Monthly Archives: November 2011

Sing, Sing, Sing!

I’ve been a worship pastor for 18 years.  Much has changed for us with regard to worship in the church.  New technologies such as big screens with moving video backgrounds have found a home in our places of worship.  That’s not a bad thing!  It’s also not the “bees knees” as they say.  Well some people use that phrase.
It seems that the one thing that unites the churches of God today is that we love to fight about worship style.  As Stephen would say – “You stiff-necked people!”  GET OVER IT!  Are you too blind to see that it is not the Father who has caused you to be so opinionated about music or to prefer a certain style?  No, it is the evil one who divides us.  Too many of you have chosen to love your music style more than you love the One you’re attempting to sing to. You have forgotten your audience is the living God.  He is not impressed by your style!  He is interested in your broken and contrite hearts! Psalm 51.
When did it happen that we began to replace loving God with music appreciation?  Do we really expect that God will one day place a crown on our head and say; “I’m so glad you forced your new songs into the the fabric of church life, totally relevant, dude?” or will He say “Thank you for fighting to keep hymns in the church.  Those are my favorites too?”  Absolutely Not!
I understand all the reasons and all the arguments people offer for adding technology and for calling upon various styles and they are not bad reasons.  We want to be relevant in our methods.  This is a good thing.  We desire to sing our songs in musical languages that our guests, who may not have a church background, can understand. This is noble. I’m in agreement with these motivations, however (COMMA, DOT, DOT, DOT) let us keep our primary motivation for music and its accompanying technologies centered on Christ.
Colossians 3:16Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.
The psalms and hymns and spiritual songs help us fill our lives with the richness of Christ.  We sing the attributes to God to remind ourselves, Who it is we worship.  We sing out the truth about God’s love for us as an encouragement to each another.  We sing our praises to God out of thankfulness for all He has done and all He will do.  The body encourages the body.  There is just something about singing it out loud that helps us internalize the richness of Jesus and allows Him to fill up our lives.  It can’t be reproduced by listening to a song on the radio.  It must be done out loud and in cooperation. (It is called cooperate worship, right?)
Sing, Sing, Sing! People of God, sing TO each other and be encouraged. Sing WITH each other to God and give Him thanks and praise. Sing AS ONE body and dwell in unity!  This is what psalms and hymns and spiritual songs can help us do.  What God meant as a tool to remind us to be filled with His richness and to unify us, the evil one has used to divide us.  The evil one has no greater joy than dividing the people of God.
Father, forgive me when my pride has derailed my best efforts to worship You.  At times I have made an idol out of my own tastes and traditions.  Forgive me, Lord, when I’ve failed to encourage others because I pretended that style was synonymous with worship.  I long to be filled with the richness of Christ and to encourage others to be filled with the same.  Help me use ALL psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, new and old, as a medium for the body to worship and give thanks as one.
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A Prayer of Thanks to God Who Blesses Beyond Measure

Father, You are my great Provider.  You love to give good things to Your children.  You have blessed me with every good thing.  Sometimes Your blessings have been answers to my prayers; A lovely wife, kids who love You, a home for my family.  The very best gifts from You are the ones I wasn’t wise enough to ask You for – things at the time, I didn’t even know that I needed; Grace, Mercy, Salvation. While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me.

You provide my daily needs, may I not take them for granted.  I bless You, Provider, for daily food to sustain me and clothes to warm me.  I bless You, Healer, for bringing me and those I love through times of sickness and pain.  I bless You, Mighty One, for giving us Your strength and power as we work for the sake of Your gospel.  I bless You, Creator, for the beauty You show us in a sunset and in a starry sky.  I bless You, Deliverer, for saving me from the death blow of my enemies.  I bless You, Prince of Peace, for making a way that I may enter Your presence free from the wrath I deserve.  I bless You, Friend of sinners, for Your intimate fellowship that brings me such joy and satisfaction.

And in case I haven’t said it before, I want to thank you for the suffering and hardship You have, in Your wisdom, allowed in my life.  Though I am not yet the completed work You have designed, You are shaping me with these trials.  If it were not for the trials, I would not have experienced Your Spirit teaching me endurance which builds and shapes my character.  And You have shaped that character that my hope would be fixed on Jesus alone.  As You say in Your Word;

Romans5:3-5 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Thank You, Lord, that You have restored friendships that I had broken with harsh words or disagreements.  Thank You that Your ways are better than mine.  Thank You for Your forgiveness which has allowed me to forgive others who may have wronged me.  Thank You for not allowing my sins to devour me and destroy my life.  By Your forgiveness You have rescued me.

