Rest well, Queen Elizabeth. You were a figurehead that inspired many especially during times of great trials. We recognize that God appoints leaders and sometimes the world is emptier when a void takes the place when mortal coils depart.
There are so many focal points associated with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It all started with a celebration as Jesus entered Jerusalem and, the disciples amongst the crowds cheered and lay cloaks and palm branches down in a makeshift parade of a mistaken earthly royal processional. How the tone of the city abruptly changed in only a matter of days.
Then there is the scene of the last supper as the disciples gathered around a borrowed table in an upper room to celebrate their last Passover with their Rabbi. The furtive glances from the other disciples as Peter adamantly challenged Jesus and even attempted to admonish Him. The startling news that someone in the room would betray Him and then the abrupt exit of Judas…
Then there was the prayer garden scene in Gethsemane where Jesus passionately prays for the cup of suffering to be taken from him, and almost as a foreshadowing of what was to come, his disciples abandon him to their exhausted revery and slumber. Then Jesus is arrested in that same garden and kissed on the cheek by Judas which seals the deal of betrayal for thirty pieces of silver. How interesting that we consider it to be the sealing of Jesus’ fate and yet sadly, Judas ends his own life when confronted with the consequences of his misplaced ambitions. Thus, perhaps it was sadly Judas’ life that was fatedly sealed with that peck on the cheek.
Another focal point is the illegal court appearance of Jesus in the middle of the night so as to not ignite a riot in the streets. Jesus is found guilty for crimes he never committed and the leaders knew it and even washed their hands of it all… later, the large crowds gathered, shouting Barabbas as the city officials struggled to maintain order, and Jesus was first led to be whipped then paraded through the streets in a humiliating display of cruelty. How distant that triumphant entrance into Jerusalem seemed on that dark “Good Friday” as an innocent Author of the Universe, now in human form, was led to His slaughter. The ultimate sacrificial lamb and atonement for the sins of every human being on the planet.
And yet how frightened Simon Peter was as he gathered around the fires that night completely shell shocked at the atrocity of the horrific crucifixion scene. He was confronted with his allegiance to Messiah, and instead of his typical bravado, he was reduced to denying his discipleship to Jesus. How dark it all must have seemed as the glowing embers of the fire danced and flickered on the faces of everyone gathered there. The Light of the World seemingly extinguished at the hands of those He came to save, and with the crowing of the rooster that early morning, Peter knew he had betrayed Jesus. How the guilt must have flooded in and washed away the remaining fortitude of ‘the rock’…
If the story had only ended here, it would have been the saddest tragedy to ever have befallen humankind. God was truly dead and, we had killed Him. Yet, the divine plan, foretold nearly a thousand years before Jesus arrived was unfolding and coming to fruition. How the Angels in heaven must have held their collective breaths as those devoted to Him mourned and hid themselves away.
There is an anticipation of what is to come, and yet we should linger here for just a little while longer. When we confront this darkness head-on we must begin to acknowledge the darkness still living within us. We try to deny that it is there and yet we, like Peter betray Him over and over again. Perhaps if we were to linger here we would hear our own rooster crowing…
Perhaps if we lingered here we would understand that we could never be Messiah in our own life. We might begin to realize that our strength has never, ever been enough. Sin still sits cold and heavy upon our souls. We cannot remove it by doing more good deeds or praying harder or reading another self-help book. If we linger here for just a little while longer we would begin to see how majestic and victorious that empty tomb really is for our salvation and for the salvation of all living beings on this planet.
Jesus resurrected hope on empty tomb day. Jesus resurrected life for more than just himself. Jesus reconnected what had been broken since the fall of Adam and Eve in that garden so long ago. Jesus removed the barrier of sin between our mortal souls and the Creator of ALL.
But we should linger here for just a little while longer… Let it all soak in. Let the power of the cross and of the death of Messiah sink in… really go deep within this chapter of our salvation story.
Let’s ponder this for a few days. But Sunday is coming…
People look for significance in what they do instead of who they are. God made something amazing when He made you. Don’t ever doubt that you matter to Him even when this world might try to drag you down. You are loved.
Henri Nouwen was a widely successful writer, theologian, and professor. One would think that significance was found in presenting theologically deep lectures or in writing books and yet after twenty years of collegiate work he left that world and began to work with the developmentally disabled individuals at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Canada.
Henri Nouwen once wrote: “This is what life is about. It is being sent on a trip by a loving God, who is waiting at home for our return and is eager to watch the slides we took and hear about the friends we made. When we travel with the eyes and ears of the God who sent us, we will see wonderful sights, hear wonderful sounds, meet wonderful people … and be happy to return home.” (The return of the Prodigal Son, 1992).
