You Get What You Pay For

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That isn’t a very original thing to say. Everybody has heard it at some point. I didn’t coin the phrase, but I sure believe it to be true. Now that I am looking at buying cars for teenage drivers, new instruments for teenage bandies, and college tuition for soon to be young adults pushed out of the nest, I am realizing that I have choices to make about where and how I spend this money.

Over and over again in life I have gotten what I paid for. At times I have bought something inexpensive hoping to get by or make due. Other times I have broken the bank and splurged for the top of the line and the best in the market. In every purchase or investment I have gotten exactly what I paid for. Sometimes I have been very, very happy with a purchase (new Taylor Made irons) and sometimes devastated by going cheap (upper deck tickets at Minute Maid on opening day 2008.)

The consumer in us has us immediately thinking products or experiences. Getting what we pay for makes us think of blue jeans, boots, cars, haircuts or television sets. It makes us think of vacations to Vegas or cheap hotels at the beach. It reminds us of good food we eat on our anniversary and average food with jacked up prices at the ball park (maybe not an example of getting what you pay for.) What we wear, what we eat, and where we go is directly related to what we have paid for that product or reality.

This saying though applies to many other areas of life if we under “pay for” something in terms other than monetary exchange. Sometimes our payment comes in the form of time or talent. Sometimes it comes in the level of engagement or enthusiasm we have for something or someone. Sometimes we pay by being present and being ready to participate. Our cost in those cases are not measure by a reduction of our bank account, but in the addition or heart, mind, and soul into a scenario.

Think about these “you get what you pay for” realities.

As parents we get what we pay for when we put extra time into the development of our kids character and not just their skill development or athletic progress. Our children understand the value of character better because we have given time and space to the topic with them rather than assuming others will care for that need.

As leaders we get what we pay for when we bring energy to our team and not just work flow charts or new objectives for success. Our team senses that we believe in what we are asking them to do because we are personally involved as we give ourselves all in to the assignment.

As pastors we get what we pay for when we avoid settling conflict in the church, keep doing the same old things all of the time because its easy, and/or refuse to consider how culture is shaping our people more than the gospel is. Our church senses a lack of care and concern for the health of the church and an overall indifference to how lives are being changed.

As friends we get what we pay for when we expect to be the center of attention with every friendship and have the final word on every topic tossed around in conversation. Our friends see us as self absorbed and therefore not trustworthy or approachable with their needs which keeps relationships on the surface and usually on very shakeable grounds.

As married couples we get what we pay for when we make time for each other, listen to what is on each others heart, pray over the big (and small) things in life, and consider our spouses feelings above our own. Our spouse will know they can rely us to be safe, supportive, and so concerned with the relationship that other details of life are always second place.

Of course when we pay very little as parents, as leaders, as pastors, as friends we end up getting exactly what we paid for it. Usually nothing, but rejection, disappointments, failure, discouragement, and/or loneliness. Conversely, by paying big for those things we find that our relationships are healthy, balanced, and usually exactly what we need (or even more.)

How can you get more (or get a better product) by paying more today? Now that is really a pay it forward idea worth pursuing. Don’t delay and don’t keep being cheap. Put your best- your everything – into it. You will be glad you did. You will likely end up getting exactly what you paid for and more.

 

Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.                                                 (Jose Ortega y Gasset)

Why Pastors Need Lent Too

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In a few days I will make my way towards the sanctuary to begin calling my congregation to focus their attention on a new angle of the story of Jesus. Very quickly we have transitioned from celebrating the birth of the King Child who changes the world to remembering the beautiful details of his early days of ministry to others. We have peered into the nativity with the Magi (Matthew 2). We have sipped the wine that was borne as water at a wedding we didn’t expect to be invited to (John 2). We have sat very still in the synagogue and heard him proclaim Isaiah’s prophecy that He would bring good news to the poor and set the captives free (Luke 4). We have heard his call to Peter after a long night of fishing to trust in Him for the catch (Luke 5).

