From the Archives: Why the Church Needs to Embrace Change

Last Sunday, Peter Tsukahira preached an awesome message on Change, which really resonated with me. I will post my thoughts on that shortly. In the meantime, here is a post I wrote some time ago about the need for change.

People often ask me: wouldn’t world missions and evangelism be so much easier if Jesus would just show up in person like He did two thousand years ago? He would walk around, do miracles, perform signs and wonders and preach the Word. And wouldn’t His effectiveness be multiplied given that He can now access technology that He didn’t have all those years ago, like the internet and podcasts and Twitter?

I actually think the answer is “no”. If someone showed up in the flesh proclaiming themselves to be God incarnate, your cynicism would likely dismiss them outright. You would say “God wouldn’t look like that”. You would have a certain expectation of His appearance or His status.

It’s just like the Lakeland Outpouring. When I first saw footage of it, I thought: “God can’t be in this. Look at the preacher. He looks like a bikie. And is he punching some old guy in the gut when he should be praying for the guy’s healing?” And we think, “maybe it’s just all hype. Everyone is caught up in the hysteria of it all, but it’s not a real revival.”

In fact, didn’t Jesus face a similar type of opposition when He appeared on earth? The religious establishment had for a long time believed that (in their interpretation of Scripture) Jesus would come as a political figure to free the Jewish nation from Roman rule. They did not expect that a King could be born in a manger, let alone grow up as a carpenter. And then to die on the cross? No way! Jesus could not possibly have been the prophesied Messiah.

And yet (for those us who are born again), we realise that in hindsight, the religious establishment had got it all wrong.

I am reading my signed copy of Frank Viola’s Revise Us Again, a brilliant little thesis on why we need to revise the “Christian script” from which we live.

Here is a pivotal point that Viola makes: “The Lord Jesus Christ will end up coming to us in a way that makes it easy for us to reject Him.”

And Viola says:

We all wish to cling to the Lord that we know now. We all wish to hold on to the Christ that has been revealed to ustoday. But mark my words: He will come to us in a way that we do not expect – through people who we’re prone to ignore and inclined to write off.

Perhaps they don’t talk our religious language. Perhaps they aren’t theologically sophisticated. Perhaps they don’t use our vocabulary. Perhaps they don’t share our jargon or parrot our religious idioms.

And so we cling fast to the Lord that we recognise – receiving only those who talk our language, use our jargon, and employ our catchphrases – and all along we end up turning the Lord Jesus Christ away….

What then does our Lord do when we fail to receive Him when He comes to us in an unexpected way? He moves on. And the revelation we have of Hm ceases to grow.

We see through a glass dimly. No one has a monopoly on revelation. And revelation is just that: it is fleeing, momentary and time-bound. Once it is recorded, set in script and written about, by definition, it soon ceases to be a revelation. In due course, that revelation fades, just like the glory began to fade from Moses’ face.

Paul exhorts us in 2 Corinthians 3:13 that we should not be like Moses, “who put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away”.

So we need to learn to embrace others and the revelation of Christ given to those who are outside our circle. It takes the whole body of Christ (the entire church) to fully represent Christ on this earth. We cannot continue to ignore other parts of the body because they are different. We need them precisely because they are different and fulfill the functions which our part of the body cannot fulfill. True unity embraces our diversity.

And we need to keep in step with the Spirit, not camping around the wonderful theologies and methods of yesteryear, although they were good, but to pursue fresh revelation, fresh insights. That is all part of growing as a church, realising that what we have seen so far is only a part revelation, and that there is more to come. If we fail to embrace change, we will cease to grow; we will stagnate.

Jesus was a revolutionary and we need to capture that revolutionary spirit to advance His kingdom here on earth. We need to embrace change; lest Jesus comes in a way we don’t expect and He passes us by.

