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Showing posts with label Worship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Worship. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Singing to God

I get it.  I know how you feel.  Worship online is just not the same as being in a congregation full of people singing praises to God with all their hearts.  Yet, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that's what many need to do in order to be safe and to keep others safe as well.  So, we sit on our couches and look at the computer screens and we watch church.

One of the hardest parts of online worship is the singing.  When you are at church with a group of people, the singing just feels more natural. Your voice blends with the chorus of everyone else.  Together, you are a congregation praising God and it doesn't matter so much how your individual voice sounds.  Unfortunately, when you are staring at a computer screen in your home for online worship, it just feels flat and awkward to sing.  You feel alone and exposed singing all by yourself--even if your family is in the room with you.  That's not easy for most people.

It's ok to feel a little awkward, but I encourage you to sing anyway.

Here's the thing.  You aren't singing alone.  Even if you are not physically present with other people, you are still worshipping with them.  Whether the other people are on the stage at your church leading worship or in the sanctuary congregation singing or even sitting on their own couch in their own home, you are still singing with them.  The act of worship binds our spirits together--even if we aren't in the same location.  This might seem awkward at first, but mainly because we aren't used to it.  

One of the sweetest memories from my early childhood was listening to my Grandma sing and hum church hymns as she cleaned or cooked in the kitchen.  Her voice wasn't exceptional and she wasn't singing for anyone else.  The hymns simply brought joy to her heart as she worked.  She didn't mind singing all by herself.  Why should I?

Many people enjoy singing in the shower or in their car while they are alone.  It's a great stress reliever.  However, when we sing as we worship God, we are not alone.  We are singing along with our brothers and sisters in Christ wherever they are.

The idea that our spirits are united through worship--even if we are not physically present together--has always been the belief of the Christian Church.  For example, when we recite the Apostles' Creed, we affirm, "I believe in... the communion of saints..."  The communion of saints is the fellowship of all Christian believers--both those who are still living in this world and those who have gone on to live with Christ in eternity.  

Hebrews 12:1 famously says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles."  That "great cloud of witnesses" is the gathered saints who have gone before us.  As we worship, they are gathered with us.  

I get it.  It still feels awkward to be in your living room by yourself singing to a computer screen in online worship.  But if we try, perhaps we can use our imagination to recognize a great spiritual truth.  You are not singing alone.  You are singing along with everyone else who is worshipping Jesus--regardless of where they are.  Furthermore, you are also singing with the saints in glory standing around the throne of God, lifting up their voices with the angels to the One who made us all.  

You are not singing to an image on a screen or even a minister on a stage.  You are singing to the One who died on a cross and rose from the grave to save you.  Your voice--yes even your voice--makes Him smile.  He loves the beautiful sound of your voice as you worship Him from a sincere heart in song!

So don't hold back.  Don't be ashamed.  Sing like no one is watching.  Sing with all your heart!  If you can sing in the shower or in your car, you can sing your heart out for the One who gave you a voice.  Sing (and even dance) like David as he unashamedly brought the Ark into Jerusalem, for you are singing to the only One who is worthy of our worship and praise.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Ekklesia 3 - Called out of the World


Introduction
I’ve felt like an outsider almost my whole life.  I never had any resentment about it—it was just the reality for our family when I was a kid.  My parents were both born in Georgia but met and married in Maryland.  So, I began my life as an outsider in Maryland, a child of two outsiders from Georgia.  Eventually, we moved away from Maryland back to Georgia.  In Georgia, I felt even more like an outsider.  In Maryland, kids teased me because I had a southern accent.  (I guess I picked it up from my parents.)  When we moved to Georgia, kids at school said I talked like a Yankee.  Some of the kids in my school in Macon had such thick southern accents, I couldn’t understand what they were saying! 

In all, I attended five different elementary schools and, each time, it reinforced the fact that I was an outsider—the new kid on the outside of a circle of friends.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  It was just the way it was and I didn’t know any better and didn’t resent it.
 
Then, after high school, I moved to Marietta to attend college.  Metro Atlanta was very different from Macon, and again, I felt like an outsider among people who had lived in the Atlanta area their whole lives.  They would talk about the different towns and roads and places assuming everyone knew where they were—and most everyone did (accept me, the outsider).  But that was OK, because by then I knew how to make it as an outsider—a stranger in a foreign land, as they say. 

