The Calling and Ministry of Peter – A Night of Worship/Illustrated Sermon

Here’s an outline based on the calling, collapse and restoration of Simon Peter for a Night of Worship our church did following Easter in 2018. If you’re able to use it, that’s great. If not, I hope it inspires you.

Jesus and Peter

Opening Worship Set

  • Song
  • Song
  • Song

Welcome and Transition

(If you are taking an offering, this is the place to do it)

Initial Prayer for the Evening

SECTION ONE – ILLUMINATION

Tonight we’re going to be following the ups and downs of Peter’s calling and ministry with Jesus. Peter was a fisherman that God used to be a fisher of men. Listen to Luke’s account of how Peter became a disciple of Jesus.

Luke 5:1-11

One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on Him to listen to the word of God. 2 He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. 3 Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So He sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.

4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” 5 “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” 6 And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! 7 A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

8 When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” 9 For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him.10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.

  • Main point – Peter was an ordinary man, but Jesus wanted to use him to do extraordinary things. In fact, in Matthew 16, Jesus called Peter The Rock, meaning that he would be instrumental in establishing His church. However, when Peter first encountered Jesus, he was humbled, but when Jesus called, he dropped everything and followed after Jesus.
  • God also wants us to be fishers of men. We are just that when we give up our own agenda and follow after Him.

Prayer – Thanking God for calling us to follow after Him. Asking Him to help us be faithful as we work together to fish after men.

Song – About following/being faithful to Jesus – Suggestion is The Stand – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kV5iZBTNYrk

SECTION TWO – CONFESSION

Spoken – Peter followed after the Lord and also became one of Jesus’ inner circle. He was a natural born leader and was the first of the disciples to confess that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  

  • It was Peter who showed enough faith to leave the boat to walk on the water to Jesus. But it was also Peter who quickly took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. (Matthew 14:28-29)
  • It was Peter who took Jesus aside to rebuke Him for speaking of His death. It was also Peter who was swiftly corrected by Jesus for doing so. (Matthew 16:22-23)
  • It was Peter who drew his sword and attacked the servant of the high priest as Jesus was being arrested. But it was also Peter who was immediately told to sheath his weapon (John 18:10-11)
  • It was Peter who boasted that he would never forsake the Lord, even if everyone else did, and it was this same Peter who later denied three times that he even knew Jesus. (Matthew 26:33, 70-74)

Listen to what Luke writes about Peter’s denial:

Luke 22:31-34, 54-62

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32 But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”

33 Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” 34 But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”

54 So they arrested him and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. 55 The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. 56 A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!” 57 But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!”

58 After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!” “No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted.

59 About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.

61 At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”

62 And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.

Question: Have you ever messed up royally while trying to serve Jesus? I know I have. At this point in Peter’s life, it must have looked like everything was over. However, Jesus had just said to him, “when you have repented and turned to me again” which may have given him reason for hope, if he remembered Jesus’ words in that moment.

When we mess up while trying to serve the Lord, when we fall short of His calling on our lives, and when we even find ourselves denying Him, we need to follow the words Jesus said to Peter – we need to repent and turn to Him again.

What do you need to repent to the Lord tonight? In what ways have you denied Him? Let’s all take time and confess our sins to the Lord right now. You may want to kneel. You may want to stand and lift your hands to the Lord. You may want to sit and make a list of your shortcomings. Or you may just want to pray quietly. Do that now as the music plays.

(Give the people 1-2 minutes of confession time with the Lord)

Pastoral Prayer – Lead the people in corporate prayer, asking the Lord to forgive us of our sins.

Song – About confessing our sins to the Lord, or about His forgiveness. One suggested song is Lord, I Need You by Matt Maherhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuvfMDhTyMA

SECTION THREE – RESTORATION

Spoken – Because we’ve read the Bible and heard the stories, we know that Jesus was raised from the dead. We know that Jesus appeared to His disciples many times before His ascension and that Peter was there. But, do you ever think that it must have been a weird time for Peter, knowing that he had denied the Lord, right in front of Him. Jesus understood this, and had a plan to restore Peter. The Apostle John writes of this in John 21.

