Monday, August 15, 2011

Thanksgiving



Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name.
Psalm 100:4 HCSB

When I was a young child, it was hard for me to distinguish the concepts of having thanksgiving in my heart and having thanksgiving dinner with my family. Whenever I heard that I was supposed to enter His gates with thanksgiving, I pictured my entire family carrying turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie through the front gate of the Lord’s house, and then sitting down with Him, Pilgrims, and Indians for a giant feast at an enormous table. Then, before we ate, instead of bowing our heads, we simply turned to the Lord and thanked Him face to face. In my mind, He always nodded graciously in a noble and righteous way. Even now as I remember it, tears come to my eyes.

Even though I misunderstood the meaning of thanksgiving as a child, I think I had a big part of it right. When we come before the Lord, we are to thank Him for His many blessings. We should never forget to thank Him and to praise Him in response to all He has given us.

God, may we always come before You with thanksgiving.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Above All



Above all, fear the Lord and worship Him faithfully with all your heart, considering the great things He has done for you. 1 Samuel 12:24 HCSB

Sometimes it’s just hard to get excited about worshiping the Lord. I get so consumed with everything that’s going on around me that it’s hard for me to shift my mind to the goodness of the Lord. I know that I need to lift Him up regardless of my circumstances, but often I just don’t feel like it.

One thing that has helped me overcome this is remembering everything that the Lord has done for me. Sometimes, I even have to run through them verbally or mentally.

1. He died for me.
2. He is always there to offer me counsel.
3. He loves me more than I could ever imagine.
4. He’s provided for me time and time again.
5. He’s given me an awesome wife.
6. He’s given me a home.
7. He allows me to serve Him.

Somehow, counting my blessings reminds me of how faithful He’s been to me. That, in turn, helps me to worship Him faithfully.

Thank You, Lord, for all that You’ve done for me.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Remember



Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith…
Hebrews 12:1-2a

Being the son of a career Marine, many of my formative years were spent on or around military bases. Even as a child, I was always impressed by the meticulous upkeep of military cemeteries. The seemingly endless rows of neatly manicured identical graves made an imprint on my memory. The men and women buried in those places served our country well. They deserve to be remembered as heroes.

As Christians, we should have an even greater tenacity in remembering the faithfulness of those who have gone before us. We should never forget how we could not be where we are today if they had not remained loyal to Jesus. These Christian leaders, pastors and laymen alike, deserve to be remembered as heroes.

Lord, thank You for the faithfulness of Your people over the years. Help us to remember them and to allow them to serve as a never-ending example to us.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

True Faith




If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.
Daniel 3:17-18 HCSB

When I was a child, I played the part of Nebuchadnezzar in a musical, which told the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I enjoyed getting to rant and rave in church because these three men would not worship my gods.

Several years later, I made Jesus my Lord. Suddenly, I realized that the Bible stories I had learned growing up in church were true and that there really were three men who stood before a hateful king who ordered them executed because they refused to worship his idols.

Now, as I remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I see three men so full of faith in God that they were willing to give up their lives. In their refusal to worship the gods of the king, they truly worshiped the one true God.

Lord, help us to always faithfully worship You.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Reflect



I will reflect on all You have done and meditate on Your actions. Psalm 77:12 HCSB

This is my Father’s world; O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet. Mark Babcock*

Often, when I come to God in worship, my mind is filled with thoughts of horrible things that are happening around the world. I think of terrorists wreaking havoc, financial institutions crumbling, devastating natural disasters, orphans crying out, and people living in hunger. When this happens, I can’t help but echo the words of Asaph: Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He is anger withheld His compassion? (Psalm 77:9 HCSB)

However, as I begin to worship, God reminds me of how often He has provided for others and for me. He reminds me of how it’s only by His mercy that the world is not consumed. He reminds me of how He offered His Son as a sacrifice to pay the price for our sins. Then, I remember the further words of Asaph: I will reflect on all You have done and meditate on Your actions. (Psalm 77:12 HCSB)

Lord, when we remember Your faithfulness, help us to worship You?

*This Is My Father’s World

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Loyalty



Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthy man? Proverbs 20:6 HCSB

Many years ago, I learned a song about faithfully praising God during difficult times. I sang it whenever I had the opportunity. I wanted it known that I was extremely loyal to Jesus.

But then, life happened. My car was stolen, twice. Bills and taxes became a reality. My metabolism slowed. I gained weight. Church business meetings wounded my heart. I lost my ministry position. And then came the miscarriage. It took me lower than I ever thought I could go. I considered leaving the ministry and abandoning my faith.

But then, I remembered all that the Lord had done for me. I remembered how He had always provided for me. I remembered the love that He had for me. And then, I remembered that He died for me. How could I turn away from Him when He had been so faithful to me?

I still want to praise the Lord, no matter what happens. But now, I understand that it’s more reflected in the way I live my life through difficult times than in the songs that I sing about them.

Lord, help us to be faithful to You, always.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Return



Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” Genesis 22:5 HCSB

Abraham never thought that he would be a father, but there he stood, on a mission of faith, with his son Isaac beside him. The Lord had told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as an act of worship. Can you imagine how Abraham must have felt upon hearing God’s request? As an old man, he had finally seen the beginnings of everything that he had been promised by the Lord and now he was being asked to willingly offer it all back to God in worship. Talk about a crisis of belief! What was God thinking? Didn’t He remember His promise to Abraham? Didn’t the Lord know how much Abraham loved Isaac? Surely something inside Abraham encouraged him to disobey the Lord and spare the life of his son. But, that didn’t happen. Abraham obeyed God, but he also had faith that somehow he would return from worshiping with a live Isaac beside safely beside him.

