Thursday, February 23, 2012

Got Questions?- Part 6

This week was our final week of the "Got Questions?" series.  We began the night with a simple time of discussion of silly questions like "What is the most exotic/strangest food you have ever eaten?  We had some fun discussion during this time.  Then our worship set included "Take It All" (Hillsong United), "In The Secret", "Awesome God-Majesty and Mystery" (Vicky Beeching), "Hold Us Together" (Matt Maher), then at the end of the night we did "Always" (Kristian Stanfill).

As I was preparing for this last message I decided to not draw a question out of the box.  As I actually looked at the remaining questions, I felt like we should explore the question "Why", more specifically "Why do bad things happen to me?" and "Why am I going through this tough situation?".  We first discussed how the world would answer this question.  Many people today believe that it has to do with karma, and that you bring things on yourself, etc.  We know that karma does not exist and we must look at what the Bible says in regard to these tough questions.

At the root of it, bad things occur to us because of sin.  We looked at the life of King David and the life of Joseph to look at how sin causes our negative circumstances in life.
1) Our circumstances are brought on by our own sin
As we read about the lowest point of David's life in 2 Samuel 11-12, we see that David goes through a terrible situation of his own son dying.  However this is a situation that is a result of sin in his own life.  David committed one sin which led to another and another.  First his abuse of power by not being with his army at war, then lust when he saw Bathsheba, to abuse of power again by having her brought to him, to adultery, lying, and eventually conspiracy to have Uriah (Bathsheba's husband) killed.  The son that he conceived with Bathsheba died as a result of the sin in his life- 2 Samuel 12:14.
2) Our circumstances are brought on by sin around us
In Genesis 37 Joseph's brothers sell him because of their jealousy toward him.  They did not like the fact that he was the most loved son by their father.  Then Joseph's dreams indicate that his brothers would one day bow down to him.  This all angered them and they sinned in their anger by capturing him and selling him into slavery.  Joseph ends up working under Potiphar and become's very prosperous because God blesses him, but after being lied about by Potiphar's wife he ends up thrown in prison.  Joseph must have wondered why he was going through these tough situations as a result of his brothers sin.

It's ok to ask "why" when going through a tough situation, but it is more important to seek "what for" meaning what can God do through these tough circumstances in my life.  I read a quote by Pete Wilson the other day that said "It's not wrong to ask why, but don't stake your faithfulness on getting a satisfactory answer".  While sin is at the root of every negative circumstance in life, we may never really know why we go through a situation.  However we can seek what God can do in our life and through us as a result of what we are facing.  Here are some of the things that God may be doing in our life in these tough times.
-To correct us/teach us/get our attention
We looked at this in the life of David as he lost his son.  God used this to get his attention. It was in this tough situation that David repented and wrote Psalm 51.  You can not continue to run from God and live in sin and not suffer any consequences.  Sometimes God allows you to go through a tough situation in order to get your attention.
-To further the gospel and teach others
After David was confronted by the prophet Nathan he wrote Psalm 51 and in verses 12-13 he says that he wants to help others not follow in his wrong footsteps.  When we make a mistake, we should hope that others will not make the same mistake.  God can use you to help others in making better decisions.
-To test our allegiance and see if we will follow God
I think about Abraham and Sarah's faithfulness to follow God through their tough circumstances.  Sarah was unable to conceive, and while they first tried to take things into their own hands by having Abram (at the time) have a child with Hagar.  Eventually though they passed the test of being faithful to God and following Him.  God promised Abraham he would be the father of a nation, but then asked him to sacrifice his own son Isaac.  Think about it in your own life, what if God asked you to get rid of your most prized possession or person in order to follow Him.  Could you do it?  Abraham feared God and was willing to do whatever God wanted Him to do.  I'm sure that Abraham was apprehensive about it, but he loved God and went to sacrifice Isaac.  Thankfully God was testing Abraham and stopped him provided a ram for the sacrifice.  I read a line from the book "The Heart of the Story" that we are going through as a church that says: "Abraham and Sarah passed the only test that God cares about.  The one He still puts in front of us today.  They trusted Him."  It goes on to say that because of their faithfulness that God's story continued.  I think that even if they had not been faithful that God's story would have continued, but it would have continued with someone else.  

