The following article is written by Joe DiGerolamo, our worship leader for the Activate Worship Band.
Let me challenge you for a moment with a question: What comes to mind when you think of worship? Perhaps you think of a 45-minute time frame that is filled with songs during a church service; or, maybe you think of a type of music genre, just like pop, rap, or country. I’m convinced that many of us don’t really understand the real meaning of worship—I wonder if we truly grasp just how important it is and how often we do it? You see if this wasn’t the case, and we truly had a proper grasp of worship, then I believe it would change the way the church lives today.
Biblical worship starts with understanding God’s glory.
But what is His glory exactly? I mean let’s face it, I wonder how often we use that word and really pause to think about what it means.
Simply, God’s glory is the public display of His infinite beauty and worth—this is shown clearly in Isaiah 6, as the angels surrounding the throne of the Lord declared, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. The whole earth is full of His glory.” It is the manifestation of God’s greatness—His complete holiness, His total worthiness, His unending and unconditional love, His enduring righteousness, His perfect justice. The very nature of God is demonstrated in His glory, and that glory was duly manifested through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.
So what does that mean for you and me?
As John Piper put it: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him (1). In other words, when we as God’s creation are living in community with Him—when we offer our lives in complete surrender to Him—then we are ascribing glory to His name. When you think about it, our chief end goal is the glorification of God. That’s what we are made to do!
Romans 12:1-2 gives us a much clearer understanding of how God’s glory is played out through worship:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship.”
Previously, in Romans 9-11, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Jewish people, saying that because of Christ’s death and resurrection, salvation was made available to all men, Jews or Gentiles, Israelites or Romans, no matter the race or past religious practices. Why? Because Jesus—God in flesh—acted as the perfect and final sacrifice for all sin. Animal sacrifices and Jewish customs were no longer required, because it was by God’s grace that all people were saved through faith. And now that His people were given salvation through “the mercies of God”, they’re response was simple—to live for His glory as “living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to [Him].”
Worship is the act of totally offering up ourselves for the glory of God.
You and I—we’re made to worship. But let’s be honest, do we really live that out?
We live in a culture that is immersed in worship, yet I wonder if we even realize it. Everyone worships—every single person that is on this earth. From your Atheist friend to your Catholic grandmother; your homosexual coworker to your church-going parents. It is true of all people; everyone worships something.
When you and I are not worshipping God, then we are ascribing worth to other things, other people, or even ourselves. And honestly, in our day and age, that’s not difficult to understand. We’re surrounded by the ever-increasing agenda of sex, money, fame, celebrities, relationships, beauty, drugs, alcohol, success—the list goes on. It’s plastered in the billboards on the streets, the movies released, the music produced—it’s on the magazine rack at Vons, in the commercials on channel 7, in the books at Barnes & Noble. It dominates the image of young people today, the decisions of their children tomorrow, and it goes back even to the time of Adam and Eve.
It’s not a question of whether or not we’re actually participating in worship, but rather who or what we’re worshipping. Everything around us shouts for our attention—it’s declaring, “Look at me, look what I can give! Worship ME!” We chase after so much that is not of God only to be gravely disappointed. When we glory in what the world has to offer, it makes us empty and leaves us wanting. Nothing can satisfy us when we are outside of worshipping God.
But when we do worship Him—when we are living sacrifices bringing glory to His name—we see three things:
1. God’s Transcendence
God is not just transcendent in the sense that He is in a physically higher place than we are; His transcendence constitutes His holiness—He is ‘wholly other.’ Have you ever stopped and thought about that? As A. W. Tozer wrote, everything about God “breaks all the categories of being and knowing” (2). He is to be given the highest status not only because He deserves it but also because He Himself is completely set apart from what we can even glimpse as perfect and pure. Isaiah understood this clearly when He ascribed glory to the Lord: “[His] thoughts are nothing like your thoughts . . . And [His] ways are far beyond anything you could imagine”(3). I hope that you can instill this into your mind for a moment, because it’s a pretty big deal.
2. Our Need for Repentance
When we understand God’s transcendence and wholly “other-ness”, we naturally see a sharp contrast with our finite, limited, and more to the point, sinful and corrupt nature. It puts us in our rightful place, diminishes our pride, extinguishes our selfishness, minimizes our sorrows, and produces a humble awareness of our need for God’s perfect righteousness. And here’s the icing on the cake—what makes it even greater is that His very righteousness is offered to us through the sacrifice and shed blood of Jesus! It’s the power of the Gospel, that we “may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” through the cross of Christ (4). It causes us to lay our very sinful and helpless selves before the throne of an Almighty Savior as we draw near to the One Whom we call Father.
