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Archive for April, 2017

There is a great hymn whose first line goes like this: “I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back.”

This week we have decided to take those words literally. We are going to follow Jesus on the journey of his last week on earth; the most important, impacting week that was ever lived on this planet.

Each day take a little time (20-40 minutes) to read each passage and devotional thought. Reflect on the questions at the end of each section and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart. Receive the truth, even it if hurts, because He gives it with love. Allow Him to transform your thinking, your agendas, your outlook and your passions. By doing so, you are following the path of Jesus and will experience a greater measure of life that you never thought possible. It will be a week that will change your world.

Rocking Your World (John 20:1-18)

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalenewent to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved,and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Try to read this passage as if you were Mary Magdalene. When Jesus died, your world became dark and silent. Though your heart is still beating, you are as dead as the stone rolled across His tomb. You are numb, beyond grief and zombie-like as you go through the day’s routine.

Then you notice some things. The stone is rolled away. The grave clothes are there, but the body isn’t! You conclude, “Someone has stolen the Master’s body!” You are so freaked out, you don’t know what to do. You see a couple of people who try to help you, but you really don’t notice them. Another guy tries to help you, but you’re so focused on the missing body… that voice? Then he calls you by name, and slowly you look up and you see … Jesus!

Mary, your world has just been rocked!

Do you feel it? Whenever you really see the Risen Jesus, your world gets rocked. I’m convinced that angels didn’t move the stone in front of Jesus’ tomb. The presence of the Risen Christ caused the stone to move itself. It’s amazing what comes alive when they realize that Risen Jesus is there!

Jesus wants to rock your world. He wants to bring in life, transformation, love and redemption. He wants to take away fear and smallness of heart. Sometimes we get caught up in trying to be Christians that we forget to see Christ. Look up! See the face of Christ! Fall to your knees! Let your world be rocked!

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There is a great hymn whose first line goes like this: “I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back.”

This week we have decided to take those words literally. We are going to follow Jesus on the journey of his last week on earth; the most important, impacting week that was ever lived on this planet.

Each day take a little time (20-40 minutes) to read each passage and devotional thought. Reflect on the questions at the end of each section and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart. Receive the truth, even it if hurts, because He gives it with love. Allow Him to transform your thinking, your agendas, your outlook and your passions. By doing so, you are following the path of Jesus and will experience a greater measure of life that you never thought possible. It will be a week that will change your world.

Sharing in the Sufferings (John 19:16-37)

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth,the king of the jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” 23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,“They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did. 25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,[b] here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crossesduring the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled:“Not one of his bones will be broken, 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

Yes, Good Friday was yesterday. But let’s take another look at Jesus’ march to the cross. Human nature wants us to move on and get to the resurrection, get to the wonderful Easter story! We are uncomfortable with suffering, agony and death. But it is worth at least a second look. Maybe there is more to the cross than we realize.

Earlier Jesus told the people that in order to be his disciples they must “deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Me” (Matt 16:24). And then He did it. He denied Himself. He took up the cross. He followed the Father’s command. Note how He suffered: physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. He suffered in every way possible. But that suffering led to life and redemption.

You and I will suffer in this life. It is inevitable. Sometimes we will suffer as a consequence of poor decisions and sin. Sometimes we will suffer because we choose to do what is right and good. Sometimes suffering will come to us; for no apparent reason. But God has a purpose: He wants to use that suffering to bring a greater sense of His presence, His character and love into our lives. It helps tremendously to know that our God suffered all that we go through and more. When we suffer we can have the fellowship of Jesus to carry us through.

Are you suffering? Invite Jesus into your suffering and let Him “fellowship” with you. Let Him renew your mind and transform your character. That Cross will someday become a Crown if you turn your eyes upon Him.

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There is a great hymn whose first line goes like this: “I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back.”

This week we have decided to take those words literally. We are going to follow Jesus on the journey of his last week on earth; the most important, impacting week that was ever lived on this planet.

Each day take a little time (20-40 minutes) to read each passage and devotional thought. Reflect on the questions at the end of each section and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart. Receive the truth, even it if hurts, because He gives it with love. Allow Him to transform your thinking, your agendas, your outlook and your passions. By doing so, you are following the path of Jesus and will experience a greater measure of life that you never thought possible. It will be a week that will change your world.

A Tale of Two Kingdoms (John 18:33-38)

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” 34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” 35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” 37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” 38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.

The Gospel of John gives us this extraordinary dialogue between two rulers: Pilate and Jesus. In a pause before what will be excruciating suffering and death, Pilate and Jesus have a heart to heart discussion about reality, truth and Kingdoms.

Both his speech and his actions demonstrate that Jesus is living in a different realm than Pilate. While Pilate questions Jesus about being a king in the worldly sense, Jesus questions Pilate on whether he understands the heavenly kingdom. Pilate’s realm consists of power by force, fear, manipulation and death. His jurisdiction is based on geography. Jesus’ realm is much more dangerous. His power is based on truth, love, sacrifice and life. His jurisdiction is the human heart. The heavenly realm, as Jesus taught, is not about clouds, harps and angels. It is the earthly and supernatural reality lived under the reign of God. In the midst of Pilate’s worry-filled earthly realm, Jesus lives in the confidence of the Kingdom of God. Jesus does not fear death because He knows He is in the hands of the God who loves Him and is the source of life. It is out of this confidence that Jesus reaches out to Pilate: “Is that (the fact that I am King of the Godly realm) your own idea? …. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Which Kingdom do you live for? The one ruled by fear, anxiety, self-preservation and death. Or the one ruled by the One who is truth, love, self-sacrifice and life? Jesus invites you to His Kingdom. Start living there today.

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There is a great hymn whose first line goes like this: “I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back.”

This week we have decided to take those words literally. We are going to follow Jesus on the journey of his last week on earth; the most important, impacting week that was ever lived on this planet.

Each day take a little time (20-40 minutes) to read each passage and devotional thought. Reflect on the questions at the end of each section and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart. Receive the truth, even it if hurts, because He gives it with love. Allow Him to transform your thinking, your agendas, your outlook and your passions. By doing so, you are following the path of Jesus and will experience a greater measure of life that you never thought possible. It will be a week that will change your world.

An Example to Follow (John 13:1-17)

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had comefor him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

The time was immanent. Jesus knew that within hours he would be hanging on a cross. He knew that this was his last opportunity to give his disciples something that would remain with them forever. What does he do? He washes their feet.

Of all the lessons Jesus wants his disciples to learn, this one is the greatest: to love one another and to express that love through service. The washing of feet was a task reserved for the lowest of servants. Today it would be like the cleaning the toilets: a pretty miserable task. But Jesus did this to demonstrate the type of love his disciples need to have toward each other.

Notice that Jesus washed all of his disciples’ feet – including Judas. The love that Jesus has goes beyond who people are and what they do. This is the type of love he expects his disciples to have.

In another story Jesus said, “He who is forgiven much, loves much.” The key to growing in our love for others is to realize how much we have been loved (and forgiven) by God. This is the love that can change your world.

Jesus invites you to grow in love and service. Do you realize how much God loves and has served you? Is it enough to love and serve others? Is there someone you would hesitate to love and serve? Why?

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There is a great hymn whose first line goes like this: “I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back.”

This week we have decided to take those words literally. We are going to follow Jesus on the journey of his last week on earth; the most important, impacting week that was ever lived on this planet.

Each day take a little time (20-40 minutes) to read each passage and devotional thought. Reflect on the questions at the end of each section and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart. Receive the truth, even it if hurts, because He gives it with love. Allow Him to transform your thinking, your agendas, your outlook and your passions. By doing so, you are following the path of Jesus and will experience a greater measure of life that you never thought possible. It will be a week that will change your world.

Giving and Receiving a Beautiful Thing (Mark 14:3-9)

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages[a] and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

It was scandalous. A woman enters a room and approaches Jesus as he was reclining. She opens a jar of $1,000 an ounce perfume, pours it over his head and starts massaging it into his scalp. Even more scandalous was that Jesus allowed her to do it! In this highly conservative, Middle Eastern culture, this public act was highly offensive. Not only did it seem to contradict Jesus’ attitude towards helping the poor and denouncing excessive wealth, the woman’s intimate gesture and Jesus’ acceptance of it also raised the eyebrows of everyone in the room.

But Jesus calls her act “a beautiful thing.” It was beautiful because it was a costly gift (it was probably her wedding dowry). It was her expression of her thankfulness and commitment to Jesus – total. It was beautiful because it was given unconditionally. There were no strings attached. Once it was poured, it was gone. It was beautiful because it was given at a great risk. People could (and did) misunderstand her intentions. They condemned her for it. But it didn’t matter because it was not about them or her. It was about Jesus. And Jesus knew that. Jesus never turns down a truly beautiful thing.

