Rebuilding without Resources (Nehemiah 3)

Rebuilding without Resources (Nehemiah 3)

The situation in Nehemiah 3 is interesting. The word, “built” is used six times. It literally means “to rebuild” it reminds us that the material for building the wall was already there. The stones that had been taken down to weaken the wall still lay scattered across the base of the wall and the valley floor below. It’s not as though Nehemiah had to go and get new stones to rebuild the wall, they were already there.

Sometimes when we look at a situation like our neighborhoods and schools we might wonder what we could do with more resources, but the odds are the resources we need are already there. There is a neighbor who is willing to help, a teacher who will host a club in his or her room, a student from another church, a parent who wants to help, a youth pastor who is willing to work with a leadership team, a business owner who is willing to donate funds to help with a project. Don’t look at what’s not there, look at what is already all around you ready to be assimilated into a strong spiritual wall of protection.

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The word “repaired” is mentioned 35 times. It means to “make strong or firm.” I think it is essential to note that the wall that Nehemiah and the folks of Jerusalem were rebuilding wasn’t a weak wall. It was a strong wall, made of quality materials that were put together in the right way.

It’s essential as you search out God’s plan for your school, neighborhood, or city that you seek Him on how to organize the resources you already have on hand. It’s not enough to recognize that you have different folks with different gifting, calling, and occupations. You must also find a way for everyone to work together in concert so that they are stronger together.

Does God Like Our Music? (The Object, Quality, & Background)

Worship Music

God is the Object of Music Offered as Worship

There is something distinctively different about the music in the Bible and the music in our culture and the difference is mainly the content of the songs. In order for a song to be a Biblical or Christian song is should come from the scriptures or be a response to God. Every song in the scriptures teaches us who God is, pleads for him to act, or celebrates what He has done. Even in the Song of Solomon you have the celebration of marriage which is an institution created by God.

The primary issue about songs in worship isn’t the style (hymns or Choruses) or even the type of instruments used or not used, at it’s foundation a song suitable for worship must have God as it’s object. Churches that divide between  contemporary and traditional miss authentic worship because they choose style over substance and divide the body over a non-essential. When we insert preference into the mix we have to ask, are we concerned with God’s preference or our own? The issue about what music should be sung for the purpose of worship is simply this… is it a response to God? does it teach truth about God? does it ask God to move? … in essence is it Godward?

The essence of worship places the value on the one being worshiped not the worshiper. When it comes to using songs in worship, the emotional benefits of a song are secondary to the truth of the song. Is should be noted that your emotions can be wrong and misleading. Not that emotion in worship is bad, but that songs must be evaluated for more than how they make you feel. Worship in song in often very emotional, but it should be emotional because of who God is, not because of how much you like the song.

Music Offered as Worship Should be Quality

Those who lead our churches in corporate worship should be quality driven folks. Everyone from the music minister down to the smallest child in the congregation should do their best to understand the music that they are singing in worship.

Take a look at some of the introductions to the Psalms (Psalm 4:1, 5:1, 6:1, 8:1, 9:1, 51:1).  There is a note to the choirmaster about the tune of the song. He should know the song and be familiar with how it is to be played. On some occasions there are notes as to which type of instruments are to be used. Then we also see that the songs have an author and sometimes even a background. The message is clear, “here is a song to be employed for worship. Play it in a specific way, with a specific instrument, according to the design of the author… don’t mess it up.

Today we have songs that were written to be played in arena’s full of people and those written for more intimate settings. It can be quite unsettling when a praise band sets up to play an arena song to a smaller coffee house type gathering. The band may love the song, but it’s not a fit for the size of the community they are leading. It would be helpful if modern worship leaders would include some suggestions on their songs to help others who want to use them.

It is a difficult job to lead a congregation in singing praise to God. Whoever leads looks for the right songs for the moment for the community they are leading. Musicians and vocalists take music home to practice (How do you offer your best to God without practice?). Then they get together to practice, work out any issues, harmonize, etc. Don’t be fooled, they don’t do all of this in order to pull of a flawless production, they do it to exercise their God given gifts and lead you and I in songs of worship so that we can worship God TOGETHER. They do it so that when we have an awesome encounter with a holy and righteous God we have a method and a mode to offer expressions of praise back to Him. They don’t do it just to show off their talents and gifts… They do it so YOU can JOIN THE SONG! It is not about who is on stage and who isn’t. It is about God, who has gifted and called individuals to lead his people in a response to him of authentic worship through song.