Lord, help us to have the faith of Abraham as we worship You.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Harry, Larry, and Fluffy: A Tale of Great Sacrifice



I hope you enjoy this youth drama I wrote for my friend's Steven's church. It was presented at the Arkansas Assembly of God drama contest in 2010. Thanks for reading.



Larry
is a nervous overachiever. Harry is his calm friend. Fluffy is a stuffed animal, preferably fluffy and white.

(Larry nervously enters, grabs stuffed cat by the tail and raises toy sword over his head. Harry enters, is shocked by what he sees, and runs to Larry.)

Harry: Larry! What are you doing?

Larry: Something that I should have done a long time ago.

Harry: What are you going to do with that knife?

Larry: Stand back, Harry! This could get ugly.

Harry:
But what are you doing?

Larry: I (long dramatic pause) am going to sacrifice Fluffy’s tail!

Harry: You’re gonna do what?

Larry: Yes, Larry. (Melodramatically) I am going to sacrifice my dear beloved cat Fluffy’s tail!

Harry: Why would you want to sacrifice your cat’s tail?

Larry: It’s what I must do, Harry. We all have to sacrifice something sooner or later. And don’t you dare try to stop me…

Harry: But…

Larry: Like I said, you had better not try to stop me! Don’t you dare try to stop me.

Harry:
You’re not seriously…

Larry:
Harry! Don’t try to stop me! Don’t you dare try to stop me!

Harry: All right, I won’t try. What’s one less cat’s tail, anyway?

Larry:
Harry?

Harry: What?

Larry: (changing his tone) Try to stop me. Please try to stop me.

Harry: Well, I, uh… (Ponders for a moment, then adds nonchalantly) No, I won’t do it. You seem to know what you’re doing. You must have thought this through. Just try not to make a mess. You know how your mom hates a messy room.

(Harry starts to leave. Larry drops the knife, grabs Fluffy and runs after Harry.)


Larry: Wait, Harry! Wait!

Harry: (Turns to face Larry) What?

Larry: Didn’t you hear me? I said that I was going to sacrifice Fluffy’s tail!

Harry: Yeah, I heard you.

Larry: But you didn’t try to stop me!

Harry: You asked me not to.

Larry: Yeah, but then I changed my mind. Why didn’t you stop me?

Harry: (smiles) It looks to me like I did stop you.

Larry: (drops jaw) You did stop me! Oh, thank you!

(Larry and Harry sit)


Harry: Larry?

Larry:
Yeah.

Harry:
Why were you going to cut off your cat’s tail?

Larry: Well, I’ve been reading through the Bible this year and I’ve been in the Old Testament for weeks now, and all that they talk about is how you’ve got to make some type of animal sacrifice to atone for your sins.

Harry: Yeah, Old Testament people did have to make animal sacrifices, but…

Larry:
(interrupts) You know that the only animal I have is Fluffy.

Harry: Okay, I see where you got the idea, but…

Larry: I thought about sacrificing Fluffy all the way, but I just couldn’t bring myself to kill her because she’s just so, uh, uh…

Harry: Fluffy?

Larry:
Yeah, so instead I thought that I would cut off her tail as a sacrifice.

Harry: (shakes his head) I can’t believe you.

Larry: What?

Harry: First, you know that Jesus died on the cross to atone for your sins?

Larry: Yeah, I know that and I asked for forgiveness for my sins.

Harry: Then why were you going to cut off your cat’s tail?

Larry: I guess I was still feeling guilty and far from God.

Harry: (Shakes his head in disbelief) It doesn’t matter how you feel, Larry. It matters that you’re forgiven. You said that you asked for forgiveness, right?

Larry:
Yeah.

Harry:
Then God forgave you.

Larry: (Starts to cry. Speaks to Fluffy) Did you hear that Fluffy? You get to keep your tail!

Harry:
Secondly, if you cut off Fluffy’s tail, she would have been the one making the sacrifice.

Larry:
(Raises one eyebrow) Oh yeah.

(Harry and Larry Exit. Larry runs back, picks up Fluffy and exits, holding Fluffy close.)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Beautiful Feet

Here's a video I created for Kathy for last year's Minister's Wives Retreat at Tall Timbers Retreat Center. I thought you might enjoy seeing it.

http://www.youtube.com/user/JohnJFrady#p/a/u/0/ZW-vQxAduNI

Have a great day.

John

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

World's Largest Pyramid



Sometime around the 200 BC, construction began on a massive pyramid in what is now the state of Pueblo in highland Mexico. It was built with the snow topped Popocat├ępetl volcano as its backdrop and was dedicated to the deity Quetzalcoatl. The base of the pyramid, known as the Great Pyramid of Cholula, was greater than that of the Great Egyptian Pyramid and has been called by some to be the largest ancient pyramid ever constructed. Over the years, the original pyramid was either built upon or neglected by various conquering people groups. By the time the Spaniards conquered the area, the Pyramid of Cholula was so neglected and covered with vegetation that it was believed to simply be a natural hill.

Today, on top of the ancient pyramid sits the Nuestro Senora de los Remedios (Church of our Lady of Remedies). Visitors from all around the world come to the small city of Cholula to see the largest pyramid ever constructed, climb its steps, explore it tunnels, and visit the church building at its summit. It is truly a wonder to behold.

