Worship and Surrender

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Worship and Surrender

1 Peter 2:11-171

Live as Servants of God

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.

For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Freedom is in. Surrender is out. We want direct connection with God, Whom we struggle to obey when we receive that direction, and if we are going to struggle obeying God, we are really going to struggle following human leaders. Is it any wonder why we preach and sing about freedom, forgiveness, and grace instead of surrender and submission to God’s will. Even, the songs about following God’s will for our lives put the emphasis on it being our decision. We want God to be in control, but we really would prefer God to control things according to our desires – and that comes awfully close to idolatry.

God, in His wisdom, has put others in charge of us though, and He works through them, in them, and sometimes around and in spite of them. Whether it is because He knows we need a reminder of His authority that wears skin every once in awhile so we do not doubt or forget Him, or because the interconnectedness and hierarchy we find ourselves in is a vital part of creation, I do not know. God probably does it for a reason I may never understand. But it is undebateable: God has put human authorities in our lives, and scripture specifically tells us it is our Christian duty to submit to it. Yes, even when I did not vote for them.

It is hard to swallow sometimes. It can be hard to see God working in them as well. If I’m honest though, I personally do not struggle with this the most in the political realm. Politics have more of an indirect affect on me personally, and I have seen enough of the system to know it is complex and difficult to really pin problems down as the decisions of individual people. The chains of compromise are far too long. Instead, I often struggle with it professionally – in church, and specifically in worship.

If you ask me what I think about worship or what kind of worship I like, do not expect a single statement as an answer, expect a five page thesis. I have many strong opinions based on education and experience, both good and bad. When I plan worship services, I think about them as they spread out over weeks and months, not just the 60 minutes we have together on a given day. I try to look at it from multiple angles, and, while I usually can let it all go with gratitude to God when it is all finished, I rarely am completely satisfied with my work. I always find something new to learn, to change, or remind myself not to try next time.

My struggle with authority comes in the few times a year that I visit other churches or worship in settings I am not responsible for leading. Within the first five minutes of walking into the door, my mind starts picking apart every detail of the service and those balcony critics in my head begin to go to town. It gets even worse when the sermon starts. There are times, I’ll be honest, when the critics are far louder to me than the preacher speaking into the microphone. Those moments, I am not submitting to the authority that God has put before me for that time (and if we really think about it, every human authority is temporary), and it keeps me from really worshipping – really experiencing and returning to God what He is due.

We all have problems with the failing, fragile human leaders God has put in our lives. But the challenges of our worship are not controlled by them. The surrender that we are able to give is a vessel of grace that sometimes needs to flow out of us, up into our leaders, instead of us always expecting them to give grace to us. When the flow of grace is stopped up, worship ends, and we all end up stuck in the mess, looking for God again.

What makes it difficult for you to worship?

How do you allow God’s grace to flow from you into those who help lead you in worship?


  1. (Cp Rom 13:1–5)

7 Godly Sins? – the Pride of God

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7 Godly Sins? – the Pride of God

If God expects His followers to dedicate their lives to worshipping and praying to Him, is it Pride?

1 Corinthians 15:1-111

The Resurrection of Christ

Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

Egos are perhaps the hungriest, neediest things in existence, psychologically speaking. Or perhaps more accurately it is the “id” that is the hungry entity and the ego struggling to feed it. There are two kinds of pride: (1) The kind that needs to have active attention to feel worthy, and (2) The kind that needs the passive attention of being needed by another – often supporting someone actively in the spotlight. We probably all fall into one of these two categories at one time or another, and this pride finds itself at the root of much suffering that goes on in the world.

Pride may not be the thing that pushes us to murder, rape, robbery, or other very visible crimes, but these things do not usually happen overnight, and it is often pride that keeps us from asking for help when we need it. Whether we are struggling with some other kind of temptation or sin ourselves or being held back by the need to help someone else without asking for help ourselves. This problem of codependency is another form of pride working its way into our life.

Let us look at God then, to determine whether or not He has a problem with pride.

