Monthly Archives: October 2017

My “Aha” Moment

Has it sunk in yet? What Joe has been talking about in Psalm 145? Worship… more specifically, David’s aha moment in his worship of God. Perfection (God) demands perfect praise or because God is perfect, great, powerful and worthy, I will continually declare the truth of His perfection. And because he is compassionate, loyal and just (vs 1-13) He will validate those who validate Him. (vs 14-20) So “if a=b then b=c “ then logically, “if we want to be saved, we must perfectly praise Perfection…” which we are only able to do, of course, because of and based upon His plan of salvation through the cross. At least, that is my take away from it.

Well, before we get too comfy with all the adoration and validation, there is also something else Joe said comes out of Psalm 145 and it may just make us sit a little uneasy in our cushy, comfy chair but, I sure don’t want to overlook it.

Joe said that David is worshiping God, or in other words, valuing God – which overcomes sin. That’s a pretty significant statement! A truth that stuck with me.  How does that work? How does worshipping or valuing God overcome the sin in my life?

In Matthew 15:8 Jesus said, “this people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” We so often think of worship as an action we do like singing songs or praying great, lofty prayers to express how we feel. Indeed, the dictionary defines worship as the expression of reverence or adoration. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for worship means to bow oneself close to the ground. It all sounds like an outward act we see in the movies for worshipping some statue or something. But in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus made it clear that an outward act can mean nothing for what is going on inside our hearts. Bowing oneself close to the ground comes as a result of knowing that you are revering or valuing something or someone greater than yourself  (or your self-oriented desires) who is truly worthy of such admiration. It’s about what or who you value above all else.

Let’s look at one of the first acts of worship mentioned in the Bible. It is the story of Abraham. God clearly demonstrates what true worship is, through Abraham. In Genesis 22 he tells Abraham to take his only son, whom he loves (desires) and offer him as a burnt offering. Did you catch that?  God asks Abraham to take the thing or person that holds high value to him (after all he waited how many years to finally have this long-awaited and promised son?) and put him on the altar and kill him. And guess what? Abraham obeyed. There was no record of him arguing with God or questioning him. He just obeyed. Let me restate it. Abraham was able to place on the alter, with the intent to destroy,  something he highly valued because He valued God a great deal more. Worship! True worship of the heart and soul.

No matter how we outwardly express our devotion to God, if we do not obey God in our day to day lives, we are not worshipping Him.

I like how the New Living Translation puts 1 John 2:3–6But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did” and 1 John 3 says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin.” We cannot say we worship or love God but continue in sin. Feel a little less comfy now? Well, I do.

We see in 1 Samuel that Saul actually disobeyed God while he was carrying out an act of worship. He got in a hurry to offer the required sacrifice and didn’t follow or didn’t wait for what God told him to do. But Samuel (God’s prophet) replied to Saul, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.” That’s pretty heavy! In the act of worship, God knew his heart, that although it looked like He was honoring God, He really wasn’t. He had ulterior, self-centered motives. The plumb line was not the act of religious duty but the act of obedience.

My favorite verse in all Scripture and what I tell my kids is the mantra or motto in my life (You can ask them at any given time what my life verse is and they will tell you) is Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”  A close second is Colossians 3:3 “I have died and my life is hidden in Christ.”  It’s no longer about Shelly or what Shelly wants, it’s about God and the pursuit to follow His will. I want to value God and His kingdom above all else. (See also Matthew 6:33)

Does this ring true in the story of Abraham?  Who worshipped by laying and slaying on the alter, the thing he valued the most. For some of us, the thing we love the most is ourselves and we show it by the choices we make, the things we say, the thoughts we choose to dwell upon, by the daily decisions we make and certainly by the actions we take.  “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” (NLT)  Romans 12:1  Did you hear that?  This is the way to worship. THIS is the way…. Giving up ourselves, our lives, our hearts, our minds, our strength or actions and choices to be a living sacrifice. That is true worship. That is Perfection (God) demanding our perfect praise or acts of worship.

