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What Do You Worship?

Lately my heart has been skipping beats and so I decided it was time for this Momma Goose to head into the doctor’s office to talk with him. I have a BMI of 48 which wasn’t a shocker to me. I have a scale so I do know I need to lose more weight besides the 30 lbs I dropped last year on my own. Things have stalled and I have been stuck at 235 lbs. Add a heart condition into the mix that is made worse by my weight and you can see the urgency was justified on my doctor’s part for me to lose a healthy amount.  With not a clue what I will look like at 135 lbs I am a little nervous, but I am more concerned with holding off heart surgery. There is the big back story and you know I have to make everything into a bigger picture question and so I am curious that if ‘we are what we eat’…. are we also what we worship?

If you were to ask Christians what worship is you would get different versions of the same answer: To praise God for all He is. That isn’t wrong by any means, but if we look at worship in a simple light it is the act of proclaiming that God is higher than ourselves. Anything that we consider important enough to take up our time can be something we worship but they are called idols. Idols can be anything from the golden calf in Exodus 32 to simply what keeps our focus from God.

Have we ever been so distracted by a comment before a service that we lose sight of the sermon being preached? Have we been caught off guard by a change being made to the way it has always been that we dwell on tradition over God? Have we been so worried about our appearance that we get anxious instead of finding peace with God? Do we hold grudges to the point that our drive home from church is filled with hurt feelings and rage over a person yet we cannot recall the sermon? Was worshipping God impossible because something was not perfect with the worship set? Do we not respect those put in a position of authority over us because our preferences blind us to the good that God is doing through them? Does the pressure of what waits when we walk out the door after service overwhelm us to the point that we keep ourselves from being consumed by God? Are we so ready to be with our family for events that we are impatient with the length of service?

Gossiping, Tradition, Anxiety, Unforgiveness, Pride, Preference, Family, and Fear are only a few names of idols. ANYTHING that we allow to distract our focus from God is an idol that needs to be destroyed in our hearts. 

Exodus 20:1-3 And God spoke these words saying, I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.

 It doesn’t get any clearer than that. Then how do we get so easily distracted in church? Simply put we let our pride rule over us, and pride is a tool of the devil to divide us. Satan knows we are weaker when we are isolated but we are not dumb enough to be willingly led astray by a dark shadowy figure. However, if he whispers into our ears about things that are against our pride then he just has to light the match and watch us explode.  The most important thing to remember if we fall into this snare is that we also serve a just and loving God. He will not tolerate being second in our lives but he will honor true repentance.

True repentance isn’t telling ourselves that we just shouldn’t do that anymore and leaving it at that either. It’s knowing that we have sinned and are the cause of being separated from God and the promise of heaven. That isn’t something to take lightly. Sin isn’t categorized on a scale from one to ten, so all sin is enough to keep us from glory. One angry outburst or smug comment is all that stands between us and hell. Our decision to let any of the idols mentioned above rule over us instead of seeking God over our own desires is what keeps us from experiencing God.  Repentance is a heartfelt cry of knowing you have done horribly wrong. It is seeking God’s forgiveness over all other things, and then making our selves aware of that snare so we never fall into it again. Repentance takes discipline and time but it is very worth it to be used to our fullest potential in our servitude.

With spring having arrived the feeling of change is heavy in the air, so I encourage you to do a little soul searching. We are cleaning spiritual house this month. Are you being blessed by the presence of God when you gather in church or are you standing in your own way with your foot caught in a snare of idols? I want you to start by asking yourself:

What do I worship?

If the answer is something that keeps your focus off God then I would advise you to repent and seek counsel. Find someone who will keep you accountable and partner with them. Until next time, God Bless!

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The Frozen State

It is a new year and like most of us out there I am trying to figure out what I can change about myself for the better. My heart is quick to remind me that my weight loss goals still need to be met, and those hundred pounds aren’t going to go anywhere if I don’t change my exercise habits. I have the goal and a healthy deadline of 18 months. I know what I need to do to get moving and I have all the tools I need, but I am stuck in a frozen state. That is the moment right before I take a big step towards something positive but I can’t get past my fear and doubt to start. That moment when fear drowns out the encouraging voice of God can be devastating.

This is a dangerous place to be for Christians because the enemy stalks us here robbing us of all that God has to offer. The voice inside our heads that tells us we can’t live the life God calls us to live is the devil. That sly creature of destruction is the master of doubt and sometimes he can be hard to drown out. When we feel unworthy of God’s love it is a lie planted there and it blooms because we water it inside our minds. When Israel got to the promised land after crossing the red sea they sent in spies to check it out, and the spies gave such a negative report that the Israelites were afraid to claim what was already theirs. All except for two spies named Caleb and Joshua. They spoke out against those who were afraid and doubted God.

Numbers 14:6-10 ESV ‘And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord, And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel. And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” 14:22-24 none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.’

The Israelites bought into their own doubts that God couldn’t protect them from their enemies and they became discouraged to the point that they sinned against God. They thought that God led them all that way just to let them down, and during the meeting the negative report given by the spies spread like wild fire to the other Israelites. These were a people who had seen God perform miracle after miracle and still gave into their own self doubt.

They had their own idea of what was possible and couldn’t believe that God was greater than their expectations. They couldn’t see God as a limitless and amazing shepherd that would lead them every step of the way. It is so important that we watch how we speak to others because we can encourage like Caleb, or we can tear each other down with our own doubts. If we see someone who is willing to serve in our churches how do we respond? We should say, ‘yes absolutely! Let me disciple you and help you get a great start.’ Do we doubt their abilities because we know their past, or do we discriminate because of their standing with others? Do we see someone doing good for God, but gossip about them behind their backs because they did something different than how we would of?  If our answer is yes to the last two questions then we need to pause and take a look at our own hearts. We need to pray that God take away our doubt so we can extend encouraging faith. If we are the one handing out self justified ‘reality checks’, we need to make sure that we aren’t the ones acting out of line with God. Living in unjustified suspicion of people’s motives only leads to us doing the devil’s work for him. Think about the moment that the spies began to share their fears with the large group. All the devil had to do was plant that seed of fear and doubt. From there it grew into a vine that choked out the gift of the promised land to those who bought into the lie that God would forsake them.

It may seem harsh the way that God dealt with those who believed the spies, but we are no good as Christians if we give into doubt. When we live in fear we are living for the enemy and not standing firm in our faith. Would we want to love someone who constantly doubted our ability to protect and lead? I would say not. In the end God did keep his word to the nation of Israel. After Moses and all the other men who saw the signs in Egypt had died, Joshua (who was the other spy with Caleb) was tasked with taking the promised land. He not only led the people in, but was victorious and lived to see the land divided between the twelve tribes. Remember that this leader was almost stoned to death by the fathers of the children he led. Instead God rewarded his faith tenfold. He lived to see God keep his promise to Israel.

‘And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.’ Joshua 21:44-45 ESV

So what is it that holds us back in our faith? Do we limit God to fit inside of our own faith instead of growing our faith to match him? I have been guilty of saying, ‘but God you don’t understand’. In all reality it is I who don’t understand God. We are often guilty of living inside our comfort zones, and we want to fit God in that zone with us. We serve a limitless and all powerful God who has compassion enough to grant us free will. He doesn’t want a following of mindless slaves, but rather he calls out through forgiveness and mercy to find disciples who choose to follow him. The real question is, how well are we doing this following? Do we follow when it is easy or when we need to hold up our standing with others? Do we follow and cling to God when things are tough and our dreams are dashed? In those moments when our dream is broken we need pause to grieve and then ask God where he would have us go from there. Grief serve the purpose of healing. We are not meant to live in our grief anymore than we are supposed to live in doubt of each other.