John 21:1, 15-17

1 Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee…15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.

Spoken: It was at this point that Jesus confirmed with Peter that he was forgiven. Through his actions and words, the Lord reaffirmed Peter, who understood once again that he would be instrumental in establishing the Church of Jesus. This can clearly be seen because:

  • First, Peter was the main speaker to the crowd in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost when about 3,000 confessed their faith in Jesus. (Acts 2)
  • Second, Peter was present when the Samaritan believers received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8)
  • Finally, Peter was summoned to the home of the Roman centurion Cornelius, who also believed in the Lord (Acts 10).

In these instances, God used Peter to unlock Christianity to the world as he presented the Gospel to the Jews, the Samaritans, and the Gentiles. God certainly used Peter to be a fisher of men.

Question – Have you ever come to a point in your spiritual walk when you realized you needed to re-commit your life to the Lord? You realized your prayer life was cold and you weren’t living for Him or really even communicating with Him? Jesus restored Peter and He can restore you as well.

Prayer: Lead people to recommit themselves to the Lord, asking Him to renew their passion for Him and to restore them fully to the purposes He has for them.

Suggested Song: Do It Again – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOBIPb-6PTc

SECTION FOUR – CELEBRATION

The Lord continued to use Peter in mighty ways. One that is most celebrated is seen in Acts 2 where the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. It was Peter who stood before the crowds and preached boldly to them about Jesus, proclaiming that they should repent of their sins and be baptized. The Bible says, “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day – about 3,000 in all.”

God had restored Peter, the Rock, and He used him to present the Gospel to a lost and dying world. In a similar fashion, God used the people of this church this past weekend to help bring the Gospel to a lost and dying world. As we celebrated His resurrection, God used parkers, greeters, and ushers to help people know where to sit and where to bring their children. Others helped by making and serving coffee and by keeping the facilities clean. Others taught and cared for children and young people, teaching them about the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord. Many of our folks invited their friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors to our services. Others worked tirelessly stuffing and preparing our worship guides, while others prepared music and technical presentations. Countless of others worked backstage or behind the scenes, preparing the way for the Gospel to be presented.

Optional Time for sharing of stats and stories from Easter

Every single one of you is a fisher of men. Thank you so much for all of your work over Easter and for all that you do on a regular basis. We appreciate it and we know that God is pleased.

Sharing and Prayer in Groups – Lead the people to circle up and to share with one another what God has done for them recently and overall. Instruct them to pray and thank God for all He’s done.

Upbeat Prayer – Thanking God for all that happened over Easter weekend and for all of His people who gave of themselves to make it possible.

Let’s all give praise to God right now for all that He is and for all that He’s done over this past week.

Upbeat Song – Song Suggestion – “Lion and The Lamb” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9ujBoud26k

Transition to Closing

10 Reasons You Should Go To Church

ben-white-292680

When I was young in ministry, I used to pray Psalm 27:4 which says, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”

I had no idea He would take me so literally. Since coming to Christ more than three decades ago, I’ve spent most of that time serving in churches and ministries, mostly in worship ministry.

One thing I’ve noticed during that time is that often, even the most devout Christians, for one reason or the other, fall away from attending worship services or small group meetings on a regular basis.

So, in response, here’s my list of ten reasons why people should go to church:

1. Christian Fellowship goes two ways: with God and with others. (1 John 1:3)

2. It’s one of the greatest habits (Hebrews 10:25)

3. For the opportunity to use your spiritual gifts to help others. (1 Peter 4:10)

4. Accountability. (Hebrews 13:17)

5. There are no self-sufficient Christians. (1 Corinthians 12:21)

6. To make a joyful noise unto the Lord! (Psalm 100)

7. To “devote yourself to the apostles teaching, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)

8. To pray for others and to be prayed for (Matthew 18:19)

9. To express your love for God publicly (Psalm 22:22)

10. It’s what Jesus did (Luke 14:6)

There are possibly hundreds of other reasons to attend worship services and small group meetings. Any that come to your mind today? If so, leave a comment below.

