Archive for the ‘devotions’ Category

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The power of the past

August 27, 2009

Humorous. Cynical. Sarcastic. These are the first three words that come to mind when I think about my late Grandmother Doris.

Quiet. Sad. Strength under the surface. This comes to mind when I think of my late Grandfather Virgil. I only knew them as a small child and a few vacations back to Florida, but even from that a basic impression was imprinted on my mind and on my soul of who they were, and how they interacted with one another.

Our families are the single most powerful force in shaping who we are today. And not just our parents, but their parents, and their parents. When it comes to sin being passed down, Exodus says I am feeling the effects today in my life from three generations before me!! And the choices I make TODAY will affect my daughter’s grandchildren.

 Working at a church a phrase I often hear is we don’t want to just grow wide, we want to grow deep. The problem and the reality of this statement is a church will only grow as deep as the individuals that make up that body. I am learning that the best change that I can bring to a church, is a changed me, a deeper me. And it’s the best thing you can bring as well. And sometimes understanding ourselves means looking back at our family dynamics and really analyzing them and how they might be affecting us today.

 Here is a shortened version of a list of questions to ponder about your family from a book called “The emotionally healthy church” by Peter Scazzero. (pg 95)

How was conflict handled in your family? Anger? Tension?

How well did your family talk about feelings?

Were there family “secrets”?

 Were their “losers” and “winners” in your family?

What determined that? How was spirituality expressed?

 The reality is my ability to love others can be severely hindered and handicapped from my past, and I don’t even know it if I’m not open to the reality of the past.

 Together we praise, together we love, together we serve. To grow in loving one another this year, it starts with me, and it starts with you. Are you willing to look and pray about what might hinder you today from being a fully loving person in your family and community? It is scary tough work, but it can change us to a place where we become deep and wide.

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Together we praise, together we love, together we praise.

August 21, 2009

Imagine you are at Starbucks, (or Peet’s or wherever) and you are in line waiting to order your favorite mix of coffee and sugar, when then the guy behind you starts singing. You don’t think too much of it, and can’t quite make out the song but you don’t turn around. Then someone else in line joins in, along with a couple of people seated around the tables. Now it’s just plain weird and you are looking for the hidden camera.

 And yet, every Sunday, we come together, and we sing. Why? It is normal in our culture for people to consume music. It is normal in our culture to see people with headphones on, listening to a song only they can hear and walking to their own beat. What’s abnormal is for us to share music, to participate in it together. And yet, every Sunday, we come together and we sing.

 Here are some genres of music listed on the iTunes store: alternative, blues, Latin, hip hop, electronic, reggae, country, R&B, pop, rock, soul, classical etc.

 And yet, every Sunday we may give up our music style of choice and sing songs together. Can’t we just praise God on our own? Ps 92 says “It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High”. Can’t I just do that in my car? We all like different music anyway, what’s the point of coming together and singing?

 As a church we state the importance of caring for one another and we give effort and energy dreaming about how we will love our community well. We hear sermons about serving the poor. These things are easier to discuss than actually achieve.

 But here’s a beautiful reality: when we have a foundation of consistently joining together in praise, we can accomplish anything together. When we sing together, when we praise together, we enter into a shared experience. This experience is not about the style of music, whether it’s classical or rock, or even whether or not I have a voice. It’s about the space we enter into together, a space where we are reminded that there’s a bigger story than our own, His story, and that this world doesn’t revolve around us as individuals, but around God. This is a space where music and praise moves from “mine” to “ours” and from observation to participation. We submit our individual voice to the collective voice of community, and in the process we learn to submit our individual actions of love and service and combine them in a multiplied expression that has a greater impact on each other and the community.

One of the beauties of community is how we carry one another. Maybe today I don’t feel like singing. Maybe today I don’t feel like I can even lift my head or open my mouth to utter a word of praise. Maybe it’s all I can do just to drag myself to church. But in community, my brother and sister to my left and behind me and in front of me can sing for me. They express to God what my heart longs to but cannot do on my own.

And maybe today I can’t see past myself to love another or serve someone. But my brother and sister reach out to me and lift me up and their example spurs me into action.

Together we praise, together we love, together we serve. It’s a gift, it’s beautiful, and I honestly dream that we continue to gain much, much more of the shared experience of living life together and praising together.

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The “feeling” of worship.