As we closed I challenged the students that they may never know why they are going through a tough situation, but they can choose how they will react.  It is our choice if we will allow God to grow us and be used for His glory.  Because God will be glorified regardless, but as the example I used with Abraham and Sarah, will He be glorified by us or by someone else?  We ended by singing "Always" and spending some time in prayer asking God to shape us and use us through the tough circumstances in our lives.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Got Questions?- Part 5

This week at Wednesday Night Worship we looked at another question: "Why are some churches against contemporary music?".  Music has long been an area of disagreement within church life, which is very sad to me.  Honestly the fact that there is ever any type of disagreement within the church is very sad, and like we talked about last week is a result of spiritual immaturity.  We began the night by watching a classic video of the song "Jesus is My Friend".  Our worship set included: "Take It All" (Hillsong United), "Marvelous Light" (Charlie Hall), "Jesus Paid It All" (Kristian Stanfill), "If I Could Just Sit With You Awhile".

We began the message by looking at what is the reason that some churches or people in general are against contemporary Christian music.  I had asked my good friend Seth a little background on this question as he attended a popular fundamentalist university for one semester and was well educated on these thoughts.  He actually ended up being in the audience last night and was able to give some additional insight and has a well written blog post on this subject here.  Some of the things we discussed were that it is taught by some that some modern worship songs are repetitive and they believe that Jesus warns against that in Matthew 6:7.  The truth is that Jesus is referring to meaningless repetitive prayers that the Gentiles would do.  He is clearly not referring to singing songs.  In fact we read in Revelation 4:8 that the angels sing songs of praise to God that are repetitive and they never cease.  Another thing they teach is in relation to drum beats.  I had our drummer explain this to the group since I have little musical knowledge but in a nutshell since most songs are simply written in 4/4 time (meaning 4 beats a measure), and there are 4 chambers in the heart, they believe that a drum beat gets the heart out of rhythm, and does other things to your brain.  The funny thing though is that some people who believe this way are ok with listening to secular music which contains drum beats.  While these are the extreme reasons that some are against contemporary music, many believe this way simply because it is tradition and is what they are taught.  We always have to be careful to know what the Bible says about anything and not be content with believing something because we are told.

So what does the Bible say in relation to music, worship, and instruments?  Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:18 Paul says to sing songs and worship God in the form of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  He speaks of three different types of songs here.  A psalm is a song sung to the accompaniment of instruments that exalts God.  The book of Psalms is a collection of psalms (there's your no-duh statement of the day).  Hymns are other songs of praise that are different than psalms in the fact that they exalt Jesus Christ.  The definition of a hymn is not a song sung out of a red book, there are modern day hymns as well.  Spiritual songs are other songs of praise and testimony that express the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ.  The point that Paul is making here is that you should sing songs together in worship that come from the overflow of your heart that takes place from your private worship.

There are many verses in the Old Testament that talk about singing songs of praise to God along with playing instruments: 1 Chronicles 15:16, 16:42, 23:5; 2 Chronicles 7:6, 23:13, 29:26-27, 30:21, 34:12; Nehemiah 12:36; Psalm 4, 6, 54, 61, 67, 76; Isaiah 38:20; Amos 6:5; Habakkuk 3:19.  Sometimes it even mentions playing the instruments loudly!  The fact that the New Testament never condemns this indicates that it was probably practice in the early church.  Because of this the church today should feel freedom to use instruments if they feel led.

The topic should never be debated on whether a certain style of songs are appropriate or not, but it should be questioned on what the lyrics of a song say.  Do the lyrics glorify God?  Are the lyrics biblically sound?  To be honest, some older hymns have terrible lyrics.  The same can be said though of some contemporary lyrics.  You can never overlook the lyrics in a song.  This is why it is so important to know exactly what the song is saying and what it is talking about.  I am definitely not the type of person that says you should not listen to any secular music, but I do believe that some secular music has had a negative impact on Christians.  I believe that because of what some songs may talk about that it has impacted Christians and church members to be desensitized to sin.  

