Song I wrote. GarageBand is fun.
Song I wrote. GarageBand is fun.
Song I wrote. GarageBand is fun.
Just something to think about…
If Jesus were lying on a table next to a rapist. And they were both getting lethal injections. Jesus would offer the same grace to the rapist that He offered the thief that was next to Him on the cross.
Below is just something I had worked on and created a few years ago. It was a draft of a letter to be used if someone who was a member of a church was leaving. It was not adopted by the church I was attending at the time, but now as pastor of a church myself, it is something I will revisit and use. Thankfully, I have not had to yet give this to anyone just yet – but I will. It is inevitable. People leave churches.
As I think about it, really no one ever leaves a church. We are all members of God’s church, of the Kingdom of God. So no one really leaves, they simply transfer their body from one group of people to another, but we are all connected as the church. So any success one church has, every other church shares as well. We all share and rejoice in the successes.
But I digress. The draft of the letter is below:
Dear what’s his name and/or what’s her name:
We at So-And-So Church have a slogan of sorts, “It’s Better When You Are Here”. And for the past few years So-And-So Church has been better because of you. You have served us faithfully as a teacher, band member, cook, kid’s leader, etc. You have touched lives and no matter where you go you will always be part of our family.
Leaving a church, for any reason, is never easy and we know that you have prayed and feel God leading you to another church. Please know we will pray for you and if there is anything you ever need we will be here for you.
We not only want to thank you for what you have done, but any future success So-And-So Church has – you have a hand in. You are part of the foundation that God has built and therefore every salvation, every life touched, every life change is in part because of the sacrifices you have given.
We will miss you and hope that as time allows you find your way back for visits. And if God should ever lead you back to So-And-So Church know that you will be welcome back with open arms and smiling faces.
So-And-So Church leader-type person
A man strides onto stage. He is nervous. His hand shakes slightly as he grabs the mic and waits. For him the 6 seconds he waits for the music track to starts seems like an eternity. The music starts, his eyes close…possibly for a quick prayer…and he opens his mouth and sings.
He sings. He isn’t quite on key. He falls behind the beat a few times. He forgets the words on two occasions. And a few people nervously squirm in their seats.
Undaunted the singer continues, not even noticing the few stares between a few of the church people.
By the chorus, the once shaky voice seems to be gaining confidence. The eyes haven’t opened yet, but the once stiff neck and shoulders seemed to have loosened.
As the song builds to its crescendo his body starts to move and rock back and forth. The once shaky hands seem steady as he holds the mic to his mouth, his voice building as the music swells. The few smirks on the faces of the congregation have all but disappeared because the lack of voice and slightly off-key singing that were evident at the start are no longer noticeable…all people see is sincerity of heart, passion, and a true love of Jesus. It doesn’t need to be said but everyone sees that this is a man singing because He loves Jesus and that’s all that matters.
The final note is played…the singer holds the note, not quite long enough to be an exact replica of the professional who originally sang the song, but long enough. The hands drop to the side and once again a few seconds pass and to him it seems like an eternity…the silence is then abruptly and thunderously interrupted with applause. The applause seem to roll and grow louder as the seconds pass.
The people clap, and then one by one, start to stand. A standing ovation, never in his wildest dreams would the singer have thought this possible…and to be honest neither would the church have thought this possible either.
And yet here he stands, the slightly off-key, off beat singer who had hands that shake and could hardly open his eyes, receiving a standing ovation. He didn’t wait until he was the “perfect” singer. He didn’t wait until he conquered his nerves. He didn’t wait until someone invited him to sing. He had a song in his heart and he sang.
Many of us have a song in our hearts…and we refuse to sing. Oh we say we want to sing, but don’t. We come up with so many excuses. Not enough time, not good enough, not talented enough, not special enough…the only real response to that is BULL. God made you…and you are enough…because He made you that way.
The sad thing is that sometimes it is our brothers and sisters who also discourage us. You don’t look the part, aren’t hip enough…don’t fit the so-called Christian mold (which is really silly considering that the religious leaders back in the day said the same exact thing about a guy named Jesus). You don’t have the training needed. You need more seasoning.
Again…BULL. If God has put something in your heart…go after it with everything you have. God loves taking ordinary people and doing extra-ordinary things with them. He took a dude who had trouble speaking and had a confidence problem and used him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. He took a dude who had an adulterous affair and then covered it up by murdering the woman’s husband and made him a “man after God’s own heart”. He took an overzealous, arrogant suck-up and made him an early leader in the church.
And he can and will take the person who wants to sing and help them sing beautiful melodies that move people. He can take the person wanting to write books that change people lives and make him a bestseller. He can take the person with no experience and make them a leader of many men. He can take the shy girl wanting to dance and make her move like a ballerina.
He can do this and more…what is your dream? What is the song God has put in your heart? Whatever it is…go after it with everything you have, sing from the heart, and sit back and be amazed at what God has in store for you.
An old post, thought I’d repost…
KICK THE DARKNESS
Bono, the lead singer of the group U2, sang in God Part II, a song about John Lennon, “You glorify the past when the future dries up.”
