Monthly Archives: September 2011

Live Like You Were Dying (Wait! I’m not done yet!)

Sunday we finished, what I believe will prove to be, a pivotal series in the life of our church. And I find myself asking the question “Where do I go from here?” I feel like I’m just starting to apply these principles into the fabric of my everyday living and I’m not ready to put away.  Do you feel that way too?  I have asked our Church Librarian to suggest a few books from our library that will help us continue on this journey – even when the sermon series is over and the small groups have completed their studies together.  Thank you Barb Rich for being my guest blogger on the Schoeneblog, today.
by Ann Voskamp
 
 Just like you, Ann Voskamp hungers to live her one life well. Forget the bucket lists that have us escaping our everyday lives for exotic experiences. ‘How,’ Ann wondered, ‘do we find joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and daily duties? What does the Christ-life really look like when your days are gritty, long—and sometimes even dark? How is God even here?’ In One Thousand Gifts, Ann invites you to embrace everyday blessings and embark on the transformative spiritual discipline of chronicling God’s gifts. It’s only in this expressing of gratitude for the life we already have, we discover the life we’ve always wanted … a life we can take, give thanks for, and break for others. We come to feel and know the impossible right down in our bones: we are wildly loved — by God. Let Ann’s beautiful, heart-aching stories of the everyday give you a way of seeing that opens your eyes to ordinary amazing grace, a way of being present to God that makes you deeply happy, and a way of living that is finally fully alive. Come live the best dare of all!
When Life Is Hard by James MacDonald

When life is hard, you know, really hard, we often spend all our time pleading, begging, yelling, refusing, and questioning. While none of these things are necessarily unusual, they are missing the ultimate point. When life is hard, when things get ugly, when all hope seems to be lost… that is when we are able to display the superiority of the life lived in God.
It is in those moments of despair, when we question what is happening, when we don’t know what to do, when some trials never…seem…to…end, that we can lean most heavily into God’s promises and truths.

Don’t Forget To Dream: Pursuing a Life That Matters-Shaped by the Heart of God 
by Tim Dowdy “Don’t Forget to Dream” by Tim Dowdy is a book of encouragement for young people. Many times they set goals for themselves only to have them crushed. Dowdy’s book offers hope for crushed dreams. He offers the path to fulfilled dreams. Each chapter contains anecdotes from Dowdy’s memories, scripture that supports Dowdy’s statements, words of encouragement and a challenge. Dream Resolution is an area to record your intentions in that particular area. I highly recommend this book for high school, college students, and all young people.

Live Big!: 10 LifeCoaching Tips for Living Large, Passionate Dreams by Dr. Katie Brazelton

Life coach Dr. Katie Brazelton provides readers the tools they need to move from daydreaming to real adventure. In a friendly and encouraging tone, Katie takes readers through ten steps, from Face Your Fears to Capture Your Live Big! Dream. Each of the ten steps gives readers a broader, richer understanding of how to start, run, and finish the race well ahead of the pack. And on each step of the way, Dr. Brazelton offers inspiring messages, stories, scriptures, and prayers..
With busy lives and complicated schedules, most people don’t think they have time to fulfill their dreams while still juggling work, family, friends, and God. Dr. Brazelton’s Live Big! has just the right-sized bits of wisdom to help readers get started on the process of finding their God-designed purpose. .

Outlive Your Life:You Were Made to Make A Difference  by Max Lucado

These are difficult days in our world’s history. 1.75 billion people are desperately poor, natural disasters are gouging entire nations, and economic uncertainty still reigns across the globe. But you and I have been given an opportunity to make a big difference. What if we did? What if we rocked the world with hope? Infiltrated all corners with God’s love and life? We are created by a great God to do great works. He invites us to outlive our lives, not just in heaven, but here on earth. Let’s live our lives in such a way that the world will be glad we did.

Surviving in an Angry World: Finding Your Way to Personal Peaceby Charles Stanley

The premise of this book is that learning to let go of anger—and ultimately forgiving the offender—will transform the foundation of every kind of relationship we have. Stanley defines anger as “a strong feeling of intense displeasure, hostility, or indignation as a result of a real or an imagined threat or insult, frustration, or injustice toward yourself or towards someone who’s very important to you.” Building on this definition, Stanley…
1. Helps readers identify the signs of anger, so they can identify anger in themselves. 
2. Reveals the far-reaching consequences of anger, which encompass the spiritual, emotional, and physical.
3. Teaches readers how to handle anger through thirteen concrete steps.
4. Walks readers through the steps to true forgiveness and the healing power it brings.
Thanks again Barb for these suggestions. Barb has assured me that all these books are currently in the library and not checked out at this time.  Let me suggest a couple other ideas to keep the Live Like You Were Dying theme in front of you.  Go back and do it all again!  You can listen to all the sermons a second time here on the FSBC family website.  Go through the book again, too.  You can get a DVD from me if you’d like to watch Gary Smalley’s teaching one more time.  The important thing is DON’T FORGET and DON’T QUIT.  We’ve heard it, now let’s live it… together.
“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Deuteronomy 4:9 NIV
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New Music Tuesday!