August 3, 2009

 I confess as I write this, I don’t have this figured out by a long shot. I hear or read these kind of statements A LOT, and it sounds proper and Christian like to say things like “Worship is not a feeling”, or “We should seek God not an emotional high”.

Then the other part of my brain and experience says to me, that there is a “feeling” and “emotion” connected with experiencing the presence of God. Maybe that’s just me? Does it make it not real or cheapen it somehow if I have some sort of emotional high either in a church service or in my car or in my home? Can we experience a strong emotion or be moved to tears devoid of an actual interaction with the Holy Spirit? Sure. And we should definitely check ourselves constantly to make sure what we are “seeking” is truly Christ, and not just an emotional experience. But can we have strong emotions and be moved to tears because of being hit with the truth or reality of His presence and who He is. Of course! And if I’m being truthful, (why is it scary for me to say this) I LOVE THE FEELING!!!

I believe it is not my place to judge the experience or heart or motivation of a worshipper of Jesus Christ. As a worship leader, it is my role to encourage people to praise Him, to seek Him, to honor Him, both in a 20 minute time block on Sunday morning, but also with their lives at all times. But I am not scared of the emotion, or feeling that can be associated when it is based on the truth of His presence and reality. I can worship God; when I’m depressed, when I’m elated, when I’m joyful, when I’m full of sorrow, when I’m frustrated, when I’m mad, when I’m optimistic, when I’m cynical, when I’m filled up, when I’m empty, when I’m feeling deep, when I’m feeling shallow. I don’t have to turn into some sort of emotionless robot to truly seek God. Do I? Isn’t where I base my emotions the most important thing?

 Psalm 126 1 When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem,[a] it was like a dream! 2 We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.” 3 Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy! 4 Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. 5 Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. 6 They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.

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The story of your life

July 23, 2009

I bought my ticket on Fandango.  I have extra money for a tub of popcorn and a bucket of diet coke, and I’m going to see the midnight showing of the story of your life.  What would I see when I watched??  Is it the movie you would have scripted if you were in charge?  Should I read the book first?

My possible version of the highlights in my life story.

  1. Innocent childhood growing up in the SE corner of Disneyland, CA.
  2. Along with piano and guitar lessons also trained in 6 separate martial arts and a junior teen special Jack Bauer training camp.
  3.  Because my IQ was so high through high school (at Disneyland high), I was chosen to audit a college of my choice and give suggestions on how they could improve things, and receive an honorary doctorate for my time.
  4. Approached by the United Nations for a full time career full of purpose and vision and changing the world with passion and purpose.  (somehow responsible for starting Google in the midst of this)
  5. Decide to purchase Disneyland when I turned 50 thus giving my extended family and friends a place to vacation for free or just hang out on main street for a BBQ now and then.

 

So often our real life stories turn out so different.  My story, your story, the stories of people I know and love, have much different highlights, or lowlights then what I might have scripted for myself.

*Broken families  *Financial hardship  *Learning disorders  *Frustrated career paths  *Loss of loved ones  *Unstable or unsure future  *Never even been to Disneyland

So how do we trust the Author of our lives, when our story feels like a script we wouldn’t choose? 

Consider for a moment the table of Contents of the life of Jesus.  Consider the highlights and lowlights.

*Came to earth long before current luxuries of technology and comfort.  (No iphone and certainly no Disneyland.  *Faced massive opposition and persecution. *Never married. *Friends abandoned Him.  *Crucified on a cross in His early thirties.

However..His life was all about passion and purpose and love and meaning.  Would we have written His circumstances differently for Him if we were in charge of His story?  Thank God we weren’t, and thank God He is in control today and we aren’t.  Yes, we can trust Him, with our lives, with our stories.  How can you best use your unique script to bring Him glory?

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Going all in

July 10, 2009

There’s an ARMY recruiting station close to my home, right by Blockbuster Video and a pizza joint.  From time to time, I’ll see the guys with short haircuts and pressed suits going in there with a wide eyed teenager about to sign a chunk of their life over to the military.   There have been times in my life where I had that fleeting though, “That would be nice”.  There is something in each of us that wants to go all in on something, to leave everything behind, to commit solely to one purpose with no distraction. 

Matthew 13:44-45

 44“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

 45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Today I ask myself, “Would I give up anything for Christ if He asked me too?”  Would I give Him my iphone?  My truck? Would I give Him my house?  My job?  Would I give Him my family?  Would I give Him my friends?  Do I realize the treasure I have in Christ?  Do you?  Are you all in?

