christical

Inspired by Jesus. From a Christian. For the Christian and anyone else who bothers to listen.

She Is Your God May 29, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — christical @ 8:20 pm
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The First Commandment: You shall put no other gods before me.

Out of all the commandments, I think this one falls by the wayside a bit to those who have never taken a confirmation class or a membership class at church.

“Of course I’m not going to put gods before God! What a stupid idea to think that I could go off and worship some golden statue instead of God.”

What is a god? The word “god” goes beyond the deities of theistic religions (religions that believe in a God or gods). A god refers to anything that you put before God in your life. It could be money, appearances, another person, or even works if you care about morals more than the faith behind them.

Your god could be money. The love of money is the root of all evil. Your desire for power and control could lead you to do things you wouldn’t normally do–cheat, lie, steal, end up hating the competition. We are in the world but not of it. If you focus on worldly wealth, then you can become blinded to the more important matters, such as salvation.

Your god could be appearances. The desire to be or stay beautiful could lead you to harm yourself from procedures or bad health practices. You may be driven to resentment against someone of whom you are jealous. Again, the desire for control over your appearance may push you past a line you formerly wouldn’t cross.

Your god could be another person. Infatuation can be problematic for this reason: not only are you breaking the first commandment by putting someone at the center of your thoughts, but you could also break the sixth commandment by thinking impure thoughts about this person, and you could break the ninth commandment if that person is someone’s spouse.

Works can be a problem if you do them for selfish reasons or without spiritual motivation. One of the trademarks of obsessive-compulsive disorder is the carrying out of good actions to “cancel out” any “bad” images you imagine, such as someone getting hurt or dying. Sometimes you’ll be so desperate to help someone that you might drive people against each other or someone against themselves. You could go to the ends of the earth to take care of someone’s immediate needs–but you’ll ignore the person’s emotions.

How then, can we overcome these gods?

One of the best ways to overcome your gods is to remove the temptation. If you get attached too easily to that mirror or scale, cover all but one mirror or throw out the scale. Do you constantly check your phone? Turn it off during work or school hours. Are you checking the amount of cash in your wallet like clockwork? Wrap that wallet in a few rubber bands. Going through the trouble will discourage you from the action.

Just as I tell my friends: with God as your centerpiece, your table will always be full.

—JFG

 

Serving God with Goals May 14, 2013

Filed under: God's Grace Is Enough — christical @ 9:48 pm
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Readers, you’ve heard my rants. We find total fulfillment in God alone. I say it because it’s true.

When you think of success, though, what images come to mind? You might see financial success, raising a well-rounded family, or even being a Christian leader.

Many Christians earnestly desire to be great for God. Some want to lead a Christian nation; others want to help bring the broken to God. Helping people toward salvation is an awesome goal!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

Although our goals may be entirely selfless, they may not be what God has in mind. In Jeremiah, God says that He has plans to give us a future of good and fulfillment.

“What then should I do to fulfill God’s plan for me?” you ask. “Surely He’d give me some direction in my decision, if I can’t answer every specific question by reading the Bible!”

First, God doesn’t “need” you to do something to fulfill His plan. If He wills it, it will happen. But God does tell us how to act Christian.

Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 23:17, 18 ESV)

If you live perfectly in the Lord, then you’re doing everything right and you can have confidence. This verse even says that you don’t have to organize a war against evil to be a Christian; you can just avoid it.

We’re not all perfect though. What then?

They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:18, 19 ESV)

If life is good for you right now, then let your blessings be like ripples in a pond. By showing love to others, they will return the favor if anything happens to you.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:33, 34 ESV)

You store up heavenly treasures for yourself, and you can work in the lives of others. Seeking God first can be difficult, especially if you’ve hit a lull in your faith. You might need some action.

If so, then explore your spiritual gifts a bit. Try volunteering somewhere. Try a different church service. Goodness, try volunteering at a church service, even! The possibilities are many.

