Monthly Archives: October 2011

What Am I Afraid Of?

We all have things that we are afraid of. Some are small fears, some are bigger fears. For instance; some people are afraid of heights or spiders or clowns.  To my knowledge I don’t have any fears that cripple me like that.  But I do have some smaller fears.
It could be said that I’m afraid of ketchup. It’s not really so much a fear as it is just being really grossed out.  More specifically, when a glob of spilled ketchup on the table that has reached a state of being half dried out, but is still gooey and sticky so that it hitches a ride on your sleeve and you find it later on the front of your shirt from when you crossed your arms or on the inside of your jacket sleeve.  Has this ever happened to you? – (me either.)  I’d swear that the evil, half dried, sticky, ketchup glob inspired the comic villain known as venom.
Well that’s an example of small fear – minor, insignificant, not really life shaping.  Other fears can shape our lives.  Worry can cripple us from truly living.  We fear something bad will happen to our families or to us.  We fear not being able to succeed at our jobs or not having enough money to pay the bills.  These are reasonable fears and it is very understandable that we would have them from time to time, but we cannot live there. We have a hope in Christ and he has promised to meet all our needs.  We must pray for wisdom to recognize the difference in ourselves between needs and wants. ex. I want to drive a newer car, but I don’t NEED one.
Personally, I have a fear greater than these.  And I know that God is bigger than our fears and that He is sovereign, but I can’t help but fearing that the church is falling/has fallen away from her first love. Some churches have traded the gospel in for a gospel of works, adding to “by grace through faith alone.” Other churches have exchanged the gospel for a health and wealth gospel, that if you really love Jesus, he will make you healthy and wealthy.  Jesus is their Prince of prosperity rather than the Prince of Peace.  This false gospel is a contradiction to the very teachings of Jesus.  If you are praying for God to bring you wealth, then you love a another god. (Matt. 6:24)  If you are keeping your wealth for yourself, while reading the story of the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-24), then you have stored up your treasures where moth and rust destroy. Yet, this is not my greatest fear.
My greatest fear is that the church in America won’t be able to get their focus back on Jesus.  I’m afraid that Christians who fill our churches everywhere will remain silent about their faith.  I’m afraid of seeing people love the ways they worship more than they love the person of Jesus Christ.  I’m afraid that if it came to a choice between Jesus and the church, most Christians would choose the church.  I’m afraid of believers being more interested receiving the blessing than in giving sacrifice.
Father, call us back to You and open our ears to hear You.  More than knowing about Jesus, help us to know the person of Jesus.  You are a relational God.  As you have blessed us, help us to bless others, and to recognize that You have indeed blessed us so that we can give as You gave.  Let us not cheapen the work of Christ on the cross by proclaiming works as an added requirement of salvation.  Jesus death was payment in full.  “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” May we worship You as You truly are and lay aside the way we think you should be. You created us in your image, forgive us when we try to redefine You in ours.

“An idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.” A.W. Tozer


How To Plan A Revival Without Scheduling One

Pray.
This one-word-blog brought to you by Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Great effort was taken in the writing of this blog to keep the message clear and simple. Please feel free to elaborate with your own thoughts and experiences in the comment section below. All comments will be read by the author of the one-word-blog and replies will be posted at the authors earliest convenience. Any questions, concerns or suggestions can also be submitted via the comment section below.

Don’t Give Up On Your Dreams

It is easy to get discouraged. Especially when you look around and your situation is not what you thought it would be.  It appears to you that your dreams have failed.  The visions of success you had as a young man or woman are nowhere to be found.  Have you ever felt like that?  Maybe you believed you would have a higher position in your company by now, or that at you would have a larger salary. Perhaps you don’t feel appreciated and aren’t getting paid what you think you deserve.  You never started that business you always dreamed about.  The people around you seem to have everything they want in life; success, money and acknowledgements. You think that you’ve missed God’s best for your life.  You think that God can’t use you because you are not good enough.  You ask God, “why won’t you bless me?”It’s time to put this thinking away. Thinking like this is pure deception. God does have a plan for your life and you are in the perfect position to be used by him.  He has blessed you, but you can’t see it when you compare yourself to those around you.If you are going to compare yourself with someone, try Joseph.  I mean, talk about big dreams getting smashed.  Joseph’s dreams revealed to him that he would eventually be lord over all his family, even his father, the great Jacob.  His brothers made sure that didn’t happen and threw him in a pit, then sold him to slave traders. If something like that would happen to us today, we would walk away from God and claim that he failed to keep his promises.But God’s ways are not our ways.

