Monday, April 30, 2012

Finding Strength in Your Weakness

“For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 
2 Corinthians 12:10

Can you say that?

Have you ever said that?

Choosing the weak
One of the most startling things about 2 Corinthians 12 is that this is not an exception to how God works; it is the rule. The pattern in God’s work on earth is to channel his power through human weakness. God does not skim off the top ten percent—the most gifted, the most articulate, the smartest, the best educated—for significance in the kingdom.

He picks the screw-ups. The nobodies. He picks people like you and me.

Weakness in the Old Testament.

We see it time and again in the great story.

Abraham, not man enough to put his own wife before himself, is the father of God’s special people. The younger son—Abel rather than Cain, Isaac rather than Ishmael, Jacob rather than Esau, David rather than his more impressive brothers—are the ones through whom God’s promises travel. Gideon, cowering in the winepress, the least of his family, is chosen to lead 300 to defeat a horde of Midianites. Jeremiah, young and timid, is chosen as God’s mouthpiece (Jeremiah 1:1–10; see also 9:23–24). It is the lowly to whom God looks (Isaiah 57:15; 66:1–2).

The theme of strength through weakness is not only individual but corporate. The more the Hebrews were afflicted in Egypt, the more they multiplied (Exodus 1:12). Israel was loved and used by God despite being the runt of the ancient world (Deuteronomy 7:6–7).

The New Testament is full of weakness too
In the New Testament the theme of strength through weakness is ratcheted up even further.

Jesus repeatedly upends our intuitive assumptions about significance and strength. It is in losing our lives that we find them (Matthew 10:39). The last will be first (Matthew 19:30–20:16). Those who serve others are the greatest (Matthew 20:26–28). The kingdom is like a tiny seed that nevertheless provides the largest, most shady branches (Mark 4:30–32). It is the grain that falls into the ground and dies that bears much fruit (John 12:24–25).

Paul drives home the theme of strength through weakness more decisively than anyone. “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27–28). “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Weakness isn't “good,” but God uses it
Human weakness is not inherently good. There is no weakness in the first two chapters of the Bible or the last two. But in between Eden and the New Eden, human weakness is not a problem for God. It is the great prerequisite. It is where God locates his power.

Jesus experienced the worst weakness
Let us follow our Master, who “was crucified in weakness, yet lives by the power of God” (2 Corinthians 13:4). The pattern of his life is ours—life out of death, power out of weakness.

Even more fundamentally, though, Jesus experienced in our place the worst weakness of all. On the cross the one person who ever lived in perfect strength his whole life long, who never knew any moral weakness in himself, bore the wrath deserved by moral weaklings.

Feeling inadequate? Perfect.
Do you know yourself to be weak? Inadequate? Not up to snuff in intellect, family background, educational opportunities, financial resources?

Get ready.

You are just the kind of person God loves to use. The power of God—power to kill sin, power to walk in the fullness of the Spirit, power to speak courageously on the job, power to love the unlovely, power to lead many to Christ, power to make your life count—such power is for inadequate people.

Acknowledge your frailty to God. Look to the Savior. He embraced the weakness of the cross so that you and I, weak sinners, can experience the blood-bought power of God—now.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Worship Droids

By Glenn Packiam (Worship Leader Magazine)

My friend, Cameron, is an early adopter. He’s on to gadgets and widgets before they make their way into mainstream culture. This past year, Cameron got me blogging. Because of him I know what “StumbleUpon” and “ tags” mean. Cameron is also responsible for my participation in Twitter. Though Cameron is an early adopter, I am an obsessive implementer. I blog once a week, check my Facebook several times a day, and Twitter as often as I think about it.

But I’m starting to wonder if all this online tagging and tweeting is such a good thing. I believe in the moral neutrality of technology. It is all simply a tool: in the wrong hands it does harm, in the right hands it can do good. And certainly, it has done a lot of good. It has helped us keep connected with the people in our churches, or, in the language of Facebook and Twitter, our “followers,” “fans,” and “friends.”

Here is the question: Are we perfecting the art of artificial relationships and losing the craft of cultivating deep friendships?

