Archive for April 2013

Create out of Love

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 

If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
(1 Corinthians 13:1-3, NASB)

Whatever your ministry, whatever your medium of communication, make sure you’re driven by love for your people, not love for your ideas. If you are motivated by love for your concepts or your creative material, rather than love for people, you are liable to become dry, impersonal, and abstract, a “clanging cymbal”.

This is true whether you’re communicating directly with people, or you’re communicating through something you create—a song, a book, a painting, or whatever. Your heart will show.

Remember, love is the greatest force for innovation. Not ambition or intelligence. Not curiosity or the thirst for discovery. Not the hunger for money, power, or glory. Love is the greatest innovative force in the cosmos.

It’s been true since the beginning. Read Genesis 1, and hear the Creator’s joyful love bubbling through every line. Love motivated the creation of this world. Love motivates His every redemptive act. Love motivated Jesus Christ, and love motivates His Spirit as He works through you.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God…God is love. (1 John 4:7-8, NASB)

If you want the Creator God to speak His Word through you, share His heart of love. Among God’s communicators, the medium varies, but the Spirit and the motivation are the same.

See Him Now

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and
the exact representation of His being,
sustaining all things by his powerful word.
After he had provided purification for sins,
he sat down at the right hand
of the Majesty in heaven.
(Hebrews 1:3, NIV)

See Him now,
the Jewish peasant,
the Victim,
the One rejected, ridiculed, brutalized, and
executed as a blasphemer and traitor.

See Him now
in all the glory that is His from all eternity.
See Him risen to the right hand of the Father.
He is seated, His task complete.
He has wiped away all our sins,
completely and forever.
He has poured out
the Holy Spirit of God Himself
on every person who will receive Him.

This is the Christ who is with us now,
our Companion,
our Shepherd,
our Wisdom,
our adequacy for every situation.

Listen…and sing if you want:
Hymn: See Almighty God
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

More than You Can Imagine 2

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV)

Conventional wisdom is that you can achieve anything you choose by setting goals, working hard, and believing in yourself. In God’s service, my experience has in some ways been the opposite: release personal goals; focus your confidence in God, not yourself; and stay flexible in His hands.

I’ve found that getting beyond our own agendas and abilities expands our horizons. In many respects, dependence on Him frees us from our personal limitations.

At various times in my life, I thought, “I will only write classical music”. Then, “I will only write lyrics.” Then, “I will only write hymns.” But staying available to Him has led me into many other areas: devotional books; evangelistic materials; Sunday School curriculum; teaching. Six days a week I post a short devotional thought on Facebook. This blog was another step of faith which I could never have foreseen just a few years ago.

Stay open to God’s surprises. I find that very few of my hymns are planned. I don’t sit down to write them. God blind-sides me with delightful inspirations and opportunities. I’ve find that He is indeed “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20, NIV). His work through us need not be limited by our ambitions, abilities, or imagination. The limits are “his power that is at work within us”.

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
(Philippians 4:13, NIV)

Serving God is wonderful and exciting freedom—freedom from self-dependence, freedom from binding ambitions, freedom from narrow, self-centered horizons. Serving Him is freedom to simply follow. It is being “workers together with God” (1 Corinthians 3:9) as He saves people from their sin and draws them to Himself. It is constant availability, learning not to “live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3, NIV).

More than You Can Imagine

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV)

The conventional wisdom is this: You can achieve anything you choose if you work hard enough and believe in yourself.

As a servant of God, that has not been my experience.

Yes, it is energizing to be inflamed with a goal and a purpose. And hard work and confidence are necessary if we are to press ahead through innumerable discouragements.

But in God’s service I’ve experienced three crucial differences:

1.       Rather than “achieving anything you choose,” I’ve had to give up all personal ambitions. Repeated setbacks have forced me to recommit myself–to release each personal goal and hope for achievement. My ambition has been reduced to this: I only want God’s purpose to be accomplished, whatever it is.

2.       I’ve had to lose faith in my own abilities and believe only in God’s ability and faithfulness. He’s thrown me in so far over my head that I’ve had to just cling to Him. I am confident, but I’m confident in God, not myself.

3.       Instead of pressing toward one long-term goal, shoving everything else aside, I’ve discovered how vital it is to simply trust and obey Him one hour at a time, one task at a time. I don’t know what He will lead me to do 15 minutes from now. My job is to stay tuned to Him, to stay willing and available.

What is the result of all this? More next time.

Perfect Peace

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” (John 14:27, NIV)

Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1, NIV)

Imagine the complete absence of conflict
throughout our entire race,
throughout all creation,
between God and each of us.
Imagine perfect harmony,
complete well-being,
no fear,
no suffering,
no darkness,
no death ever again.

