What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about?

You put your right foot in,You put your right foot out,

You put your right foot in and you shake it all about,

You do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around,

That’s what it’s all about!

Could it be that the Hokey Pokey is the fulfillment of our lives here on earth?  It’s all some big cosmic game, stick your foot out there, do a little dance and boom, you’re worm food.  Many people in our culture live their lives as one big hokey pokey.  Let’s just have some fun before the game ends.  We argue that we evolve from some prehistoric swamp, live out our existence, survival of the fittest, last man standing wins. 

What a way to live!  People of faith know better, right?  We understand there is so much more out there than just our daily existence.  We acknowledge a “Higher Power.”  We ask questions like “How can people live their lives without the hope of eternity?”  We recite   Eccleciastes 3:11 that says “He has put eternity in their hearts.”  BUT, do we live like we believe it?  I admit that I do not live my beliefs with consistency.  I know the Truth, but I don’t always live it.  Why is that?  The reason is SIN.  Sin is what causes me to do the Hokey Pokey instead of living a life of obedience.  Sin is fun for a season, as long as we can keep the game going.  But eventually the game ends and someone loses.  That someone is me.  I never win the game of sin.  But still I wrestle with that voice that keeps encouraging me to play. 

So what do we do?  Everyone wants to play Hokey Pokey, but no one wants to lose.  Some of us think, well if I can find enough people to keep playing, then no one has to lose, cause the game will never end.  They surround themselves with others who live similar lives of denial, acting out without considering the consequences.  We see it all around us, bars and clubs filled with people who have the philosophy of “don’t ask, don’t tell, I’m okay, you’re okay, please accept me as I am and don’t expect me to take responsibility for my actions and I’ll do the same for you.”  Not only bars and clubs are filled with this, but so are some churches.  These churches, in an effort to meet people where they live, find themselves filled with people who never find the transforming power of God, because they have decided to tolerate all kinds of sin, instead of repenting from it and helping each other stay healthy.

So my question is this, how can a church help people who are caught up in the games, but unable or unwilling to quit by themselves, without getting swept into the game as well?  Is it more programs?  accountability groups?  more fire and brimstone preaching?  more practical teaching?  newer facilities?  a cool name?  Some of these things may address some of the issues, some of the time.  But the only real solution is the power of the Holy Spirit.  We can only succeed in our own power and our own creativity for so long before things start to unravel.  The only lasting, sustaining, consistent power is the power of God.

Nothing, not even the gates of hell, can defeat the church that is empowered with the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 16:18)  My prayer is that the people in our churches can quit playing the game of life and really start living the life that God intended for us.  A “Spirit empowered, grace-filled, transparent and honest, obedient driven, abundantly blessed, contagious and inclusive God honoring struggle, totally and utterly dependent on Christ, filled with gratitude and praise” kind of life.   Can you dig it?!

Scumbag Worship

     I’ve already admitted to you that I can be a scumbag, so it shouldn’t surprise you with what I’m about to tell you.  This past weekend Sally and I traveled to Chicago, along with 2500 college students, to a Passion Conference.  It’s a weekend filled with intense worship and inspiring and challenging messages.  The first night, Chris Tomlin led us in worship. 

     Now I’ve always heard the saying, “Doctors make the worst patients.”  Well, in my case, worship leaders sometimes make the worst worshipers.  It’s all I can do to attend a worship experience where I’m not in charge and not get distracted. I either start critiquing the song, the artists, the tempo, etc. or I get distracted with people around me who aren’t singing on pitch or singing the wrong words, or not singing or clapping, or whatever.

     So Friday night at the conference, Chris challenged us to raise our voice to sing as loud as we could.  So we were singing and I heard this awful sound come from behind me.  Sounded like some college guys messing around and not being serious in their worship.  So I did what every upstanding Christian guy would do, I turned around and gave “the look.”  You know that look that says, “I am not amused!”

     Well, what I realized was the young man behind me had cerebral palsey.  His bent hands raised as high as they would go, eyes closed, he was singing at the top of his lungs.  Told you, I’m a scumbag!  I was so humiliated. 

     So as I spent the next few minutes berating myself, Louie Giglio stood up to speak.  At some point he encouraged us to seek a specific word from God, a personal word that God was wanting to say to us.  The only thing that I kept hearing was “You’re a scumbag, you’re a scumbag!”  But then I realized that God doesn’t call His children scumbags.  What I began hearing God say was, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”  You see, I’ve been wrestling with that issue in my life, asking God that unanswerable question, “Why did You make me like this God?”  I’ve been living with some resentment about how God made me.  I’ve been saying things like, “if only God had made me this way, or that way.”  I’ve been in a pity party mode for several years, wishing God would have created me with different gifts and different features.

