Welcome Mike!

We are excited to be joined here in Longmont by our friend Mike Payne, who is coming on staff at White Fields to serve as our Worship Pastor.

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Picking up Mike and David at the airport last night. His parents recently moved to our area as well!

Mike and his wife Marika have been serving the Lord in Hungary for many years through music, media arts, teaching and evangelism. We look forward to how his skills and leadership will be used by God at White Fields!

Marika stayed back in Hungary to be with her ailing father. Please pray for both of them.  She will join us in Colorado when the time is right.

Mike will begin leading worship for us this Sunday, July 2! If you’re in the area, come meet him and worship with us!

3 Ways to Identify Idols in Your Life & What to Do About Them

Recently at White Fields Church, we have been studying through the Book of Exodus in a series called Be Set Free.

This past Sunday we began to study the 10 plagues, and we saw how each of the plagues was a direct confrontation of the various deities of Egypt. For example: the Egyptians worshiped 3 deities associated with the Nile river, so, the first plague, which defiled the water of the river, struck at the heart of the confidence the Egyptians had in these deities who protected the Nile.

The purpose of the plagues was to erode the confidence of the Egyptians in their false gods, and cause them to trust in the Lord God – and just in case you’re wondering: it worked! Exodus 12:38 tells us that when the Hebrews left Egypt in the Exodus, many of the Egyptians joined them.

Primitive vs. Sophisticated Religion

Modern people tend to look down on old pagan cultures as “primitive” because they worshiped many different gods. They had a god or goddess for nearly everything you can imagine: from wealth to beauty, success and money, sex and fertility, weather and security, etc.

On the other hand, we tend to think of ourselves as being much more sophisticated, because we don’t worship a pantheon of deities like the ancients did.

But are we really as sophisticated as we like to think?   Were they really as primitive as we tend to assume? The answer to both questions is simply: NO.

Each of the pagan gods represented something. They worshiped things which they felt were good and desired to have: such as sex, prosperity, power, family, money, beauty and success.

Do we not worship the same things? Pick up a copy of People Magazine. Turn on E! Entertainment network. Browse the trending topics or the Moments section of Twitter. Listen to popular songs and music. If you’re honest, you have to admit that we idolize, i.e. worship, the same basic things that they did then. We’re not more sophisticated than they were – and they weren’t as primitive as we tend to paint them.

The only difference between us and them in this regard is that at least they had the self-awareness and the honesty to call a spade a spade, and admit that they worshiped those things! In that sense, they are actually perhaps more sophisticated than we are.

The Bible actually speaks of “idolatry of the heart” (cf. Ezekiel 14:1-3) – meaning that idols are just statues, but they are things that you worship. John Calvin famously said that “human nature is a perpetual factory of idols;” meaning that we have a propensity to worshiping things, and we will make an idol out of nearly anything.

However, one of the central themes of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, is the devastating effects of idolatry on people’s lives. “Idols,” author Timothy Keller says, “are spiritual addictions that lead to terrible evil.”

Idols are spiritual addictions that lead to terrible evil. – Timothy Keller

Here are 3 ways we can we identify or recognize the idols in our lives:

1. The feeling of: If I have ______, then my life is worth living. If I don’t have ______, then my life is not worth living.

When the meaning of your life is tied to a particular thing and it has become the central thing in your life, it is the thing which justifies your existence. You believe that as long as you have it, you will be “okay” – and to not have it would mean that your entire reason for being has been lost.

When this describes a relationship, we call it a co-dependant relationship. A better word for this is: idolatry. When something is the central focus of your life, the underlying motivation behind all of your decisions, the best word to describe that relationship is: worship.

2. You are willing to compromise your own long-held values for it

A litmus test of idolatry in your life is when you are willing to compromise your own long-held values for the sake of that thing.

What causes a person who sincerely believes that something is wrong – to do that exact thing?

Take the family man who cheats on his spouse, or the pastor who steals from his church. These are terrible things, and we rightly call this hypocrisy. But what causes a person who on any given day would have told you that it is wrong to cheat on your spouse, or a person who not only preaches, but sincerely believes that stealing is wrong – to do that exact thing?