As I now view the pictures of the Great Pyramid of Cholula, however, my mind is not drawn to the ancient Mayan or Toltec people, although they certain did achieve much in their civilizations. What I actually think about is another ancient structure, the Tower of Babel, described in Genesis chapter 11:

At one time the whole earth had the same language and vocabulary. As people migrated from the east, they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let us make oven-fired bricks.” They had brick for stone and asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky. Let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise, we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

Then the Lord came down to look over the city and the tower that the men were building. The Lord said, “If, as one people all having the same language, they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go and confuse their language so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them from there over the face of the whole earth and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name is called Babylon, for there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth, and from there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Hopefully, sometime in my life, I will have the chance to visit the Pyramid of Cholula and the Nuestro de los Remedios. To me, it is a monument that communicates to the world that no matter what man achieves that it will eventually be nothing more than a footstool to the glory of the Lord. Every structure, every achievement, every performance, every talent, every known thing is subject to Him.

The apostle Paul wrote the following words to the Philippians:

He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death-even to death on a cross. For this reason God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow-of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus, You are Lord of all things! We give You glory and declare that everything and everyone is subject to You.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Unique

This blog entry has been reposted by request.

So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female. Genesis 1:27 HCSB

But hold up and let the river rush in, you can turn around and start livin’ again, Cause your life is a beautiful bloom in the image of the One that created you. Toby McKeehan*

To my dismay, I was not selected to be the soloist with the choir at a conference I attended in college. Sitting in the choir, I allowed myself to feel miserable and defeated during the evening of worship. Following the service, an older lady approached me and said, “When the choir sang, I watched you. You are unique and loved by God. You were created in His image and you are valuable to Him.”

Do you ever feel worthless? Do you ever feel of little value? Remember that God made you in His own image. Remember that He made you for a purpose. Remember that you are unique and loved by God. You are valuable to Him.

Lord, I know that You adore me. Thank You for creating me in Your image.


*Atmosphere

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Glory



So, on an appointed day, dressed in royal robes and seated on the throne, Herod delivered a public address to them. The populace began to shout, ‘It’s the voice of a god and not of a man!’ At once an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give the glory to God, and he became infected with worms and died. Then God’s message flourished and multiplied. Acts 12:21-24 HCSB

It’s written right there in the Bible. Herod died because he didn’t give God the glory. He accepted the praise of the people as if he were the God who deserved their praise and adoration. The Lord did not appreciate Herod’s actions, so, He caused Herod to be infected with worms to the point that he died. It’s interesting to note that after this happened, that God’s message flourished and multiplied (vs. 24). God will ultimately get the glory.

God deserves our worship. He deserves our praise. There is nothing that we have done that could have possibly been accomplished without Him. He deserves all of the glory and honor and praise for anything good that has ever happened. Because He is the Lord of all and creator of all things, God is serious about receiving the glory. He does not appreciate it when we try to steal the glory that ultimately belongs to Him.

In Philippians 2:10-11, Paul wrote, So that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow-of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (HCSB) This scripture even indicates that when we give praise to Jesus, it is to the “glory” of God the Father.

All the hard work that we’ve done, all that we’ve accomplished, all that we own or ever will own, all of the beauty in the world, every good thing that ever has or ever will be, all of those we lead to Christ or lead in worship or disciple or mentor, all of our families, friends, small groups, marriages, education, and vocation – everything – absolutely everything – is because of the Lord and all of the praise, honor, and glory belongs to Him.

Lord, help us to give You the glory in all that we do and in all that we say. It all belongs to You alone.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hog Island



So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow-of those who are in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11 HCSB

Hog Island is a short distance from the Port of Nassau. For years, it was a farming island where many Bahamians raised their hogs. When investors purchased the island, hoping to convert it into an upscale tourist destination, they realized no one would want to spend money to stay on “Hog” Island. So, in 1962, the Bahamian Parliament changed the name to “Paradise” Island. Today, it is home to the world-renowned Atlantis resort.

Sometimes, a name changes everything.

The name of Jesus is powerful. There is salvation in His name. Saying His name adds power to our prayers. When we speak it aloud or sing it in a praise song or hymn, everything changes. His name is a strong and mighty tower when we are under spiritual attack. When we are weary from the battle, the name of Jesus is a refuge where we can rest. His name transforms lives forever.

Jesus, Your name changes everything. We worship You.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Midnight



About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly, there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains came loose. Acts 16:25-26 HCSB

The day could have been better for Paul and Silas. They were dragged to the authorities, accused of disrupting the peace, beaten with rods, and thrown into prison with their feet secured in stocks. Most people would call that a very unproductive day. However, Paul and Silas reacted quite differently. In fact, in a moment that should have been filled with despair, they opted to spend their time in prayer and worship.

If it had been me, I probably would have said, “What? Pray? Excuse me! My arms are bruised from where they dragged me, my back is covered with welps from the rods, and these stocks are very uncomfortable on my feet. You go ahead. And by the way, it’s midnight. I just don’t feel like praising Him right now.”

No wonder I haven’t experienced many earthquakes lately.

Lord, when we find ourselves in pain and in trouble, remind us that it’s time to worship You.