Connecting with a person’s online profiles can become depersonalizing in the end. A person is no longer a rich, complicated, beautiful mess of good desires and wicked impulses, with unique stories and quirky personalities. A person is reduced to a few key statistics or the groups they belong to or the colleges they attended. We don’t want to know people; we just want to find things our about them—quickly, easily, and without a real conversation. So, instead of baring our souls we update our status. Technology has made communication efficient; but our obsession with efficiency has depersonalized our relationships.

It doesn’t’ stop there. We watch a video sermon and some worship videos and call it church; we add and accept Facebook friends and think we have community. I’m not against any of these things; we do many of them at my church. But there is a danger lurking that must not be ignored. The way of Jesus with His disciples was highly personal. He never chose efficiency and expediency over friendship and conversation. His disciples weren’t people He checked up on; they were people He walked, ate, laughed and lived with.

So, here are some ways to not allow technology to depersonalize us:

1. Use social networks as a supplement to your relationships not as substitute.
Real life, face-to-face relationships have fights and resolutions, hugs and facial expressions and tone of voice. There is a genuine connection and a history of relationship and a commitment to each other. It’s built on trust and vulnerability. A Facebook friendship and a Twitter-follower relationship can have all those things only when there is an additional non-digital dimension to it.

2. Take a day a week where you shut out communication technology—laptop, cell phone, etc.
Call it a tech-Sabbath if you’d like. You’d be surprised how just one day a week can break your addiction to gadgets. Plus, it will force you to actually focus on the people who are right in front of you. And if there aren’t any, it will help you realize it’s time to cultivate some deeper friendships.

3. Pursue relationships pro-actively instead of reactively.
Technology can make us relationally reactive. We’re buzzed with text messages and emails, alerted of other’s updates, and notified when we’re tagged. We’re constantly reacting and responding that we’re losing the art of pursuing and loving. If someone stops making digital contact with us, we forget about them, move on to our other “friends” who do. Having forgotten what it means to fight for a friendship or push through a conflict, we find ourselves with a revolving circle of friends who never get too close. In the end, we may find ourselves alone. But we can avoid that by choosing to pursue and learning to become faithful friends.

Steady Diet
Maybe our online relationships and social networks and video church are like frosting on the proverbial cake. Cameron is one of my best friends. I was the best man in his wedding. We had a friendship long before Facebook, Twitter, and IM. But now that Cameron lives in another state, all these social networking tools help our connection. But they are not the totality of our connection. Not every relationship needs to be deep; some will be superficial. We have acquaintances and casual friends. But be cautious of relationships that are artificial. Eating frosting with cake is delicious. But a steady diet of frosting alone will make you sick.

We must not lead people to believe that relationships are just about status updates and news feeds and tweets. We must show a better, more personal, more fully human way lest we keep our souls shallow, our lives unchallenged, and our hearts unloved.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Elevation Worship

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Guía para ser un Buen Director de Alabanza

Un corto video explicando cosas basicas que todo director de alabanza debe saber.
A short video explaining basic principles that every worship leader should know.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Mountain Top Experience

"And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them."  Mark 9:2-3

Jesus takes his inner circle to a mountain with Him and they experience a divine moment, something unlike anything they had ever seen. Most of us have had a similar experience, maybe not as intense, but a “mountain top” experience nonetheless. It may have been while worshiping at youth camp, a prayer meeting or maybe even a conference you attended. God moved there in a way you had never experienced.

Some attempt to relive the same experience everywhere they go. Life doesn’t seem right if one of those experiences isn’t right around the corner. They began looking for an experience instead of living their life for Jesus. Peter wanted to do just this, to make a memorial to what happened on the mountain so they could come to it and relive the event. But Jesus didn’t allow him to do this and brought them back down the mountain, telling them not to mention this until he was risen from the dead. What a buzz kill. You see this awesome thing, you want to keep reliving it over again and again and Jesus says, “Oh yeah, by the way, don’t mention this to anyone until I have risen again.”

The disciples didn’t understand this, but Jesus knew what He was doing.

