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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Note to my younger self...

I responded to God’s call to ministry when I was 17 and started leading worship in a small church not long afterward. God’s mercy and grace were abundant as I was helped and encouraged, corrected and guided by some loving and wise pastors and laymen and women during those early years. I was “adopted” by several families who made sure that “single young fellow” would have something to eat or someplace to rest.

In my limited experience, I was confident in what I knew and my abilities and had a sincere desire to serve. 

Like many beginning in the ministry, the expression “you don’t know what you don’t know” fit me like a glove.

So if given the opportunity to tell my younger self some things, I believe I would start with these things:

1. Spiritual knowledge is not the same as spiritual health
Knowing some biblical knowledge is not the same as understanding the Word and applying it to your life. Though I had a regular time in the Word, I lacked tools in discernment and how to make application in my everyday life. Spiritual knowledge is not the same as spiritual health.

As Peter Scazzero shares we can’t be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. I desperately needed help learning how to be healthy emotionally. I needed help dealing with issues in my life. Somehow I thought I would just pick it up along the way or something.

2. The song of the Church started long before me…
I needed a biblical understanding of what worship was and wasn’t. I knew my experience, but had never studied worship, read much on worship, or how what I was doing fit into it all. I knew what I liked and didn’t like. I was trying the measure the distance of the earth to the moon with the short little ruler of my experience; worship was so much more than I understood. How we had gotten to the point of where we were in congregational worship had no connection in my mind of where we were going.

History was ok and some of the stories were great, but as far as I was concerned, life was always going to be singing, youth musicals, and new music. I didn’t really need the old stuff. I needed to see that the song of the Church started long before I arrived and will be going on long after I am gone. I needed to grasp what had gone on in the past to help me deal with the future.

3. I need to live in the acceptance that only Christ can give
My self-worth is based on what God in Christ has done in my life, not what I could accomplish or how well I could perform. I secretly longed for approval from friends, and others that could validate my worth and value. Little did I realize that I was giving them a power that they could never really give and could not serve to fill the vacuum I felt inside.

I really needed to see that Christ in me “was the hope of glory.” I no longer needed to be driven by the comments of those around me for my security, but instead, live in the love and acceptance that only Christ could give.

4. The right to be heard is earned through trust
Developing strong relationships are basic to life, ministry, and discipleship. We will earn the right to be heard by the trust we had developed more than the position we hold. Learning how to become a servant leader, focusing more on what God is doing in someone's life and joining in that, is more important than trying to develop relationships that will "help further my career."

If I could go back and share with my younger self some things, there would be a lot I would want to share, but I think I would start with these.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Most of us are not....

J. S. Bach could compose complex counterpoint on after only hearing the melody one time;
...His “Musical Offering” was just that and a masterpiece of just some of his genius.

Most of us aren’t like Bach.

Mozart was touring as a young child and had composed his first opera at 12;
...He “copied” the music he heard in his mind directly on to the paper.

Most of us aren’t like Mozart. 

Isaac Watts was writing poetry and knew Latin, Hebrew, and Greek by the age of 13;
...Many of his most famous hymns were written while still a teenager.

Most of us aren’t like Watts. 

Fanny Crosby, blinded just a few weeks old memorized many entire books of the Bible and composed more than 6000 hymn texts.   Charles Wesley wrote over 9000.

Most of us aren’t like Crosby or Wesley. 

Most of us aren’t like those almost miraculous number of prodigies who seem to defy the laws of nature with their talents and abilities.  In fact, if everyone could do these things they would become so common that they would be no more noticeable than someone opening or closing a door. These “special” ones need the rest of us who are not so gifted so that their gifts are highlighted. This is not a “sour grapes” attitude, but a statement of fact.

What matters is our attitude and response to being “ordinary.” C. S. Lewis stated that there is no such thing as an “ordinary” human being. Something that will help us to re-focus and see things more from a biblical viewpoint.  Here are some thoughts toward that journey:

1. We are made in the image of God; there are no “ordinary” people.  At the same time, we are all sinners in need of and dependent on the grace and mercy of Almighty God.
2. Our purpose in life is to bring glory to God, not ourselves. When the artist notices that more people comment about the frame than the picture, he changes the frame.
3. Our worth comes from what God has done in us. Christ gives us true worth.
4. Any great thing we might accomplish will probably be forgotten soon after we are gone, if not before, so we must focus on those things that have everlasting value.
5. The greatest investment we can make is to allow God to remake us into the image of His Son in our thoughts, words, deeds, and all we are and focus our lives in making disciples by the power of the Holy Spirit for God’s glory.

Paul's admonition in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 is helpful here But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I thank God for the Bachs, Mozarts, Crosbys, Wesleys, and others He has given through time and I thank Him for allowing me to be “ordinary.”  I just want to be obedient to what He has called me to do and be. So, I can be content in being a single little flower put on a lone hillside by God’s grace to bring beauty by being what God had created it to be that only He can see.