After college, I worked for a small textile mill in Griffin—a small town where everybody knew everybody and everyone in the mill knew everybody else, and probably had for their whole life.  Except for me, of course; I was the outsider—that new college kid who thought he was smarter than everyone else. (That was their opinion, not mine, by the way.  I deeply respected their vast experience and just wanted to learn from them. I didn’t think I was better than anyone, but some perceived me that way simply because I had a college degree.)

And then I answered the call to ministry as a United Methodist minister.  And guess what?  United Methodist ministers are reappointed to new churches every so many years (the average is about 5 years in each congregation)!  So all together, I’ve lived in twelve different homes in my life and I have attended 10 different churches.

Now, the more I have matured in my Christian faith, the more I see the benefit of my life as an outsider, because one of the great truths is Jesus came to call Christians to be “outsiders” in this world.

John 15:18-19
18 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.

Called Out of this World
As we think about the purpose of Church, we have to remember that Christians are a “called out” people.  The Greek word for Church in the New Testament is Ekklesia, which literally means “the called out people”.  The Church is not a building.  The Church is a group of people who have been called out of something old into something new--called out of darkness into light, out of shame into nobility, called out of the world into the Kingdom of God.

Perhaps it has been easier for me than for most to accept that Christians are outsiders in this world because I have never felt “at home” in this world.  My faith in Christ has assured me that feeling is OK because this world is not our home. 

Philippians 3:20 says, “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.”

You see, being a Christian isn’t a sentence to be an outsider forever.  It only means being an outsider in this world.  But it means being an insider in God’s Kingdom.  Hebrews 13:14 – “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”

But many Christians struggle with being “outsiders in this world.”  There are too many things we like about this world.  Hank Williams Jr. once sang a song, “If Heaven ain’t a lot like Dixie, I don’t want to go.  If Heaven ain’t a lot like Dixie, I’d just as soon stay home.”  How about you?  If Heaven ain’t a lot like the place you call home, would you still want to go?  Are you more a part of this world or of God’s Kingdom?  These are critical questions to consider.  Remember, all the things of this world will soon melt away, but the Kingdom of God will stand forever (see 2 Peter 3:10-12).

The Purpose of the Church
It’s important to always keep in mind that Christians are not just called out of, but we are also called into.  We are called out of the world, but we are called into God’s Kingdom.  And this reveals one of the essential purposes of the Church.  The Church is the place Christians gather together into a community--a community of faith, God's Kingdom on earth.  Right now, it's just an outpost of God's Kingdom.  One day, it will be God's full Kingdom on earth when Jesus comes to reign in power and might.  Until then, we need a place where the faithful can gather.  The Church is that place.

No one can make it in this world completely alone.  We’re not made that way.  It doesn’t matter how much of a loner you are, you cannot live in complete isolation from other people.  Everyone (and I mean everyone) needs to be part of a group of people.

Christians do not live out our faith alone.  We need each other.  Jesus, the Son of the living God, called together a group of 12 people.  Don’t you think Jesus, God in the flesh, imbued with all the power in the universe, could have saved the world all by himself?  He didn’t need the help of 12 flawed, feeble mortals to do His work.  However, he chose these broken men to be together because being together is essential to the Christian life.

Part of the purpose of Church is for us to be together.  Because if we are called out of the world and we don’t gather together, then we’re just alone; and being alone is a death sentence to your spiritual life.  I want everyone reading this to understand me clearly.  If you are trying to live as a Christian all alone, all bv yourself without a group of other Christians, you will die spiritually.

Now, don’t get me wrong, gathering as a “church” doesn’t have to look like it has traditionally looked in America.  Obviously, we’ve been learning a new way to do “church” through online worship for over two months.  Church could also be a group of men gathering for lunch at a restaurant for encouragement, accountability, and cooperation in the mission of the Church.  Church could also be gathering in your living room or outdoors at a campground.  But it’s not just gathering; it’s not the same as getting together with your family or friends for a cookout.  We gather for some specific reasons.  What are they?

The Church Gathers for Important Reasons
Here are some of essential reasons we must gather.  Now, I’m still praying about this and studying.  I don't know that I have this all worked out and organized.  A lot of this is me just thinking out loud.  But here’s what I think are some of the essential reasons Christians must gather together.

