Archive | August, 2013

Fixated

31 Aug

List

I am a list-maker.

Partly because my memory isn’t great, partly because I like to check off completed tasks. Mostly, though to clear my mind.

When I’m not able to write an idea down, my mind gets stuck. I fixate on that one thing and little else, because I’m afraid I will forget. Maybe I’m out there all by myself, but if I think of something I need to get at the store I’m going to, and I don’t tell Siri to make a note, I will either focus on that one thing so hard, which means I can’t daydream, or I will forget.

The forgetting part isn’t so bad (although it IS inconvenient), but the I-can’t-think-of-anything-else part frustrates me. I’m fairly certain that one of my spiritual gifts is daydreaming, thinking, and noticing… and then making new connections. I’m not sure what to call it. I don’t see it listed in 1 Cor 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, or 1 Peter 4. In any case, when there is one thing in my mind, I can’t move on and think about other, grander things.

The same thing happens in my spirit. When I get fixated on something, when I keep mulling something over in my heart, I get stuck there. I think God designed us this way on purpose. Because if we could carry it all in minds and souls with an infinite capacity, we wouldn’t need him.

He wants to carry the stuff that life throws at us.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Pet 5:6-7

He is made to carry the heavy stuff. We are not.

Why are casting and humble in the same verse?

Because not casting  my cares on him is pride. When we take on what only God is meant to carry, we are sinning. It’s a trust issue. If I continue to hold onto stuff, working over it, fretting, rehearsing, and dwelling on it, I am saying, “This is too big for you, God. I can figure it out with a better solution than you could, so until I do, I’ll just keep on carrying it.”

And we all know that sin blocks our relationship with God. Even if it didn’t, however, we’d still be stuck – fixated on something without the capacity to enjoy God and the life he gave us.

Relationship is where this passage is headed: “because he cares for you.” No power struggle. No lecture. Not even any talk about pride and sin. Just a loving Father caring for his child by carrying the heavy stuff, so our arms are free to throw around his neck and hear  the “I love you” he whispers in our ear as he pulls us close.

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READY FOR SUNDAY

I have heard it often said in church that we should leave our stuff at the back door before we come in to worship him. There’s some good in that idea, but what if instead, we brought all the stuff we carry into church and offered it up to him? This isn’t a logistical adjustment, it’s a heart issue of control and pride – which is essentially idolatry! Besides, if we don’t give it over to him, we will be sorely tempted (I used that word on purpose) to pick everything up again as we leave. That means we are changed in the presence of God as we worship him, only to go back to the way we were before. This isn’t the transformation promised by the Gospel!

So… those of us who lead others into the means of grace during worship, what are we fixated on? What has our heart? Are we carrying what God should be carrying?

Or are we humbly trusting and allowing him to have and inhabit our being so he can flow through us unhindered?

[L]et us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith… Heb 12:1-2

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Sanitized

24 Aug

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In suburban America we sanitize and nice-ify everything.

Government agencies do a pretty good job cleaning up the rivers that we walk along and boat on. Health departments keep the restaurant kitchens where we eat clean and safe. Stores re-do their facades and interiors so we’ll buy more in their shiny, state-of-the-art, copacetic mercantile. This year’s models are better, prettier, safer, cleaner.

We want our lives to be beautiful, free from baser reality. No ugliness allowed…. even though it’s often just below the surface or in the back room.

We do this in church life, too.

The ugliness of sin can be tamed by renaming: Greed becomes consumerism (essential to building our economy); pride is really having a good self-image (after all, if I don’t assert myself and my rights, who will?) gossip (because we need to pray for him/her) is necessary sharing, born out of concern, not envy.

Never mind that all of these are included in the list of the seven deadly sins.

We spend so much effort covering up these and more! What if we applied the same amount of energy to confessing and repenting?

In Romans 1:21-23 Paul describes what is actually happening when we choose sanitizing instead of confessing sin:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

First, notice that he is speaking to those who knew God and who should have known better– to believers. Next, look at the progression: from wisdom to foolishness; from knowing God, to futile thinking, to darkened hearts. This subtle downward vortex happens in tiny increments until the unthinkable becomes natural and easy: the exchange of the glory of God for something else.

[T]hey exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Rom. 1:25

As I type this, my heart aches – physically – over our apostasy. I am beginning to understand  the deep grief that caused those in the Old Testament to rip their robes at blasphemy.

We know better! The glory of God is like nothing else! Why do we so easily trade it away?

OK. I’m taking an emotional breath. Back to the text. Some believers in Rome had gone back to worshiping images. For most of us that isn’t an issue. We didn’t worship statues of Zeus, Diana, or Mercury.