Honour and the Heart of Worship

No Other Name

It was good to be back home after being away for nearly a month, with two weekends spent in Sydney sandwiching the Hillsong Conference (which was pure amazing) and then ministering last week at another church.

Maybe it was the sense of missing something that made me appreciate it more (like being on a diet and then rediscovering ice-cream), but there was something about yesterday’s service at Faith Community Church that really excited me.

Normally, when I prepare to lead worship, I would find out what the preacher was going to speaking on. But having been absent for a while, I didn’t really keep up the comms with Ps Benny, so I just had to wing it (I mean, prayerfully put together the songlist). Having come back from Hillsong Conference however, I just had to introduce the song “No Other Name”, so that became the focus of the songlist. I think those of us on the band yesterday who had come back from the Conference were also brimming with excitement at the prospect of playing that song. I could tell because they brought in the midi computer.

As the service unfolded however, what became apparent was how apt that choice of song was to what Ps Benny was preaching. At times like that, you just have to thank God for how the Holy Spirit orchestrates everything even when those who lead different aspects of the service don’t communicate.

Ps Benny preached from Malachi 1:6-14 on “Setting Our Hearts to Worship”. He said that a principle of true worship was to have a heart of honour. The word “honour” had the meaning of giving weight and reverence to something or someone. He then went on to describe how having a heart of honour should affect the way we serve God in church and the offering that we give Him. Do we offer something which is just outwardly impressive but without the corresponding attitude of heart? What would happen if we were to take this teaching seriously? Do the musos, for example, just come a few minutes before the service starts without practising during the week, or do we prayerfully and consistently prepare and rehearse so we can execute with excellence? What if every ministry in the church approached our service with the honour that’s due God’s name?

It was a sobering and hard-hitting message. But for our church, I think it was a timely one. And Ps Benny pulled no punches. He said that if we like expository teaching (as indeed our members do), then this is message the prophet Malachi was trying to get across and we would have to accept it, even if it does touch a nerve.

And here was the convergence point of our service and offering – to give to God what is due His worthy name.

“My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord (v11)

“For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations” (v16).

In the words of Joel Houston and Jonas Myrin: “one Name holds weight above them all”. Indeed, it is because there is no other name but the name of Jesus.

I came out of yesterday’s service feeling inspired and excited, with the hope that our whole church will get a revelation of the privilege and weightiness of serving the greatest One of all. May his fame and renown be the desire of our hearts!

Here is the setlist from yesterday’s service:

// Nothing is Impossible (A) (led by Joseph Wong, Vibe Worship Director)
// Our God (A)
// 10,000 Reasons (G)
// Prayer for the families of the victims of the MH17 disaster (Ps Benny)
// No Other Name (G)

And here is the recording of the worship sesh.

A big shout-out to Fantastic Team 3 for living out the principles Ps Benny taught. I am so blessed to serve with a bunch of people who truly set their hearts to honour God in their service!

Outposts of Grace

I missed this session by Brian Houston but my wife was there and keeps reminding me of this amazing statement that Brian made:

The church is called to be an outpost of grace in the world rather than a guardian of the law.

However that is expressed in our local church, this means we are inclusive rather than exclusive!

And that has been my ministry philosophy. No matter what a person has done or still does, I would prefer them to keep serving with me. I would rather that they remain within a positive life-giving community than without.

Make Him Known Among the Nations

This morning, I had the privilege of leading an epic worship time at Faith Community Church. Epic in the way young people use that word these days, but also epic in theological and prophetic scope.

Isaiah 12:4 says this:

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name
Make known among the nations what he has done
And proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things
Let this be known to all the world.

Too often, we practise a self-serving worship: a worship that, to be sure, focuses on God but then asks: what can God do for me in return? At the very least, we want to end our worship time feeling good. There’s nothing seriously wrong with that, because God blesses us as we bless Him. As Tom Inglis once said, worship is something God cannot give Himself. When we give God that which He cannot give Himself, He gives us what we cannot give ourselves.

