Archive for February 2013

Compelled by Jesus Christ

Many others have written an account of what God has done among us through Jesus. They took their facts from eyewitnesses who were there, who saw Him, heard Him, knew Him, and worked alongside Him. Since I have investigated everything carefully and thoroughly, it seemed good for me to write an account as well. I have researched it diligently and put everything in order, starting from the very beginning. My goal was this, dear friend of God: that you may know for certain the truth about Jesus Christ. (paraphrased from Luke 1:1-4)

Luke was inspired and compelled by the amazing truth about Jesus Christ. Driven by that truth, he undertook the massive task of researching and writing a detailed account of His earthly life. He knew he wasn’t the first to attempt it, but that didn’t discourage him. He was a gentile, not a Jew (the only Gentile author in the entire Bible), but that didn’t deter him either.

Imagine the work, the determination, the organizational ingenuity, and the dedication to detail that it took to carry off such a task in those days. Jesus had been gone bodily for many years. There were no quick means of communication over distance; no phones or computers, no internet, no printing; little or no library resources. Travel was slow, difficult, and dangerous. No person or thing, word or idea could travel faster than a horse.

But Luke investigated patiently and diligently, investing years of his life. He talked to numerous eyewitnesses. He painstakingly assembled and organized the best information from the most reliable sources.

The result was a gospel account of unparalleled historical exactitude. Each of the gospels contributes something unique to our understanding of Jesus. Luke contributes historical detail and organization, as well as unique information about vital aspects of Jesus’ life, such as His birth, His prayer life, and the role of women in His ministry.

But Luke didn’t stop his research at Jesus’ ascension. He continued to trace the ministry of Jesus through His Spirit’s work in the early church. That unique research yielded the only historical account of the first thirty years of the early church: the Acts of the Apostles.

Luke could have had no idea how far his work would go through space and time. But he was inspired, compelled, and driven on by the marvelous truth about Jesus Christ.

The truth about Jesus compels me to write hymns intended to both inform and inspire, to draw people to Him.

What does the truth about Jesus compel you to do?

Prepare to Be Available

Father, I can only create as You,
the Creator and Source of all,
the Spirit of Truth,
create through me.
I look to You alone.
I depend on You.
I rest in You.
I am available to You.

But being available to You is more than just words and wishes.
In obedience to You and by Your Spirit’s enabling,
I keep myself a pure vessel for Your use:

If anyone cleanses himself from these [dishonorable] things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:21-22, NASB)

I do what I can to make myself ready.
I try to keep both my body and my mind
rested,
fed, and
prepared.

I make my moments available to You.
I ask for Your leadership,
Your prompting,
Your enabling.
And as You lead, I take that one step of faith.
Procrastination is disobedience.
It is missing a precious opportunity from You.
“Well begun is half done.”

Father, teach me to do all I can to
keep myself available to You.

Letter from a Concerned Father

My Dear Child,

Since before you were born, I’ve loved you.

You were my delight, my pride and joy. I would sit and watch you and smile and laugh. I looked forward to being with you. I enjoyed you so much. I just could not do enough for you.

I cared for you day and night. You were always on my mind and on my heart. When you were sick, I felt your pain and nursed you back to health. When you fell, I would lift you in my arms and hug you and gently kiss you.

But the more I loved you, the more you resisted my love. The more I cared for you, the more you resented me. The more I did for you, the less you trusted me.

I taught you to walk, and you chose to walk away from me. I shaped your young mind. I carefully fed it and nurtured it. But you became proud, and in your youthful ignorance you found me foolish and old-fashioned.

You took everything I gave you and turned it against me.

But still I loved you and did all I could to help you. I saw trouble coming. I tried to warn you–sometimes gently, sometimes in desperation, as shouting to one standing in front of an oncoming truck: “Look out! Get out of the way!” But you took my warnings as intrusions, as selfish attempts to “run your life.”

The trouble came–the incredible hurt, the destruction, the shattered relationships. Believe me, being right brought me no joy. I suffered it all with you.

I still see trouble coming. But I can’t help you…not unless you let me…not unless you help yourself.

A parent’s grief for a lost child has no comfort, no consolation, except one. It’s hope–hope that the child will somehow just come back.

Come back, child.

Please, come back.

Love forever,
God, Your Father

(based on Hosea 11:1-11)

Listen…and sing if you want:
A Father’s Love
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Available

Creative work has its pressures.

My wife can take one look at my face and tell if I’m working on a hymn. She says I look constipated. Such writing requires tremendous amounts of concentration and sustained focus. You have to hold in mind every aspect of the overall character and flow, all the while carefully choosing every word.

Your experience with your creative work is probably like mine. No matter how many times you’ve done it, with each new project, each new day, each new problem, you wrestle with the question, “Can I really do this again?”

I find tremendous inspiration from the example of Jesus. His responsibilities dwarf mine, yet He didn’t take them on Himself. He depended completely on His Father. He only said what His Father gave Him to say and did what His Father showed Him to do. The only thing on His “to do” list was to trust and obey.

