Jesus stuff

getting better all the time

wow, can you believe that February is already over?

this year seems to be blowing by. last year was such a tough year, it seemed to drag on and on. i just wanted it to be over. this year it seems there is not enough time to get everything done. i guess it’s because i’m more busy and haven’t isolated myself like i did last year.

funny thing about denial, you don’t see it until you’re already in the cycle. i never thought i isolated myself last year, but i did it over and over. not only that, i ran away from and pushed away people who loved me. it pretty much sucks.

so i’m saying this year is going better. i have community. i have purpose. i’m staying, and not running away.

i hope your year is going well too.

my top 5

what are your top 5 worship songs? what are the songs that really speak to you when you sing to God? it could be a right now list, or an all-time list. these are mine.

5. Overtaken-Gateway Worship/Walker Beach & Zach Neese

this is a powerful song for me. it was one of the first times that i was exposed to the songwriting of Zach Neese. he has been a great voice and mentor in my own worship life. funny thing is when i’ve introduced this as a congregational song, it has always fallen a little flat.

4. How He Loves-John Mark McMillan

i remember the first time i heard this song, and i wept. for the record, i love the lyric “sloppy wet kiss”, but that’s not the focal point of the song. it all leads to “i don’t have time to maintain these regrets when i think about the way He loves us.”

3. You Bled-Rend Collective Experiment

i was first introduced to Rend Collective at recreate10. i found myself just weeping at this video because it’s such a beautiful depiction of Christ in that little boy. it has fast become one of my favorite songs, and is powerful when sung in a corporate setting.

2. Beautiful Things-Gungor

again, thanks to the recreate conference i got to hear Gungor debut their album “Beautiful Things”. honestly one of the most holy moments i’ve ever experienced in my life. the passion with which each song was presented and the heart behind them made me play this CD in my car for 5 months straight. i love every song on this record, but the title track was so healing for my life. for a stretch of 2011 i couldn’t sing it because i didn’t believe it, but that has changed. He makes all things new.

1. O Praise Him (All This For A King) David Crower Band*

i don’t know what to say about this song. i tear up just thinking about it. it is my heart’s cry. i thank David for writing it. as well as being my #1 worship song, it is my #1 song period. the lyric that says “it’s the sound of salvation come, the sound of rescued ones” might be the most meaningful lyric i’ve had the pleasure to sing. all this for a King.

so what are your favorites? tell me in the comments.

you got a little something right there…

i was thinking about judgment yesterday.

we all judge even if we don’t want to admit it. we look at people and make calls based on what we see. we listen to conversations and critique even though we really don’t know that person or their heart. or we look at a “sin” and immediately in our heart we say, “i’m not as bad as they are”

so like the Pharisee who prayed out loud in the temple, we look at others and give them a grade based on very little information. it’s judgment, but very poor judgment.

it is something i fight almost everyday. i try and remind myself that i don’t know the rest of the story, but it just comes up.  to quote Peter Cetera and Chicago it’s  a “Hard Habit to Break”

so what got me moving in this direction of thought?

i was remembering a conversation i had with a friend about the movie “Gladiator” several years ago. now this friend didn’t go to R rated movies, or at least didn’t admit to going. but they went to see Gladiator because the R rating came from “necessary violence”. so that was the first qualifying remark so that no one would judge them. and that’s the way it is with our media, we can justify something if it’s violent, but not if it has sexual or lewd content. God forbid any people in church actually admit that they like SouthPark or Sex in the City.

i’m not advocating anything, i just think if we were honest about who we are and what we do, then there would be a lot less judgment. i mean i don’t care that my friend saw Gladiator. it’s an awesome film with a great story. i don’t care if people watch South Park, it’s funny and honest. i don’t care what you have on your iPod, well i take that back i will judge you if you have Lil Wayne or Justin Beiber, but that’s just a quality issue. i’m saying just own it. don’t apologize for it. don’t try to sneak into the back of the theater when Hangover 3 comes out.

so i’ll finish with this passage from Matthew where Jesus is talking about judgment.

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5 NLT

that’s how i try to deal with judgment. i try and remind myself that there is a huge telephone pole in my eye and it blurs my vision just a little.

which way

i think we’ve all asked the question…

what is God’s will for my life?

