Unleashing Compassion

THRIVE photo of Anna

My heart has been touched by compassion once again. Tonight we tipped a pizza delivery girl $6,684 for delivering an extra large pepperoni pizza. When I say we, I mean about 1,600 of God’s people gathered at Southwest Church in Palm Desert for the Thrive Conference. We heard a little of her story since her boss was in attendance at the conference. An emigrant from El Salvador, Anna faithfully provides for her four children, one of whom has recently faced some medical difficulties and was facing yet another surgery. The phone call was made, the offering buckets were passed around, and we all anticipated this wonderful moment. Her boss made sure she was the one assigned the delivery.

At the end of the meeting, Anna was ushered into the auditorium with the pizza. An interpreter helped explain why we collected a tip for her, mainly, that she had value in God’s eyes and we wanted to express that love to her. They brought out a big metal bucket with a gallon sized zip lock bag stuffed full of the cash. She wept. We all wept. I was ruined, so touched by this unmerited act of love and kindness that I couldn’t stop weeping. I just sat there stunned, unable to speak or move for 15 minutes after the meeting was over.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been broken up over an act of kindness. I shared about this in one of my earliest blogs, On Unconditional Love. Seeing the beauty of grace is more than I can bear – it tears me apart every time. About every story of adoption does me in. Robertson McQuilkin’s Resignation Speech, leaving his post to better serve his wife who was suffering from Alzheimers. The betrayed lover forgiving her spouse and the gradual healing of their marriage. Joseph’s story (Genesis 37-50), the account of his kindness and forgiveness towards his brothers who sold him into slavery. Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Stephen King’s Shawshank Redemption.

Mexico Loft House DedicationOne week ago, in Mexico, I fought back tears as I handed over the keys of a brand new house to Alexandro and his family on behalf of a team from Trinity who spent two days building it for them. This was one of three loft houses Trinity people financed, assembled in our parking lot and sent 98 people to build on site for three families in the outskirts of Ensenada, BC, Mexico.

Compassion like this is what Jesus said is not only part of his greatest commandment, but it is the mark to the world that we are his disciples. It brings glory to the Father and it brings joy to both those who are showing it and receiving it. Everyone wins.

Watching the Olympics, I often cry as an athlete or team takes the gold for their country. It’s the dream realized – all that work, all that investment and the glorious payoff. It’s the glory of the win. The media always points the camera to the mom and dad. Perhaps that’s why I cry in those huge moments where compassion is on display. It’s the win for God the Father – the beautiful display of Christ’s love through his disciples. As a worship leader, I believe this is corporate worship at its best.

Compassion is the heart of God. Not only that, if you’re looking for a definition of love, the Bible gives one. God is love. (1 John 4:8). Love is not just the heart of God; it is the very essence of God. Every act of love expressed through generosity, commitment, sacrifice, service, and forgiveness points to the one act of Jesus Christ on the cross. “This is how we know what love is. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

So, people of God, let’s rise up and unleash compassion in our church, and reach the world with the love that God has shown to us and yearns to show to them.

bill-signature

Posted in Bill's Blog, Church, Worship | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Learning How to do Something Well

img_5834One of the great joys over the last month has been devoting a fair amount of my free time to building a playhouse for my daughter, Maria. Inspired to make use of some old windows found in the attic of our home, this project has been on my mind for about three years. Last December I realized that Maria, now ten years old, will be too old for a playhouse if I procrastinate any longer, so I jumped when I found the opportunity. What I needed was help, courage to begin, and I found both in a renewed friendship with a master builder, Jerry Huddleston.

Jerry and I reconnected on the building team for our daughters’ Christmas musical at Trinity Church. Through a good turn of circumstances for me, Jerry had a work project that stalled and was free to help when I asked him. So I took a day off from work and spent from sunrise to sunset with him getting the project underway. I wanted to learn how to frame a floor, walls, rafters, windows and doors and do it all to code, in essence building a mini-house. I could never match the experience I have had working with Jerry. Learning how to do things right and in a timely manner is one thing. Enjoying the time building a friendship, even better.

img_5177In our do-it-yourself society, I could have watched YouTube videos and probably figured it out on my own, but I’ll guarantee two things. It would never have turned out so well and the time it would have taken me to figure things out by trial and error may have discouraged me to the point of not completing the project. Worse yet I could have made a fatal mistake along the way that would cause the whole thing to collapse before I ever finished. (Like not putting diagonal braces on the walls until I put the siding on.)

