My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness

As we approach the Thanksgiving season this year, I was thinking about what I can say that is deep or inspiring. And then as I reread the lyrics of a song the choir is working on, I remembered that a lot of times, I really don’t need to overthink things and should let the music do the talking. So, to that end, I want to share the words of the song and show how beautifully they spell out areas that I believe we should really be thankful to the Lord for this season:

“My heart is filled with thankfulness, to Him who bore my pain;
Who plumbed the depths of my disgrace and gave me life again;
Who crushed my curse of sinfulness and clothed me in His light
And wrote His law of righteousness with pow’r upon my heart.

The first verse highlights how thankful we should be for the salvation that pulled us out of our sin-riddled lives and gave us life, purpose and a future with guidance to live by.

My heart is filled with thankfulness to Him who walks beside;
Who floods my weaknesses with strength and causes fears to fly;
Whose ev’ry promise is enough for ev’ry step I take,
Sustaining me with arms of love and crowning me with grace.

The second verse brings into focus how thankful we should be for the daily presence that God has in our life. Every day, God is there to lead us, instruct us, and love us. That is such an amazing blessing in this life.

My heart is filled with thankfulness to Him who reigns above,
Whose wisdom is my perfect peace, whose ev’ry thought is love.
For ev’ry day I have on earth is given by the King;
So I will give my life, my all, to love and follow him.”

The third verse serves to remind us that every day that we have here on earth is a gift that we are being given by our Creator and Savior and the King of kings. It also finishes with an extremely important part of our thankfulness that we must not overlook. It finishes with our response. During this time of Thanksgiving this year, my encouragement to us all would be that we not just express our thankfulness, but that we make sure that we live out a response to what we are thankful for. That goes not just for spiritual things, as displayed in verse three of the song, but also regarding the things of this world. If someone has blessed you, make sure to show them how thankful you are with actions, not just words. I believe that will increase the blessing of this time of year.

In Christ Alone,

P.S. Becky and I just want to thank you all for the opportunity to serve this church through worship and thank you for your prayers and encouragement. We also want to make sure and say thank you to everyone who sacrifices their time and energy to work with us in the worship ministry. You are all a blessing to us.

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(this article was published in the July 2019 Communique)

Recently I’ve come to realize that one of the biggest issues that we have in the western church, myself included, is that a large number of us walk around with blinders on. I have come to realize that this is truly a sin issue. We often are willful in our blindness and the fruit of that is pride. The only way that we can care about ourselves and our desires more than caring for others like God instructs is to not look at what is going on in the lives of others. This is one of the reasons I’m so thankful that God intends us to live out our lives together. It opens the door to have our blinders knocked off and our eyes open, only once it happens, it is paramount that we not reach down and put our blinders back on.

In our Sunday School class, we typically open by discussing items for prayer. Months ago, Eli began bringing up the kidnapping epidemic in Nigeria, and I was truly clueless to what was going on. I didn’t realize that with poverty being the way of life for the vast majority of people in that country, one of the consistent ways that people are resorting to, in order to bring in money for themselves, is to kidnap others for ransom. It’s everywhere. There used to be areas where it was prevalent and areas where it wasn’t, but based on recent first-hand accounts, that is no longer the case. How can I be concerned with how someone bruised my ego or didn’t give me my way about something here at church when I know that fellow believers are being kidnapped, or having their children kidnapped every single day? I don’t have time to worry about me, I need to be praying for them.

Our blinders aren’t just to things around the world, but also to things here in our country, our state, and our city. At the recent Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, there was a lot of time spent on discussing our shortcomings, as well as how we can do better, in the area of protecting and serving those who are survivors of abuse. The cases that have happened in SBC churches are more pervasive than any of us, with our blinders firmly in place, would have ever believed. The fact is though, that if we look at the statistics, there’s no way that we don’t know people that are survivors of abuse. Statistically, 33% of women and 25% of men have been abused. That means that in a congregation of 100, there is no doubt that we sit in service every single week with those who are dealing with the effects of abuse. I know that personally I have relationships with at least two dozen survivors of abuse that I am aware of, and I am sure there are many more that I’m blind to. Shedding a light on that is critical, and even more critical is doing what we can to minister to these survivors. This is an example of what should garner our attention. Additionally, the adult offering the past few VBS’ has gone to victims of human trafficking and thus also survivors of abuse. I think we often think of this as us sending money to help these survivors “wherever they are”, but the truth is that over 1,600 children in Kansas City are numbered in those ranks every single year. This truly breaks my heart, and I must repent that this doesn’t bring me to my knees in prayer every single day. These are the ones that need our focus and attention, not the pettiness of life that we give too much our time.

