Alive with Worship?

‘My soul is Alive with Worship’ is the line of the chorus of a Simon Brading (Newday Worship) song that we have sung a few times in Hope Church. I often wonder how ‘Alive with Worship’ some people feel at 10:30am on a Sunday morning. Coming into worship on Sunday can sometimes feel like a slog. We have a tendency to bring our baggage of the week with us, our current mood or our preconceptions on whether our favourite worship song will be sung. Sometimes the delivery of style, approach and musicality can be off putting or a distraction. Perhaps you’ve waited the whole week to get to that half hour on a Sunday morning and it has seemed to slip away from you. We’ve benefitted from some great guest worship leaders this year to help us appreciate different ways of experiencing sung worship to God.

At the end of the day, we as Christians, are called to whole life worship by God, not just a 30 minute slot on a Sunday. Let this great scripture from Romans be something to try and live by in 2019:

 

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognise what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. ROMANS 12:1-2 (MSG)

 

So maybe you don’t always feel ‘Alive with Worship’ but at least you can be ‘Living in Worship’ with all that you do. That said we, as Hope Church Worship Team, look forward to leading you and worshiping with you on a Sunday morning over this coming year!

 

Written by Luke Middleton

There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime…

Enjoying my day off, chance to drop off my daughter to school which I never get to do anymore, Christmas songs on Heart radio, all going well. Then the song ‘Do they know its Christmas? (feed the world)’ (Band Aid) starts to play, great charity song with good intent but some of the phrases in the lyrics! I seriously disagree with……..’there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime’- will everyone in our prejudiced and stereotypical understand its not literally meant to be so? …’do they (Africans) know it’s Christmas at all?’ – again, I so disagree with how it’s phrased. Yes they do, we do. Many people look down on Africans because they grow up to hear these songs and they think we live in some out of touch world. I love the British attitude to charity and I believe the rest of the world can learn so much from it but songs like these and programs about Africa in this part of the world can be so stereotypical and patronising. I have enjoyed many Christmases in the UK but some of my most enjoyable Christmas experience was in Africa (Ghana). Enough moaning for the day, I guess I can use the day to plan my Christmas!

 

Written by Abe Owusu

More fools – the troublemaker, the sluggard, and the complacent

In my previous blog I introduced the concept from “The Way of Wisdom: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs ” by Timothy Keller, that if you want to grow in wisdom you have to stop being a fool! I introduced three types of “fool” Keller describes from Proverbs. Here are three more fools.

THE TROUBLEMAKER.

Another kind of fool is the troublemaker. The mark of this person is constant conflict (6:14). This is the opposite of the peacemaker (Matthew 5:9), the bridge builder whose careful, gracious answers (15:1) disarm and defuse tensions. The troublemaker instead stirs them up. This is not the person who disturbs the false peace with an insistence on honesty. Rather, this is someone who always feels the need to protest and complain rather than overlooking a slight or wrong (19:11). When troublemakers do contend, they do not present the other side fairly. Their corrupt mouths produce deceptive omissions, half-truths, and innuendo. Their body language (winking, signalling) creates a hostile situation rather than one that leads to resolution.

Troublemakers tell themselves and others that they just like to “speak truth to power.” But disaster will overtake the troublemakers (6:15). As time goes on, it becomes clearer that the troublemakers themselves are a reason that conflict always follows in their wake. They can be permanently discredited by events that expose them for what they are. But the ultimate reason for their downfall is that “the Lord hates … a person who stirs up conflict in the community” (6:16,19).

If you have been involved in a series of conflicts, is it because you have the traits of a troublemaker? Do you know any troublemakers you should confront?

THE SLUGGARD.

Another kind of fool in Proverbs is the sluggard. The wise are self-starters, needing only internal motivation, not threats, to do their work (6:7). They also are not impulsive, instead practicing delayed gratification (verse 8). In contrast, the sluggard makes constant excuses for apparently small lapses (a little … a little … a little) but then is surprised when he is assaulted by poverty (verses 10–11). “He … deceives himself by the smallness of his surrenders. So, by inches and minutes, his opportunity slips away.”

In Hillbilly Elegy the author tells of Bob, who worked with him at a tile warehouse with his girlfriend. Bob missed work once a week, was chronically late, and took many breaks each day, lasting over half an hour each. His girlfriend missed work every third day and never gave advance notice. When they were fired, after many warnings, Bob was furious. The author concludes, convincingly, that too many today are “immune … to hard work,” and that what used to be thought of as good, reasonable jobs are now seen as demanding unreasonable standards. The result is social decay, as Proverbs warned. Contrast this with Jesus, who said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17).

Is there any area of your life that is “slipping away” because you are not getting to work on it?

THE COMPLACENT.

As we have seen, the mark of the fool is to be wise in his own eyes. This leads to the deadly spiritual condition of smug complacency. There is nothing more foolish than to think you have life under control when it is not controllable. The classic example is Jesus’ parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:19–20). No matter what type of designer life you think you have put together for yourself, bereavement, illness, betrayal, and financial disaster happen to everyone. No amount of wealth, success, power, or planning can make you impervious to them.

