Christianity 201

May 12, 2015

The Lord’s Prayer, Expanded

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”  Luke 11:1

This is another reading by Laura Steen from our worship gathering on Sunday.

Our Father in Heaven
We can call God our “Father” because he is
revealed to us by his Son, Christ Jesus,
who became man.
Lovingly, he adopts us as Children of God.

” in heaven” is Gods way of being;
majestic, transcending everything
we can conceive of his holiness.
His dwelling place is our homeland
to which we aspire.
This holy God lovingly calls us to him!

Hallowed Be Your Name
“to hallow” means we recognize God as holy,
and we treat Him in a holy way.
If we truly hallow the Father,
then we respect him in our hearts,
and he allows us to enter into
His plan for us and our salvation!
He lovingly saves us!

Your Kingdom Come
The Kingdom of God is brought near in the
Word Incarnate – the son he lovingly sent,
and it has come in Christ’s Last Supper,
death and resurrection.  “Your kingdom come”
prays  for the growth of the kingdom of God
in the “today” of our lives,
bearing the fruit of new life.
He lovingly gives us new life!

Your Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven
God’s expression of his will is the commandment that
“you love one another, even as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
This commandment expresses his entire will.
We ask for God’s loving plan to be fully
realized on earth as it already is in heaven.
He lovingly calls us into obedience!

Give us today our daily Bread
“Give us” expresses, in communion
with our brothers and sisters, our bond
of trust in our heavenly Father and the
covenant between the Father and all men.
The Father who gives us life, lovingly gives us “our bread,”
the nourishment this life requires, both material and spiritual.
He lovingly feeds us!

forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors
We return to Him as His prodigals and begin our confession
as sinners in need of mercy. Our hope is firm, for in his Son,
whom he lovingly sent, we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He lovingly forgives us!

And lead us not into temptation
We ask God not to allow us to take the
path that leads to sin.
He gives us the Holy Spirit that helps us
discern between the trials,
necessary for the growth of the inner man,
and temptation, which leads to sin and death.
He lovingly sends us His Spirit!

But deliver us from the evil one
We pray in communion with the Church
for the deliverance of the whole human family.
Victory over the dark prince of this world was
won once and for all at the Hour when Jesus freely
gave himself up to death to give us his life.
He lovingly gives us life on earth!

The Kingdom is Yours, the Power is Yours,
and the Glory, forever. Amen.
This is the final doxology of the Lords prayer.
By the final “Amen,” which means “So be it,” we confirm what is
contained in the prayer that our Lord has taught us.
Let us lovingly offer him our prayers and praise!

We invite you to sing this prayer with us now.

February 14, 2013

Set Apart

“Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the LORD today…” —Exodus 32:29

Today, as yesterday, we begin with Dr. Charles Price, pastor of Peoples Church in Toronto.  Though Charles was never my pastor, this was the church I grew up in, at a time when it was Canada’s only megachurch.  This was titled, On Being Set Apart.

To be holy does not mean to be perfect, but to be ‘set apart’. That is the meaning of the word. It does not equal being perfect.

In my wedding service, I said to my bride as part of my vows: “Forsaking all others, I take you only unto me.” What I meant was, “I’ll never look at a girl again the way I look at you. I’ll never develop a relationship with another woman in the way that I have a relationship with you.” I had become ‘set apart’ exclusively to her. I was entering into a ‘holy’ relationship with her, one in which we are set apart exclusively to each other. That did not make me a perfect husband overnight!! (I think that took a week!) No, I will never be a perfect husband, and that was not the expectation on my wedding day (certainly not my wife’s!), nor was it the meaning of setting myself apart to her. I am repeatedly needing to say ‘I am sorry’. We are always learning new things about each other, and the journey of growth will never end – ‘till death do us part’.

Being called to be ‘holy’ is to be set apart to Christ, and involves no expectation of perfection – for that is neither offered nor promised to us in this life. Rather, in our frailty and the everyday fumbling of our lives to walk in harmony with the Lord Jesus, there is a fundamental attitude that says, “I am set apart to the Lord Jesus”. That is what it means to be holy.

The alternative to holiness is that we are available to anything that happens to attract our attention at the time. To be available to whatever is convenient, comfortable and compatible with our own selfishness is to live an unholy life. We are called to holiness, called to live in step with Jesus, called to unite our interests with His and our agendas with His. As Peter wrote, ‘In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord’ (1 Peter 3:15).

