Monday Picks ~ 8-8-2016

Picks Monday

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

An important insight into rest…

Throwing Sheep into a Pit: The Discipline of Sabbath Rest
Rachel Poel
Our struggle to let go of our to-do lists and inboxes for a day shows how much we really need this rest. We don’t rest to maximize our productivity later. We rest to remember that our worth does not hinge on our productivity. We rest because we are children and God is the Father. We rest because we are creatures and God is the Potter. We rest because we are saved and God is the Savior.

Caution: Uncomfortable reading ahead…

Should Christians Save for Retirement?Randy Alcorn
Is this reasonable planning, exercising foresight as Proverbs commends? Or is it an alternative to trusting God, a backup in case God doesn’t come through? How is maintaining a generous retirement plan fundamentally different from the rich fool storing up for his later years to live out his life in comfort and security? We know what Jesus thought of that man’s retirement plans (Luke 12:16-21). Why should we assume He thinks differently about ours? We should study this passage and compare our attitudes, behavior (including giving), and plans for the future to that man’s, and ask how different we are from him. If there’s no difference, obviously we need to change something…

…I realize this is a troubling and threatening question. Believe me, it bothers me to ask it. Although my retirement savings account may be small by American standards, it’s still enough to keep many people alive and reach many people with the gospel. Nanci and I decided a while back to take out some retirement funds and give them to God’s kingdom. But we still have a significant amount left. Some day we may give more of it away, or none of it, or all of it. I don’t know. But I do know we must ask God, because it belongs to Him, not us.

Caution: Humorous reading ahead…

Rules and Values for Hipsters to Live ByTed Kluck
pexels-photo-69212In true neo-Reformed fashion we decided that this topic needed boundaries and I want to try to provide those boundaries.

Below are several helpful rules for hipsters which we didn’t try that hard at (which – not trying hard – is itself a core value of hipsterness). Enjoy (or don’t, we don’t care because not caring is another core value)…

Art Appreciation…
Non Sequitur

Deuteronomy 4:41-49

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 4:41-49
41 Then Moses set apart three cities in the east beyond the Jordan, 42 that the manslayer might flee there, anyone who kills his neighbor unintentionally, without being at enmity with him in time past; he may flee to one of these cities and save his life: 43 Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland for the Reubenites, Ramoth in Gilead for the Gadites, and Golan in Bashan for the Manassites.

44 This is the law that Moses set before the people of Israel. 45 These are the testimonies, the statutes, and the rules, which Moses spoke to the people of Israel when they came out of Egypt, 46 beyond the Jordan in the valley opposite Beth-peor, in the land of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon, whom Moses and the people of Israel defeated when they came out of Egypt. 47 And they took possession of his land and the land of Og, the king of Bashan, the two kings of the Amorites, who lived to the east beyond the Jordan; 48 from Aroer, which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon, as far as Mount Sirion[a] (that is, Hermon), 49 together with all the Arabah on the east side of the Jordan as far as the Sea of the Arabah, under the slopes of Pisgah.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Note that Moses is still recapping their experience thus far.
Did you notice that he introduces my law with a demonstration of my mercy? (Cities of refuge.)
Going forward you might want to look for my mercy within my law.

Deuteronomy 4:32-40

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 4:32-40
32 “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. 33 Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? 34 Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. 36 Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. 37 And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them[a] and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, 38 driving out before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day, 39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. 40 Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Can you imagine hearing this stirring speech in person?
If someone were to give a speech like this recounting the things I’ve done for you, what experiences would it contain?
BTW – You should probably memorize verse 39.
It’s still true.

Thursday Picks ~ 8-4-2016

Picks Thursday

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

Developing a Missional Response to Seismic Shifts in the Church  –Ed Stetzer
Developing a Missional Response to Seismic Shifts in the ChurchEmbrace these shifts. Don’t hold onto yesteryear and long for the Lord’s Prayer to be recited in schools again. Don’t long for Christian values to be embraced in politics. Instead, pray for opportunities to share the gospel to this dark and dreary world. Be the light of the world to a society that just seems to be getting worse as time goes on. The fact is, politics don’t change hearts; only the gospel does.

If Only Eminem Got SavedJordan Standridge
eminemDo you feel inadequate at times? Do you feel like you don’t have what it takes to share the Gospel or to serve the Lord?

Then you are exactly the kind of person God wants to use to bring the Gospel to the world.

Sure God can choose to save celebrities for his glory and use them to save many of his elect. But God typically, throughout biblical and church history, chooses those who are weak according to the flesh in order to make them strong and use them mightily, so that when people look around at everything these men and women have accomplished, they will instantly lift their eyes to heaven and worship the one who enabled these ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

No, this one isn’t about Donald Trump, but it could be…

10 Signs You’re Just a Jerk…Not A LeaderCarey Nieuwhof
jerkHow do I know jerk leadership so well?

Because I have a jerk inside me I need to suppress every day. My guess is you might too.