This Jesus story is getting better every day, with every detail. It is a joy to join in on this journey. It is an honor to lean in and catch a glimpse of the Messiah on the move. It is unbelievable that we are included in this great God story that is full of so much promise, so much hope, so much meaning for life on earth.

Then comes the cross. The bloody, brutal cross carved for the final story of Jesus’s life with us. The cross that Rome designed to humiliate, humble, and horrify the populous into submission and surrender. The cross that will forever stand for victory in Jesus, for all the world, throughout eternity, forever and ever. Amen.

This is the new view for my congregation (and yours too, pastor.) It is a view that is less about simply believing in Jesus and more about trusting and believing in him even into death. It is a part of the story that calls us to to lower ourselves, confess our sins, let God draw us near. A call for us to embrace our brokenness, trust in Christ alone by denying the lordship of self, and repent…of everything. Repent of everything that is not rooted in and breathed through the life of Christ. Repent of everything that does not reveal his character and compassion through us. Repent of everything that is not connected to that cross – that bloody, brutal cross.

While I will invite congregants to journey towards the cross and repent, I recognize that I must not only join them on this journey, but I must lead it. I can not just point them in the general direction and bid them to go. I must lead. I must go first. The pastor must lead, not only in the liturgy, but in the lamenting of sin and separation from God.

But what does a pastor really have that needs to be confessed? What on earth does a pastor repent from? Plenty. Believe you me.

Pastors may or may not need to repent of the social sins that are most commonly thought of when preaching/teaching on confession. I am thinking specifically about addictions, attitudes, and anti social behavior that are both clearly defined in scripture and often spelled out in common language in the Special rules or Book of Order. Thanks to the working of God’s grace, most of those sins have been confronted and cast out personally or with the help of ministerial fellowship and accountability. But there are other sins that need to be – must be – dealt with on the way to Easter and on the way to a full life in Christ.

I am finding that there are realities in the pastoral life and call that must be confessed or they will bog down our spiritual life and derail our ministry. While we might not call these social sins they serve as spiritual barriers or bumpers to congregational leaders from the supernatural movement of God in our midst. Truthfully, we should never be ok with anything that we do intentionally or out of ignorance that distracts or detracts from the work of God in us and through us. While sin is often thought of and preached as violating a known law of God, perhaps we should consider it to be a pastoral sin when we put ourselves or our ministry in a place of competition, consternation or conflict with kingdom of God even in the smallest of ways.

“So what on earth are you saying padre?”

I/we need to repent of a cynical spirit, for God is still working in ways that my skeptical eyes can not see. I/we need to repent from a professional busyness/business that prohibits me from being present when others need me to speak into their life and situation. I/we need to repent of living in discouragement due to a perceived lack of success, fame, fortune, and following. I/we need to repent from a personal focus that distracts us from seeing the bigger picture of people/communities in need around us. I/we need to repent from the spirit of self righteousness that keeps us convinced that everyone is a sinner and we can save them through our preaching or programs. I/we need to repent of a ministry that is without hope in a God who saves and sanctifies. I/we need to weep and wail at all of the ways that we minister in our strength rather than in the glorious, graceful strength of Christ our Lord. Then and only then will our ministry be worthy of the call that God has given us as ambassadors of reconciliation in a separated world.

So, I am going to not only repent today (Ash Wednesday) but live repentantly of those (and other) burdens that weakens the ministry of Jesus in and through me. I am thankful that as I confess and pray for forgiveness that the grace of God will both cover and cleanse my sin and shame as a flawed leader. I am thankful that today (and everyday) is the day of salvation for me and those who abandon their own strength and cling to the power of God in Christ. I am eager to know what it means to have nothing but possess everything. I am longing to weep and wail over the sins of the world as a worker in the kingdom of the crucified. I am longing to live with the faith that I can tell God everything and believe that He is already aware and at work in working all things out for the good. I am joyful in the reality that in my weeping and wailing at my need, Christ has set me/us free to live, to love, to lead, and to long for the kingdom that has come.