But in Isaiah’s song, what starts as a personal act – of thanksgiving – must also end in proclamation: of declaring God’s name among the nations.

This month is Missions Month at FCC and today specifically, we were going to pray for the nations. I wanted to make sure that our worship this morning wouldn’t be “run of the mill” but that it would take our focus beyond our church and to the nations of the earth. I prayed that perhaps even in the midst of worship, God would awaken mission callings in the lives of His people.

John Piper says:

Worship … is the fuel and goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God.

So I challenged our team to play and sing prophetically; that our worship this morning would be a prophetic act of declaring God’s fame amongst people groups who wouldn’t know how, but we would stand in their place nevertheless in prophetic prefigurement of that day when those groups will stand before the throne of God in worship.

We were also privileged to have our missionary to East Timor join us on the worship team. I had asked if he could translate the chorus of one of the songs into Tetun (the native language of East Timor) and then I thought it would be even more powerful if he sang it on stage. As I told the team yesterday, there are two types of missionaries: program missionaries and presence missionaries. Program missionaries go to a people group to implement a program, e.g. a program of relief, a program of education or even a program of evangelism. Presence missionaries prayerfully and sensitively mediate the presence of God in the field. They don’t necessary go with an agenda, but they go in God’s Spirit and power. My brother was a presence missionary, a worshipping missionary.

Our set culminated in singing “How Great is Our God (World Edition)”, scripted in the languages of most of the mission fields targeted by FCC. Here are the lyrics:

The splendour of the King
Clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
Let all the earth rejoice

He wraps Himself in light
And darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice

How great is our God
Sing with me “How great is our God”
All will see how great
How great is our God

Chorus (Noongar)
Borun Maarman Yira
Kwiyalakinda Borun Maarman Yira
Moort ginaning Borun borun
Maarman Yira

Verse 1 (Tagalog)
Walang hanggang Hari
Aming tinatangi
Lahat ay magpuri
Lahat ay magpuri

Verse 2 (Bahasa)
Terang-Nya bersinar
Kegelapan t’lah sirna
Sujudlah pada-Nya
Sujudlah pada-Nya

Chorus: Chinese
我神真偉大, (wo shen zhen wei da)
歌頌祢聖名, (ge shou ni shen ming)
真偉大, (zhen wei da)
全地都看見, (quan di dou kan jian)
我神真偉大。(wo shen zhen wei da)

Chorus: Japanese
Nante idai na
Warera no Shu arata wa
Zenchi wa shiru
Idai na Kami

Age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the end
Beginning and the end

The Godhead three in one
Father, Spirit, Son
The Lion and the Lamb
The Lion and the Lamb

Chorus: Tetun
Jesus Nia boot loos
Kanta ho hau  Nia boot loos
Hotu sei hare Jesus
Nia boot loos

BRIDGE
Name above all names
Worthy of all praise
My heart will sing, how great is our God

Here’s the setlist:

// We Speak to Nations (A)
// You are Good (Houghton) (A)
// Jesus Son of God (A)
// Prayer for the Nations by David Yow
// How Great is Our God (World Edition) (A)

Here’s the recording of this morning’s worship: 

I also want to take this opportunity to thank the amazing servants on Team 3 for facilitating such a significant time of worship this morning. May God continue to lift up our eyes to see the fields that are white unto harvest!

Submission

Most of us don’t like the word ‘submission’. It’s often thought of as a sign of weakness, of constraint, or worse still, subjugation. But mutual submission is actually an important key to building a strong team.

A long time ago, I thought that if I ever got to the top of the pyramid, I would be able to do whatever I wanted. I wouldn’t have to answer to anyone. My organisation would be blessed to experience my leadership in all its unbridled glory. They will finally see my decision making prowess – completely unfiltered.

Over the years, though, I’ve learned two profound truths. First: no one really ever gets to the top of the pyramid. They might get there organisationally, but they will still have weaknesses in areas where someone else has the strength.

