Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

One of my favorite things to say about wine is:

“Don’t be intimidated, remember wine is just agriculture”

It is simply the process of harvesting, preparing and bottling up the fruit of a farmer’s hard work, the soil of a particular location grapes of a specific plant. There is nothing magical or mysterious about it… which is probably why it is so magical and mysterious… it seems so simple

But I guess I have to concede that wine also has an arcane poetry in this understated alchemy. The bottling of the earth in which the plant grew, and the wind and air that rustled through its vines, the water which rained or flowed to the roots to nourish and develop berries basking ‘neath the fire of a distant glowing sun.

But remember: don’t be intimidated.

And here I stumble upon the tension that I experience. I want the simple explanation; to reduce everything down to a manageable pocket-sized nugget. But my heart is often far more significantly emboldened when I get lost in the terrifying wonder and intricate magnitude of what God wove and fashioned with the deceptively simple, spring-loaded…

“Let there be light”

…don’t be intimidated

And so I sit with a glass of wine, staring deep into the redness, wondering at what is wrought within.

It is not just something to be consumed, but to be experienced.

So I sit. I still myself. I swirl the wine.

The light reflects and shines through the redness, the tidal waves contained with a hemisphere of glass; a sea of colorful and flavorful organic compounds dancing and playing. Amid the tannins, the flavinoids, the esters and sugars I am reminded… “This is my blood that was poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins… do this in remembrance of me.”

And in the stillness, I am confronted with the sobering truth: “Don’t be intimidated” is TERRIBLE counsel.

Because deeper than the agriculture, more mysterious than the alchemy, more beautiful than the refractive hue is the deeper truth, the fuller wonder and the realer realization. Within and without this glass, everything points to the beauty and terrible majesty of the body broken and blood split, to the good glory of God’s great gospel.

But, oh, how easy it is to overlook, and how quickly the cross is presented as a concept, a symbol, an icon; reduced to a manageable nugget. Because of this, I invite you to join me in observing lent starting on Wednesday. Lent? wait you were talking about wine, isn’t lent about depriving yourself? It isn’t about not eating chocolate, it is about being disciplined and approaching Easter with a desire to wonder. Join with me and take forty days to intentionally prepare, remove obstacles and to examine the cross in its fullness. (What is Lent?)

And the next time you pick up a glass of wine – be intimidated, it is much more than just agriculture.

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And Jonah stalked
to his shaded seat
and waited for God
to come around
to his way of thinking.
And God is still waiting for a host of Jonahs
in their comfortable houses
to come around
to his way of loving.

excerpt from Thomas Carlisle’s “You Jonah”

The past six/seven months have been packed with transition and learning, and I haven’t had the will or wisdom to write. Today while sitting at a Starbucks praying through a project at church and what it looks like to have a heart for missions I realized that much of “Thoughts from a Runner” really could be summed up by the book of Jonah.

One particular similarity knocked the feet from underneath me this morning…

The past eight years as I have grown deeper in my walk with God. I am beginning to see that this growth has been a constant process of God calling me to live a life on mission, me fighting it and then, through His amazing grace inviting, and molding, and shaping me to have his heart for the people around me.

  • Ministry at the University of Arizona
  • On Mission in Kazahkstan
  • Reaching College Students in Australia
  • Helping lost people find their way back to God in Tucson
What does this have to do with Jonah?

Jonah is such an amazing book because we can see God still working to teach, to reach his thick-skulled missionary with the truth of who He is and His heart for the nations. That the entire book of Jonah is about God working on Jonah’s heart. What I realized this morning is that, like Jonah, I can many time miss the point of the storm, the sailors, the fish, Nineveh and most importantly a gourd tree.

A gourd tree?

When I got back from Australia I was blessed, due to no real effort on my part, with the comfort of an amazing community.

At the end of the book of Jonah, after everything God has done, Jonah still doesn’t get this call to live a life on mission. God uses one more approach – the miraculous tree (Jonah 4:5-11). A climbing gourd springs up quickly, and offers Jonah protection against the beating sun. The community that I was a part of was totally God given and such a blessing. What we see in the story, is that as quickly as the tree grew it withers and dies, the victim of an attacking worm.

Jonah is… annoyed.

At that point God again turns to his missionary-student, using the tree as a lesson. The creator of heaven and earth, the God of human history, of wind and waves, who spoke the universe into being, who just miraculously redeemed and restored the entire city of Nineveh to himself, tenderly asks Jonah, “Are you really so angry about the tree?”

Jonah in anger and frustration responds: “Yes, angry enough to die.”

God’s response to such bitterness is so beautiful. Despite everything that has happened up to this point, He is still calling Jonah to join him on mission, to “his way of loving”:

“You are sorry and concerned about the tree, though you had nothing to do with growing it, a plant which came up in a night and withered in a night. My heart and concern is for the great city of Nineveh, with its 120,000 who cannot tell their right hand from their left.”

