Is My Faith a Joke?

IMG_1992The other night I was watching The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, a rerun from back in May, when he told this joke in his monologue:

“The St. Louis Rams made history on Saturday by drafting Michael Sam, making him the first openly gay player in the NFL. Yep, an NFL player who’s never been with a woman — or as Tim Tebow put it, ‘Eh, it’s been done.’”

After the first part of the joke, Fallon and the audience applauded at decision of the St. Louis Rams, and then laughed at reference to Tebow’s faith and belief.

I was fairly fired up, mainly because in a world today that raises the banner for “equality,” this joke was a microcosm of what reality is really like. I know, it’s just a joke on a tv show, but it got my gears turning. And then I got even more fired up, but this time it was directed at me.

This whole instance made me ask myself, “Is my faith a joke?” What does it say about me, other Christians, and the Church, when what we believe and so many have given so much for is the punchline in a joke?

What do others say about God because of me? Is my faith a joke?

Paul dealt with this very issue when he wrote the letter to the Romans. Actually, he was bringing up an issue that was a constant in Israel’s history. Their lives and actions did not match up with the God and faith they professed. Take a look at what Paul wrote in Romans 2:17-14:

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself area guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

Verse 24 is a reference to Isaiah 52:5, when the prophet deals with the same problem. No one took God seriously because the Jews were no better than anyone else. Their lives reflected no difference, no desirable qualities.

Jim Putnam wrote about this idea regarding today’s Christians. In his book DiscipleShift, he looks at the fact that Christian marriages are just as likely to end in divorce, Christians are not healthier, in as much debt, are not more generous, and so on. Basically, overall, our faith really is a joke to those that look on. Many of us are trying to hold to the days when being a “Christian” was something that was respected or admired, but those days are quickly crumbling away.

Even though Christians are divided on issues in our culture today, the Bible is very clear on many things. It is also equally clear on how much the world rejects God and all that He stands for. We can never expect to tell the world that such and such is a sin and expect anyone to listen if our lives do not show that following Jesus is better than anything else in life.

Ask yourself, are people laughing at God because of my life? Is my faith a joke?

As long as there is sin in the world, people will always reject God – even if we lived incredible lives full of faith. But we must ask ourselves about the reality of our faith.

If we really want to change the world, we have to live in such a way that shows people that Jesus really DOES make a difference. Our lives at church and at home must be the same. We must love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Our marriages have to be better. Our business dealings have to be better. Everything should be better – because Jesus is better!

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A New Year’s Resolution You Can Keep: Be Who You Say You Are

Deuteronomy 6:4-6 – 4″Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.

James 2:14-17 – 14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

James 3:13 – 13Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

When I was in the 7th grade, there was a girl I liked. Being the 7th grade Casanova I was, I asked a friend to ask her out for me. Smooth right? I know. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to go in 7th though?

This is side by side picture one of my friends sent me on Twitter, saying how much I looked like Martin Freeman, who plays the Bilbo the Hobbit. Or maybe I'm really him?

This is side by side picture one of my friends sent me on Twitter, saying how much I looked like Martin Freeman, who plays the Bilbo the Hobbit. Or maybe I’m really him?

Well, surprisingly, she said yes, and we were “a couple.” However, after about a week, we called it off (more she than me). We talked on the phone once maybe, but we never went out or did couple-like things. I mean, come on, we were in 7th grade! Still, there was no point in being boyfriend and girlfriend in title only. I’m also going to say she had something against gingers, but that could just be my bitterness talking.

How silly would it be to say “I’m married,” or “we’re dating,” but never do anything to demonstrate it? What if I said I was a pro basketball player but never played any games or put on the uniform? What if you needed emergency surgery, I stepped in and said, “Hello, I’m the Doctor,” and you asked me how many surgeries I had performed to which I answered, “absolutely none”? What would your reaction be?

The principle is the same for any relationship. Imagine if you got married to someone, but you never talked, never spent time together, or never did anything that showed people you were a married couple. What kind of marriage would that be? Husband and wife would be mere titles without any significance.

Our relationship to God is quite similar. So many of us will claim the title “Christian,” and yet our lives do not demonstrate a walk with Christ. Quite simply, many of us are not who we say we are. I have been there before – I really think we all have. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In the verses above, we see a cross-section of the Bible that goes from the Old Testament to the New. Deuteronomy 6: the “greatest commandment” as Jesus put it in the Gospels, and also known as the shema to Jews, tells us to love God with everything we are – our heart and soul and might. This is quite interesting considering where this idea is found. These words appear in different forms all throughout the book of Deuteronomy, interwoven between instructions God gives His people to live by.