 As Joe said, “because God is perfect or holy, I will not stop living to praise or agree with His holiness. My life, living and song seeks to be a constant declaration of the truth.”

In Genesis, after God finally sent an Angel to stop Abraham short of actually sacrificing His son and showing him that he had instead provided a ram in the nearby bush, God said of him, “for now I know that you fear God because you did not withhold your son, your only son from me.” Abraham’s value or worship was clear.

Both David’s and Abraham’s worship was true, obedient, absolute, no holding back, no-holds-barred reverence for God in every thing, in every facet of life because they loved God above all else.

Is this easy? No. Is this possible? Not 100% in this lifetime which is why we need His grace and salvation that He provides but do I want to worship and I mean truly worship? Yes. And that means far more than singing a song or praying a lofty prayer, admiring creation or showing up to a Bible study. In my love for Christ, I want to daily look at my own heart, soul, mind, words and actions and place them on a pair of scales to weigh them against what God’s word says He values and then choose to worship or praise a perfect, loving, just and worthy God, accordingly, from the heart.

Worship is love, love is obedience; if a=b, then b=c and that is my aha moment!

Shelly Davis Bergland,
Ministry Assistant, Fellowship at Cross Creek Church
www.fellowshipatcrosscreek.com

 

A Biblical Worldview

The central question from our Home Church study this week was a question Jesus asked His disciples: Who do people say that I am?

When asked, even today, most Americans will say they believe in God. What does that really mean? Depending upon whom you ask, and their associated worldview, you will likely get a wide variety of answers. George Barna of the Barna Research Group asked people about their worldview based upon principles found in the Bible.

A “biblical worldview” was defined as: Believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.

In the research, anyone who held all of those beliefs was said to have a biblical worldview, and the results are interesting. Of the Americans surveyed, 9% answered that they shared each of these views. Surprisingly, among those who self-identified as “born-again” Christians, that figure goes up to just 19%; less than one in five.

We can break down these numbers further. One-third of all adults (34%) believe that moral truth is absolute and unaffected by the circumstances. Slightly less than half of the born again adults (46%) believe in absolute moral truth. Half of all adults firmly believe that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches, compared to four-fifths of born again adults (79%) who concur. Just one-quarter of adults (27%) are convinced that Satan is a real force, while even a minority of born again adults (40%) adopt that perspective. Similarly, only one-quarter of adults (28%) believe that it is impossible for someone to earn their way into Heaven through good behavior. Not quite half of all born again Christians (47%) strongly reject the notion of earning salvation through their deeds.

Why do these numbers matter? The non-biblical worldview does not just exist in some theorem or in a vacuum. We who share a truly biblical worldview are getting constantly lashed on through television, film, music, newspapers, magazines, books, and universities. Just a few decades ago, the bulk of media and academia promoted views more closely aligned with those having a biblical worldview.

Deviation from those views was seen as being outside the norm. Beginning in the 1960s, the roles played by the media and academia began to change. We were compelled by messages in our movies, books, television, and classrooms to question everything. We used to giggle that married couples on TV in the 1950s and early 60s slept in separate beds. Back then, broadcasting over the commonly held airwaves was seen as a public trust. Part of upholding that trust, as naive and parochial as this sounds today, was promoting morality and family values through their programming (think Leave it to Beaver, not Modern Family). Other forms of media held similar views of serving their patrons as a public trust. Showing people as base, selfish, and socially predatory began in earnest during the anti-establishment movement of the latter 1960s and the 70s. From then until this very day, pushing the envelope of social acceptability has been the practice of the media – to heck with morality and family values.

Led by the disengaged-from-morality media, Americans, including many this survey tagged as born again, have slid down that slippery slope, arriving at philosophical and theological positions they (and their parents or grandparents) would never have even conceived a generation ago. Positions where so-called “mainline Christian” denominations now plainly contradict biblical teachings, ordaining open homosexuals as pastors and performing same-sex marriage services. Is there any wonder that six out of ten born again Christians do not believe there is a great deceiver known as the devil?

