3 Worship Songs God Hates

tredWe must tread lightly here, for to insinuate that we know the mind of God is dangerous territory.  However, what we know of Him and that of human interaction with the Almighty, there are certainly forms of worship God hates.  Do you think the term “hate” is too strong?  Does God hate?

There are many scriptures that describes the displeasure of God.
One prime example of this is Proverbs 6:16-19

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

So with that being said, are there things that God hates?
I believe the answer is YES!

Can we then describe moments in worship and in song that could displease God?  Absolutely!  I should also clarify that the term “Worship Song” could be anything we do as we sing to God.  It can contemporary, it can be traditional, or somewhere in the middle.  Are there other things in “worship” other than song?  Of course, but just for this discussion, we are zeroing in on the topic of “Song”…

Here are 3 Worship Songs God Hates: 
Allow me to preface this with the following statement: If you were looking for specific names of songs that God possibly hates, sorry…that’s not what this particular blog post is about.  Again, sorry to disappoint you, I won’t be roasting the latest Chris Tomlin song here today.

But here is what I think are 3 Worship Songs God Hates and why…

1  Songs Sung Out Of Obligation
Have you ever gotten up on a Sunday morning to lead worship and the songs you have selected aren’t really resonating with you?  Sometimes it could be that we are just out of sync with our walk with the Lord…there are certainly seasons of life, and not everything is flowersgoing to be peachy.  But I believe God hates obligatory worship.  Imagine if I were to give flowers to my wife simply because it’s the right thing to do, not that I want to, but rather because it’s expected.  How do you think she would feel if, as I gave her the flowers, I said; “Here’s you weekly obligatory flower arrangement dear!”?  Do you think she would enjoy them and feel loved in my gift of those flowers?  Of course not!

In a way, when we sing songs of worship and adoration to God because we feel obligated, it’s like giving Him flowers that mean nothing to us and are given out of ritual not love and appreciation.  God doesn’t want our obligatory worship songs and our meaningless attempts at worship – He wants it to mean something to us, something that aren’t just meaningless utterances of lyric lines and memorized scriptures.  God hates obligatory praise!

2. Songs Sung Out Love For The Song
Which do we worship, God or our favorite song?
I’m not saying this happens all of the time, but sometimes those worship songs (or even hymns) we sing can become a false idol of our worship.  We just don’t “feel” it when we aren’t singing just the right songs…but if that all time “fav” comes up – we are rockin’ and rollin’ with our hands raised high.  hands

Let me ask a question – is it God that we worship or the song that we sing?
I would hope our answer would be “God”, but there is a danger of placing our favorite song on a place of worship instead of God himself.  God hates the worship of idols – He is truly jealous for our worship and that of us.  He wants all there is of us, not a portion – but our EVERYTHING!  I fear at times, we place the love for a song over the love for God.  Our worship cannot simply revolve around our emotions and how WE feel…We are to worship Him REGARDLESS of how we feel.  Perhaps that is the toughest thing to do, yet through discipline and perseverance, we can!

3. Songs Sung To Display Talent (The Concert Performance)
worshipWorship leader – beware!  Worship was never about how good YOU sing or how Awesome your Guitaring or Piano-ing is… Seriously, if all we do in worship is try to emulate a Hillsong or Jesus culture/David Crowder concert, then we’re going about it all wrong and we need to stop!

Jesus called the Pharisees praying loudly in the streets so that everyone could hear and see them – Hypocrites or Actors.  He certainly had a lot of harsh words to say to those kinds of people – people who knew better.  He even went so far as to call them a brood of vipers.  God abhors actors, fakers and hypocrites.  hypocriteOur worship of God ought not to be a circus displaying our vast array of talents for the world to see.  Real worship isn’t about a concert or our aspirations to be the next big thing in the Top Ten CCLI Worship Leaders.  All these things are earthly desires – as we strive for human accolades and praise.

Such things do not attempt to elevate the name of Jesus, but rather promote our name to the masses.  In the words of U2 “Then they put Jesus in show business, now it’s hard to get in the door…” (God Would Send His Angels, U2)

God hates performances by actors and hypocrites that should have been about who He is, not who the performers are.  Where is the depth of worship here?  I’ll tell you – it’s about an inch deep and a yard wide.  Do our best?  Absolutely!  But if what we do is called “Worship” but it’s not God we are adoring but rather the music and our abilities on stage, then perhaps it’s time to reassess and realign our motivation and goals once again.

