Faith and Date Candy

On Tuesday, I was making date candy.

To be exact, I was helping my daughter make date candy, but that’s besides the point.  On Tuesday, I tasted date candy and it was an amazing experience…the sweet, gooey flavor mixed with a sprinkling of nuts and cinnamon.  Wowsers.  It changed my life.

Ok, maybe that’s a slight overstatement, but I am hoping that there was some small life change.  But before I tell you what I mean, let’s back up.

This year, our family has decided to homeschool.  I’m not sure if we will do it long term.  There are lots of good educational options, but for this year, we are hoping that it will help us gel as a family with two adults, an 11-year old girl and an 8-month old baby boy.  So on Tuesday, my day off, my daughter and I were learning about Ancient Egypt and one of the projects was to make a date candy that the Egyptians might have eaten.  She did most of the work chopping the dates and nuts, mixing in the water and spices and rolling them into balls.  I crushed the cardamom spices and did an amazing job, if I do say so myself.

While she was doing most of the work, I got to thinking about places in the Bible that talk about dates.  I found one in 1 Chronicles 16:1-3.  David brings the Ark up to Jerusalem and we read…

They brought the Ark of God and placed it inside the special tent David had prepared for it. And they presented burnt offerings and peace offerings to God.  When he had finished his sacrifices, David blessed the people in the name of the Lord.  Then he gave to every man and woman in all Israel a loaf of bread, a cake of dates, and a cake of raisins.

When the date candy was done, we read these verses and talked about how the Israelites ate dates too.  In fact, this date candy might be similar to what David gave to the people on this exciting day when God’s ark was brought back to Jerusalem.  And then we bit into the date candy…the sweet, gooey flavor mixed with a sprinkling of nuts and cinnamon.  Wowsers.  It changed my life.

Or at least it hope it will change my life…and my daughter’s too.  What I realized again, is that faith is more “caught than taught”.  I can talk about God’s word and faith until I’m blue in the face.  We can talk about pursuing God and prayer until we are red in the face, BUT none of that will make any difference in anyone’s life if we don’t also live it.  We need to be people who pray.  We need to be people who live faith.  We need to be people who make faith just as real as eating a sweet, gooey date candy.

Wowsers.  It just might change your life.

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Pursue God.

PURSUE.  This is our word for the year.  But, do we live it out?

I’m not sure I always do.

For me, it’s a word that calls us to spend our lives for God’s Kingdom.  For me, it’s an emotional word.  Let me break it down like this…

Our emotions are connected to the things that we care about.  Think about it.  When do you get the most emotional?  For example, If you’ve lost a loved one, as I have, you might break down in tears as you remember them.  We get emotional about the things that we care about.

So in our worship services, we should get emotional.  Right?  Again for example, in a worship service you should experience awe and wonder because you have experienced God as good and awe-inspiring.  When we sing, we are forming our heart’s desires to PURSUE God.

But what happens if we don’t do this?  Why would that be a problem?  Pastor Zack Hicks says it this way,

“Worship devoid of emotion is a dangerous thing because it can train us into believing that these concerns really aren’t concerns.  This is why emotionless worship is just as toxic to our faith as haphazardly emotional worship is.”*

Part of our role as singers, musicians, techs and dramatists is that we create space where people can feel the right emotions at the right times and about the right things.  When we sing about sin, we should be crushed because it separates us from God.  When we create art about salvation, we should be filled with hope and joy because it is the only way to find life.  This is just ONE way we PURSUE God!

Now, it’s also important make sure that we know what our job is and what it ISN’T!  As the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”  We can lead people to develop their emotional responses to the gospel of Jesus as they pursue God, but it’s alway the Holy Spirit (and ONLY the Holy Spirit) who makes people feel those emotions!  It’s the Holy Spirit who enables us to PURSUE.

Our goal is NOT to be more emotional.  Our goal is to PURSUE GOD and therefore become people of joy, love, hope and peace inside and outside of our worship services.

