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The Least of These

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:40‬ ‭NASB
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When we believers care for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the thirsty, the prisoner – all those in need – it is as though we are doing these things for Jesus. We show that we are believers, that our faith is real. Those who live this way are true Christ followers. Those who don’t are not.He cares for the needy. He cares about our physical needs. He cares for the physical needs of His creatures because He loves them. He expects us to reflect His character by loving and caring for the physical needs of others as well. These are the works of true faith.

Do you reflect God’s love like this? Do you have time for the needy? Do you want to?

When we serve others, sacrifice for others, love others, we serve and sacrifice for and love Jesus.

We become comfortable and content with our self-centeredness. We so often live lives of isolation that are focused entirely on “me and mine,” but our lives should not be this way. We desperately need to care for the material and physical needs of others as outward evidence of a real faith.

Pray something like this:

God, I know that I need to change. I know that I need to release this self-centeredness and live outside myself. I have told You honestly that I want to be more like Christ. But in this way, honestly, I don’t, and I don’t know how to be different. God, I need You just to give me the desire to care for the needy, for anyone outside my immediate, close circle.

 

Without His grace, this cannot happen in us, but He wants to transform us.

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Worship=Life Podcast

I want to invite you to subscribe to my brand new Worship=Life podcast. Each episode, we’ll explore the nuts and bolts of worship ministry in today’s church – the technological, the visual, the musical, and the spiritual.

My goal is to help worship leaders develop their ministries, their leaders, their teams, their environments to provide the best possible opportunities for God-honoring worship in their churches. I’ll share what I’ve learned over the years, as well as what I’m in the process of learning. I’ll bring in experts to share their wisdom with you as well.

In the first episode, I begin a series on ministry structure, starting with the values our ministries embrace. Check the episode out at the link above. I’d love to get your feedback!

My Favorite Christmas Albums – 2016

Back in 2010, I wrote about my favorite Christmas songs and albums. (You can check it out here.)

Six years is long enough! So, today, I’m updating you on some of my favorite Christmas albums. I’d love to hear what your favorites are, so leave some comments! And even better, I put together a Spotify playlist so you can enjoy them too.

  1. Christmas… From the Realms of Glory by Bebo Norman – Bebo Norman may be retired, but he remains one of the absolute best songwriters in CCM (just give a listen to the cut “Deeper Still” from his album Ten Thousand Days). If you listened to Bebo back in his indie days, you may understand this: Christmas… From the Realms of Glory sounds like it came from his heart more than anything else I’ve heard from him.  With simple instrumentation – acoustic guitar, piano, melodica, hammer dulcimer – the record is a masterpiece of warm, introspective, Americana pop. Highlights: “Born to Die,” “Come and Worship,” “The Rebel Jesus”
  2. Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson – Being in ministry can get tough sometimes. The stress can be overwhelming, especially at Christmas time. A few years ago, I hit one of those walls, and this album got me through it. Peterson and his collaborators – among them Jill Phillips, Andrew Osenga, and Ben Shive – weave a folk-pop tapestry that brings the story of Scripture to life – from creation to Christmas. From the beautiful “Labor of Love” to the silly “Matthew’s Begats,” this is a special album. Highlights: “Labor of Love,” “Deliver Us,” “Matthew’s Begats”
  3. Advent Christmas EP, Vol. 2 by Future of Forestry – So you’re probably noticing a theme among my favorite Christmas albums – serenity. I love the mellow, organic, ambient sounds and Eric Owyoung’s honest voice. Those are the things that make this EP one of the best. Highlight: “The Earth Stood Still”
  4. Silver City by Falling Up – If you remember Falling Up from their early days, you might think, “That doesn’t really sound like Jud’s kind of band.” And you’d be right. But over the years their sound evolved into something more experimental and ambient. That led to their 2013 album Silver City, a collection of inventively arranged Christmas songs and a few originals. There’s energy, contemplation, cool melodies, Jesus, and little bit of sci-fi. Highlights: “Emanuel,” “Sugar Plum Fairy,” “The Little Robot”
  5. Christmas by Michael W. Smith – High-church, classical Christmas album with classic Smitty touches, and it’s pretty flippin’ amazing. Still one of my favorites. Highlights: “First Snowfall,” “All Is Well,” “Gloria”

Christmas album honorable mention: Christmastime by Michael W. Smith, Music of Christmas by Steven Curtis Chapman, Home for Christmas by Amy Grant

The absolute worst Christmas song ever: still “Grown Up Christmas List.”

Christ’s True Greatness

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:25-28

If we seek greatness in the body of Christ, we must be servants just as He was. Though He was and is the Lord of all and could rightfully expect to be served, He came into this world instead to serve His Father and humanity by giving His life to redeem us. Greatness in God’s kingdom is the exact opposite of greatness in this world. He proves His own greatness by making the ultimate sacrifice for our deepest need.

Jesus is humble. He loves us, which He showed by putting our greatest need before His own comfort, before even His own rights. He expects the same, love, humility, service from His children.

