Monday, May 27, 2013

Where do you go for worship? (Hint: it's not a place)

“Far be it from us to rebel against the LORD or turn away from him by building our own altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings, or sacrifices. Only the altar of the LORD our God that stands in front of the Tabernacle may be used for that purpose.”
(Joshua 22:29 NLT)

“Jesus replied, “Believe me, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father here or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know so little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming and is already here when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for anyone who will worship him that way.” (John 4:21–23 NLT)

Under Old Testament law, the place of worship meant a lot. It meant so much that the tribes of Israel were willing to launch civil war when it appeared that their brothers on the other side of the Jordan were building an altar to the Lord. There was only one place set aside as Holy for encountering the Lord and that was the tabernacle (later the Temple). All other places of worship were unauthorized. In the times of the kings, an otherwise good king was rebuked for not removing the "high places" where the Lord was worshiped. A similar dispute drove a wedge between the Samaritans and the Jewish people in the time of Jesus. When questioned on this issue, Jesus said that worship is not about sacred space, but about spirit and truth. The Way is not a place, but a Person. The Truth is not a temple, but a Teacher. The Life is not a location, but a Lord. The worship of God has been emancipated from bondage to a place. Just another way that Jesus changes everything about worship.

Johnson's commentary on John makes this point: "Now comes the announcement of one of the grandest truths revealed by Christ. The Jews said that men must worship at Jerusalem to worship acceptably; the Samaritans contended for Mt. Gerizim as the true holy place; the Mahometan insists on a pilgrimage to Mecca; the Catholic on praying at some holy shrine, but Christ says that the time even then was at hand when no holy place need be sought for worship. A little later God emphasized this lesson by the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem."

My worship needs to be centered not on a place, not on an activity, but on a Person.  A.W. Tozer said, "You can see God from anywhere if your mind is set to love and obey Him."

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Where do we go to encounter God?

“I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better to me than life itself; how I praise you!” (Psalms 63:2–3 NLT)

“So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father.” (John 1:14 NLT)

David went to the sanctuary to encounter God. There he gazed upon the power and glory of God. He soaked in God's unfailing love which David said was better than life itself. This encounter, when David came into the sanctuary of God led David to a place of worship and praise.

John and the other disciples also encountered God. They saw the same unfailing love and faithfulness that David saw. They saw the same glory - the glory that is from the only Son of the Father. This encounter with Jesus led them to a life of worship. Their life of worship became, not just going to the temple to pray, but taking the gospel to the world. Why this difference?

The main difference between these two passages is one of location and initiation. In Psalm 63, David came to the tabernacle and encountered God. David went to God's place. In John, Jesus left the true tabernacle in heaven in order to come and make His dwelling among men. He came and lived among us - we beheld His glory and did not have to visit a sacred place in order to do it. Every place that His feet touched became a sacred place. In this encounter, Jesus changed worship from an activity centered in a building to a way of life involving the Kingdom of God advancing into every place on earth. In order to worship, God's people are urged to present their bodies as a living sacrifice.

Alan Hirsch is the first person I heard (or read) using the term missio Dei—the sending of God. This is the idea that by his very nature, God comes to His creation and takes the initiative to redeem them. A deeper understanding of this doctrine leads God's people to be missional in the same way - taking the gospel into their world rather than trying to attract people to a place, space, or activity.

As Alan Hirsch says,  "As the people of a missionary God, we ought to engage the world the same way he does—by going out rather than just reaching out. To obstruct this movement is to block God's purposes in and through his people. When the church is in mission, it is the true church."

Where do we go to encounter God? The answer will impact the way we live and the way we worship.

Monday, May 13, 2013

What color is the gospel?

“Before they left, the men told her, “We can guarantee your safety only if you leave this scarlet rope hanging from the window. And all your family members—your father, mother, brothers, and all your relatives—must be here inside the house.” (Joshua 2:17–18 NLT)

““Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 NIV)

“They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him,” (Matthew 27:28 NIV)

Rahab and her family were saved because they hung a scarlet rope from her window on the city wall. That was the sign that she should be spared when Israel took Jericho. The Lord says that our sins are like scarlet, but that he would make them as white as wool. When Jesus was punished for our sins, they took off his robe and replaced it with a scarlet one. Scarlet is the color of sin and also the color of rescue from the consequences of sin.

Today, when I see scarlet, I will remember what Jesus did for me. The scarlet robe He wore and the bloody death He died caused my rescue as much as the scarlet rope hung out the window resulted in the salvation of Rahab and her family. Today, for me, the gospel has a crimson hue.

What color is the gospel for you?