The Worship of Lament

The Worship of Lament

Word in Season

I have been thinking about worship this week. What does it look like to worship in the midst of a global pandemic or personal tragedy? How do we approach God when things are less than OK? Often we react in one of two ways: we shut off that connection and turn away from God, or we pretend that all is fine and continue on, ignoring hardship and suffering. But what would it look like to worship while acknowledging deep pain and difficult circumstances? To neither deny God nor the realities we are facing? In his book Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, Mark Vroegop puts forth a pathway toward hope, even in the darkest circumstances. This pattern of lament is seen all over the Bible and helps us when we don’t know how to move forward.

The first step is to turn. Turn to God in prayer! It takes faith to call out to God in the middle of our suffering; to keep talking, to keep praying through pain. Using Psalm 4 as an example, we see in verse 1:

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

The psalmist, David, is crying out, calling for God’s attention to his circumstances. He acknowledges God and his work in his life in the past, despite what he is going through now. This may seem obvious and overly simple, but moving towards God in our pain is where all hope begins.

Next, after we cry out to God, we are to bring him our complaints. This might seem illogical or just plain sinful to us. We have absorbed the admonishment to “do everything without grumbling or complaining”, which is, of course, good and true. We are not to bring our complaints and grievances to other people, who have no power to change our situations, but to God, the one who has all power. We see David all over the Psalms bringing his complaints to God and in Psalm 4:2 he says,

O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?

He names his specific problems to God- namely that his reputation has been destroyed by the lies of sinful men. Many times, these statements begin with “How long..” or “Why…” before they name the individual grievances. Of course, even as we bring our complaints, we need to come with reverence and humility- we are addressing the omnipotent, living God. Yet this sovereign Lord cares for our every specific need.

But we don’t stop there. After we have brought our complaints, we are to ask boldly. In the lament Psalms, we see this change often marked by a “but” or a “yet.” The psalmist will move on from focusing on his complaint and set his eyes on God.

But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him.

Here in verse 3, David is calling on the Lord to hear his cry. In this sense, hearing means answering; he is putting his trust in God responding to his prayer. He doesn’t sheepishly petition within the framework of “if it’s your will”, but rather asks boldly and allows for God to answer in accordance with his will.

Finally, after we have turned, complained, and asked, we are to choose to trust. This trust is not a shallow hope that what we have prayed for will come to fruition, but rather an “active patience.” Not a one-time choice to trust God, but a continuing, day-after-day decision to see God as worthy of our faith.

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.

Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

The rest of Psalm 4 is, I think, devoted to that choice to trust God and what that looks like. Not sinning in our anger about the situation. Offering right sacrifices, which in other places in the Psalms is defined as thankfulness (50:14, 23, 107:22, 116:17) and a broken and contrite spirit (51:16-17). Remembering that all true goodness and joy comes from the Lord, who has given us the ultimate cause for joy in Christ: reconciliation to God! And seeing that peace and safety only come from the Lord, and not temporary circumstances. This trusting acknowledges that God alone is God, and will answer all our cries in a way that is both for our good (Romans 8:28) and his glory (Isaiah 48:11).

You may be thinking, as I once did, that you may have no personal reason for lament. Maybe you have nothing “grievous” in your life and you feel like things are going well. However, lament is not just for the “big” problems of life, although it certainly is. It can be practiced in the small things of this fallen world, like the grief of my kids missing their favorite sports season or the daily sin that creeps into my heart, just as well as the momentous things of a global pandemic that disrupts all sense of public normalcy or being diagnosed with a chronic disease that does the same privately. All of these occasions offer us a chance to turn to God, bring him our complaints, ask him boldly, and choose to trust him. And that is worship. Praise God!

Consider This…

Consider This…

Announcements

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. Hebrews 10:24

I recently preached a message at my church on Hebrews 10:24-25. This passage challenges believers to consider ways to stir up one another to love and good works by gathering together and encouraging each other. As a follow up, I thought it would be helpful to write some articles for the next couple of weeks to stimulate in our minds and hearts ways to encourage and stir up one another in our churches and communities. The purpose will be to study God’s Word and use our own creativity to find ways to practically live out this command from Hebrews 10:24. Hopefully this will be the first of several articles that can help us think of ways to outdo one another in love.

