Archive for October 2014

I Bring that One to You

Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.
(Luke 6:27-28, NIV)

Father, I bring that one to You –
that one with whom my relationship is strained,
that one who arouses angry or bitter feelings in me
every time I think of them.

Bless that person with
Your wisdom and
Your presence.
Bless them with the full and free forgiveness that You have lavished on me.
Bless them with Your smile,
Your patient forbearance,
Your beautiful, life-giving renewal.
Bless them with all Your very best.

And Father, our Father,
keep me quietly humble
before them and
before You.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Your Thoughts, Your Words
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

I Am Your Creation

During some periods in my life, I’ve lived in a vague uneasiness about myself. I’ve felt a restlessness, an unsettledness within that was hard to pin down or identify.

Eventually I realized this stemmed from a clouding of my relationship with God. Though I had not totally rejected Him, I was reluctant to face Him, afraid to stand before Him unhidden. Perhaps I had let Satan steal my confidence through his false accusations. Or perhaps sin had crept in, and I knew deep within that I hadn’t been living as I should. As a result, guilt had separated me from a full, joyful relationship with God. I was hesitant to look into His face.

If you’ve ever experienced these feelings, try something with me. Close your eyes and bow your head, and see yourself standing before Him right now. In your heart look Him straight in the face and say, “God, I am Your creation.”

Go ahead, try it.

Listen. How does your heart respond when you say that?

I have a sense of being a child, standing before my Father, with my arms outstretched, looking up into His face. No matter what my struggles, He understands me. My sins and failures have not dampened His love. I’m enveloped in acceptance, an affection, a belonging that goes deeper than my childish inadequacies.

When our children fail or get in trouble, we don’t want them to hide from us or go to other sources for help. It hurts and frustrates our hearts when they won’t share themselves with us, even when they fall. We long for them to come to us and be assured of our love, understanding, and total support, no matter what they’ve done. Our Father is the same with us. We are His. Though sin brings a cloud and a separation from Him, the separation is on our end, not His. The love and acceptance still exist. He yearns for us to turn to Him again.

As I stand before Him as my Creator, realizing I am His very own, worship becomes a living relationship. At such times, words are unnecessary. Communication lines are open from heart to heart, without the formalities of speech. The love I sense for Him is worship. That trust growing within me is the adoration He desires.

Standing there, I long to live always in His presence, in that unbroken fellowship with Him. Sin appears now as foolish and destructive, soiling that beautiful, living relationship. I want Him to seal all my affections forever as His very own. I want to live fully and freely before Him—naturally, as His love designed.

And in that love, I want to glorify Him in every way I can. Creation so beautifully and lavishly glorifies Him, singing constantly of His power, His wisdom, His love. As His creation, I want to take my place in that symphony.

We are His creation, His children. That warm, open relationship is what He wants most for us, and with us. He only asks that we trust Him—trust Him enough to come to Him immediately and repent when we have sinned; trust Him enough to bring Him our needs and concerns; trust Him enough to obey His words of love.

He is a wonderful Father!

O Lord, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8, NIV)

Listen and sing:
Hymn: I Quiet Myself in Your Love
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

The Christ of Advent

No matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.
(2 Corinthians 1:20, NIV)

Think of our God, unlimited by time and place,
all-seeing,
ever-present.
Everywhere and all eternity are the domain in which He dwells.
He is complete and perfect, so He does not change.
His Word is sovereign.
All reality responds to His will.
He speaks, and it is so.

For this God, His eternal purposes are certain and complete.
They are not future possibilities.
They are present reality.

But we are small and fearful, bound by time, creatures of the now.
We see only ourselves and our tiny sliver of all that is.
God’s greatest blessings are too vast, too broad in time.
We cannot trace His love and all its magnificent ways.

But our loving Father longs to wrap us in the beautiful certainty of
all He is and all He does.
So He makes promises that let us glimpse His love beyond our now.
His promises assure us of unchanging truth, that
God will always be who He has always been;
He will always do what He has always done; and
He will complete all He has started.

God’s promises are not empty words, rosy wishes, or mere intention.
God’s promises describe eternal reality.

And now, God’s promises are a Person, a living, human, divine Person
who embodies all God has done and all He is doing for His children.

During Advent, look to Jesus.
He is the Promise of the Father.
As He is, we will be.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: The Promise
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Spirit-driven

Most of the time I’m certain that I am doing what the Lord has called me to do. But every once in a while the doubts creep in. You probably have your own set of familiar doubts. For me as a hymn writer, I occasionally fear that I’ve wasted my life by writing in a relatively traditional style. Should I have consciously reached out to my children’s generation by learning to write in a more contemporary style? Do most who hear my hymns dismiss them as old-fashioned?

But as I pray, I see my situation in a better light. Maybe these observations will help you when your fears whisper in your ear.

1.       Don’t follow the crowd. In my case, thousands, perhaps millions of songs are being written in the contemporary style currently popular. Would I really be of greater service to the Church by simply adding more to that growing number? Even business thinkers like Seth Godin, writing from a non-religious perspective, advise creators not to think mass market but to be content serving their own particular customers.

2.       Be yourself. I need to be the writer God created me to be. I’ve written some songs in a more contemporary style, but for the most part, that style is not native to me. I naturally think and feel in the style in which I write. But it’s more than familiarity that draws me. I genuinely believe that a more traditional style will, in the long run, have a broader and more inclusive appeal.

3.       Each of us is a member of the Body of Christ. We are called to fill our particular role, not to be all things to all people. I read Numbers 4:16-28 and see that even in the Old Testament sanctuary, God appointed each group of priests and Levites to their own very particular duties. They were to focus on doing their daily tasks faithfully and wholeheartedly, out of love for God. That is still the way I approach my hymn writing.

Father, my goal is not to be successful. My goal is to please You. I want to be Spirit-driven, not customer-driven. Where I have failed, please forgive and redirect me. I am Yours completely, now and forever.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: God Alone
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

I Am His Child

Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust.
(Psalm 103:13-14, NASB)

God loves us as a parent loves a newborn child.
An infant doesn’t have to earn the parents’ affection.
A baby is loved because of relationship, not because of merit.

Read the beautiful picture painted in Psalm 103.
The Father understands us far better than we understand ourselves.
He never expects us to live like something we’re not.
We don’t need to pretend with Him.

Instead, He takes the initiative to transform us
into more than we can be on our own.
He wants to make us truly His children.
He wants to make us like our Father in every way.

All He asks is that we respond to Him in trust, step-by-step.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: We Are Children
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Christ in Genesis and Exodus

In the beginning, when God spoke the universe into existence, Jesus Christ was that sovereign, creative Word. All that the Father willed, the Word brought to reality (Genesis 1; John 1:1-18).

Christ was the deliverer God promised to Adam and Eve. He was their descendant who would crush Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15).

Christ was the rainbow’s promise to Noah that in the face of overwhelming evil, life would always triumph (Genesis 8:21; 9:8-17).

Christ was the heir promised to Abraham and the sacrifice God provided in place of Isaac (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:4; 22:8, 14).

Jesus Christ is our Great High Priest. Melchizedek and the entire Old Testament priesthood pointed ahead to Him (Genesis 14:17-20; Hebrews 7; 10:19-23).

In the Exodus, Christ was the Passover lamb. Through His blood God’s people were saved from death (Exodus 12). Christ was the manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16) and the Bread of the Presence (Exodus 25:30). His life was the completion of the entire sacrificial system and won forgiveness for all our race (Hebrews 10:11-14).

Jesus Christ fulfilled Sinai’s law for all of us (Matthew 5:17; Romans 10:4). Moses saw the back of God for a few seconds (Exodus 33:18-23; 34:1-7). In Christ we see Him face-to-face and are changed into His glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The Tabernacle in the wilderness feasted our senses on reminders of God’s presence (Exodus 40), but Jesus Christ is Himself God’s tabernacle among us and within us (John 1:14).

Under the Old Testament law, the transcendent God could not be pictured in physical form, and anyone who tried was guilty of idolatry. But Jesus Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) and “the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3, NIV).

In the creation, at Sinai, and in the wilderness, to Adam and Abraham and all God’s people, the Father longed to make Himself known and trusted and loved. His desire is fulfilled completely and forever in Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with Us.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Christ in Genesis and Exodus
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Customer-driven Ministry

During my 34 years with a major church music publisher, we were primarily customer-driven. Like most of the rest of the business world, we tried to learn what the customer wanted and then provide it with the best product we could. Obviously there is some economic logic behind being customer-driven.

It is often defended on a ministry basis as well. We all want to minister to real customer needs. Therefore we must learn what the customer wants, then provide it as best we can, right? Customer-driven publishing, or customer-driven ministry, seems to make a great deal of sense.

But over the years, I’ve experienced serious flaws in that approach.

1.       Often customers don’t know what they want until they see it. Needs and desires tend to be limited by past experience. True innovation demands more than an analysis of past buying habits. True innovation requires vision.

2.       As Christian publishers, we serve a God who is NOT customer-driven. Yes, He deeply loves people and meets their practical needs where they are. He is intent on effectively communicating with them and helping them. But He doesn’t follow their lead: they must follow His. He tells them what they need to know, not what they want to know. He doesn’t cater: He ministers. He challenges. He leads His people beyond their experience, beyond their desires toward something better. He is focused on what can be. When His people are in need, He creates something new:

“Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19, NASB)

This is the God we serve. God offers people something better than they know to ask for. And we are ambassadors for Him.

Customer-driven ministry easily turns to catering to the customer. Selfishness subtly moves in and takes over. We end up simply appealing to the customer in our own best interest rather than serving his or her long-term best.

Read John’s gospel, and note Jesus’ focus. He focused on the Father. His one desire was to speak His Father’s words and do His Father’s works. That must be the focus of each of His disciples as well. He calls us to focus on speaking the Father’s words and doing the Father’s works. Focus on the Father.

What’s more, imagine what the Bible would be if it were customer-driven. Tied to the fads of the times, it would not be the source of timeless truth that every generation and every culture desperately needs it to be.

As a creator, as a communicator, as a servant of God, let God’s burning love for His people inspire and lead you. Don’t just follow what is. Imagine what could be. Imagine something better. Imagine springs in the desert and roadways through the wilderness. Follow the God whose zealous love is forever creating something new, leading His people beyond their self-imposed limitations.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Lead Me On
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

I Am with You Always

[Jesus said], “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20, NASB).

God, my Father, my Creator,
You are always with me.
You are a real being, and
You are always here with me.

You love me.
Your eyes and Your heart are always on me.

Yet I seldom think of You.
I seldom realize that You are here.
I seldom talk to You or
acknowledge You in any way.

You care about me,
but I don’t ask Your wisdom.
You provide everything I need,
yet I am so anxious.
You honor me with Your presence,
yet I ignore You.

Father, it is good to be with You right now.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: You Are Near, O Lord
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Let Me Love You in Others

One day a Pharisee asked Jesus a question in order to test Him:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 

[Jesus] said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. 

“The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:35-40, NASB)

Lord, as I grow to love You more,
as I rejoice in Your personal presence we me,
help me recognize in those around me
Your Spirit,
Your likeness, and
Your love, so passionately poured out.

Jesus,
let me always treat them
as those most precious to You.
I love You;
let me love them the same.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: The Greatest Commandments
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Humility

From Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever. (Romans 11:36, NASB)

Humility is seeing God.
Humility is worshiping Him.
Humility is loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Humility is loving others fully and joyfully.

Humility is truth.
It is seeing the world and ourselves as we really are.

Humility is sweet freedom from life’s most constant and most crushing burden:
the burden of self-concern.
Humility is the freedom to release selfish anxiety and
embrace Christ for all He is.

Jesus, humility is knowing You.
It is one of the gifts of knowing You are with me.
Thank You, my Lord!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Meekness
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

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