Saturday, April 28, 2007

For the Preachers in the Crowd

Pastor Jeff and I are dialoging on sermonizing. Feel free to join in.

"You have to do your work whether you get recognized or not."

So says veteran jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins of all the prizes and awards he's received during a sixty-five year musical career.

I heard NPR's profile of Rollins as I headed to another part of town to conduct a funeral. His words grabbed me. The reason: In our media-saturated culture where every blogger is a potential celebrity and people are extolled as idols and superstars because they entertain us, Rollins' words are a needed smack-in-the-chops.

Part of the joy and the glory of being human is that we're privileged to work. We can set out to accomplish something and at the end of the day, behold, it's done. Or, we've advanced toward getting it done.

None of this is to say that some work isn't arduous and repetitive.

Nor is it to say that some who work aren't exploited by others. (It happens and it's immoral.)

But I'm convinced that work was never meant to be like that. Work is meant to be an expression of beings created, as Genesis tells us, "in the image of God." (Work, according to the Genesis account, was also never meant to be punishment of humanity. Human beings were charged with working, including caring for and ruling over creation, before sin entered the human picture. God will even have work for us to do in heaven. The old saying has it that there's no rest for the weary. The Bible seems to say that in heaven, we won't be wearied by work.)

But, even work that we love can become boring or difficult. In fact, the more difficult our work, often the more fulfilling it is. Just ask your local heart surgeon, flight controller, housewife, store manager, or pastor, among others.

Nonetheless, it's taken (taking) me a long time to get over this recognition thing, my addiction to being lauded for simply doing my job. According to Rollins, though compliments are nice--and I believe in handing them out liberally--they can't be the reason we work. Here's what he also told NPR:
The real deal is doing it, as best you can do it. And that's it. That's its own reward.

[UPDATE: Amba picks this topic up and makes some interesting points.]

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ohio 2008 Preferences Show Voters Still Tilt Republican in Most Important State

As I mentioned here, every four years Ohio is the unparalleled predictor of who will be elected President. Ohio has voted for the presidential winner in 43 of the 51 elections held since the state was admitted into the Union. And, since 1972, Ohio has voted for the winner 100% of the time.

That's why what early polls in Ohio about the general election are important. A Quinnipiac University poll released today shows the two major Republican candidates defeating Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the undeclared and unlikely Al Gore. The results:

Giuliani – 46 Giuliani – 45 Giuliani – 47
Clinton – 41 Obama – 37 Gore – 39

McCain – 44 McCain – 42 McCain – 46
Clinton – 42 Obama – 36 Gore – 39

These numbers are particularly intriguing because, in the wake of the Bob Taft scandals at the State House, Democrats were elected to statewide offices here for the first time in more than a decade. (But Republicans retained control of both houses of the General Assembly, our state legislature.) These admittedly early numbers would seem to indicate that there hasn't been a sea change in political philosophy among Ohio voters. They still tilt Republican.

(TY to, fast becoming one of my favorite blogs.)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

'How Christians Might Think About the 2008 Presidential Election'

That's the name of a series of blog posts I wrote earlier this year. As we face the absurdly early South Carolina debate tonight, I thought readers might be interested in it. Here are links to all seven installments:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

[Welcome to all Real Politics Buzztracker readers!]

This is...


Second Pass at This Weekend's Bible Lesson: Revelation 7:9-17

[To see the first pass and find an explanation of what these "passes" are about, go here.]

The Lesson: Revelation 7:9-17

A Few More General Comments
Context impacts content, as I've repeatedly said. So, a few more comments on the context of our lesson...

1. Immediately preceding our lesson, we have the breaking of six of the seven seals mentioned in the first pass.

2. The seals are on a scroll or book which, as also earlier mentioned, presents the human experience in the world. Jeske points out that the "book is held in the right hand of the Creator (5:1) as a sign that God has not abdicated his rule over this world, in spite of the terrors at work within it." [Note: The right hand represents power in the Bible.]

Revelation, like the rest of the Bible, is a courageous book. It upholds God's sovereignty while acknowledging that things happen in this world that don't conform to God's will for humanity.

In the face of the world's evils and of human suffering, some dismiss the "God hypothesis," while others "defend" God by portraying Him as a vengeful deity meting out punishment to a rebellious human race.

