“It looks like you’re killing me, but you’re saving my life.” –Derek Webb
A long time ago, a group of worshippers gathered together to call out to God. They admitted that they had chosen something other than God and they asked for forgiveness. Alongside of confession, the people fasted. The idols they had created were torn down, and they returned to their loving Father.
While this was going on, their enemies heard what they were doing, and made a move to wipe them out once and for all. As they prepared to battle what would be an easy kill, the situation would have looked utterly hopeless to an outsider. An army is pursuing a collection of people who were more interested in prayer than defending themselves. What hope could this group of worshippers have?
Moments passed, and the slaughter seemed imminent. And suddenly, God responds. His thunder sounds, and the army that was so sure of victory is thrown into confusion. The confusion is so severe that the worshippers are able to soundly defeat their would-be attackers. When the battle is over, the leader of the worshippers prepares a reminder of the event. A rock…a stone of help…an ebenezer is placed at the site of the salvation.
While this story of salvation may be unique to the Israelites, as followers of Christ we should all have a story to tell. A story of worship saving our lives. What seems like foolishness is the exact thing that saves us. What triggers these memories for you? A song? A picture? What is your ebenezer…your reminder?
4 Hours of Sleep is not a strange thing anymore. There is always that chance that either Caedmon or Emma will freak out during the night. Rarely is this lack of sleep self imposed. However…
Middle School DNow is upon me.
We laser tagged, bowled, and Taco Cabana-d it up last night until the wee hours of the morning. And I’m exauhsted.
Middle School Disciple Now is t-minus 32 hours away. No matter how many events, I get ready for, there is always some sense of anticipation and excitment coupled with an unnerving feeling of dread. I have been the person of utmost responsibility for over 7 weeks of youth camp for up to 650 students each week, at least 6 different pre-teen camps, various other retreats and trips for campers and camp employees. I have been directly involved in another 5 years worth of camps and retreats and single day events for all manner of groups. But despite all of this previous experience, the sense of dread stays with me. It will never go away.
I think in some respects, it’s helpful to always feel a little worried. It keeps me sharp and thinking ahead to what other things need to happen. But mostly I think I am scared that somehow or another the weekend is going to prove my worth (or lack thereof) as a human being. I have yet to break from the cycle of feeling that I am only worth something when I perform well. I cannot get my head around the fact that whether or not this weekend is amazing has nothing to do with who I am as a person.
But I know that I am wrong. Scripture affirms that I am worth something to God simply because I exist. He loves me right now as I am sitting here typing, and He loves me when I am asleep, and He loves me when I am failing miserably at trying to communicate the truth of the Gospel. He simply loves me. Well, not just me. He simply loves you too. Just because. You don’t have to earn His love. You can’t lose His love. It will never go away.
I have had a re-connection with my life in high school over the past two weeks. It all started when I found “The Ringing Bell,” Derek Webb’s new album. I pre-ordered it, downloaded it, and have listened to it over and over. Listening to The Ringing Bell reminded me of how much I loved I See Things Upside Down which reminded me of how much I used to love Derek’s old band, Caedmon’s Call. Caedmon’s Call plus Dave Matthews equals the reason I learned to play guitar. As fate would have it, I found a concert video from December 1999 (the middle of my senior year). It’s fun to watch what people wore just 8 short years ago. Baggy sweaters and cargo pants ruled the day.
I say all of this because it is a perfect example of what I’ve been learning lately. Since I am in the middle of a worship series with the students, I have been reading about worship and listening to people talk about worship. I read something the other day, but I didn’t really read it if you know what I mean. I saw the words, but I didn’t digest them. Louie Giglio says that you become whatever you worship. Whatever you value and prize will determine how you spend your time and where your focus is. If you worship something, you become it.
As sad as it may be, on some level I used to worship Derek Webb. I wanted to play a Martin guitar like him, and get a tattoo on my left forearm like him, and wear baggy sweaters like him. I learned how to play almost every song that he had written. While I was watching the concert from my senior year, I was reminded of how much my life was trying to dictate Derek’s. What a waste! Not because he isn’t talented and a great musician, but what a waste because of how much time I spent trying to be something I’m not supposed to be nor ever will be. An author, maybe C.S. Lewis, talks about becoming something at every moment. Right now we are all becoming something.
