Archive | June, 2014

The Same or Different?

28 Jun

IMG_3012Am I that different from the demons?

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Philippians 2:5-11.

The Beginning

God created everything and everyone – including Satan. Satan was glorious! His traditional name is Lucifer, meaning “light-bearer”. Satan rebelled against God and fell from heaven (Luke 10:18). His angels (demons) fell with him (Rev 12:9).

We are created beings (Gen 1:27). We fell from grace (Gen 3; Rom 3:23).

Both angels and humans were created by God, and both left His presence and were banished by God. Both wanted to be out from under God’s authority but found after disobedience to not only still be under His authority, but also be under His wrath (Matt 25:41).

The End

In Philippians 2 the words “should bow” are one Greek word: kampto – to bow or bend. The implication is not that they should bow, but that they will. Kampto means: “…the gesture of full inner submission in worship to the one before whom we bow the knee. Thus in Rom. 14:11 bowing the knee is linked with confession within the context of a judgment scene, and in Phil. 2:10 it again accompanies confession with reference to the worship of the exalted Kyrios [Christ] Jesus by the cosmos.”*

The little word and appears twice between beings in three locations: those “in heaven AND on earth AND under the earth.” The Greek word translated as and (kai) is “a primary particle, having a copulative and sometimes also a cumulative force.”** In other words, the addition of each group adds scope, breadth, and importance. The implication in mentioning every sphere in which beings dwell is that every one, without exception, will bow before Jesus, declaring Him Lord. (See also Rom 14:11 and Rev 5:13.)

Humans and fallen angels then, defined as created beings, will both worship Jesus.

The Same

Are there differences between humans and fallen angels? Certainly. Too many for this short post. However, the similarities are striking, and they are what have captured my mind lately– especially regarding worship. Another similarity of these two groups is that the eventual worship (kampto) of Jesus will not be forced. There are other Greek words Paul could have used in Philippians to describe obligatory homage. The picture here is that Jesus is so great – His name is so far above (Greek huper means far beyond and exceeding, not just the first or most important) every other name, we won’t be able to keep from bowing.

His presence will send us all to our knees.



The questions for me are simple… and profound: will I choose to worship God, and will I allow His presence to send me to my knees.

If not, am I any different from the demons?

*Kittel, G., Bromiley, G. W., & Friedrich, G. (Eds.). (1964–). Theological dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman
**Strong, J. (2001). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.



21 Jun

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” wasn’t my family’s Golden Rule; “If it’s broke, fix it, and fix it again before you throw it away” was.

With grandparents who went through the depression, this was one of our Ten Commandments right up there with “Never pay full price for anything” and “You better have a really good reason for buying something brand new.”

All four of my grandparents have long since passed away, yet I continue to live by these economizing principles. They have evolved into a game for me. It’s a challenge to see how inexpensively I can accomplish tasks and replace needed items. Maybe it’s the primeval hunting impulse combined with my northern European upbringing. Whatever the source, economizing is part of who I am.

Although my family is no longer in the “have not” camp, we still watch and squeeze every penny. Today I took apart our patio chair cushions. (The whole set– glass table, umbrella/stand, 2 gliders, 4 chairs, and 6 cushions– cost me $40 on an on-line resale site!) Covered with a faded print from 1990 the cushions had several rips, so I had a good excuse to update them. (If they were in good condition, changing them for fashion’s sake would be blasphemy.) I cut the fabric away to find the inner fiber-foam intact but full of green mold and algae.

AlgaeNothing that a dunk in bleach water couldn’t fix! I submerged and agitated them in a large tote with my garden rake. The nearby chain link fence made a sturdy rinsing and drying rack. Four times I went over each section with the “jet” setting on the hose nozzle and watched the nasty greenies run down the length of each cushion.


Four times seemed like enough rinsing, but I still wondered if they were completely clean. What if the first rain brings out hidden green stains to the surface discoloring my new fabric? Maybe I should do the entire process all over again? My back told me “no” (saturated cushions are VERY heavy!) and my head told me I would probably never get them as clean as new. If I had wanted brand new, I should have thrown these out and visited the garden center.

WhiteAnd so they hang on the fence very white-looking and bleaching out a little more in the sun while I sit inside sewing new covers.

They remind me of my heart. Scrubbed clean with Jesus’ blood-bleach. The old has gone, the new has come. I am a new creation! He has washed me!! My heart is true and clean!!!

While I am washed clean, I also look forward to being being made completely new. Here’s where the analogy to the cushions breaks down. Right now, this very moment, I am brand new. But I also live in this world tainted with sin. However, there is a time and place coming – eternal life – when everything will be made new! A complete and total do-over! This “now and not yet” is both fulfillment and promise, position and hope, inheritance and dowry.

I deserve to wear rags, but my wedding gown is white.



The One who redeems me, who sees me as pure and clean, is also my bridegroom… and worthy of all my worship. To Him I am not a do-over, I am brand new, clothed in fine white linen.


