Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Quotation of the Day

The great danger facing all of us... is not that we shall make an absolute failure of life, nor that we shall fall into outright viciousness, nor that we shall be terribly unhappy, nor that we shall feel that life has no meaning at all--not these things. The danger is that we may fail to perceive life's greatest meaning, fall short of its highest good, miss its deepest and most abiding happiness, be unable to tender the most needed service, be unconscious of life ablaze with the light of the Presence of God--and be content to have it so--that is the danger: that some day we may wake up and find that always we have been busy with husks and trappings of life and have really missed life itself. For life without God, to one who has known the richness and joy of life with Him, is unthinkable, impossible. That is what one prays one's friends may be spared--satisfaction with a life that falls short of the best, that has in it no tingle or thrill that comes from a friendship with the Father. ... Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), Sermons [1878]

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

I have a box of my grandfather's sermons and speeches. Below is the text of a speech he gave on Memorial Day in Cameron, WVa, in 1953.

Mr. Chairman, Beloved and respected defenders of our America in the struggles of the past and in the present bloody war. Ladies and gentlemen - It is not necessary that I explain the object of our service today. Its purpose is engrafted on your memory as one of our most cherished privileges. The privilege of a free people, scattering the tokens of undying love upon the graves of those who made the supreme sacrifice and honoring the memories of those whose bodies are in the embrace of mother earth in foreign lands or sleeping in the bosom of the mighty deep.

And although it is not possible to erase from our memories the terrible realities of war, yet we can raise our hearts in thanksgiving and appreciation. And as we bow our heads in honor of our brave boys and girls, we feel at the same time the tenderest sentiment of a great sorrow. And the gladness of a greatful heart.

We mourn and yet we rejoice. We uncover our heads as a token of true solemnity, and yet we bless the courage of these defenders of the Grandest Nation on earth America.

Who can point to a more noble purpose than to meet as we meet today?

And as I look over this audience I see the same true spirit outlined in your countenance as they manifest in their service. I see the same sentiment of loyalty. I see in the flush of the cheek your willingness to do and to dare in defence of the flag we love.

We are all endowed with the same loyalty to our government, the same determination to protect it and the same courage to defend it. As a people we are grand in government, grand in prosperity, and grand in achievement. Alone we stand upon the foundation of our greatness. But it is not enough that we proclaim our greatness. There is more for all of us to do. And as we meet together on this Memorial Day, let us renew our devotion to our government and so educate our people that our American form of government will never decay.

May we ever appreciate the heritage bequeathed to us on the altar of sacrifice. And may we realize the sacredness of that loyalty which binds us together up on the plain of equal rights. We know our greatness and let us, by a just and righteous conduct, cherish it.

The strength of true greatness depends upon the basic principles of honesty and justice. It was these principles that won for us the glorious independence of this nation. It was these that governed the makers of our constitution, and it is these same principles which must govern our future acts if we would maintain the proud position we hold among other nations. Only five remain who fought in the civil war. They range in age from 105 to 110 years. But later, thirty-five years ago there went forth from their homes thousands of fine young men. They crossed the rolling deep and pitched their tents in Flanders fields and in theValley of the Argonne.

They lived in dugouts. They marched and ate and slept in mud. They rushed into living hells. They were cold, weary and homesick, no one but Almighty God knows the length and breadth and the depth of the awful anguish and suffering of those who fought and died on those European battle fields.

Then again in world war two the call came for defenders of our sacred rights, and your boys and mine answered that call with the same undaunted courage and the same unquenchable spirit that characterized the brave lads of 76, of the Spanish American war, and the boys of world war one - They went forth, met and conquered the enemy in the skys over Europe, in the mud of Italy, in the jungled islands of the Pacific, and in the frozen north land. And today our brave boys are fighting in the jungles of Korea against the most barbarous and uncivilized enemy we can imagine.

Why do young men postpone the day of marriage, print the last long lingering kiss on the lips of a loved one and rush into war with its uncertain future? Why do fathers and mothers bid their boys and girls a fond goodbye and send them forth to the many battle fronts? I am sure they did it for a principle.