While I wasn’t aware of it until today, I have been quietly discontented and annoyed with God causing the comfort that I experienced with this community to wither away. Despite this, over the past few months I have experienced a tender questioning: “Are you really so angry that I took that community away? What about the city around you?”

If I’m honest my response to God has been at times just as mature as Jonah’s.

By God’s grace, however, I am growing not only an awareness, but a deep heartfelt sorrow and concern for the 1,020,000 people in the Tucson area who “do not know their right hand from their left.” Beginning to sincerely yearn to proclaim the gospel students at the University of Arizona. To share hope and good news with broken families in the foothills and South Tucson alike. To show God’s grace and love to the thousands of international refugees who call the Old Pueblo home. To join with other Christians to come alongside the numerous military families who currently call Tucson… home.

As God works on my heart, I am growing to care more about the rescue and redemption of those in the mission field that God has called me to than I do my comfort.

It has been a hard lesson, and this thick-skulled man is grateful for God’s forgiveness and grace, humbled by God’s provision as He has provides fellowship and community, and most of all, in awe of God’s tireless and tender call for me to join his missionary heart – to live a life focused and dedicated to “Helping lost people find their way back to God.”

I love my church. I love the leaders I am blessed to serve with. I love the community and what God is doing through all of us.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been incredibly busy and I haven’t had made the time necessary to get back to writing. That being said I have been learning so much and I am excited to share it with you soon.

Today I wanted to post a video that gets at the heart of where we are headed as a church. We have been praying through our vision of “Helping people find their way back to God” and we are starting into the next chapter on that journey.  Take a look at the video, and then if you can join us this Thursday, August 25th at 6:30pm to hear more about where we are headed (childcare is provided). Check out www.tucsonrevolution.com for more info.

Oh, Have I Messed Up

Posted: 07/15/2011 in Personal Walk, Worship
Tags: , ,

Over the past week I have been studying through Psalm 51 preparing for a sermon this weekend. I have been aware of this Psalm and been able to recite a good portion of it for years, but this week it has been cutting to deep places in my heart.

I have looked at repentance and thought about forgiveness in a way that glorifies me far more than it glorifies the wondrous cross. I have spent the past week looking deep in my heart and I live out and advertise the “pretty places” the easily admirable. Now I know that I am seen as fully righteous, not out of my own merit, but becuase what was fully accomplished by Jesus… but I spend my time trying to prove to God and to others that I was a “good and worthy investment”.

So, today at work, over more coffee than I would like to admit, I have been praying through what Paul wrote to Timothy as he was encouraging him toward leadership:

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

 1 Timothy 1:12-15 (ESV)

This might be a strange connection to Psalm 51, but it is where God has been taking me. I look at what Paul says and the statement “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service” seems like it would be a perfect and ideal appeal to authority. Of course Timothy should take him seriously… but then Paul messes it all up, becuase of what he says next… “though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.”

WHAT?!?! Paul what are you doing? And then I realized he is standing in the mercy of the cross and saying “I don’t deserve this!… please know that. This is about grace. Its about the cross. Its all about God and HIS great, glorious, Gospel.

And returning to Psalm 51, sitting with the Holy Spirit, I see David, a murdering, lying adulterer talk through so much, pleading for God to do a restorative work and then he gets to:

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
  and uphold me with a willing spirit.
 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
 and sinners will return to you.

David is not content to be forgiven, clean, elect, to have a right spirit, by… I am blown away, because David, a man after God’s own heart, is not content UNTIL… his brokenness… heals others.

I look at my sin and I have wrestled with: “My sin, my past it disqualifies me from being used” or “I’ve got to be totally triumphant until I have a witness.” Often my prayer is for God to erase those things so I may never have to talk, or think about them again.

But David (and Paul) have passed through such horrors, and their plea is… if you could remind me of my salvation, you could use this so that sinners would know and glorify God. To put it another way it is as if David in this Psalm is praying:

“God, I know I have messed up. Oh, have I messed up. I have killed, and raped and my baby is dead… God, would you cause people to come to Christ… through my messed up, broken life.”

And here is my prayer: God, help me to be consumed with the scandalous beauty of the cross, to sing loudly of your great glory and profess with boldness and brokenhearted joy the awesome redemptive work you have done in my life.

This afternoon, after spending time thinking about bugs, I took a walk and was blown away about how much nature points to the glory of God.

Paul in his letter to the Romans wrote about nature and said:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

There certainly are some days that I am oblivious to the awe due to the creator of such an amazing world. But some days, like today, I feel like the holy spirit opens my eyes and everything around me seems to radiate with worship and point to the awesome power and creativity of the God we serve.

I don’t mean to delight in bugs, or in nature as a whole, as an end. I mean to savor what God has made as a reminder of who He is.

So often I am going at 100 mph and I take it all for granted, it all seems so commonplace and ordinary.

Until I am reminded and shaken out of the stupor by great authors who look at nature and see that God is so, so, so, so much greater and glorious than we ever can imagine.

This is one of my favorite examples:

All the towering materialism which dominates the modern mind rests ultimately upon one assumption; a false assumption. It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clockwork.

People feel that if the universe was personal it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance.

This is a fallacy even in relation to known fact. For the variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire. A man varies his movements because of some slight element of failure or fatigue. He gets into an omnibus because he is tired of walking; or he walks because he is tired of sitting still. But if his life and joy were so gigantic that he never tired of going to Islington, he might go to Islington as regularly as the Thames goes to Sheerness. The very speed and ecstasy of his life would have the stillness of death.

The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction.

Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life.

The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.

It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical ENCORE.

G.K. Chesterton

God, great Father and awesome Creator, may you help me to see more clearly, and worship you more constantly.

I have needed to pull back all morning.

I have been working on a sermon for tonight, and I have gotten so wrapped up in the need for it to be excellent. I have been going through the desire for people to look upon me with favor, and my pride has been getting the best of me. I have been spending some time in prayer and worship and the following passage kept coming to mind:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul to the Corinthians

In the power of God… I have been reminded again and again about the greatness of the God we serve. Even from the most unlikely of places. This morning I was listening to a song by “Moby”… umm yeah… okay I know that my struggle with this sermon might be divine retribution for having 90s techno-dance music AND still listening to it… but bear with me for a sec. There is a song that he wrote back in the early 1994 called “God Moving over the Face of the Waters”.

Take a listen. Really. Its worth it.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

We serve an awesome, powerful, glorious, amazing God… who is even able to use Moby to bring me into worship and a deeper relationship and love with Him.

Keeping that in mind I’m going to wrap up this sermon.

Continued Thoughts on Job

Over the past couple of weeks I have been preparing for a sermon on the book of Job. While I finally have a direction I am going with my sermon, this morning I was mulling over some of my thoughts and praying about what I’ve learned

Job is a tough book to get through, and for ages I thought the point/focus was that God blessed Job with twice as much stuff after he endured all of the trials. That he passed the test and was rewarded. I think many times in the past I have looked at this book and tended to see/believe the following is happening in this story:

Job = Good Man => God in Control = Blesses him with Stuff

Job = Good Man => Satan in Control = Attacks the Stuff

Job = Steadfast Good Man, who endured when “God not in Control” => God Blesses More

One of the main problems with this is that you have this paradigm of God and Satan constantly at odds when it comes to our circumstances. We can believe… if God is in control, our lives are good, when Satan is attacking, our lives are bad, but if we persist God will reward us with good.

As the first thing this should challenge is our theological view: that God and Satan are in a constant chaotic wrestling match, and our lives are randomly tossed to and fro depending on who is on the offensive. What this leads us to, is a “Happily Ever After” where we hope and pray that we can persevere long-enough for God to be “back in control,” and when that happens our lives can be blessed once again. NOT GOOD.

As I have been thinking about Job I think the following makes more sense:

God Desires Job to Know Him & Worship Him => God Blesses Job

Job is Blessed => Job is Drawn to Worship

Job is Blessed => Job Tempted to Worship Blessing and Not God

Satan Desires to Attack Job => ALWAYS Needs God’s Permission

God Desires Job to Know Him & Worship Him = Job Blessed by God, not things

God Blesses Job*=> Gives Satan Permission

Satan seeks to destroy => God is in control and uses it teach Job

God Desires Job to Know Him & Worship Him => *God Further Reveals Himself to Job

Job sees God more clearly => Job Responds in Deeper Love & Worship

God Desires Job to Know Him & Worship Him => God Blesses Job

The “Happily Ever After” isn’t God replacing the things that Job lost; he would have still mourned the loss of his children, nothing could ever actually replace them. The idea that more “stuff” would assuage his scars and pain is nearly laughable, especially with the prospect of losing them all again. So what does Job point to? At the end of all of the suffering and after God responds to Job’s cries, Job says, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” After years of worshiping and daily going to the temple, the “Happily Ever After is that Job is draw into a deeper relationship, knowing more fully how weak he is, and how magnificent and glorious is his God.

Let me put it in other words:

I heard once “Anyone who can imagine a heaven (Happily Ever After) that doesn’t include Jesus, and is okay with that, isn’t going to end up in Heaven.” For many of us the idea of Heaven is that we suffer through this life so that we can get all of the “stuff” we couldn’t have here. Similarly, it is so easy for us to see Job as a story of the things that he lost and the things that he gained in the end.  Both both of these stories, Job’s and our own is not focused around the things we acquire, but a story of the majesty and glory and sovereignty of God and how to put our hope in anything else is to compromise and settle for something far less than “Happily Ever After.”