Jesus invites you to give beautiful things. When was the last time you truly did something beautiful? Notice how some reacted to the beautiful thing: judgment, resentment even betrayal (Judas). How do you receive beautiful things? What are some beautiful things that happen to you everyday?

 

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There is a great hymn whose first line goes like this: “I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back.”

This week we have decided to take those words literally. We are going to follow Jesus on the journey of his last week on earth; the most important, impacting week that was ever lived on this planet.

Each day take a little time (20-40 minutes) to read each passage and devotional thought. Reflect on the questions at the end of each section and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart. Receive the truth, even it if hurts, because He gives it with love. Allow Him to transform your thinking, your agendas, your outlook and your passions. By doing so, you are following the path of Jesus and will experience a greater measure of life that you never thought possible. It will be a week that will change your world.

Cleansing the Temple (Mark 11:15-18)

15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’[a]?But you have made it ‘a den of robbers. 18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

What do you think of Jesus’ reaction to the money changers and merchants? He was pretty mad – almost out of control. Why? Because destructive elements were allowed to corrupt something very important to him – his Father’s house.

Both the money changers and the merchants exploited people. They took advantage of people’s situation for their gain. Sometimes people were kept from worshiping God because they could not afford the usury fees. In other words, they defiled the Great Commandment (loving others and worshiping God).

Today, Jesus is still very concerned about his Father’s house. Only his Father’s house is no longer located in Jerusalem. It is in your heart, your life, your being (1 Cor. 3:16).

What destructive elements are allowed to exist in the Temple of your heart? Greed, anger, revenge, lack of mercy, gossip, strife, bitterness, and blind ambition keep you from loving others. Pride, busyness, duplicity, personal agendas and love of the world keep you from worshiping God.

Jesus invites you to ruthlessly “turn over the tables” in God’s house – your heart. With the Spirit’s help, transform your heart from a robber’s den to a place where worshiping God and loving people flows freely.

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There is a great hymn whose first line goes like this: “I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back.”

This week we have decided to take those words literally. We are going to follow Jesus on the journey of his last week on earth; the most important, impacting week that was ever lived on this planet.

Each day take a little time (20-40 minutes) to read each passage and devotional thought. Reflect on the questions at the end of each section and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart. Receive the truth, even it if hurts, because He gives it with love. Allow Him to transform your thinking, your agendas, your outlook and your passions. By doing so, you are following the path of Jesus and will experience a greater measure of life that you never thought possible. It will be a week that will change your world.

Dying to Great Expectations (Luke 19:35-42)

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives,the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” 40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” 41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.

Reflect back on Palm Sunday and put yourself in Jesus’ shoes. You are going to Jerusalem in obedience to the Father. You know that if you go there you will be giving up your life as a ransom for people’s sins. You will be brutally beaten to death. Yet, your disciples and the crowds have other expectations. They believe you will set them free, not from sin and death, but from Roman oppression. They believe that you will feed them with an unlimited supply of food, heal all their diseases and raise them from the dead. They want to crown you King, not because of who you are, but because of what they expect you to do for them. And you know that within five days, their blessings of praise to you will turn into curses of condemnation. Instead of riding on a white stallion, you ride on a borrowed colt. Instead of a crown of gold, you will receive a crown of thorns. Instead of sitting on a throne, you will be hung on a cross. The irony is so thick that there is nothing you can do but weep…

Yet, you continue to Jerusalem because doing what the Father wants you to do is far more important than meeting the expectations of others.

Examine your life. Which is greater: obeying God or living according to expectations (others or your own)? Jesus invites you to join him to die to great expectations in order to live for something far greater than you can imagine.

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It Is What It Is

There is an expression I’ve been saying a lot lately. In fact, I’ve been using it so much I’m afraid it will be inscribed on my tombstone by my surviving family:

“It is what it is.”

I suppose it’s better than some of my other popular Doug-sayings like “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” or “I need more keyboard in my monitor” (you musicians out there know what that means!)

I think the reason I’m using that phrase more often is because I’m realizing how little control I have over my life. I used to get so upset when things didn’t happen according to my plan. I guess I’m learning that whining and complaining accomplishes nothing in most cases! It is what it is.

But there are two ways to look at this expression. The first way is the perspective of resignation. That means we acquiesce to the powers-that-be (whether our human superiors, the government, corporate America, or “the fates”) because there is no other recourse. It is a “I-don’t-like-this-at-all-but-I-don’t-have-any-choice” perspective. While this perspective may help a person “cope” with the harsh realities of life, it also serves to shrink our lives and our faith. This perspective is also called “fatalism” and it is indeed “fatal” to the human soul.

The other way to look at this phrase is from the point of trust. Behind the “It is what it is” is the Great “I AM WHO I AM” (which is the translation of God’s personal name, “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”; see Exodus 3:14). In other words, God is in control even though I am not. And this Yahweh (“I AM”) is not a god who is distant and indifferent. The Holy Scriptures go out of its way to describe God as the ultimate Person – therefore, ultimately personal – who, amazingly, can and does express deep concern and care for every creature and thing of creation (see Matt. 6:23-33).

In this case, “It is what it is,” means that things happen for a purpose, for a reason. Paul sums it up best when he writes, “For I know that in all things God works together for the good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Does this mean that I simply allow things to happen to me and not do anything about it? No! (or as Paul would say, “By no means!”). But it does mean that I do not let the circumstances (good or bad) get the better of me. Instead, I bring every situation before God. My struggle is not with the disappointing event or the unmet expectation, but with God. So as I bring each thing before God, I ask Him, “What do you want me to do with this? What are you trying to tell me?” And I wait. More often than not, God’s Spirit gives me a prompting as to how I should respond. Sometimes it is as simple as “Just let it go.” Sometimes it is more involved like, “I want you to do something about this.”

One time, while in vacationing in Chicago, Letty and I had to buy 3-day transportation passes because the rail station had run out of the single day passes (had to do with a silly Cubs game or something). At first I was pretty miffed about it (they cost twice as much). But I fought back the frustration and asked God, “Ok, what do you want me to do?” I sensed that I should purchase the three day passes. And God reminded me, “After all, it is My money, not yours, right?” Conviction…

As I reflected upon it further (it’s amazing how much time you have to think when you take the train into town), I also thought, “Maybe God wanted me to buy these passes so that someone else could be blessed?” It gave me a sense of peace knowing that the Great I AM was in control of the “it is what it is.” He obviously had a plan for what happened.

Letty and I had a great day taking public transportation throughout Chicago. That was the day we rented a tandem bike and rode around Lake Michigan. When we finished our day, we arrived back at the train station. There was a local man (I think he was homeless) who needed a transportation pass. Since we had already gone through the ticket counter, we didn’t need ours anymore. So we gave him our passes. I could imagine his surprise when he realized what we gave him was not a day-pass, but three-day passes!

It is what it is.

(Starting tomorrow, our Whole Life Worship Devotionals will focus the on the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry – “The Week That Changed the World.” I hope this will draw you closer and deeper in what it means to follow Jesus)

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The Power of a Song

I’m a musician by trade and profession and, even though my blog is called “Whole Life Worship,” I’ve not written much of anything about what most people believe is what worship is about: music. There’s a reason for this. It’s a reaction to how our contemporary Christian culture has made worship all about the music to the neglect of everything else that worship is; including the central focus of honoring God with our lives. It has gotten so crazily out of proportion that I believe God has called me to make this my life aim: to call the Body of Christ back to what worship really is – the offering of our lives to God in response to His great mercies (Romans 12:1). So my blogs will always be more about what we do with our lives than what we do with our vocal cords.

That being said, I also want to make one thing perfectly clear: I love music, I love songs, I love singing to God, I love making music to His name. And I believe, like Martin Luther and Johann Sebastian Bach, that music is indeed a “glorious gift from God.”

One aspect of God’s glorious gift of music is the power of the song. The “song” is a subset of music. A song combines words with pitch and rhythm to create a powerful expression of mind and heart. If a song does not have words, it is not a song. (I still cringe when I hear well-meaning band and orchestra directors introduce their group’s next musical selection as a “song.”)

Songs are especially powerful when they declare truth. The greatest songs that last through the test of time are the ones that express profound truth with music that appropriate matches it. Whether it is “Let It Be” or “Amazing Grace” or “Auld Lang Syne” or “Ode to Joy,” songs of truth resonate soulfully in our being. Sometimes such songs move us to tears because our souls so long to express truth with heartfelt intensity.

That is why songs that declare truth about God and sung to God or to God’s people are particularly impactful. God is the ultimate truth. The story of His love for us through Christ is the most compelling, moving story of all time. When that “truth-full” story of His love seeps into our hearts on a personal, experiential level, it brings mercy, healing, freedom, empowerment, grace, and a profound sense of right-ness and goodness into our souls. And many times, those experiences come through the power of song. I was so overwhelmed this morning when I worshiped God through a new song (“Sovereign”) and a new arrangement of a hymn (“Crown Him with Many Crowns – Majesty”). The greatness of God touched my heart through these songs.

