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Worship is War

“Worship is War.” That’s the tagline I saw on an ad in my Twitter feed for a new TV show coming out, about the Greek, Norse, etc. gods living in modern day U.S.

When I saw it, my first thought was “how little do they know exactly how right they are.”

Worship is powerful. Not in itself, and not because of who we are, but because of who God is. When we worship we admit that on our own we are weak, we are powerless to change much in this world, and we are dependent on Him.

Worship doesn’t make God more powerful, as some video games and shows/movies portray other gods – He is already omnipotent, perfect, omniscient, omnipresent; what could we possibly add to Him? And worship isn’t like putting a coin in a vending machine – it doesn’t “activate” God or obligate Him to do something for us; but when we worship rightly (with humility, and in Spirit and truth) we put ourselves in a place where we will see God working in and through and around us.

An interesting, literal, example of worship as war is found in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30.  I wonder if we would see this happening in similar ways, if we were to march through our neighbourhoods and streets worshiping, similar to prayer walks?

When we worship, we proclaim who God is – and that’s a powerful reminder to us, and to the spiritual forces of darkness around us. Because scripture is clear our enemy is never people, it’s Satan, and the world, and our sinful natures (Eph. 6:12). When people appear to be our enemies, we can be sure it’s one of those three things behind them.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

By our worship we submit to God, draw near to Him, and simultaneously we resist the devil (James 4:7-8).

Of course, worship doesn’t just occur on Sunday mornings at a church service.

Worship happens when we pray prayers of thanksgiving. It happens when we pray prayers of supplication (because He is God and we are not).

Worship happens when we sacrifice our time, resources, or talents for Him, in service to others (thereby living out the command to love God with all our heart/soul/strength and love our neighbour as ourselves).

Worship happens when we say “Not my will, but Yours be done” even when we don’t feel like it, see the logic behind it, or have to go it alone.

If prayer is necessary like the air we breathe, and the Bible necessary like the food we eat, then worship is like the water we drink – it blesses God but it also refreshes our soul.

Worship orients our hearts away from this world and the things of it, to the only One who truly matters, and to His agenda and work on the earth, and that must royally tick off the (temporary) rulers of this world.

Worship is war.

Make time to worship Jesus daily. You’ll see the difference it makes.

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An Unfortunate Conversation

Conversation I had yesterday with my boss/senior pastor, as best I remember it:

Me: So there’s one more outreach idea that I wrote in my report that we’ve been talking about [the English deacons and I], but actually I keep forgetting to bring it up at our meetings. [The Winnipeg Gay Pride Parade is coming up, and I wanted us to do some sort of act of service at it, like handing out water bottles to parade-goers]

Him: I saw that and I have some concerns about it. [previously he’s told me he believes homosexuality is the “worst sin”]

Me: Oh?

Him: Yeah, I don’t think you should do anything for it.

Me: Okay? Jesus said to love our enemies – not that they’re enemies – but I thought this would be a good opportunity since they march right past our church.

Him: People might get the wrong idea about us. People film at those events. They might think we support it.

Me: Well, what if we didn’t wear anything that had our church name on it or any slogans or anything?

Him: No. I don’t think that’s a good idea.

Me: People misunderstood Jesus too. The Pharisees were offended and misunderstood Jesus when he went to tax collectors and “sinners” [Luke 6]. We can’t really control what others think, but they can ask us.

Him: Some churches hold up signs saying “we’re sorry” at this event, I don’t like that.

Me: Right, but we would just be handing out bottled water, hoping to show love and trying to create opportunities for one-on-one conversation.

Him: I saw a video recently where a woman stood up at a Muslim rally at a city hall in Texas, she took the microphone and proclaimed “Jesus is the one true God.” I was very inspired by her doing that.

Me: Right, but do you think anyone listened to her? It would be the same if we held up signs at the parade, even less offensive ones saying something like “Jesus loves you and wants a better life for you,” do you think anyone would listen? It would shut down any conversation before it could happen.

Him: It’s just I have some concerns about this. I don’t think you should do it.

Me: If I can say this, and I don’t mean any offense, but I think you’re being Pharisaical about this.

Him: We’re having a frank discussion.

Me: Jesus told us to love our enemies, and they’re not, but it’s a great opportunity since they walk right past our doors.

Him: I don’t want people to get the wrong idea because it will look like we support it. [at this point he suggested trying to start a weekly Bible study with a meal for the gay student association at UofW nearby, which I don’t believe would work, and besides, wouldn’t be sustainable for the congregation at this point in time. I only said the latter out loud though.]

Me: I just think it’s a good opportunity that we’re missing out on. But, since you’re my boss I guess we won’t do anything for it.

