Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bust a Move for God

When David had the Ark of the Covenant brought to Jerusalem (II Samuel 6.14), "...wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might..." That gives a whole new meaning to the Scripture "And thou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (might)." Gulp! You mean I gotta dance?

What exactly does that mean? For those of you with weak constitution for risk, you might want to skip this one.

During a retreat in Searcy, AR, I challenged a group of about 30 men to dance before the Lord. I played a praise song and asked them to move their bodies to the music. Most were freaked out, they froze like deer in headlights. So the first song, they were stiff, and danced a bunch of white guys who didn't want to dance.

So I asked them to take a step of faith and do what God had suggested. "With all your might" means loving God with your whole body. God wants freedom of movement during worship and it makes a significant difference when you worship with your body. Whether it is dancing or raising your hands, it makes a difference (after you get used to it). At first, anything new will feel awkward.

So I told them to to say "Jesus is Lord" and we prayed "Father, how do you want me to dance before you?" I played another song and I witnessed men being free to move before the Lord together. It was awkward at first and many reported being somewhat self-conscious of looking foolish (or uncoordinated). Then the guys got excited and began to move around the room (I asked them to move around a large circle in the room at least three times).

Something great happened. Men were crying, moved to tears by the power that was being exhibited. Some reported feeling joy and the presence of God. Others said the exercise just got them out of their "worship and praise rut" and helped them experience a fresh relationship with God. Others said there was such a struggle letting go of control.

So here is my challenge to you reader: Dance before God! Practice dancing by yourself to a praise song, letting go of your fears and control. Ask God to release you and move. Praising God with all your might just might help you take a step toward Him.

So here is a couple of songs you can dance to:

I hope you will take the risk to dance before God and show Him you can love Him with all your might.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Creation Calls

This video was done by Jaron Pitts from the Farmers Branch Church of Christ. The title of the song is Creation Calls by Brian Doerkson. Enjoy.

This video brings tears to my eyes everytime I watch it.

Out Loud

When people come to me who want me to disciple them, one of the first exercises I have them do is spend time praying out loud. Verbalizing prayer is a crucial first step in communicating with God because... a HUGE part of communicating comes when we say things out loud. If I pray silently, I am distracted and constantly fight my brain's tendency to fantasize, drift and flit from one thought to another until I forget what I was doing (Hey there's a chicken!!) Be loosed tongue! Speak those words out loud and give them authority in the name of Jesus. God wants to HEAR our praise, HEAR out pleas, HEAR out thanksgiving, HEAR our worship, and HEAR our adoration of Him.

My wife gets irritated at me when I communicate with her through telepathy. First of all, I am not telepathic. To complicate matters even more, neither is she. She wants me to tell her what I need and how I feel about her. She wants me to openly and honestly talk about my day, my struggles, my highs and lows, what I liked and didn't like. If I thank her in my thoughts, she acts like I haven't thanked her at all. If I think she looks good but keep silent, she acts like I am not attracted to her. She wants to know me and the only she can is for me to speak. She wants more of me because talking to her opens up her heart to me.

And it opens up my heart to her. That's the main deal. And it is the same way with God. When I speak, each word declares what is true about me, good or bad. Each word is a covenant about what I have been doing, where I am, what my intentions are, and what I want. As I speak, my heart follows. The more passionately I speak in prayer, the more God responds to me. I quote, "Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all your heart..." I need to engage my heart and a great first step in to engage my mouth. My joys become God's joys and He celebrates my victories with me. My sorrows become His sorrows and He comforts me when I invite Him into it...into me. He listens when I am angry and gives me wisdom. He listens to my confusion and becomes my Counselor. When I speak, I find Him working with me, relating to my desperation, my pain and my passion.

So talk. I can pray a maximum of 60 seconds when I pray silently but I have prayed for 10 hours straight out loud (and could've gone longer but I got hungry). There is no precedent for silent prayer in scripture, it was always out loud. Jewish people may pray quietly, but not is all out loud. Try it and see if it doesn't make a difference in your prayer life.

PS. Pray quietly (not silently) at church when led in prayer and be amazed at what happens.

PPSS. If you want more from your Bible reading, read it out loud. Same with praise and worship.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Motions by Matthew West

Here is a great song for your listening pleasure
The Motions by Matthew West

May we all have a consuming passion for Jesus instead of going through the motions of religion.

Be Still

I don't know how many times in my life I have been told to sit still. My body naturally wants to move, it is only responding to what is going on inside my head. My mind is a bucket of eels, in constant motion, from thought to thought to thought to...hey, there's a chicken. My brain is Hammy the Squirrel (Over the Hedge), a flurry of activity, even if my body is sitting relatively still. For me, stillness (as in "Be still and know I am God") has more to do with quieting the mental gymnastics, speaking 'Jesus is Lord' over my creativity gone awry, not constantly leaping from thought to still.

When my twelve year old has too much sugar or when he drinks a Dr. Pepper behind our back, we know because he leaves chaos, destruction, mayhem and calamity in his wake. I have to sit down and hold him, bear hug his arms, put my legs over his and wait it out. That is when his body goes limp, he finally relaxes, and can sit still. That is the way I need God to sit with me, hold me until my energy is gone, then I get still.

I have found I can focus more if I can talk out loud. Saying 'Jesus is Lord' quietly focuses me back to where I want to be...still. My brain can slow down if I quietly, calmly speak "Jesus is Lord." I don't understand stillness. But I know that is how we know God, that is when God begins to reveal himself. Scripture is clear about that. We are here to give God what he wants and He wants us to be quiet....cease striving.

But have we lost this art in church and in our lives. I know many a church staff that wants all the time filled with purposeful activity. But perhaps making quiet time for God is a best use of time. I know in the groups I have led, after our praise and worship, after giving all our heart, I allow time for silence. Slow the pace down...take a breather. I don't think church should be "Spiritual Aerobics" but rather we should allow time for God to respond to us. Yes the Lord enjoys our efforts and loves our passionate pursuit for Him. Then He wants to speak to us.

Any conversation, dialogue, means the others (God) gets to speak as well. And if we are still, we can listen. The idol of "me" doesn't like being still, but that is exactly what I need.

What helps you to get quiet? What has stillness done for you?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Feeding the Ants

Each Spring, we are visited by a colony of sugar ants. I don't know where they go during the rest of the year (I don't know if the little buggers are migratory; Winters in Mexico, Summers in Canada) but five days ago they came back. I was picking up a peice of what looked like cinnamon toast but it was a slice of bread covered in ants. After screaming like a little girl, I decided to declare war.

I bought sugar ant poison (Terro) and set out the traps. They swarmed to it like, well, ants to a picnic. Thousands of them think I dropped a delicious sugar-filled container but little do they realize (insert evil laugh here) they are killing themselves. I think they have even invited other tour buses of migratory ants for a rest stop (insert another evil laugh).

Then, God, in his infinite Wisdom, told me to take notice. That is the way of sin. Man, we think we are feasting when all along, slowly but surely, we are killing ourselves. Whether our poison is overeating, fear, sex, alcohol, drugs, coveting, jealosy, lust, bitterness, spiritual pride, or greed, the more we eat, the more we kill ourselves. We do it until we gorge ourselves then the consequences hit. Then things fall apart. We have to declare that 'Jesus is Lord' then fall upon the mercy of God for forgiveness and grace....again. And then brothers and sisters in Christ help put the pieces back together.

