A Model for Worship Preparation, Part 2

In the last post we looked at the amount of time Christ spent preparing for ministry.  Now let’s look at how Christ prepared for his ministry in the 30 years before he “went public.”

Jesus was fully human in addition to being fully God.  While we will never comprehend exactly how God accomplished this seemingly contradictory union, we can know that in the human realm Jesus grew up much as every other human does.

He grew physically and emotionally from a baby to a man.  While he could have skipped the human timetable of maturity and started speaking, walking, and working earlier than most humans simply because he was God, he did not.  Jesus waited patiently as his body matured.  He played, went to school, and learned the skills of a carpenter, which at that time referred to the construction of whole homes, not just wood working.  He honed his craft.  By the time he was thirty and ready to go into ministry he probably could have taken over his father’s business.

As worship musicians and leaders we must spend time honing our craft, whether that is singing or playing an instrument.  We do not arrive at proficiency overnight; we have to work at it.  Whether we are already highly proficient or just beginning we should all be continuously developing our gifts.

Last night I was speaking with Dave, a drummer, and he was talking about how enthused he was to have discovered a new instructional DVD.  Over the past two weeks Dave has been implementing the exercises he has found on this DVD and he is already seeing results.  Dave is a good drummer, but he sees an opportunity to grow and he is seizing it.  Excellence is doing the best you can with what you have been given; if you think you can do better in some area you need to find a way to grow.  We need to bring our best to God, not our “good enough.”

As he grew Jesus learned how to set aside time to pray and speak with his father.  Jesus did not enter ministry at age thirty and suddenly know that he needed to recharge spiritually by spending time alone with God.  His practice of spending time alone with God was, most likely, commonplace for him by the time he entered his ministry.  Even though he was fully God, he was also fully human, and humans must spend time with God in order to have the power to confront and overcome life.

Do you spend time each day speaking with and listening to God through prayer and reading or listening to the Scripture?  If we want to hear God on a Sunday morning when the guitars are cranking and the drums are pounding, we need to be able to speak with and hear from God when we are alone, silent, and still.

When he was thirty, and before John baptized him, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and being tempted by Satan.  These 40 days were hard, brutal times.  Hebrews says, “We have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.”  (Hebrews 4:15b, NIV 1984)  Satan tempted Jesus to turn the rocks into bread, and I would not be surprised if Jesus was tempted later in life to turn rocks into bread when he and his companions had been traveling and were very hungry.  Satan tempted Christ with power over all of the kingdoms of the earth without having to suffer the cross; all Jesus had to do was worship Satan. Later in life Jesus was tempted to turn his back God’s plan for his life and allow the crowds to crown him king.

Jesus’ answers to Satan’s temptations all came from Scripture.  We will face many temptations and challenges in ministry.  The best preparation for temptations and challenges is time spent alone with God.  Then when you are tempted or challenged God will bring his word to your mind so that you can overcome the situation.  We have no substitute for time spent reading the Scripture and speaking with God.

Luke 2:52 (NIV 1984) tells us that “Jesus grew . . . in favor with God and man.”  People began to think highly of him, which means he grew to a point where people respected and would listen to him.  Jesus did not at some point say, “I am God, so now everyone will respect and follow me.”  Sounds like Dilbert.  No, Jesus earned respect and the right to lead as every human must.

As leaders we must earn the respect of our employers, employees, peers, and volunteers.  Respect and the permission to lead are earned over time through interactions with people, not through imperial decree.  Several years ago I became the Interim Music Director at Lakeshore Community Church in Rochester, NY, at a time when they desperately needed someone to step in and help shoulder the load.  As a result one week I was a guest musician and the next week I was in charge of the entire music program.  A volunteer said later that she followed my leadership at that time not because she wanted to follow me but because my boss asked her and the others on the team to follow me.  As the year went on, however, I was slowly able to earn the respect of the music team as well as the permission to lead them.

What jumps out at you about Jesus’ way of honing his craft, learning to lean spiritually on his father, or earning the “favor of God and man?” 

beginning each day

Seth Godin asked the question in his blog (my paraphrase), “Do you begin your day with input or creative output?”