So. That was frustrating and disappointing. I knew there would be struggles at this church, but I didn’t think one of them would be to show love to people in such a simple way when the opportunity is so obvious. But his message was clear: don’t show love to others – and disobey Jesus’ explicit command – if it will make other religious people question or misunderstand us.

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7 Signs to See When Our Serving is Sanctified

In my last post, I looked at 12 ways we actually be serving sinfully. This time I want to look at seven ways we can know when our serving is God-glorifying (I used “sanctified” in the title to keep it alliterative, but that might be a bit of a stretch).

Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.


All Christians are called to serve, for the good of each other and for glory of God. And when we serve, God uses it to both form us more and more into His likeness (the sanctifying part of service), and to draw others to Him (see Matthew 5:16).

Here are seven signs that indicate we are doing the works that Christ has prepared for us:

1. We are energized by it.

2. We are fulfilled by it.

3. We have joy because of it.

4. We can see the good coming from it.

5. We are drawn closer to Jesus through it.

6. Our family is supportive of it.

7. When it’s part of a balanced life, including ample rest.

Having said all that, it doesn’t mean we won’t ever get frustrated, or tired, or daunted by our serving, but those feelings won’t be the norm. And in the end, even when our serving is God-glorying we still need to be depending on His strength to be doing it.

As you serve, may you know the goodness and love of Christ more and more through it!

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12 Ways to Know When Our Serving is Sinful

One of my favourite passages from Paul is Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

As humans, we were created to serve one another in love, and as followers of Christ we are new creations in Christ, and both commissioned and gifted to serve.  However, sometimes our serving can be sinful. The following are 12 ways we can tell:

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1. When we’re doing it for purely selfish motives (although we can’t ever be completely unselfish in our motives).

2. When we become irritable or frustrated when our plans are interrupted or changed.

3. When we haven’t left enough of a margin in our schedule to allow for unexpected interruptions (often God is working in these interruptions if we have eyes to see it).

4. When we complain (or boast) about being so busy that our family life suffers.

5. When our family life suffers, even when we don’t complain or boast about it.

6. When our health suffers, from stress or not getting enough sleep because of it.

7. When we take on jobs or projects not because we genuinely want to or feel God leading us to (or our boss tells us to!), but because no one else will do it or we think no one else is as qualified.

8. When we take on jobs or projects but feel resentful about it or like a martyr doing it.

9. When we take on jobs or projects because we think God will be more pleased by us or will love us more if we do.

10. When we take on jobs or projects because we want to impress or please people.

11. When we’ve bought into the lie that we need to be always doing or producing (or consuming!) to be considered valuable or worthy of love or acceptance.

12. Finally, when we’re doing it in our own strength instead of in God’s strength. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jer. 2:13).

Sometimes we make ourselves overly busy because we don’t want to face deeper issues in our lives, and busyness, like other forms of distraction, postpone us from having to deal with them. Or sometimes it’s because we don’t want face God Himself – being alone with Him with nothing else to get in the way.

But God never intended that we extend ourselves so much that it becomes detrimental to our emotional, spiritual, or physical health. And He has gifted us for some jobs, but not all of them.

Are you over-committed at church or at work or in the community? You might actually be displeasing God, and it’s worth not taking this consideration too lightly. Spend some time alone and in silence, and before God see if any of reasons describe you.

Did I miss any reasons? What would you say are the reasons when serving is pleasing to God?

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Reading the Psalms

This past weekend, we had a workshop at my church on different ways to read the Bible and how to lead a Bible study, and one of the handouts was a reading plan for the Psalms, taken from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

The Psalms were both the prayer book and hymnal of Judaism and for the Church up until relatively recently. They are words from people to God, and words to people about God. They help us to worship honestly – in both the good times, and those times when we feel like God has abandoned us (Jesus Himself prayed from Psalm 22:1 on the cross).

Reading the Psalms daily is a great way to keep ourselves in the presence of God throughout the whole day, and as I’ve been doing it over the last month I’ve noticed how my mind wanders back to God in thankfulness or prayer or just offering up my heart in love to Him throughout the day.

bcp-1962-psalm-reading-single-page

This chart looks complicated, but it’s actually not really. You look at the top and find which month we’re in, which determines which column to read from. Then, it’s as simple as finding the day of the month along the left-hand side of the column. There’s both morning and evening readings, they’re pretty short, and it’s perfect for keeping in a Bible at your bedside table (I printed mine at 75%, cropped the blank paper and title off, and it fits nicely inside my Bible). The nice thing about this reading chart is I don’t worry about it if I missed a reading, I just pick up with the current one and I know it’ll eventually come around again as I keep it up.

Give it a try for a month or two, and I convinced you’ll find it a life-transforming experience.

