Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Back stage pass

Most Sundays, I am an exceedingly privileged man, in that I get to lead a congregation into the throne room of God. Often, I have thought about what that looks like but never taken the time to write it out and explain it. The images in my head certainly could never do it justice, so perhaps my hesitancy to write about it has been that I didn’t want to lessen the impact by trying to explain something that seemed beyond words.

This morning seemed different to me and the images seemed more alive and real than anything I have envisioned in the past. For that reason, I decided to jot it down and tell you about it.

What struck me at first was this idea that while I may be a worship leader, there were thousands of other worship leaders all doing the same thing at the same time. That thought brought humility as I realized that God has entrusted me, as he has entrusted thousands of others, to lead His people into His presence. It’s not that I am any more special than anyone else; instead it’s that this is the role that God has designated me to do in the broader scope of His redemptive work here on earth. I am fulfilling a purpose set about for my life by the creator of the universe and the awesome thing is that I get to do this.

So, let me explain what I imagined as I thought about leading worship each week. Imagine, for a moment, a church building hundreds of times bigger than anything here on earth. This building has very tall, arched top, double doors all the way around it, exposing a sanctuary in the center and in the center of the sanctuary is God, seated on His throne, overseeing all He has made. Leading to the sanctuary are thousands of roads, coming from every direction. On every road, coming from every direction, there are little groups of people, all on their way to the very large church building. Every group is singing and even though the songs being sung are all different, every group is in harmony with the next.

Even though there were literally millions of people all making their way to this large building, and you would think there would be massive lines out the doors, instead there was plenty of room for everyone to come inside. In fact, there was enough room that the crowd could triple in size and there would still be extra space. Each person in each group seemed to have a designated place in this massive building, but instead of it feeling like a huge gymnasium, I remember feeling as if I was in an intimate setting, praising God with the songs we had brought. There were all these people and yet I felt so close to God and the amazing thing was that everyone was experiencing God on that same personal intimate level, but we were all together, as one.

Backing up a little bit, I remember that as we were on one of the roads, making our way to the house of God, an angel appeared next to me and gave me instructions for once we were inside. It was kind of like being in a parade and having the route director let you know where to turn and who to follow and where to stand and so forth. I remember the angel being super encouraging, letting us know we were almost there and to lift our voices to God with spirits of thanksgiving. The angel didn’t seemed concerned about the exact songs we were singing or which key we were in or why I was using a capo for my guitar or any of the trivial things we get hung up on. Instead, the angel sang along with us, harmonizing with us and everyone else as we praised God with everything we had.

And that’s when it really hit me. The bible talks about how we will take nothing with us into the next life and of course I believe that is meant to refer to earthly things. But we will indeed travel into eternity with our voices and I was struck with the power of God that when we at last come into His presence, we will have our voices with which to praise Him. In fact, it is all we will have but what a joy it will be to know that our God has given us a voice to praise Him with and we will get to use it everyday!

So there we were, all of us, walking and singing on our way to meet with God. We walked alongside angels and everyone was simply joyful. There was no anxiety or worry about how we sounded, or if the words were being projected properly up on the screen or if a note was played wrong somewhere by someone, or any such thing. Those concerns simply did not exist. Instead, everyone had a singular focus; everyone was unified as if there were one voice.

And in the midst of everything that was going on, I became aware that my position as the worship leader of my small group was more of a privilege than I could have ever imagined. I was being entrusted with leading this group to this place filled with such joy. For a moment I felt as if I had been given the greatest back stage pass ever, where I got to personally hang out with the headliner but even better than that, I got to invite every person I knew to be there too! This image became seared into my brain of me introducing all these people to God, the single greatest headliner ever and then, at the end, He shook my hand and all I could say was ‘thank you’.

God has been pruning and shaping me for some time now and for a long time, I wondered what for. For the past several years I have been praying in earnest for God to use me but more importantly, I have asked God to humble me because I knew I needed that to happen before I could ever truly serve Him, instead of serving myself. In the last year, God has laid out His plans for my life and in doing so He has shown me the humility with which I am to approach this calling.

