Worship Setlist: September 11, 2011

Yesterday was a really good time of worship in The Bridge. Powerful message from Bruce, a strong testimony from George Connors, and challenging thoughts from Mark. Yea, it was a good service.

Here’s what we sang in worship yesterday:

  • Say Say – Kristian Stanfill, “Passion: Here For You”
  • Always – Kristian Stanfill, “Mountains Move”
  • Forever Reign – Hillsong Live, “A Beautiful Exchange”
Are there songs you’d like us to do?

Better Than Coffee

Jesus calls us the same way He called the first disciples. We’re busy minding our own business, going about our lives and He chooses to come to us and call. We should never think that we sought Him out. It is a volatile and poisonous idea that we initiated the conversation at all.

He did not call us to abandon, but to obey the law that He has already fulfilled. Our exclusive obedience to Christ satisfies His command to perfect obedience to the law. To live as though I am in all ways free of the law is a dangerous presupposition to faith as it nullifies and takes out of view Christ’s fulfilling work on the cross.

It is finished.

I should hold ever before me that my right standing before God is only on account of the grace He alone showed in calling me, the faith He alone gives me that Christ alone has perfectly completed the demands that were, are and will always remain on me. In that light I think faith and works can be seen to ‘coexist’.

There is no fulfillment of the law apart from communion with God, and no communion with God apart from fulfillment of the law. To forget the first condition was the mistake of the Jews, and to forget the second the temptation of the disciples.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

What a thundering paradox, that I am at the same time inexorably bound to the law and fully free from its weight, only in that through my communion with Christ I am carrying out a law whose demands have already been satisfied. So God – the Beginning, the only sovereign King, the holy Judge of all creation – has indeed made me alive when I was dead.

I am to Him as He is to Himself.

What a beautiful way to start my day.

Beginning

I get frustrated with myself too often. I scrap a song idea or a creative thought because it’s not ‘perfect’ or isn’t going to win a Dove. I think for me, that’s borderline sinful. Songwriting is a difficult process for me because I rarely allow it to be a process. I expect a finished product to pop out before I even start. But that’s dishonest. Expecting too much from myself while straining too little. Honest, human, creative art needs friction because I’ve got edges. Only God can create good with the first take.

So I tested myself today. I created something.

Is it rough? Sure, but I’m not going to let myself fix it. Here it is.

_______________________________

too often i’m scared to create.

the cords and pulleys seem to liberate

(or resuscitate)

only the static and pale lights in me,

the easy fights in me.

one by one

might as well be

none by none.

because the towns and roads,

the dust and gold

the news, the olds

with my nameplate,

my namesakes,

will wither just the same.

o how i wish i could live in complete silence

away from the buses and sirens and violence

and just sit.

unabridged.

unannounced.

just me, the wind,

my breath and my skin

feet planted against

the force of my habits,

the poisonous shadows

of fruitlessness.

a fruitless wish?

only if i permit this tree

to never have the chance to be.

not to thrive or to win,

but only to breathe

the breath to begin.

God of Inconvenience

Being a follower of Jesus isn’t always easy and it’s not always fun. To be very honest, it gets on my nerves sometimes. But is my life all about sustaining an acceptable level of comfort or denying my self and following Jesus regardless of the cost? To the world, God (or even the idea of Him) seems distastefully inconvenient. I wonder if, by my actions, I share that sentiment.

You know what I’m talking about: That burning swell up your spine as something or Someone gets in your way, interrupts your plans, or invades your personal space. It’s a tough blend of emotions to manage, and for me, one which is easily and sinfully justified when it should be promptly extinguished.

Let’s say I’m engaged in Situation A when Situation B presents itself to me. I have no choice but to engage this new situation, as it would be impossible to will it to never have happened. Situation B involves some element of self-sacrifice. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be an inconvenience. So I must choose Yes or No to the sacrifice of my self.

An inconvenience, then, presents a platform from which to decide if the divergent path is better or holier than the current path. For the believer, it is a choice of whom to serve, and there can only be two options: God and Self. Choosing Self always results in compounding destruction. The better and holier choice of service, the only choice that brings true joy when obeyed, is, of course, God. But that is exactly the thing that brings the inconvenience in the first place. If it weren’t something good for me to do that would ultimately conform me more truly to Jesus, would the prospect of not doing it (and thereby disobeying God) have rubbed against my sinful nature in the first place?

The heart of the inconvenience lies in the simple suffix to its inherent ‘because’, and this is where it can either be stamped out or permitted to bloom.

I don’t want to because X

I can’t right now because Y

In truth, X and Y are honest attempts at vindicating myself of the thing I refuse to do, and perhaps a futile last attempt to fully convince myself of the nonsense. An army of white blood cells is quickly sent to squelch the cancerous guilt that naturally arises from again choosing death over life, destruction over creation. I am to imitate God in the continual surrendering of my self back to God. And if I’m not imitating God, I’m imitating Adam.

