Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me
This line is repeated throughout the song, and is a line I seem to be singing day and night. I sing it in my head and I think:
When I'm down...Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me
When I'm at my best...Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me
When I've experienced a disappointment...Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me
When I've seen my child succeed...Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me
When I've seen injustice...Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me
When I've experienced rejoicing...Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me
When I'm sitting in traffic...Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me
When I'm encouraging a friend...Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me
When I'm driving my children to their everyday activities in the normality of life...Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me
I believe this is a message God wanted us to hear and commit to memory. He gave it to us in the Psalms. As a matter of fact, in Psalm 136, the author of the Psalm repeats it 26 times: His love endures forever.
The God of the universe...His love endures forever.
The God who remembered us in our low estate...His love endures forever.
The God who spread out the earth upon the waters...His love endures forever.
The God who freed us from our enemies...His love endures forever.
One of our praise teams will introduce the song, One Thing Remains, on Sunday to our congregation. As they do, use it as a time to write your own psalm. Insert your circumstances with the reminder His love endures forever. Insert how God has revealed Himself to you with the follow-up of His love endures forever. Use it as a time to praise Him and give thanks that His love never fails, it never gives up, and it never runs out.
Psalm 103:11-12 (NIV1984)
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Monday, October 17, 2011
It's been an interesting journey. I've prayed to God for opportunities to share my faith journey. I've prayed for opportunities to listen to theirs. I've prayed for openings to share Christ. What I've discovered is that it takes time to build trust in a relationship. But, nevertheless, God has worked through these conversations. He's taught me a LOT about listening over the past few weeks. He's reminded me that I don't know it all. I know what matters--that Jesus Saves. But, I don't have "it" (walking "the Way") all figured out.
This morning, after much wrestling with God throughout the night about a variety of topics, He gave me one verse. It's a verse I've known practically my whole life. But it's one that in its simplicity is a hard thing to live out. In Mark 12:28-31, the teachers, the ones who KNEW the law, came to Jesus and asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is most important?" Jesus answered them, "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this, 'Love your neighbor as yourself. THERE IS NO COMMANDMENT GREATER THAN THESE."
Simple words to live by, and yet so profound. First, we are to love God. If we line up our lives according to our relationship with Him, all else will fall into place. Secondly, we are to love others as we love ourselves. THIS IS HARD! I can't tell you how many times I want to curse people for simple things like the way they drive or because we don't share a similar viewpoint on things. It's so easy to fall into the trap of making man our enemy. We only have one enemy, and we need to be reminded of that. Satan lurks around every corner waiting to trip us up or keep us from winning another soul to Christ.
I love these words of scripture in Mark because they help us prioritize. First, God. Then, man. I have to admit, as a worship leader, that's a difficult thing. We hear so much from people about styles of music or things they like or don't like. It's an easy thing to fall into the pitfall of pleasing man over God. And yet, there's nothing satisfying in pleasing man when it's not God honoring. Just look at the leadership of David and Saul. Saul spent his kingship trying to please man, and failed miserably. David was "a man after God's own heart." As a worship leader, I hope that is someday said of me. "I am a woman after God's own heart." So, this scripture teaches us about priorities.
Finally, the focal word for me is "love". The world has polluted this word. People equate "love" with "lust", "sex", "greed". They've cheapened it. But God, as usual, has such a much higher goal. We are to LOVE the Lord our God! That means living in a daily relationship with Him. I live next door to my neighbor, but I don't talk to her everyday. I care about her, but I'm not growing daily in my relationship with her. God desires us EVERY DAY...EVERY MOMENT. He calls us to be "living sacrifices", to "pray without ceasing," to be carriers of His message of love and grace. Part of being in that oh so special relationship with Him is loving others...yes...even the difficult ones. Even the ones who cut you off in traffic or steal your parking spot. Even the child who calls your kid a name, or the person who criticizes you without any thought or idea of the "big picture". We are called to LOVE. We are called to lives bearing witness to the love of Christ. We are called to LIVE LOVE!
A simple scripture. A challenging message. Please pray for me as I attempt to live this out. I'm praying for you as you do the same! It's not easy. It's messy. But, it's the highest calling:
Love God, love others.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Daryl B. is a “jack of all trades.” He does sound, video, editing, producing. He helps people with their computers, coaches his girls’ team, fixes cars and is a wonderful husband and father to his wife and girls. I remember several years ago calling Daryl and asking him to come fix my computer. My keyboard that entered music into my PC wasn’t working. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get my Finale program on my computer to recognize it. I’ll never forget Daryl walking into my office that day. The first thing he checked turned out to be the culprit.
IT WASN’T PLUGGED IN!
Somehow, the plug had slipped out of the wall. I just assumed it was still connected and never even thought of checking something so simple.
I tell this story because I think it often times parallels our Christian journeys. There are times when we get frustrated and work and work to find solutions, when the simple answer is, “we’re not plugged in” to the right source. We’ve lost our intimate connection with the Father. I think this is particularly challenging in American churches. Especially Baptist churches! We are so geared towards service that sometimes we get used to operating out of our own strength, which fizzles out. We have to constantly renew our spirits and our work by daily, unbroken time with God. “Pray without ceasing.” “…offer your bodies as living sacrifices…” “…be transformed…”
Secondly, we need accountability. As much as I had tried to figure out the problem with my computer, I was focused on the wrong thing. I was messing with the software when it was the hardware that was the problem. I needed Daryl’s eye to come in and see the problem and show it to me. We need people in our lives who can do that for us spiritually. We need people we can trust and confide in. We need people who can see with a clearer vision that we are capable of at the time, and who can help us correct our course.
Lately, I’ve gone through such a time spiritually. I’ve felt anxious and worried. I finally realized that I wasn’t plugged in to the right source. It wasn’t that I was being intentionally rebellious or committing awful acts. It was simply that I was relying on the wrong things to sustain me. I was relying on my own strength, my own intellect, my own schedule, etc. I was relying on ME. That’s quite a poor substitute for God’s unyielding power! As anxiety, insecurity and doubt crept into my life, I began asking lots of questions from people I trust. Through their loving accountability, God cleared my vision and helped me get plugged back into a vibrant, growing, intentional relationship with Him. It has been amazing how that slight course correction has turned the things in my life that were becoming work into joy!
So, I want to encourage you. As worship leaders, it’s easy to get focused on the tasks at hand. But to be effective, we must first and foremost focus on the Father!
Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path. Proverbs 3:5-6
Monday, August 15, 2011
As I sat at home last Friday night watching TV, I was thinking about how numb I felt. I was asking God why I was feeling so alone. I have a great marriage, incredible children, a job I love, family all around me. There's no clear reason why I should feel so detached. As I was thinking about these things, I heard my husband on the phone in the other room with a co-worker who had lost his job that day. Dennis was comforting him, praying for him and helping him make contacts for new employment. In that moment, I was so proud of the Christian example my husband was being. But, I also recognized that I was in a serious drought.
Finally, Sunday morning, between services, I just cried on my husband's shoulder. I confessed to him how I have been feeling in my spiritual walk. I was reminded in such a mighty way that when I am weak, God surrounds me with strong people. My husband reminded me that there have been many reasons why I've felt down--everything from life circumstances to loss of a loved one to the blazing heat we've experienced this summer. He's right. When there's a drought like we've had, and a financial crisis like our country is facing, that can deeply affect us, even though we may not realize it. But, he also reminded me that God loves me, and cares deeply what happens to me. Dennis reminded me that God is strong even when I am not, and occasionally, it's okay to ask Him to carry me through.
After that good cry, and that solid confession, something in me awakened. I felt encouraged, and knew that I was NOT alone (it's satan who wants us to feel alone). I went on through my day, and met encouraging word after encouraging word. New believers who shared scripture with me. Friends who shared faith songs with me. I even had a new believer come to me with a faith crisis that caused me to verbalize my deep faith and reclaim it!
I was reminded in a very tangible way how blessed I am to be a part of this body of believers. The CHURCH! I was also reminded that our naturally inclination when we feel down is to withdraw, but in fact, that's when we need Him (God) and it (the Church) the most.
Since then, I haven't been able to get this song out of my head. So, I hope its text will bring you hope and determination:
This is my prayer in the desert
And all that's within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
“My God is the God who provides.”
And this is my prayer in the fire,
In weakness or trial or pain.
“There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flames.”
And this is my prayer in the battle
When triumph is still on its way
“I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I'll stand.”
This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
“I know I'm filled to be emptied again
The seed I've received I will sow.”
And I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here
All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship.
Lyrics by Brooke Fraser
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
About ten minutes in, she said, "Mom, I'm scared." I thought, "Scared...what's there to be scared of?" Abby went on, "I don't understand what they're doing. Why are they kneeling? Why is the guy at the front saying something and then they're all answering him? What's that thing that they all said together?" It was foreign to her, so her response was fear--a perfectly natural response.
I think many of us have that same reaction when we experience new or unknown things. As a matter of fact, I once had a teacher who made herself learn something new every year to combat that fear. One year, she decided she was going to learn how to build Legos sets. Another year, she decided she was going to learn the ukelele. Another year, it was relearning how to play the violin backwards (right hand on the neck and left hand on the bow). She wanted to remind herself what it felt like to her students to learn something completely foreign.
I never much thought about fear in worship in that way. Of course, I've thought about the reverent "fear of God". But, not the fear that comes because of something new. I've worshiped in many different environments. I've worshiped in customs in Mexico. I've worshiped at the top of a mountain. I've worshiped in a foreign culture with a language I didn't understand. I've worshiped in a Catholic Mass. This Sunday, I'll be worshiping with a group of our youth at the opening pavilion of the Chicago Zoo!
I guess I'm writing this because I saw through my daughter with fresh eyes. I saw how the unknown can sometimes make us afraid--and that it's okay--a perfectly natural reaction. But, as I talked her through it, she became more comfortable, and I was reminded that I need to continue to broaden her worship vision.
The other thing I was reminded of is that God doesn't want us to be afraid. If anything, I believe He wants us to continue to grow our vision and our perspective. He wants us to embrace other cultures and worship experiences. He wants us to value genuine worship the way He does--not just see it as the "have it your way", consumerism worship that we sometimes have a tendency to want. Ultimately, He just wants us--our hearts, our minds, our bodies. He asks us to live worship (Romans 12:1-2). That's really a pretty incredible thought! We can live everyday, unceasingly in worship of Him. One day, that will be a literal thing for all believers around the Throne!
So, embrace Him. Embrace the new things He has to teach us. And above all, don't be afraid. God may show you something beautiful in something new. He did me, just this week. He showed me a new song (and funny enough, it addresses fear) -- Forever Reign. The text is below.
You are good, You are good
When there's nothing good in me.
You are love, You are love
On display for all to see.
You are light, You are light
When the darkness closes in.
You are hope, You are hope
You have covered all my sin.
You are peace, You are peace
When my fear is crippling.
You are true, You are true
Even in my wandering.
You are joy, You are joy
You're the reason that I sing.
You are life, You are life,
In You death has lost it's sting.
Oh, I'm running to your arms,
I'm running to arms.
The riches of your love
Will always be enough.
Nothing compares to Your embrace.
Light of the world forever reign.
You are more, You are more
Than my words will ever say.
You are Lord, You are Lord
All creation will proclaim.
You are here, You are here
In your presence I'm made whole.
You are God, You are God
Of all else I'm letting go.
My heart will sing no other name -- JESUS!
songwriters: ingram, jason; morgan, ruben
© shout publishing;sony/atv sounds d/b/a timber pub co;windsor hill music
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
"The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”
I know my God is mighty to save. I never tire of hearing that or saying that. My GOD is MIGHTY TO SAVE! When I hear of the death of a terrorist, MY GOD IS MIGHTY TO SAVE. When I think of how someone so evil could walk into a church and murder my friend, I remember MY GOD IS MIGHTY TO SAVE! When I see people suffering through divorce or depression, I remember MY GOD IS MIGHTY TO SAVE! I never tire of hearing or saying that. I'm not talking about the type of salvation where He'll rescue you from a life threatening situation. He doesn't promise that. I'm talking about ETERNAL salvation. He saves through the blood of the Lamb--through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. No matter our sins, no matter our past, no matter our disappointments, if we confess with our mouths that "Jesus is Lord" and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we WILL be SAVED. OUR GOD IS MIGHTY TO SAVE.
Even though I could stop at 3:17a, my favorite part is yet to come. It comes in those three actions:
"He TAKES DELIGHT"
"He will QUIET you"
"He REJOICES over you"
Our God is not a passive God. He is a God of action. He doesn't merely stand by and watch the world spiral out of control. He's a God of order. He's a God with a plan. He's a God who builds relationships with each one of us individually. This verse is very personal. Our God is a very personal God. The God of the Universe takes delight in me. He will quiet ME with His love. He will rejoice over ME with singing.
This Sunday, our Grad ensemble will sing a song based on Zephaniah 3:17. It's a Matt Maher song called, "Sing Over Your Children." Here's what the writer has to say about it:
"I knew subconsciously of Zephaniah 3:17 - that God sings joyfully over His people (aka, the shout of the King) - and that song, that voice can soften the hardest of hearts. Our relationship with God is initiated by Him and His love - freely given as gift; despite my constant temptation with the things of earth, God's love doesn't waver." (Matt Maher, www.mattmahermusic.com)
The chorus simply says this,
Out of the depths you cry,
Come and be satisfied.
Father, You sing, Father You sing over Your children.
Let us see through Your eyes
We are Your great delight
Father, You sing, Father You sing over Your children.
No matter what circumstances you may face this week, remember that God is actively a part of your life. You are His delight. He hears your cries and He is mighty to save. He responds by taking delight in you, quieting you with His love and rejoicing over you with singing.
Monday, May 2, 2011
This week, we read the following passage:
"Satan knows that the nature of humankind is to act out of how we feel rather than what we know. One of our most important defenses against satanic influence will be learning how to behave out of what we know is TRUTH rather than what we feel." (p.22)
We set the goal to make our decisions this week based on the TRUTH we know, rather than behaving out of how we feel. Setting that goal was like begging satan to come and attack.
Moore goes on to say, "Satan's desire is to modify human behavior to accomplish his unholy purposes. 2Timothy 2:26 tells us that Satan's objective in taking people captive is to get them to do his will. If we have received Christ as our Savior, Satan is forced to work from the outside rather than the inside. Thus, he manipulates outside influences to affect the inside decision-makers of the heart and mind."
So, how do we combat that? We must be transformed from the inside out!
Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) says, "Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life."
Philippians 4:6-7 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
We have to literally stand guard over our hearts. We have to constantly be pouring into them TRUTH so our hearts and minds walk in TRUTH and don't give in to deceit. It's an active thing.
So, at the end of our discussion this week, the girls asked me one simple word, "How?"
We pray...without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) We meditate on the Word...daily. (Psalm 119:148) We edify one another and hold each other accountable. (Hebrews 3:13) We press on and never give up. (Philippians 3:14) We write on our hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3) and speak aloud songs, hymns and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:19). We give thanks (Psalm 100).
We ACT OUT Romans 12:1-2 (NIV1984):
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
No, it's not easy. But the good news is, we're not alone. We are a body of believers on this journey together. We have the ONE, TRUE God as our shield and His WORD as our guide.
Your will above all else, my purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise
Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
My heart, my soul, Lord I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out.