Worship.  Obviously, we can worship privately as individuals.  We can also worship online as we are doing in many churches during the COVID 19 pandemic.  Some people may prefer to worship online as we are today.  For others, being together in one room worship God with other people enhances the worship experience. We feel God presence more compellingly when we are in a group.

Learning and growing.  There is a certain amount of learning and growing that can be accomplished online.  We are learning that we might actually be more effective in some ways when we teach online.  The jury is still out.  If online learning is as effective as onsite learning, then why have we not yet abolished school classrooms and gone completely to online learning for public education as well as college courses.  Right now, these are options, but most students and teachers still believe being physically present in a classroom is essential for proper education.  I mean, do you want to be operated on by a surgeon who only took online classes in medical school?  I believe onsite learning in small groups, Sunday school classes, and Bible studies is essential in the church.  We are learning, however, that the right combination of online and onsite learning may be better than either one alone.

The Sacraments of Holy Communion and Baptism.  Jesus commanded the Church to perform two sacred ceremonies—Baptism and Holy Communion.  These can only be celebrated when a community of Christian believers are gathered together in person.  Some are celebrating online/virtual communions and I don't fault them; Christians long to celebrate Holy Communion and this is something many are trying to get by during a global pandemic.  However, I would say it's not really true Communion.  It is a stand in.  True Holy Communion must be celebrated as we gather in person. 

Cooperation for the sake of the mission.  Together, as a church, we are a team.  Christians are more effective when we work together.  We can do more as a group than we can do individually.  I’m good at some things, but not everything.  You are better at some things than I am.  When we get together, I add the things I'm good at your good things and the good things of everyone else in the church and it adds up to great things.  When we all pool together our time, our talents, our perspectives, and our resources for the sake of the Christ’s mission, we can accomplish greater things than we could ever accomplish alone.

Finally, there is fellowship.  And this is huge.  Sometimes, fellowship doesn't get the respect it's due.  Cynics may say a church that focuses on fellowship is just a social club.  That's not fair.  Fellowship is vital to the Christian faith.  People who don’t meet together regularly to fellowship in person will grow apart.  And if a church is going to work together as a team, weathering trials and tribulations, we have to know each other, trust each other, and long for each other.  We have to be one as a family—brothers and sisters in Christ.  I just don’t see how a Church can go to the depths of relationship building, working together on our great mission, and being the community of faith Jesus calls us to be if we don’t get together regularly in person all in the same space.  We can manage it for a time, but eventually we would grow apart.  Over the long term, we have to be together to be one in Christ to do the things the Church is called out of the world and into the Kingdom to God to do.  Fellowship is essential.

Closing
I want everyone reading this to seriously contemplate how you are called to be part of the Church.  Over the next month, we will slowly begin to resume onsite gatherings at my church, Pleasant Grove.  Is God calling you to be here. If you don’t live close enough, is God calling you to be in a church near you?  Please understand, that doesn't necessarily mean you need to worship in a traditional church building.  You could worship online at my church on Facebook on Sunday and then meet with a solid group of Christian friends for coffee on Monday morning and get the "in person" portion of Christian relationships you need.  Is God calling you to do that?

Jesus came to call you out of darkness into light, to call you out of shame into a noble purpose.  He came to call you out of a broken world of sin into God’s glorious Kingdom of eternal life.  Won’t you hear His voice today and start to follow Him?

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Ekklesia 2 - Called Out of Shame


Introduction
It has been 10-11 weeks since we had a regular, onsite worship service at Pleasant Grove.  In fact, all over the world, it has been months since congregations have gathered in the sanctuaries for worship.  Does this mean we are no longer the Church?  Absolutely not!

In fact, during these crazy times, the Church may be more active doing God’s work than ever before.  I have been busier than ever doing Zoom meetings, making phone calls, and learning new technology.  I’ve had to become a medical expert, media expert, Bible expert, statistical expert, sociological expert… (not really, but I've been learning about and using tools in all of these categories and more…) I've been doing a daily devotion every morning on Facebook Live for almost 2 months.

