May 03, 2018 - No Comments!

A Liturgy for Lust

We recently covered the portion of the Sermon on the Mount on lust and sexuality. I knew leading up to this Sunday that the “confession” portion would need extra attention and care, and that the Call to Worship would need to connect the dots topically as directly as possible. To that end, the prayer below was used for our Call to Worship, a prayer I found and adapted for our Sunday.

 

Lord Jesus Christ, 
We confess that you are our Creator 
(John 1:3) 
including our minds, hearts, souls, and sexuality. 

We confess that you are our Savior, 
that you have ransomed us with your blood 
(1 Corinthians 15:3, Matthew 20:28). 
We have been bought with the blood of Jesus Christ; 
our life and our bodies belong to God 
(1 Corinthians 6:19–20). 

Jesus, we present ourselves to you now t
o be made whole and holy in every way, 
including our sexuality and the desires of our hearts. 

You ask us to present our bodies to you as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) 
and the parts of our bodies 
as instruments of righteousness 
(Romans 6:13). 

Worship Leader: The Lord of all creation knows all, sees all, and yet still loves His people.
(here the prayer moves to individual emphasis)

I offer you our body,
my sexuality, my gender
and my sexual nature to you. 

Be Lord over all of me Jesus Christ.
I desire the joy and fullness 
that only comes from walking with you.

Amen.

February 28, 2018 - No Comments!

The Nicene Creed

One of the many elements we employ in our liturgy are prayers and creeds from church history. The “low hanging fruit” in this area are certainly the foundational creeds that all Christians (let’s be honest, all Christians can’t agree on anything) hold as helpful, true, and clarifying. The top three most widely accepted and accessible would inarguably be the Nicene, Apostles’, and Athanasian Creeds.

The Nicene Creed, so named because it was adopted by the Church in Nicaea (modern day Turkey) by an important meeting known as the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. The Nicene Creed’s history is fascinating, particularly that it has weathered the test of time so well. Very few things have endured the combative and complicated path of church history as well as this creed. Most creeds were penned to combat specific heresies on the rise, in this case Arianism, which posited that Christ was created by the Father and as such, less than the Father in “godness”.

One of my favorite effects of using creeds in our gatherings is the unifying power it brings, not just historically but even to those in the room from different backgrounds.

The version we used last Sunday is formally called the Reformed Version, and I believe it to be helpful in its choice of terms, particularly with how the word Catholic has changed over time. Consider using this in your gatherings sometime!

We believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.


Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.

He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried.

The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life.
He proceeds from the Father and the Son,
and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
He spoke through the prophets.

We believe in one holy universal and apostolic church.
We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
and to life in the world to come.
Amen.

November 27, 2017 - 1 comment.

MOUNTAINS AND VALLEYS

Worship leading is a beautiful privilege and massive responsibility. I have found it is a struggle to hold both of these truths in tension all the time. This past week reminded me rather pointedly that both of these statements are equally true and essential. Godly leadership requires that you have to maintain humility and an open posture for feedback while keeping a thick skin and expecting scrutiny.

Inside of 24 hours this weekend, I had a congregation member attack me via text while another one gift me something very thoughtful as a gesture of appreciation. High mountains and low valleys are part of being in ministry to be sure, but I so desperately need grace and Christ’s presence to level the terrain. I don’t often respond the way I want to. I weather one storm to be spun around by the next. And then in his kindness, God sends an encourager, an ally, or a grateful word.

Feeling a bit beat up and rattled, I wrote this confession for our gatherings on Sunday, mostly because I needed it:

Though made in the image of a giving God,
we have withheld from others.

Though made in the image of a patient God,
we have lost our patience.

Though made in the image of a Savior that willingly took our punishment,
we defend ourselves and demonize others.

Though made in the image of a God of kindness,
we consider our own needs above others.

As always, I’m thankful for a God who is for me, who never provokes us, puts words in our mouths, or assumes the worst. In fact, I am increasingly convinced that he is for me…a truth I’ve known in my head for two decades but a “heart belief” I’ve found slippery. My faith is small and my Savior is great.

October 08, 2017 - No Comments!

Hear My Complaint, Lord

Recently, I used Psalm 55 as a call to worship. I read the section below over our congregation:

“Give ear to my prayer, O God,
and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!
Attend to me, and answer me;
I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
because of the noise of the enemy,
because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they drop trouble upon me,
and in anger they bear a grudge against me.”

