Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Come As You Are; Leave Changed

"Come as you are" has become the trendy phrase used by churches to indicate that all are welcome at services. It means that you can wear jeans, that the music probably will be contemporary and that you might even get to sip a Starbucks during the sermon. In effect, the experience at a "come as you are church" usually is geared at attracting people who might not otherwise be interested in attending a church service. Perhaps they had a bad experience and were hurt in a church. Maybe they just found church boring or not connected to what was happening in their lives. Maybe they had made choices not pleasing to God and no longer felt welcome in church.

Ultimately the "come as you are" churches are hoping to be appealing, fresh and innovative to attract these folks and for the most part, this is a good thing. Church should be a place that's open to everyone and the worship service should reflect that welcome. After all, if church were only for people living perfect lives, every sanctuary would be empty on Sunday morning.

Where many churches seem to be falling short (and selling God short) these days, however, is that they are afraid to tell it like it is-- that the "way we are" probably is not the way God wants us and that we might not get to do and have everything we want if we want to be His.

Jesus loves us all just as we are, but the reason for his coming and for his death for us on the cross was so that we could be transformed. We are welcome in His house, in His arms and in His kingdom right now, right where we are. But we can't get there by remaining in sin. We need to experience a change of heart that recognizes the hopelessness of "as we are" and desires the lifechanging redemption Christ offers us.

Once we receive His gift, once we enter into that personal relationship, we start a continual process of transformation and growth that never allows us to stay as we are, but which, through the power of the Holy Spirit, changes us each day, each week, each month, each year to be more like Jesus.

Jesus never said "come as you are" and stay that way (for example, He didn't condemn the woman caught in adultery, offering her love and forgiveness, but told her to stop sinning from that point on), and neither should our churches. Too many are afraid of causing offence, of seeing attendance, finances or popularity decline if the truth is preached. I love the slogan of a friend's new church: "Come As You Are; Leave Different." What a great idea. Our church services should be inviting and exciting and relevant but should send us away changed able to make a difference for the Kingdom.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
(Romans 12:2 NIV)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Give Thanks, No Matter What

Thanksgiving with its turkey, travel, football games and family get togethers gives us a chance to stop and reflect on the things for which we are grateful. Stopping to thank God for our blessings is a good thing and I'm glad there is a holiday set aside for doing this.

If you want to take a step of maturity, however, give thanks in and for everything. And "everything" means not only for the blessings and the things that make us happy, but for the losses, the disappointments, the aggravations, the hurts and the things that send us to our knees.

It often is in the dark times, those moments we don't understand, where we question God. We don't hesitate to give thanks when something good comes our way, but we feel hurt and angry with God when he allows hardship or uncomfortable circumstances. We pray for the trial to pass. We pray for change. We pray to be delivered.

Obedience is to follow God's word, however. "Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thes. 5:16 NIV) Give thanks on faith alone, trusting and believing that God never gives us a command we can't follow. "Thank you, Father, for I am grateful for your love, for your sacrifice, for your care and compassion."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

WORSHIP: How Do You Spell It?

Worship is all about you, God.
You are:
W
Wise, offering to guide us if we'll only ask; Worthy of all praise; Wonderful counselor
O
Omniscient, nothing surprises you; On high seated at the eternal throne; the Only way
R
Resurrected, the grave could not hold you; Righteous, all your ways are correct; Redeemer who purchased us at great cost
S
Savior, whose death gave me life; Shepherd, caretaker of His flock; Son of Man, Messiah
H
Holy Spirit to guide me; Hope, a never-ending certainty of faith; Honor
I
Inspiration, Immortal, the I Am
P
Praiseworthy at all times; Powerful, in control of every situation; Prince of Peace
You are all these things, Lord, and I WORSHIP you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sing to the Lord a New Song

Worship leaders everywhere are busy selecting, writing and practicing songs this week for the worship service next Sunday. Hopefully there is some connection between the songs we'll sing and the message that will be preached (although sometimes, unfortunately, selections can be made based on what the band members who are available this week already know...). Maybe there is come coordination between songs that work with drama sketches or dance interpretation. At any rate, a lot of thought goes into selecting the songs sung to the Lord during worship services.

Let's take a moment, however, to think about the songs we are singing to the Lord during the week when it's not about worshiping in the sanctuary, but when it's personal worship between us and the Lord. I realized last year that I needed to change my tune. I was singing songs like, "This is Too Difficult, Lord!" and "No One Appreciates the Effort I'm Making." I can imagine He's heard some other familiar tunes out there from worship leaders too, like "I Want Fame," "She/He is Too Difficult to Work With," and the old favorite "Addicted to Approval."

Just like the lyrics of our most popular songs, these phrases and words can become stuck in our minds and if we repeat them often enough, they can become quite annoying. So this year, I promised God I would sing Him a new song so He wouldn't get annoyed with hearing my voice. Now I give some thought to the personal songs I'll be singing as I go through my week and and I'm offering selections like "Thank You, Lord," "Praise You for What You Have Done," "I'm Trying, and With Your Help, it Will Happen!" and "I Forgive That Hurt."

I want there to be a connection between the songs I'm singing and the message I'll have for people as I walk through my week.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.

Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples (Psalm 96:1-3 NIV)

Daily Inspiration

The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."

Lifeway: http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169816

Guideposts: http://www.guideposts.com/story/sandra-bullock-blind-side-football?page=0,1

Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at http://www.buddyhollywood.com/.

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Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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