I Am Greater Than You

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I am greater than you.

Even if we aren’t aware of it, we say it all the time, in different ways to multiple people.

Kids say it on the playground.

Teenagers express it through segregation at lunchtime.

Adults express it when they drive off of the new car lot.

Pastors, deacons, teachers, and worship leaders convey it in their attitudes toward each other and toward others in the church.

I am greater than you.

Huge ministries sometimes fall because of leadership corruption and abuse, small church plants often begin out of spite, and confusing divisiveness invades the worship services, Bible studies, and prayer times of countless congregations. And all the while, the unchurched learn more about our vindictiveness and positional desires than our Christlike compassion and concern for their eternal destiny. What they see is the Body of Christ pointing fingers at each other, declaring to the world and the rest of the church:

I am greater than you.

Jesus had the same problem with His disciples. Shortly after His transfiguration, Luke reports that His disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest (Luke 9:46 NLT).

I first heard this story when I was a child in the 70’s. I envisioned the disciples walking behind Jesus, saying “I’m greater than you and you and I’m certainly greater than you.Even as an elementary student, it seemed so childish and stupid to me that the disciples were standing right behind Jesus, God the Son, and they had the audacity to argue with each other and say:

I am greater than you.

I love how Jesus handled the situation:

But Jesus knew their thoughts, so He brought a little child to His side. Then He said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” (Luke 9:47-48)

In Jesus’ day, children were not regarded as highly as they are today. This helps us see that He was saying that whoever welcomes and is willing to serve the lowest of the low welcomes and serves God Himself. It’s not hard to discern that this is not an attitude most often exhibited from those who want to exalt themselves over others.

The apostles learned this lesson when James and John asked Jesus if they could sit on His right and His left in the kingdom. The Bible reports that the other disciples were angry with these brothers because of their request.

“So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His live as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45)

Jesus, the greatest person who has ever lived, took on Himself the attitude and position of a servant. He did this, even though He could have looked at us all and said:

I am greater than you.

If Jesus, the Son of Man, came not to be served but to serve others, shouldn’t we be able to do the same with each other and with the world around us. If we do, we’ll be showing the world and other Christians that we believe:

He is greater than us

*Photo by Sabri Tuzcu on Unsplash

Abraham Lincoln Is Alive and Well

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Imagine for a moment that you are in Washington D.C. at the national mall. You walk past the reflection pool and make your way up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  Slowly, you walk up to the large statue of Abraham Lincoln. You pause and remember the man that many people consider the greatest president to have ever served. Suddenly, the statue begins to move and, to your surprise, it starts speaking to you. At first, you wonder if he’s some sort of zombie statue who might devour you, but then, you realize that he, the real Abraham Lincoln, is really there, in person, speaking through that statue, desiring a one-on-one conversation with you. What you thought was going to be a personal memorial for a deceased man has suddenly become an interaction with a living president.

This is not unlike what often happens when we encounter Jesus. We think of Him as the One who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, but we often don’t anticipate it going any further than that. We often memorialize Him and certainly don’t expect any personal interaction with Him. But then, when He speaks to us, we are totally blown away. It’s often, at that point that we remember that He’s alive and well, not wanting to destroy us but desiring a strong, real, meaningful, personal relationship with each of us.

Don’t settle for a knowledge of Jesus. Get to know Him.

What Makes Christianity Unique?

photo courtesy of Unsplash - Lee Miller

Once, during a British conference on comparative religions, experts were discussing if there was any belief truly unique to Christianity.  Creation, incarnation, and resurrection were quickly eliminated because of examples in other religions. C.S. Lewis wandered into the room and enquired as to the topic of conversation. When the debate was explained to him, without hesitation, Lewis replied, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

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Grace is so simple that it baffles the experts. Grace is what makes Christianity unique. Because of it, we have the opportunity to know Jesus as Savior and Friend. Grace helps us understand the difference between happiness and joy. It allows us to conquer all of our fears. There is nothing we can do to earn grace and there is no way that we can destroy it. In Ephesian 1:5-6, the Apostle Paul wrote: He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.   

Grace is free and yet it is also priceless. It truly is amazing. 

Since such grace has been given to us, we should always strive to treat others with grace. In doing so, we are imitating our Heavenly Father.

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3 Steps For Improving Spoken Transitions

 

photo courtesy of Unsplash - Lee Miller

It was the early 90’s. I had big hair, a mustache, and huge shoulder pads in my sports jacket. In our musical worship set, I was verbally transitioning to the old praise song Behold the Lamb. I had planned to share about how John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

However, in the moment, the transition was going well, so I took it further than I had planned. Big mistake.

Here’s what I said:

“Jesus is the Lamb of God. He’s the only person who has ever lived who has lived a totally sinful life.”

And then, without realizing my mistake, I said it once again.

Spoken transitions, no matter where they fall, are extremely important for the flow of a worship service. If one goes badly, the worship leader or preaching pastor may never fully re-engage the people.

