Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jesus' Resurrection Is Our Hope of Salvation

God raised Jesus from the dead. What great news! “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:23-24). But did you know that it was you and I who had Him killed by hanging Him on a tree? At first glance, that seems preposterous. You and I were not even there some 2000 years ago. But Acts 5:30-31 says, “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead, whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted Him to His own right hand as Prince and Savior that He might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins.” The phenomenon is that Jesus laid down His life for us, the ones whose sins killed Him.

All of us have sinned. We are all guilty. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But Jesus died for all sinners. Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this way: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Why did He die for us? 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus was innocent. He became the sins that confine and separate us from God. Hebrews 12:2 says, “For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Why would anyone joyfully endure the torturous nature of crucifixion? Because Jesus loves us so much! He stood in your place, died your death, defeated your sin, and made a way back to God – just for you. Without His death, no one could be saved or set free from sin.

You see, Jesus really died so you and I could really die to sin. Jesus really resurrected from the dead so you and I could really resurrect into a completely new and different life in Him. Jesus was really dead and really came back to life. He was beaten, scourged, and tortured. He was nailed to a cross with three spikes that were about 8 inches long and a half inch thick. To make sure He did die, the Roman soldiers speared Him in the side, piercing His lung and heart. He died the death you and I should have died. He died in our place – our substitute. While dying for our sins was not ours to bear, living for Him is. Because of what He did for us, we should willingly give our lives to Him. The purpose of trusting in Christ is for forgiveness of sins, because it is from sin that we need to be saved. “Christ died for our sins” and “was buried, and ... raised on the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). If Christ was not raised, His death was in vain, your faith in Him would be pointless, and your sins would still be counted against you with no hope of spiritual life. Because Christ lives, we too shall live (John 14:19).

In Romans chapter 10 there are two great verses that bring this right down to our own lives. Verse 9 and 10 say that, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Salvation is equal to eternal life and deliverance from sin. Salvation in Christ is our only hope. Salvation determines our eternal destiny. Salvation is only for those who believe in the resurrection and who confess Jesus as Lord. My prayer is that you see God’s great love clearly expressed through the death and resurrection of Jesus. I pray today you repent of your sins, believe in the resurrection, and confess Jesus as Lord.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Worship and the Word

I was in our Sunday morning worship service this last week and thanked God for two things - pastors who engages in worship and for musicians who engage in God's Word.  Believe it or not, these two don't exist in a lot of churches.  And if we are not careful, they won't exist in ours.  I was at a church conference last year with several major church pastors there (you know the kind with 10,000 members and best-selling books).  I know, I know, I  should have been worshipping during the worship time but I couldn't help but watch the pastors who were present.  I was shocked.  People everywhere were lifing hands and engaging in worship but not the pastors.  Some sat, some talked to each other, some were on their phones and computers, some were not even in the service until time to speak.  I couldn't believe that my greatest models didn't engage during the worship times.  I'm so thankful that my pastor lifts his hands higher and sings louder than anyone else around him not just because he is a model to the congregation but because he knows he is a worshipper of the Living God. 

I also noticed something else about the praise teams that were there that day - most of them did not come back into the services to hear the message after the worship time.  Those who did failed to bring a Bible, notepad and pen so that they could engage in the scriptures the pastors were teaching on.  This, sadly, is common place among most musicians.  They went back into their "green room" instead of being under the Word. 

Let me start by saying a few things about the musicians needing to engage in the pastor's message.  I'm a musician so I can talk to you straight.   When you don't bring your bible, take notes, and listen intently so you can apply it to your life, you dishonor your pastor who has been preparing all week to share God's Word.  Basicly, you are just doing a cover gig for the main performer - after your gig is up, your done for the night.  This is not a gig.  This is not a garage band.  This is not a hobby.  It is worship - which really has nothing to do with your instrument but it has to do with your heart.   It is also a bigger issue than honoring your pastor - it is respecting and honoring God's Word.  God's Word and worship go hand-in-hand.  You cannot separate the two.  Before you learned your skill and talent as a musician, God created you as a worshipper.  This is foremost done through reading, listening to, applying and obeying the Word.  God's Word is what shows us Who we worship.  If we can't learn who He is, how can we lead others into His presence in worship? 

Set aside the thoughts of what you are playing after the preaching, transitions, new songs, mistakes in the worship time and pick up the word - follow with an intensity that screams "I LOVE THE LORD OF MY BIBLE!"  If you pick up your instrument more than you pick up the Word you have got things out of balance.  If you know more worship songs than you do Bible verses you have got things out of balance.  You have to get in the Word daily.  It would be better not to practice your instrument all week and be in the Word every day than playing your instrument every day and never getting in the Word all week.  You cannot lead people where you have not been.  How can you lead the full measure of songs like "You Saved The Day" if you don't know scriptures like John 11:25-26, Romans 6:8-11, Philippians 3:10-12, and Mark 16:1-8?  Then, you are not just singing a man's words of a song - you are singing the very words and doctrine of Scripture - how powerful is that!!!  Worship the God who gave you that talent and ability by getting to know Him.  Get outside your instrument for a while and engage in the Word.  This will connect you to the body in a greater way than playing and singing ever could.