I ended the night by challenging the students to not argue about this subject.  Again, arguing and complaining about such is a sign of spiritual immaturity.  I challenged them to know what a song says, know the words, and mean the words that you sing.  I also challenged the students to be careful and not let their relationship with God to only be based on listening to Christian music.  I know that when I was their age I listened to Christian music a lot, but I rarely read my Bible.  I feel that this is something that many people do today.

On a side note, here are a few more of my own personal opinions about this topic that I did not include in my message.  While I do not oppose older songs as long as their lyrics are theologically sound, I do not like singing or playing them in an older style.  I do like doing hymns in a modern style and in new musical arrangements.  I also understand the fact that music can take you back to a moment in your past and that is why many like singing the older songs.  I understand because there are times that I hear a song, whether Christian or secular, that takes me back to a moment in life.  However when I am worshiping, I personally do not want to think about my past, I want to think about my future in heaven with my Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Got Questions?- Part 4

This week's question we covered at WNW was "What does the Bible say about war/conflict/arguing?  We began the night with a worship set that was all David Crowder Songs as most of us are Crowder fans, and the fact that it was my wife's birthday and I knew she would enjoy it.  The song list included "Here Is Our King", "Oh Happiness", "O Praise Him", and "SMS-Shine".  After that we dove into the question, but I broke it into two sections: the first being "War" and the second "Conflict and Arguing".

When talking about war people said that the world is either for or against it.  Some said that the media either makes it glorious or does not give the full picture.  When we looked at what the Bible says, the first thing is that because there is sin in the world, war is inevitable- Romans 3:10.  Since the moment sin entered into the world when Adam and Eve ate the fruit and disobeyed God, war became one of the repercussions of sin.  While war is not great, it is sometimes necessary as we read in Ecclesiastes 3:8.  God even ordered the Israelites to go at war with other nations at times- 1 Samuel 5:3.  The Bible is clear that there will be war prior to Jesus' return (Matthew 24:6-8), the tribulation period will have wars (Revelation 6), and Jesus' second coming will be violent as He conquers evil (Revelation 19:11-21).  As Christians we should never desire war, but we should also never oppose the government that God has placed in authority- Romans 13:1.  One thing that some people who oppose the Bible will argue is that why would God allow war and even command it at times when one of the Ten Commandments reads "You shall not kill/murder"- Exodus 20:13?  This commandment literally means intentional premeditated killing of another person with malice.  This does not apply to war.

The second part of the message dealt with conflict and arguing.  The students shared that the world views conflict and arguing as a way of life.  We especially see that in regards to teenagers and their conflicts and arguing they do with their parents, siblings, and classmates.  If you watch television much today it shows this as a normal way of life, which could not be farther from the truth.  As we looked at what the Bible says, as with war, conflicts and arguments are a result of sin in the world.  As I studied Scripture on this topic, two main sources and themes of conflict and arguments arose.
-Source of Conflict #1- The Tongue
James 3:5-12 teaches us the dangers of the tongue.  The tongue is a fire that can spread quickly.  We see this all the time as the words people use spread rapidly through gossip and through the world of social media.  As it spreads it cause complete damage to those it consumes.  Our words are dangerous and can have an everlasting affect on people.  Ephesians 4:29 tells us to build each other up with our words instead of tearing people down.  Often the words people use are aimed to tear someone down in order to build themselves up.  This is completely against what God's Word commands us to do.
-Source of Conflict #2- Spiritual Immaturity
In 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 Paul is addressing the church at Corinth on one of the conflicts that was taking place.  The source of this conflict and disagreement was the fact that they were spiritually immature.  They were not growing in their faith.  When we sit comfortably and decide to not grow in our relationship with Jesus, then we become a source of conflict in the midst of our selfishness and the inability to hold our tongue.  If you are a person who is involved in a lot of conflict and arguing, then it is a good indicator that you are spiritually immature and need to mature in Jesus Christ.

