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More Loud and Deep

December 5, 2015 — 1 Comment

bells

I am one of those people that loves the anticipation period of advent and all the symbolism with it even more than I like Christmas itself. Don’t get me wrong… I love waking up on christmas morning at the crack of dawn to race down the stairs and watch my kids have a blast with their new toys as I munch on cinnamon buns and bacon, but.. there is just something about advent that makes my spirit full.

Have you ever tried to truly wrap your head around what it might have been like for the jews anticipating the messiah. Can you imagine your whole life being told that a savior was coming who would put an end to all the governments and people groups that reeked havoc on your people. A season of waiting that had gone on for generations must have felt like it would never come.

They were told in Isaiah 6:9 a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.



They waited in uncertainty for a messiah and it must have been easy to doubt. I can imagine that many would have forgotten to care. The sense of urgency was gone and the complacency with whatever life has dealt them sank in.

Then one day God interrupted time.
For God so loved.. that he sent his only son.
This King of Kings… The son of God. The messiah didn’t come riding on a horse armed to the teeth to save the Israelites.. instead he came as a baby.

Hebrews 2:14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. 15 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. 16 We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters,[h] so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. 18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

He came as a man to save mankind… to help us so that we would not only share in his suffering but share in his glory. It’s amazing and all together mind-blowing that our God is that loving.

There seems to be a disconnect these days especially when you turn on the news. The world we live in is such a mess. War is all around us and possibly at our doorstep these days. Terrorists are killing people, extremists are targeting Christians, Sex trafficking is huge in Atlanta, Racism looks like it’s 1950 again, there is video of planned parent hood killing babies and nobody blinks an eye… Our world is in outrage over atrocities and we battle it with fear and ranting Facebook posts in a literally limp wristed attempt at justice by the click of a mouse. Cities are getting blown up by people wearing suicide bombs, politicians are parading their lying evil agendas, millions are starving, There is still homeless in our community, Christians battle each other with hateful words and accusations, prejudice and persecution fill our news headlines, we are afraid to go to the movies and we kick ourselves for profiling people because we never know who to be afraid of. Our response once again is sitting on our couches in amazement and fear.

Where is God in all this?


Where is the God of justice in a world of so much pain and injustice?

These days it is hard to truly appreciate the anticipation of advent. It has been described as an expectation of something we know will come much like a pregnant woman in labor… but we want everything now. We want instant gratification… so every year Christmas gets just a little bit closer and every year we complain about Walmart already having their christmas decorations up in sept… but it’s what we want if we are honest. We want it now! 

In the same sense we want the God of justice and mercy to come in and fix everything and we get upset and frustrated without the anticipation that HE WILL when he returns.

The other night after a church outreach prep, my co-pastor mark, and I were in the parking lot and a cop pulled up beside us in the parking lot. It was dark and mark and I were like.. oh man here we go. The cops have met us outside our church many times asking why we were there at 10PM…
This time it was different. He got out and let us know that he has been assigned to help, serve and protect the churches in the area. He shared with us that he is a christian and in a worship team. A really nice kid. Then he asked if we would be willing to go through active shooter training with him.
I have to say that even hearing that line made me uneasy. These are the times we are in sadly. I have been in ministry for 20 years and I have never heard the words “we should prepare for an active shooter situation.”

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The enemy comes in like a roaring lion looking to steal and destroy.

So in the mean time… where is God because if I am honest I want to spend this season excited about Jesus and not afraid about our world, but then my social media lights up yet again of another shooting or some other horrible thing that has come from the dark hearts of man.

“While dining at home on December 1, 1863, The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow received a telegram that his son had been severely wounded four days earlier. On November 27, 1863, while involved in a skirmish during a battle of of the Mine Run Campaign, Charley was shot through the left shoulder, with the bullet exiting under his right shoulder blade. It had traveled across his back and skimmed his spine. Charley avoided being paralyzed by less than an inch.

He was carried into New Hope Church (Orange County, Virginia) and then transported to the Rapidan River. Charley’s father and younger brother, Ernest, immediately set out for Washington, D.C., arriving on December 3. Charley arrived by train on December 5. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was alarmed when informed by the army surgeon that his son’s wound “was very serious” and that “paralysis might ensue.” Three surgeons gave a more favorable report that evening, suggesting a recovery that would require him to be “long in healing,” at least six months.

