Should We Embrace Emotion in Worship?

I don’t really remember seeing anyone even raise their hands in worship until middle school. It wasn’t until I graduated out of Vacation Bible School and moved into the teen tent at camp one summer that I finally saw emotion exhibited in the church. As the teen tent began to sing, I was confused to see people raise their hands and belt out notes as loud as they could.

What were they doing? And why were they doing it? I eventually joined with them to find out and was quickly overwhelmed with both emotion and embarrassment. Breaking this emotional wall was so powerful that I then began to engage in all the other things people were doing: raising my hands, closing my eyes, kneeling, clapping along, even getting a little bit of a dance on. That summer became what was probably the first mountaintop experience of my life.

The fire in me grew as new retreats and giant conferences brought about new mountaintop experiences. I wasn’t entirely sure what the Holy Spirit felt like, but it seemed like I was feeling him when I expressed my love for him physically—and I loved it.

But then one day, a pastor questioned a bunch of us about what it was we were really feeling. Was it really God we were coming in contact with or were we just being swept up in emotion? This question, along with some other drama in my life, ruined me for years. As the question sank in I soon found that I couldn’t even raise my hands in worship anymore. I couldn’t focus on God because I was too busy analyzing myself. Am I just just trying to look spiritual to everyone else when I do this? Am I really experiencing God or are these tingles just my body responding to these acts? Is it wrong to have emotion in worship? Is it wrong to react physically like I’ve been doing?

I was ruined. I started overanalyzing every single emotion that came my way in worship. My joy turned into confusion and anxiety.

I was battling the enlightenment period. Everything became intellectual, scientific and rational. My engagement with the Holy Spirit was left to science. Soon I didn’t care if it really had just been my body reacting to physical movement in worship—I wanted my joy back! I wanted to be able to lead others in worship from the stage without wondering if I was authentic or not the whole time.

John Wesley had a similar fight back in his time. As people heard about the odd outdoor services he held and the things that happened in them, they decided to go check it out. They were in for quite a surprise, because these Methodists were being pushed to the ground by God and convulsing around on the floor.

Just as these kinds of acts of the Spirit offend people now, so it did back then. Many outsiders didn’t believe God had anything to do with any of this and that these Methodists were crazy or psychotic. But even some of these outsiders were eventually convinced. Wesley writes in his journal:

We understood that many were offended at the cries of those on whom the power of God came: among whom was a physician, who was much afraid there might be fraud or imposture in the case. Today one whom he had known many years was the first (while I was preaching in Newgate) who broke out into ‘“strong cries and tears.” He could hardly believe his own eyes and ears. He went and stood close to her, and observed every symptom, till great drops of sweat ran down her face, and all her bones shook. He then knew not what to think, being clearly convinced it was not fraud, nor yet any natural disorder. But when both her soul and body were healed in a moment, he acknowledged the finger of God.

A few days later, a Quaker in attendance at one of Wesley’s meetings, was growing angry with the craziness he saw going on around him. Wesley describes him as, “biting his lips and knitting his brows, when he dropped down as thunderstruck.” God personally settled the debate for this Quaker by knocking him down to the ground like he had done to so many others in Wesley’s ministry.

Wesley could have easily been accused of stirring up people’s emotions just as people still accuse the church of doing today. But that wasn’t what was going on. He was bringing people into the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit and letting God do whatever he wanted with them.

At my time of struggling with emotion in worship, I didn’t know any of Wesley’s experiences. I didn’t know the debate between emotion and spirituality had been around for so long. And I also didn’t know what to do.

So eventually, I just turned my brain off. And it worked! Yes, surely there had been times in worship where I was responding to emotion—but surely there had been times where I was also responding to God. I decided that  the ambiguity was okay. Having emotions and being the way God made me was much better than trying to analyze it all and live life as an unemotional Vulcan. It was incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to find joy when I was in a state of constantly questioning my emotions, so I stopped. Finding myself mostly free from this torment, I was able to engage in worship again.

Sometimes I respond to emotion, sometimes I respond to God. Sometimes God will give me emotion to respond to and sometimes I’ll be caught up in the way I was made. And I’m okay with that. I’ve learned to discern these experiences, not by overanalyzing them, but by allowing them to come. Joy and other emotions can hardly be analyzed. They must be felt. For what are emotions if they aren’t felt?

