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The Spirit of Oz

“We’re off to see the Wizard! The wonderful Wizard of Oz!”

So goes the song that awakened joy and wonder in the hearts of millions of children over the past century. Who is the Wizard? What is he like? Will he answer our requests? Will he keep us safe? What will he do to those who stand against us?

I’ll never forget the first time I heard that deep, long voice bellow, “Come! Forward!” Suddenly, the hopes and dreams turned into terror and trembling. Fire and smoke filled the room. And you were left with this eery feeling that the main characters had better not tick this Wizard off. Read more

Socks On Box

Last night, one of my sons was watching a YouTube video of someone attaching a balloon to a Sprite bottle, and watching the Sprite cause the balloon to inflate.

Immediately, he was inspired. He asked me for a balloon. But we had none. So he went and got a sock. But we didn’t have a Sprite bottle either. So he grabbed a piece of paper and rolled it up. He asked me for some tape. But I told him that I didn’t know where it was. So he decided to look for a rubber band. But after finding none, he settled on a wristband. Read more

God Of the Seeds

We are a culture of instant gratification. Do you want food? Just say the word and the waiter will bring it to you. Do you want to watch a particular tv show? Just click the button and have it on demand.

We often bring this mindset to God as well. We think of God’s word in these instantaneous “Let there be light” moments where God just commands something to happen, and it immediately happens, and waiting for things to happen is simply waiting for Him to finally decide to instantaneously command it into being. Read more

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Does Jesus Make You Smile?

Sunday mornings are fun. As a church, it’s the opportunity to pour out your hearts to your Father with your brothers and sisters. As a worship band, it’s the opportunity to pour out, not just your heart, but your art as you engage your Father with your brothers and sisters.

But for most contemporary Western churches, the morning starts early. We tend to do a sound check long before the first service begins, and often do a run through of the songs. And to make it on time for that, you usually have to wake up around 6:00 a.m. So it is quite common for worship musicians and vocalists to lack energy during the sound check.

If you have ever served on a worship team, you’ll often hear one of your pastors or worship leaders tell the team after the run through to make sure they are smiling. They’ll often say, “This song has uplifting, joyful lyrics. So let’s make sure we look joyful. I know it’s early!”

After one of these such conversations about a year ago, I began to think about that concept of smiling while leading worship. But my mind went, not to a corporate worship setting, but to the ABC hit show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

I have a friend that actually was on that show! And if you’ve seen that show, you’ll know that every episode features the person receiving the new house in tears, weeping for joy.

My friend is a pretty emotional person. I’ve seen him genuinely cry before, on a number of occasions. But when the producers of the show had the cameras in his face, they told him, “Okay, we need you to cry now. We need to see the tears!” They were trying to get him to cry on command for the camera because it fit the moment they needed.

And as I think back to the Sunday morning conversation we’ve all had as worship team members, I wonder how often we go through emotional expressions from a production standpoint, rather than as overflow. I’m not saying it’s wrong for pastors and worship leaders to encourage vocalists and musicians to smile. It’s important to shepherd your people toward more wholistic worship. But I am speaking to where the smile comes from.

There have been many times, when I have begun to smile while leading worship, that I was doing it more from a production standpoint than as a natural overflow of joy. Am I smiling simply because the script calls for it? Is that an okay place to start from? Or does Jesus actually make you smile? Does he make you smile like you do when you’re with the ones you love? Does he make you smile like you do when you are overflowing with joy, anticipation, or celebration? If not, why not? It might be something worth mulling over.

When Fields of Pain Become Altars of Peace

Seven long years had passed under the mighty hand of the oppressor. He sat there, desolate. The pangs of hunger had left him some time ago as he seemed destined to simply waste away.

He had worked so hard. Planting. Watering. Growing. And Waiting.

And just as the fruit of his labor was about to be enjoyed, the oppressor swooped in and took it away. So here he sat, in total poverty. Read more

Charlottesville: Statues & Images

As I sit comfortably on my couch, in my completely quiet house, while my babies take a nap, there are mobs of angry people in a town called Charlottesville who are carrying torches, yelling and screaming, and running over people with cars. Read more

A Scriptural and Scientific Case for Meditation

What comes to mind when you think about meditation? Some of our minds may go to a Buddhist monk, high on a mountain in far away Asia. Others may think of a Catholic nun or a priest in a dark, candle lit room. Or perhaps we think of a Yoga instructor and their millennial students in a candle-scented studio downtown. Read more

Leading Worship For the Hurting

Her eyes slowly opened. And for one small moment, her thoughts focused simply on noticing her ceiling. Then she felt it. A dry trail of tears from the long night stuck tightly to her temples and ended in her ears. And suddenly, the invasion of sorrow seeped into her heart again. Her mother was gone.

He woke to the muffled sounds of his children playing in the other room. As he listened to the thumping of feet and to their innocent, virgin laughter, his thoughts drifted to the empty refrigerator. He knew at any moment, his kids would burst into the room, asking what was for breakfast. And he wasn’t quite sure yet what he would say. He always seemed to be able to scrap something together for them. But then, what about lunch? His bank account was in the negative. And his manhood was gone. Read more

The Danger of Gospel-centered Theological Dot Connecting

When I was a teenager, I loved to study theology. I was determined to figure out the right position on every topic. By the time I had graduated from college and moved out to Denver, CO to help start a church, my theology had drastically changed from my teenage years. I believed that I had finally found the right position on virtually every theological topic. Read more

Prioritize Your “How?”–Multiplication

“Instead of achieving linear growth by adding new resources, you can more efficiently extract the capability of your people and watch growth skyrocket. Leaders rooted in the logic of multiplication believe:
• Most people in organizations are underutilized.
• All capability can be leveraged with the right kind of leadership.
• Therefore, intelligence and capability can be multiplied without requiring a bigger investment.”
—Liz Wiseman, Multipliers, p. 29

In Genesis 1:28, God gives us the cultural mandate to “Be fruitful and multiply.” I love how the picture of a father and mother multiplying themselves in sons and daughters ultimately points us to our spiritual calling. Read more