He says He has a plan. why can’t i have a copy of it?

and all kinds of people have answers. most of them clichés.

i’ve heard them all.

“well if you knew the shortest way from point A to point B, you wouldn’t need God”

“it’s selfish to ask about His will for YOUR life. His will is His will”

“just let go and let God”

one after another ad nauseum. i know that people are well intentioned, but sometimes it’s ok to just not have a pat answer for everything. and yes when i say people, i mean me too. i’ve been guilty of pulling the “Christianese” answer. sometimes we just think we need to say something. i know that we want answers. we want to know why. but i think sometimes what we really want is God to conform to our will rather than us conforming to His. we make plans and want God to put His stamp of approval on them as His will. our plans, as well intentioned as they may be, usually involve a path of least resistance that will bring glory to us. then we get frustrated when things don’t go our way and like an overgrown child we sit on the floor and throw a tantrum and ask God why. then it comes back to that question. what is His will for my life?

Celebrate always, pray constantly, and give thanks to God no matter what the circumstances you find yourself in. (This is God’s WILL for ALL of you in Jesus the Liberator) 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 The Voice

i love that. maybe if we looked for that will of God and lived our lives in thankfulness, we would begin to see where He works to grow us into who we are in Him.

the passage continues

So now, may the God of peace make you His own completely and set you apart from the rest. May your spirit, soul and body be preserved, kept intact and wholly free from any sort of blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus, the Liberating King. For the God who calls you is faithful, and He can be trusted to make it so. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 The Voice

i’m going to try and walk that way today. my prayer is that you can too.

sing with all you’ve got

i’ve been leading worship for about 18 years. it started with an acoustic guitar at small groups and youth camps. i still can’t play “I Love You Lord” worth a flip.

i love leading. it is something that makes me feel alive. that has always been the case. i love to sing praises to God. i love to sing to Him with all of me, but i have to be careful that i don’t fall in love with the songs, or the singing. there are lots of songs that make my heart cry out to Him and there are songs that i actually weep as they are sung because they are powerful in my life. when i am in the moment, and i don’t analyze it, they are beautiful opportunities of brokenness between God and myself.

sometimes i try and analyze why that particular song caused me to be emotional instead of just enjoying the beauty of being raw and real before God.

as i’ve led over the years, i have sung lots of songs. hymns, and choruses. i’ve sung other people’s songs and my own. i’ve led songs of deep theology,  songs with spiritual themes, and songs without. i try to plan songs that people will sing, or songs that will grab people by the heart or even the throat. now, i’m not trying to manipulate them, or the Spirit. i want to turn their attention to God. i found that when i did things with my agenda that it did not go well.

as i was reading in Colossians today, i was reminded that Paul was impacted by music as well. in the middle of a prayer for the church, he writes out a hymn. it is about Christ and is called the Colossian Hymn. it is found in Colossians 1:15-20

He is the exact image of the invisible God, the firstborn of creation, the eternal. It was by Him that everything was created: the heavens, the earth, all things within and upon them, all things seen and unseen, thrones and dominions, spiritual powers and authorities. Every detail was crafted through His design, by His own hands, and for His purposes. He has always been! It is His hand that holds everything together. He is the head of this body, the church. He is the beginning, the first of those to be reborn from the dead, so that in every aspect, at every view, in everything–He is first. God was pleased that all of His fullness should forever dwell in the Son, who , as predetermined by God, bled peace into the world by His death on the cross as God’s means of reconciling the whole creation to Himself–all things in heaven and all things on earth.

wow, what an amazing picture of Christ. i find it really interesting that Paul would use a song to convey to the Colossians Who they belong to. music is one of the strongest pulls to memory. i can see them as this letter is read maybe begin to hear the tune in their head, or maybe the leader who was reading recognized the lyrics and sang that portion of the letter. i can almost imagine the church joining in, and as they sang, they remembered who this Savior is.

so my prayer is that as you sing, you will remember Who you belong to. no matter if you are singing an old hymn, Mumford and Sons, or the latest Justin Timberlake song (My Love is my jam). think of the joy that music brings, and remember that everything belongs to Him and has it’s meaning because of Him.


wherever two or more are gathered…

i continually wonder about the presence of God. He promises to never leave or forsake us, yet sometimes it seems like He is distant. i know the clichés like “if God seems far away, it’s you who has moved, not Him.” ugh, i hate clichés.

