Mosaic Student Ministries

Last night we “kicked-off” our new student ministries program. We are calling it Mosaic for several reasons. A mosaic is made up of many different tiles to create a beautiful work of art.

Similarly, Mosaic Student Ministries is made up of a diverse group of students Kindergarten through 12th grade. The are diverse in more ways than age. They attend different schools. They have different interests. They come in all different kinds of packages. But our desire is to bring them together into a big beautiful picture for God. In some ways you could compare it to a photomosaic.
A photomosaic is made up of many different small pictures to create one large picture. While praying in John, Jesus prayed for His disciples to be one with Him, just as God and He were one. That is our prayer and desire for our students; that they would become one with Jesus and with each other. We want to develop students who can go and change the world.

Praise You in This Storm

Today I continued our series titled “Lifesong Lessons.” The series is based on the CD “Lifesong” by Casting Crowns. Today’s sermon was “Praise You in This Storm.” (emphasis mine) How difficult is it to praise God when everything is going well? How much faith does it take to praise God when “the world’s all as it should be?” Not very much. It takes much more faith to praise God in the storm–when it’s tough to get your bearings. It is a real test of our motives of worship. James writes in his letter that the storms or trials of life exist to strengthen our faith. Without the storms in life our faith will be lacking something. It will not be tried and true. The apostle Paul reminds us that these are temporary trials and they cannot compare to the eternal riches that we can’t see. To see more than this summary click here.

The Smell of Love

Tomorrow I turn 43. Happy birthday to me! I will be the first to tell you that getting older has its downside. Earlier this week, I ended up with a terrible pain in my shoulder. It’s gone thankfully. My wife had injured her thumb, so instead of the wonderful romantic scent of candles, we had the wonderful “romantic” scent of icyhot. Isn’t it interesting how things change over the years?

Praise You In This Storm

Life can be full of difficulty. In this past year, throughout the world there have been earthquakes, famine, flooding rains, and hurricanes. Just over a year ago, we watched as hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast. We have all seen the pictures. We remember seeing the pictures of the tsunami in Southeast Asia. In addition to the natural disasters, there are times when our lives just don’t seem to be working out right. Sometimes life doesn’t turn out as planned. You had your plans and they didn’t work out the way you wanted them.
This past week, if you’ve been following our reading plan for reading through the Bible, you have encountered the man Job. Here is a righteous man. The scriptures tell us he was blameless and upright; that he feared God and shunned evil. He was a rich man. He had seven sons and three daughters. He owned all kinds of livestock. He was the greatest and riches man in the region of Uz. Job was a man who had it all. Even God considered him to be a fine specimen of a human. All was right with Job’s world, so it seemed. In Job 1:6, we pick up the action.

One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?” there is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears god and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

So God permitted Satan to take everything but Job’s health and life and Satan did so. But Job did not do what Satan predicted. This is Job’s reply:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.” The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Satan came to God a second time and we have a second conversation that sounds much like the first. Satan replies, “Skin for skin…A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike has flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

So Satan strikes Job with painful sores. And yet, Job still does not curse God. He replies to his wife’s suggestion to curse God and die with this. “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
If we were to continue reading, we would see that just because Job does not curse God, does not mean that he doesn’t question God. It is a very honest questioning. How was Job able to praise God after losing everything he owned? How was Job able to praise God in the storm he was going through?

It is so easy to worship God, when everything is going well. It’s easy to praise God for new jobs, health, wealth, good friends and family. But what about when things don’t go so well? There are those in the Christian community that would say that it’s a faith issue. Job’s friends thought so. Job’s friends told Job to confess the sin he was hiding, so that God would bless him again. There’s a popular thought in Christian circles that if I’m sin free and I have faith, I will never be sick. I will never be poor. I will have wonderful friends and I will never go through a trial. What kind of faith does it require to praise God in just the good times?

If there ever were a test of our faith…If there ever were a test of our motives of worship—it is when a storm rolls into our life. Sometimes God calms the storms, but sometimes He chooses to ride along with us. What does it mean to praise God in THIS storm? Notice the emphasis…this storm implies that we are going through it right now. I had been singing it wrong. It’s easy to say that I will praise God in THE storm, because we are going through the storm, but the word THIS says, at least to me, that we are going through the storm at the current time and that I can praise God during the storm.

