Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas...

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned..." (Isaiah 9:2)


We live in a dark world. The powers of evil and darkness are constantly and ceaselessly waging war against the light. This year this battle was brought into sharp contrast as a nation was collectively horrified and heart-broken witnessing the senseless loss of life at Sandy Hook Elementary. The pain those families are suffering through is real, and deep, and truthfully will probably never fully go away. The world as we know it is dark. And yet...

And yet it is into this very place, this battlefield, this war of all wars...it is into this very place that hope appeared some 2000 years ago. Hope that light would one day prevail, hope that evil would one day be vanquished, hope for a savior to come and, well, save. 

We live in a dark world, but a light, a great light has been seen. Some have seen it and relentlessly follow and pursue it.
Some have seen it and still see it, but remain far away from it.
Some see it and walk the other way.
Some claim there is no light...they either refuse to see it or can't see it.
Which one are you?

Have you ever been trapped in a dark place? Literally? Maybe stuck in a closet, or the power goes out and you can't see anything, or in a tunnel. I remember as a youth exploring Fort Casey and one room in particular called the switchboard (which is now bolted shut). You'd walk in there, shut the door, and literally you couldn't see your hand in front of your face.

Undoubtedly the greatest Christmas gift this dark world could every hope for is light. A light that would chase the darkness away...forever. A light that would vanquish the darkness. A light that would bring us something we were powerless to bring...HOPE!

This Christmas, as you celebrate, remember the greatest gift of all. The gift that gave purpose to your life. The gift that gives hope when your situation is desperate. The gift that enables you to talk to God. The gift that makes restitution for every sin you have ever committed and ever will commit. The gift that literally keeps on giving.

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Worship IV: Worship Defined

You should probably read Worship I, Worship II, and Worship III before you jump to part IV. Just click here, scroll to the bottom, and read in order.

So far we've taken a look at the most important thing...what God is looking for in worship. In this post we want to come up with a "working definition" of worship.

First, worship is a verb, an action. Worship is something we do…it’s a response. Worship is not a feeling, it is not a "thing," it’s not something you watch or something you attend, it’s an action...an act...an act of response.

We don't have to look any further than the book of Psalms to see this clearly spelled out. It's there we are told to "sing, clap, dance, give, speak of Him, lift His name, tell of his might, meditate, glorify Him, magnify Him, praise Him, walk with Him, bow down before Him" and more.

Among many other things;
  • Worship is a truth teller and truth revealer. 
  • Worship is a safeguard for our heart. 
  • Worship is a weapon to fight sin, and a defense against temptation. 
  • Worship is passionate, and worship is disciplined. 
  • Worship is spontaneous, and worship is planned. 
  • Worship is for the intellectual, and worship is for the emotional. 
  • Worship is joyful and worship is sorrowful. 
  • Worship is loud, and worship is silence. [pause] 
  • Worship IS music and singing, and yet worship is so much more… 
  • And perhaps most importantly, worship is not about us. Worship is done by us, but it is not about us, or for us. Worship is about Him, God, Jahweh…worship is for God, to God, and because of God. And God says "you worship me by worshipping Jesus."
Darlene Zschech, the worship/music leader at Hillsong church defines worship this way; "Worship is our life's response to the grandeur and magnificence of God."

So what's our working definition of worship? I like this one that I’ve pulled together from many others (Dave Williamson, Jim Kress, Louie Giglio, Darlene Zschech, Matt Redman, and more)...

"Worship is all that you are, responding to all that God has revealed Himself to be; who He is, what He has done, and what He will do."

In this definition we capture three important truths;
  1. We capture Spirit Worship:...it's all that we are 
  2. We capture Our place in Worship: We don't initiate, we respond... 
  3. And we capture Truth Worship: Truth worship is a response to who God has revealed Himself to be...
    - Who He is, (He is worthy of our worship simply for existing)
    - What He has done, (in history, and in our lives), and…
    - What He will do, (His promises that await including/not limited to, heaven) 
God reveals, we respond and that response is worship.

As Matt Redman, author of many of the songs we sing, puts it; "The key to a life of passionate and powerful worship comes from seeing God. The more we encounter Him, the more impacting our lives will be."

If this is true, that worship is a response to God’s revelation, then it would follow that the most important thing in worship is not worship at all, but God. It all starts with Him…and what we think and know about Him will drive our response.

Coming next - Who is God?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Worship III: Worship in Truth

Stop: Make sure you've read Worship I and Worship II before you proceed.

