Why Most Christians Don’t Understand Worship

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Worship has suffered from an increasingly narrowing definition over the past few years.

Consider the way we use the word. Worship Night means a night full of singing. “I really feel like I can worship there” means “I love the songs they use.” The worship pastor is really the music director.

Our concept of worship has become exclusively tied to Christian music.

Unfortunately, this version of worship – a spiritual, emotional state brought about by a rousing guitar riff or some heartfelt piano melody – not only fails to encompass the biblical concept of worship but inextricably ties worship to a state of relative inactivity and a strictly designated space and time.

When we restrict our worship to the 20-30 minutes before the preacher takes the pulpit, we’re failing to exercise our rights and duties as Christians in the New Testament age.

In John 4, the woman at the well tells Jesus that the Jewish ancestors worshipped on a mountain, but that Jesus says Jerusalem is where people ought to worship. Her concept of worship is as much tied to location as ours is to music.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24)

God is spirit. He cannot be contained in a song, or on a mountain, or in a specified time frame. Our worship should not be restricted either. Rather, our entire lives should be acts and expressions of worship. Just as God is in everything, worship should permeate everything that we do. In Romans 12, Paul calls true and acceptable worship “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.”

The worship we are called to is all-encompassing. It is the sanctification and sacrifice of our very selves.

There’s nothing wrong with worshipping God through song. Music was given to us by God, and it can inspire us to contemplate God’s attributes and praise him in a way that few things can.

But to limit our idea of worship limits our worship. And God deserves so much more than a chorus or two sung with raised hands. He deserves to be worshipped through all that we are.

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What Should Christians Do About Halloween?

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Halloween can fill us with warm fuzzies and fond memories.  Countless hours and millions of dollars are spent to persuade children and adults to disguise themselves, march around neighborhoods and beg for treats. Costumes, decorations, and candy consume the months of September and October each year.  But, if we stopped to look at this holiday with fresh eyes and a Biblical perspective, those warm fuzzies might be replaced with horror and shock at what we have been mindlessly participating in, all in the name of fun. Here are some points to consider as you contemplate what to do with this holiday.

First, let’s consider how this holiday began. Many years ago, Scottish, Irish and English priests taught that their god, Saman, would tell the spirits of dead people to communicate and visit with men on earth on October 31. Why October 31? They said that autumn, when leaves fall, is a symbol of death, and winter is the season of death. To keep these evil spirits away, these priests told people to burn animals, saying that the light of the fire would scare spirits away. Then they turned the animals inside-out to proclaim the future and to make peace with evil spirits. If these evil spirits did no harm to a family, the family would celebrate. Parents would dress their children up as ghosts and ghouls to scare away the real spirits, sending them to collect food and treats from neighbors. As the children paraded around the blocks, they would call out, “Trick or treat!” and if they received no treat, they would vandalize houses. People from these countries believed in witchcraft. Witches (women) and warlocks (men) wore dark clothes and were messengers and priests of the devil, Satan. They used his power to make people afraid of them. These innocent people were taught to believe that witches could fly on brooms and together with warlocks could transform themselves into bats, spiders and black cats. Witches’ special day is still October 31 because they believe all the spells they cast in the previous year would come true on that night. They celebrate with noisy partying and cut scary faces into pumpkins.

Why should we celebrate this day? It is filled with evil, the devil, and things with which we should not associate.

Walking through our neighborhood, lawns that just a few weeks ago contributed to a sense of peace and well-being with their verdant lawns now boast skeletons, tombstones and half-decomposed bodies protruding out of the ground. Ghosts, witches and spiders hang from trees. Black cats and ghoulish faces carved in pumpkins grace walkways and front porches.

Why? The overarching purpose seems to be to prey upon people’s fears. Why do we want to celebrate fear? We read in the Bible that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind,” (2 Timothy 1:7). And, “We did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear” (Romans 8:15). Rather, “Perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment” (I John 4:18). If God has set us free from fear, why would we willingly participate in a holiday that seeks to produce fear?

