Stinking Thinking

running-the-race2

I like going on runs.  Long runs.  I bring my phone to track myself by using one of those running apps.  Sometimes I listen to an album or to the radio.  And sometimes I like to leave the ear buds at home so I can pray and listen.  Today was one of those pray and listen runs.  I’m so glad!  God showed me something today I’ve been trying to figure out for years.  When I experience hurt, disappointment, rejection; any kind of emotional pain, I like to withdraw and fill my head with thoughts.  I let my mind race with scenarios of what might happen if I have another run in with “so and so.”  I dwell on how much I’ve been hurt and how “so and so” is so wrong and I’m so right.  I have repeated imaginary conversations where I finally put “so and so” in their place.  All this thinking…to do one thing…comfort myself.  But the comfort is fleeting and never truly delivers what it promises.  What I really need to do is take those thoughts captive (stop the stinking thinking) and instead start turning to the God of all comfort.  Lord, help me to stop all this useless self-thinking and direct my attention to You as my true comfort.  Remind me how much I’ve been forgiven so that I may extend forgiveness.  Teach me how to comfort to others with the very comfort You have given me.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen

 

Developing a love for God’s Word

I got this text from a ministry leader friend the other day:

How do you develop a love for God’s Word? I’ve realized lately that I’m hungry for His presence, so I worship and pray, but I rarely go to the Word. I want to go to the Word, but I struggle as my instant reaction is “school work.” When I do go to the Word it’s for a ministry purpose, not because I want to spend time with Him.

What has helped me the most to cultivate a desire to read the Bible? Regular Bible study. For me, during the last 3 years, that’s been going to Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). It keeps me in the Word daily. It causes me to interact with the Bible. Countless times I have encountered His presence. As I read and study, He gives me direction, He loves me and embraces me, He disciplines me, He forgives me and extends his mercy and grace to me.

I’m not saying that you have to go to BSF to experience God. What I am saying is that God can be known and experienced through a daily discipline of Bible study. Now, you said it…. that’s sounds like “work.” Yup. It is. No doubt about it. But so is any relationship worth nurturing.

Here’s a thought, what if you connect your worship and prayer life with Bible reading? Try reading the book of Ephesians – it’s only 6 chapters. But before you read it, express your heart to God through worship and prayer. Tell Him that you long to experience His presence through His Word. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you through His Word and give you a lasting hunger for it. Sing to Him.  Pray to Him.  Read His Word.

Remember that it is through Jesus alone that we come close to God. John 1:1 tells us that Jesus isn’t in the Word, he IS the Word. I love this quote from Bob Kauflin’s book, Worship Matters:

“Biblically speaking, no worship leader, pastor, band, or song will ever bring us close to God. We can’t shout, dance, or prophesy our way into God’s presence. Worship itself cannot lead us into God’s presence. Only Jesus himself can bring us into God’s presence, and he has done it through a single sacrifice that will never be repeated—only joyfully recounted and trusted in.”

Down To The Next Level, Pt. 2

Before reading this post, be sure to read Down To The Next Level, Pt. 1

In this post, I want to explore further the role of the worship leader and why our churches hunger to reach a new level of worship.

I closed Pt. 1 with Jesus telling us in John 4:23 that the Father is looking for “Spirit and Truth” worshipers. The original Greek transliteration for the word worship here is proskyneō and means to kiss the hand in reverence, or to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence. If we want to reach a new level of worship, we must bow down.

I recently used Russell Henderson’s post Worship Leader or Cheer Leader? as a devotional for my worship team, church staff, and vision team (elders). It sparked a lot of great discussion. I asked each group if they think we are reaching the level of intimacy with God that David wrote about in Psalm 139, one respondent asked, “Are we prepared to meet God on Sunday morning or are we just showing up?” That kind of brings the question back to each of us, doesn’t it? Didn’t Stuart Smalley (of SNL fame) help us notice that when we point a finger of blame at someone, 3 fingers are pointing back at us?! 😉

Let’s first establish the source of this hunger to reach a greater intimacy with God. In the book, The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer, the author helps us understand that the hunger for God originates with God. No self-effort will allow us to take credit. (John 6:44)

We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. “No man can come to me,” said our Lord, “except the Father which hath sent me draw him,” and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: “Thy right hand upholdeth me.”

Everything starts with God and we respond. Therefore, each of us, alone, are responsible for…our response. If we believe we’re going to meet with the Creator of the Universe each Sunday morning, then shouldn’t we start, each day of the week, with a faith-filled anticipation that says, “Holy cow, I’m so excited to meet with YOU on Sunday, Lord!” (Hebrews 11:6) A “Spirit and Truth” worshiper longs to be in His presence day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. (Psalm 84:1-2) It’s that kind of faith that is pleasing to God. It pleases Him so much, the Bible says, He’ll reward it.

So what’s the reward? If you seek him, he will be found by you says 1 Chronicles 28:9. When my boys were younger, they loved playing a game they called, “Chase Dad.” As you might guess, Chase Dad is just that…chasing dad all over the house until you catch him! For me, this meant perfecting the ability to leap two or more stairs at a time, sprinting through hallways, darting around furniture and over beds; doing whatever it took to avoid being caught. And yes…I was eventually caught…and would reward them with a wrestling match, lots of jumping on dad, pillow fights, and other rough-housing that Mom might not approve of. (BTW, Chase Dad is a game best played when Mom is at work.) If I included some hide-n-seek in the game of Chase Dad, that was always the best! I loved to listen to my children call out to me as they searched the house. In my silence, I was excited to have them find me. The boys never gave up…and the reward would come. And so it is with God. “…you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29) It would be just like God to use a child to teach me how to pursue Him.

If we would find God amid all the religious externals we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now as always God discovers Himself to “babes” and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent. We must simplify our approach to Him. We must strip down to essentials (and they will be found to be blessedly few). We must put away all effort to impress, and come with the guileless candor of childhood. If we do this, without doubt God will quickly respond.

If the outworking of our faith (our response to his prevenient drawing) is lacking on Sunday morning, Tozer states we won’t have an experience of the Divine.

“Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.”

So, what shall we do?  Will we keep Him waiting?  Will we look to the worship leader or the worship band to get us excited about being in God’s presence? Or will we arrive on Sunday morning, anticipating, expecting to join the great assembly of Spirit and Truth worshipers; filled with a longing that only He can satisfy and determined to find Him?  And will we bow our lives before Him, all of us, in profound reverence and pursue Him with all that we are? A reward unspeakably sweet awaits those who put their trust in Him!

For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.

Excerpts From: A. W. Tozer. “The Pursuit of God.” MobileReference, 2010-05-07. Check out this book on the iBookstore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-pursuit-of-god/id367791780?mt=11

Click here to find the book on Amazon.com.

Worship Leader / Songwriter Tommy Walker’s worship CD “The Pursuit of God” pays homage to the profound effect that Tozer’s writings had on his life.  It is an extraordinary recording!  Listening to this CD has helped me to journey to that place of intimacy with God that my heart longs for.  I know it will bless you, too.

In this video, Tommy Walker sings an acoustic version of his song “Nearer” (from The Pursuit of God CD).  After he plays the song, he demonstrates how to play it on guitar.  I’m including the video on this blog post because: 1 – This song was inspired by Tozer’s book, 2 – The song totally nails the topic were discussing, 3 – Tommy gives such encouraging and practical instruction for the worship guitarist, and finally… 4 – This song helps me worship God!  I pray it helps you to worship Him, too!

I invite you to share your comments below!  Thank you for visiting my blog!

Playing Your Prayers On Guitar

B & W Acoustic Guitar FretboardI remember years ago, subbing on guitar at the church of a mentor friend of mine.  We were rehearsing a song and he turned to me and said, “Take a solo, Pat!”  I froze.  I had no idea what to do.  That was a defining moment for me.  I left that service determined to improve my skills as a guitarist.  This lesson is birthed out of that experience.  Armed with your favorite DAW, iPad (I like to use Garage Band on the iPad), looper pedal, or just a hand-held digital recorder – use this lesson to give you confidence to be able to play a solo, or add worshipful improvisation over those extended prayer vamps.  If you’re not that tech savvy, get someone from your worship team to play a loop for you.  Download the lesson here.  Remember… God gives you talent – practice turns talent into skill – and skill is an offering to God.  Ps. 33:3  -Pat