17 Oct


When we go out, my husband drives the Honda van that I drive most of the time. Last night he took his hands off the steering wheel and held them up, so I would notice– not his “look ma, no hands” bravado– but that the wheel shook back and forth. He explained that the van only needed the wheels balanced since the car didn’t pull to the left or right. When that happens, it’s time for a realignment because the wheels aren’t straight and all going in the same direction. I didn’t know I was in for a mechanics lesson. I thought we were just going out to dinner!

In Psalm 50 God calls out the wicked for their deeds: undisciplined living, greed, thievery, adultery, and slander. Then he lets us in on his response in verse 21:

These things you have done, and I have been silent;
.    you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.

The wicked assume that God is like them. In other words, they think he would approve of their rationalization of their sin, that he shares their perspective.

“God doesn’t really mean I should follow his Word right now. He sees that I am being mistreated. He knows the perpetrators are evil and not deserving of my love!”

“The people who have been oppressed deserve to loot and grab what isn’t theirs. Good for them! Surely God is OK with righting wrongs.”

“I’m not sharing anything that anyone doesn’t already know about so-and-so. They are bringing disgrace on the name of Jesus. We need to be praying they will find their way back to him!”

And so it goes– justification for stepping outside of God’s best for the Church and for each one of us. In other words, casting his words behind us. (Verse 17)

The actions mentioned in this psalm are worthy of God’s rebuke. But this is small compared to the underlying grievous offense: seeing God– the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe; the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent One; the source of all mercy and all justice– as one like us.

God is completely other.

We can catch glimpses of how amazingly gloriously holy he is, but we are using a limited human intellect. We are made in his image, and so we can know something of who he is, but logically there is no way for the created to understand the Creator. To reduce God to operating with human motivations is to strip him of everything worthy of worship.

Or to say it another way: as long as we think God is like us, our worship of him will be far less than he deserves.

Why would we sing the praises of a hero when we can adore the living God?



Does my worship feel “off”? Is it bumpy, pulled to the sidelines, or less-than-inspiring? A realignment is most likely necessary.

Psalm 50 gives practical ways to adjust my mind and heart:

Verses 14-15:
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
    and perform your vows to the Most High,
     and call upon me in the day of trouble;
    I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

Verse 23:
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
    to one who orders his way rightly
    I will show the salvation of God!”

  • offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God– tell him what you are thankful for, list the blessings he has showered on me
  • perform your vows to him and order your way rightly– live the way he has called me to live, let my actions line up with his Word
  • call on him in trouble– let my first response to difficulties be to cry out to him, not take it out on others around me

The result? To be able to glorify God and see his salvation; to be so captivated by his god-ness that worship is my automatic response.

He is holy!

Default Fault

10 Oct

IMG_4518Colors everywhere! One of my greatest joys is looking at color– on autumn trees, in aisles of material at a fabric store, over rows of souvenirs in a market. Even in my craft room raw materials are arranged by color.

When I’m in a hurry I toss items for sorting later– a length of ribbon, buttons from a friend, and other finds– on my desk. When I have time to create, I gravitate upstairs to my room. And I put everything in its place.

Sometimes this takes up all the time I had for creating art. Last time that happened I laughed out loud at myself and the irony! While I enjoy a neat space for working, the goal is to use the supplies to create art.


After Jesus had* healed Bartimaeus of his blindness, entered Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna!” from his followers, and cleansed the temple of unprincipled merchants, the religious leaders of Israel ask Jesus:

“By what authority are you doing these things?”

Continue reading

Collective Worship as a Means of Grace

3 Oct

A couple of years ago I made a discovery that has changed the way I read the Bible. This foundational perspective shift radically altered my interpretation and application of Scripture. The beauty of this idea is that it’s so simple that it requires no special knowledge or training.

Do I have your attention? Here it is:

Continue reading

See you next weekend

19 Sep

I probably should have posted a notice that I wouldn’t be posting last weekend or this. Last weekend I was ordained– with family staying with us and lots of really fun gatherings. This weekend I officiated at my very first wedding– with lots of prep work, the rehearsal, last-minute meeting, and the ceremony quite a long drive away. Great stuff, but hard to find time to write.

Next weekend, I’ll be back!


5 Sep



I’m going to make an assumption: that everyone reading this blog would like to grow spiritually, be more like Jesus, connect with God on a deeper level, and/or become unstuck regarding his/her relationship with God.


The Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” Continue reading

in & with

29 Aug


Around the time hormones started messing up my little girl brain, my family took several snowmobile trips in the winter playground of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. After driving 8-10 hours, we left cars (with keys in them in case they needed moving for the snowplow) at the last plowed crossroads, tied everything we needed for a week onto toboggans behind Arctic Cats and Ski-Doos, and floated through feet of snow into the white wilderness. I loved the beautiful virgin scenery, but I was the only cautious one in a long line of sleds. Other drivers got stuck and rescued from driving too fast into the unknown well before I got to there. I chugged along at the rear of the line way behind everyone else on the tracks they blazed. Holding everyone else up made me embarrassed and frustrated with myself.

A couple of hours into the early northern darkness, we arrived at camp and unloaded by sled headlights. The cabin was the same temperature as the air outside – every chair, table, and piece of fabric – including bedding – stole heat from anything above zero. We kept our snow suits, even our mittens, on and wished the heat of the fire in the stone fireplace into every corner way faster than physics could keep up. Rather than wedge ourselves into a circle around the small fire (there were about 15 of us), most of us kids headed for bed. Without water to wash up and brush our teeth (snow had to be melted on the cookstove to prime the pump), we lugged sleeping bags and blankets up the ladder into the (even colder) upstairs dorm room. I rolled out my bag on a creaky top bunk and climbed in with my snowsuit still on leaving only a breathing hole for my nose and mouth.

And then it began.

I sobbed, shaking uncontrollably. I didn’t like being the center of attention or exposing raw emotion, and that made me cry harder. After a few minutes, my dad came up and asked what he could do for me. It was sweet for him, but I was really embarrassed about the crying and probably said something like, “I’m OK.” He went back downstairs, and I started crying again. I wept until I fell into an exhausted and stressed-out sleep.


After being gone on a ministry tour during which they healed people and drove out demons, the disciples witnessed an incredible miracle. Somehow they had fed 5000 men (with women and children) using a couple of fish and loaves of bread. Immediately after, Jesus sent them off by boat, and he went up the mountain to pray.

They were most likely exhausted mentally and physically as they struggled to row against a storm that came up. (I can imagine as they boarded they assumed the nightly land breeze would enable them to sail across without effort as they slept.) If this isn’t enough, they see a ghost walking toward them on the water!

At this point Jesus did something beautifully simple. When the disciples called out in fear, he got in the boat with them.

Presence is powerful.

In my preteen hysteria, I didn’t know what I needed. Looking back, I think I just needed my daddy to hold me. I needed him. He wanted to “fix it” for me; he didn’t realize he was the fix.



In the account of these events in Mark  6 Jesus gave the disciples (and us) a concrete picture of one aspect of what takes place during worship. After the disciples had come to the end of themselves and their ability, life continued to hammer them. In their fear and exhaustion they needed Jesus. And he shows up!

Much is said about relationship when talking about worship– for good reason. The disciples didn’t need intellectual assistance or advice. Another boat coming to the rescue wouldn’t have been much help. They needed their Teacher, their Lord, and he climbed in the boat with them.

He was, and still is, the fix.




Glimpse of Jesus’ Heart

22 Aug


All around Jesus the cries of his followers proclaimed:


Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!

The praises rang out so loudly the Pharisees feared reprisals from the Roman governor for disturbing the peace. They told Jesus to quiet his followers, and Jesus replied, I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.

Much can be learned about worship in this exchange in Luke 19, but the juxtaposition with the next passage is what grabs my heart as I read this morning:

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

The crowd exalted Jesus at the top of their lungs– loud raucous praises filled the road from the Mount of Olives into the city. As they rounded a bend, Jesus saw Jerusalem and wept. Silent tears did not slip down his cheeks, the Greek word for wept means to convulse into sobs– the kind that would erupt from a father at the sudden death of his son.

Can you see it?

The crowd, wild with delight that their King has come at last, praises the Son of Man while his body shakes with unspeakable sorrow.

Did anyone notice? Did the crowd stop cheering? One by one, did they drop their arms and palm branches turning to one another in confusion? Did anyone ask Jesus what broke his heart? When he was finally able to speak and describe his pain, did anyone respond? If someone did, no record of it exists.

What we do know is that, as people praised the One who could save* them, they glimpsed his heart for those who don’t know him.