My place is to serve others that they might discover the joy that comes with being in His presence. My place is to lead people into a meeting with a Holy God who desires to know each of us on a personal level. My place is to introduce others to the mighty God, whose grace covers all. And my place, on a daily basis, is to thank God because I get to do this.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Not so perfect

We're SO busy, working SO hard, trying to make everything SO perfect, we lose sight of the fact that nothing will ever be SO perfect and in fact, it is Jesus we need; the only perfect being ever.

A friend said something the other day that really made me stop and think. I made an initial note of it, relating to wanting everything SO perfect but not understanding that it can NEVER be that way until we go home to meet Jesus, then I sat down to hammer out this point.

Why then do we pine for perfection in this life when as Christians we are painfully aware of the imperfectness of this place? Are we simply trying to manage the time and space better? Are we simply trying to make things more tolerable? I wish that were the case but I truly believe that Christ followers have fallen victim to the idea of heaven on earth based on perceived ideals. If this is the case, it explains why people snap. And even prior to people losing it, so to speak, it explains why so many on this earth are living lives filled with frustration and angst, especially when discussing polarizing topics such as religion and politics.

I don't think this is a simple case of blaming the media or our society or prevailing thought or religion or politics. There really isn't one place to lay blame except possibly on ourselves. We have allowed ourselves to be duped into believing we can achieve some level of perfection if we would simply vote a certain way, buy a certain product, listen to a certain program, act a certain way, wear specific clothes, speak in a particular way or even become educated to a certain degree. This is all a hoax and a ruse and a lie and it cannot be achieved; not here.

Getting this out is having a profound effect on me and I am realizing that for so long I simply wanted people to see my point of view because if they did, they would become aligned with not only my way of thinking, but with what I perceived as right. It's more than simply offering up my opinion and expecting someone to accept it, it's believing that my opinion is more correct than theirs and will usher in a more perfect state of being in the world. Clearly, that rationale is inane, among other things.

Politics has provided the most recent examples of this type of insanity and we are all fools for believing that one side, or one point of view, can fix everything. This is the greatest scam of them all, indeed. However, religion has also provided us prime examples of this same methodology. For centuries, men and women (men especially) have gone so far as to go to war to espouse their opinions in regards to religion and those opinions vary from man to man, from city to city, from country to country and so on.  Are we really so crazy as to believe that we are going to usher in a more perfect state by going to war over whose God is better? Or killing in the name of "insert your opinion here"?

This is not to suggest we should not stand upon our principals, morals, ethics and laurels. It is important to be a principled man (or woman) in this life. However, it is also important to be rational and realistic and understand that even our principals are imperfect because everything in this place is imperfect. And yet, we impose our imperfections upon others by expecting them to be perfect, even though rationally we should know better. We somehow rationalize that perfection is not possible and even man's obsession with science can prove that and yet daily we seem bent on destruction over the idea that it is. Our relationships fall apart because of it and then we turn around and attempt to explain it all away by claiming that if only we had known more, or practiced harder, or worked more, or spent more time on, when in all truth what we all need to do is love more and give more grace.

Love and grace. On this planet, there are not any more perfect examples of perfection than these 2 things. This life will not be made better by their absence, instead it can only be made worse and we have mountains of data to prove it. And yet, even with such insurmountable evidence, we attempt to fill our lives with temporary substances and false hopes based on a place that we know for a fact is eventually going to go away. If this doesn't prove insanity, I don't know what does.

Skeptics might contend that while absolute perfection is unattainable, we can come close to perfection and therefore should be satisfied with that. I will tell you that you will never be satisfied with “almost perfect”. You will strive and push and chase after and ache for things to be just a little more perfect than they were the last time. This is a guarantee and can be seen in all facets of life from the way we vote to the way we drive.

Perfection is truly unattainable in this life. Because of that simple and yet profound truism, we must learn the fine art of grace and the distinct joy of love. Without them we will chase the wind and die trying to catch it in our vain pursuit of perfection.