The Old Testament is often considered nothing but rules and regulations, and many consider that to the “old way of life” before Jesus came. But it was never about just doing this or not doing that in order to be a good Yahweh worshipper. A relationship with God back then was just the same as it is now – in the heart. HOWEVER, all those instructions surrounding those incredible words of “love the Lord your God,” are how we demonstrate that relationship with God. It’s how a life with God is lived out!

How we live for The Lord is an external sign of the internal relationship with Him in our hearts.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, writes words that have long been studied by the Church. He says that faith without works is dead – a Christian that does not really follow Christ is a Christian in title only! And as he continues on in chapter three, you should be able to tell who is and isn’t a Christian by how one lives his life!

In other words: be who you say you are.

Does what we do save us and make us right with God? No. God has always been interested in our faith from our heart first, but what makes that faith real?

A real faith is one where God makes a difference in every aspect of your life – from how you talk to your parents, kids, or wife to how you act at school to what kind of business person you are. Christ followers are not trying to just be seen, but a real faith can’t help but be the “light to the world,” shining through the darkness.

As the New Year approaches, you may be considering making some sort of resolution. This year, make one that really counts. Be who you say you are. If you follow Christ, then make that relationship with God real by how you life with and for Him.

What Made David So Special? // 1 Sam. 13:14, 16:7, Acts 13:22

Lately I’ve been asking myself this question, what made David so special? He is described as a “man after God’s own heart,” and yet there were so many things David did wrong. He committed adultery, murder, lied, and even battled some pride issues. He even writes in Psalm 51 that “surely I was sinful since birth” and asked for a new heart to be created in him by God.IMG_4481

So how was he a man after God’s own heart? Despite all his faults, God never left him, and David was always a huge figure in the history of Israel. The answer lies in what really set David apart from so many others.

When it came to the Greatest Commandment, David nailed it. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 has written the “Greatest Commandment” which is also quoted by Christ in the Gospels, “4″Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

If you look through the history of all the Kings of Israel, David clearly sets himself apart by his worship. He truly loves the Lord with everything. He never worships a foreign god, consults a medium, or tries to be God. He had no other gods before him.

There are only a few other kings that come along – Asa, Hezekiah, Josiah, and a few others – that display this some type of attitude and behavior, but David is the shining example of it. And what set the other kings apart was their actions concerning the worship of other gods in the land. Asa was even described in 2 Chronicles 14 & 15 as serving the Lord “wholeheartedly.” He had an amazing prayer in 2 Chr. 14:11,

“Then Asa cried out to the LORD his God: ‘LORD, there is no one besides You to help the mighty and those without strength. Help us, LORD our God, for we depend on You, and in Your name we have come against this large army. Yahweh, You are our God. Do not let a mere mortal hinder You.’”

So what’s the point of all this? What amazes me about David is the dynamic of his relationship with God. In spite of his moral shortcomings, God never leaves Him. Times got tough and David even underwent discipline, but God never left Him. What David did was a lower priority to the condition of his heart.

God looks at the heart first. He does not ignore what people do or don’t do, but those things come second. Notice what Isaiah 29:13 says, “And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me…” God is not upset with what His people are doing; He cannot stand the difference between their hearts and lives.

What does this mean for us today: What or who is number one in your heart? What drives your life?

We are not going to be perfect. We are going to mess up, and God knows that. God knew David would mess up, and boy did he! But he still sought the Lord first, and that is what drove his life. When David did mess up, he turned back to the Lord and not something else to make things right.

Our hearts need to be our number one concern before we try to “live better.” God wants us to live for Him, but He wants our hearts first.

That is what made David so special: God had his heart. That is why he was a man “after God’s own heart.”

Who has your heart?

The Real Heart of a King – The Real Heart of a Leader // Deuteronomy 17:14-20

I read a great book not long ago entitled Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership, written by a man named John Dickson. It was a leadership book with the main idea that the greatest leaders are those who are humble and servants. Those are the types of leaders we look up to and admire. In the past few days a photo has been going around the internet of a NYC police officer kneeling down to give a homeless man some boots for his naked feet.

