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Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Isaiah 58

Shout out, do not hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet day after day they seek me
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments,
they delight to draw near to God.
“Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
 

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,

then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.
 

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
from pursuing your own interests on my holy day;
if you call the sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the LORD honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;

then you shall take delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

[Emphasis mine]

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Houston Traffick

The issue of human trafficking has been a cause for concern for quite some time and proposals to raise awareness and move toward its end have spread quite widely in recent years.

When the leadership of HYPF proposed the organization’s involvement in hosting a human trafficking awareness event, I was at first hesitant only because I hoped this wouldn’t be an outreach motivated by what was popular at the time. It’s not that helping out a cause because it’s a popular move is reason enough to not help at all. I didn’t want any positive effect of the event to simply end when the actual event ended. However, after much prayer and discussion, it was decided that this was the right direction for HYPF’s involvement.

The specifics of the awareness event evolved significantly over the course of a couple of months. What started as a plan to show the Sex and Money film turned into a night that involved a human trafficking presentation by Redeemed Ministries, a group here in Houston set on meeting the needs of human trafficking victims in the area.

We also planned to have a segment of the evening dedicated to hearing from a woman we met named Cat French whose work with a group called Exodus Cry also aims to end modern day slavery. She would share her involvement with the sex trafficking industry in the Houston area. However, since she was unavailable to be at the event, we decided to film her talking about her experiences as well as capture a taste of her “Van Tours,” a tour she offers showcasing existing brothels and institutions of commodified sex in the Houston area.

The first time I rode out on a tour with Cat I was deeply troubled to see how prevalent a problem this is in this city. It’s heartbreaking, in a very real way. I feel privileged to have been a part of helping bring Cat’s message to new audiences because this is a cause that needs all the support it can get. Some may argue it’s trendy to do human trafficking awareness events these days. Even still, this problem is real and it’s serious and it’s not too late to be involved in some form to see it come to an end.

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Serving The Song

I’ve played guitar for quite a few church services or worship settings over the years and, so, I’ve played under different leaders, with countless variations of a band setup, along with playing in a few different genres. Coming into contact with so many people and styles and personalities has been fun and educational, to say the least. But what is the one dominant theme that spanned everything, one overarching rule to live by? No one ever said it out loud but I think I walked away learning that no matter what, no matter what you play or how you play, you always serve the song.

Of course, I’m intentionally bypassing the spiritual side of the matter when talking about worship music and focusing more on the musical portion when I say this.

With playing guitar, serving the song means playing whatever it is that brings the song to life or, more importantly, not playing whatever it is that detracts from the song. Some guitarists have a tendency to overplay during some songs. We listen only to ourselves and we cram tunes with as many licks or effects-ridden chords as possible because we want every song to be guitar driven or we just want to appear more impressive. I tend to fall in the latter category.

When I overplay these days, it’s mostly out of fun or because I think it’s what the song needs. But it wasn’t long ago that I would play too much because I was insecure and wanted people to think I was good. In doing that, however, I was hurting the songs we were playing. The songs didn’t breathe naturally, vocals weren’t highlighted, it was just noise. And who benefited? No one, really. I felt like I proved my skills to an imaginary judge in the crowd but the flow of worship was surely hindered. I learned that sometimes less is more, sometimes I had to stop playing to better serve the musical situation.

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And I see this creep in other areas, especially in a church setting. If I’m provided an opportunity to speak or share a word, I often have to bypass my instinct to pull out heavy content that I think will highlight my education or show off some esoteric knowledge I have on a subject. Who benefits from that? My ego? Great! Now the congregation can go home and mull on that for the week and see how their spiritual lives go. Yes, Lord!

It’s silly. We have to follow God’s leading. And maybe that involves talking to your congregation about the Gospel, the plain truth of God’s love for humanity in the form of Jesus Christ, a story that’s been repeated to us ad nauseam. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that truth. And when that time comes we might have to refrain from telling the entire Gospel narrative in Greek because we know it’ll turn a few heads and instead tell it as simply as possible so more people can grasp the truth at hand.

I’m not saying I have sworn off speaking of heavy issues in church. I believe in challenging myself and the congregation to go deeper into our faith and explore Scripture more thoroughly. I am saying that I shouldn’t do those things for the sole purpose of promoting my own imaginary awesomeness, which is my motivation a lot of the time.

I see more and more speakers incorporate scholarly information in sermons and messages (and do so incorrectly) because they try to sound über-intelligent to their audience. It hurts the cause! I promise you it does!

I remember a Greek professor once telling our class that there’s usually little need to ever incorporate Greek in a sermon when speaking to a typical church audience. He stated that the amount of Greek a person uses from the pulpit is inversely proportional to the amount of Greek he actually knows. Over the years I’ve found that to be quite accurate.

Use your tools, your knowledge, your skills to craft a message and then distill it down to a substance your audience can handle. I don’t need to show off to them, I don’t need to prove myself to them – I need to communicate a message clearly to them so they can walk away with a firmer grasp of the truth.

I can learn scales, learn obscure chord inversions and build up speed to my playing but I shouldn’t use all of those things in every song I play just to prove to everyone I can do it. Don’t make noise; make music. Let it breathe. Let it flow naturally. Don’t get in the way.

Serve the song.

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I’m stealing this from Pete Wilson’s blog because it hit me hard and served as a wakeup call today. I gotta admit, I got a little emotional watching the speech. *sniff*

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I’ll be honest.

I’ve never been a Dennis Rodman fan.

I’ve always thought of him as a reckless, self absorbed, ego maniac. And while my assessment was probably fairly accurate, I think I forgot one thing. He’s a broken human being just like me.

His acceptance speech into the NBA Hall of Fame was unbelievably telling. If you have a moment you should watch (Warning: The language is a bit rough).

In his speech he did something that athletes (or anyone else) rarely do. Instead of focusing on his career he talked very candidly about his personal shortcomings and the pain he’s been through in life.

I almost started crying with him when he admits: “I have one regret; I wish I was a better father.” His own father abandoned him when he was five years old, and Dennis said that later in life: “He wrote a book about me and made a lot of money, but he never came and said hello to me.”

Just remember today before you judge that:

Arrogant boss

Self-absorbed friend

Angry parent

Everyone needs healing… Everyone.

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Why

And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples – for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

Mark 2:15-17

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Follow

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?”

Matthew 16:24-26

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Don’t Wait To Love

There is so much that can be said and has been said but this is just a friendly reminder to you and mostly to myself: Don’t wait to love. Don’t wait to show love. You don’t always have the opportunities you have today to show love to the people around you. Take advantage of them.

No one really regrets that they loved too much and wishes they could take it back.

Of course, there are those instances where people take advantage of your goodness and you regret having wasted time on them, but surely the good times of giving love outweigh those negative experiences in life.

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