We all worship, all the time, all of us are worshipping. But does our worship matter? Is it seen, heard and felt in heaven? What is God looking for from us in our worship? The answer is found in John 4:23-24 where Jesus tells us what God is looking for;

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

We looked last at Worship in Spirit and today we take a look at the other side of the coin; truth. It is not enough to worship with passion and fullness apart from worshipping in truth. Not only is he looking for spirit-worship, but worship that God accepts must be done in truth, with correct “theology." Theology is a big word, but all it means is "our study and understanding of God." That's it. Which means that we are all theologians...every single one of us has a certain view of God and who He is. Whether or not that view is accurate is another matter.

A.W. Tozer reminds all of us; “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. A right conception of God…is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse.” 

Our theology fuels our worship, and our worship reveals our theology. In other words, how we view God and what we believe about Him will fuel and drive our worship. And how we worship God reveals what we believe about Him.

Question: Are you (and I) worshipping in truth? Do we have a right "theology" of God? Are we responding to God as we have made Him out to be, or as He has made Him out to be?

I believe this is the number 1 thing most fiercely fought over in the spiritual realm and on earth…who is God? There’s a giant smear-campaign going on by Satan and all his minions…to get us to buy into an incomplete or in-accurate view of God.

So who is He and how can we make sure we’re worshipping in truth? Fortunately for us, God helps us answer that question…He gives us His Son, His Word, His Sprit, and His Creation. And it is incumbent on us to constantly measure our views of God against His full revelation.

Spirit and Truth…two sides of the same coin, and the coin is worship. You cannot worship God with Spirit only - you'd be full worshipping, but who or what? Nor can you worship God with Truth only - He doesn't accept worship that is not given from our inward self. God accepts and is in fact looking for worshippers who worship him fully sold out to spirit and truth. Not a balance of both, but fully both.

Again, MacDonald puts it this way: "Therefore, those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. There must be no sham or hypocrisy. There must be no pretense to being religious, when inwardly one’s life is corrupt. There must be no idea that in going through a series of rituals, God is thereby pleased. Even if God instituted those rituals Himself, He still insists that man approach Him with a broken and a contrite heart."

True worshippers MUST worship Him in spirit and in truth…and we will spend a few going deeper into "worshipping in truth" - namely, we'll look at how God has revealed Himself to us. Next up - worship defined.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Worship II: Worship in Spirit...

(Read Worship I first)

We all worship. Worship is what we were created for. Everyone worships. Whether or not you call yourself a Christian; whether or not you call yourself spiritual or religious, you worship. As pastor Louie Giglio puts it, "Every day, all day long, everywhere you go, you worship. It's what you do, it's who you are." Simply put, "worship is our response to what we value most." (Giglio). Which begs the question, who or what do you value most?

At the end of the day, there are only two things we worship. We are either worshipping self, or we are worshipping God. Any worship apart from God is simply gratifying our own desires...worshipping self. Or look at it another way...we are either worshipping the Creator, God, or the created (which includes self). Everything in existence falls into two categories; God, and created things. So if you're not worshipping God, guess what...

Any message on worship must start with John chapter 4. Why? It's there that God lays out for us exactly what He is looking for in worship and from a worshipper. It's there we read the following words from Jesus;

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)
This passage is ultimately about Jesus correcting a Samaritan woman’s mis-understandings of worship...and I think he is also correcting ours.

First, worshipping in spirit means it’s not about where you worship, but how…he wants whole-hearted worship. Second, you no longer have to “go somewhere” to worship God, because His Spirit now indwells all believers. You don't have to go to a temple, find a priest, and offer a sacrifice. You and I ARE the temple, Jesus is our priest, and Jesus is our sacrifice. And as we will learn later, not only is Jesus our sacrifice, but our whole lives are to be a living sacrifice as well...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The big point about worshipping in spirit is this; God is far more interested in how you worship and the spirit in which you are worshipping than where you are worshipping or what you are doing. In other words, Jesus is overturning “outward worship” and instituting “inward” worship…not worship of self, but worship of the heart...and "from the heart" isn't referring specifically to emotions, but "heart" is referring to your entire being...everything that encompasses you including your heart, but your intellect as well.

William MacDonald, author of the Believer's Bible Commentary puts it this way;


"The Jewish people had reduced worship to outward forms and ceremonies. They thought that by religiously adhering to the letter of the law, and going through certain rituals, they were worshiping the Father. But theirs was not a worship of the spirit. It was outward, not inward. Their bodies might be bowed down on the ground but their hearts were not right before God."