I often wonder what it will be like when we finally rest in the presence of God. What will He say of the choices we have made in our lives? What will He say of our faith…or the lack there of? I can recall many moments of unfaithfulness to God in my life. I am not proud of these moments. In those dark chapters, I found myself clawing at circumstances and troubles with my own strength and knowledge until my soul was raw and empty. Perhaps this was what it was like when David wrote Psalm 13:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Sometimes, in our search for significance, we come to the realization that God has not followed us to this ego-driven destination. Sometimes we are left wanting for more because the things that we were searching for are found and still they did not fill us because they could never replace the all-consuming presence of God. We try to fill that God-shaped hole in our souls with titles, trophies, monuments to our names, and legacies that people will remember. We spend so much time caring about what others think of us and the reputations or personas that we have built around ourselves – only to feel as empty as when we first started out. It was all for nothing. Why? Because none of it could replace what we left behind – The Father. Our Creator. Our Author. The One who has known us before we even had breath in our lungs (read Psalm 139).
“Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.” (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life.)
So here it is:
All of the ladder climbing, elbow-rubbing, name-dropping, butt-kissing motivations will never fill that void we feel in search of meaningless significance in this life.
I am not saying don’t work hard, or find fulfilling missions and work to belong to. We should work hard and love what we do. However, if all that we do is work at being known by the world, and in our ego-driven, self-promoting ways, find some semblance of recognition – it will never be enough. There will always be another hill of success we will look longingly upon and regret not having what we could not reach.
Yet, God comes to us. At our level, lowly as it is, and says to us, “You are loved by me. You matter to me. I made you, I am proud of you – that is enough.” Think of it: The God of the Universe says that our primary significance is found in our identity as a son and daughter of the Most-High. We can find true and holy fulfillment in His presence and not in all of the attention-seeking practices of our world. How simple and how profound!
“God created us for love, for union, for forgiveness and compassion and, yet, that has not been our storyline. That has not been our history.” -Richard Rohr.
May we finally begin to recognize our true self-worth that is only found abiding in the very presence of the Holy One. May His reflection be present in us before it is seen, and may our search for significance be realized in the simplicity and sanctity of Holiness which is fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit.
Christian narcissism is more prevalent than you think. It is the conscious or subconscious notion that every act or service or leadership decision revolves around that person. It is the notion we are doing God a favor by serving Him, or that a certain ministry or program would fail without us leading it.
There is a danger within the realms of church leadership to become so filled with pride that it becomes less about what God is doing and more about what we are doing.
I have met Christian narcissists and sometimes he has been there looking back at me in the mirror. It might be sobering to consider, but every time we take the praise and accolades that were intended for God, we are essentially saying God needs us and He couldn’t do it (whatever ‘it’ is) without us. Instead of saying to God “have your way in my heart”, we say “look at me, this worship couldn’t happen without me.”
How dangerous is that? Instead of bowing the knee in humility, many Christians have fallen into the trap of ego with their puffed-up pride and shallow faith. Such behavior is a works-driven service that fills a person with self-importance to the point that God is a second thought. They become like superman, flying here and there attempting to save everyone all because of their holy hubris.
Sometimes the dangers of narcissism is that Christian narcissists develop little groupies and followers and these followers do not follow God, but the Leader that they admire and wish to be like. Could it be that this infiltration of narcissism within the Church is leading people astray? Could it be that Christian narcissists are false prophets who are seeking personal gains and person profits?
What I am not saying
I am not saying that we as Christians need to stop serving others. Nor am I saying that we should cease all evangelistic advances for God’s kingdom. We are all called to be Christ’s ambassadors to offer this Good News, hope and love.
What I am sayin
Check your motivations. Check your egos at the door. This Great Commission – is NOT about you – it is about God’s redeeming love for EVERYONE. There is nothing beneath your presumed “status”. If you are serving Christendom because of status, power, position, notoriety you may be a Christian Narcissisit.
“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4)
If you discover that all of your ministarial ventures revolves around your gifts and abilities instead of a Christ-centered intent then perhaps it is time to repent and turn from your inflated ego and seek humility once again.
God doesn’t need you to save the world, He moves you into spaces of service for His glory and honor.
Just something more to ponder today. To God be the glory!
I will admit that I used to change the channel when certain “praise” songs came on the radio. I wasn’t a fan of the repetition, a music snob critiquing everything I heard and overanalyzing the lyrics that didn’t mesh with my doctrinal beliefs.
I will also admit that I still hold certain prejudices to style, format, and lyric selection. I am a picky audiophile who loves to listen to a wide array of music. My Spotify account contains so many genres from Rap, R&B, Rock, Country (yes, it’s for my wife *wink, wink*), and even study music.
So why the change of heart? Why am I falling in love with Worship Music again? Let me preface this with, “some” worship music. I still believe that there is a distinction between Worship Songs and Performance songs.