Second: even if you get to the top of pyramid, in an ultimate twist of irony, you ultimately have to become answerable to the base.

So the sooner we learn how to submit to each other, the better leaders and teammates we will become.

Paul says this in Philippians 2:1-4:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Humility; valuing others above yourself; recognising that you can’t do it on your own. These are the hallmarks of an effective team.

As a worship leader, even though I set the vision and direction of the worship set, I often have to choose whether to override others, or to submit to my team. Sometimes my music director makes a call in our in-ear monitors that I might not agree with. In a split second, the musos have acknowledged the instruction and have locked in. The call isn’t a bad one. It’s just not one that I prefer. Do I disrupt the flow and possibly cause a musical train wreck, or do I submit to my music director?

We need to create an empowering culture in our teams where each person is valued as a contributor. Where the keyboardist might have something to say to the drummer, where the guitarist can make suggestions to the singers. Where worship leaders don’t feel like they have to be responsible for everything. Such a team dynamic creates a sense of individual ownership!

Incidentally, do you know that even God submits to us?

Luke 2:51 says that the boy Jesus ‘continued in subjection to’ Mary and Joseph. But when the time came, when Jesus began his ministry, the tables turned. In John 2, at the wedding feast in Cana, they had run out of wine. Mary’s instruction to the stewards was: ‘do whatever Jesus tells you’.

Think about this: every week in our Sunday services, we tell God that he is to subject himself to our programs and format. He’s only got 25 minutes to move during the music time. He is to speak to us during the sermon. Yet God willingly constrains Himself to our directives.

But I believe one day revival will come, the presence of God will be manifest powerfully, when we are finally bold enough to trust him fully, to say ‘God, we will do whatever you say’.

We had a glimpse of this recently when our church had its Season of Prayer. It was more a series of worship meetings than prayer meetings. We just worshipped and let the Spirit lead us into prayer and ministry. On the second night, someone released a word about stepping out in faith. And one person responded by taking the ultimate step: a lady who wasn’t a Christian said she wanted to take the step to receive Christ into her life. In a prayer meeting! It was like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14 when even seekers will say, in the midst of prophecy, that God is really among us.

So let’s continue to practise mutual submission, but above all, let’s continue to humble our hearts in ultimate submission to God.

We are Called God’s Delight

I heard Mike Bickle share this today from Isaiah 62:4

No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate, but you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah, for the Lord will take delight in you and your land will be married.

Hephzibah means “my delight is in her”. God loves the world, but He likes – he delights – in his children. And he doesn’t wait for us to grow to maturity before He likes us, He likes us even as we grow into maturity. In fact, our knowing He delights in us is what helps us grow.

Know that you are not only loved, but that God actually likes you!

Why I’m Going to Name My Kid Heman (or She-ra if She’s a Girl)

Okay, I may not name my first kid Heman. It’s not a particularly popular name and I’m worried he might get bullied in school. Or maybe his peers might place incredibly high expectations on him to produce feats of supernatural strength.

I did want to name my kid Ethan though, until my good friend’s sister stole the name and bestowed it upon her progeny.

Think about it: almost every Ethan you know, famous or otherwise, is good-looking (if you have proof to the contrary, I don’t really want to know about it!). This is a bonus. The cool thing actually is that it is a name of one of the worship leaders in the Bible. So is Heman.

When I started reading more about worship leading, it worried me a little that the term “worship leader” or any other permutation of it like “lead worshipper”, “worship facilitator” or “song leader” isn’t mentioned in the Bible. I started thinking: is what we are doing as worship leaders a construct of the modern church-growth movement, or does it have biblical precedent?

Thankfully, I came across this passage in 1 Chron 15:16ff:

David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brothers as singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instrumetns: lyres, harps and cymbals.

