Friday, December 28, 2007

A New Year


"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness...for this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." II Peter 1:3, 5-8)

A new year is fast approaching and if you're anything like me, the new year stands for a few things: hope for change, desire to break some patterns and a renewed dedication to making the coming year, better. Well my dear friends and readers, it all starts and ends with God and our relationship with Him. Allow me to pull out a few things from this passage that will help us all as we enter the new year.

1. HIS diving power has given us everything we need...
- Everything we need to live a godly life comes from Him. It's His power, not ours; His Spirit, not ours. This means that the further we are from Him, the less we have for life and godliness; and the closer we are to Him, the more of His power we will have. I know. I have been living on "Mike" power for the past few months and I feel it...I feel empty and weak, like a car that is not operating on all its cylinders or, as Bilbo Baggins put it, "like butter that has been scraped over too much bread." Peter reminds us here that EVERYTHING we need for life and godliness is available to us, but it all comes from Him.

2. ...if you possess these qualities in increasing measure...
- There is a list of qualities we're supposed to have but it's not the list that's as important as the word "increasing." Read vs 8 again, here in the NAS version: "For if these qualities are yours and are increasing..." Catch it now? The goal here is that these qualities increase in our lives. That there is forward motion to them, that our pursuit of godliness is not stagnant or "stuck in port," but is in fact moving in a forward direction. How important is this? Important enough that Peter ends his letter with this same thought in chapter 3 verse 18; "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." It can't get any clearer then that: we are to be growing in our relationship with Christ.

Bringing it back: so what does this mean for us? If you profess to be a Christian, a "Christ-follower," then our number 1 and most important goal for 2008 should be GROWTH. In truth, in any relationship you have you are either moving closer to that person or moving further from them. There is no "holding" pattern. So it is with Christ; we are either "growing in our grace and knowledge," "possessing Christ's qualities in increasing measure," or we're not. Equally important is to realize that we can't do this on our own, but it is God's power that gives us the ability to grow.

My number 1 goal for 2008 is to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ and to possess His qualities in increasing measure. Join me...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Levi sets the pace

"My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. 'For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction—because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty.' " (Malachi 2:5-7)

I came across this verse a number of years ago and it stopped me then, as it continues to stop me today. It has become a "life-verse" for me in a sense; I put "life-verse" in quotes because it's something I want my life to be marked by, but it is such a high calling I feel I could never measure up. Nevertheless, it's a passage that has impacted me and so I share it with you now. And let me tell you, as I have studied these verses, there is much more here then first meets the eye, and I am still uncovering it. However, I present you with the initial thoughts that hit me when I first read it...

1. The covenant: just as God made a covenant with Levi (the covenant was actually established through Phineas), God has made a covenant with us. The covenant with Levi was one of an "everlasting priesthood" just as God's covenant with us involves an everlasting priesthood (we are being made into a kingdom of priests, and also, Jesus stands as our great priest: click here for more on this). The covenant with Levi was one of "life" and "peace" and in a very real sense, God's covenant with us is one of "life" (through Jesus) and one of "peace" (again, through Jesus, the "Prince of Peace").

Now for our part...
2. We are to "revere God" and stand in "awe" of His name.
- Revere
: to regard with awe, deference or devotion.
- Awe
: A mixed emotion of reverence, respect, dread, and wonder inspired by authority, genius, great beauty, sublimity, or might...
I read in a book this year that the word "awesome," which I (and we) so casually throw around, is a word that should actually be reserved for God.
- Awesome: worthy of awe.
Question: do I revere God and stand in awe of Him?

3. My mouth should be filled with true instruction, and nothing false. That is indeed a high calling. How often have I casually handed out advice, criticism, judgment and worse? In order for the above to be true of me, it presupposes that I have true instruction to give. This requires a knowledge of God's Word and His desires that can only be found in study, prayer, solitude and experience. And how about that "nothing false" bit? Do I speak truthfully always? There are two parts to "nothing false;" a) there is the obvious part of telling a lie, b) there is the less obvious part of withholding the truth (which so many public figures are so good at), and c) there is the even less-obvious part of shrinking back from difficult situations. It is easy to avoid a) but how about b) and c)? Can it be said of me that in all times, in all situations, my mouth was filled with true instruction and nothing false was found on my lips?

4. Perhaps the biggest challenge, am I...
a) walking with God?
b) if so, am I walking with Him in peace (read: am I a peacemaker) and uprightness (with integrity)?
c) am I "turning many from sin?" But how can I be responsible for turning people from sin? Perhaps this can best be answered with another question; is it possible for us to turn someone to sin? I say yes. It is easy for us to lead people into sin. Therefore, as I learned from my logic 101 course so many years ago, the opposite must also be true. But how can we turn people from sin? Many ways; prayer, discipleship, speaking the truth in love (with "true instruction"), training and teaching, sharing your life with others. Perhaps the least effective way to turn someone from sin is the direct approach of telling them they're messing up; but even that can work.

5. Preserving knowledge and knowing your calling: do you know that you too are a messenger of God? The New Testament teaches us that under the new Covenant (Hebrews 8), we are all being made into a kingdom of priests. MUCH MORE can be said here, but think of it this way; the OT priests main duties were to mediate between man and God. Under the new covenant, Jesus provides a way for all of us have direct access to God. In other words, you too, as a believer, are 'on the hook' for preserving knowledge because you "are a messenger of the Lord Almighty."