NYC Police Officer giving a pair of boots he bought for a homeless man with no shoes.

Conversely, we tend to think negatively of those who are arrogant and full of themselves. Celebrities, athletes, and other leaders who lack humility are the ones that we tend to not be a fan of. When he left Cleveland to go to Miami, Lebron James experienced quite of bit of backlash when he held a press conference and had a one-hour special just to announce his move. Brett Favre could have been a legend in Green Bay and football but tarnished his legacy when he chose to not gracefully bow out of the game, along with some moral issues that came later. Political leaders like John Edwards who misused money to meet own needs or men like Castro who live in wealth while his country is in poverty are vilified.

However, long ago the world was different from today in this respect. Ancient leaders were qualified by their status, wealth, and displayed greatness. The Caesars of Rome put up giant statues of themselves and put their faces on the currency.

What is interesting about this time is how God defined the type of leader He wanted to see for His people. In the book of Deuteronomy, the Lord is laying out how life is to be lived in His Kingdom for His people. The main theme of the whole book is to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength – with one’s everything! But in chapter 17, God describes the type of leader in His Kingdom; He gives the description of a king:

14″When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, “I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,” 15you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, “You shall never return that way again.” 17And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.

18″And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.19And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

A king by the Lord’s standards is a man who does not build himself up by an army, wealth, or wives – He is a man who follows and depends on the Lord. He is also a man who is not above His people but serves His people. The king is not above the law but embodies and enacts the law. He is a true servant, humble leader.

If you read forward from this point, you will not find any kings of Israel that really fit this description. Even David, a man after God’s own heart, falls short of many of these standards. Josiah is a bright spot in the kings that follow, but still none seem to come even close to this…until the real King arrives.

Then Jesus Christ came into the world in a manger, in a barn, in a small, unimportant town. Wise men and shepherds bow down before Him in the midst of animals, hay, and the smells. He grows up poor, lives without a home, and has 12 men that follow Him.

Jesus says things like, “The greatest of these will be your servant,” and “greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends.” But He also says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

And there it is. Jesus is the King that Israel has always needed, but never really wanted. Even the disciples, after Jesus had died and risen from the grave, were asking when Jesus was going to restore the kingdom. No one could quite get it then, but soon they surely did. Jesus displayed what a true king was like – what a true leader should be, 1400 years (or so) in the making.

John Dickson writes in his book about how Jesus totally revolutionized our view of leaders. It was only after Christ that humility was a quality desired in leaders. He was the one who changed it all! Now we really can’t stand those that don’t follow His example. Even most people who do not believe in Jesus feel this way!

But it all started back in Deuteronomy 17, and it tells us so much about God. With Him, it’s not about status, accomplishments, or all the things we think make people great. Greatness comes from a heart that loves God with everything and a heart that loves to serve people.

May we all, especially those of us that lead, have the heart of a true leader, the heart of a true king.

The Nose Knows // 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Grilled PB&Js – Absolutely Delicious

The olfactory senses are absolutely brilliant. Our minds connect to so many things through the senses, but a certain fragrance can bring up so much imagery in the mind.

Not long ago, we had a small cabinet built and painted to put over the washing machine. The first several days it was there, I could smell that fresh paint smell. That exact smell took me back to when my family moved into the house I grew up in many years ago. As soon as we moved in we painted most of the walls in the house, and it had that same smell for days. Specific memories and impressions came to my mind the instant I smelled that paint.

Counselors and other therapists will often not wear cologne or perfume because of this same concept. However, their reason is to avoid bringing up certain memories. Someone who had been abused, for instance, can be taken back to the horrible time when it all happened by smelling a similar fragrance. Those who work with rape victims are never supposed to wear any kind of cologne or even lotion that smells.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians about the “fragrance of Christ.” The apostle was writing about the previous confrontation that we can read about in 1 Corinthians 5, and by the end of chapter 2 in this letter, he takes a different direction.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 “14 But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. And who is competent for this?”

As Christians live their lives out, we leave an aroma of Christ to the world. People see and experience Christ through us, whether we know it or not. And just like the olfactory senses in our noses, the aroma of Christ can have a powerful effect on others.

For some we are going to be a sweet smelling, life-giving fragrance that people are longing for. Paul’s imagery is most likely centered on incense, a powerful thing in the ancient world. And our goal should be to bring that “smell” that helps to bring people to a positive image of Christ.