Well, we have strolled lightly here today.
The Bottom line, God doesn’t want any substitutes or consolation prizes – He wants our hearts and our attention.  Are there times when we worship with a divided heart or mind?  Are our motivators God honoring or human praise seeking?

What do YOU think?
Something more to ponder today.
God Bless You!

Dear Salvation Army – A Parable Of US…These are OUR People!!

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…”  -Matthew 25:35

The Story:

In the frosted air of mid December, where ice is forming, melting in the midday sun, only to refreeze in winter’s kiss at dusk; a man zips up his camping tent for the night.  It will be another bitterly cold attempt at sleep, which has proven elusive and wrought with lingering aches in limbs and ligaments.  The man wraps himself up in multiple blankets of mismatched colors, extinguishes the insignificant blue flame from the juniper green propane camp stove, and settles in for another volatile night of shivering slumber as the constant freeway noise clambers on.  tent

As dawn slips past the horizon of the army green tent flap, which has been frosted and now baptized in a hopeful light; the man untangles himself from the layers of blankets and additional coats laid down in the middle of the night, a stop gap that offered little to no help.  Having survived yet another night languishing in hypothermic rest, the men unzips the tent and stretches out the pain of cramping muscles and battered tendons.  Shivering noticeably through the noise of his chattering teeth, he moves as quickly as his lumbering joints can move as he seeks out somewhere to warm his tired bones.

A few blocks away, the crimson glowing lights of a red shield inscribed with the words “Salvation Army” calls out to him.  The backdoor to the gymnasium has been opened, and there will be warmth within.   As he steps inside, the man encounters the soup kitchen cook, draped in a white billowing apron and a broad smile.  “Good morning friend!”  The cook says in a deep gravelly voice by way of greeting, “would you care for some coffee?”  The shivering man nods and shuffles towards an open chair as others also begin to arrive.  They too have anticipated this moment, and their search for warmth, food, coffee and conversation is at an end.
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The homeless man, still shaking off the bone-seeping coldness in his body, has finally found a safe haven, and with it – his dignity and hope once more…

…The Rest of the Story (As Paul Harvey used to say) 
This is just a glimpse into the lives of those we serve.   Some have had it better than others…
I have sat in our gym and listened to the stories some of our patrons can tell.
Some of them have truly been through hell on earth.
Some battle with constant addictions.
Some with physical or emotional trauma.
All are God’s…they are His…and He speaks to us through their stories of brokenness, pain and sorrow.
He also prods us to do something about their suffering.

homelessYes, Dear Salvationist, it seems like an impossible and never ending task because poverty, addictions and homelessness seem to be constantly knocking on our doors.  The situations are the same, but the faces change over time!   The question is – are we available to help and are we receptive to the Holy Spirit’s leading?  Are we here to be a light when the rest of the world has turned the light off, given up and walked away?  Can we still provide hope and love even if that person is stuck in the cycle of crisis?  Can we offer it without judgement?  Yes, we ought never put a band-aid on deep wounds, but can we serve first then minister?  Or can ministry truly be found IN the service and care of others?

Here is a reality check:  Some may never darken the doors to our sanctuaries on a Sunday morning, but are they not still a member of our congregation if they are at our facility EVERY DAY for a warm meal and a safe place to sit and rest?  I think we miss a far greater opportunity that can be found on Sunday morning if we don’t engage during these moments feeding and conversing.  Dear Salvationist, these are our people too!  They come to us because we are the harbor and they have been shipwrecked by life.   What we say, how we show love, and what we do – MATTERS!

The story I shared with you today, is real.
This man came to our corps and community center years ago, homeless, suicidal and at the end of his rope.  And because the doors to our gymnasium were open, and he found warmth in the company of people in our corps, he is alive today.  His life (literally his life) was saved!  I know that there are many more stories just like this one wherever a Salvation Army facility is located.   Doing the most good isn’t some prideful declaration to the public, instead is ought to be a phrase we ask ourselves every day both personally and organizationally – “Am I/Are We – Doing the most good”?   good

Make a difference in the lives you reach for Christ, and know that our “congregation” is so much larger than just our soldiery on Sunday mornings!

