Tag Archives: Lord

Forget the New Resolutions – Just Be New

I didn’t make any “New Year’s” resolutions this year… There. I said it. Each year I make a few and always fail to follow through.  I start off well, but inevitably, I always regress back to the norm.  What I need to do is redefine what my normal is. I need a new normal.

2 Corinthians 5 talks about a new normal.  It would be a good place for all of us to begin the New Year.

If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God.  And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit.  Either way, Christ’s love controls us.  Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.  He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.  So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view.  At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view.  How differently we know him now!  This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Cor 5:13-17

Perhaps the reason many of us continually fail to follow through on our resolutions is because we make resolutions based on living for ourselves.  Too often I fall into the trap of thinking that God’s whole existence is to make MY IDEA of “the good life” become a reality for ME. “I can do all things, through him who strengthens me” is not a verse about ME.  It is a verse about CHRIST!  I can pursue God’s will in every circumstance!

When I try to live for God, in my own will, it doesn’t work out.  I fail.  It’s a trap to try and conveniently add Christ into OUR old normal.  HE doesn’t fit there!  The only way to grab hold of the new life is to die to the old one.  Whoever belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The OLD LIFE IS GONE.  We are foolish when we try to go back to the old life and live in our will. Let us all fully embrace the New Normal – this new life, in Christ.  And may we never, ever let go of him.

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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!


Don’t Give Up On Your Dreams

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer For The Struggling Servant

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

Christmas in October

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

The Tongue (caution! hazardous when in use)

Beware of the backhanded complement.  Yes, I mean you… and me… and all of us.  This is a caution to anyone with a tongue.
Pastor Joe was right on Sunday! Boy, do I need to hear that sermon everyday!  Note to self; Speak Sweeter!  I’m not saying that I’m a foul mouth, though I could have said that about my old self would.  And I’m not saying that I’m prone to insult others either.  I’m sure I have been insulting, but it’s not a regular practice.  All things considered, I think I hold my tongue rather well.  But, on the contrary, I am only deceiving myself because James 3:8 say that “No man can tame the tongue.” It’s hard It’s impossible for all of us.
My mom always told me; “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all!”  She was right!  And I’m ashamed of the times when I didn’t heed that wisdom.  I’ve become more skilled at holding my tongue.  You know; keeping it on a leash.  But keeping the tongue on a leash is not the same thing as “taming” the tongue.  I need to graduate from those wise words and use my tongue to encourage and build up others.
A tame animal does not need a leash to keep it from attacking others.  Leashes are for animals that can not be trusted to behave. (The tongue is one such animal!) If the leash breaks, then LOOK OUT!  And if no man can tame the tongue as James claims then it will take more than a man.  It will require the intervention of the God Man, Jesus.  Only Jesus can tame our tongues.  He is the only one who can be trusted with such a powerful weapon.
Let me explain what I mean when I say I hope to graduate from the “don’t say anything at all” set of guidelines.  I want to be good at the art of the compliment.  If my tongue is under Jesus control, then he will use it to build others up and to encourage them.  When I try to do this on my own, my natural gift of sarcasm tends to take over.
  • Me to self:  I want to compliment this person.  They’ve really been doing a great job!
  • Sarcastic self says to me: Great idea, I’ll take it from here
  • Me:  Thanks for wiping down those tables.  It make such a nice impression on people and shows that we care.
  • Sarcastic self:  You’re really good at that, ever consider a career as a bus boy?
WHY does this happen?  Because “no one can tame the tongue.”
2 Reasons we fail to give genuine encouragement.
  1. Sarcasm – We really want to say something nice, but our pride talks us out of it. Somehow we think that building others up will lower our worth in their eyes.  Our desire to “build others up” gets polluted by our “tear others down so we look smarter” strategy.  So Pride sends Sarcasm to the front line and allows us to safely give a compliment (sort of) and at the same time protect our “I’m better than you” falsely inflated ego that we can’t seem to live without.
  2. The Backhanded Compliment. Another detour from a real heartfelt compliment is the “backhanded compliment.” It’s a loophole in the “if you can’t say anything nice” strategy.  It goes something like this; If you must say something rude at least disguise it as a compliment.  Here are a few examples; “You really sound good when you just sing” “You look so pretty today, I almost didn’t recognize you.” “You clean up nice.” “You know, you’re pretty smart for a liberal arts major.”
whywhywhy(shakes head) – Okay, James we get it. NO ONE can tame the tongue.  We try and try, but we just come up with sarcastic, backhanded, what’s in it for me?, half-hearted efforts that fall far short of our goal, which is to offer real encouragement.
Lord, save us from our tongues.  Save others from our tongues!  Have mercy on us when we try and fail to tame our tongues.  May our words be Sweeter.  Give us Your words to speak, to build, and to encourage others.
Have you ever been the victim of a backhanded compliment?  Can you share it with us?  What is your favorite backhanded compliment?  Perhaps it would help if we laugh at ourselves and our stupid tongues.  Leave a comment below.  This could be interesting.

Honesty; The Best Policy

Honesty is hard! So hard that I find many people avoiding it all together. I’m not saying they have been dishonest with me. I can’t be sure. I do know this, that honesty is a must for those who choose to follow Christ.
I can think of many cliches regarding honesty and many of them seem negative. “Can I be honest with you?” “To be honest, I…” “Let me be brutally honest,” Brutally Honest? Does honesty have to be brutal?
I guess honesty can be brutal to those who prefer the world of their own ideals to the truth that is staring them in the face. Take it from a recovering idealist; Truth is better than the seduction of a false reality. But I don’t think honesty needs to be “brutal.” It’s not something that needs to brings us fear.
Jesus declared himself to be “the TRUTH, the way and the life” and No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. In order to “come to the Father” we must face the truth of who Jesus says He is and who He says we are. It is impossible to come to God with out coming through Jesus, Who is truth.
Honesty is good. And I don’t simple mean being honest by telling the truth to others. It is imperative for us to be honest with ourselves. Our failings, our brokenness, our inadequacies take on a transformational value when we are honest about them. For instance, if we treat failure with denial, we are doomed to fail again. On the other hand, if we are honest about our failure, we will seek help and advice and turn that failure into an opportunity for growth. Same goes for our brokenness and inadequacy. Healing and Courage will come from truth and honesty. Faking it, will only lead to more pain and more fear.

My prayer for “Live Like You Were Dying” is that we as a the body at FSBC will be honest to God about who we are and where we can improve.

Father help me be honest with myself about the kind of husband, father, son, employee, leader, steward I have been. Help me be honest about how I have spoken to others so that I can Speak Sweeter. Spirit, lead me to a place where I can be honest about the feebleness of my attempts to “love” others and help me to love deeper with Jesus’ love. Where I have chosen to hold on to hurt and anger and bitterness, help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me. I don’t want to wait until my life is nearly over to do the things I ought to. Lord, I realize I’m asking for a blessing I don’t deserve. Please grant me the blessing to live a transformed life.


The Centrality of Jesus in Worship

Thank you for allowing me, this past Sunday to share with you about worship. I’ve heard it said about me that my passion is worship. Let me amend this assumption, by saying that my true passion is WHO I worship – Jesus.

As I mentioned Sunday, our worship starts with Jesus. As we reach out with our worship – we find the One who first reached out to us – Jesus. To Jesus who poured out his blood, we pour out our worship! As God the Father raised Him from the dead, we raise our voices full of His praise!

We also can experience true freedom in worship. The Bible instructs us to worship in various ways.

Psalm 33:1-3

1 Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous;

it is fitting for the upright to praise him.

2 Praise the Lord with the harp;

make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.

3 Sing to him a new song;

play skillfully,and shout for joy.

We should SING JOYFULLY. We should SHOUT for JOY!
We should PLAY SKILLFULLY on instruments such as a harp or ten-stringed lyre. (both very popular instruments in their day. We should sing A NEW SONG!

It’s no mystery that the most important worship verse Romans 12:1 is immediately followed in verse 2 by a verse that speaks of transformation.

1 And so, dear brothers and sisters,* I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.*2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

This is our TRUE worship! also put – This is your spiritual act of worship (NIV) or This is your reasonable service (NKJV) – regardless of your translation of choice, I was to do what is TRUE and what is SPIRITUAL and what is REASONABLE.

God, in Christ, changes us as we worship Him. Simply being in His presence is surely transformational. He will transform us if we let Him and change the way we think. For this to happen, we must make sure our worship is Romans 12:1 worship. TRUE-SPIRITUAL-REASONABLE-worship. This is us dying to self and turning it ALL over to Him, our body, our finances, our attitudes. Let Him use us as he sees fit. This takes humility-selflessness-sacrifice.
One could make the assumption that if He isn’t changing us, then perhaps there is still something we have laid claim to in our lives, something we have not yet given up.

The hardest thing for me to do, in this flesh, is to say these three words – “I am wrong.” But, in order for God to change the way I think, I have to turn over my thinking to Him.

Isaiah 55:8
8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

I have to confess this verse often. It’s important. Not just when we don’t know the answers, in fact, it may be even more important to confess this verse when we are absolutely 100 percent sure that we have the answers. No matter how right we think we are – “His ways are not our ways.”

Father, change my mind and my heart and my will. Transform me until the only thing others see is Jesus reflected in me. Take all that I have, it’s Yours. In fact, take my whole body, here it is, it’s Yours. You gave it to me anyway and it’s purpose should be to honor You. My mouth, that’s a part of my body isn’t it? Let it always honor You and speak boldly the name of Jesus. My fingers, they are part of this body, let the write what is True-Spiritual-Reasonable. My feet, also a part of the body. Let them go places that You would go, but I am too often afraid to go. My eyes are Yours too. Help me to see others they way Jesus sees. My life, my whole self is Yours.

I didn’t mean for this post to be so lengthy. I’d love to read your comments. Are you discovering these same truths as you become more and more humble with your worship? Do you find God changing your mind? Have you ever had a thought that you just knew was right, only to find out that His thoughts are not your thoughts? Please post your comments below.


Happy Baseball Day!

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It’s that time of year again!! I’m so excited. For me Opening Day really is like a holiday. That makes last night Baseball’s Eve.

My favorite baseball carol is probably “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” but that is probably everybody’s favorite. I also like the clapping song, you know, the one with 2 claps followed by a pause then 3 quick claps. It goes like this; clap clap…. clap clap clap. Yeah… that’s a nice baseball carol.

If I had remembered to leave my stocking out last night, I’m sure that George Brett would have come down my chimney and left a tube of liniment or lucky socks. I forgot to leave up my stocking, but I still have the hope and anticipation that comes with the start of a new season. No one knows who will win and who will loose. There will be many surprises and some teams will overachieve while others fail to live up to expectations.

It life, however we KNOW that Jesus has already given us the victory and conquered our foe, the devil! AND All things are possible in Christ; As we live out this life, we are more than conquerors. True, that nothing will surprise our Lord, but we will continually be delighted and surprised by what he does in us, through us and all around us. We will see Him do things that we just shake our head at and say “WOW.” We’ll call these thing miracles.

For those of you who enjoy baseball…. Have a Happy Baseball Day. And to ALL of you; may you know the blessing and joy of living each day “In Christ.” In Him, you are more than conquerors, the victory is already here, Christ has won it and he invites us to join his team and share in that victory.


Fun, Fellowship and Rock-n-Roll

I’m still contemplating the devotion, talents and skills of our members involved in Phil’s Diner 2. This past weekend was an awesome time of fun, fellowship and rock-n-roll. I enjoyed that our church was saying to our friends and neighbors “Just come and have fun with us.” And FUN it was indeed.

Now we are all exhausted. I fought the temptation to cancel a Monday 5:15 creative team meeting. A team of which each member was involved in the Dinner Theater. I’m sure they were all as exhausted as I was and still am. I didn’t cancel and we had a great meeting.

It’s a good kind of exhaustion we are feeling. Job well done by all of you!! It was worth it. People came and some came back Sunday morning. Others will trickle in to our presence again, down the road and they’ll remember the joyful spirits and presentation of Phil’s Diner. They’ll remember that we are a church. They have recognized that we are a family. They have seen us work and play well with each other. We set an example of being the body.

Here is a warning. In your exhaustion you (and I) need to rest. But it is tempting to turn inward and become self focused. This happened to Elijah after the big show at Mt. Carmel. God used him to put the prophets of Baal to shame, then Elijah ran and hid in Horeb. I’ve experienced this Elijah syndrome myself and it is the pits!

What am I trying to say? Cast, Crew, Leaders, Musician – You did a fantastic job Friday and Saturday and all the days leading up to them in which you worked hard a prepared. Now, rest and prepare yourselves to lead and serve again. But don’t go hide and don’t despair. The Lord is on your side and is with you. He will give you rest and He is not done doing great things IN you!