 
I love new music and that makes today feel like Christmas! FOUR big new releases come out today and I intend to go buy them and listen much.  NEEDTOBREATHE, Gungor, Matt Maher, and Leeland are among my favorites and they all release new projects on the same day! today… why am I still here blogging? I’ve got a lot of listening to do.  Go get your own, I’m going to be busy for a while.  Oh yeah, and I’ll also be picking up the new Jason Gray.  And if you don’t have them already get the new collection from Big Daddy Weave.

Give Forgiveness (What’cha doin’ with that rock?)

Of all the things the modern church needs to stop procrastinating with, it’s forgiveness!  Christ DIED for FORGIVENESS!  Some friends brought a paralytic to Jesus and what was the first thing he said? “Take heart my son, your sins are forgiven.”  We live forgiven lives, because of Jesus death – His blood shed for the forgiveness of our sin.  Do we hold his death in contempt when we withhold forgiveness from others?
Sunday we dealt with this issue of forgiveness.  Not one of us can escape.  We all need to forgive. We MUST! No evil could be done to us that cannot be forgiven.  Yet, because we’ve been hurt, we will hold on to a grudge or a conflict because it helps us justify our pain.  There are couple tricks our enemy likes to use to encourage us down a path of unforgiveness.
  1. We can hold it over their head. – Somehow we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that withholding forgiveness gives us power over the person who hurt us.  That is a Lie!  An unforgiving heart is not empowered, It’s imprisoned!
  2. Withholding forgiveness legitimizes my hurt. – No.  It doesn’t.  It only lengthens your hurt.
  3. They should suffer for what they did to me. – Ummm, I don’t know how to tell you this, but… They probably haven’t given it another thought.  How much time have you wasted meditating on their crime and your pain?
As we entered the service yesterday each of us was given a rock.  We were to hold that rock throughout the service.  Awkward doesn’t begin to describe it.  Hindered, restricted, annoyed also fit the bill.  I had to put it in my pocket and it rubbed my leg as I tried to worship.  I attempted to focus on God, but my mind kept returning to the rock rubbing a raw spot against my leg.  When I sat down I took it out and held it in my hand.  My leg was relieved by now I only had one hand free to follow along in my YouVersion bible app.  I was afraid I would scratch my iPad with the rock.  I couldn’t hold my wife’s hand, which we sometimes do while sitting together in church.  The rock came between us.

Finally, when I got up to sing the song of response, I let it go, laid the rock down at the alter.  I’d held it long enough that I could describe it in detail.  I could go back later and among all the rocks, I could tell you which one was mine.  The thought came to me after the final song to go back and pick it up.  THAT would have been a mistake.  I would not have wanted to answer the question later.

“What’cha doin’ with that rock?”

I would have answered honestly. “It is a reminder to me of the bad things people have done to me.  And how I need to forgiven them.”

“Well, if you’ve forgiven them, then why do you want to be reminded about what they’ve done?”

…good question

Father, help me to forgive as you did.  The same death you died on the cross for me is given to the ones who have hurt me.  I have no room to stand and judge anyone.  Thank you for forgiving meI celebrate your forgiveness and pass it on to those whom I need to forgive.

Where do you stand on the subject of forgiveness? Have you been restored after a broken relationship?  

Is there anyone from whom you are still withholding forgiveness?  Please leave a comment below.