P.S. If you have fallen away from church, Easter is a great time to come back. If you live in or around New Orleans, South Baton Rouge, or even if you live in Turrialba, Costa Rica, let me officially invite you to join us at Celebration Church. This year, we have 58 services across all of our campuses. Check it out at http://www.celebrationchurch.org/easter.

*photo courtesy of Unsplash

My Enemy at the Grocery

grocery checkout
Last night, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few items, so I neglected to use a shopping cart. As I often do, I selected more items than I had planned so my arms were full. I selected the checkout with the fewest people and took my place at the end of the line.
But then I saw him, in line right in front of me, arguing with the cashier, the one who had tried to enter my home once before when I was alone. He must have heard me shuffle my feet for he glanced back at me.
“Hello, Fear,” I mumbled.
Suddenly, my shoulders tightened, my pulse quickened, and my anxiety level rose to new highs. The most dreadful thoughts that plague my sleepless nights seemed personified in this one man before me. Instead of seeing him, however, I saw myself as an insignificant elderly man, completely alone, in pain, without hope or strength.
But then, my Lord, my Friend, reminded me that even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I do not have to fear evil, for He is with me. (Psalm 23:4)
 
He put His arm around me and said, I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13) 
 
He then looked me right in the eye and said, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
 
Suddenly, the man before me was just a man, arguing with cashier before me. Somehow, he seemed smaller than before, weaker than I remembered.
“Thank You, Lord,” I prayed silently.
“Now pray for Him,” said the Lord.
“What?” I asked. “You want me to pray for him?”
“Yes, I do,” said Jesus.
I sighed. I didn’t want to pray for him. I wanted him to fall into a giant human bug zapper.
“Pray for him,” the Lord repeated.
“Ok,” I said. “Let me think of what to say.”
“Just talk to me about him.”
“Ok,” I replied, slightly annoyed. “Lord, help this man. How’s that?”
“It’s a start,” He said. “Pray for him everyday this week and try to mean it a bit more each time you pray.”
“Ok,” I said. “I’ll try.”
“Try hard,” He replied.

Creativity = Connections

med-badr-chemmaoui-524648

People think that creativity is about discovery. It’s not. It’s about connection.

Steve Jobs, in a 1996 interview with Wired, was asked to define Creativity. He said the following:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

The best creative ideas rarely come fully formed. Even those who are “divinely inspired” come as the result of interesting connections, conversations, contemplations, and experiences. To increase our creativity, we should foster our curiosity, allowing our ideas and projects time to come together. Rushing creativity can get you by, but rarely is the result amazing.

*Photo courtesy of Me Badr Chemmaoui on Unsplash

 

 

Lesson Learned From Children This Christmas

Jesus in Manger
My wife invited some children to our home to help decorate for Christmas. They set up the Christmas tree, displayed the wreath, and hung the stockings (with care). And finally, they started to set up the Nativity scene. My wife set out the stable and placed the figure of Jesus in the manger in the center. Before checking on her Christmas cookies, she asked the kids to place the figures of Mary and Joseph, the angel, shepherds and wise men, and all of the animals. When she returned, she realized that instead of the figures being set facing out, as is traditionally done, the children had set up the characters so that every eye was looking to Jesus, just as they should be.
This Christmas, through all of the shopping and parties and busyness, let’s all keep our eyes focused on Jesus, just as they should be.
Merry Christmas.

The Trouble with “Joy to The World”

countrylights5-1

Some of our most beloved Christmas songs, when you stop to consider the lyrics, are not really about Christmas. Jingle Bells, Sleigh Ride, and Winter Wonderland are more about the winter season than they are about Christmas. My Favorite Things is from the musical The Sound of Music and takes place when children are frightened by a storm. Finally, Let It Snow and Baby It’s Cold Outside are about…well…not Christmas, that’s for sure.

And then, there’s the beloved Christmas carol Joy To The World, which as it turns out, is not really about Christmas at all.

