Reality Check

Luke chapter fifteen begins by telling us the parable of the Lost Sheep.  As chapter fifteen opens there is this simple statement: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.””  How many times I have read this and missed the real truth that make me think twice about my own heart.  There are two types of people here, the Sinners and the Pharisees.  The Sinners are coming to Jesus and the Pharisees are waiting for Jesus to come to them.  I guess the shocking reality is that the Pharisees should have known who Jesus was, after all, they had committed their lives to studying the scripture and knowing how to apply it.  But, in all that study, they missed out on the heart of God!  I believe that God’s passion is to connect with each of us in a personal and intimate way.  He wants to talk with you about you.  Not talk with you about those sinners over there.

Pointing the finger is the oldest trick in the book for humanity.  Adam pointed the finger at Eve as if to say “Look at her and how bad she is.” And Eve followed the lead of her husband “Look at that serpent he is evil.”  On some level, we think “If I can get the focus off me and onto someone else, God will look past all of my sin and junk.”  As if God, who has numbered the hairs on your head, would ignore the sin and junk in your life because of someone else.

Often times when we realize that we have been missing the heart of God, we make excuses.  God does not want excuses, He wants to spend time with you, talking about you.  Do not miss this, the God of the universe, who created everything, wants to spend time with you!  He will help you clean up all the sin and junk that is in your life.  He will clean it up if you will acknowledge that it is there.  We have a choice: we can either come to Jesus with all of our sin, or we can wait for Jesus to come to us as we point out everyone else’s sin and junk.  Who do you want to be?

Worship from the Heart

I was challenged the other day when a congregation member came up to me after service and said “Wow worship was great today!”  I pondered that statement for a moment and then realized he was talking about the music selection and how it sounded.  This got me thinking about a worship service and what makes if great or better yet what brings glory to God.  I know that above everything else God is interested in the heart of man.  Do we trust Him or not.

The question of whether we trust or do not  trust has never more present than when God calls to Abraham and commands him to sacrifice his only son.  You see, Abraham had been promised all kinds of things, like that his descendants would become a great nation.  I wonder if at any time on the journey to sacrifice Isaac, if Abraham had any second thoughts.  I can not imagine him not having thoughts of doubt raging through his head.  If it were me, I do not know if I could go through with it; but Abraham pressed through the fear, the doubt and built an alter and bound up Isaac and placed him on the alter and was ready to sacrifice him, when the Lord stepped in and provided another sacrifice.  Now this may seem extreme but I believe that God was wanting for Abraham to eliminate his doubt, so that he could fully trust God.  You see, sometimes God allows us to go through things so that we can learn something about ourselves that God already knew.  The only response to this is that we worship God!  Maybe, Worship is more about abandoning all trust in our abilities and falling unflinchingly backwards, off the top of the twenty five foot ladder, into the abilities of the sovereign God.  What if, Worship has more to do with the posture of our hearts and less to do with the music set or the vocal and musical abilities of the band?

Now this is not meant to give license to the lazy person who “does not have time.”  We should always strive to give our best to God.  Meaning that we should develop our vocal abilities, strengthen our musical skills so that we can give God our best. Yet, as a wise man once said “When you have done all you can do, you have done all you can do.  So don’t worry about what you can’t do because you’ve done all you can do!”  When we have practiced, prayed, fed our selves daily on the Word of life and worshiped the living God keeping in mind that our hearts are surrendered to Him, that allows a great worship service.  God wants our hearts to trust in Him and allow Him to provide!

Something is missing

I have been on several teams, some have been great and some not so great.  The teams that are great have this feeling of completeness.  I had always thought the greatness of the team had something to do with the people that were on the team.  If you got the right people in the right place, if the right people were on the team, then the team would be great.  I have spent lots of relational equity trying to get the right people on the team.  However, this morning as I was before the Lord, He started to show me things about these great teams.  I have been on these teams but I had never paid attention to these attributes before.  There are lots of components that make up a great team.   However, there was one attribute that stood out above the rest.  This one is counter cultural, yet it is the one thing that seems to make or break a great team.  It is summed up in two words: authentic encouragement.  This is counter cultural because of the overwhelming amount of sarcasm that has become the standard for humor.  I know this is a sore subject, we as Americans have picked up sarcasm as a pressure release valve on the tension of our lives.  Sarcasm has a dark side, it breeds insecurity and undermines credible relationships.  What we have picked up to try keep the peace has only drawn the battle lines evermore distinct.  I have looked through out the scriptures trying to remove this conviction from my heart, yet I can not support sarcasm as part of God’s plan; I can not find anywhere He uses sarcasm.  It simply is not in God’s character to be sarcastic!  I am sure we could stretch the truth found in the scripture to justify something that God is trying to eliminate.

Truth be told, when there is authentic encouragement there is no need for sarcasm.  I found that as I reflect on those great teams I have been on, sarcasm was simply no part of them. However, there was a true love which manifested itself in encouragement.  The apostle Paul knew all about this, so when he is inspired to write to Timothy a second time,  Paul (or maybe God) encourages him.  It says in 2 Timothy 1:2-7 (NASB)  To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace Mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.  I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience that way my forefathers did as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, longing to see you , even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy.  For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.  For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.  Paul simply tells Timothy the truth to encourage him, reminding him of who God has called him to be and where he came from.

As I was discussing this idea with a friend he asked me a question (that you might be asking yourself right now as you read this) “What if I don’t have anything encouraging to say?”  The answer to this is simple: get to know them and look for things that are great, things you can honestly encourage them about. Perspective is a powerful thing; If you focus on looking for faults you will find them no matter how “perfect” the person might be.  The opposite is equally true, if you look for the positive in people you are bound to find it, no matter how “imperfect” they are.

Things to think about when assessing your current team:  How have I been speaking to people on my team: sarcastically or encouragingly?  Do you want to be on a great team or are you happy with mediocrity?  What is it going to take to give up sarcasm and  really encourage people?

So, you want to lead?!

There is this old saying when referencing a team that is starting to form:  “There are too many cooks in the kitchen!”  What that means is there are too many people who are trying to control the team.  This is, I believe, because people generally believe their opinion is the right one to have!  This is true in every context including the church.  Everyone has an opinion and they think for some reason they heard from God and the others did not, unless of course they agree!  It never fails that when a position comes open people start to posture themselves so they can assume that position.  People will even go to the extreme of throwing people under the bus in order to make themselves look better.  The question needs to be asked, “Is this right, did Jesus have anything to say about this?”  The truth is that Jesus has a lot to say about it.  In fact, Jesus deals with His disciples with this very issue ofter.  There is one time when things seem to get a little out of hand and two of Jesus disciples who happen to be brothers get their mother involved.

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:20-28 (ESV)

Did you catch Jesus’ response?  He says that if you want to have a position of authority over anything in the Kingdom of God, you have to become the servant of all!  As a worship leader, I am constantly getting suggestions from the praise and worship team.  Things like: what new songs we should sing, how we should structure rehearsal and what the dress code should or should not be.  All of these are from people who have their opinions and in their eyes they are right.  However, they are not to trusted with leadership.  Jesus says that the one who is to be first, the one who is to have authority and leadership is the one who makes themselves a slave.  As a worship leader, I am not looking for the ones who “know it all” I am looking for the one who serves, the one who can be trusted with people’s hearts.  The worldly leader rules over people, but the true mark of a godly leader is people that get raised up to a place beyond the original leader’s position