On Christmas day, 1863, Longfellow—a 57-year-old widowed father of six children, the oldest of which had been nearly paralyzed as his country fought a war against itself—wrote a poem seeking to capture the dynamic and dissonance in his own heart and the world he observes around him. He hears the Christmas bells and the singing of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14) but observes the world of injustice and violence that seemed to mock the truth of this statement.” This story Href

Longfellow writes in I heard the bells on christmas day:
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Isn’t that the place we are in sometimes? This world is a mess, our community is broken, christians can be real hypocritical jerks and persecute each other, families are broken, relationships on the rocks, depression… anxiety and fear are devastating and crippling…

It’s one of the reasons why the Church is so important.. because hate is strong, depression is strong and it flies in the face of peace on earth good will to men.

But.. There is jesus..

I was watching interviews with Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Bagdad. He was talking about what it is like to have a church in the middle of a warzone. The US is not there of course, but we can learn a lot about what it looks like to deal with fear by Canon Andrew’s church. He shares about kids who are running away from killers and people who have lost everything. The Christians, when asked how do they deal with the fear and the fact that when they are baptized that the next day they might be killed, respond with these lines:

“when you have nothing…Jesus is everything”

“Yeshua is always with me”

If you are reading this and made it this far I want you to sit on those two phrases and then move on to the rest of this piece.

Jesus… Yeshua… casts out fear.

And the angel said “the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel which means God with us.

Where is God? He is HERE! and…
God is not scared of what we are scared of.
God is not bound by what we are bound by.
God is not held captive by our captors
The Creator is NEVER defeated by the creation

Hebrews 11:1 
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Because we know that our God is with us and for us not only can nothing be against us, but we are given a source of hope. Our world has lost hope and is only in anticipation of more evil.
Advent teaches that the hope of the world came…
John 1:1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.

The hope of the world, emanuel is with us now
John 1:4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.
He didn’t come into this broken world to put a bandaid on it and leave. He came to be emmanuel, God with us. He came to be the good news that “unto us was born our savior”

And Jesus, our hope will return someday and He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.

Longfellow finished his christmas song of listening, pain and despair with these lines:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead nor doubt He sleeps
The wrong shall fail the right prevail
With peace on earth goodwill to men

If you have lived near a church with bells then you know how loud they can be. For Longfellow, they became a deep reminder of hope. I think about all the times I have been in a funk, wrapped in fear or frustration and then I hear a song or read a verse or God speaks to me through a stranger… and the bells of heaven become more loud and deep in my soul reminding me that no matter how I feel: God is not dead.. He is not asleep. Emanuel is with me.

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Church, WE are the light of the world. Jesus gave us life so that we would shine bright for him in the darkness of our community.

As you give food to the hungry or clothe the naked
as you pray for a loved one
as you tell your kids Jesus loves them
As you speak with kindness to your starbucks barista
as you give a coffee and a hug to a homeless person
as you love recklessly
As you do anything for the “least of these”…
YOU become the ringing bells that ring more loud and deep and remind those who could no longer hear jesus or anticipated his presence that He is not dead and he is not asleep.

May our prayer for our world be that the eyes of man would then be opened by the ringing bells of the Body of Christ so that like Jacob people would say
“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”.

Shadow God

March 18, 2014 — Leave a comment

shadow

One of my favorite things in life is taking a hike. Not up a mountain where I’m too dead to enjoy it but a hike nevertheless. I guess you can say I prefer lazy, I don’t need an oxygen tank, hiking. I see God in the walk, in the elegance of the trees, in the shade of the overhanging foliage and in the bazillions of creatures all around.

I have a love-hate relationship when my family is with me while hiking though. I love having them with me but the older ones seem to lag behind and yell a lot scaring all the cool woodland creatures away. Any chance at seeing a hawk or scurrying animal are pretty much gone when those two boys are with me. Our two little ones are just the opposite.  They run so far ahead that when they trip over a rock I am no where near to catch them or even help them back up. They are just moving too fast and are not able to hear my warnings. I’ll be honest because I get frustrated. I want them to listen to my experience in hiking. In taking it all it. My knowledge about birds and my caution about things that can trip them up. My goal isn’t making it so they don’t enjoy themselves. As a matter of fact sometimes having a bit of structure makes things even more enjoyable. My goal, in reality, is to teach them to shadow their father so they stay safe, take the right paths, and don’t miss the lessons and treasures.