 

Perspectives Day #1 – Featuring Colonel Dennis Strissel “Opinion8ed”

“Opinion–8-ed”

(A series of eight installments)

Number Seven – Mulligans for Ministry continued

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In his excellent biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas includes this important event as foundational to Bonhoeffer’s faith.

 “In November 1921, at the age of fifteen, Bonhoeffer went to the first evangelistic meeting of his life. General Bramwell Booth of the Salvation Army had conducted ministry in Germany before the war, and in 1919, greatly moved by reports of suffering there, especially the hunger among children, he found a way around the official channels and was able to have milk distributed. He also gave five thousand pounds to relief efforts.

Two years later Booth came to Berlin to lead a series of evangelistic meetings. Thousands showed up, including many soldiers broken by the war. Sabine recalled that ‘Dietrich was eager to take part in it. He was the youngest person there, but he was very interested. He was impressed by the joy he had seen on Booth’s face, and he told us of the people carried away by Booth, and of the conversions.’ A part of him was powerfully attracted to this sort of thing, but he wouldn’t see anything like it again for ten years, when he attended the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City.”

Forgive me for having some measure of pride in the fact that the joy observed and experienced through the moving of the Holy Spirit by Salvationists past, impressed and blessed an adolescent Bonhoeffer. Perhaps the memory of such joy accompanied him through his darkest hours. One of Bonhoeffer’s final writing describes life’s finality in this way, “Death is the supreme festival on the road to freedom.” That is only possible through divine joy.

Since this article is meant to be reflective, considering what I would have done better during my years of active service, it goes without saying that living a joyful life would be paramount. Life in Christ is always about joyfulness. It is distinct from simply being happy. We can all attest to days that are not happy ones but in spite of the seriousness that life brings, joy can always be found in every event or experience. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear someone express the beginning of the faith walk as a result of seeing your joy, even during some of the most stressful times of life? Perhaps you will join me in praying part of David’s prayer of contrition today…

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.

Ps 51:7-13 NIV

Amen

(Fluffy) Dessert Christianity…It’s Deadly!

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…” 1 Peter 2:2

I have a confessions to make…are you ready?
Here goes:   I.  Love.  Dessert.

Dessert:
There I’ve said it.  Phew, I feel better already.
Even though I love dessert I know that dessert alone is not going to be enough nourishment for my diet to keep me going throughout the day.  Dessert is just sugary goodness…it’s fluff with little to no nutritional value.  It tastes amazing (depending on the dessert) but when it’s all said and done it doesn’t help you maintain your goal weight or provide you with the right kinds of good proteins and vitamins your body needs.

What am I getting at: 
I think that sometimes we as Christians are settling for Fluffy sugary, watered down religion instead of the real tangible stuff that grows and challenges us spiritually.   ankleI’m not saying it’s all bad, but sometimes it’s so shallow I can’t even get my ankles wet…if you know what I mean.

Mainstream Christianity: 
By and large, whether it is on television or radio, many times the quality of the “good news” of Jesus Christ is watered down, saturated and made palatable for the consumer.  It’s safe.  It’s kinda lame…it’s just fluff.  A lot of picking and choosing of scripture (many times out of context of the original intent and audience) takes place within this dessert Christianity.  This is why I wrote about “Christian Music” a while ago and why I stopped listening to it…fluff
We need to be away of dessert Christianity.
It doesn’t really challenge us to grow, in fact it kind of stunts our growth.  Dessert Christianity keeps us right where we are at feasting on the sugar and fluff and it’s dangerous because then we don’t have to confront the tough passages where we are called to love our enemies, and the call to be holy; and the call to live sacrificial lives to the point of offering our bodies as living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1).   Most of time this surface type of “Religion” sugar coats the scriptures and gives us what we want to hear instead of what we need to hear.

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)

No offense to many of you out there, but I don’t need another wishy-washy video bible series study as a Christian bookstore prostitutes Jesus for money (and now I’ve gone and done it and upset the apple cart…sorry).

osteenI don’t need another Joel Osteen sermon either.
I don’t need some guy in trendy jeans in front of a cool backdrop on a stage preaching sermons that water down the Bible and wedge his own interpretations either.
Gosh, a lot of times this style of “Religious” Christianity just comes off as fake and hokey.  It sure sounds good to our ears but lacks complete spiritual depth and accuracy as real life Christians are living in the real world.