We live in a selfish, fallen world. Seductively, these ideas appeal to the desires of our flesh, and we often end up incorporating them into our personal worldview. Sadly, we do this without even knowing it. If we do not really believe the truth of God and live it, then our witness, like these misguided denominations, will be confusing and misleading. Most of us go through life not recognizing that our personal views have been deeply affected by the world. Through the media and other influences, the secularized American view of history, law, politics, science, art, God, and man affects our thinking more than we realize. We are taken “captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

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One of my favorite songs from Sunday School days was This Little Light of Mine. We need to let our light shine into this dark and fallen world. The light we shine may provide the illumination needed to positively enhance the worldview of those around us, as Paul instructs in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” In this manner, when we are asked, “Who do you say that I am?”, each of us will have a ready, biblically centered answer.

~ Hudd ~

Kevin Huddleston is an Elder at Fellowship at Cross Creek Church in Branson, MO

www.fellowshipatcrosscreek.com

Ex Uno, Plures

There is an iconic statue in the harbor of New York City. At the base of Lady Liberty are these words:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

These famous words did not come with the Statue of Liberty, which was, itself, a gift of the people of France. The words were taken from a sonnet, entitled New Collossus and penned by Emma Lazarus, and was written as part of the fundraising efforts to build the pedestal upon which the Lady stands. The famous words were added to the base twenty years after she had written them for an auction intended to raise the necessary funds.

The de facto motto of the United States is the Latin phrase E Pluribus Unum, Out of Many, One. This thirteen character phrase was first suggested during the Revolutionary War, and was adopted by act of Congress in 1803. The thirteen characters represent the thirteen colonies that joined together to form one nation. From many (13), one. Over the years, the motto also came to represent the union of so many people who immigrated from all corners of the earth, and came to America in search of freedom and opportunity. They came looking for the American way of life. From the many, they became one. This phrase is still the motto of the Great Seal of the United States, but its place as the U.S. motto was officially taken by “In God We Trust” upon its formal adoption in 1956.

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I am not sure that there ever was a time when there truly was an American way of life, though it surely seemed to be true. Maybe then, the depiction of an American way of life was more a creation of the media of the day, rather than an accurate account of the condition. Maybe Harper’s Bazaar and Horatio Alger wrote of an America they hoped for, an idealized version of a society, economy, and political system that existed only in the imagination. But, I do not think so. They may have accentuated the positives, but I believe there was a collective belief in an American ideal, a land of opportunity for those willing to work for it. Read the accounts of Alexis de Tocqueville, French diplomat and historian who toured early-day America and wrote his famous work Democracy in America in 1835. Here he depicts an America, devoid of the shackles of class and patronage found in Europe, alive with commerce and liberty for all. It was a land for the rugged individual, and not for the privileged few from the right families. It was a nation of unity. E pluribus unum.

Fast forward to today. Today, to claim that there is one, single American way is to deny the diversity of the new American culture. To say that we are to make ourselves one from the many we were is to stifle the desires of those who feel victimized and left behind by what they view as the oppression of the American way. They do not view an America of opportunity, united in heart and purpose. They propose a dis-united America where factions that are opposed to the American way of life are not only allowed, but supported, celebrated, and advanced as totally acceptable alternatives, if not wholly superior.

Americans used to think more unitarily about our nation and our culture. We shared a vision of what our country should be. We thought more didactically, believing there was a right view, and one that was wrong. And, we were not afraid of declaring something that rested outside our shared view of America as it should be as something that was wrong. Today, that way of thinking is about gone. Today, we are to think in terms of plurality – not embracing the singular American way, but promoting the value in the many and diverse ways of life rampant in our country today. To declare there is a singular, unitary understanding of the American way, which we once knew to be true, is now considered exclusionary, hateful, and bigoted. The same is true of religion. Today, my religion and my god can be no better than others’ religion and god, or gods, or their belief in no religion and no god at all.

Sometimes, telling someone what they need to know and understand, and not what they want to hear, is the higher form of love, not hate-speech as so many are wont to accuse others with differing opinions. Our kids want us to tell them it is fine for them to stay out after curfew, but because we love them we tell them when to be home. It is not hateful to say that coming home anytime after the time expected is excluded from that which is good. Being exclusionary is not inherently bad.

