Sunday, August 19, 2007

Why won't you die?!

Isaiah 6
"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him were seraphs, each with six wings: with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of His glory.'

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 'Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.' Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, 'See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.' Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?'

And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'"

This was the Scripture of reference for the sermon today at church. Let me tell you, it spoke volumes to me. I had read this particular passage before and I had taken some of the same lessons from it, but today it really hit me. The first sentence alone even now ways heavy on my heart and mind. "In the year that King Uzziah died...". King Uzziah...who was this guy? What did he do that Isaiah felt so impressed enough to start off one of the most well-known passages of Scripture with? To go even further, what's so important about his death that led (or leads) to seeing the Lord high and lifted up? King Uzziah's reign is covered in II Chronicles 26. His reign starts off good. He was 16 years old when his kingship started and it says that "he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (v. 4)." However, verse 16 begins his downfall. After he became so powerful, he became very prideful. He thought that the worship should be centered around him. He entered into the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of the Lord, which was something only the priests who were consecrated could do. As a result of his unfaithfulness and pride, the Lord struck him with leprosy until the day he died. Again, his death led Isaiah to see our exalted King and a glimpse of the seraphs praising His name for eternity.

IF we are to see the glory of the Lord, there are things in our lives that need to die. For most, if not all, the number one thing that needs to die is pride. Get our eyes off of ourselves and look UPWARD! We need to stop focusing on our lot in life; we need to stop focusing on our circumstances and realize and study and KNOW that our God is Holy, Holy, Holy; Good, Good, Good, and Faithful, Faithful, Faithful! I'll admit, this is not an easy thing. It's hard not to fall victim to our current situation(s) in life and become discouraged and, I'll say it, angry. Why is this happening? Why is that person being blessed and I'm not? Why did that person get the position I'm more qualified for? Whatever the gripe may be in our hearts and minds, we need to turn our eyes upward to Him! Has He been faithful in the past? Has He forsaken you? Will He forsake you? You know the answers to these questions. But as soon as things start to go against us, we forget the answers and lose heart. We soon find ourselves deep in depression, alone and frustrated. Though the grass withers and the flowers fall, the Word of the Lord stands forever! And what does the Word say? It says that He is faithful to the end and apart from Him, there is no good thing! You can read all through Scripture and find the reward for those who stand firm, who do not lose heart despite what actually may be going on in their lives.

There may be other areas in your life, besides pride, that have captured your eyes. Job? Death? Sickness? Relationships? Whatever it may be, a question needs to be raised: Are you willing to put it to death? Are you willing to say, "Ok God, right now it ain't workin. I'm done trying on my own. I surrender to You and Your will and destiny for me"? I get a picture of these things/areas becoming a wall between you and God. Isaiah 59:2 has worked me over lately. It says, "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear." The sin of pride or idolatry in your life is keeping God from hearing you, from His face shining on you! Do you want that?! I sure don't!

So it boils down to trust. Just look at Abraham and Jesus! Come on, now! Can I get an amen? Can you imagine the anguish Abraham felt as he was walking up the mountain moments before having to kill his son? And I think you know the anguish Jesus went through...He sweated blood! Do you trust Him? If so, take your eyes off of yourself and look upward! You will see the Lord high and lifted up! You will see the glory of the Lord!

I'll finish with Psalm 13, one of the greatest psalms of lament. But at the end it says this: "But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me."

Grace and peace.

Friday, August 10, 2007

You Give and Take Away

First the Take Away:

Well, it's Friday night and I'm taking a break from packing clothes and what not for a trip to West Virginia. Not a trip I'm excited about. My grandmother passed away on Thursday and her funeral is Sunday at 2 pm. About a week ago she feel and broke her hip. Mawmaw, as we like to call her, has had a history of heart and lung problems, and has had very bad osteoporosis...not the best candidate for anesthesia/surgery. But, the doctors said she needed it or she would be bed-ridden for the rest of her life. Surgery was a success, but she never made it out of the I.C.U. She was in such pain that the doctors gave her more morphine. Because of that, her respirations were suppressed. So the doctors were constantly playing tug-o-war with controlling her pain and knocking out her breathing. Then on Wednesday night she went into a coma and then passed away at 11 am on Thursday. The family has found solice in the fact she passed peacefully and pain-free. But, the weird/neat/encouraging part for me was when I found out Thursday morning she was in a coma, I started praying and I heard the Lord clearly told me that "He was going to take her" that day. When I talked to my mother that night I informed her of what the Lord had told me and she was comforted and encouraged. So now I'm picking out a white shirt and tie because that is what pallbearers are going to wear on Sunday. My uncle wants me to give a eulogy at the funeral...I don't know if I'm comfortable doing that. I'll just have to be praying hard to see if God wants me to share or not. Mawmaw was a wonderful grandmother! Always so loving and boy could she cook!! Mmmmm....mmmmm!! I will miss her so much but I know she is not suffering anymore and she is with how happy is she right now?!