So who is correct? If we are going through difficulty, does that mean that we’ve sinned? Does it mean that we don’t have enough faith? To say these things means that we haven’t looked at the entire word of God. One of my favorite verses from years ago, comes from Romans 8:28. My favorite band during my teens and early 20’s was Glad. They wrote a song directly from this scripture, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” To be real honest, it sure doesn’t seem that way when you are in the middle of a storm. It’s difficult at best to get your bearings in the middle of a storm. But if we look at another writer he says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever, you face trials of many kinds…” Whoa back the truck up…We should consider trials a joy? Why is that? James continues, “Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything…” So according to James trials and testing and the storms of life are not evidence of our lack of faith, but evidence that our faith is there and needs sharpening. Perseverance through the storm hones our faith. It strengthens our faith. I like the words James uses here. James in effect is saying that without trials we can never become mature believers. We can never become complete in our faith. Without the storms our faith will lack strength. Storms serve to strengthen our faith. So how do we praise God in THIS storm?
David suggests this in Psalm 42. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” We need to remember what God has done for us. When David was going through the storms, he remembered how God had worked in the past. That would give him the strength to go through the next storm and see how God would take him through it.

One of the things that’s important to traverse the storm is scripture. David writes in Psalm 121, “I lift up my eyes to the hills where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed he who watches over Israel will neither slumber or sleep. The Lord watches over you—the Lord is the shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

What I love about the new songs is that many times they are scriptures set to music and I don’t know about you, but I can memorize music easier than reading a book. Scripture is key to praising God in the storm.

We must remember that God has a plan for our life and it’s not ours. God is God and we are not! Remember this exchange?

Shardrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

Now that’s what it means to praise God in the storm. If we are a child of God, we know that ultimately He will rescue us. Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don’t’ look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.”

Laurie Edwards watched her little girl gasping for air and wanted to breathe for her. She wanted the Maker of breaths to swoop in and fill her child’s lungs and dissolve every tumor with His mere glance. She wanted another miracle.

It was the early morning of Saturday, October 30, 2004. Ten-year-old Erin Browning lay in a hospice bed in her home, in such pain and shortness of breath that, in fear and exasperation, she could manage only one request of her mother.

“Just read the Scriptures!” she said.

So Laurie began reading the Scriptures. She included Erin’s favorite passage, Proverbs 3:5-6. From 1 a.m. until 5 a.m., loved ones took turns reading aloud the Word of God over a child in the last, cruelest stages of cancer’s grip. Little Erin had battled for more than three years.
And now the end was near. Laurie tried to refuse to believe it, but her trust in the Lord remained steadfast. She was frightened and faithful all at once. She prayed for an eleventh-hour miracle. And she kept reading the Scriptures, as Erin had asked.

At one point, Laurie placed her Bible on the floor and stood on it, literally standing on the Word of God as she read over her child. Finally, after the long night of reading Scripture followed by another long night of hopeful prayer, Laurie consented for a hospice nurse to administer an IV with medicine that essentially placed Erin in a painless coma on Sunday afternoon. There would be no more gasping for breath.

Erin Browning went home at 4:24 a.m. on November 1, 2004.

Laurie still doesn’t fully understand what happened next. She remembers only a tremendous peace and describes it as being under the shower of the Holy Spirit. She held Erin’s body for 90 minutes while her daughter played in heaven.

“It was not like how I expected her last minutes to be. I thought I’d be hysterical, but I wasn’t,” Laurie said. “But she was where she always wanted to be. She told me when she was six years old that she couldn’t wait to get to heaven. She said she had felt an emptiness in her heart, but when she asked Jesus into her heart she never felt it again because Jesus had filled her and would never leave her. For the 10 years she was on this earth, God used her in a remarkable, powerful way.

“I’ve learned that He can use an average, ordinary family to do extraordinary things and that He continues to use us despite ourselves,” Laurie said. “How He has done that is beyond me. But He has a plan and purpose. A lot of times I may not like His plan, but I accept it. I’m just honored that He chose to use Erin and this family as He has.”


