Monthly Archives: August 2007

Have it Your Way?

We recently received a comment card regarding our worship service at Crossroads. In general, it was a positive, but it seems that we failed big time in our worship – we asked people to “be seated” while singing one song. It seems that this individual found that restrictive of her worship – maybe too controlling – as she wanted to be free to sit, or stand, (or dance?) as she felt would best worship God. She felt that she should be allowed to do what she felt like.

My first thought was that this was fairly ironic. Just a few weeks ago our guest worship leader lost track of things and didn’t have us relax our position (i.e., sit) during his part of the service. Of course that meant we were innundated with comments about “having to stand” too long.  

My second thought was that it wasn’t standing or sitting for worship that concerned me about this comment. Rather it is the desire to do worship on our own terms. Corporate worship is to be done “decently and in order”, it is to be the gathered congregation worshiping in unity as led by the godly leadership. Corporate worship is not the place for each one to do whatever they feel like, but for each one to submit to what God is doing in the midst of all of those gathered.

I don’t think that this comment was a reflection of a rebellion … more likely a reflection of a Christian experience shaped in a consumer culture. I certainly would not want to see standing (or sitting) become another flashpoint in a “worship war.” It was just a comment that made me stop and think. (Someday I’ll have to write about the young men who wore hats to worship – now that’s something to get riled up about!)  I’m glad that our guest came, and that she appreciated the message, and the music. I hope that she returned, even if wasn’t all she wanted. The great act of worship is often that we just show up and submit to our God. It is being there that makes the difference, not what we get to do.


A Little Pride

One of the most basic lessons in Christianity is that the source of all sin is pride. But it is easier to see pride in others than it is to see pride in myself (I bet most readers have the same problem). In a recent message to our church I shared some manifestations of pride that I have too often found in myself – something Doyle Roth in Oops! I Forgot My Wife made clear.

  • Self-Centeredness – far too often I can think that the universe actually revolves around me.
  • Self-absorption – I can be so preoccupied with myself to the exclusion of everything else.
  • Selfwilled – I want what I want when I want it no matter what God may want.
  • Self-Righteous – so easily caught up in thinking that I am intrinsically better than others.
  • Self-pity – “poor me.”
  • Self-serving – It is so easy to define or color things to serve my best interests … you know, “I do what is good for you because it serves me.”
  • Self-Indulgent -I do what I want because I want to … actually, because I deserve it.
  • Self-sufficient – I don’t need anyone. I’ve got things “wired.” I don’t need to ask directions.
  • Self-defensive – It is amazing how quickly I can give reasons for my behavior. Also how quickly I can go from there to making excuses.
  • Self-justifying – I know why I do what I do, and I have a “valid” reasons for why it was best to serve myself.
  • Self-… – ok now I’m feeling pretty bad about myself (self-absorption?) and think you get the idea about how bad I am (self-pity?).

As Christians the amazing thing is that Jesus still loves us, and that is the only hope we have of dealing with the sin of pride – no matter how endemic.  I do hope that I’m demonstrating fewer characteristics of pride each day. I trust that all of us who follow Jesus are.

I’m feeling a bit vulnerable now … I think I’ll find a more enjoyable topic next time.

 Charles Jefferson said, “Every man has a peacock within him hungering after crumbs – don’t feed the peacock.

More Reflections on Desert Journeys

There are some things we can only learn in the desert. At least that is the conclusion I have come to. As Christians we’ll take our desert journey for a variety of reasons that we may not understand. It might be due to sin, or circumstances, but in every case it is ultimately due to God’s desire to develop character in us.

SO….what happens when we get into the metaphorical desert?

We learn…
We fail…
We cry out…
We listen…
We thirst…
We become dependent on God!

Deserts remind us of TOTAL DEPENDENCE.

This really isn’t a choice you get…you ARE dependent, even if you do not want to be, even if you don’t “choose”, you are totally dependent upon the kindness (aka, the grace) of God. I know, I know, you begin to say (like this writer whose name I have forgotten), “When we hear the phrase “totally trust in God,” most of us probably sigh, hearing it as one more requirement that we have never been able to live up to” – especially in the desert.  

Another thing you find out in this wilderness is that in the desert God strips away all pretense of appearance. The desert is a place to listen and not do. There are a whole lot of us who are so busy, living lives that are so cluttered that we are at wits’ end. If we would just stop doing for the sake of appearance for a while, we might hear the God of the universe whisper to us, “I love you.” And if we won’t stop on our own God might just have a surprise desert journey planned.
In the desert we also find that skill is not enough; talent is not enough; appearance is not enough. At least not for the things that really matter. In fact, talent, skill, appearance are all overrated (probably a god blog topic for the future).

Reflections on the Journey

 JJ in Scotland writes about going through a desert experience in her life. Having gone through a couple myself I started reflecting on those dry times and some of the things I learned. I’m thinking that I might just try to blog out some desert thoughts over the next few days.

The wilderness or desert theme is quite evident in the biblical record – Abraham, Moses, Israel, Elijah, Jesus, and Paul just to name a few. It is my observation that one of the mysteries of our spiritual journey is that we are often led to travel through the deserts (of which JJ writes) where being alone ultimately brings out the thirst, the desire, for God. 

I once heard Gordon MacDonald develop this metaphor. He mused about the variety of deserts we might encounter today. We could be drained, dried out, devastated, or disillusioned. Some deserts are lonely places of defeat, or destinations of the disheartened. The desert of discouragement seems to be one in which many church leaders wander. The wilderness of distortion confuses us. And then there is the desolation of depression. We could probably add several others (though they may not all start with the letter “d”).

What seems to make the desert experience frustrating (at least initially) is that we don’t always see it coming, and we don’t always understand how we got there or how we’re supposed to get out.  Sometimes we find ourselves in these metaphorical wildernesses because choices made by others impact us – Elijah and Paul could tell us about those experiences. Many times it is due to choices we make ourselves.  The easiest of those to understand are the ones that result from choosing sin over righteousness. But sometimes the desert results when we choose to follow God as Jesus and Moses demonstrate. And sometimes, like Job, we just don’t have a clue!

I like what Eugene Peterson says in Leap Over a Wall,

But there are times, no matter how thoroughly we’re civilized, when we’re plunged into the wilderness-not a geographical wilderness but what I’m going to call a circumstantial wilderness. Everything is going along fine: we’ve learned the language of the country, gotten a job, decorated the house, signed up for car payments, made out a schedule that imposes some order on the chaos of time, accepted responsibilities that define our significance, heard people speak our name and determined that we’re identifiable. And then suddenly we’re beside ourselves: we don’t know what’s going on within us or in another who is important to us; feeling erupt in us that call into question what we’ve never questioned before. There’s a radical change in our bodies, or our emotions, or our thinking, or our friends, or our job. We’re out of control. We’re in the wilderness

What I want to say is this: I readily acknowledge that this circumstantial wilderness is a terrible, frightening, and dangerous place; but I also believe that it’s a place of beauty. There are things to be seen, heard, and experienced in this wilderness that can be seen heard, and experienced nowhere else. When we find ourselves in the wilderness we do well to be frightened; we also do well to be alert, open-eyed. In the wilderness we’re plunged into an awareness of danger and death; at the very same moment we’re plunged, if we let ourselves be, into an awareness of the great mystery of God and the extraordinary preciousness of life (page 74).

There are some things we can only learn in the desert.

Nothing Like a Little Vacation

I took a few days off with Mrs. Random (aka Linda) in honor of our 36th anniversary. Very nice trip over the border and across the water to Victoria, British Columbia. I really enjoy time away with Linda … thankfully she enjoys time with me as well (thus 36 years!). Didn’t do much. We ate too well. We enjoyed walking around the inner harbor. And it is nice to sleep in for a couple days without guilt. We did look for whales too … took a three hour tour … Linda really likes whales … and we got to see a few greys and humpbacks feeding.

It usually takes a few days to disentangle from my church responsibilities before I can really rest … just about as many days as we took off. Of course, it doesn’t help that I usually tend to check email when away. The night before we left I received two demanding and critical notes … the kind that had not-so-subtle undertones of “you need to solve my problem NOW!” The kind that pretty much threatened to hang around the back of my mind begging to be dealt with. So … I asked God for some help in wisely letting these things wait without feeling guilty, and for some discipline in trusting him with whatever needed to be done back at church — i.e., not checking that email account. My intentions were reinforced by a quirky hotel wireless system that worked only when we needed to get information about things like ferry schedules or places to eat. Thank you Lord!

I’m sure that there will be lots of surprises in my inbox tomorrow morning … I decided not to check in tonight … and I’ll probably begin dreaming about a longer time away.  

Hanging On To Things Too Long

Someday this story posted Anne Jackson by will be found in collections of illustrations for sermons and such. Most Christians do go through seasons of holding on to dead things of this world. I’m putting it in my illustrations file for future use. By the way, I collect stuff like this. Sometimes I don’t use them for years, but having a good story or illustration often brings clarity to a lesson so it is worth the effort. If you know of any, send ’em on … I’ll even try to give you credit when I use it.

Stuff I’ve Been Collecting That Probably Won’t Change Your Life

It has been one of those seasons where writing blog posts has been a bit tough. Motivation, ideas, and time has been a bit hard to come by so it is a good day to share some links I’ve been collecting for these days: 

  • There might be a lesson for preachers and teachers somewhere in this video. If not there is at least a good chuckle. 
  • Thanks to the guys at eMinistry for pointing us to this helpful presentation that should improve the use of PowerPoint in ministry presentations.
  • Crosswire is an interesting project creating free, open source Bible study software for diverse platforms.
  • What would you do with this high speed internet access? I know I’m just a bit jealous…
  • You could create some really awful publications with these free fonts. Go ahead, add to your collection. You know you want to.
  • Weird facts and unusual uses for products you probably use. This site could be addicting for trivia addicts.
  • Signs that you are not in Kansas anymore.
  • How Gullible are We?

OK, that’s enough. I’m considering serious and spiritual posts for the next few days. Anything you want to read about?