Christianity 201

February 18, 2018

Sunday Worship

This is the third in a series which was posted last spring at Whole Life Worship. I’ve added links to the other two parts. In their original order, the three deal with the breadth of God’s character, the depth of His Love and the height of his greatness.  Dr. Douglas M. Lee is a worship pastor, conference speaker, and seminary professor. He is currently on staff as the Associate Pastor of Worship Arts at Community Baptist Church of Rancho Cucamonga (California) and serves as an adjunct professor at Azusa Pacific University Graduate School of Theology

God-in-a-Box

Worship is a response to the goodness and greatness of God. The problem is that most of the time we are unaware of how good and great God is. The way we overcome this is by improving our “view” of God. I touched on expanding our perception of God in the breadth of His character and the depth of His love. Today, I want to talk about the dimension of “height.” We need to grasp how “high” God is, how He is so far beyond what we can think or even imagine.

It’s easy to put God into a “box.” In fact, it’s so easy we do it without thinking. Whenever we get a little too familiar or cozy with God, we are doing it. Whenever we think we know how God operates or what He’s going to do, we’ve already done it. Whenever our worship of Him becomes routine or stale, it’s likely that we’ve contained “God” (meaning: our concept of God) in a box.

The second of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:4) was to not to create an idol or an image of anything in heaven (including God). There are multiple reasons for this commandment, but I think one of the main reasons was to keep us from worshiping something less than Him. Making an image of Him or His context is like putting “God in a box.” Something in a box or fashioned in a man-made image can be measured, calculated, manipulated and controlled. And it is in our sinful human nature to do that to God.

Good thing for us, God is so much bigger than anything any box we try put Him in! (And He’s really good at shattering these boxes.) But it’s important to know how we tend to put God in a box. I see two main boxes God gets shoved into:

  1. Theology – theology is a big word that basically means “what we think about God.” So don’t let the word scare you: everyone who thinks about God has a theology. Usually, our theology is based on what we interpret from the Bible. However, there are a lot of other factors (more than we care to admit) that influence our theology, such as: our cultural values, our political ideals, socio-economic biases, personality, etc. Sometimes our theology puts God in a box: like “God doesn’t do this or that,” or “God always does something in a certain way,” or that God is limited or “bound” by certain things.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love theology. And, to a certain extent, we need theology. It helps us organize our thoughts and understandings about God. BUT, it’s important to know that all theology is limited. It is a “box” that puts labels and qualities on God. It is not God and I’ve seen God blow away my theology many a time. However, way too many Christians hold onto their theology too tightly, and their rigidity blinds them to the fact that God is “beyond comprehension.” More importantly, rigid theology keeps people from seeing the amazing greatness of God, and therefore, from true worship.

  1. Expectations – we have many expectations of how God responds to us. For example, if we become unemployed, we pray for God to provide for our needs. Now God may use many different ways to meet our needs, but we all have expectations on how this will happen. We may expect God to give us a job that pays more, that has better hours, that is located a mile from our house, that will be rewarding and fun, and that will pop up in less than a week’s time. Our expectations are usually nice, linear paths, with no bumps or hassles. But God might have a different idea of what your journey to provision will be. Like our theology, if we hold onto our expectations too tightly we may miss the opportunities God gives that will – not only meet our needs – but transform our character and the world around us.

Seeing the “height” of God’s ways comes only when we have a light hold on our theology and expectations. As the LORD says in Isaiah 55:9:

As high as the heavens are higher the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

Thank God that He is so much bigger than the boxes we put him in! Sometimes we need to let Him blow our mind and give us a larger vision of who He really is.

It was the vision of the “height” of God’s surpassing greatness that caused the Apostle Paul to pen these words:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?

Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

How big is your God? The bigger your God, the greater your Whole Life Worship.


From the same author:

One of the blockages to worship of God is being unaware of who God really is and what He has really done. When we can actually view the mercies of God through the eyes of our heart and soul, the response to worship Him flows freely and powerfully – leading to amazing transformation of our surrendered lives (Romans 12:2).

Check out God’s 3-D Mercies.

January 5, 2014

Why, Exactly, Our God is Great

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David Kenney has embarked on an ambitious project on his blog this year… I’ll let him describe it at this post, Who is in Control?