14 Jun


The rich young ruler came to Jesus. He wanted to know what he had to do to inherit eternal life. He has a conversation with Jesus – face to face – and goes away sad.

This passage holds enough truth to fill a book. Since this is a short post, we’ll stay with one thought: the ruler came to Jesus and went away sad. (A better translation would be that he went away grieved.) How could that happen?!?

He came for himself.

The ruler wasn’t interested in a relationship with Jesus. He didn’t come to sit at the Rabbi’s feet like Mary did. He didn’t come believing that Jesus could heal like the Centurion did. He didn’t come to worship his Lord like the sinful woman did. He didn’t come to follow Messiah; he came for information.

He came to find out what he could do to inherit eternal life– what HE could DO to inherit eternal life. He was used to making his own way and trusting his own efforts by doing all the right things. Jesus lists some of the commandments: don’t commit adultery, murder, steal or lie, and honor your father and mother, all of which the ruler says he has kept. He is focused on being good– Jesus saw that right away and calls him out in verse 19— and obsessed with getting life right, making his life perfect…. in order to deserve eternal life!

Jesus takes him back to the very first commandment: You shall have no other gods before me. Riches are not inherently evil, but to this man they had become a god, an idol more important than his relationship with his creator. In the very presence of God he values his possessions more than eternal life with Jesus Christ. What?!?

We must come for God.

He is the only one who can earn our salvation. He is the only one worthy of worship.

What we do is give everything over to Him and obediently follow and worship Him. We come to Him because He is the answer to everything we need.

What must we do to inherit eternal life? Come to Jesus and give up everything.

Anything less is lack.



Of course I never do this. Um yeah. I never come to my personal devotions or go to worship on Sunday with selfish motives. I never “make worship happen” on my own strength. Jesus is always my focus, not my own interests.

Even today… I will come to Jesus anew and give up everything.


Photo credit for top image of the Wilderness in Israel: Josh Lavender.


Excellence is not perfectionism

7 Jun


The intro was my responsibility. I strummed away and added the sweet guitar lick at the end of the phrase. The vocalists came in with sweet worship ascending to God from within our midst.

The keys came in, and everything came to an immediate dissonant end. I turned deep red, moved my capo to the correct fret, and we started again. I wanted to get away, to hide, to explain to everyone what had happened. Instead, I intentionally turned away from myself and worshiped God in my humiliation. After the service, many people commented that they had truly worshiped God.

I am amazed that when there are mistakes and glitches during a service, more people share how meaningfully they connected with God.

Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. Psalm 33:3

The word skillfully means “with excellence and great skill”. Excellence is one of our worship ministry’s top values.

Here’s why – if we are worshiping the God of the universe, the Creator of all things, the Father who sent His only Son to die for our sins and who adopted us, our Sustainer and Provider (and the list goes on); if this is Who we worship, how can we give Him anything less than our very best?

Excellence is doing the very best we can with what we have for God’s glory.

Excellence is doing the very best we can with what we have for God’s glory. Excellence takes many forms, is intentional, and includes sacrifice and includes–

  • Making personal practice a priority instead of “winging it”
  • Valuing mid-week rehearsal, being on time and staying engaged as it gets late
  • Not being satisfied with the status quo, constantly looking for a way to improve
  • Reading the equipment manual and learning new technical solutions to issues
  • Getting up really early every Sunday for a tech tun-through so that each element and its tech needs is tested and ready to go

Excellence is doing the very best we can with what we have for God’s glory. If we trust God as provider, then we have to believe that he has given us everything we need to lead others in worship. We can worship him without a bass player. We can sing his praises with outdated sound equipment. He will be praised even with prerecorded music – as long as our focus is him and his glory. Envying another church’s stage design doesn’t bring God glory, neither does whining and complaining. He does not hold us accountable for what he has not given us.

Excellence is doing the best we can with what we have for God’s glory. The means, then, are perhaps more important than the end when it comes to worshiping God, because people are involved– and people matter to God. Delivering a perfect production with relational casualties in its wake doesn’t glorify God. Lost tempers, biting comments, drama and gossip behind the scenes are all sinful because they devalue people and do not honor God. Fretting over what could (or should) have been doesn’t honor him either. Soli deo gloria! 

Excellence is different from perfectionism.

Perfectionism strives for a flawless performance and is dissatisfied with anything less. My ego and reputation are wrapped up in delivering an impeccable performance. The goal is a flawless end product. There is an inherent “at any cost” mentality so that mistakes and what is missing loom larger than all else. Nothing about this brings glory to God, so why would we call it worship? And why would God accept this kind of “sacrifice”?

Excellence is doing the very best we can with what we have for God’s glory!



Much of my week is devoted to getting ready for Sunday – communication with team members, assembling the Order of Worship, setting the stage (literally!), thinking through service element transitions, and encouraging everyone involved to remember all this is simply a vehicle taking us toward God’s heart. When something doesn’t go as planned, worship is not ruined, in fact, maybe there is a greater opportunity to worship Him… in spite of ourselves.

Because He is worthy.

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