For some reason I have always loved that lyric. I had a great childhood. I had awesome teenage years. I had a great time in college and my life with my wife and my kids have been nothing short of a huge blessing on my life.
I got the opportunity a few weeks ago to attend my 20 year high school reunion. It was fun and it was great to see old friends and make new friends too. An old saying and one I never agreed with was that high school is the best time of your life. I heard this phrase about 20 times over the reunion weekend and every time someone said it I just smiled and wondered if maybe I was missing something.
Don’t get me wrong, high school rocked. But it wasn’t the best time of my life and to be honest I believe the best years of my life are ahead of me, not behind.
I think that every single person who calls them self a Christian can and should feel the same way. God created each and every one of us with a purpose. Jeremiah 29:11 tells of God knowing the plans He has for us, and they are good plans.
If I have another day ahead of me, it is another day in God’s plan, and that’s something to look forward to! If I wake up tomorrow, God has something in store for me. So I should wake up with an eye on what lies ahead with awe and wonderment. God, the creator of the universe has something for me to do.
Remember when you were a kid and your dad asked you to do something important? Remember the pride you felt as you set off to do your dad’s bidding? I do. I can remember my first trip as a 16 year old driving to the store to get milk. I wasn’t just driving, I was driving with a purpose, my family needed milk and I wasn’t going to let them down. I looked forward to future missions as I drove the 2 miles to get the milk.
That’s how I try to approach each day, each week, each new year that I have. I look back on the past with fondness, knowing that lessons learned in the past are preparing me for what lies ahead. But I don’t look longingly on the past as some utopia of my life. I look with great anticipation on what lies ahead. Who knows what missions my heavenly Father might have me? Will I travel to some foreign country? Will I lead a group of teenagers to the Lord? Will I write a book that changes people’s lives? Will I raise my boys to become men of God? Will I help my wife to become a woman of God that changes and touches people lives?
I don’t know, but that’s what drives me. That’s what pushes me on. Bono also sings in God Part II…”I’m gonna kick the darkness until it bleeds daylight.” A great lyric as well. It reminds me of the Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight”. In that poem Thomas describes someone getting older who isn’t going to fade away. He is going to rage against the dying of the light. He is going to fight and push on. Much like Bono saying he is going to kick the darkness until it bleeds daylight.
Well I am going to kick. I am going to rage. And I know my better, my best days are ahead of me!
Your best days are ahead of you too. God said so!
I refuse to glorify my past…because even though my past may have found memories as I look back, my future has not dried up so I press on…God has something for me (and you) to do…
Praise and worship is not supposed to be an “experience” for the praiser and worshipper.
Yes, it can be a moving time of connecting and receiving from God. The Bible says, “God inhabits the praises of His people” (Psalm 22:3). When people have contact with God, they are changed. So, yes during praise and worship you can experience God. You can find peace, joy, healing, help, increased faith, and a whole host of other blessings that only God can give. It is what happens when one encounters God.
But that is not the point of praise and worship. Praise and worship is not about you. That bears repeating, especially in today’s contemporary, hip, relevant churches. Praise and worship is not about you.
The question to ask after praise and worship is not, “What did I get out of that?” The question to ask is, “God what did you get out of that?”
Praise and worship is God’s children singing songs to Him to thank Him for what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do and to exalt Him for who He is. So, one shouldn’t be focused on what type of song is sung, or if the lights and smoke machine were in sync with the beat, or if the multi-media was effective. It shouldn’t make a difference what type of song is sung – an old hymn, the newest praise anthem, or anything in between.
And it shouldn’t make a difference if you “got anything out of the experience”. It isn’t designed for you. It is all about God.
The good news, God is so amazing, so loving, so graceful, that out of the abundance of who He is we can receive from Him during worship. Again, just being in His presence is enough to change us. But our goal during praise and worship is not us – it is Him. Only Him. Forever Him.
It is all about Jesus.
The saying is – We are saved by grace through faith in Christ.
This is not only a well-known saying, it is indeed Biblical. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
But if we break it down, we can take this well known, short, succinct saying and make it even succinter. In fact, we can shorten it to just one word.
We are saved by grace through faith in Christ.
We are saved by grace. Grace is a gift from Jesus.
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17) Grace comes through, from, and is found in Jesus.
So we can change our saying to We are saved by Jesus through faith in Jesus.
So, we are saved by Jesus through faith in Jesus.
Let’s look at faith. We are saved through faith. Where does faith come from? You guessed it, Jesus.
“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Jesus is the author of our faith. He is our faith. He designed, created, He authored it.
So our saying now becomes – We are saved by Jesus through Jesus in Jesus.
So, as you can see. It is all about Jesus. It is only about Jesus.
It is Jesus.
That’s all that needs to be said…
Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV an Rocky Balboa are 5 of my favorite movies of all time. Notice I didn’t put Rocky V on this list, but even it is a good movie – because Rocky is in it.
