Even in Tough Times

Ryan Egan —  December 4, 2006 — Leave a comment

Yesterday we started an Advent series called “A Way In The Manger.”  The idea is that where it seemed like there was no way, God provided a way for everything the night He sent Jesus into the world to be born as a man in Bethlehem.

The River is Here (Park)
Immanuel (From the Squalor) (Townend)
Rejoice (Altrogge)
O Come, O Come Emmanuel (arr. Don Chapman)
Your Name (Baloche/Brown)

While there were a few things throughout the morning that were quite discouraging, one positive thing really stood out at me, and let me see that God is indeed working in people’s lives.

There was a man in our congregation who I knew was going through a rough situation, but after the closing comments from our Vicar, he just remained standing where he was and continued to sing the last choruses of “Your Name” with the worship team.  It touched my heart to see someone in the midst of struggle not care what people think and just worship.

I wonder sometimes why we are afraid to worship in this way.  I wonder why there are not more people who will joyfully stand up and give praise when they feel led.  I wonder why there are not more people who pour out their hearts while worshipping God.  Often, I wonder where our passion for Jesus is.

My heart is that our church will become ingnited; that we will become so passionate about our Savior that we can’t help but worship Him; that we can’t help but spread the news of how He changes our lives.

There is no way that we can hope to offer our lives back to God without His power, but He has called us to do it. Sometimes it seems so hard, but we have the perfect model: Jesus Christ, who offered His very life, once, for all of us.

Sometimes it is hard to get Scripture to come alive, but after you watch this, you will never see these two chapters of Hebrews the same again.

Ryan Ferguson has memorized the entire book of Hebrews, but just shared these two chapters at a recent worship conference. Thanks to Bob Kauflin from Worship Matters for posting this. How incredibly inspiring is the Word of God!

Image of many Bibles in different translations

Jesus was revolutionary.  Jesus was bold.  Jesus was willing to take some risks in order to have everyone know His power, and that He is the only one with the power to save.

He took a very bold risk in talking to the Samaritan woman at the well (found in John 4).  While every other Jew would have gone completely around Samaria to avoid that culture (they were a ‘mixed-breed,’ according to the pure Jews), Jesus made a point to go straight through.  Not only did he go through Samaria and actually talk to a Samaritan, he talked to a Samaritan woman, which, in a culture dominated by male influence, was revolutionary.

I had an experience this past week that was revolutionary, and that really changed my perspective.  I had read an article in the recent Worship Leader magazine called, “The Real Blended Worship.”  This title immediately caught my eye, but the author wasn’t talking about what you might think he would talk about.  He was talking about the blending of cultures.  He was talking about the fact that Jesus redeemed every people group, and that someday, we will all worship together.  He said in the article, “It is one thing to help a church overcome worship wars waged over diverse musical styles, but quite another to help a world overcome a history of international enmity.”

This article’s thoughts were on my heart when it happened.  I work with a guy who has spent some time in Mexico with Youth With a Mission, and I knew he could speak Spanish fluently, but that knowledge didn’t really strike me until he brought a lady from his church into the office we share.  They greeted each other (in Spanish), the talked for a bit (in Spanish), and then (from the little tiny bit of Spanish I can remember) I concluded that she asked him to pray.

What happened next was amazing.  This young guy (caucasian, youth leader, American) prayed for the meeting they were going to have in Spanish.  It was one of the most beautiful things I had heard in a long time; a Christian being revolutionary and reaching out beyond his culture to show the love of Jesus to this woman.

Revelation 7:9-10 says:

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (emphasis added)

What an amazing picture of what God has done for us on the Cross!  How are you helping to break cultural barriers? I hear you saying, “Well, I don’t speak a foreign language, so I can’t.”

  • Can you break the barrier between the culture of your non-Christian family and your own saved life?
  • Can you break the culture that exists between adults and teenagers by mentoring someone younger than you?
  • Can you break the culture between those of us with great homes, and those with nowhere to live and nothing to eat by giving them some hope this thanksgiving season?

So I’ll ask again, what are you doing to break down cultural barriers?

Let us offer our lives as living sacrifices of worship to break through cultural barriers and bring the light of Christ to everyone we meet.

(photo by Wendy Aros)

Wisdom from Elton John?

Ryan Egan —  November 18, 2006 — Leave a comment

As I opened up my browser at home this past week, an interesting article caught my eye.  It was entitled “Elton John: Religion encourages hatred.”

His statements were pretty bold. “Religion promotes the hatred and spite against gays,” and “I would ban religion completely. Organized religion doesn’t seem to work. It turns people into really hateful lemmings and it’s not really compassionate.”

While he makes some very broad and generalized statements, he does have a pretty good point.  It seems like more and more, instead of following Jesus’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” we have started to follow the command of “always view people’s sins as worse than yourself.”

Instead of following Jesus’s example of compassion and loving people out of darkness, we try to hit them as hard as we can out of darkness, all the while claiming to be followers of Jesus, when really we’re just being “Christians” (see post below)

Let’s take a look at Elton John’s view of religion compared to the apostle Paul’s view of following Jesus.

  • Elton John says that religion “turns people into really hateful lemmings.”

    The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12 to “not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  A lemming follows the crowd, a follower of Jesus follow the one and only Son of God.

  • Elton John says that religion is “not really compassionate.”

    The apostle Paul says in Colossians to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)

If we are holding to the teachings of the apostles, who first held to the radical thoughts and actions of Jesus Christ, we must remember a few things:

We are all sinners. 
Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

We are to have a spirit of compassion towards everyone,
no matter what they struggle with, because homosexuality is viewed as no different than some things that don’t seem to get us as riled up.

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galtians 5)

Here in Galatians 5, Paul has put sexual immorailty in the same category as jealousy (lots of people guilty of that), fits of rage (again, guilty), selfish ambition (yet again), envy (very guilty), drunkenness (see a pattern here?)…

And he puts sexual immorality in the same category as hatred.  If we are truly acting like “hateful lemmings,” we are committing one of the very sins that God has put in the same category as those we are being accused of hating.

We all need a life-transforming Savior.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy )

Paul declared his need for a Savior, and the only way we can hope to live up to having the compassion of Jesus is to pray that he would make us new, every day.

In no way am I condoning homosexuality, but I am also not condoning a lack of compassion towards those who perhaps need His love the most.

Let’s worship our Savior by following His command to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

I just read an amazing book entitled, “The Barbarian Way.” by Erwin McManus.  In it, he stressed the point that the church has gotten so far away from Jesus and what He really called us to do and how He really called us to live.  Jesus calls us to a life where we should “deny (ourselves) take up (our) cross and follow Him.”

Often I talk about making worship more than just a Sunday morning thing.  This video made by Community Christian is a great, slightly humorous look at what it looks like to be a Christ Follower and not a Christian.