When it comes to learning how to do something well, I find myself wondering why I don’t ask for help more often. Could pride be the prevailing issue, a fear of revealing an inadequacy or area of weakness? Building a playhouse is one thing, but building a marriage, a family, a career and most importantly a relationship with the Lord is on a whole different level. Yet, if you’re at all like me, I tend take those most important tasks and roles in my life and settle for a do-it-yourself mentality. Not only do I suffer, but cause those I lead to suffer as a result of my mistakes along the way.

I’m learning that a major component of leadership is putting myself in an apprentice role and finding a master to teach me the ropes. If this is to happen, I must humble myself and ask for help. We all need heroes, mentors and coaches and perhaps the key to a life of impact is in realizing this and going after it as if it matters most, and for the things that matter most.

I can’t wait for Saturday when Jerry will teach me how to install the drip edge and roof shingles on my little house. I think I’m going to ask him for some parenting tips as well.

bill-signature

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Come Quickly, Lord … 

img_5745The return of the Lord Jesus is the blessed hope of the believer. Yet, the timing of the Lord’s return has been a difficult faith-stretching aspect of the Scriptures for me. The writers of the Bible were certain that it would be soon, yet here we are 2000 years later. Seeing the evil on the face of the earth, even terrorist attacks in our own community, I wonder why he hasn’t returned sooner, to judge sin and set up his peaceful reign on earth. The Apostle Peter reminds me that it is God’s patience and yearning for all to reach repentance that causes him to wait.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8–9 ESV).

When God eradicates evil, not only will the terrorist go down, but people who are trying to be good, but have missed that eternal life is in knowing and following Jesus Christ. The crazy thing is that God loves both equally. His compassion is what causes him to wait. God desires all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:4) So what will bring about this turning to the Lord that he desires? And shouldn’t his desire be ours also?

The proclamation of the gospel through the witness of the church is what will cause people to “reach repentance.” That seems to be the intent of the last instructions Peter gives in his letter. He asks an important question, “… what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, …” (2 Peter 3:11–12 ESV)?

What sort of people ought we to be while we wait? Full of peace rather than fear. Full of grace rather than judgement. Full of righteousness and holiness (light) rather than sinfulness (darkness). Diligently working rather than lazy. Full of wisdom rather than foolishness. Making the most of our time rather than wasting time. Full of the Holy Spirit who enables all of the above. Living lives of holiness and godliness will hasten the coming of the day of the Lord. “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for [the new heavens and new earth], be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation,” (2 Peter 3:14–15 ESV).

What will make the church rise up, hastening the coming of our Lord? A comfortable church is not a reaching church. A church where Christ’s love is not being lived out is a poor witness. A church where the truth of God’s Word is not leading the way is powerless to bring about salvation. God uses his disciples to reach the world with his good news of Jesus Christ but too easily we lose that focus and would rather be served by the church than be the church serving the world. Perhaps God’s patience is toward us who believe as much as it is toward those who have yet to believe through our witness.

Let’s be the people that God has redeemed us to be, walking as children of light, growing in patience and compassion like our Lord who does not wish that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. After all, he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. While we wait with that message on our lips, let’s count the patience of the Lord as salvation, one soul at a time.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18 ESV)

bill-signature

[I wrote down some of these thoughts after the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino a year ago today, December 2, 2015. I’m praying this week for all who were directly impacted by this evil act of violence in our community and especially for those who lost loved ones.]

Posted in Bill's Blog, Church, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Awe

img_4283

Last June, I had the privilege of spending four days with my wife, Julie, backpacking in Golden Trout Wilderness of the Sierras. To get there one must drive north on Highway 395. Approaching the eastern edge of Sierra Nevada range gives a breathtakingly beautiful, majestic, even awesome view. Behold rugged beauty, the awesome power of God’s hand through the forces of nature, earthquakes, volcanos and glaciers, giving rise to the rugged peaks and carving out the Owens valley. We who worship the Creator should rightly be in awe and praise him. However, at 70 mph, or whatever speed you might drive this highway, all too soon you’ve passed it.