The question is: What am I becoming? What am I worshipping right now?
Today my lovely wife turns 25. On a related note, Caedmon turns 2 months. If you reside anywhere in the Athens area, come to the house tonite at 6:30 for fajitas and 24. If you don’t like fajitas, or if you’re a vegetarian, we will have some other food options. If you don’t like 24, well then you should question whether or not you really bleed red, white, and blue like all good Americans should.
The picture above is almost a year old, and is absolute proof that while I believe in my heart that I can move like Michael Jackson, in reality I dance like Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein. Why am I holding her forearm? It looks like she’s trying to run away as I pull her back to my cave in the woods. Anyway…Happy Birthday Babe!
This morning we sang “Heart of Worship” in church. I’ve sung that song a hundred times at least, and I’ve even led other people in singing. I usually always tune in to the line “It’s all about you Jesus” as a reminder of what my attitude should be in any act of worship, but today something new caught my ear. Just after that line, the song says “I’m sorry Lord for the things I’ve made it.” Total God moment since we are talking about transforming worship into other things tonight.
In Matthew 4, Jesus is tempted to turn stones into bread. At first glance, that doesn’t seem like much of a temptation. If Jesus is hungry (which he probably was) and he could turn stones to bread (which he probably could), then why not turn a rock into a nice croissant? I always figured that the temptation was about breaking his fast before he wanted to…in other words he was being tempted to eat too soon. I never thought it could be something else, until I read “In The Name of Jesus” by Henri Nouwen. Nouwen says that the temptation wasn’t really about eating; he says that this was a temptation to be relevant. To do what made sense at that moment. To be useful. Jesus had to decide if he was going to be a person who found worth in his problem-solving abilities or if he would simply just be a hungry person in the desert. A hungry person who didn’t solve the problem, who didn’t come through, who didn’t deliver.
I say that we are tempted to transform every time we choose to worship. We are tempted to ask for relevant worship; we are tempted to want worship that makes sense to us and worship that we like. After all, if we like country music, why shouldn’t the worship music sound more like Keith Urban? Or if we like Coldplay, shouldn’t the worship band play something that resembles Clocks? Relevant music is an illustration of our limited hold on what worship is. It’s music to us…it’s a piece of a service on Sunday morning. But read on in Matthew 4 because the devil is about to clue us in.
In verse 9, the tempter promises Jesus everything if he will just “bow down” and worship him. He doesn’t ask for Jesus to sing him a song in a style he likes. He doesn’t say that he needs him to show up at church twice a week. He asks Jesus to assume a posture…he asks Him to bow down. What do you bow down for? Probably nothing. The last time I bowed, I think I was pretending to be in All Valley Karate Tournament facing some goon from the Cobra Kai dojo. We don’t bow, and yet that’s the literal meaning of the greek word “to worship.”
You see, we have bought into the temptation. We have become relevant. We have turned stones to bread…we have made worship something else. When you bow, you really give the other person all of the power. You can’t see what’s going on, and your whole being says that you are not the object of focus. And that sounds like a good beginning to a working definition of worship. We don’t need to be concerned with what’s going on around us because we aren’t the object of focus.
May we think less about music and style and our own enjoyment and more about how we can put our focus on the One who is worthy of all worship.
Google Maps may be the most fun time-waster I’ve ever found. I have always loved figuring out how far it is from my house to different places (I’m kind of a map-geek), and I also love to look at the Satellite photos of different places. Here are two new fun things to do with Google Maps.
1) Go to the Get Directions Tab and type in New York as your original location and Paris as your destination. Scroll down to direction number 23. (first seen on Bill Simmon’s Page)
2) Go to find businesses, and find any restaurant, store, dry cleaner, cobbler, haberdashery, or other business that you want. When you find said business, there will be a link that says call. Click that, and you will be prompted for your phone number. Google will call you, and then connect you to the business. It’s amazing. (I think you could put in someone else’s phone number, and then Google would call them and connect them with the business. It could be like an intervention. I could put my brother’s phone number in and then connect him with an going-bald-early support group.)