God is calling us to step out of the shadows even if we think it is in a small way. I felt God leading me to blog and it has enabled me to reach people on the other side of the globe. God may be calling us to extend a hand of encouragement to someone. We live in such a broken world that a simple act of building someone up may be the reason they choose to live one more day over suicide. We may never see the impact of our actions, but we must have faith that God will use what he is asking us to do for his good. We just have to recognize fear and doubt as the tools of the enemy and choose faith over all.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 ESV For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

I am going to get very real here with you and walk through the steps of taking my fear captive about losing weight. Maybe you can apply these steps to something that has you frozen in your faith too:

  1. What is the thought? I don’t want to work out and get smaller
  2. What is the fear? I am afraid to be skinny because I am afraid to be pretty.
  3. Why is this your fear? I am afraid to be attractive because I was assaulted and was told it was because I was pretty. I don’t want to put that thought into anyone else’s mind because I may be an easy target if I am smaller.
  4. What does your fear say to God? (this one is a really hard question, so don’t get discouraged if you need a minute here) My fear of being attractive, or smaller says that I doubt God’s ability to protect me. I am saying no to a longer and healthier life spent serving God and leading my kids, in exchange for a false security that my weight keeps me safe from another assault. I am believing a lie over the truth that God loves me and doesn’t want to see harm come to me.
  5. What is truth here?   If I lost the weight I would be healthier and possibly live a longer life. If I were assaulted again, God is still sovereign and He knows His plan for me. Any harm that comes to me is meant to shape me into a stronger Christian. Trading my health for a comfort Zone is not how God wants me to live.
  6. Can you find that truth in Scripture? Psalms 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. Matthew 10:26-31 So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark I say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your father. But even the hairs on your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
  7. What do you think needs to change about your thought? I need to strive to live healthy and trust God to protect me. I need to be a good steward of the blessing he has for me, by taking care of my body.

Remember that we are in charge of how fear and doubt affect our walk with God. We shouldn’t give into the enemy when he brings these snares against us, but we should live with the wisdom that God has promised good to us. We should overcome our enemy by living in truth. As always, God Bless!

The Plate Juggler

If you have been following this blog long then you realize that being a wife and mother of four is what I have been assigned to in my life. I love my husband and each one of my Duckies dearly, so I want to give them everything they need. That means that like most moms I take on several roles in the house and on the farm, and sometimes it feels like I have a million things to keep track of. Recently one of us in the house has been given a new and pretty hard trial to face that effects all of us in a way, but to respect privacy I won’t go any farther into the details. I was having a conversation with God yesterday after a particularly hard day about holding it all together during hard times, and I got the image of being a plate juggler. I am going to share with you how this image played out in the hopes that its reminder gives you peace if you are going through a trial.
I am a plate juggler in our big top circus, and a pretty skilled one at that. To give you an idea of the different plates I have to keep in the air at one time I am going to list them. People may have different ones, but I am sure that everyone has plates. I have the following:

1. Christianity plate
2. Husband plate
3. Ducky 1 plate
4. Ducky 2 plate
5. Ducky 3 plate
6. Ducky 4 plate
7. Church duties plate
8. Blogging plate
9. Teaching plate
10. Biblical counsel plate
11. Horses plate
12. Dog plate
13. Chicken coop plate
14. Grocery plate
15. Cooking plate
16. Cleaning plate
17. Laundry plate
18. Fencing plate
19. Barn siding Plate
20. Kids’ school plate
21. Girl scout plate
22. Boy scout plate
23. Hunting plate
24. Exercise plate
25. Eating right plate
26. Me time plate
27. Trials plate

So there are 27 beautifully crafted plates all being juggled at one time, and each one getting only a small amount of attention in the short time it is in my hand. These plates are very fragile but have wonderful paintings on each one depicting what the plate represents. 27 plates is no ordinary feat even for skilled jugglers. The last plate on the list is the trial plate, and while I know that this plate is coming sometimes I forget to watch for it. If it gets tossed in at the wrong time it can chip and crack the other plates because I have to focus my attention to catching it and not dropping the other plates. Now the question is what happens when I notice a crack in my plates that needs mending? I can’t just stop juggling or they all come crashing down.

Enter the Expectations plate. This one is either tossed in by me or by others, but it can do a bit of damage while I juggle. This plate shines with what I wanted to have. For example, I wanted to have some of these plates done so I can put them down and lighten my load, but I am behind. Not just behind but waaaaaaaay behind on my farm projects that require more than two hands. This plate reminds me constantly of my tight schedule and what I still have left to do. It is best friends with the Suggestions plate.
The Suggestions plate is beautifully written in its text, but it is so full of writing that I can’t read through it as it leaves my hands and comes back around. I find it impossible to sort through all the sentences etched across its face, as it is mostly jumbled up phrases and wishes that aren’t directly tied to anything. There is even scripture on it, but it isn’t in the right context so it is confusing. This plate can be tossed in by well meaning people, but often it is ill timed when it enters into the mix. There are several ways to go about getting the jobs done of some of my plates, but wading through all the suggestions keeps me planning and never doing. The expectations plate and the suggestions plate work together to introduce a very stealthy friend… the Negativity plate.
This Negativity plate whispers at me to remind me that I don’t measure up to the way someone else would do things. It hisses that since I didn’t listen to that one person’s suggestion that they are mad at me, and that scripture is sacred no matter the context being right or wrong. It lashes out at me before I can question the lies with, “why haven’t you done this yet? That plate has a crack in it. Are you every going to fix that crack? Don’t you know it is just going to get bigger if you don’t fix it? Are you even smart enough to use the right glue? You will have to drop some plates to fix it, but that plate is more important than your family plates. You have an audience now, so don’t let them see you drop that plate. You know what, just drop that Church plate and no one will need to know. It can be our little secret because your family doesn’t need that plate as much as they need the other plates.”
Can I recognize that voice that is interrogating me? That voice that casts doubt on my act is none other than the devil. The last three plates that were tossed at me were orchestrated by him. All the distractions from those last three plates are meant to keep me juggling forever. Why? Simply put he isn’t after the chicken coop plate, but he knows I am going to get tired of juggling. If I give out from exhaustion I will drop the plates he is really after: my Christianity, Husband and Ducky plates. He hates God and me being a follower of Christ so much that as soon as these plates hit the ground he will swoop in to scatter the shards as far as he can.
There is a second part to this act. Across the ring is a dining room hutch that has been amazingly hand crafted by the master carpenter himself. The hutch is big enough for all my plates to find a resting spot on it, and it has a work bench to mend my cracked plates that have been clinking together. This carpenter is holding out a huge plate in front of him that is to be a landing pad called a Burden plate, and he is waiting for me to throw my plates to him. It may seem impossible, but I know the Burden plate will not break any of my plates that I hold dear. It will however have devastating effects on the devils plates and none of them will survive the impact.
The Carpenter is waiting and asking me to trust him with the plates I have. It isn’t easy for me to let go of control but my arms are burning and I am worn out. That pesky Negativity plate is screaming as loud as it can, “YOU CAN JUGGLE THEM BETTER! Don’t be a quitter! We can do this forever, wouldn’t that be so nice? Aren’t you comfortable here with your control? YOU KNOW YOUR PLATES WILL BREAK! It isn’t possible to throw a plate at another plate and it not shatter! Use your head! DON”T YOU KNOW ANYTHING?!”
There is a truth that drowns out that evil plate. This carpenter named Jesus already knows what it is like to have several plates. He knows what suffering is like, and he knows there is a better way than to juggle until I die. I just have to trust him and believe that my plates mean as much to him as anyone else. No matter what lies the devil’s plates yell I know I can trust him. So in the final moments of my act as juggler I throw them all in Jesus’ direction. I watch in anticipation as they leave my hands and head to his Burden plate.
The Burden plate is large enough that all of my plates land softly on it, but the devil’s plates fall through and shatter on the ground. The screaming has stopped now and all is quiet and at peace. Jesus places my plates gently on the wooden shelves and gets to the ones that are cracked and worn. He examines each of them carefully before opening up a repair kit. I ask him what kind of glue he will use and he says, “None. You will have to trust me.”
He turns his attention back to the work bench as he gently mends my plates with care. A man who took on the worlds sins is here fixing my problems with the best care as if they were his own. I watch quietly until he turns back around and motions for me to come over. My heart is in my throat as I come over to see his work. To my surprise, he didn’t use glue but melted down gold to fill the cracks so the plates are more beautiful than when they were in my hands. Each one of them is now a work of art shimmering in the big top lights. Cheers and rejoicing erupt from all around us. I turn to see the audience on their feet and when I turn back around Jesus is walking away. I catch up to him and ask, “How can I repay you for that? I couldn’t have fixed them like this, they are beautiful now.”
His answer was scripture found in Matthew 11:28-30 ESV
‘Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentile and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
I will still have a yoke to carry but I won’t carry it alone. My plates didn’t disappear but I can take them down to polish them one by one in faith that they will get done in God’s timing. I can use His guidance to drown out the distractions and do what is right. I can and will find rest in moments when things are tested because Jesus promised life everlasting and rest.
So now I ask you dear reader what will you do? Will you juggle forever believing you know best, or will you cast your cares on Jesus and trust in him through all things?

