Tag Archives: God

Be Astonished and Afraid

Jesus wasn’t looking for fan, he was inviting followers. We have spent the last 6 weeks examining this from many angles, however in a congregation our size it seems there are always some who hold on to the idea that being a fan of Jesus is what we do here. We are really missing something if we get from scripture that we are merely to believe or behave.   Jesus’ disciples certainly did believe and behave, but that isn’t what made them disciples.  They followed!

What’s the difference? At what point does believing or behaving become following? That’s a fantastic question and I’m really glad you asked it. The answer is much too long for a little column like this one, so I would suggest that you go back and listen to Joe’s messages on the church website.  Get a copy of the book “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman and read it. Most of all, pray. Examine your life and ask God, “When I did this thing today (be specific) was that the actions of a follower or a fan?”

Let me offer this for you to think about: in Mark 10:32 Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem.  This takes place just before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.

“They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished and those who follower were afraid.”  NIV

When you follow Jesus daily you will certainly have many moments were you are astonished at what he is doing in your life. You will also find yourself afraid, not the kind of fear that reveals a lack of trust but instead the kind of fear that leaves you no other choice but to fully trust in Jesus.  Jesus will often lead you to places that will make you uncomfortable – places you would not go on your own.

Please, please, please don’t let this series fade into a distant memory as a nice sermon series that meets your expectations for a quality worship service and message. Make a conscious examination of yourself through the lens of scripture, narrated by the Holy Spirit.  Determine to be a follower and put away the selfish ways of religious fandom.


A Great Time To Be a Fan – A Critical Time To Be a Follower

I’m writing this blog post on Thursday but it will post on Saturday. As of now the KC Royals are playing every game hoping that the next victory will help them squeeze their way into the post-season.  The Chiefs are off to their best start in recent memory with a great chance to knock out their new coach’s former team.  It’s a great time to be a fan of KC sports.

I suppose it’s a great time to be a fan of Jesus as well.  After all, He conquered the greatest enemy of all – death!  And while we may “share” in the Royals’ or Chiefs’ victory through the window of our televisions, we can only share Jesus’ victory if we follow Him.  And following Jesus is hard!  While being a fan of Jesus might be socially acceptable, following Jesus isn’t.  In fact Jesus himself said that if we follow him, the people will despise us.

“And all nations will hate you because you are my followers.  But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22

“Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master.  And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names.” Matthew 10:25

It seems to me that we are in the middle of a message series that approaches those teachings of Jesus which the crowd considered to be too difficult to understand and/or follow.  John records in chapter 6 that many, in fact, turned away.  Remember that these are the same people who ate the miracle fish and bread meal earlier in the chapter.  It very well may be that this series offers a turning point for all of us who listen.  What if we find the cost of being a follower to high?  What if we discover that we prefer what is socially acceptable rather than obedience?

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23


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.


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 2: Sick and Tired

Part two of the obstacles to worship series comes on the back end of my sick week.  Last week I had the respiratory bug and lost my voice for the weekend.  I can’t even put to words how frustrating and discouraging this was.  By Sunday morning I felt better except that I was a little tired and my voice  made me sound like Lurch from the Adams Family; only shorter.

I was forced to offer worship to God without using my voice. No Singing! If I tried, very little came out.  I did not feel so bad that I could not attend worship, so I came to worship.  Physically I was present, but I had to engage myself into worship in a different mode.  I believe that scripture is very clear in that we are all to “sing our praises to the Lord.”  Sunday morning I longed to sing at the top of my lungs but it was not to be.  I felt chipper, joyful, but no joyful noise would come forth.  Could I really lead worship without a voice?

I could and I did with the help of my team.  Here’s how;

  • The early service was, in some ways a easier and in some ways more difficult.
  1. I was able to hand of the congregational leading to a faithful choir member.
  2. I could still direct the choir special – (my voice loss hadn’t affected my arms.) However–
  3. In the traditional setting where only two instruments play the accompaniment and the congregation’s only mode of participation is “stand and sing” I was unable to worship out loud.  I could lead the choir and that was it. So I was only actively participating on that one song.  Clapping isn’t a regular practice in that setting, so my hands were useless as a praise instrument.  I stood on the front row and smiled.  If the bass part descended into my range I grunted a few notes.
  • The second service also had it’s limitations and opportunities.
  1. I handed off the song intros to a praise team member. And another praise team member was already carrying the melody. (A team of vocalists is effective at leading worship and is also a built in back up plan when I can’t lead.)
  2. I could still play guitar and lead the band on all the worship music.  This was very close to full participation to me.  I really felt like I was worshiping even though my voice wasn’t a part of the offering.  (Were I not playing guitar I would have been clapping.)
  3. I smiled.  When I think about the Lord, He makes me smile.  I can’t help it.  Smiling leads people in worship.  Even when I’m not singing, I can communicate the joy of the Lord with a smile.  I’m always preaching to the choir that they need to smile, so I made certain that my discouragement about not having a voice didn’t derail my heart from worshiping.

Worshipers and worship leaders, what do you do when you aren’t quite yourself on a Sunday morning?  Do you give up and go home or come and observe as a non-participant?  How do you find ways to join God’s people in praise when you just don’t have it?


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? 


As You Wish

I’m sure that many are excited that “The Avengers” released on DVD and blueray  this week.  I know I am.  But I’m even more interested that this is the 25th anniversary of “The Princess Bride.”

I must have watched that movie a hundred times during college – mostly in my friends apartment.  It’s always been that movie that “had it all.” It has action, adventure, mystery, intrigue and the kind of quick witted comedy that will have you rolling around on the floor shouting “rewind it, rewind it!” (although that would mostly be Bryan)

In addition to celebrating this great movie, my mindset as a believer points me to the overall theme of this movie -True Love.  From beginning to end this movie offers up its model of true love with the phrase “as you wish.”  This too is how we should show our love to our heavenly Father.

In our day and with the great draw of Christian worship music, we are constantly tempted to believe that when our music in church is well done, then we’ve worshiped God well or that if we love the music, then God felt loved by us.  It’s true that singing our songs of Praise is an act of love toward God, but it is not our complete worship offering.  Yes, singing to God is commanded in scripture, but in itself, it is only a small portion of our love demonstrated.

True love for God is saying “as You wish,” then doing it daily, whole heartedly, gladly and faithfully.  Jesus said “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)  But he didn’t just demand obedience, he demonstrated it by showing in one act his love for the Father and for human kind. “When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8)

Will you also surrender your whole obedience to God as your offering of true love? Are you willing to demonstrate “as You wish” love for Christ and keep his commands?

 

In the Garden Jesus prayed to the Father, “not my will, but yours be done.” (As You wish.)


Because He Lives

Why do we sing the songs we sing in worship?  What makes them appropriate?  Are worship pastors purposeful in the songs we select or guilty of picking their favorites or the songs most requested by others?

The only true “series” I keep with on this blog is the “Why do we sing that?” series.  I like series, but I just haven’t found the kinds of serial topics that work with my designated purpose for the Schoeneblog. Yes Wiseheimer, the Schoeneblog has a purpose.  If you missed it, I blogged about it here.

A couple weeks ago we sang the great hymn by Bill and Gloria Gaither, “Because He Lives.”  You know the song.  We’ve sung it in our churches for years.

Because He Lives

Verse 1
God sent His Son they called Him Jesus
He came to love heal and forgive
He bled and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove
My Savior lives

Chorus 1
Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives

“Because He Lives” is a great song and I will continue to slot it into services of worship when it is the right fit for that particular Sunday. But I want to use it as an example of the positive and negative potential of a song that has been in our lives for an extended time.   I’ll start with the positive power of such a song.

  • The positive influence of Familiarity. Songs can become the sound track for our daily living.  Worship songs remind us of truth that Jesus lives.  We live with this truth directing our steps each day.
  • The positive side of Sentiment.  A song can bring us back to a moment when God was performing a particular work within us.  When we hear that song again, we are reminded that God is active and working in our lives.  We also are reminded of the commitment of surrender that we have mad to Him.  We can also be reminded of the great heritage of faith that passed the songs down to us.

Okay, now for the disappointing news.

  • Familiarity can breed apathy. When we become too accustomed to a song we tend to mentally “check out” during worship.  The is something we should never do since we are instructed to Love the Lord with all your heart with all your mind and with all your strength. I realize that people can “check out” during a new song as well, but right now I’m reminding us of the adage that familiarity breeds apathy.
  • Sentiment can deter our focus. If a song has attached itself to a particular memory or feeling, we tend to give our hearts permission to remain in that memory rather than participate in the presence of Holy God. For me, I can’t hear “In the Garden” without thinking of a casket.  It doesn’t make it a bad song. It just makes it a challenge for me to focus my worship on God.

When we sing songs in worship that we have heard at least 50 plus times, we are prone to the apathy that comes with familiarity and the sinful side of sentiment.  But it doesn’t have to be so!  As you see, there are great benefits that can only be reached by repeating a powerful song often enough that it becomes a helpful companion on your faith journey.

I thank God for the song Because He Lives.  As a child standing on the pew and peeking over the top of the shared hymnal between my mother and father, the song made it clear to me that Jesus is alive!  And it reminds me still today!  The fact that He Lives propels everything we do as a church family and as followers.  At FSBC, it’s the first three words of our purpose statement.

Because Jesus Lives! FSBC exists as a local body of Christ to: worship God; share the love and Good News of Jesus Christ with our community and the world: encourage and equip believers in the faith; and serve others with mercy and love.

It is implied in our statement of mission: Connecting people with God and one another. We seek to connect people to a LIVING God. Were Jesus not living, we would pursue our mission statement in vain.


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 theses  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.