Archive | March, 2012

Lead Pastor Blog

Passion is a word used frequently in our contemporary culture. We say that people are passionate about photography or jogging or any number of healthy habits. People can have passion for their family or their sports team or their pet. But what does it really mean to have a passion or to be passionate?

The online free dictionary defines passionate as “capable of having or dominated by powerful emotions.” Another definition says this, “having, compelled by or ruled by intense emotion or strong feeling.” So with these definitions in mind what does it mean for us as Christians to be passionate about worship or passionate about following Jesus Christ or passionate about the scriptures? Let me tell you what I witnessed recently and see if I can’t draw some conclusions for us.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to watch my wife’s nephew play in a baseball tournament for fourteen year olds in the United States. They were the only Canadian team in this American tournament. Coming from Canada they had not played baseball all winter save for a few trips to the batting cages to get some rust off of their baseball swings. The team was put together by invitation for the coming baseball season but this was their first time playing together. After the first day I was impressed that they held their own against their American opponents. Many of the teams at the tournament were in their fifth or sixth tournament of the season already. When you live in Arizona or Texas or parts of California you can literally play baseball 12 months of the year. That was one difference I noticed but there was something else too.

As the tournament progressed and I watched more games I noticed our team didn’t seem to mind losing. They were excited about the adventure of being in the tournament but the actual game of baseball seemed almost secondary to them. I walked by their dugout during the game and the boys on the bench were talking about 14 year old boy stuff but their conversation was not about baseball even though they were right in the midst of a tournament. This stood out to me when I walked by the dugouts of some of the other teams playing.

There was an intense game going on between teams from California and Nebraska at the same time as our team was playing. When there was a break in the action of the Canadian team I would quickly walk over to this other game. I stood by the dugout of the Nebraska team. Their converstaion was all baseball all the time. When their team was up to bat the whole team was standing in the dugout watching and cheering. Every hit was important. Every out was significant. Every play was watched and either cheered or groaned about.

These 14 year old boys from Nebraska were passionate about baseball. Our boys from Canada were playing baseball. To me that`s the difference. When we won it was okay. When we lost it was okay. The emotion of the experience did not vary no matter what happened on the field. It would not be accurate to say that our Canadian guys were passionate about baseball. They probably enjoyed it. They had a certain level of committment to come all the way to that tournament but it would be inaccurate to refer to them as being passionate about baseball.

These other teams talked and acted like basball was the only thing that mattered to them. The sense you got from them was that they ate, drank, slept and played baseball.

I think we can see the difference. I believe God calls us to be passionate followers of Jesus Christ. I believe we should passionately engage the scriptures as the way to discover how to live in this world. I believe we have every reason to be passionate worshippers of our God. I`m just not convinced that we all get it.

I think some of us are like the team from Canada in the American baseball tournament. We are participating but we aren`t passionate. We are engaged but it would be inaccurate to refer to us as being passionate followers of Jesus Christ. We are playing the game of spirituality but we have a lot of other interests outside of our spirituality.

I recently read these words from Judges 21:25, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.“ That was not a good time in Israel`s history. The people had lost their focus and in losing focus they certainly lost their passion for following God. Today let`s take some time to evaluate ourselves. Let`s examine our passion levels when it comes to our relationship with our God.

After watching the tournament I was inclined to believe that spiritually speaking I wanted to be more like the boys from Nebraska who were on the edge of their seats with every pitch, every hit and every play in their game. Those boys had passion!

Worship In Adversity

You know sometimes things just don’t go your way.  You wake up on the wrong side of the bed and stub your toe on a chair as you stumble for the light switch.  You have your heart set on toast, and instead it burns, and you’ve spilt the coffee all of the paper which you’ve been reading glumly noticing the dire news within.  As you clean up the mess you notice that there’s a stain on your shirt and you need to change.  With all of those setbacks you find yourself pressed for time, so you grit your teeth and rush out the door only to be frustrated again: the car just won’t start.  It’s been one of those days and its only 7:30am.

Now we all have days like that, and we can usually push through and hope tomorrow is better.  But sometimes the difficulties last through a longer season in life.  Situations come our way and we’re just not sure how to handle it, and there are really no text book solutions.  Sometimes we can face an ongoing struggle with depression.  Relationships can become strained with our spouses or children.  We can lose our job and wonder where the next paycheck is coming from.  Even our health can leave us.  These are overwhelming situations where we wonder: has God truly abandoned us?

As I’ve been writing these past months, I’ve been going through principles on worship from the book Worship on Earth as it is in Heaven: Exploring Worship as a Spiritual Discipline.  We’ve talked about the priority of worship in our personal lives, of making worship a part of our routine, and being careful about idolatry in our lives, but now we come to face the times when our situation in life seems to be against us, and it is difficult to find ourselves worshiping.  It is important for us to learn the spiritual discipline of worship, even in adversity.

In the Bible we find that David was no stranger to difficult times.  He lived a long time as a fugitive, hunted by his former friends and allies.  And even when he became king, there were constant plots and threats looking for the moment of weakness when they could take him down.  Even in his own life, David acted inappropriately (that’s putting it fairly mildly, think Bathsheba) and would have to face the consequences of his own sin.  Often that put not only himself but his whole nation in jeopardy.

But we see in Psalms that David is driven in these times to worship:

“Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me.  So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!”   But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain.”  

Psalm 3:1 

 “I come to you for protection, O lord my God.  Save me from my persecutors – rescue me! If you don’t, they will maul me like a lion, tearing me to pieces with no one to rescue me.  I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High.”

Psalm 7:1-2, 17

 “Lord, why do you stand so far away?  Why do you hide when I need you the most?” Psalm 10:1

 These kinds of statements are throughout the Psalms.  It is interesting to see the clarity with which David delivers his worship before God.  He is truly honest with what he is wrestling with inside.  And we have to acknowledge that God is obviously aware of all of David’s problems, and so it in unnecessary to apply any kind of candy coating over the issue for David.  It’s a pretty clear and honest conversation.

But neither does it end with David’s troubles.  In the midst of coming to the Lord, in the heart of the moment of worship, David encounter’s the living God.  This makes all the difference.  David is never left in despair.  He is able to look to the Lord, and understand the character of the Sovereign King.  God never turns His back on those who call on His name.  Though the situation in the moment has not changed, David arrives back at a sense of confidence and a thankful trusting faith.

Worship brings about a confidence that life can be faced in all its difficulties, not because our problems get a quick or easy fix, but because our eyes are able to see the glory of God and His redemptive actions in every dark situation.  In worship we are reminded that our lives are less about us, and more about bringing praise and glory to God. As Rory Noland observes, “Left to my own devices, I allow my problems to loom larger than life.  Though I may not admit my lack of faith, my worry and anxiety betray the fact that I don’t believe God can really handle my dilemma.  At that point, my problem is not the real problem.  The real crime is that I’ve made my problem too big and God too small”.

The blessings we receive are connected to the presence of Christ in our lives.  We never walk alone, and as a result we can be free from the burden of our agendas, and are invited into the greater kingdom mission that God is bringing about through the church.  God never promised that this would make life easy.  The blessing of being a follower of Christ is not a life free from difficulties.  Sometimes it’s really hard.  But in worship we have this awesome opportunity to openly and honestly tell God how we feel, and let him minister to us, and heal our wounded spirits.

Lorn Gieck
Associate Pastor of Music & Arts