The most simplified way of explaining Shadowing God is that it is the concept of walking with Him. It is very similar to my walk with my kids. There are times we get ahead of God. We jump into things we shouldn’t because we are 20 steps ahead of Him. We don’t heed the warnings of the Holy Spirit. When we trip up, we have isolated ourselves from the Church and God and there is nobody there to pick us back up again. Other times, like my oldest, we lag behind and we drag our feet. We yell so loudly we can no longer hear the still small voice of God. He asks us to catch up so we don’t miss what He is doing.

The Bible says His word is a lamp that lights our path. Sometimes that path is so dim we can’t see our hand in front of our face. It’s those times when we need to shadow closer and put our hands on God’s shoulders. The farther we get away from God and His voice the harder it is to see clearly. Other times our path is very clear and full of light. There will always be an ebb and flow to our walk with God but regardless of our situation one thing is clear…
It’s best to STAY CLOSE.

John 15
English Standard Version (ESV)
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

So in this text we are compared to branches that grow on a vine. It uses the word Abide:

Abide means: to endure, accept, remain, dwell, continue

It’s essential to understand that abiding is “being” not “doing”.
Staying close is about being constantly in the presence of GOD.

Sometimes when you start at a new job your boss asks you to “shadow” a more experienced employee. The reason is because your goal is to not only learn from this person, but emulate them. The more you shadow the more you become like that person and exhibit “good fruit”.

Our “fruit” (good deeds, attitudes, etc) comes out of relationship with God.
listen carefully… our Relationship with God does NOT come from the fruit.

Colossians 2:6-7
New Living Translation (NLT)
6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to
follow him. 7 Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him.
Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will
overflow with thankfulness.

As we ABIDE… as We stay close then we will overflow with the goodness of the
almighty. As our roots grow down deep into Him the less we will be shaken and the more we will become like Christ.
This doesn’t me there are not things to do… What I’m saying is it starts with getting to know our GOD and being faithful to Him.

Mark Batterson said “Faithfulness is not holding the fort… it’s storming the gates of hell”

The Bible makes it clear it wont always be easy. There will be trials and persecution and there will be such amazing joy.
Who we are and what we do comes from God.
We love because he first loved.
We give because He gave.
It starts and ends with God…He is not dead…He is alive:

Acts 17:28 “for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own
poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.”

It is important to recognize that our walk is not for you and your buddy Jesus.
We were meant to Shadow God together. This is not a personal walk. It is a communal one.

1 Corinthians 11:1
“And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.”

In other words “shadow me as I Shadow God”
We need each other. We need the Church and the body because it is a realm where an invisible God is made visible. Church is not a country club where you pay your dues and get what you want. We don’t do membership at Ember because we realize that there needs to be a mindset change in the church away from the country club mentality. Instead it needs to move towards the reality that God calls us to sell all and follow Him. The reward is not in us getting things we want, but in getting to be with a loving God.


The church community is so important.
It’s a place where we abide in the shadow of the almighty!
It’s a place where we share our lows and our greatest triumphs!
It’s a place where we learn to embrace our diversity and find oneness as we take a bite of bread and drink wine.

One of the most paralyzing things in our walk and one of the main reasons why Church has become less about God and more about us is we Love the big event and are not good with ordinary.

I have great parents and they are also good grandparents. Over the years we have had many discussions with them about grandparenting. They were convinced that big outlandish events were how they should hang out with our children. While the events and trips were cool it became something that was not maintainable. Over time it became paralyzing because the “amazing” trumped the “ordinary” and the idea of just sitting down and reading a book with the kids seemed too miniscule.

We have forgotten how important “ordinary” is.

Acts 9:36-42
36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means
Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she
became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper
room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was
there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So
Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper
room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other
garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all
outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha,
arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he
gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he
presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many
believed in the Lord.