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A Family Devotion for Christmas Morning

Since Christmas is falling on a Sunday this year, many people will be staying home from church to open presents and spend time together as a family. I wrote this devotional for those from my church who are traveling or staying home. If you’ll be staying home this year I hope that you’ll use it on Christmas morning and be blessed by it as you worship the Lord!

Hiroshi Tabata (Japanese), "The Nativity," 1998. Source: http://issuu.com/acaaimagemagadmin/docs/96/5?e=5322867/5047821; http://issuu.com/acaaimagemagadmin/docs/97/12?e=5322867/5047825

Hiroshi Tabata, “The Nativity,” 1998.

This devotion can be done any time during Christmas Day; however, it should be done when you don’t need to rush, or there isn’t too much distraction from excitement of what may happen later in the day. I’ve written it assuming a family and friend setting, but those unfortunately alone for Christmas are also encouraged to use it.

1. Begin with an opening prayer. Take some time thanking God for sending His son. Ask Him to give you spiritual eyes to see the gloriousness of that first Christmas morning centuries ago, just like the shepherd got to see it with their own eyes.

2. Have someone read, or take turns reading, Luke 2:1-14.
Optional: Read Luke 1:26-38 and then Luke 2:1-14.

Why is the birth of Jesus “good news for all people”? It’s good to remind ourselves of this. Why do you think God sent the angel to appear to shepherds, and what do you think this says about God? Are there any other Bible passages it makes you think of?

3. Sing together “Joy to the World”
Whether your family is musical or not, there’s something beautiful about worshiping the Lord as a family. If you don’t want to sing A cappella but can’t play instruments, a good traditional instrumental track to sing along to can be found here. As you sing, remember that you are proclaiming good news and truth; this is not just a Christmas carol, but is worship!

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

4. Read the rest of the story, Luke 2:15-20. Take some time imagining the scene the shepherds found when they found Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus as He lay in the manger. Try to smell the smells and hear the noises that might have been in the air. If you have children, ask them what else might have been there. Try to imagine seeing Jesus, and to feel the wonder and excitement that those shepherds felt when they found Him just as the angels told them they would.

5. Have someone read, or take turns reading, Matthew 2:1-11. Jesus would have been between 1-3 years old at this time. If you have children, explain what the three gifts were – frankincense and myrrh are very expensive perfume oils and could be used in worship, to put on wounds, or to sell to provide for the family. Ask your children: “what gift would you give to the infant Jesus?”

6. Ask each person what gift they can give Jesus now. Allow for time to think about it; perhaps Jesus is putting something on their heart – making a “wish list” for Himself! If someone can’t come up with anything, give them suggestions to help spur their creativity and ideas; It could be things such as doing a spiritual discipline, or by serving in the church or community, or by regularly giving money to a missionary or charitable organization, etc. For young children, it may be a chore they can do or a lonely peer at school, church, or daycare they can befriend, etc.

7. Close in prayer. Each person should spend some time praying out loud by thanking God the Father for the gift of Jesus, for the gift that Jesus gives us by giving us His life and the Holy Spirit in exchange for our sins, for the gifts they received (or will receive) today, along with other things; and by offering Jesus the gift they said they can give Him and asking for His help in giving it well.
Then, when everyone is done, finish by praying this prayer together*:

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace:
by Your zeal may you establish your throne with justice and righteousness
and bring about endless peace on the earth. Amen!

*taken from Living the Christian Year, by Bobby Gross

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God Our Help(er)

There’s a word in Hebrew that means help, or helper.

rescue

The word is ezer (עֵ֫זֶר), and probably the most well-known time it’s used in the ancient Jewish scriptures is in reference to Eve, and the purpose of her creation (Gen. 2:18-25).

Out of the 21 times the term is found, however, 15 of them are actually referring to God Himself (Ex. 18:4; Deut. 33:7, 26, 29; Psalms 20:2; 33:20; 70:5; 89:19; 115:9-11; 121:2; 124:8; 146:5; Hos. 13:9) – that’s over two-thirds of all instances of it!

Out of all these instances, my favourite is Psalm 124:8 – “Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

God, who made the heavens and the earth, the almighty sovereign God, is also the one who helps us. And since He created the heavens and the earth, and more than that since He raised His Son Jesus Christ our Lord from the dead, is there any problem or issue that is too big for Him to help us with?

Today, whatever you’re going through or whatever challenges you’re facing, you are not alone. The same God who created all of space and everything it contains is the same God who desires to be your helper. Call on Him like the Psalmist “Come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; Lord, do not delay” (Ps. 70:5) – don’t try to solve or weather it yourself, whatever it is.

God will be faithful to answer when we call on Him, so with the author of Hebrews, we’ll be able to boldly proclaim “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Heb. 13:6).

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