Worship

Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou My Vision

We live in a day when we have become jaded and critical. Our first reaction is most often to distrust and deride. We often call truth a lie and a lie the truth. That with which we disagree is fake and only that with which we agree is real. There are no longer absolutes, only what I label to be true. It is a time heralded by meanness and callous disregard expressed toward one another. Too often we look upon compassion as weakness and bullying as strength. Instead of blessing we curse. Instead of offering respect, we show contempt. Instead of offering forgiveness, we condemn. Instead of choosing to love, we choose to hate.

For a moment last week social media celebrated a few minutes of captured video when Brandt Jean extended Christ-like compassion and forgiveness to Amber Guyger, convicted of fatally shooting his older brother. Though most chose not to mention Christ as the source and the reason for his compassion, few could ignore the heartfelt sincerity of the one who had extended it.

Even Judge Tammy Kemp who adjudicated the trial, after its conclusion was moved to extend a moment of heartfelt personal compassion to the one upon whom she had just pronounced sentence….

The Scandal of Grace

The Scandal of Grace

i don’t know about you, but the phrase “the scandal of grace” sounds contradictory and discordant to me. As regular readers of this blog are aware, i often include the lyrics of contemporary worship songs in my posts. i have oft said that i believe worship songs – whether they be traditional or contemporary – are the outpouring of the deep beliefs we hold in our hearts toward the One who alone is worthy of our worship. 

Like the psalmists, the expressions of our hearts in worship are best conveyed through our “heart songs”. They are a reflection of the gripping truth our Lord God Creator has kneaded into our lives. But sometimes the expressions we use in pouring out our heart songs can be jarring. Another example i wrote about several months ago is the idea that God’s love could ever be considered to be reckless (“Reckless Love”). 

We would readily agree that God’s grace is amazing and that His grace is enough. By its definition, grace is the unmerited favor and love that God freely extends to us. And we must quickly add that though His grace is free to us, it cost Him dearly. It cost Him the shed blood of His Son. His grace is precious. His grace is beyond our comprehension. So how can His grace be scandalous?

A Celebration - Great Are You, Lord!

A Celebration - Great Are You, Lord!

Today is our Baby Girl’s thirtieth birthday. Happy Birthday, Precious Girl! It is hard to believe. In some respects it seems like yesterday. It was an early Monday morning. In what seemed like a moment, we witnessed the birth of a new life. (Remember, i’m the dad; i am certain it seemed much longer than a moment for LaVonne!) i remember her little cry as she took that first breath into her lungs. i remember that somehow the birthing room suddenly seemed brighter. i remember that my wife’s pain and travail in labor were now passed and had now been replaced simultaneously by relief, peace, joy and calm. Immediately our hearts were filled with love for this precious addition to our family. That love was not something that needed to develop over time – it was immediate, just as it had been at the birth of her older brother before her. And our love for one another did not diminish because it now included another; rather, our capacity to love was increased. The birth of a new life is a precious gift from our Creator… an amazing gift… and a gift for a lifetime… and beyond.  

But our God is not only the Giver of physical life, He is the Giver of eternal life….

Which Son Are You?

Which Son Are You?

Since we are in the midst of the forty days of Lent (March 6 – April 18), i thought it would be timely to look at four truths that Jesus taught His disciples and those who crowded around Him during that final week leading up to His crucifixion. i plan to look at one truth each week for the next four weeks, starting with today.

It was Tuesday, the third day of the week leading up to His crucifixion. Jesus had arrived in the temple to teach as was His practice. The religious leaders were irate over Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple the day before. Through that action, He had clearly challenged their authority and they were attempting to dispute His. The problem was that they were ill-equipped for the challenge. They exerted their authority over the people through the pretense of their outward piety. There was not any real substance to their relationship with God. They were just going through the motions – speaking one way and acting in another. So Jesus confronted them with this parable:

Do It Again

Do It Again

Several years ago, my wife LaVonne and i traveled with a team of university students to a country in the Middle East. God had granted us an opportunity to “sow seeds of the gospel” in a place where there were no known churches and very few followers of Jesus. Ironically enough, we were going to one of the places where the gospel was first proclaimed by the Apostle Paul and others two thousand years ago, but, in recent days, the lies of false religion had taken hold and now very few knew the truth.

The “seeds” we were sowing were four-fold. First, we would conversationally share our testimonies and the good news of the gospel whenever we had opportunity with those who could speak some English, since only a few of our team members knew the indigenous language. The second and third seeds were, respectively, videos and CDs in the native language that told the story of Jesus and the truth of the gospel. The fourth seed was a written booklet explaining the gospel in the indigenous language. In enlisting our help, our partner informed us that he had not previously done what he was asking us to do among this group of people. He had no idea how the people would react or respond to us. Since, at the time, we also had never done this before in this particular context, it would be a new experience for all of us – our team, our partner, and the people we would meet.

More Like Jesus

More Like Jesus

He must increase, but I must decrease.(John 3:30 ESV)

Today, as i read that verse, i was reminded of a brother in Christ i met several years ago (this very week) by the name of H. J. Sadhu Dayapara. Brother Dayapara was a 70-year-old pastor faithfully serving his Lord in the City of Bangalore, in the State of Karnataka, India. Several friends and i were in Bangalore to lead a three-day visioning retreat for pastors that were serving throughout the State of Karnataka. To this day, i will never understand why the Lord directed for us to be the presenters at the conference for these brothers. As i stood before them, i knew that it was i who needed to be sitting at their feet, learning from them.

Pastor Dayapara sat there on the very front row all three days, taking in everything that we shared. Though we were separated by a language barrier, we were drawn together by a kinship in Jesus. Throughout our time together, as i watched him and listened to him (through an interpreter), i was drawn to the image of Jesus that radiated through him. i was overwhelmed by the humility and overflow of the fruit of the spirit that was pouring out of this brother. He did not pastor a large church, and probably never would, but he bore all the characteristics of a good and faithful shepherd, who was as much concerned about the one as he was about the ninety-nine. His life bore witness that Jesus was his life and his treasure, his desire and his dream, his purpose and his path. His life evidenced the very truth that John the Baptist spoke – “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Tremble

Tremble

A few years ago, my wife and i found ourselves in the midst of a gathering of twenty-four worship leaders that God is using, not only to lead their local fellowships in worship, but also the greater body of Christ through the worship songs they are composing. On one particular night, we were all led in the darkness through a wooded area to a room that was away from the main campus where we were meeting. The intent was that we would experience a taste of the daily lives of our persecuted brothers and sisters in many parts of the world who need to gather in secret to worship. The evening was facilitated by good friends – Nik and Ruth Ripken.

As the evening went on, Nik shared the testimonies of men and women that God has permitted him to meet – testimonies of God’s mercy and grace in the midst of persecution. Nik explained that each one of these men and women had a heartsong – a song that God had stamped in their hearts. It was a song of God’s faithfulness, His goodness and His grace….