In Isaiah we see God’s heart on this matter; The Lord says: 

"These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” (Isaiah 29:13) 

Again, the point here is that we not fool ourselves in our worship. It is all too easy to do the right things, sing the right songs, focusing on our actions and "what we do" thinking we are honoring and worshipping God. However, He is far more interested in what's going on inside of us.

Spirit worship holds nothing back be it joy or sorrow, be it brokenness or fullness. Worshipping in spirit is all about bringing all that you are to the cross. It's about the widow who gave all she had...two copper coins. To put it as simple as I can, worship in spirit is to worship in complete and total honesty and transparency. This is what God is after. Don't pretend, don't wear a mask, don't try to hide from Him, but bring all that you are to Him in worship.

But that's not all...coming next, the other side of the coin...worship in truth.

BACK! Worship I: Intro


"Where have I been?" you ask? A few weeks ago I had the privilege and responsibility to preach on worship. All of my study time was focused on that message...but I am back and planning on using this blog to continue to write and think about God, worship of Him, and how impossible it is for words to capture Him. In the coming weeks I plan to write and post segments from that message simply because it encompasses so much that I believe about worship.

As we I prepare, I must make it clear that my thoughts are not wholly mine...they are a culmination of thoughts I have gleaned from so many. From my mentor and friend, Jim Kress, to other worship leaders  I know well like Dave Morgan, to pastors and worship leaders who have led me from a distance like Darlene Zschech, Matt Redman, Louie Giglio, and A.W. Tozer. My philosophy and thoughts on worship have been influenced hugely by so many and I pray that I continue to learn. My hope in these posts is simple to pass on to you what I have learned in hopes that together, we might be inspired to worship the only thing worth worshipping; God, through Jesus.

And so it is that we move forward, together. Trying to wrap your arms around worship and God is like, as Josh Wilson put it, "trying to fit the ocean in a cup." Nevertheless that is my self appointed assignment. Together, let's wade into the deep.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Power of a Song: Revelation Song

The song? Revelation Song, written by Jennie Lee Riddle, with perhaps the most known recording by Kari Jobe who leads with Gateway church.  To hear/see the song story by Jennie herself, click here.

The first time I heard/sang this song was at a conference in Chicago. It was one of those songs that I immediately knew we had to do, and knew that our church would embrace. There is power in this song and it seems to have a way of transporting the worshipper to the throne of God Himself. Why? Because I believe this song brings us close to the worship of heaven. How can I make such a bold claim?

In the book of Revelation chapter 4, we get a glimpse at the very throne in heaven. And what do we see? Creatures that are indescribable worshipping God; elders falling down and laying their crowns and worshipping God. In fact, it is the sole job of some of these creatures to do one thing and one thing only...

Each of the four living creatures had six wingsand was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.” (Revelation 4:8)


Now back to our song...this is the chorus we sing 3-4 times (depending on your arrangement of the song). It is a powerful refrain that when sung in spirit and truth, touches the throne of God. But that's not all...the first verse of the song contains this lyric;

Worthy is the lamb who was slain
Holy, Holy is He

Sound familiar? It should! It too is taken straight from Revelation...

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:11-12)

And one more...

(verse 2) Blessing and honor, strength and glory and power be
to You the only wise King

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13)


Another lyric that grabbed me straight away was 

"Jesus, your name is power, breath and living water." 

Look here for the inspiration of that lyric...

1) Power: we can turn to many places in Scripture to see the power in calling on the name of Jesus...just read this account for one such place
2) and 3) are both names that Jesus attributes to Himself; He is the bread of life (see John 6), and He is the living water (see John 4)

Now back to our original question; why is this song so powerful, and why has it connected to believers all over the world? I think we've already answered that question...it is a song inspired by a glimpse of heaven's worship, filled with truth.

- soli deo gloria; He Alone is Worthy.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Power of a Song: Where Would We Be

Matt Redman
Yes, I'm getting back to one of my passions; writing about Jesus. I've decided to do a series of posts on some of the powerful music/worship songs that have impacted me...songs that we are currently singing at the church I lead at. First up? An incredible song by a gifted artist from an "awe-inspiring" album about an indescribable God.

The song? "Where Would We Be" by Matt Redman, found on the album 10,000 Reasons.

Let's rewind to August, 2010. The world watched in horror as 33 miners were hopelessly trapped in the San Jose copper-gold mine in Chile. The miners were trapped and there was absolutely nothing they could do to rescue themselves. Their only chance at survival was not them digging their way out...no, their only chance at survival was to be rescued. What unfolded was an amazing story as the miners went from a place of hopelessness to jubilation. This story served as the inspiration for Matt Redman as he penned this song and there are so many spiritual implications. Consider some of the lyrics...