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So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10)

Thoughts and Prayers (and Laughs and Giggles)

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Everybody says it at sometime – “I am thinking about you during this time” or “I will be praying for you.” I think most people mean it when they say it to somebody. I do. When people are hurting, lost, scared or devastated we want them to know we are thinking about them and praying that their life and situation gets better. We hope that they are not forever in a state of shame, or guilt, brokenness or hopelessness. We want people to want that for ourselves when the table is turned. That’s called empathy and it may be the most precious of human traits.

I am thinking today about my friends that I will preach to tomorrow near the graveside of their loved ones for a sunrise service. My prayer is that they will be encouraged by the scriptures and embraced by the closeness of God in their grieving memories. (2016 – thinking and praying about my first Easter with Newark Naz and our gathering at the Midland.)

I am thinking about my brothers and sisters who have lost parents this year – Charlie, Amanda, Tim, etc.. – and will miss being with or calling them during the Easter weekend. I am praying that they will be comforted in the conviction that ragged earthly clothes have been exchanged for pristine and perfect robes of righteousness in heaven. (2016 – Praying for friends who are remembering their daughter from 17 years without her sitting at the table for Easter brunch.)

I am thinking and praying for a special lady I love that is having emergency surgery this morning. Praying that all goes well and that she is up and at it tomorrow to embrace family and celebrate her vibrant faith. (2016 – Thinking about a wonderful lady/mom getting ready for surgery on Monday while she thinks about the death and resurrection of her Lord.)

I am thinking about my friends this year who have lost jobs, lost houses, lost marriages, lost children. I am praying that what they have lost will be found afresh and new as they trust God to fix, find and forge together the cracks of their reality. (2016- Thinking about a dear brother searching for a job and trusting in God to provide a place for him to work so he can continue serving in the church and coaching softball.)

But I am not only thinking and praying. I am laughing and giggling too. That too is empathy, but not because of grief or worry at someones trouble. Empathy that laughs and giggles as an expression and echo of the joy that others feel. That kind of empathy confronts our jealousy of others and crucifies the thought “why not me?” Empathy works in both directions. Actually, empathy allows us to stand in the middle of the good and the bad while pointing beyond either of those realities. Our empathy can be pointed “for” someone and “with” someone. Empathy is simply sharing in all of life with all of the people we are blessed to know AND some people that we will never know but can still empathize in their life events sometimes praying for them and sometimes laughing with them.

I am laughing and giggling with my friends Matt and Keri (and their kids) who will celebrate Easter this year with a new little boy. I wish I could giggle with them out loud as they take their first Easter picture as a family of 7. (2016- They are still laughing with that little boy and thanking God for his life.)

I am laughing with my friend Debi and her husband who have experienced a miracle this year with God curing his cancer. I am giggling at all of the years they have ahead of them together in marriage and ministry. (2016- Many friends this year have faced uncertain health and found strength in Christ.)

I am laughing and giggling with my friends who have found new love, new hope, new purpose, a new calling in life. I am giggling at how blessed they are and how much their lives will never be the same now that God has broke in with His lavish gifts of glory and grace.  (2016- Smiling with my friends who have returned safely from a week in Africa drilling wells and for my friend who is in Ghana with his orphanage – both groups serving the Lord faithfully.)

Today we stand between grief and joy; between crucifixion and resurrection; between thoughts/prayers and laughs/giggles. Jesus has died and was buried, but he will be resurrected and will reign. We think of him in his grave clothes and pray for his disciples to be true, but we are laughing at the joy of him in his resurrection robes displaying the power of God. God is thinking/praying and laughing/giggling with us as live “in between” Good Friday and Easter Sunday. God’s empathy both “for” us and “with” us brings us together in peace and with joy.

Life is all about thinking and praying for the events and the people in our lives that are challenged with great obstacles and suffer from terrible tragedy. But life is also full of opportunity to laugh, giggle and let the joy out of our soul. When we do both – think and pray/ laugh and giggle – we are displaying our faith in perhaps its most full expression. For we are living into a God who has created with a spirit of empathy for other and for ourselves.

So make today – Holy Saturday – a day of thinking and praying, but also make it a day of laughing and giggling. God is not dead and He is not finished with the world…or with you. Make sure that this weekend is not focused on hiding eggs, buying shoes, or getting to brunch as quickly as possible. Jesus did his work on Friday afternoon. Our Father will do his work on Easter morn. Today is our time to work at our faith and think about the meaning of the cross, the tomb, the stone. Pray for God to come and to come quickly to deliver us from evil. Laugh out loud at how great our God is and giggle when you remember what His grace has done for you.

I will be thinking and praying for you. Please feel free to laugh and giggle at me.

April 4, 2015 / Holy Saturday —————————

I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long. He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago. He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me; though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked. He is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding; he led me off my way and tore me to pieces; he has made me desolate; he bent his bow and set me as a mark for his arrow. He shot into my vitals the arrows of his quiver; I have become the laughingstock of all my people, the object of their taunt-songs all day long. He has filled me with bitterness, he has sated me with wormwood. He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.” The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3)

Jesus, a Banker, and a Butcher Walk Into a Bar…

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Ok. It was the temple and not a bar, but I’m not that far off. At least it was the central gathering place for business and fellowship like many bars are today. What happened in the temple was as routine as the 6 PM crowd at the local pub, complete with stories, networking, deal making and letting off some steam. And it is one of the most interesting stories about Jesus in scripture, as he goes all “Chuck Norris” on the banker (money exchanger) and butcher (dove salesman.) To be precise the title should be: A rabbi, a butcher, a banker run into a bar of God. The word “bar” is Hebrew/Aramaic for son and Jesus is the son of God.

The story of Jesus in the temple driving out thieves is one of the stories that often comes up in conversation. To be honest it comes up from most often in my discussion with white, professional, evangelical men who are excited about a bold, daring, aggressive Jesus. Despite this being a unique story to the entire life and ministry of Jesus it is used as a standard to protect agendas, justify angry behaviors, and control obstacles in the way of setting up a “never surrender Jesus.”

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2)

This story is known as Jesus cleansing the temple and is found in Matthew, Mark and John. (I am sure Luke meant to include it but was likely busy tending to the cuts and scrapes from those injured in the event.) Jesus is either caught off guard or fed up with the temple being used as a place of commerce. His righteous indignation sets the record straight and frees the worshipping people of distraction and solicitation. The scene is ripe with images of money flying, men crying, and animals trying to get free from their captors before becoming potted meat on the flame of sacrifice. Jesus redirects their worship from what they are “doing for God” back towards what they are “becoming in/through God.” At least, that is what he attempts to do.

While we could let our focus be in the actions of Jesus or the shame of the spiritual leaders, I am most interested in a group that seems to be left out of this story – the consumers. If there had not been people wanting to buy animals for sacrifice or exchange their foreign money for an legitimate offering instrument then Jesus would never had to do this. What came first – the buyer or the seller? Someone was consuming what was being offered, but they are only implied in the gospel accounts. How did they get off so easy?

Consumers of worship and worship artifacts aren’t solely a first century problem. Make no mistake about it, consumers of worship are definitely a first world problem, and the American church is likely (definitely) the leader in the club house when it comes to making Jesus a consumable product in worship. Much of what is normal in church worship gatherings today seems to be based on what people want when they “get their worship on” rather than what God is offering us as His children. We carry over our daily practices of consuming what we want and what makes us feel good about life into our religious activities that we call church or worship or “something kinda spiritual.” We cannot choose style over substance, experience over encounter, topics over text, feeling good over faithfully good, or happy over holy and think that our lives will be changed. Change is exactly what worship is all about. We are changed when we encounter the living God; see His holiness; sense His eternal goodness; confess our utter need for His deliverance/transformation/presence; and walk away in His faithfulness.