Well, at the risk of being branded a bigot and a hater, I declare these exclusionary truths: We live in the greatest country on earth; one which affords its residents the best opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This nation was founded by men who recognized the dignity of every human being derived from his creation in the image of God, and with that came certain unalienable rights (yes, I know the dignity afforded some members of society did not always match this declaration). Further, it is an exclusionary truth that man was created by God alone. We are a sinful creature who is justified by faith in God alone, which is made possible through Christ alone by His grace alone, and for God’s glory, alone, as revealed through His scripture, alone. There is no other source of truth. It is singular and must b be unifying in its truth, or it cannot be true at all. This truth, much like the understanding and belief in a unified view of the American way, is what unites the many into one. To believe otherwise would amount to ex uno, plures (from one, many).

~ Hudd ~

Kevin Huddleston is an Elder at Fellowship at Cross Creek Church in Branson, MO

www.fellowshipatcrosscreek.com

Pride and Destruction

We were talking in Home Church the other evening about how those of us in Western culture tend to try to hide our feelings. We are all products of our environment. Many are of cultures where one is taught to be expressive of emotions, but most Americans are more reserved. Much of our New World culture comes directly from Great Britain. It has been engrained in the British for several generations to “keep a stiff upper lip” and do not let others see your true emotions. God created us to have emotions, and most of the people in the world openly express their feelings, but not most of “us”. We are more stoic. We are the rugged individuals. John Wayne did not cry. Edmund Muskie did in 1972, and it cost him a chance to become the Democratic nominee for President (he had been leading in the polls up until the day he delivered an emotional defense of his wife, who had been the subject of a hit piece in The Rolling Stone).

I have been one of the most reserved people anyone would know; always very controlling of the image I projected. In fact, I was so bad about showing my feelings that some very loving friends confronted me about it. They helped me to see that my reserved behavior was linked to two critical flaws in my emotional development: relational insecurity, and excessive pride. The first thing I learned from this intervention was just how much friends must love me to nail my hide to the wall like that (see Proverbs 26:6). Am I better for having gone through this revealing confrontation? I think so. Those who know me well will probably say I still have a ways to go, especially concerning my issues with pride.

Some of the greatest theological thinkers of all time lay the root of sin at the base of pride. Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, Edwards, and others wrote of pride leading to destruction. In his wonderful book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote:

According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison. It was through pride that the devil became the devil. Pride leads to every other vice; it is the complete anti-God state of mind. It is pride that has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.

Pride led to Satan being cast out of heaven. Pride led him to the deception of God’s highest creation – man. It was the pride of Adam and Eve that the devil appealed to, that cemented their separation from God. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Proverbs 16:18).

 

Pride also affects religious people. Spiritual leaders throughout the history of the church have seen it as a great plague and tool of the devil. In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells us the well-known story of the self-righteous Pharisee and the much-despised Tax Collector, both of whom went into the temple to pray. The Pharisee proceeds to commend himself to God because of his careful observance of the law and to look down with scornful contempt on the sinful tax collector. “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.” Notice in his prayer that his focus is not really on God at all, but on his own self-perceived goodness, and how bad others are. Here we see pride wrapped in the cloak of religion, giving religion a bad name. The tax collector is so painfully aware of his sins and unworthiness before God that he cannot even lift his eyes as he stands in the back of the temple, far from the altar. Pounding his breast in sorrowful contrition over his sins, he can manage only the desperate plea, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner.” His focus is very much on his own sins, not the sins of others, and especially on his need for God’s mercy. Jesus says that God answered the tax collector’s prayer, not the Pharisee’s. Then he concludes with his main point: “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

What might be hindering your journey across the bridge of spiritual maturity toward becoming Christ-like? For me and for many others throughout the entire history of man, it is pride. So, when you see my pride beginning to show through and impede my way, be a friend.

~ Hudd ~

Kevin Huddleston is an Elder at Fellowship at Cross Creek Church in Branson, MO

www.fellowshipatcrosscreek.com