Category Archives: worship

Being equipped and dispersed to spread the worth of Jesus will only work when we discover the purpose and goal of life as being the worship and enjoyment of Jesus. This is the worship category.

Anticipating Easter

To whet the appetites of our anticipation for Easter Sunday, I gave three sermons to our church over the course of this last month on the implications of Jesus’ resurrection for the past, present and future.

The past historical event of the resurrection tells us what to believe about Jesus…

The present implications of the resurrection tells us of the justification wrought by Jesus…

The future implications of the resurrection tells us of the hope that we have in Jesus…

Enjoy Jesus, my friends. See you next Sunday at Del Playa Stadium!

What is there for singles on Valentine’s Day?

I know this is the day for celebrating romance, as it should be; marriage and relationships are a gift from God. But so is singleness. And on a day when many singles feel lonely, undesirable, or at the very least, bored, I hope this look back into church history reveals God’s kind intention for your singleness.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, and a key player in the first Great Awakening published a fifteen-point expository sermon on Paul’s letter to the Corinthians entitled Thoughts On A Single Life (1835). I will summarize each of his extensive points so that you can soak it all in.

  1. Singleness can be as holy as marriage
  2. Christians often view singleness as a spiritual malady to be fixed by marriage
  3. Paul commands certain people to remain single because they can concern themselves more with the things of God (1 Cor. 7:8, 27, 28, 32-35)
  4. Paul wishes that all men could be single like him
  5. Singleness, it turns out, is a gift that God bestows on people, either for a season or for good
  6. Those who are given the gift of singleness have great advantages to enjoy…
    • being “without carefulness”
    • without the necessity of “caring for the things of the world”
    • desiring only to “please the Lord”
    • concerned for being “holy both in body and spirit.”
    • able to be “attending upon the Lord without distraction.” Wesley then compares the single person to Mary who is enabled by her freedom to “remain centered on God, sitting…at the Master’s feet, and listening to every word”
    • a blessed freedom from the “‘trouble in the flesh’ which must more or less attend a married state”
    • to experience “liberty from the greatest of all entanglements, the loving one creature above all others,” for Wesley later writes of how conceivably difficult it is “to give God our whole heart, while a creature has so large a share of it!”
  7. You have leisure to wait upon God in public and private…whereas those who are married are distracted by the “things of the world.”
  8. You can devote all your abilities, time, and energy to God.
  9. You must pray for God to help you see the value of your singleness
  10. You must pray for God to protect you in your singleness
  11. You must surround yourself with like-minded single people of the same sex
  12. It’s silly to hang out carelessly with the opposite sex if you are trying to enjoy singleness
  13. In fact, avoid all self-indulgence that weakens your desire for God. Wesley does not here advocate the avoidance of pleasure, per say, for God gives you all things to enjoy. Rather, he  implores you to “avoid all that pleasure which anyway hinders you from enjoying [God]”
  14. Enjoy all the advantages of singleness to the fullest, and you may find that being single gets easier.
  15. Don’t worry yourself about what is better between marriage or singleness, because perfection does not consist in an outward state but in “absolute devotion of all our heart and all our life to God.”

Wesley is saying that the reason you are single is so that God alone can preoccupy your affections.

So if you are called to be single for good, know that this is a blessed calling, and one which God deems so respectable and difficult that He must call and anoint certain people to be so. But O! the joys of this kind of single life! For even if you are called to marriage one day, yet are single now, know that God designed your singleness to draw your eyes towards a better Love than this population can supply.

I pray our Valentine’s day be filled with the love of the Father in Christ Jesus by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as “every pleasure of sense prepares us for taking pleasure in God.”

You can purchase John Wesley’s full sermon Thoughts on a Single Life here

Breathing in the Resurrection: A light dawning

“Born again” is the term sometimes used by the Scriptures to refer to conversion (Jn 3:3; 1 Pet 1:3, 23). I used to think of being born again like a wall-switch being flipped on, and the room lighting up instantaneously. But as I look at my experiences in light of the Scriptures, I see more nuance (and beauty) in the Christian life.

Being “born again” is like the dawning of the sun. 

Imagine you are stumbling across the street in the early morning darkness, unaware of the cars coming straight at you, when suddenly, the sun peaks over the horizon! You are able to immediately spot the silhouette of oncoming traffic, and avert yourself before a fatal collision. In Christianity, we call this change of direction “repenting.” But then something else happens. As the sun continues to rise, it emits more light, disintegrating shadows, and forming detail in the undistinguishable objects of nearby trees. By 7am, you are no longer being functional. In addition to walking the right direction, you are now being swept up in the beauty of your surroundings—the ocean waves, the kids wrestling in their front lawn, the birds flying…

You have moved from survival to delight.

