Monthly Archives: November 2013
If you are in the Atlanta area, make plans to join us for the North Atlanta Christmas festival December 13-15. Now in its 8th season, the North Atlanta Christmas Festival has become the must-see event of the Christmas season. The NACF is a spectacular musical and dramatic display featuring state-of-the-art technology, stage production and choreography along with a 150-voice choir and 40-piece live orchestra. It is sure to captivate the attention of all ages. Come join us this year on a musical journey of wonder and imagination as we experience the best of the Christmas season! For tickets and event times go to www.nacfonline.com and be sure to “like” us on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/nacfonline.
In discussing corporate worship, the idea of preferences comes up a lot. While our preferences help to shape us into who we are, not all preferences are created equal. I’m not speaking of whether someone likes rock, hip hop, or classical (though this definitely applies here), I’m speaking more that there may be better questions.
In a recent Facebook post I made a brief statement thanking my wife for picking me up a bag of cortland apples and made some offhand, tongue-in-cheek remark of how those apples can “change your life”. Several responses (much more than normal for me) followed of both curiosity about these particular apples and several opinions of why another’s choice of apple was superior to my own. While I will never understand why anyone would not enthusiastically agree that a Cortland apple is, by far, the best apple on the planet, this brief exchange between me and a few of my Facebook pals may have something to teach us all. Below are three thoughts that I hope can help to inform us to ask even better questions.
1. God is far more concerned with His purposes than with our preferences.
“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” – Psalm 33:11
Does God know that I like Cortland apples? Sure he does! He created me and whether the propensity for this preference is somehow genetic or the result of the region in which I grew up or some combination of both, I’ll let the scientists decide that. However, it is no secret to God. However, in the grand scheme of God’s kingdom and His greater purpose, does my preference of Cortland apples really change the world? —No, most definitely not (as much as I hate to admit!).
In regards to how we look at corporate worship, I think there are also some applications here as well. In Kingdom and covenant living, it is important that we be asking the better questions of “what is God’s purpose and how can I join Him in it?”. Also, “…what is the greater good of the faith community of which I’m a part and how can I help fulfill my calling and gifts to serve the body?”
2. God knows there is a greater joy that is far deeper and more meaningful than our own personal, temporal pleasure.
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1b-2
There is no greater example of the life that is offered to us, than what we see in Jesus. Christ’s ultimate purpose was to glorify the Father by reconciling the world to Himself. He has called us to join Him in that purpose as well and has given us the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). When we align with God’s greater purpose, seek to know Him and make Him known, we set ourselves up to experience a far deeper and greater joy than any temporal preference could ever offer us.
God has called us to build bridges with the culture around us as we seek to engage in the conversation of reconciliation, and often, that means that we may be inconvenienced and uncomfortable as we seek to relate and get involved. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to leave His rightful place in Heaven to come to earth to live, move and walk among us. It was a great sacrifice, but He also knew there would be a greater joy.
3. Our personal freedom is not primarily for self-consumption, but for the context of a covenant relationship
In the garden of Eden, God presented a choice to Adam and Eve. Without the ability to choose, love is not love. Love is a choice to seek the good and welfare of another ahead (and often at the expense) of our own. That is what our freedom should ultimately be about. Living in affluent materialism in the West has inadvertently taught us that our primary and most patriotic duty is to “consume” while the Kingdom economy is more about creating and giving. We all have preferences and that is totally ok! However, our preferences are not created as much for consumption as they are for us to enjoy the grace of giving (and receiving) in a covenant relationship.
In my story of the apples above, this story may look a lot different if I took a different approach to my preferences that looked like this: 1) I like Cortland apples 2) Everyone should like Cortland apples 3) As head of my home, I demand that all of my family not only eat, but prefer Cortland apples. Boy, that sounds fun, doesn’t it?
I may get what I want more often, but at the expense of all of the relationships around me. However, my wife’s simple thought at the grocery store was way more fun for both of us. I don’t think she even ate one of those apples, but she was thinking about me and I think that’s pretty cool! If I know her, she probably got even more pleasure from giving them than I did in eating them.
A Better Way
In our culture and in our churches, it is a good reminder for all of us to be reminded of our covenant relationship with God, His Church and our ministry of reconciliation. How do our decisions, choices and preferences play into God’s greater purpose and how can we join Him in that? These are the better questions. And in the mean time, as we are busy making much of Him and becoming the people He desires us to be, in His infinite grace, He may just surprise us with some “apples” of our own. So. Does God care about our preferences? —Absolutely, but maybe not the way we may have thought. How do you like them apples?
How have you seen this in your own life? What other questions should we be asking?
In John chapter 13, Jesus had just finished unloading some heavy news to His disciples–His betrayal, Peter’s denial, and in chapter 12, He even tells of His own impending death! This would be heavy news, regardless of the recent surrounding circumstances, however, putting ourselves in the timeline of the disciples, this news also comes on the heals of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem! It only seemed like moments earlier that Jesus was about to take, what many thought should be His rightful place as King and overthrow the oppressive Roman government. We can see from the testimony of Scripture and the events that followed that this was difficult news to process, as nearly anyone could imagine.
Yet, on the heels of all of this, Jesus offers some incredible words to His followers in John 14. In verse 18, Jesus offers them this–”I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” We can be certain that they did not fully grasp the significance of what all of that meant, but I have a feeling that they could hear and see Jesus’ heart as he says, “Let not your hearts be troubled” as He reminds them that this world is not all that there is. BUT, in the meantime, Jesus’ promise to them and to us is that He would be WITH us through the person of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus knew that there will be times in this world where we may feel alone, abused, beat up, not-measured-up, and simply forgotten. In the fallen world that we call “home” (for now), if we are fortunate to live long enough, we will likely be well acquainted with much of the unpleasantries of this life. Yet, Jesus’ promise to us is that He would not leave us as orphans. Our heavenly Father is the very definition of all that is good and His ultimate concern for us is unwavering. We can take that to the proverbial “bank”.
So, in this fallen world, let’s rest assured that no matter what this world dishes out and regardless of the self-destructive decisions and behaviors that so often betray us, we have a God who will never leave us nor forsake us and even dances over us with joy. He does not remember our past, but sees in us the infinite joy and purpose of the child that He created us to be. As the song made popular by Avalon so eloquently states, there really are “no orphans of God.”