Tag Archives: Jesus

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.

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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.


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.


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 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.


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.


A Bit About Blogging

After took a break from blogging during the month of July, I heard from many of you who read my blog.  Thank you for asking me when the next blog would come and for encouraging me with your kind comments.  I would love to hear from you in the comment section and benefit from your voice in the conversation.

Blogging is not easy.  I enjoy writing and fleshing out my thoughts, but believe me when I tell you that it takes constant discipline on my part to sit down at the computer, take the ideas spinning around in my head and organize them into, what I hope to be, a clear and useful blog post.  With my six week blogging hiatus behind me, I need to remind myself again what it is that I hope to accomplish with the Schoeneblog and why I started the blog in the first place.

My hopes and dreams for the Schoeneblog:

  1. As I post weekly about Christian worship, I hope that the process of meditating on and articulating scriptural truths about worship will make me a better worshiper and a better worship leader.
  2. I would like the Schoeneblog to be a place for conversations about worship, both personal and corporate.
  3. I hope that the ideas shared here will aid readers in their personal growth and help shape the way they think about worshiping God.
  4. As readers add their comments to the blog, I hope to discover from them resources and ideas I would otherwise miss.
 
 
Do you read other blogs about worship?
What other blogs to you read?
What do you seek to gain when you read the Schoeneblog and other blogs like it?
If you are a blogger, why do you blog?

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.”