But the Bible and Christian faith refuse to take either of these easy options. The Bible insists that God has disclosed His sovereignty and His nature, most esepcially in Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. While God has the final say on human history, God refuses to force us to trust Him. The Bible also insists that even if people end up separated from God, it won't be by God's choice, but theirs.

[For more on the issue of suffering and faith in a gracious God, you might want to see my series called When Tragedy Hits the Innocent:
When Tragedy Hits the Innocent, Part 1
When Tragedy Hits the Innocent, Part 2
When Tragedy Hits the Innocent, Part 3
When Tragedy Hits the Innocent, Part 4
The Light of the World!]

3. Jeske and others point out that the first four seals bring about the emergence of "the four hoursemen," representing four perennial terrors in our world: "military conquest, internal violence, famine, and death."

4. With the fifth seal, Revelation moves to more specific terrors. Here, John talks about the persecution of Christians then being meted out by the Roman government. The cry for revenge in 6:10 echoes similar Old Testament pleas and has less to do with a desire to be personally avenged than it does with (1) affirming belief that God still has power and (2) wanting God's sovereignty to be vindicated.

5. The sixth seal is all about the parnoia of regimes and powers when events in the world demonstrate that they're not as in control as they pretend to be. Jeske writes, "The function of natural calamity is to remind human beings of the limitations of their power, that they do not have ultimate control over their lives."

6. The opening of the seventh seal will come much later in Revelation.

7. Immediately before our lesson, we're told of 144,000 "from the children of Israel" whose presence in eternity with God is assured, "sealed." This isn't to be read literally. It's another example of John's penchant for numerology. There were twelve tribes in ancient Israel, you know. There is a perfection or fulfillment being implied here: 12,000 X 12= 144,000.

After this group, John sees "a great multitude." The New Interpreter's Bible that isn't "sealed," and "so they do not seem to be given the protection offered as the result of being marked with the angelic seal." In other words, this group is subject to the terrors of the world, including official persecution, in spite of their faith in Christ. (Sometimes because of their faith in Christ.)

Here, John may be reading his particular historical situation into things. At the time he wrote Revelation, Rome had pretty much stopped persecuting Jews and was going after Christians. In the face of this persecution, some Jewish Christians were abandoning their faith in Christ, reclaiming their Judaism and in some cases, cooperating with authorities in the persecution of Christians. At this moment in time, it may have appeared to John that his fellow Jews, so long as they renounced Christ, were protected from persecution, while anyone owning the Lordship of Jesus could be arrested, beaten, tortured, imprisoned, or killed. (Of course, the sad history of "Christian" antisemitism demonstrates that none of us is immune to prejudice, a lack of integrity, or the violence of this world.)

I really do hope to get to verse-by-verse comments tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

This is...

funny. (Matt Brown led me to these pics.)

This is...

not what I expected. Toledo has been experiencing tough times for years. A beautiful community, its business and downtown life are depressingly moribund. Maybe this is another example of a principle I first observed in post-war Germany and Japan: Countries, communities, and companies that have experienced past success usually are only read to renovate and innovate after their success has given way to failure. There are parts of Toledo that are among the most wonderful urban settings in America. It has access to the Great Lakes shipping lanes and is within flying and reasonable trucking distance of enormous markets. There are urban-forested areas throughout Toledo. I hope that civic leaders there can use these and other assets to revive the area.

This is...

intriguing. (Thanks to Nancy on ShoutLife for linking to this story.)

This is...

weird. (Thanks to my son for sending this my way.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

First Pass at This Weekend's Bible Lesson: Revelation 7:9-17

[Most weeks, I present as many updates on my reflections and study of the Biblical texts on which our weekend worship celebrations will be built as I can. The purpose is to help the people of the congregation I serve as pastor, Friendship Lutheran Church of Amelia, Ohio, get ready for worship. Hopefully, it's helpful to others as well, since our Bible lesson is usually one from the weekly lectionary, variations of which are used in most of the churches of the world.]

The Bible Lesson: Revelation 7:9-17
9After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

General Comments
1. We began our Easter season consideration of Revelation two weeks ago with a passage from the first chapter. Last week, we jumped to chapter 5 and this week, we take another leap, this time to the seventh chapter.