My prayer today is that the Lord will remove our blinders and give us hearts for all those that He loves.

In Christ Alone,

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The Church and the MCU

(This article was originally published in the June 2019 CBC Communique)

Note: MCU is short for Marvel Cinematic Universe

At the end of last month, Marvel Studios released the film ‘Avengers: Endgame’. As of this writing, it has made over 2.6 billion dollars worldwide, or about the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Aruba. A few people have apparently seen the film, including me. Twice. I’ve gotten asked by many people “what did you think of it?”, “was it emotional?”, and “should I go see it?” The last two questions always lead me to ask a question in response: “How invested are you in the MCU?” The reason I ask that is because the film is not really made to be enjoyed as a stand-alone entity. It serves to wrap up the stories of the 21 MCU films that came before it. A person’s level of investment in these movies factors a lot into my responses and truly whether or not they will get anything out of it. That concept has spurred a lot of thought, on my part, regarding the impact of our investment in various areas of life, not the least of which was the church.

What do you get out of attending church and being part of a church family? Does it check off a box that makes you feel like you did something you were supposed to? Do you feel empty if you miss a week? Do you want more out of it? The truth is that most of the variation between what you get out of church and what others get out of it is determined by each person’s level of investment. A key element of your investment level is not just the how long you’ve gone to a church or how many of the Marvel movies you’ve watched. It comes from your mindset going in to each and what you want to walk away with.

I’ve seen each of the 22 MCU movies at least two times and the majority of them at least four times. I’m entertained by them, but I have also gone into each of them with a desire to like them and an interest in caring about the characters and the stories. That mindset increases my level of enjoyment, helps me ignore some flaws, and it develops the emotional capital that I have invested (except in the Hulk movie…it can’t fix that). I guarantee that there are people that will tell you that many of these movies aren’t that good and they can point out all of the plot holes and issues with the acting or stories. They may make many valid points, but it won’t change how much I get out of them, because of how invested I am. The same concept applies in church.

The truth is that if we come to church with a critical eye, evaluating people, services and activities to see if they hit all the marks all the time, we are going to be able to find criticisms and flaws. A lot of them. But if we want to get the most out of our lives together as the local church, the key is investment. If we come in with a desire to worship God, to leave with truth that impact our lives, and to encourage and be encouraged, we will be amazed at how blessed we will be and also how much we will bless others. We will also be blessed to find that the flaws others find in the church won’t change how much we get out of it. To see our life within the local body of Christ be more vibrant, investment ahead of time, through prayer, worship and mental preparation all week makes an enormous difference. If we take that approach regularly, I believe the impact will be absolutely marvelous.

In Christ Alone,

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Man of Sorrows

(This article was originally published in the May 2019 CBC Communique)

Each year, as Passion Week (or Holy Week, or Easter Week…however you want to refer to it) approaches, I tend to go down a path of listening to large amounts of music that point to the cross and the resurrection and this year was no exception. In the course of this year’s journey, I was listening to the song “Man of Sorrows” and it started me down a rabbit hole. I was reminded of the origins of the phrase and then other songs with the same or similar names and ultimately, it was a blessed journey that reinforced a crucial thought: He has done everything for me, what can I do but worship Him and give Him all of me?

The origin of the phrase, at least for the context of these songs, is the 53rd chapter of the book of Isaiah. Verses 3-5 read:

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.

These verses were written, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, around 700+ years before Christ willingly and intentionally laid down His life to pay for our sins. These verses clearly tie our sins and sorrows as the source of Him being a man of sorrows acquainted with grief. As I listened to these songs, I appreciated greatly the use of this phrase, because it became inescapable to me that every time I heard it, the source of those sorrows was us. That may sound a little depressing, but when you read the words, it really just enhances our understanding of just how matchless His love really is. The version you find in our hymnals says:

Man of sorrows what a name for the Son of God, who came ruined sinners to reclaim. Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood, sealed my pardon with his blood. Guilty, helpless, lost were we; blameless Lamb of God was He, sacrificed to set us free. He was lifted up to die; “It is finished” was his cry; now in heaven exalted high. When He comes, our glorious King, all His ransomed home to bring, then anew this song we’ll sing: Hallelujah, what a Savior!

The picture of us being bound and condemned only to have Him come and pay our ransom and being set completely free is such an amazing image that simply brings me to my knees. That feeling is driven home even more in the lyrics of the more recent song “Man of Sorrows”:

Man of sorrows Lamb of God by His own betrayed. The sin of man and wrath of God has been on Jesus laid. Silent as He stood accused, beaten mocked and scorned. Bowing to the Father’s will he took a crown of thorns. Sent of heaven God’s own Son to purchase and redeem and reconcile the very ones who nailed Him to that tree. See the stone is rolled away, behold the empty tomb. Hallelujah God be praised He’s risen from the grave!

Now my debt is paid, it is paid in full by the precious blood that my Jesus spilled. Now the curse of sin has no hold on me. Whom the Son sets free, oh is free indeed.

Oh that rugged cross, my salvation, where Your love poured out over me. Now my soul cries out Hallelujah, Praise and honor unto Thee.

I simply can’t comprehend being able to dismiss what was done on the cross and not having it affect me. The punishment that we deserve comes from God and that wrath was what was laid on Jesus almost two millennia ago. The physical torture was beyond what we can comprehend and yet, the wrath of men pales in comparison to the wrath of God. In the face of that, Christ submitted to the will of the father to subject himself to that, so that we could see our debt paid in full, our freedom bought. My only response to that is awe and wonder.

As we reflect on these incredible truths, I pray that none of this is lost on us. I pray that we wake up each day and intentionally keep this on the forefront of our minds, so that we realize that living “our best life”, as people like to say these days, consists purely of living a life of worship that brings glory to God and shows others the great news of what has been done for them.

In Christ Alone,

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Behold the Lamb

(this article was originally published in the April 2019 CBC Communique)

We are quickly approaching the most important time on our church calendar. Each year I feel like I recognize more and more how precious the Easter season is, because I recognize more how unworthy I am of the work of the cross and the empty tomb. I also find myself increasingly drawn toward songs that exult in the work that was accomplished for us on the cross. One of the songs that the worship team has begun working on is one called Behold the Lamb and it does exactly that; focusing on what He did, that we have never deserved, and our proper reaction to it. The first two verses of the song shine a light on what took place on the cross:

See Him there, the great I Am / A crown of thorns upon His head / The Father’s heart displayed for us / Oh God, we thank You for the cross

Lifted up on Calvary’s hill / We cursed Your name, and even still / You bore our shame, and paid the cost / Oh God, we thank You for the cross

One of the things that I think is so poignant is not just the picture of Christ on the cross, but the clear correlation between His presence there and our role in putting Him there while we also were the beneficiaries. It’s truly a beautiful reminder of what love truly looks like. The next verse then moves us from the cross to the empty tomb:

All for us, this sacrifice / For every sin our Saviour died / The Lord of Life can’t be contained / Our God has risen from the grave / Oh, our God has risen from the grave

That last line is absolutely critical to our understanding of the difference between the one true God and all others that are false. Only the true and living God has faced death, defeated it, and lives forevermore. That final line impacts me every time I hear it. The defeating of the death that was caused by our sins is also the reason we have the opportunity to spend eternity with Him. The song then moves its focus to that eternal perspective:

When the age of death is done / We’ll see Your face, bright as the sun / We’ll bow before the King of kings / Oh God, forever we will sing

Behold the Lamb / The story of redemption written on His hands / Jesus, You will reign forevermore / The victory is Yours / We sing Your praise / Endless hallelujah to Your holy name / Jesus, You will reign forevermore / The victory is Yours

That is such amazing news that is worthy of our praise, honor, and adoration!! I pray that as we enter this season of focus on the work of the cross, we don’t lose the awe and wonder of what has been done for us. The victory belongs to Him and we are the beneficiaries. Praise God!

