Archive for September, 2007

Goin’ to Indiana – The Witnesses Musical

…isn’t that a song?

The Witnesses Musical - Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center - October 13-14, 2007

Hey, I just wanted to let everyone know that I’m leaving for Indianapolis bright and early tomorrow to do two shows of “The Witnesses”. Please pray for us for safe travels and that God’s Word would go forth exactly as He intends – so that many lives can be changed as a result.

Don’t forget – “The Witnesses” is coming to Tampa Performing Arts Center in October. Click here for more information.

For more info about the show, please visit the show’s website.

Hope to see you there!

peace,
e

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Going Deeper With God – Accountability Among Believers (Part 1)

Going Deeper With God - Accountability Among Believers (Part 1)

Next in my stream of consciousness regarding what it means to go deeper with God, I’d like to address the issue of …

accountability.

“ew!” I can hear it now – “not the “A” word!” It goes against every grain in our prideful organisms. Hair is bristling on the back of your neck as you read this. Your hand is reaching for the mouse to quickly find something else to read…

…but wait! Don’t go yet! 

In any society, accountability is the key to survival. It’s true in politics, sports, religion, relationships, and business. I’d go as far as to say our individual, selfish human nature is too strong to be completely overcome on our own. We ALL need accountability in our lives.

I will go a step further and say that as Christians, accountability is even more important. Why would I say that? Well, not only are we battling our own selfish human desires, we also have an adversary who is ever eager to jump on our individual weaknesses and exploit them for the purpose of destroying anything virtuous left in us.

Think about it – when a famous person is “caught in the act” it’s almost as if it helps their career. Think about recent headlines with Brittany, Paris and O.J., for example. Sure, they get media attention, but isn’t that what they’re after? And, how many celebrity divorces occur? (all of them?) It’s as if we all expect celebritys to divorce – it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”

Now, think about Christian leaders who are “caught in the act.” Their lives are destroyed completely. Their ministries are damaged. Their families decimated. I’m thinking of the recent scandal that happed in my area with Randy & Paula White’s divorce. This sparked all kinds of seething media attention and became a feeding frenzy for blogs and news sources everywhere. Questions were raised about the effectiveness of “mega-churches” as a whole. “See?! Institutional churches are to blame!” People questioned Christianity as a whole. “If leaders in the Christian community can’t hold a marriage together, where’s the hope?”

Well, I believe we are, as Christians, held to a higher standard. Is that fair? Well, yes and no. It is what it is. We claim to have the Creator of the entire Universe living within us – giving us access to a “higher moral power.” The Holy Spirit indwells us guiding us, convicting us. Yet, we’re only human, just like the rest of humanity.

All this leads me to ask – what if Randy had an effective accountability partner/group? I’m not saying he didn’t – and things can happen even to the best of us. But I put the word “effective” in there for a reason.

Not that having accountability is like a magic formula for success – hardly. But, it IS true that Christian accountability can help provide a more stable foundation, a source of strength for daily living. We need each other. And, don’t just take my word for it:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV)

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

We are all going to have to give an account to God someday for all our actions (Romans 14:12). And, Jesus gave us the passage in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 to suggest the importance of accountability between believers – we’re all a part of the same body!

We are told to encourage one another:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. – Hebrews 10:24

…encourage one another and build each other up… – 1 Thess 5:11

We are also told very specifically to hold each other accountable and help each other avoid sin:

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:12

Being accountable to one another is an important factor. We all need to be accountable. As much as our flesh resists it and detests it, our faith and our witness depends upon it.

I’ve established with this post the importance of accountability among believers. Next, I’ll throw out some suggestions about what a successful accountability relationship looks like.

Stay tuned…

peace,
e

artwork: http://www.heartlight.org/gallery/60.html

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Facing MY Fears – Somewhere in the Middle

Looking over the cliff - Facing MY Fears - Somewhere in the MiddleI’ve been writing about my fears and how God has been stirring up things in me. I’ve been a bit vague – partly because I don’t feel liberty to talk publicly about what He’s doing, and partly because I’m still a bit foggy about some of the details.

Yesterday, I wrote about prayer – and it’s good to get that out in the open. I don’t really know who’s reading all this, but there’s something about putting thoughts down “on paper.” All day yesterday, it was so much easier to pray. It was so much easier to turn off the radio during my 2 hours of commute time and talk to the Lord.