Peter spoke of the divine inspiration of Scripture at the hands of God’s prophets, when he exhorted us to take them seriously, saying “…You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19, emphasis mine).

You were given life the moment you were born again, but this is only the beginning! Now He is teaching you how to breathe. A powerful and mysterious way of “breathing” is to read the Scriptures until the Jesus dawns in your heart. You may not understand every detail, but as you read them in faith, desiring to gain Christ, he will be found by you!

Enjoy Jesus.

Christ-centered without lip-service

To pray in the name of Jesus means more than just a quick mention of his biological name. Praying in Jesus’ name means that we pray according to all that is true of Jesus Christ!

To sing in Jesus’ name means more than just peppering song lyrics with his namesake (though we definitely should), it means to sing for joy about who he is and what he has done in response.

To conversate about Jesus means more than inserting his name into every statement, but to bring people through the story of Christ, so that when we do mention his name, it will have a beautiful backdrop.

Christian liturgy should lead people to God in Christ. But a Christian gathering has to be about more than a few icons or decorative elements. The message of Jesus must be holistically driven throughout the entire gathering. In other words, if the sermon is pragmatic, the worship is anthropocentric, and the foyer is full of college students who are there only to be social, well then…exchanging a Christmas tree for a cross will do nothing to change consumeristic hearts.

But this is nothing new, if we think about it.

We’re already familiar with authenticity. We call anything less, “lip-service.”

Think of any human relationship…

My wife knows I love her, not because I tell her I love her (although verbal articulation often does score some points), but because I show her love in tangible form.

So do pronounce and remember Jesus’ name this year. But more importantly, be remembering, speaking, acting, singing, and living in such a way as to broadcast WHO he is and WHAT he stands for.

In the presence of grandeur

“Do people go to the Grand Canyon to increase their self-esteem? Probably not. This is, at least, a hint that the deepest joys in life come not from savoring the self, but from seeing splendor. And in the end even [those] will not do. We were made to enjoy God.” – John Piper

Changing it up: When expression grows stale

I’ve been listening to Future of Forestry a lot.

There’s something charming about carefully crafted music.

Perhaps it’s the eerie melodies, or the way they’re able to dominate space and rhythm. Maybe it’s the emotive themes, the joy behind the sadness, or their addiction to the Glockenspiel. But when one of their tracks is playing, my soul begins to resonate.

Unfortunately, much of the music that I’m expected to listen to as a worship leader is not this way.

Popular worship tunes will sometimes have catchy hooks, but “catchy” doesn’t move my soul anymore than “popular” does. Eric Owyoung and FOF keep the beautifully arranged music coming, even back in the Something Like Silas days—Hume anybody?—but when I turn on the rest of Christian radio, it feels as though many worship leader/song writers are being arranged by the music itself (or the “worship” industry). Some worship albums sound like something I listened to—and vaguely tolerated—in the early nineties. Truth be told, I don’t drive down Highway 101 pumping worship music. If I’m on a road trip, I’m probably listing to a lot of synth-pop, heavily-layered electronic music, rockabilly, crooners, experimental, etc., because that’s the music that deeply affects me.

A typical worship album doesn’t cause the endorphins to make a mad rush for my head, just as reading the Spark Notes version of The Brothers Karamazov will cause me to feel the spiritual drama of modernized Russia. I need artistic, authentic expression, not a Dove award nominee. But this is generally what happens when music starts sounding like a Xerox of everything that’s been done before, packaged with the same lyrics, rhyme schemes, pop hooks, and arrangements…yet adulated as “worship” because the lyrics fit a stencil of what can be sung along to by the majority of Christians. My burning question: When did worship move from being an expression of music to a style of music?

I am bit reluctant to accept mediocre music just because the lyrics say something true about God.

That being said, I have heard a few Christian bands begin to stretch the boundaries of music for something beautiful—FOF’s haunting acoustic ballad, “If You Find Her,” Elevation’s strangely handsome rendition of “All Creatures,” and the creative dance that Aaron Keyes engages his instruments with on the song “Dwell“—and that makes me excited.

But I’ve also come to grips that I’m finding more honest expression in secular arts by virtue of their musicality, while praying for more Christians, who like J.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, will lead the artistic charge rather than follow it. Unfortunately, I do not have that gift, so I will find inspiration where it exists, and reclaim it for the glory of God.

Abraham Kuyper once said,

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’

Well, there’s my que.

Sometimes you gotta go out to the barn to find the right kitchen tool.

But who knows—maybe after an hour of scavenging the barn, you’ll realize that when you were last in the kitchen, you were defiantly using grandma’s cookie cutter for the perfect Crème brûlée of foie gras.

What does all of this have to do with missional millennials?

Well, I’ve shared about enjoying Jesus through the lens of music. But all Christians enjoy Jesus through a variety of ways, and therefore, we have a lot of opportunities to grow stale in what we sometimes call “spiritual disciplines.”