Friday, May 13, 2011

This Cup



Then He said to them, "My soul is swallowed up in sorrow —to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with Me." Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, "My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will." Matthew 26:38-39 HCSB

According to the above scripture passage, before Jesus was arrested, He was overcome with sorrow. He knew the beatings and the cruel death that awaited Him. The stress He was experiencing must have been overwhelming. So, Jesus did the right thing. He cried out to His Father.

Jesus’ prayer showed His humanity, but it also showed the ultimate act of worship – obedience. He fell before God and asked to be released from the task before Him, but immediately responded in obedience and agreed to do the will of the Father.

Jesus continued to worship the Lord in obedience as He was arrested, tried, flogged, beaten, spit upon, and crucified. His extraordinary act of worship was enduring the pain of death on a cross so that you and I could one day have a relationship with Him.

Lord, help us to worship You through our obedience to You.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Front Line Worship



Then he consulted with the people and appointed some to sing for the Lord and some to praise the splendor of His holiness. When they went up in front of the armed forces, they kept singing: Give thanks to the Lord, for His faithful love endures forever. 2 Chronicles 20:21 HCSB

I don’t know about you, but when problems arise in my life, my first thought is not usually worship and praise. Unfortunately, most often I try to “fix” these situations in my own strength and ability, only to later come crawling to the Lord when I’ve come to the end of myself.

Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, tried a better technique when the people of Judah went out to battle with the Ammonites, Moabites, and Meunites. Instead of assigning his largest and fiercest men to the front lines, he placed several worshipers who sang continually about the faithfulness of the Lord.

Fighting battles through strategic praise and worship is not a strategy that has caught on with most modern armies in our world. However, it is the best strategy for Christ followers when we are preparing for our own battles.

Lord, when we are faced with seemingly insurmountable situations, help us to respond with worship.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Position



You do not have to fight this battle. Position yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. 2 Chronicles 20:17 HCSB

When I was in first grade, I played t-ball for the Sherwood Sharks. On the first day of practice, our coach watched us catch, throw, hit, and run. On the second day of practice, he assigned us our positions. Much to my dismay, I was placed in left field. Left field doesn’t see a lot of action in first grade t-ball. I hated it and thought about quitting. However, as the season continued, I realized that left field was the best position for me and for the entire team.

When the inhabitants of Judah were about to be attacked by a massive army, the Lord instructed them to position themselves for battle by standing still and watching. This assigned position certainly did not seem appropriate for the nation on the eve of their destruction, but it was the Lord’s instructions for them, which meant it was the best position for Judah at the time. Therefore, when they heard the Lord’s instructions, they fell before the Him in worship.

Lord, when we don’t understand Your instructions, help us to worship You all the more.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

God's Fight

This is what the Lord says: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 2 Chronicles 20:15b HCSB

Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, was afraid, so he called his people together for prayer. The Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites had joined forces against the people of Judah. All seemed hopeless as the massive army came closer. So, Jehoshaphat led his people to seek the Lord. As they were praying, the Lord spoke to them through a Levite named Jahaziel and told them not to be afraid because the battle they were about to fight actually belonged to God.

So many times, life seems overwhelming. Troubles come and multiply on our doorsteps. Enemies come out of nowhere to accuse us. When we focus on the problems, all we can see is the enormity of our hopelessness to endure. However, God doesn’t want us to focus on our forecasted disaster. He wants us to focus on Him. He doesn’t desire for us to be dismayed by the bad things happening around us. Instead, He desires for us to seek Him and worship Him through the battle.

Lord, help us to worship You even when it seems that all is lost.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What To Do When You're Afraid



Jehoshaphat was afraid, so he resolved to seek the Lord. So he proclaimed a fast for all Judah, who gathered to seek the Lord. They even came from all the cities of Judah to seek Him. 2 Chronicles 20:3-4 HCSB

What would you do if you heard that someone wanted to hurt you? What if you discovered that it was your neighbors joining forces to attack you? Would you be afraid?

When Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, heard the reports that the Moabites, the Ammonites, and the Meunites had come to fight against him, he was afraid. However, he chose not to run, hide, or to attack them. Instead, he chose to seek the Lord. He declared a fast for the entire nation and residents from every city of Judah joined him in seeking the Lord.

What should we do when we are afraid? Should we run away? Should we hide in our closets? Should we rush out to face the source of our fear? Or should we seek the Lord?

When evil comes our way, we should pray. When we are afraid, we should pray. When it seems that all is lost, we should pray.

Lord, remind us to seek You when we are afraid.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fight



For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. Ephesians 6:12 HCSB

I wasn’t prepared for a fight, but I had offended the fifth grade bully. When school let out, I walked home paranoid. Every sound made me jump. Suddenly, I heard a noise in the bushes behind me. I turned and saw the bully standing two feet away. Not knowing what to do, I ran home as fast as I could. There was no way I was going to let Elizabeth Zenkman lay a hand on me!

I escaped from the fight that day, but there’s another fight that Christians encounter daily. Satan, the enemy, wants to destroy our lives. He wants to steal our joy. He wants to kill our Christian witness at any cost. We must realize that he is looking for every opportunity to launch a spiritual attack against us.

We must be prepared for these attacks. We must realize that Satan wants us to conform our thoughts and our actions to those of the world around us. We must clothe ourselves in the armor of the Lord.

Father, help us to daily prepare for the attacks of Satan.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Transformed


Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2 HCSB

I like the show The Biggest Loser. It features teams of overweight members, competing over a series of weeks to see who can lose the most weight. What I enjoy most is not the competition, but the stories shared about the transformed lives of the team members after their involvement in the show. Most often, the bodies of the participants have been radically altered because of the positive diet and exercise habits they have developed.

