The world of social media is a hard place to hang around today. Millions of people voted yesterday and most of them have extreme reactions to the outcome. Emotions are running higher than they were before the election. Fear, hatred, anxiety, and disgust intermix with relief, love, excitement, and pride. I wrote a post four years ago with my response to Barrack Obama’s reelection. Not much has changed since then. There are sore losers and sore winners. Some people seem to have put themselves in the shoes of the candidates and don’t know how to appropriately respond to the results.
I understand what you are feeling if you voted for Hillary Clinton, and I can relate to you if you voted for a third-party candidate. I get it if you chose not to vote because you could not bear to vote for someone you don’t agree with. You may have wanted someone else to represent you from the primaries. You might have even been backing Donald Trump for the past eighteen months. I’ve been through all of those kinds of scenarios since I started voting. You might say that the stakes are so much higher this time around, but I the stakes have always been high. That’s what keeps people coming back to vote every two or four years.
My family and I recently moved to a farm to be closer to the community that we are in ministry with. One of the things I love about it is the stillness and quietness of living in the country. There is still traffic that drives down the road as well as other connections to civilization, but there is also the sound of silence and a lack of city lights reflecting off of the atmosphere at night.
I paused to just look up as I was taking the trash down the long driveway. The dogs across the street were barking as they often do and there was a crisp chill to the air. Those things disappeared in that moment. I gazed into the clear night sky, engulfed in the wonder of my Creator. The stars that we see from the city are only a fraction of what is available in the night sky. Hidden behind the reflected city lights is a universe of awe and wonder.
I’ve had a lot on my mind over the past week. A few big projects kept me busy, but that didn’t stop my mind from racing. My heart and mind were feeling exhausted from the stress of live streaming at Crossroads Church – Boyce this weekend to the wave of emotions from reading the news about Pastor Freedom. I lead worship for a mini-conference at on Saturday morning, ending with I Surrender All. In that moment, I realized just how much I had to surrender as I sang that old hymn.
As a worship leader, I don’t just sing songs and hope others sing along. My goal is to always connect with God at a heart level first and then help others to do the same. I can’t expect to lead anyone else to the throne of God in worship if I am not heading there myself. That’s what it means to lead. You are not leading if you aren’t going somewhere. You’re just hanging out with everyone else.
I have a friend who I haven’t seen in over a year who is going through an incredibly difficult season. I, like thousands of others, have been praying for him. I have been praying for complete healing. I have been praying for his family, and miracles. Mutual friends and online reports have given me nearly all of my information about the situation. Sometimes it has been hard to pray, but I’ve still prayed with audacity and expectancy.
Today, I read something that made it hard to pray. It’s not that I don’t know how or what to pray, but the audacious and expectant prayers are harder than ever today. It was just two little words in the update, but those two words nearly crippled me in prayer. Two small words that bring a sense of hopeless to a battle that has been filled with so much hope. Two words that make the future look grim.
Nobody is perfect. We’ve heard it before and maybe even said it a few times. I’ve been thinking about how we tend to compare what we do wrong to others, almost justifying ourselves. We say, “At least I’m not that bad,” and continue on in what we know is wrong. I’ve used the example of speeding in the past, and it is an excellent example here. I may be going 70 in a 55 zone, but at least I’m not going 85 like all those cars passing me. Have you ever rationalized something that you knew was wrong when you saw someone else even more in the wrong? At least I’m not that bad.
We all have a tendency to do what we want the way we want to do it. It’s human nature. We might make sacrifices from time to time, but we generally try to get our way or do what we want every chance we can. And we rationalize away the guilt by comparing to others. Why is half the carton of ice cream gone? At least I didn’t eat it all like the lady on The Biggest Loser. Why are you looking at porn? A least I’m not having an affair like the guy down the street. How many drinks have you had tonight? At least I’m not driving. I’m not that bad.
Romans 3:23 is one of the first Bible verses that many people hear and learn on their way to accepting Christ as their savior. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That verse sets a standard. None of us has gone through life to this point without having sinned. We see it in others, and even if we don’t recognize it in our own lives, others see it in us. Some are comfortable continuing in a life of sin, but most people want to remove it from their lives. The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a guide anywhere for how to remove sin from your life.
I was struck by something as I read from Colossians this morning. We want to know how to remove sin, but maybe we should be learning to remove ourselves from sin. Joseph did that in Potiphar’s house to avoid sin. He got himself out of the situation. Cyclical sins are harder to get away from though; those sins that we find ourselves repeating over and over again. Generational sins that have plagued our families are difficult to run away from.
It is the Wednesday of Passion (or Holy) Week and a thought struck me as I was preparing for our student worship night tonight. As I often do when reviewing songs for a worship service, I began singing other worship songs in my head after I put my guitar down. Jesus at the Center.
Jesus at the center of it all
Jesus at the center of it all
from beginning to the end
it will always be
it’s always been You Jesus.
How often do I allow other things to push Jesus out of the center of my life?
The story has always been about Jesus. “In the beginning was The Word (Jesus)…” (John 1:1).
He was there at the dawn of creation and in every situation ever since.
From the fall to the flood to the cross where He shed blood, to this exact moment in time, Jesus is.
But there is so much for us to do, and so much going on, that outside of special times we all try to move beyond.
Beyond complete dependency to rely on our own strength.
Beyond a true heart of worship to fix our eyes on what we want.
Beyond faith that can move mountains just to hear the diagnosis.
Beyond patience for God to move because we don’t have the time.
But from beginning to end, there is one constant. Jesus.
I can’t believe how long it has been since I’ve written. I’ve journaled off and on, written “net outs” (one page book reports) for class, rewrote a couple of messages, and plenty of texts and emails over the past six months, but haven’t written anything else. I have not blogged. I have not even looked at the book I started. I haven’t written any new songs or even one line of lyrics. You could say it is a moment of writer’s block. But it is a different kind of writer’s block that has been missing from the equation.
It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, or thought about doing those things. I just haven’t been struck with inspiration when the time has been available. When the time has been available, I haven’t had the motivation to write. Right now, I have the time and the motivation, but little inspiration.
What is The Church? I mentioned in my post, The Importance of The Church, that I like to close the services at Crossroads Church – Bridgeville by saying “…be The Church…” but it occurs to me that those words may be an abstract concept to some, if not most. It’s easy to understand what it is to go to church, but what does it mean to be The Church?
Many of us who grew up in church were taught a little hand trick…
Here is the church,
here is the steeple.
Open the doors
and see all the people.
But a better description of The Church would be “Here is a building that’s topped with a steeple. Open the doors, The Church is the people.” Gathering with other followers of JESUS and bringing others with you is an important part of our Christian faith tradition, and an important aspect of being a part of The Church, but it is not what it means to be The Church.