Archives for March 2019

March 19, 2019 - No Comments!

Gospel Friendship: Part 2

In part one of this series on Gospel Friendship, I identified four ways to spot counterfeit or lacking relationships.

Now taking a look at Christ, we can see how he navigated friendship. As I said before, friendships are a major factor in our quality of life and discipleship. For a variety of reasons, including mission, influence, care, sanctification, joy, and many more, God cares deeply for our friendships. Whether we are paying attention to it or not, our relational health is affected by how we invest, neglect, or sabotage our friendships.

Below are five life-learnings for me that I’ve seen both in Christ and my own life:

1. Significant gospel friendships aren’t with everyone.
In his humanity, Jesus could be one place at a time, just like us. While Christ is a friend of sinners and loved almost everyone he encountered*, he was still limited by his location. Jesus had twelve disciples and three “inner-circle” friends. This is incredibly profound. In his humanity, Jesus had relational limitations, evidenced not only by his friend roster but also in his patterns of silence and solitude away from the crowds.

In other words, the kind of love and friendship he gave the crowds and they way he loved the disciple John was different. If the only man to ever be relationally perfect chose and heeded limitations, why in the world would we believe that we wouldn’t need to do the same?

Many of us live as though our relational well has no bottom, that we can continue to draw up as much energy and margin as we need to…and that is simply not true. The truth is that we do have relational limitations and ignoring them will cause relational strain and destruction.
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” – 
Proverbs 18:24

2. We can’t have gospel friendship with no one.
While it’s a true that we can only go deep with a short list of people, we also need to go deep with a short list of people. I covered this a bit in my last post, but we can’t thrive when we don’t have friendships in our lives. Jesus made time for this, and we see him lean on them multiple times (even if they didn’t always reciprocate or nail it). To fully experience the love of the Father, we must receive real love from others who know the real us.

3. Gospel friendship always involves risk.
Think on this: Jesus chose his closest friends knowing in advance they would:

lie to him
“But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.
” – Matthew 26:35 

abandon him
“
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter.” – Matthew 26:40

betray him.

“The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” – John 18:17

He was literally left to die. 
Yet, he still engaged them and invested in them. I am not making a case for subjecting yourself to abuse or ignoring patterns of abandonment or neglect in your relationships. Just because relationship requires risk doesn’t mean you should subject yourself to any form of abuse with someone who calls you friend.

“Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!” – Proverbs 26

Any friendship on this earth means opening yourself to another imperfect human. As a result, there is no version of friendship (or any relationship) that doesn’t contain an element of risk. All friendships are work so pick the ones that are worth the risk.

4. Gospel friendship means inviting others into the whole story.
Jesus brought his closest friends into his greatest suffering and most amazing experiences. 
This shows us that real friendship means access to the good and the bad. 

Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to the mount of Transfiguration Mark 9:2 (which makes the Superbowl half-time show look like a pre-school play) 
but he also takes them to the Garden of Gethsemane.

In Mark 14 when he’s emotionally and spiritually preparing to be beaten, stripped naked, and suffocate on a roman device of torture, he does something subtle but very important:

“And he took with him Peter and James and John

Notice the language that “he took”. He actively invited them into the adventures and the suffering. Some of us prefer to only show the wins and highlights of our lives to others. Some of us only reach out when things are spiraling downward towards disaster. This is something we all need to better balance in our lives.

5. Gospel friendships are worth it.
Jesus pursued friendship and spent most of his time with others building relationships. 
This shows us that real friendship is something to treasure. Being known and loved is one of our greatest needs for human flourishing. There is no healthy discipleship or existence without the presence and love of others in our lives.

If you have friendship like this, continue to feed it. 
Be thankful for those in your life that have lived these things out. Don’t forget to celebrate the ways in which you have been blessed by your friends. Has someone been there for you in hard times? Has someone said something encouraging that deeply affected you? Thank God and them for that right now. Send a text or make a phone call simply to thank them for bringing such a great gift to your life.

In the last post in the series, I’ll offer a few practical ways to pursue gospel friendship in your own life. Check back soon.

March 08, 2019 - No Comments!