He gave them the glowing mountain top to aid them through the dark valley when He would be taken away and murdered. He graciously gives us these experiences so we are able to navigate the many valleys in our lives, not so we can stay on the mountain.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

7 Things That Worship Is

1. Repentance
Where there is no repentance, there may be an emotional experience, but it’s not worship! Worship does not become worship until it changes the way we live!

2. Intellectual
We are called to worship the Lord with our minds by renewing them and fixing them on him. (Colossians 3:1–2)

3. Intentional
No one accidentally follows Christ. If we are going to worship him, it will be done purposefully!

4. Relational
Worship affects every relationship we have. It is impossible to be a fully devoted worshiper of Christ while being a jerk to your wife or trying to take advantage of the opposite sex.

5. Financial
Until following Christ has affected our finances in a sacrificial way, chances are, we are not followers of Christ with our whole heart. Would you like to see the primary object of your worship? Look at how you spend your money, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

6. Unconditional
Worship is consistent, 24/7, not situational or just when I feel good or God is giving me all that I want. If we worship only when things are good then we do not worship God, we worship a genie!

7. Emotional
Worship is overwhelming when we realize that Jesus has rescued us while we were deeply entrenched in sin, when we realize how helpless we are and how incredible he is. (The reality of Romans 5:8 blows me away!)

Monday, April 9, 2012

God is Most Glorified When We are Most Dependant on Him

Some of us have been duped into thinking that the Christian life is meant to be lived in our own strength.

We’re Westerners. We like to be strong. We grow up thinking that things depend on us and our abilities. We import all of this into our Christianity, we believe we’re meant to follow Jesus on the basis of our own resources.

In short, we settle for a natural life when we could be living a supernatural life.

We Don't Grow Out of Dependence
God calls his people to live supernatural lives, filled with the Holy Spirit—to live in expectant and full dependency on the living God, believing and trusting that what seems impossible to us is possible with God.

Just as a toddler is meant to depend on his father and mother for everything, we’re meant to depend on our heavenly Father for everything. Again, we’ve been duped. We thought we were supposed to grow out of this toddler phase. No. The whole of the Christian life is meant to look like the toddler phase in terms of dependency—we are to always depend on God for everything.


Because God is God and we are not.

Don't Settle for Independence
To live a natural life is to live a prideful life. When you live life based on your own resources, sight, and strength, you declare that you don’t need God.

“To live a supernatural life is to live a humble, thrilling, and God-honoring life."

”When you live life based on God’s resources, sight, and strength, you declare that God is God and you’re banking everything on his ability to come through.

Abel, Abraham, Caleb, Rahab, Gideon, Daniel, Nehemiah, Mary, the Apostle Paul, and the early Christians whose lives are recorded in the book of Acts all lived supernatural lives. Who they are and what they did makes no sense apart from radical dependence on God.

We were never meant to trust in our own five loaves and two fish. We are meant to live as though, at any moment, God can turn five loaves and two fish into something we never dreamed of.

Don’t settle for a natural life. Live a supernatural life. Read your Bible and see that that’s the only kind of life we’ve been called to live.

I believe that God is most glorified in us when we are most dependent on him. To the degree that you live dependent on yourself, you dishonor God. To the degree that you live dependent on God, you glorify God.

“I want to give God a lot of glory with my life. Don’t you?"

Let’s repent of our less-than-supernatural way of life. Let’s live supernatural lives. Let’s depend, supernaturally depend, on God.

Don't Settle for Your Visions
This is the heart of the gospel. The good news of the gospel comes to us in our complete inadequacy, a message of supernatural grace and transformation for the undeserving. That’s how the Christian life starts and it’s how the Christian life is meant to continue, knowing our inadequacy, and Christ’s total adequacy to forgive, satisfy, lead, help, supply, love, and move mountains.

I’m concerned about the loss of faith that moves mountains. I don’t think this is a faith intended for a select few. We know the living God, the God who calls us to live in light of the fact that he is real, sovereign, near, wise, good, and attentive to our prayers.

Could there be anything that the enemy is more eager to do in the Western world than trick us into living natural lives with smallish faith in a smallish God?