Joy To The World, sung mostly at Christmastime, has more to do with the second coming of Jesus than the first. Isaac Watts, the English poet and originator of the lyrics, draws the song’s initial inspiration, not from the birth of Jesus narrative in Luke 2, but from Psalm 98. He paraphrased Psalm 98 in his collection titled The Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament. Joy to the World was taken from his portion titled The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom based on the following from the King James Version:

Make a joy noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King. Let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together. Before the Lord; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity. Psalm 98:4-9

So, how did the song become a Christmas song? Possibly from the combination of the poem by Isaac Watts with the music of George Frederic Handel, composer of The Messiah orotorio. Even though Handel and Watts may have known each other, they did not work together to create the Joy To the World song we sing today. A third party combined the Watt’s words with musical portions from Handel’s Messiah to create the tune that is sung today in North America. Since Handel’s Messiah is associated with Christmas and contains a “Christmas” section, the breakaway song, Joy to the World, has always been associated with Christmas.

So there you have it, one of the most beloved Christmas carols of all time is not a Christmas song. Does it matter? Not really. Enjoy it and use it to worship the Lord, who was born in Bethlehem as a baby and will one day return to judge the world with righteousness.

Merry Christmas.

Land Iguanas, Predators, and Spiritual Warfare

Land Iguana
Female land iguanas of the Galapagos islands typically lay between two and twenty eggs. When the young iguanas hatch, close to three to four months later, their parents are nowhere to be found. It takes the hatchlings about a week to dig their way through the debris piled above the eggs by their parents. Almost as soon as the iguanas take their first step from the nest, large snakes, hawks, and herons often stand ready to rob them of their lives. The young iguanas must continue to be on their guard for the first year of their lives until they have grown large enough to defeat these predators.
As terrifying as that sounds, it is not much different from the way Satan attacks young Christians. He stands waiting to attack them from all sides. Unfortunately, he doesn’t stop attacking once young believers are a year old (in the Lord). The devil will continue to attack us as long as we have breath, trying to destroy our witness and demolish our confidence in the Lord.
In 1 Peter 5:8-10, the Apostle Peter writes, “Stay alert! Watch out for your greatest enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In His kindness, God called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation.”
How can we survive the attacks of the devil?
 
First, the scripture above indicates that we are to Watch. We know that Satan is sneaking around ready to pounce on us at any time. We have to keep a watchful eye out for him wherever we go and in whatever we are doing. He’s sneaky and is out to trick us.
Second, we need to Stand firm and Be Strong. When Satan attacks and tempts us, we need to hold fast to Jesus and move forward in our faith with boldness. We need to not let the devil steal from us whatever spiritual ground we’ve already gained.
Finally, we should Remember we are not alone. When Satan attacks, it’s easy for us to believe that we are the only one suffering for our faith. It’s comforting to know that other members of God’s family around the planet are going through what the same attacks and consequences as we are.
Young Galapagos island land iguanas have it tough, but if they make it through their first year, they are safe. We, unfortunately, don’t have it as easy. We need to continually heed these words of Peter to Watch, Stand Firm, Be Strong, and Remember. If we do, the Bible says that God will restore, support, and strengthen us, and He will place us on a firm foundation.”

I Am Greater Than You

sabri-tuzcu-331970

I am greater than you.

Even if we aren’t aware of it, we say it all the time, in different ways to multiple people.

Kids say it on the playground.

Teenagers express it through segregation at lunchtime.

Adults express it when they drive off of the new car lot.

Pastors, deacons, teachers, and worship leaders convey it in their attitudes toward each other and toward others in the church.

I am greater than you.

Huge ministries sometimes fall because of leadership corruption and abuse, small church plants often begin out of spite, and confusing divisiveness invades the worship services, Bible studies, and prayer times of countless congregations. And all the while, the unchurched learn more about our vindictiveness and positional desires than our Christlike compassion and concern for their eternal destiny. What they see is the Body of Christ pointing fingers at each other, declaring to the world and the rest of the church:

I am greater than you.

Jesus had the same problem with His disciples. Shortly after His transfiguration, Luke reports that His disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest (Luke 9:46 NLT).

