Saturday, January 31, 2009

Are You Considered Worthy?

This passage hit me hard today...

Luke 20:34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.


As it relates to salvation, I never feel "worthy." But those who will be sons and daughters of the resurrection are considered worthy. I believe they are considered worthy because Christ's blood covers them.

Thank you Lord for your precious Son.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Jesus Came to Save... The Hamburglar?

Interesting piece from Kevin DeYoung.

I mention all of this because so much that passes for spirituality these days is nothing more than middle class, 20something coffee culture. If you like jazz, soul patches, earth tone furniture, and lattes, that's cool. But this culture is no holier than the McNugget, Hi-C, Value City, football culture that most people live in. Why does incarnational ministry usually mean hanging out at Starbucks instead of McDonalds?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

One Thing

From Wednesday's reading...

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.


Lord, in the middle of so many things, help me focus on ONE thing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Generous Sojourners

It's a tough time right now. Everywhere. Even people in ministry are losing their jobs. In my devotions today I was reminded that we are sojourners, strangers in a foreign land. But we can be generous whether we have little or much, because it all comes from God.

1 Chronicles 29:9 Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly...14 “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. 15 For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding.


Lord, I know that difficult days are ahead. Help me to trust in you during good times and bad times. Remind me that I'm a sojourner. And help me to be a generous one.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Website Tips

If you know of any church "webmasters", I'm doing a few articles over at FWBMedia.com on Website Tips. Article one - The Obvious - has posted.

Also, if any of you would be interested in doing some guest posts for FWBMedia, we'd love to hear from you. Basically we are looking for anything that deals with Tech and Media and the church.

Just drop me a line at travis@fwbmedia.com


Thanks.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hearing Voices

Can you imagine what it would be like to hear a million people trying to speak to you all at the same time? I've wondered before, how does God hear in the midst of all the noise? ( I can't even keep up with all of the noise of Facebook.)

Gen 21:15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.

God hears the cry of this weakened child who is about to die and raises him up.

Lord, I'm so glad that you hear voices.

Friday Humor

Three hilarious things you may want to check out...

1. Carlos and Family Night...

2. Slashdot comment about the LHC and Blackholes

3. Crystal and Bananas.

Say A Prayer

I think this is one of those weeks that I have a message instead of just a sermon. It's probably sad that this isn't every week for me; nevertheless, I'm excited about Sunday.

I've been trying to work through a burden that has really been pressing me down as of late. I think God may have been using this to prepare me to deliver Sunday's message. Please pray that...

  • I will speak God's words and not mine.
  • I will speak out of humility instead of anger or righteous indignation.
  • People will hear from God by His Spirit.
  • People will be changed or at least start the process of change.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Looking for a New Good Read...

I enjoy reading blogs and I'm always on the lookout for a good one that I'm missing. Here's a chance for you to share some of your favorites. If you have a second, share 5 of your favorite blogs. They don't have to be religious in nature, but can be if that's what you are enjoying.

Here are a few of the new additions to my Google Reader.

  • Ragamuffin Soul. Not sure how I missed this one for so long, Carlos' posts are personal, and almost always make you think, laugh or cry.
  • 22 Words. Abraham only uses 22 words. What an idea!
  • Smashing Magazine. Still loving this one. If you enjoy web design, you need to have this blog in your reader.
  • FWBMedia. A little self interest here. We are working on putting together a group of bloggers to help Free Will Baptists with technology. I should have some posts on Church Web Design up sometime later in the week.
  • Without Wax. Pete gets personal.

Now your turn - what blogs do you want us to check out?

Show Me Your Church Website

I'm getting ready to do a series of posts on Improving Your Church Website over at FWBMedia.com. I'm by no means a professional, but hopefully I can share a few tips that I think have improved the sites I have worked on.

I'd like to review some church sites for ideas. I'd love to look at your church site, if you want to share it. (And no, I won't be criticizing any specific church sites in my posts.)

So if you want to share, leave your church web address in the comments or on my Facebook wall.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Celebrity Teachers and Preachers

It's a lot easier to say "Thanks for this great teacher" than it is to live out the teaching.

Luke 11:27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

This woman was blessing Christ, but Christ was exhorting her to obey.

Lord, forgive me for paying more attention to the teacher than the teaching. Help me to live it!


Music Tuesday - Brenton Brown

Our piano player found a new song (or at least new to me) from Brenton Brown called Adoration. I love the bridge of this song, and I really like the way he tags the song with part of Paul Baloche/Matt Redman's A Greater Song at the end.

You can check out the New Song Cafe video here.

I haven't had much time to check out this site, but Soul Audio has some "free" downloads and Adoration is one of them. So download at your own risk.

