No One Should Be Left Out

“Praise the Eternal!
Praise the True God inside His temple.
    Praise Him beneath massive skies, under moonlit stars and rising sun.
Praise Him for His powerful acts, redeeming His people.
    Praise Him for His greatness that surpasses our time and understanding.

Praise Him with the blast of trumpets high into the heavens,
    and praise Him with harps and lyres
    and the rhythm of the tambourines skillfully played by those who love and fear the Eternal.
Praise Him with singing and dancing;
    praise Him with flutes and strings of all kinds!
Praise Him with crashing cymbals,
    loud clashing cymbals!
No one should be left out;
    Let every man and every beast—
    every creature that has the breath of the Lord—praise the Eternal!
Praise the Eternal!” (Psalm 150:1-6, The Voice).

As I read the words to this particular Psalm, I was reminded of something that John Piper wrote. He said that worship is the ultimate purpose of the Church. Missions, he said, exists because there are places where worship does not. Missions exists because there are people who still have not heard of God’s saving power in Jesus and of His worth and value and of His redeeming love.

Missions will not always exist. The Bible says that one day there will be a multitude of people from every ethnicity and race and language gathered around the throne of God and that the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of Yahweh as the waters cover the seas.

Until then, we have the Great Commission, so that no one is left out of the opportunity of an eternity with God.


Sabbath Rest

“In a culture where busyness is a fetish and stillness is laziness, rest is sloth. But without rest, we miss the rest of God: the rest he invites us to enter more fully so that we might know him more deeply. ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ Some knowing is never pursued, only received. And for that, you need to be still. Sabbath is both a day and an attitude to nurture such stillness. It is both time on a calendar and a disposition of the heart. It is a day we enter, but just as much a way we see. Sabbath imparts the rest of God—actual physical, mental, spiritual rest, but also the rest of God— the things of God’s nature and presence we miss in our busyness” (Mark BuchananThe Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath).

I’m still mulling over what Chris Brooks said at Kairos tonight about Sabbath rest. We don’t rest from our work as much as we work from our rest.

Most of us go non-stop full speed ahead for five days and then come to a screeching halt for two days. Then we start the madness all over again.

Some never stop. They go all out, thinking that sleep and rest can wait. Unfortunately, their bodies often have different ideas.

I think very few of us know how to work from our rest as a form of worship. That’s what the Hebrew word for work also means– worship.

Rest sounds really good to me right now. Actually, sleep sounds great. I think I’ll take myself up on my own advice and call it a night, but not before leaving you with this little nugget.

May you find the rest of God by resting in God, staying your mind on Him throughout the day and working not for but out of your approval as a son or a daughter of God.



Going Through the Motions

“Then she let him fall asleep on her lap and called a man to shave off the seven braids on his head. In this way, she made him helpless, and his strength left him. Then she cried, ‘Samson, the Philistines are here!’ When he awoke from his sleep, he said, ‘I will escape as I did before and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the Lord had left him” (Judges 16:19-20, Christian Standard Bible).

“But he did not know that the Lord had left him.” That may be one of the saddest statements in the entire Bible. Samson had come to trust in the gift– his hair– rather than the Giver. His hair wasn’t what made him strong. It was only a symbol of the command God had given him much earlier.

He had come to rely on his strength and not in the God who gave him that strength. In the end, God wasn’t even so much as an afterthought in Samson’s mind.

Sometimes, I wonder if this could ever apply to the Church.

We sometimes rely so much on high production values, musicianship, and charisma that we’ve left little to no room for the Holy Spirit to work and move. If God suddenly removed His Spirit from our worship services, would we even notice? Would it make any difference?

It’s one thing to be able to manipulate people’s emotions by overwhelming them through powerful songs and dramatic preaching, but that’s not always synonymous with the moving of God’s Spirit.

What if you took away the comfortable chairs and the modern facilities? What if you took away the professional lighting and sound system? What if there was no worship band or charismatic speaker?

Would God’s Word be enough? Could we still sense the Spirit moving without all the sensory overload?

The saddest testimony about the modern Church would be that the Spirit of God one day left and we went about our business as usual and didn’t even know it until it was far too late.



Today, my friend and I hiked through Radnor Lake State Park. I love that place, primarily because I feel like it’s a place where you can still be in Nashville but feel like you’re stepping into another world. To me, it feels a lot like Middle Earth and I always feel like a hobbit out on a quest whenever I go there.

This time, I flashed back to a less pleasant memory. I went back to when I was a Boy Scout at my first Boy Scout Camp in Arkansas. I vividly recall that I went walking by myself and got incredibly turned around and lost.

Yes, I was that Boy Scout who got lost at Boy Scout camp.

I remember being absolutely terrified and panicky. At that moment, I felt sure I wasn’t ever going to find my troop or anyone else I knew ever again. It was not a good moment.