As we closed the night I really challenged the students to understand the weight of their words.  We will have to give an account before God on every word we speak- Matthew 12:36.  It burdens me to see people tear others down with words.  I breaks my heart for those who are beat down by people are simply cruel.  My prayer for the students is that they would recognize how important this subject is and would seek to glorify God with every word that comes out of their mouths.  I also challenged the students to understand that in any conflict that we may endure, vengeance is God's and we are to love those who oppose us- Romans 12:19-21.  This is a very tough lesson, but as we mature spiritually is one that God grants us grace on.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Got Questions?- Part 3

We picked back up on our Got Questions? series and was it a tough one.  After tackling the tough question of "Can we change God's mind with our prayers?", we challenged the tough topic of "What does the Bible say about predestination?".  After a song set which included "Every Move I Make", "Salvation is Here" (Hillsong United), "SMS-Shine" (David Crowder Band), and "Hosanna" (Hillsong United), we dove right into the topic.  This was a topic that I had wanted to avoid for quite a while, but knew that it was necessary.  I began by talking about how people view this on opposite ends of the spectrum, but it is not something to be divided over, debate, or argue.  An example of that I used is that some baseball fans like the DH (Designated Hitter) rule, while I do not.  Even though we may disagree on the DH rule, we can still sit and watch a baseball game together without being divided.  We can disagree on this topic of predestination, but at the same time be friends and go on through life with the same purpose of following God.

Just as we did the previous time, we looked at some of the attributes of God.
God is Omniscient- God is all-knowing
-God has complete knowledge of what will happen.  Isaiah 46:9-10
-God has complete knowledge of what could possibly happen.  He knows all that is logically possible.  Matthew 11:21-23
-God has knowledge of how people's lives would have been different if they had made different choices.  1 Samuel 13:13-14
-God's knowledge is not causative.  God knew that Adam and Eve would sin, but He did not cause them to sin.  God knows every sin that you will ever commit, but He does not cause you to sin.  It is against the nature of God.  He does not force you to do anything (which I will talk about more in a minute).

-God is Sovereign- God has supreme authority
-Psalm 99:2; Psalm 113:4; Colossians 1:15-16
-God reigns and rules over all
-We were created for Him and to bring Him glory

Here is where is starts to get really interesting.  Some people would believe that God's knowledge and sovereignty eliminate human's free will, the freedom to make choices.  However I do not believe that this is true.  I believe that we have freedom to make choices.  There are hundreds of commands in the Bible for us to follow.  If we did not have the freedom to make choices, then why would there be commandments to follow.  Matthew 23:37, Deuteronomy 30:19, and Joshua 24:15 show examples of choices to make.  We choose our actions without being forced by God.  We are not forced to serve Him or love Him.  It would not be true love if we were forced.  However we are definitely held responsible for our choices as Jesus states in Matthew 12:36.

There are some things that cannot be ignored in the Bible.  There are times that the words "elect"- Matthew 24:24, "chosen"- Ephesians 1:4, and "predestined"- Ephesians 1:5 are used in reference to those who are saved.  Also the Holy Spirit must first draw you to Him in order to be saved- John 6:44.  I believe this all to be true, and too vast for our finite human minds to completely grasp.  However I do believe that salvation is for everyone who will accept Jesus as their Savior- 1 John 2:1-2; John 3:16.  I also believe that God wants everyone to be saved- 2 Peter 3:9.  But at the same time we know that not everyone will be saved and that many will reject Him- Matthew 7:13-14.

Here is the truth of the matter.  I know many people who will agree with me on all of this, and many who will disagree with me.  However I believe that is not to be a divisive point among people.  The truth is clear in the fact that you cannot ignore what the Bible says about how to be saved.  You must know that you are a sinner Romans 3:23 and that your sin leads to death Romans 6:23 and that Jesus has come to give the free gift of eternal life.  If you believe and confess Jesus as Lord you can be saved Romans 10:9.  The Bible is very clear on how to be saved and is very clear that our role as Christians is evangelize and make disciples.  The main thing to remember is that you have a choice to make in whether or not you will follow Jesus Christ and make Him your Savior and Lord.

This was a tough topic to cover and like I said I know that many have many different views.  However I want to challenge you to not let this be a dividing point in your life.  Know where you stand, and follow Jesus regardless.  The best thing about this night is that while we were driving home a student called me.  She called to tell me that she had been struggling with her salvation and had got it settled.  She had talked to her parents after getting home and then prayed to receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior.  She was excited to get this settled and about what God has in store for her future.  I am so thankful that God was glorified through this tough message!