As Christians, we should strive for a different form of transformation. The change that we need comes from the daily renewing of our mind. The actions we take, whether positive or negative, are first conceived in our minds. If we want our actions to be more Christlike, our thoughts must be more Christlike. The Holy Spirit certainly helps us, but this renewing process also requires discipline in our thoughts, not accepting anything ungodly, but forcing ourselves to think like Jesus thinks.

Lord, help us to think like You. Help us to renew our minds.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Being a Worshiper



Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1 HCSB

Recently, I was invited to facilitate a class on living a life of worship. Before the class began, one of the participants nervously raised his hand and asked, “Do I need to be a musician in order to take this class?” I assured him that he did not.

Worship is not about music. It’s not about being contemporary or traditional. It’s not about whether your choir wears robes or if you even have a choir. It’s not even about whether your pastor preaches an expository or topical message.

Worship is not about doing something. Worship is about being someone. We don’t just do worship. We are worshipers. We are worshipers when we commit ourselves to the Lord with all of our hearts. This way of life is a daily choice that we must make in order to totally ascribe worth to Him. When we make that choice, God is pleased.

Lord, we want You to be pleased with us. Help us to daily present ourselves completely to You as an act of worship.

Friday, April 8, 2011

How to Be a Good Worship Leader



The band is ready. The sound check is complete. Visuals are a go. Joe, the worship leader steps out on stage and begins the set. Hundreds, maybe thousands of congregants, either sing along or at least bob their heads to the music. Everything planned is presented flawlessly. However, as the worship team leaves the stage and the pastor brags on the musical presentation, Joe realizes that worship never really took place.

Determined not to have another bad experience, Joe throws himself into the planning and preparation for the next week. He programs the lights, checks and rechecks the lyrics, and broods over his song selection. The next corporate worship time passes with no change and he feels like a failure.

Joe attends a few worship conferences, updates his song list, and learns a few really cool guitar rifts. Sadly, after implementing what he has learned, none of these things help Joe feel successful in his worship leadership.

After a few months, Joe decides that he must not have what it takes to be a good worship leader. He meets with his pastor about his internal struggle, intending to resign at the end of their conversation.

After listening intently, the pastor leans toward Joe and asks, “Are you having the same trouble in your times of personal worship?”

A wave of realization sweeps across Joe’s face as he admits to his pastor and to himself that his personal times of worship have been virtually nonexistent.

“Joe,” said his pastor, “You need to consistently practice the presence of God. There is no other option if you want to be a good worship leader.”

Joe’s pastor is correct. If we are going to be good worship leaders, then we have to be good worshipers. This is more important than our musical ability, than our song repertoire, than our physical appearance, than our knowledge of all things technical, and even more than our personal charisma.

In John 12:26, Jesus said, Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am.

As worship leaders, we are tasked with bringing people into the presence of God. In other words, we are to lead people to where He is.

If we are going to lead people into God’s presence, we must know the way. That means that we have to be worshipers of the Lord personally, when we’re not on stage, when no one else is around, when we’re alone with the Lord, and when someone else is leading worship. We have to be worshiping disciples of Jesus.

We can’t lead people somewhere we haven’t been. There’s no corporate worship GPS system that will guide our congregations of people to encounter and experience God other than us. If we haven’t been in His presence, it doesn’t just affect us. It affects the weekly spiritual walk of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people.

We’ve practiced our instruments. We’ve practiced the songs. Now, let’s practice the presence of God.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011



Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable – if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise-dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8 HCSB

I once heard a comedian say, “Whatever you eat, you’re going to be. If you eat a lot of fat, greasy food, you become a fat, greasy dude.” Over the years, and many hamburgers later, I found that there is wisdom in that statement. The food that we eat doesn’t just provide us with fuel for that day. It stays with us and changes our bodies, sometimes forever.

The same is true regarding our thoughts and actions. What we do and what we think about can change our very natures. Everything impacts everything. If a teenager gives away her virginity for a night of pleasure, everything in her future is impacted. If a dad in a midlife crisis blows his retirement fund at the casino, it changes the financial future of his family. If a minister is overwhelmed with stress and commits adultery for relief, it can literally impact the spiritual walk of thousands of people.

Lord, may You be pleased with our thoughts and actions.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Conform Vs. Transform



Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2 HCSB

Make room within in heart, O God, That You may form in me
The image You have shown in Christ, My very life to be.

Bryan Jeffery Leech*

The definition of conform, according to Freedictionary.com is To act or be in accord or agreement. In other words, comply. Living a life of compliance can be extremely draining, especially when you have to spend so much of your time remembering how you are supposed to act.

However, the definition of transform from the same source is To change the nature, function, or condition of. In other words, convert. Transformation means to be changed completely. When I become something, I don’t have to remember to act a certain way. I am a certain way because of what I have become.

Lord, I no longer want to conform to the world. Help me to transform to Your likeness. Help me to renew my mind and continually become like You.

*Make Room Within My Heart, O God

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cesspool of Plasticity



Recently, I attended a worship service at a large church in another city. The
music was very majestic, the message was somewhat moving, the building was reasonably clean, the people were semi-friendly, and many people responded during the decision ministry time. However, by the end of the service, as I met members, leaders, staff, and the pastor of this church, I felt uneasy and a little bit phony. One thought kept coming to my mind…

This place is a cesspool of plasticity.