I first heard this story when I was a child in the 70’s. I envisioned the disciples walking behind Jesus, saying “I’m greater than you and you and I’m certainly greater than you.Even as an elementary student, it seemed so childish and stupid to me that the disciples were standing right behind Jesus, God the Son, and they had the audacity to argue with each other and say:

I am greater than you.

I love how Jesus handled the situation:

But Jesus knew their thoughts, so He brought a little child to His side. Then He said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” (Luke 9:47-48)

In Jesus’ day, children were not regarded as highly as they are today. This helps us see that He was saying that whoever welcomes and is willing to serve the lowest of the low welcomes and serves God Himself. It’s not hard to discern that this is not an attitude most often exhibited from those who want to exalt themselves over others.

The apostles learned this lesson when James and John asked Jesus if they could sit on His right and His left in the kingdom. The Bible reports that the other disciples were angry with these brothers because of their request.

“So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His live as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45)

Jesus, the greatest person who has ever lived, took on Himself the attitude and position of a servant. He did this, even though He could have looked at us all and said:

I am greater than you.

If Jesus, the Son of Man, came not to be served but to serve others, shouldn’t we be able to do the same with each other and with the world around us. If we do, we’ll be showing the world and other Christians that we believe:

He is greater than us

*Photo by Sabri Tuzcu on Unsplash

So Different From This Hell I’m Living

marc-olivier-jodoin-277947
I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I’m living.
 
The lyrics above were sung by Fantine, a fictitious factory worker turned prostitute mother in the musical Les Miserables. It’s been reported that in preparing for the role of Fantine, actress Anne Hathaway tried to envelope herself in sadness. She even sent her husband away from her for a time because his being near her made her too happy to play the role accordingly. Her plans certainly succeeded for she played the role flawlessly.
However, the words she sang are all too often the very true unsung anthems of countless people in our world today. These victims of life live in all corners of society, silently marking time with their steps and lives, all the while watching their dreams being pulled further and further away. I think if people everywhere spoke honestly, they would admit that they’ve all felt this way at one time or another. I know I have.
Why do we feel this way? Because we feel just as trapped as Fantine did when she felt as if she had no option but to sell her body to support her child. We feel trapped because of our own burdens and responsibilities. We feel trapped because of our financial predicaments, relational connections, and personality flaws and failures. Even though these situations are sometimes thrust upon us, we often are casualties of our own choices and we know it all too well. In these times, we realize that the dreams of our lives have been abandoned, traded for security, sanity, positions, and possessions.
Interestingly enough, these feelings do not end when we give our lives to Jesus. In some ways, they actually intensify over time because we’ve placed targets on our backs for the devil. It seems that one of tools Satan uses to keep us from worshiping the Lord and living productive Christian lives is through discouragement. When He sees us giving our lives to and living for Christ, Satan reminds us of the unpleasant, annoying, hectic, and unnerving parts of our lives, forcing us to focus on them, pushing us farther from contentment and peace and pulling us into darker thoughts, leading to despair and disappointment.
But we don’t have to let our circumstances determine our attitudes. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul wrote that we can bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Even though we don’t feel like doing so at the time, whenever we are overwhelmed by these feelings, we must take action. We should not and cannot continually live in that muck and mire.
Here are some things I remind myself of when my mind is leaning toward discontentment and entrapment:
  • The Lord will help us do what we need to do right when we need Him to do it. The Apostle Paul wrote: I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. That doesn’t just mean the overwhelming gigantic glorious assignments, it means the everyday and mundane tasks as well.
  • God cares about our dreams. The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 37:4: Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires. It’s been my experience that He understands our deep down desires and passions more than we ever could. Taking delight in Him also helps us remember that He is the lifter of our faith, and our heads, not our hopes and dreams.
  • We will see a lot happen if we hold fast to the Lord. In John 15:5, Jesus said, Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing. If we remain in Jesus (focus on Him, talk with Him, worship Him, read His word, etc…), He will remain in us. We’ll know He’s there. He will help us be successful in being fruitful for Him, and we will feel more content when we see the positive results.
  • If we can’t love what we are doing, we should at least love why we’re doing it. I have a friend who shared with me that he struggles every day with wanting to quit his job. He’s looking for another place of employment with equal or greater pay and benefits, yet says he will stay where he is until he secures a better working environment. When I asked why, he said, “I can’t stand the job, but I love my wife and kids. I’d do anything for them.” Jesus said in John 15, There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. My friend is laying down his life, at least for the time being, to provide for those he loves.
  • Counting Your Blessings is not just an old hymn. It’s true. Psalm 103:2 says Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things He does for me. Another old song I heard as a child contained the lyrics It’s amazing what praising can do. It’s true.
  • Helping others takes your mind off of yourself and reminds you of how fortunate you truly are. Jesus said the second greatest commandment was Love your neighbor as yourself. My life group feeds breakfast to the homeless once a month. Serving these men and women help me remember how truly blessed I am.
What helps you when you find yourself leaning toward discontentment? Would you be willing to comment about it below?
*Photo by Marc Olivier Jodoin. Used Courtesy of Unsplash.