This is an adapted excerpt from my new book, “A Taste of Jesus.” Grab the Kindle version for $10 or a physical copy for $20.

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Spirit-Led Worship

I got a chance to preach about letting the Holy Spirit invade our lives and church services at Revive Worship Conference this past week. Thanks to Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church for having the video available.

Obesity and the Church

I just saw an amazing video and it has inspired me to write a quick post.

In my opinion, this is the most awesome thing that has ever happened on the news (and I’ve seen Matt Lauer interview the Muppets!). It takes a lot of humility to address such insults on the air and this woman will be admired for her statement for a long time to come.

The internet is out of control with insults and criticism and the majority of people’s feedback is total crap. People will literally insult anything they can. They’ll dislike the best YouTube videos and tear things apart. I once had a person comment on how the piano I was playing needed a deeper tone. What exactly did they expect from my video when it’s very obviously an iPhone sitting on a table in a room recording me messing around? Why would you even comment on that? Just to have something to insult?

Seeing that someone would write such a ridiculous email to someone they don’t even know makes me feel sick and it just further proves how insensitive the internet has made many. We pass judgment on everyone and everything and don’t even give a second thought to it when, for the most part, we really shouldn’t be judging at all (read Greg Boyd’s book Repenting of Religion for more thoughts).

Another thing that bothers me on the subject of obesity is how everyone always quotes that passage in the Bible. Perhaps you already know the one I’m talking about?

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard this passage not quoted in relation to health. Heck, it was like the core verse my health class in college used to make their class Biblical enough for us ministry students to care about it. Yet, if you actually read that verse in the context of 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, you’d be left with a different understanding of what the verse meant.

12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial.  “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.  13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord,  and the Lord for the body.  14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead,  and he will raise us also.  15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself ?  Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!  16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Surprise you? The most focused on connection in this verse is to sex. Your body is a sacred temple of the living God, therefore don’t sleep around. And yes, there is a sentence in there implying that you should care about what you eat, but the main point of this passage is to not commit sin with your body in general—any sin, not just gluttony. It’s a holy place where God lives. So why do we quote this so often in relation to food and not in relation to every sin that anyone commits?

So what am I saying? Are we cool to just be gluttons then?

No, of course not. The Bible tells us not to be. We should look to be healthy and take care of our bodies and not become gluttons, but my goodness, don’t succumb to insulting and judging people for their weight. It’s not like the Holy Spirit won’t take up residence in an obese person or leave because their temple has gotten too big.

As this new health craze has taken over America, people are beginning to wear unhealthy judgment on their faces everywhere they go. Comedian Jim Gaffigan paints a pretty hilarious image of this in his latest comedy sketch, Mr. Universe.

I reference McDonald’s a lot, because I go to McDonald’s. I love the silence that follows that statement. Like I just admitted to support dog fighting or something. “How could you! McDonalds?” It’s fun telling people you go to McDonald’s—they always give you that look like, “Oh, I didn’t know I was better than you.” No one admits to going to McDonald’s. They sell six billion hamburgers a day, there’s only 300 million people in this country—I’m not a calculous teacher, but I think everyone’s lying. You ever been to a McDonald’s and you see a friend? For a second you’re like, “Oh crap!” Eventually you’re like “HEY, HEY, HEY, WHAT’S GOING ON!?” They’re like, “I’m just here for the 99 cent ATM, what are you doing here Jim?”

There definitely is a health craze going on right now, and I get it to a certain extent. I’ve been trying to diet this summer myself as I am well overweight. And sure, perhaps we need to address it in the church, but for crying out loud, be sensitive. Like the reporter pointed out in the video above, it’s not like overweight people aren’t aware that they are overweight.

And also, make sure you understand that the desire to be healthy is different from the desire to look like a beautiful celebrity, because I think people are confusing those two subjects and making people feel sinful for not being skinny.

Favorite Worship Artists and Albums

Sonicflood

In my personal opinion, this is the best album Gotee records ever put out (and considering the album went gold, many must agree with me). And when I mention Sonicflood, let’s be clear that I’m referring to the original Sonicflood that released a debut self-titled album and a live album entitled Sonicpraise. I am not talking about the band that kickstarted INO records by taking on the same name with nearly all different members.

A friend of mine had bought Sonicflood’s first album for me as a moving-away present back in about 1999. I had heard their hit I Want to Know You, but didn’t know much about them otherwise. And so I threw it in my portable CD player and was almost immediately addicted to it. I don’t know why. This was well before I played any instruments so I could only understand the beauty of their music to the extent that my ears enjoyed it, but I still loved it.

This was the first worship music I had ever heard that was incredibly intimate and rocked out at the same time. It was also the first music I heard in which the songs weren’t trying to be three minutes a piece. The songs were as drawn out as the band wanted them to be and it was perfect that way.

I even happened to see them live at the very first concert I ever went to. They opened for the Newsboys and even though they only had about 15-20 minutes to play they must have only gotten through two songs altogether. I didn’t understand the repetition at the time because it was before I had a charismatic bone in my body.

And then, in 2001 when their live album Sonicpraise came out, I threw it in my CD player and rarely took it out. There was something magical about this album just like the first one. I listened to it for hours and scratched it up pretty good. I especially couldn’t stop listening to their Spontaneous Worship track which was a whopping 9+ minutes—way beyond what any Christian record label would have put out at that time.

Why was I so attracted to this? What was it about this album?

I now believe that my attraction was to an anointing God had put on this album. It had been blessed and turned into a true worship project. It was highly musical, incredibly genuine, and ground-breaking for its time. The spoken words that started the album must have literally done something in the spiritual realm:

We love you Jesus. Manifest your presence through this album and through the lives of these men who go out commissioned by Your word to be worshippers of the true and holy God. And making disciples in Jesus name.

You could see even more of their desperation for God in the hidden track, which is about three and a half minutes of discussion of the album.

Again, the original Sonicflood isn’t around anymore, but their lead singer Jeff Deyo has been writing and releasing some great albums you should look into.

Jesus Culture

As of right now, my favorite worship band would have to be that of Jesus Culture. The first time I had heard of them was when a friend of mine had used a video of them singing How He Loves in a presentation she had given in a worship arts class. I remember being captivated by it, but I didn’t look into the band until David Crowder Band made John Mark McMillan’s song an even bigger hit than Jesus Culture did. Soon the whole Christian realm was aware of How He Loves and many were pointed to the live recording that Jesus Culture had done.
That’s what happened to me. I posted a review here on my blog about David Crowder’s version of How He Loves and someone left a comment telling me to check out the Jesus Culture version. After watching the video I was immediately overwhelmed. I had to get some of this band’s music. Why? I think it was because I hadn’t heard any music that had been so anointed since the original Sonicflood albums.
Jesus Culture is probably gaining popularity more than any other worship band right now (even Relevant Magazine recently wrote an article on them), and they’re doing so by playing long extended songs full of passion and spontaneous praise. They don’t want to succumb to industry standards, they just want to worship. And with it, I believe a generation of worshipers is being unleashed. On top of that, many are turning to Bethel Church in Redding, CA where Jesus Culture is based. Because of this, many are learning of the gifts, miracles and phenomena of the Spirit that take place there and are running to learn more about how God can do such things in their own life.
I think my favorite album of Jesus Culture’s would have to be Come Away, but I can’t help but push you to buy everything they’ve released. It’s all spectacular and anointed.

Bethel Music

Since I’m on the topic of Jesus Culture, I might as well mention Bethel Music. This is the church I just mentioned above in my overview of Jesus Culture. Bethel is home to Jesus Culture and therefore their albums have all kinds of artists on it—from those in the Jesus Culture band, to others who lead worship at Bethel. The original songs coming out of this church are quickly making their way into mainstream churches and even into mainstream worship leader’s new albums. Bethel does so many amazing things and in my opinion is one of the leading churches that God is putting over America right now. I stay on top of not only the music they release, but what their church is doing through a subscription to iBethel.tv.

All Sons & Daughters

I only discovered All Sons & Daughters a few months ago, but I was immediately taken by their music. That’s honestly a bit strange for me because their particular genre is one that I’ve heard a lot of over the past few years and am not usually smitten with. But strangely enough I found myself wrapped up in their music and quickly buying everything they had to offer. There was something very genuine about their music and I got to see it firsthand when they played a concert at my alma mater just weeks after discovering them.