During this morning’s commute, I put in the new Casting Crowns CD and really listened to the words. If you’re not familiar with them, their lyrics are SO amazing. When I got to track 7, God really started speaking to my heart. During the second time I played the song, I began to realize why I’m feeling so out of sorts lately. There was comfort in the fact that I’m in transition into a new phase, or a new chapter of my life. I’m somewhere in the middle.

Check out the lyrics to the song, “Somewhere in the Middle” by Casting Crowns:

“Somewhere In The Middle”

Somewhere between the hot and the cold
Somewhere between the new and the old
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be
Somewhere in the middle, You’ll find me

Somewhere between the wrong and the right
Somewhere between the darkness and the light
Somewhere between who I was and who You’re making me
Somewhere in the middle, You’ll find me
Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control

Fearless warriors in a picket fence,
Reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middle
Are we caught in the middle

Somewhere between my heart and my hands
Somewhere between my faith and my plans
Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves

Somewhere between a whisper and a roar
Somewhere between the altar and the door
Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more
Somewhere in the middle You’ll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control

Lord, I feel You in this place and I know You’re by my side
Loving me even on these nights when I’m caught in the middle

This is not a comfortable place for me. My enhanced “what-if” generator has been running for weeks and even my sleep is crowded out by the anxiety mixed with anticipation of turning this new page. What will happen next? What is the timing? What about finances? What about …

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without loosing all control?

Then I take a deep breath.

Lord, thank You for the encouragement today. I feel You in this place and I know You’re by my side, loving me even on these nights when I’m caught in the middle.

peace,
e

*Artwork credit: http://nememorifacias.prositen.com/ff8/fanart/index.shtml

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Facing Your Fears – Going Deeper With God (Part 4)

Facing Your Fears - Going Deeper With God (Part 4)God has me thinking a lot about what it means to go deeper in my relationship with Him. I’ve been blogging about my fears, about worship , about serving. Today, I’d like to take a gut-level honest approach to prayer.

To be very honest:

  1. I am a confident prayer when I know people are listening
  2. I pray really well when I’m in the midst of a crisis
  3. There is nothing I want more than better communication with my heavenly Father (both ways)

Perhaps you can tell from the way I worded the list above that I’m not the world’s mightiest prayer warrior.

First, I have a big hang-up when it comes to praying out loud; in front of people. When someone else is listening, I go into a whole different mode. I’m thinking about who’s listening, what they may be going through, how I can carefully arrange my words to avoid offending or embarassing them or someone they know, how I can encourage with my words and bring blessing on them, yet communicate with God in such a way that will properly bless and praise Him. Phew – that’s a lot of work.

Don’t get me wrong – I can do it. I’ve been a Christian for a good number of years and I’ve heard a good number of prayers. I’ve got my “prayer language” down just right. I have plenty of cliches and spiritual-sounding phrases to impress every skeptic in the group. In my list, I mentioned that I’m confident when it comes to praying out loud. But, to be honest, it feels fake most of the time. Not that I’m trying to be something or someone other than what I am, nor am I trying to manipulate or impress. Perhaps it’s because I’m trying so hard to “cover all the bases” and being careful not to leave anyone or anything out. By the time I’m finished, and look up – I frequently have this feeling that I was talking only to those physically in the room. And – what’s the point of all that?

It’s quite a different story when I pray alone. I can be honest, avoiding formulas or senseless ritual when it’s just the Father and me. Especially when I’m going through difficult times. I mentioned second in my list that I pray really well in the midst of crisis situations.  Well, I’ve had my share of crisis, and I must testify that God has never let me down. He’s always been there to hold me up and hear my cries. He is my strong tower and my fortress. He is my deliverer and my comfort and my strength in the storm.

So, what about when everything’s going pretty well? Why do I not have the same zeal and passion? Why is it I can go for days without really praying?

I was curious, so I put in “what is prayer” into my favorite search engine. I got hundreds of thousands of possible links. I clicked on a few of them with titles like “How to get into the habit of prayer” and “daily prayer time”. I know there must be something useful out there, but what I found left me with a bad taste in my mouth. You see, I’ve never been one for legalistic rituals or 3-step formulas for things like prayer.

