Sunday, July 31, 2011

"What Made You Want To Worship God?" - Part two of Questions From the Lifehouse Youth Group

My wife, Chelsea, used to manage a coffee shop in Franklin. Before she left for her new job, she hired a sixteen year old girl who lives near the shop. During her first training shift, the girl said she was interested in learning more about Jesus. This sort of stunned Chelsea because they had only just finished going over how to make Gelato. Nobody handed anyone else a wordless book. Chelsea encouraged her to keep asking questions and invited her to church one week.

After a few visits to Sunday services and Youth Group meetings, Chelsea invited the girl to our house to hang out. When they arrived at our house, Chelsea excused herself into the other room. I think I was writing a weblog post at the time, not really paying attention to the teenager I had just greeted. The girl sat down on the other end of our couch and asked, "So what made you go from believing God exists to wanting to worship Him?" I'm not sure she realized I was wearing headphones, so I had to ask her to repeat herself.

"What made you go from believing God exists to wanting to worship Him?"

Having had no time to think about it, I started rambling about the time I began taking Him seriously in prayer and study. Ugh, forty-five minutes of frantic storytelling about stuff that didn't much answer her question. While prayer and study did have something to do with my conversion experience, the simple answer could have been, "When I understood that God is more than real, He's active."

The Civil War was real. Long Division is real. But either those things are either history or they require you to do all the work yourself. In the past, I might have compared my faith to long division. It existed before I did, it's more complicated than I think it is, and it does me no good unless I make it work for me. Like that moral to Aesop's Fable which some people confuse with a Bible verse, "God helps those who help themselves".

The truth is, God moves when He wants and how He wants. Yes, an answer to prayer does mean that I pray first. And learning something from the Bible means I have to read it first. But I also think God created a desire in me to talk to Him and study His word. Besides, He's moved in my life and the lives of people in my family without anyone even thinking to ask. When he rescued my brother from a life of total destruction, when he healed me of a decade long dairy allergy, when he gave my parents the idea to listen when we prayed together as a family, He showed Himself alive and at work.

Realizing God was more than a story or a specter to fear if I misbehaved made me look at Him in a completely different way. He became bigger, wiser, more gracious, and so on. I began to see myself as more selfish, foolish, and bad-tempered. Verses in Psalms began to make more sense. "What is man that you take thought of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" (Psalm 8:4) " O Lord, what is man, that you take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that you think of him?"

And yet God sent Jesus to bear the burden of our punishment. He doesn't need me, but He still decided to rescue me and adopt me into His family.

That's why I want to worship Him.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Still Sacrificing? - A word about shame.

On a handful of occasions, some well-meaning people have asked me this question, "You seem like a really smart guy, so why are you a Christian?" And when this happens, I try to remember one of my favorite quotes from Charles Spurgeon, "Defend the Bible? I would just as soon defend a lion. Just turn the Bible loose and it will defend itself." It's a good thing for me to remember in those instances because I've sometimes succeeded only in stumbling my way through a quick explanation of some philosophical part of Christianity while somehow leaving out the gospel.

But the Bible is powerful and alive. It is truth which can speak for itself. As my friend Luther would tell his muslim friends back in Africa, "Just read it, and then you can disagree with me." So for this post, I'm going to leave out most of the rambling stories and shoe-string references. Instead, I'll type out a passage which hit so hard I had to stop after only eight verses.

Hebrews 10:11-18 says, "And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

"And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 'This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,' then he adds, 'I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more.'

"Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin."

Here are a couple of questions I want you to think about: If you accept the sacrifice Jesus made for the wrong you do, is it right to ever feel ashamed? Do you ever try to "do better" to "make it up to God"?