There has never been an upward movement in the history of the world for the liberation of the people of the earth that has not been achieved by the shedding of precious blood. Mans forward march from lower to higher ideals is written on the roadways of history in foot prints of blood. And today the souls of men and women are being tried all because the power seeking dictators of the world would regiment and enslave the peoples of the entire world. And turn their God ordained libery into slavery.

Religious liberty, domestic security, social welfare, and political independence are all thrown into the balance. And our boys have cast their lives in the scales to maintain these blessings. These blessings can only be enjoyed so long as we have proper regard for a divine being. God is on the ocean, on the desert, on the isles of the sea and in the frigid north land. As well as in the U.S. For the nations and kingdoms that will not serve Thee shall perish. Yea these nations shall be utterly wasted. Isa 60:12

We make the sacrifice because we love our country and her institutions. And when our eyes behold that emblem of our national existence, we feel as though we could clasp its folds in our dearest embrace, and kiss each star that bedecks its field of blue. Flag of our fathers. Flag of our Washington, our Lincoln, our Douglas, our Grant. Flag of our brave men in their present conflict. As we see it floating on the wind of Heaven we feel and know what it represents.

We stand before you in awe and admiration while in our hearts we thank God that you still float over us the emblem of liberty and freedom - God bless America.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Grandma and Grandpa Gray

In the post on my recent family reunion I mentioned the common heritage we shared as descendents of my grandparents. Chester Arthur Gray was born in Kausooth, along upper Fish Creek in rural Marshall County West Virginia, in 1889. (His grandfather had been born in Kausooth in the 1830's.) He died in 1965 when I was in the first grade.

He married Katherine McWhorter in 1912. They had five daughters and four sons - my dad is the youngest of these. Grandpa Gray was a farmer, a preacher, and a bit of a politician. He actually served as the WVa State Highway Commissioner in the 1930's. I don't have many clear memories of him, but there are two images that do come to mind.

Sometime in the early 60's he and grandma moved from the family farm into town - Cameron. We would frequently make the hour drive from Wheeling to Cameron (it was only about 30 miles as the crow flies, but those are truly winding and twisty country roads). We would spend the weekend so my dad could drive grandma and grandpa out to Fish Creek (another 30 minute drive with some really cool switchbacks going from the ridge down to the creek) where he would preach at the little church in Kausooth. The image I recall is of him sitting on the front row next to the heater in the little church building while we sang and then standing up to preach. I don't remember what he said, but he said it forcefully.

The second image is of him sitting in his rocker in the apartment they moved to. He would have a tin can to spit his tobacco juice into, and always had these pink mints. He taught me to play checkers sitting in that rocker.

Grandma was a gentle woman. She lived for nearly 20 years after grandpa died. I never heard her complain or speak an unkind word. I didn't realize at the time how strong she was to keep up the farm and raise nine kids while my grandpa was frequently gone preaching at gospel meetings all over WVa and eastern Ohio. She lost 2 sons and 3 grandchildren that I can remember during her lifetime. During her latter years she came to live with my aunt. She loved to have visitors to sit and talk, and I wish I had spent more time listening to her when I had the chance.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Graduation Day

It is now official - my baby boy is a high school graduate. These 12 years since he entered the first grade have passed so quickly. I'm sure that it has seemed like a much longer time to Taylor - 2/3 of his life so far - but I can still remember his first day of school like it was last week. He and Barbara got their picture in the Richardson News as she was picking him up after school and hugging him. The caption in the paper said she was comforting him, but I think it was the other way around. He has constantly been a comfort and a source of joy to us, and always a source of pride. He has a compassionate spirit, a wry sense of humor, and is affectionate towards his parents and grandparents. He has a good heart and a tender conscience, he is trustworthy and has grown into a young man of character. We are proud of his accomplishments, but even more proud of the person he is. Richardson High School has been a better place because of his presence, and Pepperdine will be, too. Congratulations, son. I am proud of you.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Obvious Inferences (gracEmail)

I occasionally post items I have read that are written by someone else, and I give credit to the author when I do so. Generally it is because it caught my attention or I thought it was worth repeating. Such is the case with today's gracEmail....