My daughter is five years old. She is beautiful and sharp, but has a propensity towards the glass being half-empty. The running joke in my home is that she starts every afterschool conversation with us with the same phrase:

“Welllllllll, one bad thing was that…”

Shes five. There’s a lot of hard things happening in the world of a five year old. We rehearse with her how to find the good in any situation. We walk her through how to recall God’s grace over our family’s life. We practice making a list of the things we are thankful for. And yet, every drive home from school sounds the same.

I’m not sure that most of us are much different. I think I’d be a bit embarrassed if I was able to see in real-time the percentage of my conversations with God that hover around dissatisfaction compared to contentment. Don’t get me wrong, God desires to hear our longings and desires for his kingdom to replace what is broken in this world. But I’d also bet I kind of sound like my daughter most of the time too. I don’t think our discontentment is the only thing God wants to hear cross our lips.

My experience tells me that complaining and gratitude are both highly contagious, and tend to gain momentum with repetition. To put it another way, if you are always on the hunt for what’s wrong or needing fixing, you’ll find it every time.

I want to roll out of bed with a disposition towards celebration. I want to surround myself with people that are joyful and focused on the good things we share. I want to place myself in the fray with celebrators. I want to hear evidence of God’s grace in everyday conversations and not just dedicated prayer times with other leaders. I want to run to God with all of my anxieties and complaints, and all of my gratitude that things won’t stay like this forever.

Lord, help me see the good.

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July 25, 2017 - No Comments!

How To Choose A Worship Leader

NOTE: This post originally appeared on The Resurgence which has since closed.

Many teaching pastors talk about their worship leader the way an apologetic dad talks about their uncoordinated child at a soccer game.

“He’s got potential.”
“She’s having fun, isn’t she?”
“If we could get some better players around him, he’d really shine.”

Church leaders, and planters in particular, know all too well that you have to make the best of your situation and use what you have. Yet, when it comes to the music portion of a worship gathering this often translates into a leader getting thrown on stage that learned five chords in her dorm room last semester, or a guy that couldn’t explain the gospel if a $10,000 gift card to “Guitar Center” was on the line.

We all start somewhere, but what is an acceptable starting point? How do you pick and develop the leader that will play an integral part in your gatherings? How do you choose between a leader that is godly and one that is musically gifted?

It’s a mistake to assume that because the teaching pastor carries the primary responsibility of doctrine and vision, that the worship leader can be any guy in a plaid shirt deep v current uniform who can nail the latest worship anthem. Below you’ll read some key questions to ask yourself of any new music leader you’re looking at bringing in or developing. Note that I have not specifically devoted this to paid hires, because candidly, I don’t think it matters.

Repentant and Humble Heart Required

The scriptures repeatedly address the heart in the context of worship (John 4:23-24, Amos 5:21-24). Worship is always a heart issue. Look for leaders (and volunteers for that matter) that love who Jesus is more than their act of service to him. Do you sense an adoration of Christ in their life? Are they quick to confess? Are they teachable? What makes their heart beat faster; musical excellence or gospel transformation in people’s lives?

Challenge your worship leader in character issues, and name pride when you see it, in a loving but truthful way. While you aren’t looking for a perfect track record, you do want to see a pattern of repentance. Do they own their mistakes? Do they show a desire to grow? These are essential elements of any healthy leader, even those just starting out.

Skillful Leading is Also Important to God

Despite the common refrain of “as long as their heart is in the right place”, the idea that skill doesn’t matter to God is simply not biblical. God raises up godly and skilled artisans to serve in their craft. This doesn’t mean your worship leader needs to have his own record on iTunes, but it does mean that “sloppiness drains the vertical dimension out of gathered worship” (Keller). Skill does not make our sacrifice more acceptable to God, but it does help us serve our purpose as worship leaders more effectively. Being properly trained and prepared helps keep the focus where it belongs, on Jesus. Can your worship leader lead with an appropriate level of skill? Are they competent on their instrument of choice? Can they speak with clarity when they address the congregation?

Be Wary of Those More Eager to Lead Than Serve

Most church plants will have a few eager folks that want leadership roles out of the gates. A good worship leader will invite the elders or pastors in the church to confirm their calling. If someone approaches you and says: “God told me I am supposed to lead worship here,” you should be very cautious. It is the exception to the rule that a person making that sort of uninvited claim turns out to be a solid leader. You would be hard pressed to find a place where the “be faithful with little, before you are entrusted with much” concept is better applied than leading worship. Does your leader love to meet the needs of others or have the spotlight?

Look Up, Look Down

An essential part of selecting a worship leader is determining their chemistry with those they report to and those they’ll lead. Will they encourage and challenge (in healthy ways) those above and below them on the “org chart”? Can you see volunteer musicians following their lead? Do you picture this person being easy to work with when planning Sundays? Does your worship leader care about the people they lead? Would you want the congregation to follow their example off-stage?

“Look for leaders and volunteers that love the person Jesus more than their act of service to him.”

I’m pleading with you to not overlook character issues for the sake of coverage. Don’t assume that somehow a teaching pastor that “gets it” will balance out an incompetent or self-serving music leader. If it’s your job to hire/find a music leader, make your application and audition process robust enough to assess their understanding of the gospel, spiritual maturity, and level of skill. These all mater, and while it may take time to get there, you want to be sure you are partnering with someone with your eyes wide open.

I Don’t Have the Leader You’re Describing

You may not have the leader you’d love to have today. Look around and ask “who could be that leader with investment in a year or two?” I’ve said before, investing in your worship leader is a smart move for a variety of reasons. If you think you’re too busy, consider the following: your average church-goers will give you 54 hours of their attention annually. Depending on your liturgy, your worship leader will get roughly 18-27 of those hours. Your worship leader sounds like a wise place to invest your time, doesn’t it?

If you’d like to discuss a leadership development plan for your current leader, or want to train up a new music leader, let me know. Don’t buy the lie that placing an unqualified leader on stage is better than going without corporate worship in song for a season. If you feel unqualified to make an evaluation, reach out and I’d be happy to help. Every leader (including you and I) needs continued development. Your music leader might need theological training or a voice lesson. Mechanics can be trained more easily that character.

No matter the size of your church, don’t propagate the prevalent double-standard where other spiritual leaders are tested for competency and character, but worship leaders get a hall pass. It will take effort and time but you can have both. Aren’t the Savior and his bride worth it?

 

Resource

Here is a brief downloadable PDF of some questions to ask in the audition process of a worship leader or volunteer. It’s not fool-proof, but simply a tool to identify both red flags that may come back to bite you later, and strengths that will serve you well down the road. As always, pray for wisdom and discernment when appointing leaders, and let them be tested.

 

DOWNLOAD THE RESOURCE

Prayer

Father, guide us by your Spirit in raising up worship leaders that adore your Son and desire to serve and equip the saints you entrust to us…leaders that love you more than their gifting, more than emotional highs, and more than perfect productions. Strengthen the unity between lead/teaching pastors and worship leaders. Protect our flocks from wolves, and help us to discern between those that need coaching and those that need to be pulled out of leadership. Grow us in our love for your people as shepherds. Shape our gatherings to bring you glory.

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July 19, 2017 - No Comments!

Two Threats to Sundays – Part 2

twoTHREATS

Hopefully, you’ve read part one of this series and read a bit on why I’m taking the time to detail these powerful threats to our Sunday gatherings.

I’ve already described a bit about why we need both “pedals on the bike”. Sundays are essential but not sufficient for discipleship. Sunday gatherings do not form Christians sufficiently nor is our Christianity supposed to fit inside an hour once a week.

And before you say, “that’s obvious and everyone knows it”, I’ll bet you at least a few things in your current ministry work against this truth.

To begin, let’s look at a few symptoms of undervaluing the Sunday gathering. These are signs that you’re probably expecting too little of your 60-90 minutes together. Listen to this first symptom and ask if maybe you don’t personally fall into this camp…maybe there are ways that you yourself undervalue Sundays.

SYMPTOM #1. YOU ARE HYPER CRITICAL

From the moment we step foot on the property, many of us become “secret shoppers”, publicly privately making notes of all the imperfections, people that bother us, and what we would do different. Many of us worship leaders do this to protect ourselves from critique. Others do it because we simply have a hard time celebrating wins. The comments from the congregation often don’t help:

“That doesn’t look right. That doesn’t sound right. They aren’t living right.”

“I didn’t like that sermon, When are we going to talk about (insert favorite topic, probably an area of Christian living that by God’s grace we have never wrestled with).”

“Please tell me they aren’t doing announcements again.”

“This is not how I would do things.”

“Where’s my favorite worship leader playing my favorite songs at my favorite volume?”

Have you heard these statements between services? Have you heard these things inside your own heart?

If so, I would argue that our/their view of Sunday is too small. If Sunday is simply an event to be run smoothly, we have removed the authority and joy of our Triune God and replaced God with our own assessment and opinion. If we reduce the saints gathered to an experience for our own whims and preferences, then it would follow that we are the purpose and highest judge of the time together. The “experience” of Sunday becomes king, and execution becomes the idol. This reduces Sundays to a meeting that needs well-trained event planners instead of expectant kids awaiting their Father’s words and movement.

What is Sunday then? It’s a collision of the Triune God and the pinnacle of His creation. It’s a time and place where the Spirit is present in a unique way, and in His kindness, the Father recalibrates the hearts of believers towards ultimate joy and satisfaction. It’s a time to be reminded of grace anew, and to respond accordingly through song, communion, baptisms, prayers, and time together…and maybe a doughnut and coffee.

REMEDY #1. ASK BIGGER QUESTIONS

How do we break out of the hypercritical death-spiral? Rather than getting hung up on which parts of the gathering don’t suit you or which parts didn’t go perfect (as if that were the grand plan and intention), take a cue from Colossians 3 and think on what is above. Remember that much of God’s purpose for our time together will happen in human hearts, outside of our view.

For the person singing off key, ask, “does her voice please the father?” For the typo on the slide, ask “is Jesus disgusted by this and now distant?” When the song begins that you don’t care for, ask God, “who in this room needs to hear this, and is there something I need to hear?” Ask God to help you pray for others.

“This reduces Sundays to a meeting that needs well-trained event planners instead of expectant kids awaiting their Father’s words and movement.”

If Jesus is not hyper-critical of you but instead in his omniscience is gracious and merciful, how would that shape how we approach the gathering? If Jesus isn’t sitting with arms crossed in judgement of our mistakes and misguided attempts at throwing a good celebration, should we be?

Now, Keller has famously said that, “sloppiness in the horizontal distracts from the vertical” in corporate worship, and I couldn’t agree more. We know Sundays are in fact important. If Sunday’s do matter then, what is a godly criteria? What kind of questions should we be asking? Whatever you believe about God should help answer that question.

  • Were we a warm family?  Did I make an effort to love someone, encourage someone, welcome someone in to the community? (God is hospitable)
  • Did we preach and sing things that are true? Did we share the gospel message clearly? (God is true and worthy of praise)
  • Was the focus on Jesus? (Jesus is above all)
  • Did we pay attention to who was among us? (insider language ostracizing new people, not defining terms, etc) (God is welcoming)
  •  Did we offer hope to those in hard places? (God is comforting)

There’s certainly nothing wrong with evaluating our time together. In fact, we do that as a staff every Monday together. But we’re all a lot better off if the critical, nit-picky spirit in us dies, and instead we look for wins and ask good, thoughtful, “above” kinds of questions.

The cure for picking apart Sundays is asking bigger questions. You’ll not be able to approach Sundays the same way if you remember how God sees us and our simple times together.

Tune in for part 3 for another symptom that we (or someone you know) is making too little of our weekly times of worship together.

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June 22, 2017 - No Comments!

Get Upstream


Just east of my home, the Snoqualmie River meanders for 45 miles through homes, farmlands, two counties, and then feeds into the famous Puget Sound. The river begins in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness way up in the Cascade Mountains. It’s there in the mountains that the source waters run and collide together to form the river before it begins its push down through western Washington.

Most (but not all) of my coaching clients are bi-vocational worship leaders in churches of 500 people of less. They are neck deep in all of the challenges that come along with wearing multiple hats and leading worship while balancing a hundred other things. They want to build great teams and have fun being creative in the local church.

That said, most of them reach out after they are overwhelmed or drowning a bit. This is natural I suppose, similar to how preventative medicine has been scientifically proven to be cheaper and more effective, and yet most of us elect to avoid the doctor’s office until a problem arises with our bodies. I’m no doctor, but I have seen a parallel in the worship leaders I coach.