~Charles Price

I never really thought in terms of holiness meaning being “set apart” until I got deep into the lyrics of the Brian Doerksen song, Refiner’s Fire.

I choose to be Holy
Set apart for you, my master
Ready to do your will.

A few years ago here, I wrote about being separated from the world, and compared it to how the Amish people live among us, but are very much set apart from the rest of the world. In the world but not of it.

Our key verses in that devotional were Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (TNIV)

1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (The Message)

and because for some of us, this will involve a transformation, II Cor 5: 17:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (NLT)

Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! (The Message)

Let me end by reiterating a line from Charles Price, above.

Being called to be ‘holy’ is to be set apart to Christ, and involves no expectation of perfection – for that is neither offered nor promised to us in this life. Rather, in our frailty and the everyday fumbling of our lives to walk in harmony with the Lord Jesus, there is a fundamental attitude that says, “I am set apart to the Lord Jesus”. That is what it means to be holy.

October 8, 2011

Worship Weekend: Creation Calls

This is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, and many of the songs sung at this time of year talk of seeing God’s splendor and power in nature. This song by one of Canada’s foremost worship writers, Brian Doerksen speaks to this so clearly:

I have felt the wind blow,
Whispering your name…
I have seen your tears fall,
When I watch the rain.

How could I say there is no God?
When all around creation calls!!
A singing bird, a mighty tree,
The vast expanse of open sea…

Gazing at a bird in flight,
Soaring through the air.
Lying down beneath the stars,
I feel your presence there.

I love to stand at ocean shore
And feel the thundering breakers roar,
To walk through golden fields of grain
With endless bloom horizons fray.

Listening to a river run,
Watering the Earth.
Fragrance of a rose in bloom,
A newborns cry at birth.

How can you say…

I love to stand at ocean shore
And feel the thundering breakers roar,
To walk through golden fields of grain
With endless bloom horizons fray

I believe
I believe

March 14, 2011

Light The Fire Again

Although I’m now a confirmed fan of Brian Doerksen’s worship music, I didn’t immediately gravitate toward the song “Light The Fire Again” when it was first becoming popular.  Only a few days ago, as I was reading the text it is based on in Revelation 3 (the letter to the church at Laodicea) did I really come to appreciate the song.

To craft a song like this you would need several things to be happening

  • At the most basic level, an awareness of the text
  • Second, a familiarity and comfort with the text.  Many times we shy away from poetic images or prophetic images, or even the book of Revelation itself
  • Finally, that familiarity with the text has to extend to an ability to restate the text in words that are immediate and relevant to our modern church experience.

Here’s the text itself:

(NIV) Rev 3:17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Here’s the video and some devotional thoughts on the song that appeared here just a month ago.

Let’s go a different direction with this today:  We’re not all songwriters, but here are some questions to ask ourselves…

  • Are there texts we are unfamiliar with?  A recent study showed that in many churches, despite owning a vast collection of hymnbooks, there were really only 27 hymns that were common to all.  These are the “popular” hymns, the ones that survive even in churches that do modern worship.  It’s the same with Bible texts.  We have our favorites, our “go-to” places in the Bible that we perhaps read at the expense of other places God would have us discover.
  • Are there texts we are uncomfortable with?  Parts of the Bible we avoid?  I’m not talking about obscure genealogies or Levitical laws, but other places that don’t resonate with us, so we tend to skip over them instead of prayerfully reading them, asking God to show us more of His nature and His character in the words He inspired.   They should become part of us.
  • Could we re-state certain passages in ways that would connect with people living 21st Century lives?   Have we captured the “gist” of a passage enough to describe it, paraphrase it, or even put it into a song?  Or do we just skim the words and then close the book?

I’m not there yet.  I just think when we see writers who are able to take these passages and literally make them sing, we need to look into the depth of our own reading and processing of scripture, and if it’s somewhat lacking, take steps to move from a Christianity 101 approach up to the level of Christianity 201.

February 10, 2011

Don’t Let My Love Grow Cold

Sometimes the fire in our heart seems to die down to nothing more than glowing embers.  Sin has done its work, guilt has doused the flame, fear has driven us away, love has grown cold.  We want to light the fire again, but we are guilt-ridden and afraid.

It happened to King David.  He had sinned with Bathsheba.  He tried to cover it up, justify it, forget about it. But finally he found himself cornered by unconfessed sin.  A kind of claustrophobia made peace of mind impossible.  The inner fire of spiritual passion no longer burned.  Lacking the fresh wind of God’s breath, the fire in his heart was no more than a glowing coal. Only when confronted by Nathan the prophet did David come to terms with his sin. The king confessed his sin and pled with the Lord to rekindle his heart. The Lord heard him and lit his fire again.  And the dying embers that had been doused by sin were reignited.