Because the lectionary is meant to cover Revelation in the six weeks in the season after Easter itself, these leaps are necessary. But the way they're done makes sense. Last week's verses, for example, represented the culmination of the second unit of the book. This week's lesson is the culmination of a unit that begins at Revelation 6:1.

2. Our lesson last week ended with the acclamation of Jesus' worthiness to break the seals of the scroll. (More on that in a moment.) Revelation 6:1-7:17, designated by commentator Richard L. Jeske as The Book of the Seven Seals, tells what happens when the Lamb/Lion, Jesus, breaks the seals. Jesus has control of history, from beginning to end, and can reveal its often hidden meanings and drama to us.

3. As Jeske and others point out, Revelation presents a "series of word pictures...organized around the number seven. The letter to the seven churches [Revelation 2:1-3:22] is followed by seven vision-cycles depicting the book of the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven visions of conflict, the seven visions of Mount Zion, the seven bowls of the wrath of God, the seven visions of the fall of 'Babylon,' and the seven visions of recompense. Beginning with the book of the seven seals, the seventh number in each series sets in motion the unfolding of the next septet, connecting each series and creating a sense of anticipation for what is to come."

4. It's important to realize that the book of the seven seals doesn't represent a book of prophecy about what will happen. Rather, it represents the experience of a fallen humanity in the world. These are the experiences of human beings in all of history since Adam and Eve rebelled in the garden.

5. For all the terrors revealed in this part of Revelation, it also gives hope. "In Chapter 7, John tells us that the destruction of all things is delayed until the assembling of God's people is complete. The present time is the time of God's patience, the time of his restraining the winds of destruction, the time of the gathering of his people."

Tomorrow, I hope to share a few more general comments and then begin a verse-by-verse consideration of the passage.

Talking with My Kids

I had a rare evening off last night. Rarer still, my son, 25, had the entire day off. And so, because he had no other plans, we got to hang out together. We did our usual: Chipotle and Half Price Books.

Later in the evening, our daughter, 22, called. She and her husband live in Florida. We must have spoken for forty minutes or so.

The conversations I had with each of the "kids" were different. My son and I discussed how one goes about sharing faith in Christ in a time when people think that they're self-sufficient. "It's funny," he commented, wisely, I think, "lots of people in the middle class West find it hard to believe in a loving, omnipotent God because bad things happen in the world. But people in the Third World, who are subject to so much pain, don't see that as an issue getting in the way of having faith." We agreed that our comforts have given us an overarching sense of entitlement, whereas those with less are free from their dependence on the things of the world and so, are much more able to believe.

My daughter and I talked a bit about her day. She and her husband both had their days off and had a good time. Then, she brought up the recent Alec Baldwin telephone message, in which the actor railed against his eleven year old daughter for not answering his call, calling her, among other things an ass and a pig. Rightly, my daughter was outraged. To personally attack a child, to make her feel small rather than dealing with what Baldwin thought she had done, struck her as terribly wrong.

She went on to talk about a conversation she'd had with a co-worker. "She says that her father is always angry, Dad. Her parents are divorcing because he can't control his temper. She wanted to know what my Dad was like. I told her that my Dad is my best friend. Just like my Mom. I can talk with you guys about anything."

Our son is working at a local Starbucks, getting ready to move to Florida himself. Though he has his own life even as he lives here in the house, I know that the ties between our kids and us will remain strong. They'll change through the years. The telephone calls will become less frequent as the demands of their lives increase. But I hope that my wife and I will always remain people that our kids can to talk to about anything.

Last night was mundane. Nothing particularly amazing happened, I suppose. And yet that's not true either, is it?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Saint Misbehavin'

James Martin, evidently not a big fan of Pope John Paul II, nonetheless feels that those who oppose the late pontiff's fast track to sainthood miss the point. I agree with him. But I think that there's another point that Martin himself misses.

Writes Martin:
The naysayers, mainly on the left, see John Paul not as one of the great religious figures of the age, but as a person with whom they often disagreed, particularly on issues of the ordination of women, the Vatican's response to the sexual-abuse crisis, and treatment of gays and lesbians. The most common arguments against his canonization can be boiled down to two: First, I disagreed with him. Second, he wasn't perfect.