The answer is: there is something that they want so much more in that given moment, that they are willing to compromise their own values, and hurt other people and themselves in order to get it.

We have sayings in our culture, like: “I would kill for that.” Of course it’s hyperbole, but the message is: there are certain things out there that I want so badly that I would be willing to break my own rules, compromise what I believe is right, and hurt people in order to get them. That is certainly not just hyperbole – that kind of thing happens all the time, and always with devastating consequences.

You may not be there yet, but if you’ve had thoughts about doing something that goes against the very principles that you yourself sincerely believe in – that is a major red flag, that that thing is an idol in your life.

3. You’re looking to it to give you things which only God can give you

Identity. Security. Love. Rest. Hope.

If I have this much money… then I would really be somebody. Then I would be secure. Then I could rest…
If my family looks like this… then I will be secure. Then I will be happy with who I am. Then I can rest. Then I will be loved.

If your looking to any relationship or material thing to give you what only God can give you, that thing is an idol in your life.

An idol is almost always a good thing, but it becomes an idol when you elevate it from a good thing to an ultimate thing.

Idols can be things that you have, but are afraid of losing – or perhaps even more often, they can be things which you’ve never had at all, but desperately want.

What Is the Solution?

The cure for idolatry is to get a vision of God as He truly is.

When you see God for the greatness of who He is, when you understand what He has done for you in Jesus Christ, you realize that everything you ultimately desire and need is found in and through Him.

To see God in this way is to see Him as more desirable and more satisfying than anything else in the world – and when that happens, you will no longer turn to idols, which will always disappoint and the pursuit of which have devastating consequences.

 

One Day

 

What all of us long for is nothing less than redemption.

This young Israeli couple have been posting videos of their music for a while. This video, according to their Facebook page, was recorded a cappella in their car because the original recording had audio problems, but there is something very lovely and beautiful about both the way they sing and what they are singing about.

What makes it so beautiful, is that they are singing about a day in the future when there will be no more wars and strife, when things will be the way we all innately feel that they should be and the way that all people deep down hope it will be.

What all of us long for is nothing less than redemption. 

And that’s because we were made for perfection, but we’re fallen… and yet we have a sort of ancestral memory of it; we know that even though death and strife and sickness are the realities of the world we live it, even though that may be how it is, we still believe that it’s not the way it should be, and so we long for and we sing and dream and write about a world where these things are no more and everything is finally as it is supposed to be:

No more death. No more violence. No more pain. No more parting from those we love. No more infirmity. Love that lasts forever. True peace. Overcoming the limitations we experience now with frustration.

That is why this song is so moving. That is why all of the movies which make you cry have the same common themes: heroic self-sacrifice, good overcoming evil, immortality and overcoming death itself.

The message of the Gospel is that God loves you so much that He made a way for you to be redeemed through Jesus, so that one day that hope could become reality, so that everything your heart longs for deep down could not only be a wish, but a reality.

One day…

 

If you’re interested in more from these guys, here’s a link to their YouTube channel, and here is another song of theirs, this one in Hebrew (English translation can be found in the comments section on YouTube) – it’s a song of praise and worship to God:

 

Finishing Up the Trip

Yesterday was our final full day in Ukraine. We spent the day running errands and going around with Ben to look at different properties the church in Svitlovodsk has their eye on to purchase.
Svitlovodsk, with the Dniper river in the background
As part of our support of the ministry there, White Fields donated towards their building project. They currently meet in a 50 square meter (500 square foot) space in an office building, with a few extra rooms for children’s ministry. They estimate that for 60,000 USD they should be able to either buy land and build something from scratch or buy and refurbish a building. Pray for them in this regard.
In the evening we held part 2 of the Work as Worship seminar. Travis taught and then he and I fielded questions on the topic. It went really well and I think that we could easily fine tune this seminar and present it elsewhere. It is a topic which affects all people but something evangelical Christians fail to teach on enough – or to give a comprehensive enough vision for. I look forward to how we might be able to bring this teaching to our church in Longmont.
Travis teaching Work as Worship seminar: part 2 at Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk

Right after the seminar ended, Levi, the assistant pastor and worship leader, drove Travis and I to Boryspil, where we stayed at a hotel near the airport, and then at 3:30 we woke up and got to the airport by 4:00am.