Not only does Halloween celebrate fear, but it also focuses on ghoulish, hellish death. We all will face death someday, but believers look forward to death that leads to life. Halloween focuses on the death that leads to eternal death. Everywhere we on Halloween we see signs of death. The Bible says, “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24). So, why should we celebrate the very thing we’ve escaped?

Now you might be saying, “Look, the adults like decorating, the children like the dressing up and the candy so what could be wrong? Many people just celebrate Halloween because it’s fun. They think it is harmless. Fun is what everyone looks forward to.” But we have to face the facts. What does the Lord reveal in His word?

  • Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good (Romans 12:9).
  • Abstain from every form of evil (I Thessalonians 5:22).
  • Do not be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2).
  • Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:4).
  • Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (I John 2:15).

I’m not opposed to having fun, but we need to be careful how we implement our convictions about things like Halloween. Fun isn’t more important than showing our loyalty and allegiance to the God who has reached down to save us from the very powers of fear, death and darkness.

With that in mind,  now that we’ve examined the origins of Halloween and its focus on fear, death, and darkness, what are we as Christians to do? The holiday is not going away.

The truth is, while we don’t need to participate in the holiday, there are some advantages to the believer. For example, some of us go door-to-door trying to get an audience for the gospel with the hopes that someone will meet the Savior. But once a year, people come to our door and are a captive audience for the gospel. Why not take advantage of the opportunity? Jesus himself said, “If your neighbor asks something of you give it, and more besides.” If they come asking for candy, have it ready and also a tract and a short presentation of the gospel.

We have an opportunity to counteract the fear with hope, the darkness with light, and death with life. So let’s not participate in what the world has to offer, but instead respond with the gospel the Lord freely offers. We are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Sources

All scripture quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible

Perry, Bill. A Look inside America:  Exploring America’s Cultural Values and Holidays. Pennsylvania: Mulit Language Media, 2000.

Miller, Toby. What Does Halloween Celebrate? Crockett, KY. Rod and Staff Publishers.

 

Why I Dropped Out of College

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In the fall of last year, I was enrolled in the opticianry program at my local college. It was a promising program that boasted of an immersive learning environment that would prepare students for a stable career. My friends and family were proud of me for taking such a huge step, and I felt that it would be a challenge I would come to love. I bought the books and tools and buckled in for a crazy, but presumably rewarding semester.

And then I hit the brakes.

Okay, so my decision to withdraw wasn’t a sudden screeching halt – it built up over the course of a few weeks and through a lot of prayers and tears. But you get the idea. The deeper I got into the belly of the beast, the more I realized how much I didn’t belong there. It came to a point where I didn’t want to get out of bed because I dreaded studying the material I couldn’t bring myself to care about. But the biggest issue was that I knew I was running away from the interests and gifts that God had given me in order to pursue a sense of stability.

I received mixed reactions when I shared the news. Some were “concerned”, giving me shrugs and passive remarks. Some gave me encouraging smiles and pats on the back, respecting my choice and wanting me to be happy. Some high-fived me and called me brave, applauding my defiance of the system. In between all these things, I tried not to blame myself for taking a different path. I had to learn what it means to put my trust in God’s plans when mine fell through.

I spent my gap semester working, saving money, and researching career options. By the end, I had decided to take a leap of faith and go back to school for communications and marketing. I was always drawn to the broader fields, anyway. I still yield to uncertainty at times, but God is quick to remind me of His great provision. I’ve met some very successful graphic designers and media specialists (one of which I had an interview with recently). God used them to show me that I can use the gifts He’s given me in a career, and that His plan is not infeasible.

I suppose this means I’ve surrendered my title of college dropout, but the sentiment still remains: college isn’t for everyone. Just because a career path is stable, it doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you. You could make all the money in the world, but if you’re pursuing something that God hasn’t called you to, you’re pursuing a false sense of stability.

Stop Celebrating Apathy

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People who care too much about movies, television, and video games, we call fans, nerds, and geeks. If someone works too hard in one area of their life for our liking, we assume that they’re insecure about that area. If people are too religious, we call them fanatics, zealots, or extremists. Caring a lot about working out makes you a meathead, caring a lot about musicals makes you gay, caring a lot about work makes you a workaholic, and caring a lot about following rules makes you a goody-two-shoes (not that anyone uses that label anymore).