Both objections fundamentally misunderstand who the saints are, and were. Many people envision the saints as perfect human beings whose flaws, if any, miraculously evaporated once they decided to become, well, saintly. Popular iconography does little to correct this misconception. Those pristine marble statues, romantic stained-glass images, and kitschy holy cards make it easy to forget that the saints were human beings who sinned not only before their conversions, but afterward, too.
The simple Biblical definition of a saint, as I read it, is this: A saint is a forgiven sinner who lives in fellowship with Christ and the Church.

Saints are neither perfect or super-virtuous, although through their connection with Christ in God's Word, prayer, the Sacraments, and the fellowship of Christ's Church, the Holy Spirit is able, over time, to create Christ-likeness in Christ-followers. Believers in Christ are, as Martin Luther put it, "the Holy Spirit's workshop." They submit to a sometimes painful process by which God weans them from their addiction to sin and self and replace it with a wholesome, healing, liberating connection with God. Every living saint you know is in the process of becoming their true selves, their God-selves.

When I worship with the people of Friendship Lutheran Church, I'm surrounded by saints. Imperfect? Yes. Sinners? Yes, just like me. But imperfect, forgiven sinners who seek to live in relationship with the only One Who can give us forgiveness and new life, God as revealed in Christ.

And in Christ too, we see just how desperately God wants to give us forgiveness and new life; His cross makes that clear. "We are all beggars," Luther mused shortly before he died. And so we are, beggars saved from sin and death not by any virtues or powers we possess, but saved solely because we surrender to Christ and let Him give us eternal gifts.

So, saints aren't and, as Martin briefly catalogs, never have been perfect.

But I think that he and my Roman Catholic friends contribute to the misconception that saints are or should be perfect by their very approach to sainthood. They reserve the designation for an elite who've had a doubtful hand in miracles wrought by God. They do so by encouraging believers to speak to dead Christians, asking these supposedly super-saints to pray for them.

I feel very strongly that if the nun whose medical history is the bases on which John Paul's case for beatification is being advanced truly has been delivered from Parkinson's Disease, her deliverance had nothing to do with the late pope. The New Testament teaches that all believers in Christ have unfettered access to the ear and the heart of God through Jesus Christ. It is through Christ that the power, love, and grace of God come to us.

And it is through Christ alone.

[Though I didn't agree with him on many things, I'm an admirer of John Paul II. See here and here.]

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Maltese Falcon: The Right Thing...or the Easy Thing?

I've always loved The Maltese Falcon, the film noir classic starring Humphrey Bogart as detective Sam Spade. Of course, I knew that the movie was based on the novel of the same name, written by Dashiell Hammett. But I'd never read the book until a few weeks ago, after I picked it up for pocket change at Half Price Books.

The Maltese Falcon, it turns out, is more than just a terrific detective story. It's the work of a great storyteller who writes well. Hammett's sentences are compact and descriptive. The characters he created are vivid. I'll grant that the movie makes them even more so. Nonetheless, you'd clearly see Spade, Brigid O'Shaughnessy, and the rest in your mind's eye even without the film. Besides, the Sam Spade of Hammett's imagination is a large-ish man, not like the slight Bogart at all. (Still, it's hard to picture anyone but Bogey in the role!)

But, in digressing, I'm doing something Hammett never does. What I really want to focus on is the climactic dialog that happens between Spade and O'Shaughnessy. You remember the scene if you've seen the movie. It happens in Spade's apartment. They're awaiting the arrival of the police. Spade has figured out that O'Shaughnessy was responsible for the murders of two men, one named Thursby and the other his partner, with whose wife Spade had been having an affair. He tells O'Shaughnessy, this woman with whom he's fallen in love, that he's going to turn her over to the cops for her crimes. He's going to "send her over." O'Shaughnessy protests that he can't do this, that he loves her whether he knows it or not.

Spade responds:
"I don't [know it]. It's easy enough to be nuts about you." He looked hungrily from her hair to her feet and up to her eyes again. "But I don't know what that amounts to. Does anybody ever? But suppose I do? What of it? Maybe next month I won't. I've been through it before--when it lasted that long. Then what? Then I'll think I played the sap. And if I did it and got sent over then I'd be sure I was the sap. Well, if I send you over I'll be sorry...I'll have some rotten nights--but that'll pass. Listen." He took her by the shoulders and bent her back, leaning over her. "If that doesn't mean anything to you forget it and we'll make it this: I won't because all of me wants to--wants to say to hell with the consequences and do it--and've counted on that with me the same as you counted on that with the others."
What's intriguing about this is how, from the mouth of a morally complicated character, a guy who routinely uses others and bends the rules to suit himself, Hammett presents the choices each of us must make between what's compelling and attractive on the one hand and what's distasteful and difficult on the other.