Love Deeper (oh to be the kind of worshiper the Father seeks)

Have you ever sat in a restaurant and, overhearing the conversation at the table next to you, wish you could pull up a chair and listen, or even join in?
Today, at lunch, I overheard five men who were engaged in a conversation regarding the worship at their church.  Scratch that. Two men were talking and the other three were listening.  Four, if you count my wandering ear.  But I really couldn’t hear everything that was said.  You see, the music in the restaurant was too loud… (irony?)… maybe.  So you understand why I wanted to pull up a chair?
From what I could make out, the man doing most of the talking was expressing his resistance to the addition of guitar and drums.  He didn’t seem angry, just resistant.  He admitted that there was nothing “technically” wrong with guitar and drums in worship.  It’s just that he was, well, uncomfortable with them.  He didn’t like it.  He said He found himself gripping the back of the pew as they all stood and sang along and when the songs were over and he could let go to sit down, he felt relieved.  He seemed to regretted how he felt, but he wanted to be honest about it.
His friend was trying to encourage him, saying that the church needed to be relevant to the culture.  He seemed to agree and commenced to chase a rabbit wondering if it was society in general that rubbed him the wrong way; too noisy, impatient, self-absorbed, performance oriented.  And he just didn’t want to see that happen in his church.  My mind wandered after that and it sounded like their conversation did too.  I found myself thanking God that theirs was a pleasant conversation between brothers and that there was a “Truth in Love” aroma to it (and a hint of moo goo gai pan).
As a worship leader veteran of 18 years, I may have heard it all; all the complaints, criticisms, humble questions & sincere support.  I’ve received my share of anonymous letters; “God hates rock music” “Rock music has no place in the church”  “drums are a tool of the devil.”  Some of the most non-biblical statements I’ve ever heard within the church have been about worship.  And I think all our self-righteous and self-wrongness about worship comes down to us using a wrong criteria when we evaluate worship.
How do we evaluate worship?  This is a tricky business.  First, let me say, as a worship leader, I’m appreciative of every compliment I’ve received over the years.  Please don’t stop.  Your loving words are a wonderful encouragement for me.  I love my calling and my job.  And I love the people that God, in His grace, has allowed me to serve over the years.
It seems to me that most of our evaluating statements regarding our worship services utilize the words “like” and “I” a little too often.
Now, I’m not offering condemnation here.  I want to be a better worshiper!  I don’t have all the answers.  I’m still looking and learning.  I’m seeking here, to discern the premise of our worship evaluation.  I think every worshiper would agree that we worship because God commands us to in His Word.  And, moreover, we would probably agree that we worship because God is deserving of our worship.  Why then, when we evaluate worship, do we seek to resolve whether or not WE “liked it?”  Shouldn’t we be asking God what He wants?
Our worship evaluation gets off track very quickly if it doesn’t begin with this question; “God, how do You want your people to worship You?”  If we first seek to satisfy this question we are led to verses like Psalm 51:17 “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.  You will not reject a broken and repentant heart.”  When was the last time you and I left worship with a broken and repentant heart?
We are also led to verses like Romans 12:1 “give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you”  OUR WHOLE SELVES!! “This is truly the way to worship him”  Do we come to worship service seeking to offer ourselves to God?  Or are we interested only what we can get from it?  Are we looking for a tingly feeling and calling it worship?  We should be throwing our lives at His feet, begging and pleading to give Him more, all of ourselves.  Instead, we can’t get out the door fast enough when worship is over.  We start checking the clock on our phone fifteen minutes into the sermon.  We prefer to sit instead of stand through the singing because our feet hurt or our back hurts or we stayed up to late last night.  We worship a Savior who had nails hammered into his feet and hands and we can’t stand for 10 minutes of singing to Him? Or sit through 30 minutes of Bible teaching?  What must God think of that kind of worship offering?  No wonder we don’t asking Him if He felt worshiped.  We probably wouldn’t like His answer.
We should be begging to stay and to sing one more song or pray one more prayer and hear one more testimony of how great our Lord is and what miracles He has done in the lives of those who surrender to Him.  “More, more! I’m not done yet.  Let me stay. Let me sing one more sing, fast or slow, I don’t care,  I MUST declare the greatness of God!”
When the service is over, may we no longer ask “Did I like this worship service?”  but instead, ask “Did God enjoy my worship?”  “Did we worship in a way that was worthy of the One we worship?”  Instead of saying “that was a great sermon” let us declare “Oh, what a great and marvelous God is our God.”  Rather than saying we like or didn’t like the music, may we proclaim “Oh, how I love Jesus!”
The growing intensity of my tone here is meant to reveal that I long to be that kind of worshiper.
If we are going to Love our God Deeper, then He will shine through in the way we worship and the way we think about worship.

Father, oh how easily my eyes drift from You.  Forgive me when I’m more disheartened by the lack of singing than I am by missing the presence of Your Spirit.  And when I’m more impressed by loud singing than by the greatness of You, please forgive me.  I am humbled in Your presence and I am a beggar, desperate for a few crumbs from Your table, yet you are inviting me to pull up a chair and sit in the place of honor with You as Your beloved child.  Thank You for what Your grace means in my life.

