Alabama Mountain Climbing

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Alabama is beautiful. We love the trees, the lakes, the rivers, the farms and the many beautiful homes. There’s a lot to see and I hope we will eventually see it all.

I enjoy getting out into the wilderness. I love the solitude, feeling like its just you and God. Most of my wilderness experience has been New Mexico and West Texas, great places like the Guadalupe Mountains, Big Bend National Park, the Peco Wilderness, to name a few. Places where you can get away from the fast pace of our modern civilization. Peace and quiet. No phones or electricity. No tv or computer. Panoramic views. Fresh air. This past weekend, my wife Karen and I went on our first hike since moving to Alabama. We went to climb the Flagg Mountain trail in nearby Coosa County.

After winding up some Coosa County roads, the last 3 or 4 on a dirt road, we came to the trailhead. We were obviously the only hikers there. We were looking forward to a nice quiet, peaceful experience. This was great! After about an hour of hiking through some beautiful woods, the last quarter mile or so was up a clearing. When we go to the top, a funny thing happened. We immediately came upon a white pickup and a couple of boys playing togethe around the tower at the top. The first boy to notice us looked really surprised to see us and said “are you lost?” I said no, that we had hiked up. We chatted a couple of seconds and found they had come up to camp with their Boy Scout troop.

We looked around, enjoyed the view and the 1930’s cabin and tower. As we walked around the tower, we heard sounds of the Alabama football game coming from the cabin! Closer observation revealed a dish. They were watching the came on TV!

So in our attempt to find wilderness, we came upon a scout troop who drove up the mountain to camp out and watch Alabama football on a dish network.

Now I don’t really want to make comparisons, because I’m sure we’re going to find some great wilderness in Alabama. But I can honestly say that I’ve never climbed up a mountain in New Mexico to find a boy scout troop watching football on dish tv.

I found our experience to be quite humorous. We’ve laughed a lot sharing our experience. I hope you get a laugh too.

Does God hate our songs?

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My son introduced me to some of the songs of the Switchfoot lead singer, Jon Foreman. One of them is “Instead of a Show”. The lyrics begin like this:

“I hate all your show and pretense,
the hypocrisy of your praise
the hypocrisy of your festivals
I hate all your show”

I had to think about what he was singing, then realized he was singing the words of God. Its a paraphase of Amos 5:21-24 where God says he hates our assemblies, he will not listen to our songs.

These words in Amos are very disturbing. Could they be applied to us? In the 21st century, can God hate our songs? Does he hate our gatherings for “worship?”

When I read more in Amos, I find that the people were oppressing, even profiting from the poor. They were living extravagant lives and disregarding the poor. They were living sinful lives, then putting on a good “show” in the synagogue. Their lives didn’t match up with their worship.

What does this mean for us? First of all, in the song, Jon uses the word “show.” God hates our worship if its just a show. Worship leaders are not performing for the congregation. We are performing worship for God, leading and encouraging the congregation to also perform worship for God. Second, for worship to be genuine, our actions also become important. How we live is vitally linked to worship. God hates our worship if we live selfish, sinful lives and show up on Sunday and put on a good “show.” Finally, we’ve got to love others, even those who are needy. God hates our worship if we ignore the needs of suffering, hurting people and show up on Sunday and pretend like everything is ok.

We need to live for God’s glory every day. We need to give every day to Him, and not just Sunday. We need to realize the importance of doing the little things for God: giving our time throughout the week to personal worship, loving each other, and helping folks in need. We’ve got to walk the way of worship every day, and then Sundays will be an overflow of celebration and praise for the things we see God doing through our lives.

Just because I wrote this, doesn’t mean I have it all figured out. I fail so much. God forgive me, and lead me and give me the strength to become more like You.

Brad

What does worship look like?

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Search an image library for “worship” and you often see pictures of people with their hands raised to the sun or sky. (Google worship images.) The images do communicate worship to us, but lifting our hands in praise does not even to begin to represent all that worship is. It’s simply one way to express worship, but worship is so much more.

First of all, our expressions of worship begin in our heart. And who can see the heart, but God? Sometimes the visual expression of worship are expressions from a pure, honest heart. Sometimes, however, they can be deceiving. Its a whole lot easier to look like we’re worshiping, than it is to genuinely worship.

The opposite is also true. Often we see expressions of worship that seem emotionless, heartless. Yet who can see the heart but God? How do we really know what’s going on in someones heart?

So who can really say what worship looks like, but God himself and each worshiping individual?

Second, we have some notions about what worship looks like. Yet its not so simple. Sometimes worship is visual, sometimes it is not. Sometimes the images of worship are commonly seen in our churches as God’s people gather to worship Him. Yet other times worship looks like someone giving a hug to support a friend in need. Sometimes worship looks like serving meals. Sometimes it looks like building a house. Sometimes it looks like inviting someone to church. Sometime it looks like attending your child’s junior high basketball game. Sometimes it looks like being kind to everyone you meet. Sometimes it looks like forgiving someone who’s hurt you. Sometimes its doing the best job we can for our employer. Sometimes it looks like reading. Sometimes praying. Sometimes praising. Sometimes preaching. Isn’t any thing done for God’s glory an act of worship? When we show our love for God and His people, sinners and saints, isn’t that worship?

We’ve got to begin to see worship as Paul did in Romans 12:1. It begins only when we give ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice, and involves everything we do for His glory, however great are small, visual or not.

Worship looks like people living every possible moment of their lives for the glory of God. If you think worship happens only on Sunday morning, you need to wake up! That is only a small part of worship. Worship starts when we get up in the morning and commit our lives to God. Every day is His. Virtually everything we do can be worship, if its done for His glory.