But sometimes we take such songs and such moments and make them something they weren’t meant to be: a holy shrine, or worse, something that we subtly worship. I warn my worship team members occasionally to not “worship the worship (songs).” It’s so easy to do. We want to recapture the “magic” of when that song touched us profoundly; forgetting that it was God who touched us, and that He exists outside of the song.

So God has shown me two things recently about worship songs: 

  1. Focus on what the lyrics really mean. This means slowing down enough to take a “gaze”rather than just a glimpse at what I am singing about or to God.
  1. Let the songs propel me to greater responsiveness to God. I need to think, “Ok, now that I experienced God in this song, how do I need to respond in my actions today?” I need to be alert and prepared to respond to God in the next thing.

Both Letty and I had profound experiences this morning through worship songs. God met with us through the song, “Sovereign.” When we met for lunch at Subway (I live there now … literally!), Letty saw a homeless man. She asked me if I would feed him something. At first, I balked. But my heart was already softened by the graciousness of God. So, I got up, introduced myself to the man (his name is “Duck” – “Doug, meet Duck”), and asked if we could get him a sandwich. He was surprised and said, “You would do that for me?” I smiled. Another man saw this and, almost on cue, started a conversation with Duck. It was an amazing encounter: four strangers brought together in fellowship through the giving of a Subway Club sandwich. Or was it the Bread of Life? It was truly a “sovereign” experience … that began with a song.

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Thank God Friday

You’re probably thinking, “You forgot a word, Doug. It’s ‘Thank God it’s Friday.” Actually, it’s intentional. I know the popular phrase (and the restaurant bearing that name). I want us to think of Friday, not as a benchmark that we made it through another work week, but as a day where we can recollect the ways God has blessed us. I want us to make Friday a day of thanksgiving, hence: It’s “Thank God Friday!”

Actually, giving thanks to God is something we should do all the time. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to give thanks in every circumstance. This, along with prayer and rejoicing in the Lord, is what God wills us to do. So we don’t need a special day to thank God; it should be part of what we do every day and many times during each day.

But Friday is a good time to “collect” our thanksgivings. Because it’s at the end of the work week, we can look back and remember the faithfulness of God for the entire week. I don’t know about you, but when I hit the weekend it’s like pushing the “reset” button on my mind – I forget what I did during the week because I’m engaged in the weekend. So Friday is as good a time as any to remember the good things God has done.

So grab a paper and a pen and start jotting down the ways God has blessed you this week. If you’re having a hard time thinking of things – don’t fret! Maybe some of the following things will jog your memory:

  1. Did God bring someone new to you this past week? Did you deepen a relationship? Is there someone you are really thankful for?
  1. Did God give you strength to accomplish difficult tasks this week? Was there a time when you saw “fruitfulness” in your work? Did someone affirm or encourage you for something you did?
  1. Did God give you a prompting that you followed up on? Did He speak to your heart about something? Did He draw you closely to Himself through prayer or personal worship?
  1. Did God teach you something new this week? Did He speak to you through Scripture, a Christian author? Did you apply some new spiritual insight? Did following a Biblical principal this week protect you or bless you or bless someone else?
  1. Did God give you opportunities to serve and love others this week? Did you sense the joy of serving? Did you get to use your spiritual gift or special ability to bless another person or make a situation better?
  1. Did God give you a pleasant memory this week? An unexpected blessing? An email encouragement? A blog that really spoke to you? (Ok, I confess I’m guilty of manipulation!) Something that lifted your spirit when you felt down?
  1. Did God teach you something through a trial? Are you finding grace in unexpected places through a hardship? Is your soul expanding toward God and others because of difficulties you’ve endured?
  1. Is there something you normally take for granted that you realize now is a great blessing? (like breathing, eating, taking a hot shower, driving a car) Did you notice something in everyday life that is amazing (like watching a hummingbird gather nectar from a flower)?

Now that you have a list of things you are thankful for, I want you to do something with it:

Bring it with you when you go to worship with your church – and get there a little early. Before the service starts, take out your little “Thank God Friday” list and use it to give God an intentional, well-thought out sacrifice of thanksgiving. And see if that doesn’t “jump start” your worship of God!

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. (Psalm 100:4)

Don’t just “Thank God it’s Friday”; but make today a “Thank God Friday”!

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