Let’s Stop the “Christianese”!

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Hey TD!

As I was reading Joshua 13 last week, my heart was gripped, my eyes riveted to the sentence, and my soul stunned when I reached the last verse.  This chapter is in the middle of God leading Israel’s conquering of lands, which He wants to give to them as an inheritance.  Here, He instructs Joshua, “Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.”

The passage then proceeds to list in detail all the areas that God had given the other half of the tribe of Manasseh – “This is what Moses had given to the tribe of Gad … The territory of Jazer, all the towns of Gilead and half the Ammonite country as far as Aroer, near Rabbah; and from Heshbon to Ramath Mizpah and Betonim, and from Mahanaim to the territory of Debir …. etc. (you get the point).  It keeps going on and on about which tribes got which lands.

And then the chapter ends with this, “But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the LORD, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them.”  I’ve read this before, of course, but I didn’t see this coming this time.  I was stunned and  floored afresh.  They got no inheritance.  God was their inheritance.  Wow.

I’ve read this before, of course, but I didn’t see this coming this time.  I was stunned and  floored afresh.

As a worship leader at MBCLA since the ’80’s, I have poured through and sung decades’ worth of worship songs (formerly known as praise songs).  I have experienced their textual, musical, and stylistic evolution.  At any given time in a day, Sandra or I (sometimes Sandra AND I) will spontaneously break out some chorus of some song from the 5 decades of Christian worship music we’re familiar with.

One thing that I always wrestle with is this: Is this true?  In my life and in the lives of those I’m leading to sing these songs, is this true?  God warns us to let our yes be yes and our no be no, and that every word that proceeds from our mouths will be judged.  In dealing with the upstanding good church goers in His day, Jesus commented, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship Me in vain …” (Matt. 15) O, Lord, is this me?

So, when I sing certain lyrics, I begin to tighten up inside and cringe, struggling with whether I can actually and honestly sing these words:

“Rich or poor, God I want You more

Than anything that glitters in this world

Be my all, all consuming fire

You can have all my hands can hold

My heart, mind, strength and soul

Be my all, all consuming fire

 

We have all we need in You

And all we need is You

All we need is You”

 

Or,

“You are my strength when I am weak

You are the treasure that I seek

You are my All in all.”

 

Or,

“All of You is more than enough for

All of me, for every thirst and every need

You satisfy me with your love

And all I have in You is more than enough

 

More than all I want, more than all I need

You are more than enough for me”

 

If I’m going to sing these words, then I MUST honor them and live them out.  They MUST become reality in my heart, “for from the heart flow the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23)  They MUST for you too.  May it NOT be said of us, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are (actually) far from me.”

Unfortunately, what all too often emerges, when we’ve gone to church for a long time without really letting God do the hard heart work in our lives, is that we end up developing a church culture of our own that we feel comfortable in – with church friends, doing “clean” things, etc.  We go to church together, go to fellowship and SS together, give the right answers, confess our struggles, share “honestly” and “vulnerably,” pray with one another, study Scripture together, and … sing worship songs together … songs that challenge, declare, and promise things to the Lord that most of us have never declared and promised in our regular speech; because we can’t.  We’d be lying.

It’s as if music changes our ethics and gives us permission to lie and make false promises

It’s as if music changes our ethics and gives us permission to lie and make false promises that we not only break immediately, but that we plan to break in a few hours.  And because our “good Christian friends” also do it, we rationalize that it’s ok, that we’re ok.  Or … we know it’s not ok, but we continue on anyway.  That’s what I call “churchianity.”  It’s playing church, speaking churchy language that I call “Christianese” – a language that has all the correct form, correct doctrine, and even correct biblical language … but is missing the creative, active, thoughtful, action-invoking life, timing, work,  integrity, and spirit of God.

Are You Ready to Take Action?

Are you fluent in speaking “Christianese”?  What do you think God hears from you when you sing

Christ is enough for me, Christ is enough for me

Everything I need is in You, Everything I need

 

I have decided to follow Jesus,

No turning back, no turning back”?

