Confession: I spend a lot of my free time watching ridiculous videos. Cat videos – I love ‘em. I could watch them for hours. Wedding fails – some of my favourites. A couple of nights ago, Mike, Elliot and I were watching America’s Funniest Videos and one of the videos was of a couple midway through reciting their wedding vows. The couple was looking lovingly into each other’s eyes, while the pastor prompted:
Pastor: for better for worse
Bride: for better for worse
Pastor: for richer for poorer
Bride: for richer for poorer
Pastor: in sickness and in health;
Bride: in sickness and in health;
Pastor: to love, cherish,
Bride: to love, cherish,
Pastor: and to obey.
Bride: and to- …
Pastor: and to obey…
Bride: … *crickets chirping in the background* …
“Obey.” So much weight attached to such a small word. Nobody likes having to be obedient to someone else. We like to be able to do what we want, when we want to.
This morning, I was reading an article about how we come into God’s presence in worship. Often times it can be difficult to come to church on a Sunday morning and be excited about giving God our praise. Sometimes it can feel like a chore or an obligation – one we’d rather avoid. But in the midst of the reluctance we sometimes feel, the writer of the article said these words,
“Obedience often precedes joy.”
Read that one more time.
“Obedience often precedes joy.”
“Well, yes, Jolene, that sounds super Bible-y, but what does that mean?” you might ask. Or, at least that’s what I asked myself. The words resonated with me, but what does that mean for me practically?
For me, it means I enter into worship with what I know to be true, instead of just what I feel to be true. It means I recognize God’s attributes – his love, his mercy, his grace - even when I find it difficult to see them working in my life. It means I follow God’s command to bring Him my worship, because He is worthy.
Revelation 4:11 says “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Our God is worthy of our worship, and I truly believe that as we lift up his name, as we bring him our praise (even when we don’t feel like it) in obedience to Him, He will fill us with joy! Joy in His strength, joy in His compassion, and joy in the salvation we have through his Son, Jesus Christ.
I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
Jolene Sanders, Worship Director
When I first became a believer I was fascinated by God and His Word. The Bible was alive and working in me as I learned how to follow God in thought and deed. I was captivated by God.
The beauty of the gospel. The power of the Saviour. The care of the father. It was amazing how God worked in my life and drew me into daily of worship of Him.
As time passes, one of the dangers of following after God is that we can lose our awe and wonder for who God is, and fall victim to being caught up in church instead of being captivated by Christ. Here are some of the ways that it manifests itself:
Caught up in rhythm
One danger is to become caught up in the rhythms of God rather than captivated by the glory of God. You have to admit that there is a certain rhythm to church life. Sunday service is 10:00 am. Lifegroups are 6:30 pm. We have a Monday Morning Minute on Facebook, a weekly email blast, a monthly bulletin and Equip sessions, yearly summer camp… you get it. Even our spiritual life can get into a rhythm. Morning devotional with a little journalling, recite a little grace before each meal, say a few evening prayers before we turn in for the night. Before we know it these rhythms have rocked us to sleep like a spiritual lullaby.
When we turn to God's Word, we read about the church of Sardis in Revelation 3 whose works show that they are alive, but God tells them they are dead. He urges them to awaken, regain their strength, and continue with the work of the Lord. They need to reengage their minds and to put into practice what they have heard and received.
Caught up in belonging
Belonging is important, but some of us fall into the trap of being caught up in belonging to church instead of being captivated by Christ.
Remember the theme song of the 80s show Cheers? “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came!” Like Norm of old, we come to church thirsty for a place to call home, and to find friendships with other believers, but in the process we lose sight of what belonging really means.
Check out Ephesians 2:13: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” What this means is that we belong because we have been brought in. The blood of Christ has made us acceptable in the sight of God, and through His sacrifice we become daughters and sons of the Most High God.
At Calvary we love the fact that we make connections with great people through our worship services and events, but our primary goal of belonging should be to foster relationships where we are helping those around us take a step to the right, or where we are being transformed by someone helping us take a step to the right. These spiritual friendships will keep us captivated by Christ by reminding us about being connected to the family of God.