So the Levites appointed Heman, son of Joel; from his brothers, Asaph, son of Berekiah; and from his brothers the Merarites, Ethan son of Kushaiah…. The musicians Heman, Asaph and than were to sound the bronze cymbals… Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was his responsibility because he was skillful at it.

The context of this passage was that David had just brought the ark up to Jerusalem. The ark was never meant to be in Jerusalem; it belonged (according to established institutions) at Mt Gibeon, in the Tabernacle of Moses – in the Holy of Holies. Yet David longed to have God’s presence near him in his capital city, so he pitched an ad hoc tent for the ark. And then he instituted a new form of worship, one not based on sacrifices and protocol, but one in which music and singing became the “housing” for God’s presence.

And so, amongst others, four leaders were appointed. Their names are interesting:

  • Asaph means “one who gathers and removes reproach.”
  • Heman means “one who is faithful.”
  • Ethan means “consistent and permanent praise.”
  • Kenaniah means “established by Jehovah”.

The names together give us a powerful picture of the role of the modern worship leader as follows:

  • Worship leading is about gathering people to focus them on God. This means an ability to bring unity, break down walls between generations and cultures, drawing people from all walks of life, pointing them away from their own circumstances and differences and towards praising God and His greatness. I might add that often, and ironically, we see worship as something that divides us down denominational lines and along age and cultural preferences. I long for the day when we can put aside our preferences and unite around God’s presence, irrespective of style and expressions!
  • Worship leading is about allowing the Holy Spirit to minister to people was they draw near to him; removing their reproach, sins, hurts, pain, sickness, brokenheartedness and bondage. We don’t cleanse ourselves in order to worship, but as we worship and enter into God’s presence, we are transformed! This means that every time we gather together, we should expect a divine transaction to take place in our hearts.
  • Worship leading is about being faithful to the house of God; pastoring our people and supporting our church’s vision. We aren’t rogue soldiers who do our own thing, but we learn to submit to leadership. We are faithful to God’s call on our lives, not striving to become more popular and famous, but realising that we please God by fulfilling our call wherever we are planted, whether we lead a small group of 10 or a large congregation of 1000.
  • We are established by God. We don’t struggle to gain recognition and approval from people, but we know that our approval comes from God; our anointing and qualification comes from Him alone!
  • Worship leading is an outflow of consistently and permanently praising God, not only when we lead a gathering, but wherever we are, in the trenches of life, in the good times and hard times and bringing the worship to God that is forged out of those experiences.

On second thought, I might name my first kid Kenaniah. It’s got quite a nice ring to it.

What Legacy Will You Leave?

On Tuesday, I was checking Facebook at work. Now, I know I really shouldn’t be. But bear with me here. I had been doing some solid submission writing for a couple of hours. It’s mind-numbing stuff. So I just needed a moment to chill.

As I opened my Facebook app, I found that my friend Wendy Yapp had tagged me in a post. The post belonged to Rae-Helen Fisenden and it went something like this: “I’m looking for a new home for my books and CDs as I no longer have space for them. Does anyone want to collect them from my place?” And Wendy had tagged me.

I like to think it was more than the greedy Asian in me, but I immediately messaged Rae-Helen and offered to pick up the books and CDs. By that evening, I had ended up with a massive box of resources which Rae-Helen had collected over her years in ministry.

library

Rae-Helen is a pioneer musician, vocalist and worship leader in Perth. When she was worship pastor at Churchlands Vineyard, her live worship recording Winds of Worship 11 probably became the first internationally distributed worship album recorded in Perth. She has inspired many worship leaders in our city and taught many world-class musicians.

So, whilst I like books, but these were most than just books. These were books that have graced the shelves of a spiritual giant!

As I flicked through some of the books, there were highlighted passages, dog-earred pages – thoughts and ideas that have shaped Rae-Helen’s thoughts and from which she must have taught countless others. I felt that I was holding a mantle of anointing – a legacy gift – and it gave me goosebumps.

