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The Difference

24 May

Chaos reigned.

Teens ran in and out, slamming doors. Several folks came in who don’t have the luxury of getting a shower when they want one. The AC wasn’t on; the air was heavy and close in the church basement. A couple of volunteers called in sick. The grill wouldn’t light, so dinner was late. More chaos.

“Am I making a difference, God?” I may as well have said it out loud – no one would have heard me in the din.

He didn’t answer – or I didn’t hear, because I was too busy running from fire to fire to put them out as best I could.

Several days later, I’m still wondering, but I’m wondering if my question might be the problem. Since when am I the one who makes a difference? What power do I possess that can vanquish chaos?

I’m well aware that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world. (The entire chapter speaks to this.) The point of this passage is the power of God working through me. I know it seems like a small distinction, and this is precisely the point. When I get tripped up with making a difference, I’m after results in others’ lives. A good goal, to be sure. But that isn’t my purpose in Christ. Just far enough off to be a big difference.

In Christ I am to–

  • Love God and others
  • Have the attitude of Christ and become like Him
  • Do the works He prepared in advance for me to do
  • Be faithful in the above

Being concerned with making a difference distracts me from my true directive.

I wonder if the saints in Hebrews 11 or Dr. Leslie asked the question? On this side of history we know that God worked wonderfully through them.  All they knew was that they were faithful. And that is really enough. All else is pride – another distraction.

God effects change; we have the incredible privilege of cooperating with Him in His work.

If we are faithful.




People raising their hands when I am leading them in worship makes me feel good. Because it makes me feel that I’m doing “it” right, that my efforts are worthwhile. But again, that’s not the point, is it?

Not being able to affect change can be discouraging and demoralizing– when my value gets wrapped up in what I do. But when I go after the heart of my Savior and let Him change others’ hearts, I am free– the heavy weight of producing results is lifted.

I choose the latter.

And that, to borrow a line from Frost, has made all the difference.



1 Jun

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
    and him only shall you serve.’”  Matthew 4:10

The entire Bible is a call to worship God exclusively and turn away from idolatry.

(I can’t remember where I read or heard that, so fill me in if you know the source.)

An over-simplification?   The more I think about this idea and read the Word with it in mind, the more I think it’s true.


  • God commands us to worship Him.  He is the only One worthy of worship; and He knows that it is also best for us, because other gods cannot satisfy the desires He put into us.
  • If we worship God alone, we don’t serve other, lesser masters.
  • Lesser masters are not perfect (only God is perfect), therefore lesser masters contain an element of corruption.  They are not worthy of worship, and when we do worship them, we take on their corrupted nature.
  • I have been corrupted by sin, so focusing on myself (self-worship) is also a bad idea.  It can lead to all sorts of selfishness, manipulation, and hedonism.
  • Satan is the one who wants to draw my attention away from God.  (See Matt 4:10, above.)
  • God is love, peace, faithfulness, etc., and we (individually and collectively) find these intangibles when we worship Him, not lesser gods.
  • Worship isn’t necessarily bowing before a statue; worship is giving my attention and devotion to someone or something, expecting to receive from him or it what only God can give.

I could go on.  These are only a few ideas off the top of my head.

I know they are all undeveloped arguments laden with presuppositions.  The point is, no matter what angle I take, I keep coming back to my original statement: The entire Bible is a call to worship God exclusively and turn away from idolatry.


Ready for Sunday

What does this mean for us as we lead others in worshiping God?

I think of the incredible responsibility we have to make sure everything we do, say, sing, play, etc., glorifies God, and only God– not my musicianship, not the soloist, not the drama team, not our beautiful building.  All of these can be used to bring Him glory, but none should receive glory in themselves.  Everything must glorify Him alone.

I know that we worship all week long, not just when we are singing on a Sunday morning.  But our corporate worship time can help set the direction for the rest of my week, propelling my heart toward God.   While we are together, brothers and sisters united in Christ worshiping the Father, my heart is encouraged and re-directed to worship God alone.

I am humbled by the responsibility this places on me as a worship leader.  I am sickened by my sin of idolatry as other things distract me from His call.  I am resolute, with His matchless power at work within me, to worship God only and to lead others to do the same.

Soli Deo gloria!


12 May

Be filled with the Spirit.  Eph. 5:18b

“Rub the oil into the grain like this. Come on, keep rubbing.”

“But my arms are tired,” I whined, dropping my sticky fingers to my sides and sticking out my bottom lip just a little.

But Dad kept rubbing.  I watched him, and soon I couldn’t help myself.  I dipped my rag in the vegetable oil and applied all of my 65-pounds to pushing the oil into the butcher block with renewed enthusiasm.

My dad took a break to get more oil. (I think his arms were tired, too, because he took more than a few minutes to explain.)

“Before we put any food on this wood, we have to soak it with oil. One coat isn’t enough.”

My eyes opened wide at that.  We weren’t even half done!

“We’ll let this coat dry overnight and do it all over again tomorrow.  The wood has to be filled up with oil.  Then, when we chop tomatoes on it…

I smiled.  I grew tomatoes in our garden because they were my favorite.

…the juice that squirts out, won’t soak into the wood.  The chopping board will be so full of oil, nothing else like food or germs or stains will be able to soak in.  That makes clean-up easy, too.  Just a quick wipe with a damp cloth.”

Cleaning up the kitchen was NOT my favorite, so I smiled at that, too.

