Deuteronomy 2:26-37

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Deuteronomy 2:26-37
26 “So I sent messengers from the wilderness of Kedemoth to Sihon the king of Heshbon, with words of peace, saying, 27 ‘Let me pass through your land. I will go only by the road; I will turn aside neither to the right nor to the left. 28 You shall sell me food for money, that I may eat, and give me water for money, that I may drink. Only let me pass through on foot, 29 as the sons of Esau who live in Seir and the Moabites who live in Ar did for me, until I go over the Jordan into the land that the Lord our God is giving to us.’ 30 But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day. 31 And the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land over to you. Begin to take possession, that you may occupy his land.’ 32 Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Jahaz. 33 And the Lord our God gave him over to us, and we defeated him and his sons and all his people. 34 And we captured all his cities at that time and devoted to destruction[a] every city, men, women, and children. We left no survivors. 35 Only the livestock we took as spoil for ourselves, with the plunder of the cities that we captured. 36 From Aroer, which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon, and from the city that is in the valley, as far as Gilead, there was not a city too high for us. The Lord our God gave all into our hands. 37 Only to the land of the sons of Ammon you did not draw near, that is, to all the banks of the river Jabbok and the cities of the hill country, whatever the Lord our God had forbidden us.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Is there something in this passage that troubles you?
What kind of a God do you think I am?
Where do you get your ideas about me?
Why don’t you let me tell you what I am like?
Do you trust me to do what’s right?

Music Part 9 – “Big Music”

The (Christian) Music that Shaped Me – Part 9

(In this series I’ve been sharing music that has been influential to me, personally. My hope is twofold: First, that some of my younger friends will be able to appreciate “from whence we’ve come” and to be encouraged to continue to seek fresh ways to communicate their faith through music. Second, that those of my generation will enjoy looking back a bit, but more than that, I pray that we will continue to recognize and encourage the creativity of today’s Christian musicians. Here’s where you can find the Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7 and Part 8.)

Many years ago a job change required a friend of mine, who was also one of the guitarists and singers from my church, to move to another city. On one of his visits back to the area I asked him about his new church and how things were going there. He said he liked it fine, but that it was good to be back where we did “big music.”

I liked that. I knew what he meant, and I took it as a compliment.

I had been patterning most of our worship music after one particular artist and worship leader who had a profound effect on me.

In Part 4 of this series I mentioned that I had a recurring dream about returning to my little home church with an awesome band patterned after the big sound of Blood, Sweat and Tears playing music dedicated to God. My timing was all wrong, but in the early to mid ‘90s I think Christian music got as close to that dream of mine as it will ever get. The leader was Ron Kenoly.

His music was an exciting blend of choir, horns, instrumental and vocal solos, all playing intricate arrangements with a tight rhythm section. The musicians were the best in the business. His worship music had all the characteristics that I love about big band music: interesting and powerful ensemble playing and singing, with the freedom for soloists to create excitement on the fly.

Justo Almario
Abraham Laboriel

His band typically included two of the best musicians you will ever hear in any genre: the amazing Justo Almario on sax & flute, and the incomparable Abraham Laboriel on bass. These men are artists on their instruments and they exude the joy of playing for their Creator. Take a few minutes and listen to this clip of a live performance of Ancient of Days. If you take the time to listen to the whole thing, which I recommend, notice the details of the arrangement. Notice how the whole thing builds, breaks down, and builds again. Notice the little variations in the turnarounds, the rhythms, and chord structure. If you don’t want to take the time to listen to the whole thing, start it about 3:00 for the instrumental break down featuring their percussionist Alex Acuña, Justo on flute, then Abraham on bass. It’s awesome!

I never got tired of doing that song! My only problem is that I can’t sing like Ron Kenoly!

There’s no question that musical styles and tastes change over time. If the music of the church is going to touch the hearts and minds of this generation it must naturally change as well. While the “big” music of Ron Kenoly still stirs my soul to its core, the trend for churches has moved to music that is less “big.” The band for last Sunday’s service at our church was drums, acoustic guitar and bass with 3 singers. They sounded great! The band was tight. The service was moving and worshipful.

Some folks miss singing the old hymns. I don’t. Not really.

What I miss is the horn section!

Click image for purchase info.

I still get pumped up when I put Lift Him Up in my car stereo, crank the volume, and cruise down the highway!

There is a lot of music that has influenced me over the years, but I think I’m going to wrap up this series with one more post where I’ll share some of my personal thoughts and observations about music in the church.


