Dear Christians, If Church is your foundation then you NEED to rebuild!

“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.” -Billy Sunday

Being a member of a church is not enough.
Carrying a bible and wearing “church clothes” isn’t enough either.
Saying all of the right prayers and calling out a timely “amen” isn’t enough either.

We can look the part.
We can act the part.
But if there is no difference in your heart.
Then it all that you have been doing is acting – not being.

We can often times get the “doing” before the “being“.
Do you know what I mean?

What I mean by that is this:
We can do church.
We can even do Christianese.
We can do all of the right things for all of the wrong reasons, and still not BE holy as God has called us to be holy. (1 Peter 1:15).

Doing requires works and action (Which in the right context are good, but AS the context can be bad).
Being requires deep, lasting change.
Being requires identity, the true source of context and provides us with the true foundation – God Himself.
We are made in the image of God.
We are His.
Being His requires surrender, sacrifice, dying of our old self and taking on this new image.

You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” -Ephesians 4:22-24 (The Message Version)

If we simply “do Church” we are attempting to “faith-hack” our relationship with Christ and with those He called us to minister to.

If our entire faith journey is all about how Church is blessing ME then we have corrupted our faith and have deleted the great commission from our ideology. We might rationalize it like this: “Sure, reaching people is good as long as they come to our church and as long as they fit the mold of what I think Christians should look and sound like.

I fear that our Western ideology has polluted our perspective of what being a Christ-follower looks like.
The Christ-following ecclesia (as found in the Acts 2 early Church) was about the Body (the group of believers) being unified, sharing everything while adding to their numbers by reaching out into the world and preaching, teaching and making disciples. The love (Agape love) was evident and was like a sweet aroma to the world around them.

Have we lost that lovin’ feeling?
In our attempts to grow our churches, have we lost sight of reaching out and loving others?

Jesus didn’t call us into the safety of a church building to being silos, develop our own church culture and making it hard for the “outsider” to relate let alone earn their membership cards to our exclusive club. We as humans can sometimes make Jesus almost inaccessible to the sinner when we ourselves are sinners save by grace.

Jesus didn’t call us to become comfortable and complacent in our faith.
He did not want us to leave people out or write them off either.
If we are hiding behind Church, or dare I say, if Church has replaced God as our faith in religious practices, rituals and observances, then we MUST rebuild our faith.

How About You?
Church is not four walls of a building where we practice piety.
Church is not about rituals and the styles of our expressions in worship.
Church is not about having an exclusive club membership.

Church is you and me, human beings, living out our faith expression first of all for the glory of God (and not because we prefer this style of worship music or style of service). Secondly, we express this living and active faith so that others might see the image of Christ through us. When we do this, we are helping others discover that faith journey too for the purpose of a Jesus relationship.

Burn the walls of division.
Burn the halls of exclusivity
Tear down the rituals that have hidden Christ instead of revealed Him to others.
Break the traditions that do not glorify but only serve to prevent new membership and fellowship.

YOU are the Church.
YOU are the prophet that God has called to minister to others (that only you can minister to).
YOU are called and equipped.
YOU must check your foundation and if it is in need of repair – begin the restoration process today!

-Something more to ponder today.

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Why We Are Leaving…and Where We Are Going.

Where do I begin…
For months now I have been battling this thing inside of me.
If I’m honest this urge, this calling, this prompting, this restlessness has been there for much, much longer…for both Shanais and me.

Do you recall what happens when you run from God?
If not, just ask Jonah…

There is a deep aching sadness in the leaving…
There is a sadness in the walking away from what is known and moving into what is presently unknown.

I believe the Lord has brought the story of Abram to me over and over again while we have been in this process. The story is about a rich man named Abram. He had lots of family and friends. He had it all. He was not in want for anything. He was comfortable. And then one day God tells Abram to travel out of his known lands and to live in the unknown places. The uncomfortable, unfamiliar lands…the place where he had no friends. The place where there would be no safety.

It was a giant leap of faith.
He had to trust his Creator.
He had to have faith that God would provide the friends, the comfort, the safety. And so he and his wife Sarai went. They traveled into the unknown land with alien terrain and different customs and people. God reminded Him of His faithfulness. Abram and Sarai were both transformed in the leaving. Sure, there were roadblocks and bouts of their own personal faithlessness, and yet God remained faithful to them. Abraham became the father of many nations. Sarah the mother.