Bear With One Another

One phrase from the Apostle Paul that always makes me giggle a little is when he commands Christians to “bear with one another” or as the NIrV says in our modern lingo “put up with each other”. The quote is slightly laughable because it accurately presumes that we as humans are not always easy to get along with. A part of considering how to stir one another up in love and good deeds is being able to get over our differences.

This idea of bearing with one another comes from two verses in the writings of Paul: Colossians 3:13 and Ephesians 4:2.  Both passages are encouraging the church to love one another, and each has a slightly different focus. Let’s look at both passages, find the distinctives, and come to some practical ways we can use these truths to stir up one another.

Forgive One Another

The Colossians verse contains many ways believers are to live because they are in Christ. Paul points out in 3:11 that all differences we once had become moot under the truth that we are servants of Christ above all else. Neither race nor social class, neither profession nor political bent exist in Christ, when we are Christ’s he is in all and is all. Our difference are secondary to our unity in Jesus. 

In light of that we are to be humble, kind, meek, patient, and, as we are focusing on here, to bear with one another. Paul helps us to do this by commanding us to forgive each other as Christ has forgiven us. This is a great application for stirring up one another. What better way to encourage our community than to live everyday with a heart of forgiveness. In this time of fear and confusion many will say and do things that will harm us and others. As Christians, we will need to be ready to forgive and bear with those offenses. On the other hand, we can also seek forgiveness. We are not perfect. We have and will hurt others and need to be ready to seek forgiveness as well as give it. What a great way to stir up the church in love!

Eager to Maintain Unity

Ephesians 4:1-5 uses a lot of the same language as Colossians (humility, gentleness, patience), but it has a slightly different focus. In Ephesians, Paul is encouraging believers to eagerly bear with one another for the sake of unity in the Spirit. True unity in Christ does not come from having similar hobbies, careers, or movie preferences. It comes from having one Spirit. Verse 3 says our bond is that of peace – peace with God because of Christ’s sacrifice. We are united in our common salvation through the savior. Therefore we should be eager to maintain that unity because it was bought with a price.  We can bear with one another because Christ bore our sins on the cross. 

Practically speaking, we should be a people who are visibly eager. Eager to make Christ known, eager to love fellow believers in spite of our differences, and eager to keep the body united. What does this eagerness look like? Call someone who you have not seen since last time you met in person. Message someone who you do not normally talk to because you run in different circles. The bond of peace that we share with fellow believers is one that we should eagerly hold on to by bearing with all differences and barriers that seem to keep us apart.

You have probably heard the old adage “blood is thicker than water.” We use it to express how much more important family is than normal friendships.. However, I have been told that this idiom comes from an older saying that goes something like: “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” What a great truth? The bond that we have in Christ’s blood is deeper and stronger than any other. May we be a people willing to bear with one another in order to keep that bond and stir each other up to love and good works in the name of Christ. 

The Loving Call of Christ

The Loving Call of Christ

Word in Season

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Mark 10:21

How in the world is Jesus loving the rich young man in this story? This young man (let’s call him Rich) comes to Jesus in reverence desiring to understand what is needed to inherit eternal life. Rich believes he has kept the commands Jesus asked of him up to this point, and yet Rich knows that something is still required of him to inherit eternal life (See Mark 10:19-20).

“You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he [Rich] said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”” Mark 10:19-20

Jesus’ loving response is that Rich should sell and give away all his possessions and follow Christ.

How in the world is Jesus loving Rich with the call to sell all and follow (Mark 10:21)?

One may read this passage and assume that Jesus is not really loving Rich at all. In fact, we may feel like Rich is being given an impossible task in order to keep him from following Christ. Rich loved his riches and was exposed by the weight of Christ’s call. We rather think, “I hope Jesus doesn’t call me to do the same.”

Dear friend, anyone who has heard the loving call of Christ and responded in faith and obedience is doing the same! They are surrendering their desires for the sake of gaining Christ. Jesus is standing at the door knocking, awaiting those who, on hearing the call, will cast aside their idols, and turn to the Savior for life.

The call from Christ to lay aside our idols and follow Him is ALWAYS a call of love. Jesus knew what was best for Rich and certainly knows what is best for you and me.

Think of it negatively. Rich comes to Jesus. Jesus identifies the sin keeping Rich from eternal life, but then goes on to tell Rich that he is fine and that Rich should continue as he is (in love with his riches). It would certainly be a comfortable response but not loving at all!

