Maranatha

The last words of the Bible are “Come, Lord” (maran ‘atha), sentiments of longing for the second coming of Jesus Christ. It’s a sentiment that I’ve experienced recently in light of the current status of this world. Food shortages, earthquakes and cyclones, pain, suffering, death, grief and mourning. There was even a shooting last week over at the UC Berkeley campus.  When you look around at the world in all its dark reality, you get the strong sense that this world just isn’t the way it was supposed to be.  The Christian worldview explains that God created a perfect universe for us to have authority over.  When man denied God’s authority over us, we denied the authority God bestowed upon us over creation as well. 

2008.05.18 Songs
God of Our Yesterdays – Matt Redman
You Never Let Go – Matt Redman
What a Day – Greg Ferguson

I experience the sentiment also when I look inside myself and see the darkness within me, the sin that I own, yet owns me.  The brokenness of this world isn’t just the world being so in and of itself, but my brokenness causing it to be so, as well.  Natural disasters destroy lives and ruin homes. My sin destroys relationships with others and with God, and ruin and defile my own soul, making an indelible mark on the moral fabric of this universe. 

These are the things that bring me to long for heaven, long for Jesus’ return, when all that is broken and ruined in this world will righted, and “every tear will be wiped away. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” That’s what Christians have to look forward to. A greater reality than our current state here on earth. What a day that will be.

 

Render Unto God

Senior Sunday. We celebrate the graduation of our Seniors, many of whom have been with us since their freshmen year at Cal. A chapter in their life ends as another begins, moving on to graduate school or entering the workforce. The closing of a chapter in our lives means an opening of a new one. It’s important to have the right perspective when making that move.

2008.05.11 Songs
The Lord Reigns – Gateway Worship
Offering – Paul Baloche

Charles Stanley said, “Life at its very best is to know the will of God and to live in the center of it”. The ways that I’ve personally experienced blessing as a result of sacrificial obedience to God’s will and purpose testify to the truth of Stanley’s words.

We’re all going to give our lives for something. But will that “something” be worth my life? If God truly is the Creator of all, then the Bible’s claim that my life is best suited and thrives under his care and control. I wanted to bring us all to remember in what ways that has proven true in our lives, to apply it to the unknown future as a commitment to be made available for His kingdom’s cause.

July Practice Schedule

To accommodate for the worship team training on Thursdays in July, we’re going to change the practice time to be on Wednesday (at your current respective times).  This is for both SF and Berkeley Bands.  This is only for 4 weeks (July 10, 17, 24 and 31).

Please let me know if this will be a problem.

Refusing Authority

All we have is given us by the one true Authority. God is the “author” of the universe, and so therefore rightfully claims authorship — or authority — over all, which of course includes you and me.  But does even a day go by in which my actions, decisions and perspective don’t evidence the contrary?

2008.05.04 Songs
No Other Name – Todd Fields
All Because Of Jesus – Fee
The Stand – Hillsong United

My son, almost a year and a half now, likes anything that has a screen that lights up (eg. my cell phone). Many times, he’ll be holding something that belongs to me, and I’ll ask him to give it to me. He’ll hold it, pulling his stubby arms away from me, look at me and say, “No!”  The look on his cheek-dominant face tells me he genuinely believes that what he’s holding is rightfully his, and that it would be morally wrong for me to take it from him. 

Jesse KimCute for an 18 month old. Not so much for a 31 year old, who needs life to go a particular way that’s most convenient for him, without speed bumps, setbacks or road blocks. Many people (myself included) want to feel like they have life under their control. But the truth is that feeling is at best an illusion.  More often, things don’t pan out the way that we expect.  When that happens, those of us who need that sense of control don’t respond too well — frustration, stress, unhappiness and then lovelessness often surmount. It’s holding my life and pulling it away with my own stubby arms, claiming it for myself.

What I have to do in those circumstances is acknowledge my own lack of control, and God’s rightful claim of authority over my life.  How might God want to speak to, teach, or even use me in these circumstances?  He has all authority, and so my perspective needs to shift from myself being the main character to Him, which is in fact, reality.  I need to change from tightly gripping my own life — my agenda, schedule and convenience — and offer it back into the hands that gave me my very life, and all that I have within it.

Summer Training

For four Thursdays in July (10, 17, 24 and 31) we’ll be having focused training for our current worship team members and trainees. This will assume that the participants have solid fundamentals of their respective instruments. 