It's almost always easier, it really is the path of least resistance, to do the wrong thing. For Spade, it would have been easier and brought him quick gratification to throw in with O'Shaughnessy, who had already warmed his bed, who might soon have wealth beyond his imagining.

But Spade took a longer term view, something we always need to do in our moral reasoning. And by longer term, I'm not referring to the eternal perspective, though that shouldn't be irrelevant. It ought to matter to us that the God Who judges over the lives of us all cares about whether we do right and wrong. But here I'm really thinking of longer term in this life. While Brigid O'Shaughnessy might have provided Spade with momentary pleasures, satisfying the immediate cravings expressed in that hungry look he gave her, he knew that sooner or later, she would turn on him, just as she had on Thursby and on his partner Miles...and who knows how many others? He knew too that he would become a fugitive for as long as he lived.

He knew something else too. As he tells O'Shaughnessy in this same dialog: "Don't be too sure I'm as crooked as I'm supposed to be..." Maybe, Spade tells Brigid--and himself--his principles are too high to not only refuse to play the sap for her, but also to do the wrong thing.

The Bible says that we all know the difference between right and wrong. God's law is written on our hearts. We know what it is and we want to abide by it...or at least want to appear to abide by it. The reason that Jesus taught Christians to pray, "Lead us not into temptation" or, as a modern translation puts it, "Save us from the time of trial," is that it's always easier to cave into doing the wrong thing than to stand firm and do the right one. And since I'm not as strong as Sam Spade, who after all is a heroic fictional character, I find myself praying that prayer, in one form or another, all the time.

How to See Jesus

[This is the second part of a series of messages on Revelation that I'm presenting during this Easter season. It was presented during Saturday and Sunday worship celebration with the people of Friendship Lutheran Church, Amelia, Ohio, on April 21 and 22, 2007. If you live close by and have no church home or if you're visiting the area, we invite you to worship with us soon.]

Revelation 5:11-14
“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” So says comedian and director Woody Allen. Of course, some would say that Allen has shown up in places he shouldn’t have. I wouldn’t disagree with that. But there’s something to what he says. So many of the good things we experience in our lives--success, enjoyment--are the result of showing up.

And by showing up, I mean more than simply occupying space. Two people can go to the same restaurant, be served by the same waiter, order the same items from the menu, the items prepared well and served piping hot. And yet one of those customers can come away grousing about having had a bad experience, while the other goes on about how he’d love to go back to the same restaurant again and again. The difference? One of the diners was there in body only; the other was completely engaged with the experience. The second fellow soaked up the restaurant’s atmosphere, enjoyed the descriptions of the menu items, had fun interacting with his server, savored the taste of every bite of food, enjoyed the company of his wife and friends as they ate together. The first guy was there because it was time to eat.

We see this same thing happen in people who participate in public worship. For many people, worship is something they may do once a week for an hour. They sing a few songs, say a few prayers, and listen to a message. The entire experience is entirely unexceptional.

For others of us, at least some of the time, in spite of the humanness of the worship experience, worship is a lot more than that. As we saw when we read from Article 7 of The Augsburg Confession this morning, the founders of our Lutheran movement knew that worship doesn’t have to look the same all the time. The pastor may wear a robe, or chant, or not. The congregation may sing the same song week after week or not. The form of our worship isn’t as important as the degree to which we are engaged in worship. Do we show up? Real worship happens when we surrender ourselves--mind, body, spirit, soul, and will--to the God we meet in Jesus Christ.

I bring all of this up because in this second week of looking at the New Testament book of Revelation during the Easter season, our focus is worship. The early chapters of John’s book, written in about 90-AD while he was in exile on the island of Patmos, contained a series of messages to seven churches in a region known as Asia Minor, now largely encompassing Turkey.