How do YOU keep it fresh?

“And Can It Be” (Hymns with Lazo)

Words by Charles Wesley, 1738.

Music by Thomas Campbell, 1825.

Arrangement by Chris Lazo, 2011.

And can it be that I should gain, an interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain— for me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, should die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, would die for me?  Read the rest of this entry

Come Thou Fount

This Tuesday calls for a little break from the daily grind…

I got lost in Garage band with a MIDI keyboard, treating this classic hymn. I could sing to hymns for days.

Come Thou Fount

Come Thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise His name I’m fixed upon it
Name of God’s redeeming love

Read the rest of this entry

Corporate Worship and the Missing Manual

The Scriptures tell us to gather together.

The Scriptures tell us to worship together.

Keep in mind that as we speak of corporate worship we’re not limiting “worship” to just singing songs—though it is included—we are looking at anything that we allow to happen during a corporate gathering. The liturgy, as some would say.

Surprisingly, the Scriptures tell us very little about how to worship when we are together.

So we fill in the blanks, remaining as faithful to Scripture as we can, yet only a few of the practices we adopt in corporate worship are mandated by the New Testament (Lord’s Supper, Word of God, prayer, etc). Dan Kimball once pointed out that “almost all of the specific ways we worship in most churches today are neither directed nor informed by the Scriptures themselves, but rather evolved from people in church leadership, reflecting the culture of their time.”

I love this.

I suspect that God allows the local church to develop their own unique cultures of worship.

Otherwise, we would all look the same (How monotonous would it be to visit a rural church in the jungles, and find that they all sing contemporary worship music and clap on the downbeat like you do?), yet God glories in bringing together different nations, languages, and people-groups to gather before him. And as I’ve visited churches around the world, I’ve recognized this to be a beautiful aspect of the church. To see one God at the center of so many expressions of worship testifies to the captivating beauty of Jesus. Yet it still begs the question…

Is it permissible to do anything in the church of Christ that is not specifically mandated by him or one of his Apostles?

Here are two common views…

  1. Martin Luther permitted anything in corporate worship as long as it was not prohibited by Scripture. He called it the normative principle of worship.2
  2. John Calvin didn’t allow anything in corporate worship unless commended by Scripture. He called this the regulative principle of worship.3

I tend to fall on the normative side of ecclesiology. I have the mandatory elements of worship in place (Lord’s Supper, prayer, Word of God, etc), but also include everything from candles, paintings, dark lighting, to text-messaged interview dialog during sermons. It seems that when it comes to worship, God is less concerned about form than our allegiance.

Agree? Disagree? Why?

1Dan Kimball. Perspectives on Worship. p.250
2Matthew Pinson, Perspectives on Worship. p.325
3Ibid. p.325

Missional Millennials (part 2): Discipleship through worship

In the first post of this series, I suggested that our identity forms what we worship. Now I’m proposing that what we worship will inevitably form discipleship in our lives and in others around us.

My mom used to say “You are what you eat,” as a euphemism for healthy nutrition. In other words, you become like what you digest. It’s not much different for making disciples and being discipled. You are who you hang around, and most communities gather around a common purpose. Something which both parties share a mutual interest in.

You will become like who you hang around.

You will hang around people you have something deeply in common with—your social circles will revolve around the things that you adore. In a nutshell, you will be discipled in accordance to what you most value. Further, you will also influence others in the same sphere of shared desires. Take bowling, for example. If your identity is shaped by your desire to become the best bowler in the world, the practice of bowling will feed your obsession; you will go bowling all the time. You will also surround yourself around a natural community that gravitates towards the same passion, and in so doing will unavoidably become like them, as they become like you. Mutual discipleship. You are what you eat, and you eat bowling.

This can get really interesting for the Christian. We immediately have an open door of evangelism with many people based on shared interests.

  1. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
  2. Who else likes to do that?
  3. Share with them this common purpose, and build a community around it.

The reason this is usually problematic, is because many Christian’s don’t like hanging outside of their usual church culture.

We like to spend time with other Christians, and remove ourselves from the big bad world. In doing so, we disciple other Christians, and only influence them. Yet if you scan the New Testament, you will see that all people are disciples of something or someone, because we all have an inherent sense of identity, that leads us to seek out communities of worship centered around a common purpose. But dozens of people in your social stream are being naturally discipled by everyone else but you. If it’s true that God shares common grace on the wicked and the righteous alike, then shouldn’t we learn how to enjoy the finer things in life with the non-believer, if for no other reason, than for friendship?

It seems these days, the only time we will ever spend with a non-believer is for the split second it takes to convert them to Christianity. And even supposing that strategy works, they will convert to Christianity without any hope of godly discipleship. Oh but they will be discipled. The question is who?

The conversion lie.


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