Pulling over at a rest stop or view point enables one to take it in a little more. But, the real wonder belongs to the few who get off of Highway 395 and drive as far as they can on a back road, get out of their car, strap on some boots and start walking up into the wilderness. This takes a lot of work and sweat, but it is worth it, revealing something altogether different: a tender, quiet, gentle, luscious beauty captured in streams, wildflowers, lakes, waterfalls, and forests teaming with birds and animals. The rugged majestic beauty colliding with the tender quiet beauty give one a better picture and experience of the Sierras, a reward to those who take the time and do the work of getting to know the Sierras.

Too often I think our relationship with God is like driving down Highway 395 at 70 mph and we get content there, failing to go into the back country where one truly begins to know and experience the fullness of God. Even in our worship services, we speed along, happy with the familiar views of God and not seeking a deeper understanding, a growing intimate knowledge. The familiar is a necessary starting point, but it is just that, a starting point. It is only in the back country where we gaze upon he beauty of the Lord, and in awe of him, that our senses come alive, at the same time satisfied yet always craving more. It is here that heart-engaged worship is fueled for the duration of our lives on this earth. Our wonder is awakened and we want to make that next ridge and look over the top, to discover, to rest, to know. There is no end to the wonders of God.

Over the past few months I read a book by Paul Tripp entitled, Awe, Why it Matters For Everything We Think, Say, & Do. This book inspired me to spend time thinking and studying about awe. Its basic premise is that we have been created for awe and only when we are in awe of God does every other part of our lives align rightly. Listen with your heart to what the author has to say:

“…only when awe of God rules my heart will I set everything else in my life in its rightful place. Joyful, perseverant obedience only ever grows in the soil of worship. You see, because worship is not just something I occasionally do but the foundation of who I am and because I worship my way through every moment of every day, if my heart is not given over to the worship of God, it will give itself to the worship of something else. Whatever has captured the awe of my heart will also set the agenda for the things that I desire, think, choose, say, and do.” (Tripp, p.89)

That last sentence sums it all up. My life is devoted to and ruled by whatever has captured the awe of my heart. This insight has given me a renewed personal goal and a goal for every worship service that I plan and lead. The question that must be answered is this: how do I keep my heart captured by the awe of God above all else? Then from that place, how can I help the hearts of those I lead be captured by the awe of God?

The scriptures hold the answer, recorded in a song written by King David.

4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,

that will I seek after:

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord

all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord

and to inquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)

The answer: daily gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. Reading the context of the rest of Psalm 27 reveals David, the king of Israel, the most powerful and prominent man in the nation, being vulnerable, revealing his struggles, challenges, rejection, loneliness and fears related to his work and home life. Yet he begins and ends declaring his courage and confidence in the face of it all. Where does such strength and courage come from? David knew that it was in seeking the face of the Lord. His “one thing,” was to behold the beauty of the Lord and to learn from him. And he knew that this wasn’t just a Sabbath thing, but it was the every day pursuit of his life.

Getting Practical

While I’m far from perfect, and just a learner, here are some ways I daily gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and inquire of him.

God’s Word. For me it begins with opening his Word to see him, listen to and learn of him. I aim to spend time in God’s Word usually in the mornings anywhere from 5 minutes to a half hour. Being in God’s Word is also a weekly habit with my Small Group and with the congregation in the weekend worship service.

God’s People. Second, I see God when I fellowship with other believers who inspire awe of him. I live for lunch or coffee times with friends, young and old, who are also in pursuit of knowing God.

God’s Presence. When I was 25 years old, I prayed that God would make me more aware of his presence throughout the day, and he has. Since he is always with me, I should naturally converse with him in my thoughts, talking with him in prayer throughout my day. These are often sentence prayers of thanks, asking for help, or asking God to help others. A few times a week, I try to make a point to stop and listen, to cease striving and know that he is God. I do this by having a longer conversation with God during a walk alone over lunch or a break at work, driving to my next appointment in silence or laying in my hammock for fifteen to thirty minutes in between chores on the weekend.