____________________________

*The Worship Pastor by Zack Hicks

Worship challenges secularism because it establishes a relationship with God and sets the world in order. In worship, the good news is happening again. It reaffirms the reality of God, the significance of life, and the worth of the human person.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

Worship lifts the worshiper out of drudgery and brings meaning to life. Worship links the worshiper with that common set of memories which belong to the Christian family. The memory of Christ and the connection with Christian people throughout history and around the world is made though the celebration of those sacred events of the church year. This happens in every weekly celebration.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

True worship stands in opposition to the secular trend that repudiates the supernatural. Secularization says all that is, is what is. It argues that there is nothing outside of human existence to give life meaning or value. The secular attitude insists that humans are left to create their own meaning, value, and identity. But in the celebration of the Christ-event, worship affirms the supernatural, sanctions the past, and creates confidence in the future.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

Biblical worship is rooted in an event that is to be lived, not proven. . . . In Christian worship we are not merely asked to believe in Jesus Christ, but to live, die, and be resurrected again with him. Life is not an intellectual construct, but a journey of death and rebirth. When our life story is brought up into the story of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, it then gains meaning and purpose.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

A Child of God

 

He sees me and instantly his eyes light up and a smile covers his whole face.  When I nuzzle his neck and pretend like I’m eating him he laughs with pure joy.  I sing and he stops what he is doing to gaze at me with eyes full of wonder.  Later, when he is getting tired, he grabs ahold of my shirt and pulls his head into my chest to find comfort and then sleep.

Yes. These last few months have been ones of sleepless nights and poopy diapers, but even more so, they have been filled with wonder and joy.  I don’t have any long profound message for you except to say that I’m realizing again what it means to be a child of God.  This is exactly what Jesus meant when he said,

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Do I look for God and does my heart light up when I catch glimpses of his glory?

Do I laugh with pure joy at his gifts and love?

Do I stop what I’m doing to listen with wide-eyed wonder at his creation?

Do I go to him and find rest in his arms?

It is in these simple life moments that I am filled with such love for my new, little son.  And as I lay him down to sleep in his crib and he rolls over onto his side, (Don’t do that, kid!  Haven’t you heard of SIDS??!?!?) I remember that I too am a child of God.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

God who spoke will speak through the Word. God who acted will act in our worship. [We need] a restoration of the supernatural, an expectancy that God will be present to us in our worship to touch us, to heal us, and to make us whole.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

Cancer and Resurrection

It’s the beginning of April.  This time every year, as we see both snow and 70 degree temps, I am also thinking about something more than Spring Break.

I’m thinking about cancer.

I was diagnosed with cancer on April 5th over 10 years ago.  I remember getting the news from the ER doctor who walked in after my x-ray and blood work.  I had been in chronic pain for over month and was still feeling it’s bite even with a full dose of Vicodin.

“I’m sorry.  This is the part of my job that I don’t like,” the doctor said, “but you have cancer and it’s extensive.”

I was sure at that moment that I was a dead man walking.  The doctor had just said the “C-word”…malignant cancer spreading to my abdomen and wrapping around my right kidney and main artery in an attempt to squeeze the life out of me.  I could envision the surgeon cutting me open during surgery and surveying my internal organs that now looked like a grey gelatinous mass.  “Sew him up and send him home with morphine,” he’d say, “There’s nothing we can do…”

Cancer.  The word feels like a death sentence, because for so many it is.

chemo chair

But I didn’t die then.  In fact, in a couple hours later another doctor walked into the room.  This doctor was an oncologist and she said, “It’s serious, but we can handle this.”  I had faced death and suddenly I was given…hope.

Death and resurrection.  That is the theme for our church this year as we start a new series called “The End and the Beginning”.  This is also a theme for me. Because of what Jesus did?  Yes.  But also because over 10 years ago, I saw death starring me in the face.  Death.  And resurrection.

And that is also the theme of the next week and a half.  We proclaim life, but also death.  Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Our death and resurrection.  That is the story of our faith.

Jesus died.

Jesus rose again.

Jesus will come again.

And because he did.  We will too.

I remember sneaking in the back of the church service during my 12 weeks of chemo.  My hair had fallen out.  My fingers tingled because of nerve damage.  My blood vessels were burned.  I didn’t have enough strength to talk to people, but I wanted to be in church.  I needed to be in church…surrounded by God’s people singing.  And so I would sing with tears in my eyes.  Despite the pain.  Despite the cancer.

I

Would

Sing.

chemo me

And again, that is what we do.  We sing in the face of pain and death.  This is one of the things it means to be a disciple.  We are made new.  We bear His death and resurrection in our bodies and because of that, we sing.  Jesus died and rose again.

So this weekend, we sing.

This is not the end.

We sing.

LET THE MESSAGE OF CHRIST DWELL AMONG YOU RICHLY…SINGING TO GOD WITH GRATITUDE IN YOUR HEARTS. –COLOSSIANS 3:16