Chances are, you have passions you don’t share with other people because you’re afraid they won’t think you’re cool. Cool people don’t get excited about things. They don’t try too hard at anything. They don’t care what other people think of them.

Cool people are apathetic people. How messed up is that?

Understand that there is a place for balance. There is a point of unhealthy obsession. We, however, are not always qualified to judge where that point is for someone else. We shouldn’t feel better than someone else because we care less about doing well in school or impressing guys than they do.

We are commanded to love one another (John 13:14), which will require us to care about one another. We are commanded to work hard (Colossians 3:23, 2 Thessalonians 3:10), which will mean trying hard at something. We are commanded to live in peace with one another (Hebrews 12:14), which will mean caring to some extent about what other people think of us.

Let’s not make someone feel stupid for caring about something or someone else, no matter how stupid we think it is. Though we often are passionate about things that aren’t good for us, God has given us things that we care about for a reason. Passion, directed towards things that glorify God, brings about his purposes. And that’s what’s really cool.

A Social Awakening of Sorts

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About two weeks ago, I stumbled upon this article.

I’ll give you a quick rundown: Match.com released advertisements in London that suggested that certain physical characteristics are “imperfections”. They showed a close up photo of a woman’s face with freckles and red hair. This was paired with another ad that featured a man with heterochromia. The text overlay read “If you don’t like your imperfections, someone else will.” And “#LoveYourImperfections”. Seems a little counterproductive, but we’ll get back to that.

Enter angry mob with torches and pitchforks.

Internet denizens cried foul, accusing the advertisements of bullying. Twitter was ablaze with social justice warrior rants. Match.com eventually broke under the pressure and had the advertisements removed.

In the middle of all this, I had a social awakening of sorts.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the unpopular opinion that our current generation is overly-sensitive and that we’re creating a society of victims by crying bullying at everything. I’ve even seen articles comparing the soft, weak young men of today with the tough, burly young men of yesteryear who got drafted into wars. Because that’s a totally fair comparison. For the most part, I tuned it all out. I consider myself and my friends to be functioning members of society with healthy levels of self-esteem. We know where our worth lies and we aren’t so easily shaken. I believed the same was true of my fellow young people.

But, wow. Watching all of this drama unfold made me realize just how much power people give to anything that upsets them, particularly in advertising and media. I’m not about to deny that there’s some unfair standard-setting malarkey going on in the industry at large, but these ads were hardly bullying. They were tactless and clumsy at best, yet some couldn’t bear to look at them because they claimed it would make them feel awful about their physical appearance (you can read about this in the article). People are now priding themselves on another battle won against bullying, but really all they’ve done is shown that almost anything the media says will send the general public spiraling out of control.

As someone who possesses freckles, I was not offended by these advertisements at all. I was mystified by them more than anything. Their biggest crime was that they totally missed the tone that a dating website advertisement should strike. Up-close shots are often used to produce an uncomfortable or intense atmosphere. So they don’t exactly draw in the masses to find their true love. Also, that tagline. #LoveYourImperfections? Love my imperfections after you’ve implied that I don’t? Love the imperfections that someone else will love for me anyway? This doesn’t make any sense! Who green-lighted this mess? I digress.

There’s no need to go on a witch-hunt every time something in the media rubs us the wrong way. Let’s start choosing our battles a bit more wisely – if we don’t, anything and everything will eat us alive.

Top Ten Ships

And so, Valentine’s Week comes to a close. To end it, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite ships from movies, television, and books. Let us know what romances you like to see develop in the comments below!

  1. Peony said Pam & Jim from The Office. No top 10 list would be complete without these two, and for obvious reasons. Fans of the show were rooting for them from the very first episode. Theirs is the quintessential office romance, but what I love most about this couple is how much they grew together. One of my favorite scenes is from “Paper Airplane” (season 9, episode 20). Their marriage was experiencing serious strain – gone were the inside jokes and Jim’s wistful glances to the reception desk. At the end of the episode, through a series of attempts to reconcile, they finally break past their frustrations and embrace, with 1 Corinthians 13 narrating over the scene. Their relationship has known tenderness, and it has also faced some very real challenges, and that speaks volumes to couples who follow in their footsteps. Because let’s face it, we’re all waiting for our Jim Halpert.
  1. Petunia said Cory & Topanga from Boy Meets World. Everyone wants a love story like theirs. Elementary school, then high school, then college sweethearts, then marriage. They’re touted as a “perfect couple” but throughout the show’s 7 seasons they dealt with some very real issues like cheating and Cory feeling emasculated. They fought but Cory always understood what being committed to someone was—working things out no matter what. Now their love story continues on the spinoff Girl Meets World.
  1. Peony said Leslie & Ben from Parks and Recreation. My favorite power couple! Leslie and Ben balance their government work, triplets, and one solid rock of a marriage. These two are fiercely selfless, constantly putting each other before themselves. When they were presented with the opportunity to run for governor of Indiana, they had trouble deciding who would be best for the job, both insisting the other was more qualified (season 7, episode 12/13). The way they support and encourage each other is downright admirable. In a culture that seems to find humor in dysfunctional marriage, Leslie and Ben prove that selflessness is not only more fun, but that it’s something to strive for.
  1. Petunia said Oliver & Felicity from Arrow: The crack ship that became the strongest relationship of the series, Olicity came out of nowhere but also didn’t. These two started as team members, saving the city from the bad guys, but became team members in a much deeper way. They stood by each other, but they didn’t let each other get away with bad decisions or damaging thought patterns, which I feel like is often romanticized and shouldn’t be. They remind each other of the light in the world, and they keep each other fighting to make sure there’s more light in it.
  1. Peony said Jo & Friedrich from Little Women: I know I already mentioned Little Women in the top 10 romance movies list, but I simply had to go into more detail on these two. They make my heart melt, plain and simple. Friedrich is a kind, sentimental introvert who slowly falls for the worldly, feisty Jo. But they aren’t just another case of opposites attract. Despite their differences, they work quite well together. Friedrich encourages Jo to “write from life, from the depths of your soul”, and because of that advice, she pens her greatest work. Jo’s passion moves Friedrich to step out of his comfort zone, leaving his quiet, solitary life to become a husband and father. They’re just so timelessly sweet together. It’s the old romance – I can’t get enough of it.
  1. Petunia said Peeta & Katniss from The Hunger Games: Love is hard in the Hunger Games, but they made it work, at some times better than others. They protected each other, and they got through the trauma together. They have a kind of unusual relationship as far as gender roles go, but I’m not against it. I rooted for them through three books, and was so happy when they made it, despite everything.
  1. Peony said Lucy & Ricky from I Love Lucy: There’s some interesting history here. Lucy and Ricky (portrayed by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) were the first interracial TV couple. However, they weren’t just written for each other – they were actually married in real life, which definitely added to their chemistry. When the show premiered in 1951, interracial relationships were not widely accepted, but America quickly fell in love with this hilariously beleaguered duo. They showed us that love means being silly together, and crossing some boundaries while we’re at it.
  1. Petunia said Betsy & Joe from The Betsy-Tacy Series: I read these books many, many times when I was younger. What I love most about them is how realistic they seemed, and now that I’m older I see how realistic they actually are. Maybe I love Betsy and Joe so much because I identify with Betsy so much, but the relatability of their off-on-off-on friendship/romance would be hard for anyone to deny. Betsy and Joe were attracted to each other from the start, even as just friends, but it never felt right. Until it did. The friendly essay competitions, the cherry blossoms, the tentative friendship, the letters they wrote to each other over summer break, the dance at the junior ball…<3
  1. Peony said Fran & Maxwell from The Nanny: These two toyed with my heart for years. They’re the couple you know will get together by the end of the series, but until then you have to wait in agony, crying out, just love each other already! When they finally wed, it’s so satisfying. Fran is bright and genuine, and loves the Sheffield children dearly. Shenanigans aside, Maxwell can’t help but fall for her. They’re clunky, offbeat, and I can’t help but love them. And to think – she almost quit on the first day!
  1. Petunia said Gilbert & Anne from Anne of Green Gables: It’s a trope, and it can definitely be overused, but the love-hate relationship never gets old to me. Elizabeth and Darcy brought us to Gilbert and Anne, and I’m so thankful that they did. Gil was in love with Anne for years, but she couldn’t see him as anything more than her closest friend. She was in love with a fantasy, but eventually realized that she never needed anything but what she already had in Gilbert. Whether it’s in book or film form, I eat it up.

