Tag Archives: Christ

To Him Be Glory in the Church!

For the past few weeks Joe has reminded us of a verse (3:20) from Paul’s prayer (3:14-21) written in his letter to the Ephesians.  I absolutely love this verse!  Paul gets caught up in the greatness of God and the power He supplies His people for His Kingdom purpose.  Joe used verse 20 because it is there that Paul makes his point about God’s ability to do immeasurably, unimaginably more than all we ask.  As we set our goal of living this Christian life Unleashed, let us by no means fix a limit in our minds of what God can do in us.

It may have occurred to you that verse 20 ends with a comma, at least in most versions.  Paul includes all three parts of the trinity to make his point for us, but I have to include verse 21 to show you.

“Now to him (God the Father) who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power (Holy Spirit) that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”(NIV) Eph 3:20-21

God sent the Holy Spirit for a solitary purpose –to glorify his Son, Jesus.  The purpose of God’s power, which is given us through the Holy Spirit, is to build His church and to bring glory to Him, in Christ Jesus.  We glorify Christ, Christ glorifies his Father.  Part of unleashing God’s power in our lives is that we align our motives with God’s purpose – “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus.”

Warren Wiersbe puts it this way; “If our motive is to glorify God by building His Church, then God will share His power with us.  The power of the Spirit is not a luxury; it is a necessity.”

To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations.

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Don’t Forget the Left-Overs

Each year, after thanksgiving meal is over, I’m still excited for the left-overs – a reminder of the wonderful meal, recently enjoyed.  The bounty of food is too much for one sitting, too much even for one day.  It spills over to supper, then to Friday and further.  Back home our tradition is to pour the gravy over a plate filled with cold turkey, stuffing and potatoes and warm it up in the microwave. Best. Left-overs. Ever. I’m going to have to work this off!

The left-overs turn my thoughts toward the twelve baskets left over after Jesus fed the multitude; then to Paul’s reference to spiritual food.  Jesus always fills us to overflowing!  He meets our every need and more.  “Taste and see that the Lord is good!”  When we sit at the feet of our Savior, we are fed the good, spiritual food of the gospel until we are so filled, we cannot take another bite.  We must leave and rest, then work it off before we come back for more.

Here’s my point and my prayer for all of us as we enjoy the spiritual blessings this Christmas season.

  • Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Come to Christ)
  • Gobble up the spiritual food He brings. (Sit at His feet)
  • Rest in Him – (Enjoy the fellowship of Christ and His church)
  • Work it off – (Serve Christ by serving others)
  • Come back for left-overs – (Remain in his Word and let us not forsake gathering together.)

Obstacles to Worship 3: Guilty Heart

I wish Worship Leaders and Pastors were perfect, but truth is; we’re not.  Is it an act of hypocrisy when we lead songs declaring an unwavering commitment to God’s call and purpose, when we know in our hearts that we have failed to be obedient?  Is it right that we should proclaim God’s goodness and at the same time struggle to acknowledge his goodness within a specific circumstance or personal trial?  How many times have you tried to lead worship and in the middle of a song remembered that you have unconfessed sin?  Or is it the case that you  have confessed your sin to God, but have not yet forgiven yourself?

Worship leaders don’t get the same opportunity to cease our singing and go to the altar and “lay it down.”  I’m not saying that it would be inappropriate, but I think that in the spirit of preparedness worship leaders should deal with our “stuff” before we take the platform.  But what about the times we fail to prepare?  What if – in the middle of leading a song – we sing a phrase only to realize that it doesn’t line up with the way we have been living?

It’s important for us to lead and sing songs of commitment when we worship such as the song, Everyday, in which the lyrics speak;

Everyday 
It’s You I’ll live for 
Everyday 
I’ll follow after You 
Everyday 
I’ll walk with You my Lord 

Let’s say I am leading this song and the epiphany strikes me that last Tuesday I made a decision that was clearly opposite from living for Christ.  Personally, in light of my conviction, I now feel like a liar singing this song.  My sung testimony is nothing but a lie and I’m standing and singing it in front of God and everybody as if it were true.  Too harsh? Perhaps, but I don’t think so.

3 things you probably shouldn’t do.

  • Don’t dismiss it or take it lightly – Our Lord is not silent about hypocritical worship, nor does he take lightly the Pharisees “the show must go on” attitude.  Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 to the Pharisees in Mark 7:6;  Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’
  • Don’t stop the song and the service and deal publicly with it.  Just as it would be unhelpful for someone to walk up from the back row, take a mic and begin to confess each sin from their previous week, worship is also not the place for you to catch up on your quiet time.
  • Don’t beat yourself up or believe that there’s nothing you can do.

3 things you can and should do.

  • Even as you are leading worship, this is your time for corporate worship too.  If you are dealing with something that you have already confessed and the enemy is seeking to remind you of your failures, then remind yourself and your congregation of the truth about which you sing; that Christ has redeemed you and made you new; that his blood has washed away every stain and “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
  • Pray as you sing.  You do it all the time.  Confess in your prayer how you’ve messed up and seek for God to realign your heart and actions back to Him. “Father, as I sing these words, I recognize that there have been times that I haven’t lived like it. -Like last Tuesday. Remember that, Lord. Yeah, I’m sorry.  Please forgive me and help me to live in you and trust you more.  I really want to live for you everyday and walk with you everyday.”
  • If you have sinned against someone else, seek that person as soon as you can.  Apologize and confess that you were wrong.  Seek to restore that broken relationship.  Oh, how sweet it will be to worship with them the next time you gather.  That’s what his grace can do!

You’re not a qualified worship leader because you have it all together.  You are a qualified worship leader because you have come to the Father by the way of Christ’s cross.  And as a worship leader you get to point others to the Savior, who is worthy of spirit and truth worship.


Obstacles To Worship: The Unfriendly Face

Worship leaders face many obstacles when leading worship.  These obstacles can deter us from setting our hearts on Christ.  Obstacles can also derail our focus from leading His followers in worship.  One such obstacle reared its ugly head (pun intended) for me recently. Let’s call it the Unfriendly Face.

If you lead worship or lead a team of worship leaders, you are constantly reminding your worship team to smile, show joy, make eye contact, let your light shine!  I’m sure I make this reminder to my choirs and praise team weekly or at least every other week.  A simple friendly smile from the worship team or choir can melt away the pride that sometimes keeps a congregant from joining the song.  Sure, we should all be ready to jump right in to praise singing on Sunday morning because God is good.  He has commanded us to sing his praises, and we are his obedient and thankful children, right?  Unfortunately, we are seldom ready to just jump right in to singing His praises.  Life is hard, and we get distracted.  We have doubts.  We need encouragement.  This is why we need the friendly smile from our worship leaders.  It encourages us in the Lord – most of the time.

The Unfriendly Face I’m speaking about is not one from the choir or praise team.  Not that we have mastered smiling – we haven’t.  I continue to be amazed at how slowly a smile can evolve on some faces.  People who smile all the time open their mouths to sing, and that delightful smile disappears into the abyss.  We’re working on it, but that’s not the obstacle to which I refer.

Unfriendly Face is a person in the congregation who refuses to participate.  Their posture implies that singing God’s praises is somehow beneath their dignity.  And the look on their face communicates that they wish you would hurry and conclude this silly singing business and get to the important stuff.  I’ve learned over the years that I can’t look at these people and not have it effect me as worship leader.

I’d prefer to look at those who smile back.  The way they sing praises to God and smile encourages me.  I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I often need to be encouraged by psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19.)  Those in the congregation whose praise singing shows in outward enthusiasm often lead me in worship. But then Unfriendly Face…

I’m not complaining.  That’s not what my blog is for, so please hear me. I’m NOT complaining.  We have great participation almost every Sunday morning at my church. I know that I have brother and sister worship leaders who have dozens of those Unfriendly Face worshipers weekly.  I’m NOT complaining.  Also, it is not my place to judge what goes on in the hearts of other worshipers, but sour faces have their effect on worship leaders.  So what do we do about it?  Here are a couple of my things that I do.

  • First, realize that you can not force anyone to smile or open their mouths to sing or stand or sit up straight.  Each individual is responsible for their own action (or inaction) when it comes to worship.
  • Second, don’t get pious and think “Thank You, O Lord, that I am not like that man or woman who refuses to offer You praises.”  This opens a whole other obstacle to worship leading – Humility or the lack there of.
  • Third, pray for that person – by name if you know who they are.  It just might be that their silence is not a refusal to praise but an opportunity to reflect.  God is doing a work in them and it is different than what he is doing in you.
  • Fourth, pray for yourself – you know who you are.  You know the times you have failed to worship through action during the past week.  Confess it.  Repent.  Worship is more than just singing.  Singing loudly and smiling big does not mean that your worship is complete.
  • Lastly, seek out that person after the service.  Perhaps they need a more personal, one-on-one encouragement.  Our broadcast-style worship leading effort is an attempt to lead a large group  from a stage.  Get off the stage.  Go get to know that unfriendly face; encourage them.  Don’t stop leading worship when you leave the platform.

Have you been distracted by  Unfriendly Face while leading worship?  How do you overcome your distraction? As a worshiper do you ever feel like you just don’t want to sing?  When tempted to withhold your praise, what do you do? 


I Appreciate You!

Many churches across the country designate October as a month to tell their pastor that they appreciate them.  I have experienced this in  each church I have had the privilege to lead as pastor of worship.  It’s difficult to express just how much a word of encouragement from someone within the congregation can lift my spirits.

Somewhere I heard these  statistics; Upon receiving good news, a person will tell 3 people but when receiving bad news, the same person will tell 11 people.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I think the church as a body can take a different approach.  When someone does something well, we should tell them.  It matters.  It’s encouraging.  It’s instructed by God and recommended by Paul!

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Jesus words) Matthew 7:12

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

At the top of this blog is a picture of my collection of encouraging cards and letters I have received throughout the years of my ministry.  I keep them all.  During times of discouragement I pull them out to be reminded that I am doing something that really does have a positive effect on the lives of those I’m called to serve and lead.  But it’s not always a Dayspring card coupled with a favorite candy bar.

I also have received my share of criticism and hate mail.  I hope you are not familiar with this style of communication.  It usually looks something like this.  The letter is addressed to you, but your name is spelled incorrectly.  If it comes in the mail, there is no return address.  Most likely it was found by the secretary because it was left on her desk, however, it is more likely that stepped on it Monday morning because it had been slid underneath your office door.  It is not signed.  The subject matter is almost guaranteed to en-capsule an event – which you do not remember – that happened months ago.  The handwriting is barley legible because of the spots where the goading instrument broke its lead or forced the ink through the paper onto the other side. The letter continues with a generalized evaluation of your ineptitude and lack of qualifications and social graces.  Several names for your misguided leadership style are suggested.  It is not signed.  This is where I file these letters.

Thankfully I have not received a letter like this for a long, long time.  If you have a pastor or staff of pastors, it is likely that they have received one or two of these during their tenure.  But this is not a blog about unfair critics and hurtful comments.

Please take the time to encourage your pastors next month.  Ministry can be full of discouragement and it’s easy to become disheartened.  A simple word of encouragement from you can go a long way.  Consistent prayer can go even further.  When both take place consistently, your pastor will begin to feel like he could move mountains!  Based on some of the best encouragers I’ve known over there years, here are a few ideas on how to encourage your pastor(s).

  • Send a card that expresses how much you value the role they have as your pastor. (cards are easier to file than emails)
  • Let them know that they made a difference in growing your love for Jesus. (often times the enemy tries to convince us that we aren’t making a difference)
  • Be specific about something they said or did and how it benefited your relationship with the Lord. (sometimes the deceiver tries to convince the pastor that no one notices)
  • When offering spoken encouragement, look your pastor in the eyes. (it’s a nonverbal way to communicate that you are their friend) (-Pastors sometimes falsely believe that they aren’t allowed to have friends among the people they lead. – I reject this thinking!)

I know that this blog has readers who are in a lot of churches other than mine. So I feel comfortable offering this as a 3rd party intermediary.  Don’t say to your pastor, “hey, I read this blog and it said I should give you this.”  Feel free to leave me out of it and make your encouragement your own.  Be personal.  Be genuine.  And let me know how it goes.  Share here on this blog what you did to encourage your pastor (or what you intend to do since it is not yet officially Pastor appreciation month.)

Bill Hybels has said on many occasions that he believes “the local church is the hope of the world.”  It’s true because the local church – when healthy – carries the light of Jesus.  Healthy churches are led by encouraged pastors.

And to my pastors; Joe and Andy, I love serving with you.  Thank you for being pastors for me and my family.  Know that I’m praying for your leadership and I submit to you as brothers and leaders under Christ (Ephesians 5:21).  May God bless your ministries wholly and completely as He has blessed me through each of you.


Holy

by Matt Redman, Jason Ingram, Jonas Myrin

Verse 1
What heart could hold the weight of Your love
And know the heights of Your great worth
What eyes could look on Your glorious face
Shining like the sun
(REPEAT)

Chorus 1
You are holy holy holy
God most high and God most worthy
You are holy holy holy
Jesus You are Jesus You are
(Jesus You are Jesus You are)

Verse 2
Your name alone has pow’r to raise us
Your light will shine when all else fades
Our eyes will look on Your glorious face
Shining like the sun
Who is like You God

Misc 1
(BRIDGE)
Who shall we say You are
You’re the living God
Who shall we say You are
You’re the Great I Am
The highest name of all
You’re all You say You are

Verse 3
And You will come again in glory
To judge the living and the dead
All eyes will look on Your glorious face
Shining like the sun
Who is like You God

In scripture we are instructed by the psalmist.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring and offering, and come into His courts. Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness, tremble before him, all the earth. Psalm 96:7-9

This instruction means for us to acknowledge out-loud the attributes of our creator God – to give him the credit, respect and honor he deserves because of his character.  So in this song we attribute or ascribe several things to God and we do this as one body, a family.  Here is what we are ascribing to the Lord in this song;

  • Holiness (You are Holy)
  • Power (your name has power to raise us)
  • Glory (all eyes will look on your glorious face)
  • Great love (what heart could hold the weight)
  • Great worth (or know the heights)
  • And in case we miss anything we declare (You’re ALL you say you are)

As we ascribe to the Lord the glory due him, we also declare that this is true of his Son, Jesus.  Jesus demonstrated these things to be true in his life, death and resurrection.  He showed to us the character of the Father.  So we are indeed singing of Jesus, the God-man when we sing to the Lord.  After asking his disciples “Who do people say that I am?” he asked a more personal question.  “Who do you say that I am?”  Matt Redman’s song Holy gives us the opportunity to answer that question in unity singing, “You’re the living God,” “You’re the great I AM.”

As you worship the living God this Sunday may your worship be a sweet sweet sound to his ear, and may your singing be an extension of your obedient life.  This is our reasonable offering.


Don’t Tell Me How to Love God

To many, the term worship has become a smorgasbord-word and the definition varies with each individual according to how they fill their plate.  Successful worship then is judged according to how the song arrangements makes them feel.  To allow more people to “feel” like successful worshipers, we ask pastors and worship leaders to become short-order cooks and prepare only the favorite dishes week after week.  We might be extremely disciplined in our physical diets because of our desire to live healthy lives, but when it comes to the spiritual we only want what tastes good.  Caught in the trap of this mindset we reject any disagreeable exhortation from fellow worshipers.  We think it a comfortable compromise to say “You love God in your way and let me love Him in my way.”

Matthew 22:37-39 is referenced a lot as a foundation for building a healthy worship philosophy.  I’ve used it many times when leading worship.  Most worship leaders, if asked for a two word definition for worship would very likely answer “Loving God.”

“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important; ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matt 22:37-39 NLT

This is an important statement by Christ and because we acknowledge that Christ is the Son of God, we know that this greatest commandment is God revealing what He expects of us, His people.  But what does it mean to love God with all our heart, soul and mind? Is He talking about feeling love toward God? If I have a happy feeling about God does that mean I am worshiping? Though our God is Righteous, I can’t see Him warning us that we’ve “Lost that lovin’ feelin’.” Would we dare to define true worship with the words of Blue Swede -“Hooked on  a Feeling?”

There’s more to it than just feeling love for God.  Worship isn’t meant to be passive.  It’s active.  Over and over again Christ reminded His disciples that they should obey.   John 14:5 relay’s Jesus’ instruction most clearly “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” How do we love God? WE OBEY.  This is successful worship.

Obedience is a worship dish that is best served hot!  We don’t go at this obedience half-hearted.  And we don’t with grumbling in our spirit.  We serve God with a glad heart and with our whole heart.  It is our desire to demonstrate our love to God that should motivate our obedience.  It’s easy to obey when there is a reward, but what if our obedience was simply obedience.  My kids are much more obedient when they know they are earning a special privileged or if they know that Christmas is getting close.  This obedience demonstrates a love of self.  We are all guilty of this when it comes to our worship.

I have had occasions in the middle of leading worship when I sing a lyric such as “all of you is more than enough for me” and I know that I haven’t lived as if that were true. While I keep singing, I begin to pray in my heart and repent from the times I’ve lived for myself rather than for God.  If all of Jesus is more than enough for us then we demonstrate this by pursuing him with relentless obedience motivated in love.


Keep Sowing

Remembering that Christ used seed as parable on multiple occasions, please read my following story with your spiritual eyes wide open.

There’s just something very refreshing about coming home from work and walking out to the garden with fresh seeds.  That’s what I got to do Monday evening.  After I pulled into the driveway, carried my backpack in and set it by the sofa, I kissed my wife on the face and asked “where’s my packets of seeds?” I hadn’t needed them since I planted in the spring.  That was months ago so I lost track.  I found my seed and tromped out to my garden spots determined to sow a little hope.

In the spring I had such high hopes for a garden that would feed us a bounty of fresh food.  I sowed tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, carrots, radishes, snow peas, onions, garlic, strawberries, basil and asparagus.  I knew that it would take a couple years for the strawberries and asparagus, but there would be plenty of other vegetables to feed us over the summer months.

But after a while the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land.” 1 Kings 17:7

Fortunately I started my garden earlier than I normally do.  I had some nice radishes and we really enjoyed the snow peas but it went downhill fast after that. I waited and waited to get some nice peppers but only had four all season from four pepper plants. Onions = 0, Carrots = 0, Garlic = 0, Strawberries = 7 tiny ones (but small enough to add up to one barely full sized berry.) If it weren’t for the lettuce and tomatoes we got to enjoy, we would still have lived like those who think that food only comes from the grocery store.

I have had several gardens through the years, good ones too.  Everyone’s gardens suffered this year from the extreme heat and drought.  I don’t begrudge or complain. Because I enjoy gardening and the taste of fresh produce I won’t stop planting.  In order for us to enjoy the fruits once again, we have to labor in the garden where life is yearning to burst forth.  So many of my little seed packets offered two seasons for planting April-May and July-August.  It’s not too late to work toward a harvest in the autumn season, so I will sow more seed and keep sowing seed.

Father, would You bring the rain of Your word once again to so many who are thirsty for You.  Help our churches to sow the seed of Christ into the souls who long to taste the freshness of new life in You.  Even we who are in You are hungry for a fresh work of Your power in our day.  We repent from our dry season of complaining about the weather and harsh conditions of our culture.  You have commanded us to sow Christ.  We ask You to let Your healing rain fall on us once again. -Amen.

Have you suffered a dry season in your life and recovered to see a season of growth and strength?  Have you asked Christ to do something new and bold in your life lately?  Have you given up on a friend only to share Jesus at a later date and find your friend surprisingly receptive?


Happy Dependence Day

 

Wednesday we will celebrate the anniversary of when the United States first declared its independence from the oppressive empire of Britain.  (This is history, not politics.)  In contrast, every Sunday, as believers we celebrate our dependence on Jesus Christ.  The United States, at its very foundation, gained its freedom by declaring itself sovereign then fighting and winning a war for liberty. As believers, we recognize Christ as our sovereign.  We trust in the battle that Christ won on our behalf; His death on the cross a substitute for our sin, His resurrection from the dead that we might have life.

The slave does not remain in the house forever, the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:35-36

In this word picture, Jesus explains why He, the Son of God, had to be the One to pay the debt of sin owed by humanity.  We are all slaves to sin because of our sin nature.  We owe a debt that we cannot pay.  As slaves, we do not have authority over sin.  We cannot break its power over us by our mere, limited words.  But Jesus could pay our debt and He did.  And after paying our debt, Jesus as God’s Son, has the authority to declare us free!  And He does, to all who believe in Him and call upon His name!

Christ is the One who has made us free!  Let us celebrate our dependence on Him.

This post originally appeared in “The Connection.”  The Sunday morning publication of First Southern Baptist Church Lawrence.

 


From The Inside Out

From The Inside Out

by Joel Houston

Verse 1
A thousand times I’ve failed
Still Your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I’m caught in Your grace
Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never-ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

Verse 2
Your will above all else
My purpose remains
The art of losing myself
In bringing You praise
Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never-ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

Pre-Chorus
In my heart in my soul
Lord I give You control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise
Become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Chorus 1
Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never-ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart
Is to bring You praise
From the inside out
Lord my soul cries out

This song by Joel Houston and Hillsong has gotten a lot of play on christian radio lately.  And I hope congregations are singing these words as a “healthy part of a balanced worship.”  At FSBC Lawrence, this song is our theme song for our “What Is God Searching for?” summer sermon series.

In this summer series we have taken on the challenge of living out the christian life so that the world sees Christ as he truly is and not the “stereotype” of christian the world has gotten to know in recent years.  We will look at several attributes demonstrated by Christ, but our underlying theme is that Christ is the one who changes us “from the inside out.”

Moralism would have us believe that we please God but simply living good, moral lives.  But moralism is a false Gospel.  The picture we are given in the gospel is one of surrender.  According to the gospel it is not possible for us to live good lives.  In fact even our very best effort, which Isaiah calls “our righteous deeds,” are no cleaner than “filthy rags.”

“We are all infected and impure with sin.  When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” Isaiah 64:6

It is important to recognize first that we can not change our behavior by simply “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.” We can only be changed by the person of Christ.  When we fully surrender, He comes in and begins a new work in us that changes us “from the inside out.”  In the words of Paul…

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

The church has a responsibility to instruct and encourage the body to live rightly before God and to live our lives as a testimony to a rebellious world.  But as we offer such instruction, we must always be clear that changing our moral behavior is not the means or the end. Rather it is the follow through, and obedience, of a heart that has already surrendered to the Savior.

Only Jesus Christ can save and redeem us.  Logic follows that only Jesus Christ can than transform our lives, “From the Inside Out.”