A gracEmail subscriber asks whether we are capable of correctly concluding from the Bible what God intended to convey. "I believe we can," he says, "and that's why I think obvious conclusions from the Bible are so clear that all other people should also see them."
* * *
Yes, it is possible to draw correct conclusions from the Bible using our God-blessed thinking. However, Thomas Campbell, a founder of my own modern-day Churches of Christ, had some wise advice on that point. We must be careful, he warned, not to attempt to bind such deductions on the consciences of others, "farther than they see the connection and evidently perceive that they are so," otherwise their faith will rest in the wisdom of men and not in the wisdom of God.

What is "obvious" to you or to me is not necessarily "obvious" to everyone else. God does not hold others accountable to what you or I understand, but to what each of them understands. A person cannot "see" further than his or her own mind understands. A person cannot obey God further than she or he "sees." God looks at the heart, and he regards what he sees there as if it were the deed itself -- both for good (2 Chron. 30:18-20) and for ill (Matt. 5:22, 28).

Jesus does not call us to be debaters but disciples. He seeks learners, not logicians. We should love the Lord with all our minds, but that is not the same as trusting in our intellectual prowess to get us to glory. We are no more saved by our right thinking than we are saved by our right conduct or behavior. Justification is by grace through faith, not by logic through syllogisms. The gospel is not a puzzle to be deciphered but an announcement to be believed. Studiousness is one proper response to God's gift of salvation. It is not a route to eternal life apart from trusting in Jesus Christ.

Copyright 2006 by Edward Fudge. Used by permission.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

We Are Family

This past weekend I was briefly reunited with some people who profoundly influenced my life. Alice Riley was my Sunday school teacher in the first grade; Mary Singer and Hazel Sonnenwald, Doris Kerns, Edie Roberts, Opal Thomas - all were Sunday school or Vacation Bible School teachers when I was growing up in Wheeling. I honestly couldn't tell you anything specific that I learned from any of them in terms of Bible knowledge (although some of the flannelgraph stories are still embedded in my mind) but each of them were women of faith, and collectively they helped form the village that raised this child.

Dick and Carol Thomas were close friends of my parents and were like a second family to me. They lived across the street from the playground where there were ball fields and a basketball court. When I wasn't playing ball I was at their house, eating their food, drinking their koolaide, cokes, or whatever they happened to have available. This weekend Carol helped organize the surprise for my parents and ensured that everything was in place. She spent most of her time Saturday evening in the kitchen with another family friend, Donna Parsons, preparing food, cleaning up, and taking joy in blessing my family through their service. These ladies' servant behavior Saturday was typical of what I witnessed with regularity as a boy.

It has been nearly 30 years since I regularly attended church in Wheeling. Many of the people I remember are now gone, and some of those that are still there have aged in that time - others don't look much different. Sunday morning's singing, prayers, sermon didn't seem too much different from what I recall. (3 songs, a prayer, a song, communion....) Theologically, philosophically, educationally, experientially - I may not have as much in common with the church in Wheeling as I did 30 years ago, but there is one thing that has not changed - We are family. With all the idiosyncracies and human shortcomings we may have, with whatever differences in opinion we may have, we are family.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Family Reunion

Family Reunion - the words conjure up a variety of images for different people, sometimes positive and sometimes not. This past Sunday a few dozen members of the Gray family gathered in Wheeling, WVa to celebrate the 90th birthday of my Aunt Irene. We came together from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Illinois, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Ohio, and West Virginia. There were relatives that I had not seen in more than 25 years, but we all share a common heritage.

My dad is the youngest of the nine children of Chester and Katherine Gray, of Cameron, WVa. My Aunt Rene is the oldest of the five remaining siblings. She is a gentle woman who has known more than her share of pain; she has buried 2 of her sons and 2 husbands, 2 brothers and 2 sisters. My grandmother and my great-grandmother spent the last years of their lives in her care. She delights in her family and it was good to be able to gather together and celebrate with her.

My parents will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on June 9th. My sisters and I took advantage of the gathering of family and friends to surprise them with a reception Saturday evening. We were somehow able to plan by email (from Tx, OK, and New Hampshire) and pull off a complete surprise with the help of my cousin Jan (Aunt Rene's daughter) and Wheeling friend Carol Thomas. My parents may be the best exemplars of lives of service that I have known. Even though they have been gone from Wheeling for more than 20 years, the number of people who remembered them and came to the reception was gratifying, and was indicative of the example they lived. I am fortunate to have them as my parents.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Vendor vs Missional

I'm not sure where I came across this definition distinguishing between evangelism from a vendor perspective vs evangelism with a missional perspective, but as the kickoff for the Partnership for Missional Church draws near, it is worth consideration...