When we do not rely on our own resources and lead from our own comforts we are inclined (sometimes forced) to rely completely on the Lord’s provisions instead of our own. It can be dangerous and yet also liberating, because our resources are limited and our experiences to what is known. What we know personally. We can be comfortable in our frames of reference…and yet God’s frame of reference is so much more infinite.

Back to this restlessness…
I could rely on my own resources…and limit my faith journey.
I could remain in what I know to be comfortable…and run the risk of becoming stagnant and run the same familiar patterns but not really delving any deeper. I could remain here (and here is an amazing, place called home)…but I feel it in the core of my being that God is calling me out of this. It is a leap of faith. It is extremely scary. It is heart-aching. Yet, I will follow Him. I will trust that He knows what He is doing. I will lay all of me on the altar and allow God to use me.

Where are we going?
I didn’t set out to find this.
I wasn’t searching for this kind of work.
It’s not something I am completely familiar with.
We are moving to Southern Alabama.
I will be working in one of the poorest counties in all of Alabama.
Have I ever lived there? No.
Do I have any family there? No.
Do I have friends there? No, not yet.

The ministry? – I will be running a Christian Foster Care organization. It’s a huge leap for me. (I keep saying I and me, and what I really mean is that it is a HUGE leap for both of us – Shanais and me.) We are both stepping out of our comfort zones. We are not abandoning God’s mission in this world, but rather embracing it more deeply. I am a fourth generation Salvationist, and you don’t realize how difficult this is for me to do. And yet, I am doing this, and I have a deep sense of peace about it even though it is scary.

Of course there are questions:
Will I do this for the rest of my life? Answer: I don’t know.
Will I come back to the Army as an Officer? Answer: Maybe.
Am I walking away from my faith? Answer: absolutely not!!
My church? Answer: No.

God’s kingdom is so much larger.
God’s love encompasses so many people, both lost and found.

What can you do?
Please Pray!
Would you pray for us?
Some will not understand why we are doing this.
Some will consider it abandoning our calling…I don’t see it that way at all. Rather we are embracing it more deeply. Some might even disagree with us and the decision we have arrived at. That’s fine, we understand.

I hope that I can count on you to still be a friend and a prayer warrior.
I believe God’s love is greater than any one organization or church. He can call us from one place to another and we can still remain in His will for our lives. Some remain called to one place, others to multiple places.

This might change how you view us, but I hope not.
We are still ministers of God’s love and grace. We still call Him Lord of our lives and we still desire to serve Him.

Thank you for loving us and praying for us while in this scary transition. Thank you to the leaders who have guided us along the way…we love you and are forever in your debt!
We are simply trusting that God knows what He is doing…and there’s nothing simple about it.

God Bless You.
-Scott & Shanais Strissel.

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Fear the Walking Faith…It’s a journey!

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

Oh how our faith can waver sometimes.
It seems that the gusting of a slight breeze of discord or worry can shake our quivering feet of faith.

Have you ever come to a moment of realization that your faith is not as deep as you once thought it was? We all encounter times, while on this journey, where the feel as though we have entered into the desert and we are found lacking in our resolve and fortitude. This journey will take us into places that require us to dig a little deeper and to endure the dry and thirsty places – where we find ourselves questioning everything and reaching further for God…who seems to have gone silent.

Have you been to this place?

I remember when I first learned to swim.
My parents would take me into the deeper part of the waters where my feet couldn’t touch and then let go of me, and as they let go of me they step back out of my reach. I remember there was a momentary panic. The saving hands were no longer on me and I found myself struggling to keep my head above the waters. I remember having to reach out my arms while kicking my feet so that I could reach the safety again. As I did this, without realizing, I began to swim by myself for the first time.

My intentions were not to swim. My intention was to reach the safe arms of my parents who were just out of reach.

There is growth within the tension and fear.
Growth that can only take place when we are left to our own devices.
Growth that can only transpire within the turmoil and desert places of our faith journey.

It is as if God steps back from us, and we are faced with the seemingly terrifying notion that we must step into the deep alone. The truth is that we are most certainly not alone, but rather there is growth that is only found in desert. And so we step out, unsure of ourselves…unsure if we can reach those safe arms of Christ again.

Remember Peter on the waters before Jesus?
He is asked to step out into a turbulent, uncertain space.
Peter takes a couple of steps, loses sight of the arms of Christ and begins to sink.
He takes his eyes off of Jesus.
He considers the impossibilities of such a journey.
He must have recalled his inability to do this feat, and as the doubt sinks in so does Peter.

