I Stand Up Front

We were brand new to the church.  None of us knew anybody, none of us had ever been inside before.

“Where do we sit?” Came the whispered question.

I don’t know what possessed me, what inspired me, but it was life-defining.  In the second that passed between the question and my answer, I made a decision.  I would never be one to sit in the back.  I did not ever want to be one that let others be the example while I played at church.  I would be one to let people see, I meander really see me.

There has never been a thing of pride in it.  I already knew my addictions, my failures, my issues.  I was not standing up front so that people would see my attempts at perfection.  I only knew that I was going to be fully invested in the one who died to save me.

Since that time, I have not stood up front on many occasions.  The shame of who I am, the mistakes I’ve made, takes its toll.  I have desired a place where no one would ever see me again.

Ah, but my King, my glorious one, He calls me out.  He stands with a hand outstretched, beckoning.  “Join me, live the adventure.”

So once again, I stand up.  I move to the front where I am undistracted by the eyes that might see me, the ears that might hear me.  I am focused on the one I came to meet with, the one I came to worship.  

And maybe, just maybe, someone will see a slightly chubby, old man, and they’ll think about how silly I look, how lame my dancing is.  They’ll listen for ever every off-key note I hit.

Or, they’ll not see me at all.  They’ll sense the Spirit I invite, the Spirit we all invite, and they will be set free.

Point Man

I never did it in combat.  I was the commander’s radio operator and was usually somewhere in the middle of the column.  But in training I sometimes got to be the point man.  And, at least in training, it was something I was good at.

The point man, for those of you that are civilians, is the guy that is in front of the unit.  He has to see what is coming before it becomes a problem.  For example, I was leading a fire team through some pretty heavy brush.  I rounded a bend in the trail and saw movement.  I didn’t see a person, or the whites of anyone’s eyes.  I just saw movement that was out of place.  I called a halt and we were able to take out an ambush.

Sometimes people ask me why I want to be up front, why I want to lead worship.  Do I crave the attention?  Do I have to be noticed?  I know my heart is “desperately wicked and deceitful at all times”, but I don’t think my desires are centered around self.

I think I like being the point man.

The down side of being the point man is that the enemy will see you first, shoot at you first.  You carry the weight, the responsibility for all the lives in your unit.  If you’re good, people live.  If you aren’t, people die.  Simple as that.  

If I can lead people to worship the King of kings, people live.  If I can focus all attention on His presence, the movement of His Spirit, people live.  If I am attuned to His voice, speak and sing yielded to His leadership, people live.  And yes, I will take the shot, if it saves their lives.

As worship leaders, we face attacks that others never see.  We deal with issues and problems that others never think of.  Our prayer life has to be tightened, our time in the word more disciplined, our submission to His will more constant, or people will die.

So to my fellow point men (and women), I salute you.  “Be brave, be strong, for the Lord our God is with you.”

What an awesome privilege to serve and lay our lives at His feet!

http://youtu.be/BAGZ7c8V9SM

I Make My Stand

i had to write.  I had to write, right now.  I was sitting in church and God broke through and I just had to tell you.

In the military, they refer to “taking a hill”.  There are strategic advantages to being on a hill, particularly specific hills in a given terrain.  The problem is that if a strong enough force comes against you, they can surround the hill and there is no way to escape.  It may cost some lives but the enemy doesn’t care because, once the hill is taken, they have the advantage.  

That is what I saw this morning during worship.

I haven’t been able to do what I thought I would do.  I haven’t experienced some things that I wanted to.  But right now, on the hill of kid’s ministry, at Radiant Church, in Richland, MI, my hill is surrounded.  My kids are facing the divorce of their parents, pressures from school, the world shouting messages of compromise and fear and hate.  My kids are wondering if Jesus is real, whether there really is hope, a future.

And, just like the military, sometimes we don’t pick the hill, the hill is picked for us.  Running from the hill seems like an option, but it’s not.  The enemy will take you prisoner, the enemy will hurt you.

So I make my stand.  I am here now.  This is the fight that was brought to me.

Does this speak to anyone else?  Do you find yourself in a place of frustration, unfulfilled dreams?  Can you hear me in this struggle if I tell you to fight where you are?  Dreamers look to the future, they look for possibilities and opportunities, but miss what is often right in front of them.  Keep dreaming!  Keep believing!

But stand!  Pray!  Fast!  Speak the truth!  Love!  Worship!  Yield to Jesus!

STAND!

http://youtu.be/cAQ61KH7qRc

When to say when…

When is it ok to call it quits?  When do we get to take a break?  It can seem like a constant fight, constant struggle when you are in ministry.  You have pastors and leaders over you, leaders with you and people under you and at times your at odds with everyone.

When can we step back and reassess?  When is it good to question what you are doing?

Never, always, sometimes, I don’t know.