The instructors will compile a list of songs that we currently and/or frequently do at a typical event (Sunday Worship Service, Gracepoint Monthly, large group Bible study, etc.).  We’ll divide into sections for the first three weeks, when the instructors for each instrument will demonstrate and teach how they play each song.  For the last session, we’ll all get together with a full setup and go through the songs, giving everybody a chance to play with other instruments.

The location and specific times are still TBD.  All current worship team members and trainees are required to participate.

Dramatic Measures

When Jesus "cleansed the temple", he went to dramatic measures to communicate the seriousness of the issue. People were supposed to go to the temple with their animals to present as an offering. The priests would take it and slaughter the animals to atone for sins. The "business-minded" capitalized on the situation by even unfairly profitting off the temple "exchange rate" and the selling of animals immediately adjacent to the temple.

2008.04.27 Songs
Marvelous Light – Charlie Hall
Not to Us – Chris Tomlin
Mercy of My God (Let Me Be) – Caedmon’s Call
I Will Offer Up My Life – Matt Redman

This degree of blindness warranted Jesus’ dramatic measures in hopes to wake them up, so that they could open their eyes and see what they were doing.

There are times when God has used dramatic means to get me to wake up, to open my eyes to my own blindness, to show me that who I think and feel I am doesn’t really reflect reality, doesn’t reflect the truth.  Christians are a people who has been "brought out of darkness into his wonderful light".  Light exposes what’s hidden in darkness, the truth laid bare for all to see.  Sometimes that’s not a pretty picture, but it’s the truth nonetheless.  Welcoming light into our lives needs to be a priority because God is a God of truth.  I need to accept the truth understanding that the means by which it is delivered are methods God has deemed necessary to awaken me, especially if the darkness is my own blindess.

I want to be open and humble, to hear whatever God has to speak to me through his word, reveal any truth I’m hiding in the darkness of my own blindness, that I might offer up something glorifying to Him.

Surprised by Grace

One way to assist people getting to practice on time is by instituting a monetary fine if a person is late. Everybody is on board with this, and we use the proceeds for dinner or breakfast for everybody anyway, when time permits. But as of late we’ve gotten quite lax on this, not having charged anybody in at least the last 2 months.

Last week, only 4 of us were there on time. I told those on-timers that I would “lay the smack down”, only partially understanding what the idiom meant. As soon as 7pm hit (according to Verizon time) anybody to walk into our Northloop building after that would officially be late.

Everybody got there, and I said that they’d be fined. They protested and cried out for mercy. I said, “I’ll leave it to the other three who were on time to decide”. One said “justice”, another said “mercy”. The third “on-timer”, Dominic (keyboards), wasn’t in the room at the time. I said that it would be up to him when he returned to the room, at which point Jeff (electric guitar) defeatedly said, “ah, it’s over. No mercy comes from that guy”.

Dominic returned to the room. I didn’t tell him that his vote would be the swing when I asked him what his vote was. He calmly said, “I say let them off this week”…

Now whatever spiritual lesson you might want to gather from this, I’ll leave that up to you. My take away lesson is, “you never know when you’ll be surprised by…”

 

 

“… Dominic.”

 

Process of Refinement

1 Peter 1:6-7

The song set emerged from reflecting over refinement and what that entails. To purify gold, I heard that you heat it up to melt, which separates out the impurities so to remove them. Personifying the gold (to apply the metaphor), I can’t imagine the refining process to be a very pleasant one for the gold. But endured, refinement would be for the best, to remove the impurities.

2008.04.20 Songs
Blessed Be Your Name – Matt Redman
Rushing Wind – Keith Green
At the Cross – Hillsong

Looking back over 13 years of being a Christ-follower, I see the most difficult times are often coupled with times of personal spiritual growth in some way. Pastor William mentioned to me that in history the church grew in times of persecution. William and Esther walked with me during very difficult times of my personal failures which resulted in decisions and behavior that revealed who I really am on the inside. But through those times of greater self-understanding, I came to know the love, grace, forgiveness and/or restoration God gives a little more than I did before. That can’t be a bad thing.

Why is it refining fire? Perhaps because it’s often a bit frightening and it will hurt. But if my worldview is a Christian one, then God is trustworthy beyond whatever difficulty may come my way in this lifetime. Furthermore, I can even welcome and embrace those difficulties if doing so makes me more fit for the life to come.

And finally, I must not forget that the greatest difficulty was endured by one — not for his own benefit but for mine — on the cross, where my Savior died for me.