We often chastise Peter for his lack of faith.
We often sermonize this passage to implicate the lack of resolve that ‘the Rock’ had…
But where were the other disciples?
Do we read about their steps of faith on the waters? No.
They were still in the boat watching it all go down.

We have to get out of our boats.
We will encounter dry and thirsty times in our faith journey.
It will feel as if we are all alone out in the wilderness, but we are not alone.
God steps back and watches us within the tension of deeper waters.
And it is within those deeper spaces that we grow.
It is through perseverance that our character and the very image of Christ becomes clearer in us.

Some have turned back and returned to the safe places.
Some have given up because they have felt abandoned.
Others have persevered and they have grown.
The Lord desires all of us to deepen our faith, and so these times of dryness should be seen as opportunities to grow up into this amazing faith.

Being like Jesus isn’t easy.
It takes determination and desire on our part.
Are you prepared to allow God to deepen your faith?
Is it your desire to get off of spiritual baby formula and begin to feast on more sustainable spiritual nourishment?

Take that next step…don’t be afraid, He’s got you, and He isn’t far from you right now!

Something more to ponder today.

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Top 5 Best Christmas Song (with a Bonus Category)

As with any highly opinionated blog post, selecting just five of my favorite Christmas songs is extremely difficult. I could just pick five, but I have decided to add a bonus category to this selection process. The first five are my favorite Christmas songs. By songs, I mean a blend of hymns/carols and popular seasonal tunes that peak by lyrical and audio tastebuds and compel me to crank up the volume.

The second bonus category I call “My Prerogative” has been selected solely from a poetic and melodic perspective. I have, in this case, thrown out any theological implications or questions and opted to select these additional five because I like them. One might say, “well, that’s cheating; you said top 5.” And you would be right, but it’s my blog, and cue Bobby Brown’s…”It’s my prerogative.”

Let me skip the preamble and get to the good stuff.

Top 5 Best Christmas Songs:

5. Trans-Siberian “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24”.

I have played a lot of brass band Christmas music in my life, and when I first heard this song, I fell in love with Carol of the Bells all over again. I have always gravitated toward wailing guitar solos and rifs that get cranked up to the 11… For me, this is one version of an old Christmas tune that I find myself cranking up the volume to when I hear it start. Some might contend that this song has been overplayed, but I still can’t get enough of it. A few years ago, I was fortunate to go to a Trans-Siberian concert, and it was everything I expected it to be. There were pyrotechnics, fog, a storyline, and enough electric guitars to melt your face…it was awesome.

4. Pentatonic’s version of “Mary Did You Know?

Let’s put aside our memes and retorts to the song’s question for just a second and focus on the vocals and the mastery of the minor chords, which always seem to create mystery and awe. I loved the original recording that was sung by Michael English years ago. The song was written by Mark Lowry, and if we don’t delve too deeply into theology, perhaps we could simply ask ourselves, “Do we know Jesus as Lord of all creation?” I simply love the acapella version from Pentatonics because it carries a depth of vocals, and gave me chills the first time I heard it. Am I judging songs on emotion as well as lyrical depth? Perhaps. Some of you will disagree with me, but that’s my opinion and why Mary Did You Know made this list.

3. What Child is This?

This is another Christmas song, sung in a minor key, that absolutely captivates me and creates within me a sense of awe and wonder. There are many great versions of this song, such as the one by Chris Tomlin and All Sons & Daughters, or beautifully done by the One Voice Children’s Choir. I love this song for many reasons, especially when one gets to the chorus and the refrain is boldly proclaimed:

This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring him laud
The babe, the son of Mary.

2. Tie: Amy Grant’s Grown Up Christmas Wish & Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song)

Amy Grant’s entire Home for Christmas Album is a heartwarming collection of songs that have stuck with me for years, and I find solace while listening to this album on repeat while at work or when I need to relax. Breath of Heaven (another minor song, I’m sensing a theme here) makes me contemplate that Holy birth through an intimate glimpse into the nativity. I can’t help but be drawn in and held captivated by hope and expectation.

