Ungrounded Finally!

Today was my first day out of the house since Wednesday. I worked for a few hours at RadioShack and then went over to church for our Mosaic musical rehearsal. Tomorrow our students are presenting a program “In God We Trust.” I’m running sound for the production, which will take most of the morning worship time. I’m am planning on a invitaion at the end — The program lends itself to that.

The nice thing is that I have a rare Saturday evening off. Usually I spend Saturday evening preparing for worship; praying, going over the songs, and tweaking and rehearsing my message. It’s a nice break.

My foot is feeling much better. The surface wounds have healed considerably, but there is still some swelling. Thanks for your prayers.

Proper 8 – July 1

II Kings 2:1-2, 6-14; Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62

Lots of good things to think about in this week’s readings! The Old Testament readings continue to be about the prophet Elijah. This week we see Elijah’s final moments on earth. Elijah and Elisha are walking along, come to the Jordan River, and cross it on dry ground. Elijah says, “My time has come, what do you ask of me?”

Elisha replies, “Give me a double portion of your spirit.” This is quite a bold request. Elijah tells him watch as he leaves. If Elijah can be seen the request will be granted. If not, the request won’t be granted. Elijah is taken up in chariots of fire and Elisha can see the whole thing. Elisha had great expectations of what God can do.

I’m sure all of us have felt like psalmist. He was at a great low point. What do you do when you get there — Look at God — Not by who He is — but by what He has done. Good thought for when it seems like we are lower than the floor.

Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia is a good reminder of the line that we walk as Christians. On one side, we are free, not tied to the law, however, we are not free as Paul continues to continue in our sinful nature. We are changed. Paul is writing to the church and this is something that I have been thinking about lately. This idea of corporate holiness vs. personal holiness. Paul is writing to the church, not to individuals. We are given those great fruits of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We are told that 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

Jesus reminds us of that in Luke’s gospel — being a disciple is tough work. There are hard decisions to make. Are we willing to follow the Spirit’s leading to do what Christ has called us to do? What would you have asked of Elijah? Christ calls us to follow Him more than anything.

Hospitality

Over the past year, Pam has been teaching something called Impressions. Impressions is a program developed by Wesleyan Women. It is a biblically-based etiquette program for Middle-school girls. Pam teaches it to both our Middle and High School girls. Over the past few months we have had special guests.

Tonight’s special guest shared with the girls the importance of encouragement and hospitality. He is pictured with Pam to the left. He is part of our military and he shared the importance of sending encouraging cards and letters.

During his talk, he told the girls that he had our church’s cards posted on the wall while deployed. He reminded them that all of us need encouragement and that our cards and letters were very important while he was away. He thanked the church for the cards.

It sounds like they had a good night, even though I was grounded (see the post below.) The older boys cooked for us and the pancakes as well as the rest they cooked were excellent (I had some take home!)

Tonight was about hospitality. How do we treat others (strangers, friends, and enemies around us? Do we treat them the way Jesus would? Jesus says when we do it to the least person, we’ve done it to Him. Great stuff to think about.

Grounded!!!

Well, as most of the congregation at Preston knows by now, I’ve been grounded. Yes, that’s a picture of my foot all wrapped up. What happened? I was up on a small footstool on Sunday night and fell off. There was a lot of pain, especially at first. It was bruised and scraped but I didn’t think much of it. It was difficult to walk.

Today, my good friend Joe came by and said it looked broken (something about the beautiful purple color) and I should go to the hospital. So, begrugdingly I went to the hospital.

No, it’s not broken. But the doctor was concerned about infection, so I have Neosporin for the cuts and an anti-botic to take. I’ve been grounded until Saturday to allow the cuts and bruises to heal. I’m such a clutz!

My Musical Worship Journey – Part 7

First Wesleyan Church, Flint, MI
FFWCLast week, I looked at the Indiana Wesleyan years. We stayed for two years in Marion, while the Lord showed us His plans. During this time I continued to assist Dr. Guy at Lakeview and continued to hone my skills. I was still primarily a bass player and vocal director. Occasionally, I would lead worship, most times with my bass with a great band. A very few times I led worship from piano and also on acoustic guitar.
I felt led to send out my resume and before long I was contacted by church in Michigan. This was to be a full-time worship position. We had several phone calls and a face to face interview. It was all set, we were moving to MI. It seems my dream had come true. I had finally arrived (or so I thought.)
Since these posts are about influence, that’s what we’ll look at. One thing that was cool was that there was a solid Wesleyan support group. The churches and the pastors got together regularly for worship, prayer, and breakfast. One of the highlights each quarter was the Fifth-Sunday Sing. Each church would take turns hosting. There would be a time of congregational singing, and special music brought from each church. This was always an enjoyable time. Because I was the only paid worship staff at any of the churches, I led most of these events. The most memorable was the Super Sunday Sing. We had a time of worship, followed by fellowship and food, followed by the Super Bowl. That night I led worship and played drums. It was very cool.
In addition to a close knit group of Wesleyan pastors, there was also a close-knit group of evangelical pastors. It gave me a good taste of what ministerial associations should be. This has been an influence even now. I enjoy fellowship with pastors across denominational lines. One of the best services we had with this group was a Good Friday service. I led worship with our praise band; and led a community choir. I was a very inspirational service.
Musically, I was trying out my wings. This was a full time position, so I was responsible for a wide variety of tasks. Those tasks included directing the choir, praise band, preparing worship for Sunday AM, PM and Wednesday PM, leading the music/worship committee. In addition, because of my computer background, I also put together a nice computer system and network. I would lead worship a variety of ways; just leading, playing keyboards, or playing bass. My musical influences during this time were Brooklyn Tabernacle, Maranatha Music Worship, and Integrity Hosanna! Music.
flameI came to First Wesleyan with a bachelor’s degree in Church Music. This means while I had the proper musical training, I did not have any ministerial training. During this time I had my first visit with the DBMD (or District Board of Ministerial Development.) This board is responsible for those pastors who have not yet been ordained. I wasn’t sure that was in my call, so they recommended that I at least get my Special Worker’s License. That means, I would have to attend classes again. My pastor forwarded my some information about this new program called FLAME.
Little did I know at the time, this would become a huge influence in my ministry. It sounded like an interesting way to get my class work done, so in the summer of 1999, I headed south to Indianpolis to attend (what was at the time the 3rd) FLAME. It was there I met Wayne. Wayne is the face and voice of FLAME. It was something for which God gave hime the vision. I had to borrow my senior pastor’s car, the church let students stay in their building for free. The bad thing was I forgot my sleeping bag and pillow. Thanks to the generosity of a fellow FLAME student, they loaned me a sleeping bag. There was something about this conference, something that I had never experienced. There was fellowship (in the koinonia sense of the word), academics (My Wesleyan Church History class was taught by Dr. Melvin Deiter, who really is the church historian) and spiritual renewal. It was amazing. This FLAME was completely different from the current FLAMEs especially in the area of worship (There was none, except for Wednesday night, when the host church led a time of worship before communion.) Those six days at FLAME made a profound difference that I wouldn’t realize until much later.
466735_GOur stay in Flint was a short two years. I still miss Halo Burger and Coney Islands. You have to be from Flint to understand. In the spring of 2000, Pam and I sensed God was calling us in a new direction. Like I said before, being the worship pastor was all I had prepared for, I wasn’t quite ready for the next turn. We resigned without knowing where God was leading us next. We interviewed for several worship positions but those doors all closed. What was happening? Didn’t God understand what I had prepared for and that I had really enjoyed these past two years? What would be next? What became a growing concern was that we were running out of time. Where was God leading us now? What would become of all I had prepared for?

Lighthouse or Life Saving Station?

If you’ve been following along lately, you’ll know that we are studying Keith Drury’s There’s No I In Church on Sunday evenings as part of our discipleship emphasis at that time. We are in the final chapters of the book and we have been discussing baptism and conversion. I recommend you get the book and study it together, because it is not meant to be read or studied alone.

As part of the discussion, we looked at the question of how we see our church. Do we see our church as a lighthouse or a life saving station? A lighthouse waits for people to come to them to save them and warns them of the danger. A life-saving station goes out (much like our Coast Guard) when the call goes out

There is much discussion lately as to whether a church should be attractional (lighthouse) where people come to church and we present the gospel or should the church be missional (a life-saving station) and go out into the highways and byways and take the gospel to them. Is it an either/or situation or a both/and situation?

If we look to Jesus and his disciples as our example, we see that it’s probably both. Jesus did not abandon the synagogue. He shared His message there even though it was not popular and Jesus went among the common people, preaching and teaching wherever there was a crowd.

We need to be ready when our church attracts people to us and we can do that in a number of different ways. We also need to go out and be the hands and feet of Jesus where the people are.

So many times we think we need all kinds of training to make disciples and yes, that is needed, but Jesus called his disciples and they began right where they were. I challenged our congregation Sunday to begin serving Jesus right where they were. God may be calling some into something more, but we are all called to serve the Kingdom. We need to be attractional and we also need to be willing to go out and meet people and be Jesus’ hands and feet.

Sunday Thoughts – June 24

Whew! I’m glad the weekend is over. Not that anything bad happened, but it was very busy. Like I mentioned on Thursday, we babysat for a couple that had two boys. They kept three adults, a teenager and a ten year old busy. It was just interesting having young ones around the house. We didn’t leave the house, all at the same time, because that would have meant packing seven people into the van and it would have been too much work. All that being said, it was a good time and we enjoyed having them. It was a blessing to minister to their parents.

That was one piece to the puzzle. Our Mosaic girls had a sleepover on Friday night at the church. I hear things went very well. Thanks to all the Mosaic leaders who helped with this. Our youngest daughter came home very sleepy Saturday morning.

Today kept us busy as well. It was interesting trying to get little ones ready for church. I forgot how long it takes and we didn’t even have to the car packing thing, because the parsonage is next to the church.

The service went well and we had a good response to the challenge at the end of the service. We took the boys to their grandparents this afternoon after feeding them lunch. This evening we again looked at the corporate spiritual discipline of baptism and conversions. It has been a very interesting study. We plan to wrap it up next week.

Because of some technical difficulties, I had to burn a CD from a tape copy this evening. I went looking for an adapter to make all the audio happen and slipped off a step stool. I thought my plans to get everything done this evening were over. I didn’t know if I had broken my leg or ankle or some combination. It turns out its mostly brush burns and surface scrapes. (And no, I didn’t go to the hospital.) At this point in the evening, I am wrapping up this post and all the other post Sunday evening work and am going to relax a while. Hope you all have a great week.

Worship Boxscore – June 24, 2007

Call to Worship – Psalm 121 – Responsive Reading

Songs of Worship – Forever (Tomlin); Lord, I Lift Your Name on High (Founds); Hosanna (Tuttle)

Invocation

Song of Worship – O God Our Help in Ages Past

Prayer

Offering

Song of Worship – Sound the Battle Cry

Worship Through the Word

Benediction

Deborah: God’s Man for the Job?

Today we have a good old-fashioned murder mystery. Some of you are probably familiar with the game Clue. For those who aren’t, here’s how it goes. At a manor out in the country, there has been a murder. You know who has been killed but it is your job to find out who was killed, by what weapon, and in what room in the manor. You have to use your deductive reasoning skills to figure it out. In order to win the game you must state who killed whom, how, and where. Today’s adventure has four characters; Deborah, Barak, Sisera, and Jael (spelled Jael). Two of our suspects are male and two are female. Our adventure is found in the book of Judges, chapter 4 and 5.
Before we get to that, let’s set-up the background to the story. Our adventure is set in the time of the judges, hence the reason it’s found in the book of Judges. The time of the judges, follows after Joshua. Two weeks ago we looked at Moses and how he led the Hebrews out of the land of Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, stopped at Mt. Sinai for God’s laws. Moses was the leader of a difficult people. I’m sure Moses felt like he should have resigned many times. Because of the Hebrews disobedience, they were forced to wander in the wilderness of the Sinai peninsula for forty years. At the end of the forty years, they were ready to cross into the promised land of Canaan. Because of Moses disobedience, God told him he would not enter the Promised Land. That job was for Joshua. Joshua led the Hebrews into Canaan and subdued the people in the land. The people promised to follow Joshua like they followed Moses. I would have been afraid, because of the difficult people called the Hebrews. But instead of acting like they did with Moses, they did as Joshua and the Lord said and they experienced great success in conquering Canaan. Joshua passes away at the ripe old age of 110 years. Then the trouble begins. Judges 2:10 records, “After that generation died (the Joshua generation) another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember they mighty things he had done for Israel. The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight…They abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt.” They turned to idols and worship them instead of worshiping God. In Judges 17:6 it’s recorded this way, “In those days Israel had no king: all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eye.” We often like to think that our generation is the most evil generation known to humankind. I really don’t think so – men and women have doing evil in the eyes of God for thousands of years. All we have to do is look at Noah, Moses, and the generation that followed Joshua. There were seven judges during this time. When Israel had a judge they followed God and without a judge, they didn’t. Here’s how it goes; Israel forgets the Lord; Israel gets conquered and oppressed by neighboring nations; Israel cries out to God; God appoints a judge to straighten things out; they live in peace from forty to fifty years and then go back to forgetting the Lord and the cycle starts all over again. This happened fourteen times in the time of the judges. The four most famous judges are Gideon, Samson, Samuel, and Deborah. Today we want to look at the only female judge or for that matter, the only female leader in Israel’s long history and that is Deborah.
Deborah comes to power after Shamgar. Shamgar followed Ehud, who was a good judge. After Ehud’s death the Israelites again did evil in the sight of the Lord. Because of this God turned them over to Jabin, a Canaanite king. We are introduced to the second player in our drama. Jabin had a general named Sisera. Sisera was responsible for oppressing the disobedient Israelites. We are told he had 900 iron chariots. After the Israelites got tired of all that, they cried out to the Lord. The Lord responds by appointing Deborah.
We need to understand that this is highly unusual. Why? For one, Israel, like many ancient cultures was paternally governed. The food chain went like this servants, children, single women, married women, young men, first born men, married men. In this culture women where a little bit better than servants but not by much. We’ve already looked during this series where God calls us to go against the grain of culture. In this culture first born boys were the most important. However, think of the number of men who were not first born, who rose to power. To help you out, they are Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and Solomon. None of these great Hebrew leaders were firstborn, which is amazing considering the mindset of the culture. As I already mentioned women were not considered to be much more than property or servants and yet the Bible points out many important women; Miriam (Moses’ sister), Rahab, Deborah, Ruth, Bathsheba, Tamar and Mary (mother of Jesus). God uses whom He chooses, (man, woman, boy or girl) not whom we choose. Tamar, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary are all listed in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel. Something that is highly unusual in this worldview.
So we have a woman judge whose name is Deborah. Not only is she a judge but we also learn that she is a prophet. This makes her rarer still. There are only two woman prophets in the Old Testament; Deborah and Miriam.
With all of what we just looked at in mind, we come to our story. God has appointed Deborah, to take care of Sisera. She calls for Barak. Deborah tells him to 10,000 warriors and take them to Mount Tabor. The Lord will call out Sisera and his army and his chariots to the plains of the Kishon River and the Lord will give you victory over Sisera.
Barak isn’t too sure about all of this. Here’s the irony; Barak’s name means thunderbolt – which suggests that he is summoned to be the Lord’s flashing sword. I don’t know of many people who don’t have a healthy respect for lightning. Instead of taking up the challenge, Barak says to Deborah, “I’ll go, but only if you go with me.” This did not please the prophet, so she says, “I’ll go with you, but you will not get the glory, and to top it all off the glory for the Lord’s victory will be at the hands of a woman.” Ouch! The so called warriors of Israel were incapable of a united action until a woman summons them to God’s battle. Barak’s timidity was typical throughout the land and was due to a lack of trust in the Lord. Deborah rebukes Barak severely for this and he will not get the glory for winning the Lord’s battle. That will go to a woman.
So the stage is set. Deborah and Barak will go against Sisera. Barak’s men are poised on Mt. Tabor, safe from an attack from the iron chariots of Sisera. There is one more detail we need to set up this battle. A man named Heber, a Kenite, sets up his tent near Kedesh.
Sisera finds out that Barak and his men are ready for battle to he takes his army of 900 iron chariots down the plains of the Kishon River and toward Mt. Tabor. Deborah tells Barak, “Get ready, the Lord is about to give you victory, because the Lord is marching ahead of you.” Barak and his 10,000 warriors rush down the hillside toward Sisera and his army. It just so happened that the Lord sent a rainstorm at this time and Sisera’s iron chariots get bogged down in the mud. This throws Sisera and his army into a panic and they abandon their iron chariots. It puts them into the hands of the Israelites. They chase the warriors all the way back to home base, killing everyone of them, except Sisera the General. What happened to Sisera. Remember Heber the Kenite. Even though he was a descendent of Moses, he was on friendly terms with King Jabin. Sisera flees to the tent of Jael, Heber’s wife and since ancient Near Eastern custom prohibited any man other than a woman’s husband or father from entering her tent, Jael seemed to offer Sisera an ideal hiding place.
Sisera takes up Jael’s offer to come into the tent. She even covers him up with a blanket. After some time, Sisera asks for a drink of water. Instead of giving him water, Jael offers him a drink of milk from a leather bag. Being that this was the Middle East and there was no refrigeration or pasteurization, it was probably warm and was more like a liquid yogurt. When people are having trouble sleeping, they like to fix themselves a cup of warm milk. Something helps us fall asleep. After drinking the milk, Sisera requests that Jael, keep watch and keep him safe. Sisera is soon fast asleep from the milk and from exhaustion and now the story turns interesting. She takes a hammer and a tent peg, proceeds to place the tent peg on his temple and drives it through his head with the hammer, killing Sisera. I would imagine it was a quick death.
Not long afterward, Barak comes looking for Sisera. Jael comes out to meet him and says, “Come, look what I have for you.” She takes Barak to the tent and show Sisera lying dead with his head nailed to the ground. So the answer to our murder mystery is Jael killed Sisera with a spike in her tent. Judges 4:23 records, “So on that day Israel saw God defeat Jabin, the Canaanite king. And from that time on Israel became stronger and stronger against King Jabin until they finally destroyed him.” After this there was peace in the land for forty years.
I remember the shock on the faces of the ladies at our last church, as Pam and I taught this Bible story. They had never heard such a thing. Maybe this is your first time hearing this incredible story of how God saved his people through a woman.
What can we learn from all of this? If God calls us to do something, we better do it. We do see many times in the scripture where God grants grace and mercy to those who question his call as in Moses and Gideon, but in this case Barak is told to go to war, he questions God and does not end up with the glory. It doesn’t matter who you are. What is God calling you to? Like I said earlier, the scriptures challenge us to go against the culture. When it comes to the call of God on a person’s life, I like to go to Galatians 3:26-29, “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” Is God is calling you into full-time Christian service? Are you following his call? Or are you running from his call? Barak was called to war and yet did not want to go on his own. His disobedience resulted in the glory going to someone else. Perhaps God has called you to a ministry that only you can do and God wants to see you get the glory for it. If you don’t someone else will get the glory.
Another thing we can learn is that we need to start right where we are. Jael won the victory simply by being there and making the most of an opportunity. I remember that’s how it was with my call. Instead of going to school immediately, I began exploring what God wanted me to do. If God had laid his full plan in front of me, I’m sure I would have went running like Jonah. But he didn’t he prepared me, then revealed more, prepared me and revealed more. Make the most of every opportunity to serve the Kingdom. You’ll never know when you’ll end up being the hero of the battle.
Let me ask again, “What is God calling you to do?” What is he calling you to join? There’s a place for all of us to work in his Kingdom and no one is excluded. It’s everyone on the playing field.

Proper 7 – June 24, 2007

I Kings 19:1-18; Psalm 42; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39

I don’t know that I can pull all these together. I’ve included a few extra verses to finish the thought that leaves us in supense if we stop at verse 15.

Elijah was at a low point of ministry. As usually happens it followed a huge victory. Elijah had just won the battle of the gods on Mt. Carmel. Following the victory, he slew the prophets of Baal, which didn’t make Jezebel too happy. She says, “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.” Elijah runs and hides in a cave. Even though he had a great victory, he was depressed at the news. God comes by asks, “What’s wrong.” Elijah replies, “No one is left to follow you.” God says, “Let me speak to you.” Then God sends the fire, wind, and earthquake, but He is not in them. Then God speaks in a small voice. God reminds Elijah, all is not lost. Go and anoint these prophets for there are still 7,000 faithful who have not bowed a knee to Baal.”

In ministry, I often find great depression follows great victory. I can’t explain why, but I know it’s true in my life. The psalmist David remembered leading worship in the tabernacle and then asked, “where is God? Why am I discouraged? Why am I sad? I will put my hope in God for I will praise Him again.” These are the things we need to remember when going through the valley after the victory.

Paul’s writing should be an encouragement to us as well. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Some would love to emphasize our differences. Paul reminds us that in Christ, we are all the same. The ground is level in Christ. Many years ago the banner of the Pilgrim Holiness church was, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, and in all things charity.” What do I consider the essentials that make us brothers and sisters in Christ? Orthodox Christians for centuries have recited The Apostle’s Creed. I consider this to be the essential beliefs of the faith. Yes, I have brothers and sisters in the faith all over the world and we are one in Christ Jesus.