Rae-Helen told me that she was so glad she her prayers were answered – that she had found a good home for her collection so quickly and that her legacy could now be passed on.

What sort of legacy will you leave?

The way I see, God has his mind on “generations”. Psalm 71:17,18 says:

Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.

Everything God has taught us or gifted us with, we are to declare now. But not just that. We must continue to declare them to the next generation, to those who are to come after us. This is the highest call of succession planning in the kingdom of God.

And then I think about the legacy that Christ has left us.

God’s law says in Deuteronomy 5:9 that God “punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” In charismatic circles, we call this generational curses. Now, I for one don’t really understand why Christians like to build an entire doctrine around such a macabre subject.

But I don’t believe in generational curses. I believe in generational blessings!

In verse 11 of that same passage, God promises that He “shows love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

No one has ever fulfilled the requirement of keeping all of God’s commandments, except Jesus. Romans 5:19 says that:

For just as through the disobedience of one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

By Christ’s perfect obedience, I am made a beneficiary of God’s blessings. I haven’t counted the number of generations that have passed since the time of Christ, but I am pretty sure I’m in one of the thousand generations!

What am I going to do with the books I inherited? Well, the first thing I did was give about a third of them away. A friend of mine had told me how one day he would like to start a library of Christian books. So now he’s got a pretty good start!

Then, I want to read the books I’ve kept, teach the principles I’ve learned to others, and ultimately pass the books onto others, but not just the books. I also want to pass the mantle that God has given me to the generation that comes after me!

 

 

If Our Walk With God Was a Song

Today, we have a guest post from my good friend, Darren Woon. Darren is the guitar leader at South City Church. We have had the privilege of serving together in our previous church and even though we are now in different churches, we still minister together in city-wide events when we get the opportunity to escape from the rigours of local church commitments. I have a strong respect and admiration for Darren’s passion for God’s presence and his ability to “push the envelope” and challenge the status quo. 

Darren’s post below was actually first written in 2004. I came across it again recently and asked him if I could republish it. 

The context for my wanting to publish this post was because of Pastor Benny’s first sermon of the year at Faith Community Church. Pastor Benny shared from Jeremiah 29:11. One of the points he made was that when God said that He knew the plans He had for us, the word “plans” in the Hebrew is “khashav”, which means to “count” or “reckon”. The word picture it evoked was of a composer. 

According to Pastor Benny, our lives are never played out in just one note. Rather, the different notes go up and down – individually, they may not make sense, but in totality, they form a beautiful melody. So God’s plans are never set in concrete, but they are flexible to take into account our own decisions and volition. But yet, He is able to manoeuvre around the choices we make to produce a beautiful composition. And that reminded me of Darren’s post, written all those years ago. So here it is below. Hope you guys enjoy it!

If our walk with God is a song, I don’t think it will be like a symphony orchestra, where the parts to be played are fixed and completely predictable. Neither will it be like a wild and uncontrolled jam session, where the musicians play whatever they want, oblivious to what the others are doing.

I believe that a close relationship with the Lord is in between these two extremes – it is more like improvisation in a jazz tune. There is a theme, but at the same time, it is unpredictable.  Musicians rely on tight (and wordless) communication and they play it by ear, complementing each other.  An action of one musician calls for the others to react to it, to build on it, making it more beautiful than what that single musician did on his own.  There are no strict rules and no pre-defined direction, just an ability to play from the heart, flow with the others and to “feel” what to do next.

This is similar to what God has called us to.  He wants to have a relationship with us, not a dictatorship. He gives us the opportunity to be actively involved in the “song” of our life. There may be times where the will of God may not have a definite or specific direction. I’ve lost count of the times when I’ve sought God’s will, only to feel that He’s not going to say anything. I always thought that I just had to try harder and wait longer. That may be the case sometimes, but I’m starting to understand that God often leaves the choice to us. He does not keep silent in order to frustrate us but instead, He is giving us the chance to take the wheel.