In vendor churches, evangelism appeals to seekers focusing on their individual needs. Salvation is portrayed as a personal experience where God is invited to become a part of “my life.” In contrast, evangelism rooted in notions of the mission of God invites persons to abandon lives focused on their own interests to join the work of God for the sake of the world. Instead of viewing salvation as inviting God into “my life,” missional evangelism invites participants into God’s life—a life that is communal by its very nature.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Betrayal of Work

For the past several months I have been participating in the Urban Engagment Book Club, a monthly book review sponsored by Central Dallas Ministries. This month's book is A Betrayal of Work by Beth Shulman. Below is an excerpt....

For generations, Americans shared a tacit understanding that if you worked hard, you could earn a livable income and provide basic security for yourself and your family. That promise has been broken. More than 30 million Americans--one in four workers--are stuck in low-wage jobs that do not provide the basics for a decent life.....

Cynthia Porter works full time as a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home in Marion, Alabama. When she comes on duty at 11 pm, she makes rounds, checking the residents for skin tears and helping them go to the toilet or use a bedpan. She has to make sure she turns the bedridden every two hours, or they will get bedsores. And if bedsores are left unattended, she tells me, they can get so bad you can put your fist in them. But there aren't enough people on her shift. Often only two nursing assistants are on duty to take care of forty-five residents. And Cynthia must also wash the wheelchairs, clean up the dining rooms, mop the floors and scrub out the refrigerator, drawers and closets during her shift. Before she leaves, she helps the residents get dressed for breakfast.

For all this, Cynthia makes $350 every two weeks. She is separated from her husband, who gives her no child support. The first two weeks each month she pays her $150 rent. The next two weeks, she pays her water and her electric bills. It is difficult to afford Clorox or shampoo. Insuring that her children are fed properly is a stretch. She is still paying off the bicycles she bought for them last Christmas.

She can't afford a car, so she pays someone to drive her the twenty-five miles to work. There have been a few days when she couldn't find a ride. "I walked at 12 o'clock at night," she said. "I'd rather walk and be a little late than call in. I'd rather make the effort. I couldn't just sit here. I don't want to miss a day--otherwise, I might be fired." No public transportation is available that could take her all the way to work.

Cynthia lives with her three children in a small maroon-colored shack. It is miles from a main road. Inside, the plywood floor is so thin and worn that the ground can be seen below. In the next room, a toilet sinks into the floor. There is no phone. A broken heater sits against the wall; the landlord refuses to fix it.

Keeping her children's clothes clean requires great effort because Cynthia has no washing machine. Instead, she fills her bathtub halfway and gets on her hands and knees to scrub the clothes. Then she hangs them out to dry.

Despite the frustration and the difficult conditions, Cynthia beams when she talks about her job. "I like helping people," she says. "I like talking with them, and shampooing their hair. I like old people. If they are down, I can really make them feel better. The patients say, 'Nobody loves me or comes to see me.' Sometimes I help the residents play dominoes. Sometimes their hands shake, but I hold them. It's a lot of fun for them. I tell them 'I love you,' and give them a hug. I like being a CNA. I'm doing what I want to be doing."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Quote of the Day

I find that doing the will of God leaves me with no time for disputing about His plans. ... George MacDonald (1824-1905)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Happy Birthday Lauren

23 years ago today, at approximately 4:20 AM, Lauren Ashley Gray entered this world through the portals of Harris Hospital. It was one of those clean Sunday mornings following Saturday evening thunderstorms. According to the nurses in the maternity ward the change in barometric pressure brought on by the thunderstorms would result in several births that day. Fuzzy Zoeller would win the Colonial later that afternoon. But during that pre-dawn hour while her mom was in the recovery room, I was alone in the newborn nursery holding this incredibly beautiful miracle in my arms, and my world would be forever changed. I have been blessed by Daddy's little girl for these 23 years and I am thankful every day for this precious gift from God. Happy Birthday, Lauren. Love, Daddy.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A Mother's Day Blessing