This is a high calling, but join with me and let's "aim high." I would love nothing more then for God to say of me these same words he said of Levi.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Another Experience

So some friends of mine, our former youth pastor and his wife (Steve and Stephanie Allen), recently moved to Lusaka, Zambia to serve as full-time missionaries. Stephanie was a part of our Worship Ministry here at Northlake before she left and she recently wrote a post on their blog about her worship exeperiences in Zambia. It is interesting to see how worship is in another culture. Check it out here!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A High Priest

WARNING - this is not my typical blog post, but after spending a few day sin Hebrews, I am compelled to write about it. Hebrews is one of my favorite books in the Bible. Why? Quite simply, because it so clearly outlines what I consider two of the most amazing things in the world;
1) We, mere mortals, human beings, 'created beings,' have direct access and a personal relationship with GOD - the uncreated one, the Holy one, the same God of the OT where merely to come into His presence meant certain death.
2) Jesus, God in human flesh, sits at the right hand of God mediating on our behalf.

me·di·a·tor (md-tr)n.
1. One that mediates, especially one that reconciles differences between disputants.

How it used to be (click here): STOP - if you just skipped over that link, go back to it and read the passage it takes you to. The "old order" meant no relationship with God. It required that you go through a priest who, in effect was a "mediator" between you and God. The only time that anyone could be close to God was once a year, and that was only for the high priest. And even then, he had to enter with blood which was offered for his sins, and the sins of the people. As we read later in verse 22, "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." In order to understand how great the gift it, we must first understand how it used to be. Again, we read here - did you catch that? The blood of animals did NOT cleanse the guilty of their sins - it simply served as a reminder of sins. "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins."

We were lost, broken, trapped with a law that merely pointed out our sins, trapped with a ritual system that merely reminded us of that sin, having to go through a priest to get to God. Yes, God was there, but He simply dwealt with us, not IN us.

The new order (read here): Enter Jesus. God in flesh, "Immanuel" ("the 'with us' God"), the "Prince of Peace," the "Lamb that was Slain before the Foundation of the World," the "Holy One." No, the blood of animals cannot cleanse us...if so, there would have been no need to continue the sacrifices. So what is the solution? The blood of Jesus. Read it here - read it again, here. Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou, my God, would die for me?

The new order - we still have to go through a priest, but that priest is Jesus. He now resides in that "inner sanctuary" and has become our high priest forever (here). Not only that, but through His Spirit, He also lives IN us (see here), and furthermore, he now sits at the right hand of God, mediating for us (here, here and here). Here's another one: "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time." (I Timothy 5:6-7). And again: "So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into "the Holy Place." Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The "curtain" into God's presence is his body." (Heb 10:19-21, Message).

So what's the point of all this? First, this kind of "mediator," this kind of "Savior," this kind of "gift" DEMANDS a response from us. That response becomes worship. Not worship as in singing songs, but...

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship." (Romans 12:1)

It is a high calling and not an easy road, but let us never be shaken - "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved." (Eph 2:4-5).

Friday, November 16, 2007

He meets us in our need

Tonight I am tired...and greatly encouraged by a story found in I Kings 18-19. For those of you who grew up in the church, the first part of the story will be familiar. We find Elijah confronting the prophets of Baal and gaining an amazing victory for God. If you're not familiar with the story, you can read it here. I want to focus on what happens next, but to do that we need a little context...

Elijah has just won an amazing victory. He has, with God's help, defeated and killed the prophet of Baal with a miracle - God reigns fire down from heaven, consuming an altar that had been soaked with water. It's an amazing story, filled with Elijah "talking trash," so filled with faith was he. But as we keep reading you may be startled by what happens next;

Elijah, after hearing a threat from Jezebel, flees in fear. In chapter 19:4, he even says "I have had enough, Lord...Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." What happens next? "All at once an angel touched him and said, 'Get up and eat.' He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again." This happened second time as well - the food and water strengthening him and rejuvenating him.

What stopped me was this - Elijah had just been used in an amazing way by God, and he was tired. What did God do? He met Elijah's physical needs - sleep, food and water. There was no condemnation, no "how can you give up and die after what I just did?" If I were God I probably would have been tempted to blast Elijah for so quickly losing heart, losing faith, and forgetting the miracles that had just been done. Instead, we read none of that - God, through His great mercy, met Elijah in his place of need. He sends an angel who brings food and water, and Elijah sleeps.

Sometimes, in our need to try and be the perfect Christian, what we need to do most is rest; sleep, eat, drink, listen, and allow God to pour Himself into you to prepare you for what comes next. When you're in that place, the best thing to do is just what He asked you to do...rest.

Friday, October 26, 2007

It's the journey that counts

So I just finished reading The Kid Who Climbed Everest" written by Bear Grylis (most known for his TV shot Man vs. Wild). It was a riveting read and I think I even surprised my wife at how fast I plowed through the book.

Bear remarked that after his climb when people found out he climbed Everest, the most common question that would follow was "did you summit?" Bear said that he hated that question because it implied that nothing mattered except making the summit. That all the training, the pain, the overcoming of extreme difficulties were all for 'not' unless he summited.

I was stopped by this comment and how it parallels the Christian life in some ways. So many of us, myself included, seem fixated on "arriving" - coming to that place in our lives where we have finally become all that God has for us. Here's the truth though - we will never arrive or "summit" as it were, until we are perfected in heaven. In truth, our lives on earth will more closely resemble Bear's battle to summit Everest. It's a constant striving, filled with successes and failures, times of unbelievable joy and times of failure. We will only grow as we are tested, tried and refined. This reminds me of another quote I just read uttered by golfer professional golfer Johnny Miller;

"It's not what you achieve in life that counts, but what you overcome."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Speechless

Consider:
- Every second the sun burns up 4 million tons of its own mass - releasing energy equivalent to 100 billion hydrogen bombs exploding...EVERY SECOND.
- Although the sun is losing 4 million tons of its own mass every second, scientists estimate it will las another 5 or 6 billion years.
- Our sun is actually just an average-sized star in our galaxy, one of at least 100 billion stars in the Milky Way.
- Of those 100 billion stars in our galaxy, only about 6000 are visible by the nake eye, and of these only 2000 can be seen from any one point. In a well-lit city, you can probably only see about 100 stars.
- There are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy alone and again, scientists estimate that there are as many as 140 billion other galaxies, many of them bigger than ours.
- In our visible universe alone, there are 10x, that's TEN TIMES more stars than there are grains of sand on all the world's beaches and deserts combined.








Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD from the heavens,
Praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created

Psalm 148:1-5

(information gathered from Facedown, by matt Redman, chapter 6)

Growing Up...

Maturity and Completeness; how many of you would like to become more "mature?" How about becoming more "complete?" How about developing "perseverance?" Or what about the ultimate, "not lacking anything?" I have found the secret to unlocking these character traits in your life; the problem? It requires sacrifice.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)

As I've been going through my "valley," these two words have helped me cope; "maturity" and "completeness." It would be extremely selfish and self-centered for me to think that God caused all these things in my life just so that I would benefit from them. Still, at the very least, He has allowed them to take place. From the reading above, it is clear to me that one of the reasons trials come our way is to grow us. When we face trials, it tests our faith and develops in us perseverance. As James says, that perseverance will lead us to become more mature and more complete. Those two words have helped me face the difficult times of life which I find myself in now.

I'm not at the point where I am rejoicing at these trials, but knowing that they are making me more mature and complete does help me to continue on in the journey.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lessons from the Valley

So, it seems like lately most of my posts have been about the hard side of life. Perhaps some of you can relate to it?

- We find out our house needs to be re-stained (the exterior)...expensive
- My Mother unexpectadly passes away (still dealing with this grief)
- My car's A/C goes out...need a new compressor but can't/won't pay for it now
- The following week, my car's rear brakes go out
- The week after that, in addition to an oil change, my car's master cyllinder goes out
- Then we discover a leak in our master bathroom: tear out the toilet, the vinyl, the sub-floor, cut a hole in the ceiling of the bathroom below us, etc...
- Then on Tuesday we find out our furnace is in such bad condition, that the guy who came out to service it can't even hook it back up...we need a new furnace.
So what started out as "one of those days" turned into "one of those weeks" which has now turned into "one of those seasons of life." During this time, many thoughts have struck me which I pass on to you.

1) The true measure of a person is found in how they face trials. Anyone can look good, be good, act good during good times...but how much faith and trust do you have in difficult times?
2) In the same sense, anyone can love their friends...but how many of us can love our enemies?
3) My relationship with Christ remains stronger then ever and my relationship with my wife is solid. If those two things are in order, then life is good.
4) When the stress level goes up, the prayer and physical exercise must also go up. As one person put it, "when you increase the 'drains' in your life, you must also increase the 'fills.' "
5) Keep life simple when things get rough; read the Bible, pray, go for a walk, eat well and get some exercise (which I haven't been doing), and try to keep things in perspective.
6) Remember that we worship a God who can literally "calm the storm." Also remember that for whatever reason, He allows times of testing and trials. Try and grow during these times.
7) Count your blessings. I have a great wife, a great marriage, a great house and a job, I have my health, I have family...the list goes on. Always, count your blessings.

How about you? What lessons have you learned from the valley? Share them!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Can't Wait for Tomorrow

I can't wait for worship tomorrow. Why? Tomorrow is communion Sunday, and I am always motivated to worship as we reflect on the immense sacrifice our Savior offered for our lives. You see, worship is first and foremost a response on our part; a response to who God is and what He has done. I don't think I will ever come close to understanding the full depth of Calvary.

It was a good week, but Thursday and Friday were tough for a number of reasons, but mainly because I miss my Mom. It is surreal, thinking that I no longer have a Mother alive on this planet. It brings a sense of loneliness that is something I haven't experienced before. I share this because this, too, is another reason I can't wait for tomorrow. You see, when I take time to remember and reflect on the cross of Christ; namely, the "blood," I am forced into a heart of total thankfulness.

I just read a story about a man who was walking by a swimming pool and noticed an infant in the bottom of the pool, lifeless. The man jumped the fence, dove into the pool, rescued the young boy and resuscitated him, and returned him to his Mother who was appropriately thankful. That's what Jesus did for each of us.

"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Col 1:13-14)

"Without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness." (Heb 9:22)

Tomorrow we are showing a short video about the blood of Jesus the kind of helps to put things in perspective. We will then take some time for silent reflection on what Jesus has done for us, followed by us singing Matt Redman's "Nothing But the Blood." I need tomorrow...and I am convinced that as I again reflect on the Blood, the Sacrifice, I will be lifted out of the pit and will respond in worship. I miss my Mom, yes, but I am also "home-sick" - home-sick for heaven, and grateful for the promise that I will soon be there.

soli deo gloria
To God Alone be the Glory

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Thank you Lord...

"Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." (1 Corinthians 1:21-22).

"This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 3:6)


I was reading these words this week when it hit me all over again; God saves. As the popular song puts it, "I was lost in utter darkness 'til you came and rescued me."

Prior to Jesus, access to God was only allowed by going through a "High Priest." Inside the Holy Place was an inner room called the Holy of Holies. Separating this room from the Holy place was a veil. Not some veil that is "see-through, like we see at weddings, but a 4" thick veil. It was renewed every year and was so strong that you could have two horses on either side pulling at this veil and it could not be torn. The word "veil" in Hebrew means "divider" or "screen." What was it dividing? It was keeping sinful man away from a Holy God.

Then Jesus comes, dies, and that veil is literally torn in two. We now have direct access to the Holy of Holies, and Jesus, who lives in all believers, has become our High Priest. Check this out;

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body …let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

Do you know what this means? Take a moment to dwell on these truths...and say with me, "Thank you Lord!" For more on this, check out this site.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Prayer...

I have concluded in the past 5 minutes that the key to growing in your relationship with Christ is prayer. Why have I concluded this? Many, many reasons...too many to name; but ultimately, I have concluded this because I've experienced it.
- God has done the most through me when I've been in prayer
- I have been closest to Him when I pray
- I only have the ability to change circumstances when I pray
- I've seen God's power displayed in people who pray
Prayer is the key to everything.