It was incredible. I’ve never seen a band with no drummer sound so full. It was truly a time of intimate, stripped-down worship and I was very moved by it—even after discovering that they were more or less a church worship band! I’ve noticed recently that a lot of church worship bands are trying to get their music out there when they probably shouldn’t be. But All Sons & Daughters is one of those church worship bands that the Christian music realm desperately needs and desires.

You have no need to buy all of their EPs because they just released an album entitled Season One, which has almost all of their music to date, plus two new songs.

Jeremy Riddle

Jeremy Riddle is closely connected to Bethel Music and has even released a few songs on Bethel’s albums. He is an amazing worship leader with a great atmospheric rock sound and lyrics of desperation. His album Furious is an amazing album that can really help you enter into the presence of God. His song One Thirst and Hunger is among one of my favorites of his and I use it in our church’s worship services quite regularly. Outside of that his song Always is among one of the most peaceful and beautiful worship songs I’ve ever heard. I love to set an atmosphere and just blast this song in all of it’s ambient-prayer-closet-beauty.

Cory Asbury

There are few studio worship albums I probably listen to more than Cory Asbury’s Let Me See Your Eyes. If this dude writes a song, you better believe it’s going to be catchy, born out of desire, and full of Scripture. On top of that, I’ve never known any worship artist to succeed at so many different kinds of genres. I get excited anytime I catch live him on IHOP.

Cory Asbury would also have to be king of the fast songs in the Christian music worship scene. There are so many good slow worship songs out there, but so few fast ones. Cory is able to operate on both sides of the table—whether it be the joy and uplifting sounds of the upbeat side of things, or the desperate and worshipful cries of the deep, intimate side of things.

This man is truly anointed by God to be a worship leader and you should definitely grab his album. And while I’ve been patiently awaiting a new album from him, I’ve also grown addicted to an album he worked on with Matt Gilman entitled Holy. Both are well worth a purchase.

Pas Neos

There’s another IHOP artist outside of Cory Asbury that I am in love with named Pas Neos. These guys are still pretty new to the scene but they have done something that few worship bands have ever done so well: electronica.

I am a huge electronica fan. It’s actually more or less my favorite genre. And now that it’s taking over the radio I’m that guy who gets to yell at everyone and say, “I’ve been listening to that kind of music for like a decade! I was obsessed with it when no one else would listen to it!” And no, I’m not a hipster.

This band is straight up indie-electronica and they do an amazing job at it. Their lyrics are also so Scriptural that the words they use in their songs can catch you off guard at first. They really push you to think of what they’re saying. It’s one of the most intriguing worship albums to come out in a long time and I am so incredibly happy that it has come out of IHOP.

IHOP

“Man Jamin,” you say. “I’ve never heard someone reference pancakes so much when talking about worship music.”

“Yeah, I actually get that a lot,” I reply.

But if you’ve been in the worship scene for awhile, you probably know that when I reference IHOP, I’m not talking about the International House of Pancakes, but rather the International House of Prayer. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I was made aware that there was a place out there that hosted 24/7 worship and that you could watch it online. I was immediately intrigued and spent many hours streaming IHOP into my room. In fact, I have it streaming right now.

The IHOP musicians can literally play one song for an entire hour on the IHOP worship stream because they know how to dwell in a time of worship. Half the time they’ll make up the song on the spot by singing Scripture. It’s no surprise that such amazing music would come out of this House of Prayer. Both Cory Asbury and Pas Neos mentioned above have come out of Forerunner, the label associated with IHOP.

One of my favorite live albums that has come out of IHOP is Onething ’09. This is another great album to look into if you’re looking for more upbeat fast songs for your worship sessions.

Shane and Shane

Shane and Shane visited my campus one semester and a friend of mine couldn’t stop talking about how amazing their worship session was after they had left.

He was right. Shane and Shane had just released their album Pages which was full of some of the most intimate lyrics I had heard in a long time. They opened the show with one of my favorite songs of theirs, Vision of You. This was one of the most intense “inviting-the-presence” songs I had ever heard before. Their beautiful voices soared over the music and drew the entire audience into worship.

I only walked out of the room for a few minutes and that was so I could buy their album. I now own several of their albums and press you to listen to all of their works.