My favorite clients are those that are trying to prepare in advance for the challenges coming for them. One of these leaders is Sarah. Yes, that’s her real name. Sarah is a delight. Sarah isn’t on staff at a church. She isn’t even in full time vocational ministry. She’s in a small town and has no aspirations of being in a big city.

Sarah is also clear in her calling to grow as a worship leader, so we’ve worked together for the last 6 months around how she can be best equipped for that future. Sarah wanted to get upstream, and learn how to organize, lead, and care for a worship ministry. She’s already grown a ton and now has tangible skills in her pocket that she didn’t a few months ago. I don’t share this story as some kind of humble-brag, but for clarity. Many of the leaders I speak with seem surprised that someone like Sarah makes for a great client. I tell them what I’ll say again now: I’d take a dozen more Sarah’s because she’s getting upstream and preparing herself for what’s ahead. She comes prepared, asks good questions, takes feedback with humility, and follows through on her “assignments”. She’s growing because she’s putting in the work. A few thoughts from her:

“Donald makes long-distance coaching effective…He cares genuinely about my growth as a leader and my growth in my relationship with Christ, with every meeting being centered around the gospel. The coaching has played an integral part in my development as a worship leader and leader. He has helped me to understand how to apply my gifts to serving God’s people through worship and relationship. I appreciate his wisdom, creativity, and insight when it comes to working with a team. I’ve grown as a worshipper, as a worship leader, and am more confident in my identity in Christ because of our time together.”

Sarah has invested in being the leader she wants to be in the future…she’s been pro-active instead of reactive. Be like Sarah. Get ahead of what’s coming. Ask questions of those further down the road than you around how you can grow in the areas of leadership that don’t come natural to you, and how you can leverage the strengths you already have.

Some good “upstream questions”:

-What will my team (up, down, and laterally) need from me in 6-12 months?
-What do I want the worship or arts ministry to look like this time next year?
-What do I need to do in my church to make disciples in the next year?
-Do I have any life stage changes coming (engagement, birth of a child, graduating college) and how can I plan for that?
-What do I want my volunteers and congregation to experience or learn this year?

I love the local church and local church leaders. If you or someone you know would benefit from some one-on-one coaching towards leadership development, organizing and recruiting artists, or growing your worship/arts ministry, let’s chat.

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June 15, 2017 - No Comments!

Confession for Jonah

As we’ve walked through the book of Jonah at Doxa Church, we’ve clearly seen how the book is obviously about Jonah, but also about Jesus…and also about us.

Jonah is a tough book. Believing that God’s grace is big enough for us and for the people we despise is where anyone that does Christianity as a hobby, a social club, or because their parents told them to, falls off and finds an easier path. To remind our people that we can be just like Jonah, and to reinforce our liturgy movement, we participated in this confession and assurance of pardon last week. I hope it serves you well.

CONFESSION
We have believed that you don’t have enough grace for us,
 that our sin is greater than you,
 forgive us Father.

We have believed that others don’t deserve your grace, 
that we know justice better than you,
 forgive us Father.

We have believed that we can run from you that somehow we could create distance between us and an omnipresent God. Forgive us Father.

We have believed that You won’t do what’s best, that we need to protect ourselves, sometimes in lieu of you, sometimes from you. Forgive us Father.

We have believed that you won’t provide for us, and assume the things that we care about are what we need, forgive us Father.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON
We say aloud that your grace is enough for us,
and for those that have wounded us.
We acknowledge that your presence is constant
and always for our good.
You provide for our needs without exception,
but in your wisdom know what we often strive
for that which can ultimately harm us.
Thank you Father for being quick to forgive,
slow to anger, 
rich in compassion, 
and eternally constant.

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May 05, 2017 - No Comments!

Two Threats to Sundays – Part 1

twoTHREATS

Sundays are a big deal for Christians. This is no secret. But two imminent threats exist against the church gathered. I’ve watched these two threats show up unannounced and discretely, and every Christian and local church is vulnerable. Both threats are designed to dislodge one of the best rhythms God has given us, his kids. I’d be willing to bet that if you’re reading this, and willing to be honest, one (or both) would be true for you.

The greatest threats to Sundays are overvaluing or undervaluing the weekly gathering.

Here in part one of this three part series we’ll look at why these threats should matter to all of us.

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

If you’re a Christian than you probably figured out that you’re signed up for a lifetime of Sundays. Sunday is normal and important, sure. And yet making too much or too little of them is highly dangerous to the Christian life. And no one is immune. This issue matters because it attacks an essential rhythm for all believers.

It’s a necessary message because we as believers can “fall off the horse” on both sides. incidentally if you’re not a Christian and you’re here asking questions about faith and church and Jesus, then this discussion will hopefully give you an idea of what this part of Christianity is all about.

Some of us connect with God primarily through our head-space or intellect, while others from the heart and emotion, while others through activity and the action of our hands. This issue matters because these threats detrimentally affects all types; those that learn and grow primarily through their head, heart, or hands.

 God wants us to understand, be desirous of, and participate in Sundays and we all can stray from fully engaging and receiving from the Sunday gathering.

Lastly, this issue matters because it affects the very way we do church, and the way we reach the world. A monstrous proportion of church impotency, leader frustration, and cultural irrelevance is tied to the over-estimation or neglect of our Sundays together.

“Why would that person think it’s ok to sleep around, don’t they remember that one time I talked about God’s design for sex two years ago!?!”

“How is it possible that only half the church knew about the fundraiser…we’ve announced it every Sunday for two months!”

“Why do people come 20 minutes late to the worship service every week with a coffee in hand?”

TWO PEDALS

Unsurprisingly, spiritual health is like our physical health…if we neglect, minimize, or discount the most important things to our health then our health will suffer. This is at the root of why most churches either focus on Sunday experiences or everyday discipleship. It’s not easy to do both, and most churches that claim to nail both, though well intentioned, are often unaware of how most people experience that community.

The elders and staff at Doxa have doubled down as it relates to doing SUNDAYS and life together, and doing them both well. It’s hard. Really hard. Saying yes to one thing is always a no to something else. Every dollar spent on making Sundays better can be movement away from resourcing everyday discipleship. We talk about the tension around our office in a way that I think it’s helpful.

 Picture Sundays as one of the pedals on this bike below:

2pedals

I want you to see the opposite pedal as whatever your church does to facilitate bible study, prayer, mission, and life together (for us it’s missional communities). It seems basic, but its important to point out that no one is going to get very far very fast if they only use one pedal. And from what we can see in scripture and in church history, disciples are made and the kingdom of God goes out in powerful and transformative ways when God’s people do both. What I’m saying is, we need both pedals. Keep those pedals in mind as we look at our first threat.

Part two is found here.

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March 08, 2017 - No Comments!

Lent & Joy


“Why the rules, God?”

So much is wrapped up in that one question.

Disbelief. Accusation. Condescension. Weariness. Disappointment.

This is the kind of question that often comes from an exhausted heart that is forced to face its failures. It comes from the prideful angst of wanting to script our lives differently than He has. It ‘s ammunition for prosecution against a god we’ve constructed in our minds that doesn’t even resemble the true one over all things.

I was a Christian for far too long before I heard (or perhaps more accurately, listened) that God was for me, and for my joy. This was one of a small handful of truths that changed everything for me. I believe that (on a good day) I relate differently, I speak differently, I rest differently, and I lead differently. That avoiding certain places, people, and behaviors, might be for our best. That embracing others we wouldn’t gravitate towards might be for our best. That going without something we love, for a lent season, might be for our best.

I long for my church to know God’s favor and to live in that kind of freedom. I myself desperately need the reminder that all Christian doctrine and instruction is for the purpose of God’s glory, which will always lead to my own maximum joy. In the time it takes me to read that sentence, I can forget it. Like a puff of smoke, only after realizing that it has taken shape, does it dissipate again. I need reminding. We all need reminding.

This idea that God is for us, and that joy drives obedience, is one of many that inform how we begin our Sunday gatherings together. To that end, as we recently kicked off Lent, I read this modified prayer below over our congregation as a call-to-worship:

Jesus invites us to a way of celebration,
meeting and feasting with the humble, powerless, and poor.
Let us walk his way with joy.

Jesus beckons us to a way of risk,
letting go of our security and self-protection.
Let us walk his way with joy.

Jesus challenges us to listen to the voices
of those who have nothing to lose.
Let us walk his way with joy.

Jesus points us to a way of self-giving,
where power and status are overturned.
Let us walk his way with joy.

Jesus calls us to follow the way of the cross,
where despair is transformed by the promise of new life.
Let us walk his way with joy.

May His divine joy show up in your heart and mind today.

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