Consider for a moment two remarkable passages in Scripture;
1) Jesus clears out the temple and says "my house shall be called a house of prayer." Not preaching, not music, not Bible studies or small group meetings or any of that other stuff, but PRAYER. Does that mean that other stuff is bad? Of course not! We need preaching and teaching, we need worship and music, we need to be in community together and in small groups. However, NONE of that will substitute for prayer.

2) Revelation 5:8 - "And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." Somehow, the prayers that we offer are so precious to God that He keeps them in golden bowls of incense...the sweet, beautiful smells of incense.

Consider again this equation; TLC2 (the "2" means squared). I once heard that the key to any relation is T (Time) + L (Love) + C (Communication) + C (Commitment). Get those ingredients in that order and you can make any relationship work. So what's my point? How many of us long to be closer to God, long to see His power at work in our lives, but never get to "first base" with God - we never spend TIME with Him? What is prayer? It is many things, to be sure, and I have much to learn about prayer...but at it's essence, prayer is spending time with God.

I can no longer avoid the fact that if I ever want to grow spiritually, if I ever want to become more fully the man that God has planned, if I ever want to reach my spiritual potential, I must pray. I must pray when I feel like it and pray when I don't. It will not be easy; it will require sacrifice...it will be worth it.

I never want to go through life looking back at all the times God's power was displayed, looking forward to the times when it will once again be displayed, and never actually experience any of that power in my life.

Here's the deal; I've known this fact for about 6 years...and yet I'm no further along in my prayer life than I was back then. To be sure, I've had great moments of prayer and I've hit some highs, but then I sink back. I began reading a book this week called "Could You Not Tarry One Hour?" I knew before I opened it what it would do to me...but someplace, deep inside me knows I need to read it, I need to let myself be convicted again, and I need to pray. Here is one quote from this book I'll share with you; "Face the Facts. If you do not begin to pray, you will not be any further along with the Lord next year than you are right now. There is always the agony of choice before the promise of change."

So how about you? Will you join me in prayer? Will you take the first step and ask God to really change you? If you're already there, pray for me. I want more!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Faith is like...

I want this blog to be "real" and so with that caveat, I say that the next few posts may or may not be the type of post you'd normally see on this blog.

Grief is a funny thing; one minute you're up, in your normal routine and then "wham!" - out of nowhere an emotion will hit you that you can't really control. Sailors call them rogue waves, Pilots call it wind-shear - it's all the same. Something unexpected hits you hard, seeking your destruction. This is how grief works. It comes and goes and can be set off by the smallest thing.

My Mom liked to collect these small turtles from Mexico. I had brought one of these things home with me and yesterday, I put a piece of scotch-tape on my computer monitor and mounted a little turtle there. Wham! Out of nowhere, an emotion hits and I break down. It's these little things that can hit you. Today I was in the auditorium by myself, sitting at the piano and worshipping when "wham" - I'm hit with the thought that were it not for my Mom, I would not be a pianist/worship leader or likely wouldn't be a musician at all. I will never see her again this side of eternity. This is hard to swallow...

Faith is the opposite of grief. It is constant - never changing, always sustaining, always whispering, carrying, holding, listening and understanding. Having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the greatest thing anyone on planet earth could ever have. With faith, there are no surprises, no rogue waves, no wind-shear. Faith is the rudder on a sailboat in a storm, it steers you through the rough waters, keeping you on an even keel, preventing you from fully capsizing.

This is where I am at right now - a small sailboat in the midst of a storm, feeling at times blown and tossed, but trusting a God who never fails.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Worship: more than one face

Worship has many faces; joy, happiness, singing, laughing - and also, crying, sorrow, sadness. On August 23rd I got a call at 2:30 Am that my Mom had unexpectedly passed away. Nothing prepares you for times like this and to be sure, it has been quite a roller coaster few weeks. Thoughts and emotions tend to take over and life suddenly becomes a simple matter of survival. Things that seemed so important yesterday, suddenly seem so unimportant. Life tends to get very simple; family, sleep, food. Phone calls and emails go unreturned, relationships become vitally important, tears begin to flow at the oddest of times and yet...through it all, He is there.

I know it sounds cliche, but it is true - in our darkest moments, He is there. I confess that I haven't been running to my Bible, or spending inordinate amounts of time in prayer, or singing worship songs at the top of my lungs; and yet, despite all that, in some respects I am closer to God now then I was before. He has been there constantly whispering, holding, carrying, reminding me that it's ok to grieve, it's ok to cry.

I wrote a couple of blogs ago that one of the most comforting passages in all the Bible is also the shortest verse in the Bible; "Jesus wept." Little did I know when I wrote that post how soon my own life would be turned upside down. Still, those words bring comfort to me today. Why? Because they remind me that even Jesus, the Son of God, "Emmanuel," hurt. Even He cried, even He had sorrow and even, yes even Jesus understands loss. This comforts me.

And so, this Sunday I will resume my role as worship leader. Because I feel great? No. Because God has been so good to me? He has, but I won't sing because of that. Because I'm paid to do this? :-) Nope! This Sunday, I return to lead our congregation in worship because He is worthy to be worshipped. Regardless of the circumstances of life, regardless of my ups or downs, regardless of how I feel or what I want, I will worship God and sing to Him because of His worthiness.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Heart of Worship

"Worship is all that we are, responding to all that God has revealed Himself to be, empowered by the Holy Spirit" - Dave Williamson

"We Worship for an 'Audience of One.' " - Soren Kierkegaard

In its essence, worship is simply 'responding to God.' We don't initiate worship, God does. We respond to Him...and as we respond to Him, we worship. This begs the question, "is your worship [response] appropriate for who God has revealed Himself to be?"

Matt Redman captures this in a song he wrote called Gifted Response.