I’ve been very busy!  In fact, I’ve hardly taken a real day off since his all began.  Even on my days off, I’ve been emailing, fielding texts and phone calls, and just thinking about ministry stuff.   One day soon, for my own personal health and well-being, I’m going to have to take some time off to just unplug from everything.  I’ll be turning my phone off, my computer off, everything off and you won’t be able to get hold of me.

Believe it or not, you’ve been busy too.  It may not feel like it, but you have.  Have you been staying at home? Doing nothing? Your sacrifice is for your own safety and the safety of others. That’s sacrificial love and it’s work. I’ve talked with people this week who haven’t left their homes in over 2 months! Wow!  That takes a toll.  Have you been living by faith? We like to know what the future holds and what our schedules will be.  However, we are living in a time when everything that used to be considered stable is up in the air.  The school calendar, sports schedules, vacations, camps are all being postponed and we don't know when they will be "normal" again.  Faith is the bedrock of the Christian faith and we're having to live by a lot of faith right now.  And it's tiring.

Others are considered “essential workers” who must bravely go out--sometimes to the very places everyone else is asked to avoid.  I know you're tired.

The New Testament Church dealt with and worked around plagues and persecutions.  They couldn't always meet in their usual ways or the ways they wanted because to do so might get them arrested and tortured or killed.  They had to be creative with Church, just as we are having to be creative during this COVID 19 pandemic.  We could learn a lot from their experience.

Today, I want to continue our message series “Ekklesia” about the purpose of the Church.  What is the Church?  What is our purpose?  The Greek word for Church used in the New Testament is Ekklesia.  It roughly translates “the called out ones.”  The Church that Jesus established is composed of people who are called out of darkness into the light, called out of shame into nobility, called out of a fallen world into God’s Kingdom.  Now, when we talk use the word "church" today, we think of a building.  Driving down the road, we might say, "Oh!  Look at that pretty church!" (Meaning the building).  But when the New Testament uses the word Church, it is referring to the congregation.  So as I am talking about Church in these messages, I am trying my best to use Church to refer to the people gathered in a Christian congregation.

The Church is a group of people who’ve been called out of something old into something new, something ugly into something beautiful, something shameful into something noble.  I want to read from God’s Word.  In this passage, I want you to imagine that you are a Gentile (because unless you were born a Jew, you are a Gentile.)

Ephesians 2:11-22
11 Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. 
[How does it feel good to be called an outsider?]
You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. 
[How does it feel to be called a heathen (an uncivilized person who lacks morals, and enemy of God)?] 
12 In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. [How does it feel to be hopeless?]
13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.
14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.
17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.
19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

Where Does God Live?
Throughout the ages, people have built temples for their gods.  They wanted to control them…

The One True Living God the Bible tells us about, cannot be control and He does not need a building.  Acts 7:48 says, “The Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands.”  And Isaiah 66:1 says, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.  Could you build me a temple as good as that?  Could you build me such a resting place?”

And yet, when God liberated the Jews from slavery in Egypt, they lived in tents as they traveled toward their new homeland.  And so, the God of the Universe, who made Heaven and Earth, humbled Himself and lived in a tent among His people.  God’s tent was called the Tabernacle.  The Tabernacle was where the people worshiped God and where God ministered to a guided His people.  God appeared in the Tabernacle as a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night.  Whenever the Spirit of God moved, the Israelites packed up the Tabernacle Tent and moved with God.

When the Israelites settled down in their new homeland in Israel, they built houses.  And God continued to live among His people in a Temple made of stone—like the way His people lived.  People revere their Temple. It was the most impressive building in their city.  People traveled from all over the world to worship in the Temple.

But because people are full of sin, no one could come completely into God’s presence, whether in the Tabernacle or the Temple.  Gentiles, sinners, and women were not allowed to enter either place of worship.  People with any kind of illness or deformity were also not allowed.  Only Jewish men in good standing were allowed inside, close to God.  And of those men, only those who were priests were allowed into the Holy of Holies close to God.  And of those priests, only the high priest was allowed into the Holiest Place in the presence of God—and that was only once a year on the Dy of Atonement after strenuous preparation and purification. 

These exclusions were not because God didn’t want to be near His people.  To the contrary, the fact that the God of the universe would choose to live in a building at all is proof that God did want to be near His people.  However, sin separates us from God.  The presence of God consumes sin like a blazing hot fire consumes dry leaves.  It was mercy that caused God to keep people at arm’s length; it was for their own safety!

