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Monday, February 18, 2019

Being Sent

For several years now I've had my phone set up with a recurring message that I get every morning, like a text message from God. It's taken from the text of Judges 6:14: "Have I not sent thee?" I set it up during a time when I was working at a job that was really grinding my gears - I felt unappreciated, and sometimes I even felt like I was thrown under the bus by the people above me, used as a scapegoat to unhappy clients. I started to have minor health problems, and began to feel like my life was really not going anywhere. I started trying to find a new job, but nothing was out there for someone with my specific skill set. For over a year I was job hunting, with absolutely no success. It was looking bleak for me!

Then one Sunday my pastor taught about Gideon, and that phrase from his story jumped out at me. Was I in that job for a reason? Had God sent me there, perhaps, to have an impact on the people around me? Could it be that I had a ministry right there, and when that ministry was completed, I would somehow be released from that job when something else opened up? My brain didn't like the idea, but my heart told me yes.

I do know that I had a positive impact on the people around me at that job. I do know that, finally, God released me from that job when He "sent" me to another job. At that job I had a chance to heal from the wounds I had received at the job before, and then at a certain point, God called me to another job that I love so much that I can't imagine a better situation for me to be in. I know I'm "sent" there too, and I remember that every morning when I get my morning "text message from God".

"Have I not sent thee?"

Yep, Lord - I know you have!


Monday, February 11, 2019

Asking for Trouble

In my last post I mentioned that my new musical/devotional podcast, The Word Go Project, has been a wild ride for me, and I promised to talk about why. The short version is this: when you presume to teach people about something from the Word, you'd better be ready for the Holy Spirit to teach you, too!

The idea of The Word Go Project is that human beings need to hear things a certain number of times before they truly sink in and become parts of our psyche. How many of us can remember a song, or a musical jingle, or even a catch phrase from a TV character, years and decades later, just because we heard it over and over for a period of time? I can remember advertisements from TV that I haven't heard since my childhood. A quick Google returns wildly varying results of how many times it takes, from seven all the way up into the forties, but everyone seems to agree that the more times you hear something, the better you remember it.

Additionally, I discovered by listening back to the online versions of church services that I was actually at that the second and third times I hear the same exact message, I glean different information from it! But how many people follow the valuable practice of re-listening to the same message more than once? I'd guess the percentage is really low.

So I thought it would be a cool idea to wrap a useful message in original music, to make it more palatable to listen to more than once. And that's the genesis of The Word Go Project. Each episode is a short devotional - about ten minutes long - with three songs containing roughly the same information as the three points in the devotional. An entire episode, including the songs, rounds out to about twenty minutes, which I'm guessing is probably about the same amount of time your and my pastor preach on a Sunday morning. Hopefully people listen, and listen more than once! You can always find the latest episode at https://www.WordGoProject.com (mobile-friendly... just click the "Play" button!) and you can listen to older episodes at https://podcast.WordGoProject.com.

I decided that a great starting point for The Word Go Project would be the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians chapter five. That gave me an instant list of nine episodes to work up without having to come up with separate ideas for each episode. What I didn't realize was that as I was working on each episode, God would start to reveal ways I needed to work on that topic myself! When I did the episode on Love, I started to see ways that I wasn't loving others the way God wants me to. When I worked on Joy, I started to feel a little down and had to reach out to God to help me out of my funk. I started to feel agitated during the time I worked on Peace, and by the time I got to Patience I started to feel like making these things was taking me FOREVER! I've heard Bible teachers say that when you teach a topic, God deals with you on that topic first - even James in the Bible warned against aspiring to teach unless you are prepared to deal with the consequences.

Well, I wasn't particularly prepared for it at first, but now that I've realized what's happening, it's a little easier to let the Holy Spirit teach me right along with my audience. Right now I'm in the middle of the next episode, "Kindness", and I'm looking for ways to be kind to the people around me. I'm generally a "nice guy" anyway, but God's kind of kindness can sometimes cost you something, and it doesn't ask for a pat on the back for it, either. So that's a challenge I'm trying to face!

Please do listen to The Word Go Project! Listen to it several times, and really let the truths from the Word soak in. Then tell your friends about it, and get them to listen as well. The episodes are literally my gift to you. I'm not getting any money for it at all - in fact, I spend my own money every month to get the episodes out there. I'm not trying to be famous or get attention; my real goal is to strengthen the Body of Christ. I hope it makes a difference in your life today!


Sunday, January 6, 2019

Epiphany 2019

A few years ago I instituted a new tradition for my family every year on Epiphany. If your church tradition does not celebrate Epiphany (mine doesn't), the nutshell version is that January 6th is 13 days after Christmas, and some churches take it as a day to celebrate the arrival of the Wise Men in Bethlehem. Want to know more? Check back to my original post about it, and you can read about how we've celebrated it every year since (except last year, when I forgot to blog about it) in this series of posts.