We’ve settled for me-sized visions for our lives and our churches when we’re meant to move forward with God-sized visions.

I’m done with me-sized living. I don’t know how I got to confusing Christianity with me-sized living, but I did. A few years ago I repented of that and asked God for the grace and power to trust him like he’s meant to be trusted. I’m figuring it out, having fun, and realizing that living a supernatural life is a lot more interesting that the life I once lived.

God is most glorified in us when we are most dependent on him.
God is most glorified in us when we are most dependent on him.
God is most glorified in us when we are most dependent on him.

"Beat that into your head. Beat that into your leadership. Don’t settle for anything less."

"I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted." Job 42:2

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Leadership: Are You Conflict Averse?

Question: There is some bad blood brewing within my worship team. Right now I have two people in the band who argue at every rehearsal, a couple of singers no longer on speaking terms, and a pocket of people upset with me because they’re not singing as often as they’d like. I really hate conflict. It makes me want to quit and run away. I don’t understand why we all just can’t get along. Thoughts?

Answer: I don’t know of anyone who loves conflict, but it’s something every leader must learn to deal with. Your case may prove challenging because it sounds like you might be conflict averse—that you’d rather avoid problems than aggressively seek to resolve them. Leaders who are conflict averse tend to gloss over messy issues, wish them away, or withdraw. Meanwhile, team morale erodes and unity unravels, so it doesn’t serve you well to sweep those sticky matters under the rug.

In my younger days, conflict used to paralyze me. I would lose sleep over the least bit of friction within my ministry. I even took it personally, assuming that any semblance of conflict casts a bad reflection on my leadership. I’ve since learned that every ministry has its issues. The question is whether I, as the leader, rise up to do something about it or not.

Be Proactive
In 1 Chronicles 28:20, an aging King David exhorts his son, Solomon, to proactive leadership: “Be strong and courageous, and act” (NASB). The ESV translates that last part, “Do it,” and the NIV reads, “Do the work.” No matter the translation, the language is assertive. It’s as if David is saying, “Solomon, you’re the leader. Do something about those pesky problems.” In the same way, I urge you to be proactive. Don’t wait for problems to go away or solve themselves. If you care about your ministry and your people (which I’m sure you do), then take action. Assert leadership.

Firmly, But Lovingly
Ephesians 4:31 instructs us to put away all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice. Good advice when you’re just about to confront someone. Leave your anger behind. Don’t use an accusatory, harsh, or vindictive tone. Be humble and speak lovingly to those involved.

Kickoff With Questions
Instead of opening with harsh accusation, I find that beginning the conversation with a question starts dialogue in the right direction. For example, I would ask those two band members if they’re aware of the effect their arguing has on the rest of the team. I would pull those two singers together and ask, “What would it take to restore your friendship?” I would meet with those who are upset and ask, “How can we work toward peace in our relationship?” Those may not be the right questions. You know your situation better than I do. But the point is that, instead of going into the situation with some ax to grind, you ask questions that foster constructive communication.

Confront Observable Behavior
Whenever you confront someone, limit your remarks to behavior that can be seen with the naked eye. If you were to accuse someone of harboring a bad attitude, for example, they could easily reply, “No, I don’t,” and the conversation would be over. That’s because attitudes are intangible—you can’t see or hear them. Besides, you’re not inside the person’s head. You don’t know what he or she is thinking. But if you were to say, “I heard that negative remark you made at rehearsal last night. Did you really mean that?” you’d be referring to a specific incident. Pointing out the irrefutable remark would make it easier to get at the heart of the issue, which could very well be a bad attitude.

I don’t know anyone who isn’t conflict averse to some degree. Like I said, no one loves conflict. However, with practice, you can get better at confronting and your ministry will be healthier as a result. In the meantime, may God grant you the courage to face any and all problems in your ministry and the wisdom to effectively deal with them.