Caught up in serving
Okay, confession time. I have always loved serving in the church. I love feeling useful, helpful, and being with others who are like-minded. Working together on a team to accomplish a goal is a lot of fun, and I really like learning new things. But there was a time when serving became more significant than my walk with Christ. When I served, i went to church. And when I had a “sit and soak Sunday” (aka, no serving!), I stayed home. After all, what was the point of going to church if I didn’t have to? Call it self-care, call it taking a Sabbath rest, or call it what it was… kinda dumb. As if God was only important if I was working in the nursery that day.
John 3:30-31 says, “He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.” Here, John is actually talking about himself — he was writing about how his purpose was to point others to the glory of God, and not to take any of God’s glory for himself. He is simply a signpost to the goodness of God. These verses remind me that serving God is not a substitute for worshipping God, and to not be so caught up in serving God that I forget to be captivated by the person and presence of God.
Allow the Word of God to transform you as you study it, so that you can, as they say, "Keep the main thing the thing." Be in the presence of the Lord and revel in the beauty of the gospel message. Allow yourself, with fresh eyes, to be captivated by Christ and worship Him today.
Welcome to 2020! Even yesterday I took the van in for maintenance and our service rep said "Happy New Year!" and it caught me off guard a bit. It seems like Christmas and New Years was so long ago. Yet, unbelievably, I went to a local Shoppers Drug Mart and saw Easter stuff out already!
Christmas seems to come and go so fast. All the anticipation and waiting has come and gone. All the decorations are put away and now we move on to the next thing. All the hope and dreams for a New Year are seemingly so far in the rear-view mirror that we cannot honestly think anything might change in this new year. We start asking, "now what?"
We ramped up for Christmas at Calvary thinking, "everything will be different once Jesus gets here". Because once we present the question of "making room in our hearts for Jesus" on Christmas Eve, surely people will respond and life is going to be completely different, new, and exciting.
But, in these few weeks after Christmas, after celebrating the gift of grace that God gave us in sending His one and only Son, have you noticed that anything has changed? It doesn’t feel like it, and we start asking, "now what?"
I know this seems like a little bit of a downer question to ask but as our culture hurries on to the next great thing, we are sometimes forced to ponder what difference did Jesus' coming into this world really make?
Our family has returned to our normal crazy routine now that Christmas is over. I have had to scratch out 2019 and write 2020 a few times but by and large, nothing much has changed. We have slipped back into the way things were. Sure, we gave a nod to the cataclysmic events surrounding our Saviour’s entry into this world, but now what?
I get a little bit of this sense when I read the end of the book of Luke when, before He ascends to heaven, Jesus says to his twelve disciples, "but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49).
In other words, Jesus says, "wait".
Had I been there to hear the commission and watch my Saviour return to heaven I wonder if I would be running off to tell everyone what Jesus had done. If I had witnessed the events of death and resurrection and told to wait I think my head would have burst.
But they waited.
They went back to Jerusalem and waited for God to send the power they needed for mission. Namely, a special empowering of the Holy Spirit to launch the church into mission.
I hate to wait. I hate not moving fast and getting on mission. I have a hard time resting and waiting for God to do what only God can do while I faithfully seek to follow Him. But sometimes God says, "wait, my son or daughter – wait until you have from me what you need for what is next." God is preparing you for what He has in store for you this year. God is doing a work that is far above our little piece of the puzzle but at the right time, He will turn our waiting into mission. He will turn our waiting into fulfillment as we see what His plans are for us, for our families, for our church. We need to only be faithful to what we know to do already. He has given us what our mission and priorities should be and while we wait for God to accomplish His will, we worship him and continue to help others come to worship Him.
Pastor Aaron Groat
Each week we post about a range of things from the Christian life, faith and more.
In these posts we hope you'll catch a glimpse of ordinary people who serve an extraordinary God.