Ok, now to the pastors.  I can speak them straight because I am one of them too.  Pastors, and leaders as well, must remember this - we are the main worship leaders.  The people in the praise teams lead us in worship but everyone is looking at the pastoral leadership.  How is your countenance in worship?  Are you present in the congregation during that time?  What are you modeling to your people?  It does not matter if you can sing at all.  I promise you that the people in your church will never go further in worship than you lead them.  Count on it.  If you are preaching on how great God's grace is but fail to worship during "Amazing Grace", your message will not be as powerful as it could be.  If you are preaching on salvation but fail to worship during "Mighty To Save" then your message will not be as powerful as it could be.  Put your notes away during the worship time.  Work out all those transitions, scriptures, points, and illustrations during the week.  When you model worship, people can instantly put that into practice.  They see you lifting hands - they lift hands.  They see you full of joy, they are full of joy.  They see you sitting and texting, they sit and text.  Come on pastors - ENGAGE!  You were called to preach - me too.  But before you and I were called to preach we were created to praise.  God doesn't just want you to preach about Him - He wants you to give praise to Him.  You know the scriptures - now express to God your appreciation, love, devotion, and ferver for who you realize Him to be because of the life-changing, quick, powerful, double-edged word that you have been engaged in all week. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Being A Parent - Making Disciples

I love being a dad!!!  I just spent the last two hours cooking and eating supper with my girls, giving Kylee a guitar lesson (she learned the E and A chords tonight), giving them piggy-back rides, playing hide-n-go-seek, "monster daddy", and playing/singing/dancing to a song Kylee and I wrote on the piano called "Daddy Robot".  I'm TIRED!!!  But what a great time.
As I sit here with Kylee and Abby, I think about my biggest goal in parenting (don't you have one?).

Here it is - making them into disciples of Jesus.  No, it is not good grades, scholarships to college, or to be successful and drug-free.  Those are nice but worthless in and of themselves.  I ask God every day three things for them - "God, raise up my girls to be the greatest women of God of their generation.  Secondly, help them to one day marry Godly men who love Jesus and His church.  And finally, protect them from the evil one.”

What do you pray for your children?  That their food is blessed?  That they have a good night sleep?  Not good enough!!!

Something else wrapped up in this discipleship of my children is this - I want to raise my kids to have a boring testimony.  What do I mean?  I want them to love Jesus and look like Him so much that they stear clear of trouble and all they have to say when someone asks about their testimony is "All I know is following Jesus."  Too audacious?  "Yeah right" you say?  Wishful thinking?  "Come on," someone might say - "that's setting them up for failure."

I know, I know.  Unless you've been drunk off your rear end most of your life, been in jail, divorced 5 times, and had near death experiences you can't have a powerful testimony.  WRONG!!!  Someone out there is thinking, "I can't wait till one day to tell him 'I told you so.'"  I know in the church we usually like the horror stories more than the ones where people always follow Christ.  I understand.  The stories with all the doom and gloom sound like more of a transformation and do connect with a huge crowd.  But what about wanting the best for my girls and wanting to see them follow Christ wholeheartedly every step of their lives?  I'm not saying they are perfect, sinless, or incapable of failure - I know better!!!  While the horror story testimonies are powerful, they also break my heart.  These stories bring me to tears.  But what if they were my kids telling them?  Wow!  Sure, God can take our mess and turn it into a ministry. He can take our mistakes and turn them into miracles but I think He actually likes our steadfast obedience better - this He can use as an opportunity to reach many for Him.  How?  It is a statement that screams "JESUS IS NOT JUST WORTH COMING BACK TO - HE IS WORTH NEVER LEAVING IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!!"
Why can't we raise kids who not just survive this cruel wicked world but actually thrive in it?  Why can't we raise modern day warriors for Christ?  Why not raise kids who are not influenced by the world but who influence the world?  I mean, who wouldn't want to raise kids that change the world instead of it changing them? 

I realize that I can't control my kid's choices but I sure can push them in the right direction.  They have free will like anyone else but I'm going to model and show them the goodness, grace, joy, and blessings of serving the Lord in such a great way that nothing else will compare.  They will be like Peter when he said, "Lord, where else would we go? You alone have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68).  When they compare what the world offers to what God offers the choice will be easy.  Jesus is the Way, Truth and the Life!  My bible says that if I bring them up in the ways of the Lord, when they are older they will not depart from Him (Proverbs 22:6).  We will memorize and apply scripture together.  We will love being His church and being with His church.  We will confront sin.  We will obey His word.  We will love the Lord with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength as the Harrison family.  As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!  I will lead them to the cross and we will never look back.
Now, trust me - their testimonies won't be boring. They will be full of the activity of God and His mighty grace and works!  Too much to ask for?  Not according to my Bible and my God.  He is capable of doing immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.  To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! (Ephesians 3:20-21).   This is true for all our kids - throughout all generations- even yours.  Start making them into disciples today.  Don't wait for someone else to do it for you - they are yours - entrusted to you.  Now that's one-on-one discipleship.  Now that's fun!  That's why we are parents.