The Unofficial Israel Tour::The House of Caiphas

Jesus most likely spent his last night in this hole under the house of Caiphas, the high priest. Reading Psalm 88, it’s hard not to see it as a prophecy about Jesus’ experience. That night, as the psalm says, darkness was his only friend.

A Prayer Experience from Psalm 6

The Lord is merciful.

He is full of unfailing love.

The Lord hears our cries and hears our prayers.

He takes away our sins.

This is a prayer experience for Lent based on Psalm 6.

A Prayer Experience from Psalm 142

I wrote an arrangement of Psalm 142 for my one man musical, DAVID.  The line, “When my spirit grows faint within me / It is you who knows my way” grabbed me. As we continue this season of Lent, I thought this was a good psalm to share.  I recorded it in the desert room of the Botanical Gardens because David wrote it while hiding in a desert cave on the run from Saul.

A Prayer Experience from Psalm 130

I recorded this prayer experience in the chapel of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral.  I know it’s a Catholic church and we have some theological differences, but it is a beautiful space and one that has engaging pictures and sculptures.  For example, the sheaf of wheat carved into the alter table that points to Jesus being our “first fruits”.

So as the season of Lent is a time to confess our sins and become more aware of our own mortality, here is a prayer experience based on Psalm 130. For more on this prayer model, click here.

Worship is Lament AND Praise

6 years ago, we lost my son. Since then, we’ve been on a journey through lament (expressing our pain to God), mercy, healing, joy and praise. I think this is the process God wants for all of us. As Psalm 126 says, “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.”

Also, here is a copy of the “Psalm 142 Spoken Word”:

Psalm 142 Spoken Word

Lord, I am crying aloud to you.

Lord, I am lifting my voice

Because I have no choice,

but to cry for mercy.

I am pouring out my heart,

I am pouring out my trouble,

Amidst the rubble

of confusion and complaint.

Now when my spirit is faint inside of me.

It is you who watches my way

Even when evil tries to lay

A snare for my feet.

There is no friend beside me;

Lord, look and see,
no one is concerned for me.
I have no safety for my soul;

It feels like no one cares for my life.

Lord, I am crying out to you.

Lord, you guard my heart

And I know this is all apart

Of living in your loving life.

So listen to my heart’s cry,
for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from fears that feed

On my soul, for they are too strong.

Set me free from my prison of pain,
that I may praise your holy name.

that the righteous who came

to comfort me, will praise You…

Because of your goodness,

Because of your goodness,

Because of your goodness, Jesus,

…to me.

Speak Lord, I’m Listening…

I talk too much and listen too little.  It’s always been a struggle for me.

Proverbs says to speak before listening is a folly and shame (18:3) and let me tell you, I’ve lived it.  Even now, as a guy in mid-life, I struggle to listen because I like the sound of my own voice.  But as I’ve reflected on it, I don’t think I’m alone.  We have one sided conversations all the time.  We wait until the other person stops talking so we can say our piece.  (SIDENOTE:  That is not a real conversation. 😉  That’s a monologue!)

But my namesake, the prophet Samuel, was able to listen, at least in the story we have of him as a boy.  He hears a voice in the middle of the night.  And that might have seemed a bit creepy, right?  So he runs to the adult, Eli, and asks him if he was calling.  Like most adults who get awakened by young children in the middle of the night, Eli groaned and said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”  It happened a second time and this time, Eli, who probably felt like he had just fallen back to sleep, said, “I did not call; go back and lie down!” (emphasis mine!).  The third time, Eli figures out what is going on and tells the small boy to say one line:  ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’

What strikes me now, is that Eli and Samuel know who they are speaking too and their place in the conversation.  They are speaking to the Lord.  The Mighty One.  The God who speaks and summons.  They are the servants who listen and respond.

I want to be more like Samuel.  So I put together this short “found poem” from the psalms to help me remember to listen first and speak later…

‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,

speaks and summons the earth

from the rising of the sun to where it sets.

From Zion, perfect in beauty,

God shines forth.

Our God comes

and will not be silent

One thing God has spoken,

    two things I have heard:

“Power belongs to you, God,

    and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”

I will listen to what God the Lord says;

he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—

but let them not turn to folly.

‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’

-from 1 Samuel 3:9, Psalm 50, 62, 85

Who Is Worship For? – Prt3

I have a confession.

I grew up thinking that worship was only for believers.  Now, I think you can make a case that only a believer can worship God in spirit and in truth, but how should we arrange our services with the third audience, the outside world, in mind?