Your love, oh Lord, reached out to me when I was completely helpless to save myself.  I give You thanks. Even now I am completely powerless to do anything outside of Christ living in me.  In Christ, I can do all things.  Outside of Christ, I can do nothing of any value.  Thank You for Jesus, Who is the Christ, Your Son; and YOU ARE ALIVE!

You alone are God.  You alone deserve to be God.  You dwell in light unapproachable, yet You welcome me in as a child coming home.  Bless Your Name!


Handkerchief to Cell Phones

I sorted through my drawers this weekend (something my wife has been after me to do for some time.) I needed to get rid of some shirts, that at this time in their life, would make better rags.  This was a task long overdue, Melanie would agree.

As I sorted through and threw rag/shirts over into the toss pile I wondered what had taken me so long. I have a tendency to wear shirts down to nothing  – especially undershirts. Working my way to the bottom of the drawer I discovered an ancient artifact – handkerchiefs.

What were these square clothes – much to thin to make a good rag? I don’t know why I even have them in my drawer.  I don’t remember buying them.  One was blue with a KC logo.  Okay that one was promotional item.  Two others were folded in a triangle – I remember wearing those under my bicycle helmet to catch sweat.  Four were the straight up white variety (much whiter than my undershirts due to the lack of use.)

I recall my dad and grandpa always having one of these in their back pocket.  On the farm it was handy in the field, when no tissues were nearby.  And the dust and dirt blowing up in your face always made a handkerchief necessary.  Just a kid in those days, I remember having a handkerchief of my own when I joined dad in the hayfield.

Why don’t I carry them around now?  Well, I work in an office.  Dirt seldom blows up into my face.  My biggest nuisance is the occasional headache from the florescent lights or the sore shoulders and back from hunching over my computer.  Even if I needed a handkerchief, I wouldn’t have room for one.  Like a lot of us, my back pocket is occupied by my cell phone.

Handkerchiefs now seem to be something of nostalgia and not just of a life on the farm where one was needed to relieve the sinuses of dust.  Remember how Carey Grant or Jimmy Stewart used to offer the lady their handkerchief when she would cry?  Who does that anymore?  Handkerchiefs came in very handy to the beau sharing a moment onscreen with his emotional gal.  “Don’t cry, shopgirl.”

Romans 12:15-16 says; 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! 

This is all a part of sharing life together. We are made in the image of a relational God and we are to be relational! And not just carnal relationship, but heavenly relationships – sharing life as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Galatians is one of my favorite books in the NT, especially chapter 6.   And in that chapter, Paul instructs us to;

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. 

I’m not saying that we should all go back to the days of carrying around a handkerchief, or that we should give up our cell phones in our back pockets and return to the days of blowing our noses into linens. What I am saying is that, as the opportunity presents itself, we should be obedient to Christ and submit ourselves to one another.  We should speak truth and encouragement to one another and when the moment calls for it we should just shut up and be a shoulder to lean on.  There isn’t an app for that.


The Paradox Between Being Relational and Being Right

I see in my kids a reflection of myself.  We are caught in a paradox seeded in the blueprint of humanity.  An inner desire to be in relational conflicts with a passionate drive to be right.  For my kids, this comes out in epic sibling battles.

My kids love each other, and depend on that sibling relationship for encouragement.  Through their friendships with one another they gain an understanding of the world of High School and Middle School.  They share in common the burdens and blessings of being a child whose Dad is a Pastor of Worship.  They rely on each other to endure the German stubbornness and sometimes quick temper of their dad.

But, while they see their need for a sibling relationship, they are torn with a drive to be right.  Now, I don’t mean to say that they look for the right answer.  No, not at all.  They deeply desire to prove that the thoughts and opinions they start with are the right ones.  Scripture teaches that none of us, by nature, are right.  None of us, by nature, are even good.

Romans3:10 As the Scriptures say,
   “No one is righteous—
not even one.
11 No one is truly wise;
no one is seeking God.
12 All have turned away;
all have become useless.
No one does good,
not a single one.”
13 “Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.
Their tongues are filled with lies.”
“Snake venom drips from their lips.”
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “They rush to commit murder.
16 Destruction and misery always follow them.
17 They don’t know where to find peace.”
18 “They have no fear of God at all.”

We were made to live in intimate relationship with our Creator.  Because of our sin nature it is impossible for us to have this Father/son/daughter relationship with God here in this life or in eternity.  This sin nature is our inheritance (Thanks grandpa Adam and grandma Eve). We have also inherited the penalty, which is death.

That sounds so harsh. “But, I’m a nice person.”  “I do more good stuff than bad.”  “I help the poor.  I go to church.”

Let me ask you a question.  Where did you ever get the idea that God has a scale and weighs your good things against the bad?  That’s not how it works. If the imagery of a scale helps your understanding of the judgement, then you should think of it like this.  If you were born standing one the side of the scale and you needed to throw your good deeds to the other side of the scale, you would not be strong enough to throw them that far. No matter how good your deed is, your arm isn’t strong enough. It’s not about how good your deeds are.  It’s about you not being able to reach the other side of the scale with them.