Blessed are you woman of faith: prayerful, confident, fearless and noble;

Blessed are you woman of compassion: joyful, tearful, cleansing and healing;

Blessed are you woman of strength: rooted deep, standing tall, forging new dreams and promised tomorrows;

Blessed are you woman of wisdom: unfolding mystery and revealing truth and light;

Blessed are you woman of God: sculpted from clay and fired by the very breath of God, forming and nurturing new life, reflecting the One who calls you by name.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Barbara Gray, PhD

At 4:23 CST this afternoon, Barbara officially became Dr. Barbara Gray with her hooding at Texas Woman's University's graduation ceremony.

State Representative Helen Giddings was the speaker and spoke about the responsibility that comes with privilege. She did a good job for a graduation speaker - she had something worth saying, she got to the point, and she sat down. One phrase stuck with me...she said "we all need to pay rent for the space we occupy in life", meaning that we have a responsibility to contribute to making the world a better place.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Some Quotations to Ponder...

The devil is a better theologian than any of us and is a devil still. A.W. Tozer

Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again. F. P. Jones

The greatest enemy of Christianity may be people who say they believe in Jesus but who are no longer astonished and amazed. Mike Yaconelli

I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once. Jennifer Unlimited

At the end of our lives we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made or how many great things we have done. We will be judged by: I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in. Mother Teresa

The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it. Franklin P. Jones

We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality. Albert Einstein

Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and bring Him nearer to our own image. A.W. Tozer

You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can't possibly live long enough to make them all yourself. Sam Levenson

I have a great diet. You're allowed to eat anything you want, but you must eat it with naked fat people. Ed Bluestone

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Dear Bertha

While surfing for Mother's Day thoughts and blessings I came across this. I'm hoping to incorporate some of these attitudes before I reach 88...

Dear Bertha,

I'm reading more and dusting less.

I'm sitting in the yard and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden.

I'm spending more time with my family and friends and less time working.

Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experiences to savor, not to endure.

I'm trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them.

I'm not "saving" anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, or the first Amaryllis blossom.

I wear my good blazer to the market. My theory is if I look prosperous, I can shell out $28.49 for one small bag of groceries.

I'm not saving my good perfume for special parties, but wearing it for clerks in the hardware store and tellers at the bank.

"Someday" and "one of these days" are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it's worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now.

I'm not sure what others would've done had they known they wouldn't be here for the tomorrow that we all take for granted. I think they would have called family members and a few close friends. They might have called a few former friends to apologize and mend fences for past squabbles. I like to think they would have gone out for a Chinese dinner or for whatever their favorite food was. I'm guessing; I'll never know.

It's those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew my hours were limited. Angry because I hadn't written certain letters that I intended to write one of these days. Angry and sorry, that I didn't tell my husband and parents often enough how much I truly love them.

I'm trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives.

And every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that it is special. Every day, every minute, every breath truly is a gift from God.

This was written by an 88 year-old woman to her friend.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A Safe Place

Yesterday our shepherding group met for lunch. We were going around the tables sharing what drew us to Skillman. A 12 year old boy, who is a foster child, commented that at Skillman he felt safe - he could trust the adults here and ask anyone a question. I was struck by a couple of thoughts...

1) What must a 12 year old have experienced to even think in terms of whether a place was safe? As I reflected upon that thought I remembered that this world is far from a perfect place. I am reminded to open my eyes and notice the conditions and the people that are often invisible - to learn to see through the lense of Jesus' eyes rather than the myopic lense of my own eyes.

2) I truly admire foster parents and the selfless way they minister to kids who need a safe place or some stability. They personify servanthood.

3) A safe place - what an apt description of what church should be for all of us. How many of us feel safe enough to disclose our true feelings or our darkest secrets. I know that I don't want to acknowledge even to myself my brokenness, let alone let you see that I am anything less than perfect. Yet church is where we should be able to feel safe enough to be open with one another and accepting of one another. When we recognize that we are all broken, we can begin to create a climate of healing - a place that is truly safe.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

C.S. Lewis on the Deity of Jesus

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Brian McClaren on Judgement

In the current issue of Out of Ur, Brian McClaren is interviewed on his thoughts about heaven, hell, and judgement...