“And wood likes oil; it doesn’t like water.  Oil stays in the wood, but water dries out fast.  The oil protects wood from water.  Look, they don’t like each other.”  He poured a little water on his rag and it ran right off onto the floor.  I giggled.

Dad continued after wiping up his mess:  “If we used this cutting board without oiling it, we’d have to wash it in hot soapy water every time we cut something on it to get the soaked-in food out of it.  Then it would dry out.  Wash and dry, wash and dry, over and over again would cause the wood to crack.”  And so we got back to work with purpose.


Last week I bought new wooden spoons.  Even though I am now much older than Dad was when he taught me how to season wood, I heard his explanation as I rubbed them with oil.

And today I read Ephesians 5:1-21.  I paid particular attention to the last few sentences: …be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

The Greek word for filled  (pleroo) means completely permeated, over-filled, satisfied.

My imagination went back to my spoons and further back to my conversation with dad.  If a wooden spoon is completely permeated with one thing, nothing else can get in.  Staining and contamination are not possible.  The spoon is protected from cracking (which would also let foreign particles in), and the spoon stands ready in the kitchen to stir goodness and nutrition into a tasty meal for my family.

Wooden spoons and butcher blocks need routine re-applications of oil– though not as intense as the initial one.  Without further treatments, the wood becomes unprotected and susceptible to cracking, staining, and contamination.  The tense of pleroo implies the same principle – a continual, not once-and-you’re-done, filling.

The verses immediately following the command to be filled with the Spirit describe both the evidences of being filled with the Spirit and practices that allow the Spirit to keep filling the soul.

  • Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.  Stay in Christian community and point one another to Christ.
  • Singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.  Worship God from deep within, not simply exterior, face-saving practices.
  • Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Be grateful and trust that He is in control and knows what he is doing in every circumstance, relationship, need, and opportunity.
  • Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Put others and their interests first as Jesus washed the disciples’ feet.

As I read over this list, I can’t think of anything to add.  (God’s Word is so perfect!)  Worshiping and thanking God; encouraging others and putting them first– reminds me of the two greatest commandments – Love the Lord and your neighbor as yourself.

Worship leaders are to be so full of the Holy Spirit that we are unhindered by sin and free to be used by God who stirs the hearts of His people into a pleasing aroma of praise.

Our calling is not easy, but it is simple.


Ready for Sunday

The above list from Eph 5:19-21 isn’t easy, but it is simple.  My struggle comes when I am working on one of the four and one of the others slips.

Holy Spirit, show me when I’m out of balance, and what I need to do to restore it.

And, ultimately, work through me.  I can’t do any of this without your power working through me.  You are my Source– the One I worship, and the One who empowers my worship.

The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.  John 3:29-30

Tomorrow may I be unnoticeable; may your people see only You.

Reality Check

28 Jan

We prayed for one of our own.  For anointing, power, and fortitude.  Because he was ordained a few days before.

My call to ministry came with an onslaught of emotion – “Really?  God you want me?”  “There is NO way I can do this!”  “I know you are with me – You and me… we’re gonna change the world!”  “How can this be????”

From excitement to sheer terror in tenths of a second!  But gradually, an under-current of adventure and a thrill of rising to the challenge took over, and I was off.  Off to take on this thing called Ministry, called and empowered by the Ruler of the Universe.

Days later, Reality grabbed my feet and pulled me back to earth with arms clothed in petty misunderstanding.  And it wasn’t long before character assassination and my own sin tripped me up and threw me down the stairs into discouragement and frustration.

This week, as we prayed for our friend, my mind ping-ponged between my call to those of Mary and Paul (Saul).  Before Reality had a chance to strike at them, God called him out.

An angel told Mary that she would be the mother of Messiah.  She was afraid (Luke 1:29-30), confused (v34), willing (v38), excited (v39), humbled, enraptured with her God (vs46-56), introspective (Lk 2:19), and filled with wonder (v33).   As she and Joseph dedicated their firstborn son at the temple in Jerusalem, God added Simeon’s prophecy to all that was in her heart: “This Child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.” (vs34-35)  Up front Mary knows this call she has received is both glorious and grim.

Paul, too, looked into his future and quickly saw the dual aspect of God’s call (Acts 9:1-19).  Struck blind and led to the home of the disciple Ananias, to whom God had spoken and arranged to restore his sight, Paul knew right away he would have the privilege of being used mightily by God and of suffering for Jesus’ name (v16).  In fact, his preaching, just days after God called him, at the same time astonished the Christians and caused the Jews to conspire to kill him (vs20-23).

Then my imagination pictured Jesus– the ultimate example.  The most important and history-changing Call in the universe could not be fulfilled without the most horrific Suffering of all time.

And so we prayed for our compatriot, knowing that God will never leave him (or us) (Mt 28:20; Heb 13:5); that his and our adversity proves we are co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17); and that, although we will have trouble, Jesus has overcome the world and all its sufferings (Jn 16:33).

God does not call us for warm fuzzy feelings of significance; the more intense the call, the more intense the hardship and suffering.  So why run into it?  Why push into hurt, abuse, slander, back-stabbing, threats, and even the possibility of physical violence?  Why trade away a life focused on my comfort and 40-hour work weeks?

Simply, to hear two words: “Well done.”

Tomorrow is Sunday (again).  We may walk into a glorious day full of praise for God and what He is doing among the people we serve.  There may be hurt and pain in every conversation and around every turn in the halls.  Or a confusing combination of the two.  Neither changes God’s call.

God, help me to serve, sure of your call and in the power of Your Spirit.  And please use me to inspire those I lead to do the same.  For Your glory.

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