Matt Redman

Not only is Matt Redman a great worship artist, but he’s also a great author. Actually, I did a lot more reading of his books before I really got into his music. I mean, I knew his big hits like everyone else (like Better is One Day, Heart of Worship, and Dancing Generation), but I hadn’t really listened to a lot of his music up until recently.

Fortunately, because I had read some of his books before I got into his music, I was able to truly see the passion he had for leading and writing worship music. I was especially moved by his album 10,000 Reasons. It had great songs all the way through it and was full of true worship and praise. If you haven’t listened to this album yet, I suggest you buy it along with one of his books like The Unquenchable Worshipper or Mirror Ball.

David Crowder Band

 

David Crowder Band has always been one of my favorite bands, especially for their work on A Collision (Or 3+4=7) and their latest and final album Give Us Rest or (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys]). Crowder has some of the most interesting and creative worship lyrics. Even more so, he has some of the most intriguing music. You can’t play half these songs at your church, mostly because they’re too amazing. Even some of their most simple worship songs that are played in churches all the time throw worship bands off. Sure the chords may be G D Em C, but you hold out the C an extra measure on this pre-chorus, two measures on the second one, and one and a half measures on the third.

But that’s David Crowder for you and you have to love it.

If you’re looking for a simple prayer closet album, check out his debut, All I Can Say, which many have overlooked in the success of his most recent albums.

And just a heads up: even though David Crowder Band is now officially broken up, most of the band members of DCB have started a new group called The Digital Age. They’ve released a few glimpses of what they sound like and it is AMAZING. Here’s a video of them doing their own take on All Sons & Daughters‘ song All the Poor and Powerless.

Chris Tomlin

Like I even have to mention Chris Tomlin. This guy has written (or at least made famous) many of the worship songs every contemporary church plays. This includes songs like: How Great is Our God, Our God, Forever, The Wonderful Cross, Famous One, We Fall Down, Indescribable, Holy is the Lord, Enough, Made to Worship, Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone), Jesus Messiah, God of This City, and I Will Rise.

Again, he didn’t write every one of these songs, but he at least made the majority of them famous. He’s perhaps the most well known worship leader because he writes some of the greatest, catchiest, thoughtful, wide-spread worship songs we’ve ever heard.

And if you like all of the Tomlin songs I just mentioned, just buy How Great is Our God: The Essential Collection, because I literally just gave you the track listing.

Worth Dying For

There are many other worship groups I could mention, but I want to end by mentioning a newer group called Worth Dying For. I discovered them when they released their album Love Riot and was captivated not only by the music, but by the genuinity of their worship. It was some of the best rocked out worship music I had heard in a long time. They also just put out an amazing live album Live Riot.
Also, feel free to download some of my own worship music for free here.

Apollos: Christology

Tonight at Apollos we’ll be addressing what I preached on yesterday for a little bit. That being said, I’ve created a hand out to go home with all of the Apollos students. You too can have it if you’d like. It addresses the whole idea of God being fully man and fully human. It’s got some of deeper research included in it as well as a bunch of points and ideas I used in my message yesterday. You can download the High Quality PDF or the Low Quality PDF. The difference is only a few megs so I suggest the high quality version if you’re internet is anything but dial-up.

Attaining Righteousness

I’ve spent a good portion of this morning reading and praying and there’s been a repetitive theme that I’ve seen while doing so. I first came across it this morning while reading They Shall Expel Demons by Derek Prince, a book I mentioned I was reading recently on instagram (yeah that was a shameless plug for you instagrammers):

As I was reading through it today, Prince listed 5 qualities that were typically found in false religions. That one that really caught me by surprise was number 4: “Religions teaching that people can attain righteousness by their own efforts.”

Again, the appeal is to human pride. Proud people are drawn to religious systems that demand hard, unreasonable forms of work and even self-inflicted suffering. The more rigorous the demands of a religion, the greater the degree of pride a person feels in fulfilling them.

Now perhaps this shouldn’t have caught me off guard. After all I’ve preached it before and I understand that our perfection is found in Jesus. But on the other side of things, we Christians do have to push ourselves to stay disciplined in the faith and stay away from sin. We have to seek to be perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

The problem is that many of us Christians focus so much on disciplining ourselves that we never even bring Jesus into the picture. Yes, we are called to live righteously, but Jesus is our righteousness. We cannot become righteous without Him and His all-powerful blood.