It seems so pathetic to have to set aside 15 or 30 minutes each morning in a prayer closet, sitting in a certain position, palms up, praise music on the iPod, incense on the dresser. Is it just me? What if Jesus were my roommate? Would I need to schedule a time each day for us to talk? Woud I need to meet Him at a certain place and sit in a certain position and make sure there were no distractions? Would we meet in the library? No, can’t talk in there. What about Starbucks? No, can’t hear in there.

The articles I started reading all had to do with this thing called “discipline.” Is that it? Am I so undisciplined that the thought of such a daily ritual leaves me disgusted?

No – I want to talk to my Abba Father, my Daddy, just as if He were here with me: in the car, in the restaurant, in the room as I shut my eyes at night. I don’t want 3-step formulas or rituals to get in the way. I want to praise Him and tell Him what He means to me and thank Him for all He’s done. I want to lift my daughters up to Him and ask for Him to bless their day and protect them from the enemy. I want to tell Him exactly what’s on my mind and I want to stop and listen for His still, small voice.

So – why don’t I?

As I said on my list – it’s the thing I want the most.

So – ???

The only thing that comes to my mind is Paul’s amazing, comforting passage in Romans chapter 7. He writes about how the things he wants to do the most, he doesn’t do – and the things he doesn’t want to do, he ends up doing.

I’m starting to see that, like any spiritual discipline (i.e. Bible reading, prayer, giving, serving, etc.) we are handicapped in several aspects. One is our human nature – our flesh is always trying to die. But we are not our flesh – what we are is spirit. Our flesh is just what carries us around on this earth.

And, two is our sworn enemy. The Bible calls satan a roaring lion roaming the earth seeking whom he may devour. Fears, doubts, temptations, distractions – these are some of his favorite tools to keep us from going deeper with God.

Our best defense?

Um…

prayer.

I guess the point for me today, after reviewing all this stream of consciousness is:

Do whatever it takes.

Perhaps I need a ritual. Perhaps I’m not strong enough on my own – not disciplined enough to talk/listen to God at all hours of the day. Perhaps I need accountability and a plan to build prayer into a habit.

I mean, what’s worse – praying out of compulsion to follow a ritual or not praying at all?

Lord, You know my heart. I want to know You more. I want to always be listening for your voice. I never want to neglect talking with You. But, just as I wouldn’t want my own children to have to schedule a certain time, wear certain clothes, sit in a certain position, say certain things – I don’t want that to be how we communicate. I need You in my life each and every second. I want my focus to always be You. I want to turn to You immediately if there’s a problem and I want to know You’re right there. As with anything, Lord, if You don’t help me with this, it’s over. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and prick my conscious, Lord, each time I am distracted. Help me to look at my own world through the lenses of prayer. Help me to hear through the earbuds of prayer. Thank You, Lord – for Your grace and how You also want more than anything else to better communication with me.

peace,
e

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“Be Fearless.” – My Sweet Message from Dad

Dove Chocolates - “Be Fearless.” - My Sweet Message from DadIf you’ve been reading my last few posts, they have to do with fears that God is stirring up in me due to the series my church is going through right now called “The Plunge: Faith in Action.”

We even talked about it last night at worship rehearsal. God reminded me last night that the Bible says “Do not fear” exactly three-hundred-sixty-five times. That’s one for every day!

I’ve really been praying and trying to understand what God is asking of me concerning these newly discovered fears.

That’s why I love Him so much – because He won’t leave me to deal with the junk and the baggage on my own. He’d rather bring it to the surface and cause me to deal with it – and get rid of it.

Anyway – you won’t believe it, but today I got a personalized message from the Lord. A co-worker recently got married and he left everyone in our department one of the clever gift boxes they gave wedding attendees. Inside the box were two little Dove chocolate candies – you know, the ones with the message on the inside of the wrapper.

Guess what mine said:

Be Fearless - Dove Chocolate Wrapper - “Be Fearless.” - My Sweet Message from Dad

 

You may think this is just some kind of cosmic coincidence. You may be right. I prefer, however, to think that my God, who created the entire universe and all that’s within it, has time enough to find ways to communicate with me personally.

God is good.