A number of years ago, I took a class called “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement”.  It’s not a very exciting title, I know, but the class changed my whole perspective on worship.  Every week we had a different speaker who helped us understand what God has been doing in the world to build his Kingdom starting in the OLD TESTAMENT!  Did you know that God’s heart has ALWAYS been to have the nations hear the good news?  I hadn’t realized that this was God’s message to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to David and on and on…to Jesus and then the early church.  God has always wanted his people to be a light and welcome anyone who comes.  As God says in the Psalms (46:10, 47:1, 18:49, 22:27)

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.

Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him…

And as author and pastor, Tim Keller, writes,

It is a false dichotomy to insist that if we are seeking to please God we must not ask what the unchurched feel or think about our worship…God wants the world to overhear us worshipping him.  God directs his people not to simply worship, but to sing his praises “before the nations.”  We are not to simply communicate the gospel to them, but celebrate the gospel before them.*

Did you know that this happens at ECC?  We have people to walk up to our pastors after service and say, “I’m not a believer, but I’m thinking about what you said…”  We have people who are sitting in the seats who come to church, but aren’t following Jesus Monday through Saturday.

This is why I think Keller’s emphasis on the gospel is so important.  Not just because unbelievers need to hear it (and they do!), but that the gospel is what all three groups need to hear!  God wants us to tell him about what he has done for us in Jesus.  Believers need to be reminded and shaped by the gospel.  Un-believers need to be saved by the gospel.

We can focus only on seekers instead of encouraging believers and get lost in making Jesus “relevant”.

We can focus only on building up believers and make things incomprehensible and outdated for seekers.

We need to make sure that our services are fresh, conversational and understandable while always focusing on the gospel.

By focusing on the gospel, we bring all three audiences together in worship.

______________________________________

*Tim Keller quote from “Evangelistic Worship” as used in Rhythms of Grace.  Thanks to Mike Cosper for the concept of the three audiences in worship.  His book is an excellent read.  I highly recommend it!

DAVID Preview Video!

I have had numerous questions about available video for the DAVID show.  

So, we are going to release a short 11 min teaser from the weekend so you can get a taste of it and invite others to the show in.  (CLICK HERE FOR TICKET INFO)

Until then, I hope you enjoy this preview video from DAVID!

Performance February 16-18 and 23-25 with all-for-One Productions at the PPG ArtsLab Black Box Theater
300 E Main Street, Fort Wayne, IN.  Ticket info Here!

Spoken Word Psalm 42

This spoken word psalm came out of the staff prayer retreat a few weeks ago.  We had been praying out of the bible and then took an hour for personal reflection.  I realized that I had been overly anxious about the news headlines and my son’s lack of sleep had expanded that fear.  It was coloring the way I saw the world.  During our prayer time, someone had read a piece of Psalm 42 so I went there and rewrote it to help me process my fear and anxiety.  Maybe you have experienced something like that.  Maybe this psalm will help you ask the same question and come to the same answer:  Why does my stomach churn with anxiety within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will again praise Him, my Savior and my God.

As my son screams for streams of

milk in his 3AM bottle,

So my soul cries for you, God.

My soul thirsts for Jesus,

the living God.

Where can I go to meet

with him?

 

My fears have been my junk-food

day and night.

While headlines fill my news-feed

and seed my mind with questions…

“Where is your God?”

These things I will remember 

as I pour out my soul:

How I used to go with your people

leading the vocals and band with

the children of God

with shouts of joy and 

thanks among the

ranks of His people.

 

Why?  Why are you down, my soul?

Why does my stomach churn with anxiety

within me?

Put your hope in God,

for I will again praise Him,

my Savior and my God.

 

But seriously, my stomach churns

and my soul still burns.

Therefore, I will remember you

from the hills of PA

to the chemo for 5 hours a day.

Deep calls to deep,

in the roar of headwaters,

all your waves and hurricanes

have swept over me.

But by day the Lord gives his love,

and at night he sings his lullaby over me.

So now, I pray to the God of my life.

So I say to God,

my Rock in the storm,

“Why does it feel I’ve been still-born?

Why must I deal with cancer and death

and a world that crushes thoughts and breath?

My bones ache, my stomach still churns

as the screen taunts me

all day long,

“Where is your God?”

 

Why?  Why are you down, my soul?

Why does my stomach churn with anxiety

within me?

Put your hope in God

for I will again praise Him,

my Savior and my God.