We couldn't escape, the sin and the shame that kept us bound
We couldn't break through, we couldn't reach you, so you reached down

Where would we be without your love, we'd still be lost in darkness
Where would we be without your cross, you made a way to save us

Just like those miners, we too were trapped in a cave...a cave of our own making. Sin. And just like the miners, were too were unable to save ourselves. There was no chance at digging ourselves out. The law was powerless to save us...we needed a Savior.

"For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering." (Romans 8:3)

And just as we were running out of oxygen with death knocking on the door, Jesus comes.

You are the hope eternal, You are the Light of this world
Jesus our rescuer

We're safe in the arms of Your embrace
We're breathing in Your freedom
Lifting a song of highest praise
And breathing out Your anthem
Oh, Your love, oh, Your love

Jesus. The Light of the World. Jesus, our Rescuer. Jesus, the sweetest name in heaven. Jesus.

Worship is simply responding to all that God is, all that He has done, and all that He is doing. God reveals, we respond. That response is worship. Contained in the lyrics of this song are both aspects of worship; God's revelation, and our response. The lyrics speaking of who Jesus is and what is done are the revelation; the lyrics singing about our praise and "breathing out [His] anthem" are our response.

A powerful message - of lost-ness, and rescue. A powerful song. I leave you with one last lyric from it...

We live our lives to thank You
How could we not adore You?
Jesus our Rescuer

Click here to watch a short video of Matt Redman and this "song-story"

Friday, May 4, 2012

Where do You Run?

My son, Brennan, with his Uncle Derrick
It's Friday. The sun is shining, it's relatively warm out (by Bellingham/May standards), there's fresh blossoms on the trees, a light breeze in the air, and I recently returned from an amazing vacation. I'm sitting at Starbucks sipping a white-chocolate americano (with room). I have a nice house, two cars, a great job, and am typing on this cool computer. I have the best wife I could hope for, an amazing son who brings so much joy to my life. I have money in the bank and food in my stomach. And above all, I have Jesus.

And yet somehow, a variety of circumstances have conspired against me today and I find myself feeling pretty low. Down. Depressed. Overwhelmed. Which brings me to the point of this post...a question that I'm asking myself this very minute;

Who (or what) do you run to when you're down? The world offers a lot of "fixes." Some are ways we often medicate ourselves when we're feeling blue; Food, T.V., movies, chocolate (tempting), stuff (retail therapy), coffee, sports, games. Others are things that have the potential to lead us down a dark path; alcohol, sex, drugs, relationships.
Where do you run?

Of course, we all know the "right answer;" and most of us are probably good at faking it. But in the end we only fool ourselves. The real question is "where/who/what is the source of real life?"

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)
There is another place to run...Jesus. What does He offer?

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)


Life. Joy. Fulfillment. Peace. Purpose. To look anywhere else for life is to accept the stocking filled with coal, rather then the one next to it which is overflowing with good gifts. What it takes from us to choose the stocking with good gifts is one thing; belief. We must believe that Jesus indeed will fill our hearts with life. So next time you are down, choose life. Don't go for the phony stuff...spend time with God instead. Draw near to Him...and see Him draw near to you.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Reflections on the Cross

Easter has come and gone but I feel compelled for many reasons to spend a few moments this afternoon reflecting on the cross.

God's wrath: In the garden, Jesus was in so much anguish that He sweat drops of blood. Part of His prayers included His plea that God would let this cup pass from Him. On the cross we have recorded that God turns His back on His Son, Jesus...we know this from Jesus' cry of "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" So what exactly is going on here?

Sin has to be dealt with. The only way to deal with sin is death. God, who is pure and holy, cannot and will not tolerate sin. When Jesus died for us, he literally took on Himself every single sin that had been and ever will be committed. Let that sink in. Every single sin that had ever and would ever be committed was willfully placed on Jesus. And what is the punishment for that sin? God's wrath. God's wrath which had been stored up...God's wrath which had yet to come...all of it was in that moment thrust on Jesus.

And in that moment, Jesus, who became sin for us and the recipient of God's wrath, cries out to His Father who has forsaken Him. God turns His back on Jesus. He has too. He cannot endure the presence of sin. He is too holy.

Our Senior Pastor put it this way on Easter;
"God treated Jesus as if he had lived our life; so that he [God] could treat us as if we had lived his [Jesus'] life."

This brings many emotions and thoughts to me. What anguish, despair and loneliness Jesus must have felt as He receives our sin, and quite unjustly receives His Father's wrath, and then sees His Father turn away. What sorrow, pain and agony God the Father must have felt as He was forced to look away and turn His back on His one and only son.