Fortunately, Jesus introduces a completely different paradigm for leadership.

If you want to be a Christ-like leader, just do the opposite of these ten things. You’ll be well on your way.

Enough Small MomentsSeth Godin

Shortcuts taken, corners cut, compromises made.

By degrees, inch by inch, each justifiable (or justified) moment adds up to become a brand, a reputation, a life.

Dilbert by Scott Adams – Click image for a larger view.

Deuteronomy 4:15-31

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 4:15-31
15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. 19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. 20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day. 21 Furthermore, the Lord was angry with me because of you, and he swore that I should not cross the Jordan, and that I should not enter the good land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. 22 For I must die in this land; I must not go over the Jordan. But you shall go over and take possession of that good land. 23 Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

25 “When you father children and children’s children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, so as to provoke him to anger, 26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. 27 And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you. 28 And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. 29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. 31 For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Are you drawn to worship something I created instead of me?
Why do you do that, what is the attraction?
Why do you think idolatry is so easy to get sucked into?

Music Part 10 – Lighten Up, It’s Only Music

The (Christian) Music that Shaped Me – Conclusion

(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, Part 8, and Part 9.)

Lighten up, it’s only music.

I’m finally wrapping up a 10 part series on The Christian Music That Shaped Me about some of the music that has had a profound affect on my life, my faith, and my ministry. Because of that, it may seem odd for me to say something like, “It’s only music.” Especially when you consider the fact that I’ve spent nearly 45 years of my life serving the church with music in one way or another.

So, yes, I realize that music can be a powerful and even mystical thing for people. But if we’re not careful it can begin to occupy a place in our hearts that should be reserved for the Creator of music…and I’m not referring to a composer.

If you look back over the series you’ll see a pretty diverse collection of songs and musicians. Naturally there are styles and forms of music that I enjoy more than others, but I think I have an appreciation for all music. Believe it or not, I’ve even heard some rap and hip-hop that resonates with me. Like this one, for example: Make War by Tedashii.

I suppose this is why I’ve never really understood how musical styles and preferences have become so divisive in the church.

I served as a Minister of Worship and the primary worship leader in two churches over a period of about 30 years. During that time, I doubt there was a single week that went by that didn’t include at least one “discussion” with someone about the music in the church.

“I hate these new songs. The old songs were the best. I miss them.”

“Have you heard this new song? We should do it sometime!”

“Why do we have to sing so MANY songs?”

“We should have a longer worship time.”

“You always change the arrangements. Why not just do the hymns like we used to?”

“It’s too boring and old-fashioned!”

“I can’t worship with the drums.”

“I LOVE these new songs!”

“It’s too loud!”

And on and on and on and on and on and on and on…

Everybody has an opinion, and everybody has a preference.

I’ve read lots of different books and articles and blog posts about musical worship in the church. Many try to make a case for which “style” of music is most appropriate for a worship service. Each will attempt to make a deep theological argument for why the music they prefer is the music that honors God the most, and how the music they don’t like is shallow and artless.

In my opinion, they all fall short.

Because when you strip away all the religious sounding talk, the snooty aesthetic critique, and the faux spiritual maturity, it always comes down to one basic thing:

“I like this and I don’t like that.”

It doesn’t sound as mature when you put it like that, does it?

This is why I say that the church (you and I) needs to…

Lighten up, It’s only music.

It’s not really what we go to church for anyway…or it shouldn’t be.

In Matt Redman’s church, the pastor, in order to reevaluate the place of music in the church, decided to discontinue ALL music in worship for a time until he thought they were getting back to what worship was really all about. It might seem a little ironic, but it was out of this experience that Matt’s song The Heart of Worship was born.

Ever since I first heard about that, I’ve wanted to attempt leading a group of people in worship without any music whatsoever. I’ve done it a few times in a small group setting, but never in a whole church worship service. I still think it could be a valuable experience for a worship leader, and for a congregation.

Music can be a wonderful addition to a worship service. It can stir our hearts. It can embed important truths in our minds. It can give voice to our soul’s deepest longings.

It can also become an idol.

My dear brothers and sisters, I say this from the depths of my heart, with all the passion I can find: if the church is ever going to be the presence of Christ in the world, we need to lighten up about this. Seriously. It’s only music.

It’s worth noting that scripture says nothing about God’s preferred style of music. Not one thing.

But here are a few things it does say:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
(Philippians 2:3-4)

Does this describe how you approach the issue of music in your church? Have you considered the time and dedication of those who serve you week after week? These people volunteer their time and talent. They learn music whenever they can at home, they come to rehearsal on a weeknight after work, they show up early on Sunday morning and stay through all the services, simply to give you and God the best that they have to offer. Have you gone to the sound booth or the platform after the service and expressed your appreciation? Not often, I suspect. Sadly, I even know of some church members who have threatened to withhold their offerings until the music changes. This is the exact opposite of the attitude described in the above passage.

