Monday, June 18, 2007

From Luke, chapter 7

41 "Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"
43 Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."
"You have judged correctly," Jesus said.

44 Then he [Jesus] turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."

A definite correlation between love and forgiveness is evident in this passage. The woman pictured here loves Jesus more because of the great sin debt that has been forgiven. Yet, it would seem that the woman was forgiven because of her great love for her Lord. Is it possible that love and forgiveness take on a circular effect? Forgiveness magnifies love magnifies forgiveness... But that's not all!

In the midst of all the love and forgiveness is WORSHIP! This woman pour out everything she had in worship of her Lord - tears, kisses, and perfume. She had to assume a lowly position in order to wash the feet of her Lord (an act which our Lord would later implement in order to demonstrate his humble love for the disciples). So now add worship to the equation: forgiveness magnifies love magnifies worship magnifies forgiveness magnifies love...

But wait a minute, how is it that worship magnifies forgiveness? Maybe one more word should be thrown into the mix: humility. Forgiveness magnifies love magnifies worship magnifies humility magnifies forgiveness... Humility ultimately causes us to have a greater awareness of our sin. God does not cause us to have a remembrance of specific past sins (Phil. 3:13; Jer. 31:34; Ps. 103.12), but throughout the writings of Paul, to the saints in the churches, is a general remembrance of who we were apart from Christ - sinners without hope (see especially Ephesians 2:1-4 and then throughout the first 11 chapters of Romans). Of course, we should be confessing current sin as quickly as we are conviced.

As we dig deeper into the Word and learn more of who God is, we see more of who we are and who we were apart from Christ. Often times, we think of those who were saved from a life of overt sinfulness (drugs, alcohol, sexual sin) as those who have been forgiven much. But I submit to you that as we grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, our sin - past, present and future - becomes even more repulsive in our own eyes. Therefore, the forgiveness of our sin becomes even more appreciated and we become even smaller in our own eyes and God becomes even bigger in our worship.

Back to this beautiful woman's act of worship. We have never seen her but we know that she is beautiful because of what poured out from deep inside of her - an overflowing love for Jesus. Isn't that what worship is all about? Love for our Lord swelling up inside of us to a point it has to be released through glorifying God by enjoying him? Hopefully, our lives point more and more to the glory of God. Hopefully, as we see God at work all around us, we want to glorify him even more. Naturally, when we gather together with other believers in the presence of God Almighty and we combine the testimonies of God's glory as exhibited in the saints around us, the praise that swells up insides of us pours out in corporate worship! These testimonies should always be founded upon biblical doctrine so that the deeper the truth, the more exuberant the praise!

As we worshipped at Rockport yesterday, I was awestruck by moments of corporate exuberance. What brought me greatest joy is when those moments manifested themselves. It was not when the music was most driving or through manipulating leadership. It was not because of peer pressure to conform to those around us. No, spontaneous corporate exuberance climaxed as did the depth of doctrine in the words of the songs. Spontaneous corporate exuberance climaxed as did that of the one being baptised while giving testimony of God's forgiveness. Oh yes! Forgiveness magnified love magnified humility magnified worship!

May God be praised!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Downloading Worship

Does your mind tend to hop all over the place? Does one thought lead to another and then another and so on and so forth? Mine does. As I wrote in my blog intro, sometimes I wish I could just download it all and then organize it!

Today, once again, I have encountered mental hopscotch! But sometimes it is a good game. Today, I have bent over and picked up pieces of God's goodness, his loving kindness, his holiness, his worthiness and in the process, have scratched on the concrete (yuck) of man's wickedness, enmity, sinfulness, and utter depravity.

What brings on such a mind boggling little kid's game inside my heart and head? I believe it to be a natural hangover from a beautiful time of being together with God's children in Worship. Where two or three are gathered, there he is. God inhabits the praise of his people. The simple truths of the Word expressed in teaching, song, testimony, and preaching can hold the heart and mind captive like absolutely nothing else. The armor of truth can thwart any and all attacks of the evil one for "greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world."

The emotions that accompany the worship of the Living God are exhilarating. Yes, emotions. No greater display of these worthy emotions is found than what we read in the psalms - well, unless it is the Apostle Paul at the end of Romans 11! Deep truth should overwhelm us - in a good way. For instance, think about propitiation. We sang about it yesterday. Propitiation is the appeasement of wrath through sacrifice. Jonathan Edwards painted the picture with the words, "Sinners in the hands of an angry God." What a perfect wrath! Perfect, holy wrath does not deserve to be appeased. God's wrath is indescribable. It doesn't compare to the wrath of man. Man's wrath is usually sin or will lead to sin if not placed in God's control. God's wrath is justifiable. Depraved man has given the finger to a holy God. Does that sound foul? I hope so, for my sin is a stench in the nostrils of God.

God could so easily have never given Noah a rainbow. Having the foreknowledge that he does, he could have easily said, "I will wipe out the world on a regular basis". Instead, before the foundation of the world, he provided a perfect sacrifice to satisfy his holy wrath. That could only be done through his only Son! So now, God is satisfied. He has provided salvation from sin, therefore from wrath, to all who believe.

What does this have to do with worship? EVERYTHING! So great a salvation has provided victory over death and hell and sin and Satan and all that is evil. So great a salvation has freed all who believe from eternal punishment. Victory invites celebration! Victory warms the body with emotions. Because Christ won our victory, the resulting celebration is call "Worship". Worship is based upon solid doctrine. Solid doctrine can't help but erupt in worship.

When I think about God no longer being angry over my sin because Jesus Christ has paid the ultimate sacrifice, my whole body warms up. My heart pounds as though it is going to pop out of my chest, and my mind cannot formulate enough thoughts of gratitude for my tongue to release through words of praise! Victory is like marching around Jericho - it puts us on shouting ground! Hallelujah to the Lamb!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Reflections on a Rockport Fellowship

What makes a fellowship, a fellowship? As I looked back on today's fellowship at Rockport, I found myself grinning on the inside (I'm too worn out to grin on the outside!). The food was good, but we're used to that. The speed Scrabble was fun (and Debbie McClure won), but any group could play speed Scrabble. I hear that ultimate frisbee brought out the athlete in Susan Jackson (you go, girl), but at this time of year you can't drive two miles without seeing frisbee, softball, and volleyball. So why is what happened today called "fellowship"?

The obvious answer should be that Jesus Christ is the center of our lives and that there is always something special when Christians are together. When Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, then we all have been adopted into the beloved family with God as our Father. Family. That's it. That's what I saw today.

Let's start with Sunday School. I don't know about your class but our class loves to share! What a comfort zone. A good comfort zone. A II Corinthians 1:3-7 kind of comfort zone. There we are, sharing the good, the bad, and sometimes - the ugly. No condemnation, but sometimes an abundance of suggestions and always a knowing look that says, "I've been there too" or a shared tear or a hearty laugh. What is your class like? Oh yeah, let's not forget the kids. They are always so glad to see each other. I hope we're always like that!

Moving on to worship. Better is one day in your house, O Lord, than a thousand elsewhere. His house? Join me in thanksgiving that his house is not a building but a body. His house is his Holy Spirit in you and you and you and when we all come together... Wow! The days when I feel weakest in worship are still better than a thousand... hmm, let me think, than a thousand days at Cardinal baseball games!

Then we eat. But far better than the taste of the food (and it is good) is sight of different members of the body pitching in to prepare the food and then all the spiritual aunts and uncles pitching in to help make sure all the small children are adequately supplied with food and drink and seated at a table or high chair and then the clean up help. Far better is the sight of Don Farrell holding a sleeping Elizabeth Dickman. Far better is the cry (in unison) of"mommy" coming from highchair row. Far better is watching Kurt Boehm seeing what kid he can introduce table food to next. Far better is watching someone who's kids are grown holding a child so mommy can eat.

Towards the end of the love feast comes the love that is showered on the soon to be rookie parents - Rachel and Aaron. Oohs and aahs fill the room as little girls' clothes and accessories are pulled from gift bags. All the while, grandma, granddad and great grandma are watching with elation. And we shouldn't forget all the children gathered around axiously awaiting the next surprise. Their joy is contagious. Isn't it fun (enjoyable would be the spiritual word) to await becoming aunts and uncles one more time!

Before the day was out, I learned more about my brothers and sisters. Did you know that Jerry Johnson wears contacts? We spent a few minutes discussing LASIK. I've done the LASIK thingy, he's considering it. Jerry, I hope I didn't scare you away! Maybe eyes aren't the deepest of subjects, but you know, it is the kind of thing you talk about with a brother. Krista Delaney used to live in Mount Vernon, IL. Today she was going back to celebrate the retirement of one of her former teachers. We missed you guys, but once again, the small bit of fellowship today revealed to me a little bit more about you. It's good to get to know more information about your sister.

There were discussions of making certain Nancy Ponder and Bob and Doris received care. Janet Davis had to leave us a few minutes to take Michael Frizuis (sp) home. Not sure why. It doesn't really matter. I think it was Bill Eagleburger who took Billsey to get the Galayda's family car (you know, the little blue escort that is driven by most of the Rockport family at some point). Why is this blog info? It's the family taking care of each other, once again.

Did you hear about Pastor Scott yelling (yes, yelling) at some of our dear, sweet Rockport children? As he and Kim were coming back from visiting Casey and Brian Hurtgen (the new couple who just had a little girl), they noticed a few of our most precious ones lining Telegraph Road, doing who knows what. Guardian angels kept cars on the road and away from the children but they still needed someone to holler at them to get back from the road. Scott then went inside and played tattle-tale. And, indeed he should have. Next thing you know, parents are trying to figure out who's kid were guilty and then very calmly (yeah, right) pulling their offspring aside to give them a little "what for" and I'm not sure what else! It made for quite lively discussion for the next few minutes.

Before the day was out, I got to carry a scratched up Menzi from the church to the volleyball court and then passed her off to Cindy Boehm who held her until she forgot about her boo boos and went to sleep. This freed up the rest of the Loving clan to play volleyball. Menzi had experienced her first vehicular crash. Rich sat in a lawn chair holding Elizabeth and occasionally wrestling Michael while Tim and Mandy played volleyball. Later, Cyndi Loving and Rachael Johnson came across the lawn with a crying Gracie. I'm not sure how, but she too had acquired a boo boo that need bandaids. They opened a minor emergency clinic in the parsonage while Susan finished a volleyball game. I might add, it was so cute to see Michael Dickman ask his dad, "Can I sit by Molli?" as he and Molli built a sand castle together.

I'm sure I've missed something. I just have to wonder... where else can you find a family that will care for you like God's family? Parties, reunions, socials, and get-togethers translate to "fellowship" when a display of genuine, Christ-like service creates a loving and caring atmosphere. So, if you've missed out, join us next month and the next and the next... If you had to leave early, hang out a little later. You never know, you might get to change a diaper, administer first aid, build a sand castle, cuddle a sleeping baby, or even yell at someone else's kid.

I don't know about you but when it's time for the August fellowship, I plan to snatch Olivia away from Don - even if it's just for a minute!