I hate that cycle. It has claimed the lives of too many people that I know and has cause untold hurt and heartache. But so goes life, a battle between the spiritual and flesh that never ends. At least with God, we have power and strength on our side.

I know I am projecting on a little herd of ants but I sure hope the poison takes effects soon.

What's your poison?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Complicated Theology

I was talking to a minister the other day and he commented that, "Your theology is too simplistic. It doesn't answer the tough questions."

Hmmmmmm. You mean it should be harder and more difficult to understand? You want spiritual beliefs that leaves you questioning the power of God to change our hearts, the grace of God to ensure our salvation, and the ease of declaring 'Jesus is Lord' in response to temptation? You want an intellectual theology that depends on your ability to logically make sense of God and God-stuff, leaving you with a cold, touch-me-not fellowship or an emotionless, passionless relationship with the Father? You want a theology that embraces theological truth at the expense of honest, open confession, transparent conversation and loving forgiveness? Do want a theology that answers all the hard questions but is castrated when it comes to actually changing people's hearts?

I want a practical theology and a practical grace. The other just doesn't work for me anymore. I want simple. I want to feel secure in my salvation and confident in God's love for me. I want to bravely take steps of faith which radically changes my heart and permanently throws shame and guilt off my back. I want to dance in the freedom of Christ, throw my hands up in praise and be on my face in worship. I want a 24/7 experience of Jesus Christ. I want the unpredictability of the Holy Spirit and I want to stand on the Rock. I want to pursue God with reckless abandon, listen to the whispering voice of the Spirit and not have to know what is going to happen next.
That is all I want.

I need a theology that is so simple that I can have a childlike acceptance of it yet study from now till the day I die and find a gospel that has confused centuries of wise men and women and scholars. Perhaps we should be like children in acting upon our faith with passion and be like wise men in giving ourselves to the study of it.

I think a "powerless gospel" is one where we debate and intellectually wrestle with it but never takes steps of faith, never leave our intellectual "safe haven" and launch into what the Spirit is prompting us to do. I like what David Stern's New Testament commentary says: "I believe in order to understand." Even more: "I act upon it in order to believe in order to understand." Acting changes everything and opens the believer up to deeper understanding and to deeper belief. That, in turn, leads to greater acts of faith.

So what do you want?

Dallas Morning "Good" News

For me, the top ten things which are actually "good news:"

1. God will lead me where He wants me to be, like a gentle shepherd.

2. The grace of God covers me better than my auto, home and health insurance.

3. God talks back (He also heals, guides, directs, prophesies, loves, creates, reveals and saves).

4. God loves me, God cares about me, God accepts me, and God wants me.

5. There is unimaginable power behind saying "Jesus is Lord." God saves, fills, heals, and changes me through it.

6. My small, imperfect offering of worship, praise, prayer, and purpose is multiplied infinitely by God, to be a pleasing offering, holy and acceptable.

7. I am more than saved; I am fulfilled, completed and energized by Jesus Christ.

8. Others, who love Jesus first, can love me, minister to me, admonish me and encourage me. Together, we form the amazing body of Christ.

9. God is deeper, more awesome than I can understand or even conceive (because if I could grasp everything about Him, He wouldn't seem quite as great).

10. The Spirit is moving and working in our world today, as much today as He did in the first century (and all we have to do is ask for Him).

What's in your top ten?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Church speak

"In Jesus Name Amen" - Said as one word at the end of a prayer
Heal so-and-so "if it be your will" - Indicates one has not already discerned the will of God
"Use this money to further the kingdom"
"Guide, guard and direct us"
"Use this money to further the kingdom"
"Thank you for the cup as it represents Christ's blood shed..."
"Thank you for the bread as it represents Christ's body hanging..."
"Turn to song number..."
"Help us..."
"Let us pray"
"Let us not be..." Salad prayer..."Lettuce not be"
"Children will be dismissed to..."

What other rote statements have you heard?

We as human beings are prone to habitual ways of approaching life even in church. There is nothing wrong with the above statements, per se, they are not blasphemous or evil, necessarily. In fact, people who pray these prayers are still covered by the grace, mercy, and love or Christ (said tongue in cheek). The problem is that rote, mindless prayer that divorces our heart from prayer is like the husband telling his wife he loves her because he is supposed to (like right after she says "You never tell me you love me"), not because his heart is in it. It just ain't going to fly with her. She wants spontaneous statements that she can receive. So does God.

The challenge for us all is to access our hearts during prayer, praise and worship. Getting our spirit to commune with God in cooperation with our body, emotion and soul is much more pleasing to God...HE says so. When we engage in spontaneous, heart-felt anything with God, HE is pleased. God doesn't want a robotic, mindless, checklist-type prayer-life, praise-life, or worship-life. The Pharisees in Jesus' day did that nonstop and Jesus called them white-washed tombs...ouch. I believe the robotic thing actually hurts our heart and chokes the life out of our spirit, leaving us emptier, numb and with less faith in God. God wants engagement, connection and interchange.

I think we can practice things differently, being more open and expressive little by little frees our heart to express openly and honestly before God. The idea is to become less robotic and more expressive with God.

ALWAYS pray out loud. In church, pray quietly even when being led by someone else.

Try saying something different to God when you are spending time with Him.

Catch your own rote sentences and find a fresh new way to say the same things.

Write out your prayers and jot down more personal ways of speaking to God.

Express your love to God like you would express love to a lover...Like David did in Psalms.

Sing your prayers.

Ask God to give you the words to pray. Let the Holy Spirit convict your heart and give you the words to speak to God.

Allow fresh words and statements into your prayers and see if more of your heart engages in prayer.

Has anything else worked for you to engage your heart in prayer?

Friday, April 24, 2009

The (Bitter) Prodigal Older Brother

This an extension to my post on the older brother.

The older brother was mad because grace worked in favor of his prodigal brother. "Older brothers" of our time cynically look down upon those who are in need of grace. Cynical people have a 'contemptous disbelief in people's goodness.' They look down on others as being stupid, foolish, or dissillusioned. They interpret other's actions as intentionally hurtful.

When 'older brothers' see others enjoying the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit, they feel threatened. They take it personally and will attack freedom at every opportunity. They will blow up if you insinuate they do not have the Spirit and will think you are judging them and condemning them even though you aren't. They intellectualize their positions and argue incessantly about moot points, proving that the way they see the world is correct (and, consequently, that others are incorrect). They are rarely genuinely happy.

'Older Brothers,' as a whole, can not be appeased. Look at their lives. They usually are in conflict with others (family, business associates and church folks) or have beaten everyone down so much no one will cross them. Cynical people find it hard to submit to leadership. They will argue openly with "nice leadership" and will covertly subvert strong leadership with gossip, whining, and complaining to anyone who will listen. Cynics usually clump together, like the last Cheerios in a bowl and carry out vigilante raids under the cover of darkness to create rifts.

No wonder the Prodigal dad liked the Prodigal Son better and embraced him when he came back home. I imagine he was sick of the bitter older son's whining and griping. At least the Prodigal son had the humility to come back and say he messed up. The older brother was "right" (for all that got him) but was incapable of celebrating because of his cynicism.

I will admit, I am a Prodigal. I enjoy sitting in the celebration under the favor of my Father and I am too busy enjoying the Father's love to notice who is and is not celebrating with me. At least I know the grace of God because I need it often. At least I am familiar with the Father's love and can bask in its warmth. 'Older brothers' can't say that.

Praise God for the Prodigals. Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. The poor in spirit are the only ones who recognize the value of unmerited favor.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Slowing Down

There is something to be said for the simple, unencumbered life. We constantly want to take on more than is healthy for us. But why? Is stuff going to give us peace? Is a bigger this or a nicer that going to fulfill our hearts? Is doing more going to get us more?

Our lives have a tendency toward gathering momentum toward chaos, plunging forward as if driven by a motor we ourselves do not control. We pack in so many activities that we lose the ability to experience joy with simplicity. Have we lost the ability to be satisfied or do we opt for being entertained over being satisfied? Have we swapped our peace and security for lots of stuff?

I know I need to slow down. Slow down my thinking and my planning (scheming). Stop and pray instead of go and get. Maybe the purpose for being so driven is that we won't have the time to reflect on our unexamined lives and will never realize something is missing, that something is wrong. I call the shots. I do what I want and get trapped in a tangled web of greed, materialism, hedonism, or religion. Or we end up maintaining the myriad of obligations like well-tended gardens while the truly important aspects of our lives goes unchecked.

Slowing down allows God to work, for his agenda to be made known. Simplicity is elegant and attractive. Simple churches focus on the message without all the bells and whistles. The elegance of praise, worship, prayer and a demonstration of the Holy Spirit is enough. It gives God the time and space to work miracles, to exercise the gifts placed in each one of us with supernatural simplicity.

Simplicity in marriage turns its focus from better house or home improvement to the elegance of intimacy, communication, connection and warmth. When we stop striving for bigger and better, we get richer and closer. But we have to choose. We can't have closer and bigger. They are not from the same paradigm.

Simplicity uncovers our weaknesses and vulnerability without shame, guilt, guile or pride. Whether we are in church , home, work, or by ourselves, simplicity drives us toward integrity and gentle honesty. No pretenses, no airs, no arrogance. No proving others wrong and ourselves right. Simple gospel; no fluff or smoke and mirrors which radically changes our hearts and allows God to work.

Slow down and evaluate the conditions of our own hearts, trusting that God will work on the hearts of others.

Churches slowing down and realizing high attendance isn't the goal; experiencing the presence of Jesus is.

Slow down and realize we have outsourced our spirituality to church leaders because we don't have the time for intimacy with God in prayer, worship and praise.

Slow down in our marriages and realize sex isn't the same as intimacy and existing together isn't the same thing as loving each other.

Slowing down in our lives, cease our striving so we can find God in the small things instead of waiting for the booming voice from heaven declaring "Thus saith the Lord...!"

Slow and realize we have existed but never lived.

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Great Praise Songs

Here is a great praise song for the beginning away worship time called 'Dwell'. This songs invites the presence of God to dwell among us. Here is the link:

Here is a link to another one of my favorites called Alabaster Jar by Christ for the Nations Institute. I have experienced the presence of God many times with this song.

Here is a link to the song 'Undignified' by David Crowder. This is a great song to open a praise gets the blood flowing...woohoo. Trying dancing to this one, just let go.

Okay, last one. Here is a link to the song 'More Love More Power,' by Jeff Deyo. This song has great energy around it.

Enjoy. Tell me what you think of these songs.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Experience the Spirit Exercise 39

In previous posts, I have outlined some exercises I have used to help people develop a passionate relationship with Christ. These are the exercises that had positive effects in people's spiritual walk. Feel free to ask about any of the exercises and I will try to explain the best I can. But don't just read them, try them on for size and see if they will help you in your walk with Christ.

39. Praying the prayer of agreement is a tool God has given us to pray with power.

Matthew 18.19-20. NIV "Again I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them."

Here is how to do it: After praise and worship, when someone is praying and they say something you agree with, verbally affirm (agree) with what is being prayed. So if someone prays, "Father, in the name of Jesus, heal Mark's knee, repair fractures on the bone, restore the bone as you created it be, so the power of your healing will be made known to Mark and his family." If you hear that prayer and sense the Spirit agreeing with it, verbalize agreement with 'Yes, Lord make it so,' or 'I agree,' or 'Yes Lord, in the name of Jesus, rain your healing down upon Mark's knee so your glory will be made known.'

I have always believed that prayer should be a group effort instead of one person leading and everyone going brain dead. Let the joy and passion of Christ dwell in the prayers of Christians and see what the Lord will do. I think it is OK for 2 or 3 or more people to pray at the same time, not trying to out do each other but praying in tandem and agreement with each other. Try it and see if you can't sense more of the presence of God praying the prayer of agreement. Get lively!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Called Into the Deep

Wading, staying near the shore of this mighty river,
Trusting, I can touch the sandy bottom of the eddy,
I am secure from the mighty current, the terrible raging water.
I play at the edge, afraid of the current, the strength of its power,
An untamed power that sweeps the careless away.
The eddy is warm, inviting, and sheltered,
Content in the shallows with minnows and tadpoles
I expect nothing more on this warm summer day.

I look out over the mighty river, away from this lazy eddy,
Away from the slow motion whirlpool, this miniture harbor,
Away from the trash and debris, slothfully circulating.
I see the careless out in the swift water, thrashed and taken,
Swept away by the river, in laughter and song.
I sense fear in my heart and longing for something,
Disgust grows in my thoughts, like weeds in a garden,
toward what made me comfortable just moments ago.

Out of the eddy walking into the rapids, into the current my heart wants to plunge
I place my trust in my faith, not in what is tangible,
My head says, "Swim back, stay near the shore."
But my heart compels me out into the current, I dare not resist.
I am swept off my feet and can not touch the bottom,
Nothing to hold on to which makes me secure.
Momentarily, I regret listening to my heart,
placing faith in the unseen, in what I don't know.

The water is cold out here in the current, I do not fight it,
The current has no time to be placid and safe, so I wait for its time.
My heart is refreshed, this adventure is awesome,
I am secure in the might current, the wonderful raging water,
Untamed power fills my heart completely.
My heart knew what I needed when my head wanted safety,
To let go in faith, to lose all control,
Get out of the eddy, the warmth of the shallow,
Guided by faith, to lose all control.

I wrote this poem three years ago, at a time I was taking many risks and growing spiritually.

My Favorite Praise Video

Google You Tube Revelation Song....Click on the Kari Jobe video and enjoy. If you haven't heard this song, you are in for a real treat.

Here's the link:

The Older Brother

Near the end of the story of the Prodigal son, the older brother wouldn't join in the celebration of his younger brother's return. He doesn't party because he is angry, mad because the celebration is not for him. Mad because the younger brother came back and the father doted on him, restored his role as son (without the inheritance), and loved the younger, foolish son.