Go and make disciples of the nations, of your street, or even yourself.

Peace to you.

—Erin

 

Ecclesiastes 7 May 10, 2013

Filed under: Let's Get Biblical! — christical @ 9:41 am
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Happy Friday, everyone! As the week culminates in the events of today, we can see how God has worked in us this week to show love to others.

I’m surprised I haven’t touched this series in a while. Today’s chapter 7 in Ecclesiastes.

A good name is better than a good ointment,
And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. Your reputation serves you better because it lasts, unlike a cut on your skin.
It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart. If you feast, you become drunk and don’t learn anything from the experience that will help your faith. Sometimes it’s helpful to remember why you need Jesus.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
For when a face is sad a heart may be happy.
The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning,
While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure. If you don’t live for the party, then you’ll live more fully.
It is better to listen to the rebuke of a wise man
Than for one to listen to the song of fools. Again, by hearing the serious side of things, you’ll become more spiritually mature.
For as the crackling of thorn bushes under a pot,
So is the laughter of the fool;
And this too is futility.
For oppression makes a wise man mad,
And a bribe corrupts the heart.
The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit.
Do not be eager in your heart to be angry,
For anger resides in the bosom of fools.
Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this. Today is a gift. Have no anxiety about anything that will come today, but release your worries to God.
Wisdom along with an inheritance is good
And an advantage to those who see the sun.
For wisdom is protection just as money is protection,
But the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the lives of its possessors. Money can be a danger; wisdom is a safeguard because it helps you stay safe in life.
Consider the work of God,
For who is able to straighten what He has bent?
In the day of prosperity be happy,
But in the day of adversity consider—
God has made the one as well as the other
So that man will not discover anything that will be after him. God causes all things to work together for good. Our sin blinds us so that we do not know everything about God, but one thing we do know is that He is good.

I have seen everything during my lifetime of futility; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness. Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them. Wisdom brings sorrow. Unfortunately, it can drive people to search frantically for meaning, which is what brought Solomon’s downfall. At the same time, some wisdom is good. If you live in wickedness (or without God), then you will die, and there will be no heavenly reward.

Wisdom strengthens a wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city. Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins. Also, do not take seriously all words which are spoken, so that you will not hear your servant cursing you. For you also have realized that you likewise have many times cursed others. There is no righteous man who never sins. Jesus tells us that we cannot see clearly because of the plank in our eye. I believe that this passage serves to keep the righteous humble. Nobody’s perfect–both the writer and God realize this. I’m glad we have salvation then!

I tested all this with wisdom, and I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me. What has been is remote and exceedingly mysterious. Who can discover it? I directed my mind to know, to investigate and to seek wisdom and an explanation, and to know the evil of folly and the foolishness of madness. And I discovered more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, whose hands are chains. One who is pleasing to God will escape from her, but the sinner will be captured by her. The writer wanted to know the depths of the world. He learned that it is better to leave the body behind on earth than to leave the soul behind in sin. By living for God, we can avoid being permanently trapped in our sin.

“Behold, I have discovered this,” says the Preacher, “adding one thing to another to find an explanation, which I am still seeking but have not found. I have found one man among a thousand, but I have not found a woman among all these. Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices.” This may point to the Messiah. He knows of one perfect man. The part about not finding a righteous woman may be in reference to his numerous wives and concubines (that none of them are role models of godly women).

–JFG

 

How to Make a Smooth Song Transition May 9, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — christical @ 7:26 pm

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In every worship leader’s life, there’s a constant stream of things being learned. From learning how to dress on stage to learning how to use a mixer, the worship leader never stops learning. For those new to leading worship, especially if you’re not exactly the large-crowd type of person, the speaking parts of the service (such as song transitions) are met with some anxiety. Song transitions can especially be a rough point because of their necessity. As our moods transition throughout the service, the worship needs to reflect that. Imagine the difficulty in leading worship if there were no transitions: the congregation would receive several different messages at a rapid-fire pace! Transitions can also give the rest of the worship team a chance to prepare themselves for the next song.

