Monthly Archives: February 2012

Us vs. Them

Imagine you’re at your favorite Japanese restaurant.  As you are being seated you become aware of those who are at your table.  Some have been there before; others are brand new to the experience.  As the waiter comes and begins to take everyone’s order, the couple that has been to the establishment many times begins to insist everyone must have what they are having.  It’s what they like and it’s best.  Why would anyone want anything other than what is best?

You can almost smell the fried rice!


Now keep in mind, other than the obvious immature notion “everyone should be just like me,” everyone at the table is eating Japanese food.  The banging of steel will enthrall everyone, the tumbling utensils and the “choo-choo trains” and “volcanoes” made out of the onion rings will cause “ooo’s and aaaah’s.”  So if the only “difference” is personal preference—since everyone will eat Japanese food—why the insistence by the regular patrons that everyone must eat what they like?


Welcome to “Sunday Worship Wars!”  While every analogy eventually breaks down somewhere, this one is fairly accurate.  If we assume for the moment (and yes sports fans, I do know what “assume” means to many) there are true believers in church who desire what God has for them, we must then begin to define our terms clearly—to avoid confusion and rancor if nothing else!


First, what is church?  The Bible is quite clear regarding who makes up the “universal” church: it is the “body of Christ” and is made up of all who have a relationship with Jesus Christ and the Father through faith in Christ.  Our professed faith is evidenced by the way we live our lives: if we live like Christ, we are demonstrating the validity of our claim of faith according to James 2:17.


So the Universal church are believers everywhere.  Yet the local church—the koinonia or the local fellowship of believers—is comprised of those who are truly a part of the universal church and those who are not.  The reason why there is this corpus permixtum (mixed body) is simple: while God knows and guarantees those who are part of His body, we, being mere humanity, cannot make the same guarantee.


Having given a brief definition of “church,” let’s talk about its purpose or what the church is to be.  One of the best definitions I have come across is this: “The church is to be the sign and instrument of God’s kingdom” according to Ed Stetzer, head of Lifeway Research.  People should see the church as representative of God’s kingdom and the church (those comprising the body of Christ) are to be the instrument God has chosen to use to reach this world with the Good News of Jesus Christ!


Now we know whom we are and what we are to be doing.  Now back to the Japanese restaurant analogy: if we are here to give visible and physical matter to God’s kingdom, and if we are to be the instrument to be used to reach those who are currently outside of the kingdom, should we who are “regulars” in church always go about stamping our proverbial feet demanding that one of the most powerful and universal tools of communication God has given to humanity (music) be defined “our way?”


I am openly contemporary in my presentation as a pastor and in my musical preference.  Yet my passion isn’t CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) or Traditional Hymns (which were part of “contemporary music” in their day and context).  My passion is to communicate!  God has granted me the ability and position to be able to communicate His Gospel and for me to communicate—period.  He has given me an opportunity to serve Him as a pastor and as a communicator.


I do not use the same verbiage, grammar or context with every audience.  When teaching and preaching, I use the same message, but not the same style and words; I cannot because I desire to communicate the message God has given me to communicate—and to do it effectively with different audiences!


Music is a tool.  It is not God, it is not the message: it is the vehicle through which the message is carried.  In my congregation, we overwhelmingly sing traditional hymns—partly due to the audience make-up, partly because of the skill-sets of the musicians—yet for our church to reach the lost and communicate with them in a means and manner they can comprehend, we will also need to change our methodology in the future—and thankfully, my congregation understands this!


There is error in both the CCM camp and those who argue for Traditional Hymnody.  This is not an “either/or” but a “both/and.”  In Political Science there is what is referred to as a “zero sum game”—somebody wins and somebody loses.  While there are contexts in this fallen, sin-ravaged world where this observation is valid, yet in the Kingdom of Christ it is invalid and heretical.


When believers understand worship, they comprehend it is a 24/7/365 thing; it is not the hour or two on Sunday mornings or the quiet time spent alone with God.  Worship is the life of the believer!  If as Paul insists in Romans the “just will live by faith,” then all of life is worship!


Jesus in John 17:22 in His High-priestly prayer on behalf of all believers, asks the Father “May they be one as We are one.”  True, this verse has far too often been hijacked by the ecumenical movement, yet it is uniquely applicable here.