God’s Work. One final activity that has greatly increased my awe of God is joining him in his work, work that is beyond my ability. This is work that sometimes takes me to the point of praying Jehosaphat’s prayer, “We do not know what to do but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12b). Caring for the poor, the widow and orphan is a good example. Serving other’s needs, especially in my family and my work is another. Trusting God through trials always increases my awe of him.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but simply some ways I feed the awe of God in my life. I know I am far from doing these things perfectly, but the more time I spend doing them, the more awesome God becomes to me.

Concluding with Our Goal

One final result of going into the back country with God, is that once one has been there, they want to take others to see what they have seen. This is what it means to be a worship leader. To say that the other way around, I cannot expect to lead people to know and be in awe of a God whom I do not know and who is not awesome to me. Listen to David in another well known song recorded in Psalm 40.

“He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

and put their trust in the Lord.” (Psalms 40:3 ESV).

I find it fascinating that the result of David’s new song is not that people would hear it, but that people would see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. A good definition for the Hebrew word for fear is, “awe inspired reverence.” David’s desire was for his song to lead people to see his awesome Lord. And that, my friends, is the goal I have chosen for us as a worship team in this new season of ministry at Trinity Church. This quote from Paul Tripp’s book states it well.

“You could argue that every element of the gathered worship of God’s people is intended to give people their awe back again. We need a moment to refocus on the grandeur of God’s glory and grace. We need to see his awesome wisdom and power again. We need to dwell on his patience and faithfulness again. We need to be stunned by the perfection of his holiness and the righteousness of his judgment again. We need to be encouraged by the awesome truth of his constant presence again. We need to be reminded to rest in his amazing sovereignty again. And we need to be blown away by the reality that, by grace, he is all these things for us. He has unleashed his awesome glory on us! You see, awe doesn’t just remind you of who God is; it redefines for you who you are as his creature and his blood-bought child.” (Tripp, p.90)

Whether you are an artist or a technician, on stage or behind the scenes, collectively we work together to lead worship at Trinity. We have this privilege of leading kids, peers, youth, adults, guests, believers and non-believing seekers to see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Let us make a point to frequently get off the highway and into the wilderness, serving from a place of increasing awe and wonder at the grandeur and beauty of our great and glorious God. Let us lead people to know and be in awe of a God whom we know and who is awesome to us. Let’s show them Jesus. Might we be these type of worship leaders to the glory of God in the church and in Christ Jesus. Amen.

bill-signature

Posted in Bill's Blog, Faith, Leadership, Leading Worship, Worship | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Faith Fuels Faith

July 2016 Connections Web Pics BbornFaith fuels faith. This is the takeaway from the last two weeks, spending many hours behind the wheel zipping along at 75 mph, driving nearly 4500 miles from California to Iowa to Missouri and back home, visiting friends and family along the way.

Driving across country with four kids, ages 5 to 14, could be a recipe for disaster, but oh the glory of audio stories! We spent countless hours listening together. I shed many a tear as I was introduced to a hero of the faith, Lillian Trasher, who founded the first orphanage in Egypt in the early 1900’s. By faith, she heard God’s call on her life when she was a teenager, redirecting her to minister to orphans and widows. She lived by faith every day and at her times of greatest need, God was faithful to meet those needs. Her greatest demonstration of that faith was love offered through service, boldly living for God.

Julie’s uncle Leroy and wife Judy hosted us in their home during our 5 days in Iowa. Leroy has courageously been battling lymphoma cancer and the many side effects of treatment over the past nine years. Sitting at the breakfast table alone together one morning, I listened intently as he delighted in his kids, grandkids, and in his wife Judy, looking forward to more time together as she moves to part-time at her work. He reassured me that he was ready “to go home” when the time came. Faith like that is truly inspiring and humbling.