Here are 3 steps I believe can help us all improve our spoken transitions:

Think. Take time to think about what you are really trying to accomplish. Think about the words you are going to say. Think about the people who will be hearing your words. Think about what is coming after the transition.

Script. Take time to write out what you are going to say. Then, tighten it up by shortening it as much as possible. Remove unnecessary or repeated words and phrases.

Practice. Take time to rehearse what you’ve scripted out. Start by reading your what you’ve written aloud. Chances are, you’ll make a small adjustment or two. Then, stand in front of a mirror and practice until what you are saying feels more natural to you.

These 3 steps all have two words in common.

Take Time.

If something is worth being said, it’s worth taking the necessary time to make it as good as possible. Hopefully, by doing so, you can avoid telling your congregation that Jesus lived a sinful life.

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(Photos courtesy of Unsplash.com)

Seven Great Christmas Videos For Worship (including my personal favorite)

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There are a plethora of Christmas videos for worship out there, but I’ve found these seven helpful over the last couple of years. Enjoy.

Christmas In A Nutshell – http://www.danstevers.com/store/christmas_in_a_nutshell/

Dan Stevers never ceases to impress me with his ingenuity and simple messages. This video is great for a message opener, transition video, or plug for people to invite others.

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus – http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/35133/come-thou-long-expected-jesus  Creative painting changing often to keep everyone’s attention shows how all of history culminates in Jesus. Set to an interesting version of the Christmas Carol by the same title by Marcy Priest.

A New Promise – http://www.sermonspice.com/product/65069/a-new-promise – Surprisingly moving, the video from Lifeway Media uses highlights of scripture to point to the promise of Jesus’ birth.

Insta-Christmas – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGx98I_utNI – Great video from Discovery Church. A couple of years old now, but creative in how it tells the story of Jesus’ birth using ancient and modern pictures in an Instagram style. Download it for free at http://smarturl.it/instachristmasHD

The Real Night Before Christmas – https://www.ignitermedia.com/products/3740-the-real-night-before-christmas – With a classic story telling voice partnering with video of children, this Igniter Media video builds anticipation for the birth of the King of Kings.

Seek – http://www.danstevers.com/store/seek/ – Another great one from Dan Stevers. Seek reminds us through shepherds and wisemen that the Lord draws near those who draw near to Him.

And my personal favorite

The Christmas Story – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWq60oyrHVQThe story of Christmas as told by the children of St Paul’s Church, Auckland, New Zealand. There have been many remakes of this video in the last year, but this one is my favorite, with cute costumes and original ideas.

Feel free to comment with links to your favorites. Merry Christmas.

Non-seasonal brief service outline based on the book of John and the song “Amazing Love: You Are My King”

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Below is an outline of a brief service built around scriptures of John and the song Amazing Love (You Are My King). We did this service last night at one of our campuses and enhanced it by adding pictures from the recent Son of God movie. It’s a different thing to do before Thanksgiving, but seemed like a good reminder of our Lord’s death and resurrection at this time of year.

If you’ve done something similar in your congregation, be sure to leave a comment below. Thanks.

Amazing Love (You Are My King) Service Outline with Scriptures from John

Greeting and Explanation of Service – Explain that we have many things to be thankful for, but we should especially be thankful for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

SingAmazing Love, You Are My King – Verse 1 (2x) and Chorus

Read – In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1:1-5)

He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:10-12)

Pray (music continues)Thanking God for who He is –

SingAmazing Love, You Are My King Chorus

Read – Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face.

Pilate went outside again and said to the people, “I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.” Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!”

When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

“Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”

The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”

Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”

Then Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’ Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.”

When they said this, Pilate brought Jesus out to them again. Then Pilate sat down on the judgment seat on the platform that is called the Stone Pavement. It was now about noon on the day of preparation for the Passover. And Pilate said to the people, “Look, here is your king!”

“Away with him,” they yelled. “Away with him! Crucify him!”

“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back.

Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified. (John 19:1-16a)

Sing: Amazing Love Verse and Chorus

Read:  So they took Jesus away. Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull. There they nailed him to the cross. Two others were crucified with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them. And Pilate posted a sign on the cross that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”  (John 19:16b-19)

Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit. (John 19:28-30)

Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus, asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:38-42)

Sing: Amazing Love Bridge and Chorus

Read: Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed. (John 20:1-8)

Read: That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” (John 20:1-8)

Prayer: Praising God for the Resurrection and committing ourselves to go wherever Jesus would have us to go and to do whatever He would have us do.

Proclaim: So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (John 1:14)

Sing: Amazing Love Bridge and chorus two or three times

Ending Prayer

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(All Scripture taken from New Living Translation. Photos courtesy of Unsplash.com)

What’s Your Worship Vibe?

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At a conference this past week in another city, a guy asked a group of us, “So, what’s your worship vibe?”

“Excuse me?” I asked. “What’s our vibe?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Who are you trying to be like?”