2018 was an interesting year for me - the launch of The Word Go Project brought to fruition years of preparation of my heart and my skills as a writer and musician. God's been teaching me a lot (I'll be blogging here about the experience in the next few weeks), and there's still a lot to process. Who would have thought an 80s kid would still be "growing up" in 2018? It just shows that there's always work to be done in each of us!

My family has been growing up, too. My son graduated high school and entered college, and my daughter is approaching junior high faster than I expected! As I see them grow and mature, I want to see their faith grow. Every year I try to find gifts that will meet my kids and my wife where they live, and become part of their lives. I hope I've managed the same this year!

Until he grew out of it, I used to read to my son every night before bed. I still do the same for my daughter, who is 11 and kind of on the edge of that (although she's a softie and probably will still want me to read her bedtime stories when she's 21!) so when I saw that Kara Dekker had collaborated with her father Ted on a children's series set in the same reality as her dad's "Circle" books and their offshoots, all of which I love, I knew I had to order it for my daughter. They are called The Dream Traveler's Quest, and you can find out all about them on Ted Dekker's web site. They are cheaper on TedDekker.com, but they are now available at Amazon.com as well.

My son is a fantastic trumpet player who loves music theory, and because he is a musician and also a fan of history, I wanted to share with him a book I got when I was in college, The Spiritual Lives of Great Composers. The edition I am giving him is expanded from the version I had in college, with more composers covered. I also replaced my copy, which had been damaged in some water a while back, and as I read back through it myself, I was also inspired. I think he will love it!

My wife isn't really a big book reader, but this year I felt like I needed to give her something with substance to dig into. What has more substance than Beth Moore, and what is easier to read than a short devotional for every day of the year? The book I selected is Believing God Day by Day. I hope she keeps it by her bedside (or somewhere handy) and spends a few short minutes with it every day this year. I think it will really help her!

I'm expecting amazing, fantastic things out of this year. I expect more music, more devotional podcasts, and maybe even the occasional blog post here, for old time's sake! And I hope these small gifts plant seeds in the hearts of my family that will grow into amazing trees of righteousness in their lives that will help them remain strong in God for years to come!





Monday, July 16, 2018

The Word Go project

Several years ago I started to notice something about myself. I enjoyed my pastor's message on Sunday morning, but often by Sunday evening I had forgotten most of what he said! I found this upsetting. I didn't want to lose all of the great information I was hearing from my pastor on Sundays! I started listening to the recordings of past services in my church's podcast, and I started taking notes of the things that lit up inside of me when Pastor said them. I wanted to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to me in my heart, and I write down the things that seemed important to me, important for my life.

The experience has been a great success for me! I usually come home with only three or four notes from the service, but I put them on my bedside table and review them throughout the week, trying to really take hold of what the Holy Spirit is trying to say to me. But I wondered if there might be an even better way to help others absorb the truths of the Word of God throughout the week!

Memorization is something that I have been interested in ever since the summer during my college years that I spent selling books door-to-door. They told each of us college students to memorize a whole script, many many pages, of what to say when the door opened. It's a terrific sales tool, and the bonus was that it taught me how to really commit things to memory! Putting something into your long-term memory typically doesn't just happen to you - it is something that has to be deliberately done. But there's one exception: can you think of a TV commercial jingle that you heard decades ago, but you can still sing it as though you just heard it five minutes ago? Did you grow up, as I did, in the Schoolhouse Rock generation who can still sing "I'm Just a Bill" and "Conjunction Junction"? We know those things by memory because of one thing: repetition.

I started to wonder if there was a way to make it easy for people to repeat the same information from the Bible over and over in the course of a couple of weeks, and really absorb that information from the Word of God. I knew it was going to take some music, but that was fine by me because I've been writing music for my whole life! As I thought it through, and as I listened for inspiration from the Lord, I came up with this idea: I would write a devotional, containing plenty of Scripture verses and very little editorializing, with three main points. For each of those points, I would write a song covering the same material. I might even record different versions of that song in different genres. The idea is to give people as many options for listening to the same material as possible so it doesn't get boring, doesn't get old, and it is easy to repeat over and over.

About six months ago I wrote my first version of the script. I recorded it and showed it to a couple of people, and one of my pastors gave me some terrific feedback. "This is like a college course!" he said. "This is so much information to absorb! Maybe cut it down a little?" That was great advice - my first version was VERY dense with information! I cut it down about half, And also slowed down the pace of my speech, and the result was SO much better. Then I took my three points and wrote three songs. Over the course of the next six months, I learned so much about instrumental and vocal recording and production techniques! There sure is a lot to know! In the end, I came up with three songs that I feel really good about.