Fools live in a dream of metaphysical self-sufficiency. They think they have everything sorted, and the complacency leads to disaster. But the opposite of complacency—anxiety—is no solution. We can lose our overconfidence and still be at ease, without fear if we remember that we have the omnipotent, sovereign Lord of the universe as our father. Christians also remind their hearts that if God did not spare us his own Son, how will he not give us whatever we need (Romans 8:32)?

If things are going pretty well for you, are you getting complacent? If things are not going well, are you getting anxious? How can you avoid both?

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Types of fool – the mocker, the simple and the obstinate

I have just started reading a book of devotions based on Proverbs, The way of wisdom by Tim Keller. I have always loved reading proverbs but found there is so much depth to the book I feel I am only scratching the surface. This book is therefore extremely helpful. Sometimes too helpful. Shining its light in dark places. As Keller says, “If the Bible were a medicine cabinet, Psalms would be the ointment put on inflamed skin to calm and heal it. Proverbs would be more like smelling salts to startle you into alertness.”

This is an example. Keller points out that Proverbs exalts the wise and encourages us to grow in wisdom. He points out that the opposite of the wise is a fool. He then unpacks different types of fool. It made me realise how foolish I am! Which do you relate to?

“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?” (Proverbs 1:22)

THE MOCKER.

Three kinds of fools are mentioned in this verse. The mockers prove it is not mental capacity but attitude that determines whether we become wise or foolish.  At the root of mockers’ character is a high pride that hates submitting to anyone (21:24). Their strategy is to debunk everything, acting very smug and knowing in the process. Mockers, though fools, appear to most eyes as worldly-wise and highly sophisticated. Some things, of course, deserve critique and even satire. Even God mocks sometimes. However, to “sit in the company of mockers” (Psalm 1:1) is to make cynicism and sneering a habitual response. Habitual mocking will harden you and poison relationships. “To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.” We live in a postmodern age that encourages deconstruction and in an Internet age that makes mocking and scoffing easy and reasoned discourse difficult. So we must resist the enormous cultural pressure to become mockers. Contrast this with Jesus: “He will not quarrel or cry out. … A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory” (Matthew 12:19–20). When have you been tempted to roll your eyes and dismiss someone rather than engaging with them?

THE SIMPLE.

Every sort of fool is out of touch with reality, but each kind in a different way. The next fool in this list is the simple. This kind of foolishness is gullibility. “The simple believe anything” (14:15). They are too easily led and influenced. Like children, they may be over impressed by the spectacular and dramatic, or they may need approval too much and so be taken in by forceful personalities who give it to them. They will support dictatorial leaders who promise them peace and prosperity. They can be intellectually lazy, not wanting to ponder and think out a matter. They are also likely to fall for get rich quick schemes (12:11). The simple can change and learn sense (19:25) but they can also “inherit folly” (14:18)—graduate into being full-blown fools. Nevertheless, we should be careful not to equate credulity and naïveté with a lack of sophistication. We once pastored an entire congregation of somewhat unsophisticated people, but they were by no means simple. You can lack sophistication, as the world assesses it, and still be wise. And you can be sophisticated—well-off, well connected, and educated—but still be simple. Whom have you met who you thought was rather simple but turned out not to be so? What traits did they reveal?

THE OBSTINATE.

The most common word used for fools in Proverbs is the obstinate. The main mark of fools is that they are opinionated, wise in their own eyes, unable to learn knowledge or be corrected. Child psychologist Jerome Kagan discovered that children are born with one of three basic temperaments that determine how they instinctively respond to difficulty. Some respond with anxiety and withdrawal, some with aggression and assertive action, and some with optimism and an effort to win through by being social and cordial. Each default works well in some situations. But Kagan argued that, unless parents intervene, children’s natural temperament will dominate, and they won’t learn how to act wisely in situations in which their habitual response is inappropriate or even deadly. In other words, we are naturally obstinate and unwise. Modern culture insists that we should let children be themselves, but what feels most natural to us might be disastrous (22:15). To become wise, the anxious must learn to be bolder, the bold to be cautious, and the chronically sunny to be more thoughtful. Only in Jesus do we see one who does not habitually assert or withdraw but always responds appropriately to the situation with perfect wisdom (John 11:23–25, 32–35). Where are you most opinionated and least open to new ideas or criticism?

Having read this, like me, do you realise you are more foolish than you thought? I think that is the first step to becoming wiser!

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Redeeming the time

In a previous blog post I shared a video of Jen Wilkins speaking about the role of women. You can read it here. Being impressed with her as a speaker I bought and read one of her books. It is well worth reading. Click here to buy from Amazon.

Below is a very helpful extract from the book, full of practical wisdom on how we can “redeem the time.”

Living in the Present Trusting God with our time means we make good use of the time we are given. This sounds simple, but it’s not. Ephesians 5: 15–16 tells us, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” The King James translates “making the best use of the time” as “redeeming the time.” We are commanded to be time redeemers, those who reclaim our time from useless pursuits and employ it to the glory of God. But how can we do this? I want to suggest three ways.

