Archive | December, 2012


Sentimentalizing, Sanitizing, and Spiritualizing Christmas

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to overstate the significance of the Incarnation. Writers, philosophers, poets, and composers through the centuries have searched in vain for words that adequately capture the wonder, mystery, beauty, and power of Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us. The miracle and meaning of the Incarnation can be so difficult to grasp that we can give up and start to view Christmas in ways that leave us impoverished and unimpressed with the real story. Even in the church our songs and reflections about about Christmas can fail to leave people gasping in amazement or humbled in awe that God would come to dwell among us. Sometimes …

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All the World Was Waiting

Okay, this is really old school, but I thought a few of you might enjoy this song I wrote and arranged for GLAD back in the 90s for their Voices of Christmas album. I tried to capture the reality that all of life is waiting until that final day when we will see our Savior’s face and will have to wait no more. Here are the lyrics: All the world was waiting for the promised One. Prophets through the ages claimed that He would come. Would He be a warrior, or a conquering king? Could he be the one who’d save us from our sin and suffering? All the world was waiting the night that you were born. God of life eternal, in a fragile form. Shepherds …

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A Salute to the Average Worship Leader

Today I want to salute the average worship leader. Why? If YouTube videos and conference worship bands are any indicator, we’re unintentionally (I trust) cultivating an understanding of musical worship and its leaders that draws more from rock concerts and Entertainment Tonight than biblical principles. We can start thinking that the “best” corporate worship context is characterized by bright stage lights, a dimly lit congregation, Intellibeams, fog, high end musical gear, multiple screens, moving graphics, and loud volumes. We can start to think the ideal leader is good-looking, sings tenor, plays a cool instrument (usually guitar), sports …

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From the Archives: When Feet Want to be Hands

What do you do as a leader when someone wants to play a specific role on your music team but is better fit for something else? What do you do as a member if that’s you? A number of years ago I preached a message from 1 Cor. 12:12-31. Paul has been answering the Corinthians’ questions about who is “really” spiritual. They were under the mistaken assumption that certain gifts, like tongues, were a sign of true spirituality. Their attitude was dividing the church – the exact opposite of the unity the Spirit wants to bring. Paul presses his point home by using the analogy of the human body. In preparing for the message, I did a little …

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Manufacturing, Marketing, and Minimizing God’s Presence, Pt. 3

The past few days I’ve been posting on issues related to God’s “active” presence, especially in corporate gatherings. A couple people suggested that “active” isn’t the best word to use. When we say God is “present” we are implying He is active, whether that’s to sustain, illuminate, bless, convict, or something else. What I call God’s “active” presence is often the evidence of his “promised” presence. I agree. But most Christians will acknowledge times in corporate gatherings when we are physically or emotionally affected and God seems “present” in an unusual way. This is in line with the many examples in Scripture when one or more …

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Manufacturing, Marketing, and Minimizing God’s Presence, Pt. 2

Yesterday, I posted thoughts on attempts to manufacture and market the presence of God, both wrong responses to God’s experienced presence. One person commented that what I wrote seemed to “create hesitancy about pursing His presence” and encouraged me to “stir people’s faith to encounter God and His presence.'” Today, I want to do just that by addressing a third way we can approach thinking about God’s presence wrongly. 3. We don’t want to minimize God’s active presence. God has always intended to dwell with his people. We see this with Adam and Eve in the garden, in God’s command to the Israelites to build a tabernacle so that he …

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Manufacturing, Marketing, and Minimizing God’s Presence, Pt. 1

A few weeks ago a friend and I were glancing through a Christian magazine and noticed how often people referred to “God’s presence.” It’s a hot topic these days. In his kindness and mercy, God often reveals his active presence to us. By “active” presence I mean God’s presence as distinct from his omnipresence and his promised presence, both of which we accept by faith. Whether we “feel” it or not, God is present when his Word is faithfully preached, when his people meet in Jesus’ name, when we celebrate the Lord’s supper, when we sing, and we were serve in his power (1 Tim. 6:13; 1 Cor. 5:4; Mt. 18:20; 1 Cor. 11:27-32; Acts 10:33; Eph. …

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