But what did we worship?

What have we gone back to worshiping?

What have we exchanged for the glory of God?

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READY FOR SUNDAY

Worship leaders and team members we get this, don’t we? We have the privilege of seeing the glory of God transform a room full of believers as they sing with their whole hearts and upturned faces, raising their hands in adoration.

So why do we exchange that for baser realities? Why do we get distracted as we lead others in worship? Why do we wonder if we look OK? If our shirts are pitted out with sweat from the effort of praising under hot lights? If that note was a little sharp? If we’ll get to play the solo we owned at rehearsal, or if the worship leader will forget and blow right by it? Why?

Because we are still to concerned with self and not enough with God. We are exchanging the glory of God for image, pride, and self. When we strip off the sanitized distractions and look at what’s underneath them, the ugliness is unmistakeable. And this is the beginning of repentance, where healing, wholeness, and the glory of God begins again.

Paradox: Strength & Weakness

17 Aug

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Worshiping God with anything less than excellence gets my hackles up. I’m really passionate about glorifying God with my best. Since you are reading this, you probably have similar tendencies.

Those of us on worship teams – vocalists, instrumentalists, techs – operate out of our God-given talents and strengths. In Psalm 33:3 the word skillful means with excellence:

Sing to him a new song;
    play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

You’ve heard me say this before. Many times. Nothing new here.

PARADOX

Except it’s not that simple.

Paul goes on a rant at the end of 2 Corinthians (Ch 11-13) responding to the Corinthians’ apostasy in believing false teachers – teachers who seemed to have more on the ball than he did. But rather than give a list of credentials and successes, he shares his weaknesses (2 Cor 11:30). He even boasts about a man who was caught up to paradise and saw wonderful things (2 Cor 12:1-5), but he doesn’t even mention that the SON of GOD appeared to him and the events of the next few days (Acts 9) that solidified his calling. Not even the tiniest hint.

Why??

Power.

The power that Paul lived in was the same power that raised Christ from the dead.

Think about that for awhile.

Christ was crucified in weakness, but raised to life by the power of God (2 Cor 13:4).

Paul had the choice to talk about himself and how God was using him. Or he could share his weaknesses so God would be glorified and “Christ’s power may rest on [him]” (2 Cor 12:9). Paul chose wisely.

PARADOX RESOLUTION

God has gifted us, and every time we lead worship we have the privilege and responsibility to lead his church with excellence in praising him.

Do we chuck all that in order to boast about our weakness?

Of course, the answer is a resounding and emphatic: NO!

Because God’s power works through weakness does not mean it can’t also work through strength. Remember Samson? God made him strong and used his great strength to liberate Israel from the Philistines (Judges 15:14-17). God uses the gifts he gives his people… until we begin to trust in the gift. Samson lost it all when he became proud (Judges 16).

Paul knew what had happened to Samson–  and he had seen the glorified, resurrected Son of God.

After his vision on the road to Damascus, Paul worked with a single focus– to serve and glorify his Savior:

  • In strength – God used Paul’s intellect to pen more of the New Testament than any other writer’s
  • And in weakness – the suffering for the Gospel, the thorn in his flesh, his less-than-stellar speaking ability – all turned attention off Paul and on Christ

God calls us to turn all the attention on him. He promises to direct us (Prov 3:5-6) as we rely on him whether we are working in our strengths or weaknesses.

Here’s what God has been showing me this week: When I am weak, I have access to resurrection power. However, because God has given me talents and abilities, I am almost always using them… and almost never operating in my weaknesses.

It’s counter-intuitive. Run into my weaknesses? Seriously?

God doesn’t call me to use my intuition. He calls me to follow him. My weaknesses are part of that – so others will see him and the power that raised Jesus from the dead.

This is what the world needs.

His power, not mine.

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READY FOR SUNDAY

Have I been deluded by an either/or instead of a both/and philosophy regarded strengths and weaknesses? Why?

What is holding me back from being vulnerable and letting God work through my weakness?

How can I balance using my gifts with operating in my weaknesses?

Oh that I would walk so closely with God I could hear his call toward a weakness instead of going to a default strength! That I would glory only in the cross of Jesus and let his power flow through me into those I lead and into the world! That he will receive all the glory, forever and ever… may it be so. Yes and amen.

I’m back….

12 Aug

Hi friends. I’ve been in school and out of the country for most of the spring/summer. Sorry for such a lengthy absence. I’ve missed you! A new devo will be posted soon. Thanks for you patience.

Serving our Lord together with you,

c

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