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See you next weekend

19 Sep

I probably should have posted a notice that I wouldn’t be posting last weekend or this. Last weekend I was ordained– with family staying with us and lots of really fun gatherings. This weekend I officiated at my very first wedding– with lots of prep work, the rehearsal, last-minute meeting, and the ceremony quite a long drive away. Great stuff, but hard to find time to write.

Next weekend, I’ll be back!

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Glimpse of Jesus’ Heart

22 Aug

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All around Jesus the cries of his followers proclaimed:

Hosanna!”

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!

The praises rang out so loudly the Pharisees feared reprisals from the Roman governor for disturbing the peace. They told Jesus to quiet his followers, and Jesus replied, I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.

Much can be learned about worship in this exchange in Luke 19, but the juxtaposition with the next passage is what grabs my heart as I read this morning:

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

The crowd exalted Jesus at the top of their lungs– loud raucous praises filled the road from the Mount of Olives into the city. As they rounded a bend, Jesus saw Jerusalem and wept. Silent tears did not slip down his cheeks, the Greek word for wept means to convulse into sobs– the kind that would erupt from a father at the sudden death of his son.

Can you see it?

The crowd, wild with delight that their King has come at last, praises the Son of Man while his body shakes with unspeakable sorrow.

Did anyone notice? Did the crowd stop cheering? One by one, did they drop their arms and palm branches turning to one another in confusion? Did anyone ask Jesus what broke his heart? When he was finally able to speak and describe his pain, did anyone respond? If someone did, no record of it exists.

What we do know is that, as people praised the One who could save* them, they glimpsed his heart for those who don’t know him.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Often my worship of God with other believers is concerned with our relationship with Jesus – how much he loves us, that he has forgiven us of all our sins, when we’ll see him in heaven, etc. These are wonderful reasons to praise him and glorious realities to contemplate as we worship.

I’m not sure, however, that I have ever tried to glimpse his heart and see what breaks it during worship. Tomorrow will be the first time.

Will you join me?

———-

*Hosanna means: God saves

Back?

16 Aug

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Several times over the past month, I have had opportunities to lead devotionals before worship. Perhaps I will resume posting weekly. For now at least, I will post as the Lord leads, and let him decide if this will become a weekly routine again.

Thanks for reading.

As always, I welcome your comments as we learn together how to be worshipers in spirit and truth.

Lack

14 Jun

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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.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

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.

 

Unchanged and not the Same

5 Apr

Highpoint wall

The chapter and verse don’t matter.

During the morning I read a friend’s sermon and planned the songs to close out the worship service later that night.

My cell vibrated just as my friend started preaching. I left the room to take the call from my son. Family trumps ministry for me. (Or maybe I should say that family is my first ministry.)

He was upbeat as he shared he didn’t have a hernia. Instead he has cancer.

We talked a little about treatment and insurance. Since he had just came from a series of medical appointments, he didn’t have many details yet. But he does have cancer.

I went back to the service and to the sermon– the same sermon but not the same.

It could have been any chapter and verse. The point is that my circumstances changed, and I was now listening to the same sermon I had read a couple of hours earlier from a different perspective.

What I found was that the Truth remained unchanged. Even though I heard it through being in a different place in life, the foundation was still solid.

Nothing about my new circumstances changes the Truth of God.

He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

In a world where changes happen faster than anyone can comprehend, this alone is reason to worship God.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Before leading a song about God’s faithfulness that night, I shared my news – not for shock effect (although people were shocked!), but to give glory to God for his unchangeable truth even in– especially in– my changed circumstances

Interestingly, the sermon text was John 17, specifically he was on verses 1-5 about giving God glory. I came back from my phone call to hear my friend say: “You have to choose to give God glory. Jesus didn’t receive glory for his own sake, but in order that the Father would be glorified. If we don’t choose to glorify God, we take God’s glory for ourselves.”

When all else is upside-down and backwards, giving God glory turns me upright. I focus on his power, not my situation, putting my sites on his unchanging Truth when life is disorienting.

Much like a lighthouse anchors every direction in a ship captain’s soul when waves have turned the ship around and tossed the compass overboard, God is steady. He is with us through the turbulence, and he is also above the chaos.

I worship him for this. And even when I am wind-whipped, I can lead others to him.

He is constant.

Alleluia!

 

Dissing Unity

29 Mar

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Hobby Lobby. World Vision. Westboro Baptist. Noah. Chik-Fil-A. Duck Dynasty.

Is anyone else tired of talking about all this instead of Jesus? I know I am.

About mid-week my heart was so heavy, I wanted to scream: STOP IT! Of course no one would have heard me among all the other voices, so instead I thought and pondered, asking myself if there was anything positive I could do in light of all Christian messes in the news lately.

My search took me to John 17 – Jesus’ last words to his disciples. Jesus prayed for himself, for the ones surrounding him, and for us– those who will believe.

“I do not ask for these (the disciples) only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”  John 17:20-23

In his last moments with his friends, Jesus prays for unity. Why? Not so they will all feel good about each other and their relationships. Not so they will be emotionally healthy and fulfilled. Not even so they would have peace.

He says it twice: so that the world may believe and know God loves them.

Jesus could have said any number of things knowing that he would be arrested in a few moments. He chose unity; the if-you-missed-everything-else-I-said-get- this.

Christian unity is a big deal.

The main reason my heart has been so sick over the news stories lately is that more than the issues themselves, the disunity is what the world is noticing– the opposite of what Jesus prayed for right before going to the cross! Even in that moment he knew we would blow it, just as he knew Peter would. Yet he went forward to Golgotha for Peter… and for us.

Every facebook status, every blog post, every news report about these stories makes me ask: How can I be part of the solution? I’m not a player in any of these events. But I definitely have a part to play in the greater story. And so does every Christ follower.

Remember the principle in the Sermon on the Mount? “You have heard it said… but I tell you….”

Several times Jesus refers to the Law, then takes the issue further into the soul.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28

What does this have to do with unity? Jesus repeats this pattern in Matthew 5 indicating that he is concerned with all heart-attitudes not just the few examples he gives. He starts the New Covenant ball rolling expecting us to keep it in play.

External obedience is not enough. Not if we claim to follow Jesus.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Unity isn’t a problem for worship teams…. right?

No one is ever jealous of another’s ability or opportunity.
No one ever thinks he/she could do a better job than someone else.
No one checks out what someone else is wearing on stage with a critical eye.
No one ever talks badly about another team member.

Especially not the worship leader.

Christian unity begins in the small interactions of everyday.

Team unity is a big deal. If we aren’t unified, will those in the congregation sense the love God has for them or be distracted by a spirit other than The Spirit?

And as the leader, I set the tone.

 

 

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.

—————

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.

—————

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.

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

Two-week Break

16 Mar

I’ve been out of town for classes, so I’ll have something good next week!  Blessing as you worship our great God tomorrow.

Back

15 Feb

In my last post I talked about restorative balance. Sadly, writing was one of the casualties of finding some margin to catch my breath and enjoy the life God has given me.

This week, however, I have become increasingly aware of the burning desire in me to write.  And so I am back.

In some ways writing, though always excruciatingly difficult, brings rest to my soul.

I’ve missed it.

And you.

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