Joseph kept his faith, though I’m sure he was a bit confused as to why God would had given him his dreams.  Joseph, now a slave, put his whole self into his work. He was living Colossians 3:23. Because of his extraordinary work, Joseph climbed the ladder and was promoted to head servant.   Now he was starting to get somewhere.  Yeah, he was still a slave, but he was in charge! Along comes Potiphar’s wife.

Betrayed by a liar!  If I’d been Joseph I would have been so angry with God.  “I was wronged!”  How is it that evil doers seem to win and those, in the right, get punished?  This was the case for Joseph. Faced with temptation, he made the moral choice – the right choice. (He didn’t buy into the lie that “he deserved this.”) Still he was sentenced to prison.  Lower than ever before and even farther from his dreams, Joseph kept believing that God would use him.  “And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden.”

Of course we all know the rest of the story; Joseph interprets a dream for the cup-bearer, who in-turn forgets his promise to mention Josephs plight to the Pharaoh. Two years pass by. The cup-bearer finally remembers Joseph.  Joseph interprets the Pharaohs dreams and is put in charge of Egypt!  (That was when Egyptians still liked their leaders.)  Joseph was in charge of the whole country!  Finally! He made it!  He’d “arrived.” “His ship had come in.”

We look at Joseph’s story and see how Joseph took 2 steps forward and 11 steps back. God used some very frustrating circumstances in Joseph’s life before realizing Joseph’s dreams.  But the final step in Joseph’s journey is not the only point to his life.  Joseph made a big difference EVERYWHERE he was placed.  When a slave, he worked as if he was working for the Lord. God used this to make a difference in Potiphar who, “Realized that the Lord was with Joseph.”  In the prison “the Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.” God also made Himself real to the Pharaoh who “gave Joseph a new name Zaphenath-paneah” which means “God speaks and lives.”  All around Joseph’s shattered dreams, people witnessed the hope of God because Joseph honored and believed God.

You may not think you are the success story God wanted you to be.  Change your thinking and let God use you where you are. When He is ready to use you somewhere else, He will move you.  Don’t believe yourself to be a failure when God has placed you exactly where you are for His purpose.  Wherever you are, go after His purpose with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  Live as one who has the hope of Christ.

Prayer For The Struggling Servant

Father, in all Your majesty, You did not consider Yourself too good to come down and serve us.  Thank You for Your humility.  You knelt to wash the feet of disciples, those whom You called Your students.  When Your followers thought themselves too good to be bothered by the presence of little children, You corrected their thinking and allowed the children to come into Your presence. You placed Your hands on sinners who needed healing and entered the homes of thieves, sanctioned by an oppressive government to steal money from their own people.  You showed honor to those living with shame.  Show me the places I’ve decided I’m too good to enter.  Remind me that I am not better than others but a servant to all.  Destroy the pride in me that decides I’m above serving the ones society brushes to the side.  Bring me back to reality when I get too big for my britches.  By itself, giving money does not cover it when I know that You have called ME to go.  Help me find ways to serve and put an end to my excuses.  And may I walk with You as a humble servant lead by a servant Master.

Do What Is Good

Every day you live, you can Make A Difference.  Each day holds new opportunities to do good.  Opportunities which are different for each of us and have specifically been designed for us.  In fact, you and I have appointments today with people whose names we do not yet know. And those appointments will call for us to “do good.” You’re skeptical, I can tell.  If you don’t believe me read this… Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planed for us long ago.”