There’s a balance. A balance between the all-sufficient atonement of Christ and the discipline of your flesh. If you focus only on yourself and your flesh, “you appeal to human pride,” as Prince said. If you only call yourself saved under the grace of Jesus, but never look to live a righteous life, you take advantage of grace. For this reason, you could cast out demons and do miracles in the power of the name of Jesus and God could still tell you “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23). You could be a Christian and do Christian things and at the same time be a worker of lawlessness.

I think a lot of times I tend to find myself on the side of “I’m not good enough” rather than on the side of “Jesus is good enough for me.” And I think this morning God was trying to restore that balance in my head. I had read what Prince had to say while I was at home and then, when I got to my office, I decided to take communion. Now I tend to open myself up to communion differently when I take it in private, (i.e. in worship, reflection, meditation, or quiet), but this time I went with the good ol’ fashioned Free Methodist handbook. And as I read through it, this stuck out to me:

We do not come to this Your table, O merciful Lord, with self-confidence and pride, trusting in our own righteousness, but we trust in Your great and many mercies. We are not worthy to gather the crumbs from under Your table. But You, O Lord, are unchanging in Your mercy and Your nature is love; grant us, therefore, God of mercy, God of grace, so to eat at this Your table that we may receive in spirit and in truth the body of Your dear Son, Jesus Christ, and the merits of His shed blood, so that we may live and grow in His likeness and, being washed and cleansed through His most precious blood, we may evermore live in Him and He in us. Amen. (Emphasis mine)

Enter the balance. If you’re like me and tend to focus more on your good works, start to focus on Jesus’ righteousness. You can’t achieve it without Him as seen in Romans 3:21-26.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

But if you’re used to taking advantage of Jesus’ righteousness, grace, and mercy and living an immoral life of sin, start to discipline yourself and do what you’re called to do as pointed out in James 2:14-17.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Righteousness comes to us by faith in Jesus Christ. But we are hardly righteous if we don’t live like it. For a long time I’ve tried to reconcile the following two passages together:

Romans 4:1-5

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…

James 2:21-26

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Despite what it may look like at first glance, I no longer think these verses are at odds with each other. I mean you read a bunch of the other letters Paul wrote and it becomes completely obvious that he knows you have to live righteously to get into Heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9-11):

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Paul and James aren’t at war with each other. They’re emphasizing different sides of the spectrum. Paul shows the victory of the righteousness we gain from Jesus. James acknowledges that victory while stating the obvious that we still have to live righteously and our works should show it.

And with that, I’m going to close. I think the Holy Spirit has taken me much further into this discussion than I thought He would! I meant to wrap up like three paragraphs after my picture!

How are you imbalanced in this discussion? Make steps to fix it. Ask Righteousness to help.

Apollos: Healing (Session 1)

When it comes to spiritual gifts, people probably believe the most in healing—though it’s usually God at work through the “surgeon’s hands” rather than the Holy Spirit. And it seems that when God does show up and supernaturally heal someone, He doesn’t even get the credit. People assume the doctor had the wrong diagnosis before they truly believe it was God.

On top of that, many Christians have left the faith or have grown angry with God because of this spiritual gift. Perhaps they’ve lost a loved one and have blamed it on God. Or perhaps they prayed for healing and it never came. Whatever the case may be, healing can become a very confusing gift to operate in.

For session one on healing, we will watch a documentary by Darren Wilson entitled The Finger of God. This movie focuses in on a few supernatural themes such as signs and wonders and healing. My goal in showing you this movie is to give you visual proof of God’s healing powers. Next week we will talk more in depth on healing as you read through this PDF. But again, I want you to see it in action so first we will watch this movie.

Now since you’re following this online, it’s going to require a small financial contribution. You can download Finger of God on iTunes for only $6 (or you can rent it there for $4). Consider this your tuition fund ;)

This movie challenged me and really opened me up to missions and the supernatural world of God. So please—don’t skip this section. The weirdest stuff is at the beginning and then it will settle down and get… well… less weird.

After watching it, try to find time before next Monday to look over and meditate on the verses in the PDF attached. What can you learn about healing through them? We will discuss our thoughts next week.