Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Wide Open Worship - Pt. 2

A friend of a friend of mine literally puts his life on the line for the Gospel. He enters particular countries and gets Christian material to underground churches. For his safety, I don't want to specify where he goes or how he gets in. He has been doing it for years and plays an integral role is facilitating revival in those countries. If he were caught, it would be certain death. There are things going on elsewhere that we like to think do not happen anymore. Atrocities go on in these countries that meet or even surpass the Holocaust in terms of cruelty (probably not in terms of numbers...yet). I tend to forget how much of a privilege it is to have the freedoms that I have living in the United States. It is so easy to take those freedoms for granted.

A few weeks ago I had lunch with the friend who knows this man. Apparently the guy is looking for one or two people to accompany him on these trips. I did not (and still don't) feel a leading to be a part of it, but it did get me thinking about my knowledge of the Word, my prayer life, and my worship. If I knew my life was in danger because of my beliefs and the sharing of those beliefs, I would not speed through my Bible reading, my prayers would be much more fervent, and my worship would be on a completely different level. It got me thinking, "Why am I not reading, praying, and worshipping like that now? If I tried to hide some sort of media in a guitar case, got caught by the authorities, and had the opportunity to play/sing one song with guns are pointed at my head, what would I sing? More importantly, how would I sing (and play) it?" I have been pondering that for weeks now and it is out of those thoughts that I came up with Part One of this post - describing worship that is focused, sincere, reckless, reverent, and passionate. I want my worship, whether private or public, to be full of every one of those ingredients. To a certain extent, it is uncharted territory.

Two or three weeks ago in church I started worshipping as if my life depended on it. In a way, it was scary. I say that because I am used to being in control. Tears often fall when I worship, but I hit the point where I was a step away from just falling to the ground and bawling. I pulled back because I usually sit in the 3rd row at church (1st two are reserved for staff) and therefore am easily seen by those behind me. I'd like to say that I just didn't want to distract others, but I know part of it was being concerned with what others might think. Sure, there is a responsibility on all of us not to ruin the worship experience for others by doing something that distracts them, but I still should have let go more than I did. I guess the point is that I want to reach much higher in my praise and worship. My heart's cry is to sing in such a way that it grabs God's attention and invites His power to fall. The walls in my life will crumble. The chains in my life will be loosed. I wonder...What would happen if every one of us worshipped like that? What would happen if worship leaders led like that? What would happen if we as the Body of Christ all truly connected with God in worship instead of "playing church" or simply offering lip service? It starts with you and me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Wide Open Worship - Pt. 1

When I was growing up a friend of mine had a dirtbike motorcycle that we both thoroughly enjoyed riding - especially "wide open." By that we meant highest gear, full throttle, taking it to the fullest extent possible without regard to safety or the possible consequences. Yes, maybe dangerous in that situation, but I like the term when it comes to describing the kind of worship that crumbles walls and breaks chains. How do we reach that level? It takes focus, sincerity, recklessness, reverence, and passion. It may seem like recklessness and reverence are mutually exclusive, but they are not. By recklessness I mean the abandonment of any concern over what people may think if we truly engage in wide open worship. King David danced recklessly without regard to people's opinion of how a king "should" act. Reverence seems to be more and more scarce these days. It is defined as "profound adoring awed respect." Because of the blood of Jesus we can come boldly before the Father. However, let us never forget that the privilege to approach was very costly. The blood of Jesus is so very precious. We should enter into the Holy of Holies boldly, but also with humility, honor, respect, brokenness and gratitude.

I have a feeling that when the Israelites were marching around the walls of Jericho, they were not kicking sand on each other or looking for pictures in the clouds. I believe they had their "game faces" on and gave undivided attention to the task at hand. They were psyched. They were ready. They were expecting a move of God. They were steeped in anticipation of God's reaction to their focused, sincere, reckless, reverent, passionate shouts. Ribcages buzzed, God's power fell, walls crumbled, the separation between where they were and where they wanted to be was no more. Victory.

I sometimes wonder what went through the minds of Paul and Silas right before they decided to pray and sing despite their trying circumstances. They had just been severely beaten and thrown into a dungeon with their feet in stocks. The opportunity to complain or indulge in self-pity was certainly present, but they decided to pray and sing anyway. I have a feeling they were not flippant, casual, or easily distracted. I doubt Silas said anything like, "Hey Paul, check out the reverb in here! Echo (cho cho). Echo (cho cho)." On the contrary, once they made the choice to offer up the sacrifice of praise, they put their game faces on and sang with focus, sincerity, recklessness, reverence, and passion. What happened? A song was lifted, God's power fell, the earth quaked, prison foundation crumbled, the chains that bound them were broken. Freedom.

Father God, show me what to change - teach me how to grow - take me to that level of worship in Jesus' name.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Centurion's Journal

For centuries they have expected him. Many generations have spoken of this mystery man who is supposed to become their king. So much so that they have allowed their hope to cloud their common sense. The news about this man has quickly spread and we hear the word "messiah" once again. Nobody can even pin down where this man is from or who he really is. Yet they are so desperate they grasp at anything that offers them the slightest bit of hope. In fact, the man who started this story, "The Baptist" they call him, has since been imprisoned and proven to be insane. These people deserve to be under our control. In fact, they have to be. They are dumb sheep, following whatever moves. That can be dangerous to our empire. They don't think. They believe this man despite his lack of training. His so-called miracles have yet to be proven. We Romans are smarter than that. I am smarter than that.


What would possess a man to throw away a promising career and a life of luxury and security? I have mixed thoughts running through my head right now. You see, the man directly over me, a centurion, is in danger of losing rank. His servant, who is like a son to him, fell gravely ill. Desperation clouded his reason and he decided to seek out this man Jesus for a miracle cure. By some strange coincidence, when he was gone, his servant recovered. It is plain for me to see that it was just luck, but my centurion is convinced it was Jesus. My comrades and I have all been pleading with him to keep his mouth shut. His servant is well. He has a career that many long for and dream of. If he keeps quiet, he can have the best of both worlds. So why are my thoughts mixed? On the one hand, I hate to see a man of his caliber throw away everything for which he has labored. On the other hand, I would love to see it. I am in line to take his position. I have worked hard and deserve to be there. I could soon be on top of the world. Much higher wages. Opportunities to impress Pilate. Honor, respect, a certain amount of fame. How could life be better? As for me, well, I would never give it up. Never. It is not worth the sacrifice.


Jerusalem has been restless this week. This man Jesus made his grand entrance and the throngs are following. On top of that, the Jews will soon be celebrating their Passover feast. I need to keep an eye on things and prove that I deserve my promotion to centurion. Unrest could quickly turn to an uprising. It has been reported among my soldiers that even many of his own people want Jesus dead. If he were legitimate, the religious leaders would support him. There would be no controversy or division. If things don't settle down on their own, we will have to make an example of this man.


Where do I begin. I thought I was doing my job. I thought I was doing the right thing. One of Jesus' own betrayed Him and the religious leaders unanimously wanted Him crucified. That would make anyone think Jesus was a fraud. I did. I watched as two of my soldiers whipped this Man and I sneered and scoffed. Good riddance to Him. He deserves it. How dare He say or do anything that threatens our control. A trail of blood was left as He was led away to be crucified. Normally I would have those under me pound the spikes, but my hate toward Him drove me to participate. I showed the soldiers how I wanted it done and loved every moment of it. One of the other criminals challenged Him to save Himself. Nothing. I figured at that moment all those who once believed in Him would realize their mistakes and leave, but many still lingered. The weather started turning worse. Never before have I seen it like that. The people needed to leave. Jesus' mother was at the foot of the cross and I approached her. Normally we kept our distance from those hung up on display. They were all worth less than dung, and more often than not the criminals would try to spit on us or relieve themselves on us. We got the last laugh by breaking their legs and watching them expire. This time, for some reason, I approached. As I reached out to touch the shoulder of Jesus' mother and get her up, something hit the back of my hand. I looked up at Jesus and realized it was a tear. Several more tears fell as I looked into His eyes and He looked at me. I expected to see a look of hate, anger, and terror like we always see. None of that was present. Just a look of kindness, sadness, and...and...love. I looked back at my hand as if to recreate this again and make sure I wasn't seeing things. I looked at my knuckles, swollen from the blows I had inflicted on Him. Of all people who He should be angry with, He should certainly be angry toward me. I looked up at Him again and saw something I never expected. It was slight because He was so weak, but I know I saw it. It was a smile. It was as if He knew what I was thinking. He sensed my remorse for the things I had done to Him, and He forgave me. He lifted His head toward the sky, spoke something, and died. The earth quaked. Jesus' brother grabbed hold of their mother and everyone scattered. I dropped to my knees and clung to the cross. Somehow I knew I'd be okay there. The quake ended. I struggled to rise because my knees were weak and trembling. I didn't care if my soldiers heard me - I had to proclaim it, "Surely this man was the Son of God." All my soldiers agreed.


Yesterday I heard something from two soldiers who were guarding Jesus' grave. They said someone in glimmering white had appeared and rolled the cover stone away. It has to be true. They could face a penalty of death if they are found to have fallen asleep at their post. Nobody would risk that if it had not really happened. In addition, the high priests offered them enough money to retire several times over if they only changed their story. Several others soldiers accepted the bribe. These did not. They saw Him walk out of the tomb. Though my mind cannot fully understand it, my heart knows it is true. It was not those who followed Jesus who were blind and deceived, it was me. Now I see. Now I believe. Now I have hope. Now I am alive.