Even more interestingly, the older brother pulls out the guilt card. "Didn't I stay here and work my butt off? Didn't I do everything you wanted of me? I didn't waste your money! I didn't go off and screw around. I did over and above your wishes...and you never threw me a party...not even a special meal or a 'Isn't my son a good son' party. NOOOOO! I don't even get a happy meal. But here, this wasteful brat comes back, after making the farm nearly go bust when you paid him all that cash, and for three years I have had to go without because of him. And what thanks do I get...Nothing!"

The older brother worked for the father's approval and didn't feel he got it...or enough of it. When we try to work for the Father's approval, we don't get it because the nature of grace means we can't earn it. Approval is the basis of a 'works-based' philosophy. I earn it and IT SHOULD BE GIVEN TO ME EQUIVALENT TO HOW HARD I WORK!!! These people are always hard, harsh and bitter because they are bound to the letter of the law. Do they get approval....not so much because their motives stink....they are self-centered and arrogant. Prideful, they have to get what they think they deserve...they have rights by golly. It stinks to be them because there is no grace for them because they cannot receive it...they think they have to earn it.

The younger son was accepted by the father, even though he didn't deserve it and didn't expect it. All he wanted was a warm meal and a place to sleep. No favor. And he got so much more!!! Humbly, he walks up a veeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyy long road (don't you know don't know that was hard for him, rehearsing a very humiliating narrative in his head). He smelled like pig manure (don't you know that made him popular in the Jewish community) and had nothing..nothing! Grace is the only thing he had coming to him. No pride. No blaming. He messed up, there was no denying that. And with that, mercy was poured out, grace was multiplied. He got what the older son couldn't earn...his father's acceptance. Acceptance can only be given, not earned. Acceptance is there to be humbly received by the lesser with greater one giving it...anything less is empty.

And that is what the older son felt. Nothing was good enough. In his pride, he thought he could control how the father felt, but couldn't. Actually working for other's approval is a thinly disguised ploy to find significance and purpose for ourselves through the cudos of others. The older brother thought he could earn what could only be, acceptance, favor. So he ended up with nothing.

Who is the older brother in our time? I believe it can be we who try to earn grace, those of us who think we can be theologically correcter (sp) than everyone else and if we can, then by golly, God will see how hard we....worked....then.....he will...hmmmmm. But whose approval are we going after... Our Father has already said we can't earn it on our own. We may want to think it is by our effort, that we can work as hard as we can and 'God will do the rest.' I have some disappointing news for you....that's not how God works. God is waiting at the top of the hill, waiting for a manure covered loser to humbly walk up the road....

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Chicken Manure, Ice Cream and God

Let's say you grew up eating chicken manure with milk and sugar (CMWMAS) poured over it and everyone called it 'ice cream.' Even though it tasted nasty, it was the only thing you had to eat so you ate it. It was all you ever knew. Although putting chocolate or vanilla helped a little, you could barely choke it down.

But let's say when you turned twenty-five and you were in a far away land (say Texas), you were given a bowl of BLUE BELL ice cream. (For those of you who have never tasted BLUE BELL, it is 'roll-your-eyes-into-the-back-of-your-head' good. It is almost a spiritual experience to eat BLUE BELL Homemade Vanilla...but I digress.) your first bite of BLUE BELL ice cream is great and you realize that what you had been eating (CMWMAS) is NOT ice cream.

So what do you do once you have tasted BLUE BELL? Go back to to CMWMAS? Doubtful. Defend CMWMAS, saying it wasn't all that bad? BLUE BELL would open your eyes to a whole new meaning of what ice cream is. What if you never got to eat a bowl of BLUE BELL? You would never know that you were being cheated would you?

Would you go to other CMWMAS eating people and try to convince them there was something better out there? It would be like trying to convince people in the 1400's the world was not flat. They would dismiss you as a lunatic. Their lack of context would keep them from even trying BLUE BELL, out of fear of letting go of CMWMAS.

It is the same way with religion. You get used to doing it one way and are very uncomfortable doing it any other way. Even though there are problems with the theology or it may lack certain things (like the presence of the Holy Spirit) it is still better than nothing. You could redefine 'spiritual gifts' and pretend like you have what you are supposed to have but how long will God let you do that? Predictable religion is much more comfortable than believing in an unpredictable God.

If you never experienced the presence of God, would you miss it? If you thought the apostolic age was over and manifestations of the Holy Spirit were done, how would you treat the ones experiencing it? Would you dismiss them like a bunch of misguided children (at best) or attack them like heretics (at worse)?

I am saying there is such a thing as BLUE BELL. It is good...very good. And all we have to do is have the courage to ask for it. God says He will not give you a stone if you ask for bread. If you are persistent when you knock, He will answer. I Corinthians says you have to 'eagerly seek' spiritual gifts...and God will gladly give you what your heart desires.

Are you ready for some BLUE BELL?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Word of God Speak

Jesus said, "My sheep know my voice." One of the advantages to following in the dust of the Master is that is that He speaks to us (sheep) and directs our paths. After years of being deaf to the voice of God because of unbelief, I wanted to hear His voice. So I asked him to speak to me....and He did. I am not insane or psychotic (at least not formally diagnosed...heh, heh) and I am not given to emotional hype. I am a rational man of God who takes God's promises seriously. I want a relationship with God, which includes 2-way communication. I want more than an intellectual understanding of God.

When people ask me what it is like for God to speak to me, I have had several different experiences. Sometimes, God speaks to me as plain as another person speaks to me. It is like listening to a whisper, a still small voice, that I can hear. I have experienced this more after several weeks of fasting. I have also experienced this after a couple hours of praise and worship, which readied my spirit to hear God speaking to me.

I also sense God in my heart. I sense God moving through me and know what God wants or what He is speaking to me. It is accompanied with a warm sensation then a "knowing" sensation...I just know what God is speaking.

Third, I sense God's presence like a warm, secure, safe hug....a complete surrounding of my entire being. It is hard to describe other than a sense of completeness, peace and total love. I feel accepted, nurtured, and wanted.

I also sense God speaking to me through worship and reading scripture. At times, when I am singing praise or worship, the words have a special meaning to me....either a word or phrase jumps off the page and seems more powerful or I sense deeper meaning. With Scripture, a similar thing can happen. Words that I have read for years takes on a new meaning....what were just words before speak directly to me. With it comes a sense of security, comfort, admonishment or love.

How do I know it's from God?

1. It is in line with Scripture. God is not going to counter scripture or tell you to do something that is against his nature or His Word. He is not going to tell you to shoot and kill your mother since murder is clearly wrong according to the Ten Commandments.

2. By its fruit, you will know. Does what God is speaking to you produce good fruit? The fruits of the Spirit are joy, peace, patience, love, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control....does what God is saying to you produce these things in you or in others? God is about growth, healing, and completing his work in us.

3. God calls us to repentance...does what God is speaking to you encourage confession, repentance, or forgiveness...does it draw others to God? Does it glorify God...does it give God glory and honor? If the Word God is speaking to you draws people closer to Him, to obedience, then it is from God.

What is your experience of God talking to you? What is the experience like for you? Write about so others can learn from your experiences.

Spiritual Leadership

Church leadership is a touchy subject. Leading an "all volunteer organization" as a minister, elder or deacon is hard because of the pressures from our families, church members, and our own expectations. The one thing I realize is that all church leaders must humble themselves before God and do what HE wants with the church. The leaders are the second in line behind God.