Often my worship of God with other believers is concerned with our relationship with Jesus – how much he loves us, that he has forgiven us of all our sins, when we’ll see him in heaven, etc. These are wonderful reasons to praise him and glorious realities to contemplate as we worship.

I’m not sure, however, that I have ever tried to glimpse his heart and see what breaks it during worship. Tomorrow will be the first time.

Will you join me?


*Hosanna means: God saves

Outsiders on the Inside

16 Aug


Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 1 Peter 1:1-2


The Christians Peter wrote to were outsiders, scattered all over the Roman Empire, not clustered together in Jerusalem. Outsiders, especially in the First Century lived at the bottom of society. If they had a job it was most likely feeding pigs or washing feet. Some were probably beaten, others had their possessions confiscated, and most likely anyone trying to climb socially avoided them altogether.

These undesirables focused not outwardly, but on their relationship with God. While they saw the haves and the standard of living they enjoyed from the outside, they saw life from the inside of the Kingdom! These believers knew the sanctifying work of the Spirit and the regenerating power of Jesus’ blood.

And they possessed grace and peace – possessions of which those around them knew very little.

The mathematical word multiplied means an abundant increase in something that exists already. Elementary math students know that zero cannot be a multiplier. In other words, zero can’t be reproduced into two or three (or any other number of) piles. It literally doesn’t compute. In order for grace and peace to be multiplied to the Christians Peter addressed, by definition they must already possess them to some degree. In this introduction of his first letter, Peter prays that God will multiply, bestow a many-fold increase in, the amount they already have.

Peter knew what it was to be harassed– and he knew how much greater the grace and peace of God were compared to the life’s difficulties. He reminds his readers that the grace and peace of Jesus do not simply negate the hard stuff of life, they exponentially surpass it.

Abundance is a God-sized concept. He lavishes blessings like grace and peace on us until they fill and overflow our finite containers, spilling over onto those around us.



Put all the hard stuff of you life in one place in your head. Or make an actual list. Include the unfair, as well as things you deserve, that hurt and make life difficult.

Now, in your heart gather up what you have in Christ, all of which you (and I) don’t deserve: grace, peace, forgiveness, redemption, joy, eternal life, inheritance with Christ, a new heart…

Now compare lists.

The troubles we have in this world don’t come close to what we have in Christ. I’m ready to worship God now; I don’t have to wait for Sunday!


16 Aug


Several times over the past month, I have had opportunities to lead devotionals before worship. Perhaps I will resume posting weekly. For now at least, I will post as the Lord leads, and let him decide if this will become a weekly routine again.

Thanks for reading.

As always, I welcome your comments as we learn together how to be worshipers in spirit and truth.

Where are the flags?

6 Jul


Yesterday before the worship service, I was stopped by a longtime member with a very concerned look, “Where are the flags?”

For years the American and Christian flags stood at the front of our worship center. During a renovation project they moved to a protective closet home… and have stayed there.

Here’s why.

Most people of our church gather together for about an hour and fifteen minutes a week to worship God – omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, awesome, great, powerful, loving, wonder-working, merciful… God. He is worthy of worship! And He is the only one worthy.

Over the Independence Day weekend people from our church attended family parties, lit fireworks, watched parades, and celebrated our country’s birthday in all manner of ways. I figure I spent about 10-12 hours engaged in activities like that. (And this was a light 4th for us due to other obligations.) To be fair, some of the events allowed for great fellowship with believers and wonderful connection time with those who don’t follow Jesus yet. However, the reason for the gatherings was to celebrate America – to sing her praises and be thankful for the freedom we enjoy. I could have been busy all weekend (and even the weekend before!) celebrating red, white, and blue.

Yesterday, the body of Christ met for an hour and a half.

Please understand– I’m not complaining or foisting a guilt-trip on anyone for partying all weekend, but I am making the case for why we didn’t recite the Pledge to the Flag yesterday in church– that hour and a quarter we are together is so short and incredibly precious! Every minute counts!

Why would we give up even one to look away from Jesus?

I am grateful to live in the USA! I will cheer loudly and stand as the color guard parades the flag down main street. I belt out The National Anthem at sporting events. But I fiercely protect the time we gather to worship God.

It is holy – set aside for Him and His Church.

It is pure – for Him only, for none other.

It is a sacred trust – that I will continue to guard.

Because the God of the universe is the only one worthy of our worship.


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