But then an amazing thing happened!  God took on human form and came into the world as Jesus Christ—the Son of God!  And God lived among His people as a man! And 1 Peter 3:18 says, “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.”  Now, through faith in Jesus Christ, we can be completely absolved of all sin!  So, there is now absolutely nothing at all that can separate us from God.  As Romans 8:38-39 says, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The Church – The Temple of God
So as we consider the purpose of the Church, we understand that the Church is where God lives.  The Church is where we meet with God, commune with God, worship and adore God, and receive God's guidance.  The Church is the Temple of God.  However, we must also understand, the Church is not a physical building.  The Church is the people.  Which people?  The Church is those people who have faith that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16).  Remember, in my message last week, we read Matthew 16:17 where Jesus said to Peter, “and upon this rock [i.e. the rock of this faith] I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”


And now is Ephesians 2:20-21, the Scripture says, “Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.”

And 1 Peter 2:5 says, “And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.”

Once again, we are not talking about this building—this physical building or any physical structure.  If the church building in your community no longer existed, there would still be a Church as long as Christians gathered for the Lord's purposes.  The purpose of a physical building is simply to provide a convenient space to do the things the Church is called to do.  At my church, Pleasant Grove, they started out in the early 1800s meeting under the shade of a pleasant grove of trees (that's where the name Pleasant Grove comes from.)  As time went on, the congregation decided it would be easier to have church if the built a roof to shelter them from rain.  And as time went on, their building structures evolved to meet the church's ministry needs.  However, it was always about the peoplee and ministry, not the buildings.  Church is the people, bot the building.  Actually, if the physical building ever hinders us from being the Church God calls us to be, we should abandon the building.  

Jesus actually said as much about the holy Temple in Jerusalem in his day.  In Matthew 24, we find Jesus and his disciples walking through Jerusalem and the twelve disciples are admiring the beautiful buildings with sentimental hearts and Jesus says, "A day is coming soon when not one stone of all these wonderful buildings will be left upon another."  And he was blasted by his enemies because he said, "Tear down this Temple and I will rebuild it again in three days."  Now, it had taken decades to build the Temple.  There was no way one man could rebuild the Temple in only three days.  What did Jesus mean?  Well, Jesus was crucified and buried for three days and then he rose from the grave and established the Church--the new Temple of God.   It is not a physical building; it is a people who believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

Closing
We will look more at the purpose of the church next week.  But I want to close for now.  And as I close, I want to invite everyone to truly consider:  Are you the Church? Do you believe Jesus is the Messiah (the Chosen One), the Son of the Living God? (You can’t be the Church without this faith.) 

You have been called out of shame, but you have to start walking (by faith) out of that shame into the noble life God has for you—a life where you are the living stones of God’s Holy Temple and you are His holy priest. Do you want to leave shame behind? I pray you do and I'm praying you will.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What If Churches Were More Like Football Stadiums?

The Satirical Truth As Far As I Can Tell…

Matthew 2:10-12 – 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

            The Wisemen traveled from far, far away to come worship the Savior who was born king of the Jews.  They counted it an honor and privilege to go to such great lengths to see baby Jesus and offer their precious gifts.  Oh that we all were as determined to worship Christ as were they.  
            I am always pondering ways to get more people in church to worship the King.  Football is king in the south.  People go to great lengths to see their favorite team play.  Millions flock into overcrowded stadiums each weekend.  Maybe what football stadiums do will work for the church.  You think?

What if we sold expensive tickets for admission?
            Attending church is free.  Sure, we take up an offering, but
it’s totally voluntary.  Maybe that’s the problem.  The cheapest ticket you could buy for the Nov. 10 Auburn/Georgia game was $189/seat (and that was in the nose bleed section).  Good seats on the home side of the 50 yard line were closer to $800-900/person.  So you couldn’t get your family of 5 seats at the game for less than $945.  With prices like that, our church could generate at least $100,000 per service in ticket sales alone.  The only problem I see here is determining which are the best seats in the House.  Most people want to sit up front and close to the action at the game, but usually on the back row in the church service. 