How do I lead the congregation? Will I come on too strongly? Am I enthusiastic enough? What do I say?

Rest assured that the above questions are natural. Many times, your fears are unfounded. However, it never hurts to work on your transitions so you are as comfortable doing them as possible.

Before you figure out what you want to say (or play) to transition, you must first learn about the different types of transitions. Most worship leaders recognize two types of transitions: musical and spoken.

  • The musical transition is one that requires rehearsal, quick hands, and the ability to multitask. When a worship leader uses this transition, they will find one chord that the first song has in common with the second and use the chord to connect the two songs, often while talking a bit to give the other musicians preparation time. Example: After “Meet us Here” in the key of D, you sing “Our God” in the key of G. The songs have three chords in common: E minor, D, and G. After ending the first song, you continue strumming the D, then play G, then speed up your tempo and play E minor in the tempo of “Our God”. That’s when you launch into the intro. While doing this, you can say something like, “We pray that God’s spirit may come upon us tonight, amen? We are His people, and He is our God.”
  • The next transition is known as the spoken transition. This transition works well if the two songs have wildly different tempos, moods, or keys. For instance: “Mercy” by Parachute Band followed by “The Joy of the Lord” by Twila Paris. When a worship leader uses this transition, they will end the song on a chord and connect the two songs with scripture, an anecdote, a prayer, or a brief admonition. Example: The leader transitions between “Jesus Son of God” in the key of G (capo on first fret)) to “I Will Trust in You” in the key of D. Obviously, a stop is necessary, so the leader takes off the capo after the ending chord of the first song. They will fill the transition with something like: “Praise God for sending His Son. He is our salvation in trouble, the one we trust with our lives.”

My church’s worship leader uses the spoken transition most often because it fits his leading style and the style of the congregation better. It’s up to the worship leader to find his/her style so they can be as effective as possible. Remember: as a worship leader, you are not only bringing your heart to God, but you are also connecting the people to God. Out of the 168 hours in the week, this is the only hour some of the congregation dedicates to God. Use your gift. I promise that you will do well if you desire to serve.

—JFG

 

Proud to Be Different (But Not Too Proud) May 7, 2013

Filed under: Within the Church — christical @ 9:32 pm
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Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:36 NASB)

One of the greatest proclamations of the Christian faith is that, like Jesus, we are “not of this world.”

What people think when you say this:

    • “Are you one of those Christians who brags about not owning a television?”
    • “Please don’t give me a tract. Please, please, please don’t give me a tract.”

Some will go deeper and say that we Christians are “in the world but not of the world.”

What people think when you say this:

    • “Did they just add to a Christian catchphrase? How hipster of them.”
    • “What does that mean?”

Let’s focus on the last response.

It means that while we lead the world by the example of godly living in the world, we do not take part in the ungodly acts of the world (I mean hate crimes, bombings, and the daily unkindness we show to our fellow man). The statement goes even further for church worship teams.

Church worship teams have it difficult, especially in the Lutheran Church. The young people want us to be edgier; the old people want us to be less edgy. Thus, we take out our identity crisis-related angst on subtleties.

Signs that your church is suffering from identity angst and taking it out on subtleties:

  1. The worship leader drinks coffee constantly.
  2. At least one member wears fake glasses.
  3. Every song transition contains one sentence ending in “Amen?”
  4. You don’t use PowerPoint. You use MediaShout, which is like PowerPoint but much cooler.
  5. You make it clear that you don’t use PowerPoint.
  6. The team ends a quarter of the songs with a minor chord.
  7. Despite what the pastor (whose first name is apparently Pastor) says, the worship leader will sing a song with “Alleluia” during Lent if he/she likes said song.

Take a look a the above list. If you agree to four or more of the above, then your church is being subtly rebellious.

Congratulations–you just learned what it means to be “in the world but not of the world.”

 

 
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