Let’s take a look at the battle weary soldier surrounded by the enemy, fighting for his life.  Not the time to call it quits, I think.  The temptation is certainly there.  Just give up, let them shoot you and be done with it.  But there are others around you, a purpose inside of you.  That is where you must know what you are fighting for.  This is the time to scream at yourself and in the face of fear, “MOVE OUT!  Get up, get going, fight!”

You might not know this, but one of the hardest times is when the “battle” is over and there is a time of peace.  Our purpose, our calling can seem so clear when we are fighting.  Then it all evaporates when there is a lull.  Time to take a break?  Yes.  Time to look for a new fight?  Yes.  Time to get some feeding and rest?  Yes.  Time to reassess, question, listen, get into God’s word?  Yes.  Because, as a soldier, you know the enemy will be back.  You know that it is only a matter of time.  Time to call it quits?  Please hear me.  Check your wounds.  Be honest with your brothers and sisters that hold you up.  Ministry can cut deep.  This is no place for wimpy christians.  We will get beat up and we have to have those around us who can honestly tell us when we’re to bloodied to continue.  We need bandages, ointment, stitches, breaks reset, tourniquets from time to time, people to lean on, just like any warrior would.  Know the medics in your life, and if you don’t have any, find them – be them for others.

And yes, in the end, there is a time when we pass the sword, the staff, the mantle, the fight onto those who can continue.  But let that be at the end.  Don’t see it until you’ve got no more fight to give.  Many are leaving, giving up before it is time.  Don’t.

“It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus.”  So the hymn says.  Live more.  Love more.  Fight more.

Don’t give up.

The War

Worship is an act of war.  It is an offensive weapon and a defensive shield.  It is our shout from the battlements that taunts our enemy as well as the cheer that arises in the midst of our battles.  It is not about entertainment or warm fuzzies.  True worship will always ellicit a response from our King, from our brothers and sisters, and from our foes.

So why do we think it should always feel good?  Why do we consider it an option to whether I worship or not?  This is akin to standing on the battle field, letting our weapon hang by our side and hoping that no one will shoot at us.  We further hope that by not fighting, not picking a side in the melee, that we will somehow feel better and more equipped to fight another day.  For those who have never been to war and need some clarification, taking this stance only assures that you will not survive to SEE another day.

Understand that I hear you.  “I am wounded.  I am hurt.  I am tired.  I can’t do it anymore.”  All cries familiar to the war.  “I can’t see.  I have no more ammunition.  I am scared.  I am dying.”  All have been heard many times, along with the unarticulated, guttural screams of fear and pain.  But that is where deeper consideration of the heart of the enemy comes into play.   Because you are wounded, will he cease shooting at you?  Because you are hurt, will the demons give you a break.  Because you are tired, will your flesh give you strength to rise again?  No, no, no!!!!

In a battle, there are no breaks.  When the bullets fly, you cannot rest.  When you are wounded, beat up, tired, discouraged, there are no other options than to keep on fighting.

And all the while, you will hear Satan, the accuser, shouting in your head, “You CAN’T win!”  But, my brothers, my sisters, he is wrong.  Fight and you will see the truth that, “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4)”  And I don’t mean, John didn’t mean, a little greater.  The God who has taken up residence inside of me, inside of you, is greater by far than anything, anything that can come against you.

So pick up your sword soldier.  Lift up your shield of faith.  Believe in the one who lives inside of you and fight.  Fight for your church, your friends and neighbors.  Fight for your family!  Fight for your God.

I Don’t Feel So Good

As I look around the world and see the ever present scourge of depression that manifests itself through addictions, mental disorders and suicide.  When I see families torn apart by divorce, infidelity, abuse, neglect and even incest.  And when I gaze on my own heart as I rise and fall, succeed for a moment and then fail.  I can’t help but see a correlation between these struggles.  There is a deafening cry, “Make me feel better!”

I have long wrestled with addiction and sin and have come to the realization that the point of my downfall is that moment when I decide I would rather “feel” better, even if only for a moment, than do what I know is right.  The sadness that seems to reach down into my soul becomes overwhelming in its need to be assuaged.  The pattern seems to be set before it even begins with the resulting “crash” a foregone conclusion.

Worship can enter this realm and become, at least in my opinion, akin to taking the Lord’s name in vain.  Consider this:  Do I sing songs at church because it makes me feel better?  Do I listen to the pastor or pay my tithe salve my broken soul?  Do I allow my hands to droop by my sides because I can no longer raise them in praise to my God?  If you answer yes to these questions, then it bears self-analysis, a heart check to determine whether worship has become a thing you do to feel better.

If we look at the bible, we see so much that is written to encourage us, to lift up our hearts.  But worship is not about us feeling better.  Not even considering that the goal of “feeling better” is transient and often unattainable.  Our lives, lives intended to be in a constant state of worship, are designed to glorify God, to praise His holiness and awesome power.  Because of the fact that God doesn’t change, His attributes, His glory do not alter, we can only find life when we honor Him regardless of how we feel.  And, I believe that in this, when we let go of our need to “feel better” we will find the presence of God is more than enough to give us joy – something that can not be taken away.