A couple months ago, I purchased a CD by Casting Crowns called Lifesong. I had been hearing some of the songs from the CD on the radio and liked them enough to search our the CD. As I began listening, I noticed that a theme was woven through the songs. Mark Hall and the rest of Casting Crowns produced a CD on the theme of worship. What does our life sing (say) about the one we worship? What does it mean, “Let my lifesong sing to You?” I happened upon Greg Laurie’s website and caught this statement; “We were made to glorify (or worship) God and when we fail to do that, we fail in our purpose.” There is more to worship than coming to church on Sunday mornings, singing a few songs, praying, giving my offering, and listening to someone speak for 30 minutes. We are to live a lifestyle of worship. That means to give God worship in everything we do. It is a small sacrifice to come and worship for an hour of worship, and if that worship doesn’t connect to the rest of our life, it is all in vain. Paul writes in Romans, “to offer up our bodies as living sacrifices – the kind God will accept. This is the way to truly worship God.” We ought to live every moment worshiping and pleasing God.

Lifesong: What Does Your Life Say About You?

As many of you know, this past spring I went to serve at FLAME. While it keeps you busy, occasionally during the afternoon there is downtime. My friend, Wayne Richards, who is also the director of FLAME and I were sitting in the sanctuary talking about music. We like about the same styles of music and we were talking about meaningful music. In the process of the discussion a band called Casting Crowns came up as someone that his girls listen to. We had internet access, so he played a few of their songs and told me about one of them. I was familiar with the band because they have had some songs on the radio. Pam had been hinting around about this CD that she had heard on the radio. It so happened that both of us were interested in the same CD. The CD is Lifesong, by Casting Crowns. As I listened to the CD, I asked myself, what is this all about. The more listens, the more the theme came into view. That CD is about worship. What does it mean to worship God? Does it mean to life a lifestyle of worship? Does it mean that we have to sing all the time? Does it mean that we have to be happy all the time?
Over the next several weeks, taking us just about into the Advent season, we are going to take a look at what it means to live a lifestyle of worship. What does your life say about you? What will be surprising is that this series will deal very little about music, but offering our lives up as a living sacrifice to God.

In a recent survey adults were asked what your chief goal in life is. 61% responded entertainment and self-fulfillment. Of that 61%, 55% were Christians! We are wired to worship. That is the way that we were created. The question I have for you this morning is what does your life say about the one you worship?

In America, we worship all kinds of things. We even have a show called “American Idol.” Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy watching this show. It’s the only “reality show” I watch at all. I love watching the audition process. It’s amazing to watch people who think they have talent get shot down. I’m sure many watch just to watch the reaction of Paula, Randy, and Simon. During the finals several years ago, Ryan asked Simon what the winner would get. Simon replied, “Money, fame, and everything they always wanted.” Many are passionate about their favorites. I thought it was cool that a gray haired man won, if only because Simon thought a gray haired man could never win “Idol.” Looks aren’t everything.

I know that I’m a fairly casual observer to “Idol.” But I know many who are passionate about watching it and they participate by voting. By the way, there is nothing wrong with voting for your favorite. I am concerned with what we worship. Entertainers are easy targets. Here’s what I find amazing; that people still worship Elvis and he’s been dead 30 years. Our culture worships everyone, Elvis, Marilyn, the Beatles, Brittany, Justin, Brad, who is the next idol.

We were wired to worship. But what or who are we to worship. As we’ve been reading through the Bible this year, we see that the Hebrews were in constant trouble with God because of their object of worship. In Exodus 20: 3-5, God speaks these words, “You shall have no other Gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…” Later on the wilderness wanderers are giving this command to reinforce what God told them on the mountain. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

We are wired to worship. We are wired to give God glory. Isaiah 43:7 states, “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” The whole creation was made to give glory to God. King David writes this, “Ascribe the Lord, O mighty ones, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.” So far that’s what the Old Testament writes, what does the New Testament say, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” We are wired to worship. That is why we worship and many times we worship the wrong things. When we fail to glorify God we are not fulfilling our purpose. What does your life say about the one you worship?

Let’s take a look at what Paul writes in Romans 1:20-25. “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen!”

What does your life say about the one you worship? We who are believers in the eternal
God and Jesus Christ his son, are not our own, we were bought with a price. Paul writes again in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Earlier I said, “When we fail to glorify (or worship) God, we are not fulfilling our purpose.” If Christ truly lives in you, then the life that you live will reflect the one who lives inside of you. Jesus said that know a tree by its fruits. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness and self-control. Are these the fruits of your life? Can those around you see that you live for the ever-living God? One of the things that really irritates me when and I say WHEN I watch an award show is to see actors, actresses or musicians give praise to God or Jesus, when you know their life, their movies, or their music do not reflect their maker. It really borders on blasphemy. It’s real easy to look at others and to see their faults, Jesus tells us that. But how hard is it to look on ourselves and see we do the same things? How many times do we come on Sunday morning to “worship” for an hour and then live like the world the rest of the week? Jesus was talking to the Pharisees in Matthew 15, and said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules made by men.” Is this you this morning? Does your life truly reflect the One you worship on Sunday? There is so much more to worship than what we do on Sunday. If you think about it, it really takes little sacrifice to come on Sunday morning, sing a few songs, give our offering, listen to someone preach for thirty minutes and go home.

