He who breathes consuming fire looks out for you 

One of my favorite psalms is the one where David calls out in distress and God bolts out of heaven in flashes of lightning to rescue him: 

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him— the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them. The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils. He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭18:6-19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“… he rescued me because he delighted in me.” That same God loves you and delights in you too!

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Whatever you’re facing…

In the book of 2 Kings, the Assyrian King named Sennacherib wanted to take Israel captive, and was taunting Israel’s God- the one that all the people in that day feared- knowing He had saved them from Egypt- caused plagues, and killed an entire army with the Red Sea.

Hezekiah was the king of Judah and he followed God, and didn’t worship other gods, “just-in-case” as was so common in that day. Sennacherib sent this message to Hezekiah:

“Say to Hezekiah king of Judah: Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hands of the king of Assyria.’ Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my predecessors deliver them—the gods of Gozan, Harran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar? Where is the king of Hamath or the king of Arpad? Where are the kings of Lair, Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah?”

Sidebar: I cannot imagine going through something like this! My troubles seem so insignificant compared to a mighty empire wanting to kill & plunder- and it’s heading toward my doorstep. Those words are scary, “don’t think for a second your God can deliver you! Have you SEEN what I’ve done to the other nations?” 

But notice what Hezekiah does:

And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “ Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.” 

Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: 

“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I have heard your prayer concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria. This is the word that the Lord has spoken against him: “ ‘Virgin Daughter Zion despises you and mocks you. Daughter Jerusalem tosses her head as you flee. Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel! By your messengers you have ridiculed the Lord. And you have said, “With my many chariots I have ascended the heights of the mountains, the utmost heights of Lebanon. I have cut down its tallest cedars, the choicest of its junipers. I have reached its remotest parts, the finest of its forests. I have dug wells in foreign lands and drunk the water there. With the soles of my feet I have dried up all the streams of Egypt.” 

“ ‘Have you not heard? Long ago I ordained it. In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone. Their people, drained of power, are dismayed and put to shame. They are like plants in the field, like tender green shoots, like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched before it grows up. 

“ ‘But I know where you are and when you come and go and how you rage against me. Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came.’ 

“This will be the sign for you, Hezekiah: “This year you will eat what grows by itself, and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit. Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. “The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. 

“Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria: “ ‘He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the Lord. I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’ ” 

>>That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies.<<

So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king.”

Whatever you’re facing- trust God. These aren’t just stories… They really happened. God hasn’t changed since then… It’s our reading of the Bible and our faith that needs to change! 

‭‭2 Kings‬ ‭19:10-13, 15-37‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/2ki.19.10-13,15-37.niv

Salt & Light

Oh the beauty of the King
You make righteous those who seek
You have written and redeemed my story

Let my eyes see Your kingdom shine all around
Let my heart overflow with passion for Your name
Let my life be a song, revealing who You are

Oh the love that set me free
You bring hope to those in need
You have written and redeemed my story

For You are salt and light
You are love’s great height
You are deep and wide
A consuming fire

Worship Leader, Don’t Take Yourself too seriously

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A big lesson I’m learning is not to take myself too seriously. Nothing is ever going to come out perfect, so why work myself into a tizzy about it?

Lean on God, the Rock. He will get you through.

Laugh at yourself. I don’t mean: beat yourself up or become the brunt of every joke. Just always come prepared; but: if you mess up, laugh about it! People don’t want a perfect leader… they want a human who draws in the same air they do.

Last weekend at my church, I spent the time to make those “seamless transitions” we all drool over as worship leaders. My pianist who plays keyboard needed some more interesting parts to play, and we had no second keyboard to fill it in on pads, or electric to swell between songs and make those sticky key-transitions work.

So, I improvised! I recorded 4 measures in each song up in my office, at the beginning and end of every song, and added a “transition” track to all the beginnings and endings of songs. That way, when I clicked the midi controller for the next song, no one heard the song stop. The momentum in worship this created was gorgeous!
I was pretty worked up and excited about it.
I even faded out before the bridge our invitation song, so that by the time the ministers sat down, we had the ability to end the song when we wanted- because the backing tracks gradually faded out (we have some tracks that play through the house alongside our live band).
I told the band, “Don’t worry! We can use backing tracks this week during the invitation!” (We usually don’t due to the abrupt sound it creates ending the tracks in the house.)

THEN, as is the way in “church world”… we ran out of time to practice the invitation. But it’s all good… after all, I saved it, right? it faded out, right? The band knows it, right?

Well that last one is true. The band is awesome and nailed it. I, however…

So it gets all quiet, the preacher ends the sermon by beckonong people to come and pray. I say a word, and we sing. And sing. And sing. I don’t hear my tracks fading. Oh well, I think, it’s coming here in a sec... The ministers all sit. We finish the chorus, and instead of a fadeout… when I hit the “stop” click– to my dismay, the tracks blaze on to the first chord of the bridge of “My Heart Is Yours”. You know the one. On K-Love. With the full drive on electric guitars, plus distortion, 45 different keyboards, auxiliary tracks, bass, (B3 organ?!)… you name it. One chord: and then BAM. Silence.

I smile. Gots’ ta move on in the service. Talk about breaking an awkward silence! 

Later I laughed and told the band, “I guess I didn’t save my fade out under the proper name. We’ll try again next week.” But they didn’t look so sure!

When I heard the chorus did NOT fade, I immediately knew it was headed toward a train wreck. People noticed… but it wasn’t like they all lined up against a wall and took turns laughing and spitting at me!

You see, worship really happened that day. And although people noticed the abrupt song, they don’t remember that! They remember the worship and the sermon!

But guess what? I’m human! It happens. Someone will always need you at the last second before a service and you don’t get that final check.

No use beating yourself up about it.

Failures aren’t forever failures.

The following week, I tried the fade out again (why do I do this to myself?! I’m stubborn I guess).

And guess what? It was awesome. It was the best invitation yet– because we still had full band with backing tracks like the higher quality of the rest of the service. And I tested and saved it- under a new name so I KNEW it would work.

Fellow worship leaders… God’s grace IS new every single day for us. Don’t waste time mucking around depressed about yesterday.

Next week always comes, and there’s no way you can get worse if you practice & pray. God is on your side. You can only get better.{Tweet!}

Having one of those days?

Having a rough time?
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God says we can cast our cares on Him… then like David, we can say this:

“But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
Let me not be put to shame, Lord,
for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
and be silent in the realm of the dead.
Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt
they speak arrogantly against the righteous.
How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.
In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues.
Praise be to the Lord,
for he showed me the wonders of his love
when I was in a city under siege.
In my alarm I said,
“I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.
Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31

We shouldn’t look so hard at our problems that we lose sight of who God is. He can take care of us.