Life and That More Abundantly — Part 3
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:29
Blessing upon blessing chasing us down
It’s hard to imagine the enormity of God’s love for us. But I think for many people it is even harder to believe the enormity of His desire to overwhelm us with incomprehensible blessings particularly physically and materially. Almost everyone will consent to God’s generous blessings to us spiritually, that’s well within the scope of our sense of Him as Spiritual and operating in spiritual matters.
But when it comes to believing that God is just as invested in us having and possessing healthy and life affirming relationships, or being fully realized in our emotions and the physical expressions of our hearts in ways that bring ultimate fulfillment and joy to life, many Christians hesitate and restrain themselves from fully embracing that idea, because they think or have been taught, that God doesn’t want His people to be rich in this world’s goods and resources; that somehow that reduces us from being holy, set apart people for His service of ministry.
We exalt people like Mother Teresa for her sacrificial ministry to the poorest of the poor as well we should, while at the same time we criticize the efforts of the populist media preacher or so called “televangelist” who amasses some wealth from the free will offerings of his or her partners (financial/prayer supporters) in ministry, notwithstanding that under the scrutiny of a host of overseers, most of that wealth goes to build and staff hospitals and schools and provide homes and food for many more poor people in many parts of the world that Mother Teresa alone could never reach.
Is God opposed to Mother Teresa because she doesn’t build and staff hospitals and schools? Is God opposed to the “televangelist” who minister’s life-freeing truths from the Word of God and then takes the resources of tithes and offerings received from his/her work to do the work of ministry on a global scale? Are not both a part of His plan to bring the Gospel of His love, salvation and grace to the world?
Closer to home, is God only interested in the work of the small community church that struggles week to week to keep its doors open or does He favor the mega church where there is great entertainment and lots of celebrities speaking to or performing for the congregation each week and whose tithes and offerings not only support a myriad of ministry outreaches that we rarely hear about, but are nevertheless sustaining life for many who could not support themselves without it?
Are all large traditional church congregations missing the mark today because they still have have pipe organs and choirs in their services? Is there only one genuine musical style that can be employed to worship God in this post-modern era?
Must everything be stripped down to someone’s austere concept of what pleases God such that there should now be no ornamentation, no symbolism, no artifacts of art and creativity? Are the offerings of praise now regulated to a few members of the contemporary worship band that overwhelms its congregations with excessively loud sound, thick fog and light effects in an atmosphere of darkness where everyone else just passively stands or sits while the leaders alone rejoice in their songs?
Is this worship? Is this the extent of the churches authentic expression of praise and worship in response to God’s overwhelming blessings in the lives of His people?
I do not suppose nor do I intend to convey the idea that all contemporary worship music and styles of worship are less authentic or sincere than traditional forms that engage the congregation, the choir and the orchestra. I am concerned that much of what I hear and see in much of contemporary worship services is exclusively directed to and engaged in (howbeit at a surface level) an audience of individuals 30 and under with little or no
attempt to include the older generations within the church. This is creating deeper and deeper divisions between generations, ethnic groups, denominations and a host of factions that have existed in the church for centuries.
What may have begun as a way to more sincerely open to the worship of God without empty repetitive ritual, has itself now morphed into a kind of mind numbing, desensitizing, non-participatory ritual of disengagement at a fundamental spiritual level. There maybe feelings and emotions involved, but little understanding or engagement of the worshiper’s own voice.
Thus, recent generations have become impoverished spiritually, emotionally, materially and physically by a false notion that God only regards penury, poverty and the poorest quality of human expressions from His people; that proves how humble and truly detached they are from the hypocrisy and “mammon” of the world. Really?
No. All Creation declares the glory of God. How much more should man, created in His image and after His likeness, declare His glory with the uttermost excellence and wealth of all human expression, gifts and discoveries. Contemporary music in worship can be deeply moving and can invite and welcome the heart-engaged participation from the larger congregation and in many gatherings this is exactly what is happening from week to week.
But where, for the sake of “saving money,” or unwillingness to invest in the people gifted by God to serve and lead the body in the fullness of worship or an aversion to provide the instruments and upkeep they require to employ the very highest quality of music possible in worship services, churches (the people) have denied the possibility of God bringing to bear among them a measure of His presence that far exceeds their limited expectations. But God’s glory is not to be constrained or restricted to the smallness of thought in the hearts of those who don’t believe He is the God of more than enough, the God of extravagant blessing, the God of uncontainable, inexhaustible Glory, worthy to be worshiped in the highest possible expressions of human creativity and skill. Moreover, all corporate worship should engage the congregation’s voice at its most vigorous and passionate.
Ultimately, It’s not about style or form, traditional or contemporary. Both can be empty and devoid of God’s presence. Both can be exalting and appropriate to the glory of God if offered as the best we have to honor Him from our hearts.
The lesson of the widow’s mite was not the amount of her gift but the value that it held for her life. It was everything she had. [Mark 12:43-44]
She glorified God in her pennies as much as the Heaven’s glorify God in their splendor.
“The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1
Surely, God is not turning away those who seek to worship Him at any dimension of skill or expertise in verbal expression and musical style. But, should we as believers, as beneficiaries of our Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection, not be about offering Him more than “just enough” and more than anything perfunctory or disengaging, calling it worship? God the Father certainly has poured out His life extravagantly on us through Jesus Christ, and He continues to seek those who will open to the fullest expressions of His blessing-upon-blessings in every area of our lives.
What God promised to Abraham was intended to find its ultimate fulfillment in His Son, Jesus Christ and through Him to His Body, The Church, you and me.
“And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:15-23