This question caught my attention because I often begin the day, as I am certain many others do, by reading my Facebook page, email, and so forth.  Once I have had breakfast I then spend time reading or listening to Scripture and praying.  Only then do I begin creative output, or output of any kind.  I began to wonder if I have things out of order.

As a result, this morning I began differently.  When I got up I did not look at email, Facebook, or anything else.  Instead I got ready for the day and then sat down for some Scripture and prayer over some yogurt.  After checking my finances and getting everything up to date I am now writing and working on a project, all before taking input from technology.  I feel refreshed and able to meet the day.  Of course, a good night’s rest didn’t hurt.

I always try to keep Scripture and prayer early in the day because God sets the tone of my heart through Scripture and I need his wisdom and strength to succeed each day.  Email and Facebook, however, have the opposite effect.  Instead of filling me up they drain me and fracture my thoughts so that I cannot clearly define what it is I need to be working on.

Check with me in a week, but my goal is now to begin each day technology free.

How about you?  What is your daily beginning routine, and how do you “fill your cup” each morning?

spiritual grammar

I have been thinking about the primary questions of life: who, what, when, where, how and why. These questions unleash the truth of any situation, idea, or creed. Police use them to reconstruct a crime or crime scene, CEOs use them to challenge the validity of a new product, elementary school students use them to discover the meaning behind a sentence or paragraph, and scientists use them to analyze processes and substances. These questions are the foundation of the modern age.

We also use these questions in belief. Who led the Israelites through the Red Sea? Moses. When did Pharoah let the Israelites leave? After God killed the firstborn of Egypt. What is the color of my true love’s hair? Wait a minute . . . wrong post.

You get the idea. The same thing goes whether the faith system is Christianity, Islam, or any other religion. They are the language of taste, touch and feel.

These questions are completely appropriate for human experience and existence, but what about God? Can these questions illuminate him as they illuminate so much of the human experience?

Example: God says, “I will remember your sins no more.” If God is all knowing, can he forget something, or is he simply talking about making a choice to set aside our sins because of Christ and not “remember” them when he thinks of us? Every systematic theology has an answer for this, but my question is, Can one say definitively HOW God does this? God does give us hints throughout Scripture on this issue and so many more, but God does not lay out a blow by blow description of how his omniscience and grace coincide and cooperate. We have to embrace some mystery.

God says in Isaiah, “My ways are not your ways, neither are your thoughts my thoughts.” We get into trouble when we attempt to describe God using human terms and tools. He is “other,” and we should be willing to grasp a little mystery. Search Scripture for sure; Solomon said it is the glory of kings to search out a matter. “I don’t know” could be the best answer to some questions of God, however.

Ultimately, if you can describe God completely using the scientific method (who, what, when, where, how, why), you suddenly have no God at all. Embrace the mystery of faith in a God you cannot completely explain, and suddenly your faith will have life, because we cannot give life to an idea on our own. Allowing God to be God allows him to fuel your faith, rather than trying to charge up your spiritual car on human batteries. A car can run on batteries, but it’s nothing like the real thing, baby. 🙂

mysterious God

Ever met anyone who had it all figured out?  Did their attitude bug you?  How about the used-to-be-friend who went to see a movie you have been waiting anxiously to see and then told you the ending to the movie before you could stop them?

What do these things have in common?  The mystery is gone.  Life is nothing without a little mystery, movies lose much of their interest (at least for me) if we know the details of the ending, and the same goes true for God.  The moment you decide you know everything about God he has ceased to be God.  You never know how deep the rabbit hole will go, they say.  The same is true with God.  You will never get to the bottom of who he is.  If you bring him down to your level then he is, well, not up there where he is supposed to be in your view of him.  ( I know, very profound.  That statement will end up in some systematic theology somewhere).

If you ever hear someone say that they have finally figured God out, turn and run.  Aside from the absolutes of the holiness of God, the deity of Christ and the good news, we have many points of belief which we will never really understand until we reach heaven.  Even then, God never promised to explain everything to us.

Cultivate a humble attitude towards the knowledge of God, and everything else, for that matter.  You don’t know it all, and life is more beautiful with a little mystery.

P.S. Bonus for the rest of us: You are a lot less annoying if you do not act like a know-it-all.