He is Risen!!!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Stupidity and Mercy

Here is another picture of our dog Lady. She is very intelligent - most of the time. We have about 10 different toys/balls/bones for her and she knows each one by name. All 10 can be in the backyard and if we say, "Go get your [insert name]," she will find it and bring it in. Then there are those other times, like when we are on a walk in the park and people are looking at us, that she forgets about the concept of a leash and walks around a signpost...I follow to try to unwrap her and she follows me. Round and round and round. It's funny and embarrassing at the same time. I just smile because I know she is a smart dog who occasionally does a stupid thing. Hmmm, like us sometimes?

It was the summer of 1995 and I was trying to take an old radio amplifier out of my car. It was one of those 100-plus degree days with humidity that made one sweat profusely just being outside. I was in the trunk (because that's where the amplifier was located) and was trying to use a long flathead screwdriver to lift one of the tabs that held the amp in place. I was intent on getting it off and did not realize how hard I was trying to force it...and that I was doing it toward my face. The head of the screwdriver slipped off and hit me hard beneath the right eyebrow. It HURT - but the first words out of my mouth were "Thank you, Jesus." I knew how close it was. I was using so much force that I actually felt resistance when I immediately pulled it out because it had gone into the orbital bone. A millimeter or two lower and I would have been seriously messed up, or worse. The next words out of my mouth, as I was making my way inside to stop the bleeding, were words of anger towards myself for being so stupid. How could I have done something that dumb? Yet, God's mercy was there to cover it. The small scar still reminds me of His abundant mercy.

In high school I never seemed to recognize "hints" from girls who liked me. I made a point to be nice to everyone, girls and guys both. I guess I wasn't afraid to talk to girls who other guys got google-eyed over because to me I was just being friendly. Well, maybe I came across as being confident or something, because a couple of times the friends of girls who I considered to be "way out of my league" came up and had to tell me directly that they liked me. Go figure...me? There's a whole other post here, but I'll hit that another time. The point is that most of the time I just didn't recognize the feedback or the "hints" they were sending me.

Both of these issues are on my mind because of the job situation. My job has been incredibly busy lately and the sale that involves our product and the developers still has not gone through. I have had a chance to step back and evaluate things and am concerned about whether it is stupid to keep heading down the path I am on. Simply put, my heart is not in technology. It does not fulfill me in the slightest. I'm not really all that good at it either, I get by because I work hard. However, of the things I could do that bring home consistent pay, it probably pays the best. Some would say that it would be stupid to go into anything other that what pays the best. Others would say it is worth sacrificing several thousand a year in order to do something you find fulfilling. Maybe the "shaking" going on in the job arena is God's way of giving me a hint and, just like in high school, I'm just not recognizing it. However, as soon as I start thinking along those lines I remember that we are not to be led by circumstances, we are to be led by our hearts. I have never quit something just because it got difficult. In fact, I often stuck with something until I turned it around so that I would know the "leading" to move on was genuine and not simply an escape tactic. The bottom line for me is that as a husband and soon-to-be father, one of my main responsibilities is to provide as best as I know how. To me, for now, that means staying in technology. Will I be selfish or selfless? I am called, as a husband, to give myself as Christ gave Himself for the Church. I need to choose the selfless route. However, I do feel a release to explore the things that God has placed in my heart, but I know it will be a gradual thing. My wife and I are very different in this area. She hates any kind of change, regardless of how small, and I really don't mind even major changes (although I wouldn't say I am the kind of person who seeks them). It will have to be a baby steps, not giant leaps. I don't want to be stupid and haphazard but I don't want to fail to recognize God's leading either. Balance is the key.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Our dog Lady

2 3/4 yr. old Lab mix

Adopted her from a shelter at 6 months

Pic taken yesterday on the way to a nearby lake - had to take advantage of the gorgeous weather.

Much on my heart...more to come soon.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Few Good Men

I have a quick update and a request...

I found out I have a slipped disc in my low back. It is doing better, but I am still not 100%. All in all, however, the doctor said my back looks good. That is encouraging! No new job yet, but at least the present one is still hanging on.

I have a favor to ask those of you who regularly read my blog. When I originally put links to other blogs, it was pretty much even between male and female bloggers. I noticed that 3 or 4 of the males worked at churches and used their blogs mainly for announcements and so forth. That's great for church members, but not very beneficial to others. I took some off, but now my list is unbalanced in gender. As soon as I get around to updating my html, I have at least three more females to whom I will link (Hanni, Patti, Patchouli), so then it will be even more lopsided. I was wondering if each of you could recommend one or two males whose blogs you like and email me the links. I'm thinking email would be better so as not to offend anyone who you didn't pick. I'll check them out as time allows and possibly link to them. Then again, does anyone know what the stats of bloggers are? If the stats support the male/female percentage in my links, I would feel a little better. Thanks!

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