That afternoon, I shared my thoughts with my friend Steven, who laughed and
asked, “What is that supposed to mean?”

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
defines plasticity as:

1 : the quality or state of being plastic; especially: capacity for being molded or altered 2 : the ability to retain a shape attained by pressure deformation
3 : the capacity of organisms with the same genotype to vary in developmental pattern, in phenotype, or in behavior according to varying environmental conditions


When I look at the first definition, I shudder just a bit. Ever since my post
secondary education began, I have been afraid of becoming what some people call a cookie cutter Christian, sputtering out memorized phrases that have nothing to do with the way that I feel. After a few semesters at my Christian college, many of the ministry students, in my opinion, seemed to allow themselves to be replicated or altered into inexpensive imitations of some pasty looking and rigid thinking denominational professor.

As I read the second definition, I realize that I have made many mistakes in my life while trying to escape becoming a shape obtained by pressure deformation. I have been running from it since my early college days. There were musical groups and ministry teams that I probably would have enjoyed participating in except that I could not bear to think of myself as a becoming a part of them. They all seemed so fake to me. I sought relief from Christian college plasticity by deciding to attend a different seminary than most of my college classmates. To my dismay, the pressure deformation was even stronger in seminary than it had been in college. I switched degree programs early in my seminary career in order to graduate sooner and I spent a year teaching school in Central Asia, an entire planet away from my perception of the ever present plasticity monster of the organized church in the United States.

I now understand that what I longed for was a strong sense of authenticity in a local body of believers. Authenticity is a word that has been tossed around so much lately that it might actually be losing it’s effectiveness as a word. Remember what happened to the word contemporary a few years ago? It seemed very clear when it first began to be used. Over time, however, it became terribly confusing as to what the word really meant. I really don’t hear many people use the word today, unless their conversation is dated and/or out of touch. To avoid this happening to the word authenticity, let’s explore its definition.

So, what does it really mean to be authentic? According to the Merriam-Webster Online Thesaurus, synonyms for the word authentic are:

bona fide, genuine, real, right, and true.


It further defines the word with the following definitions:

1. being exactly as appears or as claimed.
2. following an original exactly.


I suppose it might help to understand authenticity in a deeper way by stating what it is not. The antonyms of authenticity listed in the same source are:

bogus, counterfeit, fake, false, mock, phony, pseudo, sham, spurious, unauthentic,
unreal, artificial, man-made, unnatural, fabricated, manufactured, deceptive,
and might I add my personal favorite, plastic.


But does anything that is the opposite of these adjectives actually exist in today’s postmodern world?

To search for the answer, I did a Google image search on the word authentic.
I was presented with 471,000 images. Here are a few of the text descriptions of my favorite images that appeared:

Authentic Beauty, Authentic Skis, Exciting Authentic Clothing,
Authentic Hawaiian Music, Authentic Looking Caf├ęs,
Authentic Columbian Coffee, Authentic Thai Cuisine, Authentic
Morrocan Dinner, Authentic Greek Food, and An
Authentic Taste of Texas Heritage.


I must be wrong for it seems that we are completely surrounded by some form or fashion of authenticity.

The other evening, as I sat in an authentic Mexican restaurant, my wife Kathy and
I had a conversation with our friends about the difference between an authentic Mexican restaurant and a Tex-Mex restaurant. The argument is that authentic Mexican restaurants serve food that is much less Americanized in its taste and presentation. Later that night, as I lay in bed and reflected upon the wonderful authentic Mexican meal that I had devoured, I realized that we Americans have taken the word authentic, compartmentalized it, and turned it into a style that we can understand and reproduce quickly. Just think, you can now go into malls and department stores and purchase strategically damaged faded blue jeans with pre-frayed hems that can be worn with specifically over-faded t-shirts with pre-cracked lettering and dirt encrusted Chuck Taylor high top (or low top) tennis shoes. Surely this can’t be the extent of true authenticity.

Are we, as the 21st century worship leaders of the Christian church, following the
same pattern of making authenticity a stylistic choice? Have we turned the word authentic into a word that we won’t be able to stand hearing in a few years? Do we
think that being authentic simply means coming to church in our worn out jeans, raggedy t-shirts and dirty high tops, lighting soft white candles in dark cavernous worship centers, and singing Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, or Jesus Culture songs? Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I prefer jeans and t-shirts and high tops to other types of clothing. I think candles and symbolic icons are great for use in worship. I absolutely love Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, and Jesus Culture worship songs. But clothing, shoes, candles, and popular songs cannot and do not inherently exhibit true authenticity. They are simply forms of expression.

Authenticity is about the heart. The heart does not concern itself with clothes,
music or candles. The heart reveals what is inside a person. In Matthew 12:34, Jesus
told the Pharisees,

For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.


Earlier in Matthew 5:8, as Jesus sat with His disciples on a mountainside, He told them,

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Notice that Jesus didn’t say that our music, candles or clothes should be pure, but that our hearts should be pure in order for us to see God. He didn’t say that we had to accomplish great things, have a hit worship song, or even be successful in order to see Him. He said that we had to be pure in heart.

Perhaps authenticity should be equated with being pure in heart. Samuel spoke
of just such a pure hearted person as he was rebuking Saul in 1 Samuel 13:14 when he
said to him,

But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after
his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have
not kept the Lord’s command.


