Thursday, January 5, 2012

Simple Worship

Today a lot of what we do passes for christian worship but is it?   Some folks 'worship' on Sunday mornings, some Saturday evenings, and others go to a 'home church'.   Some sing with a full band while others don't use any musical instruments at all.  Some churches follow a set liturgy (order of worship) while others do "as the Spirit leads." So what is real worship and who's to judge?    

The good news is that God has not left us in the dark on this.   He has told us in scripture what is and isn't worship, and what his expectations are of those who worship him.
"What is worship?" Worship is Adoration in Action!   Jesus said the greatest commandment (in scripture) is to "Love the LORD you God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your mind"  (Mt 22:37).    If I understand this right it means to respond to the holy character of God with everything you've got!   To do less than this is to withhold from God what is rightly his.  
"Who is to be worshipped?   The only one worthy to receive our adoration is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."  In Revelation 5 gives us a wind into heaven and in heaven its not the angels, the 24 Elders, or even Mary the mother of God but it is only God himself is worthy to receive adoration.
"How are we to Worship?"    Again in Matthew 22 Jesus tells us that we are to worship with everything we've got.   We should worship God sincerely and honestly (with all our heart) which is to say we must confess our sins before him.  We should worship God deeply (with all your soul) which is to say that we must not be flippant or trite.  Worship should happen at the 'soul' level.   We should worship him contemplatively (with all your mind), which is to say that we must consider his majesty and holiness.   And thus respond accordingly.  
"Where, When, Who should worship?"   Everywhere, always, and everyone should worship Him.  Philippians 2:9-11 tells us that there isn't a created being in heaven or on earth that will not eventually recognize the lordship of Jesus Christ.  

There is so much more to be said about worship than has been said here.  I've found Dr. John Frame's book "Worship in Spirit and truth",  Dr. D.A. Carson's "Worship by the book",  and Rognlien's "Experiential Worship" all very helpful.    Maybe you will too.

Worship is not just one element such as music.  Worship simply recognizing and responding to the Trinitarian Creator God with everything you've got, 24-7-365.  

Friday, December 16, 2011

"Why Does church have to ruin Christmas?"

"Why does church have to ruin Christmas" was the honest question from the 6yr old son of a music minster, who was/is a very good friend of mine.  You see that year Christmas was on Sunday and this little boy's family went to church to worship and put off opening presents until after church.   Wait, it gets better.  This honest young man made his rhetorical statement from the front row of the church (where he was made to sit because his dad was on the church staff),  during the pastor's message, loud enough for everyone in church to hear him!   AWKWARD!   I confess, it was hilarious.  

Ok, so this year Christmas is also on Sunday so how should the Christ-follower handle the dilemma of a traditional Christmas (opening presents Christmas morning) vs. worshipping God in the community of faith.   Hmmmmmm?    

So I'm a huge traditionalist when it comes to Christmas.   Just ask my family.  There's no opening presents on Christmas Eve!  That's for Christmas liberals, and those too weak to wait until Christmas morning to celebrate the Birth of Jesus!   Feel the grace? Not much right?  I know.  

So, what to do this year.   Will Church ruin Christmas for all the young (and old) boys and girls who have been anticipating the brightly wrapped treasures under the tree?    And how about all those cherished family gatherings around the table for a traditional Christmas dinner, will that have to be set aside too?   Well,  that's a question for each family to answer.   But, here's what the Austin family is doing.   And I have to tell you its not easy for this traditionalist Christmas snob to change.   But, yep I'm changing.   This year our family (who only gather's for Christmas every-other year, so this is a big deal) will celebrate the Birth of Christ as a family on, wait for it - Christmas Eve!   Yep,  on Saturday we'll get up early and have our traditional Christmas breakfast, then read the Christmas story out of the Bible and then open presents followed by our traditional Christmas dinner  in the afternoon.   All on Christmas eve.    And we'll go to the beautiful candlelight Christmas Eve service to celebrate communion.     Then we'll get up Sunday morning and go to worship  the One who gave up his routine with his family in heaven so that I/we could celebrate new life in Christ with our families here on earth.  

So, if you're struggling with how to "do" Christmas this year consider doing your celebrating on Saturday. If this ultra traditional Christ snob can do it you can to.   Don't let your routine rob you of the beauty of celebrating the birth of Christ though corporate worship.  


Thursday, December 15, 2011

On Becoming Real

For over fifty years I've been on and am still on one path; the path of Becoming Real.  For most of my life I didn't even realize I was on this path.  I thought I was on the path of spiritual formation, or success, or family, or adventure.  But it was the path of Becoming Real.   It's taken me from my child-hood home in Peoria, Illinois to all but one of our 50 states, and to four continents.

Becoming Real led me to marry my high school sweetheart (Suzanne) and we've enjoyed 30+yrs together, 4 beautiful children, and now 4 incredible grandchildren.

I've had the privilege to pastor five churches over the past 30yrs.   And I've been blessed with some of the most wonderful friendships through these years.  From my first best friend (Larry Robbins),  to Kenny West (now with the Lord), to my most bestest friend and wife Suzanne - they've each been used by God on my path to Becoming Real.   I hope to share through tears and laughter how each has shaped me.

 Why "On Becoming Real?"   Like so many, the story of The Velveteen Rabbit has blessed our family.  Almost ten years ago my dear friend Kenny (West) died from cancer and I was asked to say a few words (almost impossible for me to do) at his memorial service.   All I could think of was how Kenny was "Real", like the Skin Horse from The Velveteen Rabbit.  "Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse.   "It's a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time... then you become real."  Kenny was real, he knew it and led others on becoming real.

I hope to use this blog to share my story oh how I'm "Becoming Real" though the love I've received from God, my family, and those dear ones I am blessed to have as friends.   I've never blogged before so this might be messy.   I'll ask for your grace.   I hope it blesses and encourages you on your path;  On Becoming Real.