Archive | September, 2012

Conduit Connection

28 Sep

When you were dead in your sins…, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness,which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross….Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ…. Such a person [is] puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.  Colossians 2: 13-19

My garden hose is one of my favorite tools.  I enjoy standing surrounded by my green and flowering plant friends in the cool of the evening as I shower them.  They thank me with bowed heads and colorful, fragrant offerings the next morning.

Without a hose I must use the watering can.  That involves lots of waiting for filling, and lugging, and sloshing, and spilling on my shoes, and holding a heavy couple of gallons of water while it pours out.

The hose does all the work for me.  All I have to do is turn it on and off.  I have a shut-off valve before the nozzle, but sometimes it’s easier and faster to just bend the hose, crimping it to a trickle.  However it’s accomplished, the ability to turn the water off and on makes the hose a convenient faucet extension.  The hose does all the work, and the water goes efficiently to where it’s needed.

As a worship leader, my goal is to be a conduit of God’s love and grace – allowing Him to flow through me so others connect with Him.  The hose is a descriptive metaphor – and an apt one – for my relationship with God.

In my imagination I see everyone with spiritual hoses connected to the tops of their heads.  Some are exalting in a fountain-like shower, sprinkling those around them; while others have turned off the nozzle and are wandering around, searching for sweet water in terrain filled with stagnant, dirty, putrid, and even poisonous salty pools.

More like an umbilical cord than a garden hose, the connection to myCreator that I am born with flows constantly over my soul, flooding me with grace, mercy, strength, wisdom, and love.  But unlike an umbilical cord, this connection is not supposed to be severed at birth.  Instead, it is to be tended so as not to get kinked, shutting down spiritual health and vitality.  And this connection is never meant to be shut off.

But we do.  I do.

For reasons that seem silly, self-seeking, and stupid when realized and named, I crimp or turn off my connection to God.

So here’s my crazy thought – what if I could keep that connection open, healthy, and flowing?  What if all of us in the church could?  How would that change our families, our neighborhoods, and our churches?

How would that change our worship?

What if everyone who read this post kept his/her connection with God open all week and came ready to worship God on Sunday?

I dare you to try it!  I dare myself to try it!!  Let’s make this our holy experiment – to be so connected to our Creator, so in love with our Savior, so infused with the Spirit, that praise, worship, and adoration tumble out of us like a garden hose without a nozzle.

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Ready for Sunday

List the issues, sins, attitudes, etc. that limit my connection to God.

Confess them, and ask God for a plan to avoid them in the future.

Now revel in a flood-level connection, and let it overflow to everyone I’m connected with… and watch what He does– in the church, in relationships, in my neighborhood…

The godless drought is over.

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A resource on the topic: Connection to God, Kim Walker

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Friday

27 Sep

My apologies.  Circumstances beyond my control are commanding my attention.  Look for a new devo on Friday this week.

 

Truth

20 Sep

The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.  Psalm 145:18

The Samaritan woman at the well is one of the first people I want to talk to in heaven.  The process of her surrender to Jesus in John 4 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible.  She’s the one that Jesus instructs to worship God in spirit and truth.

Just two short words, yet rich and deep with meaning.

Our church is engaged in a special emphasis on prayer, specifically in learning how to pray without ceasing.  Yesterday I was praying differently than I have in the past.  After my usual time of praising God for who he is and spending time with him, I began to pray about situations – difficult situations.  As I mentioned each one, I found myself comparing the situation with the particular aspect of God’s character which surpasses the need.  I believe I discovered a new way to worship him in truth.

I can’t stop doing this!  Before I even ask God for something, his Spirit reminds me of who he is.  All of my prayers keep coming back to truth– the foundational truths of God’s matchless character and how much greater he is than anything in this world.

I’m not sure how he will answer my prayers, but I almost don’t care because of how he is changing me.

Water you turned into wine, opened the eyes of the blind
There’s no one like you, none like You!
Into the darkness you shine out of the ashes we rise
There’s no one like you, none like You!
Our God is greater, our God is stronger,
God you are higher than any other.
Our God is Healer, Awesome in Power,
Our God! Our God!

Our God, Chris Tomlin

Psalm 145:18 says that God is near to those who call on him in truth.  At the end of John 4:23, Jesus says that the Father is seeking people who worship him in spirit and truth.

That God is near and seeking me is almost too much to comprehend.

I fall at his feet utterly and completely undone.

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Ready for Sunday

I’m going to keep praying this way–  to get ready for Sunday in order to lead people, and just because.

Never, Never, Never, Never

14 Sep

 

 

 

 

 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thes. 5:16-18

 

The bit about without ceasing has always bothered me because I flow in and out of prayer.  Without ceasing seems unattainable.

Looking at the English word and it’s root helps a little:

To Cease: to stop; discontinue; come to an end; pass away; die out; terminate.  From the root cede  – which means to give up, relinquish, abandon, surrender; to concede; to yield.

