Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Way We Were 2015: happy / not happy

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I’m always happy that someone puts together a retrospective at the end of the year so we can reflect on who we are and maybe even help guide us to who we’d like to be. The Barna Group has polled everyone it seems in their 30 years on spiritual beliefs for all the big boys.

Same sex marriage

First up, they find that a reduced number of practicing Christians are not in favor of same sex marriage legalization showing to me that we are drifting away from the belief that we are or should be a Christian nation. You are less tolerant of things like that when you rule by religious beliefs.

Political issues

Money is what people worry about the most being the top political issue people want a presidential candidate to take a stand on. Then after being poor we’re worried about being sick. The lesser but significant concerns are about security. How to protect ourselves from others we don’t like becoming our neighbors, how to protect ourselves from other nations as a world power and how to protect ourselves from ourselves through gun control are all up there.


Church members and pastors do not communicate well it looks like. Pastors mostly think they don’t disciple their members. Half the flock thinks that’s just a good thing. We are sheep, you know. If you don’t tell us, we won’t know. Maybe we equate an improvement on personal spiritual progress with church attendance, hope in healing prayer, and church tithing. Those are the main messages I think I’ve heard. Wait a minute, our political issues were about money, health, and national identity. That could be relevant.

The church isn't relevant

The data from Scottish census data showing a major decline in Christian belief over the last few decades reflects America’s decline also. Here’s an excerpt about our beliefs.
While the United States remains shaped by Christianity, the faith’s influence—particularly as a force in American politics and culture—is waning. An increasing number of religiously unaffiliated people, a steady drop in church attendance and the growing tensions over religious liberty all point to a larger secularizing trend sweeping the nation.
But I was interested in the spike of one survey question about people disagreeing with the church’s assertion that they are relevant to a person’s life. What the heck are you going to church for if it isn’t relevant? Oh, right, you aren’t trending towards going to church.  So the message of money, health, and identifying as a church member isn’t important to you? Is there a relevant message out there? I know I'm not interested in a "relevant" Christian magazine discussing new technology.

No support

And getting downright personal, it’s probably easier for women to find emotional support from any another group than at church. The survey result that found over half the women don’t feel supported at church or their synagogue. (I fudged a little here because I think the 17% of women saying “Not too” were just being polite). Only one out of eight could say their church made them feel very supported.

Thank you Barna Group for letting us know who we are. May you Lord, help us find someone out there who can help us become fulfilled in You so we are happy about it.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Learning worship

How do we learn to do what is appropriate when we are in worship? The issue arises when we join a new body of worshipers and their customs are different than we are used to doing. There are several ways that we adjust.

Role model

We can see what others are doing and think to ourselves, "that's what I want to have" and then do that. We use the target of our desire as a role model and it provides an authority to behave in the same way they do. It provides a cultural context and a safe excuse for our conscience in case another person has an issue with it or it just feels awkward to us.


We can follow along with a worship leader's advice to do something outside our comfort zone and through hesitant actions start to understand the physical expression of something that has a deeper meaning. After a few repetitions of that activity then we start to have a real belief in the value of the action that peels away the inhibition and reveals a stronger force of how we want to respond to worship.

Inner voice

Or we can find within us our belief that we want to be physically expressed in a particular way. And when we do, we find the peace and certainty that let's us know it's right for us. Maybe it takes gentle steps at first and then becomes a full action later as others get comfortable with a different style of worship than they've seen us do before. But it becomes a natural act that you find no embarrassment in whenever it's the right moment for that honor.

Beware of magic

All these learning styles have alternatives that snatch the glory from God. Grabbing at religious activity only for its beneficial results is pious magic. Magic is any ritual to gain spiritual influence and is at odds with God's desire to see you obediently humble before Him without a delusion of personal power.

When you repeat an incantation or series of actions in order to achieve a desired goal and believe in its efficacy alone, you invite God to mock the altar of your actions. Isaiah mocked the spells and sorceries that profited the false prophets which led to the destruction of Babylon. (Is 47:12-13)

Beware of acting

Doing worshipful actions for effect is how you become a religious actor. And following an adviser's instructions on a proper way to perform worship just to satisfy them can be a way to gain favor in the sight of men as if they were the audience you perform to.

Establishing yourself as a holy supplicant in the theater of the altar is intoxicating. Would you be able to be as worshipful in the back of the group as in front? If your imagination invites you to act inappropriately while deceiving you and all the others that it's a spiritually higher form of worship, you have profaned God for a few minutes of selfish attention.

Worship Him

So, let us come to bring our praise and worship to God in the context of our body of worship leaving all our personal ambitions learned from the world aside. Whether it be pride, attention, power or other unsavory blends of unrighteousness, they will not stir God to listen to us. Let us love God with all our hearts so that we come before Him with complete devotion and purity to worship Him in our spirit with complete honesty. (John 4:24)
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