The end of the current NBA season is upon us, and this is the time of year I actually pay attention to what’s going on. I grew up absolutely loving basketball. My grandfather had played throughout school, and since he was my hero, I wanted to mimic him. I eventually became hooked, and by the 7th grade the sport of the hardwood floor had supplanted the red dirt diamond as my favorite sport. It helped that a guy named Michael Jordan had burst onto the scene as a global phenomenom. Me and my buddies watched his games, wore his jersey, and begged for a pair of his “Air Jordans.” Alas, after his retirement, I have lost much of my passion for the ole orange ball. But, I do enjoy the semi-finals and finals. As I watched last nights Pacers win to tie the series with the Heat, I made an observation I’d like to share.
Lebron James is his generation’s Jordan. He is a ridiculously gifted athlete, and also a ferocious competitor. Clearly, Lebron is the star and leader of the Miami Heat, even though his teammates are superstars in there own rights. The fact remains, he is just that much better. At the end of the game, a game that Lebron arguably had single handedly kept Miami in, he fouled out and was sent to the bench. The game was tied up, with just a few short minutes left to play. All of Lebron’s talent, charisma, and competitiveness couldn’t help his team one bit. He was done, out of the game. So what happened? The Heat fell apart in his absence. They missed shots, couldn’t rebound, couldn’t defend, and superstar Wade was called for traveling!! Total choke on the part of the Heat. It was as if Lebron was the only fuel the Heat engine could use. They lost the game.
I’m reminded by this situation that we all need a team. Whether it’s your family, your staff, or your circle of friends, you need a team!! Well, that is, if you want to accomplish anything of significance. Jesus, the greatest leader of all time, built a team. The early church was led by a team. All great churches and ministries are led by great teams. Lebron needed his team to step up. His individual accomplishments mean little if the TEAM loses. And they lost. If you’re a leader, then build a team. Train them, love them, and serve them. When you build a great team, chances are together you will get some numbers in the win column. And, the journey will be so much more fun than if you go at it alone.
Worship, and in particular
worship involving the creative arts, has been a huge part of my
life since my childhood. I grew up in an extremely musical and
creative church. I had a grandmother who was a pianist and oil
paint artist, and a grandfather who played guitar and mandolin. I
spent my Sunday mornings listening to who I thought were the
greatest singers and musicians in the world play and sing their
hearts out to God. It was powerful and inspiring. It completely
captured my young mind and heart. Unfortunately, worship has been a
point of contention in many churches and Christian circles. Many
have gone so far as to describe this tension as the “worship wars”.
What style of music is acceptable? What style of music is best? How
loud should it be? These are just a few examples of questions that
have turned in to battlegrounds between people who all claim to
love and serve Jesus. So, who is right? What kind of worship does
God desire from us? The answer to this important question is found
in John chapter 4. Jesus and men are walking through Samaria
when He sends them away to get supplies. He then goes to a well
where He meets a Samaritan woman. He surprisingly asks the woman
for a drink of water. This is surprising because she was a woman, a
Samaritan, and Jesus being a Jewish Rabbi would typically have not
even acknowledged her. But, of course, Jesus was no ordinary Jewish
Rabbi. He strikes up a conversation with her, and she asks Him a
“worship” question. She wants to know who is right between the Jews
and the Samaritans about where to worship God. The Jews worshipped
in the temple, and the Samaritans on a mountain. It was an ancient
worship war! Jesus’ answer to her question is in my opinion the
quintessential teaching on worship in all of scripture. Jesus tells
the lady that the time had come that it wouldn’t matter WHERE you
worshipped, but rather HOW you worshipped. In describing the “how,”
He never mentioned musical style, volume, or length even once. He
went, as usual, straight to the heart. He said that true
worshippers would worship Him in spirit and truth. This means that
to worship God fully, our worship must involve ALL of WHO we are.
That means our emotions and our intellect. Our bodies and our
minds. Our words and our hearts. We must have deep affection for
God that is born out of deep knowledge of Him. So, the worship wars
can stop. Unless, of course, you just really enjoy griping and
arguing over things that have already been settled. On any given
Sunday, people all over the world will worship God under the banner
of Jesus in a huge variety of styles, volumes, and length. The
Scriptures teach clearly that when those many varieties of worship
are offered from truth and spirit, they will please God and bring
Him glory. So find a Bible believing, God exalting church that
worships in a style that you relate well to, and call it home. Plug
in, worship your heart out, and be thankful that God is
Spring is my favorite time of the year. I happen to live in one of the most beautiful areas to enjoy this particular season. Here on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay in Southern Alabama, the azaleas are blooming and jasmine can be both seen and smelled. Pecan trees are exploding with green leaves and the mighty oaks are offering shade for picnics and walks. The sunsets on the Bay are brilliant and breathtaking. Sadly, all of this beauty often get’s overlooked. We simply miss the show.