Do any of my thoughts here resonate with you?  Are you needing a freshness to come back to your worship?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Using Technology to Deepen My Sunday Experience

Each of the last two weeks at FSBC, we have tested out the YouVersion app as a compliment to the worship on Sunday morning. If you haven’t heard of this app, it is available on any smart phone or iPad as a free download. It’s a new experience for me as I stated, so I thought I could take this opportunity to layout how I intend to make use of our live events, should we continue to provide them. The above pic is from my laptop, but the examples listed below will demonstrate the iPad since that’s what I’m using as I follow the sermon.
Before the pastor begins His sermon, I open the app and search for a live event. Since I have my app set to recognize my location it finds that live events closest to me. There’s only one and, of course, it’s our live event; FSBC Lawrence. So, I select it and it opens in the drop down bar you see below, on the left.  Each of the scripture texts the pastor is using are in the sidebar but beneath them is a link to turn to that page in my digital YouVersion Bible.  Selecting that link will take me to the corresponding verse in the specific translation being used.
This shows the drop down with scriptures and outline.
I can close the sidebar and
view the scripture separately.
 You may noticed in the above right picture that there is line in the drop down, highlighted in blue.  It says “Add your notes.”  Selecting this takes me to another drop down box where I can add my own notes and thoughts to the Pastor’s.  I tend to write tips to myself for later application.  It looks something like this;
I add my own notes to the drop down window.
At the top of the “added notes” box is a place for my email.  I won’t enter that until later.  As of right now, our live event is kept open until Saturday.  So I can go back and add more notes later, before sending a completed copy to myself.
Once I vote in the poll I can see the results.
The poll included this week allows me to consider the main reason behind what keeps me from showing more love to those around me.  I pray for Jesus to help me conquer this in my life, so that I  can get down to the business of “Loving Deeper.”
After the service, at home, I open the live event again, add a couple more thoughts to the “Add your notes” option and then I email it to myself.  I chose to email it straight to my Evernote account.
I email the notes to my Evernote account
The email includes everything that was in the drop down bar; all scriptures, the outline plus my added notes.  I don’t make any changes before I send it.  I can do all that easier once I open it in Evernote.
Here it is. (pulls out the dish prepared before the program)
In Evernote, I select a folder
3 different tags means 3 ways to
find this note at a later date

Once I open it in Evernote, I create a folder called sermon notes and tag it with the themes.  This time it it tagged “love” since the title of the message is “Love Deeper.”  Additionally, I tagged it with our pastors name and our series Title.  Now I know I’ll have at least three ways of finding my notes later.

After I create the folder and add the tags I decide to make some adjustments for easier reading. I bold the scriptures and italicize the notes I added so the stand out from the rest of the text.  I could delete the poll since now it just appears as text.  But instead, I chose to leave it and create bullet points for the five options.  Looking at those later might remind me of what I still need to overcome.
This is still new to us at FSBC Lawrence.  I may change the way I’m using this tool later on, but for now, I expect this will deepen the impact of the message for me and allow me to think about my action response throughout the week.
Have you tried the YouVersion live event feature?  Do you find yourself coming back to it later in the day?  Do you add your own notes and email yourself?  What do you do with that email afterward?

A Reason To Remember – 9/11

When they awoke that morning, the victims of the 9/11 attack had no idea that their life would end that day. Everything probably seemed routine as they started their day by going to work or the airport.  Travelers expected to arrive safely to their destination.  Employees anticipated the supper they would later share with their loved ones.  As we all discovered later, those assumed plans would never come to pass for the 2,977 victims of the terror.

Sunday will be the 10th anniversary of that horrible day; a helpless day, as all of us who watched the news casts, stood there, sat there with the realization that there was nothing we could do but pray and mourn. We were helpless, we were anxious, afraid.  We spent the following weeks and months cautious, watching the world around us with a closer eye.  The media warned us that there were other terrorists out to get us.  Anything could happen to any of us, anytime, anywhere.  Our leaders were doing everything in their power to stop the terrorists, but we had to be assertive, watchful, and report anything suspicious.

But for the 2,977 victims of 9/11, all we could do was remember.  And we still remember.  We remember the horror of people hanging out of open windows a hundred stories up, helpless to rescue themselves.  We remember the heroism of great men and women who charged up the stairs of those buildings to save anyone, everyone they could, full with the knowledge that they themselves would not make the return trip down those same stairs.