And now the Give:

Prior to my trip to Scotland, my grandfather developed these fainting/passing out episodes (basically multiple strokes). I witnessed one of these episodes and it was scary. I'm a doctor and all and I see a lot of scary stuff sometimes, but what I saw really freaked me out. Anyway, he went into the hospital in Macon (after being to 3 other hospitals) and I was wavering back and forth on whether or not I should go to Scotland or stay with the family to support them and be there for them. I talked to my dad and he told me I should go to Scotland and that if anything changes, they will get in touch with me and if I need to come back home, I could do it then. I knew I was supposed to go to Scotland, but to be honest, my heart and mind were back here in the States. While overseas, I checked my email as often as I could, fully expecting to get an email saying that Papa (that's what we like to call him) had passed. But instead, I got emails saying that the doctors believe they've found out why he's having these episodes. They performed a heart cath procedure and un-blocked 3 very clogged coronary arteries. Praise the Lord! But the Lord always gives more than we expect, and He truly gave our family some leftover bread and fish during this whole ordeal (reference to when Jesus fed the multitude on a few biscuits and sardines). The night before Papa had his heart cath procedure, he had an encounter with the Lord and he surrendered his life to Him!! Now if you knew my Papa, you would know that he is a very boisterous man (don't know if that's the right word or not?). He is always the first one to tell his stories of the deer he killed, or the fish he caught, and so forth and so forth. And he would tell these stories with all that was within him! The day I got back to America is when my dad told me about him being saved. The coolest thing my dad told me was that he was telling everyone who walked in his room that he got saved and Jesus is the Lord of his life! It was the first thing that came out of his mouth when my dad went up to the hospital the next morning. So to top it all off, Papa was baptized tonight. My brother and mom were there (as well as other aunts, uncles, cousins) and they said when he came out of the water, he shouted, "Praise the Lord!" That's my Papa. And you know what, that's my God!! He is in the business of healing, not just physically (which Papa is getting stronger by the day), but emotionally and spiritually as well.

So Lord, the past couple weeks You have truly given and taken away, but I can't help but bless Your name!

Grace and Peace.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Got to Crawl Before You Walk

Something I was thinking about tonight that could be an addendum to the previous post. I was at the Square and I saw a father holding the hands of his little boy as he was first learning how to walk. The child's feet were wobbly as he desperately hung on to his father's hands for support and reassurance. Then it hit me...this is where we are in worship. We are at the stage where we are transitioning between crawling and walking. There is the uncertainty of steps and the fear of falling on our hands and knees, even worse, falling on our faces. The little boy had the assurance of being able to crawl, but the next step in life (literally) is to walk. It's science. Worship right now, at least in America, is at this transition. Go with me on this one for a minute, I promise to make a point (and feel free to expound on it if you so desire). I touched on this in the previous post, but we have grown comfortable in our ability to touch the bottom. Or maybe we are at the middle rope in a pool and occasionally we venture out into the deep end where we can't touch, but quickly return to the rope. We as a church are on the brink of walking, but there is the comfort or the inward satisfaction of being able to crawl. That's just what we are used to. But like I said, it's time. It's time to walk. At first our feet are wobbly and we are unsure of our next step, but the key is holding on to the Father's hands. His hands are not too short to uphold us and save us! Will we fall? Will we fail? In a way, I hope so. If we don't find ourselves failing, then maybe we aren't taking risks enough! All in all, failing is not as bad as it reads. Failing equals learning. In the Gospels, Jesus encourages His disciples that if they go into a town and they do not receive them, then shake off the dust and go into the next town. Jesus is basically saying that the disciples will fail, but to not lose heart. Shake off the dust and go the next town and keep doing what you are called to do. The little boy has the innate goal to walk. The fact is, he is going to fall at least once (probably multiple times) before he "gets it." If we gave up after the first time we fell, then we would all be cruising the streets of the Square on our hands and knees! That ain't natural! But we have this fear inside us. Maybe it's root is the fear of man; the fear of what other people or what the congregation is going to think of us. Maybe the root goes even deeper...sarcasm. Sarcasm? Yes. We are afraid to step out and walk because of the sarcastic comments that may come our way. You know that the word sarcasm actually means "to tear man apart?" We are afraid that the words of the body will tear us apart (they do have the power of life and death). I don't know, I'm just kind of rambling right now and don't know if I'm actually making a lick of sense!?! So I'm enlisting a challenge...let's get off of our hands and knubby knees and start walking! Take ahold of the Father's hands. Put your little fingers inside His big, capable hands and start walking. We will fall and we will scuff our knees, but we can't stay like this just ain't natural!