“We’re trying to be like Jesus,” said one of my co-workers.

“Yeah, I know that,” he said, “But what other churches are you trying to be like? Are you trying to be like Hillsong or Gateway or Church on the Move? Are you trying to be like Charismatic Baptists or Evangelicals with a Spirit-Filled vibe…”

“A Spirit-Filled vibe?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be real, it just has to seem like it.”

“Do you serve at a church?” I asked.

“Me, ah, no, I run a Christian magazine and I’m leading a break-out tomorrow.”

“Really?” I asked. “What’s the name of that breakout?”

He told us the name and I made a mental note not to attend.

Just for the record, serving in worship and church ministry is not about a vibe. It’s not about trying to be like Hillsong or Gateway or Fellowship or First Baptist or LifeChurch or Mosaic or First Assembly Anywhere.

Not that there’s anything wrong with them.

Those churches have to be who God called them to be. And every other church has to be who God called them to be.

And that’s ok.

You see, worship is not about suits and ties and formal wear. It’s not about skinny jeans and feminine shoes. It’s not about hymnals or projectors or candles or stained glass or hard pews or theater seating.

It’s about Jesus.

He is the One we should be trying to emulate.

And living that out is so much more than a vibe.

 

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com)

 

I Am Greater Than You

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I am greater than you.

We say it all the time, in many different ways to various people around us.

Kids say it on the playground.

Teenagers express it through segregation at lunchtime.

Adults express it when they drive off of the new car lot.

Pastors, deacons, teachers, and worship leaders convey it in their attitudes toward each other and toward others in the church.

I am greater than you.

churchbusinessmeeting

Huge ministries sometimes fall because of leadership corruption and abuse, small church plants often begin out of spite, and confusing divisiveness invades the worship services, Bible studies, and prayer times of countless congregations. And all the while, the unchurched learn more about our vindictiveness and positional desires than our Christlike compassion and concern for their eternal destiny. What they see is Christians pointing fingers at each other, declaring to the world and the rest of the church:

I am greater than you.

pointedfinger

Jesus had the same problem with His disciples. Shortly after His transfiguration, Luke reports that His disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest (Luke 9:46 NLT).

I first heard this story when I was a child in the 70’s. I envisioned the disciples walking behind Jesus, acting like Muhammad Ali, saying, “I float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, and everyone knows I am greater than thee.”  Even as an elementary student, it seemed so childish and stupid to me that the disciples were standing right behind Jesus, God the Son, and they had the audacity to argue with each other and say:

I am greater than you.

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I love how Jesus handled the situation:

But Jesus knew their thoughts, so He brought a little child to His side. Then He said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” (Luke 9:47-48 NLT)

In Jesus’ day, children were not regarded as highly as they are today. This helps us see that He was saying that whoever welcomes and is willing to serve the lowest of the low welcomes and serves God Himself. It’s not hard to discern that this is not an attitude most often exhibited from those who want to exalt themselves over others.

Jesusandchild

The apostles learned this lesson when James and John asked Jesus if they could sit on His right and His left in the kingdom. The Bible reports that the other disciples were angry with these brothers because of their request.

“So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His live as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45)

Jesus, the greatest person who has ever lived, took on Himself the attitude and position of a servant. He did this, even though He could have looked at us all and said:

I am greater than you.

Drawing-of-Jesus-on-cross

If Jesus, the Son of Man, came not to be served but to serve others, shouldn’t we be able to do the same in our dealings with each other and with the world around us. If we do, we’ll be showing the world and other Christians that we believe:
He is greater than us

Now

Now

Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.  John 13:1 NIV

If you knew that you only had a short time to live, wouldn’t you show your family and friends the full extent of your love?  Wouldn’t you say the words that you’ve needed to say for years?  Wouldn’t you forgive that friend or family member who hurt you?  Wouldn’t you share stories and advice with your children and relatives?

Why wait until you only have a short time to live?  Why not do those things now?

How to get rid of the stench of sin

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I was at a gas station filling my tank when I pulled the pump out too fast and gasoline drenched my hands.  I ran into the station restroom and scrubbed my hands in white foamy soap.  But when I rinsed my hands, the smell was still there.  Frustrated, I drove to the hardware store where I learned about a hand cleaner called Goop.  Right there in the store, I rubbed it on my hands and was finally free of the stench.

In many ways, sin is like the smelly gasoline that spilled on my hands.  We don’t mean to get so involved with it, but somehow, we find ourselves soaked with its stench.  We try to cover it up with temporary fixes, but they don’t last.  The only sin cleaner that totally frees us from the stench of our own sin is the cleansing blood of Jesus.

The Psalmist once wrote, Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love; according to Your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion.  Wash away my guilt, and cleanse me from my sin.  (Psalm 51:1-2 HCSB)  He prayed to the only One who could rid him of the stench of his sin.  You can do the same if you choose.  You’ll be glad that you did.