Thanks, Dad, I needed that.

peace,
e

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Facing Your Fears – Going Deeper With God (Part 3)

Hands Cupped - Serving Others - Facing Your Fears - Going Deeper With God (Part 3)Did I say “tomorrow” in my last post? I meant …um… “next” instead. Sorry for the delay. It has been a crazy week of facing my fears to be sure. God has really stirred up my comfort zone with this new series my pastor is preaching called “The Plunge: Faith in Action.”

You can listen to the series archives by clicking here.

So far, the message series has left people with the feeling of “okay – now I know I need to go deeper with God – now what?” I should probably mention that the climax of the series is on Sunday, Sept 30 – when our church is going to something very unconventional. We’re telling our people that week, “Don’t go to church – BE the church.”

What? What is that supposed to mean?

Well, we’ve contacted multiple charities in our immediate area, including Ronald McDonald house, and a few homeless shelters, and various other organizations who need help. We’ve asked if they can use some help on that Sunday morning. Here’s the controversial part – we’re not going to hold church! That’s right – we’re closing the doors and we’re heading out into the community and serving them.

We are actually going to have corporate worship the night before on Saturday night. Sunday morning is the culmination of the series “The Plunge” and we hope to make some new connections and find out what’s really going on outside our four walls.

Does that strike fear in us?

You bet.

So many questions arise (will people respond?, what if people show up who didn’t hear about the event? will we loose control of our people? what if someone gets hurt? on and on and on), but we really feel this is what God’s calling us to do.

So – the question today is – are you afraid to serve?

I remember many situations growing up when my church group or my boy scout troup would visit a homeless shelter or an “assisted living” facility (I dont’ think they were called that back then). There were some scarry moments (including one terrifying moment when an elderly woman grabbed ahold of my arm and wouldn’t let go – and orderlies had to pry her hand, which seemed incredibly strong for a woman her age, off my forearm) but for the most part, I felt good to be able to assist those in need.

I’ve done a few of those things since I’m all “grown up” now, but not very many. Am I too busy? Am I concerned about the ROI (return on investment)? Perhaps.

Let’s see what the Bible says about serving others:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'” (Matthew 25:35-40).

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Jesus has many teachings about how we are to love and serve others with higher regard for others than for ourselves. Look at the story of the good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10. Jesus even goes as far as to say our greatness is measured by how we serve others (see Mark 10:43).

Lastly, I want to point you to another scripture to consider about serving others:

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever” (1 Peter 4:10-11).

In order to serve others effectively, it’s important to know how you’re wired up.

What? What is that supposed to mean?

I’m talking about your motivational “gifts.” God has given each of us, before we were born, certain gifts that make us unique and provide our motivations and our drive. If you don’t know your gifts, how can you operate effectively? Serve “with the strength God provides” – that’s operating within your gifts. For more info about gifts, check out 1 Corinthians chapters 12 & 13.

There are plenty of other resources – and I’d like to personally recommend you take a Myers-Briggs personality type indicator assesment. I took this in college when pursuing my M.B.A. and it has forever changed the way I look at myself – and has helped me finally understand why I do some of the things I do they way I do them. Want to go deeper?

Consider serving others. Face your fears and just do it! Find out what your gifts are and jump right in!

I know – it goes against our very human nature, but it’s a valid phenomenon nonetheless. Try it – you’ll see. It’s God’s plan for you to be serving others somewhere, somehow. Until you take “The Plunge” you’ll never know what you’ve been missing.

peace,
e

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Facing Your Fears – Going Deeper With God (Part 2)

worship arms raised - Facing Your Fears - Going Deeper With God (Part 2)Yesterday, I posted my thoughts on how God has been using the new series at my church to show me that I still have fears to deal with. The series is called “The Plunge: Faith in Action” and it’s all about jumping in all the way and going deeper with our relationship with God.

I shared how some childhood experiences with the ocean taught me to fear being in the water. So – I took up SCUBA diving to help get over my fear. It worked! When I discovered SCUBA, I discovered a whole new world filled with wonder and awe. But, had I decided to avoid my fears, I would have never have know the amazing world of coral reefs.