Is anyone ever really ready to die?  Ten years ago we took for granted that tomorrow would be their for us.  Then the towers fell.  Suddenly we realized again or for the first time that life is precious.  Our life was a gift.  We held our family closer, prayed to our creator more fervently, more humbly.  How much of that feeling has now faded away from us?  Do we demonstrate the same sense of urgency about telling our loved ones that we… love them?  Or have we returned to the illusion that tomorrow will be just like today, and the next day, and the next.

What if we discovered, today, that we only had 30 days to live?  What would we change?  Where and with whom would we choose to spend our time?  Would we give God more thanks, more praise, more service? Would we listen more closely for His voice?  Would we be quicker to follow His lead? Would our family and friends get more of our energy?  Would we have kinder words to say?  Would we keep hanging on to our grudges or would we seek forgiveness and give the gift of forgiveness more freely? Would we answer the cell phone when a loved one is calling or click off the ringer, thinking that we can call back later but we are too busy right now?

These are the questions we seek to ask and the questions we pray to answer right now at our church.


The Tongue (caution! hazardous when in use)

Beware of the backhanded complement.  Yes, I mean you… and me… and all of us.  This is a caution to anyone with a tongue.
Pastor Joe was right on Sunday! Boy, do I need to hear that sermon everyday!  Note to self; Speak Sweeter!  I’m not saying that I’m a foul mouth, though I could have said that about my old self would.  And I’m not saying that I’m prone to insult others either.  I’m sure I have been insulting, but it’s not a regular practice.  All things considered, I think I hold my tongue rather well.  But, on the contrary, I am only deceiving myself because James 3:8 say that “No man can tame the tongue.” It’s hard It’s impossible for all of us.
My mom always told me; “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all!”  She was right!  And I’m ashamed of the times when I didn’t heed that wisdom.  I’ve become more skilled at holding my tongue.  You know; keeping it on a leash.  But keeping the tongue on a leash is not the same thing as “taming” the tongue.  I need to graduate from those wise words and use my tongue to encourage and build up others.
A tame animal does not need a leash to keep it from attacking others.  Leashes are for animals that can not be trusted to behave. (The tongue is one such animal!) If the leash breaks, then LOOK OUT!  And if no man can tame the tongue as James claims then it will take more than a man.  It will require the intervention of the God Man, Jesus.  Only Jesus can tame our tongues.  He is the only one who can be trusted with such a powerful weapon.
Let me explain what I mean when I say I hope to graduate from the “don’t say anything at all” set of guidelines.  I want to be good at the art of the compliment.  If my tongue is under Jesus control, then he will use it to build others up and to encourage them.  When I try to do this on my own, my natural gift of sarcasm tends to take over.
  • Me to self:  I want to compliment this person.  They’ve really been doing a great job!
  • Sarcastic self says to me: Great idea, I’ll take it from here
  • Me:  Thanks for wiping down those tables.  It make such a nice impression on people and shows that we care.
  • Sarcastic self:  You’re really good at that, ever consider a career as a bus boy?
WHY does this happen?  Because “no one can tame the tongue.”
2 Reasons we fail to give genuine encouragement.
  1. Sarcasm – We really want to say something nice, but our pride talks us out of it. Somehow we think that building others up will lower our worth in their eyes.  Our desire to “build others up” gets polluted by our “tear others down so we look smarter” strategy.  So Pride sends Sarcasm to the front line and allows us to safely give a compliment (sort of) and at the same time protect our “I’m better than you” falsely inflated ego that we can’t seem to live without.
  2. The Backhanded Compliment. Another detour from a real heartfelt compliment is the “backhanded compliment.” It’s a loophole in the “if you can’t say anything nice” strategy.  It goes something like this; If you must say something rude at least disguise it as a compliment.  Here are a few examples; “You really sound good when you just sing” “You look so pretty today, I almost didn’t recognize you.” “You clean up nice.” “You know, you’re pretty smart for a liberal arts major.”
whywhywhy(shakes head) – Okay, James we get it. NO ONE can tame the tongue.  We try and try, but we just come up with sarcastic, backhanded, what’s in it for me?, half-hearted efforts that fall far short of our goal, which is to offer real encouragement.
Lord, save us from our tongues.  Save others from our tongues!  Have mercy on us when we try and fail to tame our tongues.  May our words be Sweeter.  Give us Your words to speak, to build, and to encourage others.
Have you ever been the victim of a backhanded compliment?  Can you share it with us?  What is your favorite backhanded compliment?  Perhaps it would help if we laugh at ourselves and our stupid tongues.  Leave a comment below.  This could be interesting.