In a playground in Chesterfield, Missouri, I sat on a bench and wept after reading an email bringing bad news of the spread of cancer in our brother, Mike Lawrence’s body. Mike has demonstrated incredible faith, serving the Lord as the chair of our elder board through the past year and a half as our church family has learned to love and trust one another, strengthening our trust and hope in the Lord. While this news broke my heart for Mike and Paula and their family as they weather this storm, I was overcome with thanksgiving. My faith continues to be strengthened by their example of trusting the Lord and living their lives for his glory regardless of their circumstances. I continue to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation and devoted to prayer for this dear man and his family.

When I could sneak a few moments alone, I read the book, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. What an inspiration and encouragement I received from this biography written in 1932 by his two youngest children. His secret was one that I have long known to be true, but how beautifully he lived it. God uses the least to do his work. Our job is to cease striving, rest in God’s grace and love, let him do his work through us as we come to know and delight in him. Mr. Taylor’s favorite worship song declares, Jesus I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art. I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart. Oh that I will nurture a growing faith like that, facing each day, doing the work God has called me to do through simply abiding in Jesus.

As I have shared this takeaway from my vacation, many people have told me their own stories about how God has directed their lives and met their needs as they have stepped out in faith. Our pastoral candidate, Todd Arnett and his family, willing to leave a thriving ministry and dear family at High Desert Church to come and join us and lead us as our next senior pastor, are demonstrating faith. Their faith, encourages my faith. All of us at Trinity are beginning to see how God has been graciously leading us to this wonderful convergence of our two families.

I spent many hours filling up at gas stations across the country on my road trip. Likewise, these stories and conversations filled my faith tank to overflowing. In the words of the Apostle Paul, God imparts a spiritual gift to make us strong, whenever we connect on a heart level with faithful members in the body of Christ. (Romans 1:11) Thanks, Father for this gift. May our faith be pleasing to you, and your Son, Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.

bill-signature

Posted in Bill's Blog, Church, Faith | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Freedom

 

man_elevation_freedom_line_fan_54242_3840x1200Have you ever had a night where your mind is so active that you cannot go to sleep? That happens to me more than I’d like. Most often, that which fills my mind is good, sometimes God’s attempt to get my attention.

Recently, as I prepared to lead worship for our Mind the Gaps missions conference, and after rehearsing the night before, the lyric, “Holy Spirit you are welcome here, come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for, to be overcome by your presence, Lord,” was a sweet prayer in my heart, set to “repeat” as I tried to fall asleep (Holy Spirit by Bryan & Katie Torwalt). I spent the night tossing and turning in and out of that prayerful sleep, until I woke in the early morning hours with the word freedom running through my mind. I recalled the scripture, 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV).

As the band gathered that evening to lead the opening worship, we took some time to pray. I asked them to each share one biblical word that describes what our expression of worship should be and then we prayed for those things. Words like joyful, thankful, reverent, Spirit-filled, truthful and honest came up. My word was freedom. The Lord was honored by our prayers and he gave us the desires of our hearts. The time of worship that flowed from those prayers for the next few days was beyond what we had asked for.

Freedom accompanies the presence of the Holy Spirit. Does freedom describe your experience as a follower of Jesus? Does freedom describe our experience as God’s people gathered to worship in his presence? Since Easter, I have sensed a growing spirit of freedom in our worship gatherings at Trinity Church. The worship team has prayed for this. God has answered by focusing our attention on Romans 8.

The theme of Romans 8 is liberty, and Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones has called it the Mt. Everest of the scriptures. It begins by declaring, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death”(Romans 8:1–2 ESV). The chapter ends with an amazing declaration that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Freedom begins when, through faith, we are found in Jesus Christ who instead of condemning us, forgives us, setting us free from the bondage of sin so we can truly live. This is when we are born again, and consequently given the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). The end result of freedom is no separation from the love of God, a good description of eternal life. The space in-between is where we live now. Liberty in the here and now hinges on one main theme that has been playing around in my head and heart as we have been meditating on, and teaching on Romans 8 over the past few months. Freedom is found in knowing that you belong to God … forever.