For example, last Christmas my family and me attended a Christmas Eve service at a local large congregation. The sanctuary had a welcoming feel to it, we enjoyed our time there, but when it came to the worship music most of the songs were designed to elevate the performer and not lead the church-goer into a state of worship. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great Christmas Eve service, but it could have been better had the music been vertically driven and included the audience. (Again, I’m a picky audiophile and musician).
So, here are 3 Reasons why I am falling in Love with Worship Music again:
Worship Music is Maturing – What I mean by that is this: the days of Maranantha repetition and simplistic lyrics is behind us. The “Shout to the Lord” and “I could sing of your love forever”tunes are songs from our past. Important as they were, and they certainly helped to pave the way for richer, more complicated themes and melodies. I love to hear songs like Battle Belongs, Reckless Love & You Say. One might argue that some of the lyrics are not completely doctrinally sound. And, while I would somewhat agree, most of the time I would contend that the writers of these modern worship songs are attempting to connect the worshipper to the Almighty in beautiful ways.
I am Maturing – Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a transition in life, a recognition or reminder of my mortality, I have discovered a deeper longing to connect with my Savior. Music is not the only conveyer of Spirit to Savior, but it does help provide a vital connection piece. There is something about music that transports you and allows your heart and mind to meditate on not just good music but a deeper level of relationship to the Father. I am constantly in awe His presence when I still my heart and meditate on words sung that are verticle in worship.
A Hurting World is A Mission Field – Not only is Worship Music maturing, but the lyrics are delving into, and addressing a hurting world who is in need of a loving Savior. The Great Commission is not just to fill church pews for Sunday morning service, but to create community and unite people from all walks of life with the redeeming love and Jesus Christ. There is a longing that many Worship writers and evangelists are conveying to their fellow Christ-followers: The World needs to see authenticity in Christians and the Church. The World needs to know that they are loved and cared for. Much of the modern worship music is “Get out of the four walls of Church and love people for Jesus” – driven.
So there you have it. My shortlist on why I am falling in love with Worship Music again. That is not to say that I will stop analyzing song lyrics or checking for doctrinal truths – that is still so important. Rather, I will not let small stylistic issues distract me from worshipping. After all, Worship music, though important, is only one component of true and authentic worship of God. It helps to connect us or point us to Christ, but let us not forget about the disciplines of silence (meditation), solitude, fasting, study, simplicity, service & submission.
This is something more to ponder today…see you next time!
You used to be there in my life a shadow of dread a threat of consequence for missed deadlines or poor performance appraisals or because I didn’t look or talk like the rest of them. the robots the others abused the broken and beaten down…
You used to be there in my life uniform pressed and starched puffed up with self-importance standing on the necks of your inferiors.
You used to be there in my life like a dark lumpy bruise Just under the surface isn’t it funny how much like a wound you were to me?
You used to be… past tense. in my rearview like an abusive relationship unhealthy, and jealous I kept coming back to you… but not anymore out of my cage sprung back to life bruises all healing and you are no longer in my present and future.
You asked me to officiate your son’s wedding. You, my lifelong friend a medical survivor still fighting each day as antirejection drugs slowly killed you.
On the drive over I reminisced about my childhood how you always seemed to be at the center of it How I looked up to you like the big brother I never had.
You spoke so freely of love and affection. Me – so guarded and jaded surprised by your emotional generosity
You rode with me to the wedding site shotgun and honest. You told me not asked me that I would perform your funeral. I responded in outrage and told you to linger on and fight the good fight. Yet I could it in your eyes…
After the wedding with my family in tow We said our goodbyes and you hugged me and told me how much you loved me My heart was warmed my brother my first best friend…
and that was the last time I saw you in the land of the living and true to my word I did your funeral making my way in the cold winter to shiver at your graveside Your quick words of kindness still swirling in my mind I whispered the amens a benediction for the end of death Yet, as I stepped back into my car I could imagine you there a year removed when flesh and blood you sat there with me.
This is not the end Just a “see you later” my big brother, I love you.
You once asked me if I felt accomplished to think on it now greying beard crows feet growing each passing year I am not wiser because of time I have not become more or found the secrets to this life I am still its student and I have much to learn. The drive for accomplishment is a loud clanging band of one beckoning others to look on and clap… full of hubris sprinkled with an unhealthy dose of narcissism. I would like to think that I have left a mark on the side of the universe as it ever expands. But I am reminded of its infinite glory and this insignificance of breathing how small am I? Still, I long to measure this existence with thoughts to pass onto my descendants the things to invest in and the things to run from. Life, fragile and limited can break the finite confines and carry on beyond the course of one’s skin and bones. Thus, it would be an honor to tarry here after I have long past my due date… through the fluttering of words on a page and on into the hearts of my children’s children a ripple in a pond moving hearts, ebbing courses and nudging lives for good now, this is interesting…