i realize that sin sometimes is a barrier for us. nothing is a barrier for Him. I can see how we put on our fig leaf and try to hide. i just wish sometimes i would hear Him say “where are you?” maybe i’m not listening. maybe life is too loud and it drowns out His voice. maybe the shame is so heavy that it dampens the calling. whatever it is, to be honest, sometimes i feel alone.

but my feelings will betray me. if i do the things i feel like doing, then i am not living in His will, i am dwelling in mine. i’ve found that my will, even with temporary moments of pleasure, does not bring long term peace or satisfaction.

i was reading this morning and came across a prayer. i love Paul’s prayers for the people in the new testament churches. this one was for the church at Ephesus.

Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen your people. Fill their souls with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Liberating King will reside in their hearts. My love be the rich soil where their lives take root. May it be the bedrock where their lives are founded so that together with all of Your people they will have the power to understand that the love of the Liberator is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God, may Your fullness flood through their entire beings. Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus, the Liberating King, from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:16-21 The Voice

he addresses the very thing i’m feeling, so i suppose the Ephesians struggled with the presence of Christ too. he talks about it taking root so that they and we would know that Christ’s love surpasses anything that we can understand. so maybe instead of seeking the presence which is already there, i should ask for the fullness. i should seek to be filled. i should request the power to understand.

also this prayer does not say i pray that this individual will see these things. it says they. we were not meant to grow outside of community. maybe sometimes the reason we don’t feel the presence of God is because even when we are around people, we isolate ourselves. He wants us to practice His presence in the midst of others. He wants us to see His power in the lives of others. we grow as a body. He promises to be wherever we gather.

do you struggle with believing that God can do those awe-inspiring, immeasurable things? well, then let’s get together and be for each other as He is for us. let us dream big and see what He can do. are you ready?

on the inside…

i was having a conversation with a friend the other day and they asked me if someone was a “believer”.

that set the cogs turning in my head. they were asking me if this person was a Christ follower, but used a church insider word. i thought, everyone “believes” in something. then i thought how arrogant to call ourselves believers when most of the time we struggle with trusting and believing the truth of what God has even revealed of Himself in the bible. we don’t even believe enough to apply it. and then we have the audacity to call people who aren’t in relationship with God “lost”. they may be more “found” than we think.

i love soccer. when i come across other soccer fans the language changes. we shift to “footballspeak”. cleats become boots. field becomes pitch. game becomes match. teams become clubs or sides. we use terms like touch, chance, cross, brace, and nutmeg. and we understand each other, but someone who is not privy to the language would be confused or think we were being exclusionary, and we are. we know the beautiful game and unless you are interested in knowing, we are not letting you in. it’s often the same way in our churches.

so our language creates a barrier for people rather than invite them in. now i know not everyone uses these words, but “churchspeak” is very common. i’ve sought for years to come up with synonyms to help better express who i am and what my life with Jesus looks like. i still find myself being cliche quite often. even my favorite analogy of sons and daughters who dwell in the kingdom of God is a stretch for some people as i invite them to experience life with me.

so how would you describe this life? what words would you use? how do we let people know they are included in this life? how do we tell this story of extreme love without being cliche or exclusive?

passion in the presence

i had a friend tell me once that we are most fulfilled when our passion intersects a need.

i have fleeting moments of passion for things it seems as of late. i’ll get excited about doing something and then the excitement fades. i have grand designs on getting some things done, but then apathy or fear set in and i end up getting nothing done. i’ll hear or see something that fires me up and i’ll talk about it, then it never happens.

i mean i’m a passionate person. i know this because when i do go after something, i do it full force. i’m constantly thinking about my “want to” and lately things have been getting done because of my “have to”.  i’m deceived into believing that it will never happen, so why bother trying? i know that comes from failures in the last few years, but i don’t have a give up spirit.

i will say that i have made a commitment to get up early and read, and to write here as much as i can. now if i can just slingshot this discipline into other areas. life is too short to not run after dreams because i am lazy or afraid.

you see, i know that God is with me. sometimes i lose sight of that presence. sometimes my heart gets so heavy with other stuff, that i miss Him. but in His presence is joy. and no matter the situation, i can find that joy in Him and only Him.

so today i want to make Him my passion. i want Him to move in me to help me do those things that only i can do. i want Him to be the inspiration for the passionate life that only i can live. i will not resign myself to a life of insignificance. let’s live today. you too.

on repeat…

last night i had a thought go over and over in my head.