But beginning in chapter 4 and running through the verses that make up today’s Bible lesson, John presents a vision of heaven. It’s very clear that John gained access to this vision during worship. Somehow, while singing praises to God and attending to God’s Word, even though shackled and exiled on rocky Patmos, he was in some way transported to heaven.

There, He saw the Lamb of God Who sacrificed Himself to give all who believe in Him life forever--Jesus, God in the flesh--on the throne, being worshiped by thousands upon thousands of angels and saints and creatures. All who worshiped Jesus declared Him to be worthy of sevenfold praises: power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing!

If John, in his painful imprisonment, could have a transporting experience of Jesus’ love and power while he worshiped, something that comforted and inspired him in his tough times, I believe that we can, too. We have our own tough times, after all. So how can we learn to truly show up for God and experience His presence and power in our lives?

First: We remember that worship is a twenty-four hour a day proposition. The Old Testament, of course, was mostly written in Hebrew. The Hebrew word for worship is aboda, which means service. True worship begins with a commitment to serving God and that includes serving our neighbor. God calls us to love and serve others as He has loved and served us in Jesus Christ. Serving God and loving our neighbor is something we do with more than just words.

This is a lesson I learned early in my marriage. My wife would come home from work and I, still a student with one year of college left, would sit there amid dishes I hadn't cleaned and messes I hadn't cleared. "Why is this place such a mess?" she'd ask. And I'd reply, "I don't know. But I love you." Those words didn’t wipe the look of frustration from her face. If you love me, my wife was saying, then clear away this squalor!

Once we understand that worship is offering our lives to the God Who offered Himself to us on the cross, we come to our corporate worship on Saturdays or Sundays with different attitudes. We’re ready to experience the presence of the real, loving Christ in our lives!

Second: We understand that corporate worship, worship with others on Saturdays and Sundays, is most meaningful when we take time to worship with our families and by ourselves. John was ready for the consoling experience of his heavenly vision because he took time to worship God even as he laid alone, cold and worn from his slavery, on the rocky ground of the island of Patmos.

One of the things that excites me about this summer’s mission trip with our youth is that every night, after a day of serving, we’ll worship together with hundreds of other youth and their adult advisors. Having worshiped God all day long through our service, we’ll then enter into God’s presence together, energized, inspired, and encouraged as John was long ago on Patmos!

Third: We know that true worship is a matter of spirit, of lives dialed into Christ. Jesus said as much once when he told a Samaritan woman that God didn’t care where people worshiped. What matters is that we worship in way that's truly connected to Christ. And God doesn’t care if we wear a three-piece suit or a T-shirt. He doesn’t care if we sport wing tips or flip-flops or are barefooted. God cares whether we give ourselves completely to Him or not. Like the elders John saw in his heavenly image, we worship when fall down--literally or figuratively--before God and let Him be the most important thing in our lives. One day, I hope to learn how to worship like this!

You and I are called to be living sacrifices to Christ. Living sacrifices don’t hold anything back from God. I once heard a man named Robert Coleman, a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois, tell the story of a little boy whose twin brother was very sick. I’ve shared it with you before. Without a transfusion, the brother would die. The situation was explained to the little guy and he readily volunteered to have his blood drawn. Laying on a hospital bed some moments after the IV had been put in his arm, the boy turned to the doctor and asked softly, “Doctor, how much longer before I die?” It was then that the doctor realized that the boy thought that giving life to his twin brother would cause his own death. The doctor asked him, “If you thought that you were going to die, why did you say it was okay for us to draw your blood?” The boy said, “Because he’s my brother and I love him.”

It shouldn’t be hard for us to remember how much Christ has done for us. It shouldn’t hard be when we consider all that Christ endured for us. How He was arrested, scourged, rejected, mocked, beaten, and crucified all to take the punishment we deserved for our sin! Gratitude alone should lead us to fall down before Christ. It shouldn't be hard to remember to be thankful. But it is. I’m ashamed to admit how often I fail to worship Him. God though, will take even our weakest desire to worship Him and turn it into something when we dare to submit to Him!

Worship is our twenty-four-hour-a-day call from God. Worship is service to the One Who has served us in Christ. Worship is something that happens when we make God our highest priority. Worship is a matter of surrender to Christ.

You and I can experience the presence and power of Jesus Christ in our every day lives. It begins with truly showing up to worship God, not just on Saturdays and Sundays, but every day we live.