Are you wretched, poor, and naked?  Has sin doused the flame of God’s love in your heart? Do as King David did, for the remedy is the same. Confess your sin to God and ask Him to breathe new passion for Him into your heart.  Ask him to light the fire again.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. ~Psalm 51:10-12 NIV

from My Heart for His Glory; Thomas Nelson 2002; devotion for July 2nd

January 18, 2011

You Are My God, You Are My Fortress

Brian Doerksen wanted to write a song that described another aspect of God’s character and would, at the same time, be a song that men could identify with and sing.  On the Today DVD (and CD) it’s preceded by a men’s chorus singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”  This song, in turn, is called “Fortress 144.”

Usually, I insert the video first and the lyrics underneath, but consider the lyrics first on this one:

You are my God You are my fortress
My loving God my refuge and shield
You are my God You are my stronghold
Delivering me from the father of lies

Part Your heavens and come down
Touch the mountains so they burn with fire
Send forth lightning from on high
Scatter all who would oppose Your light

All praise to You my rock
Who trains my hands for war
All praise to You my rock
Who trains my hands for war

January 7, 2011

Making a Daily Affirmation of Faith

This was the Thursday morning devotional at Daily Encouragement.   It’s a reminder to make a daily renewal of our calling to serve and follow God.  It appeared there under the title, The Daily Decision.

“Then He said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me'” (Luke 9:23).

We want you to think with us. How often in a day’s time do we say aloud or think in our minds, “I need to decide…”?  We suppose it’s a lot. These decisions may be due to factors such as the weather, the day of the week, the time of day or the workload before us.  “What shall I wear, a coat or light jacket?” What should I prepare for dinner?”  “Shall I call or send an email?” And on and on our list goes.

But today we want to focus on a daily decision each of us has in common, regardless of where we live on this planet. Every morning when we awaken to a new day we are confronted with this same choice.

We memorized the daily verse many years ago.  It’s a clear call to discipleship from the words of our Lord.  Jesus was speaking to the disciples very plainly about how He would be rejected by the priests and chief elders. He then spoke of His suffering, His death and resurrection that would follow.  It was a very intense setting as these disciples were trying to understand and also rejecting such disturbing information about their Master.

Then Jesus surely added to the intensity of the moment when he then issued this call to His disciples; “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  Both Matthew and Mark record the same statement (Mt. 16:24, Mk. 8:34), but only Luke records a detail that includes a vital element to this call.  Notice the word “daily”.

By providing this detail Luke emphasized a concept that is often seen in Scripture. The day is a unit of time that the Word seems to stress as important in making a steadfast commitment to our Lord. Here are several phrases from the Scriptures in this regard: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). “I call to you, O LORD, every day” (Psalm 88:8). “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

In the New Testament Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer to request, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). The apostle Paul emphasized this daily walk in urging the Thessalonian believers to “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (Thessalonians 4:11,12). And in the Pastoral Epistle to Titus he taught, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives. (Titus 3:14).

Our daily encouragement series is prompted by a command found in Hebrews 3:13 which states: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” We are just two ordinary people making a decision this day to follow Christ. And we want to encourage all of you to do the same! Today and every day.

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Encouragement

Daily Encouragement ends each devotional blog post with a prayer.  This one is such an integral part of what they wrote, I included it also:

Daily Prayer: Father, there are many choices I will make today based upon the variables that I cannot foresee. But one choice for me that is not optional because I not only believe the truth of the Gospel, but am fully committed to following Christ. To do so I must deny my own selfish desires, take up my cross daily, and follow Him. In denying myself I will be careful never to deny Christ or the work He wants to do in me. On particular days it can be intense and require great sacrifice on my part. I don’t know what the cross will look like today, whether it be in the form of physical pain, ridicule of my faith, rejection from one that I love, a major letdown, or another difficulty that may come my way. The wonderful blessing is that I don’t carry my cross in my own strength but You carry it for me as I lean upon You for strength, guidance, and the assurance that today’s cross will soon be exchanged for tomorrow’s crown.