Is it a declaration that you will do everything in your power to bring your life in alignment with?  Or is it “Christianese”?  Will you surrender your dreams, desires, plans, and future to Him and give Him a chance to actually fulfill His dreams for you?  The reasons for which He made you?  Will you let your yes be yes?  Will you pledge to work with the Holy Spirit to do whatever it takes for Him to be your All in all? To begin the business of transferring full control over your life and future to Him?  And to take the necessary steps (as tough as they may be) to make that a reality?

Can you dare to dream with me?  What would your life look like if the Holy Spirit was in control of it?  How would it look different?  What if honoring Him was your actual desire and passion each moment of each day?  How would things change daily for you?

I encourage you to carve out some time to soberly and honestly weigh these questions out before God.  Everything depends on it.  Then take action and begin making the necessary adjustments in each area of your life to be consistent with the Truth.  I recommend asking a trusted mentor-type to come walk along side you in support and accountability.

“But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the LORD, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them.”  Amen and amen. You are everything, Lord.

– Arthur

 

TD Friday – “Everywhere & Nowhere SG Study

Hey TD!

In this post you will have nearly everything you need to prepare for our small groups this Friday – the mp3 and small group study of “Everywhere and Nowhere,” as well as a meaningful Slice of Infinity by Margaret Manning Shull entitled, “An Answered Prayer.”  It’s like a TD small group kit!

“Everywhere and Nowhere” (message) – Sandra

“Everywhere and Nowhere” (small group study)

Please prepare as well as you can for our first small group study of 2016!  The better everyone prepares, the better our small groups will be!  Prep well, TD!

An Answered Prayer 

Just type the word “prayer” into an internet search engine as I did the other day and you’ll find almost a hundred million different articles, sites, books, and periodicals on the topic. Discussions about prayer are as ubiquitous as the praying football player in the end zone after a touchdown. Every major world religion has some form of prayer, and in some of the earliest words to the church Christians are exhorted to pray “without ceasing.”

And yet if we’re honest, prayer can be a frequent source of confusion and deep mystery. Confusion comes not only with questions concerning what to pray and how to pray, but also in questioning whether or not prayers make a difference or are being heard at all. Phillip Yancey’s book, which asks one such question in the title, attempts to address many of these questions about prayer. Why does God seem silent so much of the time to our prayers? Why does God seem to answer prayers affirmatively for some and not for others? And when all we seem to receive in response to our prayers is “no,” how are we to understand both prayer’s efficacy and the God who loves us?(1)

If these questions aren’t difficult enough, Jesus’s own bold statements about prayer make us all the more confused. The Gospel of Matthew seems to record some matter-of-fact statements about prayer. After all, Jesus proclaimed, “I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and the one who knocks, it shall be opened.” Likewise, Jesus promises that like our earthly fathers, God longs to give us what is good in response to the asking, seeking, and knocking of prayer.(2)

Yet Luke’s Gospel narrative makes explicit what Matthew’s Gospel keeps implicit about the gifts given in response to prayer. Jesus tells his disciples, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?(3) According to Jesus, the goal of all prayer is the Holy Spirit at work in our lives and in the world. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate “good gift” that God gives in response to our asking, seeking, and knocking.

So, then, Jesus describes prayer in terms of connection and affiliation, a linking of our lives by the Son with the Father who gives the gift of the Spirit. The more this connection grows and develops, the more one desires it. Hence, God promises to give us more of the Holy Spirit-in and through all the circumstances of life-as the deep answer and the good gift in response to prayer.

Further, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as the comforter, and the one who comes alongside us.(4) This is the same Spirit the apostle Paul suggests “intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words,” and “intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”(5) Therefore, when difficulties come, when our prayers seemingly go unanswered, there is the unfailing assurance that we are not alone. The Father longs to come near to us as tangibly as the human Son of God has come into the world and as assuredly as the comforting presence of God’s Spirit who comes alongside us.