Creation is God’s show that we get to watch and enjoy. Theologians often call nature God’s “general revelation.” This means God generally reveals Himself to us through the amazing work of His creation. The songs the birds are singing, the breezes coming off of the Bay, and those gently swaying oak trees are all shouting and whispering that there is a Holy and loving God behind it all. God wants us to know Him and make Him known, and the wonders and beauty of creation are part of the language He uses to speak to us.
The first six verses of Psalm 19 testify to the revelation of God through His creation:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat (Psalm 19:1-6).”
Now, to be clear, the creation is NOT God. It is His handiwork. So, as we care for His creation and enjoy His creation, we can worship Him in a powerful way. No one on the planet should appreciate our surroundings more than those who call themselves by the Name of the One who created it all. Christians should be known for both our caretaking of the Earth and our exploration and enjoyment of it.
The problem is that our busy and technology driven lives have a disastrous side effect. We end up missing the show! We watch TV’s and computer screens rather than taking a walk and getting outside. We breathe in air-conditioned environments rather than jasmine saturated breezes. Our kids bury their faces in video games rather than bury their toes in the sand. I’m not against modern advancements, but I’m convinced they don’t compare to God’s handiwork.
So, during this beautiful season, don’t miss the show. Get outside and take a walk. Load your family up and have a picnic. Skip rocks on a bay, river, or creek. Find a beach and play in the sand. And while you’re enjoying the wonders and magic of creation, be sure to thank the Creator. After all, He put the show together for His glory but also for you to enjoy.
This weekend we will begin a teaching series at COTES called TRINITY. This will be an extremely theological and doctrinally intense series. To be clear, every sermon series at our church is both theological and doctrinal, but this series will zero in on one of the major Christian doctrines in particular. We will spend 4 weeks studying and communicating about the Trinity, our Triune God. I’m hoping that God will do great things in the life of our church through this series.
So, why would we spend a month intensely studying one doctrine. And, for that matter, why does doctrine and theology matter that much anyway? Shouldn’t we just love each other? Isn’t it good enough that we attend church and serve from time to time? Well, while as a pastor I certainly desire to see our church be loving and I encourage both church attendance and service, we must also pursue what A.W. Tozer called the “knowledge of the Holy.”
Our aim at COTES is to be a feeling, thinking, and doing church. I believe as we THINK more about who God is, we will FEEL more deep affection for Him, and in turn we will DO more good works for His glory. The TRINITY series should start in the mind and heart and end up working out through our hands and lives.
As a 35 year old christian, I have watched some very positive things happen in the church over the past few decades. My generation has become extremely missional and socially and culturally sensitive in a way that has built bridges and opened doors for the Gospel. However, I do think many of my generation and the church in general have developed a mild disdain for the intellectual side of Christianity. This is regrettable, because the scriptures clearly teach us to “love God with all our mind”. Knowledge is not a bad thing. In fact, the knowledge of God is transforming and foundational to the believer. We must develop a deep desire to truly KNOW our God.
So, this weekend I will dive into the mysterious and wonderful deep waters of the Trinity. I will do so with great humility and healthy fear. I do so as one leading a group of finite people up an infinite mountain which we will not summit until we meet Jesus and we finally see completely and clearly. We will worship Him and approach Him in all His splendor and majesty. We will see what He has revealed about Himself in His Word. My prayer is that we will never be the same. Theology and doctrine matters because it is our study and belief in the One True God.
Words are powerful little things. They can bring great joy and deep despair. They can arouse powerful emotions and urge us to action. A simple combination of letters forms what can be a power packed form of communication. We live in a world where words are thrown around in an endless universe of communication, information, and language. Often, we forget the power of our words. I hope this is a reminder to watch, shape, and better use your words.
The scriptures have much to say about our words. Proverbs 13:3 states “He who guards his mouth keeps his life, but he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Yep, that’s pretty powerful. It is clear that we should be extremely careful in how we choose to use our words. This verse teaches that our words can become harmful and destructive to ourselves. We need to be careful that what we say doesn’t get us into a mess. Careless speech is an icy highway of words that can quickly cause spiraling destruction in your relationships and profession.
Our words can also have a huge impact on others. Proverbs 15:4 states “A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger”. How many fights and conflicts could we all have avoided if we would have used our words more carefully? What you say and how you say it matters more than you could ever imagine. In light of this truth, we should all take much more care to choose our words wisely.
Proverbs 18:21 makes it clear that “the tongue has the power of life and death”. When you and I speak, do our words give life or death? The next time you have interaction with someone or about someone, ask this question: Is what I’m about to say life or death giving? This is a powerful question that can serve as a filter to catch your words before they do great damage.
Also notice that your words can have incredible positive impact. The scriptures teach us the “right word and the right time is like medicine”. This is so true! We all have had someone say kind and encouraging words to us at the right time and they were truly healing. I encourage you today to take an inventory of the way you use your words. You choose to do great damage or great good. The “words” are in your court.