And that brings us to today! Today, I am thrilled to announce that The Word Go Project is live! You can experience it yourself at WordGoProject.com. When you go to that site, preferably on a mobile device, you'll find a big old play button. You can listen the material couple of different ways, or you can even read the speech in text form, but the main thing is to hit the play button and absorb the message from the Word of God. The message that was chosen for this first episode is Love. How's that for an obvious, but really good choice? So visit WordGoProject.com, find out what this episode has to say about love, and soak it in! I hope you enjoy, and I hope it changes your life!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Song Thoughts: "Great Are You Lord"



It's Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise, pour out our praise... - "Great Are You Lord"
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. - Colossians 1:17 ESV

Every time we sing this song and I get to the chorus, and take a deep breath to belt it out, I think, "Jesus, You're putting this air into my lungs. And you're putting this worship in my heart."

You do realize that every time your heart beats, it's because Jesus made it beat, right? Every time you wake up, it's because He gave you another day to wake up in. Every time your muscles make your body move, every time your eyes blink, every time your body turns food into fuel to keep you alive - it's because Jesus did it.

But more than that: the worship He put into your heart actually belongs to Him in the first place. When we say "You are worthy of praise" it doesn't mean the same thing as it does when we, say, make flattering statements about a successful athlete or celebrity or even our family member or child.

The worship actually belongs to Him, and always has.

As worshipers, we are a vessel to deliver back to God something He entrusted us with, something that belongs to Him. Because nobody but Him deserves it. He put the breath in your lungs, He put the worship in your heart, and when you use one to give another back to Him, it's simply completing the circle, bringing you closer to Him.


You give life. You are love. You bring light to the darkness.
You give hope. You restore ev'ry heart that is broken, and great are You Lord!

It's Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise, we pour out our praise!
It's Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to You only!

And all the earth will shout Your praise. Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing, "Great are You Lord!"

Friday, July 8, 2016

Knowing

(This is not me, by the way.)
I have a daughter who is eight years old, and sometimes she's a real pest.

I'll be in the spare room, working on something on the computer, and she'll come in and want to talk about a new Barbie doll she heard about. Or I'll be up early, just trying to eat a bowl of cereal and get the groggies out of my brain to start the day, and she'll want to make a silly joke (OVER and OVER and OVER...) Or maybe I'm actually trying to do something with her, read a book or watch TV or play a game, and first it's of critical importance that she gets a drink of water, or a blanket, or a trip to the restroom.

Frankly, sometimes I get a bit grumpy. I may growl out some crabby passive-aggressive sort-of-ironic thing, like "You know, I told you thirty minutes ago that we were going to do this now. Maybe you could have gone potty then?" I can be a big old grouch sometimes. (I know, on the Internet I'm a super nice guy every day... aren't we all, on the Internet?)

In real life I'm a serious introvert, and I'm pretty sure if I went to a doctor who knows about it, I would be diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. What that adds up to is that if I'm not thinking about it, my face often has an expression on it that does not show much emotion. Even when I feel perfectly fine and happy, sometimes you wouldn't know it from looking at me. I'm not an easy guy to read.

But you know what? It's crazy, but for some reason that never seems to bother my 8-year-old at all. No matter what crabby thing I just said, no matter whether I'm smiling or even frowning, she has no trouble diving right in for a hug. Even if something she did is the reason I'm being all gruff in the first place! It doesn't bother her a bit, because she knows that no matter what, I love her, and she belongs to me. And she loves me too, so why not give me a hug?

So, what I'm wondering is this: why don't we believers in Jesus, members of God's family, feel that way about God? We really have even less of a reason to be intimidated by God than my little girl has to be intimidated by me! After all, if she does something wrong, it's my job to administer punishment... but Jesus has taken the full punishment from God for any sin we ever have committed or will commit. We are more blameless and perfect before God than a little kid could ever be before her earthly father.

Hey, why don't you go in for a hug right now? God loves you; he wants to commune with you. He won't ever be grumpy or passive-aggressive or even regular aggressive to you. He calls you His child. Every child has time for some cuddles! So grab your blanket and a quick drink of water if necessary, and then close your eyes and say from your heart, "I love you, God!"

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Song Thoughts: "How He Loves"



He is jealous for me...

STOP RIGHT THERE!

Stop singing for a second. Yeah, I do notice that we only finished the first line. That’s because that first line totally wrecks.

Do you remember your first crush? Maybe you were in junior high school, or elementary school, or wherever. I’m talking about the first person your age who totally made your heart go pitter-patter.

Remember how you felt the first time you ever saw that person talking to someone else? Maybe they were even laughing? And it looked to you like your chance with that person was completely gone?

Remember how that felt?

THAT IS HOW GOD.

FEELS.

ABOUT.

YOU.

Close your eyes for a minute and take a deep breath and think about it for a second. I’’ll wait right here until you get back.







OK, done?

Now, go ahead and sing the rest. If you can!

He is jealous for me.
Love’s like a hurricane, and I am a tree bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy…
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me!

And oh,
How He loves us, oh…
Oh how He loves us!
how He loves us, oh!
We are His portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in his eyes.
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking!
So heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss, and my heart turns violently inside of my chest…
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves us!

Oh how He loves us!
Oh how He loves us!
Oh how He loves!


I've blogged about this song before! Click here to see.