To take this “jazz band” illustration a step further, picture this: We are the bassist and God is the trumpeter, the lead instrument in this case. We play the bass notes and outline the basic chord. Then God steps in and plays the melody. The notes He plays not only create a stunning melody, but also add the final nuances to the chord, defining it completely.

In this illustration, each chord represents a phase of our life. God enters in and makes it meaningful and complete. The problem arises when it is time for a “chord change” – when we are faced with a decision in life. With so many choices and unknown outcomes, this can be very pressurising.

I believe that God guides us to give Him the right “chords changes” (representing our decisions) for Him to work with, to support the melody that He has in mind for our lives. Sometimes, He leaves it to us to decide what chord to change to next and then improvises over it. It is up to us to “read” Him on the fly make a decision. However, there is really no such thing as a wrong chord (or decision) as He is more than capable of accommodating any chord change beautifully, even if it involves altering the melody here and there. That is what music (and life) is all about. There is no chord or decision that we can throw at Him that will make him say “Oh, that’s wrong. You’re so messed up because I just can’t work with that”.

But this is not to say that we can live recklessly. Our decisions will have an effect on our lives. But out of His love and grace, God will find a way to make the outcomes of our decisions beautiful. He is by no means limited to “playing the same notes” in our life. He is infinitely creative and innovative – He created creativity. Many times He will prompt us to make our own decisions but even if we fail miserably, He will always be there to make it work out beautifully.

I think of our Lord as the ultimate lead musician. As I’m fumbling with the chords, He is turning each seemingly wrong chord into a very right one. As I’m making decisions in my life, He is causing every one of them to result in splendour. In life, some choices may be better than others. But with God’s grace, there is really no such thing as a wrong decision.

Christ’s Strength Perfected in My Weakness

Happy 2014 everyone! I hope that this year will be your best year yet!

For my first post of the year, I want to talk about weakness. This is not a popular subject in contemporary Christian circles. We are taught to work on our weaknesses and play to our strengths. We are seldom told to rejoice in our weaknesses.

But listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:9ff:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me…. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

In the Greek, the word “perfect” is teleioo which means to complete, accomplish, to consummate. If we are honest, we like doing things that we are good at. This is because it means we can be responsible for, and guarantee, the results. If I am an amazing singer, then in all likelihood, people will be moved when I sing. But that muddies the waters. Who is doing the moving? My amazing voice, or the Holy Spirit?

Tozer once said:

If God took his Holy Spirit out of this world, what the church is doing would go right on and nobody would know the difference.

The church today is good at doing a lot of stuff. We are good at stirring messages, creating sights, sounds and imagery and producing great programs. But how much of it is the presence of God?

When we play to our strengths, there is less room for God’s miracles.

I love how God uses the weak things of the world to shame that which is wise. I remember Joseph Prince telling how he used to stutter when he was in school. Today he preaches to millions. Or hearing about how Nick Vujicic, with no arms and no legs, can inspire people to live life to the full.

Even to this day, I wonder how I ended up leading worship. People seem to think I sing well, but those closest to me and who know me well (or who listen to our Sunday worship recordings) will tell you that I haven’t got a great voice. (Granted, I have a loud voice – my wife reminds me of this frequently!). When I was in school, I was told my voice wasn’t good enough for me to join the choir. And yet, I have this privilege, week after week, in meetings of varying sizes, to use my voice to lead people to encounter God in worship.

When I stop to really think about it, God is really performing a miracle each time by His grace. His strength is being made perfect and complete in my weakness.

You could say that it is when we are most empty that Christ is most complete in us.

What are you weak at? What do you struggle with? What trait don’t you like in yourself? Perhaps God is using that very weakness to miraculously demonstrate His strength. Perhaps it is in those very things that are broken and empty that gives space for God to pour out His strength completely.

In 2014, allow Christ’s strength to be perfected in your weaknesses!