Top ten characteristics of spiritually mature leaders:

1. They demonstrate the principles laid out in scripture (confession, repentance, prayer, fasting, seeking God, etc.). The greatest way to lead is to lead by example.

2. They should pray before they speak and listen for God's desires instead of acting on tradition or legal advice.

3. They should actively develop other leaders.

4. They should actively encourage every member (from the youngest and least to the oldest and crusty) to use their spiritual gifts.

5. They should be at the forefront of sharing their faith and how God has worked the miracle of grace and mercy in their lives.

6. They should be sensitive to the needs of others.

7. They should be confidential.

8. They should actively seek a fresh outpouring of the Spirit in their church.

9. They should equip and encourage people to do ministry.

10. They should be extraordinary in love, gentleness, joy and faith walking.

Can you think of other characteristics?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Loving Those Who are Hurting

Sometimes when we are hurting and it feels as though the world is crushing us, it is hard to tell people what we need or want from them. I have been through some rough patches over the past fifteen years and here are some things that have helped me weather the storm. Some people have been great and I am listing what they did because it helped so much. Others, on the other hand have responded insensitively (at best) and down right mean (at worst). I wrote this list in first person, remembering what helped me heal.

So here is my list of the top ten list of things to do (or not to do) for those who are hurting or a suffering a crisis:

10. Listen without comment. Just let me feel my feelings. Don't get bent out of shape if I am mad and a cuss word slips out. Get over it. I am not perfect, never was, and don't intend to start now when I am having a dark time in my life. My humanity is showing and I don't need a lecture from you. Just pray that my anger will give way to forgiveness, my pain will be replaced with peace and that I can have a few minutes of clarity as my life falls completely apart.

9. Pray for me at home. Don't just say you are going to pray for me, do it. If you will, the Spirit will comfort me and let me know that my brothers and sisters who love me are lifting me up before the Father. Just ask the Comforter to draw me in, the Counselor to give me wisdom, and ask the Father for love and peace to surround me during this dark time. Honestly, what more can you do?

8. If I respond badly to you, it might be that I am having a worse day than you. My frustration with you is probably not about you. You just happened to be the last in a series of events and people which reminded me, once again, that I am not in control of my life...and sometimes that fact makes me angry. Please don't write me off because I respond badly. If you are my friend, give me some time (but not too much time) and come back to me.

7. Just tell me you love me and move on. If I need more from you, I will talk to you. Keep me in your prayers at home. I can't handle much more than that at this time. Sometimes just being around people in church, crowds, public is overwhelming. Give me space to heal in my own way, in my own time, with the people I choose.

6. If you found out about my issues through gossip (gossip is talking about another person who is not standing there, engaged in the conversation), tell the person who told you that they are spreading gossip and ask them to stop. Tell them, "Whatever is going on in so-and so's life must be very hard to handle. You might want to handle the information in the same way you would want others to handle information about you if the most humiliating and painful experiences of your life were revealed." Anyway, don't call me and ask if the rumors are true. I already have enough on my plate. And...please don't talk about me and what I say to you to anyone else. Keep what I say to you confidential.

5. Help me to cope by giving me physical and emotional support. Ask me if I need anything and be willing to help me. Just pay this month's mortgage without telling me. Help me out where you know I might need help. Fill up my tank or change the oil in my car. Pay for a month of therapy. Leave $200 dollars cash in my mailbox with a note that says, "Hope this helps." Don't sign it. Help me get my feet back under me. Send me a note expressing your care and concern for me. If you want, include gift certificates to Sonic, McDonalds, Baskins-Robbins, Applebees or any other food place.

4. I am really not interested in anyone else who had the same surgery and died. I don't need a recap of other people's similar situations. I would rather hear silence from you more than I want to hear about your sister-in-law's friend's next door neighbor. Just knowing you are nearby is comfort enough, you don't have to talk. I have lost my social bearing and don't know what to say most of the time, or feel awkward around people. If you get that sense from me, keep it short and sweet. Also, stop others midsentence if they are saying insensitive or idiotic things.

3. Please don't get into a theological discussion about why bad things happen to good people. I am not able to think about much more than, "Should I eat Cheerios or Raisin Bran?" I may be having problems deciding whether or not "three days without getting out of bed is depression or just grieving." If I put on pants today, I am doing phenomenal. Praise God if I showered and am able to do the basics right now. If you think I am being punished by God because of my lack of faith, please don't say those words out loud...I don't need guilt on top of my grief.

2. Show up midweek just to support me or to go out and eat lunch. Sometimes, treat me like nothing happened and this is a normal day, like before I lost everything. Let's pretend like its not happening for two hours and just catch a game, go fishing, or catch a movie. Be prepared to leave early if I can't handle it.

1. Grieving takes time. It may be a year (or two) before any sense of normalcy returns in my life. If you are my friend, be patient with me if I digress for a time. Pray for me in rough times and give me space to heal and grow. Be there for my family as well, help my spouse and children to cope by doing with them what you are doing with me.

I hope these help you respond to others in times of crisis. Can you think of others I have neglected to mention or that have helped you during a time of crisis?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Say what?

Listening is not easy. One must empty himself/herself of pride to listen without taking over the conversation. It is so hard not to comment, correct, give advice, ''one up" the person's story or go down irrelevant rabbit trails. When I catch myself not listening every once in a while I have to stop, say 'I'm sorry' and go back to their story. Perhaps we want to tell stories and keep the conversation light because the power behind intimate connection is so uncomfortable. The very nature of intimacy is revealing the hidden things about ourselves, our weaknesses and vulnerablities. Our fleshly agenda is to stay safe, not to delve into unknown territory.

A good listener is healing water to the wounded, a parachute for the falling, a warm light in the window for the weary and medicine to the sick. Listening is the glue that holds friendships together and is vital for the fellowship of believers to connect and grow in Christ. Maybe we have to get used to listening to each other before we can hear the voice of God, without our agendas distorting what he is saying to us. Practice makes perfect.

Five Listening Strategies

1. Mainatain eye contact.
2. Ask open ended questions instead of making comments.
3. Show non-verbal cues that you are listening.
4. Don't give advice. Be slow to judge.
5. Express love, caring and concern.

Perhaps it would be easier to listen if we prayed beforehand: Father, in the name of Jesus, open my ears, soften my heart, and close my mouth. Jesus, clear out my need to control and let me be at peace listening and caring about your child. Let me be quick to empathize and encourage. Place the words you want me to speak and patience to wait for your timing to speak those words. Jesus is Lord over my need to dominate, control or manipulate.

Become the balm that heals. Be a friend. Listen.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Top Ten Places to Eat in Irving, Texas

Although we have most major chain restaurants here in Irving, it is worth it to check other places outside the run of the mill places. These are not in rank order and they are all worth checking out:

10. Joe's...Great pie, friendly people, it is the place where people in Irving meet and eat.
9. iFratelli....authentic Italian, awesome pizzas.
8. Marble Slab...OK, it's only ice cream but it definitely goes on the list.
7. Tommy's BBQ....I have never had a bad meal here.
6. Donut shop on at Esters and 183...Donuts and more donuts.
5. Vitos...Great pizza, great Italian food
4. Angelos...If you live in Irving, Angelos is a staple. Family friendly, pocket book friendly.
3. Makiboy...A hole in the wall but great Asian food, Intimate, good food.
2. Sweet Tomatoes....Awesome salad place, get ready to loosen your belt.
1. Captain Nemo's Subs...Good sandwiches

So try these places...Add your own if you think I missed one.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Do we have to change?

