Raw Emotions In Worship

When someone was out to get David, he turned to God in prayer. And what prayers he prayed! 

He didn’t hold back. He came to God with all of his emotions right out in the open. Raw—but honest—emotions. 

God called David a man after His own heart, so apparently God loved the honesty even when David asked God to break their arms, turn them into jackal food, burn them with fire, give them black eyes, or even blot their names out of God’s book of life (Psalm 10:15; 63:9-10; 68:1-2; 69:22-28)!

Why do we hesitate to express ourselves like this, to tell God what’s really in our hearts? Do we think He doesn’t know? Do we think He’s going to fall off His throne in shock at our brutal honesty? He already knows what’s in our hearts, so the expression of it is for our benefit. We must get it out in His presence because that’s the only way and the only place where true, deep, lasting healing can happen. 

I love what R.T. Kendall reminds us: “Real worship takes place when we are unafraid to express what we feel. Worship ought to bring us to the point where we can be honest. We never need to repress what we feel when we are around Jesus. He will never scold us for our honesty. It doesn’t mean we are right, but if we are being honest, He can help us and bring us to see where we are wrong and to face the truth.” (emphasis mine)

When you hurt, get alone with God and then get real with God. He already knows what’s in your heart, so speak it out. You need to get that poison out of your system so that God can heal you.

Studies In The Sermon On The Mount (book review)

Many people have called Christ’s Sermon on the Mount the most profound sermon ever preached. It would be hard to argue that conclusion! Reading the Sermon is one thing, but living it out is something entirely different. Oswald Chambers helps us live out these amazing words in his book Studies In The Sermon On The Mount. 

Not only did Chambers provide us with an excellent commentary on this Sermon, but his life showed his devotion to practicing what he preached. At a memorial service for Chambers in December 1917, a close friend described Oswald’s life as “the finest commentary on the Sermon on the Mount I know.” May that be said of all Christians! 

This is one of the finest commentaries I have read on this life-patterning sermon that Jesus gave us. It’s a great read, but it is also quite challenging at times. To be honest, Chambers’ thoughts are so deeply profound at points that it takes several readings to grasp the implications. But it is worth your effort! 

A colleague of Chambers—J.F. Knapp, who founded God’s Bible School in Cincinnati, OH, where Chambers taught for seven months in 1907—described it better than I could: 

“‘But,’ says some simple soul, ‘I don’t understand [Chambers].’ The more is the pity. Leave then the evening newspaper, the book of religious wonder-tales, the high-flown writing watered with adjectives, but empty of thought or power, and read these pages again and again until the truth soaks through to your innermost consciousness. … To heed the words of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount as interpreted by Oswald Chambers will transform holiness people into holy people, and faithless verbosity into Christian humility. Unto which glorious result God speed the day!”

To Knapp’s words I can only add “Amen!” If you want to understand the Sermon On The Mount better, you shouldn’t miss out on this premier Oswald Chambers book. 

Supernatural Interference

The foundational claim of Christianity is Jesus died AND rose to life again. The Apostle Paul says that if the resurrection didn’t happen, anyone who claims to be a Christian is in a world of hurt (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 14, 17-20).  

“But resurrected from the dead?! Really? I believe in facts. I believe in the laws of science.” Me too! But I also believe that the supernatural is not the opposite of belief in the natural. Just like Paul said, “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8). 

Noted astronomer Allan Rex Sandage said, “It is my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science. It was only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.”

And C.S. Lewis added, “How can anything be seen to be an exception till the rules are known? … Nothing can seem extraordinary until you have discovered what is ordinary. Belief in miracles, far from depending on an ignorance of the laws of nature, is only possible in so far as those laws are known.”  

Let me give you a simple example. Suppose I divide $5 evenly between two of my buddies. The laws of mathematics dictate that both of them will have $2.50. But what if one of my friends, through some sleight of hand, steals some of my other friend’s money? The fact that one of them now has more than half doesn’t change that mathematical law that $5 divided evenly is two sets of $2.50. 

The mathematician as a mathematician doesn’t know how likely one friend is to steal some of the other friend’s money. For that answer, he has to ask someone else. The changing of the outcome does not negate the laws. In fact, the more certain we are of the laws of mathematics the more clearly we know that something outside of them “interfered.” 

Concerning Jesus, there are three undeniable facts—

  1. Jesus died (John 19:28-34, 38-42; Mark 15:44-45; Matthew 27:62-66) 
  2. Death is irreversible
  3. Jesus is alive (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

It appears the laws of biology have been interfered with, that a supernatural miracle has occurred. The supernatural fact that Jesus was resurrected does not change the biological fact that death is irreversible. We just didn’t expect the outside influence. Just like we didn’t expect one friend to steal money from another friend.

What does this mean for you and me? It means that you can trust God’s word. All of it! Jesus told us that He would die by crucifixion and that He would be resurrected three days later (John 10:18; Matthew 20:19). 

If that word came true, we can also trust this word: We can have our sins forgiven and receive God’s gift of eternal life—just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:4). 

The law of sin says: All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard. The unbreakable law of sin is that the penalty for unforgiven sin is eternal death. That law cannot be broken, unless there is a Supernatural interference—a miracle!

Jesus interfered. He took our sins upon Himself. He supernaturally switched places with us and let the death penalty fall on Himself. And if we believe in that, we can have our sins forgiven and receive what we didn’t expect—eternal life with God! 

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have Him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay (1 Peter 1:3-4 MSG & NLT)

Resurrection Appearances

The appearances of Jesus after His resurrection aren’t just limited to the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), but also in the books of Acts and 1 Corinthians. Check out this infographic from The Infographic Bible by Karen Sawrey. 

(click the image to zoom in)

Jesus appeared at…

  • A—an empty tomb in the Garden at Golgotha in Jerusalem (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:9-11; John 20:1-18)
  • B—on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-32)
  • C—in Jerusalem (Luke 24:33-35; 1 Corinthians 15:5)
  • D—at a house in Jerusalem (Mark 16:14-20; Luke 24:36-53; John 20:19-23; 1 Corinthians 15:5)
  • E—at a house in Jerusalem (John 20:26-29)
  • F—by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23)
  • G—on the Mount of Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-20)
  • H—location unknown (1 Corinthians 15:6)
  • I—location unknown (1 Corinthians 15:7)
  • J—location unknown (1 Corinthians 15:7)
  • K—on a road to Damascus (Acts 19:1-9, 22:6-11, 26:12-18; 1 Corinthians 15:8-9)

Six Hours, One Friday

“Six hours, one Friday. To the casual observer the six hours are mundane. A shepherd with his sheep, a housewife with her thoughts, a doctor with his patients. But to the handful of awestruck witnesses, the most maddening of miracles is occurring. God is on a Cross. The Creator of the universe is being executed. Spit and blood are caked to His cheeks, and His lips are cracked and swollen. Thorns rip His scalp. His lungs scream with pain. His legs knot with cramps. Taut nerves threaten to snap as pain twangs her morbid melody. Yet, death is not ready. And there is no one to save Him, for He is sacrificing Himself. It is no normal six hours . . . it is no normal Friday. For worse than the breaking of His body is the shredding of His heart. His own countrymen clamor for His death. His own disciple planted the kiss of betrayal. His own friends ran for cover. And now His own Father is beginning to turn His back on Him, leaving Him alone. Let me ask you a question: What do you do with that day in history? What do you do with its claims? If it really happened . . . if God did commandeer His own crucifixion . . . if He did turn His back on His own Son . . . and if He did storm satan’s gate, then those six hours that Friday were packed with tragic triumph. If that was God on that Cross, then the hill called Skull is granite studded with stakes to which you can anchor your soul forever.” —Max Lucado, On Calvary’s Hill

No Polite Conversations Here, Please

“Most of us would never commit murder, but how often have we taken a neighbor into some dark alley of our thoughts and there torn him limb from limb with a desire for revenge over some petty quarrel? 

“Christian, this is imperative for you to realize: When wicked or unclean thoughts first force their way into your mind, you have not yet sinned. This is the work of the devil! But if you so much as offer them a chair and begin polite conversation with them, you have become his accomplice. In only a short time you will give these thoughts sanctuary in your heart.” —William Gurnall, in The Christian In Complete Armor 

Thursdays With Oswald—Do You Have The Goods Or Just The Label?

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Do You Have The Goods Or Just The Label? 

     Our Lord makes the test of goodness not only goodness in intention, but the active carrying out of God’s will. Beware of confounding appearance and reality, of judging only by external evidence. …  

     The baptism of the Holy Ghost turns men into the incarnation of what they preach until the appearance and the reality are one and the same. … He does in us what Jesus did for us. … 

     Human nature is fond of labels, but a label may be the counterfeit of confession. It is so easy to be branded with labels, much easier in certain stages to wear a ribbon or a badge than to confess. Jesus never used the word testify; He used a much more searching word—confess. “Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men….” The test of goodness is confession by doing the will of God. “If you do not confess Me before men,” says Jesus, “neither will your Heavenly Father confess you.” Immediately we confess, we must have a badge, if we do not put one on, other people will. Our Lord is warning that it is possible to wear the label without having the goods; possible for a man to wear the badge of being His disciple when he is not. Labels are all right, but if we mistake the label for the goods we get confused.

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Some people only wear the labels—they use the name “Christian” without ever surrendering to the lordship of Jesus. Oswald Chambers reminds us that these are the people to whom Jesus will say, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23). 

Listen to the Holy Spirit. He can make sure that your preaching your living are one and the same. You and I don’t want to just testify that we are disciples of Jesus, but we want to be the living incarnation of all that Jesus did and taught.

Labels are fine (if other people put them there), but just make sure you have the goods! I’ll say it again: Listen to the Holy Spirit and immediately obey what He points out to you.

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