Could the triggers of inconvenience actually be blotches of unholiness in my life where I am most ardently resisting transformation unto Jesus? Muted rebellions launched from fleshly fortresses of pure, raw selfishness? I’m talking micro, not macro; the gnats around my head that are easier to shoo than the incessant stray dog. The corners of the room that most desperately need a fresh coat of paint.

I’m not saying we need to give in to every inconvenience that arises, only that we need to pay attention. If I have a habit of snuffing out situations that will make me more like Jesus, perhaps I shouldn’t wonder why I’m not more like Jesus.

Maybe God turns the stream downhill on us every now and then when we need refining. When we need a lesson in choosing Him over Me. I am always less patient, less forgiving, less gracious than I could be. So He sends His streams over me, and under the torrent eventually all those ugly protuberances and knobs and sharp edges begin to wear a little smoother, more and more like Him.

Craving Chrema

“I’ve got good news,” I said to Jill last night.

“Yeah?” She said, expecting something really groovy.

“Tomorrow is pay day! Hallelujah,” I exclaimed mildly sarcastically.

“Oh. Cool?” She muttered half laughing, two-thirds indifferent.

I eagerly checked our account when I got up, and quietly yelped in some sort of fabricated personal victory.

Then I sat down to study the Bible a little bit. I’ve been reading the passage in Luke 18 about the rich young ruler and I’ve been struggling with chrema for a few days now. And I don’t mean coffee-shop-induced digestive pains. It’s greek for ‘riches’, silly.

It’s one of those passages of which I had convinced myself I had gleaned all application and exegetical juiciness. And now it’s kicking my tail a little bit.

So there’s this rich guy, the New Living Translation calls him a ‘religious leader’. Dude has a lot of power, a lot of money. Mucho chrema. He comes up to Jesus and lobs Him a softball. Seriously? At least ask Him about possible fulfilled Isaiahic prophesies in Iran’s involvement with Israel and the spiking oil prices and if the last trumpet will be an actual trumpet playing or a sampled Louis Armstrong clip.

No, he asks Jesus what he’s got to do to dun git saved. Jesus’ reply should have been pretty simple. Pretty straightforward. Just repeat whatever Jesus said from “heavenly Father” to “amen” and he’d be high on the Holy Ghost, right? He wouldn’t even have to close his eyes.

I wonder if this religious leader was sizing Jesus up. As a fellow ‘teacher’ he may have been planning on twisting Jesus’ words around and counterpointing it with a sweet pull from obscure Levitical law. Or he may have genuinely been asking the way to eternal life. Either way, he didn’t get it. He wanted a to-do list and Jesus’ answer wrecked him.

After a quick lesson in Who is really good, Jesus acknowledges the man’s adherence to the Law. Hooray, Jesus says, that’s what I asked you to do. But you still lack one thing.

That’s probably not something he was used to hearing. For a man who lacked nothing, who lived lavishly in riches and power, these words had to have stung.

Sell everything you own.

And don’t just sell everything you own, but once you’ve sold it all, go ahead and give away the big pile of cash to people who actually need it – people you’ve probably never interacted with.

Your reward for giving yourself into poverty? Chrema. Real riches.

The treasure of eternal life.

But that’s only half of the ‘one thing’. Hand in hand with giving up his possessions is the command to follow Jesus. One cannot truly be done without the other. This is too much for the rich man to hear, and he gets weepy and backs out at the prospect of losing his wealth.

How difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

Says the King of Heaven and Earth.

While I’m careful not to blanket-apply verses like this, God has been convicting Jill and myself to deeply consider how much stock we put in the chrema of this world. Do we give away more than we can afford? When we do give, is it even a sacrifice?

Sacrifice requires faith, and faith means following Jesus.

Don’t get me wrong. Jill and I are saving for a house; we want to have children someday; we want to travel; and we would prefer not to starve. Those things aren’t free. But I have to watch my heart closely, or the subtle lusts of riches and security will creep up and strangle even the most honest motives.

If someday God calls us specifically to sell everything we have, that’ll be a different blog post. One that will be hard to write with no computer. But right now, Jill and I are just trying to figure out how to live by the commands of Jesus on a steady, lower middle-class income in a white collar suburban community.

So the question I keep ending up with is this: how obsessed am I with what I own? Is my ‘wealth’ more important to me than following Jesus? I may not have much compared to some. I definitely have loads more than most. But Is my hope and security in my bi-weekly paycheck or in my blood-bought inheritance of eternal life?

Today is pay day.

Which chrema will I crave?