We don’t need anymore dessert, can’t you see our spiritual bodies are craving something more?
Perhaps some new believers are still on spiritual milk today, and that’s fine…but I do hope and pray someone can come along side these new believers and disciple them into deeper (less fluffy) waters.  Get off the fluff and onto the stuff that matters, that challenges, that grows us!
The time to grow up in our salvation is now.  Stop making excuses, don’t waste your time…do it

Something more to ponder today.

(I want to thank my wife Shanais Strissel for the countless conversations that has sparked these ponderings…you are my spark!)

Church 101 – “And the Survey Says…”

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Below are 8 questions within a survey that, if you have the time, would you please click and fill it out.  
This survey is through “SurveyMonkey” it’s safe and you won’t be asked to give any information other than answering these quick and painless multiple choice questions.  

Next Monday I will share with you the results of this Church 101 survey.  Please help me in gathering as much data as I can by your participation in this survey, from you my fellow readers and bloggers.  Thank you in advance for your cooperation.  

This should be interesting!

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Here’s the link – 

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5B33GZQ

Stay tuned Monday as I explore results and please comment and help explore this topic with me!  

5 Myths About Christianity…

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There are preconceived ideas floating around about what a Christian is and isn’t.  I am most certainly not the end all and be all of answers here, but from my experience and knowledge of what a Christian should and shouldn’t be, let me make a list of a few myths for everyone today.  I am sure this may spark some conversations and hopefully help to clarify this thing we call “Christianity”.   These aren’t in any specific order, just placed as I write them now…so here goes.

Myth #1 – “Salvation saves my soul and after conversion there is no need for further repentance or spiritual growth.”

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Let us be clear. 
Salvation is just the first step towards spiritual growth.  Without Salvation we are lost, but at the moment of conversion the Holy Spirit begins this transforming work within us.  To say that we only need repentance once and that growth isn’t needed is foolish and closes the door to a deeper, more fuller relationship with God.   We should also look more closely at the need for further repentance.  Repentance is crucial in our continued growth as Christians or Christ-followers.  As Spiritual maturity takes root in our lives so must we come face to face with lingering or flawed recesses of our hearts, souls and minds.  These are fragments of the old life still living within us.  The Holy Spirit’s work in us leads us towards Holiness which is the image of Christ, but we cannot fully realize this until we are willing to repent and surrender these lingering fragments.  Continued repentance is crucial for our continued spiritual growth.

Myth #2 – When you become a Christian you are no longer allowed to have fun

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This may sound funny to you, but I’ve heard it said of Christians that once you become “saved” you have to stop having fun.  Sorry to tell you this, but some of the craziest (by crazy I mean funny) people I know are Christians.  I believe God has a great sense of humor (afterall He created you and me didn’t he?)  and so did Jesus.  I can almost hear even a sense of sarcasm in some of Jesus’ words at times.  Humor is vital to life.  We need to be able to laugh at ourselves and revel in the frivilous from time to time.  The fellowship of believers shouldn’t only be about serious content and plastered frowning/pious faces, we should also seek to have fun in this life as well!  I seriously think that many people who are not Christians think we all wear funny clothes, and sit around singing hymns in latin.  If that was the case, perhaps I would seriously think of heading for the exit as well.  But I know Christians who are just plain down to earth people.  These same people have a very humorous, sharp sense of humor.  When people become Christians and embrace faith in Christ they do not (or should not) lose their sense of humor.  Humor is not only refreshing but many times intrinsic to a person.  It is almost like a fingerprint and is essentially tied into the identity of that person. 

Myth #3 – Christians are just out for YOUR money.

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Let me just say how much I despise certain types of Televangelists who prey on the false hopes of the weak.  These charlatans will tickle the ears just enough to score another buck from the naive and the hurting.  This type of Christianity is more parlor trick than it is an accurate reflection of a real Christ-follower.  I usually stay away from churches that essentially beg for more and more money.  There is a big difference though between the discipline of tithing to the Lord and supporting a ministry that uses much of its funds to empower and provide luxury to the pastor/televangelist.  One should consider the fruits of the labor within those “religious” entities and look very closely at where the funds go. 

Christ certainly didn’t go around asking people to give Him money.  He did ask of a Samaratan woman for water and He did ask His disciples to do extraordinary things, but money was not in the asking.  Jesus did talk a lot about money and possessions but it primarily centered around the questions of “what possesses you?  What are your idols?  Does your material wealth and pursuit of such earthly riches consume all of your time?” 

In the same way, we are to emulate Christ when it comes to earthly possessions and the uses of riches.  Money can be a resource to help us provide for our families, to put food on the tables and to support missions of a loving and caring church.  Christians are not…(or should I say) should not be all about the money, money. 

Myth #4 – Christians are hate-mongers

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I at times bristle at this accusation.  In the same breath though I know that there are those segments of the Church (like the Westboro Baptist church – sorry to name names) who have made it a mission to condemn and judge any and every people group that they deem worthy of their condemnation.  This is NOT the Christ that I know, and If Jesus had lived this way while on earth I doubt I would have followed Him.  The harshest words that Jesus ever spoke were directed at the teachers of the law, the “religious” people of the day who knew better but certainly DID NOT live as they demanded others to live.  Jesus’ message was one of hope and love and restoration.  He breathed this into His disciples who in turn continued that mission throughout their lives regardless of the consequences (even death).  

Jesus actively engaged Himself within many sub-cultures of His day even the outcasts who  the “Religious” teachers despised.  He went to the homes of tax collectors, he healed lepers, He talked with women of questionable backgrounds…His message was of love not hate. 

Salvation doesn’t come to us by shoving Heaven and Hell down someone’s throat, but rather through real genuine concern and love.  Any church out there that relays Christ’s message any other way other than love has misplaced His purpose for coming in the first place.  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” -John 10:10

There is a difference between preaching repentance within the realms of Salvation and preaching hate and condemnation.  Christianity, if lived out in the hearts of the genuine Christ-follower, should reflect and possess the same aroma of Christ in His love for the sinner and the saint regardless of where they’ve come from.

Myth #5 – Christian are all hypocrites and gossipers

There’s a funny sign that reads:

ImageUnfortunately the truth may hurt a bit at times, but there are no perfect people in church.  The church should be a place where both sinner and saint come for Spiritual triage and are not judged or condemned by the “righteous”.  Romans 3:10 says “There is no one righteous, not even one…” 

Truth be told, it would serve the church and the church member well to bring this verse to mind when considering other children of God. 

Can I say that the church never has this problem with hypocrites and gossipers?  NO!  In fact this may be the only myth that I think hits too close to home sometimes.  BUT if Christians can be humble, truly humble and loving towards everybody who chooses to enter the church doors, what a real opportunity that would be!  Think of the difference and what may transpire if  this one small issue was completely eradicated from the Christian heart?  How would lives be changed and transformed?  Think of the opportunities to save souls!? The Church is NOT full of Hypocrites and Gossipers, although we certainly have our fair share. 

These are just five myths about Christianity.  There are many more, but for now this is enough. 

For the Christian: 
Consider what it means to truly be a Christ-follower.  How you might be perceived (right or wrong) by those who have yet to make a decision for Christ.  Be open minded, full of grace and purposeful with friends, family and neighbors who aren’t Christians.  Remember we are not the judge, God is.  Just as we are in need of His love and grace, so too are others who live in this world as well.  Real evangelism doesn’t begin with a tract or a bullhorn, but with a handshake and a hug of compassion and genuine love.  Get to know people.  Spend time with them.  Tear down these false perceptions by the way that YOU live and conduct yourself.  There isn’t enough lip service in the world that can out-do faith in action! 

For the questioning soul out there:
The Church should be a place of safe harbor to ALL people.  Christ was the only perfect person who ever lived and He came to save us all.  Don’t’ judge the merits of Christ by what you may have experienced (most likely bad experiences) in a church setting.  Imperfect people exist in and out of church.  People make mistakes, even Christians.  I am not apologizing for all Christians, but I am saying this: be open minded and perhaps, just perhaps some of these myths might be debunked.

Thanks for allowing me time to share these thoughts.