We had a 5 hour layover in Frankfurt, so we took atvantage of the great public transport here and went into the city. If you’ve been to Frankfurt, you know that there’s not a whole lot to see, so that was plenty of time.

Right now we are in the airport waiting for our flight to Denver. It’s been an extremely fruitful trip, but it will be great to be home.

Here are a few pictures from yesterday and today:

The first rule of cross fit: always talk about cross fit. Apartment building in Ukraine.
Glorious Soviet Air Force Jet in Svitlovodsk
Downtown Frankfurt
…always talk about Crossfit. Frankfurt Stock Exchange
Frankfurt City

 

 

Work as Worship Seminar in Svitlovodsk

Today we spent the day in Kremenchug and then in the evening we did our first session of the Work as Worship seminar at Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk.

The seminar was well attended and the Q&A drew many thoughtful questions.

Tomorrow night Travis will teach part 2.

I am looking forward to seeing how this seminar, as well as the one on Christocentrisity which Ben and I taught at the Pastors and Leaders Conference in Kyiv, can be shared in other places, including our church in Longmont.

Teaching the Work as Worship seminar at CC Svitlovodsk, with Ben Morrison translating into Russian

 

Advent Meditations: 6 – Giving Gifts to God

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When it comes to Christmas, there is a joy that comes with giving and receiving. As children we tend to revel more in the receiving than the giving, and as we grow into maturity, we learn that as Jesus said: It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

Where does the tradition of Christmas gifts come from?

Yesterday was December 6, on which, in some parts of the world, the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas is celebrated. Nicholas was a Christian man, who was famous for his generosity to the poor and needy. Read more about him here. Yet, it was not first from Nicholas of Myra (St. Nick) that the tradition of giving Christmas gifts derives.

Some have suggested that the tradition comes from the fact that on Christmas, God gave us the greatest gift possible: Himself, the Redeemer, come to save us from our sins.

you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins – Matthew 1:21

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! – 2 Corinthians 9:15

Yet, it seems that the tradition of giving Christmas gifts comes from the “wise men” from the east who came to Jesus and presented the child king with three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.   I’ll talk about the significance of these in my next post, but for now, I’d like to focus on this: the tradition of giving gifts goes back to people who came to give gifts to Jesus.

It would be presumptuous to think that God needs our gifts. Furthermore, the message of the Gospel is that our relationship with God is based on what He has done for us (grace), not on what we do for him.

So then, what is the place of giving gifts to God?

When you give gifts to God, whether of your finances, your time or something else, you are saying: “I have come to you not for what you can give me, but for the sake of you yourself.The joy that I seek is not the hope of you giving me things, but the joy of knowing you, and I seek to enjoy you even more by giving up things which have value to me, to express my love, devotion, thankfulness and commitment to finding my joy all the more in you and not in these things.”

As you give gifts this Christmas season, remember to give to God – not to earn his favor, but to train your heart and express with your life that He alone can satisfy your heart, not any material things.

 

The Eschatological Significance of the Christian Sunday

I haven’t been writing much lately because I’ve been quite busy with seminary courses. I had finals last week, but I am happy to report that now all I have left to complete is my dissertation.

Following up on a previous post on why Christians worship on Sunday and the correlation between the Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Sunday, I recently read something I found interesting.

While many people assume that Christianity just took the Jewish idea of Sabbath and moved it to Sunday, it turns out the reason for the Christian Sunday is deeply eschatological.

Check it out:

Jewish Sabbath

  • End (Saturday)
  • Rest from Creation
  • Happens after creation, within time: retrospective
  • Keeping of obligations
  • Preservation

Christian Sunday

  • Beginning (Sunday)
  • Commencement of the New Creation
  • Speaks to the aim of new creation: eternity = future-oriented
  • Celebrates that the obligations have been met by God through Christ
  • Resurrection

Christianity was not just a rebranding of Jewish practices, but an eschatological fulfillment of them.