Music Offered as Worship has a Background

You can’t help but notice that when you read some of the Psalms that there is a historical background to the song (see Psalm 51:1 for an example). This provides a great template for worship leaders to share relevant background information about the songs we sing in corporate worship. Some great resources for this are the three volumes “Then My Soul Sings” by Robert Morgan.

Even more contemporary songs have background stories. A simple search of the song title, author and the words “background story” will often yield results. Bellow is a video of an interview with Matt Redman who shares the background on his song, “Heart of Worship.” Though it’s not as popular as it once was, it reveals that these songs don’t arise out or mechanical song writing studios, but often arise out of real life responses to God in current situations.

A worship leader doesn’t need to share the background to every song or even share a background every time they lead, but the background does go a long way toward helping the congregation know how this song is a response to God and the appropriate emotions and sentiments that the song carries. Knowing that Martin Luther wrote A Mighty Fortress is Our God in the midst of depression, illness and persecution can help the people in the congregation see how this song can be their response to God as well.

We’ll look more into music and song as an avenue for worshiping God as well as the benefits of singing to God together in the next post. Until then feel free to like this post, share it, comment below, and be sure to sign up to get new posts sent to you via e-mail (on the top right of this page).

 

What’s Best Next? (REVIEW)

_225_350_Book.1237.cover It is easy for me to focus simply on getting things done. I’ve read tons of productivity books, dialed in on TED talks and read tons of blog posts to learn tips and tidbits on productivity. The real jewel to this book, “What’s best next” by Matt Perman, is that it focuses on what’s EFFECTIVE. You can be busy doing stuff, but the key is being effective at what you do.To be sure there are tons of suggestions, ideas and tips, but the key is answering the question, “what is effective?”

Matt surprises you in how he helps you answer that question. He takes a steady aim at making the gospel central to everything, especially how we view effectiveness. He is a compelling and gifted writer who has studied and applied what he has learned. I’m thrilled to be able to learn from the overflow.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to be more productive/ effective at what they do. It’s a good read for Christian business men, pastors, and leaders of all sorts.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher as part of their Reviewer program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Why Church People Are Sometimes Messy

Proverbs 14:4 ESV Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.

In many ways that’s my life verse. I should probably get Proverbs 14:4 engraved on my desk, but if I did you would never see it because I keep my work on my desk. Think about the meaning of the verse for a moment. In the case of an ox and a manger, you have to pick between productive and clean. You can have a clean manger or you can have an ox which is what a manger is for and who helps bring in the crops. You may have a clean manger AND an ox for short periods of times, but not all the time and not without someone shoveling the manure.

It’s kind of the same with small kids. They make messes. You can have a clean house or you can have kids. You may have both a clean house and kids but only for short periods of time and not without someone picking up the toys, cleaning the vomit, changing the diapers, etc… But the beautiful thing about kids is that if you train them, they grow up and eventually pick up after themselves, use the restroom by themselves and feed themselves (with a little pressure from Mom and Dad).

Church isn’t really all that different. You see with church we reach out to people who don’t know Jesus. And when someone comes to church and doesn’t know Jesus, they act like people who don’t know Jesus. And when someone commits their life to Christ, they act just like someone who just committed their life to Christ. While Jesus washes away our sin when we put our trust in him… we still may have a tangled mess of ungodly decisions that we have made in the past that have consequence in our present lives. And let’s be honest there may just be a lot of stuff we just don’t know yet. We’re kind of like new born baby’s in that regard (John 3:3, 1 Peter 2:2, Hebrews 5:12).

We make messes. However, every day we are growing more and more in the likeness of Christ (Ephesians 4:22-32). Our goal is to be presented as mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28). But that takes time and patience from godly teachers and leaders.

Leave room for the immature to become mature at your church. It will involve a little messiness but you will help people grow! You know the barn is a place for oxen and oxen do make messes. The church is a place where both the immature and the mature gather to worship Jesus and the immature do make messes. I’d rather have a messy church that works to raise infants in Christ to maturity in Christ than a clean church without new believers. Because there are those who are weaker in the faith among us perhaps we should challenge them to grow rather than judging them for their weakness (Romans 15:1-6).

He Departed and Went into a Desolate Place (Lk. 4:42)

In the middle of all the excitement, He was finding a place to be still. While people were desperately searching for Him, asking, begging Him to lay his ministering hands on the injured and bring healing, He was looking for a place to be alone with the Father.  It was that important.