3. His Manifest Presence
Once we draw near to God through Jesus Christ, He promises to draw near to us as well! (5). In his book, Vertical Church, Dr. James MacDonald expands on the term he describes as God’s manifest presence—that is, His active engagement and expressed capacity to affect (6). In other words, when we understand that we are the creation of a transcendent Creator and align our hearts to His righteousness through repentance, then we are able to experience God in our lives. While God is always present on earth (omnipresent) because He is not confined by dimensions or space, His manifest presence allows us to experience His glory in our own lives, affecting our knowledge of who He is at a very personal level.
To put it plainly, worship is designed not only to bring glory to God but to draw us closer to Him! It satisfies our longing heart and changes our perspective as we look to Jesus Christ. It is always looking toward Him and is never confined only to us.
So ask yourself again: What is worship? And am I living in total surrender to God? While singing songs that ascribe worth to Him is one way, I want to challenge you with a much bigger perspective of worship. I hope that attending services at church are only a continuation of what’s being done throughout your entire life—that is, daily communion with the Lord as you know Him deeper through His Word, coming before Him in prayer, and living in full surrender to His will as you look to Jesus, the One who is worthy of all praise, honor, and glory.
- John Piper, Desiring God (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 2003), 10.
- A. W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1961), 70.
- Isaiah 55:8 NLT
- Hebrews 4:16 ESV
- James 4:8
- James MacDonald, Vertical Church (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2012), 78.
SUMMER CAMP IS HERE! All of us have goals. But our goals should be bigger than “squadgoals” or “relationshipgoals.” We should echo Paul when he writes, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). At this year’s summer camp, we’ll be striving to adjust our goals from the temporary things of this world to the eternal call of God on our lives. There will be encouraging and challenging teaching from God’s Word and amazing worship from the Activate worship band. Sign up online or on Wednesdays and Sundays at Harvest. The total cost is $170, which includes a $70 deposit.
When: September 4 – 7, 2015
Where: Calvary Chapel Christian Camp (32355 Green Valley Lake Rd. Green Valley Lake, CA 92341)
Total Cost: $170 | Deposit: $70
Registration: You can register at any of our services, on the Patio on Sunday mornings and nights, or online.
Young people desire community. They join sports teams, clubs, and social networks and form friendships based on common interests. At Activate, we want students to be in community with one another based on the greatest of interests: knowing God and making Him known. Every Wednesday before Bible study, students meet in Community Groups from 6:15P.M. to 6:45 P.M. for the purpose of discipleship, fellowship, and accountability. Each group is gender-specific and is led by a college-aged counselor. These groups provide a great environment to develop and deepen godly friendships, and you can request to be in the same group with any leader or friend.
In order to take advantage of the free time that the summer season offers, the High School Community Groups will read through a book as a ministry! This summer, we are going to focus on the topic of understanding and applying the gospel. We will be reading What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert. Check out the summer reading schedule below. The cost for the book is $10.
We’re really excited about the spiritual growth that will come as a result of meditating on the gospel message. If you would like to join a community group, please contact us at 951.687.6902 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
- Ch. 1: Finding the Gospel in the Bible
- Ch. 2: God the Righteous Creator
- Ch. 3: Man the Sinner
- Ch.4: Jesus Christ the Savior
- Ch.5: Response—Faith and Repentance
- Ch.6: The Kingdom
- Ch. 7: Keeping the Cross at the Center
- Ch. 8: The Power of the Gospel
The truths of Christianity are attacked viciously in secular schools and mocked by many in our culture today. Universities teach that Jesus’ resurrection is a myth, that the world began without a Creator and that Christian morality is out-of-date. Students often struggle to respond to these assertions, and instead of “being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks” (1 Peter 3:15), many Christians find themselves unable to withstand the constant objections to their faith.
At Activate, we are beginning a new series called “Contend,” which will aim to equip our students to stand up to those who oppose Christianity. Jude tells us “to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), and this series will help us to do that. Every night we will have a message on a specific topic followed by a Q&A portion, where anyone can ask about what was said.
Not only will this be great time of learning for Christians, but it is a great opportunity to bring out skeptical or non-believing friends to hear answers to some of the most controversial and difficult questions.
Listed below are the dates of each topic that will be covered:
- April 29 – Does God really exist?