“whom then shall i fear?”

i knew it was from a song, but the next lyric wouldn’t come. just over and over “whom then shall i fear?”

i knew it was in reference to the 23rd Psalm, and the bible verse that says “if God is for us? who can be against us?” popped up in my head for a split second.

but it kept repeating. it’s like a record that was skipping. it was on loop in my brain.

i could even sing the tune, but the chorus of the song was eluding me.

so i dwelt on that. i mulled it over. whom shall i fear? i sang and said it over and over. i thought this isn’t how i talk, it’s almost antiquated language with the whom and the shall. the question morphed into, why am i afraid? who and what am i afraid of?

this morning as i woke and was beginning to write, it hit me. the next lyric.

Oh no, You never let go

Through the calm and through the storm

Oh no, You never let go

In every high and every low

Oh no, You never let go Lord,

You never let go of me

it was just there. but i think God wanted me to focus on the first lyric last night. it’s like He was asking me, “what are you afraid of? I’m here.”

i think so often we avoid doing the things we need to because we are afraid. and that fear overwhelms and cripples us, but we are warriors who serve a God who is like a lion. He is for us, and even though it scares us, we have to step out and believe that.  quite often what we are afraid of is a lie. i’ve heard if you name it, the truth comes out.

i’m afraid of these things. i’m afraid that i will never know the true love of a woman. i’m afraid that my bills won’t get paid every month. i’m afraid of being lonely and alone. i’m afraid that my children will be damaged by divorce and separation. i’m afraid that i will run to things that are temporary fixes. i’m afraid that i’m not seen as a man. i’m afraid that who i really am will be exposed. i’m afraid of failure. i’m afraid of success. i’m afraid of losing everything.

why am i afraid of those things?  they are all lies. i claim to trust God, yet i’m stressed and worried over things that may never happen. or i’m worried about things that happened in the past that color today or the future. and when i do that. when i live in that place of fear. i miss the moment. i miss the right now.

so, whom then shall we fear? God is for us. He is for us. He’s not in opposition. He’s the best player on our team. we need to make sure the playmaker has the ball.

so don’t be afraid. live today. i’m sure going to try. i pray that you do as well.

don’t dwell in fear because He never lets go.

what i get to be a part of…

as i was glancing over twitter and Facebook yesterday, i noticed that lots of pastors talked about the prodigal son. our pastor did as well, and he said something that stuck with me that i hadn’t realized before.

he said that when the son asked for his inheritance, he was saying to the father, “you are dead to me. i don’t need you anymore”. then he proceeded to take and go, and live his own way.

the funny thing is, he had everything already. all he had to do was listen to the father, but he, like us, wanted control.

how often are we like that? we have everything of the Father’s. one of my favorite lines from a recent song says, “He lavishes. His love upon us. He calls us all. His sons and daughters. He’s reaching out.” that is a beautiful word picture of exactly how He is.

so why do we continually demand to have our way? are we spoiled? why do we think He deprives us when actually it’s the opposite?

you see, we are messy and broken. we are ashamed and the enemy has convinced us that the Father could never love the junk in our lives. we are far from Him in that pig pen. we have to make the conscious decision that it would be better to be a servant in the Father’s house than to continue to live in this mess, so we turn our face towards home. something has to change, this isn’t ok. God knows what needs to change and when we turn to Him, He gives us that gift. we aren’t hiding anymore. we aren’t trying to manage the messy and broken. we turn our energy and focus to the One who can pull us out of the mud and slop.

and He sees us coming from a long way off because He has been watching for our return. He runs to us and rejoices. He welcomes us back as family and we celebrate. will we leave again? probably, but we hopefully won’t spend as much time in the pig pen the next time. and eventually we will just look in its direction, but not go. then someday all thoughts of the pig pen will cease.

so today i pray that your focus will be on the One who longs to bring true redemption into your life. He is the Redeemer. stop focusing on what is wrong with you and what you want to get rid of, and focus on what is right with Him and what you get to be a part of.