One of my professors at Abilene Christian University had a saying: "If you always do what you have always done, you'll always get what you have always gotten." A similar statement is familiar to those in AA: "Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity." Both statements address the necessity of change in our lives.

Most of us wait for a life crisis to make changes in our lives. Cancer, heart attack, job loss, financial problems, separation/divorce, death of a family member, or feeling dead inside are all great excuses for changing the way we do life. We just aren't motivated to change our diet until we step on the scale and see 240 lbs or we find out we have diabetes. Eeeekkk!!! Then Katie bar the door...we are ready to do something about it.

Perhaps the same is true about our spiritual life. As long as everything is "fine," we can't even see a need to change. When we come to some spiritual crisis crossroads, where the old just won't work anymore, we are left to find a new path. We call this spiritual growth.

It happened to me seventeen years ago when my oldest child was born without most of his brain and multiple physical and mental disabilities. He didn't fit in my 'plan' and I was forced to adjust my plan. Shallowness became intolerable as I searched for a new way of relating. It couldn't settle for "church as usual" and had to change how much I was willing to give of myself into my spiritual well-being. I could no longer be a pew sitter (not that I was ever good at that).

I found it hard to relate to the "How's the weather?" crowd because I needed more. It's not that there is anything wrong with shallowness, I just couldn't relate to it anymore. I need people who are going to support me and my wife through really hard times with love, encouragement and depth. It's not easy being my friend because I need a deeper connection just for sanity.

God changed for me, as well. I had to have Him; He was no longer an option. He was/is the breath I breathe and the motive for me to live my life. I had to push all my spiritual chips to the middle of the heavenly poker table and go "all in." God has seen me through many a life crisis with Him being the only tether to sanity I had. My wife and I don't relate to God like the "non-crisis people." The storms of life have only served to deepen us. I look back on the crises and I see how each one lead me into a deeper understanding and dependence on God. There is no other explanation for it. For seventeen years, God's light has shown through Jared's life, a beacon in times of trouble.

Are you facing change? I hope you are. It means God has chosen you to go deeper with Him. Instead of asking the question, "Why me?" ask a different set of questions:
How can I adapt to the changing world around me?
How can I depend on God for strength and courage?
How can I submit to God's will during this trial?
Father, what do you want me to do next?
Father, how can I use this situation for your glory?

Don't ask "WHY?"

Ever heard these questions?

Why doesn't the leadership at church do something about the worship?
Why can't they do something to make worship better?
Why don't others get into worship more?
Why don't they sing more contemporary (or traditional) songs?

How do these questions make you feel? When I say them, there is a sense of powerlessness, like I am a victim. Questions with a "why me?" tone to them say, "I am a victim of the environment and the people around me." Not a very constructive or productive thought, eh? But we ask them or hear them all the time.

Anyone can fall into the 'Why?' trap. You ask most church leaders and they will tell you that 10% of the congregation does 90% of the work. "Why can't the younger generation be satisfied with church?" "Why won't people give more money to support the work of the church?" "Why won't more people volunteer to teach Bible class or....?" "Why won't people get into worship more?" But these question generate more despair than hope.

That's all victim thinking and it will not help a church move forward. Our entire culture continually asks "Why is this happening to me?" But lets not forget that every single church is made up of individual members. You and me. The best thing we can do to get rid of the victim thinking in our churches is to get rid of it in ourselves.

The first thing we each must do is stop asking "Why?" or "When?" or "Who?" and begin to ask "What?" or "How?" questions. What would happen if, instead of asking the why questions, we asked these instead:

"What can I do to improve worship?"
"What can I do to make the worship experience meaningful and passionate?"
"What can I do to be more involved in the worship experience and how can I connect more with the presence of God?
"How can I take more responsibility for my own worship experience and bring my "worship 'A-game?'"
"How can I learn more useful principles of worship and praise?"
"What can I do differently today to worship with all my heart?"

Try asking and answering these questions and see where the Lord will take you (and your church).

***Adapted from the book QBQ*****

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Up from the Gravy

As a child, I sat through church with wonder. Much of the wonder came from wondering what the words in songs meant. I was fascinated by songs with funky words in them like Ebenezer or Ebon Pinions or I could be amused by reading through the authors such as Fannie J. Crosby (which would get quite a suppressed snicker) or Horatius Bonar (which would get me taken outside because of the unsuppressed laughter). I actually attended a church that had very good singing but I never really understood much of the words until I got older...much older.

The one song that got the wheels in my head turning was the song about Jesus arising from the gravy ("Up from the gravy he arose"). I never understood why Jesus was in gravy and the picture of Jesus, covered in gravy, stepping out of a vat of cream gravy boggled my 5 year old mind. I guess two of my favorite things in life is Jesus and gravy, so it just makes sense to put them together in a song. And it just plain makes me hungry, right now, thinking of it.

But here on Easter, I am glad Jesus did it. I am glad he survived the gravy to save us poor saps who never knew exactly how he got there or what love it took to die and raise again. The song just brings a smile to my face, knowing that Jesus, gravy and all, loves me....even though I require much more grace than most of you who are reading this.

Have a great Easter today.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Spiritual Gifts

Romans 12.6-8

Prophesy: Speaking what God gives you to say

Serving: Serving others that God moves you to serve

Teaching: Helping others to understand what God wants others to know

Counseling: Exhorting or comforting those God leads you to

Giving: Being generous with what provisions God has given to those who God direct you to give

Leadership: Leading the using God's direction

Mercy: Showing mercy to those who God wants to receive mercy and grace.

I Corinthians 12

Word of Wisdom: God giving a person instructions for another to fix a problem or how to navigate a tough situation.

Word of Knowledge: God giving you information about a person or situation that you previously had no knowledge about.

Healing: A person using God's healing power to speed up the natural forces of healing or provide relief from physical or emotional sickness.

Miracles: A person using God's power to break the physical laws of nature to bring about belief in non-believers

Prophesy: Speak words that God gives you to speak

Discernment: Where the Holy Spirit gives a person Truth concerning a matter

Tongues: Speaking a foreign language not previously known or speaking a prayer language known only to God.

Interpreting tongues: God given ability to listen to someone speaking in tongues and know what they are saying

Administration: The God given ability to know who has which spiritual gifts and to help others find the help they need amongst spiritually gifts individuals

If have others, please share them with the group.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wet Dogs, Rainbows, and the Holy Spirit

Do rainbows exist? We see them many times in the midst of a storm or fight after the hardest of rains. Red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, violet. Beautiful colors, vivid stunning...bending across the sky. Each display represents the promises of God, of stunning grace, mercy and redemption.
But guess what. Dogs cannot see rainbows. If they look into the sky, they can not see it. Try hard as they can, they cannot because they are color blind. All that beauty God has placed in the sky, missed, because they do not have the eyes to see it. To them, the rainbow does not exist, has never existed, and will not exist in the future because they cannot see it.