- May 6 – Is the Bible actually from God?
- May 13 – Aren’t there problems in the Bible?
- May 20 – Is God anti-gay?
- May 27 – Isn’t the Big Band and evolution the best explanation for our existence?
- June 3 – Was Jesus a real person?
- June 10 – Why is there suffering?
- June 17 – What is the meaning of life?
- June 24 – What about other religions?
- July 1 – Aliens, Marijuana, Alcohol, and every other random thing you’ve thought.
We need to have answers for those who ask. We need to defend the truth against the lies of this world. We need to contend. Join us every Wednesday at 7pm in the Loft at Harvest Riverside.
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In our series #NOFILTER, we talked about the importance of using our devices and viewing media in a way that is sexually pure. As technology has advanced, so has sexual sin through the use of such technology. Therefore, we must guard against sexual sin so that we can use technology in a way that is helpful for use and honoring to God. We must have digital discernment.
This is seen primarily in two ways. We must use discernment to guard against sexually suggestive content. We must use discernment to put to death sexually explicit content.
Sexually Suggestive Content
This is any type of content—website, movie, picture, song, etc.—that suggests the pursuit of sexual sin, whether in thought or action. Essentially, it is anything that leads to lust.
As we scroll through social media, surf the web, flip thru channels, and listen to music, we should ask heart-examining questions to discern sexually suggestive content. The goal isn’t to be legalistic, but to be realistic about the threat of sexual content:
- Is the media that I’m looking at or listening to suggest a sexual message?
- Does it promote sinful values?
- Does it make me think sexual thoughts?
- Does it make me want to see more, or think more?
- Does this help or hinder me spiritually?
- Can I thank God for it?
Most of the time, such content comes out of nowhere. It’s on billboards, advertisements, commercials, pop-ups on the computer, etc. Even if you’re not looking for it, it can come to you. So, we need to have discernment in our reactions to it.
The Three-Step Rule 
Like the three second rule with food, we need to make a quick decision when sexually suggestive material appears. Here are three steps to try to make within three seconds:
- Realize: Immediately realize that you are in a tempting situation and see something inappropriate.
- Remove: Like touching a hot pan, our reaction should be removal. Look away or close your eyes; turn the TV off; scroll past it. Do whatever it takes to remove it ASAP.
- Reaffirm: Avoid the temptation off the second look (or third or fourth) by recognizing that you did the right thing. Congratulating yourself over the small battle can lead to great victories. Let such quick reactions reaffirm your commitment to purity in that you did the right thing.
Often times, the acceptance of sexually suggestive content leads to the viewing of sexually explicit content. We must guard against the one to help prohibit the other.
Sexually Explicit Content
This is sexual content where nothing is held back or covered. It includes any form of pornography, which often leads the viewer to act out sexually. The statistics are in and it is clear that there is an epidemic of pornography. But, why is it like this?
The AAA’s of XXX
Psychologist, Dr. Al Cooper, narrowed down pornography’s popularity and influence to three main factors: anonymity, accessibility, and affordability.
We must counter these three factors with strategies. As we cut off the different legs of this three-legged stool, the whole thing fill fall apart.
Anonymity (Confession and Accountability): Since this is so easy to keep secret, the obvious strategy is that we need to be open and real with God and with others. This includes confession and accountability. Be honest about your struggle and find the forgiveness and strength that you need by confessing to the Lord (1 John 1:9). Share your struggle with someone who is spiritually mature, so they can help walk you through it by asking you questions, pointing you to the cross, and by going through helpful resources.
Accessibility (Radical Measures): The reality is that you have to do whatever it takes to cut off the source of sin. To remove the source of access that causes you to stumble, or to avoid the place of temptation, is to gain victory over the battles before they even begin. Jesus talked about this in Matthew 5:29. It may be difficult to do, but it’s worth it. Are there movies or magazines you need to throw away? Music to delete? People to unfollow on social media? Restrictions to put on your computer or phone? Cut off internet access?
Affordability (Passionate Pursuit of God): Porn may be free or cheap, but it will cost you greatly. Here are five proven ways pornography warps the mind:
- Watching porn decreases our sexual satisfaction. It trains us to desire the variety and “designer sex” of porn more than the familiar sexuality of marriage.
- Watching porn disconnects us from real relationships.It trains us to detach emotional involvement from sexual experience.
- Watching porn lowers our view of women. It trains us to see women as sexual commodities, not people created in God’s image.
- Watching porn desensitizes us to cruelty. It numbs us to the seriousness of verbal and physical aggression.