What if we made people pay for their programs?
            We hand out church bulletins for free and they usually end up in the trash or left in the pews after the service.  Last year’s Superbowl program sells online for $17.99 + tax and it’s a collector’s item.  Churches are tax exempt, so you’d still get a bargain if we sold ours at a comparable price.  We could earn thousands from program sales.  (Now we just need to figure out concessions—Holy Communion maybe?) 
Since people are dying to pay these exorbitant prices to squeeze into cramped stadium seats to watch sweaty athletes chase each other, surely they will flock to our church to sit in comfortable cushioned pews in a beautiful sanctuary to worship the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins.  Our sanctuary will be packed and our parking lot won’t be able to handle all the cars.  So…

We’ll need to charge for parking.
            People will pay $7 to park at the SEC championship game, but that’s 10 blocks away.  They’ll have to pay $40 dollars or more to get reasonably close.  Perhaps the church can be generous and just charge $20 for a spot in our lot and subcontract out the rest to nearby businesses.  Those parking lots will only cost $5-10 depending on how far away they are.

What if a church service was as long as a football game?
  No one will pay football prices for a 1 hour church service.  That’s just dumb.  The average football game last 3 hours (even though the ball is actually in play for only about 11 minutes).  People deserve to get what they pay for, so we’ll graciously extend the worship service to 3 hours.  Preachers need a lot more time to go deep anyway.  Think how fast we will be able to cure the biblical illiteracy and moral decline in our nation when we commit so much time, energy, effort, and money to worshiping and learning about Christ in church.  Of course, I’m no expert and I certainly don’t claim to know everything, but that’s the satirical Truth as far as I can tell…
Remember, God loves you and so do I!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Honor & Respect

Introduction
            I got to see my daughter, Grace, march in the Veterans Day parade in downtown Dalton with the Coahulla Creek High School Marching Band Saturday.  They did great.  We stood about three quarters of the way toward the end of the parade route waiting for the procession to make its way to us.  As we waited, a reporter from the Dalton Daily Citizen came by ask why we were at the parade.  I said it was to see my daughter in the band, but it was more than that.  I think it is important for the community to come together to do something big to show honor to those who serve our country.  Americans are blessed with peace, prosperity, and relative security, but these don't just happen by accident.  Many people sacrifice to ensure the blessings we enjoy.  It's important for us to honor them.
            This blog will consider the meaning of honor and respect and encourage you to have them in greater measure.  Let's look together at a time when Jesus--the Son of God, the Lord of lords and King of kings--was not given the honor and respect due to him. 

Matthew 13:53-58
53 When Jesus had finished telling these stories and illustrations, he left that part of the country. 54 He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” 55 Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. 56 All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” 57 And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family.” 58 And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief.

The Hometown Disadvantage
            Normally, when a football team plays in their own hometown, you would say they have a the hometown advantage.  Everyone from their hometown is there to root for them and it gives the home team a certain boost.  Unfortunately, Jesus found the opposite in Nazareth.  You might say he suffered from a hometown "disadvantage".  Jesus was dishonored and disrespected in his own hometown.  Those who knew him best, wouldn’t accept or honor him.
            People are often enamored by the novelty of the novel and take for granted the familiar.  They may listen to someone they don’t know—a teacher, a preacher, an author, a celebrity—just because they are different.  At the same time, they may dismiss the counsel of someone they know, because they know their faults and shortcomings and the things about them that get on their nerves.
            Veterans go off to serve, maybe even to fight, and they learn things like discipline, honor, respect, and wisdom.  They may come home with more life experience and maturity, but their hometown friends and family still see them the way they were before.  
            The people of Jesus’ hometown were amazed.  Jesus' teaching was obviously full of wisdom and power; but instead of honoring Jesus, they scoffed.  They couldn't accept that the hometown boy they watched grow up could be anything more than "the carpenter's son". 
            The book of Proverbs was written to teach wisdom.  I've been studying it since this past summer.  The word scoff comes up again and again in the book of Proverbs.  It is sometimes translated as scorn or mock.  All these words are related and come from a Hebrew root word that means "to make faces at."  Imagine two little kids arguing with each other and they don't know what words to use anymore so they just start making faces at each other.  That's the essence of scorn.
            Proverbs 15:12 says, “Mockers hate to be corrected, so they stay away from the wise.”  Scoffing and mocking and scorn are ways to dismiss or deflect something that makes you uncomfortable or that you don’t want to accept.  The people of Nazareth scorned Jesus because they couldn't accept that he was anything more than "the carpenters son."  Where did he get all his wisdom?  Where did he get his power?  What are all these stories about miracles he'd performed?  He didn't go to college or seminary.  He didn't learn from the best rabbis in the land.  And yet, Jesus' teaching was full of power.  So instead of accepting something they couldn't understand or that made them uncomfortable or didn't fit in their worldview, they scorned him.  Sadly, they missed out on the wisdom and miraculous power and redemption Jesus had to offer. 
            Scoffing and scorn hurts you as much or more than anyone else.  It's so much better to offer honor and respect.  So let's look at what it means to honor and respect. 