1. O Come O Come Emmanuel

The allure of this song stems from the ancientness of this tune. Originally written between the 6th-9th century in Latin sung in monasteries during the last seven days of Advent. The English translation was introduced to the world in 1851. This Christmas song elicits something old and sacred and resonates within my heart everytime I hear its words sung. There are many, many versions available online of this song, and, for the most part, I love them all. It captures in me the joyous expectancy of the Christ-mass again and helps me explore the Savior’s birth, the context and longing for Messiah in the ancient world, and the source of true Christmas in this modern world.

My Prerogative List:

5. I Wonder as I Wander

I love, love, love this song. Supposedly written by John Jacob Niles in the 1930’s began as a fragmented collection of lyrics and became a Christian folk tune. The lyrics leave the listener to peer into melancholy three stanzas and meet a Savior who came ordinary folk. It invites all of us to not only the manger but also the crucifixion. Folk songs tell stories and evoke feelings and imagery that appeals to our emotions and our hearts. This song has always strummed those chords within my heart as well.

4. In the Bleak Midwinter

The beautiful poetry of Christina Rossetti and the tune written by Gustav Holst and later Harold Darke evoke a classical progression of Nativity, dominion, and salvation for the whole world. The mournful tune haunts me while the words often draw tears to my eyes in contemplation of the Divine. In the Bleak Midwinter is one of my favorite poetic and melodic Christmas songs and I hope it’s yours as well.

3. Silent Night (Stille Nacht)

The tune was written by Franz Gruber to the lyrics written by Joseph Mohr. The piece has much lore attached to it and has been translated and sung in many different languages around the world. It is a beloved Christmas song and I could not leave it off of this list.

2. Oh Holy Night

I love this song because it is complicated to sing, yet it is beautiful, glorious, and poignant. “Oh night divine, oh night when Christ was born…” It always gives me pause and helps me slow down my fast-paced lifestyle to experience the true significance of Christmas.

1. O Come, All You Unfaithful

A friend suggested this song, and now I cannot get it out of my head. Its message strikes at the very nature of our fallenness, yet still speaks to the Savior’s presence in the lowliest of person no matter how hurt and broken that person is – Jesus comes to you and me. Christ is born for YOU. If ever the world needed to hear that refrain it is now. So many come to this holiday season carrying so much hurt, brokenness and despair. The message of hope at Christmas is available to bring healing, restoration, hope, love and joy for all.

That’s It
That’s my top 5 (plus 5 more) Christmas song list. Perhaps you saw my list and it resonated with you. Perhaps you read the songs on my list and thought that I missed one of your favorites. Let me know in the comments below if I was one target or way off the mark. I would love to hear how your favorites list matches up to mine.

Have a blessed Christmas, dear friend.
I hope the Lord continues to bless and keep you and yours.

-Something more to ponder today.

Top 5 Worst Christmas Songs of All Time

I know what you’re probably thinking, top 5 worst songs of all time? That’s a pretty bold statement.
This is strictly my opinion, but perhaps we might find some common ground on these songs as I progress through the list.

First of all, picture yourself driving anywhere in town or on a road trip, and this song (insert horrible Christmas song here) comes on the radio for the thousandth time. It’s kind of like Groundhog Day when Bill Murray keeps waking up to “I’ve Got You Babe” over and over and over again. It just gets really old.

Before starting with the list, please know that all of this is tongue-in-cheek. I sometimes still catch myself singing these silly, nonsensical lyrics. Maybe you have done the same. You might even be midway through the song before you realize that you’re vibing down the road to this awful earworm. If you can relate, then this top 5 list is just for you.

Here we go…

#5 Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.

I have thrown down the gauntlet. This could easily be number one on this list of worst Christmas songs. For starters, it has been overplayed and overmarketed for years. Sure, it was, at first, a heartwarming-feel good song, but like leftovers in the fridge that mold over time, it just needs to eventually be thrown away. That’s how I feel about this song. Cue my Ebenezer Scrooge “Bah Humbug.

Once I’ve heard this song a bajillion times, I can’t help but change the channel as soon as I hear the intro of this tune.

#4 “Last Christmas

I’m sorry Wham and George Michael fans, but this song isn’t really about Christmas, it’s about love and loss. It’s also a Christmas earworm that inevitably seems to get lodged in my brain and it takes much mental focus to jar it loose. Plus I can’t help but picture the cheesy 80’s music video at the ski lodge when I do. I like the song, I just don’t think it’s a Christmas song.