It has become my life’s calling to help people know what it means to be a child of God, belonging to him forever. God drew my attention to this in a very personal way nearly ten years ago as I began the process of adopting two of my children. He gave me a tangible heart-understanding of the biblical language of adoption when describing his love for me. I was reminded of this calling last summer during a rainstorm in the desert (See my blog entitled,  The Lord’s).

Romans 8 tells you that you were set free for this: to know God in such a personal way that you call him, “Daddy,” the meaning of the word, “Abba.” “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God(Romans 8:15–16 ESV).

 God doesn’t condemn you, rather he adopts you as his child. The Holy Spirit testifies to your spirit that this is true – you really are his child. You really belong to him. This is the key to living in what Paul calls “the freedom of the glory of the children of God”(Romans 8:21 ESV). 

 In your suffering, you can know that you have hope in the midst of our groaning, as your body ages and struggles with disease and decay. In the same way that your spirit has been redeemed, so will your body, along with all of creation. (Romans 8:23).

You can be secure in your weaknesses (insecurities) knowing that he who searches your heart, knows your weaknesses and intercedes for you through his Spirit, working out his perfect will (Romans 8:27).

Your Father works all things together for your good. Your suffering and insecurities are to be addressed within that context of hope and patience (Romans 8:28).

Your security comes from knowing that you are called, chosen by God and that he is at work in your life through the tough stuff (Romans 8:29).

God, the one we call, “Daddy,” is for us, so who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).

Ultimately, it is his loyal love for us that enables us to be “more than conquerors” in the here an now, because we know that his love indeed endures forever.38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”(Romans 8:38–39 ESV).

All of our hope is anchored here. Because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can say, “I am sure!” He gives us this knowledge and this confidence which results in experiencing our freedom in Christ.

I am praying that knowing these things in our hearts will lead us to a greater experience of the promised presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As God does this in your life and in my life, imagine what will happen when we come together to praise him in our worship services at Trinity Church. Freedom.

bill-signature

Posted in Adoption, Bill's Blog, Church, Spirituality, Worship | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Heritage

Facing a Task Map

[This is a second edit due to some friends pointing out that I may have communicated something I didn’t intend to, mainly that I was against being relevant. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Thus … take two.]

The word “heritage’ showed up a few times in our worship services on Sunday. First it was in the lyric of our opening song of praise, Like Incense. “Your statutes are my heritage forever…,” we sang, declaring that God was our God and that we would ever praise him. Then it was part of the message from Psalm 61. “For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.” (Psalms 61:5 ESV). Guest preacher, Richard Bewes focused on our heritage as those who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. (his Guarding the Heart message.)

I’ve been thinking of my heritage as we prepare to celebrate my father-in-law’s 80th birthday this weekend. He was given the heritage of those who fear God’s name, passed it on to his daughter, Julie (my wife), and we now seek to pass it on to our children. Of all his accomplishments in life, this is his greatest, the one for which we are most grateful. Thankfully, my parents did the same for me. Our heritage of faith is that of a firm foundation, building our lives on The Rock that is higher than us. It is the security of being sheltered in the perfect love and care of our Heavenly Father, finding refuge in the shadow of his wings. It is the heritage of praising the Lord every day. (Psalm 61). Unbeknownst to me, my father-in-law, Walt attended our service on Sunday. It was good to have him there.

We closed the service with a new rendition of hymn, Facing a Task Unfinished. Over 5400 churches, in 100 countries, comprised of an estimated one million believers in 13 languages joined to sing Facing a Task Unfinished to rekindle the passion to “go and make Him known.” This was an initiative by OMF (Oversees Missionary Fellowship) in partnership with Keith and Kristyn Getty. We almost missed the blessing of partnering with the worldwide church in this expression of worship and the unity of the faith because I had decided not to do it. I debated using this hymn because, well, honestly I was afraid of not being relevant. (While I was practically thinking about the timing and fit in the worship service and the arrangement and whether it was relevant to sing a traditional hymn in a traditional way, under the surface there was a nagging concern about me not being relevant if I did it. I’m confessing here this insecurity and have asked for and received God’s forgiveness.) In retrospect, being part of the worldwide body of Christ singing a hymn together was relevant. The very heart of the hymn is about the task of inviting others to join the heritage of those who fear the Lord.