Similarly, until I jumped in all the way with my relationship with God, I never experienced the fullness of the miracle of the Creator of all this living inside me. I never experienced the peace that holds me in the most terrifying storm and keeps me calm. I never experienced love as only the One who is defined by love can give. I never felt accepted and cherished just for who I am, and not for what I do or don’t do.

So – how do you do that? How do you jump in? I mean, it’s not like you literally jump in the baptismal pool to experience more of God. Jumping in is an analogy. So, what does it look like to go deeper with God?

Well, let’s start with worship.

Look back at this past week. Ask yourself these questions:

  • When did I actually stop what I was doing and worship God?
  • When did I stop and thank Him and praise Him for who He is and for what He’s done?

I mean, look around – all creation is crying out to the glory of God, all we can see, and all that’s under the ocean – even in space. God has gone to such great lengths to provide us with not one hundred stars to enjoy – but hundreds of billions of stars – some of which we have yet to even discover. When did you thank Him for the stars?

Every Sunday, I see people come to church and just stand there during worship and praise, all stoic and “reverent”, while a few people around them are singing, clapping, raising their hands – all in worship to God. I know what it is…

Fear.

If you’re one of those kinds of people, you might be saying, “you don’t understand – I was raised to believe that we are to be ‘reverent’ in church and not ‘act out’.” I understand. I was also raised in such a manner. I was taught that it’s okay to jump and shout and scream at a baseball game, but NOT in church!

Fear.

I remember being at a church in Waco, TX with my good friend, David. He had been going to this church for a while before I showed up. When the music started, everyone in the place – from the youngest toddler to the oldest blue-haired lady – stood up and started singing and clapping. Many were closing their eyes and raising their hands. This was my very first experience with “contemporary worship” and, frankly, it bothered me very much.

After church, I sat David down on the dingy, orange 70s-style couch in our apartment and gave him a piece of my mind. I told him that I had looked up to his spiritual leadership all through high school, but he had lost his mind and joined some kind of cult. I told him I was disappointed in his discernment and that that church he was going to was corrupting him.

Fear.

But – I went back. Something about seeing all those people really, tangibly worshiping God, as uncomfortable it was, was very attractive to me. I kept going back.

Then, one evening – I remember standing there as people around me were obviously enjoying their time with the Lord. I was suddenly feeling very left out. I SO wanted to participate, but I just couldn’t jump in. Then, with my hands shaking and my stomach all aflutter, I did it! I quietly raised my hands (not my arms, just my hands) and barely above my belt, but they were raised. I looked around to see if anyone noticed – but they were all too busy worshipping God for themselves to notice what I was dealing with.

The next week, I raised my hands to my shoulders, then one hand above my head. How ‘bout that? Nothing bad happened. Finally, after a few weeks of “testing the water” I went for it. I threw my hands up and closed my eyes, focusing less on myself, and more on the words of the song, singing them to my Father from my heart.

The joy I felt still gives me goose bumps now as I recall the experience. It was indescribable. I had, without realizing it, given God a sacrifice of praise. And, my God responded. The worship times became so alive – so sweet – after that. I wanted more (which ultimately led me on a dangerous trek through the dark waters of emotionalism and manipulation through music – but that’s another story. There is a balance – with God at the center, not us).

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I think about when I sing to God?
  • Am I more concerned with what those around me might think than what my “audience of one” thinks?
  • What am I afraid of?

Of course, it’s not just about worshiping in church. Worship is a lifestyle – it’s something you do all day every day, in different ways: prayer, quiet meditation, breath prayers (a great idea from my good friend Hook), your finances, helping others, reading the Bible, working “as unto the Lord.”

Jump in with both feet. Worship Him with all your heart, soul, strength and all your mind. Like me discovering the beauty and awe of the ocean, you may find yourself in a whole new world of sweet fellowship with your heavenly Father.

Tomorrow, I want to put out some other thoughts on what it means to go deeper with our relationship with God. Please feel free to share any similar experiences with worship you’ve had.

peace,
e

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Facing Your Fears – Going Deeper with God (Part 1)

Two boys jumping off dock - Facing Your Fears - Going Deeper with GodThe pastor at our church, Tim Whipple, has been doing a series on “The Plunge: Faith in Action.” It’s all about jumping in and going deeper with God.