In the meantime, here are three more of my favorite Ron Kenoly songs.

This is one of the first songs I heard him sing. I tried it with my team a couple of times, but it’s HARD! I still love it…

This one was part of an Easter musical we did one year and we pulled it out of the musical and did it quite a bit after that. I don’t think we ever did the beginning part, even though it adds to the power of the song…

This is one we saved for special occasions like our outdoor concert in the park that we did annually for a few years. Man this song is fun! Our drummer loved it, but I never felt I could do it justice…

Weekend Picks ~ 7-29-2016

Picks Weekend

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

I found this interesting, and I have experienced it’s truth…

Goodbye, God Gap: Trump and Clinton Have Churchgoers Unusually SplitKate Shellnutt
Donald Trump seems to be breaking yet another political tradition this election: the “God gap.”

In previous US elections, polls consistently showed that a person’s level of religiosity—how important their faith is to them and how often they attend church—was one of the biggest predictors in how they would vote. The more religious an American was, the more likely he or she was to vote Republican; the less religious, the more likely to vote Democrat.

But that correlation appears to be weakening, enough that some are asking whether this year’s unusual matchup between Trump and Hillary Clinton will be the end of what political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell termed the God gap…

…This year’s demographic shifts are drastic enough that, for the first time in years, gender outweighs faith in determining how someone might vote…

Just began reading through Deuteronomy, and this idea has come through…

The Rearview MirrorDan DeWitt
We see Providence in the rearview mirror. In my experience, it is usually far less clear looking over the dashboard. It’s when we look back that we can see how God was working all things together for his glory and our good…

…Look back. It’s in the looking back that we can begin to see how those frustrating things that happen to us, around us, even by us, how they are turned into something beautiful. But we usually don’t see that in the moment. We have to look back. And in so doing we can find a little perspective for when we look ahead.

This is a necessary part of worship that I’ve always had a hard time implementing in a meaningful way…

Grief, Suffering, And Sunday Morning Worship
David Santistevan
Grief (1)As worshipers, we’re not called to deny our pain for a happy-clappy faith. We’re called to offer that pain to the only One who can do anything about it.

And this a high calling for worship leaders. Every Sunday people are experiencing grief. We have no idea the depths of suffering they are experiencing. And especially in more recent times, hurt is everywhere.

Think of the alternative for our people:

  • If not the church, where?
  • If not our songs, what songs?
  • If not our gatherings, what gatherings?

When we bring our grief into God’s presence we gain perspective. It’s a perspective that rises above the storm. It’s a perspective that sees the Son of Man standing alongside you in the fire.

I’m not saying I agree with everything in this article, but there is plenty here to consider seriously…

The Attractional Church’s Growing Irrelevance
Jared C. Wilson
attractionalThe attractional church is still answering questions most 21st-century lost folks aren’t even asking. The attractional church is still assuming lost people have some working knowledge of the Bible and its stories. The attractional church still thinks lost people are impressed that a group of Christians will sing a Taylor Swift song at church…The attractional church still thinks it’s cool, mainly because it’s full of aging Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers who know it’s cooler than the traditional church they left decades ago…

…I hope my generation and my father’s generation will allow themselves to be led. Our time is, thankfully, passing away. These crazy evangelical kids who love Jesus, love his gospel and center on it stubbornly, love his sufficient Word and preach it faithfully, love the lost and go seek them rather than expecting them to come seek us—they’re our strategic hope. Maybe it’s time to take the self-diminishing risks necessary to question your system, your strategy, your models and listen to the wisdom of your kids. As even one of your own prophets has said:

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

This testimony is true.

I love Zits…
Click image for a larger view. Source: Zits

Deuteronomy 2:1-25

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Deuteronomy 2:1-25
“Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea, as the Lord told me. And for many days we traveled around Mount Seir. Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward and command the people, “You are about to pass through the territory of your brothers, the people of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful. Do not contend with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as for the sole of the foot to tread on, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession. You shall purchase food from them with money, that you may eat, and you shall also buy water from them with money, that you may drink. For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.”’ So we went on, away from our brothers, the people of Esau, who live in Seir, away from the Arabah road from Elath and Ezion-geber.