Some folks won’t like how we smell at all. One reason is some people just don’t like the smell of good things, or the fragrance of God. To these people we can’t really do anything at all. God must work on their hearts. Still, we can be a stench in other ways that we can control. We can be “burnt toast” Christians that cause people to wrinkle their noses and not have anything to do with Christ or the church.

Paul asks a great question though, and it may be one that you are asking too: “Who is competent for this?” In other words, “Who can possibly achieve this kind of life?” Being a pleasing aroma is often difficult. We sweat. We stink. And sometimes, we just don’t care about how we smell. Sin does that to us.

Our only hope is to let the Holy Spirit guide us and make us the fragrance of God. The transforming power of His leadership is what makes us smell sweet. Doing it on our own may produce some results, but ultimately we will fall short. Have you ever had that one friend who put on way TOO much cologne? Or maybe you knew someone who felt like deodorant was a conspiracy and no one really needed to wear it? That’s how we get when we try to do it ourselves.

Today, just pray that you would be a sweet smell to the world. May we lead people to Christ in a way that their minds are eternally etched with the aroma of life.

Be a Positive (+), Because You Don’t Know How Many Negatives (-) Someone Has Had

Do you ever let things bother you more than they probably should? I do. I’m a people pleaser and type A personality, so when things don’t always go how they should or something isn’t kosher, I really let it get to me.

So in this post I am going to be transparent and honest, and hopefully it can be a positive to you.

Even though I try to stay positive, sometimes negatives can really get me down. The other day I had a negative come up. The week had been long, I was physically and mentally tired, and this negative just ate at me like a termite into a tree.

My mind continued to work with all the ways to fix the issue, wrestling with feelings of failure and inadequacy. All the times you preach and teach about our worth in Jesus and how much He loves us – and when the time comes for me to use the truth to face the lies I find myself not doing so well.

Going into the next day I still carried the negative with all its effects and me. As the day moved slowly on, people began to visit with me (not knowing what was going on because I was putting on my best smiley face). Moving from conversation to conversation, folks began to encourage me and give me some great positives. I wasn’t asking or fishing for them. But I do think God was speaking through others and saying, “You aren’t a failure. Look to Me for your worth. You may fail at times, but you are not a failure.”

Those people did not know what was going on behind the scenes, but for my one negative I heard and saw at least ten positives. As I reflected on this even more, I wondered what I am in the life of others. Am I a positive (+) or a negative (-)?

Proverbs 15:13 says, “A joyful heart makes a face cheerful, but a sad heart [produces] a broken spirit.” Proverbs 15:15, “All the days of the oppressed are miserable, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.”

In my own life I was challenged by this to be a positive in the lives of others, because you never know how many negatives someone has had before you have seen them.

As Christians we are the light of the world (Matthew 5). And I believe while we struggle in the life, we must still shine our light in the darkness of others’ lives.

Leaders Who Love Success Use Others, but Leaders Who Love Jesus Serve Others.

Reality TV is somewhat of a paradox. It really isn’t as real as it appears to be. Clips are cut, manipulated. Characters are directed and plots are produced. Still, its unscripted nature is supposed to validate the “reality.”

I remember when the term “Reality TV” was starting to be coined. The first Survivor show was paving the way into a new realm of television. There had been other shows before it, but it was one of the trailblazers. Many people watched and became engrossed in the storylines of the show, and there was an interesting dynamic that rose from the interactions of the members of the cast: alliances to win.

You were “voted off the island” in Survivor. That’s how someone left the show. The idea was the weakest link of everyone would be the one voted off, but over time people started to form alliances with one another to assure votes would be stacked up again others and not themselves. These people did what they had to serve their own needs and stay in the game.

And that’s all it really was – a game. Donald Trump introduced us to “The Apprentice” and we saw an even more interesting dynamic as people were put in “real life” leadership positions. Still, it was a game where you had to whatever you had to do to win. Ultimately, success was about taking care of you first.

As Christians, we can get pulled in to this paradigm very easily. We want to see our churches, ministries, Sunday School classes, small groups, and whatever else grow and “succeed.” Some of us (mainly in the ministry) want to climb the ladder and get to bigger churches or be known as a Christian leader.

When we have this mindset, the people around us become tools to our success. They become numbers that we need to increase. They become strategies to develop and enact. They become the target of marketing and the validation of what we do.