Also love the "Trucker" look. :)

Calvary Setlist for January 18th
Here I Am To Worship
I Am Resolved
How Great Is Our God
Amazing Grace (To the tune of O How I Love Jesus)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Welcome to the Worship Circus. Part 3.

You can also check out Part 1 and Part 2.

So what steps can we put into place to keep us from turning worship into the circus?


I think this is a pretty good question. As we were studying Philippians last week, we talked about this verse...

Philippians 1:11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.


I asked about stealing glory and praise from God. I think that sometimes we do this unintentionally, when worship becomes the circus. One of our group stated they felt that being thankful was one of the things that helped them to keep their focus in worship on the Lord.

That really stood out to me. When our worship is an overflow of the thankfulness we have for our God, we will be far away from the circus. Instead of trying to "purpose" worship for evangelism, worship should be a reaction to reflection on the Almighty.

As a side note, I've been thinking maybe we should do more singing after we hear from God's word than we normally do. Sometimes worship through music is viewed as the warm-up for the message. Maybe it should be the response? I'm still considering this one.

When worship is obedience combined with adoration, worship is exactly what God desires.

I wanted to direct you to a couple of other posts that really spurred on my thinking about this subject in recent weeks...

When Country Wasn't Cool...

Today during our ride in the van up to Decatur I was scanning through radio stations and I landed on Miranda Lambert singing More Like Her. My wife can't stand country music, but she was busy reading and it took a minute before she realized what was on the radio.

I now know that my son has her taste for music. He said,

"Mom, they should tell those people on American Idol who can't sing, that they should try going country."

To The god of Our Many Understandings

I remember one of my seminary professors telling a story about saying a prayer in a Jewish Synagogue. He closed his prayer in Jesus' Name. During a conversation with the local Rabbi, the Rabbi stated that he would not thought much of my professor's faith, if he had closed his prayer in any other way.

Here's what the bishop has said about his prayer to be offered tomorrow...

Bishop Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church's only openly gay Bishop is scheduled to open inaugural festivities today with a prayer of his own. In contrast to Warren, Robinson told NPR that he would address his prayer to "the god of our many understandings," adding, "my intention is not to invoke the name of Jesus but to make this a prayer for Christians and non-Christians alike." -- From the Bully! Pulipit.

I didn't like it how Joel Hunter closed his prayer at the DNC. I just don't understand this kind of reasoning. (Again, if you'd like to post comment explaining why you think this has value, I'd love to hear it.) If you claim the Name of Christ, why wouldn't you pray in that Name? I think ultimately people will respect you for being authentic, rather than trying to please everyone.

Classic Quotes

Some scriptures you hear over and over, but they still sting when you read them. Here's a classic from Sunday's reading...

Genesis 18:14 Is anything too hard for the Lord?


Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Distracted with Serving

From today's reading...

Luke 10:38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

We judge each other on how busy we are. We are offended if someone calls on the phone and asks, "Are you busy?" Of course we are. Any successful person and anyone worth their salt is busy. Right?

There was one thing necessary. But Martha was too busy to notice.

Lord, help me not to miss the necessary thing. And help me to know when to serve.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Behind My Back

Confrontation.

Most people hate it.

Some people thrive on it.

I don't like to deal with it, but I try not to walk away from it.

Some people would rather just talk behind your back. They would rather vent to someone who has no stake in the problem. There's another word for that - it's called gossip.

This week I had a friend talk to my face. He had some uncomfortable things to say to me. I needed to hear them. He could have ignored the situation or even worse, he could have went behind my back. Instead he was a real man and looked me in the eye.

My friend and I may have disagreements in the future, and we may have to have other face to face conversations. But I think I would die for him if I had to. Because he cares enough not to go behind my back.

Astonished at the Majesty of God.

From Luke 9:

38 And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him. 40 And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God.


When I am part of something exciting or significant, are people astonished by me or by the majesty of God?

Lord, increase my faith. Please help me not to steal praise or glory that belongs to you. Please let my life cause others to be astonished by your majesty.

Questioning God.

Have your parents ever told you to "watch that tone" when referring to the way that you speak to them? Have you ever spoken to God with a tone of doubt, or anger, or even sarcasm?

When I read about Abram again, I noticed his tone with God...

Genesis 15:2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”

Some of the older generation in our church were taught to never question God. They were taught that was disrespectful. I think I'm of a different mindset. I think God is big enough to handle any of my small questions.

Abram calls God out - how will this happen? And God is kind enough to answer.

Lord, let me be bold enough to ask and humble enough to know when to shut up.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Overcomplicating the Will of God

Sometimes I think we make knowing God's will this mysterious, hidden, almost unknowable thing. But when we harmonize the gospels we see that maybe it's not as hard as we make it. Look at these three passages and compare them to see the "Will of God."

1. Matthew 12:50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

2. Mark 3:35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.

3. Luke 8:21 But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.

Do you want to do God's will? Hear His word, then just do it! It really is simply about obedience.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Demons and Drunkards

From yesterday's reading...

Luke 7:33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”

This passage reminds me that God's house is a pretty big house. John and Jesus may be the two greatest men who have ever walked on this planet. Yet their lives were so different. One thing they had in common though - they both had plenty of critics.

Lord, let my life show forth Your wisdom.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Would Jesus watch the Big Game with Saints or Sinners?

Time for this annual controversy. Should we skip/cancel/postpone/adjust our church service to watch the Super Bowl?

Which person do you think is the most spiritual?

1. The Arrogant guy who proudly proclaims, "It's my Christian duty to attend Church; I won't be watching the Super Bowl!"

2. The Arrogant guy who loudly proclaims, "It's my Christian liberty to skip Church; I'll be watching the Super Bowl!"

3. The gal who says, "What's all this fuss about - we don't have church on Sunday Evenings anyways."

4. The guy who invites his unbelieving friends to his Super Bowl Party at Church

5. The gal who invites her unbelieving friends to her Super Bowl Party at Home?

6. The guy who says, "I don't even like football."

Feel free to add your own categories in the comments.

Effects of Depravity

Not trying to resurrect old battles here, but I thought the end of this NY Times article Who Would Jesus Smack Down on Mark Driscoll was spot on...

Driscoll’s New Calvinism underscores a curious fact: the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling, its adherents.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why He Died...

The perspective on Saul's Death from the author of Chronicles is interesting to me...

1 Chronicles 10:13 So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. 14 He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.

It's seems pretty clear. Saul died for breaking faith. He died because he didn't seek the Lord.

Lord, help me to seek You in all things for all my days.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Welcome to the Worship Circus. Part 2.

You can catch part 1 here.

So here goes...what does "non-attractional" worship look like? Most of you have been around the attractional/missional debate. So if "attractional" worship is basically creating the most dynamic/creative/professional/emotional experience so that people will want to come to our church houses and receive the gospel, then what is "non-attractional" worship?

I think that worship is often attractive, but I'm not sure it should be "attractional." When we are crafting a service so that people will want to come and see the show, or come back because the show was good, I'm not so sure we can call that worship.

(Pardon my rambling excursion here, but maybe it will help as you try to follow my thoughts.)

This is a really hard article for me to write. I don't always have answers, but usually I have pretty clear opinions. But when it comes to corporate worship, the lines between performance and worship blur easily for me. Sometimes I like parts of the circus - though the clowns can be creepy.

I love to hear huge choirs, orchestra's, and even a solid band. I think some dramas have probably done a better job of clearly presenting the gospel than I could ever do. I could watch and listen to Hillsong United for hours on end. Are these things bad or wrong?

Maybe an example will help. When the preacher is using good grammar is that performance or worship? Is using a clever illustration to bring home a point entertainment, or is that giving God's voice to people? Is a guitar solo always inappropriate? What about "showing your skills" on your instrument during the song service? (I've often heard a skilled musician play and immediately felt in awe of a God that gives gifts like that.)

When do we cross the line here? When does corporate worship become the circus rather than a time where God invades our lives and inhabits the praises of His people?

When we first started having a "band" at Calvary (I use that term lightly) we had 3 guys with guitars and a piano player. All the guitar guys sat on the front row with their backs to the congregation. I think one of the reasons that they did this was because they knew it wasn't about them.

Later when we added drums, we moved the team up on the stage. It's easier to follow leaders you can see or so goes the reasoning. We added drums and an electric guitar not because we were trying to be cool or hip, or because we thought it would reach people, but we formed a band because we enjoyed playing, singing, and worshipping together. I think we simply felt like we were using the gifts that God gave us.

Some Sundays we were pretty hard on ourselves. We missed chords, or there weren't enough dynamics, or the singers were flat, or there were 100 other things we should have done better. So we invested a lot of time in practice. After all, we didn't want to get in the way of our congregation worshipping, and we wanted to create an environment that was conducive to people coming into God's presence.

Then we did a study on worship. It was refreshing. We were reminded that worship was so much more than singing some songs on Sunday. It was about obedience, and ultimately it was about God, not so much about us. I felt like after that study we spent more time asking for God to intervene and less time worrying about our "sound."

But this tension - performance vs worship leading - is always there. And it's really no different for preaching either. Maybe it's a good video clip, or a great personal story, or picking the right phrase to bring the message home. Pastors can also get bogged down in our performance so much that we don't rely on the Spirit of God as we should.

Where are the boundaries here?

I'm glad that musicians practice and preachers work on their delivery. There is a part of worship that is us. Us playing or singing or praying or preaching. Us lifting our hands, or crying from the depth of our souls. Part of worship is us. Then there's the part that is all God. God calling, convicting, uplifting, encouraging, exhorting, admonishing. God moving.

