A contemporary Christian praise and worship I absolutely refuse to listen to or sing

There is a particular praise and worship contemporary Christian song that is quite popular, with many congregations having sung it during a worship gathering.

It will not be sung in a worship gathering of a congregation of which I pastor.

What song is that? Breathe by Michael W. Smith.

Here are the some of the lyrics:

This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me

This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me

And I, I’m desperate for you
And I, I’m lost without you

Have absolutely no problem with the lyrics through the first 6 lines. It’s line 7 where the contradiction and anti-gospel nature enters.

Smith writes, “Your holy presence living in me.” Beautiful and true because the nature of Jesus lives within every believer, for He is our new nature. God, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, now inhabits His people, whereas, in the Old Testament, that presence would come and go, only visiting. Paul speaks to this multiple times in his letters. But tell me, how often are you desperate for something you already have?

I hope not at all. It’s hard to be desperate for something you already possess. So, there’s the contradictory wording. You are not desperate for the One who already inhabits you. And because it is only something you don’t have already possess for which you are desperate, that line also speaks to how it was in the Old Testament, which is opposite to how God now does it in the New Covenant, the only covenant that matters to us who are believers.

Therefore, that song will not see the light of day in a worship gathering of a congregation which I pastor. I am not desperate for the presence of God; He, through the Spirit of His Son and the Holy Spirit is already living in me; He inhabits me.

And I will not sing a song that makes me say I’m desperate for His presence; because I’m not, not even in the least.

I believe many Christians truly lack this

Charles Stanley wrote, “Our intimacy with God determines the impact of our lives.

This coming Sunday, I am beginning a sermon series dealing with our intimacy with God, His intimacy with us, how important it is, and why intimacy makes the gospel totally opposite in character to religion.

The other thing that I will be addressing during this series is how many followers of Jesus do not, for a variety of reasons, such as upbringing or earlier teaching, really experience intimacy with God. The relationship they have can be described as how a father related to his children during the Victorian era – very stoic and cold relationally.

That was what the relationship between the nation of Israel and God in the Old Testament was like. Jesus, though, lived out a radically different relationship with God the Father. The way in which Jesus spoke of the Father, talked about His interaction with the Father, and lived out the intimate relationship He enjoyed with the Father so incensed the Jews that they sought all the more to kill Him.

Jesus spoke of the intense love that the Father had for each one of us. The words Jesus and the writers of the New Testament used speak to the intense emotional intimacy of the relationship between the Father and His adopted sons and daughters, those who have believed in Jesus and have been given the right to be called children of God.

Through the incarnation, Jesus brought the Father down to our level. That is why He told His disciples, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” That is what I call a relationship with intense and deep intimacy.

I don’t know; maybe why worship can oft seem so bland and devoid of demonstrated emotion of all types is because the level of true intimacy with the Father just isn’t all that deep or intense. I mean, the relationships we have with those closest to us can be very emotionally intense in a variety of ways, and it’s the emotional intensity which gives insight to the level of intimacy to be truly found in that relationship.

Relationships with a deep level of intimacy remove many inhibitions in how we respond to that person. Because of that intimacy, we couldn’t care less about what someone thinks about an action toward that person because of that intimacy.

But it is so often that adopted sons and daughters act, speak, and respond in the relationship with God that reveals that the relationship is modeled after that father to his children in the Victorian era.

But God wants so much more. He wants that intense intimacy that causes emotional responses, and causes us to not be able to care less about whether or not someone thinks our response is dignified because all that matters is that intimacy.

Do you think about buying a car if you’re not in the market?

If you’re not in the market to buy a new car, when you read your local newspaper, do you even bother to look at the advertisements, often full-page and in vivid color, from local car dealerships? For the vast majority, the answer would be not often, if at all. And this is true because it just doesn’t enter your thinking so you quickly turn the page.

It is often the same about Christianity and local congregations. There is a significant portion of the population that doesn’t give Christianity or a congregation a single thought because it just isn’t something that is on their mind. In other words, they aren’t in the “market” to consider Christianity or find a congregation which to join.

It’s even often the case that these people don’t even think negatively about Christianity or the congregation because they don’t think about those things at all.

Why am I bringing all of this up? A recent Pew Research Center study has shown that many Christian groups (Presbyterians, Methodists, United Church of Christ, American Baptists, etc.) are getting older. For example, this study shows that of the Presbyterian Church, USA, 70% are older than 50. In the United Methodist Church and UCC, 60% are older than 50. In the ABC, it’s 48%.

One of the results of the aging of congregations is that there can be a tendency to hold and stick to the ways things were done decades ago, and those ways produced results because they were fashioned for a particular period of time and, therefore, saw success.

The problem is this – we no longer live in that world. We live in a different time, a time where there are many for whom Christianity or congregations just isn’t even a fleeting thought in their minds.

The model has changed from what was (congregations as local programmatic centers of activity) to what connects with people now (a movement or a cause). I will let Bill Wilson, the president of the Center for Healthy Churches, share it with you in his article as found on ethicsdaily.com.

“Local churches in the U.S. functioned as programmatic centers of activity for the last half of the 20th century. Embedded in a supportive “churched” and Christian culture, their role was to provide offerings that inspired, entertained and educated those who chose to attend. Those who attended a local church tended to look alike racially and socioeconomically. They were the “good people” in the community.

Churches knew their place in the social order. They were the privileged majority, with Sundays and Wednesdays reserved for their activities. They benefitted from their status and their employees were accorded a place of authority and respect in the community. Attractive buildings and professionally trained staff were important, as attendees had many options to choose from when it came to churches.