I agree with our Pastor, Jeff, who thinks that this is what was causing Jesus so much anguish in the garden as He prayed. More than anything, He knew that the cross meant He would have to endure the wrath of God poured out on Him. He knows God's wrath. He has seen God's power. And He knew that in that moment for the first time in eternity, He would be separated from His Father. In fact Jesus probably lived most of His life knowing this day was coming. We know that "He was a man of sorrows, familiar with pain." He knew...and yet because of His love for His Father, His obedience, and His love for us, He follows through all the way to the end.

Read these words anew, and believe...

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:16-17)

Monday, March 26, 2012

God's Temple or Yours?


One of my jobs at Northlake is to put the sermon slides together. This week our Senior Pastor asked me to help him find an image of the temple that King Solomon built for God. There's a ton of images out there of what it may have looked liked, but nothing we can scheme up could convey the magnificence of the temple. After all, it was to be the house of Yahweh. For a little perspective, check this out;

What set the temple of Solomon apart from other wonders was its incredible expense...All the gold in Solomon's temple would make up a cube six meters on a side. This is about one-thirtieth of all the gold ever mined up to the present.

Construction of the temple included 100,000 talents of gold and 1 million talents of silver, worth respectively $77 billion and $10 billion today. Including the cost of cedar wood and other construction materials, the wealth of Solomon's temple was about one hundred billion dollars. There is no building in today's world of comparable value. 


Can you imagine going to worship in a building that had 87 billion dollars worth of gold and silver in it's construction? A building that was worth 100 billion? It had to be nice, though; after all, this building was to be the house of God.

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." (2 Cor. 6:19-20)

Wow. 

Remember, the moment that Jesus died on the cross the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This tearing was incredibly significant. It meant (and means) that God no longer would reside in the temple made by human hands; but from that point forward He now resides in you. For those who have believed in Jesus and received by faith the gift of eternal life, He, God, lives in you. You are the temple. And you are worth more than 100 billion dollars.

There are many applications to this but the main points I want to make are these two;
  1. Do we honor God with our bodies? Do we put the same passion into our temples that Solomon put into his temple? God is in you (and me)...what kind of "temple" have we prepared for Him?
  2. Do you understand and comprehend the grace and love that God has shown you? His love is so vast that He has chosen to live in you. He has bought you with a steep price; the price of His Son.
The call for us is to glorify God in our bodies. How do we do that? Ah, that is for you and Him to work out...but let our "glorifying of Him in our bodies" follow the same spirit that went into Solomon's temple. He spared no expense to build the very best the world had ever seen.

soli deo gloria;
To God Alone be the Glory

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Anchor in the Storm

North Face (Eiger) with a storm brewing
Have you ever been in a storm? I mean a really big storm...one that was threatening your very existence? I have never been in a storm of that magnitude, but I have read plenty of books about men and women that have. I remember one account of a climber attempting to summit The North Face of the Eiger; arguably one of the most difficult summits in the world. This particular climber got stuck on the face in the midst of a horrific storm with wind, snow, sub-zero temperatures, and falling rocks seeking to rip him right off the face. His sole lifeline was a rope that was attached the rock via a couple of anchors. (He survived...which made for an incredible book).

All of us face times in our lives where the "storms" of life seem overwhelming. The list of things that affect us is un-ending; unemployment, divorce, death, hopelessness, loneliness, relationships that are fractured, children that are lost, and more. All of these things can lead us to dark places where we seem to lose hope. The million-dollar question is this; "when you are facing these times, what's your anchor?"

Jesus gives us an incredible anchor in John 14:1-14. He gives us a series of verses that we should cling to in good times and in bad. Here's a sample...

" 'Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.' " (John 14:1-3)
When we're in the storm what we most need is hope. In these 14 verses God through Jesus gives us hope beyond anything we could imagine...the hope of heaven. There's so much in these verses that we don't have time to un-pack; but notice that the promise is not just to be with Jesus, as if that weren't enough. But what Jesus says is that he has gone ahead of you and is intentionally preparing a place JUST FOR YOU. It's going to be your place. A place of safety and hope, a place of peace and security, a place of fun and excitement, a place just for you.

This should be an anchor for our soul. Far too many Christians spend far too little time looking forward to the fulfillment of this promise. I wonder, if God gave us a sneak peak of the place He was preparing and then sent us back to earth, how much difference would it make it in how we face our struggles?

My challenge for you is simple...simple to understand, at least. What's your anchor? If you don't know or don't feel like you have one, spend some time studying heaven. Learn about Jesus. And allow Him to be the anchor for your soul.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Boiling it Down...