I don't want the worship of the Almighty God to be a circus. To be honest, that thought scares the daylights out of me. I'm scared to face God thinking that I made that time that was to be an encounter with him into a show. I've done this before. I've focused so much on the me part that I have totally left God out of the part.

How do you know when you've crossed the line?
(I'd love to hear your comments on this one)


So back to the point - what is "non-attractional" corporate worship?

I think it's when people come together in humility and bow in adoration of the Almighty regardless of what others may think. I think it's David dancing even though Michal despised him. I think it can happen when Tomlin or Crowder rocks the house and I think it can also happen when that 80 year old guy on the front row who can't carry a tune in a bucket gets up and sings I'd rather have Jesus.

Because it really is about the heart that is in love with God.


So what steps can we put into place to keep us from turning worship into the circus?

Stay tuned for Part 3.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Welcome to the Worship Circus. Part 1.

A good discussion between David Fitch and Ed Stetzer has really got the juices flowing this afternoon. One of the things that really struck me was this idea: Church gatherings should be about a rhythm of life, not a show.

Is it ok for corporate Worship to be a show? I guess that depends on how you define your terms. I thought it was pretty funny to look at Webster's definition for "show" and think about the church. I think #4 was my favorite, but #5a is pretty interesting too.
1: a demonstrative display show of strength>
2a
archaic : outward appearance b: a false semblance : pretense show of friendship>
c: a more or less true appearance of something : sign d: an impressive display show — John Lahr> e: ostentation
3
: chance 2 show in spite of his background>
4: something exhibited especially for wonder or ridicule : spectacle
5a
: a large display or exhibition arranged to arouse interest or stimulate sales show> b: a competitive exhibition of animals (as dogs) to demonstrate quality in breeding
6a: a theatrical presentation b: a radio or television program c: entertainment
7
: enterprise , affair show>
8
: third place at the finish (as of a horse race)
9:
often capitalized : the major leagues in baseball —used with the

Welcome to the Worship Circus. We have the greatest show on earth, or at least a better one than the church down the road.


How does this make you feel?

The problem with this statement is that if you are part of a well programmed, highly visionary, talented church you take offense when someone criticizes all of the effort you have put into doing something well/excellent for your Lord.

And when you are a small church with a lousy praise team (if you have one at all), and Sunday after Sunday of slightly controlled chaos, you're offended by the shallowness of people who leave your congregation for what you call the greatest show in town. After all, you're doing the best you can with what you have. How will you ever get better if everyone keeps leaving for something else?

Isn't it good to do things well? And yet, isn't it superficial to leave one church and go to another because the music is better on Sunday morning?

I guess the question I'm asking myself today is this...

Would our church have a better "show" if we had more money and people, or would our service remain about the same regardless of our resources? What principles are guiding our corporate worship?

In another video Mr. Fitch speaks about being able to put together the service in 5 minutes, even if the people who were supposed to carry out the service are unable to show up.

How would your congregation and church leadership handle things if...

The piano player/band didn't show up?
The pastor was unable to speak? (ok...some of you are celebrating)
The projectors wouldn't work?
There was no power at all?

In part two I'll be working on figuring out what "non-attractional" corporate worship looks like.

Is that a synonym for ugly?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

First Words Out Of Your Mouth...

What are the first words out of your mouth? Zechariah's were blessing for the Lord.

Luke 1:62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.

Lord, let my life speak blessings to You.

Friday, January 02, 2009

How Do I Miss These Things?

Did you know that Joab was David's Nephew? Usually I don't get much from genealogies, but tonight while reading from Chronicles it finally dawned on me that Joab and David were related.

Sometimes I'm a little slow.

12 Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse. 13 Jesse fathered Eliab his firstborn, Abinadab the second, Shimea the third, 14 Nethanel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, 15 Ozem the sixth, David the seventh. 16 And their sisters were Zeruiah and Abigail. The sons of Zeruiah: Abishai, Joab, and Asahel, three. 17 Abigail bore Amasa, and the father of Amasa was Jether the Ishmaelite.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Cast Away

Sometimes we organize and put together and build. Sometimes we must let go.

Ecclesiastes 3:5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

Lord, help me to cast away those things that need to go. Help me to gather together the most important things.

2009 Reading

If you want to follow along, here's what I'll be reading for devotions for 2009:

The ESV Study Bible page or in feed form if you like it in a reader. I really enjoy these ESV feeds, everything is delivered all on one page. And I also received an ESV Study Bible for Christmas so I can stay on track even if I'm offline for a few days.

I'll also be reading Through the Bible Through the Year from John Stott. One of my friends from church gave me this book, and we are going to use it for devotion and for discussion for the year.

I won't post every day or something from every devotion, but as something strikes, I'll be sure to share.