 

  1. Let Go of the Past.

Redeeming the time requires letting the past stay in the past. We can cling to the past by indulging in two different emotions: sinful nostalgia or regret. Sinful nostalgia causes us to idolize a time when life was “better “or “simpler,“ resulting in perpetual discontentment with our present circumstance. We may long for a time before bad news of some kind arrived, for a time when our health was better, when our kids were still young, or when a loved one was still alive.

 

Life’s changing seasons can cause a natural longing for the way things used to be, and though it is not necessarily sinful, it can become so. We are allowed to grieve the passing of happy seasons, but we are not allowed to resent their loss. There is a difference between missing the past and coveting the past. The antidote for covetousness is always gratitude: We can combat a sinful love of the past by counting the gifts we have been given in the present. Regret, on the other hand, causes us to dwell in past mistakes or hurts, robbing us of joy in our present circumstance and often dragging us back into old sin patterns. As a child I learned to sing the words of Charles Wesley: “He breaks the power of cancelled sin, he sets the prisoner free.” How often have I needed those words as a reminder that the power of my past sins (or the past sins of others against me) is broken in Jesus’s name. He replaces my historical liturgy of sin with one of holiness. When I become discouraged about giving in once again to a past sin, the “lifter of my head“ reminds me that though I am not yet who I will be, I am not who I was. He draws me from the past back to the present with an assurance that sanctification is slowly doing its work today. He keeps me from rehearsing my past hurts by reminding me to forgive as I have been forgiven. We can combat the “bad news “of the past by remembering and trusting the good news of the gospel.

 

  1. Let Go of the Future.

Redeeming the time requires letting the future stay in the future. We can cling to the future by indulging in two different emotions: sinful anticipation or anxiety. We indulge sinful anticipation when we constantly covet the next stage of life. The teenager who wants to be a college student. The young mom who can’t wait for her kids to be out of diapers. The woman in her fifties who can’t wait to retire. Looking forward to the future is not wrong in itself. Seeing a future life stage as an escape from the present one is. As with sinful nostalgia, sinful anticipation is quelled by gratitude for the gifts we have been given in the present. We feed anxiety when we live in dread of the future. We fear uncertainty or potentialities: the loss of a job, possible illness, or just the fact that we can have no idea of (or control over) what tomorrow holds. Our prayers become marked with requests to know the future rather than requests to live today as unto the Lord. Jesus reminds us not to be anxious for the future, “for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6: 34). The antidote for anxiety is to remember and confess that we can trust the future to God. This does not mean that we make no preparation for the future, but that we prepare in ways that are wise rather than in ways that are fearful.

 

  1. Live Today Fully

Redeeming the time requires being fully present in the present. We can squander today by feeding two different sins: laziness or busyness. Both the lazy person and the compulsively busy person subtly reject the God-ordained boundary of time. The lazy person believes there will always be more time to get around to her responsibilities. She can spend today as she pleases. She is characterized by procrastination, missed deadlines, and excuses. Like a profligate spender of money, she spends time without considering the cost, secretly believing she has an endless credit of hours. Laziness believes that the time God has given is not precious. We must redeem the present by considering the ant, as Proverbs 6: 6 says, gathering when it is time to gather. The compulsively busy person believes there will never be enough time to manage her responsibilities. She, too, believes she can spend today as she pleases, packing in more than one day’s share of activity, complaining that there are not more hours in the day. She is characterized by exhaustion and overcommitment. Like a penny-pincher, she wrings every ounce of productivity out of every minute of the day, secretly believing that rest is for when we die. Busyness believes that the time God has given is not adequate. We must redeem the present by leaving time to observe the practice of stillness and the precept of Sabbath, taking on the trusting posture of one who sits at the feet of her Lord. When we work to redeem the time, we reflect our Creator. God is the ultimate time-redeemer: He redeems all of time, and he redeems at just the right time. We are charged with redeeming the years he has given to us as a reasonable act of worship.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Issues Facing Christians Today – Men, Women and God

As part of our series earlier this year, ‘Issues Facing Christians Today’, I preached on this subject, you can listen to the sermon below.

However, you would be better served listen to this talk by Jen Wilkins that I have just come across. She speaks on the subject more eloquently, more profoundly and in a more challenging way than I can and did! She also asks questions about the practices in many churches, including ours that need to be asked.

 

Advance 2017 General Session #2- Jen Wilkin from Acts 29 US Southeast on Vimeo.

 

 

I found I agreed with the principles that Jen expounds, e.g. if initially we focus on the differences between men and women we end up objectifying either men or women. The Bible doesn’t do this, it starts with how men and women are the same, made in the image of God.

She does talk about the difference between men and women, and that they need each other to thrive. A church will not flourish if either women or men are not flourishing. This follows from the scripture that it was not good for man to be alone.

She then expounds the differences between men and women, the major difference being a matter of biology, men are physically dominant. This gives men a privilege which they need to choose how to use. They can either use the privilege to dominate and control or to honour and exult women. The Christian calling is the second, too often in the world the former happens. It can also happen in the church.

In the last part of the talk she challenges the church to create a community that is truly family, where we are brothers and sisters. There is so much that I agree with, but know we are not yet achieving. Please listen and watch and then join me in seeking to create such a church.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

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