Worship as a Weapon

Music affects the mind and soul in unique and powerful ways. It’s a soundtrack to our lives and has profound affects on our physiology. Song expresses the common longings of the human heart and effortlessly carries story. All this I readily accept.

But what else is musical worship for?

At times I wonder if I have missed out on what God has given to his kids in musical worship. I frequently find solace in the songs of the Church. I have  found encouragement in hearing something expressed perfectly, that I too feel, in the poetry of the songs of the Church. I have felt the “lifting up” and invigoration that can happen when singing in the company of many others needing asking their Creator for the same change.

Would I describe worship as a weapon in my everyday fight?

I recently wrestled with and realized my own ignorance around this purpose of the songs we sing as a community. Prompted by a new song we  introduced to Doxa Church this Sunday called “Raise a Hallelujah”.  It was written around the idea that our singing is a weapon against doubt and struggle in our life with Christ, penned as the author wrestled with doubts that God would heal life-threatening illnesses that affected his pastor’s two children right before Christmas (the kids recovered, but read the story here).

I don’t believe any of us, including the most theologically astute, fully understand how musical worship functions as a form of attack against, and protection from, that which is evil in the world. Yet I can’t deny that there is enough evidence in scripture for us to pay attention to, and practice, musical worship as a weapon. To that end, consider these three statements:

1. Musical worship can be Biblical and mystical at the same time.
I love my Bible. I believe it is sufficient and lacking nothing in terms of needed revelation from God. God’s word is timeless and essential in the life of the believer. This is why, in part, our gatherings are saturated with scripture.

I also notice that most reformed folks go to great lengths to avoid the mystical nature of God. They prefer clean constructs and tidy theologies. While I deeply appreciate the desire for thoughtful accuracy and biblical precision, there isn’t always a labeled box for what I see God doing. He is other.

Why do we presuppose that encountering the dynamic and transcendent maker of the universe wouldn’t involve a little mystery?  Let’s recognize that musical worship is as much mystical as it is cardinal. Part of the mystical nature of music tangibly changes the outcome of situations in scripture.

A few examples:
a. God incorporates musicians in his armies, and their songs directly impact the end result of the battle (see 2 Chronicles 20).

b. Paul famously sings his way out of a jail cell. (Which by the way, was a disgusting and loathsome place. Any modern county holding cell would comparatively feel like a night at the Hilton.) This is no small thing, and I can imagine the jailer had no problem believing that God works through song.

c. Singing is commanded in the same breath as warfare language in Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5. Part of putting sin to death, is to engage battle in song.

“Let’s recognize that musical worship is as much mystical as it is cardinal.”

2. Music is the handle, and God’s word is the blade.
The picture of God’s word as a sword is certainly more than poetry. Repeating what is true in song is a powerful way to sever our thoughts from what is false and deceptive about our lives. Focusing on the simple declarations of Christ over our lives cuts through the chaos of our inner thoughts and anxieties. Music is a powerful way of wielding the part of the weapon that actually does the work; the blade. Like a gun with no bullets, music itself is powerless to do spiritual battle.

3. We would be wise to more quickly reach for worship in the face of our own battles.
You might think as a worship pastor I would regularly burst into song when I feel discouraged or when I’m not sure how to solve a problem. The truth is that’s not the case. I’m much more quick to reach for a logical assessment or a tactical plan. Taking a moment to sing can feel like the absolute last thing that would help a situation.

I can’t help but wonder how often the outcome in a difficult situation would have looked differently if my first reaction was to reach for the same power that decimated armies and shattered jail bars. I’m thankful for all the aspects of musical worship that I do grasp, but know that God’s thoughts are higher than mine and yours. If we would ask God to show us more of what He desires to accomplish in song, we would likely be surprised. Like finding a weirdly shaped tool in your Dad’s old toolbox, and not understanding its purpose until you watched him use it.

I want to grow in using musical worship as a weapon. I want to hear more stories of musical worship changing the outcome of things. Not because we are saying magic words, or because any of us are able to manipulate Christ’s will, but because our Father in heaven is incredibly powerful, majestically mystical, and a big fan of His kids music.