"This is a gifted response,
Father we cannot come to you by our own merit,
But we have come in the name of Your Son,
as He glorifies you,
in the power of Your Spirit"

Worship is mysterious, because God is mysterious. Think about this: we worship Jesus and we worship with Jesus. Both are true statements. Jesus is both a co-worshipper, and the object of our worship. It's just one small part of the mystery that makes up Jehova. Let us come before him with that mystery in mind; putting aside our need to understand Him, focused instead on bringing a "broken and contrite heart" to a Holy God.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What Total Surrender Looks Like


Challenging, for sure - read on...

Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, describing how believers responded to the plague of 260:

"The most of our brethren were unsparing in their exceeding love and brotherly kindness. They held fast to each other and visited the sick fearlessly, and ministered to them continually, serving them in Christ. And they died with them most joyfully, taking the affliction of others, and drawing the sickness from their neighbors to themselves and willingly receiving their pains. And many who cared for the sick and gave strength to others died themselves having transferred to themselves their death...But with the heathen everything was quite otherwise. They deserted those who began to be sick, and fled from their dearest friends. And they cast them out into the streets when they were half dead, and left the dead like refuse, unburied."

(Taken from an excerpt in the book The Externally Focused Church)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Above All Else

I am reading the book "Spiritual Leadership" by J. Oswald Sanders. I've read it before and let me tell you, I wish I wasn't reading it right now. To say it is challenging is an understatement. The chapter I just finished is titled "Above All Else" as in, above all else a leader must be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. This begs the question, what does it mean to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led? Sanders' answer:

"To be filled with the Spirit means simply that the Christian voluntarily surrenders life and will to the Spirit. Through faith, the believer's personality is filled, mastered, and controlled by the Spirit...To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Spirit. The Christian leader's mind, emotions, will, and physical strength all become available for the Spirit to guide and use."

I read those words and quietly say "amen," as in "I agree." However, I am also painfully aware that I move in and out of this level of surrender. To live in a state of surrender is counter to everything I am; and yet I know that it is an inescapable destiny if I'm ever to fully become the man of God that He so desperately wants me to be. It's a constant battle. As a pastor friend of mine puts it; "God wants us to offer our lives to Him on the altar. Our problem is that we crawl off the altar, and constantly have to put ourselves back on it."

To be sure, it's hard, it's a battle, and it isn't always fun or easy; but it is God's will for us - total surrender.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Grief

"Blessed be Your name, on the road marked with suffering, though there's pain in the offering, blessed be Your name..."

I found myself singing through that chorus in my mind as the tears were welling up in my soul and my eyes. Life isn't easy. I attended a funeral on Monday for someone I grew up with; someone with a Mom & Dad, a sister, a wife, three beautiful daughters and so many more friends. Someone whose life had touched so many people...someone who practiced those "random/anonymous" acts of kindness...someone who had a strong faith in Christ and yet, whose life ended prematurely. He had somehow reached the pit, and saw the only way out as taking his own life. He had so much more to offer, so much more to give, so much more...

Nothing prepares you for moments like these. It is hard to deal with your own grief, but even harder to watch others try and deal with their grief. Times like these render the "Christian cliches" meaningless; cliches that we and I are so quick to offer others. Times like these cause us all to question; to look deep inside ourselves and search for answers and meaning.

I was sharing the car with someone, driving from the cemetary to the place the reception was held and was asked the question; "We always hear that [believers] go to heaven when they die and are there with Jesus, but how do we know that it's true?" In my head I had a million ways to answer that question; verses to quote, Scriptures to recite, things I could have said. Instead, I said nothing. The person who asked the question already knew all those answers that I could have given, and, I sensed, was asking that question rhetorically.

Through all my tears, all my questions, after searching my own heart, these thoughts stuck out to me more than others;
1) How do you process grief if you don't have a relationship with Jesus? He is what gives me what no man or woman can live without; HOPE.
2) When you boil it all down, all of Christianity boiled down to one single word, it is this; FAITH.
3) God grieves. John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible; "Jesus wept" - but in these two words, we catch a glimpse of God that we don't often see or stop to consider; God grieves too.
4) It all boils down to this; TRUST. Do we trust God enough to let Him be Him when what is happening all around us doesn't make sense? Do we trust His wisdom, His Sovereignty? Or, are we quick to turn on Him, blame Him, curse Him?

There are seasons in life; seasons of unspeakable joy and happiness, seasons of unbearable grief and anger. Seasons of extreme faith, and seasons of grave doubt. I leave you with this exhortation:

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23)

Friday, July 20, 2007

So What About Good Works?

In a previous post I wrote about the Freedom we have in Christ and how many believers, myself included, seem to be trapped in a way of living and thinking that would probably be viewed as a "works based" salvation. In short, we bind ourselves up with rules and lists of proper behaviors, attitudes, and actions and somehow we think that if we can just do everything on that list, then God will be obliged to act a certain way toward us, or love us more, or answer our prayers. While I believe this is true, that doesn't mean that what we do doesn't count. For a great message on this topic, click here and listen to pastor Bill's message titled "Why Good Works are Important."

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:8-10).

It has always struck me how many believers know the first part of this passage, but never read on to the second part. Grace saves us, no doubt, and grace sustains us. We were hopelessly lost, separated forever from our Creator, when Christ stepped into our world to save us...that is called grace. Grace only requires 1 thing from us; faith. Faith in Jesus Christ, which is the only pathway to God. However, we weren't saved so we could sit around until we die and then go to heaven. No, we were saved FOR something; for a purpose. What is that purpose? To do good works. There's no getting around it. God DOES care about our behaviors. What we do with our time, our money, our gifts, matters. Faith and Good Works are inseparable. They're like tea and sugar, italian food and garlic, baseball and steroids (oops, did I just say that?).