Well, who knew Rocky was a Christian? OK that may be pushing it, although in a few scenes he does go to church to pray or ask a priest to pray for him – but I do find it cool that one of Rocky’s greatest speeches lines up with something Scripture teaches – which is basically, when you get knocked down – get back up!
“Let me tell you something you already know.The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!
Now if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth! But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!”
-Rocky Balboa in Rocky Balboa (aka Rocky 6).
“Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.” (Proverbs 24:16)
I am still hesitant to announce to people that I am indeed a pastor. I recently planted a new church in Broken Arrow. One of the main tenants of Apostles Church is that everyone is an Apostle, or someone who is sent by God to bear witness to Jesus Christ. My reluctance to claim the title of pastor is not only attributable to fear and a bunch of other unnecessary emotions, but is also a result of the stigma that is associated with the title.
A pastor is not a know-it-all theologian who has all the answers to life’s deepest questions. A pastor is not someone who is victoriously living out the Christian life and modeling the correct behavior for ‘his people’. I also believe he is not a showman, not an entertainer, not an eloquent public speaker, and not a comedian. Oh sure, I like to tell stories and hope that people like how I present the Gospel and I hope they can follow what I say and hope that at times I am funny in doing so, but that is not the point and that does not make one a pastor.
I am just a guy who loves Jesus and wants to present the Gospel to the small group of people who have joined us on the journey. I also want the people who come to the church to recognize that they too have the ability and the gifting that comes from the same God to do the same thing – preach Jesus. I aim to encourage (and be encouraged). I pray to be lead by God’s Spirit as He leads me to lead others in being restored into a right relationship with God, to be discipled and grow in Christ and to be sent to bring the good news to others.
So my reticence in shouting ‘I am a pastor’ also stems from wanting to make sure that Christians recognize their ability to share Jesus and is also wanting to make sure the focus of what goes on at our church is on the ‘correct’ thing. It shouldn’t be on me, or our programs, or our music.
If someone comes to the church and they leave marveling at what I said or the stories I told or the funny props and/or videos I showed then I have failed. My job is to shine the light on Jesus. It seems too prevalent in today’s Christianity that too many pastors are having the light shine on themselves. If you leave loving me, or loving the music, or loving the programs, or even loving the church, then I have failed and you are loving the wrong thing.
The focus is Jesus. Sure the music is important, as are the messages, and the programs, and the specific church, but they are all to be signs, they are all to be markers, that point to the Messiah.
Something to think about. The Bible calls the church the bride of Christ (Rev 19:7-9; Eph 5:25-27; 2 Cor 11:2). So if the church is the bride, that means Jesus is the groom. If we, as the bride of Christ, love something other than the groom – we are committing adultery!
If we as the church love something other than the groom we are committing adultery.
Our love, our focus, our passion, our desire, everything we have, everything we are is to desire and love Jesus, and Jesus alone.
That is the focus of our faith. Jesus loves his bride so much he died for us. He loves us unconditionally. We strive to do the same and we fail when our affections are drawn to things other than Him.
It isn’t about the celebrity pastor using clever sermon titles (sometimes tinged with innuendo) and a praise band with smoke and lights and professional musicians playing songs off their latest CD that you can buy for just $13.99. It is about us, as sinners restored by grace, loving and worshipping and following Jesus and telling others about Him. It’s about us loving Jesus with the same love He has for us.
But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release the King of the Jews? They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas! (John 18:39-40).
Barabbas was a criminal. It is said he was involved in an uprising and was a murderer. Pilate, who was overseeing this scene asked the crowd who he should release, Jesus or Barabbas. The crowd chose Jesus. They chose to crucify the Son of God and set free a murderer.
Not much has changed. The world is not a friend of Jesus. The world is against him and those who follow Him. Jesus himself said, “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” (Matthew 10:22). So it should not be a surprise that the world seems to be aligned against the things of God. They are. When given a chance, they freed a murderer to crucify God’s son. When given a chance today, the ignore God’s Word for their own devices.
Too often Christianity is sold as a prescription to make everything all better. There is some truth to that – Jesus offers peace, love, forgiveness, redemption, grace, mercy, and blessings – but we need to be careful that we remember those blessings are found in Christ and not in the world. The world hates Jesus.
Jesus, after letting us know that the world does indeed hate us, he finishes his thought saying, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22). Our endurance is found in Him. The world will hate us because of Him, but He will help us endure and will save us.
At times, it seems this world is out of control and their is no hope. That changed about 2000 years ago, when the world thought they were choosing the path of Jesus. They did not. He chose to be crucified and die for our sins: “No one takes it (my life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (John 17:18). Jesus died and was buried, on the third day He rose again. He is coming back again too. That is good news and that is where our hope should be. The world may hate us, the world may seem out of control – but OUR GOD is in control and He is our hope and our salvation. Rest in Him.
Final note – the world may hate us and may hate Jesus – know what Jesus thought about the world? He loved them, enough to die for them – John 3:16 – For God so loved the world…so if God loved the world despite their feelings towards Him, we too should love the world with the love and grace of Jesus. The world may not like you, but you are to love them, love them like Jesus.