That is my only responsibility as well: to trust and obey. I only need to keep listening and stay available.

  • When I awake in the morning, before I get out of bed, I simply make myself available to Him.
  • When I start a new writing task, I simply make myself available to Him.
  • When I get stuck and the words stubbornly resist my best efforts to shape them, I set the task aside, do something else for awhile, and simply make myself available to Him. He always calls me back in His time.

Throughout my day, I have to resist the temptation to reserve all my energies and attention for my specialized work, my “calling”. My true calling is to stay available to Him, always, in every situation. Some of my most satisfying and fruitful work has come in response to God’s interruptions.

You can trust your time and responsibilities to Him. He knows what needs to be done. Just stay available.

Time

When we consider the natural world, we begin to realize that time hides from us many of the Creator’s most spectacular miracles. Some are too split-second for us to perceive; others are too gradual to appreciate.

For instance, on one hand, consider a single beat of a hummingbird’s wing (up to 80 per second!). On the other hand, ponder the sculpting of the Grand Canyon.

Or think of the human body. Each simple function is a chain of interworkings, incredibly complex, yet almost instantaneous. But just as marvelous is the transformation of a microscopic egg into an adult human being, capable of reason, imagination, love, work, and worship. (Growth seems to be God’s favorite miracle. Up close, it’s invisible. From a distance, it’s breathtaking . . . too beautiful to rush.)

We are locked into the present, with narrow notions of fast and slow. We are caught in the blindness of time, space, and self. The Everlasting One blesses us, and we do not see Him coming or going. We fail to trace all the wonders of Him who is unhurried and unhindered by time, reigning in eternity. To the Overlord of all the ages, the Master of each  moment, nothing is fast or slow. Time is not a barrier or a restraint, but a tool wielded by His wisdom.

How foolish, then, for us to pretend to be masters of our time. We frantically try to control what we cannot control. Rigid, rushed schedules are our attempts to bring productivity, consistency, and balance into our confusion and fatigue.

But the Lord reminded me years ago that time anxiety is as foolish and unproductive as all other anxieties. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27, NIV)

Anxiety blocks our free and open response to God’s moment-by-moment leadership. Worry produces only tension, selfishness, and insensitivity. It chokes out love, gentleness, and joy.

Turn to one of the Gospels in the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) and read about Jesus. Notice that while He had so much to accomplish in so little time, He never rushed. He was busy, but He never seemed tense or hurried.

That’s because He focused on only one priority: following His Father’s leadership step by step. Each moment was in His Father’s hands, so Jesus simply did as He was directed to do and worked as He was enabled to work.

Our Creator, our Father gives us the same privilege. We don’t need to juggle our priorities and obligations in our own wisdom. God wants us to lead and balance our lives by his wisdom.

He calls us to listen and respond to His leadership regarding time. We are to use our self-discipline there rather than toward our own arbitrary schedules. As we do, He breathes natural balance and joy, a peace and productivity into each moment, of both labor and rest. He slips accomplishments into our schedules that surprise and delight us.

He is personally with you always. He would be delighted to guide and provide for your time needs. This is just one more area in which He calls us into a closer, more constant fellowship with himself.

God’s gifts are practical. They are more satisfying than we have tasted or imagined. He invites us to discover them all.

God is never in a hurry.
He is the master of time, not its slave.
Walk with Him in His peace.

 

Have Mercy

A Prayer for Lent

I lift up my eyes to you,
to you whose throne is in heaven.
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he shows us his mercy.

Have mercy on us, O Lord,
have mercy on us.
(Psalm 123:1-3a, NIV)

Father God, our lives are plagued by trouble.
We are showered with the violence and arrogance all around us.
We are humbled by the selfishness and complacency of our own hearts.
Have mercy on us.

Our wives, our husbands, our children are in need.
Our communities are row after row of houses
filled with broken families and hurting people.
Many are desperate, plummeting through despair.
Our work places are dark,
crying out for the light of Your guidance and hope and love.

Father, we lift our eyes to You
and wait.
Our hope is You alone.

Listen…and sing if you want:
Have Mercy
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Saturate Yourself with the Truth

To nurture your creativity and your life in Christ, be a passionate, lifelong student of the Bible.

When I was in my late twenties, my mentor, Dr. Morris Weigelt, gave me a line paraphrased from Henry David Thoreau*:

Saturate yourself with the truth,
and the truth will exhale from you naturally.

That statement stuck with me, and it has proven so very true. God’s Word is the truth about reality. But more importantly, it helps us know God as a Living Being. You’ve probably experienced how rewarding it can be to get to know a human being, whether a spouse or a close friend. The process for getting to know God is very similar, but infinitely more fascinating and rewarding.

Realize that everything He does is aimed at one goal: to share Himself with us. Son and Spirit, creation and redemption, need and abundance, life here and hereafter, His entire agenda is to give Himself to us and draw us into Him. He wants you to know Him.