We know our time on this earth is brief.  Scripture declares it and we see evidence everyday that life is short.  It would be such a waste to live that life only for ourselves, especially in the light of Eph 2:10. God has made us His masterpiece.  He specifically designed us to do the “good things” and he planned these “good things” long ago specifically for us.  WOW!
Another verse – This one’s a favorite. Galatians 6:9-10 “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.  At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.  Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone – especially to those in the family of faith.” YES! do good to everyone, ESPECIALLY other believers and DON’T EVER STOP doing good.
I believe that all of us want to do good.  But, in a world turned upside down, where evil is declared good and good is deemed offensive, it’s difficult to know where to begin.   Do you lack ideas in your personal campaign to do good?  Here are some starters.
Tithe to your church and then give above that.  Find a place to serve within your church and then find a 2nd place to serve.  Go to Bible Study and Worship faithfully, then stay a little longer to encourage others. Too easy?  Scripture does say “especially to those in the family of faith.”  We can’t just ignore that because it seems obvious.  We are biblical to start with these three things and springboard from them.
Now for the “don’t ever stop” part of the Galatians instruction – But lunch for a friend.  Serve the meal at a homeless shelter.  Invite friends over to dinner.  Send someone an encouraging message on facebook.  Send an elderly widow a bouquet of flowers.  Rake your neighbors yard when he is out of town.  Have a Daddy/Daughter date or a Mother/Son date.  Tell someone that Jesus loves them.  Hold the door for a stranger.  Sponsor a child.  Help an elderly shopper with his/her cart.  help a friend with a repair. Tell someone they are doing a great job.  Tell others that you love them.  Make A Difference.

The Relevant Ways Of Us

We learned from Joe last Sunday that there is a need for us to use relevant ways to communicate the love of Jesus to our world.  If you missed it, you can listen to it here.  As Joe pointed out, Paul demonstrated the value of being relevant in Acts 17, when he spoke of Jesus to the Athenians.  The points Joe brought out on Sunday were great and have caused me to continue to marinade on the Acts 17 passage he shared.  And a couple of additional thoughts came to mind.

In verse 16 it says that Paul was “greatly distressed” or “deeply troubled” when he saw the city was full of idols.  Reading this, I notice that it does NOT say that he was angry at the people for worshiping idols.  But he WAS “deeply troubled” by it.

When you look at the life your friends and family are living, are you “deeply troubled?”  Or do you find yourself angry with them?  I think there is a difference.  In Paul’s case, he must have seen the emptiness in their lives. In spite of their fervent efforts to worship many gods, Paul knew that those gods were not real and could bring their worshipers no fulfillment.  An idol could do nothing for their sin condition.  No idol could comfort them, or give them peace or hope.  Do you observe the emptiness and hopelessness in your Christ-less friends and family?  Or does it just make you mad that they act so irresponsibly?

Verse 23 “While I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD,’  therefore what you worship in ignorance, I proclaim to you.”  Paul was examining their idols?  Shouldn’t he have kept his distance?  What if someone saw him there and thought he was condoning idol worship?  To be clear; Paul did NOT participate in idol worship!  But we can observe that he made an effort to understand the people he was trying to reach.  I can’t help but wonder if Paul asked himself “How can I speak to these people in a way they can understand? Can I really identify with idol worshipers?”

When we read that Paul confessed to “passing through and examining the objects of your worship,” we see that Paul was intentional.  I don’t think that Paul’s mention of “AN UNKNOWN GOD” was spontaneous.  He was purposefully looking for a way to connect.  The altar inscribed “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD” revealed to him that these people were actively ‘seeking’ to know God.  The only reason God remained unknown was because they had not been told.

You may have friends to whom God is still unknown.

So how can we be relevant to those friends.  I believe that we have opportunities in 2011 and beyond like never before.  And they are brought to us by multiple Social Media engines, and they’re FREE!  Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Blogs allow us to, at anytime and in almost anyplace, share the love of Jesus with anyone.  I don’t know what you do with your social media time, but let me encourage you to think about it in a new way.

Until about a year ago I used facebook as an alternative gaming platform.  Please don’t throw the first stone!  Those games gave me a chance to interact online with my family who live in another state.  Why the change?  A year ago I read this book “The Church of Facebook” by Jesse Rice.  If you’re a reader, you should buy this book.  I won’t summarize it for you, but Jerry’s words were largely responsible for refocusing my social media time.

Let me make a couple suggestions and feel free to criticize or embrace these.  Some Dos and Don’ts:

1. DON’T repost those “Gotcha, you sinner” types of tags and quips you read on others status updates.  You know the type I’m talking about – similar to the church marquee that says “If you think it’s hot here, just wait!” This “punchline witnessing” doesn’t allow you to speak Christ into someone’s life as a loving friend would. You’ll likely be unfriended and your witness left damaged.