What does your life say about the one you worship? Paul writes in Romans 12:1-2, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God, because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship. Don’t copy the behavior and customs (and culture) of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” I’ve asked the question several times this morning. What does your life say about the one you worship? There is more to worship than just coming to church. In just a few moments, you’re going to hear the song that inspired this series. The key line is this, “May the words I say, and the things I do make my lifesong sing, bring a smile to You.” Coming to worship is only part of the equation. If our worship on Sunday is not joined with the rest of our life through out the week, it is all in vain. Jesus called us to be his hands and feet. Those of us who are following the living God should be changed. We should look and act differently than the world. God’s will is for his children to live for him. That should show in every aspect of our life. Is it hard? You better believe it. God never said living a life pleasing to God would be easy. Jesus said, “pick up your cross daily.” We need to ask for the Holy Spirit’s help in the task. What does your life say about the one you worship? Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” What does your life say about the one you worship? Does it sing to him or does it sing to the world? This morning the altar is open. If you want to make a new commitment to follow and worship him, come as we listen to “Lifesong.”

Celebration of Praise

Tonight for church we had a semi-regular feature called “Celebration of Praise.” Many years ago, we would have called them a Singspiration or Hymn Sing. I was in charge tonight, usually I hand this off because it gives me a chance to worship with the congregation instead of leading it. I’ll use the term in-charge loosely. I had no plan in mind except for a few opening songs. We had several people who brought songs along to sing and we had a skit and a few jokes. As the night progressed a theme came clearly into focus; God’s amazing grace. My friend Charles Thomas, read something in this morning’s service about grace. The summary of the story was God does with grace what we cannot do for ourselves. We sang and some led us in songs about grace; Amazing Grace, It’s All Because of God’s Amazing Grace, and I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary. God’s grace involved Jesus going to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. He rose again to conquer sin and death. He went back to heaven and is now preparing a place for us and He’s coming back again for those who have received Him and believed in His name. That’s grace. Jesus did what we couldn’t do for ourselves.

Sunday Night Thoughts – August 6

For some reason, August 6 has always had significance in my life. Many years ago, I was working for a time management company in their customer service department. August 6th was the day we switched over from our old software to new software including an upgrade to a new computer system. Needless to say, it was an interesting couple of days and weeks until all the bugs got worked out. Several years later, August 6th was my last day at that company, as my wife and I felt the call to the ministry and we left our home for Indiana. Five years later, we again moved on or around August 6th. There have been several other events, but I don’t recall them right now.
This year we had another significant event because this was a great weekend. Yesterday, our church tried something different. We had an all-day, one day Vacation Bible School. We had 18 children show up and our staff of 15 was ready for them. It was great to watch the staff interact with the kids. This was the first year in quite a few that my wife and I weren’t fully immersed in this summer tradition.
On Friday night several of the staff gathered in the foyer of our church for a prayer meeting for the day ahead. One of the things that we prayed for was that my schedule would be worked out so that I could be part of this day. Praise the Lord, he worked it out in His timing, not mine.
At the close of the day, I had a chance to present the gospel to our students. Several raised their hands to receive Christ as their Savior. (As my friend Dean Brown blogged a few weeks ago, that makes it all worth while.) Thank you to our director and the staff of our Vacation Bible School for being part of this great event. I am looking foward to seeing the results of the seeds that were planted yesterday.

Vacation Bible School Here We Come

Tonight, I spent some time over at the church with others who were getting ready for Vacation Bible School. We are trying something this year that I’ve never done before and that is an all day event. We have excellent leadership for this program and I’m looking forward to the results.

My two daughers and several of the teens from our church are helping with skits and other activities. They have done a great job at memorizing lines for the skits.

Be praying for us as we have a chance to present the Good News to children in the community. Also for Sunday morning when we hold our closing program and I present the gospel to those who attend. God is working and it is amazing to be on His team and working for Him.