Simply cooperate with His loving desire for you. Seek Him for His own sake, not for your own ends. Marinate your mind in Him and in His Word, and He will reshape not only your thoughts, but your imagination, your heart, and the person you are in your daily life. Remember the old saying:

Sow a thought, reap an act.
Sow an act, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny.

Psalm 119 is a wonderful meditation on this very idea. For years as I regularly read through the Psalms, I dreaded coming to Psalm 119. It seemed to drone on and on, saying the same thing over and over again. But as my heart grew to sincerely desire God’s Word, the Psalm became precious to me:

I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.

Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law.

I run in the path of your commands,
for you have set my heart free.

Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.

Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.

(Psalm 119:14, 18, 32, 36, 111, NIV)

Saturating myself in God’s Word has proven vital, not only in the big picture of life, but in my daily writing as well. When I’m writing a hymn, for example, I don’t laboriously go through my research notes and try to construct every idea into verse. Instead, it’s more like eating. I ingest the food. I take in the truths until they are personally, emotionally meaningful to me. I saturate myself. Then through processes I can’t see or fully control, the words are born.

Communicators, creators, believers, saturate yourself with the truth. Then experience the amazing and varied ways God causes that truth to exhale through you.

 

*For the full context, see The Journal of Henry D. Thoreau, Autumn, Nov. 1, 1851.

The Bible

I love the Bible. I’m passionate about it! There are many other books I enjoy and find stimulating (C.S. Lewis is my favorite author), but none compare to the Bible. It is satisfying intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. It has depth. It has a powerful clarity, yet a richness and mystery that have to be tasted and experienced.

One of the reasons we should read books written in other ages is that they expand our perspective and challenge our presuppositions. One author wrote that the chains that bind us the most are the ones we feel the least. Writers from other ages help us feel those ideas that chain us, and perhaps lead us to throw off a few.

But the Bible is the one book that rises above the limited perspective of every age. For that reason, it sometimes seems hopelessly out-of-step. In our arrogance, we call it naïve and unenlightened. We patronize it as we would a doddering old man who stubbornly clings to the “old ways”. We fearfully battle each other over the term “inerrancy”. But for me, forget the labels. I trust the Bible. I trust it completely. It speaks, I listen. It’s that simple.

If you want to know the Living God better, read the Bible. It shows Him interacting with people over a period of 1500 years or more. All kinds of personalities, cultures, and situations, but one unchanging God. He treats individuals individually, but He’s always consistent with Himself.

The Bible will enflame your love for Him. It will embolden your trust in Him. It will nourish your creativity like nothing else can.

In an age of relativity, marinate your mind in unchanging truth. Anchor yourself in an unchanging God.

Listen…and sing if you want!

The Word of the Lord

Recording

Printed Music & Lyrics

Why This Blog?

I’m writing to you for two reasons:

  1. I am passionate about the Living God. I want to know Him better, trust Him more simply, and talk with Him more through the day. I believe you want the same thing. We both want a more constant and complete relationship with our Father, in Whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). This blog will constantly work toward that goal.
  1. I believe I can help you nurture your creativity. For you, that may mean writing, composing, preaching, teaching, graphic arts, building bridges between people, or any one of dozens of other endeavors. Whatever your medium, the most natural and fruitful way to nurture your creativity is to nurture your relationship with the Creator of all. He delights to create through you.

Some days the emphasis will be on creativity, and some days on our personal life in Him, but it all comes from the same place and flows toward the same purpose: living in Christ and glorifying Him to everyone around us.

As for me, God called me to be a hymn writer. Can you believe it? The whole world wants nothing but praise & worship songs, and God calls me to write hymns! Talk about a mysterious God! At times I tried to get away from the call. I felt like telling Him, “But God, nobody WANTS hymns! Don’t You know ANYTHING about publishing?” But for 35 years He’s kept His thumb in my back, and now I’ve grown to accept and enjoy the uniqueness of what He’s given me to do. More about that at another time.

I’ve spent the last 37 years in Christian publishing. I’ve published a few books along the way, but most of my time and energy has been spent publishing church music. I’ve developed stacks and stacks of music for church choirs, soloists, ensembles, children, congregations, and more. I edited the current hymnal for the Church of the Nazarene, Sing to the Lord, and some years ago compiled Master Chorus Book, which has sold well over a million copies. People sometimes recognize my name from that familiar blue book.

But as much as I believe in music, and especially hymns, I’m far more passionate about God. He makes everything else meaningful.

I plan to write three days a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Mondays, at least, I’ll include a recording, music, and lyrics for one of my seasonally-appropriate hymns. You pastors, teachers, and worship leaders may find that helpful.

Cheap Jerseys Cheap Jerseys/ Cheap Jerseys Cheap Jerseys Cheap Jerseys Cheap Jerseys Cheap Jerseys Cheap Jerseys Cheap Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys