Christian = Leader

ChristianequalsLeaderThere are several marks of a Christ follower that unveil what it means to be a Christian.  One of these marks is being a leader.  As a children of God, we are to be imitators of God.  Ephesians 5:1 says it plainly, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children.”  Getting this is essential to getting the gospel.  We aren’t obedient to God for his approval, we are obedient because he has approved us in Christ.  Joyful obedience is a natural result of having a new heart (regeneration) and a new identity (sons and daughters).  It doesn’t matter if you are 15 or 50, if you identify yourself with Christ, you are called to imitate your Father.  Imitating our Father will inevitably make us leaders.  Just as God gave us his Son (Jesus, the Message of Christianity), we must imitate our Father by giving His message to those around us.  The gospel must be told to those God has strategically and sovereignly placed us around -friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc.

One of the most common excuses I hear from others along with my own heart is, “I am not ready to lead -I don’t have much to offer.”  It’s as if we have forgotten all together the fundamentals of our faith which basically tells us, our nothing to offer is what qualifies us to be Chrstians.  “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Luke 5:31).  We need to quit looking inward for strength and start looking upward. 

“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

If we have Jesus, we have all we need to tell others about Him.  What excuses are you making in sharing and showing others your faith?

With Everything

Hudson, my 14 month old, has already experienced a plethora of emotions.  Trust me.  There have been times where he wants nothing but to be held by his mom.  So much so that he just whimpers at her feet with both of his little hands extended toward her.  As of lately, we have been watching a lot of Royals baseball.  If the boys in blue make a big defensive play, or one of them hits a home run, we unashamedly clap and shout at the TV (don’t judge us).  

Outward expressions are merely natural responses to life experiences.  We don’t shout for our favorite team because that’s what we’re supposed to do -we do it because we care (sometimes, a little too much) about what just happened out on the field.  We don’t mourn for the death of a friend because it’s some sort of “unwritten rule.”  We weep because our emotions naturally lead us to when we have lost someone that we dearly love.

It would be backwards not to express the joys and sorrows that well up when our intellects collide with our emotions.

Is it not strange then to sing about how holy God is and how much we adore him with our hands in our pockets as we yawn the words?  It does not seem fitting to praise the God who raised our spiritually dead, hell-bound lives back to life with a straight face and our arms folded.  

Author and worship leader Stephen Miller writes on this subject.

King David, the innovator of music in corporate worship, wrote hundreds of songs for the purpose of engaging the mind, heart and body in worship. He understood that posture is an outward expression of an inward reality. Our body naturally acts the way our hearts feel. So we see encouragements throughout scripture to bow humbly, raise hands joyfully, shout and sing loudly, clap hands and even dance before the Lord. This must have felt very awkward to the people of the day, who had never seen anything like this before.

Worship is a response.  God’s people have and will forever respond to God’s goodness.  It really is that simple. God is good in unique ways, so we respond uniquely -clapping, singing, shouting, dancing, kneeling, and even weeping as we ponder the mercies of our Savior King.  It must be said that the simplicity of worship can easily get complicated.  Our silly preferences over styles of music can cause quarrels and create barriers, but we must find a way to worship because God created us to enjoy (worship) Him.  The foundation of our worship will never be our whimsical preferences.  In fact, if our nit picky desires for a certain style of music creates a barrier to our worship of God Most High, then we aren’t worshipping Him, we are worshipping ourselves.  The only way we will truly worship comes through receiving the good news of the gospel -Christ crucified in our place, and raised from the dead to give us new life (see John 14:6, and 1 Cor. 15:3-4).  The Person and work of Jesus is what we are responding to.  In Christ we have enough grace to be saved from the wrath to come, and enough grace to be sustained in the day to day grind of worshipping God in all circumstances.  Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2). So don’t get caught up thinking about what you look like when you’re singing on Sunday mornings.  Get caught up thinking about the One who saved you from your sin, and worship Him with everything.

“Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

not lofty words of wisdom, just the plain and simple gospel

I’m in the middle of a YouVersion Bible reading plan in the book of Galatians.  It’s a six day devotional taken from Timothy Keller’s book, “Galatians for You.”  Everything I have read/listened to from Keller is dynamite -I highly recommend his ministry to you.  On day two of the plan, Keller poses the simple question, “How would you  explain the gospel message to a friend?”  This is a question we should all think through, because this is a message we should all share.  Here’s how I answered it in my journal, how would you answer it?

The gospel is good news that speaks into our horrible predicament.  The God who created everything is holy.  He is perfectly just and right in all he does.  Since we have all sinned against this holy God, we have earned the judgement of God -eternal death.  This is our horrible predicament.  The gospel is the good news that Jesus, God’s only Son, willingly stepped into our sinful mess to bring us out of it.  He gave His very life as a substitute for ours.  Jesus paid the total cost for sin’s penalty when God crushed Him on the cross.  After three days in the grave, Jesus rose again giving power to all of God’s promises.  This is the good news.  We have the gift of slavation at the high cost of Jesus life.  Nothing we do can add to or take away from this gift, we must only receive it.

I read this quote today out of Stephen Miller’s book, “Worship Leaders We Are Not Rockstars,” and just had to share it.  Here Miller quotes G.K. Chesterton who speaks to the creative nature of God.

It might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical ENCORE.

Excerpt From: G. K. Chesterton. “Orthodoxy.”

The Main Intent
For as long as I can remember, I thought being obedient to God and seeking to find happiness and joy were two different roads.  I knew that God loved me and sent Jesus to die for me, but that was just to pay for my sin, right?  I thought that the cross of Christ was mainly about a legal transaction.

Now it must be said that we are in fact justified by faith alone for the glory of God alone.  Jesus’ death on the cross was the literal payment for our sin.  He absorbed all of God’s wrath that I deserved because of my trespasses, and by trusting in Jesus’ work on the cross, God declares me righteous -not according to my righteousness, but according to the righteousness of Jesus that is now mine through the gospel (is this a run-on sentence? Nah).  Romans 8:1 promises that for those in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation.  This is great news!

But is this the point?  

I’m not trying to question the gift of God’s Son, I just have to know what the intent of God’s gift is.  I feel like there are way too many people who think, act, and relate to God like I used to (and still at times slip into).  We think, act, and live like the main reason Jesus died is so that we don’t have to go to hell.  But if this is the main reason, what do you do with all the other verses in the Bible?

  •  “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
  • “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
  • All Scripture is God’s Word, but this next promise comes straight from the mouth of Jesus, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

The Devil would have us believe that happiness is found outside of God, but God is like a bottomless ocean of joy.  Happiness is only found in God.  Satan tempts us.  He offers us sin which disguises itself to be true happiness, and after we partake in it we wonder why we aren’t satisfied.  It’s like we are chasing a shadow but never finding the substance that casts the shadow.  You see, Satan doesn’t have the market on joy, God does.  God offers us eternal pleasure in his presence.  The brilliant C.S. Lewis says it better than I ever could, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Can you see it?  Jesus didn’t die on the cross for you and I to just have a “get out of hell free card.”  Jesus death rescues us from the pits of hell so that we could access and enjoy the glory of God.  He died to justify us, in order to adopt us (1 John 3:1).  By the grace of God I’m beginning to see that Lord’s path of life, and the path to happiness and joy are same path.  Jesus died to bring us to God in order that we might enjoy a life spent worshipping, treasuring, and cherishing him.  Do you see it?  Jesus is the fountain from which all joy flows.  The point of his life, death, and resurrection, is to give us full access to the fountain of joy himself.  I plead with you.  Quit trying to quench your thirst from the broken cisterns of this world, and start drinking from the eternal fountain himself.  This is where true happiness is found.  This is where God’s glory is displayed.  This is the main intent of the Bible.

CROSSPOINT WEEKEND WORSHIP PREVIEW | October 20, 2013

The weekend worship service is all and only about glorifying God, through finding our utmost joy in God, growing in our understanding of him, and learning the desires of his heart.  One of the primary means of loving God is by letting his Word, namely the gospel, dwell in us richly.  Colossians 3:16 gives us this command, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”  This weekend worship preview serves to help the word of Christ dwell in you richly at all times, and to give you a taste of how I pick songs for the church I get to lead worship at.

“Come Thou Fount” – Public Domain
(Call to Continued Worship/Adoration)

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love…”  We all come together on Sunday morning from different spots on the map geographically, emotionally, and spiritually.  As we gather we remember that even when we wander, God is faithful to draw us back.  This song helps us to fix our eyes in the right place and to tune our hearts to the One worthy of our praise.

“Never Once” – Matt Redman
(Assurance of God’s Providence)

Since the beginning of creation, God has been making promises that he always keeps.  The New Testament tells us that “all the promises of God find their ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Cor. 1:20).  Through all of life we can cling to God’s promise to sustain, provide, and walk along side us, no matter what trials we face.  As a church we declare, “Never once did we ever walk alone, never once did you leave us on our own.  You are faithful; God you are faithful!”

“Before the Throne of God Above” – Shane and Shane
(Assurance of Salvation through the Gospel)

“When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see Him [Jesus] there, who made an end of all my sin.  Because a sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free; for God, the Just, is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.”  This is the gospel.  Christ is the measure of God’s love, and anyone who is in Christ has no condemnation (Romans 8:1).

“Build Your Kingdom Here” – Rend Collective
(Song of Mission & Sending)

“Come set your rule and reign in our hearts again…” When God rules our lives, we live differently than the rest of the world.  We will with conviction, direction, and purpose infuses all that we do -to glorify God in every facet of our lives.  God didn’t save us to kill time just listening to Christian music, or to join multiple Bible studies.  God saves us so we can join him in his mission -to build his kingdom here in Salina and around the globe.

CROSSPOINT WEEKEND WORSHIP PREVIEW | SEPTEMBER 29, 2013

The weekend worship service is all and only about glorifying God, through finding our utmost joy in God, growing in our understanding of him, and learning the desires of his heart.  One of the primary means of loving God is by letting his Word, namely the gospel, dwell in us richly.  Colossians 3:16 gives us this command, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”  This weekend worship preview serves to help the word of Christ dwell in you richly at all times, and to give you a taste of how I pick songs for the church I get to lead worship at.

“Here For You” – Matt Redman
(Call to Continued Worship/Adoration)

As created beings, we exist for our Creator.  ”Here for You” calls us to remember that we exist for the continued worship of Jesus Christ.  Join creation’s song with us as we “welcome [God] with praise” Sunday morning!

“Never Once” – Matt Redman
(Assurance of Faith)

Since the beginning of creation, God has been making promises that he always keeps.  The New Testament tells us that “all the promises of God find their ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Cor. 1:20).  Through all of life we can cling to God’s promise to sustain, provide, and walk along side us, no matter what trials we face.  As a church we declare, “Never once did we ever walk alone, never once did you leave us on our own.  You are faithful; God you are faithful!”

“Cornerstone” – Hillsong United
(Union With Christ)

As we just declared in “Never Once,” we will not be left or forsaken by our God.  We have hope that is built on something solid, the gospel of Jesus Christ.  ”Cornerstone” takes the old Hymn “On Christ the Solid Rock,” and adds the following chorus: “Christ alone, cornerstone, weak made strong in the Saviors love.  Through the storm, he is Lord -Lord of all!”  What a great God we worship!  What a great Savior we adore!  What a great hope we have that transcends our circumstances.  Because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we have union with God.  It’s good for us to revel in that union and celebrate the relationship with God that Christ has made right once and for all.

“Forever Reign” – Hillsong United
(Song of Mission & Sending)

We have been saved to be sent.  We have gathered as the church to scatter as the church in our community.  We take the hope we have received to those who desperately need it, and we do it for the name and fame of Jesus who deserves to be worshipped by all!  ”Light of the world, forever reign!”

CROSSPOINT WEEKEND WORSHIP PREVIEW | SEPTEMBER 1, 2013

The weekend worship service is all and only about glorifying God, through finding our utmost joy in God, growing in our understanding of him, and learning the desires of his heart.  One of the primary means of loving God is by letting his Word, namely the gospel, dwell in us richly.  Colossians 3:16 gives us this command, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”  This weekend worship preview serves to help the word of Christ dwell in you richly at all times, and to give you a taste of how I pick songs for the church I get to lead worship at.

“Your Love is Strong” – Jon Foreman
(Call to Continued Worship)

This contemporary take on the Lord’s Prayer is a perfect song for us to gather on.  Casting our agendas, worries, and cares on Jesus should be a daily practice for us as believers.  As one church body, we unite under cause of Christ.  “Our God in heaven, hallowed by Thy name above all names!  Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!”

“In My Place” – Matt Boswell
(Corporate Confession)

Sin is a terrible thing.  The nature of sin is selfishness.  It pushes others away, and puts barriers up that can ruin relationships, tear apart families, and ultimately separate us from the presence of God.  BUT there is a hope.  There is one hope.  One hope for restoration and reconciliation, one hope that we might spend eternity with God and not separated from him.  This one hope hinges on the Person and work of Jesus Christ, namely the death he died in our place, for our sin.  2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake [God the Father] made [God the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  That’s good news.  The death Jesus died, he died for our sin, so that the life we live can be lived for God.  We sing, “Hallelujah!  What a Savior!”

“In Christ Alone” – Stuart Townend
(Communion)

Reminding ourselves of the salvation that Christ wrought through his life, death, and resurrection should cause joy, peace, and humble adoration to well up inside of us.  ”What heights of love!  What depths of peace!  When fears are stilled, when strivings cease.  My Comforter, my All in all, here in the love of Christ I stand.”

“Christ Is Risen” – Matt Maher
(Song of Sending)

While the center of Christ’s work takes place on the cross when he exchanged his righteousness for our sin, we must live in light of the resurrection.  I heard a pastor once say, Jesus death was the payment for our sin and his resurrection gave us the receipt.  If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, how would be know if he actually paid for our sin?  How would we know that we are forgiven and free?  We wouldn’t!  BUT thanks be to God that Christ is indeed risen!  We have great cause to celebrate.  We have great cause to live each and every day.  “O death, where is your sting?  O hell, where is your victory?  O Church, come stand in the light -our God is not dead, He’s alive!  He’s alive!”

Blue Rock vs. Deer Hunting

Image

I’m not a hunter by any means (if you know me, you might have laughed at the title).  It’s a hobby that requires a lot of money and time which are two things that I don’t have in excess right now.  I’ve only gone deer hunting once, but I’ve shot blue rock or clay pigeons upwards of 50-100 times probably.  I’ll tell you up front, I’m a way bigger fan of shooting blue rock than I am of stealth hunting.  Shooting blue rock to me is less stressful, more predictable, and fast-paced.  When I’m ready to shoot (which I always am), I just say “pull” and there is instant pay-off.  As opposed to the uncertainty and patience of deer hunting, when I go clay pigeon “hunting” I know 1. how long it’s going to take and 2. how many rounds I plan on firing off.  It’s calculated, quick, and there shouldn’t really be a mess to clean up afterwords.

The same could be said about my life I suppose.  I tend to make quick decisions, and I like for life to be fast-paced most of the time.  This also means that I can be easily angered when things don’t go my way.  Also, when I can’t control a situation -I just might shut down, and I could be first to say “pull!” when a seemingly good opportunity presents itself.  While this fast-paced, forward-moving, approach to life can be a very good thing, it has potential to be quite dangerous.  In relationship to my wife, the answer isn’t always, “How can I fix this RIGHT NOW?”  When it comes to big life decisions like moving, job changes, etc. the answer isn’t always, “Let’s do it now!”

Sometimes I need to be more like the deer hunter -persisten to pursue the heart of God, while patiently waiting for him to make his move and reveal when I should shoot or hold fire.  You “deer hunters” out there are screaming “Yes! I wish my husband/wife would see it that way!”  Just hold on buck-o.  Sometime’s God just wants us just to say, “Pull” and quit waiting on the clay pigeon thrower to go off when it will never work that way.  God doesn’t want us wasting our time praying about silly things that we could just decide based on the wisdom and discernment he has already given us.

Application: Whether you’re the deer hunting-type, or the clay shooting-type, don’t be afraid to operate in contrast to how you feel.  If you can identify more with the clay shooter, you need to stop, breathe in and out a few times, assess the situation prayerfully, and then wait to see what God does before you flippantly pull the trigger.  For those that might be recognized as the deer hunting type, stay persistent in prayer.  Please stay persistent in prayer, BUT sometimes you just need to get off your hindquarters and do something!  And for both parties, let’s work together.  I would argue that some of the best decisions are made when quick-decision makers and persistant information gatherers are on the same team.

I hope this is helpful for y’all as it has been helpful for me to process a bit.  May God alone get glory in all our decisions!

The “L” Word

Liturgy

Some (if not most) of you are thinking, “Lit-what?”  Liturgy (lit·ur·gy) simply means “a form of public worship.”  In other words, a church’s liturgy is just the order of elements that shapes a church’s worship service.

The purpose of a church’s liturgy has been misunderstood.  I always thought that church’s that were “liturgical” were required to have choir members that wore fancy robes and pastors or priests that wore even fancier ones.  Church’s like these, I thought, rehearsed the same prayers every week, sang the same hymns, and ate the same crackers for communion that the church bought in bulk 30 years ago.  To be honest, I thought liturgical meant -dead and dying.  As a punk 20-year-old kid preparing to come on staff as a worship pastor at my first church (I am now a punk 24-year-old kid), “liturgy” wasn’t one of the words on my daily vocabulary cards.  I was more interested in being authentic -which really just meant I wanted a free pass to be a bit lazy and unplanned for the weekend, and then if God shows up He can take all the credit.  It’s kind of like the teenager that says, I want to party and have sex so I can have a huge testimony.  Really?

And just as everyone’s life testifies about something, every church has a liturgy.  The question is, are we being intentional with our worship services?

Over the centuries, theologians, pastors, and church leaders have sensed the importance of utilizing their church’s liturgy to (re)tell the gospel story.  A message about God’s holiness, man’s utter sinfulness and inability to save himself, and the glorious provision of God sending his Son to be our substitutionary sacrifice (Jesus dying in our place, for our sin).  In his book, “Rhythms of Grace,” Mike Cosper tells us a bit about why church’s should constantly re-tell and re-apply the gospel in our worship services.

Rehearsed regularly, the gospel becomes part of our way of thinking, seeing, feeling, loving, and being in the world.  It’s a weekly hearbeat, gathering us in and scattering us back out to our homes and workplaces, to children’s soccer games and board meetings, to chemotherapy sessions and evenings around the dinner table.  From there, we return to the gathered church, once again rehearsing the story, remembering who God has made us, singing and celebrating that identity.  Liturgy that immerses the people of God in the rhythms of grace doesn’t merely train them for gospel-centered worship; it trains them for gospel-centered lives.

Pastors and leaders, if we are going to center all of our lives on Jesus, let’s utilize every ounce of our creativity to paint a picture of the gospel week in and week out.  For those of you who don’t have a say in the church’s weekend worship, rehearse the gospel story to yourself daily.  Afterall, Sunday morning worship is just the beginning of living life saturated with Jesus.