We are never spiritually right when we approach worship as consumers, because worship of the living God consumes us. That is the point of worshipping. It is not to be close to, in the presence of, or informed by God. Our worship is to be entirely consumed by Him.

When you journey to church today, I hope you walk right past the temptation of exchanging money for offerings or buying something to sacrifice. Make your life – your everything – both an offering and a sacrifice to God. Ask Him to accept you as you are and set fire to your heart for His kingdom. May your whole life – body, mind, and spirit – be a beautiful aroma unto the Lord. May Jesus be joyful in joining your worship and not compelled to judge you as a thief or prostitute in the church.

March 8, 2015 / 3rd Sunday of Lent

Bet Against Yourself

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Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.”            (Romans 4:18-22)

Gambling is a growing reality in our culture. People often allocate significant money to play blackjack, the lottery, or bet on football games. The Super Bowl alone this year saw a guestimated 200 million people bet more than $10 billion. That is a lot of mullah/dough/jack/cheese/green backs. Betting is a big part of our culture and always has been. Every one of the original 13 colonies had lotteries to cover the cost of war, start institutions of higher learning, and/or just for plain old American greed purposes through horse racing, cock fighting or playing cards in back alleys and taverns. If you have never laid a bet on something, rest assured that someone in your family tree has. Betting is an American tradition.

This blog is not about betting for gain though. It is about betting against yourself hoping that your bet “pays off.”  That is to say, hoping that you personally fail so that you succeed as a gambler and win at betting against yourself.

(Stay with me for a minute. I’ll get us somewhere.)

Our flesh is weak. Sin is strong. We are lured by the thought of moments of ecstasy (or at least jubilation) through sex, money, experience, and power grabs. Quite often we can’t help ourselves. We are out of control. We know that those things should not be our objects of desire and satisfaction, but they are anyway. We need a new plan to stay out of trouble with our flesh. We have bet on ourselves to be able to handle everything in life, but we have lost every time. We need a new bet.

Highly detestable social sins aside, we are equally weak. We are full of pride, full of envy, prone to gluttony. We don’t easily face our inbred racism, and we likely are ignorant and/or indifferent of our classist ways. We love Jesus, but we hate the church. We believe in the truth of God, but we are suspicious of the scriptures. We want to be good, but perfection seems like an unreasonable goal. We are selfish, selfish, SELFISH! We need a new plan to overcome who we are. We have bet on ourselves to win at the Christian life, but we make very little progress on our own. We need a new bet.

Abraham is the father of our faith tradition (not Adam, not Noah, not Methuselah, etc.) because he bet against himself. He knew who he was. He knew his limitations. He knew his tendencies. He knew that on his best day he was not up to the task of helping himself, creating a name for his legacy, and especially not able to save himself from a life of meaningless toil. The hope he had in  himself was not enough to prevent the weight of the world from crashing in on him. He needed a new bet.

He bet on God because he believed deeply in God; deeply enough for him to pack up and head out to “a place God would show him.” He bet against himself and against life as he knew it so that God’s way/will could prevail in his life. He bet against his ability to bring forth a child and trusted in God’s promise, making it possible for his seed to be the seedling sect for all faith in YHWH. His “hope against hope” was the staking of his everything on God while abandoning anything he had in himself. He bet against his need to know where he was going and figured God knew the route best. His hope could no longer be on him or on Sarah. He would have to hope against himself and hope in something else.  His new bet was on God. And he bet well.

Ultimately, betting on God is not about right or wrong. It is not about winning or losing. It is not about heaven or hell. It is not about Israel or America. It is not about getting or giving. It is about faith. It is about hope. It is about love. And most importantly, betting on God is about Jesus, because when we bet on God to pick us up and carry us out, we get His answer in the life and ministry of Jesus – His son, our Lord. It is Jesus who pays off any debt we owe, and it is Jesus who tears apart the bounty death puts on us. Betting on Jesus to win the game of life is the only winning ticket we all can purchase. Check that: HE made the purchase. We just cash in the claim ticket.