God has used this series to really stir up a number of things in me. That’s what I love about my God the most – He loves me too much to just let me sit here with my baggage and my fears. I’m starting to realize that I’m still dealing with so many fears. So much of the baggage and junk left in my life has a lot to do with fear.

I remember when I first moved to Florida in 1992. Living so close to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world meant that friends, family and co-workers would often invite me to the beach – which would inevitably lead to … swimming in the ocean. I’d begin to realize my anxiety as I start out into the water. As I got about knee deep the anxiety would become very noticeable and would increase as I continued into deeper water. By waist-deep, I’d be near panicked.

Friends and co-workers would call me to come deeper and all I could say was, “No, I’m good,” and smile and wave.

I was afraid. I was embarrassed.

You see, I spent most of my life in the mid-West, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Indiana. I didn’t make it to the beach much – and I was okay with that! When I did go, terrible things seemed to happen to me.

One of my first memories is when I was about four or five years old. I remember walking along in the shallows watching the water around my ankles come in and go out. I was fascinated by all the little crabs that buried themselves in the sand. With my back to the ocean, facing the crowded beach on a beautiful Saturday morning I was unaware of the huge wave that was coming at me from behind (well, huge for a five year old anyway). I was slammed down to the ground, my face buried in the sand. As the wave returned to sea, it took my bathing suit with it. I remember standing up in shock, covered with damp sand from head to toe, naked in front of the astonished crowd.

I was afraid. I was embarrassed.

sea liceA few years later at South Padre Island, I came out of the water to discover something all over my body that I didn’t even know existed – sea lice! My parents, sister and a even few strangers at the beach were all picking these things off of me by the hundreds – each time creating a red mark and a small welt.

And, there are other stories about me near water, including a near death experience or two. The bottom line is – I was very afraid of the ocean.

So, after living with the fear and embarrassment in Florida for a while, I remember one day getting tired of being afraid and embarrassed. And I decided to face my fears head on. I decided to take S.C.U.B.A diving lessons.

To make a long story short, I loved it! That feeling of floating in the sea – it felt like I was flying! And, the peaceful, tranquil sound of bubbles escaping to the surface as I breathed out of my regulator. It was better than anything I had experienced in my life!

And, the amazing sights! The coral reefs blew my mind. I’d never seen so much vivid color, coral and fish and bizarre creatures of every kind were everywhere – every square inch teaming with life. I ended up setting up a salt-water aquarium in my home so I could watch the action for hours. I pursued SCUBA with everything. I took classes to become certified diver, rescue diver, night diver, nitrox diver. I purchased my own equipment and went diving every chance I got.

Then, one day I realized that had I not decided to face my fears, I would have missed out on all this. I would have never known the beauty and thrill that existed beneath the surface of the ocean. I would have continued living with my fears and embarrassment – and, I would have survived – but not as well off, somehow. I would never have known to what extent my Creator went into for my enjoyment.

And, that’s how it is with some people and their relationship with God. I know people living in fear of “going deeper” with God. They dip their toes in the water, maybe even wade along the beach (just be careful of those waves that sneak up behind you!), but they never jump in all the way.

Where are you? Are you dipping your toes in? Are you swimming around, but afraid to go out “too deep”? Or would you rather just stay home and avoid the beach all together?

Tomorrow, I will discuss what it means to go “deeper with God.”

peace,
e

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Corporate Worship is a Good Thing! – Psalms 81

Corporate Worship is a Good Thing - Psalms 81How I would love to have the opportunity to sit under the leadership of King David. As a worship leader and songwriter, this Psalm stirred something within me.

I sat for a moment as I meditated on the meaning behind this Psalm and I saw King David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writing this song, then introducing it in the assembly before the people. You see, David was an accomplished musician and songwriter, with the gift of the spirit of prophecy.

God, through David the Psalmist, speaks to Israel:

8 “Listen to me, O my people, while I give you stern warnings. O Israel, if you would only listen! 9 You must never have a foreign god; you must not bow down before a false god. 10 For it was I, the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things. 11 “But no, my people wouldn’t listen. Israel did not want me around. 12 So I let them follow their blind and stubborn way, living according to their own desires. 13 But oh, that my people would listen to me! Oh, that Israel would follow me, walking in my paths! 14 How quickly I would then subdue their enemies! How soon my hands would be upon their foes! 15 Those who hate the LORD would cringe before him; their desolation would last forever. 16 But I would feed you with the best of foods. I would satisfy you with wild honey from the rock.”

