Friday, March 28, 2008

Post Easter...

So every year for the past 10 years or so, the week after Easter I've gone down to San Diego for a Music Conference. It's always perfect timing as there's such a big push in churches for the Easter Season...well this year, I didn't go (for a number of reasons, namely though, the conference changed ownership, locations, and a few other things).

So, how to sum up my week? I'm tired. Planning our worship set for Sunday was a real grind this week. As always, I spent time in prayer and to be sure, I'm looking forward to the time on Sunday. But to be real honest, what I'd really love is me and a piano and nobody else (which I got a little of today).

It's at times like this that I have to remind myself the same things I remind others; it's ok to worship through tiredness; or for that matter, through depression, loneliness, sadness, worry and fear. God is simply looking for hearts that are yielded to him.

What's the main point? The quality of our worship shouldn't be related to our experiences. So I've had a tired week; does that mean I can't worship God, or shouldn't worship Him, or that he won't accept my worship? Of course not. The circumstances of life don't change who God is. That's the point; God never changes. It is easy to think He does, because we do...but thankfully, He remains the same and desires our worship; our HEART'S all the time.

Looking forward to Sunday...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Thank You

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Surrender part 3

I just can't get away from it...everywhere I read in the Bible, this theme being fully surrendered to God comes back to scream at me. Remember the story of the Rich Young Ruler? Here's an excerpt from Luke 18, (msg).

"When Jesus heard that, he said, 'Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me.'

This was the last thing the official expected to hear. He was very rich and became terribly sad. He was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let them go."

The heart of this passage is that last line; those of us who are holding on tight to things and not willing to let them go are going to have a very hard time being a disciple of Jesus. In fact, it's impossible to serve "two masters." Money certainly has and can and does take the form of an idol in many lives, but it's not just money that poses a danger. There are many "addictions" and "idols" in many of our lives and holding tightly to them can and will derail us. So what chance do we have to break these idols?

" 'Then who has any chance at all?' the others asked. 'No chance at all,' Jesus said, 'if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.' "

In other words, Jesus and His Spirit in our lives are the only chance we have to overcome these things. And why is it worth it?

"No one who has sacrificed home, spouse, brothers and sisters, parents, children—whatever—will lose out. It will all come back multiplied many times over in your lifetime. And then the bonus of eternal life!"

Live a life of "worship=surrender."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Embrace Suffering?

I want to take a moment and expand on an earlier post; Worship = Surrender. Take a moment and read these words of Jesus from Luke 9 (The Message)

"Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat—I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self."

In these words are the key to discipleship.

1) Jesus leads, we follow. This is perhaps the hardest thing for us to grasp; at least it is for me. Jesus leads, I follow. My human nature constantly battles for control over my life and yet, as His words so clearly illustrate, IF I intend to follow Him, I HAVE to let Him lead...He is in the driver's seat. And what do we communicate to God if we try to lead? "You don't really know what you're doing; I know better then You do. I don't need You." And all the while, He patiently waits for us to surrender to Him. As Jesus states later in Luke 14, it would be wise for us to "count the cost" of being a true disciple. The cost is high - He wants it all.

2) Embrace Suffering. Huh? What? Yep. Not only are we to expect suffering, not only are we to endure suffering, but embrace it? As we read in the book of James, suffering makes us grow. It develops character, perseverance and stamina - it teaches us the things that we will need later to finish the race. This year I've taken up jogging. I hate jogging. I hate running, unless it's on the athletic pitch (soccer, basketball, etc). But just to go out and run? I hate it. Why am I doing it? Because I have a goal to do some intense hiking this summer, and namely to summit the sisters. In order to achieve this goal, I have to endure some hard times now, so that when I hit the really hard times later, I'll have the confidence and stamina to make it. In a similar way, it is during hard times that we grow the most. Can we, can I not only "endure" suffering when it comes, but truly embrace it and learn to grow?

3) Self Help isn't the way, but self sacrifice. Think about this; at no other time in the history of the United States have we had as many "Self-help" books and experts out there. There are books/experts on anything and everything - diet, exercise, overcoming obesity, overcoming smoking, alcohol, how to be a better parent/single person/son/daughter/grandparent, how to educate your children, how to make your marriage better/stronger, how to save your marriage, how to find your strengths, how to find your weaknesses, how to lead better and the LIST GOES ON.