September 30, 2010

Level Ground – Brian Doerksen Live Worship Experience

We spent the late morning and early afternoon viewing a two-hour worship video event from Brian Doerksen.    He is best known for songs such as, Refiner’s Fire, Come Now is the Time to Worship, You Shine, Today (As For Me and My House), Light the Fire Again; and many, many more.  I’m a huge fan of his Today DVD, and was not disappointed by his newest take on producing a worship video.

You know the criteria for good worship DVDs right?   Great worship songs.   A tight band.   Memorable song introductions.    Good camera shots of the audience and worship team.

Forget all that.   On Level Ground – The Live Experience, Brian focuses on the idea of intimacy in worship.   He brings together a much smaller group of people to a barn located on a B.C. nut farm.   These are people he and the worship band are doing life with, and as it turns out, he introduces about a dozen of them and allows them to tell their salvation story, or as he puts it, their “grace stories.”

Suddenly, Brian’s friends are your friends.    You can worship along with people you know, as the smaller crowd means recurrent crowd shots of the same individuals.

Ooops!  Let me qualify what I mean by “crowd shots.”   There is no crowd.  No audience.   The band is placed on the floor of the barn interspersed among the worshipers.   No musicians are on a stage or platform.    The title song reminds us of the saying that “the ground is level at the foot of the cross;” and the arrangement of the musicians on all fifteen songs stands as a reminder, a reinforcement of this principle.

Welcome to the place of level ground
Welcome to the place where grace abounds
We all need mercy
We all need mercy
Welcome to the place where none can boast
Welcome to the place compassion flows
We all need mercy
We all need mercy

This particular DVD is available in the U.S. through Integrity Music.

Sometimes we approach the worship time in our churches with grand expectations or preconceived ideas as to how that time should play out.   Perhaps there are other contexts in which worship might take place.   For years I’ve wrestled with all the implications of John 4:24 —

For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth. (NLT)

God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.  (The Message)

I don’t pretend to fully understand all the possible implications of ‘worship in spirit and in truth,’ but I know that heaven will reveal worship as we’ve never imagined.

Read a review of Brian’s book on the subject of worship, Make Love, Make War here.

August 5, 2010

Looking at the Amish

Somewhere near the end of our vacation, we were in a town where suddenly a horse and buggy appeared in the opposite traffic lane.   Not knowing if my wife had noticed, I simply said; “Amish;” to which she replied; “Oooh!  Let’s look at them.”

The strange remark — which I got right away, but you may not have — is a reference to people we know who say they are going to go to Pennsylvania to “look at the Amish.”   Not shop in their stores and buy jams, jellies or crafts from them.   Not spend a week helping out on one of their farms — the way one might volunteer on an Israeli kibbutz — as much of an adventure as that would be.   Not attending one of their worship services.

No… just “looking at the Amish;” the way we might visit a town if everybody there had two heads.

But maybe, just maybe, we should take a minute to ‘look at’ (in the sense of ‘consider’) the Amish.

While everybody else in Christendom has suffered the fate of slowly being dominated and shaped by the spirit and culture of the world, these people have managed to truly understand what it means to be “set apart;” what it means to not ‘give in’ to the dominant culture and its ways of seeing the world.

And isn’t that part of what defines ‘holiness?’

Brian Doerksen, the writer of the song “Refiner’s Fire” saw this connection:

What got my thoughts going in this direction is waking up this morning and realizing the extent to which my thought processes have been slowly shaped and conformed to the ‘spirit of the age;’ the world’s way of looking at everything. I’ve been absorbed into the dominant culture’s way of seeing the world.

Instead of simply ‘staring’ at the Amish, we should be engaging them; asking them, “Hey, what’s the secret to all this?”  “How do you manage not to be trapped into the contemporary mindset?”

I think Romans 12:2 is the key:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  (TNIV)

But I especially like the way The Message Bible handles this:

1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Much of the “pattern of this world” is molded within us by media.   It may mean tossing the DVD player or the internet.   The Amish simplified things by rejecting electricity altogether.   Are they any worse off for that decision?

For some of us, this may involve a bit of “unlearning.”  While searching for an appropriate translation of II Cor. 5:17, I found it interesting that The Message Bible makes a reference in verse 16 to the very thing the whole “looking at the Amish” thing is about, physical appearance.

16-20Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!

Changing our worldview is going to involve major transformation.

Want to read a daily devotional that originates in “ground zero” of Amish culture?   Check out Daily Encouragement, always bookmarked in this blog’s blogroll at the side.   While not every post is Amish-themed, if you scroll back you’ll find various pictures and stories relating to the area around Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Photo is from Daily Encouragement by Stephen & Brooksyne Weber.