“And we turned and went in the direction of the wilderness of Moab. And the Lord said to me, ‘Do not harass Moab or contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land for a possession, because I have given Ar to the people of Lot for a possession.’ 10 (The Emim formerly lived there, a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim. 11 Like the Anakim they are also counted as Rephaim, but the Moabites call them Emim. 12 The Horites also lived in Seir formerly, but the people of Esau dispossessed them and destroyed them from before them and settled in their place, as Israel did to the land of their possession, which the Lord gave to them.) 13 ‘Now rise up and go over the brook Zered.’ So we went over the brook Zered. 14 And the time from our leaving Kadesh-barnea until we crossed the brook Zered was thirty-eight years, until the entire generation, that is, the men of war, had perished from the camp, as the Lord had sworn to them. 15 For indeed the hand of the Lord was against them, to destroy them from the camp, until they had perished.

16 “So as soon as all the men of war had perished and were dead from among the people, 17 the Lord said to me, 18 ‘Today you are to cross the border of Moab at Ar. 19 And when you approach the territory of the people of Ammon, do not harass them or contend with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot for a possession.’ 20 (It is also counted as a land of Rephaim. Rephaim formerly lived there—but the Ammonites call them Zamzummim— 21 a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim; but the Lord destroyed them before the Ammonites,[a] and they dispossessed them and settled in their place, 22 as he did for the people of Esau, who live in Seir, when he destroyed the Horites before them and they dispossessed them and settled in their place even to this day. 23 As for the Avvim, who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorim, who came from Caphtor, destroyed them and settled in their place.) 24 ‘Rise up, set out on your journey and go over the Valley of the Arnon. Behold, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to take possession, and contend with him in battle. 25 This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.’

From this passage I hear God asking me:
What is the value of going over this history?
Can you look back and see how I have led you?
Did you realize it at the time?
Do you feel like you are still wandering?
I led you then, I’ll lead you now.
Trust me. Follow me.

Thursday Picks ~ 7-28-2016

Picks Thursday

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

The Dangers Of Career-Driven WorshipDavid Santistevan
THE DANGERS OFWorship Leaders…this isn’t about a career. This is a calling. It’s not enough to “land” at a church and collect a paycheck.

Because here’s the bottom line: Worship Leaders are worship leaders based on how they lead with their lives…

…If you’re merely looking for a career…there’s other things you should do.


Leading worship isn’t glamorous – you’re not entertaining fans like Coldplay is at the arena down the road. If you are, you’re abusing your role as a pastor and servant of God’s people. It’s not about the glam of the spotlight.

The best worship leaders don’t overthink worship. They think about Jesus.

This article, ironically, is somewhat lengthy, but I found it interesting…

The Oppressive Gospel of ‘Minimalism’  –Kyle Chayka
It has become an ostentatious ritual of consumerist self-sacrifice; people who have it all now seem to prefer having nothing at all…

But it takes a lot to be minimalist: social capital, a safety net and access to the internet. The technology we call minimalist might fit in our pockets, but it depends on a vast infrastructure of grim, air-conditioned server farms and even grimmer Chinese factories. As Lerner’s protagonist observes in “10:04,” even a dull convenience like a can of instant coffee grounds reaches him thanks to a fragile and tremendously wasteful network of global connections, a logistics chain that defies all logic, one undergirded by exploited laborers and vast environmental degradation.

There’s an arrogance to today’s minimalism that presumes it provides an answer rather than, as originally intended, a question…

An encouraging word for creatives in any area…
Refrigerator ArtManuel Luz
Justin ElephantThink about this. How many of you, at one time in your life, took one of your children’s crayon drawings and hung it on your refrigerator door? Why did you do that? Because the art was really good? Maybe, but probably you hung it because you loved your child. And that artwork represents a part of who your child is. That creation was an expression of someone you love…

Well, this is how God feels about us. About the things we create. Especially about the things we create for Him. Every song, every word, every dance, every painting, done for the King delights the King. He takes who we are, and the expressions of who we are, and He delights in it. Expressions of our life in the Kingdom not only bear witness to God, they directly put a smile on God’s face. He delights in the creations of His children. We all are, in a real sense, God’s creations, God’s art. And He takes what we offer Him, and He hangs it on the door of His heart.

Awesome! These young guys are pretty good, but wait for the ending…

Click image for a larger view. Pearls Before Swine

Deuteronomy 1:34-46

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Deuteronomy 1:34-46
34 “And the Lord heard your words and was angered, and he swore, 35 ‘Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, 36 except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the Lord!’ 37 Even with me the Lord was angry on your account and said, ‘You also shall not go in there. 38 Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it. 39 And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it. 40 But as for you, turn, and journey into the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea.’