Like the sons of Zebedee (v. 20-23), our natural inclination is to put self first. I may not seek a position of power or authority quite like they did, but I still put myself first in many other ways. My mindset must be changed to that of Christ: my purpose – the purpose of all followers of Christ – is to serve, to submit, to love God and others.

We are called to follow the ultimate example: Christ Himself. He committed the ultimate act of service on the cross, thus proving His greatness.

He commands us to serve just as He did, and we to often don’t, putting ourselves first.

When we forget what true greatness is – the greatness Jesus showed us – the result is pride, self-centeredness, clinging to our “rights.”

But we needed to be saved, and Christ committed the ultimate act of service for us to save us. We need to follow His example. We need to count Him and others as more important than ourselves. We need to serve, to submit to, to love God and our brothers and sisters.

Join me in praying that God will take away our pride, that He give us His humility, a heart to serve others and not just please ourselves.

We’re not capable of being completely selfless, of always submitting, of always serving and loving others – or even God Himself. Our nature must be changed. We must be transformed into the image of Christ, and only He can do this in us.

Your life and mine would then be lives of greatness as God defines it, not as man does.

Really Christ’s

For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother. – Matthew 12:50

Whoever is a true follower of Christ, whoever is obedient to the will of God, that person is closer to Jesus than biological or earthly family.

Relationship with Christ is defined by obedience to the will of God the Father, and obedience is the result of heart condition. Obedience is more important to God than heritage. God desires our obedience.

Closeness to Christ requires obedience. Without obedience, we will not be claimed as His. True relationship with Christ, true salvation, is evidenced by obedience to the will of God the Father. If we aren’t obedient to the will of the Father, we’re not really Christ’s.

God wants closeness with us. He wants our obedience, and our obedience is the result of His saving work, of His changing our hearts to want to obey, to want intimacy with Him.

We are not saved by works, but works are evidence of our salvation. When we forget this truth, we treat Jesus like fire insurance. We forget that what He really desires is all of us. If we have given all of ourselves to Him, then we will obey Him.

The Good Gift

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? – Luke 11:13

If an earthly father who is corrupted by sin is capable of giving his child good things, things the child needs, is not God – who is holy, righteous, perfect – infinitely more capable of giving us His Holy Spirit when we ask?

God gives us what we need, specifically the Holy Spirit. He wants us to ask, and He wants us to ask with right motivations from a place of humility and seeking His will first. He is provider. He loves us.

We must ask rightly, with right motives, in humility, not selfishly. We must ask for God’s will. When we ask rightly, God gives us what we request. When we ask rightly, we ask for the right things.

We often don’t ask rightly – with right motives, unselfishly, humbly. We often don’t ask persistently.

When we are asking wrongly, we start to believe that God doesn’t answer prayers, but in truth, the fault lies with us. We don’t trust Him. We don’t ask persistently. We become self-sufficient or we give up on being Christlike.

God help us to walk in Your Spirit, to show us Your glory, to transform us into the image of Christ.

The Burden of the Gospel

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  – Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus calls all those who are tired and burdened – perhaps by the law, the teaching of the religious establishment of His day –  to Himself to take on a different burden, one that He gives in gentleness and humility, one that is light and easy to carry, one that gives rest to the soul. Perhaps the burden of the gospel, salvation by grace and not works.

The way He teaches us to follow is not without cost. In fact it is costs everything, but it is a burden easy to carry. Under the Law, we carry the load, but under the gospel, we trust God to carry it.

Jesus brought the gospel, the New Covenant, to us gently and humbly, not arrogantly as the teachers of the law did. God did not reveal the truth to the “wise” or “intelligent,” those who thought they knew already. He revealed the truth to “infants” who knew they did not know and had no choice but to rely on Him (v. 25). He reveals Himself to whom He chooses.

Are we so arrogant as to think we already know? Have we become like the teachers of the Law? We must be like the infant, completely dependent on Him – that is His burden, the yoke He offers. It gives rest to the soul because the soul depends on Him entirely.

We must must receive it gently and humbly just as Jesus gives it. Let us never think of ourselves as wise or intelligent but be as the infant with no capacity to care for ourselves.

Have you had the arrogance of the teachers of the Law? Do you trust Him completely?

Trust Jesus. Put down the burden of works, which is heavy and exhausting, and take up the burden of the gospel that is easy and light and gives rest to the soul.

Our works cannot – will not – make us right with Him. When we depend on our works, we aren’t trusting in Him for salvation, but ourselves. Do you think that He doesn’t accept you unless you do all the right things? The truth is that He accepts you when you come to Him knowing that you can’t do all the right things.

We need to be humble. We need to admit that we can’t take care of ourselves and stop trying to. We need to trust Him, to put down the burden of caring for ourselves and take up the easy yoke of the gospel.

God please take away our arrogance, our self-sufficiency, our self-centeredness. Give us the humility, even the wisdom, to know that we can’t take care of ourselves. Only You can. Help us to trust You, to trust Your gospel.