Grace and peace.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Catching Up

It has been such a long time since I blogged (I feel like I've said that before in another blog) and a lot has happened in my life since my last post. Let's see...I went to London for close to 2 weeks and took part in a worship leader conference by Tim Hughes. I think I have characterized that trip as both confirmational and transformational. It indeed was. I was there with 20 other worship leaders from around the globe and we had amazing teaching sessions, as well as incredible worship times together. It was confirmational because as I was there, I felt God tugging on my heart strings and whispering to me, "this is what I have for you, Justin. But, this is just the beginning..." I gained a lot of knowledge, wisdom and revelation concerning worship and where God is taking worship around the world. And, I gained amazing friends. God is taking worship to new levels. It is kind of hard to explain, but worship as a whole is going into deeper waters. I feel as if we have been in knee or waist deep water for so long now, but God is calling us deeper. Waters so deep that we can only swim. No more touching the bottom of the old way of doing worship. Don't get me wrong, I am so thankful of what worship HAS been in the past 10 years or so. Delirious came in and took us to deeper waters, then Passion, and now God is raising up worship leaders all over the world, and He is uniting us with with one goal...enountering Him. If we don't encounter Him and if we don't leave a worship setting changed, then we did not have a true encounter with the Living God! Now I am talking about the corporate gathering together where we lift up the Name of Jesus and adore Him, whether in song, meditation or contemplation. There are so many more ways to worship, laughing with friends, obeying your parents and authority, taking a walk and standing in awe of the beauty of His creation, reading Scripture, and so on and so on. But as far as corporate worship goes, where we are heading is exciting and can be a little uncomfortable to some. To start, look at what people are watching these days...reality TV shows. People enjoy tuning in every week to see what's going to happen next. They are drawn in to the unpredictable nature of these shows. In the same way, our worship services need to be "Reality TV Show Worship Services." In no way should one be able to know what is going to happen when they walk into church on a Sunday morning, or a Wednesday night. They should wondering, "what's going to happen this week?" I remember going to 7:22 many years ago, totally expecting to have loud worship and then hear Louie Giglio give his message. But as soon as I walked through the doors, there were signs up telling us to find our seat and stay silent. The whole service was silent. There was no music. There was no sermon. There was no ministry time. We sat in darkness (yes there were candles around the room) and read words on the big screens; words of Scripture mainly, but also words of instruction on what to meditate next on. It was an altogether different service, but one that I will always remember. It was the Holy Spirit that led that service as you focused on Jesus and allowed Him the time to speak into your heart. So, our worship services need to be unpredictable, because the Holy Spirit is unpredictable!

Which leads me to the next major point, the Holy Spirit is THE worship leader. I love Matt Redman's idea of lead worshippers. This takes the pressure off us mere humans and puts it all on the Holy Spirit. If you look back through the Bible, you read of different "worship leaders." You read, "a song of Moses," or a "song of David," or "Mary's song," or "Zechariah's song." These words were mentioned all the way up until Pentacost. It was here that the shift took place. From here on out, the Holy Spirit controlled the worship. He became the Worship Leader. So, as the lead worshippers (ie. Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Tim Hughes, Hillsong, Kevin Mann, Tate Welling, Bill Tanner, myself, etc) prepare for a worship service, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to direct the service. We need to ask Him where He wants the service to go. We need to seek His direction and ask Him what kind of response He wants in our worship. Also, we need to plan for the unpredictable. Space needs to be planned to give the Holy Spirit room to do what HE wants. He may want us to stay on one chorus for longer, or He may want us to completely go off of the set list and do a different song. Or, He may want to go into a prophetic time or He may lay a word of Scripture on our hearts that we need to turn into a song. Or, we just need to be silent and let Him speak into our lives. To some, this is scary because they have gotten used to touching bottom. Has He ever let us down? Will He leave us? Dive in. Swim. Splash around. HE IS GOOD!!!

It should be common in our worship services for people to dance. It should be common in our worship services for people to weep. It should be common in our worship services for healings to occur. It should be common in our worship services for God to call out people into their Kingdom destiny. If these aren't happening, then we need to take an inventory on the worship that is in our churches. It may be time to humble ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to lead. I'm speaking to myself here. See, God is doing a new thing all over the world. It's time to swim people. That's just's time!

So I will leave you with those points. The bar has been set. I'm both excited and anxious to see what it is going to look like when the Holy Spirit is leading our worship. Not just in the corporate setting, but in our own lives as well.

I will include a few pictures of the London retreat:

Here is me and Tim Hughes! (My new friend...he loves Ketchup)

Here is the whole group giving our rendition of "jazz hands"

And this is the mansion we stayed in...pretty sweet huh?