In Christ Alone,

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Your Eyes

(this article was originally published in the March 2019 Communique)

In 2008, Brandon Heath released a song entitled “Give Me Your Eyes” and I think the heart of the message is needed even more now, in 2019, than it was then. These are the words of the chorus:

Give me your eyes for just one second / Give me your eyes so I can see, / Everything that I keep missing, / Give your love for humanity. / Give me your arms for the broken-hearted / The ones that are far beyond my reach. / Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten. / Give me Your eyes so I can see.

From what I can tell, we have a serious problem with our eyes. I look around at the world we live in and I see a world of perpetual outrage. It seems that this becomes the default state for us with each 24-hour news cycle. As soon as a news story breaks, we look through our cloudy and colored eyes to see if we are outraged about what happened or if we are outraged at the people who are outraged about what happened. Our world is reminiscent of the children of Israel in the time of Isaiah: we see but don’t perceive, we hear but don’t understand and we grow callous. As we grow callous, we close our eyes and ears and they don’t even see or hear at all. I believe that God is grieved by what he sees from His church. For a long time, churches have been focused on specks in the eyes of others, ignoring the planks in our own eyes. The western church has been more interested in our own little fiefdoms than with the lost, hurting, and disenfranchised in the world. Ultimately it all comes down to how our eyes perceive value.

In Matthew 6:22-23, Jesus states that “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness, how deep is that darkness!” These verses are sandwiched between verses regarding heavenly treasure and the inability to serve God and money. It seemed a little odd to me, at first, to have these verses in this section, but it finally made sense when I recognized that it is about the value we perceive, in people or things. If our eyes are good then we see value in infinite things and we will be full of light. If we then bring that light into darkness, those trapped in darkness will finally see the light. But if we see value in temporal things then we will be filled with darkness. This is why we need to look through the eyes of our Creator and Redeemer. If we start seeing that the value of those that are hurting, abused, broken-hearted, lost, forgotten, and alone greatly outweighs the value of the things of this world that we have been pursuing, then we will begin acting in a manner that accurately reflects God’s interests instead of our own self-centered interests.

My prayer is that we all will actively pursue a lifestyle of viewing everyone through the eyes of the one that created them and loves them. If we do that, I think we will be so busy doing what we were made to do, that we won’t have time for the snares that have entangled us for far too long.

In Christ Alone,

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Lift High

(this article was originally published in the February 2019 Communique)

As we are moving forward through this early part of 2019 I want to simply share a word of encouragement this month. There are a great many things that vie for our time and attention and there are equally as many things that can distract and distress us and all of these things can be overwhelming. When I feel those things start to overwhelm me and take my focus, I’ve found that re-centering my focus on what matters is one of the best things I can do. There’s a recent hymn called “Lift High the Name of Jesus” that has served as an encouragement to me to do exactly that. It says:

Lift high the name of Jesus / Of Jesus our King / Make known the power of His grace / The beauty of His peace / Remember how His mercy reached / And we cried out to Him / He lifted us to solid ground / To freedom from our sin

Lift high the name of Jesus / Of Jesus our Lord / His pow’r in us is greater than / Is greater than this world / To share the reason for our hope / To serve with love and grace / That all who see Him shine through us / Might bring the Father praise

Lift high the name of Jesus / Of Jesus our Light / No other name on earth can save / Can raise us a soul to life / He opens up our eyes to see / The harvest He has grown / We labor in His fields of grace / As He leads sinners home

Oh sing my soul / And tell all He’s done / ‘Til the earth and heavens are filled with His glory

Some of what I find so encouraging are the reminders that the song provides us. Reminders of:

  • What we should be doing
  • How we need(ed) Him
  • What He did for us
  • How great He is
  • More things we should be doing
  • What He did for all who will believe
  • Our purpose here as His children
  • One of our ultimate goals

I think that as we get bogged down with us, we desperately need reminders of Him so that we can put our focus and our energy back where it belongs. And when we get back to doing the purpose for which we were created, that is when we will recapture our joy and satisfaction!