Ask yourself right now if there is anything in your life that you think is more valuable or important than what you have in Christ?  Do your actions show it? 

“God, I don’t want you to have to take everything from me before I realize what I have in You is everything.  But, if that is what it takes, then God take it all.”

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Undivided

June 25, 2009

I used to travel with a group of guys in a singing ministry, and I learned something about team over the years.  I learned that in a team, one of the most important things is chemistry.  The way that we relate to one another, the way we treat one another, the way we work through things, the way that we resolve conflict, handle disagreements, listen to one another and speak to one another, had more of an effect on our ministry than learning the right notes, or the right places to be etc.  When we were unified, our ministry and effectiveness and even our sound had a dramatic difference to it.  When we weren’t right, when we weren’t resolved, our ministry suffered, and we weren’t as effective.   You probably know this from teams you are on or serve in.

I think of the verse in Matt 12 where Jesus said, 25“Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” (The context of this verse is when the Pharisees accused Jesus of using Satan’s power to perform His miracles.)

Much in the same way a team needs to be unified to function well, individually; our hearts need to be undivided when it comes to our relationship with the Lord.

Exodus 20:3 as, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Here are some different translations of that same verse.   “You shall have no gods but me.”  “You should not defy me by making other gods your own.” “You should have no other gods beside Me “You shall have no gods to set against me.”

When I first became came to know Christ, it felt way easier to have an undivided heart, it seemed more natural that Christ was all consuming.  Today it seems harder, increasingly harder for me to have an undivided heart.  So many things pull at it, vie for it, subtly and not so subtly. Good things and bad things threaten all the time to become god and make Christ only a piece of my heart. 

Prov 4: 20

20 My son, pay attention to what I say;
       listen closely to my words.

 21 Do not let them out of your sight,
       keep them within your heart;

 22 for they are life to those who find them
       and health to a man’s whole body.

 23 Above all else, guard your heart,
       for it is the wellspring of life.

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Sunset Season of Service (Or Sunset Season of Worship)

June 12, 2009

This morning I sat in my office about to go through the motions of the tasks at hand.  God stopped me, and forced me to look at Him for a while.  It came in the form of this link to a short video called “Awe Factor”.  (When the page opens, click on the Videos option and choose “the awe factor of God”.)  

 Just watching and hearing about God, a snapshot into His bigness and I was moved to worship Him in my heart.  It was a moment I was desperately in need of and a moment for which I was so grateful.

 In thinking through what to write about this week, I thought it was a good time to write about Sunset’s Seasons of Service.  It seemed appropriate to let you know about all these wonderful areas to serve in and to make an impact in our community as well as the lives of hundreds of people.  And the opportunities are wonderful.   But I realize now I want to let you know what I believe at my heart level.  I believe serving is really worshiping… and worshiping is really about responding to God’s greatness.  We have to start there, because then our response comes naturally, freely, and overflowing.

 So I guess what I’m challenging you to right now is make sure you are stopping to look at God and His greatness, whatever/however that happens for you.  You know how He has wired you, you know what speaks beauty to you and where you see or hear Him the clearest.  Go there… do whatever that is… immerse yourself in Him.  And when your soul is moved, when He sets things in context, when He sets your heart on fire and you think you are going to explode if you don’t tell someone or do something, then check out this link to find out about more ways Sunset is reaching out this summer as a family and in response to our God and Creator and Savior.

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Have to ask “Why”.

May 21, 2009

 If I were to spend an hour with you, and watch you at your work or play, I would see a surface shot of your life. This is the picture that most of us see of each other, the surface, or the tip of the iceberg. Underneath the waterline though, for you and I lies a massive, deep, complicated block of history, experiences, circumstances, fears, successes, failures, dreams, aspirations etc.

 At 35, I still feel largely unable to tap into what drives me below the surface. I acknowledge the iceberg, I understand intellectually that there are deeper issues that affect my surface behavior, but I’m still waiting for that “breakthrough” where I can tie the two together and began doing some monumental work in my life. I would really like to this without paying a lot of money to someone to do it for me. 

But we have to try, to keep asking, “Why”? Why did that conversation make me so angry? Why does this person make me feel inferior or unworthy? Why is this activity so life giving and restoring to me? And I think we also need to continue to ask “why” in our churches or ministries. Why are we spending our time and resources in this or that? Why do we say this instead of that?

Churches, like people, can have deep, below the surface, hard to get at complicated things like history, experiences, circumstances, fears etc. The difference is now instead of one iceberg, you have dozens, hundreds, thousands of them floating around and bumping into each other, trying to navigate the current.

 I believe that in our life, and in our churches, we need to keep striving to ask why, and to seek to be able to point back to a noble reason, purpose, mission for the why and if we can’t find the reason, consider a new course of action where we can answer that question with confidence.

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don’t lose heart

May 15, 2009

I’m on a couch in Starbucks, beginning to buzz from my mocha frapp with added caramel as I write this. My fingers are starting to get hyper and it allows me to type at superhuman speed. The downside is I misspell every other word and have to hit backspace, thus going slower than if I had no sugar or caffeine in my system in the first place.

 I knew this guy named Tad in high school. He was older than me by a few years, I knew him through my older sister. He was popular, and definitely one of the “cool” guys at school. My sister was one of the many girls who had a crush on him. After high school Tad made a lot of money in various entrepreneur endeavors. You probably know someone like him, always working the next deal, the next project, and always thinking bigger and better.

Those who knew Tad, liked him, but described him as overly confident, arrogant. When you were around him, you were consumed with his energy and it was always about him, and you knew it. He was like this for decades. Then, Tad’s world fell apart. His financial deals crashed. His marriage hit rock bottom and was nearly destroyed. He went through a miniature Job experience and everything that he really valued left him in a very short period of time.

 Today, if you were to be around Tad, you would describe him as humble. He is a completely different guy, he is life giving, and he makes your time with him about you. He is sold out for Jesus. His energy and time are put into his family and into ministering to men with broken families. He readily talks about how Jesus has broken Him, and changed His perspective. And he wouldn’t go back to all the money and success he had for anything. I have been thinking a lot lately about what leads to positive change.

 I think about Saul, before and after his conversion to Paul. I think about guys like Tad. It seems like so often change has little to do with our personal effort and work to achieve change. Positive change seems to be something God just “does” in people’s life, and it so often surrounded by heartache and hardship. I write all this to say, that situation that you are going through right now, that you are tired of and wish it would end, that is zapping the life out of you and you wonder why in the world God is allowing it, He can use to refine you, and to shape your character. He can use it far more than all the things that are rosy and going great.

2 Corinthians 4 (selected verses) 1Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

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Worthy of holding the gun

May 6, 2009

For awhile in my life, I thought I was going to be a police officer. I am so grateful God steered me away from that vocation. I can barely handle the drama of life inside a church let alone things like domestic violence or other issues our law enforcement faces. It also turns out I’m color blind, so if I suddenly had to “cut the blue wire” or shoot at the guy in the green jacket, well, there could be some fallout.

One of the scariest things to me about a police officer I don’t know, is that they are human, capable of corruption, greed and evil. People who may have even started out with good intentions, but over the year’s maybe began to use their badge and gun for their own gain. (I know, I watch too many movies).

But a good person, a trustworthy person, an honorable person holding the power of that gun, is a good thing, and I thank God that many good men and women serve in that role for the betterment of our society.

Because I believe in Christ, I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. I believe He is far more powerful than any gun or weapon man can create. And I often wonder why I don’t see or witness or am unable to tap into this power more. The same power that raised Christ from the dead, that lives in me.

Today I was reading Acts 3.  I read about how Peter and John used the Holy Spirit’s power to heal a crippled man. There were people gathered around, just staring at Peter in amazement, jaws dropped, floored by the power they had just witnessed. Peter could have said, “Thank you very much, I’ll be here all week.” Or, “I’m not a hero folks, just doing my job.” He could have soaked in the moment, reveled in his own righteousness, patted himself on the back and savored a little of the glory of the moment. But he didn’t. In fact he said, “Brothers, why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.”

I think often times the Holy Spirit’s power is not manifested in me, because I want it for the wrong reasons. I would be like a crooked cop with a gun, not knowing how to use that type of force to benefit others, but only wanting selfish gain.

Peter didn’t want the glory, he truly wanted Christ to have it, and was therefore worthy of using it.

“God, please give me a heart that only wants Your glory to shine, and make me someone worthy of your Holy Spirit’s power.”