Thankfully, when Richard began to close his message Sunday morning a bit earlier than scheduled, I texted our tech crew and slipped the song back into the closing of our worship service. It was powerfully unifying, worshipful and God-honoring. People from every generation have told me how it was a meaningful highlight, worshiping with God’s people gathered around the world that morning. One woman shared how she wept as she sang the phrase, “With none to heed their crying for life, and love, and light, unnumbered souls are dying and pass into the night.” I led the hymn from the piano and the congregation heartily sang it in a hymn-like way – the way I learned to sing hymns in the Baptist Church where I was given the heritage of salvation in Christ.

I strive to keep our music program and our worship services relevant. This is after all part of Trinity’s Philosophy of Ministry*. While I prefer singing a new song, I found myself praising God for my heritage of hymn-singing in the church. I’m glad I went with my gut and added Facing a Task Unfinished back in to our services. New to me, the content of this hymn stirred my heart and I sang every phrase with deepening conviction as the morning progressed. While hymns are not the only way to worship, I was reminded that they are a valid and powerful part of our heritage of faith, our expression of praise as the people of God throughout all generations. I’m thankful to the Getty’s and OMF for using a hymn to call the worldwide church back to the purpose of worshiping God through our commitment to “go and make him known.”

bill-signature

*Trinity’s Philosophy of Ministry statement on our worship services reads: Worship services will purpose to unite the church in worship of our triune God. We will meet with God to give Him praise and grow as His followers who worship in spirit and in truth. We will seek to follow biblical guidelines while remaining relevant in our musical styles and use of the arts and technology, and creative in our expression of praise.

Posted in Bill's Blog, Church, Evangelism, Leadership, Music, Worship | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Here’s My Heart

by guest blogger, Gail Rogers

Music and song lyrics can be incredibly powerful, especially when they resonate and connect personally. As someone who tends to struggle with feeling I need to prove myself, or try to find my value in people, achievements or things – I am reminded that I belong to the One who is constant, steady and sure. This is very grounding and calming.

Upon first hearing this song, I enjoyed it, and knew that it was truth being sung. But as time went by I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Then, last fall, near the end of Women’s Bible Study, I realized why. The words of the song are not just “nice” and they aren’t written to just make us feel happy, better or good. The lyrics are more than that. They are truth. And they aren’t truth simply because I (and others) believe it or want them to be so. The statements declared are biblically based and can be found directly in Scripture. This means that everything we sing throughout that song is far more than fluffy, feel-good sentences. They are true, lasting and trustworthy statements of who we are (and have become) because of who God is. Because of this recognition, and a plan to share this song with the women in the Monday night group, I felt led to study through the lyrics of the song and find where each of the truths could be found in Scripture. It took a weekend, but it was a good time of study and connecting Scripture to song in a tangible way. (Here’s My Heart scripture truths.)

I was also drawn to the structure of the song because it doesn’t focus on “us” only. We are not the focus of our lives and we are not the most important thing. Our Savior, Redeemer, God and Father is to be of utmost importance. The song mirrors that. We do indeed need to know who we’ve become, and are free to be, because of Him. He frees us to think rightly of ourselves and calls us to that. But our life is far beyond us – we aren’t free and healed because of who we are; we are free and healed because of God, His grace and His work in us. Moving from rightly acknowledging ourselves in light of Christ into declaring who our God is and truths about Him is a beautiful model for our daily lives. The end of the final verse speaks to me; for He is more than enough, He is all I have, and He is my everything. I sing these words to glorify my God and to remind myself that I need to live for Him.

With a new year often come resolutions and goals, dreams and desires for something better and for change to be made. There is nothing wrong with that inherently, but as someone who struggles – I stress that we cannot find our worth, our focus, our peace or our assurance in anything but the God who stands sure through time. Resolutions to make good changes in our life will not save us, it will not change who we are from the inside out, and it will not redeem us. Christ’s redemption of our lives is the only way to find lasting stability and assurance in our lives. If there is a change that needs to be made, the best resolution to make is to turn your life over to Him and let Christ’s redemption and the work of the Holy Spirit work in you to truly bring change in your life. Look forward into a new year with hope, and be reassured of His grace. I encourage you not to resolve to just live a better 2016, but this song is a reminder that our lives are not our own, and we will be fulfilled by giving our lives fully to the God who redeemed them in the first place. Resolve to live for Christ not only in 2016 but the years to come. Learn more of Him and work to show the world the God who can redeem all who come to Him.