In my last post I wrote about the need to keep things simple in my life right now. To that end I stumbled across a familiar verse which again, cuts right to the heart of the matter.

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." (Psalm 20:7)

The question that jumps out is obvious; "who or what are you trusting in?" The easy answer is to say we trust in God. But upon closer examination I have to confess that in my own life I trust in too many other things.

- I trust in exercise and doctors for health.
- I trust in my job and my bank account for security.
- I trust in my 401k and the stock market for retirement.
- I trust in my my house for safety.
- I trust in my car...
- I trust in myself...(ouch)

And yet, the question still hangs in the air. Most of that stuff is neither good or bad; it's amoral. It's neutral. Some of these things are in fact gifts from God that I'm allowed and even meant to enjoy. But the minute it replaces God in my life as something I put fait and trust in, well, you know...

It's about our heart attitude and motivations. Unless you're Job. Job had all his securities taken away and for him it became a choice he had to make; would he continue to trust God...the same God that took it all away. For most of us, though, we will go through our lives and never have to face the crucible that Job had to face. So it comes back to a heart attitude, which does play out in our actions. Who or what do we trust in?

When you boil it all down we either trust in God or we don't. It's easy to spot in others but hard in ourselves. The person who trusts in God usually sticks out. 

- They are generous with their money and possessions. Very generous. 
- They may have "stuff" but they're not consumed by it. 
- They seem to have a peace and joy that the rest of us lack. 
- They don't worry about much, or at least they don't let worry drive them. 
- They aren't afraid to risk...to risk little or to risk much.
- They will go anywhere and do anything for God...and often He takes them up on that offer.

So where are you? Where am I? Are we trusting in the stuff of the world, or trusting in the one who made and gave all the stuff? 

Some trust in horses, some trust in chariots...and some trust solely in the name and person of Jesus Christ. How about you?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Keeping it Simple

I need simple. Ever since my son was born almost 2 years ago, life has seemingly become increasingly crowded. Everything is a priority and the one thing I seem to struggle with the most is keeping things simple. It's partly because I tend to be a detail oriented person who sees a lot of complexity. This creates a conundrum; I need simplicity but I see complexity.

Which brings us to Christianity. Its core message is simple enough for a child to understand it;
- Jesus loves you. He died for your sins. Believe in Him and you have eternal life. And yet it's complex enough that you can spend a lifetime studying it and never fully grasp it all. Which brings us to a passage in Acts. In this passage we find Paul giving a defense of himself to governor Felix. It's in the middle of his defense that he says this;

" 'So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.' " (Acts 24:16).

This simple verse sums up so much for us. So much complexity boiled down to one verse. If we could do that one thing, keep a clear conscience before BOTH God and man, we'd be right in the center of God's will. How can I be so sure? Think about it. What would having a clear conscience before God mean? It would have to mean at least a few things...

  • We're not stuck in sin. A clear conscience necessitates we have received and understood His forgiveness and are living in the grace of God.
  • We're living in obedience. Jesus Himself said we show our love to Him by our obedience to Him. If you're not obeying Him, your conscience cannot be clear.
  • We have a growing love for our fellow man (and woman). The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor...and Jesus makes sure to define "neighbor" for us...it includes those who are "not like us" (see the story of the Good Samaritan). 
  • We're totally surrendered to Him. A clear conscience is found when you're completely surrendered to God and His will.

You measure and hear your conscience in solitude, silence and prayer. That's when our conscience can speak the loudest.

  • Stuck in sin? God will reveal it to you.
  • Living in dis-obedience, or ignoring a directive from God? He will correct you.
  • Angry at people? Have an un-reconciled relationship with another believer? He has asked you to be a peacemaker and be reconciled before you come to Him.
  • Mostly surrendered, but have a closet or two that God doesn't get to access? He'll ask you for the key.
You see if you really want to know how you're doing in your relationship with God, it's simple; sit quietly somewhere, and ask Him. Ask Him to speak to you. He will. Ask Him if your conscience is clear before Him; He'll tell you. He'll speak through His written Word, through His living Word, through others, and He may just whisper to you something you need to hear.

And to be sure, my conscience is speaking to me too...how about yours?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Power of a Song: 10,000 Reasons...

10,000 Reasons...
- to Worship
- to Sing
- to be Thankful
- to Surrender
- to Serve
- to Pray
- to Love

10,000 reasons (and more) to devote your life to loving God with everything you are.