The day before had been busy.  Maybe He should have slept in, but instead He is out in a desolate place seeking an opportunity to speak the Father.  People were looking for Him.  Didn’t He know that they were lining up at the door?  His ministry was taking off!  He could be doing ministry at that moment, but instead we find Him with the Father.

It’s just then that I’m reminded.  Ministry isn’t His objective.  It’s not the end.  It’s the means to the end.  Worship is the end.  Bringing people to worship is the end.  And you can’t bring people to a place where you haven’t been.  You can’t lead people to do something in public that you haven’t at least done in private.

He wasn’t on His own in the mission.  He had constant contact with the Father.  He got up and spent time in prayer.  He could have stayed, but He left, the mission required it (Lk. 4:43). He had every reason to stay and be “successful” where He was, but that wasn’t the mission.  He had spoken to the Father and obedience to the Father is more important than a seemingly “successful” ministry now.

Healing, calling people to repentance, declaring the work of the Lord were all secondary to worship!  Real and authentic worship!  Worship not by song or way of lip service, but worship wrought out by obedience! Obedience wrought out by a time of solitude in prayer.

Father,

Today I hear you calling.  You call just like every day.  You say, “Come now and drink deeply from the fountain… come now and drink!”  You say, “Jonathan, you drink now from the fountain… before you call others to drink and immerse themselves in Me, you be immersed!  Don’t preach with a parched mouth!  Don’t attempt to do ministry for Me without seeing Me first.”

I admit O’ God that I am tempted some days to run into the day without seeking You first.  Thank You Father for drawing me close to You.  I almost mistook the ministry for You and that is a dangerous place to be (Mt. 7:21-23).  You have my obedience today and I pray you have it for the rest of the life You have given me.  I am yours.

3 Keys to a Good Disciple Now Weekend (Part: 1)

Ok are you ready?  I am about to share the three keys for an awesome Disciple Now weekend.  This might surprise some of you, but I am not about to say, “The Band, The Speaker, and the T-shirts,” though those may be important in their own right.  There are 3 other things that I have seen bring about more lasting change than any band, speaker, or T-shirt has ever done.  In my estimation, if you can get these 3 right you can make up for a bad band or t-shirt (its really hard to make up for a bad speaker so we’ll make him the unofficial 4th key to a good D-Now Weekend).

www.mrg.bz So1lxO

1. The Theme (go large view over small view)

When designing a D-Now Weekend I like to start with the theme.  Generally speaking there are a lot of good and average themes out there (and I’ve done some of them).  You have your run of the mill, “back to the basics,” “true love waits,” etc, etc…  truth be told these are not bad themes.  They just lack the substance I am looking for.  If I’m going to invest the man hours that it takes to pull of a great disciple now weekend I want a theme that my students see practically 8 months down the road. (meaning they remember the theme as well as the event, and more importantly apply it to life.)

So what does that look like?  Take the “True Love Waits” theme and think about it.  Is that really the big issue?  What do you want to teach your kids? “Don’t have sex until you are married? Waiting for Sex is good?  Purity is better than impurity?”  Nothing overtly wrong with those statements, but what if you had the chance to cover the whole “don’t have Sex until you are married” theme put it in a positive light (give the kids something to strive for… rather than something to strive against) and at the same time lead your kids toward maturity in Christ?

How do you do that?  You take it a step deeper.  God didn’t just make you a sexual being he made you to be a man or be a woman.  The questions now isn’t, “will you wait?” But what kind of man or woman will you be?  The challenge changes from waiting to being.  As a pastor I am not so much interested in behavior modification as I am in leading students into a growing relationship with Jesus.  While “If you love them, you will wait” is not a bad theme, it is a small goal compared to God made you for a purpose as a man or a woman.

The bigger theme we went for in DNow last year and several years ago was “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.”  The point was to help kids understand who they were in God’s eyes even down to their gender, realize how men and women compliment one anther, challenge our guys to be men, free our girls to be women, and help them to know how to encourage one anther in ways they will receive it.  While true love waits was part of it, it wasn’t all of it.

So now months later I can ask our young men to filter a thought our an action and do it along the terms of biblical manhood.   It doesn’t mean they all drank the cool-aide and are running around using the lingo, but it does mean we have introduced a filter to a world view that will help them evaluate their actions according to what kind of man or woman they are becoming.  This year we are going to do it all over again with the theme of Servant Leadership.

I realize that this idea Biblical Manhood and Womanhood may be new to many of you, so I have included a link to a previous post throughout this article.
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