2. DON’T tell someone “If you don’t repost this, you’re ashamed of Jesus.” In all honesty, they may love Jesus, but avoid reposting because they are ashamed of you.

3. DO be a personal and authentic witness when on social media.  Facebook and other social media platforms play up to our tendency to pretend we are something or someone we are not. Most of us have a certain and specific image we want to portray. And on facebook we think we can control the way we present ourselves.  Instead of that silliness, be yourself.  People will appreciate it when you “keep it real” even if that goes against the culture and the social media norm.

4. DO be intentional.  We have an opportunity here that is unique to our generation alone. Let’s not miss it.  Pray for the people in your friends list or circles or followers. Message someone just to tell them you are praying for them.

5. DO be encouraging. Post and tweet scripture. Inspire others with quotes from Christian writers and speakers.  Post something the Holy Spirit taught you that day.

6. DO follow other believers who can encourage and/or mentor you on social media.  I follow several on twitter who I look forward to checking everyday.

I’m sure many of you have already had similar thoughts and consider the social media universe a relevant means of making a difference in the lives of others.  Are you being a positive twitness on twitter?  Or do you put on your pious face for facebook?What do you intentionally do on social media to Make A Difference for Christ?  Do you agree with my ideas?  Do you have an idea to share with me? Please leave a comment.


Christmas in October

One of the fundamentals of the life of a worship pastor is that, every year you get a whole lot of Christmas.  Having the responsibility of helping the congregation celebrate every year means you start with rehearsals in October.  And to do that, you must at least begin sifting through music in July or at the latest, August.  It’s not Christmas all year round, but it can feel like it.
So, tonight I’ll begin introducing a few of the Christmas anthems to the choir.  I remind them each year that the Christmas rehearsals in October are just as, or more important that the ones in late November.  I firmly believe that when our Christmas celebrations go well, it is because of the work we did back in October and that begins tonight.
I still am a fan of Christmas; the wonder and mystery, a big fan, actually.  But my favorite holiday continues to be Thanksgiving.  If I must begin Christmas preparations so early, it makes since to give thanks beginning even now.  Now I’m rambling.
My thought today is, as I begin preparing a choir to lead in Christmas celebration, is to not wait.  Don’t wait until December to wonder at the Lord and ALL He has done and is doing.  If you have trouble finding the wonder and awesomeness of God, read a few Psalms.  Perhaps your heart is troubled and you feel alone.  You are NOT alone.
Too many times we as Christians approach the mystery of God as if He was a puzzle to be solved.  That is not the purpose of His mystery.  He is not like us, yet we try to humanize Him.  Allow the mighty mystery of the Father, King and Creator to overcome you.  Stand in awe of Him.  Don’t try to figure Him out or explain Him using human understanding.  Study as a disciple, yes.  But as a disciple, never lose the wonder of the Master.
I like how Eugene Peterson describes this wonder in Psalm 29.
29Bravo, God, bravo!
Gods and all angels shout, “Encore!”
In awe before the glory,
in awe before God’s visible power.
Stand at attention!
Dress your best to honor him!
3 God thunders across the waters,
Brilliant, his voice and his face, streaming brightness—
God, across the flood waters.
4 God’s thunder tympanic,
God’s thunder symphonic.
5 God’s thunder smashes cedars,
God topples the northern cedars.
6 The mountain ranges skip like spring colts,
The high ridges jump like wild kid goats.
7–8 God’s thunder spits fire.
God thunders, the wilderness quakes;
He makes the desert of Kadesh shake.
9 God’s thunder sets the oak trees dancing
A wild dance, whirling; the pelting rain strips their branches.
We fall to our knees—we call out, “Glory!”
10 Above the floodwaters is God’s throne
from which his power flows,
from which he rules the world.
11 God makes his people strong.
God gives his people peace. 
Oh, God, my Father.  I never want to lose the wonder I have for you.  Your love is so amazing, I can
not fathom it. Your grace is so free, I can barely appreciate it.  Your blessing so generous, I run out
of time trying to name them.  That You would choose to love someone as unloveable as me is beyond
my human reasoning.  I can only say Thank You and allow my heart to wonder at Your Holy presence.