Tabitha, maybe a widow or rich herself, took care of the broken and poor widows.
In verse 36 it says that this WOMAN was a disciple. I love that because once again we see the heart of God for the marginalized.
She used her talents and walked with God. She didn’t wait for a church event or for the leaders to create a clothing drive. She instead loved those around her and in front of her on her own. She considered the widows her friends and community.
When Tabitha died the widows lost a friend and their protector. God considered her healing to be urgent. This was the first resurrection performed by an apostle and I am convinced Luke and God wanted to show us that her faithfulness, being good at ordinary, and her love for the broken was storming the gates of hell!

She says nothing with her mouth in this chapter, but she said so much in how she shadowed God. She saw Jesus in the mundane task and in her broken community. She chose to abide and the fruit and transformation of her whole community came from that.

Shadowing God is not about our devotions…It’s about being devoted
It’s not about our intentions… It’s about being intentional
It’s not about our worship… It’s about the object of your worship.

Don’t underestimate the value of being ordinary and shadowing God. It is in our obedience in being “ordinary” that God fully shows how He is Extraordinary.

Here is the audio from a breakout session I did in Bristol, CT for “Worship Seminar with Matt Stinton” in Bethel, CT.
I read a book a few years back that God puts our art on His refrigerator and this got me thinking about our role as creators and artists.

Please note that the first 5 min of this talk did not get recorded. It included a quick speech on holiness in teams (which I will blog later) but also the text below the thing which is actually the set up for this talk… So read that and then listen


Our Art on God’s Refrigerator: Creativity in the Church

Have you heard the phrase “less of me and more of you”?
I believe that the church has perpetuated a lie with this phrase that I want to address today.

In many eastern religions the key to being close to God is the removal of self. The more you remove who you are the more you become one with your God. I believe we have created environments in our churches where the goal is to come in as you are and attempt to remove “YOU” so you can have more of Him. Almost like the BORG in star trek… a drone of the collective and individuality is not celebrated.

I know this may sound like semantics, but that is far from biblical truth.
The bible says: sell all and follow me… which is an act of surrender.

Rom 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers,1 by the mercies of God, to present your bodies bas a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.2 2 Do not be conformed to this world,3 but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Simply put: instead of Less of me and more of you
we should be thinking “I surrender all to Him so He can make me the best version of me”

So I am reading stuff on the net and I come to find out about what is called Google Co-op and a custom search engine. Turns out you can create your own search engine and have google only search what you want to search. cool huh?  I think so and I jumped on that one quick.

Introducing Google meets CECWorship:
THE CECWorship  all things worship and ministry search engine

take it for a spin. so far there are 112 sites that I am using and I have a ton more to add…it just takes time.

Bookmark this one because I think it will be a great help at weeding out junk we don’t need when trying to do our ministry.

Do you like it? got anything I should add to it?

Act Your Age?

September 17, 2007 — 25 Comments

I’ve been thinking a lot lately and finding that I have more to say on life for this blog then just showing the millions of readers cool resources. So here goes.

A funny thing has been coming into my brain lately..It has been spurred on by the many times I am around other adults and people my age. Usually it is when I am standing waiting for my son to come out of school, when we are at Navy, when I am waiting for my boy to finish his karate class, and most of all at guitar center(MECCA). This phenomenon is trying to find where I fit in. I am 30 years old prematurely bald and greying. I am married to a beautiful wickedly smart woman who does occupational therapy, a field where I could not survive on account of my lack of smartieness. I have 2 boys and one on the way. Why did I tell you that…well it’s because I don’t feel my age.

So there I am at my kids school with the other parents. They are in their BMW’s and wicked pricey cars, wearing pretty nice clothes and living the life and look of a normal adult. Me…well I’m in carpenter jeans from old navy, sneakers, a hat that says Sugar Daddy and a Tshirt with Spiderman on the front.  For Christmas this past year every present I got on the box said for 5 and under. I have my Optimus Prime sitting on my desk right next to my batman and gandolf. I have guitars and one is decked out in tribal stickers. I still love skulls and all things rock n roll. and my kids sit with me and watch steve vai and guitar festival videos.

There is more I can go into, but the reality is this. I am a gen x’r and love every minute of it, but I am also moving quite fine into the ipod generation…the funny thing is this doesnt help me act my “Age”

How old are you…acting?