Archive | January, 2014

Always

25 Jan

note photoBefore cell phones, when one of us was going to be gone for a couple of days, we left little notes around the house to let the other person know we were thinking of him/her. And even though we can text now, we still scatter post-its in places we know the other will find them – in the dog food bin, under the milk in the fridge, on the laptop base. It’s fun to leave them and wonderful to find them – knowing that we are being thought of even though we are apart.

I’ve been sick for about 36 hours courtesy of a tiny virus. Most of that time I was sleeping. But when I’d wake (usually from a coughing fit) I was glad to know that God was with me. Not because I felt like I was going to cash in my chips, but just that He is here with me. That even at 2:38am when everyone else was asleep, I wasn’t alone.

I’m getting better at the “always” portions of Scripture, and what I’m finding is comfort and peace and hope. A casual reading of the verses I’m talking about might make one think they are from a harsh task-master God stuck on himself. In reality these are promises, meant to remind us that even when we aren’t aware God is with us, he is.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9

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

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:4-5

And he doesn’t ask us to do anything that he hasn’t already done.

Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20

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READY FOR SUNDAY

When I’m worshiping God all week, Sunday worship flows easily.

Replacing the natural with the supernatural. This is where I choose to live.

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All Nations

18 Jan

Instead of the usual devotional, today I’m sharing what we will be reading/hearing tomorrow morning. The following is selections from the beginning, middle, and end of the Bible – Abraham’s promise from God; Jesus’ exhortation to believers; and the ultimate praise in heaven – relating to ALL NATIONS. If there are only English speakers in your church, the passages can still be read just in English.

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ALL NATIONS

From Genesis 22, Matthew 28, Revelation 5, 7, & 15

Introduce yourself, share your birthplace and language you will be speaking today.
English is on the left margin.
Indented sections are for each language to be spoken in turn.

The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have not withheld your only son, I will surely bless you,

I will surely bless you

And I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And because you have obeyed my voice, in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”

In your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty!

Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty!

Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!

Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!

Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?

Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?

For you alone are holy.

For you alone are holy.

All nations will come and worship you.

All nations will come and worship you.

(Gradually grow louder and more intense in the following section)

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing

be blessing

and honor

and honor

and glory

and glory

and might

and might

forever and ever!

forever and ever!

(Boldly declare this!)

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice,

(Everyone say this together at the same time, in all the languages)
“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying,

(Everyone say this together at the same time, in all the languages)
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever!

Amen.

(Everyone say together at the same time, in all the languages:)

AMEN!

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Now I’m READY FOR SUNDAY!!

Replacement Strategy

11 Jan

Last weekend the snow continued to pile up defying the angle of repose until there wasn’t any definition between the chair slats.

chair snow

A perfect demonstration of increasing measure. Just look at the overflowing abundance!

Each chair slat held its own pile of snow, and as snowflakes continued to fall, little bit by little bit was added until the chair held a snowy cushion. If I had tossed a shovelful of snow on an empty chair, very little would have remained on the slats. The secret is the steady adding of little bits to build up strength and continuity and integrity.

In our society integrity is perhaps the cardinal virtue in church leadership. Even the world recognizes a lack of integrity in the church. I don’t always recognize whether or not a worship leader is suffering from a lack of integrity, but I can tell that something is off. We have all been there, too. We’re going through the motions (and thank God he can work in spite of me!) but something isn’t quite right.

There are times when I know what my problem is; those are easy to understand, if not easy to make right. But what about the times when there isn’t any known sin, disobedience, or clarity?

Not 100% of the time, but more often than not, it’s because I’ve stopped pursuing becoming like Christ in increasing measure.

Getting re-started is easy once I’ve figured out the issue. For me it begins with my mind: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind…Romans 12:1-2

Deciding. Deciding to move toward God intentionally.

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READY FOR SUNDAY

As soon as I decide to make a course correction, it’s easy to see what is off. It’s usually an attitude.

My next step is to ask God for a plan– usually something simple that involves replacing a bad attitude with a godly one – and deciding what that is before the next opportunity to go wrong presents itself. For instance, if there is a situation that or someone who pushes my buttons, I ask God for a good response to use the next time to replace the wrong attitude.

Just like the strong man who needed to be bound, and the demon who had been cast out that came back with lots of his friends to reoccupy the soul that was swept clean in Matthew 12 – replacement is the key.

Decide, plan, replace. The strategy of little bits that add up… in increasing measure!

Increasing Measure

4 Jan

snow fall

Winter has arrived in the Midwest. Snow storms and sub-zero temps create a frozen wonderland using tiny crystals of the most common compound on our planet– H2O. Water.

Water frozen in the air is full of artistry built on 60 degree angles. Starry geometric masterpieces-in-miniature, almost undetectable by our eyes, construct massive structures that defy natural laws.

The Angle of Repose combines the properties of material being piled and the force of gravity (and a LOT of geometric equations!) culminating in how high granular substances can be piled before sliding to the ground. When snow is shoveled into a heap for instance, different types of piles can be formed depending on the snow’s moisture content. Heavy, wet snow can be piled almost straight up… or rolled into balls that can be piled to make a snow fort!

But when temps are as cold as they are today and the snow is very dry, snow shoveling turns into snow throwing as the snow’s angle of repose is very shallow. Tossing a shovelful on top of the bank only creates a cascade that flows back into the driveway. Sigh.

On a still night when the wind sleeps, however, the six-pointed flakes slowly pile up as if they’ve never heard of the angle of repose. Like a reverse game of Jenga, the formations grow by micro-inches and macro-wonderment.

Even when the wind is awake, it drives and pushes the snow stars into arching walls that stand tall on their own. Their fine edges sculpted by windy fingers pinching the edge of a hat brim from one side to the other. These artistically detailed drifts belie their strength. They are densely compact and hold their shape even as a shovel removes large sections.

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More than any other time of the year people are looking toward the future– setting goals, making resolutions, wanting this year to be different. And our Western-enculturated mindsets want it now! We want to scoop up the snow and toss it into an instant snow-fort. We want our one hour of shoveling to produce a sparkling sculpture with razor-thin curves.

That’s not how snowdrifts and straight-up piles are created. They take time and one-at-a-time snowflake placement.

Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-8

In increasing measure. One-at-a-time snowflake placement. That is how beauty is constructed– not with a shovel tossed beside the driveway. Ever increasing toward becoming like Jesus. One tiny bit, followed by another, and another.

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READY FOR SUNDAY

Tomorrow people walking into our worship services will have already failed at their resolutions. Maybe you are one of them. Becoming like Christ apart from God’s power is impossible.

As we lead others, we must rely on Him for these qualities to increase in our lives in order that what comes out of us when we’re leading, and when we think we’re not, people see God and His deep love for them.

Interestingly, the very people we lead will mostly likely be used by God to transform us into His image. Look for the opportunities – most of them will be small, hardly noticeable, and within the common events of ordinary days. Some days will seem like a blizzard, others a gentle dusting. In both cases the small changes over time will add up to incredible beauty and glory for God.

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