Oh may our hearts be transformed to love what Jesus loves and hate what he hates. May Christ’s call to follow after him be met with joy and not sorrow like Rich.

“Disheartened by the saying, he [Rich] went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Mark 10:22 

We Are Needy

We Are Needy

Word in Season

I woke up needy today. Desperately needy. I imagine most of you did too. In a world that shouts “You are Enough” the recent pandemic squashes that mantra before our feet touch the floor in the morning. Being needy is seen as a weakness in our culture today. When you are weak you are not enough, you are desperate, dependent, and unable. Who wants to update their Facebook status with those words? We should be able to do this, whatever “this” is right now in your particular situation. We must look within ourselves, find more strength, pull it together. I’m exhausted, aren’t you?

I have some good news for you. God is Lord over all. It’s his perspective that matters and his word turns everything upside down on this particular topic. 

Look at Proverbs 30:1, “The man declares, I am weary, O God, I am weary, O God, and worn out.” Sound familiar? Where does this weary man find his strength? Himself? No, in the refuge that the Holy One provides (Proverbs 30: 2-5). 

David exalts God and publicly praises him because God stands at the right hand of the needy one (Psalm 109:31). God is at the ready and supports those who are desperately needy for Him. Not the one who has it all together. 

The Prophet Isaiah proclaims the type of person who God will favor and it is the one who is humble with a spirit of neediness before Him (Isaiah 66:2). 

Jesus says the supremely happy and honored person is the man who knows his great need for Him (Matthew 5:3). 

The circumstances may not always be ideal, but it is a blessed thing to be so acutely aware of our great need for Christ. Great glory for the name of Christ comes shining through needy people. 

  • God weakened Paul so that Christ’s perfect power could shine for all to see (2 Corinthians 12:19). 
  • The LORD brought the Israelites into the wilderness to help them see and repent of idols in their hearts so they would turn and worship the one true God (Deuteronomy 8:2-3). 
  • God took Christ to his weakest point on the cross, humble, shamed, mocked and through this neediness, all who believe in the name of Jesus can be saved. God works in mighty ways during times of great neediness. 

Playing off of Pastor Mike’s recent article, don’t waste this neediness. Instead of trying to look to yourself, humbly come to Christ and admit your great need for him. Rejoice in this desperation because it draws you closer to Christ. Be open to seeing where God is revealing idols in your heart during this time. The Lord is working to conform you to the image of His son through your neediness (2 Corinthians 3:18), what a gift! Come and find rest at the feet of the one who says His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), whose mercies never end (Lamentations 3:22), and who sent his son to die in your place so you could draw near to him. 

Join me and let’s be desperate for Christ together.

Don’t Waste Our Pandemic

Don’t Waste Our Pandemic

Word in Season

Nearly 10 years ago, a famous pastor from Minnesota was diagnosed with cancer. On the eve of his surgery, John Piper wrote an essay called, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.” It has helped thousands of people walk through cancer with a determination to glorify God with and through and in their trial. You can read that here. I’m shamelessly coopting the title to encourage you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, not to waste our pandemic. I want to focus my heart and mind on glorifying God through this, and I want to encourage others to do the same. So with that, here are some thoughts about not wasting our pandemic.

You will waste your pandemic if you fail to set your hope in our sovereign God. This, of all things, ought to humble the world and help us see how fragile we are, and how little control over things we actually have. A tiny, nearly invisible agent has shut down the most powerful countries on earth – nearly shut down all of the world! That’s humbling, and it ought to focus our hope in God.

Our ultimate hope can never be in preventative measures or in science or in medicine, as important as all these things are. We have to trust in God. He is God over all, big and small. From the mightiest nations to the tiniest microbes – he is Lord.

You will waste your pandemic if you spend all your time worrying about the future or complaining about the present. By all means, do what you can to secure your business, or find other employment, or whatever you can do today to keep food on the table. But doing things is different than worrying. You have no idea what tomorrow will bring (James 4:14), so leave tomorrow’s concerns to tomorrow and focus your efforts on today. Meditate on Philippians 4:4-7 (memorize it) and preach the truths of those verses to your soul until they stick there.

And complaining is about as helpful as worrying. Which is to say, it is not at all helpful. In fact, there is little in this world that is more faith-killing than a complaining or grumbling heart. So don’t give in to that. Start a journal and write down, every day, all the things for which you are thankful. Share the things for which you are thankful with those around you. Post evidence of thankfulness on your social media. Let the world know that we are thankful to the Lord, for he is good and his steadfast love endures forever. Read 1 Corinthians 10:10 to sober up from the stupor of complaint, and then drink deeply from passages like Psalm 136:1-26.

You will waste your pandemic if you spend all your time browsing or ranting on social media. Social media can be a wonderful thing during an event like this – an unprecedented means of communication while we are sheltered in place. Many thousands of Christians will be watching live-streamed sermons and services this Sunday from the safety of their own homes. We can easily check in on one another. We should be thankful for social media (and related technology). I’m thankful.

Yet, these things can also be a great means of discouragement. Christians would do well to stop Facebook shouting at their neighbors for either over or under-reacting (according to their superior, better-informed judgment). Please remember that the bridges you burn during this pandemic will likely stay burned after this is over. And people need love right now, especially from the children of God. So use this time to show love to your neighbors. And maybe turn the phone off and go read a book.

You will waste your pandemic if you focus only on your own needs. The world is reeling from this. Fear is everywhere. Use this time to show the love of Jesus to those around you. Call an elderly person and tell them you are praying for them and ask them what they need. Gather a list of needs and people and pray for them, every day. Seek for ways to serve others.

And do good things for your soul. If you have extra time off from work, spend that time with your family. Start up some online prayer groups (Zoom is an excellent tool for that). Read good books, go for a [socially-distanced] walk. Play a board game. Get on the floor and build a castle with your six-year old.

These are hard times. Let’s not waste them! Soli Deo gloria.

Our New House-Church Movement

Our New House-Church Movement

Announcements Word in Season

How I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house… – Acts 20:20

Christians and house churches go way back. Some of the earliest churches met in homes. Even today, many Christians meet in homes. And now, at least for a while, we will too.

Today, the Governor of Nebraska restricted all public gatherings to no more than 10 people. This restriction will remain in place for at least two weeks, but possibly much longer. Obviously, this makes it imprudent for us to continue meeting as we normally have.

Thus, the church leadership has developed a plan for us to still meet, while also complying with the law. And that plan involves meeting in homes.

Every Sunday at 10AM (Update: Beginning, Lord-willing on March 29), Ridgeview members and attenders are invited to one of several homes (click here to sign up to attend a group). The groups will each have a leader and will worship and pray together. And then, at 10:45, the groups will all watch a message preached live in one of the groups, and broadcast via Facebook Live.

Those in greater danger of COVID-19 and others who feel safer by sheltering-in-place might choose not to meet at one of these groups (and that is totally fine!). You can still catch the sermon online. If you need any help arranging this, please contact us and someone would be glad to walk you through it.

Many people will see these things as very negative developments, and in some ways they are. These are hard times! Yet, we see so many opportunities to love the church, to see people discipled, to evangelize the lost, to develop new leaders, to serve one another, and to glorify God as a unified church meeting in diverse locations. It’s true: for a time we are not able to gather together as the full local expression of the body of Christ that Ridgeview is. Yet we can still meet, freely and without persecution. We just have to meet in smaller groups. We are very blessed.

And Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Check back here later this week for more specific information. Also, sign up for Remind (text @rbcchadron to 81010), and check out our Facebook page for the latest developments. Everything in this post – except for God 🙂 – is subject to change as things change and develop in our state and nation.

Ridgeview & the Coronavirus

Ridgeview & the Coronavirus

Announcements

As a church leadership it is important for us to consider the physical safety of our people, as well as our spiritual needs. It is also important to neither panic, nor scoff when it comes to public health scares like the coronavirus pandemic. We don’t panic, because our hope is in God. We take seriously verses like Philippians 4:6-7:

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

We don’t scoff because we are called to be wise. To that end we have formed a team to oversee our precautions and form a plan of response as this health concern comes closer to home. At this point, we have not cancelled any regularly scheduled events. Our posture is to proceed with caution.

The caution we want to proceed with is in the following recommendations and decisions:

  1. We recommend that those who are elderly or who suffer from respiratory issues consider staying home should cases appear in Chadron. From the medical advice we have received, these demographics are at the greatest risk. We plan to live-stream our services so that you can log on and not completely miss out. Also, if you decide to stay home, please let an elder or deacon know so that we can show better care to you during this time.
  2. We recommend that we avoid handshaking (etc.) at our public gatherings until this concern has past. Maybe the famous elbow bump (click here to see what I mean) is in order.
  3. We recommend washing hands regularly and taking advantage of the hand sanitizer stations (which are now very limited, due to the demand).
  4. We decided that will not be serving coffee or hot drinks for the next few weeks. The coffee station is a common place of touch, as people pump the coffee canisters and cream, etc. We will continue to offer free bottled water.
  5. We recommend signing up for Remind to get the very latest information from the church concerning event scheduling, cancellations, etc.. To do that, just text @rbcchadron to 81010.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Let’s do what we can to love one another, love our neighbors and make much of Christ during this difficulty, for the glory of God!

Church… Honestly, it’s for Everyone!

Church… Honestly, it’s for Everyone!

Announcements

Ridgeview Bible is a featured church on MyBridge Radio this month! They will be highlighting how God is moving in our church on 105.3, and we have an opportunity to share how God is moving here, too! They’ll be featuring Ridgeview Bible on their website, mybridgeradio.net, where you can leave a review, sharing your Ridgeview Bible story (click here for link)! We encourage you to share a review, and invite a friend to try the church that you love by having them tune in at 9:30ᴀᴍ every Sunday in March, when one of our most-requested sermons will be airing.

New Year, New Shepherding Plan

New Year, New Shepherding Plan

Announcements

It is a new year, and the elders and deacons of Ridgeview are implementing a plan to show better care to ALL the members of Ridgeview. It is pretty simple, but we think it will help a lot.

We have grouped the membership list alphabetically and assigned each member to a deacon or an elder. We’ll keep these assignments for 3 months, and then rotate the list. So, every Ridgeview member will have an elder or deacon praying specifically for them all the time. And every 3 months, a new leader will be praying for you!

Don’t be surprised if a church leader reaches out to you to find out how you are doing and how they can pray for you or help you. It is our hope that this will help members and church leaders to get to know one another better!

Please keep praying for the elders and deacons as we seek to shepherd the congregation well, with love and humility; for the good of the church and the glory of God.

Note: As always, members are welcomed and encouraged to contact any elder or deacon with their needs. You can find the elder & deacon contact info in the weekly bulletin. Also, each church leader will continue to be responsible to shepherd every member, not only the ones assigned to them each quarter. This plan is an added bit of structure to help us do that better.

The Word of God in 2020

The Word of God in 2020

Word in Season

After the worship gathering on Sunday, we had our annual Members’ Meeting. It was sweet to hear the reports of various ministries and endeavors at Ridgeview. God is at work, and that is an exciting and humbling thing.

I had the privilege of giving a brief Elders’ Report. I shared both the fruit of our time away at the Fall Elder Retreat, and our talks since that time. This year we reaffirmed our unapologetic commitment to the Word of God in every aspect of church life. By God’s grace, in 2020 we will continue to be a church that deeply loves the Word of God; that values expositional preaching and teaching and Bible study and other forms of Word-centered discipleship. We will be a church that seeks to be shaped by God’s Word.

During the report, I read a written response by one of the elders to this commitment we share, and I want to commend it to you if you missed the meeting. John Dockweiler wrote:

Ministry of the Word of God is a means to a compelling end. We are not just about doing endless Bible studies. The Word of God will produce godliness, fruitfulness, and life change through Jesus Christ. We teach the Word of God so that men will be qualified and capable to lead and teach in the churches. We minister the Word of God so that older men will be dignified, temperate, sound in faith, constrained by the Love of Christ and persevering. We minister the Word of God so that older women will disdain idleness and gossip, choosing instead to serve, be reverent, investing in families and teaching young women. Bible study should lead young women to love their husbands, be submissive and teach their children to love God. Being in God’s Word produces young men who exercise self-control, who are purposeful, intentional, and diligent (see Titus 2:1-14).

Overall, it’s my hope and prayer and firm belief that the Word of God will unify us in truth, in love, and in purpose. I believe we will become zealous for good works, eager to give to meet pressing needs, devoted to Christ and one another.

This is going somewhere. This is a compelling vision of godliness, fruitfulness, and real, tangible, life change, to the glory of God.

May God, by his grace, continue his good work in us through his Word; for our good and for God’s Glory.