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This is My Story, This is My Song

January 18, 2012 11 comments

While sitting at my desk this morning I looked at my calendar and realized that today is my 3rd Birthday. January 18, 2009 was the day I became a Christian and more specifically, the day I stopped running from God and gave Him control of my life.

In a previous post, I wrote about the need to have a definitive salvation experience. I don’t believe it is necessary to remember the date, time and where you where when it happened but I do think everyone should be able to say without a doubt that they have received the gift of grace Jesus offers you and be able to articulate the ways in which it has changed your life. Sharing such a story is what Christians call a testimony. A testimony is not so much a statement of beliefs but rather a declaration of God’s faithfulness, how we came to accept Jesus as Lord and the tangible results exhibited in our lives as a result of forgiveness and grace given by Him. This is my testimony.

I was born and raised in an LDS home and Mormonism was the only religious system I would really experience for the first nineteen years of my life when I would spend 2 years on a LDS mission in Spain which is predominantly Catholic. As a result of this, I grew up really only knowing what Mormonism teaches, and even then I only knew what LDS leaders wanted me to know. The works-based aspect of the religion makes life as a Mormon not easy by any stretch of the imagination. To some, this is a badge of honor but to others like me, it is more like wearing weights around our ankles…it makes it hard to run the good race and fight the good fight. When you are leaden down with a littanany of “to-do’s” it is hard to find time and energy to work on a true relationship of Jesus.

There is so much I could say about my 30 years as a Mormon but let me fast-forward to 2007. It was in this year that my exhaustion got to the point where I basically gave up on the Mormon system. No matter what I did, it was never good enough and at no point did I feel close to God. In fact, it was just the opposite, God felt more distant every day. It was not until just a few months ago that I realized this was due to pride. Every work performed as a Latter-day Saint was done in an attempt to earn my own salvation, which is presumptuous to say the least. James 4:6 says “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” I was distancing myself from God because of this attitude of pride that had been imbedded in me from birth. I perceived the space between Him and me to be so big that I began to doubt His very existence.

Needless to say, I was tired, distant, lost and miserable. It was in that state of mind that my LDS Bishop approached me. In no uncertain terms, he made it very clear that unless I got my act together and started to tow the company line, I would not be able to baptize my daughter that following year when she turned 8. This got me to look back at my life as a Mormon and ask the serious question of, “if I had to do it all over again, would I?” The answer was a resounding “NO!” If that was the case for me, why on earth would I put my daughter into that same position?

In December of 2007 I walked out of the local LDS church building and never went back.

I would be lying if I said that decision made things better. In truth, it made things worse. I became Agnostic in my beliefs on God and I searched in just about every place I could think of for peace and truth. It was a very hard year. I must say here that if it were not for some outspoken Christian friends, neighbors and acquaintances that God put in my life, I would have continued down that path.

One of these people sent me a video called The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon which opened my eyes to not only the validity and trustworthiness of the Bible but also a side of Mormonism I had not seen before or at least did not dare question. It was pivotal in both my desire to read and learn more about the Bible and Christianity as well as my quest to learn everything I could about Mormonism, good and bad.

For the next 6 months I ate, slept and breathed Mormonism. I read everything I could get my hands on supporting and disagreeing with doctrine and history. My mind was blown away. I could not believe so many teachings and historical facts were withheld from me. I felt hurt, angry, sad and vengeful. I had come to understand that for 30 years I had been lied to directly and indirectly. I had not been entrusted with facts that were questionable because no one respected me enough to present information and let me make my own informed decision. As a result of the hurt, I lashed out. I’m not proud of that but none the less, it happened. I created a blog (not this one) where I posted all of the disparaging or “non faith promoting” things I found. I was abrasive and at times purposefully antagonistic which in turn hurt a lot of people and burned some bridges I would love to re-build today.

Why do I bother writing about this? Because I firmly believe that it is an integral part of my story. I look back at some of those old blog posts and at my heart in this period of time and can see how spiteful I was.

Let me move on to January 18, 2009. By this time I had been going to church with Amy who was amazingly supportive in this difficult stage. After visiting a few churches for a number of months, we had settled in at Gateway Church where we are still to this day. I woke up that Sunday morning with this pulling in my heart. I don’t know how else to say it but I felt compelled to go to church even though we had already gone Saturday. I woke Amy and told her I needed to go to church and went alone. I arrived just before the 10:45 service and sat in the back row. Worship started and God stated to work on my heart as well. I had been running from Him for a few months now but He met me right where I was. The second song that day was “Beautiful” sung by Kari Jobe. The words could not have been more perfect for my situation. Having spent years in pride and self-reliance I broke as I sang and confessed these words to God.

