Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hear That Voice Again

One of my favorite Bible characters is John the Baptist.  He broke molds, and shattered perceptions in pursuit of God's voice.  This is easy to understand if we think of him as only a successful speaker.  When you are someone that everyone listens to, or are powerful, you are allowed to be eccentric.  As we study though (for example Luke 3), we find that he was not always so effective in getting his message across. He is a voice crying in the wilderness. He speaks but people don't listen. He offers an inspiring hope, the promise of better things.  To little avail.  I know it is often that I miss the God's voice when it should be clear.

My study has led me to understand that there are several ways we are made ready to hear His voice.  Let me suggest a couple that have been readily apparent to me.  Firstly, He disrupts our ordinary. Second, He provides opportunities for us to give of ourselves for others.  Lastly, He strengthens and emboldens us in our trials.

Let me give you an example of how my ordinary was disrupted recently. A friend of mine that I hadn't heard from in quite some time called me out of the blue.  The call wasn't particularly significant, but this friend I hadn't seen from prompted me to recall obligations and touchpoints I had been neglecting.  The call was the catalyst that woke me from my everday routine of reverie and allowed me eyes to be opened to my larger world again.
"It is true that the voice of God, having once fully penetrated the heart, becomes strong as the tempest and loud as the thunder; but before reaching the heart it is as weak as a light breath which scarcely agitates the air. It shrinks from noise, and is silent amid agitation."
- Saint Ignatius of Loyola
When we are aware of the world around us, God gets our attention focused by inviting us to give of ourselves for others. Take for example John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement. Historians estimate that during the 52 years of his ministry, Wesley preached approximately 54,450 sermons. On an average day he preached two times, and very often he would preach four or five times in one day. Pursuing his Father's will was like that single acorn that sprouts to become a mighty oak tree from which grow 54,450 acorns.  What sermons are you supposed to be delivering today?

In our lives, we are each meant to replicate and produce, to give back to God generously and overtly for the abundant gift that God has given us.  We are each to be like acorns that become oaks that sprouts thousands of other nuts! In giving to others we imitate the bountifulness of our God.

By giving to others, we are able counteract disillusionment, depression, and despair.  It is when we are each fulfilling our call that we most easily and gracefully encourage and embolden one another.  Seize those opportunities to help others and you will find others seizing opportunities to brighten your life.
"He who loves the coming of the Lord is not she who affirms it is far off, nor he who says it is near. It is the one who, whether it be far or near, awaits it with sincere faith, steadfast hope, and fervent love."
- Saint Augustine

Monday, September 11, 2006

Critical Crucial Worship

Yesterday I was out with a friend and as usual he started winding me up with a bunch of analytical questions.  Don't get me wrong, I love the kid and it's great to be challenged, but as usual I came away with a dozen things I wanted to write about.  One of them was a continuation of an earlier conversation about the state of affairs in the church today.  While he's devoted, tied, and bound to one church, I tend to bounce around because of my constant travel schedule.  The offshoot of not having a steady, every-Sunday worship place, is that the things I am looking for in a church are different than his particular list of church priorities.  Not that either is correct, we were just analyzing the differences.

One major difference concerns the worship service.  He's old school and I'm modern worship.  He delights and finds comfort in the ritual and formality.  I find it confining and too easily insincere.  I take more from the worship and environment often, then I do the message.  Well, right away anyway.  It can take a little time for the message to sink in, but the worship can move me immediately.  Expanding this into the rest of my life, I find I take a lot of my strength from good Worship music.

As an example when I workout or run I've found that the best music to listen to is Worship music.  It's no secret that I'm a huge PlanetShakers fan, and I am constantly on the lookout for more Worship music that moves me.

How is it that two people can attend a service, and find two totally different paths to the same God?  For me, this only reenforces my belief in the personal and not corporate nature of my relationship with my Savior.   For my friend, his anecdotal evidence suggests that the contemporary worship is the more shallow of two types of services.  We are at both ends of the spectrum staring at the opposing pole and wondering how they do it?  I guess it's true what they say:
You can't clap with one hand
Nowhere is that any more true then when we consider the myriad of choices in worship style we find in churches across the nation.  There must be one for every kind of person so that way we all get feed.  I'll leave you with a quote from one my favorite worship artists of all time.
I pray that more than ever God will lead each of us into a place of true worship, that we will encounter His presence and power and that His desire will be accomplished in us.
-- Twila Paris