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Tradition!

5 Sep

 

tradition-ban


I’m going to make an assumption: that everyone reading this blog would like to grow spiritually, be more like Jesus, connect with God on a deeper level, and/or become unstuck regarding his/her relationship with God.

 

The Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” Continue reading

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Slow Down

6 Sep

All week I work hard and fast because Sunday comes every seven days with unrelenting regularity. I scan and answer email quickly; I make sure meetings start and end on time; all with the goal of providing an atmosphere in which people can worship God and hear from Him collectively.

Part of my responsibility is to check and maintain our church’s Facebook page. While scrolling through lots of statuses, a video caught my attention. As it played, I felt my soul slow down and rest as others prayed… FOR ME! So much of my week is spent caring for others, and although those praying have no idea who I am or that I exist – God knows me intimately. He knew that I needed to rest for five and a half minutes while prayers of other worship leaders washed over my soul.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Can you sit still for that long and allow the Holy Spirit to calm, empower, and encourage your heart before leading others tomorrow? Whether you are the worship leader, on the team, the pastor, or have some other role during the worship service tomorrow, you will benefit from quieting your heart in preparation.

Lord of the Fleas

23 Feb

I will restore to you the years
.    that the swarming locust has eaten…
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
.    and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else.  —Joel 2:25, 27

About a year ago I staggered into the bathroom in the middle of the night. I lost my balance. My foot slid across the floor and up against the side of the toilet. Instead of supporting my weight, the floor gave way slightly. Even in a sleep-stupor, I knew this was not good.

This midnight episode launched a year-long project. The homeowner’s curse—“while we’re at it”—took over at every stage.

Before we could remove the toilet, there were several aspects that had to be done first. Finally, the day came. My husband loosened the bolts; we lifted the 1970’s almond-colored toilet from its foundation and set it aside. We expected to find a wet floor under it. Instead there was a neatly piled mound of sandy stuff that we swept up before ripping into the sub-floor. The plywood layers were loose and came up with little effort.  After lifting a few with a putty knife, we discovered the reason for the squishi-ness that started this project—a colony of carpenter ants exploded around our feet.

Never was a more intense dance performed! Four arms flailed in time to our frantic heel-and-toe moves.

IMG_1695crop
After we sprayed ant-killer and the madness slowed enough that I could take a photo

While we were completely grossed out until the last insect was dead, the ants gave us a brand new bathroom—new toilet, tile floor, shower (“while we are at it!), vanity and sink, paint, towel racks… and all mold eradicated.

And, yes, it did cost a bundle. The ants forced the bathroom to the top position of our financial priorities for last year. Without them, this project would have stayed near the bottom for a long time. I’m actually grateful to the (long-squished and dead!) ants. I really, really like our new oasis!

Our situation made me think of Corrie ten Boom who was imprisoned with her sister during World War II for helping Jews escape the Nazis. The last time I read her biography, The Hiding Place, I was in high school. Yet I still remember Corrie’s sister Betsie thanking God for the fleas in their concentration camp barracks. Corrie was vexed by them and didn’t understand Betsie’s thankfulness (neither did I!) until she explained that they were able to have Bible study and prayer times without fear of interruption or punishment. The guards didn’t want to get fleas, so they stayed out of the building!

Fleas and ants are pests. I dislike them lots. In these two cases, though, I’m grateful for them.

I wish I could say that I always have this perspective and understand God’s greater purposes in life’s frustrations, but I don’t. More often than not, I’m still broadsided when my expectations are thwarted. I am, however, learning to breathe, to take a step back when hit with the unpleasant stuff of life.

Several years ago someone told me that maturity is shortening the distance between falling and getting back up. I would add that maturity is also lengthening the distance between an annoyance and reacting to it, in order to temper my reaction with grace.

I wouldn’t mind if I never saw another ant in my house. But I don’t want to limit God from working in my life.

He has my complete permission.  He is God; I am not.

—————

Ready for Sunday

How many times have I been derailed from worshiping God because of a Sunday morning annoyance? Technology that doesn’t work… an off-handed comment from someone that hit me the wrong way… not feeling well… and a myriad of others.

How can I enter into the spiritual realm equipped with weapons to defeat these commonplace enemies in order to worship the LORD my God? Being vigilant against an age-old enemy requires ancient weaponry – The Word and prayer.  Against such strength no tactics will succeed.

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.

—————–

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.

—————

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!)

Leading from between a Hard Place and a Rock

11 Feb

Jesus was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, and still, while He was overwhelmed, He led His disciples, showing us what sacrificial leadership is.  Mark 14:34

SCRIPTURE

Even though His betrayer was in the room with Him, Jesus led His followers through the Passover meal, reading Scripture within the ritual.  While filled with dread for what is coming, The Word continued to teach His disciples, explaining the Scriptures they knew well in view of their present circumstance.

WORSHIP

Although He knew that all of them would fall away, He led them in a song of praise to God after the meal.  His concern was not that His worship environment met His needs, or that He was surrounded by others totally committed to the Father who inspired Him to worship.  He worshiped God because His Father was the same in His present circumstance as He had been when He delivered Israel out of Egypt and protected every firstborn in homes that had the Passover lamb’s blood smeared on the top and sides of the doorway as the angel of death passed over.

PRAYER

In Gethsemane Jesus prayed as no one has ever prayed.  Deep pleading and total surrender collided, preparing the way for the redemption of the world.  He understood the great suffering that would begin with His arrest, which was moments away, and continue until the rock was rolled back from the tomb on the first day of the week.  And His disciples were there to witness His prayer– until they fell asleep.  Not once or twice, but three times.  Why Jesus continued to wake them up is not recorded.  Was He looking for support from His friends?  Was He checking on them to make sure they understood how to truly pray?  Did He want to make sure they did not miss this ultimate lesson in prayer?

SACRIFICIAL LEADERSHIP

Knowing He was headed toward the cross and that everyone, including His Father, would abandon and turn away from Him, Jesus continued to lead His disciples to the Father.  They listened as He recited Scripture.  They sang praises to God with Him.  And they stayed awake long enough to hear Him wrestle in prayer.

Heart-check for Sunday:

Am I running away from God or toward Him? (There is no other direction!)

When I am in hard places, do others see God through my anguish?  Do I pursue Him with more resolve, so that others are drawn to Him instead of feeling sorry for me?

Christ is our example.  Even in our struggles, especially in the hard times, our leadership thunders through rhetoric into the hearts of those entrusted to us.  Hardship is laced with teachable moments if we stand firm in our relationship with God and run to Him.  Everyone is watching.  Some will follow.

—————————

Illustration courtesy of Jonathan David Design

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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