What are your favorite love stories? Let us know!

Top Ten Love Songs

In no particular order…

  1. Peony is hopelessly obsessed with The Everglow by Mae: Where to even begin? The Everglow has been a personal favorite of mine for years, for a blazing myriad of reasons. However, for now, I’ll have to try to focus solely on the romance. It’s about giving oneself fully and fearlessly to love, and it’s illustrated by idyllic lyrics, casting warm, whimsical light into the mind of the listener. It’s a song that has to be experienced.
  2. Petunia’s pick is God Gave Me You by Dave Barnes: A famous country singer later hijacked this song, which I will never forgive. I still love it though, no matter who sings it. It’s about being thankful for someone God has placed in your life to help you through things, even though you feel like you don’t deserve the someone.
  3. Peony’s inspired by The Only Exception by Paramore: One of Paramore’s softer songs, The Only Exception is an honest piece about the apprehension one may feel about falling in love. It speaks of a cynic who has only ever seen relationships fall apart, and this shapes her attitude toward love. Thinking that it will inevitably lead to pain, she becomes comfortable in solitude, not wanting to risk anything. But through the course of this vulnerable story, our beloved cynic comes to know sweet trust, and that sometimes our beliefs change for the better and brighter.
  4. Petunia can’t get enough of Poison & Wine by the Civil Wars: So, maybe this doesn’t qualify as a love song, because the lyrics leave you guessing as to whether the two singers are really in love or not. It’s a slow, acoustic tune, with some beautiful harmonies and soul-wrenching lyrics. Never over-simplistic, and hardly optimistic, I can listen to this song over and over without getting bored. Plus, I love everything by the Civil Wars, so that helps.
  5. Peony wants to dance to Candlelight by Relient K: The artistic genius is strong with this one. Candlelight is sweet, upbeat and clever. With a bouncing, rustic sound and lyrics that could charm the heart of any lady, this song is sure to bring a little light to your day. It may even make you want to go swing dancing. It makes me want to go swing dancing.
  6. Petunia gets all the feels from Love You Forever by Ryan Huston: ‘I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always.’ I love this song forever, and like it for always because it’s equally about friendship and romance. There’s nothing more romantic, in my opinion, than being someone’s friend no matter what life throws at either of you. As of this moment, this is one of the songs I’m considering playing for the first dance at my wedding reception. Not that I necessarily need to be worrying about that in the near future.
  7. Peony loves Every Little Thing by Hawk Nelson: This one comes to us from Hawk Nelson’s glory days. It’s the sweetest, most sincere song, and it’s sung with so much conviction that I can’t help but sigh “awwww” every time. This song made me want to be like the mysterious, spiritual woman that Jason Dunn was so smitten with, largely due to the fact that I wanted Jason Dunn to be smitten with me.
  8. Petunia adores When You Look at Me by Celine Dion: When I hear this song, the words and the melody and the voice evoke a sense of timelessness, of love that lasts no matter what goes on in the world outside. Although the words seem to convey an unhealthy amount of dependence on the object of the singer’s affection, I really appreciate the artistry of the song. It’s all very dramatic. And I’m all about the drama.
  9. Peony geeks out about Just Not Now from I Love You Because (A Modern Day Musical Love Story): I do love my musical numbers. Our leading lady, Marcy, admits that she wants to be in love, but recognizes that she’s not ready for it yet. She knows her emotional limits, and that it’s not wise to jump into relationships so suddenly. This song has been an anchor of mine for a while. It reminds me that it’s OK to take things slow and not give way to emotions that are often fleeting.
  10. Petunia jams out to Hold Back the River by James Bay: Oh, the Bayster. What a voice! This song is about reconnecting with someone you shouldn’t have let get away. The words are tender, the melodies are strong, and my heart is melting. Go listen to it. Stop reading this list. I’m appalled that you got this far without checking out some of these songs.