David was the man he was speaking of, a man after God’s own heart.

In Psalm 139:23-24, David wrote,

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious
thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and
lead me in the way everlasting.


David made mistakes in his lifetime. For some reason, knowing
this makes me feel better. It’s not because he made mistakes, but because I make
mistakes. For example, knowing that he had anxious thoughts helps me get over my
anxious thoughts. If a man with so many faults and problems can be considered by God
as a man after His own heart, then maybe I might have a chance to be a person of
authenticity, someone after God’s own heart.

This is where the third definition of plasticity comes in:

3 : the capacity of organisms with the same genotype to vary in developmental pattern, in phenotype, or in behavior according to varying environmental conditions.


Somehow, David, even with all of his faults, managed to vary enough from the
plasticity of his day to be a truly authentic person. The only form of plasticity or pressure deformation that he experienced was becoming more like his Heavenly Father. God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, The Lord Almighty, Invisible, Immortal, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, He is the only One who is truly authentic, the only One truly free from the cesspool of plasticity. I want to be like Him. I want to be totally authentic.

Saturday, February 12, 2011



From ancient times no one has heard, no one has listened, no eye has seen any God except You, who acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him. Isaiah 64:4 HCSB

It’s amazing to me that God Almighty, the Creator of the universe, the Author of salvation, and the Designer of life and light, would care about what happens in our lives. It blows me away that a Supreme Being who lowered Himself to become human in order to die on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins would be merciful to us as we come before Him covered with the stains of iniquity. It’s surprising, in a certain way of thinking, that the Lord chooses not to destroy us right here, right now for our rebellion.

This God, who is all-powerful and is the great King of everything, chooses to act on our behalf. If He is willing to work for our good, we should be willing to wait for that good to happen and to worship Him wholeheartedly in the meantime.

God, I am honored that You would be willing to act on my behalf. You alone deserve my worship and my praise.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

All Things



We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 HCSB

Do you feel like God has something more for you? Do you feel a stirring down deep in your bones that if you don’t get to experience “it” soon that you’ll simply burst? Do you wonder why others that you know seem to be moving on to bigger and better things while you seem to be descending into oblivion? Does it drive you absolutely nuts?

If that’s the case, then you should know something. You are not alone.

I feel that way all the time.

I used to think that feeling happened when God wanted me to either change locations or ministries. Now I know that I was right, but not in the way I was thinking. It turns out that God is always interested in our good. And I’ve learned that most of the time He is not telling me to move from one place to another. He does want me to move, but He wants me to move closer to Him.

Help us remember, Lord, that the best good we could ever have is close to You.

Patience




See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and late rains. You also must be patient.
James 4:7b-8a HCSB

When I was in elementary school, I grew a bean plant. My teacher gave each student a Styrofoam cup, some potting soil, and a bean. I broke up the soil, planted the bean, watered it slightly, wrote my name on the side of the cup, and set it in the window. However, instead of returning to my seat, I stood there watching.

“What are you doing?” asked my teacher.

“I’m waiting for it to grow.”

“It’s going to take time for it to grow. In the meantime, we have work to do.”

I obeyed my teacher, did my schoolwork, and watered the plant, just a little, everyday. The day it sprouted, I almost wet my pants.

After a farmer plants his crops, he doesn’t just kick back. He still has plenty of farm work that needs to be done. As we wait on the Lord, we should continue to worship and serve Him with diligence and anticipation.

Lord, as we wait, help us to worship and serve You.

Thursday, February 3, 2011



When I am filled with cares, Your comfort brings me joy. Psalm 94:19 HCSB

An hour before the worship service, I remembered that I had forgotten some important papers in my office, which was temporarily located five miles away. My wife had my care, so I borrowed one from a friend. Halfway there, I noticed that the car was running on empty and was also overheating. Somehow, I made it to the office, found the documents, put a gallon of water in the radiator, and headed back. On the way back, I stopped at a gas station and pumped in $5 in gas. I found a bottle of water, poured it into the radiator and continued driving. My heart raced as I gripped the steering wheel. “Please, Lord, let me make it back.”

Suddenly, I found myself singing hymns and praise songs. My pulse slowed, my shoulders relaxed, and I remembered that Jesus loved me so much. I made it back in time for the service, but more importantly, I learned a lot about the comfort and joy of the Lord.

God, next time I am filled with cares, help me to come to You for comfort and joy.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Anxious



Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving; let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 HCSB

Many years ago, as I was preparing to move to Central Asia, I purchased a cd of various scripture songs, which were supposed to help people overcome their anxieties and fears. Not knowing what life was going to be like on the opposite side of the world, I thought this might turn out to be a wise investment. Turns out, it was the best $12.95 I’ve ever spent.

One of the songs was entitled Do Not Be Anxious and was based on Philippians 4:6-7. I quickly learned the song and found myself singing it whenever the stresses of living with culture shock began to overwhelm me. I took comfort in the fact that God doesn’t want us to be anxious, but instead He wants us to have peace. He wants us to talk to Him about every part of our lives, giving Him thanks as we share our inmost thoughts, hopes, and fears.

Lord, help us pray to You regarding everything in our lives.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gifts of Faithfulness



God is faithful; by Him you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:9

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside! Thomas Chisholm*

Pardon: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Peace: For He is our Peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. Ephesians 2:14
Presence: I will never leave you or forsake you. Hebrews 13:5
Strength: I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
Blessings: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. Ephesians 1:3

Thank You, Lord, for Your Pardon You’ve granted me, Your Peace which passes all understanding, Your Presence in my life, Your Strength which helps me through, and Your Blessings You’ve given and will give to me. Your faithfulness, indeed, is great!

*Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Faithful



I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 HCSB

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not. As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Thomas Chisholm*

No matter what you are going through, God is faithful. Even when your best friends and your family members turn away from you, He is still there.

Even when you do not sense His presence in your life, He is faithful. People change. Their thoughts and purposes blow here and there with the changing of the wind. But Jesus is not like that. He is constantly faithful.

Husbands and wives sometimes stop loving each other. But God is Love. And He will never stop loving you.

People can be untrustworthy. Even the best person, sooner or later, will be unable or unwilling to keep all of his promises. But God is always faithful. What He promises to do He will do.

He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.

Lord, Your faithfulness is certain.

*Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Waiting



Wait for the Lord; be courageous and let your heart be strong. Psalm 27:4 HCSB

Mold me and make me after Thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still. Adelaide A. Pollard*

There I stood, in line at the DMV, waiting. I rolled my eyes as the line inched slowly forward. I texted dozens of people, read two chapters in a book, and counted all of the ceiling tiles in the building. Finally, it was my turn. I stepped up from behind the yellow line to the counter where I presented the necessary documents and payment with a smile.

“Everything seems to be in order,” said the clerk. Please take a number, have a seat, and wait until they call your name.”

Do you ever get tired of waiting? I do. I think it’s because I usually see the waiting as a time of inactivity instead of as a time of opportunity. How would my life be different if instead of complaining, I used my time of waiting to celebrate and worship the Lord? How much closer to Him would I be today if I had done so?

Lord, in times of waiting, remind me to worship You.

*Have Thine Own Way, Lord

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Situations



For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time. Hebrews 4:15-16 HCSB

“What seems to be the problem today?” asked the Emergency Room nurse impatiently.

I couldn’t answer. Kathy, my wife, tightened her lips and slowly said, “Miscarriage.”

The nurse directed us to the waiting room where I began filling out the paperwork. After a few minutes, I noticed that Kathy was nodding her head and moving her lips through her tears as she watched a nearby television. I turned and noticed that it featured an African American choir swaying back and forth singing Lord, You are good and Your mercy endureth forever. There, in the midst of her pain, Kathy was in the presence of the Lord.

Lord, we know that You understand the situations of our lives and that You understand exactly how we feel about them. Help us to worship You even when we don’t understand what is happening around us.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Wonderful Life




Wait for the Lord; be courageous and let your heart be strong.
Psalm 27:14 HCSB

I love the old movie It’s A Wonderful Life. George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, waits throughout the entire movie to be able to leave his hometown of Bedford Falls. Once, he even tells his father that he feels that if doesn’t get away he’s going to burst. However, through a series of circumstances, George isn’t able to leave the town. He discovers in the end, however, that the work he did while waiting to leave was extremely valuable to himself, his family, and the entire town.

There have been many times in my life and ministry when I’ve felt like George Bailey. I’ve watched others go here and there and it all looks so wonderful from the spot where I’m waiting. In those moments, I sit and wonder, “Why can’t that be me?”

Fortunately, the Lord has His ways of pulling me away from my own personal pity party and helping me to realize that He has personally positioned me to be where I am to fulfill His purposes. My only appropriate response to Him is worship.

Lord, help me to worship You while I’m waiting.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Smooch



But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us! Romans 5:8 HCSB

It was in the back corner of a small town skating rink that I experienced my first kiss. My hands held tightly to the rail as my lips moved ever closer to hers. After what seemed like an eternity, she took charge and finally sealed the deal by laying one on me.

On the way home that evening, one of my friends said, “I saw you kissing that girl in the corner. I guess you’re in love with her, huh?”

I thought about it for a moment and answered, “No, I don’t think so, but I liked it.”

Years later, I stood in my college chapel with tears streaming down my face and kissed my wife in front of God and everybody.

At the wedding reception, one of my college buddies showed up and said, “Man, you two sure do look like you’re in love!”

Without hesitation, I replied, “Without a doubt, man. Without a single doubt!”

So, what’s the difference? Where does the love come from? Love has been described in many ways, but is really only defined in and through our commitments.

Jesus showed His love and ultimate commitment to us when He died for us on a cross while we were still sinners. If He did this for us, we should be willing to demonstrate our love for Him by being totally committed to Him.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Guarding and Waiting



Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life. Proverbs 4:23 HCSB

How much of human life is lost in waiting. Ralph Waldo Emerson*

It’s happened time and again. A man with a pure heart prays to the Lord for direction in life or career or ministry and sits down to wait. At first, he is full of faith and has a spirit of perseverance that is contagious. However, time passes, as it always does, and it seems that God has not spoken, at all. The stuff of this world becomes extremely interesting and waiting on the Lord and His purposes ceases to be appealing. One morning, instead of praying, he wonders, “Maybe it’s not so bad to try out what the world has to offer. It can’t hurt, can it? I mean, if God hasn’t spoken yet, He’s probably not going to speak today.” So, he dabbles in alcoholism, pornography, gossip, vicious thoughts, gambling and profanity, just to pass the time. Suddenly, the pure heart ready to serve the Lord is no longer pure and the determination to serve the Lord has vanished.

Lord, help us to guard our hearts as we wait on You.

*thinkexist.com