So to pray without ceasing is to pray without stopping, continuously, without end; not giving up, relinquishing abandoning, surrendering or yielding.  These terms suggest a determined attitude.  And while I concede the goal IS to pray all the time, the intentional and determined attitude is where it begins.

The definitions remind me of the famous speech  (audio) by Winston Churchill given to Harrow School, October 29, 1941 in the midst of World War II when Nazi-controlled Germany was bombing England:

[N]ever give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

My deepest, most foundational desire from the core of my being is to be as resolute as that of 1941 England which face an enemy bent on take-over and destruction.  Staying so close to God that I am in constant communication with Him is not a nice idea; it is the only way to survive in the face of a determined and evil enemy.  So, I commit everything to Him, standing firm in the power of His might against the dark forces that seek to defeat me.

Resolute determination is the place to start.

The next step is to pray.  (I heard that facepalm!)  I know it’s obvious and very easy to talk about praying without ceasing.  The hitch comes in the practice.

Mystics such as Brother Lawrence and Henri Nouwen sought to pray without ceasing by praying through mundane daily tasks.  The rhythm of physical tasks such as weeding a garden or folding laundry helps me slow down and pray while working.  While this doesn’t happen without conscious intention, it isn’t difficult.

My challenge is in the more complex parts of life – interpersonal interactions, long-range planning, creativity, brainstorming – all heavy on the brain-engaged scale.  And yet… when I remember to invite the most loving, creative, and wisest One into what I am doing, the fellowship is sweet… energizing… humbling… and ceaseless.  Insight comes and relationship is built.

And this, I believe, is what God is after.

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Ready for Sunday

What can I do to constantly be aware of God’s presence and communicate with Him?

Which activities, or group of activities, are the most difficult for me to remember to pray without ceasing?
Is preparing for leading worship one of those?  (ouch!)

I’ve grown accustomed to His face

5 Sep

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
he world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
Psalm 24:1-2

Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory!
Psalm 24:9-10

We eat, work, sleep, and even dream ministry.  We’ve studied, argued, philosophized (is that even a verb?), and read Scripture for days, weeks, and years.  Prayer is part of every meeting, event, and conversation.

How do we keep the greatest Treasure and truest Truth fresh?

Professor Henry Higgins

At the end of My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle leaves Henry Higgins because she feels taken for granted.  Professor Higgins hasn’t quite figured out that he is in love with Eliza, and since this is a musical, he sings about his confusion:

I’ve grown accustomed to her face
She almost makes the day begin
I’ve grown accustomed to the tune
She whistles night and noon
Her smiles, her frowns
Her ups, her downs
Are second nature to me now
Like breathing out and breathing in…

God is not Eliza.  He doesn’t leave when I take Him for granted.

But I can become so accustomed to His presence in the ever-present obligations of ministry, that I lose track of the Reason for all my efforts.  I leave Him.  Leave Him out of my thoughts, lose Him in the familiarity and routine.  The greatest One in all of creation becomes prosaic, taken for granted– still the Foundation, but pushed to the background.

Leading others to worship my Lord becomes perfunctory ritual.

Not on purpose!

Senseless

In fact, God designed our physical bodies this way – to become less sensitive to an ever-present stimulus (sensory adaptation).

“It’s the brain’s way of protecting itself from overload,” says Michael A. O’Mahony, a professor at the University of California, Davis. “When you sample a kind of food repeatedly – something salty, for example – the brain is getting the same message repeatedly. The mouth is saying, ‘Salt, salt, salt.’ And the brain is saying, ‘I know, I know. Now leave me alone until you have something different to tell me.'” In a sense, the brain turns down the volume on the salt message the mouth is sending it. —The New York Times

It almost seems that God set us up.

But before we get too judgmental, let’s hear O’Mahony’s solution to sensory adaption in smelling a flower:

“To avoid adaptation, move the flower away from your nose, so that you stop smelling it for a minute or so. Sniff at it again, and it should smell as powerful as it did the first time around.”

Sensory adaptation can be thwarted – by conscious effort.  I think God intentionally designed this protection mechanism into our physical and spiritual beings.  Our physical bodies are prevented from insanity by sensory overload, and our spirits are not allowed to become complacent.  A dynamic relationship with God takes effort– no coasting allowed.

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Ready for Sunday

So how can I keep my relationship with God fresh and vibrant?  Especially in ministry?

I found help in Awakening Grace.  In the chapter on worship, authors Matt LeRoy and Jeremy Summers suggest reading a passage of Scripture seven times, pausing for reflection between each reading.

Following their advice, I read Psalm 24 several times (I lost count how many!)  As I read, two stressful challenges in my life continued to come to mind – and by the last reading I saw them compared to the King of Glory – the Lord strong and mighty!

Maybe the answer to escaping spiritual sensory adaptation is the opposite of the physical solution (to withdraw from the stimulus).  Maybe the answer to spiritual complacency is to immerse myself in Jesus more.

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