Now think about it; as a result of all these "self-help" tools, are we as a society/country better off? Are addictions down? Are marriages lasting longer? Are we better parents? The answer? No. In fact, we're probably worse now. Now the point isn't to bash all these books; heck, I read many of them. The point is this: no book or person is the answer; Jesus is the answer. And furthermore, His answer calls for sacrificing ourselves, laying down our desires and taking up His. That is a tall order. Sound impossible? Read that verse up above again and look at the promise in there - God is giving us the key to finding our "true self." I don't know about you, but I'd do just about anything to find my "true self." The key? Self-sacrifice.

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help." (James 1)

Dear Lord, give me the faith to trust You as I lay down my life in surrender [worship].

Friday, March 7, 2008

Here is Our King

Awhile back I polled the younger members of our congregation about their worship and I was a little surprised at what I found; namely, that I am no longer "young." I found that a lot of the music we do at our church didn't resonate with them as much I thought. Yes, I'm only 37, but it appears I've lost a little touch with the 20-something crowd. While many of the artists we're familiar with do resonate with this group, there is one artist who's music has touched a core with many; David Crowder.

One song that has hit a special chord with this group is his song "Here is Our King." We will teach this song on Sunday and as I'm very aware that the church I serve at is inter-generational, I thought I'd take a moment to explore the meaning of these lyrics (see them here). For those of us who tend to relate more from the head; us logical, concrete/sequential type of thinkers, this song will be hard to understand. The initial response might be "I don't get it," or "I don't understand what I'm singing." For those of us who relate more from the heart, with our emotions and spirit, this song will probably hit a chord with you lyrically. Rather then me try and explain what inspired David Crowder to write this song, I thought I'd let him speak for himself. The following is written by Crowder;

Behind the Song: ''What you are looking for is what is looking.' - St. Francis of Assisi

I wrote this song after watching television for two days straight. The day after Christmas, December 26th, 2004, my eyes were fixed to this thing blinking at me from the dark wooden armoire in our living room. I, along with the rest of the world, watched as the most powerful earthquake in 40 years erupted under the Indian Ocean near Sumatra causing giant, deadly waves to crash ashore in nearly a dozen countries, killing tens of thousands. The death toll would eventually settle somewhere near 200,000. This is tremendously hard to take in. Close to 200,000 people, walking around, going about their business, stepping into eternity all together in a matter of hours. We watched story after story unfold knowing that each would end in either rescue or demise and our hearts broke. Our hearts broke and it is still tremendously hard to take in.

It is a difficult thing to observe so vivid and complete, the depth of our fall. I mean we know things aren’t right, we know that things aren’t as they were intended. But here is this thing that comes from the middle of the sea to bring upon us devastation and to take from us our fathers and our mothers and to pull from our hands our children and our friends and our minds cannot fit this in. It is the depth of our fall upon us. Even the ground under our feet is not right. The air we breathe is not right. Here though, the hope I have found in Christ miraculously expands.

I believe that we are part of a bigger story unfolding. I believe that the rescue of creation has been coming toward us for a long time. I believe that sure, there was a moment that I was found by this rescue and that I am rescued continually, but the even greater thing, the thing that expands in my chest in this moment is that there is more coming! He is coming to set things right. He is coming to set things straight. He is coming and this is tremendously hard to take in, but our hearts swell and this tide of hope grows and after all of this, after this brokenness, after these tears, after this fury, after this tearing that is life...finally, finally...we will lift up our heads...finally...and the clouds will break...and finally...he who is all light and healing... Finally... Finally... Majesty. Here.

Since the writing of this song I have received a number of emails requesting explanation for the verses of this song... The complete thought of the first verse is found in the chorus and therefore the whole could read, “here is our king from wherever spring arrives.” In other words, our king comes to us from the same place springtime does. Whatever the source of spring and newness. He comes from the same place that put this thing in our chests that makes it necessary for us to search for him and the fact that we are compelled to search for him gives a hint as to the goodness of him who we search for. The second verse when read one way is a simple redemption metaphor for spring or newness or surrender. Roses fold up at night and open in the light of morning with the sunrise. When one considers that Christ was also referred to as “the rose of Sharon” it takes on a different redemptive metaphor. The main thing I hoped to do with this songs was redeem the images of this massive wave that we saw. There is the biggest wave ever headed for us. It is coming from the place of love and springtime and it is terrifying.' - David Crowder

As for me, as I'm worshipping God in with this song I am primarily thinking/seeing a couple of things;
1) The song paints a beautiful picture of both the present and future fulfillment of Christ's coming; in the one sense, He already came, lived, ministered, died and rose again for our redemption. However, in another sense, He will come again to set things right, including creation itself.

2) It reminds us that it's not just us humans that need redeeming...creation itself stands under a curse and in some mystical sense, creation itself is longing to be freed.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come...