“Jesus is so unbearably forgiving, so infinitely patient and so unendingly loving that He provides us with the resources we need to live lives of gracious response.”  (Brennan Manning from The Ragamuffin Gospel)

Most of the time, we need a new bet in life just to make it through the day. My advice to you is to bet against yourself. I am betting against me. Let’s bet on God. He will bring the biggest paydays we have ever known. Father Abraham will be our witness.

For Lent 2 /  March 1, 2015

Wanted: Good Music to Listen To

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Our acts of piety are instruments that, by the grace of God, do the work of aligning our heart, mind, soul, and body to values, priorities, and activities of the kingdom of God.                                                                         (Rowell – These Forty Days)

My son plays the trumpet. He also plays the guitar and he twangs a bit on the ukelele. I have overheard him playing a little on the keyboard that his mother uses to practice for church and he sounded pretty good on that too. If all goes well he will make the transition from trumpet to tuba for the marching band next year and I am so excited. I would bet he could also play the drums, the kazoo, and maybe the triangle without a single lesson. The kid seems to have some talent in his fingers that only his mother’s side of the family could have provided and my side is very, very thankful.

Not all of us will play an instrument (or 4) in life. Not all of us will have the interest or the discipline to try it. Music and the making of music will escape the ability and imagination of many of us. God help us because music has a way of touching our hearts and rubbing our soul in very meaningful ways. It is highly likely that those who never express themselves or experiment with music fail to be formed in ways that effect the body, mind, and soul. Playing a song or writing a song is a way of expressing something very deep within one’s soul that without such expression would be left to bounce around internally and break things. The song inside of us that is left unplayed or unwritten might very well break our heart, break our spirit, or just plain ole break us down.

Such is the Christian life.

What God has put inside of us with the presence of His Spirit is meant to break free from us in ways that enrich everything around us with faith, hope, and love. As we act faithfully and fervently our lives are singing a song – a God song – to the world around us. Such a God song projects what we know to be true about God through personal experience. We know that God is loving, kind, compassionate, forgiving. We know that God is able, sovereign, just, and certain in all things. We know that God is Father, Son, and Spirit. We know that God is in us, with us, and for us as we live and die. We know that “greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world.” We know this and we believe this and by the grace of God and the willingness of our spirit our lives sing this to others.

And when our lives don’t sing such a God song we are quite likely singing the song of another god. That song for other gods are songs of sin, selfishness, shame, failure, fear. Those aren’t songs worth singing or writing. Those songs sound like broken down tunes without meaning or melody. Those songs need to be taken out of print and taken off our playlist as soon as possible and replaced by the song that our God is wanting to play. His song makes beautiful music and touches us (and others through us) in deep and meaningful ways.

Make no mistake. The song is God’s song. It is not a song about how great we are or how holy we are. It is a song about Him – His grace, His holiness, His greatness. We bring nothing to the song. He writes the song, publishes the song, conducts the song through His collection of instruments, and finally plays the song through us. He is all the talent. We are only His instruments to be used in making heavenly music. And when He plays…

Bravo, Bravo, Bravissimo!

Join God’s band/orchestra/symphony today. Confess sin. Turn away from shame. Quit living in alternative ways. Trust in Him to be the Savior He promises to be. Let Him change your heart. Rest in Him. Abandon the bad music you are making on your own. Play only God’s song from this day on.

Lent 1/ February 22, 2015————————————————————————

Psalm 25

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
3 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
6 Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11 For your name’s sake, O Lord,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who is the man who fears the Lord?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13 His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14 The friendship[b] of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.
18 Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
19 Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20 Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
22 Redeem Israel, O God,
out of all his troubles.