But did Jesus operate this way? The time Jesus spent with people was not focused on building a ministry. He spent time loving the unloved, the sick, and the “unimportant.” And so often, He loved others that would not love back or give anything in return. These people were not beneficial in the way we might think.

Because of this, the “important” people sought Jesus out. They wanted to find Him. Nicodemus sought Jesus out in John chapter 3. A rich young ruler came to Jesus. The centurion came for healing for his servant. Christ did not neglect them either, but he was not focused on those who would help Him promote what He was doing. But when He lived His life the way He did, people came to find Him.

What was the motivation for this type of life and love? Humility. Jesus was so humble, even when He really did not have to be. But time and time again, He pointed to His Father and the Kingdom of God. Real success for Jesus that He showed to us was loving others and letting others see God through Him.

When we love others, people see Jesus through us. As Christians and ministers of the Gospel, we must lead people to love Jesus more than us. His love is what they (and we) really need.

Don’t love with an agenda to build yourself or your ministry. Love with the pure motivation to be Jesus to others. As Paul wrote in Romans 12, “Let love be genuine.”

We live in a world where we often do things because they will benefit us in some way. The alliances on Survivor were made because they would use people to get what they want. May it never even be close to that in why we minister and love people. Real Christ-like love is humble and expects nothing in return.

You know what is amazing though? There is SO much we get in return for loving that way. Loving others because we love Jesus, being the picture of Jesus to the world, is such a deep communion with the Holy Spirit. There is no greater place to be, no greater life than that.

If you love success, then you will use others to succeed no matter what it takes. And if you are leading people, they will live their lives in the same way. And some very big and “important” things may be built, but without love, they are meaningless.

If you love Christ, then love others because that is who we are and that is how He loved us.

Philippians 2:5-11, “5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Andrew Peterson – Songwriter & Storyteller with a new album, “Light for the Lost Boy” (@AndrewPeterson)

Andrew Peterson

On my birthday during my Freshman year in college, one of my best friends Adam handed me a CD as a present. Adam, one of the best djembe players in the ‘verse, and I had been all over the world leading worship and sharing music with folks, so I knew this was going to be something good. And it was. The album was “Clear to Venus” by Andrew Peterson.

Peterson is a songwriter, but he is much more than that. He is a storyteller. His songs are for every audience an inspired by God, love and life. He is also a talented author and all-around creative person. You can see more about Andrew and his works at http://www.andrew-peterson.com/

Peterson’s music has been something I’ve always enjoyed throughout the years, and his latest album was released today, “Light for the Lost Boy.” Lyrically it is masterful, and demonstrates Peterson’s continued excellence at his art of writing.

Musically the album has developed more of an edge, but has stayed true to the core of who Peterson is. Personally, it has been one of my favourites he has released. The production is excellent and will again please any audience and ear.

One of the greatest strengths of Andrew Peterson’s music is the hope that it brings. Life is difficult for us all, but God’s grace and love carries us through into fields of green. On this latest album, songs like “Rest Easy” and “You’ll Find Your Way” push you to not give up even when all seems lost.

Great songs, great stories, and great music await you with Andrew Peterson. Check out his latest album on iTunes (http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/light-for-the-lost-boy/id550675056) or you can also go to his website for different packages, including vinyl!

Grace and peace,

Doug

Power When Unplugged // 1 Corinthians 1:18

There’s a plan in everything. At the beginning of our Sunday School yesterday, one of the church’s power lines burnt in half. This knocked out most of the power to the church yesterday morning, which as our pastor Michael wrote in his blog, began a Sunday that no one would forget.

Our church members were like champs with the situation, not really even being phased due to the lack of power. Classes continued and no one complained. Going from Sunday School to the Worship Service was a bit chaotic with the mass transit of people down dark hallways, but apart from one person being stuck in an elevator for a few minutes, there were still no big problems.

Once we all arrived in the Worship Center with no lights, sound, screens, or A/C, everything was great. Honestly, for me it was both exciting and refreshing. Not that I enjoy the chaos that comes with some of the unexpected issues, but I really saw God teaching us something in all of this.

Worshipping yesterday reminded me of the times I’ve been around the world worshipping with believers in a wide variety of settings. From the Great Wall of China to the top of a pagoda in Asia to small houses to hotel rooms to churches in the middle of the rainforest, there have been so many times when I’ve seen God’s Church worship without the need for electricity, lights, screens, even a band. Just pure, honest, God-desiring worship.