In Christ Alone,

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Random Thoughts Illustrated – Volume III

(this article was originally published in the January 2019 Communique)

I often find myself at this time of year both reflective and scattered, which often leads to an inability to share a singular thought in this space, and I find that to again be the case this year. As such I just want to share a few thoughts with you all. Amusingly, as I put them to paper, an almost Dickensian structure presented itself, so let’s visit my thoughts of the past, present and future.

The Past

As I looked back on this past year, I realized that without intending to do so, the first 3 years we’ve done this ministry there has been a single song each year that has been the anthem of my heart for Claycomo. Just as I Am (I Come Broken), and For the Cause were the first two and this year it’s been The Lord is my Salvation. I don’t know what this next year holds but I know that the God who takes our broken pieces and makes them new, who is also the purpose for which we live, and is the absolute source of our salvation, is the God that will be with us through all of the triumphs and trials that await us in 2019. We need to keep our focus on Him and, as it says in Psalm 139, He will hold us fast.

The Present (A Thank You)

I am beyond blessed to be able to serve our church in this position. I want to thank all of you who support us through prayer. I also am beyond blessed by those who invest their time and talents in our worship-related teams. To the choir, the booth workers, and the musicians I want to say a huge “Thank You”. The ministry, and in turn the environment for our church to be able to engage in corporate worship would not be the same without all of you. Additionally, I also want to thank Becky. She’s my partner in planning, she’s everything for the choir, and she has a worshipper’s heart that I cherish. I would find this attempting to do this job without her as challenging as trying to nail Jell-o to a tree

The Future

As we begin 2019, we will be doing so focusing on what God’s Word says about worship and specifically prayer both in and as worship. It is my heart’s cry that we hold tightly to biblically accurate prayer and worship as pillars of our lives each and every day so that we as the body at Claycomo are a true light to our world around us and so that we accurately reflect the heart of our Father in heaven to those searching for hope. It’s also my hope that we will actively work to build one another up and work diligently to promote peace and unity within the body of Christ, avoiding the relationship damaging “friendly fire” (to borrow a military term) that all too often keeps the church from flourishing and takes our focus off of the things of eternal significance.

The Uncommon Power of Grace

I’ve been ruminating a good bit on the concept of grace recently and was going to put some thoughts down about it, but then a friend of a friend wrote much more eloquently about it than I ever would have, so I wanted to share that here and I hope it is impactful for you as well. This is from Peter Wehner, who served under 3 of the past 6 U.S. Presidents:

In his book “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” Philip Yancey describes a conference on comparative religions where experts from around the world debated which belief, if any, was unique to the Christian faith. C.S. Lewis happened to enter the room during the discussion. When he was told the topic was Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions, Lewis responded: “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

Lewis was right. No other religion places grace at its theological center. It was a revolutionary idea; as Mr. Yancey puts it, grace “seems to go against every instinct of humanity.” We are naturally drawn to covenants and karma, to cause and effect, to earning what we receive.

Grace is different. It is the unmerited favor of God, unconditional love given to the undeserving. It’s a difficult concept to understand because it isn’t entirely rational. “Grace defies reason and logic,” as Bono, the lead singer of U2, put it. “Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions.”

There’s a radical equality at the core of grace. None of us are deserving of God’s grace, so it’s not dependent on social status, wealth or intelligence. There is equality between kings and peasants, the prominent and the unheralded, rule followers and rule breakers.

If you find yourself in the company of people whose hearts have been captured by grace, count yourself lucky. They love us despite our messy lives, stay connected to us through our struggles, always holding out the hope of redemption. When relationships are broken, my wife Cindy told me, it’s grace that causes people not to give up, to extend the invitation to reconnect, to work through misunderstandings with sensitivity and transparency.

You don’t sense hard edges, dogmatism or self-righteous judgment from gracious people. There’s a tenderness about them that opens doors that had previously been bolted shut. People who have been transformed by grace have a special place in their hearts for those living in the shadows of society. They’re easily moved by stories of suffering and step into the breach to heal. And grace properly understood always produces gratitude.

Of course, grace can easily be exploited by people who don’t want to be held accountable for their misdeeds; the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to this as “cheap grace.” Nor is it easy to balance grace with the requirements of justice. We obviously can’t organize society entirely around the concept of grace. Yet the problem today is more the absence of grace than its presence.

It’s easy to understand why. Living a grace-filled life is hard. Most of us, when we feel wronged, want payback. Our first impulse, when hurt or offended, is to strike out, justifying our anger in the name of fairness. We forget the words of Edward Herbert (the poet George’s brother), “He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself,” and we forget that only grace can break the cycle of ancient hatreds among peoples. (It is notable that while I have regretted not granting grace to others, I’ve never once regretted extending it.)

When Mr. Yancey was young, he rejected the church for a time because he found so little grace there. There is a tendency among many people of faith to come across as holier than thou, more eager to judge than to forgive. Jesus encountered this throughout his ministry, which helps explain why he was more comfortable in the company of the unclean and reviled, the lowly and the outcast, than religious authorities. The odds are that you know people who have had scars of ungrace inflicted upon them by the Christian church. Yet when we see grace in action — whether in acts of extravagant, indiscriminate love, in radical self-giving, or in showing equanimity in the face of death — it can move us unlike anything else.

In 2014, Steve Hayner, my spiritual confidant, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Upon learning it had spread, Steve wrote, “In all probability, the remainder of my life on this earth is now to be counted in weeks and months.” (He died in January 2015.) Steve acknowledged that pain and death are reminders of the nature of our broken world. Yet he went on to say: “There is a much bigger story of which this is only a tiny part. And it is God’s story of love, hope, forgiveness, reconciliation, and joy. We went into this journey choosing to trust God and to offer our fears to God. We’ve been so grateful for the freedom from fear and the abundance of peace that we have experienced.” He added, “There are, of course, times of discouragement, grief, pain, and wonder. After all, there are a lot of unknowns ahead of us.”

I sent Steve’s reflections to my friend Jonathan Rauch, who responded, “It’s letters like this — the wisdom, the grace — that make me wish I weren’t an atheist.”

When I recently asked Jonathan how, as a nonbeliever, he understood grace and why it inspires us when we see it in others, he told me that grace is “some combination of generosity and magnanimity, kindness and forgiveness, and empathy — all above the ordinary call of duty, and bestowed even (or especially?) when not particularly earned.” We see it demonstrated in heroic ways and in small, everyday contexts, he said. “But I guess, regardless of the context, it’s always at least a little unexpected and out of the ordinary.”

A lot like if the incarnate deity, veiled in flesh, were born in a manger in Bethlehem. ( – 12/23/18)

In Christ Alone,

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What Mercy Did for Me

(this article was originally published in the December 2018 Communique)

My first Christmas Communique article was about how I always try to put some focus during the Christmas season on the reason that Christmas matters. If you weren’t here for that, the short answer is that the cross and the resurrection are the reason that Christmas is worth celebrating. If Christ had not died and been raised, then His birth would be irrelevant. That’s the reason I often sprinkle in some songs about the cross during the Christmas season. Truthfully, I could probably write about that each Christmas and I believe it would be a worthwhile reminder for all of us. However, since I prefer not to repeat myself too much, I want to take this a step past His birth, death and resurrection and look at what the cross did for us and how we respond.

One of the songs that has been in a fairly heavy rotation this year for me is one called “What Mercy Did for Me”. It is a fantastic reminder of what I was, what He did, and where I am now. Walking through the words helps me to ensure a proper perspective on my days. The first verse starts with an acknowledgement of where each of us find ourselves before Christ intervenes:

I was hopeless, I knew I was lost. Death and darkness were my only songs. I needed someone to come rescue me. Then mercy heard my plea.

When I start each day with a reminder of where I am without Christ, I really believe it helps give me the proper perspective of what matters in eternity and what is only temporal. Then the chorus is a joyous reminder of the greatest gift I will ever receive and how my life will never be the same:

Lord you found me, You healed me, You called me from the grave. You gave me your real love, I thank you Jesus. You washed my sins away. Oh now I’m living like I’m forgiving, You came and set me free. That’s what Your mercy did for me.

Much like Pastor Scott has discussed on a couple of occasions during the current “Worship Together” sermon series, I believe that it is a great benefit to have a reminder of what God has done so that then we can respond accordingly. That’s what the next verse does beautifully.

You gave me beauty for my guilty stains, and now I’m living today by His grace. So excuse me if I can’t contain my praise, (be)cause I know that I’ve been changed

I really believe that if we will stop and really consider what we deserve and compare it to where we find ourselves, the only response is praise that we can’t hold back. It’s what makes me love worship. I truly believe that if we can keep that perspective in the forefront of our minds it will greatly enrich our gratitude and our worship. I hope that during this Thanksgiving and Christmas season and starting out the upcoming year, we will all be intentional about this focus and see our worship be filled with gratitude and uncontainable praise and worship for our God, without whom we would find ourselves entirely without hope.

In Christ Alone,

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On the Catwalk

(This article originally appeared in the November 2018 Communique)

I wear a lot of hats in my life. I have one that goes with virtually everything I wear…wait, while true, that’s not what I’m talking about. Over the course of an average week, I may wear the hat of an analyst, a pastor, a chauffeur, a cook (of frozen chicken nuggets), a musician, an athlete, a principal, a parent, a friend, a teacher, a counselor, and more. Most everyone I know is in the same boat, just with different hats. One of the hats we don’t think about as much, typically, is that of a model. Now, I’m not talking about the Margaux Hemingway, Tyra Banks, Kate Upton, Derek Zoolander type of model. I’m talking about the “system, person, or thing used as an example to follow or imitate” type of model. The fact is that, whether or not we think about this role or even want this role, we are playing this role all the time. Whether it is our own children or others that we have ongoing relationships with, we are being watched far more than we realize and we are influencing the behavior of others more than we will ever know. This began to sink in for me a little when Lauren first started to ask to pray over our dinner at home a couple of years ago. As she prayed, it was obvious that she was modeling her prayer after how I do it, even down to the word ‘nourishing’ which I’m confident she doesn’t know the meaning of, though it’s adorable to hear her try to say it.

So why do I bring this up now? While Becky and I were at the Sing! Conference in September, someone posited a question something like “Do you wonder why your kids don’t sing in church?” to which they responded “What do you model for them at home? Do you sing together? Do they hear the hymns and worship songs at home that they hear at church?” Those questions were extremely challenging to me because my answer wasn’t yes to all of them. They talked about having family worship times as well as having music going constantly in their homes and it really sent me down this path of considering what we model for our kids. I think it is a vitally important concept for us to be intentional about when it comes to worship as well as the rest of life.

One of the most terrifying aspects, to me, of being a parent, is that my children are likely to view how I act and react to situations as the model for them to mirror as they encounter those same situations. I know that there are plenty of times where I react without consideration for what that is teaching them, I just react based on my feelings at that moment. Unfortunately, “do as I say, not as I do” is not what children retain. They are far more likely to do as you do and not as you say. I believe it would benefit us greatly to be more intentional, individually as well as collectively, in what we model for our children than we are right now. Now, in our current culture, there exists a counter-argument to this that we should just be “real”, proudly living out who we are with no filter and that this discussion of modeling what our children should be like is fake, disingenuous, and manipulative. Here’s the thing, I already know what I am, a very flawed and sinful man deserving only death and punishment, and I want so much better for them. Proverbs 22 says, “Train up a child in the way he SHOULD go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”. The mandate is for us to raise them in the best way possible, not in the way most like how we are.

So where do we go from here? One of the things I was grateful for during the conversation at the conference was when one of the leaders made a point of saying “to all of you out there currently beating yourself up because you haven’t been doing these things and your kids are getting older, don’t focus on that. It’s never too late to begin modeling these things for them”. If you look through the gospels in scripture, you will see that Jesus made sure to model a life of prayer, singing, teaching, discipling, and evangelizing in front of his disciples and they were already adults. He didn’t just tell them to do these things, He lived them out in front of them every day for three years and we see that the disciples emulated that model when Jesus was gone. So my encouragement to us is not to focus on what we haven’t done, but to give our energy to the opportunities that lie ahead of us. There is still time to model a life of loving God’s Word, worshipping Him at home and together corporately, and spending meaningful time in prayer in front of all of those who are watching us.

In Christ Alone,

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