Honor
            Honor means to value, to prize, to consider very valuable.  Honor is something you do because of who a person is or what they represent.  For instance, the 10 Commandments tell us, "Honor your father and mother."  So you honor your parents because it is a command of God.  You look for ways to show them honor.  You listen, you obey, you do nice things for them.  Even if your parents haven't always acted honorably, you can honor the position. Your honor as a gift you give and it doesn't require people to earn it.
            And here's the thing:  when we honor people, they tend to live up to our honor.  I am always humbled when people show me honor because I am a pastor.  I am humbled because I don't feel worthy of the honor.  Yet, it always inspires me to try to live up to the honor someone has afforded me. 
            Jesus hometown did not honor him because they didn’t accept his position.  Rather than seeing him as the Son of God (or even as a prophet), they only saw him as someone who was not highly educated, who had no credentials, and was a nobody.  To them, Jesus was just a “carpenter's son.”  The people of Nazareth refused to honor Jesus, even as a gift.  They rejected Christ to their own detriment. They missed out.

Respect             Respect is related to honor, but it is not the same.  Respect means to admire (someone or something) as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.  We honor regardless of someone’s abilities or achievements; it is a gift we give.  Respect is merit based.  Respect is earned.
            Now you can still respect someone just because of the position they hold.  If a police officer pulls you over while you are driving, please respect them.  Even if you don't know the person, respect the badge; it is a symbol of the danger they put themselves in for the sake of the community.  The badge of an officer has earned the right to be respected.  We respect police officers, soldiers, judges parents, elders, because each of these titles has earned the right to be respected.
            You may respect someone initially just because of their positio , but that only goes so far.  True respect, deep respect, is something people earn when they prove they are worthy of respect.  If you are in a position of authority, you ought to act in way worthy of respect.  True authority is not something you have to wield; it is something people grant to you willingly when they respect you. 
            Fathers, husbands, do you want your children and wives to respect you?  Then act respectably; prove you are worthy of respect.  Leaders act respectably.  Mothers, wives, women, men, children act in ways that earn respect and you will likely be more respected. 

Conclusion
            Our world needs less scoffing and mocking and sarcasm and more honor and respect.  Who can you honor and how?  How can you show respect?  Look for ways to show honor and respect.  Live honorably and respectfully.  Romans 12:10 says, "Outdo one another in showing honor." (ESV)
            Let me end with this question.  Who is Jesus to you?  To the people Nazareth, he was nobody worthy of honor.  But who is he to you?  Was he just "the carpenters son?"  Was he an influential teacher, religious leader, or a prophet?  Or is Jesus the son of God, the Lord of lords, the King of Kings?             
            Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the Lord" [i.e. the deep reverence, honor, and respect the Lord] "is the beginning of wisdom."  I suggest Jesus is the Lord.  He came to earth to show us the way to live.  He died on the cross to satisfy the cost of our sins.  He rose from the grave on the third day because he has power of sin and death.  And he ascended to Heaven because he is Lord of all.  There are many on earth who are worthy of respect and we honor all that we can, but only Jesus is worthy of worship. 
            What then should we do?  We should fall on our faces before him and submit completely to him.  We should surrender all and let Jesus be Lord of our life.  We respect Jesus for what he did, but even more for who he is.  Thankfully, he loves us perfectly and knows exactly what we need and beckons us to come receive blessings and honor and glory right alongside him.  Isn't that amazing?  I hope you will turn to the Lord with respect and honor and worship him today and every day.