The Unofficial Israel Tour :: Caesarea Philippi

Why did Jesus take his disciples so far north to ask them a couple simple questions? Caesarea Philippi was in pagan territory after all! Let’s take an unofficial tour and see this famous bible story with new eyes…

The purpose of the meeting between God and the Hebrews at Mt. Sinai was clearly to establish relationship with them (see Exod. 24:1-8). . . . Christian worship is like Hebrew worship. In worship, God renews his covenant with us. In worship, our relationship to God is deepened and strengthened when the order itself represents God’s speaking to us and God’s saving us through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son.

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

A Prayer Experience from Psalm 130

I recorded this prayer experience in the chapel of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral.  I know it’s a Catholic church and we have some theological differences, but it is a beautiful space and one that has engaging pictures and sculptures.  For example, the sheaf of wheat carved into the alter table that points to Jesus being our “first fruits”.

So as the season of Lent is a time to confess our sins and become more aware of our own mortality, here is a prayer experience based on Psalm 130. For more on this prayer model, click here.

Living Out Joy

I’ve been thinking about the ways that we live out JOY in our lives.  One of the ways we do that as believer is through praising God.  That could be through singing, but it doesn’t have to be.  But when we PRAISE GOD, we are living our his role for us in creation AND finding a better quality of life.  Let’s talk and drive…

 

Response, from the very beginning of worship to the end, must be a powerful inner experience of actually being in the presence of God. When we sing a hymn or say a confession or prayer, we are not singing or saying words, but expressing a feeling, bringing our souls, truly responding and communicating to the loving and active presence of a loving and merciful God.

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

Response is a necessary element in the communication that takes place at worship.  It is the complement to God’s speaking and acting. . . . Worship cannot take place without our response to God himself…our innermost selves reach out to him.

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

Worship forms me spiritually. Worship not only presents Christ, it causes Christ to be formed in my life. The structure of worship is itself the structure of life—words and deeds. When I am thoroughly involved in worship I not only hear and see, but I become…To be formed by worship is to take on the characteristics of Christ, to be shaped by his presence within.

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

[The end of the service] is more than a signal that the time of worship is over. It is the beginning of service in the world. . . . [We] need to give careful thought to the words and actions that send God’s people into the world.

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

New Song: Reckless Love

There has been some controversy about the song, “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury.  It’s gotten a lot of radio play and churches all over the country are singing it, but as one blogger wrote, “God’s Love is not Reckless, Contrary to What you Might Sing.”  Like I said, there is some controversy.  The blogger in question claims that God is not reckless in his plan of salvation, but was intentional from the beginning.  And, he has a literal, theological point.  God does have a plan to bring salvation to his people and he has been working out that plan since the Fall.  What the blogger misses, is that scripture talks about the gospel being “foolishness”.  So I think we can all agree that God’s love is not reckless in the sense of being “irresponsible”, but I think we can also agree that God’s love is perceived to be foolish by the outside world!  As 1 Cor 1:18 & 25 says,

“…the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”…and…”the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

Paul is taking the negative word “foolishness” and using it as a positive for God.  I find it interesting that the song writer, Cory Asbury, is famous for using the same kind of dramatic language that turns the meanings of negative words on their heads.  And he isn’t the only one!  Back in the ’90s, Rich Mullins sang about the “the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God.”  So when we sing about the “reckless love of God” we are singing that to an outsider, God’s love seems foolish and brash, but in fact “the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men.”  Let’s jump into verse one…

Verse 1:
Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me

You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance. -Psalm 32

You have been so, so good to me

Psalm 13:6 (NLT) I will sing to the LORD because He is good to me.

Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me

I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord. -Ezekiel 37:6

As I look at the song, I’m not sure if the songwriter is talking about speaking and breathing in terms of being born as a baby or in terms of our rebirth in Christ.  In light of the gospel message in the song, I like to think of it in terms of our salvation.  Psalm 32 is written to believers and Ezekiel also seems to indicate that the breath, or Spirit of God, comes into us at salvation and then we have true life.  That is God’s kindness…

You have been so, so kind to me

Psalms 117:2 For His lovingkindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord is everlasting. Praise the Lord!

Chorus:
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:7-8

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. -1 Corinthians 1:18

Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

This is the heart of the song.  The gospel message.  Jesus left heaven to find us even though we didn’t deserve and couldn’t earn salvation on our own.  Jesus said in Luke 15:3-5

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders…”

I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. -Romans 3:23

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
I hope we experience that as we sing and in our whole life!  Moving onto verse two where the writer elaborates on where we were when God saved us…we were God’s foe and full of sin…
Verse 2:
When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! -Romans 5:10

When I was in sin, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me

…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. -Mark 10:45

Bridge:
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me
Here we have references to John 1:4-5, Psalm 139:7-12, Ephesians 2:13-15, and John 8:32, but the main message is simple.  God came to seek the lost and that is anyone who believes.  Not only that, he is pursuing us today and every day of our lives.

“…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” –Luke 19:10

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life…-Psalm 23:6a