Here, before Your altar, I am letting go of all I am
Of every motive, every burden
Everything that’s of myself
And I just wanna wait on You, my God
I just wanna dwell on who You are

Beautiful, beautiful, O, I am lost for more to say
Beautiful, beautiful, O, Lord, You’re beautiful to me

Here, in Your presence
I am not afraid of brokenness
To wash Your feet with humble tears
O, I would be poured out ‘til nothing’s left
And I just wanna wait on You, my God
I just wanna dwell on who You are

Holy, holy, holy, You are

I remember this day so vividly that even as I write this I can see, feel and sense it all over again. While singing, it was as if God stood right before me, put His hands on my shoulders and spoke clearly into my heart. “If you will lay down your life, your pride and your reliance on your own works, I will take care of you. I want to be your source. I want to be who you come to first. I know all the junk in your past and I still love you and want you to be my son. I have great plans for you if you will follow Me.” Without hesitation, I said YES! Who could resist such a promise from such a great God. I did just what the song said and laid all my baggage at the altar and in brokenness cried till I had nothing left. I gave my life to Jesus.

To this day I am still surprised at how much joy I felt. What a weight lifted off my shoulders when I realized that Jesus took everything I gave him and in return gave me peace and assurance of my right standing before God. Because of that moment, I no longer have to question my eternal destiny. I know that I will be with God because when He looks at me, He sees that I have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus.

It has been 3 years and the Christian journey is a wild one. I have had trials and I have had great successes. Through it all, I have had peace and joy. No matter the circumstance I know that God is for me. That He is faithful to fulfill His promise to me despite my failures.

As I have walked in this new life filled with grace and the Holy Spirit, the Bible has come alive. I have new eyes and ears to hear His voice more clearly. What a difference that has made.

My heart used to be calloused and hard as a rock. Now I am filled with compassion, forgiveness and empathy toward others. I see this manifested as I read through my old blog about Mormonism in comparison to this one. I no longer feel bitter or angry toward the LDS church or those who follow that religious system. Instead, my heart breaks for them. Many are in the same situation I found myself in with no real hope.

God has redeemed my time in the LDS church and I now spend as much of my time as possible educating others about the teachings of Mormonism from a Christian point of view. It is my hope that other Christians will feel equipped enough to reach out to their LDS friends and family around them just as someone did for me.

To Go or Not To Go…That is the Question

June 29, 2011 8 comments

I recently taught a three week class on Mormonism. From that class, I have received a number of questions on different topics (like having a Mormon in the White House). So far, the question I have heard the most is, should we let our kids go to church with their LDS friends?

The question is a hard one to answer. There are plenty of people on both sides of the argument and I think both have good reason to think the way they do. Here is my opinion that I admit is stated strongly.

My daughter is 9 and we personally would not let her go. Now that she is becoming more knowledgeable about both Christianity and Mormonism, I don’t really worry about her doctrinally. In fact, I think she would be correcting the teachers if she did go. We don’t let her go because of the spiritual aspects.

I don’t say any of what follows to scare you or to mis-characterize Mormons so please understand that. From my perspective, they worship a false god (See Exodus 32) so that means to me that they worship a demonic god. I don’t want my daughter to be exposed to those kinds of spirits if I can avoid it. I know that statement is going to rub all Mormons and even some Christians the wrong way but if you look at it logically, if you are not worshiping the One True God, then there is only one other option.

Will your kids be singing and praying in the LDS services?

Could they be agreeing with songs of worship and prayers offered to a false god without realizing it? Watch this sermon to understand my perspective on this.

Does that open them up to the influence of demonic spirits?

Does it give the Mormon family a greater sense of legitimacy as being another Christian church?

I have my own answers/opinions to those questions but they are something you need to prayerfully consider. Letting your kids go with their LDS friends is not always wrong.

Here is what my advice would be if you do let your kids go to the Mormon church.