     So here I slumped, a worship leader, humiliated in all my glory, attempting to worship my Creator who had fearfully and wonderfully made me as He ordained.  My voice cracked and the tears fell as I listened to the most beautiful worship coming from behind me, by a young man who was also “fearfully and wonderully made” worshiping with abandonment and thanksgiving to His Creator.  

     What a glorious and gracious God we serve.  Who else, but God would allow scumbags like me to worship Him along with the beautiful worship that was being offered around me.

     Though I speak (sing) with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass and a clanging cymbal.  1 Corithians 13:1

You See It All in New York!

Ministry in New York City is quite interesting.  You meet people from every walk of life, young and old, rich and poor, sane and crazy, well dressed and undressed, happy and sad.  We spent time passing out free granola bars at the street corners along with information about a church in their neighborhood.  For the most part, people either walked by and ignored us, or they took the bar with a look of curiosity.  Some asked us why we were giving out free granola bars and we would respond that it was how we show God’s love in a practical way.  That can lead to some interesting conversations.  But regardless of whether they took the bar or not, we were still able to breathe a prayer on their behalf as they walked by.

We also worked with World Vision in the Bronx.  It was a bright and sunny morning as we walked passed the Madison Square park and then descended down to the number 6 subway line.  As we arrived in the Bronx, we ascended the stairs to face a cold and cloudy walk through the warehouse district.  The smell of garbage nearly took our breath away.  What a contrast to the scene we saw just a half an hour earlier.  As we arrived at the World Vision Storehouse, we were greeted by some of the most gracious people in New York City.  They have a huge warehouse filled with supplies that are shipped all over the world.  They also distribute goods to persons in need in New York City.  We spent the day putting school supply packets together. 

We also helped two local churches, the River and the Gallery.  These two churches are new churches that meet in area schools around Manhattan.  They are working hard to make a difference in their city.  They have ministries for parenting, HIV/Aids, finances, dating relationships, homeless, children, college students, young professionals, etc.  It was such an inspiration and encouragment to witness their faithfulness to God and their love for their community.  It challenged me to come back to my church and community and consider if I’m doing all I’m supposed to be doing to make a difference in West St. Louis County.

We are praying about New York ministry opportunities for 2008.  There is a  chance we might be able to help with an effort to offer HIV testing sites throughout the city.  This is being sponsored by the Gallery church which has only been in existence for less than two years.  Pray with us as we seek God’s will for our ministry efforts in New York.

I Can’t Even Imagine

A few years back, a Christian group called MercyMe introduced a song that took not only the Christian world by storm, but also got lots of attention from the secular pop culture.  The song was “I Can Only Imagine.”  The song attempted to describe what it’s going to be like when we get to heaven and meet Jesus face to face for the first time.

I need to admit that I never liked the song very much.  First of all, I love MercyMe but that song came across a bit too countryfried for my taste.  Just a little too much twang.  It caused much grief in our family.  We’d be driving down the road and the song would come on and the fam would break into song.  I would then reach over and turn the radio off.  That’s when Sally, my wife would begin questioning my salvation and wonder how in the world I could call myself a Worship Leader. 

But beyond the style of the song, the thing that really got to me was a line in the chorus:

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine

I guess it’s just me, but I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s going to be like when I see Jesus for the first time, but this I know, dancing for Him is not going to be the first thing on my mind.  “Oh, there’s Jesus, I think I’ll dance a little jig for Him.”  Anyway, the only thing I can imagine doing when I see my Savior, the One who died for me, is fall flat on my face in worship.  I mean, I’m going to have my nose down in some heavenly dirt (Will there be dirt in heaven?)…  HOLY GROUND.

You know, sometimes when I’m worshiping the only appropriate thing I can think to do, is fall flat on my face.  When ever we read in the Bible about people worshiping Jesus, much of the time they are flat on their faces.  Mary sat at His feet, the woman at Bethany wet His feet with her tears, the disciples fell to the ground at Jesus’ tranfiguration. 

As Americans, we have a hard time humbling ourselves to actually bow in worship.  Seldom do we even kneel.  And in most of our churches we have pews that keep us from even considering laying prostrate on the ground.  But these physical acts of worship acknowledge what’s in our hearts as we worship the One and Only True God.

When the Pharisee criticized Jesus’ for allowing a sinful woman to worship at his feet (Luke 7:36-50), Jesus responded by challenging the Pharisee.  He helped him see that the woman, who had many sins, loved Jesus because she had been forgiven much.  The Pharisee, on the other hand, was not willing to humble himself and didn’t feel he needed forgiveness, therefore He loved little.  Our challenge is to see our sin as God does.  We need to see how much God has forgiven us and we will in turn love much.  If we begin to think we don’t have much to be forgiven, then we will love less and not be willing to humble ourselves in worship.

My prayer for you is that you breathe in a little “heavenly dirt” this week.