Then there have been times when I got lost in a very good way.

I can remember times when I got so caught up in serving, particularly at Set Free Church, Christian Alliance for Orphans, or Nashville Rescue Mission, that for a precious few moments I forgot about me and all my issues. I got so completely lost in what I was doing that I had no time to overthink and overanalyze what was going on in my life.

C. S. Lewis once said that the perfect worship service would be the one you were completely unaware of. You wouldn’t be able to recall what the songs you sung were or what the sermon was about. You would only know that God had shown up.

May we live our lives in such a way that we lose ourselves and only remember that God showed up. Maybe then one day we will find out much later that those were the times when God did His best work in and through us.


Revisiting Revelation

I’m in the middle of a class on the book of Revelation at Brentwood Baptist Church. Actually, I started in the middle of the class after another one I was in ended.

This book is not for the faint of heart. There’s a lot of imagery. Some of it’s pretty, but some of it is unsettling and disturbing.

There’s also quite a bit of disagreement on what it all means. I’ve come to decide that there are people on all sides that are strong believers with solid theology who have come to different conclusions about this book.

There are a few things that most everybody agrees with when it comes to Revelation:

  1. The hardest part of the story is never the last part. There may be a lot of darkness but there are also much brighter days ahead when Jesus truly comes back for his Bride the Church.
  2. The good guys really do win. That is, Jesus wins. Good overcomes evil and justice prevails over injustice. There’s not a wrong that won’t be made right when Jesus comes in sight.
  3. Worship is still the best witness. I don’t mean just singing hymns or worship choruses. I mean a daily life of sacrifice and surrender, of renewal and transformation. I mean a life that declares the worth and glory of God 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  4. The end of the story is really only the real beginning. I still love how C. S. Lewis puts it inThe Last Battle where he says that all of history was just the title page and preface while eternity is where the real story begins– a story that gets better and better with each new chapter.

Having said all that, I confess that this particular class still makes my head hurt. I really can’t keep up with all the dragons and beasts and bowls and trumpets and all that other imagery.

It helps to keep in mind that John wrote this book to believers undergoing incredible persecution and torture for their faith. The purpose was (and still is) to show that no matter how bad and hard life gets, God will always have the last word.


Revisiting Habakkuk 3

“Even if the fig tree does not blossom
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
If the olive trees fail to give fruit
    and the fields produce no food,
If the flocks die far from the fold
    and there are no cattle in the stalls;
Then I will still rejoice in the Eternal!
    I will rejoice in the God who saves me!
The Eternal Lord is my strength!
    He has made my feet like the feet of a deer;
He allows me to walk on high places” (Habakkuk 3:17-19, The Voice).

You can read a verse or verses from the Bible over and over and still miss it. You can hear a familiar passage of Scripture read over a number of years and still not get it.

Habakkuk is speaking here about the purest form of worship. It’s one thing to be able to sing praise songs when your bank account is fat and happy and you have a thriving family and your life is in perfect order.

It’s quite another to raise your hands after being handed a pink slip from your employer. It’s another story to live out a worshipful lifestyle when your checking account is deep in the red.

Worship is simply about God. More than any gifts or blessings from God, we celebrate God for Who He is. Period. God deserves worship on the basis of being God.

If God never chose to do one more blessed thing for me, if God simply let me be and never spoke to me again, He’d still be worthy of my worship. If all God ever did for me was to save my soul on that day many years ago, that would be more than enough reason to spend all the rest of the days of my eternity thanking Him.

Some of the most beautiful worship comes out of dark places and broken hearts. The most powerful testimony is still “Yet though He slay me, still will I trust in Him.”

God deserves worship because God is God. Because God is enough. Because God alone is my deepest desire and need.



The Joy of the Small

“It’s the joy of the small that can make life large, and all wonder and worship can only grow out of small and humble things” (Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts).

One of my favorite small things is riding in my Jeep with the sun going down and just the right music playing to set the mood. I’m a big believer that certain types of music fit certain times of the day.

One of my favorites (which I wrote a blog about previously), is the eponymous album by Eastmountainsouth, which just so happens to lend itself to driving in the car at dusk. It has a laid-back ambiance which just fits perfectly the close of a good day.

I also love the soft feeling of my pillow and blankets after a long day of work. I read this on the interwebs and thought it seemed appropriate for me: I’m good in bed; I can sleep for days. True story.

Most of all, I know that in the midst of the fears that can suddenly arise and encompass me unawares, I am always surrounded by the Abba Father whose perfect love casts out all fear. I am held by the Immanuel who is always with me, no matter how long and how far I wander.

I love that no matter how much I listen to and follow the wrong voices, I can’t lose the Father’s love for me. It is an impossibility that God in Jesus’ love for me should ever wane or grow cold. In fact, God’s perfect nature means that He can never love me less than completely with an unconditional love that I will never come close to fathoming with my finite mind.

