All Posts in Devotions

October 03, 2018 - No Comments!

Older + Younger

We’ve been walking through the Lord’s Prayer over the last several weeks at Doxa. This last week we looked at the phrase, “forgive us as we forgive others”. Our teaching pastor spent time looking back at the prodigal son story, many of us are familiar with.

Preachers have often stood behind a pulpit and asked their congregations which brother they identify with. My answer has always been both. I can easily reach for self-righteousness as I can shame. I can hold others in derision and then do the same for myself. I can feel entitled and unworthy in the span of 10 minutes. To that end, I wrote this for our liturgy and read this as a call to worship in our gatherings last Sunday.

I am the younger
I want my inheritance now
I don’t like waiting
you say you’re good, but look at all this mud
I knew I couldn’t trust you

I am the older
oh, ‘they’ get to come back
they haven’t hit rock bottom
they don’t mean it
they’ll mess up again
and you’ll look like a fool

I am the younger
I’ve messed up big this time
now I’ve done it
this is my third strike
your doubts about me are true
I’ve burned this bridge for the last time

I am the older
sure they said sorry
but I’m not sure they mean it
they just want a hand out
they just want to walk over me again
they’ll never change

I am the younger
if I keep my distance, i won’t feel guilty
you can’t hug me if your arms are crossed
I’m running out of options
maybe I should go back
maybe I could work for him

I am the older
they doesn’t deserve this
I haven’t struggled with that for minutes
someone is going to teach them a lesson
I mean, I guess he’s home,
that’s not so bad

I am the younger
the father knows me, sees me, and forgives me

I am the older
the father knows me, sees me, and forgives me

July 03, 2018 - No Comments!

Voices

This last Sunday we launched our third annual “Voices” series where we invite outside speakers to come challenge our community. It’s one of my favorite “traditions” we have as a church.

The series revolves around the themes of needing wisdom from others, the benefit of an outside perspectives, and being mindful of what voices we listen to in our lives.

As always, we make an effort for our liturgy to be shaped by the themes of the series we are working through. To that end, I wrote and read this in our confessional moment in the gatherings Sunday.

CONFESSION OF VOICES
We respond to God because of his grace. We need his grace because we fall short. Because we fall short we confess when we gather. To help us remember what is true, to invite humility, and recognize that we are not God. Confession is an opportunity to enjoy God and His grace.

We always have a renewed reason to respond, because God’s grace has recently responded to the recent ways in which we have not loved him and others.

So let us confess:

We have fallen more in love with the sound of our own voice than yours.

We have held others to higher standards than ourselves, and thus shut out their voices from our lives.

We have elevated our preferences and diminished others needs.

We have sought to be right more than to understand.

We have taken your presence for granted, forgetting that you sit over all creation and have no obligation to be near us, yet choose to never leave us.

God, may we experience your compassion in the way we sinfully choose to heed other voices. May we listen to your voice above all others. your voice is one of grace, truth, and empathy.

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.

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 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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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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February 13, 2017 - 3 comments

Silence and Solitude (Part 3)

(photo credit: athena grace)

In the final installment of this three-part series, I’ll detail some practical hand-holds for how to approach a time of solitude. Following these steps is certainly not mandatory, but I believe them to be helpful for getting the most out of your time away. We’ll quickly cover four basic parts, and I recommend the order as much as the pieces. With that said, let’s dive in:

PART 1: GET MOVING

Do something active to get the blood moving (i.e. short run or hike). Once your body and mind are fully awake, find a place your body can be comfortable. Read a bit of scripture and write down your thoughts.

PART 2: LOOK BACK

Review your last season. Have you avoided compulsion? Are your identities in the right order? (Christian, spouse, parent, student, employee…etc) Are you hitting your goals? Are you enjoying life? Are you resting? How would you describe the season you’ve just walked through.

PART 3: LOOK FORWARD

Look at your upcoming season. Take time to hear what God calling you to do. What would you like to accomplish? Who would you like to invest in? Write these things down so that you’ll have them to evaluate in your next solitude.

PART 4: DREAM

Write down what you’d like the next two years to look like for you. What are the personal goals? What hopes do you have for your relationships? What opportunities do you want to pursue? (keep in mind, this is NOT a time for planning, simply dreaming) Are there activities or people that would be life-giving that you want to give more attention to?

“If you are young and full of dreams about the future, you can’t afford to not practice silence and solitude.”


TRANSITIONING OUT OF SOLITUDE

Athletes know to properly “cool-down” after an event. The same concept is helpful after an extended time of solitude. Finish your day by having a tasty dinner with your friends or family and share the things that stood out to you. Ask them for feedback on your goals. Ask them what they think would be helpful for you moving forward.

FINAL THOUGHTS…

The people who get paid a lot of money to study millenials say that millenials care deeply about being authentic. If you are young and full of dreams about the future, you can’t afford to not practice silence and solitude. It’ll keep you from pretending that a curated online life means anything. Pretending that digital relationships can replace eating or crying or laughing together in the same room. Pretending that sex is only a physical act and not a spiritual one. Pretending that a life in a cubicle for a product or service you don’t care about is the best you can do. You will only be able to quit pretending, to break the addiction, and to walk forward with powerful clarity if you take the time to sit and listen to God.

When I get away into silence and solitude, the volume of all my compulsions is turned down. And that is incredibly uncomfortable. Because we are addicted to our compulsions and they keep us from looking ourselves in the eyes and seeing what is chaotic and messy.
But let me tell you what else happens.

The volume of the voice of my perfect father creeps up. My calling becomes clearer. I breathe more deeply and I feel the freedom described in the Scriptures and songs that I
participate in every Sunday. There is no cheap counterfeit or shortcut for this in the life of the believer.

“God wasn’t to be found in the wind;
God wasn’t in the earthquake;
God wasn’t in the fire;
and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.”

The same silence that pulls back the curtain and smoke is where the healer is found. Silence and solitude will not be given to you, you have to take it for yourself. He is not waiting for your performance, He is waiting for the quiet.

go back to part one // go to part two

I recently spoke at Northwest University on this topic within a series of Ted-talk style sessions around the spiritual disciplines. You can listen here (begins around 45:00). A more detailed list of practical tips on how to do solitude can be found here.

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February 07, 2017 - No Comments!

Silence and Solitude (Part 2)

Last week, I provided a brief introduction to the disciplines of silence and solitude. This week we’ll continue building on that idea, and I’ll unpack a bit of why this element of Christian discipleship is generally neglected if not completely forgone.

So why is it so difficult to get time away? Why do we only typically think to get alone with Jesus in silence when life runs us down completely? Three reasons drive our avoidance of silence and solitude, and they are all powerful deterrents from what brings us life.

WHY IS IT HARD?

1. Distractions
We are addicted to noise, on the outside and the inside. Millennials touch their phones 43 times a day on average. We don’t like to be left alone with our thoughts. The human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to about 8 seconds currently. (Interesting to think about what has happened culturally since in 2000…)

2. Compulsions
Compulsion is every time you choose something urgent over something important. It’s when you spend energy appearing a certain way, instead of being a certain person. Compulsion is the internal “oughts and shoulds”, the feelings of never enough. It’s one more hour of video games, one more unnecessary online purchase, one more hook up. Our busyness is a way to avoid ourselves, God and others. We make endless lists, spinning on what we’ll do next. Always moving, never resting.

3. Confusions
We get confused about our own limitations (namely that we can’t hold the pace most of us try to keep), and confusion about God’s disposition towards us. God is not an old bitter friend, waiting to light you up with his anger and list of wrongdoings when you finally make time to reconnect. He’s not sitting arms-crossed just waiting to let you have it. He loves you, not a future version of you, YOU. NOW. No matter how long it’s been. And so our distractions, and compulsions, and confusions lead us to have tired souls.

Tired souls look like this:
-Inner restlessness, underlying anxiety, or vague nervousness
-emotional weariness
-obsessive thinking
-inner irritability and agitation
-we can’t sit and be quiet
-relationally detached and numb
-immersed in fantasy world, dreaming of escape, or taking sexual risks
-people become tedious
-lack of enthusiasm for life/ministry/devotions
-we become depressed / hopeless
-angry, defensive, and argumentative
-decision-making feels impossible and clouded

WHY IS IT WORTH IT?

With regular silence and solitude the soul becomes refreshed and recalibrated. We begin to live out the day the way the Father intended. This can not be overstated. Below is a brief list of what I have seen happen after regular silence and solitude:

-Freedom from compulsion
-Interior space which is able to hold other spiritual disciplines
-Moving away from constantly seeing your life in reference to how others see you
-Increased clarity on the desires of your heart
-Becoming more adept at listening to and recognizing the voice of God
-Experience the supernatural and mystical side of our faith

Now, you can do silence and solitude in an hour, or a whole weekend, but
the basic elements are the same. Next week, I’ll unpack the four basic parts.

go back to part one // go to part three

I recently spoke at Northwest University on this topic within a series of Ted-talk style sessions around the spiritual disciplines. You can listen here (begins around 45:00). Practical tips on how to do solitude can be found here.
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