As I thought about this more, it occurred to me that David used music to excite and inspire people to what God was doing or saying that particular day. This is great encouragement to me, as a worship leader at my church! I sometimes get all wrapped around the axle, being very careful hear God about which songs to choose – so the music will inspire and guide, but not manipulate or exclude.

I like what Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible says about this passage:

When David, by the Spirit, introduced the singing of psalms into the temple-service this psalm was intended for that day, to excite and assist the proper devotions of it. All the psalms are profitable; but, if one psalm be more suitable than another to the day and observances of it, we should choose that. The two great intentions of our religious assemblies, and which we ought to have in our eye in our attendance on them, are answered in this psalm, which are, to give glory to God and to receive instruction from God, to ‘behold the beauty of the Lord and to enquire in his temple;’'”

“Two great intentions of our religious assemblies” really gave me a much needed lift.

As I pictured David leading the people that had gathered in the assembly to worship God, I was once again reassured that corporate gatherings, led by the Holy Spirit for the purposes of giving glory to God and receiving instruction from Him, are very much our heritage and proper for today.

Yes, we can (and need to) worship Him on our own – but the design we’ve been given includes corporate worship gatherings.

Praise God…together.

peace,
e

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God Will Make A Way – Psalms 77

Garden pathway - God will make a way - Psalms 77I don’t usually do this, but today I read my good friend’s email about Psalms 77 before I posted. My good friend Jan has been “dBraggin'” for years now and has incredible insight. What’s dBraggin’ you ask? It’s a simple method to keep you accountable in reading the Bible every day. See www.dbrag.org for more information.

Rather than put my own thoughts, I decided to post Jan’s very insightful email.

Not only is he very insightful and faithful to daily Bible reading, he’s an amazing leader for the Pinellas, FL Wildmen men’s group. And, he has been a great friend. For more information about Jan, see his website at: http://www.tinybeetle.us/dbrag

Anyway – here’s Jan’s post:

This depressing psalm concludes with an intriguing few verses. In most translations it would be missed, but look at how the New Living Translation worded them.

Psalm 77:16-20 “When the Red Sea saw you, O God, its waters looked and trembled! The sea quaked to its very depths. The clouds poured down their rain; the thunder rolled and crackled in the sky. Your arrows of lightning flashed. Your thunder roared from the whirlwind; the lightning lit up the world! The earth trembled and shook. Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters—a pathway no one knew was there! You led your people along that road like a flock of sheep, with Moses and Aaron as their shepherds.”

This account of the Red Sea crossing by the Israelites sheds new light on the events that transpired. Apparently God used a violent storm, tornado, and an earthquake. Then in the last two verses comes a revelation that has recently been discovered.

Biblical Archaeologist, Ron Wyatt, in researching clues about where a vast number of people would have been able to cross the Red Sea; where mountains were located nearby the opposite shore, and where the people would have been boxed in as described in Exodus, located a canyon with a wide beach, known as Wadi Watir. It perfectly fit the biblical descriptions. The beach was wide enough to accommodate two million plus people to camp. In 1978 he and two of his sons dove to the seabed and discovered chariot wheels. He took them to the Director of Egyptian Antiquities. The director immediately announced they were from the eighteenth dynasty – the correct time-period for the Exodus.

Now comes the really interesting part. The Gulf of Aquaba (Red Sea) is very deep, up to a mile in some spots. Additionally the angle of descent is 45 degrees or more. There is no way you could get animals and wagons down and then back up that steep of an incline. However, in only one spot, and precisely the spot where Ron Wyatt found the chariot wheels, he found an underwater land-bridge! It lies at a depth of only 850 meters and is about 900 meters wide. This land bridge, if exposed by the supernatural actions of God would have allowed for a gradual descent from the beach, and would have been wide enough to allow the entire populous to cross in a single evening. There truly is a pathway through the sea!

Heavenly Father, thank You for allowing evidence to remain, evidence that can strengthen our faith. You truly are awesome! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

He makes a way where there is no way! Jan

Ain’t he good? I’m blessed to have such a friend.

peace,
e

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