#3 Christmas Shoes

If there was ever a song that could pull on the heart (shoe…eh, er…) strings and emotionally manipulate the listener this song is it. It’s a Hallmark Christmas movie tragedy rolled up into a 5 minute song. It’s an emotional rollercoaster and I cannot stand the emotional scarring that I received from the first time I fell victim to the tune being played on the radio (I’m not crying, you’re crying). This is one of those songs that I envision hell playing over and over again as a punishment to its residents…too far? Maybe, but I can’t tell you how much I despise this song. (sorry to all those out there who love this song, perhaps there’s a support group for you somewhere.)

#2 Do They Know It’s Christmas Time

This is, by far, the most tone-deaf, Celebrity infused song/campaign that was ever written. Bob Geldof and Midge Ure wrote this song for the famine in Ethiopia and, in their defense, it did generate over 8 million pounds (9 or 10 million dollars) and to date has generated nearly 28 million dollars for the Band Aid Charity. It was for a noble cause, and the song was purposefully written for the Christmas season to drive awareness of hunger and other issues around the world. That being said, I do not think starving people in a third-world country care if it’s Christmas time or not; they just want to be fed.

The success of this song spurred the creation of the horrendously famous “We Are the World”. I guess my biggest complaint is that this song was written for a specific time, and it just didn’t age well. Radio stations still play it heavily at Christmas, and as noble as the cause was in the 80s, perhaps it’s time to retire this specific number? That’s just my opinion.

#1 Tie “Rock’n Around the Christmas Tree.” / “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time.”

My #1 worst Christmas Songs of all time is a tie between Rock’n Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee and Sir Paul McCartney’s “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time.” Both are entirely nonsensical pieces of lyrical genius and garbage.

Why genius?

We still hear it every. single. year. It gets a lot of radio play and is synonymous with Christmas marketing campaigns and movies. Both songs are absolute earworms that rattle around in our brains from Thanksgiving to December 31st and beyond. From a strictly marketing standpoint these songs are absolute gold. Paul McCartney makes over $400,000 a year from his Christmas song. Brenda Lee’s song contains 1950s references to sock hops and she has sold over a 100 million copies of said song and still receives royalties from it.

Why the Worst?

The lyrics make no sense.
No one is rocking around the Christmas tree, at least not how we envision “Rockin” today. The song is repetitive and contains zero Christmas context with exception of a tree, and, since it’s my opinionated blog post, I will turn off the radio or player when this song comes on.

Paul McCartney repeats “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” over and over again until my ears are bleeding and they are trying to fall off of my head. It seems to me that there was this musical and lyrical theory that if one repeated something enough times, it would become popular. In a way, I guess it was a success and is popular, but that doesn’t stop me from hating on the song. The song is horrendous and has no deep meaning or purpose but to clog up the airwaves, and brainwash us into having a wonderful time…even when stuck in traffic.

Hard pass for me. I would rather listen to the worst rendition of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer than be subjected to another caffeine-driven DJ pumping out this awful McCartney special.

And there you have it.
That’s my list for 2022.
Maybe it will change next year, perhaps another song will top my “most disliked” list.
What do you think about this list? Do you agree or disagree?
Comment below, and let’s continue this conversation.

Runners Up Award:

-“Santa Baby

-“I Want a Hippopotamous for Christmas

Lamentation (a poem)

They say worry adds nothing to life
still, I cannot help but breathe it in
heavy like summer’s humid kiss
cleaving energy from these bones
melting life its depressive course

I am weary from the waiting
caught counting minute hands
stalking well-worn paths into carpets
and still, answers remain allusive
silent as new-fallen snow
on midnight streets.

It is the cold grip of dread creeping around
the dark side of my heart
the only answers come from irrational thoughts
holding knife to throat and ransom demands
have yet to be spoken.

Oh, daylight, please come and cast
your warmth on this fraying soul
breathe your hope into my withered
discouraged mind
cast your Light on me, Oh Lord
for I am desolate
I am the dry and thirsty land
I am the bones in need of fitting
the people walking in darkness…
I am the thief in need of life
while hanging from my cross.

They say worry adds nothing to life
at this point, I would welcome life
back into this husk with open arms.

Queen Elizabeth II has died.

Rest well, Queen Elizabeth.
You were a figurehead that inspired many
especially during times of great trials.
We recognize that God appoints
and sometimes
the world is emptier when
a void takes the place
when mortal coils depart.

Rest well, our Queen.


I have been absent.
Too many things
crammed into
twenty-four hours.

I am lost in thought
but you are there
perhaps a time or two,
we have been derailed.

I’ve been feeling a bit lost
With one hand holding
onto my past tense
While grasping onto
a future both uncertain
and untenable.

The anchor is stuck
lodged amongst ancient rock far below
I am adrift, and my mooring
has slipped.

Perhaps your voice
in all of its timber and cadence
would soothe
this brewing hurricane
I am uncertain
there is still hope.

Perhaps when I rise
again tomorrow
With sunlight as an assurance
it will all have been a dream.

SES 9/7/22

Reflections on the scenes leading to the Cross. (pt. 1)

There are so many focal points associated with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It all started with a celebration as Jesus entered Jerusalem and, the disciples amongst the crowds cheered and lay cloaks and palm branches down in a makeshift parade of a mistaken earthly royal processional. How the tone of the city abruptly changed in only a matter of days.

Then there is the scene of the last supper as the disciples gathered around a borrowed table in an upper room to celebrate their last Passover with their Rabbi. The furtive glances from the other disciples as Peter adamantly challenged Jesus and even attempted to admonish Him. The startling news that someone in the room would betray Him and then the abrupt exit of Judas…

Then there was the prayer garden scene in Gethsemane where Jesus passionately prays for the cup of suffering to be taken from him, and almost as a foreshadowing of what was to come, his disciples abandon him to their exhausted revery and slumber. Then Jesus is arrested in that same garden and kissed on the cheek by Judas which seals the deal of betrayal for thirty pieces of silver. How interesting that we consider it to be the sealing of Jesus’ fate and yet sadly, Judas ends his own life when confronted with the consequences of his misplaced ambitions. Thus, perhaps it was sadly Judas’ life that was fatedly sealed with that peck on the cheek.

Another focal point is the illegal court appearance of Jesus in the middle of the night so as to not ignite a riot in the streets. Jesus is found guilty for crimes he never committed and the leaders knew it and even washed their hands of it all… later, the large crowds gathered, shouting Barabbas as the city officials struggled to maintain order, and Jesus was first led to be whipped then paraded through the streets in a humiliating display of cruelty. How distant that triumphant entrance into Jerusalem seemed on that dark “Good Friday” as an innocent Author of the Universe, now in human form, was led to His slaughter. The ultimate sacrificial lamb and atonement for the sins of every human being on the planet.

And yet how frightened Simon Peter was as he gathered around the fires that night completely shell shocked at the atrocity of the horrific crucifixion scene. He was confronted with his allegiance to Messiah, and instead of his typical bravado, he was reduced to denying his discipleship to Jesus. How dark it all must have seemed as the glowing embers of the fire danced and flickered on the faces of everyone gathered there. The Light of the World seemingly extinguished at the hands of those He came to save, and with the crowing of the rooster that early morning, Peter knew he had betrayed Jesus. How the guilt must have flooded in and washed away the remaining fortitude of ‘the rock’…

If the story had only ended here, it would have been the saddest tragedy to ever have befallen humankind. God was truly dead and, we had killed Him. Yet, the divine plan, foretold nearly a thousand years before Jesus arrived was unfolding and coming to fruition. How the Angels in heaven must have held their collective breaths as those devoted to Him mourned and hid themselves away.

There is an anticipation of what is to come, and yet we should linger here for just a little while longer. When we confront this darkness head-on we must begin to acknowledge the darkness still living within us. We try to deny that it is there and yet we, like Peter betray Him over and over again. Perhaps if we were to linger here we would hear our own rooster crowing…

Perhaps if we lingered here we would understand that we could never be Messiah in our own life. We might begin to realize that our strength has never, ever been enough. Sin still sits cold and heavy upon our souls. We cannot remove it by doing more good deeds or praying harder or reading another self-help book. If we linger here for just a little while longer we would begin to see how majestic and victorious that empty tomb really is for our salvation and for the salvation of all living beings on this planet.

Jesus resurrected hope on empty tomb day.
Jesus resurrected life for more than just himself.
Jesus reconnected what had been broken since the fall of Adam and Eve in that garden so long ago.
Jesus removed the barrier of sin between our mortal souls and the Creator of ALL.

But we should linger here for just a little while longer…
Let it all soak in.
Let the power of the cross and of the death of Messiah sink in…
really go deep within this chapter of our salvation story.

Let’s ponder this for a few days.
But Sunday is coming…

In Search of Significance

People look for significance in what they do instead of who they are. God made something amazing when He made you. Don’t ever doubt that you matter to Him even when this world might try to drag you down. You are loved.

Henri Nouwen

Henri Nouwen was a widely successful writer, theologian, and professor. One would think that significance was found in presenting theologically deep lectures or in writing books and yet after twenty years of collegiate work he left that world and began to work with the developmentally disabled individuals at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Canada.

Henri Nouwen once wrote: “This is what life is about. It is being sent on a trip by a loving God, who is waiting at home for our return and is eager to watch the slides we took and hear about the friends we made. When we travel with the eyes and ears of the God who sent us, we will see wonderful sights, hear wonderful sounds, meet wonderful people … and be happy to return home.” (The return of the Prodigal Son, 1992).

I often wonder what it will be like when we finally rest in the presence of God. What will He say of the choices we have made in our lives? What will He say of our faith…or the lack there of? I can recall many moments of unfaithfulness to God in my life. I am not proud of these moments. In those dark chapters, I found myself clawing at circumstances and troubles with my own strength and knowledge until my soul was raw and empty. Perhaps this was what it was like when David wrote Psalm 13:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
 How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
 and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted ove
r me?

Filling that void in our lives…

Sometimes, in our search for significance, we come to the realization that God has not followed us to this ego-driven destination. Sometimes we are left wanting for more because the things that we were searching for are found and still they did not fill us because they could never replace the all-consuming presence of God. We try to fill that God-shaped hole in our souls with titles, trophies, monuments to our names, and legacies that people will remember. We spend so much time caring about what others think of us and the reputations or personas that we have built around ourselves – only to feel as empty as when we first started out. It was all for nothing. Why? Because none of it could replace what we left behind – The Father. Our Creator. Our Author. The One who has known us before we even had breath in our lungs (read Psalm 139).

Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.
(Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life.)

So here it is:

All of the ladder climbing, elbow-rubbing, name-dropping, butt-kissing motivations will never fill that void we feel in search of meaningless significance in this life.

I am not saying don’t work hard, or find fulfilling missions and work to belong to. We should work hard and love what we do. However, if all that we do is work at being known by the world, and in our ego-driven, self-promoting ways, find some semblance of recognition – it will never be enough. There will always be another hill of success we will look longingly upon and regret not having what we could not reach.

Yet, God comes to us. At our level, lowly as it is, and says to us, “You are loved by me. You matter to me. I made you, I am proud of you – that is enough.” Think of it: The God of the Universe says that our primary significance is found in our identity as a son and daughter of the Most-High. We can find true and holy fulfillment in His presence and not in all of the attention-seeking practices of our world. How simple and how profound!

God created us for love, for union, for forgiveness and compassion and, yet, that has not been our storyline. That has not been our history.” -Richard Rohr.

May we finally begin to recognize our true self-worth that is only found abiding in the very presence of the Holy One. May His reflection be present in us before it is seen, and may our search for significance be realized in the simplicity and sanctity of Holiness which is fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit.

-Something more to ponder today.

Something’s Worn

The world is a scary place.
Fire and war
war and fire
And I grow tired
of the sadness
poured out
and shaken
like the people
in the middle
of the fight

And I cannot
bring an ounce
of relief in
my worrying
my fretting
and the half-chewed

Still, I am worn
left wanting
and wishing
were all
a dream
perhaps tomorrow
when I wake
sunlight will
remind me
that we aren’t

The Dangers of Christian Narcissism

Christian narcissism is more prevalent than you think. It is the conscious or subconscious notion that every act or service or leadership decision revolves around that person. It is the notion we are doing God a favor by serving Him, or that a certain ministry or program would fail without us leading it.

There is a danger within the realms of church leadership to become so filled with pride that it becomes less about what God is doing and more about what we are doing.

I have met Christian narcissists and sometimes he has been there looking back at me in the mirror. It might be sobering to consider, but every time we take the praise and accolades that were intended for God, we are essentially saying God needs us and He couldn’t do it (whatever ‘it’ is) without us. Instead of saying to God “have your way in my heart”, we say “look at me, this worship couldn’t happen without me.”

How dangerous is that? Instead of bowing the knee in humility, many Christians have fallen into the trap of ego with their puffed-up pride and shallow faith. Such behavior is a works-driven service that fills a person with self-importance to the point that God is a second thought. They become like superman, flying here and there attempting to save everyone all because of their holy hubris.

Sometimes the dangers of narcissism is that Christian narcissists develop little groupies and followers and these followers do not follow God, but the Leader that they admire and wish to be like. Could it be that this infiltration of narcissism within the Church is leading people astray? Could it be that Christian narcissists are false prophets who are seeking personal gains and person profits?

What I am not saying

I am not saying that we as Christians need to stop serving others. Nor am I saying that we should cease all evangelistic advances for God’s kingdom. We are all called to be Christ’s ambassadors to offer this Good News, hope and love.

What I am sayin

Check your motivations.
Check your egos at the door.
This Great Commission – is NOT about you – it is about God’s redeeming love for EVERYONE.
There is nothing beneath your presumed “status”.
If you are serving Christendom because of status, power, position, notoriety you may be a Christian Narcissisit.

“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4)

If you discover that all of your ministarial ventures revolves around your gifts and abilities instead of a Christ-centered intent then perhaps it is time to repent and turn from your inflated ego and seek humility once again.

God doesn’t need you to save the world, He moves you into spaces of service for His glory and honor.

Just something more to ponder today. To God be the glory!

3 Reasons Why I am falling in love with Worship Music again.

I will admit that I used to change the channel when certain “praise” songs came on the radio. I wasn’t a fan of the repetition, a music snob critiquing everything I heard and overanalyzing the lyrics that didn’t mesh with my doctrinal beliefs.

I will also admit that I still hold certain prejudices to style, format, and lyric selection. I am a picky audiophile who loves to listen to a wide array of music. My Spotify account contains so many genres from Rap, R&B, Rock, Country (yes, it’s for my wife *wink, wink*), and even study music.

So why the change of heart? Why am I falling in love with Worship Music again? Let me preface this with, “some” worship music. I still believe that there is a distinction between Worship Songs and Performance songs.

For example, last Christmas my family and me attended a Christmas Eve service at a local large congregation. The sanctuary had a welcoming feel to it, we enjoyed our time there, but when it came to the worship music most of the songs were designed to elevate the performer and not lead the church-goer into a state of worship. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great Christmas Eve service, but it could have been better had the music been vertically driven and included the audience. (Again, I’m a picky audiophile and musician).

“The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.”
C.S. Lewis

So, here are 3 Reasons why I am falling in Love with Worship Music again:

  1. Worship Music is Maturing – What I mean by that is this: the days of Maranantha repetition and simplistic lyrics is behind us. The “Shout to the Lord” and “I could sing of your love forever”tunes are songs from our past. Important as they were, and they certainly helped to pave the way for richer, more complicated themes and melodies. I love to hear songs like Battle Belongs, Reckless Love & You Say. One might argue that some of the lyrics are not completely doctrinally sound. And, while I would somewhat agree, most of the time I would contend that the writers of these modern worship songs are attempting to connect the worshipper to the Almighty in beautiful ways.
  2. I am Maturing – Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a transition in life, a recognition or reminder of my mortality, I have discovered a deeper longing to connect with my Savior. Music is not the only conveyer of Spirit to Savior, but it does help provide a vital connection piece. There is something about music that transports you and allows your heart and mind to meditate on not just good music but a deeper level of relationship to the Father. I am constantly in awe His presence when I still my heart and meditate on words sung that are verticle in worship.
  3. A Hurting World is A Mission Field – Not only is Worship Music maturing, but the lyrics are delving into, and addressing a hurting world who is in need of a loving Savior. The Great Commission is not just to fill church pews for Sunday morning service, but to create community and unite people from all walks of life with the redeeming love and Jesus Christ. There is a longing that many Worship writers and evangelists are conveying to their fellow Christ-followers: The World needs to see authenticity in Christians and the Church. The World needs to know that they are loved and cared for. Much of the modern worship music is “Get out of the four walls of Church and love people for Jesus” – driven.
“God is to be praised with the voice,
and the heart should go therewith in holy exultation.”
Charles H. Spurgeon

So there you have it. My shortlist on why I am falling in love with Worship Music again. That is not to say that I will stop analyzing song lyrics or checking for doctrinal truths – that is still so important. Rather, I will not let small stylistic issues distract me from worshipping. After all, Worship music, though important, is only one component of true and authentic worship of God. It helps to connect us or point us to Christ, but let us not forget about the disciplines of silence (meditation), solitude, fasting, study, simplicity, service & submission.

This is something more to ponder today…see you next time!

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