Heart Cry of a Hypocrite

Matthew 7:5 ESV You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

If you know me then you know where I will be on Sunday morning. You know I am overextended trying to be Jesus to all in the sanctuary, but setting my cross down on the way out the door. My actions on Monday speak louder than the bible verse that is written on my tee shirt, and I only practice what is preached at me when I am in the comfort zone of my pew.

I act like I am better than you because of my location on the weekends, but the truth is I am terrified of my own brokenness. I have become jaded to the design of sanctification being the process of learning from my failure. Even though I know to give my mistakes up to God, it goes against all I have been taught by this world. How much more comforting would it be if I could get myself into heaven because trust is just hard for me? Trust is seen as weakness and how dare I have a crack in my own pedestal while I tear yours down. I should be more focused on allowing myself to be torn apart by God so I can be brought back up to a place of servitude. Instead of admitting my pride for the sake of humility I pound my chest proclaiming my own deeds like a Pharisee in new robes.

You and I both want to be good people, but I chose a different way than following man so I say. I fear my example of self over serving has led many astray. Somewhere along that path I forgot that when I lean on myself and not Jesus I will stumble and bring dishonor to God. I never ‘got this’ but I have a savior who has had this since the fall of man.

I am easy to be appalled by someone teaching false doctrine, and holding it over them instead of correcting them gently. I let people speak for me instead of recognizing the power of my God given voice preaching the gospel. I forgot that God gave power to my testimony. I forgot to see people with compassion, love and forgiveness before they even asked. Have I really forgotten how hopeless and terrible the world can be without Jesus that I didn’t think about how another may respond differently than I to the news that they are truly loved?

I should never have seen anyone as my enemy, but I should have loved them as my brother. I should be more focused on how Jesus can bring our trials into tribulations when we accept Him as our Savior instead of how I felt about anyone’s sins. Would I have dared to cast the first stone before him on that day? Am I so consumed by my own selfishness that I am blinded to the fact that he sees the rocks I throw now? If I take the place as judge then I fall as far as my unforgiveness will take me.

Today is the day I say NO MORE! I may be forgiven, but I have lost my way in the fog of my own pride. This I cannot allow to continue! Kneeling at the foot of the cross I will take my stand. Embracing the bloodied, rough and marred moment that our Jesus became the only way to get to heaven because I wouldn’t have made it under the law! The Resurrection renewing my hope in a world darkened by the fall of man! May the Gospel be my reminder that life was never meant to be a list of the valleys we trudge thru, but a celebration of the heights God has brought us.

Life, no matter how tragic, is a proclamation of who we can become when we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as truth. His resurrection laid the foundation of how my own soul can be transformed to match His teachings.  At this altar I choose to take being a disciple as the vow it was meant to be instead of the glossed over title it has become. Until I draw my last breath I will choose to see the world through the eyes of the one who saw my mess and gave me forgiveness. Let me repent of my fear to be seen as broken made whole by mercy. Today I lay down my comfort zone as I pick my cross back up. May my life reflect Jesus, and may my life be set ablaze to be of servitude to another’s soul!