Something I rarely do, I'm about to do again...promote something. The "something" is a music album by one of my favorite worship leaders, Matt Redman. The name of the album is 10,000 Reasons, (also the name of one of his tracks). The album is full of inspired music that will turn your heart and mind to Christ. One of the songs we are working on right now, getting ready to teach our congregation is called "Where Would We Be" (hear it here)

Some of the lyrics:
You came to search and rescue
In love, the Father sent You
Broke through the darkest night
You came to seek and save us
You came to liberate us

Jesus, You heard our cry

You are the hope eternal
You are the Light of this world
Jesus, our rescuer
We live our lives to thank You
How could we not adore You?
Jesus, our rescuer

Where would we be without your love
We'd still be lost in darkness
Where would we be with your cross
You made a way to save us
O Your love, O Your love

The entire album is filled with songs that speak powerfully to the two huge parts of worship;
1) What God has done and is doing for us, (His revelation)
2) Our response to this (worship)

Worship is much more then what happens on Sunday mornings at a church. It is 24/7...you're always worshipping something or someone. If you need something to help you turn your heart and mind to worship in between those Sunday's, check out this album...10,000 Reasons. And worship...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Our Rear Guard

One of my favorite activities with my 22 month old son is walking. Specifically, we love to go downtown, get a coffee drink (for Dadda) and a mini-scone (for B-man), and run up and down the sidewalks watching the city wake up. Brennan loves to run ahead of me, and I love to be behind him so that I can keep an eye on him. I notice when I'm following him I'm always scanning ahead; looking for danger, cars, obstacles he might trip on, trying to keep him away from things that could harm him. I don't (and can't) prevent him from ever getting hurt or falling, but I can watch out for the big stuff...anything he might not be able to handle.


Last time we went for a walk I was struck with this picture; that of God as my "rear guard." That brought me to this passage in Isaiah;

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I." (Isaiah 58:6-9)

I don't know about you but I long for God to be my rear guard. In this passage, however, it's important to note the condition for the promise. The promise comes to those who...
- loose the chains of injustice
- untie the cords of yoke
- set the oppressed free
- share their food with the hungry
- provide shelter and clothes for those who have none

And when we do this, our "light will break forth like the dawn." I love that picture. Jesus was the one who said that we are the light of the world. And what is the light? Is it not to do the things that God has prepared in advance for us to do? The two great commandments are to Love God and Love our Neighbors (which includes our enemies). Not just to love with an emotion, but to love with action.

The point I think is simply this; when we are investing our lives in the things that matter to God, He indeed will be our guard. How are you doing? How am I doing? Are we paying attention to the important things? Mercy, justice, caring for the orphan and widow, loving the homeless and hungry? Not just with words but with deeds?

8 "He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Can't See the Forest for the Trees

Do you ever wonder about some of our figures of speech, or our proverbial sayings? One of my favorites (except when it applies to me), is "He/She can't see the forest for the trees." It means that someone is so focused on the details that they miss the big picture. Or put even more simply, it's when someone is missing the point.

In John chapter 11 we have an amazing account of Jesus healing someone. This isn't just a "regular supernatural healing" (as if there is such a thing); not just a blind man seeing or a lame man walking. This is a man who is dead...and Jesus calls him from the grave and brings him back to life. So what happens next? You'd think that every single person who saw or heard about this would immediately bow down and worship Him. Some do. But others, well, read for yourself...

"If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:48) 

They, (the religious leaders), couldn't see the forest for the trees. They were missing the point. Here they have the fulfillment to their very own Scriptures living, breathing, healing and moving among them, in their lives and they missed it. Too focused on their own position to see the Son of God. I wonder, though, if you and I would be different? 

Part of my job has me leading worship on a regular basis for our local congregation. Let's say for a moment that a new, young, good-looking great guitar-playing worship leader joined our church, and I decided to let him lead a few weeks. He's amazing. Humble, talented, Spirit-filled, teachable, and our church is clearly being moved to worship in ways they have never experienced under my leadership. Nobody says anything to me, but I can tell that all eyes are on me. Will I embrace him? Will I let him lead even more, or even position him in a place to take over? Or will I squelch his leadership, too consumed or worried about my position and what I might lose? Will I miss the forest for the trees?

You see, it's all too easy for us to point fingers or cast judgment on how the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus' time responded (or didn't respond) to Him. And yet when I think hard enough and search my own heart, I am humbled...and I know that were it not for His grace in my life, I could easily slip down the same path they were on, a path that leads me away from God.

The point? I think this is a case for humility. A dangerous prayer to pray is "God, keep me humble..." and yet I pray that prayer because I know the other path is so, so dangerous. Will join me in this prayer?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Are you Secure?

Today my Bible reading plan took me to Psalm 16. So many things jumped out at me as I read this Psalm that I thought I'd highlight just a few of them. 

1 Keep me safe, O God,
for in you I take refuge.


Do I? Do you? Do we take refuge in God? In one respect, yes...the evidence simply being that every time I'm in trouble or need help, I turn to God. But this very thing also reveals that I too often place my trust and faith in things other than God...and it's only when they fail that I turn to God to take refuge. The million dollar question remains; "is God enough?" If all else were stripped away; money, health, family, friends, job, house, food, even life itself; is God enough? My prayer is that indeed, I would find and take refuge in God.

2 I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”


James reminds us that every good and perfect gift comes from God, but more then that, the single greatest gift of all time is the salvation we find in and through Jesus Christ. Many gifts find their true joy, their true meaning and their true fulfillment only with God. For example, the gift of loving and being loved unconditionally is only perfectly fulfilled in God. Remove Him from the equation; take Him out of your life, and you have nothing. "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36)

5 LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.

However, through Jesus, I am secure. I have nothing to fear, and nothing can harm me. I know Christ, He knows me, and because He is Sovereign, I can rest knowing that everything passes through His hands before it comes to me. Blessings, trials, tests, sorrows, they all come through the hands of a Sovereign God. Because I know Him, I am secure.

7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.


Because of all of this, because of all He has shown, His love demonstrated by His brutal and painful death, I will praise Him. For even when I'm resting He counsels me. As I quiet my heart I hear His voice. Jesus Christ; my rear-guard. Wow. When you feel insecure, when you feel unsettled and shaken, know that He is there. He is always there...leading, guiding, whispering.

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
11 You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Worship. Worship is a response. Let it be that our lives are lives of worship; lived in response to all that He has done for us. Just as Jesus did not see decay, so we, adopted as sons of the living God and co-heirs with Christ Himself, will not see decay. No, in fact we will see Him face to face, and see the place He is and has been preparing for all who trust in Him.

soli deo gloria - To God Alone be the Glory!

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012: Time to Grow

In my previous post I commented on my resolution to experience growth in my relationship with Christ this year. I want to take the picture of our garden, one step further (if you haven't read that post, click here and read it first). There's a few things that I'm responsible for if I want to experience spiritual growth...and let's be real honest here; spiritual growth is never an option for believers in Christ. It's something we should all see in our lives.

Step 1: prepare the soil (my heart). If I want to see growth, I need to make sure the soil is good. This involves both putting things in, fertilizer so to speak, and taking things out. I need to guard my heart above all else. This means "bouncing my eyes" and being careful what I listen to, read, watch and look at. It means investing in things that strengthen my heart. It means an unwillingness to engage in things that poison my heart.

23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

Step 2: plant the seed (God's Word). Obviously if you don't plant anything then nothing will grow except weeds. If you want something good to eat, you have to plant the seeds...and plant them properly. This is one area I need to work on this year. I read my Bible frequently, and completed a 2-year Bible reading plan...however, more often my reading was done simply to check the box. Instead, I need to read with my eyes and ears wide open, listening for God to speak to me while I read. And beyond that, planting God's Word is more than just reading...it's involves study. Asking and answering the simple questions as I read; (who was this written to? what was the context? what is it saying to me today? is there an over-arching principle I need to learn or apply?). It's only as I read in this manner that the seed gets properly planted.

12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Step 3: water the seed (Pray). Prayer involves two distinct things. Talking and Listening. I do a lot of talking, but not much listening. This is where other disciplines such as solitude or fasting come in handy...they force you to slow down and listen. Still, I know many men and women who have tons of knowledge but lack prayer. Prayer is what moves the hand of God. Prayer is what reveals the secrets in His Word. Prayer is what brings peace to my marriage, creativity to my job, energy to my body. Prayer is what settles disputes, protects the vulnerable. Prayer changes things. Prayer leads to peace. And without prayer, your seed will lay beneath the surface and never poke through.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (Ephesians 6:18)

Step 4: get into the sun (Deeds - DO). Many Christians stop at step 3. They protect their heart, they read and study, they have a deep prayer life, and they stop. They become as I heard one pastor put it, "spiritually constipated." There's no outward expression. Our faith should make a difference in this world. Step out and take a risk. Do something bold for Christ...or just do something. But whatever you do, don't stop at step 3...get out and serve. Consider the words of Christ;

"Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)


Step 5: Hang on for the ride. Once you are growing, you will see God do amazing things...

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