The Christian Sunday is more than a day of rest for Christians, it is a day of new creation. In it, we remember not only to rest from our labor, but we are reminded that with the resurrection of Jesus, we stand at the dawn of eternity – and that one day soon, the Son will break over the horizon and usher in the New Day. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we have witnessed the death of death and the birth of “the life that is truly life”.

Worship: Offering, Receiving and Shopping

Another thought-provoking comment from my studies on the history of Christian worship:

At some time in the Church’s history, attitudes seem to have moved from an earlier sense of going to worship in order to make an offering to God (worship, adoration) to a sense of attending in order to receive something (a blessing or some kind of credit). It appears that along with this shift came an increasingly passive role for worshippers, until it seemed that simply attending was almost all that was expected. Such a development is seriously demeaning. Everything done together in worship may (and should) be viewed as an act of offering a gift to God, who is the object of reverence and praise.

Seems pretty spot on to me. I shared this quote with one of the elders of White Fields Church and his comment was that he would go so far as to say that in our consumer culture, people have gotten so passive about “worship” that they not only come with the mentality and expectation primarily to receive, but they “shop” for where they can find the best bargain.

The part of the above quote which really sticks out to me is the word “demeaning”. I think the author is right. But how do we go about shifting this consumer culture in the minds of Christian people? That is the challenge.

Why do Christians Worship on Sunday?

Have you ever wondered why Christians worship on Sunday?

Recently I have been taking a seminary class on the history of Christian worship, and I came across some interesting information the other day about the history of Christian worship on Sundays.

The most common assumption is that Christians worship on Sunday because that is the day that Jesus rose from the dead. And that is correct. But there is more to it than that.

For the early Christians, Sunday become known as “the Lord’s Day” – references to which are made in the New Testament. However, it is worth noting that in the places Christians lived in those early centuries, including the Roman Empire, Sunday was a work day. So it became common for Christians to gather early on Sunday mornings, before work, to share in communion, teaching and worship – communion being seen as an essential element of the gathering, one which they would never consider neglecting (an important factor when considering what we do on Sunday mornings in churches today).

It was only in the time of Emperor Constantine, that Sunday became a day of rest, when Constantine (before his “conversion” to Christianity) declared that the “venerable day of the Sun” should be a day of rest for all people in the empire. Interestingly, in Germanic languages, including English, we have retained some of the pagan names for the days of the week, from Roman times: Sunday (Sun), Monday (Moon), Saturday (Saturn). However, in romance languages, the name of Sunday reflects the Christian understanding of “the Lord’s Day”, e.g. “Domenica” in Italian.

Another common assumption is that the Christians chose Sunday as the day of worship because it was the day on which Jesus rose from the dead, and it was their alternative Sabbath – their new “day of rest”.

The true story is actually even more interesting. Early Christians considered it of great significance that Jesus rose on a Sunday, and they carried this understanding and significance into their practice of worshiping on Sundays.  The Jewish understanding of the week is that each day corresponds to a day of Creation, and the reason they rest on Saturday is because it is the Seventh Day, the day on which God rested from His labor, and instructed us to do the same. Sunday, in the Jewish mind, is the first day of the week and corresponds to the first day of creation, the day on which God brought light out of the darkness. For the Jews, there was an understanding of the week as a closed circuit, if you will.

In Jewish apocalyptic writing, there is a book called the Book of Enoch, in which a concept is introduced called “The Eighth Day”. The Eighth Day is the day of the Messiah – when the Messiah comes and He inaugurates a NEW DAY – the Eighth Day – the first day of a NEW CREATION.

Early Christian fathers wrote about this concept of the Eighth Day several times in the early centuries, and they considered Sunday worship as representing this idea of the Eighth Day – that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on a Sunday – the day after the Seventh Day – and by his resurrection he inaugurated the Eighth Day, and now we worship on the Eighth Day – the day of new creation, as Jesus in His resurrection was the first-born of the new creation (1 Cor 15). This is the day on which Jesus broke us out of the closed circuit that we have been living in of the first creation, and inaugurated a new day – the Eighth Day – the day of the new creation.