Are great lights and sound in worship bad? Not at all! What IS bad is when we start to worship those things instead of the Creator and Saviour of the Universe. If the music doesn’t sound a certain way or the sanctuary is too old looking, then we don’t really engage. Or if the A/C is out, we get really grumpy and just can’t wait until church is over.

When our worship becomes dependent on the mediums for which it is carried, then we are unplugging from the power of God. Paul writes to the church in Corinth a verse about the power in a believer’s life,

“For the word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Cor. 1:18

Maybe in the comfort of our Christian lives here in our part of the world we have forgotten where the true power of what we believe resides – in the Cross. Maybe we have come to worship the power that comes from the power in the wall instead.

Again, I’m not saying things that are used in worship today are bad. But I’ve been up leading worship and I’ve seen and felt that spirit from people – depending on a certain sound or look.

Michael Butler preaching with the electricity out.

Yesterday seemed like God was showing us here in Chickasha that His power doesn’t depend on power. He isn’t pleased if a worship service looks and sounds fantastic but the hearts of His people aren’t plugged in to Him.

Our pastor’s sermon yesterday, planned before this power outage, was out of 1 Corinthians 4, which is part of Paul’s plea to the people of Corinth of the real power of God. In verse 4:20 he writes, “For the Kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” Even the pastor of a church can be eloquent, smooth, and charismatic, but he is not plugged into God it does not mean anything!

All of this to say, from music to the preaching, REAL power comes from being unplugged from everything we think matters and plugged into the Holy Spirit. And as worshippers and members of the body of Christ, that is where we must be plugged in as well.

May your heart desire to bring honor and glory to God through worship wherever, however, and whenever you are.

Trading the Kingdom for a king // 1 Samuel 12

Ever feel like you got a bad deal on a trade in? It always seems like cars never quite the trade-in value we feel like they should. I remember one time I had a nice acoustic guitar that I paid quite a bit for, and I wanted to trade it in a music store for an electric and an amp. In my head, I figured the values were about the same.

When I went in, the people at the store looked over my guitar (in great shape by the way), and after some time they offered me a price, which was WELL below what I had hoped. As much as I wanted that electric and amp, I knew this was not a fair trade.

The people of Israel wanted a trade – they wanted to make a deal with God. Picking up the story of the Hebrews in 1 Samuel, up to this point Israel had been led by the Lord, His Law, and several men and women who “judged” or helped the people live the law out. This didn’t always go like it should, for man is man, and several of these judges fell short.

Even before that the people had Moses and Joshua – great leaders but still lead only by the voice of the Lord and made it known that it was God who led the people.

But in the time of Samuel, the people of Israel were not happy being unlike the rest of the world, not having a king. Everyone around them had a king for their kingdom, and the Hebrews were not satisfied to have God as their leader.

Don’t we act the same way? The people of Israel had the Creator of the Universe leading them. They were HIS people and He wanted to be THEIR God, but time and time they rejected him. They “traded down.”

We will do that in different ways too. We will say we are God’s people, but our time, money, energy, and worship goes to things that are not worth it. Samuel, the great prophet who lead Israel until they had a king made this statement in his farewell address in 1 Samuel 12:20-21,

“Don’t be afraid. Even though you have committed all this evil, don’t turn away from following the Lord. Instead, worship the Lord with all your heart. Don’t turn away to follow worthless things that can’t profit or deliver you; they are worthless.”

I know I’ve been there before. I’ve felt like I’ve messed up so badly that even God wouldn’t want me back, so what’s the point? And I have also spent plenty of time chasing after worthless things.

Any trade that we accept in exchange for God is a trade-DOWN. Make no mistake – you can’t get better than Christ and His Kingdom.

All the time in the Old Testament people would carve an idol out of wood, stone, or metal and worship it. And so many Scriptures showed how foolish that is. Habakkuk 2:19 says, “Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.”

Between people and idols, we far too quickly put our lives and loves in the hands of corruptible, lacking things. Take just a minute and read 1 Samuel 12 and Samuel’s words to the people. Look and see if there is any correlation you can see between our lives today and how Israel was acting.

Are you chasing after worthless things? Our time is much too short for that. The Lord is the One who loves us and will deliver us. Put your trust and faith in Him.

Don’t get the raw end of a lousy trade. Follow Christ, He will take you on a life of unending worth.