Imagine the life and love of God in all their richness
flowing unhindered every moment
forever.
This is the peace that Christ brings.

“If we throw aside our selfish anxiety,
then God’s will is enough.
We can rest in it and
be at peace as it unfolds.
Even behind the injustice of human beings
we will see nothing but the
wisdom,
justice, and
unfailing goodness of our God.”
(paraphrased from Francois Fenelon)

Listen…and sing if you want:
Hymn: Perfect Peace
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Empty

We often picture the earthly Jesus as a kind of superman, with unlimited power flowing from His fingertips. But listen to what the Bible says about Him:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but empted Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant. (Philippians 2:5-7, NASB).

Listen to what Jesus says about Himself:

“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does…By myself I can do nothing.” (John 5:19, 30, NIV)

“These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:24, NIV)

It wasn’t Jesus’ own power that made Him what He was. He had emptied Himself of all His power and glory. Jesus made Himself dependent on His Father, constantly and completely, for every word and every action. When He spoke or acted, it was at His Father’s will and by His Father’s direct provision.

Jesus was what He was by faith. His strength lay not in unique abilities but in His relationship with the Father. He was the embodiment of the Father’s will for us expressed in 2 Corinthians 12:9,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (NIV)

Jesus made himself an open vessel for the Father, holy and yielded. His weakness was His great strength. His emptiness was the secret to His constant sufficiency. His power was His complete and constant dependence on the Father.

Jesus wants to share that relationship with us. He wants us to have the same relationship with the Father that He enjoys. He longs for us to participate in the deep love that flows unhindered among the Father, Son, and Spirit:

“I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him…We will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:20-21, 23, NIV)

Study the life of Jesus. As you see how He lived, all through faith, the hunger will grow in you to share His beautiful, simple relationship with the Father. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit all deeply desire to share that relationship with you.

Injustice

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 2:4-5, NIV)

Our son had recently bought his first car. We all felt good about it. He went out and got his own insurance policy to save money. It was a used car, and he couldn’t afford collision coverage.

One day a girl ran a stoplight, hit him broadside, and totaled his car. She had no insurance and was on welfare, so he had no hope of collecting from her.

After looking forward to it and working for it so long, he had no car and no money to replace it, and at no fault of his own. We all hurt so deeply for him.

Not long after, my wife and I went and saw a film on the holocaust. It put our situation with the car in perspective. We had tasted just the tiniest part of the world’s misery, pain, and loss…its sense of injustice, disappointment, and frustration.

Lord, my abilities are small, but help me lift You up that You might draw needy people to yourself. Let my dearest dreams fail, but use me to relieve the suffering of others.

Accept One Another

Accept one another…just as Christ accepted you.
(Romans 15:7, NIV)

I was at a Christian music conference.
With the variety of performers, approaches, and styles that were there,
I found myself growing critical.

God checked me.
He pointed out that He himself had shown His grace and mercy
to each of them,
just as to me.
He reminded me that each of them needed His continuing
grace, mercy, and guidance
just as much as I did.

Lord, those who have trusted You
come in every personality and level of maturity.
Help me to see each of them as
one who has received Your grace and
who needs Your grace.
I turn away from the sin of judging my dear brothers and sisters.
Help me to love and accept them
just as You, Jesus, have loved and accepted them.

Listen…and sing if you want:
Hymn: Love One Another
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Christ Alone

O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
(Psalm 63:1, NIV)

When I’m alone with my wife,
she wants my mind to be alone with her,
listening to her,
focused on her,
not a million miles away.

I’ve found that Christ is no different.
I tend to get wrapped up in my work,
even in my service to Him,
elbow-deep in the present and
dreaming into the future.
But He keeps bringing me back to himself.

He reminds me that no matter what happens or doesn’t happen in my life,
the only lasting joy I will ever have is
the joy of being in His presence in the present moment.

Jesus wants us to build our world,
not around our work,
but around Him.

Serve with What You Have

The Lord said to [Moses], “What is that in your hand?” (Exodus 4:2, NIV)

Nearing the year 2000, one television network chose a panel of experts from a variety of fields. They asked them to compile a list of the 100 most influential people of the entire millennium.

The list was so exclusive that most presidents and Nobel prize winners didn’t make it. The top 5 included such giants as William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, and Martin Luther.

The winner, the person experts chose as the most influential person in 1,000 years? Not a genius, or a politician, a rich man, artist, writer, or scientist. It was a simple shopkeeper who provided something practical: Johannes Gutenberg. His printing press changed the course of history in every field and made most other advancements possible.

Serve faithfully. Serve in love. Serve where you are with what you have.

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