Ok, so I am going to do something new this year. I think a thing that pastors run into every Sunday is the dreaded blank page. “What am I going to preach on next week? Next month? Next Christmas?” I mean sure, we all have the same source material, and there is certainly no shortage of things to talk about – but we all like to feel motivated, right? Perhaps inspired?

Well, like most of you I am determined to read my bible more in 2014 and so as I read through the scriptures each day, my goal is to use my blog to journal a sermon each and every day. Yep the goal here (if all goes according to plan) is to write a sermon “inspiration” each day and end the year with 365 sermons ready for 2015.

Today’s Inspiration:

Psalm 104:27-31

All of them wait for You to give them their food at the right time. When You give it to them, they gather it; when You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things. When You hide Your face, they are terrified; when You take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When You send Your breath, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth. May the glory of the Lord endure forever.

You know the song “How Great Is Our God” by Chris Tomlin? Most of the lines in that song come from Psalm 104.  The entire song is about how “great” God is, right? But the “great thing” about Psalm 104 is, the author actually tells you “WHY” God is so great – answer, because He’s in control.

Let’s face it a lot of people have an opinion of God, who he is, how he operates and how he gives out good points and bad points. And I think there are a lot of people who think that God just created the world and then walked away. “God lives in the clouds” and we live down here to fend for ourselves.

But Psalm 104 goes to terrific lengths to show how much God is involved in the life of the Earth. In fact, the author goes so far as to say that when God hides his face, creation is “terrified.”

I have a brand new son and he’s barely a few months old. He’s going through that annoying stage where we can’t put him down for two seconds. He knows we’re in the room, he can see us – we’re even still talking to him, but it doesn’t matter. He wants to be held. He wants to feel secure. He wants us to be in control. Right now, that’s the only way that he feels comfortable and safe.

What a total flip to how you and I live our lives. We like our independence, in fact, we’d probably like it better if God would “look the other way” from time to time. Then we could have moments to ourselves, then we could get away with stealing a cookie now and then. For some reason we think that life would be better if God were “on a cloud” somewhere.

But look at what the author says, the world is…dependent on God… for it’s survival. You know we’d like to think that we’re in charge, that we heal diseases, or that we save the rain forests and endangered species. We’d like to think that we’re out there saving the day, but God is the one who feeds the animals, verse 13 says God sends the rain, verses 14 & 15 say that God spins the circle of life and verses 19 & 20 say that he also spins the planets.

verses 32 & 33 say

He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they pour out smoke. I will sing to the Lord all my life

The irony is we treat God like a prying parent. God’s always reading our diary. But here the author talks about how involved God is and THAT is why he sings. He rejoices because God is so apart of his life. The author worships the God who plants the trees and gushes the rivers.

You see, my life isn’t miserable when God is watching, my life is miserable when I don’t want it to be watched. My problem isn’t an involved God, my problem is I don’t want God’s involvement. But the truth is, I should be welcoming God in more, sharing with him more, walking hand and hand with him more – because THAT’S when the songs come on strong.

In verse 35 the author closes with a wish, May sinners vanish from the earth and wicked people be no more.” You know what I think that means? That means if we could just all invite God in – if he could just become more involved and more a part of each of our lives- well… then… sin would disappear.

It’s true.

Do you know why sin is still around?

Because we want it around.

The truth is we’re all broken people who struggle with the question; “who is in control?” And when the answer is “we are” that’s when sin is born.

Lord help me to release control. Help me to depend on your love and grace for all of my needs – and may I invite you in each day of my life so that one day I can spin and dance in a world where sin has vanished.

December 18, 2013

Reasons to Praise God

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Today’s thoughts are from the blog Filled with God’s Fulness by a writer who simply goes by the name Gracious. In reading this in preparation, the thought occurred to me that I have fallen out of the habit of simply offering praise to God that is not motivated by circumstances; simply taking time to express something back to God that goes beyond the emotions of a specific moment.  Click here to read this at source.

Why You Must Praise God

If we are to praise God effectively, we must know and have a reason for doing so. The popular saying goes: ‘where purpose in not known, abuse is inevitable’.

When we don’t know why we must praise God despite our prevalent challenges, it is possible that we might abuse such virtue, express ingratitude and become unappreciative.

Let us learn more reasons we must praise God so we can do it confidently and effectively.

1. Praise God for who He is. Psalm 48:1 He is God, the maker of all things. He is our father and friend. He is our sustainer- He sustains us even when we have nothing to rely on. He is the ultimate and final authority over our lives. It doesn’t matter who said nor did anything to us- God is the final authority over that situation.

He is God, He is not a man. He doesn’t change.

He is ever faithful. He is the, I AM.

2. Praise Glorifies God. When you praise God, you glorify Him. Psalm 50:23  Do you want to see God’s glory? Praise Him!

3. God commands Praise. Romans 12:1 All through the Scriptures we see different commands as regarding our praise and worship to God. ‘Praise God, Make known His praise, offer and give yourself to God.’

4. Praise God for all His benefits. Psalm 103:2. His grace, infinite love, mercies, protection, provision, health, redemption, family, life, job, home- all His benefits to you and those you love.

Praise Him for all the benefits and display of love you have enjoyed.

5. Praise Him for His Goodness and for His works. Psalm 107:21. If the Lord has been good, kind faithful and loving to you in any way, then you owe Him your praise.

6. Praise Him for His mighty acts. Psalm 150:2. Praise Him for all His acts of love, redemption plan and mercy. Praise Him for all the miracles, healings, deliverances, divine provision, and protection and any other act you have experienced personally and have seen in the lives of other believers.

7. God is worthy of our Praise. 2 Samuel 22:4, Revelation 4:11. Even if you do not have anything physical or tangible thing to praise God for, He would still deserve your undivided praise and worship even till the next age.

God has given us all things He owns, all that He is, Himself and all things that pertains to life and godliness.

You know the saying: ‘a living dog is better than a dead lion’? But we are neither dogs nor dead lions. We are God’s most treasured and priced creature. He put all that He is and had to make us.

For the fact that we are alive and have everything working well alone, He deserves our highest praise. Whatever our situation is or challenge we face, as long as it has not taken our lives or robbed us our salvation; then God deserves our highest praise.

8. Praise magnifies God.

9. Praise is proper and comely.

10 God dwells in our praise

11. Praise generates power.Praise moves God to begin to act on our behalf. Praise provokes prophecy, Psalm 89:3-5. God speaks more often when we praise Him than He does in prayer.

12. Praise brings our heart desires. Psalm 37:4. Praising God is one way we can receive immediate and instant answer to long years of prayer.

Worshiping God produces more effective and instant results, and solution to problems.

There are various instances of miracles, healing and met expectations in the Bible that occurred as a result of worship and praise. We can see it in Mark 7:24-26, John 11:32-34, and John 6:11.

13. Praise precedes victory. In 2 Chronicles 20:1-29, we see practically how God used the praise of His people to procure victory against the Moabites and Ammonites. Do you want victory over the battles in your life? Praise God.

SO, my Friend, what reasons do you have to praise God? Praise Him, and praise Him NOW!!!

Here’s another article from the same blog: Five Good Ways to Praise the Lord (Some of you might #4 a bit of a stretch!!)

April 23, 2012

Christian Life is not a Solo Performance

I took some liberties with that title, this appeared at the blog of Justin Buzzard who is lead pastor of Garden City Church in Silicon Valley. Just think, someone in his church may have written the software that allows you to read this. Or maybe not. Anyway, this appeared at his blog under the title, God Is Most Glorified In Us When We Are Most Dependent On Him, and as always you’re encouraged to link.

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. -Job 42:2

Some of us have been duped into thinking that the Christian life is meant to be lived in our own strength.

We’re Westerners. We like to be strong. We grow up thinking that things depend on us and our abilities. We import all of this into our Christianity, we believe we’re meant to follow Jesus on the basis of our own resources.

In short, we settle for a natural life when we could be living a supernatural life.

God calls his people to live supernatural lives—to live in expectant and full dependency on the living God, believing and trusting that what seems impossible to us is possible with God.

Just as a toddler is meant to depend on his father and mother for everything, we’re meant to depend on our Heavenly Father for everything. Again, we’ve been duped. We thought we were supposed to grow out of this toddler phase. No. The whole of the Christian life is meant to look like the toddler phase in terms of dependency—we are to always depend on God for everything.

Why?

Because God is God and we are not.

To live a natural life is to live a prideful life. When you live life based on your own resources, sight, and strength, you declare that you don’t need God.

To live a supernatural life is to live a humble, thrilling, and God-honoring life. When you live life based on God’s resources, sight, and strength, you declare that God is God and you’re banking everything on his ability to come through.

Abel, Abraham, Caleb, Rahab, Gideon, Daniel, Nehemiah, Mary, the apostle Paul, and the early Christians whose lives are recorded in the book of Acts all lived supernatural lives. Who they are and what they did makes no sense apart from radical dependence on God.

We were never meant to trust in our five loaves and two fish. We are meant to live as though, at any moment, God can turn five loaves and two fish into something we never dreamed of.

Don’t settle for a natural life. Live a supernatural life. Read your Bible and see that that’s the only kind of life we’ve been called to live.

I believe that God is most glorified in us when we are most dependent on him.

To the degree that you live dependent on yourself, you dishonor God. To the degree that you live dependent on God,  you glorify God.

I want to give God a lot of glory with my life. Don’t you?

Let’s repent of our less-than-supernatural way of life. Let’s live supernatural lives. Let’s depend, supernaturally depend, on God.

This is the heart of the gospel. The good news of the gospel comes to us in our complete inadequacy, a message of supernatural grace and transformation for the undeserving. That’s how the Christian life starts and it’s how the Christian life is meant to continue, knowing our inadequacy and Christ’s total adequacy to forgive, satisfy, lead, help, supply, love, and move mountains.

I’m concerned about the loss of faith that moves mountains. I don’t think this is a faith intended for a select few. We know the living God, the God who calls us to live as though he is real, sovereign, near, wise, good, and attending to our prayers.

Could there be anything that the Enemy is more eager to do in the Western world than trick us into living natural lives with smallish faith in a smallish God?

We’ve settled for Me-sized visions for our lives and our churches when we’re meant to move forward with God-sized visions.

I’m done with me-sized living. I don’t know how I got to confusing Christianity with me-sized living, but I did. A few years ago I repented of that and asked God for the grace and power to trust him like he’s meant to be trusted. I’m figuring it out, having fun, and realizing that living a supernatural life is a lot more interesting that the life I once lived.

God is most glorified in us when we are most dependent on him. God is most glorified in us when we are most dependent on him. God is most glorified in us when we are most dependent on him.

Beat that into your head. Beat that into your leadership. Don’t settle for anything less.

~Justin Buzzard

Christianity 201 is a repository of some of the best devotional and Bible Study material in the Christian blogosphere. Selections come from a variety of doctrinal and theological viewpoints. You’re encouraged to read articles at source, and if you like what you read, click that blog’s header to discover more about the writer and consider subscribing.

March 13, 2012

Welcome, Holy Spirit

While sourcing the piece that appeared two days ago at Sheldon’s blog, I was reminded of this song which really needs to be in this collection.

August 18, 2011

Indescribable King

This is post number 500 here at Christianity 201, and it seems fitting that it includes a video clip which is so familiar to so many people through its widespread use as a church video a few years ago, but may be new to many others as well.  It’s S. M. Lockridge’s sermon excerpt, That’s My King.  (If you’ve seen it before, maybe it’s time to view it again!)

Usually, if there’s a video clip here, it’s a worship song.  I am convinced that if you are involved in worship planning, there are three worship themes with which you can’t ever go wrong:

  • communion, Lord’s supper, Christ’s death, Christ’s sacrifice, atonement
  • personal surrender to God
  • God’s attributes, particularly his greatness and majesty

The last category is where we land today.  All the most popular worship songs in the last decade — Majesty, Shout to the Lord, How Great is our God — are songs which speak to the indescribable greatness of God.

S. M. Lockridge (born Shadrach Meshach Lockridge!) pastored in Texas and California and was active in the civil rights movement.   You can read more about him at Wikipedia.

His words are most fitting for a blog which has as its aim being Christ-centered, and so well-suit being the 500th post here.

Here is the full text (click the ‘more’ button if it’s all not visible):

My King was born King.
The Bible says He’s a Seven Way King.
He’s the King of the Jews – that’s a racial King.
He’s the King of Israel – that’s a National King.
He’s the King of righteousness.
He’s the King of the ages.
He’s the King of Heaven.
He’s the King of glory.
He’s the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords.
Now that’s my King. (more…)

January 29, 2011

Tell Out My Soul

This is a hymn that is not well-known in North America, though I heard a version here once with a tune that did not do the lyrics justice. This is a song worthy of a resurgence; a composition that sounds like much of today’s Sovereign Grace titles with a melody that holds up well in the 21st century and lyrics that affirm the majesty and glory of God.

And here’s a bonus version, done in a high-church style, which is how I heard this song the first time over 30 years ago. I’m a huge fan of today’s modern worship, but here is a case where the traditional music and lyrics blend perfectly.

“Make know His might, the deeds His arm has done.”

November 1, 2010

Worship His Majesty: Extra Verses

As I explained today at Thinking Out Loud; I wasn’t sure yesterday which post should go on which blog, so today they’re reversed.   Except you guys get a video, too!


Recently, the topic of writing extra verses to worship songs and hymns has come up here and in other forums. There are times that a particular worship service almost demands some additional lyrics, and as long as you’re not making a recording, and the verses are consistent with the spirit of the original, I would encourage worship leaders to do this.

We spent the weekend looking for some that I did many, many years ago when the chorus Majesty by Jack Hayford was popular.  If you don’t the original first verse, it’s posted below with lyrics on the video. We decided to post them here for safekeeping! (Musicians: There’s a few ties and triplets used here to make the rhythm work.)

Liberty. Glorious liberty.
He has loosed the chains and weights
that imprisoned my soul
Liberty. Setting my Spirit free.
Taking away guilt and disgrace
Making me whole

So arise, sound forth His praise
Your sins are forgiven
Jesus Christ, with His own life
Has brought our release

Liberty. Glorious liberty.
Once we were slaves, now we are saved
Forevermore.


Victory. Living in victory
For Christ Jesus has conquered the forces of sin
Victory. Permanent victory
Casting out fear; casting out death
Assuring we win

So stand up, go forth to fight
knowing we triumph.
Not by human power and might
By His Spirit alone.

Victory. Eternal victory.
Leading the way, through all life’s days
Taking me home.

additional lyrics © 1991 Paul Wilkinson

August 18, 2010

What a Faithful God

In the spirit of “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” this 1989 worship song extolling one of the many great characteristics of God is by Dawn and Robert Critchley from the UK. This version is paced a little different from how I first learned it; and the three verses start out pitched really low, but then the song explodes like fireworks into a higher register celebrating the faithfulness of God. This is the original recording by the songwriter.  This is a great worship song that still has possibilities; it may not be “new” but it’s new to you!

Lord, I come before Your throne of grace
I find rest in Your presence,
And fullness of Joy
In worship and wonder,
I behold Your face
Singing what a faithful God have I

What a faithful God have I
What a faithful God
What a faithful God have I
Faithful in every way

Lord of mercy, You have heard my cry
Through the storm You·re the beacon
My song in the night
In the shelter of Your wings
Hear my heart·s reply,
Singing what a faithful God have I

Lord, all soverign
Granting peace from heaven
Let me comfort those who suffer
With the comfort You have given
I will tell of Your great love
For as long as I live
Singing what a faithful God have I

July 27, 2010

Great Are You

I first heard this song at a worship service in the Chicago area a couple of years ago, but didn’t realize until tonight it’s by the band Downhere.  Close your eyes — the video image doesn’t change — and think about the fact that He’s God and we’re not.  Times a billion.


The chorus (especially) is truly a refreshing lyric.

How I love Your works
My God, My King
How I love Your works
My God, My King

Your Name rings on the plains
Like a not so distant train
And Love and history are near
In the flowers that you make
The flowers that you make

Because I’ll never hold the picture of the whole horizon in my view
Because I’ll never rip the night in two
It makes me wonder
Who am I, Who am I, Who am I
And great are you

How I love Your Word
My God, My King
How I love Your Word
My God, My King

Your love cuts through
these pages to my heart
As you grieve our sins,
right from the start
And sacrifice and paradise are in
The plans that you made, The
plans that you made

Because I’ll never hold the picture of the whole horizon in my view
Because I’ll never rip the night in two
It makes me wonder
Who am I, Who am I, Who am I
And great are you

June 27, 2010

How Great Our God Is

With all the other songs I’ve embedded on this blog, how could I not do this one?  This is a 7-minute version of what has become the worship anthem of the past two years or so.  “Sing with me, ‘How great is our God.'”