Craig Barnes, former pastor of the National Presbyterian Church, adds:

“Sometimes life gets overwhelming, and we realize we could use a little help. So we pray for our health to get better, for our marriage to work out, for success in our work that has taken a turn for the worse. There is nothing wrong in praying for these things, but they are not what our salvation is about. Don’t expect Jesus to save us by teaching us to depend on the things we are afraid of losing! He loves us too much to let our health, marriage, or work become the savior of our lives. He will abandon every crusade that searches for salvation from anything or anyone other than God. So he delays, he watches as we race down dead-end streets, he lets our mission du jour crash and burn. To receive Jesus as Savior means recognizing him as our only help. Not our only help for getting what we want. But our only true help.”(6)

God’s promise to be present with us through the power of the Holy Spirit suggests that God’s presence with us is the deepest answer to prayer. It is God’s “yes” even if God answers our specific requests with “no.” Ultimately, God desires to bring comfort, not from dependence on the things of this world, but in God’s presence with us and alongside us through the Spirit.

Through the power and presence of the Spirit, God longs to be the very answer to our prayers. Ask, and the Holy Spirit will be given to you. Seek, and you will find the Holy Spirit with you. Knock, and the door of God’s kingdom will be opened to you. For how much more will our heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit, to those who ask?

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006).

(2) Matthew 7:7-11.
(3) Luke 11:11-13.
(4) John 14:16, 26).
(5) Romans 8:26b-27.
(6) M. Craig Barnes, When God Interrupts (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 124-125.

“Knowing and Being Known, Pts. 1/2” mp3’s

Hey TD!

Here are the mp3’s for “Known and Being Known, Pt. 1” and “Known and Being Known, Pt. 2”.  The better you know and understand these ideas and thoughts of God, the better you’ll know and appreciate God.

“Knowing and Being Known, Pt. 1” (message) – Arthur

“Knowing and Being Known, Pt. 2”  (message) – Arthur

Don’t forget that to come to TD tonight! Sandra has an incredible lesson on God’s omnipresence to share with us!

Also, we have our Pre-TD Party at 7:15!  See you soon!

TD Friday – “Everywhere and Nowhere”

Hey TD!

What do we mean when we say that God is omnipresent? It means much more than “God is everywhere.” Join us this Friday as Sandra uniquely leads us into greater depths of understanding and apprehending God’s omnipresence!  We’ll be studying Psalm 139:7-12. I have seen her material and this is going to be an amazing lesson.  She will be using a lot of visuals that will not be posted online afterwards.  So, make sure you come!

We will also be having our TD Pre-Meeting Party at 7:15!  Come join the fun and see you on Friday!

In the meanwhile, read through this passage thoroughly and meditatively in preparation:

Psalm 139:7-12

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in [f]Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will [g]overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
12 Even the darkness is not dark [h]to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.

– Arthur

Prep for Opening TD of 2016!

 

 

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Hey TD!

How is 2016 looking for you? Are you excited? Anxious? Picking yourself up off the ground? Unsure?

Let’s get 2016 kicked off right by meeting with the Author of 2016 Himself, and letting Him write our 2016!  Leading us to the Author will be Arthur (people often spell his name “Author”!).  The last time he taught, the Spirit moved powerfully that He caused a power outage by tripping the circuit breakers with too much power 🙂

Arthur will be teaching part 2 of ‘Knowing and Being Known.”  Come as we prepare to set your 2016 off on a higher trajectory!

Please prepare for this Friday’s meeting! It WILL make a difference in how much you get out of it!  Here’s how:

1.  Re-listen to and review “Knowing and Being Known, Pt. 1” (message – Arthur).  Just click to listen and review.

This will be very important to do to solidify the base for part 2 this Friday.

2.  Finish memorizing Psalm 139:1-6 by this Friday.  Savor it, meditate on it, relish in it! Your inputs directly affect your outputs.

 O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know [a]when I sit down and [b]when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You [c]scrutinize my [d]path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
[e]Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

See you on Friday as we kick off 2016!

 

Andy’s Speech at Ignition ’15

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Hey TD!

Here’s Andy’s Youth Speakers Tournament winning speech, “If God Knows Everything, Is Prayer Really Important?” before 1,500 students at the California Southern Baptist Youth conference, Ignition, in Sacramento (our state capital!).  It’s an important question that Andy addresses well.

Here’s Travis Ryan leading the audience in worshiping God with “Good Good Father.”