Scripture also says:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
(Romans 12:18)

Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…
(1 Corinthians 13: 4-5)

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
(Romans 12:10)

So, what do you do when your church continues to use music that isn’t your preference? Consider this: There is a reason for the musical choices made by your church, and it’s not just to annoy you. What do you think that reason could be? I mean, why would your church use music if absolutely no one liked it? They wouldn’t. So, if the only people you ever talk to are people like you, who don’t like the music, I suggest it’s time to get to know some of the people who do. I guarantee that there are people in your church who are there because the music speaks to them. If you get to know a person like that, you will likely find someone who is excited about what God is doing in your church, and it would do you good to be around them. Plus you would do what the above scripture says: “not insist on your own way” and not be “irritable or resentful.”

And for those of you who absolutely love the music in your church, please know that there are some who don’t. Oh, they love Jesus and the church just as much as you do. They just have a different taste in music. What is your interaction with these people? Do you “outdo one another in showing honor”? What can you do to express love to them? If you do these things you might be surprised at what you could learn from these folks. Plus you would begin to, “so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.”

My dear friends and fellow worshipers, regardless of what you like or what you don’t like, I implore you:

It’s time to lighten up, it’s only music.

But let’s get serious about what’s truly important…
Lighten Up

Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14)


Wednesday Picks ~ 8-3-2016

Picks Wednesday

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

The citizenship I need to cling to now more than ever
Aaron Armstrong
SunsetWhen I watch and listen as people speak with uneasiness about the upcoming election, I feel it differently. I will live with the consequences of November’s decision just as they will, but I am not a part of the decision making process. They have a voice. I do not.

I’m a sojourner.

And in a strange way, it makes me appreciate the fact that, in one sense, I always was. From the moment Christ saved me, my citizenship changed. I was no longer simply a Canadian, but a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. This fallen world was no longer the land to which I truly belonged—the coming kingdom, the New Jerusalem is.

And here in a country that is not my own—one where I am more obviously a temporary resident, a sojourner, than I’ve ever been before—it’s this citizenship that I need to cling to in a new way. It was always primary. I am just more aware of it.

Let Us Repent of Our NonchalanceJared C. Wilson
nonchalanceThe god of the prosperity gospelists is a pathetic doormat, a genie. The god of the cutesy coffee mugs and Joel Osteen tweets is a milquetoast doofus like the guys in the Jane Austen novels you hope the girls don’t end up with, holding their hats limply in hand and minding their manners to follow your lead like a butler or the doormat he stands on. The god of the American Dream is Santa Claus…The god of our therapeutic culture is ourselves, we the “forgivers” of ourselves, navel-haloed morons with “baggage” but not sin. None of these pathetic gods could provoke fear and trembling.

But the God of the Scriptures is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24)… He stirs up the oceans with the tip of his finger, and they sizzle rolling clouds of steam into the sky. He shoots lightning from his fists. This is the God who leads his children by a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. This is the God who makes war and sends plagues and sits enthroned in majesty and glory in his heavens, doing what he pleases. This is the God who incarnate in the flesh turned tables over in the temple like he owned the place. This Lord God Jesus Christ was pushed to the edge of the cliff and declared, “This is not happening today,” and walked right back through the crowd like a boss. This Lord says “Nobody takes my life; I give it willingly,” as if to say, “You couldn’t kill me unless I let you.” This Lord calms the storms, casts out demons, binds and looses and has the authority to grant us the same. The Devil is this God’s lapdog.

And it is this God who has summoned us, apprehended us, saved us.

America’s Lost BoysSamuel D. James a time when our culture desperately needs bold and compassionate models of Christian masculinity, the prospect that an entire generation’s potential should be wasted on an addiction to stimulation is deeply sad. Sin is always double-edged like that—it’s a matter not only of doing what one ought not do, but also of neglecting to do what one ought. What might these millions of young men be doing, if they were not doing this?

These are America’s lost boys. They should matter to anyone who cares about human flourishing, the beauty of family, the sustenance of friendship, and the health of our civic society. Rather than try to attract these millennials by reshaping faith in the image of entertainment, we as Christians should offer a gospel that saves not only from hell but also from meaninglessness.

Deuteronomy 4:1-14

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 4:1-14
“And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules[a] that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you. Your eyes have seen what the Lord did at Baal-peor, for the Lord your God destroyed from among you all the men who followed the Baal of Peor. But you who held fast to the Lord your God are all alive today. See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— 10 how on the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ 11 And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12 Then the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13 And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments,[b] and he wrote them on two tablets of stone. 14 And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and rules, that you might do them in the land that you are going over to possess.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
What do you do to make sure you remember all I’ve done for you?
Have you taught your children?
Do you teach your children’s children?