But it is there. The light reflects through each solitary rain drop, billions of drops each reflect the colors, like tiny prisms, creating a masterpiece of God. But to dogs, it is nothing but rain, sunlight and wet fur. Nothing but wet dog smell. That’s it. That is all they will ever know about rainbows. Just because they can’t see them does not mean they don’t exist.

Are we this way with the Holy Spirit, the presence of God? Is it any wonder dogs are often used to illustrate us in the New Testament? Examples: Matthew 7.6 states ‘Don’t give dogs what is holy and don’t throw your pearls to the pigs. If you do they may trample them under their feet, then turn and attack you.’

Want more? Revelation 22.15, Phillippians 3.2, and II Peter 2.22. Who are the dogs? Those who aren’t changed by God. They are those who can’t see or hear God, like dogs, are blind to something that is right there, tangible to those who can see. Dogs ignore what they can’t sense. ‘Dog faith’ must see empirical evidence before belief.

I grew up with the statement ‘I’ll believe it when I see it." I like the reformulates statement, ‘I’ll see it when I believe it.’ That is the problem with dogs. They won’t respond to what they can’t see (or smell). The whole point of faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.’ Depending on empirical evidence is not faith. If you can see it it is not faith. Believing things through the eyes of faith is different than understanding things when there is tangible evidence to support it.

On a similar note, infants and toddlers must be exposed to countless colors, shapes, patterns and textures or their brain will never develop the ability to perceive those things later in life. We must be exposed to those things to actually develop our ability to see them. Once exposed, our brains are able to make the necessary neural connection to perceive it in the future.

Perhaps as spiritual toddlers, we were not exposed to see things from spiritual eyes. We were not trained to experience the presence of God. Many (me included) were trained to rationally understand God and to good for others, but I was not trained to experience the Holy Spirit. And maybe that keeps us from believing what is obvious to those who have been trained to see Him. Be very careful criticizing those who can see the Spirit or exhibit spiritual gifts outside your comfort zone.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Who's it for?

In the book "Raving Fans" I ran across this:

"Now here it is in a nutshell. Service is so awful customers expect to be abused. Cold food in restaurants, lost orders, lazy staff; it's all normal.

Bottom line: people expect bad goods and rude service. Give 'em junk and they aren't surprised. Just what they expected. As long as the abuse isn't any worse than expected. As long as the abuse isn't any worse than expected, they'll be back for more. They are not upset. Do a survey. Check it out and they'll say they're satisfied. Satisfied customers. Ha! Satisfied sheep, that's what I call them.

'The service at your company should be good,' Charlie continued, 'Your customers are a revolt waiting to happen. They're only satisfied because their expectations are so low and because no one else is doing any better. Your customer service slogan should be: NO WORSE THAN THE COMPETITION."

I look at what is going on in churches all over the world and I see the same thing. Churches are bleeding members who are looking for something better....or something different. Some people would rather stop going at all than continue to attend a church which has 'bad customer service.' I think if the church is meeting the legitimate needs that God has placed in all of our hearts for Him, then people begin to show up.

This made me think about how our churches many times operate. But here are the questions that come to mind. In church, who are the customers? God? Us? Can we get 'satisfied with church' and totally drift away from the purpose of the church? And what is the purpose of church? Are you a satisfied sheep? What do you think it would look like to be "better than the competition?"

Sunday, April 5, 2009

League of Ordinary Gentlemen

I was talking to a friend the other day and he was lamenting over the condition of his church. It is dead. The worship is lifeless and there is a general feeling of malaise as people are leaving the church. But what can one man do to help save a dying church? Nothing. But God will do great things through that one man to change, not only his church, but the world.

God rarely uses extraordinary people. He usually chooses those of meager resources so He can act through them and thus, get the glory. Moses couldn't speak well. David was an adulterer and murderer. Jesus was just an ordinary looking man. The apostles all had character flaws. All the Bible characters were just ordinary people at the beginning of their calling. All of God's people are ordinary people who have been made extraordinary by the work the Lord is doing through them. Our job is to say, "Yes, Lord" when He calls us and move toward His purpose for us.

We can't do it without Him leading the fact, His purpose will usually elicit more fear in us because we don't have the resources to attain the goal. God will not drag us into his will by our hair, forcing us to do what He wants. Instead, we have to offer Him a submitted heart. Then, humble obedience. Then, gratitude for what He did through us.

If we could do it on our own strength and will, we would get the glory. But if God's plan is only possible by Him working through us, the glory is His. That's the point. We learn to submit to his will and God does extraordinary things through ordinary people.

God will save my friend's church if he (and others in the church) will ask God to save them and then submit to His will.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Top 30 Worship Songs

Worship is different from praise in that worship is how we respond to the presence of God (I love you Lord, My soul pants for thee Lord, We bow down, etc.). Praise, in contrast, is exalting the characteristics of God (Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty, Who was and Is and Is to come, We praise thee of God, We Glorify your Holy name, etc). I have found that when you lead with praise then transistion into worship, it works best for being in the presence of God. If you are a worship leader, a must read is Vivien Hibbert's Prophetic Worship has more information on this subject.

Top 30 Worship Songs:

Artist Album Song
Eoghan Haslip Mercy Here I Am to Worship
Destiny Christian Center In Your Sanctuary Holy Spirit of he Living God
Jason Morant Abandon I Delight/Place in My Heart
Audio Adrinaline Lift Tremble
Michael W. Smith Worship Again Give You My Heart
Daivd Ruis Touching the Father’s Heart True Love
Brian Doerksen You Shine You Surround Me
Vineyard Spirit of the Sovereign God Full of his Glory
Michael W. Smith Worship Breathe
The Katinas WOW Worship Yellow Draw Me Close
Vineyard Winds of Worship 3 Holy and Anointed One
Brian Doerksen You Shine With All My Affection
Brian Doerksen KHC Worship 1 Ever So Gently
Destiny Christian Center In Your Sanctuary I Feel Your Presence
Vineyard Eternity My Jesus I Love thee
Mercy Me Almost There In You
David Ruis The Mystery Lily of the Valley
Brian Doerksen Father’s House Father Me
Jonah 33 The Strangest Day Search Me, Know Me
David Teems No Language but a Cry Come Holy Spirit, Come
Matt Redman Thirsty- A Journey of Intimacy Intimacy
Christ for the Nations We Cry Out I Enter In
Paul Oakley New Frontiers Live 2002 Be Lifted Up
Vineyard Free to Fly I Need You
Graham Kendrick What Grace I Kneel Down
Eoghan Haslip Deeper The entire CD is great.
Darrell Evans Trading My Sorrows I Am Yours
Caedmans Call my calm\\your storm There’s a Stirring
Paul Baloche iWorship Platinum Your Name
Darrell Evans Trading My Sorrows Your Love is Extravagant

I would be interested in learning about others favorite worship songs as well.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Top Thirty Praise Songs

Praise is exuberant mentioning the characteristics of God. Praise is the essential beginning of any time you want to spent with God. God dwells in the praises of his people as praise is an acknowledgement of our nothingness and His greatness. Praise humbles us and exalts the Holiness of God. Praise God until his presence shows up and you can sense His dwelling among you.