Lies Christians Tell

farago-tudor-andrei-277076

Honesty may be the best policy, but deception and dishonesty are part of being human. That sentence is a direct quote from a recent article I read in a National Geographic article (June 2017) titled Why We Lie. The article even stated that Learning to Lie is a natural stage in child development. I’m not one who is overly prepared to discuss human development, but I do know that it’s not hard to see that dishonesty is prevalent in our society today. It is also rampant in our churches as well, especially in corporate worship.

Let me explain.

Charles Spurgeon once said, A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. He makes a good point, and Christians should be the first ones to understand the importance of truth, especially since we worship the One who is the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life. (John 14:6) However, instead of heralding truthfulness, we often champion deceit, inaccuracy, and falsehood, especially when we’re with other Christians in corporate worship.

To quote A.W. Tozer, Christians don’t tell lies, they just go to church and sing them.

I know we look like pillars of integrity when we stand to sing, sometimes with our hands raised high, but the question remains, do we honestly, wholeheartedly, sincerely, mean the words that are coming out of our mouths?

When I was a child, one of my favorite hymns was My Jesus, I Love Thee written by William R. Featherstone. The first stanza contains the lyrics, “For Thee, all the follies of sin I resign…” Even when I have the opportunity to sing that song now, I belt it out with all my heart, but when I reflect on the words, I must ask myself, “Have I really resigned from all follies of sin?” Sadly, the answer is most often, “No, I haven’t.”

One of my favorite worship songs now is When You Walk Into The Room by Bryan and Katie Torwalt. However, there are lyrics within the song that cause me to doubt my level of honesty with the Lord. For example, one line says “We can’t live without You, Jesus…” I’m lying if I say I always keep Jesus at the center of my life. Being a selfish person, I constantly try to live my life without Jesus’ influence. So, often, when I sing those words, I feel more conviction than rejoicing.

So, is the answer to stop singing and participating in corporate worship? Absolutely not. These internal struggles are part of the process of worship. In worship, we come to terms with the holiness of God and therefore, reflect on our own sinfulness. In Isaiah 6, which I learned in college is a textbook example of an ultimate worship service, Isaiah sees the Lord. He’s awed by the power that is before him. He hears the seraphim singing “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s armies! The whole earth is filled with His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3). As Isaiah is taking all of this in, he is completely overwhelmed by the Lord’s holiness, and then he comes to grips with his own sinfulness. He cries out, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips.” (Isaiah 6:5a)

Isaiah knew that if he were to join the seraphim in singing “the whole earth is filled with His glory” that his own life would need to reflect the glory of God. The same is true for us with the songs we sing in worship. If we’re going to sing, “The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning, it’s time to sing Your song again…” (10,000 Reasons – Matt Redman), then we should be willing to rise in the morning, remembering who He is, and being willing to lift up His name in song, and willing to submit our day to His will.

So, let’s determine to sing songs, hymns, and spiritual songs to the Lord with hearts that are pure and ready to confess. As we enter into worship, let’s encounter his holiness and repent of our own sinfulness. Let us be filled with integrity in our worship, lifting Him up in Spirit and in TRUTH.