Denominational headquarters churned out a vast array of material, themes and conferences that reinforced and dictated local church programs. Extensive training at multiple levels was provided to assure the purchase and implementation of denominational curriculum and emphases. Denominational staff members were superstars who were accorded immediate respect and status. The system was funded by local churches, which were expected to funnel larger and larger amounts of money up the economic food chain to support missions or various ministries.

The seeds of the demise of the programmatic era of local church life were sown in the 1960s. Cultural norms regarding race and sex began a season of societal upheaval that continues today. The Vietnam War, as well as the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King Jr., signaled a cultural brokenness that was undeniable. Trust in institutions and leaders began to steadily erode.

Though it would take 50 years to fully emerge, the post-church, post-Christian era of American life was on its way. Today, we live, work and minister in a very different world than existed 50 years ago in 1966.

Is this bad news or good news? It depends. Perhaps it is an opportunity for the church to connect with its original design.

The first century church found itself in a minority position in culture, surrounded by competing ideologies and accorded little status or privilege. In that challenging setting, the church not only survived, but it thrived in ways not seen since. A movement was started that swept over and around obstacles and gradually transformed the culture in which it was birthed.

Movements are vastly different than programs. For the American church to thrive in this new cultural milieu, I believe we must adopt movement thinking and recognize the limits and hindrances of programmatic thinking.

Movement thinking is:

1. Driven by passion, rather than obligation.

With the demise of external cultural pressure to attend church or be identified as a Christian, those who choose to attend out of a perceived need or calling, rather a sense of duty or obligation will increasingly populate the 21st century church. Movements always capture your heart.

2. Fueled by a sense of personal call.

Movements across the centuries have always been spawned by a personal conviction to right a wrong or share a powerful value. Whether the issue was women’s right to vote, civil rights, gun ownership, environmental issues, right to life, combating sex-trafficking or a million other causes, a movement depends upon personal call and conviction as its source of power and motivation.

3. Focused on a goal.

Movements know where they are going and what their goals are. Everything is evaluated based upon whether or not it advances the group toward the ultimate goal. Movements run lean on overhead.

4. Marked by collaborative efforts.

Movements are often the coalescing of multiple smaller groups around a shared goal. Allies are discovered as the journey toward a goal is pursued. The inevitable competition among personalities and groups is swallowed up in the relentless pursuit of a shared agenda.

5. Guided by movement, not rhetoric.

As the very name implies, movements prize progress toward an agreed-upon end. Those who only want to talk and posture are quickly exposed and marginalized as the movement moves past them. Leadership becomes the ability to get something done.

6. Motivated by celebrations of progress and stories of change and accomplishment.

Movements intrinsically know that stories are the powerful fuel that motivate and provide meaning to its members.

7. Characterized by saying “no” to those things and people that distract from the goal.

Clarity around a goal enables movements to ignore the temptations to diverge from their calling. Politics and culture are seen as temptations, not solutions. Is your church practicing programmatic thinking or movement thinking? Far too often, we find churches still employing a programmatic mindset while expecting movement-like results. To do so is a set-up for frustration and failure.

Healthy churches are recognizing that the era of programming is giving way to a season in which we rediscover our movement roots. The challenge of today is to gradually redirect our approach from pushing programs toward launching and sustaining a movement. It is hard, but good and necessary work if we are to thrive.”

Just like I have often heard the Holy Spirit say to me, I say, “We get to choose the path.”

Which one will we choose?

The Importance of Having Purpose in Life

Having a purpose in life is a driving force. It’s a force that gets us up out of bed in the morning. It’s a force that gives direction to our thoughts, our actions, and how we move through the day and life.

Without purpose, life becomes meaningless.

Without that force derived from purpose, life becomes adrift.

And just like the truth of “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything,” not having a purpose in life will cause you to go in so many directions, attempting to chase something down, and none lasting very long.

And sometimes those who know their purpose need a reminder of that purpose because they’ve allowed the purpose to get out of focus. And the result of that is to now move in directions which will not further that purpose.

This past weekend, I received a reminder of what my purpose is in life, a purpose which, when I was 18 years old, was given to me by God through a prophetic word from a surprising source, surprising because that source did not believe prophetic utterances were for this time.

That prophetic utterance came during a discussion about the meaning and significance of my name. By this time, God had already placed a vocational call upon my life, which He did in response to a prayer prayed before I was even conceived.

My given name is James Herbert. (Yes, I had classmates tease me by calling me “Herbie, the love bug.”) James means “supplanter.” A supplanter is “one who overthrows,” such as overthrowing a ruler or government. Sometimes “thief” is used as a synonym for supplanter. Herbert means “illustrious or bright warrior.”

The prophetic utterance stated, “Jim, you will be a warrior for God who steals the very souls of people from the grasp of Satan.” In other words, I would liberate people who were under the control of Satan and lead them into the freedom only found in Christ.

That’s my purpose in life, my God-given purpose.

There have been times when I have allowed other things, good things but with the same result, to cloud my focus and draw my attention in other directions. That has happened over the last few months.

But due to two statements uttered by the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I have realized that my purpose had gone out of focus. And through those two statements, it has been brought it back into focus.

There may be, and most likely will be, difficult times ahead, but that’s okay. My Master has plenty of resources so that provision is not going to be a problem.

And realizing that difficult times are ahead but that my Master has already provided what I need has released me to focus on that purpose, bringing it back into clear and sharp focus.

It’s once again time, as the Christian music artist Steve Camp sang in the 1981 song “Run To The Battle,” to “run a mission a yard from the gates of hell.”