Western Christianity has been overly preoccupied with the question of who’s going to heaven or hell after death, and not focused enough on the question of what kind of life is truly pleasing to God here in the land of the living. We’ve got to look at that. In The Last Word and the Word After That, I wanted to raise the issue of “Judgment,” that all will be judged rightly and fairly by God alone, who weighs the scales rightly, and does this for everyone. Again, when we put ourselves in the position of judge – making pronouncements on the eternal destiny of others – I think it’s pretty dangerous, especially in light of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


Growing up in the 70's in Wheeling, WVa there were not many options when it came to listening to the radio, and they were pretty well limited to the AM side of the dial. There was a country station and a couple of pop stations; occasionally when the weather was just right, you could pick up an FM station or two from Pittsburgh and hear some "good" music.

One of the things I discovered upon moving to Texas was Willie Nelson. I was listening to one of my Willie cds this morning on the way to the men's breakfast and this song just grabbed my attention. Here is the second verse and chorus:
I married Rebecca back in '77
And I still love her, and I guess
she loves me too
We go to church on Sundays
'cause we want to go to Heaven
Me and my family, ain't that how
you're supposed to do

But, I'm tired, Lord, I'm tired
Life is wearin' me smooth down to
the bone
No rest for the weary, you just
move on
And I'm tired, Lord, I'm tired.

I think Willie describes a world without a real sense of hope, and certainly a world where the idea of an abundant life doesn't exist. In the life he describes, you do the best you can to fulfill your duties and responsibilities, and hope it was good enough to earn a reward. How many people wear themselves down struggling through life with little or no sense of hope? With little or no sense of confidence in the grace of God to not only ease their burdens in this life, but to ensure their eternal life in heaven?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Church Shopping?

Some of the reading I have done contrasts a perception of the missional church with a perception of the church as a vendor of religious goods and services to a consumer audience. This clip from "King of the Hill" captures the latter perception...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

We Are the Sermon

I think this recent Heartlight column from Phil Ware fits in nicely with our discussion on becoming missional. W.A.T.S. - We Are The Sermon...

W.A.T.S. Happening, by Phil Ware
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1 NRS)

"Did you enjoy the worship service today?"

Seems like a harmless question, doesn't it? However, there are at least two great dangers that lurk beneath this apparently innocent question.

First, there is the consumerist assumption that seems to have invaded every facet of western culture, even our pervasive church culture. "Did you enjoy ...?" Hmm, seems like that is kinda backwards to the way we ought ask that question. "Did God enjoy our ...?" We've made ourselves-- our wants, our needs, and our preferences -- the focus of everything, even our worship of God.

So we ask questions about church like the following:
* Do I like what they are doing?
* Does this church meet my needs?
* Am I comfortable with the people here?
* What benefits do I get from going there?

We often forget the more essential questions about the church's mission, the Bible teaching's faithfulness, the people's spiritual authenticity, and the passion of the members for following the will of God. Shouldn't we be asking a more important question: is our church seeking to live as the presence of Jesus in our community?

Second, how did we ever come up with the phrase "worship service" to mean an hour to two hour slot on Sunday morning? Surely our service of worship dedicated to God is much bigger than a sit down session wherewe stare at the cowlicks in front of us, sing a few religious songs, hear a bunch of religious words, and read from old religious texts. Isn't the whole concept of worship being limited to a place and time counter to Jesus' teaching? (John 4:23-24) Have we largely relegated worship to an hour or two on Sunday and divorced it from our dailylives? Isn't genuine worship a life lived for God in response to his grace? (Romans 12:1)

Assembling with Christians for worship, fellowship, and encouragement is not optional for followers of Jesus. (Hebrews 10:19-23) At the same time, that "getting together" must be a celebration of a whole week ofworship and the anticipation of a whole new week of daily worship that lies ahead. It must come from our appreciation of God's grace generously given us in Jesus and lead to a daily life of worship lived out of our shared mission to be Jesus to our world.

As a followup to this post see what 4 Abilene churches, including Southern Hills where Phil Ware preaches, did this past Sunday... Click here to read article