41 “Then you answered me, ‘We have sinned against the Lord. We ourselves will go up and fight, just as the Lord our God commanded us.’ And every one of you fastened on his weapons of war and thought it easy to go up into the hill country. 42 And the Lord said to me, ‘Say to them, Do not go up or fight, for I am not in your midst, lest you be defeated before your enemies.’ 43 So I spoke to you, and you would not listen; but you rebelled against the command of the Lord and presumptuously went up into the hill country. 44 Then the Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do and beat you down in Seir as far as Hormah. 45 And you returned and wept before the Lord, but the Lord did not listen to your voice or give ear to you. 46 So you remained at Kadesh many days, the days that you remained there.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Does this remind you of anyone you know?
Why is it so hard to simply do as I say?
You know what, that’s it. No more questions.
Just think about that last one today.

Deuteronomy 1:9-18

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Deuteronomy 1:9-18
“At that time I said to you, ‘I am not able to bear you by myself. 10 The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven. 11 May the Lord, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you! 12 How can I bear by myself the weight and burden of you and your strife? 13 Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ 14 And you answered me, ‘The thing that you have spoken is good for us to do.’ 15 So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and set them as heads over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officers, throughout your tribes. 16 And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. 17 You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ 18 And I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Do you take on responsibility that you don’t need to take?
I’m not talking about stuff that is yours alone, but things that others could and should do.
Why do you do that?
Seriously, who are you trying to impress?
Is it a trust thing?

Tuesday Picks ~ 7-26-2016

Picks Tuesday

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

I’ve been asking myself this question recently…

What If God Doesn’t Want To Make America Great Again?
Chris Cilmore
I’m not anti-American. I’m not an anarchist. I plan to vote in the coming election. I’m just not going to assume that God’s deepest desire for us is something as fleeting as prosperity or political freedom. I’m not convinced God is hoping we elect the proper candidate so he can finally get to work in our country…

…Not when the majority of our Scriptures were written to or about people with no freedom, no security, and no wealth. People who often neglected their faith whenever they had actually attained those very things.

And not when many of us are willing to ignore the teachings of Christ in order to make a nation great. If I can’t make America great by living the way of Christ, then I want no part in that greatness. And I don’t think God does either.

I turn 63 in a few weeks, but here are some things I won’t do…

Five Things I Pray I Will Not Do as a Senior Adult in the ChurchThom Rainer
Five-Things-I-Pray-I-Will-Not-Do-as-a-Senior-Adult-in-the-ChurchI am a senior adult.

Have I noticed any differences in my life at this age? Certainly…

…And I have to admit I view church life differently. In fact, I sometimes scare myself with my rigid attitude. I need to write these words quickly lest I become too comfortable or too complacent.

I have five specific prayers. They are for me. They are for my attitude about my church. They are reminders I will need to review constantly…

Are You A Complainer or A Fixer?Margaret Bronson
Instead of complaining and whining about why someone else isn’t doing the thing that you care about, take your passion about that issue as an opportunity to act.

You see, whenever we say, “The church should” or, “Why isn’t the church…” we are mistaking the church for the organization, the building, or the staff. “The church ought to provide a mom’s Bible study!” someone might say. What they are really saying: someone on staff ought to make this happen.

Reality: the church is not the pastors. It’s not the organization and staff. It’s not the building. It’s you. You are the church. … When you say “The church ought to…” what you should really be saying is, “I ought to see if there is a way to meet the need that I see.”

I’m not really comfortable with the use of the word “persecution” here, but I think this is a fairly reasonable look at what’s ahead…

Looking Ahead to the Likelihood of Increased Persecution in AmericaRandy Alcorn
God will use persecution, as He always has, to thereby strengthen His church and extend the Gospel message, not destroy it. Persecution in America will probably never be as extreme as it has been in countless places throughout church history and as it is around the world today…

…For the sake of the free proclamation of the Gospel and the continuance of the rights of belief and practice for churches and others, it’s good that some Christian organizations will continue to defend these rights in courts and elsewhere. The rights believers have today were won at great cost in previous generations, and it is irresponsible and unloving to passively look the other way to the detriment of future generations of Christ-followers, including our children and grandchildren. They are in danger of losing their legal rights to live and proclaim and assemble for the Gospel if we fail to speak up and do something to hold on to our rights that people shed blood to procure and defend.

But please, let’s stop portraying ourselves, who have lived most of our lives in unheard of religious liberty, as a whiny special interest group throwing a tantrum. Let’s happily draw attention to Jesus and the right to believe, teach, celebrate, and bring His Good News to all who will listen.

Immigration disclaimer…