What Christian Hip-Hop Has Taught Me About Congregational Worship

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Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

1 Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! 2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! – Psalm 96:1-3 (ESV)

The passage above is the missions statement of the worship pastor. We are to lead and encourage our people in congregational singing and as we sing with thanksgiving and praise we are to “bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” The lyrics we sing carry a message about God. They teach our people about who God is and what He has done. Therefore, what we sing matters. The songs we choose to sing should point us to a holy, infinite and majestic God who is worthy of our praise.

As a worship pastor, I am constantly looking and listening for songs (old and new) that are singable, theologically rich, and that will deepen my congregation’s understanding and relationship with God. These songs will help me accomplish this missions statement in the best way possible. I am also constantly looking for new inspiration that will help me to accomplish this missions statement. Recently, I have found great inspiration from Christian Hip-Hop.

If you want to hear theologically rich lyrics (theology is the study and teaching of God. The more rich the lyrics, the more deep the teaching), sound exegesis (or interpretation) of biblical passages, deep thoughts that will make you ponder the excellencies of our God, even the direct quotation of Scripture itself, listen to Christian Hip-Hop. To use the language from our passage, our missions statement: If you want to hear people bless his name, tell of salvation from day to day, declare his glory among the nations and his marvelous works among the people, listen to Christian Hip-Hop. If you need inspiration or need to be encouraged through music, listen to Christian Hip-Hop.

Particularly, I have found great inspiration and encouragement through Christian Hip-Hop artist, Shai Linne. Of the Christian Hip-Hop scene, Shai is probably the least known but one of the most theologically sound and doctrinally rich. Listening to even just one of Shai’s songs is like listening to a pastor’s full-length, Sunday morning sermon. The amount of Scripture and theological richness and depth packed into his lyrics would put most pastors and song writers to shame.

Listening to Shai’s songs, pushes me to find songs that are theologically rich. His use of Scripture in and around his songs pushes me to quote more Scripture within the worship set. Whether it’s explaining with Scripture why we are singing this song, or proclaiming Scripture over the congregation during an instrumental break, or closing out with a responsive reading from Scripture, I want to use the power of God’s Word to point us to Him. I want to take a cue from my brother in Christ and sing songs that are packed with Scripture and theological richness. Below is one of Shai’s latest songs, “Immutable,” which teaches us about the unchanging nature of our God.

To be clear, this is not Shai’s own doing. This is the power of God working through Shai’s ministry to encourage and push me in my own ministry. Even though Christian Hip-Hop is not a part of the culture of my church, even though we do not sing Christian Hip-Hop songs, God is using Shai’s ministry to encourage, broaden, and deepen my own ministry. Inspiration and encouragement will come in many forms, with God being the Chief Orchestrator of all of it.  God is inspiring me to fulfill the missions statement above with Christian Hip-Hop.

So, to review, what have I learned from Christian Hip-Hop…

  • Incorporate Scripture – Reading scripture before, during, or after songs is a great way to point the affection of our hearts to Christ and encourage our people. After all, what better way to increase the “punch” and depth of our services than with God’s own Words.
  • Inspiration and encouragement come in many different forms – We, as worship pastors, should be pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones. Listen to music styles you may never do in your church or that you may not even like. God uses all things for the good of His own purposes (Romans 8:28) so He can use different music styles to inspire and encourage you.
  • What We Sing Matters – What Shai raps about matters. He chooses his words carefully. As said above, listening to just one of Shai’s songs is like listening to a pastor’s full-length, Sunday morning sermon. In the same way, I want to find the songs that are rich in theological and doctrinal content and teach those to our congregation. If we sing theologically weak songs, guess what? Our congregation will be weak theologically. If we sing theologically and doctrinally rich songs, guess what? Our congregation will grow. As they grow in their understanding and relationship with the Lord, they will grow theologically and doctrinally rich.

My prayer for worship pastors is that we would not be concerned with the amount of people in our sanctuaries on Sunday mornings, that we wound not be concerned with doing the latest songs, that we would not be concerned with lights, fog machines, sound, or entertainment. My prayer is that we would sing songs that are theologically and doctrinally sound. That we, as worship pastors, would seek to draw our people closer to God with the direct quotation of Scripture within our worship sets.  And that we would be spending time in the Word and in prayer, growing close to God ourselves, that we might minister to our people and to our family out of the overflow of our relationship with God.

All Glory Be to Christ.

Jeff

Jeffrey Johnson is the worship pastor at Franklin Crossroads Baptist Church located in Cecilia, KY.

The Sin of Perfectionism

There is a problem in our churches that needs to be brought to light. It isn’t a new issue by any means, but it is getting worse with every new app designed to present us as picture perfect. We use filter after filter to go about documenting our day because no one should know that our kids get dirty. We crop photos to hide the mess of toys to the left of our toddler. (Even I am guilty of that one). Do you have blemishes on your face? That’s okay there’s about a hundred make up apps to hide behind. What happens when we get so accustomed to filters and covering up our dirty spots that we become numb to our sins? How many times have we stood up during an invitation and thought, ‘Well yeah I sinned, but who needs to know about it? No point in losing face by going down front.’
1 Samuel 16:4-7 ESV ‘Samuel did what the Lord commanded and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling and said, “Do you come peaceably?” And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice”. And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they came he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the lord looks on the heart.’
In that passage God sent Samuel to anoint the next king of his people. We find out later that he was sent for David, and that David was not the most impressive looking person when stacked up to the others. However, God didn’t care about his looks as much as his heart. God knows when we sin, and even in the vastness of the technology we have, there is no new smart phone that can wash it away. Jesus is the only way. Asking forgiveness for sins we commit AFTER salvation is key! We can omit our deepest sins from our favorite social media sites, but God knows all the thoughts we have and the condition of our heart.
Perfectionism is also toxic to the church and hinders our spiritual growth. If we get caught up in every little thing someone does wrong instead of showing compassion and forgiveness to each other then we are in for a wakeup call on judgment day. When be become hyper critical of others we rob ourselves. How can we see the blessing of another person if we refuse to look past their flaws? We are servants and not judges. The fact is that we are to be humble and humbleness demands acknowledging our flaws so we can work on being better Christians. Not finding fault with one another, not holding a person’s mistakes over their head for years, and not coming down on someone because we are better than them at something. God gives us all strengths and weaknesses, and where we may succeed in one area someone else succeeds in another. This blending of talents is what balances out the congregation and keeps us relatable. Where I may be good at hanging fencing and horrible at hosting a party, another may not be knowledgeable in fencing and a wonderful host.
We want to wear our accomplishments as a merit badge and a standard, but we refuse to see where we lack. As a result, people who come into our churches and are already down on themselves are greeted with haughty pre-judgments and impossible standards. The most useless Christian is one that is un-relatable and can’t make a connection with people to witness about Christ. If Church is just a fashion show on Sunday then we have missed the point and should readdress where we stand with God.
Matthew Chapter 7 starts with a warning on passing judgments against others: “Judge not lest you be judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “let me take the speck out of your eye, when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Sometimes we take this way out of context. It does say at the end that we must take the log out of our own eye, and then we can see clearly to take the speck put of our brother’s eye. It doesn’t mean take care of our sins so that we can go list off someone else’s. The meaning I take away from this is simply to take care of my sins through repentance, learn to be a better servant of the Lord and how to witness, tell them of the Gospel, and then when they come to repentance GOD can help deal with their sin.
If my brother is already a Christian and sinning there are guidelines in Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church, let him be to you as a gentile and a tax collector.”
. The above verses state to tell him his fault because he has to know where he went wrong. It does not say to bludgeon him over the head with his fault. We have several examples of how Jesus reached out to the gentile and dined with tax collectors, and he dealt with them with compassion as he taught them. Jesus was the ultimate example of perfection in human form and yet he loved all people enough to reach out to them through their imperfections. He reached out to the lepers, the exiled, and the afflicted. To hang on to perfectionism is to try to replace Jesus with ourselves, and replace God’s judgment with our own. Both of these are sins and both of them can damn us. Coming from a compassionate and humble heart is the only way to please God. Dealing with people in a loving and understanding manner is the best way to reach out to the lost. So let’s examine our own hearts this week and make sure that we are living up to God’s standards instead of our own. Let’s strive to be useful and not a hindrance.

Resting in Action: being still is stewardship

I like to think of myself as an independent, go getting, overly productive person. I am on my feet the majority of the day, and with our move from the city to a farm there is even more to do outside. I have no shortage of tasks to keep me stewarding over all the blessings we have received. The one task I am not great at is resting. I want to charge headlong into my to do lists at full steam until it is done, but sometimes I make things a little harder than they should be.

Recently I brought home a new little dog, but he met my big dog in my lap in our car. It didn’t go so well because the little dog was scared of my big dog. Both held their ground and got into a snapping match that resulted in a deep cut and several bruises around my knee. No one was biting, neither dog was hurt, they are now inseparable buddies, but the claws of an 80 lb dog are do joke. 

I decided to soldier through worship and church the next morning, went to a friends birthday party, and would have charged further into our Sunday functions if not for a sudden change in my leg. It started swelling down into the lower leg, got immensely more painful and we headed to the nearest Emergency Room. After a quick evaluation with a doctor I was given penicillin, a tetanus shot, and the experience of scrubbing out an infected cut. Then we were given the instructions to ice it, take pain medication and above all REST with it elevated for a few days.

 Now you would think that after caring for my duckies for years, I would welcome a break from housework but it is hard to let things go and not step in to ‘fix’ things. My older kids did a great job of helping with some chores, and my mother in law took over my lunch duties for a few days. That is when I realized that even overdoing my stewardship can be hazardous to my spiritual growth and sometimes rest is a powerful thing.

There are several verses in the bible that encourage rest, but my favorite passage on rest in action is Mark 6:30-44. This comes after the death of John the Baptist when the disciples had taken his body to be buried in a tomb. 

‘And the apostles gathered themselves together to Jesus and told him all the things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. And he said to them, Come you yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest for a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately. And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and proceded them, and came together to him. And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. And when they day was now far spent, his disciples came to him, and said, this is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. He answered and said to them, Give you them to eat. And they say to him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He said to them, How many loaves have you? Go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies on the green grass. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven and blessed, and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.

Many of us know the miracle Jesus performed by feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. This is a sunday school lesson taught to our kids, a sermon for God sustaining our needs in hard times, but for me it is a lesson in the power of rest. The disciples had worked for Jesus. Then Jesus sent them to rest, and that act of resting was the catalyst for the people coming out of the city, Jesus having compassion for them, teaching them into the evening, and then the miracle happened. That miracle was built on the disciples being obedient to Jesus’ plea for them to rest. If you think about rest as the first step to our discipleship everything else falls into place. A good nights rest on Saturday night gets us ready to actively participate in bible studies, worship and the sermon the next morning. 

I am not saying that we should be at rest all the time because we should still be working hard to be great stewards of all our blessings. I can’t tell my kids to cook their own food because I am resting, but I can take a moment to sit and be still. We should be active disciples of Christ until our last breath, and we should be working towards greater wisdom and spiritual growth by being in the Bible. However, resting in the knowledge of how God works all things together for our good is resting wisely. 

My backfired dog introduction lead to an injury requiring me to sit down for three days, ended up in a social media post that got me inspired by a friend to keep rest as a topic, and ultimately brought me to the bible passage above. Before I started digging in Mark 6 I had no idea that a miracle had started with the act of rest. My act of resting opened my eyes to a wisdom that is often overlooked in our impatient culture of instant gratification. 

Here I am with a leg that is healing, two dogs that act like they came from the same litter, and a better understanding of how to make rest the beginning of a greater stewardship. So take some time this week to rest in God, meditate on a bible passage, and get a little rejuvenation in your soul.