Rory Noland ( directs Heart of the Artist Ministries and is the author of Worship on Earth as it is in Heaven: Exploring Worship as a Spiritual Discipline.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Free Chart Downloads (Matt Redman)

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Monday, April 2, 2012

A Not-So-Joyful Noise

I come from a family of musicians. It’s a great way to grow up, but a problem we used to often encounter is we could not turn off that side of ourselves in church. Some of you know what I’m talking about: the band will start to play, the worship leader opens their mouth and BAM—they sing a note that is nowhere near the right key. The musician in me is inwardly cringes as the worship leader attempts to try to find the melody of the song ... and fails. I know this is worship time, but I and my family can't help but give each other looks every time the singers mess up their harmonies or the drummer gets a little ‘too happy’ on those drums.

It is often a challenge for church music directors to find willing volunteers who not only want to give up their time, but actually possess musical skill. They are often left to scramble, sometimes going outside their church membership to hire other singers and musicians to come in. Just how important is musicianship to the worship experience? What attitude should singers and musicians carry when in church?

Depending on what type of church you go to, the allotted worship time can be from 15 minutes to over an hour long in more charismatic churches. Regardless of how much prominence musical worship is given in your church services, it is up to those in charge to provide the right atmosphere for those to enter into God’s presence and leave behind the worries of the week. Worship should be a time of reverence, but commonly we settle into a pattern of familiarity with the chosen songs, the A-A-B-A structure or the calming voice of the worship leader as they invite the congregation to participate. It can easily become a ritual lacking any spiritual significance.

Yes, church music directors and praise team leaders should strive to make great music unto the Lord—the Bible says that whatever we do, we should work at it with all our hearts (Colossians 3:23-4)—but they also should understand the hearts of their musicians are more important than how many vocal runs they can produce. Worship teams are so much more effective when the love for God is evident on their faces. As I’ve heard someone say, they are not worship leaders, they are lead worshippers. When praise teams are more concerned with putting on a solid performance than with joining in worship with the congregation, there is a problem. Church is supposed to be a community, not a business. You can always work on improving someone’s musicality, but they have to come already prepared with the right spirit to worship.

We can get picky over whether our church chooses hymns over the "light rock feel" of Chris Tomlin. But it all comes down to making a personal choice to look past the music and focus on what you are actually singing about. A song that used to have no meaning for me was Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name”. I had sung that song in church for years and thought it was pretty boring musically. However, at a service I recently attended, the worship leader explained the lyrical content. The song says, Blessed be Your name when the sun’s shining down on me, and then the next verse says, Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering. Oh, wait, so this song is about praising God when things are going your way, as well as when you are in the midst of intense suffering? It’s about being able to say, “Yes, Lord, I will worship You, I will bless Your name no matter what my circumstances." That is a message we all need to take in. Now when I hear that song in church, it has renewed meaning for me; the music does not matter because I found a way to connect with the song no matter how proficient the musicians are.

When I was fifteen, the youth pastor of our church said something that has stuck with me ever since. He said that everything we do can be worship to God. The words “worship” and “music” have been tied together so permanently that people think worship time ends when the praise team leaves the stage. But when we pray, when we tell our friends about Jesus, when we tithe, we’re worshipping. Worship is anything that lifts up God’s name and praises Him. The way in which we live our lives everyday should be an act of worship.

And it doesn’t matter how you worship either. Not everyone is going to run around a church, singing “Hallelujah!” and not everyone is gonna stand still with their hands at their sides. I love to lift my hands toward God when I’m singing, but I have friends who don’t do that—and that’s fine. It does not matter what you do when that time comes; what matters is where your heart is at. Be present in the worship. Try (as hard as it can be) to focus on God and His awesomeness instead of how the girl playing the piano should probably be wearing pants from that angle. Blocking out the world (and its unseemly distractions) is part and parcel with being able to enter in the presence of God.My family may exchange loaded glances from time to time, but when our focus quickly turns to worship, we are able to move on. If the music is actually inhibiting your ability to worship, you better check and see what it is you’re actually praising. Don’t make music your god. Change your circumstances in order to avoid being put off by anything that may hinder you. Maybe you will even have to purposely seek out a different church. Whatever your options, make the changes necessary to take your focus off the screechy soprano and put it where it belongs—on the King of Kings.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)