Here are the top 30 praise songs I like the most:

Artist Album Song
Vineyard Casey Corum Dwell Dwell
Jeff Deyo Saturate More Love, More Power
Michael W. Smith Worship Agnus Dei
David Crowder Undignified Undignified
Vineyard The River is Here Holy is the Lord
Vineyard The River is Here I See the Lord
Vineyard Draw Me Close We Will Dance
Nathan Fellingham KHC Worship 1 Holy is the Lord God Almighty
Passage Seven 1 Hosanna in the Highest
Crystal Lewis The 268 Project Glorify
Newsboys Worship Together You are My King
Robin Mark iWorship (Disc 2) Be Unto Your Name
Vineyard Winds of Worship 3 Blessed be Your Name
Annie Herring Wonder Worthy is the Lamb
Caedmon’s Call In the Company of Angels God of Wonders
Vineyard Winds of Worship 3 Holy and Anointed One
Ross Parsley iWorship Vol. 2 Lord Most High
Tree 63 Worship Together Platinum Blessed be Your Name
Delirious? Cutting Edge Shout to the North
Robin Mark Come Heal This Land Glory to the Lord Our God
Vineyard Change Me on the Inside Holy, Holy
AWE Alternative Worship Experience Worthy of My Praise
Kari Jobe Heaven Revelation Song
Chris Tomlin Arriving How Great is Our Lord
Robin Mark iWorship Days of Elijah
Chris Tomlin iWorship Holy is the Lord
Paul Baloche First Love Hosanna
Annie Herring Wonder Worthy is the Lamb
Fernando Ortega City on a Hill: Sing Alleluia Our Great God
Barlow Girl/Big Daddy Weave What I was Made For You’re Worthy of My Praise
Jesus is Lord
Glorify Thy Name

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Experience the Spirit Exercises 26 - 38

26. While half the group is singing Jesus is Lord, have the other half pray out loud what God is laying on their hearts.

27. Teach people how to speak their heart to God. I turn to how David spoke his heart to the Father in the Psalms as an example of this. One of the reasons I think David was so special to God was because David, while watching sheep alone for days or weeks at a time, was constantly singing and talking to God as his life unfolded before God. In doing so, David became the man after God’s own heart, a friend of God. It helps to think about saying this to someone who deeply loves you as you say or sing them.

Most people are not used to speaking deeply nor do many have the language skills to do so. So what I do is hand out a list of sample intimate statements for them to say. I have them say each of these statements several times so they can get used to saying them without their flesh blocking it. Worship is saying these intimate things before God, to express our longings and desires, needs and deep felt emotions to God. Say these things only after a time of praise and worship, when we want to engage more of our hearts with God. In my experience, singing these statements makes me feel much more vulnerable than just thinking them or saying them. Here are some heartfelt statements we have said to God during worship time:

I receive your love Father
I receive your acceptance of me.
Thank you Lord for you love (kindness, goodness, peace, joy, presence, etc.)
Draw me into you, Father.
Your love is important to me, it is life and breath.
I delight in love
I feel happy when you are near me, Father
Thank you for choosing me, Lord, for making me one of your own
Thank you for your favor, Lord
Change me, Father, so I can give what you want from me
Thank you, Lord, for being inside me and filling my heart
Expressing Love
I long for you, oh Lord
My heart smiles when your presence is here
I delight in the time I spend with you, Father
I delight in my relationship with you, Jesus
I am pleased that you enjoy me
I need you
I need your love (Wisdom, Guidance, care, friendship, discernment, gifts)
Your love makes me a better man
I am desperate for you
I am glad you are my Father
It gives me pleasure to talk to you
I bless you through this trial, as you guide me and give me wisdom that I may be found pleasing in your sight.
I want you in my innermost being
My heart aches to be in your presence.

28. Use the word GLORIFY and sing it in harmony several (or many) times. Then sing the same word in harmony several (or many) times. Then layer that melody with other melodies and words that come to mind while many are singing the original word and melody.

29. While laying on hands and praying over someone (for healing or whatever) have half the people sing a prophetic song while the other half prays.

30. Sing a prophetic melody without words.

31. Half the group sings their desires, longings and yearnings to Him while the other half sings praise and worship songs.

32. Have half the group sing praise songs while the other breaks into two or threes (with people they don’t know) and give their testimony of how Christ has worked in their lives.

33. At the beginning of the group, tell people that no matter what they have done in their lives (give horrific examples) that they will be loved and accepted in this place.

34. What to do when the presence of God does show up. Usually there is a pleasant feeling that accompanies the presence of the Spirit of God. But, I have noticed, if I focus on the feeling, it goes away pretty quickly. Why? Feelings are flesh and if I focus on my feelings, I am not focusing on presence of Jesus. If I want to keep the feeling, I must focus on what got the feeling there in the first place, focusing on praising and worshiping God. So, when I sense God, I am going to continue praising God for His goodness, or declaring him Lord, or saying intimate loving things to Him so my heart can continue to stay in his presence.

35. For people who struggle with shame, guilt, fear or habitual sin, have them confess it out loud while the rest of the group is singing praise and worship songs. Have the singing be so loud that no matter how loud they confess it, the praise and worship drown out their confession.

36. Don’t allow discussions of a religious nature. Period. The best sure-fire way of running off God is to have a discussion about whether or not one should be baptized, whether or not churches should have weekly communion or whether or not Adam had a belly-button. Engaging the mind during a worship session has the opposite effect on connecting with God for a time. Intellectual discussions, religious arguments, and esoteric discussions on some religious point runs God (and people) off. I am sure you will have to experiment with this point (as most do) but as a rule, just do praise, worship and prayer.

If religious discussions happen (because sometimes people want to avoid the presence of God) reassert the purpose of the meeting and ask that discussions of that nature be held until the meeting is over, or ask them to discuss it on another day, away from the group. Or if you are of a more passive aggressive sort, just start playing praise music and singing....real loud.

37. During prayer time, have members who need prayer to state what their problem is. As a general rule, prayer is, first of all, for the people present at the meeting or for members not present because of illness or some other person there. We laid on hands on members, declared the lordship of Jesus, then asked God for the words to pray. Instruct members to speak what God lays on their heart.

38. During the meeting, time should be allowed for people to confess sins as the Holy Spirit convicts their hearts. This could happen at anytime during the meeting but I encourage leaders to ‘strike while the iron is hot,’ meaning ‘sooner rather than later.’ I have seen God convict men’s hearts about affairs, porn, murder, stealing and other sins during worship time. Allow them to speak so they can be free of that burden. If this has not happened during a meeting (spontaneous sin confession) then, near the end of the meeting, there should be a time set apart for confession of sins. Confession is good for the soul and if the group is going to be a healing place for people, then confession must be allowed.

An effective method of getting people to open up about themselves is to make a statement similar to this: "We want you to find healing in this group. If there is anything burdening you, please tell us so we can pray for you. If you have stolen a 100 grand from your work, had an affair, are addicted to porn, drugs, alcohol, had sex with your grandmother, dog or whatever, this is a safe place to confess it and be free from it. You can’t scare us with your story, whatever it is, we want to help you, not judge you." This statement creates a safe place for people to talk.