- Watching porn makes us want to watch more porn. It taps into the neurocircuitry of our brains, making us desire the rush of sexual energy from porn again and again. 
Even more than these negative effects, the greatest cost is spiritual, as it damages your relationship with God. Therefore, our greatest tactic is to have a passionate relationship with Jesus. In his book, Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace, Heath Lambert writes,
“You cannot look at Jesus and look at porn at the same time. You have to stop doing one to do the other. A living, breathing relationship with the Savior of the world will drive porn out of your life quicker than anything else. When you turn your eyes to Jesus, there isn’t room for anything else in your heart because he fills it up. When you open the blinds of a pitch-black room, the sunlight drives away the darkness. When you place an unfiled pitcher under a faucet, the water drives away the emptiness. When you visit a lonely friend, your presence drives away the isolation. In the same way, when the presence of Jesus floods your life, he will drive away the impurity of pornography. If you fight to consume Jesus, you will inevitably stop consuming porn, sooner or later.”
He concludes by saying, “When you find yourself working to look to Christ more than you find yourself working to avoid porn, you’ll know you’ve turned the corner.”
When we use discernment to guard against sexually suggestive content and to put to death sexually explicit content, we will be able to use our devices in a way that is helpful to us and honoring to God. Don’t use your devices with #NOFILTER. Rather, filter everything through the instruction and discernment of God’s Word.
Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace — Heath Lambert
Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who are Sick of Porn — Tim Challies
- Adapted from Sam Black, The Porn Circuit. Covenant Eyes, 2013. p. 37 (www.covenanteyes.com/science-of-porn-addiction-ebook)
- Luke Gilkerson, Your Brain on Porn. Covenant Eyes, 2014. p.22 (http://www.covenanteyes.com/brain-ebook).
- Ibid. p.19
- Heath Lambert, Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace. (Grand Rapids, MI: 2013), p.144-145.
Last week, Pastor Jason talked about how consumed we are by media. Whether its Instagram, Snapchat, Netflix, Spotify or anything else, we give so much of our day to these things that they can become hindrances to our spiritual lives. They are not evil in themselves, but they can cause us to be distracted from the things that truly matter. Most of the time, we don’t recognize how much they consume our lives until we step back and think about it. Below is an assessment we gave out to our students to see how distracted they really are.
Adapted from The Digital Invasion, by Dr. Archibald D. Hart and Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd, page 151
At Activate’s 2015 winter camp, we saw that the love of God strikes deep, and we are LOVESTRUCK. With 450 students, every chapel was packed with people praising God and listening to the teaching of His word. By the end of the weekend, 105 students made professions of faith and hundreds others made commitments to purity. Here are a few testimonials from students who went to camp:
“With camp landing on Valentine’s Day weekend, I got the opportunity to be reminded that God is love, and his love for us is so great. So glad I got to experience yet another camp!”– Ryin
“There are no words to describe how amazing this weekend was. I was blessed in so many ways that I will never forget. God is love.” – Alyssa
“Camp was such an amazing blessing as always! I had so much fun making new friends, reconnecting with old ones, and, of course, worshipping the Lord. The messages were so inspiring and I’m definitely now #lovestruck. God did amazing things this weekend and I’m excited to see what he has in store down the mountain. What a way to spend Valentine’s Day.” –Elizabeth
“First time at camp was fun! It’s so awesome to feel that my relationship with God is so much stronger now!” -Allan
“I’m so thankful for this opportunity to come up to the mountains away from everything and to just meet new friends and grow stronger in my faith with the Lord! I can’t even describe how much this camp has blessed me and how everyone around me has blessed me! Camp is an awesome time to come and get to know the Lord better, I could have never asked for a better weekend than this!” – Mariah
“I’m so blessed to be surrounded by so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ for a weekend of worship to the one who gave us all.” – Chrystianna
“Camp this weekend was honestly the best weekend I’ve had in a while! New friendships were made, old friendships grew, and my relationship with God grew stronger. I learned that. . . He loves us because He is love. Everyone else’s love is measurable, but God’s gives us an endless love.” – Angelica
“I had such an amazing time at camp this weekend. It was awesome to worship God with my sisters in Christ and get closer with them and make more memories!” – Jaedyn
“High school camp was a great chance to escape the daily distractions and focus on growing in Christ.” -Josh
We are so blessed to see all that God is doing in the lives of students at Harvest, and we’re looking forward to see what He’ll do in the future!