Romans 3:19 Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. 21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses[a] and the prophets long ago. 22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

Jesus came and poured out His righteousness for us. He substituted Himself for us on the cross. He died in our place. Because we were helpless to do anything, He did it all.  Every ounce of our salvation is the work of Jesus.  You can’t do good enough works to earn it and you can’t do enough good works to prove it.  Try as you might, you can’t even live up to the laws we’ve been given.

 Romans2:23For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

Made in the image of God to live in intimate relationship with God under the righteousness of God.  That relationship was broken by Adam who passed on to us an inheritance of unrighteousness. This unrighteousness first inherited then fully embraced by our own sinfulness. Jesus came to cleanse us from Adams stain and forgive our sins.  His work on the cross did it ALL!

I recently saw this tweet – “Supplementing God’s grace with your works is like supplementing the Arctic Circle with your ice chip.  You Are You Kidding?” – Scotty Ward Smith via twitter.


Tell the Story

I LOVE TO TELL THE STORY
by Katherine Hankey
I love to tell the story of unseen things above.
Of Jesus and His glory,
Of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story because I know it’s true.
It satisfies my longings
as nothing else can do.

My recent ambition to write comes from a deeper longing to tell the story of Jesus.  I’m enjoying the writing process, but as I attempt to write, I sense that I am drawing nearer to Jesus.

In my last blog entry, I discovered the definition of a disciple as one who “embraces” and “assists in spreading” the teachings of another.  For us it is Jesus teachings we embrace.  We assist Him in spreading His message, His gift of mercy, forgiveness, grace and eternity with Him.  His Story!  So many have not heard.

During the summer months I watched an interview with Eugene Peterson who wrote The Message, a “plain English” translation – considered a paraphrase by some – of the Bible.  In this clip, the interviewer ask Peterson; “Do you have any advise for…. people who think ‘I’d like to write, I’d like to be a storyteller?'” Peterson answers “Do it. We need all we can get.  There are never enough storytellers”  He goes on to explain that there are many who don’t want to go through the discipline it takes to be a good writer.

This interview and especially Peterson’s answer to that specific question pricks something inside of me that wants to step forward and take on the challenges of being a writer.  Disciplines at all.  It does take discipline to be a disciple.  Imagine that.  Disciplined in a way that “assists in spreading the teachings” of Jesus.

As a submission to that discipline and in recognition that I have much to learn, I’m attending the Annual Fall Writers Conference put on by the Heart of America Christian Writers Network.  I look forward learning the craft and pray that I retain every ounce of what learn this weekend so that I will better Tell The Story.

How do you tell the story?  Are you a writer, singer, preacher, teacher, social media aficionado? Please leave a comment below.


What Is A Disciple?

At my church, we are in the middle of the series we’ve titled The Original BIG XII:  That is the 12 disciples.  So I thought I would look up the definition for disciple.  Here is what I found.  Disciple – “One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another.”  Have you ever been convicted by the dictionary? (I know that the Holy Spirit is the real one who convicts all men.)
We have assumed for too long that just because we have been saved that we are automatically “disciples.”  That is our mistake.  As the saved church of Christ – His body, His bride, His beloved sons and daughters – we are called to be disciples, but not every one of us who is saved answers that call.
I think there are a number of reasons or obstacles that keep us from being disciples.  One reason, I just mentioned; we assume we already are disciples.  We make the hearing the call with answering the call.  You’ve been told that you are called, but just being called is not what made the original BIG XII into disciples – Answering the call did.  They “embraced and assisted in spreading the teachings of Jesus.”
A second reason we don’t answer the call is because we think it is too difficult.  A narrow path and filled with many trials it is. (Did that just sound like Yoda?) Personally I’d rather walk the narrow path, where my guide is Jesus himself, than walk the easy path, where my guide only has one thing on his mind – my destruction.
The original BIG XII understood that Jesus was calling them to “embrace and assist in spreading his teachings.”  He was called Teacher by Peter in Mark 9:5.   Even Pharisees called Jesus teacher. (Mark 12:13-14) (John 3:2) The disciples embraced Jesus’ teachings.   And as far as the second qualification for a disciple – as assisting in the spreading of Jesus’ teachings – Jesus let them know, from the beginning, that this was why he’d called them.  Mark 1:17 “And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”  And that is exactly what they became.  In fact, the original XII – minus Judas – died because they would not stop spreading the teachings of Jesus.
These are the men who, along with Paul, penned the New Testament.  These are the disciples God is calling us to join.  This is the original BIG XII whose examples we are invited to follow.