Reaching Through the Crowds

I’m stretching my hands through the crowd, just trying to get a touch.

My need is great. No other options are available. My only hope is to make the connection.

The crowds are an obstacle.

Noise and confusion form a barrier to my goal. But I must reach Him at all costs.

To be who I am called to be, To be who I know I need to be, who I desperately want to be, I need a connection with His love.

My heart needs fixing. My love needs an awakening.

Today I will stretch through the crowds and reach Him.

Through the crowds of doubt and dissension. Through the crowds of anger and confusion. Through the crowds of my past and my present, I will stretch until I reach Him.

I will ask Him to create in me a new heart and to renew a right spirit within me. Today is my day for a miracle.

Worshippers!

I had an interesting talk about church services with a pastor friend of mine.

Here are some of my thoughts on the topic of worship.

The current buzzword in popular Christianity is worshipper. It’s the thrust of many a sermon and even some songs – being a true worshipper. In many applications the premise of being a true worshipper is flat out wrong. There is no biblical foundation to judge a person’s worship on how they react to the praise team’s songs or the oratorical surges of a preached sermon. None.

Nor is their evidence of a displaying of emotion as an evidence of true worship. That might be how we believe others should respond but we will not find examples in the Bible to support this idea. (When you think of the many examples in the Bible of public praise, ask yourself where it was taking place)

Please don’t judge one’s spirituality or engagement in worshipping God by how they react to the choreographed church service you designed to raise emotions. Just because they don’t have the response you would like to see, does not mean they are any less connected with God than those who are demonstrative in the ways you like.

Just because someone doesn’t stretch their hands out to pray when you tell them to, does not mean that they are any less interested in the object of prayer or any less involved in the prayer. Extending our arms in prayer is the cool thing to do right now. But in our adoption of the cool, let’s not lose the main attitude of prayer – hearts that are humble as they talk with God. Sadly, the peer pressure struggle inside of church is real.

Don’t dismiss your members who disagree with how service is being conducted as criticism. They may have legitimate reasons for why they oppose certain things that happen in our churches.  It’s not necessarily a resistance to change and a clinging to so-called out-dated traditions. And who knows, they may be right. The only place where one should not expect to hear differences of opinion should be in a dictatorship, and that should not be the flavor of any of our churches.

We can all agree that the service that takes place once a week in our churches is not a replica of any church service found in the Bible. That doesn’t make all that we do wrong. But neither does it make all that we do right. Outside of reading and studying the scriptures, hearing a preached word, prayer and bringing of an offering, much of what we do is of our own creation. We should be careful not to view our ideas as always God’s ideas. We should adopt the attitude of the early church at Berea, “in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11

It’s certainly not what happens in the 2-3 hour, once a week church service that determines or reveals one’s connection in worship with God. I would argue that it is more important about what happens outside of a church service than inside of church that determines if a person is a true worshipper.

An Inheritance Incorruptible

I recently had a conversation with a man that I greatly admire by the name of Pastor T. Marshall Kelly. Not only is he a world renowned Christian singer (Youtube Video Here); he is a man that exudes love and encouragement. During our talk, he told me, “Curtis, if you are doing what God wants you to do, you can’t lose.” Those wise words sum up all who have given their lives in devotion to God, including Peter who wrote the books we are studying this quarter.

Let’s appreciate for a moment the setting of Peter’s letter. He is writing to those who, for their belief in Christ, have been dispersed through persecution. I can only imagine how traumatic that must have been. Not only must they have lost relationships of a lifetime, but they also had to be uprooted from their homes and livelihoods. Yet, I find nothing in Peter’s letter bemoaning their fate. It’s almost as if what had happened to them through persecution was a footnote in their lives. Instead, Peter’s emphasis was on the quality of their faith as a result of their trials.With the mindset of trusting God with the outcome of our lives, we are set free from the worry and concern that weigh down those who have chosen another path in life. Our concern as Christians is not so much what is happening around us as it is what is happening inside of us. And that is the emphasis of Peter’s letter to the displaced followers of Christ.

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love.” 1 Peter 1:6-8

Peter, as few others, knew that one’s faith would be tested in ways they could not normally endure. We watched his development from a disciple to the Apostle Peter. We saw his rashness turned into thoughtfulness. We saw his self-confidence turn into dependence on divinity. We saw Peter rise from a crushing defeat of his own making and become the leader he was chosen to be, to help turn the world upside down.

Peter’s failures were not the sum total of his life. They were but learning opportunities that would allow him to speak in such a focused way to the early church when they endured extremely difficult periods in their lives.

Beyond his failures, Peter was a man of great faith. Who but Peter had the boldness to ask Christ to allow him to walk on water? Peter knew on some level that what is humanly impossible becomes possible when God is leading.

To the early church, Peter writes with an expectation that they maintain their love of God and demonstrate that love through their actions despite their circumstances.

“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” 1 Peter 1:22

There is no greater evidence of our union with Christ than the love we demonstrate to others. It surpasses doctrines held, wealth, position, and tradition. Without love, everything else in our religion is but sounding brass and tinkling symbols.

Peter was only expressing the truths that he had been taught at the feet of Jesus. As He watched his Master endure relentless opposition by those He came to save, Peter learned that loving God is shown by how we love each other. And Jesus not only demonstrated love, He places it in the proper context of our lives and our witness to the world.

“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:34-35

Loving one another is what God wants and commands us to do. And if we are doing what God wants us to do, we can’t lose. Regardless of persecution, affliction, privation, poverty and even death – in the end, we cannot lose.

Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:

  • What does being “holy” mean to you?
  • 1 Peter 1:22 says “love one another fervently with a pure heart.” Explain what that looks like.
  • Can one be holy without being a loving person? Why yes or no?
  • Is it realistic for Christians to be holy in the times we are living in? Explain your answer.
  • Why do you think Peter did not address more of the injustices the church was experiencing?
  • What does it mean in 1 Peter 1:7 to have one’s faith “tested by fire?”
  • Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: Judging others keeps us from loving others. Explain your answer.

We close this week’s lesson with the words of James who too knows the joy of confidence in God.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4

Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!