Does God need all the attention? In the Old Testament, and in Genesis in particular, God did not have a temple or priests. In fact, after Adam and Eve, (who may have lived 900 years of the scripture is read literally there) 4 generations passed before people even began to “call upon the name of the Lord.2 So, for at least the first century of humanity , God did not seem to have a pride problem or a need to be involved.

If we survey the years between then and Abraham, we see God judging the earth and punishing creation with a great flood, saving only Nosh and his family, but they are not judged for not following Him. Indeed, they were all invited into that salvation. The world was judged because of the violence that fallen humanity had brought into it. By the time we get to Abraham, where much of that violence had reawakened, in a world where kings were worshipped as gods, it makes me wonder why God only picked one small family to worship Him instead of a whole nation or the whole world. Even then, the only real practice of worship that He asked of them was a few one-time sacrifices, the greatest of which was the sacrifice of Abraham’s own son Isaac which God called off a the last minute.

God does not need to be the center of attention all the time, nor does He ask for that. In the 10 commandments, He asked for one day out of seven, not every day for our attention and affection. Many of His commands were not for His benefit, but for the benefit of the poor, the orphans, the foreigners, and the widows. When we take into consideration these laws and compare them with the New Testament, where God comes to earth in the flesh as Jesus Christ, it reveals something else about Him. The Almighty, who could command obedience from the entire world, but chooses to ask it only of those willing to follow Him. However, He does not try to save the world by Himself either. He always, from the very beginning, invites others to partner with Him in the work of caring for creation.

So God is neither prideful, nor codependent in His work in the world. What is more, the effect He has on others is such that it does not make them prideful or codependent either. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he took no credit for Himself, but gave God the credit He was due – not because God demanded it from Him, but because Paul gave it gratefully in response to the work God had done in his life. God’s humility is contagious and spreads to those around Him.


  1. (Cp Mk 16:9–20)
  2. “At that time people began to invoke the name of the Lord.” – Genesis 4:26

There, but for the grace of God…

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There, but for the grace of God…

John 6:60–71 (NRSV)

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.

As we get closer to Holy Week and Easter, in our journey through Lent, it is important for us to not think too highly of ourselves, especially since the main purpose of this journey is learning humility. That may seem ridiculous, but our feelings do not always follow logic. I can remember several occasions when the thought popped into my head, Wow! Look how humble I am today!. That kinda defeats the purpose. If you struggle with those kind of thoughts, humility can seem like an unattainable task. Pride gets you when you are proud and when you are humble.

Do not lose hope though. Getting this far in life has been dependent upon God’s mercy and grace from the beginning and it is only by His mercy and grace that we will make it anywhere in life. When the challenges ahead of us seem to big, sometimes it is because they are too big. We were never meant to get through this life on our own, without God and without the help of our brothers and sisters around us. This business about eating and drinking the flesh and blood of Jesus was one way Jesus taught what Paul spoke of in his letter to the Philippians where he wrote:

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13 (NRSV)

We only get this strength from Jesus. We only get Jesus because He found us.

(Pause for a brief moment while the theologians pull out their 18th and 19th century theology books to prepare for a fight.)

I’m not making an argument for or against free will here. I’m just saying we are all playing hide and seek and Jesus is ‘it’. We do the hiding, and have done it since Genesis 3 and God has been in the business of finding us ever since then.

Our problem is not figuring out how to make Jesus find us. He is pretty good at finding people, even the ones who will fall away and/or betray Him. He is not incredibly picky about who He chooses. No, our problem is that once we are found, we like to wander. 60% Divorce rate in our country among Christians. We like to wander. Getting lost and found has become a game to many of us. Once saved, always saved, and baptized 13 times just to make sure… Tried out 28 different churches too while I was at it. These are just symptoms of a heart that won’t stay fixed on the one and only love that can fulfill it. Left to our own devices, we would hide from life forever until what little we had was taken from us. We may only need salvation from our sin once, but we need to be saved from ourselves every day.

What temptations is God keeping you from today?

What do you need to seek His help in?