, will keep us on track. Let me give you 3 keys to keep your life on track from Joshua 1:6 - 9.

#1 - Strength and Courage (v 6, 9)

This is not something we create or find within ourselves. It is a discipline that results from a continual mindset based upon the truth. Our strength and courage will come when we always remember that He promised to never leave us or forsake us and that He would be with us just like He was with Moses (v.5b). When we forget these things, we lose our courage and become weak, which causes us to run away or just stop walking.

#2 - Obedience (v. 7)

Disobedience is the number one reason why we get off track. When we fail to obey His Word, we start walking down a path that takes us in the opposite direction of where He is going. Obedience keeps us focused and on track. I like to think of it as our spiritual GPS device. As long as we are walking in obedience to the Lord, we have a clear connection to His voice and our pathway becomes clear.

#3 - Prayer (v. 8)

I just read a quote the other day that said, "A man who fails to pray is destined to fail." That is so true. Prayer is what keeps us directly connected to the Lord at all times. This is critical to ensure our success with the first two mile markers. When you are afraid, there is nothing like prayer that fills you with His strength and courage. When you are tempted to disobey, prayer keeps you going the right direction. Prayer is also how we keep our spiritual GPS updated and current.

These three things ensured the success of Joshua as he led the nation of Israel across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. As God wants to lead you into a deeper dimension of His presence in your life, you must make them an integral part of your daily walk. Without them we are doomed to fail, but with them, we are guaranteed to succeed. That is the promise He gave Joshua in the last half of verse 8: "Then you will be prosperous and successful." May God direct your path today as you strive to walk with Him.
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Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Gospel of Us and the Selfie Generation

"He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30 (NIV)

I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that today's culture can be called the selfie generation. If you have never snapped a photo of yourself and posted it online, you would be considered to be living in the dark ages; out of touch; old-fashioned. According to the Pew Internet Project’s research related to mobile technology, as of January 2014, 90% of Americans have a cell phone. According to, there are over 15 billion selfies posted on Instagram. That's right - BILLION! That comes out to over two selfies for every person on the planet.

All of this points to the fact that we are simply obsessed with one thing - ourselves. I must point out that technology is not the culprit. We are. Our self-obsession existed long before cell phones, computers, and the Internet were invented. Humans, by nature, are self-absorbed. It goes against our nature to think about others above ourselves.

This points us to the beauty of the Gospel message and the example that we see in John the Baptist. As you read the story of this man, you see a portrait of the epitome of selflessness. John's sole purpose was to point the way to the one who was greater than he - Jesus. Not once does he promote himself. He is very careful to turn all attention away from himself and direct it to Jesus. When questioned by the religious leaders as to his identity and his message he is quick to say that he is not the Messiah. The more John is grilled about himself, the more he talks about Jesus.

When Jesus appears on the scene, John makes a point to get out of the way and put Jesus in the spotlight. His statement in John 3:30 says it all when he says, "He (Jesus) must become greater; I (John) must become less." It takes a great deal of courage to step out of the way and let someone else get the glory.

What is today's Church promoting? Who is getting the attention? I'm afraid it is us. Instead of directing attention to Christ, we are directing all the attention to ourselves. Instead of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ we are proclaiming a different gospel - the gospel of us. We spend so much time, energy, and money promoting what we are doing, how we are doing it, and who is doing it that we have forgotten why we are doing it and who we are doing it for. Our motto has become "We must increase; He must decrease."

We are the selfie generation. We are desperately trying to get people to come to our church to hear how great our worship is and to listen to our latest and greatest sermon series on how to live a happier life rather than the crucified life. We are obsessed with attracting crowds rather than the presence of the Holy Spirit in our services. Our bulletins, websites, and Facebook pages tell the story of us rather than the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In the eyes of the world we have become greater while Jesus has become less.

In 2015 the world doesn't need us. It needs Jesus. It isn't interested in what we can do for them. It needs to hear what Jesus has done for them. It desperately needs us to put our cameras down and get out of the way so that Jesus can show up and do what we can't do. Our motto must be, "We must decrease; He must increase." No more selfies. No more photo-bombing. Let us proclaim one simple thing - "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
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