I also think that old-school jazz, a la Red Garland and early John Coltrane, is best for listening to with headphones on in the middle of the night. But not this night. I plan on sleeping like a champ tonight.


Every Little Thing Matters

“Lord, when I feel that what I’m doing is insignificant and unimportant, help me to remember that everything I do is significant and important in your eyes, because you love me and you put me here, and no one else can do what I am doing in exactly the way I do it” (Brennan ManningSouvenirs of Solitude: Finding Rest in Abba’s Embrace).

That’s it.

As Mother Teresa once said, there are no great acts, but rather only small acts done with great love.

To put it another way, when done out of the right spirit, out of a genuine and abiding love for Jesus, everything you do and say can become an act of worship. Even cleaning toilets or scrubbing floors. All those menial tasks that don’t have much inherent value can be living prayers if they’re done as an offering to Jesus.

That makes all the difference in drudgery and delight, between surviving and thriving.

Maybe you’re not exactly in the high-profile career you thought you’d be in by now. Maybe you’re not pulling down the big bucks.

Then again maybe your job is to make a difference in the lives of those people in your office. Maybe your best gift is to be quite possibly the only positive light to someone who otherwise only exists in darkness.

Maybe you don’t have to go to seminary and get ordained to have a ministry. Maybe your ministry is you showing up every single day and giving your absolute very best for eight hours.

Maybe if you’re faithful in the little things over time, God will entrust you with bigger things down the road.

Or maybe you’ll get to the end of your life and realize that all those little things done with great love really were the big things after all.


That Ol’ Imago Dei

“You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on the earth by the Master Craftsman”  (Max Lucado, The Christmas Candle).

“If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning… Face it, friend. He is crazy about you!” (Max Lucado)

Today, Aaron Bryant preached from Genesis 1:26-31 about the creation of Adam and Eve. He then proceeded to make a very powerful illustration.

Suppose you buy a Louis Vuitton purse and spend an astronomical amount of money on them. You’re not going to give that bag away to just anybody. You’re not going to sell it to anybody who walks up to you off the street and offers you $50 for it. Why not? Because you value it.

In the same way, you and I have immense value because God created us in His own image. We bear the Imago Dei, the image of God, and that makes us worth more than any designer purse (or really fancy watch if you’re all about being manly). Side note: I had to look up the spelling for Louis Vuitton, in case you want to permanently revoke my man card.

Not only did  God created  you, but Jesus redeemed you, and that makes you much too valuable to live cheaply.

I know some of you read that as: don’t drink a gallon of whiskey a day or snort a bag of cocaine every 5 minutes or sleep with everything that moves west of the Mississippi.

But it’s more than that. To live out of your great worth is to live where Jesus and Jesus alone is the center of your universe, your reason for existence. Because He is. Anything and anyone else is much too small to fill that void.

It means that everything you say and do is an act of gratitude and worship back to the God who made and ransomed you.

It means to make the most of every moment you’re given, not taking for granted that you will have tomorrow to start living right.

So, if you’re ever in the area on a Sunday, check out The Church at Avenue South. And if not, remember Whose you are and how valuable you are because of that.

The end.



A Very Long But Very Good Day

I had a very long day. It was also a very good day.

It started off with a 6:40 appointment to get my teeth cleaned at the dentist. Yes, that’s 6:40 AM (as in way too early for this guy). That went well and look ma, no cavities!

From there, it was off to work, where I ended up being an hour late from the dentist. I made up half of my missed time by staying 30 minutes extra. That made for a longer day, but it was still all good.

I ended up the day with worship, Kairos-style. I got to greet the good folks at my usual Door H and then experience some good worship music and teaching.

I’m home now and my cat is ever so grateful. She probably wishes I could stay home and attend to her every whim, but alas, I must go forth and earn the bacon for her to feast upon.

I’ve decided that just about every day is a good day because every day I’m alive is a gift. Every day I’m alive has God in it and God has proven way more than once that He is enough for those who truly learn to rest in Him.

So that’s where I am at 9:22 pm on a Tuesday night. Tired but happy. Exhausted but filled with joy. Ready for bed but knowing that I am blessed.

It’s all about perspective. You have to train yourself to look for the good in every day, then you will see God in every day. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth the effort.

Once again, I’m blessed by the people God has in my life. My family, of course, is awesome, but I also have some good friends (especially the ones I greet with at Kairos). I even have a few furry friends.

Best of all, knowing that nothing I have ever done can lessen God’s love for me or cause Him to turn away from me is priceless.

PS Brennan Manning’s memoir, All is Grace, is available FOR FREE from the Amazon Kindle store (if you have either a Kindle or the Kindle app on your mobile device of choice). Go get it now.