Signature - Gail

Gail

 

Posted in Bill's Blog, Music, Spirituality, Worship | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Which Shoes Will You Choose?

Christmas Shoe TreeChristmas is a season of giving and receiving blessings. It’s also a hectic season of shopping, family gatherings, office parties, final exams, special programs, and unique holiday traditions. We all make important choices as we shape our plans, attitudes and activities through this Christmas season. These choices could be as simple as whether we are generous or greedy, think of others or mainly of ourselves. Are we going to be too busy to take time to be with people? Will we be stressed or let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts?

The people in the Christmas story made important choices. Mary chose to be available. She accepted God’s plan and turned to give him praise, declaring herself “the bondservant of the Lord.” Joseph chose courage and obedience. Rather than be afraid he trusted God and took Mary as his wife. The shepherds chose to marvel at what they had seen and to spread the word concerning what they had been told about this child. Herod chose pride. Threatened by the birth of another king he chose to destroy in a killing rage. The wise men chose to bow before Jesus. They left everything behind to seek the King so they could worship him, giving costly gifts.

Christmas is ultimately about a choice that God made. Because he loved the world so much, he sent his Son Jesus to save his people from their sins. He chose to wear earth shoes. He chose to take the form of a servant, being made in human likeness, took the form of a man, humbled himself and became obedient to death on a cross. But before the creation of the world, he made another choice. He chose us. Blessings, gifts, call them what you will, there is nothing that compares with this choice that God made. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”  (Ephesians 2:3,4 ESV).  Once we grasp this foundational and very personal meaning of Christmas we have a choice to make. We choose to ignore and reject or to embrace and believe. The blessings of Christmas belong to those who chose to believe in Christ and then live lives characterized by the spiritual blessings we have received in him.

Christmas Shoe Tree FullOur goal with the Christmas Shoe Tree, envisioned and built by Trinity artist, Ken Weaver, is to encourage the Trinity Church family to choose to wear the right shoes each day this Christmas season. When it comes to our plans, attitudes and activities, we ought to choose to model the attitude of the One we celebrate. Jesus’ close follower and friend, John, tells us that we ought to walk in the same way in which Christ walked. We have been chosen by God; we’ve been given every spiritual blessing in Christ, whose birth we remember. So let’s be a blessing to those around us, bringing the spiritual blessings we have been given into all of our doings and gatherings this Christmas. “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7 NIV).

bill-signature

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

God, Who Comforts the Downcast

IMG_3154The horror that has played out with the shootings in our community yesterday has shaken us all. We need to individually and collectively cry out to our God of all comfort, strength, hope and peace. Already stories are pouring in about how Christ-followers have been strategically placed by him alongside a grieving friend and colleague, as first responders to the scene, coordinating logistics for the emergency response, in the emergency room helping shooting victims, on rounds with a nurse in the hospital, in the neighborhood of the suspects, and the list goes on and on. We are called to be ambassadors of Christ, reconciling the world to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20). Following Paul’s charge, he tells us that we should not receive the grace of our Lord in vain. In other words, we are called to bring that grace to others. Then he gives an example of how someone did this in his life. “For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn –conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus…” (2 Corinthians 7:5,6) As we receive the comfort of God, let’s do what Titus did for Paul and his friends and comfort others by going to them. We don’t have to say much, rather just love and be present, speaking as the Spirit leads. May I add that we be bold in looking for opportunities to do this? The hymn we are singing on Sunday powerfully states, “his law is love and his gospel is peace.” Let’s live out that love in a very real way as we interact with those in our community that are grieving. We need to be out there helping, available. Let’s fulfill that role that God has given us as ambassadors of Christ living and proclaiming the gospel of peace.

bill-signature

Posted in Bill's Blog, Church, Evangelism | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment