Israel and Hamas: A mess to the utmost of levels with no end in sight. Each side is claiming self-defense. Each side is sharing with the media the horrific impacts of the attacks. Each side has, publicly at least, only feigned attempts as making peace. The Western media has been lambasting Israel telling of all the horrors they are inflicting. They parade pictures of destroyed buildings and dead children. Whereas the Western church seems to be supporting Israel blindly standing firmly on the claims they should be defending themselves.
Here is the problem with all of this. Each of these positions lacks truth. Complete truths. The reality of the situation is each side has a right to defend themselves. Each side has a right to claim they are suffering at the hands of the other. The media fails to be fair and truthful when they withhold truths in an effort to manipulate the public. The churches that stand blindly by Israel without demanding a movement towards peace are also failing.
Why do I bring all of this up today? I bring this up because there is no cut and dry answer to this horrible situation. Instead of taking sides, instead of letting the media manipulate us, we need to be objective and find ways to work towards peace. If we can put away our blind support for either side and instead pray for a peaceful resolution we will have done something truly revolutionary.
I had the opportunity to meet a gentleman this week named Wes. We were having a conversation about other things when he said something that combined with hearing Kari Jobe’s song “The More I Seek You” on the radio. In summary he said, “You can find what you are looking for. You can look for the good or bad, and you will find it.”
This struck me as so true and interesting. Jobe’s song is all about searching for Jesus and how often you can find Him when you are seeking Him. The idea of the song is the more time you spend with Jesus the more you will want to spend time with Him. At some point, this remaining in Jesus’ presence will overwhelm you and overcome you.
All this made me wonder am I seeking Jesus enough? Am I basking in His presence? Am I willing to share the cup in His hand? So I will ask you to reflect on those same questions about yourself.
Here is an early version of Kari Jobe singing “The More I Seek You” to help you meditate on this.
Here are some good thoughts from a disciple of Jesus who also happens to be a good country music singer.
Originally posted on Jesus and Hank:
I’ve been thinking about this for awhile now, but I haven’t had time to share it on my blog until today. I will be the first to admit that I have a habit of keeping my face buried in my phone. Anytime I’m bored or alone, without thinking, I reach for my phone. It’s kinda like breathing. I do it without having to tell my brain to do it. This drives my wife crazy sometimes. My response to her frustration is…”It’s business honey, I have to be active on social media for my fans!”. This is true. The entertainment business is mostly promoted through social media. If I wasn’t a country music artist, I probably wouldn’t even have a facebook or a twitter account…maybe an instagram…maybe. If you’re like me, imagine how much more time we would have if we weren’t so concerned with social media. Don’t get me wrong…
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Take a moment to read this and get the history behind an old hymn that has been made modern by the David Crowder Band.
Originally posted on Via Media Methodists:
We live in an age of desires that cannot be quenched. We want more: more Facebook friends, more Twitter followers, higher salary, more vacation time. We approach almost every arena of life – physical, spiritual, emotional – like a Golden Corral. We want all-you-can-eat everything.
But there is only One who can truly quench our desire. As Augustine reminds us, only God can satisfy our restless hearts. Only God can quench our deepest thirst. Enter my favorite Charles Wesley hymn:
“O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!”
Charles wrote this hymn to celebrate the anniversary of a conversion, following his own experience a year prior. Hence the focus on justifying grace that is available to all:
“Look unto Him, ye nations, own
Your God, ye fallen race;
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Today, America celebrates its independence day. That is fine and dandy. But in America we tend to forget we are not to worship our nation. Our freedom did not come from our nation. Our eyes are to be on the Almighty who we are to worship. Our freedom came through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.
Today, let us turn our eyes to the heavens and worship our King of Kings, our Lord of Lords. To help focus us today, I have put Bebo Norman’s song, “My Eyes Have Seen Holy” here for us.
Embellished. Why do Christians embellish their testimonies? This makes no sense at all to me. We lay claim to the great things God has done, is doing, and hopefully will do in our lives but we undergird the story with lies. How does that make sense? When someone does that the first thing I think is, “So God’s work wasn’t good enough for you so you added onto it?”
God has done some pretty amazing things. We were each created from two tiny cells. The rain falls and scrubs the air, feeds the greenery, and provides water for the livestock. The trees give us oxygen while we give them their needs. Pretty amazing stuff! No need for embellishment there.
I would argue our egos are the reason we tinker with our story. We need to make it big enough to make us feel we are important to God. Sometimes we do it because we want to have a better testimony than the next person. How sad is this?
We are created to be God’s children, made in His perfect image. Our lives are filled with moments of teaching and learning. None is unimportant or more important than the next. They are all interconnected, one leading to the next. They build upon each other perfectly. We may not see it, but they do. So when we add to the story we create a situation where we make a perfectly amazing testimony into a lie. See, it is that easy. And when someone finds out you lied, your credibility is damaged. Maybe even ruined. And your testimony lost ALL of its value.
Why tinker with what God has perfected? Be honest. Tell of what God has done, not your fiction.
Sunday we had the opportunity to worship at First United Methodist Abilene. We have been there before, but this week was a little different. They had a new pastor and it was his first Sunday. It was a wonderful service, just as we have experienced there before.
It was nice to be able to be a part of the congregation with all my focus on worshipping Jesus. No distractions and no issues. It was interesting what I heard and learned, both in the song worship and in the preaching. The whole theme was what does freedom in Christ look like. How far does this freedom extend?
On one account the service made me reflect on my “Church Idols” series I have posted here. As we sang the song “Break Every Chain” I was thinking about all the things we have chosen to allow to bind us away from Jesus. Many times we chose to put on the shackles and place ourselves in the bondage. Once we identify these are artificial boundaries that we have created then it is possible to break free. Breaking free allows us to obtain liberty and freedom in Christ.
This freedom is overwhelming. It floods you with excitement and responsibility. It reinforces your direction or casts a new path for you. But this freedom is unique because it has boundaries. The Holy Spirit is the source, or guide, to these boundaries. The more we allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us, the more we will look and act like Jesus. This will allow us to open the doors to the blessings God has for us.
I find it interesting that we have locked up the blessings of God by our own will. We have placed the chains on them. We have decided what God can and cannot do. We have decided what God likes and does not like. Interesting. Because once we put these chains on others, and ourselves it takes Jesus to break us free. Our actions have consequences, and thank God for Jesus who has come to set us free.
“This is what Jesus offers – an opportunity to set myself free by understanding who I am in the context of who God is and what God wants for me.”
Self-identity issues are never-ending in our society. Many are trying to model themselves after the latest superstar or model. So what the star approves youth are following along. But that is not what we are called to. We are called to something so much greater. We are called to be followers of Jesus.
We can see who God is through the life of His Son, Jesus the Messiah. Jesus is love and He provided us hope. He is our rescuer. He was the master teacher and perfect justice. He was the author of The Law. So, who are we in him? We are messengers of the good news that Jesus was raised from the dead and lives in us. This is the simplistic, I know, but this is the root of it.
Does every choice you make revolve around the question, “Is this going to honor God?” If the answer is “yes,” that tells you that is a choice which is an option for you. If the answer is “no” then we should consider that choice as invalid for us. We are to reflect His hope, His justice, His love, His grace, and His mercy. Our choices should be reflecting this. Choices that embrace hate, oppression, mercilessness, and judgment are not reflections of Jesus and should be stricken from our behavior.
What are you going to reflect today? What is your understanding of yourself?
 Jonathan Merritt. Jesus is Better than You Imagined. (New York, NY: Faith Words, 2014). 92
Here is another great post by Carlee Lane. Very interesting and challenging points.
Originally posted on Carlee Lane:
Speaking the truth in love is overrated.
Because here’s what I hear as people “speak the truth in love”:
“Hey girl. When you wear those shorts I don’t think the guys can concentrate on what they’re supposed to be doing. We don’t want our Christian brothers to stumble now do we? I’m just speaking the truth to you in love.”
“Oh…yeah… So we never got back to you about that job you applied for here as a Sunday school teacher… Because… Well… You know… The divorce. We just can’t have that kind of unbiblical lifestyle around the children. But we think you’re great, otherwise! We’re just speaking the truth in love.”
“Oh, sweetheart! Yeah, totally! There’s totally grace for your past. I mean, your future marriage may not be quite as great because you know…damaged goods… But that’s just me speaking the truth in love.”
I think I may need a…
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When most people think of a moving worship experience they think of a worship band with dim lighting and the latest song playing. But last Sunday, I had one of the most moving worship experiences I have ever had. No voices singing. The lights were on and there are no blinds on the windows. No band. Just one woman, a piano, and a song.
Our friend Barbie played “Oceans” on the piano at the end of our music service. As she played the song you could just hear her heart crying out to God saying, “I do this for you Abba!” No words needed to be sung because her heart was connecting with God and the whole church was connecting with God through her pure, unadulterated worship.
While I love worship music, how often we forget the best song is only a song when the singer and musicians are not right with God. When they are not connecting with God through their song we cannot expect the whole church to connect either. But when they do connect with God, the whole church gets to join them in this Holy moment.
Barbie, thank you for leading us to the throne room and the presence of our most holy God Almighty!
“I am yours, and you are mine.”
For those who have never heard the song “Oceans,” here is the Hillsong United Live version of the song.