"You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,' and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." (James 2:20-24)

So how do we reconcile the two? I think many Christians make this too complicated. Faith and Works are inseparable, but they are a "paradox." The Bible has other paradoxes; (a seemingly contradictory statement that still may be true). A great book I've read on a difficult to understand Christian paradox is called The Grace and Truth Paradox by Randy Alcorn. Still, this is not too complicated. Let me see if I can boil this down;

1. We are saved by grace, through faith
2. Good Works prove our faith (and can be evaluated as good fruit)
3. Good Works do NOT earn God's approval or love, nor do they save us
4. They will know we are Christians by our "love"
5. Love is a verb, not a noun.

In John 15 Jesus summarizes things pretty well;
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other." (John 15:9-17)

Last word: so, how do we reconcile the two? How do you live in freedom while also knowing the need to do good works, and doing them? I cannot answer this question for you except to do what I endeavor to do;

"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Phil 2:12-13)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

No Guarantees

I know, I said the next post would be "what about good works" and that post is coming. However, I have to write a big "amen" to the message that pastor Bill preached here at Northlake on Sunday. Click here if you missed that message. This was an outstanding message and explanation of James 5, where we are instructed on prayer. Rather then recount the message, which you can listen to on your own, I just want to add a couple thoughts.

In Christianity, there are no guarantees. I see many believers, including myself from time to time, trying to find the right "equation" that will guarantee a certain outcome. We may not believe this outright, but many of us believe this "internally." We live with many variations of the following;

If I do ____, then God will do ____.
If I'm good enough, read my Bible enough, pray enough, pray with eough faith, if only I had ____ or could ____ then God would have ____.

The problem? God is a mystery and cannot be put into a box. As 1 Corinthians 1:25 states, "the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." The bottom line is this; there are no guarantees. Yes, there are principles we are commanded to live by; yes there are things we can do that will bring us closer to God and things we can do that will separate us from Him. However, even if you do everything right, that will still not guarantee a better, easier, pain-free life. Why? Well who says that "easier, pain-free" is actually better for us? As believers we always have to remember that what's actually best for us may not be what we would choose. I write that last sentence with a bit of fear, but it is also with the knowledge that it is a true statement.

I have a friend of mine who's brother owns a business. The business was going well, but he, as the owner was doing a ton of work himself. He was doing the work, the hiring/firing, finding the jobs, running the crews, balancing the books, writing the checks and more. This meant many days up past midnight. One day he had a bad accident that forced him to be bed-ridden for months. What looked like a terrible tragedy turned out to be one of the best things for him as he was, for the first time, forced to delegate and look for ways to get his work done that didn't require him to personally be involved in every aspect of the business. The result? The business has actually grown incredibly fast, and he now has a much more manageable schedule.

I share that story simply to illustrate the point that what looks bad for us from our perspective may look entirely different from God's perspective. So given that truth, I say this; I don't want the power that would come to me if all my prayers were answered. Thats too scary. I'd rather leave that power with God.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Freedom

There's a great song out there by Darrel Evans called Freedom that has this lyric in it where we sing "I'm free." The song is based on 2 Corinthians 3:17; "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." What does it mean though, to be free, and do we actually live in that freedom? Personally, I often feel rather restricted and bound in my day to day Christian living, and often resonate more with Paul's words in Romans 7; "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing..." And yet I know that it is true that Christ has set us free. So, what does this freedom in Christ look like?

We all know that Galatians 5:1 says "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free," but free from what? Look at Galatians 4:8-10. Here, Paul is stressing the point that it is useless to pursue principles over knowing God. In fact, in verse 9 he states, "But now that you know God - or rather are known by God - how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?"

God's will was never for man to follow a set of rules and principles. I just came across this book called 101 Things You Should do Before You Go to Heaven. Now I confess, I've never read this book and it may be great. However, just the title alone seems to be misguided. Christianity is not meant to be a "system of living" or a "code of living." This is one of the things that sets Christianity apart from all other religions. God is after a relationship! So why does the law exist? The law is simply there to show us our sin and our need of God. Now that doesn't give us license to sin (5:16b) but it should free you from the yoke of "principle centered religion." God wants relationship.

Later in chapter 4, Paul tells a story of Hagar and Sarah which is meant to be taken figuratively (verse 24). The purpose of this story is stated in verse 31; "Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman." Immediately after that, we read, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Paul continues on in chapter 5 to speak against those who elevate the keeping of the law, (circumcision in this case), above knowing God. He sums things up in verse 6 when he states "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."

The point is this! Our justification does not come from "keeping the law" or from "things we do." It doesn't matter how good you are. Let me say that again; IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW GOOD YOU ARE! Our justification comes from Christ and following after Him. My prayer for you is that you would know who you are! You are free! "You, my brothers, were called to be free" (5:13). Live in such a way that you passionately pursue an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, and live in freedom.

Coming next: "so what about good works then?"

When it comes to worship music...

...our goals should be simple, and in this order.
1) Music that honors and glorifies God
2) Congregational Unity

Here's the thing with unity...we want it, we know God wants it, we know it's important; after all, it is by our "love" that they'll know we are Christians. Still, it's not easily attained in the church today, especially when the issue is music. Why, I wonder? I have a few thoughts on why unifying a church around it's music and worship is so challenging;

1. We forget the purpose. I think the number 1 reason we struggle with unity is we put "me" before "Thee." The extremely popular Matt Redman song, The Heart of Worship, addresses this issue head on...especially the lyric, "I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it [worship], it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus." When discussion of musical preferences arise, you can be sure that the "heart" of the issue has been lost; that heart being to glorify Jesus and bring an offering to Him.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship." - Romans 12:1

2. When unity is the goal, we all must move towards the center. If the goal is to unify in music and worship, that means all of us moving towards a central place; a common goal. That goal we already identified in the point above. However, it must be noted that in moving towards the center, we all must give up some of our personal preferences. This is never easy, but it is important; especially as we, in humility, consider other's needs above our own.

3. We wrongly forget that music issues are "subjective" (opinions) and not "objective" (matters of right/wrong). Now to be sure, there are some who would disagree with that statement; some who would argue that there is a "right way" and a "wrong way" to worship. However, most of those arguements fall apart when examined with Scripture and with our own church history (see Good to Remember for more on this). This is a common thing for all human beings. When we are passionate about something, we "feel" like it's a matter of right and wrong when really, it probably boils down to a preference. When it comes to worship, it's all about our relationship to God. Once you realize that, it follows that no two people relate to God in the same way. Thus, if we are all relating to God in different ways, then it follows that when we come together for congregational worship, we're not all going to connect to God the same way with every melody.

It's time for the church to rise above the "worship wars" and seek unity. There are lives at stake; lives that will spend eternity separated from God and that should be the church's focus.

I pause to say "thank you"

As Independence Day just ended, I am aware of a number of thoughts and emotions;

Our Country's Freedom was bought at a steep price. Hundreds of Thousands of lives have been sacrificed to gain, protect and further the cause of Freedom and Human Rights. Regardless of your political views, on this day we should join together to say "thank you" for all those lives that gained this freedom.

My Grandfather, who was full blooded Japanese, served in the US military. I remember with a smile his recounting that early in his tenure, his CO asked if anyone could cook? He volunteered that he could cook a little and just like that, he joined the "cook staff." Due to a number of reasons, mainly that he suffered from terrible migraines, he was granted an honorable discharge. Then Pearl Harbor hit and all of a sudden the "Japanese Americans" became the enemy. My grandfather was able to keep him and his young family out of the internment camps but that too, came at a steep price as he lost property, possessions and peace of mind. He changed the family name from "Nishimura" to "Weston" to help protect his loved ones. If anyone had a right to be upset with the country he loved, he did. And yet...to his dying day, he remained the most patriotic man I know, and I never heard him once complain of the treatment he received during the war.

There are a million stories like this one - lives that were lost, sacrificed, some voluntarily, some not - all contributing towards gaining and keeping the freedoms we have in the United States. To all of those men and women, this young man and his wife say "thank you." It hardly seems enough, but let us never forget the price that was paid as we celebrated Independence Day on Wednesday.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Power of Silence...

"Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.' " (Mark 6:31).

Here in the United States, where money is king, hard work expected, and anything less looked as "laziness," it is all to easy to forget the importance of solitude. I confess, I struggle daily to find the silence and solitude that my soul so desperately needs. During the weeks I fail to find this time, it shows in my shortness with others (especially my wife). On the flip side, when I manage to find this time, I can feel it breathe life into my soul and this, too, shows.

It is no coincidence that in 1 Kings 19, when God speaks to Elijah, it is in a "gentle whisper" and not in the fire, the wind or the earthquake.

I have found it to be true that "God is a gentleman" in how he relates to me. What I mean is that God rarely, if ever forces His will on me. Instead, He shows me and waits for me to make the move. He speaks and waits for me to listen. He promises and allows me to find Him. This is the walk of faith and trust.

So what's the point of all this? Simply put; if God speaks in whispers, and further He relates to us as a gentleman, then it follows that we must create time and space in our lives to hear His whispers and follow His "gentlemanly" nudgings. QUESTION: do you have space in your life to hear the "whispers" of the Holy One?

Challenge: The challenge for each of us is to find the time and space in our lives to hear God. It is imperative for our soul's survival. What if you went to a doctor and he told you that unless you stop drinking coffee, you will die within the year. What would you do? In the same way, crowding out solitude and silence from our lives will significantly shorten our soul's survival. I can think of no darker place to be then to be "physically alive" but "dead in the soul."

Feed your soul - follow Jesus' command and "get away" to rest and commune with the God who loves you so much.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Good to Remember

When it comes to "worship wars," I have tons of patience and grace when the conversation is held in terms of preference and personal likes/dislikes. When I tend to lose my patience is when the conversation is couched in terms of "right and wrong." It's important to remember that our relationships with God are deeply personal, our worship of Him does not look the same for all of us and as a result, music too will reflect a variety of styles...it must reflect a variety of styles. When it comes to "new worship music" and its place in our worship services, it is crucial to remember that even our sacred hymns were not always accepted in the church. Consider the following list of complaints about church music;

1) It's too new; like an unknown language
2) It's not as melodious as the more established style.
3) There are so many songs that it is impossible to learn them all.
4) This new music creates disturbances and causes people to act in an indecent and disorderly manner.
5) It places too much emphasis on instrumental music rather than on godly lyrics.
6) The lyrics are often worldly, even blasphemous.
7) It is not needed, since preceding generations have gone to heaven without it.
8) It is a contrivance to get money.
9) It monopolizes the Christian's time and encourages them to stay out late.
10) These new musicians are young upstarts, and some of them are lewd and loose persons.

So what's the point? These complaints are adapted from a document written in 1723 directed against the use of hymns.

My point is not to speak against hymns, but merely to make sure we keep the conversation pointed in the right direction. It's ok to talk about our likes and dislikes when it comes to music; it's ok to talk about our preferences and desires. However, it's mostly a discussion about just that, preferences. God can be honored with chant and electric guitars, with pipe organ and drums.

"...you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul" - Deut 4:29

Friday, June 15, 2007

A Great Reminder

I was recently meeting with a member of our church, discussing various things regarding worship, music and the church. In the course of our conversation, we came across a great reminder for all of us. I quote:

"One man sent me a note saying he loves the old hymns but can't stand modern praise and worship music. I wrote back reminding him that if we ever raise a generation of believers which doesn't write its own music, Christianity is dead. Every era needs to compose its own songs to God, and the music of the younger generation will seldom sound like that of the older one. Just ask Isaac Watts, the father of English hymnody, whose elders railed against his new-fangled hymns."

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Worship as an 'end' or a 'beginning?'

The biggest danger in worship? That "it" becomes the "end" instead of the "means." Let me try and explain...the biggest danger I see in worship is that the "worship experience" and all that it entails; the emotions, the lyrics, the music, the band, the lights, the sounds, the noise - all of it - become the goal and the end point, instead of worship simply being a way to connect with God. Sally Morgenthaler, a longtime proponent of worship evangelism has had a shift in her own thinking on this. Church must go beyond the 4 walls for it to be effective. Her article explaining her journey is a must read (click here).

Here at Northlake, we are turning the ship and realizing that "good works" must accompany "good news" in order for us to make an impact in the kingdom of God. How do I know this? Quite simply, we are just following the example of Jesus. There's nothing wrong with doing events to try and "get people to come to church" but I am convinced that a far greater impact can/will/is being made when churches seek to "go to the people."

So what part does worship play in this? To be sure, worship, or the "corporate singing" part of worship that we do on Sunday mornings will continue to be an important way for us to "connect to God." And to be sure, I believe that people, to a certain extent can be led to Jesus through the worship of others. However, I believe more strongly that what the un-reached world in the U.S. is looking for is a church that takes seriously its place in the community by reaching out to meet their needs. We believe at Northlake that "Good Works" lead to "Good Will" which gives us the platform to share the "Good News."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Mystery

Does your relationship with God contain within it the "mysteriousness" of God? If not, then perhaps you don't have an accurate view of Him. Worship is mysterious because God is mysterious. What is a "mystery," after all, but simply something we don't understand? I love this definition of the word mystery I came across:

Mystery: something that baffles understanding and cannot be explained...

I don't know about you, but that definitely describes the God I know and worship. He is totally and utterly "unfathomable." The more I get to know Him, the less I know about Him. I think an immature faith is one that looks for equations in religion and focuses on works. We are looking for the prescribed behavior we must do to get the desired response from God. "If I do this, then God will do this." However, we soon "graduate" to Christianity 102 and find out that God doesn't operate that way. That's called maturity.

Consider just a few of the mysteries of God:
- We worship Jesus...and we worship with Jesus
- God is both "full of Grace" and "full of Truth."
- God is both "Abba, Father" (Daddy, God), and an "all-consuming fire."
- God is both "near to us" and "far above us."
- God is both "Savior" and "Friend."

Most of us probably tend to gravitate towards one side of God's character or the other. However, we must know and worship the "whole God." You can't worship Him as Friend and ignore his Holiness. By the same token, you can't worship Him as a "Holy God" and yet ignore the fact that He desires intimacy with you.

The challenge: worship Him for ALL that He has revealed Himself to be. Don't take the mystery out of your relationship with God.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Two Great Hopes

There are two things which I hope more than anything.
1) That I can say with Paul, "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day."
2) That I will hear God say to me, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter your rest."

How is this done? The question is, am I fully yielded to God's will for my life? Am I carrying out the "good works which [He] has prepared in advance for [me] to do?"

That question drives me, haunts me, motivates me, scares me, and so much more...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Let your 'Worship' testify

I was just reading in Acts a couple of days ago the account of Paul and Silas in prison. Amazing! Here they are, two guys, wrongly accused, "severely beaten with rods" and "flogged," thrown into the inner-most cell and put into stocks. So, what happened?

"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them."

Now the miracle that follows is pretty amazing, and the end result of all this is that the jailer and his entire house are saved and baptized the following morning. However, I want to focus on this part of the passage - "the other prisoners were listening to them."

I read this and had to pause as I asked myself, "Self, have I ever sung songs and worshipped God among non-believers, and had them listen to me?" Then I took that a step further and came to this conclusion;

The point isn't to start singing in bars and public places. The point is to let your "worship" of God be a part of your witness. Worship is not just singing, it is a lifestyle! It is glorifying God in EVERYTHING you do! Colossians 3:23 says it perfectly:

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

Remember as you go through your day to day, that everything you do is to be done as if you are working for the Lord...because you are! "...It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Revelation and Response


(Title of the post taken from Matt Redman's book, Facedown).

The greatest challenge I face as a worship leader is this; how to help lead our congregation into the presence of God when we all speak a slightly different "worship language." The thing we have to understand is this: I don't lead worship, the Holy Spirit does. I love this definition of worship I heard many years ago from Dave Williamson (a writer/arranger of music):

"Worship is all that we are, responding to all that God has revealed Himself to be, empowered by the Holy Spirit."

There are some key points for us to see here!

1) "Worship is all that we are..." Worship requires ALL. We sing songs about this all the time, but I'm not sure if most of us (including myself) "live the talk" and "walk the walk?" Songs like "I Surrender All," "Take My Life," to name a couple. Worship is not something you can do "half-way." It's ALL that we are. This includes your emotions, your brain, your actions, and perhaps most challenging, your mind/will. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength..." - remember those words? That's Jesus talking. Heart (emotions), soul, mind (your will) and strength (your actions). In short, worship requires EVERYTHING.

2) "...responding to all that God has revealed Himself to be..." Worship is a response! Matt Redman paints this picture beautifully in two short books he wrote; The Heart of Worship Files and Facedown. Put simply, however, worship (what we do) is a response. We don't initiate worship, God does. We simply respond to Him. This begs a couple of questions;
- Is your worship an appropriate response to who God has revealed Himself to be? Do you worship whole-heartedly?
- Do you have an accurate picture of God or are you settling for something less? If you're like me, perhaps you often digress into a limited view of God. The 'dream-crusher' or 'joy-taker' or 'un-involved one.' Click here for some help on recapturing a true image of God.

3) "...empowered by the Holy Spirit." We do NOT initiate worship, God does. We cannot get to Him through our own efforts. The lyrics of a popular worship song help to put this into perspective:
"This is a gifted response,
Father we cannot come to You by our own merit
But we have come in the name of your Son
As He glorifies You
and in the power of Your Spirit."

Again, the question that must burn in the heart of every believer; "is your worship an accurate reflection and response of what God has done for you?" Or, put another way, if watching us worship were the thermometer of how great our God is, what would the reading be?

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