1. Consider going with them.

2. Pray over them before they go and when they come back.

3. Give them an assignment. If they are old enough to go to church with friends, they are most likely old enough to understand at least the basic concepts of Christianity. So have them go with their eyes and ears open for teachings that appear to be either slightly off or completely unique to Mormonism. Then after church, discuss 2-3 of those things and study the Bible together about those topics to understand what God says about that point of doctrine. That way, they are not confused. They will also gain some great experience in the Word and learn how to defend their faith.

4. Propose a church swap with both the parents and kids if possible. Most LDS kids are willing to make a commitment to go to church with you if you go with them but the parents are less likely to go. If they do agree to this, try a Saturday night service so it does not interfere with their normal Sunday meetings because most likely they are serving in some way and cannot miss church.

Make sure to let them know what to expect with the service. Briefly explain things like worship style (traditional or contemporary music, how Pentecostal are you), what Bible does your Pastor usually read from, dress code and things like that are important bits of information so they are not caught off guard. For many, it will be their first step into a Christian church and depending on the style; it could be a huge difference.

Then when you go to their meetings, make sure you are respectful to their dress code as well and wear what is appropriate and be prepared for 3 hours of church. You will most likely be taken to a Sunday School class that teaches the basic doctrines of Mormonism called Gospel Principles. Just like your kids, keep your eyes and ears open for doctrines that may sound Christian but have a little twist. If others in the class have a manual, ask for one so you can read what they are teaching from.

I think one of the best weeks to go to the LDS church is the 1st Sunday of the month which they call Fast and Testimony meeting. In this meeting, the pulpit is open to anyone who wants to get up and share their testimony. To them a testimony is basically a statement of beliefs like “I know Joseph Smith was a prophet.” If this is the week you go, pay close attention to what the people are saying and the order in which it is said. You will notice a pattern in their speech that will tell you a lot about their priorities.

I know some of my points may seem a bit extreme or even harsh. It is not popular to insinuate that a group of very nice, hard working people with great family values are worshiping a false or demonic god (knowingly or unknowingly).

Please remember, it is not the person but rather the doctrines that we as Christians have issues with. Mormons are a fantastic group of people…but they are deceived and blinded from the truth taught in the Bible. Pray for those asking you or your kids to go to church with them. That is the most important thing you can do.

Categories: Mormonism, Teaching, Worship

“You’re the God of this family!”

August 22, 2010 3 comments

“He was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.” (Acts 16:34)

Sometimes, the circumstances in my life seem surreal and last night, God reminded me just how blessed I really am.

I had been saved for about 3 months when I heard about a special service that was going to be held at Gateway Church called “Beyond the Veil”.  Having grown up LDS and intimately familiar with the happenings within the Mormon temples, the idea of breaking down the steps in Old Testament temple worship and then looking at how they were literally fulfilled in the final hours of Christ’s life peaked my interest.  It was a night I don’t think I will ever forget because I gained a deeper understanding of the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice for me.  It became so very personal.

Fast forward to last night…the once-a-year “Beyond the Veil” service was happening again.  I had anxiously waited months for this night to arrive.  I sat in my chair, so expectant that I could not keep still.  The desire to worship my King was building up inside of me and I had to let it out.

One of the things I love about Gateway is their desire to hear and follow God.  They always expect Him to do “a new thing”

Isaiah 42:9 – See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”

As the service started, there was something noticeably different; the worship band was not on the platform as usual.  With his mic in hand, Zach Neese begins to tell us about a vision he and the other leader had in preparation for the night.  They saw a group of people worshiping God and scattered in the group were some with instruments.  With no clear leader to focus on…they all were able to focus entirely on God and direct their worship to the only one worthy of it.  Throughout the crowd, Zach had placed his group of worship leaders just as he had seen them so we too could focus all our praise on God.

For me, that change was significant but welcome.  I had never really noticed how much I look at and focus on those who are leading worship until they were not there anymore.  With the band all around, we all became worship leaders and there was a sense of added freedom to express myself.  There were times when I knelt, laid face down on the floor or danced without any apprehension.  My only care was that my Father would have no doubt that I love Him.  I have always enjoyed worship but nights like this make it that much more special.

God spoke to me early and often and I tried to write down everything I could.  There was a moment…more profound than all the rest.  It is what moves me to type today and is the essence of the opening verse from Acts.  Also with me last night was my wife and 8 year old daughter.  About 2 hours into the service (that actually went 3 hours), we were singing “God of this city” by Chris Tomlin.  As we made our way through the song, I changed the words to “You’re the God of this family.”  As I did that, I looked to either side of me and saw my wife on my right, and then my daughter on my left.  Both had their hands held high, declaring their belief in God and proclaiming that “there is no one like our God”.

At that moment, I was overcome with gratitude.  To have my family at my side, all of us equally yoked and wanting more of God seemed too great to fully comprehend.  It hit me so hard that I had to sit down, put my head in my hands, and pour out a sacrifice of thanksgiving from the deepest parts of my soul.  It seemed so little to offer for such a remarkable blessing.  He had taken me and my family out of certain death and gave us certain life, affecting generations to come.

God has worked in our family so much in the past two years and it is easy to see when I look back.  After pouring out my heart, I stood, spread my hands over my family, and as the leader of my home I proclaimed the words of the song that came next…

”For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done In this city [Family]
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here”

Categories: Family, Freedom, Salvation, Worship

Walk…Sprint…Grinding Halt

July 14, 2010 3 comments

Walk…Sprint…Grinding Halt

That seems to be the pattern of my spiritual walk these days.  Moments with steady progress that lead to a rapid acceleration and awesome revelation.  Then…nothing!

The best visual I can come up with to describe it is the difference between the slow creeping of a roller-coaster as it ascends the first hill; the sudden (but expected) increase in velocity that follows bringing with it a few surprising twists and turns; ending in the sudden, lurching stop at the end that takes away all of the momentum created by the ride.  Excitement lingers but disappointment that the ride is over quickly sets in.  Having known the joy of the ride and wanting to experience it once more, waiting to start again seems unbearable and you wish you could just stay in your seat and head back up that hill without going to the end of the line.

I ask myself why this cycle keeps repeating.  Why does the ride come to that grinding halt?  Why do I get off the ride and get back in a self-imposed line when I don’t have to?  I am openly frustrated by it and I’m pretty sure I am not the only Christian that experiences something similar.

I don’t think I am going out on a limb by saying that every Christian should hope for (and to certain extent expect) to encounter and hear from God each and every day.  So why don’t we (or why don’t I)?

Taking into account that God is…Omnipotent, Omniscient, Just, Merciful, All Loving, Omnipresent and everything else in between…It is safe to say that the issue is on my side and not His.

Hebrews 11:6 says that God rewards those who earnestly seek him.  Other translations say to sincerely or diligently seek.  Perhaps this is where I run into trouble.  Each one of these descriptions means something different that when put together shows a greater understanding for how we should approach God and our relationship with Him.

Earnestly – From an intense and serous state of mind

Sincerely – The absence of hypocrisy, feigning, or any falsifying embellishment or exaggeration

Diligently – Steady and energetic effort (also from the Latin “diligere” meaning to esteem or love)

This is how God deliberately said he wants me to seek him.  The Bible does not waist words and each one is measure with exact precision.  I’m sure that if I knew Hebrew and Greek better, the original text would lead me to a similar conclusion.  So God is expecting me to come to Him with a steady intensity that comes from a serious love for Him and from a place of open honesty where I take down my guard, free myself of all pretense and rhetoric and just be real.  When you think about it, not being sincere with God is foolish because I know that he searches my heart and knows my motives.  So why do I try to hide or deceive God?

If I look back at my seasons of rapid growth, they are the moments where I am the most “real” with not only God, but also those around me.  It is when I am vulnerable, consistent, and focused on how great my God is through honest worship.

I think and process information as I write so all of this has been hitting the page in “real time”.  It appears that I need to check my heart and make sure that my motives are pure, ridding myself of pride, doubt, fear, distractions and anything else that might keep me from seeking him properly.   Then I can get back on the roller-coaster and this time when the first ride is over, I’m not going to the back of the line and waiting, but instead heading right back up that hill.  After all…my “Dad” owns the ride and has a seat just for me.

“That’s My King” by Dr. S. M. Lockeridge

July 9, 2010 1 comment

This sermon has been one of the most impact-full thing I have heard in recent times.  My favorite act of worship is to proclaim to God who He is and what I think of Him.  Nothing takes my eyes off of this world and all my troubles, than focusing on how good, merciful, powerful, great and loving my God is.

How do you worship The King?

Categories: Jesus, The King, Worship