We do not need to be perceived by the world, the lost, that we do not love or get along.  We can be different and even Paul in Ephesians 4 highlights the necessity of unity in the midst of diversity within the body of Christ.  Does your love of CCM bring you closer to God?  It does?  Praise the Lord!  Does the organ enunciating the majesty of God in “How Great Thou Art” move you to tears and to aid in your understanding of God!  May His Name be praised!


It’s not an “us vs. them” thing; it is an “Us bringing them to Him” thing!

Slapped Silly for Our Own Good

After finishing the modern equivalent of being a hunter-gatherer who had returned from a dangerous foray into the wild to secure food (yep, went to Wal-Mart & Sam’s), I was in our kitchen basking in the glow of appreciation while Frances and I were putting away the “kill.”

I know, I know, many of you guys are thinking “Oh if I could only be brave enough, and strong enough to do something like that!”  May I say (ahem!) I didn’t do anything any red-blooded, living and healthy husband anywhere wouldn’t also do if they were told to go get food – or else!

So there I was, fully appreciating my skills as a modern day hunter-gatherer.  I was oh, so carefully putting away my extra-large box of Lucky Charms (this is a necessary part of the “Real Men Eat Lucky Charms” diet).  I vaguely remember looking into the eyes of my adoring and appreciative wife, then, bending down to retrieve my box of Animal Crackers (you know, the ones in the box that looks like an animal cage) and while I was about to say something pithy and wise to my wife, my whole world suddenly came completely unhinged!

For one brief moment, I thought perhaps I had a stroke, or at least some kind of cerebral infarction!  I remember hearing and feeling the air pressure change right before my world exploded into a cacophony of sound and light!  As I picked myself up off the floor, struggling to remember what day it was or if I knew my phone number, Frances informed me there was a mosquito on my cheek and knowing my aversion to bugs and insects, she killed it.

Of course, she had to slap me silly in order to rid the world of this blood-sucking threat!  Struggling to see the crumpled remains of this microscopic menace, I remember her telling me how thankful I should be that she loved me so much to spare me the agony of the beast’s vicious bite.

In the days since my recovery from this “near death” experience (Hey!  This is my story and I’m sticking to it!) I recalled a very important principle in this.  For anyone other than my wife to have done this to me (yes of course, she has cart blanche and can pretty much get away with anything because I adore her), this would have caused a fight and a big one!  What enabled my understanding of my wife’s motives is the relationship I have with her; our relationship allows us to care for one another—even when that care can be, uh . .  er . . . “painful” at times!

God tells us in His Word, “The Lord disciplines the one He loves, and punishes every son He receives.”  There are many times in our lives when God punishes us not only because we are doing something we should not be doing, but also because what we are doing will cause us harm.  We know the circumstances we face are from God through our experience with Him and the presence of God’s Spirit which indwells every believer who knows Christ as their Savior!

What motivates God’s discipline is His love for us.  Often when God disciplines us, we might think He has overreacted and perhaps been heavy handed in our discipline.  “It really wasn’t that big an issue, right?”  Often it isn’t that God was heavy handed but we think far too little of the travesty of the sin we have committed.  We want to “laugh it off” as some small mistake; but we habitually overlook the price He paid for our sin.  We place great value on cars which decrease in value, on homes which can burn or be destroyed in a storm, but we overlook the cost associated with the removal of our sin so we might have a relationship with the One who created everything, God Himself died – for us and in our place—when Jesus Christ died on the Cross!

We can do unbelievable damage to ourselves: we can drink ourselves to death, overdose on drugs, catch untold diseases by having sexual relationships outside of marriage and we can be hurt physically and emotionally.  We must remember it isn’t the degree of the sin that is evil; it is the fact we have sinned at all!  Whether it is a small lie, a stray thought or an uncontrolled action – any and all of these will keep us away from God!  If it were not for Christ’s death, we could never experience the forgiveness which gives healing and life.

Here’s a bizarre thought: we should want discipline.  No, no, I do not want to experience the life-saving efforts of my lovely wife anytime soon, but I do desire a relationship with her.  Discipline is not always corrective; it is sometimes willfully taken for future ability.  Runners discipline themselves through exercise in order they might compete and win.  God disciplines us—sometimes through allowing us to “reap” whatever we have “sown”—to correct us and to demonstrate we are His.

It would be easy to desire to simply avoid all pain and inconvenience.  Yet as desirable as having “no pain” would be, it loses its luster if it means I no longer know I have a relationship.

Being slapped silly every now and then isn’t so bad now is it?