the Vernon Journal

Serving the Kingdom in Southeast Asia

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Voices of Worship

There were two voices of worship that uniquely challenged and shaped my views of life and God during my impressionable years. Truthfully there were more than two voices, but I highlight these two men because of their international recognition and the similarities in their lives. The first similarity is that both men lived lives of honesty, devotion and abandonment in their worship of God. The second similarity is that they each impacted generations of believers around the world, the first man impacting my father's generation and beyond, the second man impacting my generation and beyond. The third similarity is that they were both taken from this world through tragic accidents in the peak of their ministries. The first man was Keith Green who sang the following words at a club in LA shortly before his death in a plane crash (written from the perspective of God speaking to us):

My precious bride, the day is nearing When I'll take you in My arms and hold you I know there are so many things that you've been hearing But you just hold on to what I have told you

For when I hear the praises start My bride, I want to rain upon you Blessings that will fill your heart I see no stain upon you Because you are My child, and you know Me To me you're only holy Nothing that you've done will remain Only what you do for me

The other was Rich Mullins who, like Green, had a psalmists connection with the Lord and who, also like Green, died tragically in an accident (this time in a car). Beautifully, Rich penned and sung these words before his death:

But the Jordan is waiting Though I ain't never seen the other side They say you can't take in The things you have here So on the road to salvation I stick out my thumb and He gives me a ride And His music is already falling on my ears...

When I leave I want to go out like Elijah With a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire And when I look back on the stars Well, It'll be like a candlelight in Central Park And it won't break my heart to say goodbye

Each of these men had an eternal perspective that I, in my stumbling attempts, have not yet attained. I've often wondered if these two men had each grown so intimately connected with the Lord that He just had to sweep them home, that their spirits simply couldn't be contained any longer by this world.

I want to clarify here that I do not believe that Keith Green and Rich Mullins had reached some new-age, zen-level oneness and were resorbed into a cosmic Nirvana.

I am talking about a real connection with the Living God. I'm talking about Enoch, about Moses, about Elijah and how we have the same access to God as these men did because of Christ. Neither Green nor Mullins were perfect, but intimacy with God is not based on our perfection, after all it was an adulterer and murderer who was called a man after God's own heart.

I'm grateful that these men were willing to serve God and His church, but I am amazed that years after these two men left us we can see that we the church have lost nothing. In this day the worshipers, the men and women who are truly seeking after God's own heart and are leading the church into an intimate connection with the Lord, cannot be counted on one hand (or blogged in one post). Today there is a mantle of worship, a vibrant connection, a movement of abandonment towards God that again challenges me daily in my view of life and God.

Today there is worship in every form:  song and dance; art and expression; text and voice; silence and speech; action and stillness. I cannot list the names of every voice of worship because they are in every nation and every language. I cannot even list all the individuals who are impacting me, and honestly I don't desire to, because it is not their names that I desire to see praised.

I do desire to lift up the name of the Lord, to be exhorted by the chorus of saints around me, and to worship in spirit and in truth... and I hope you will join me.

Inspiration for this post from the Keith Green video and the following quote shared by Pastor Earon James:

"This guy [Green] was ahead of his time.  The mantle that was upon his life is falling upon a generation that want nothing or no one but Jesus."

Sola Scriptura

Why is it so easy to forget the importance of scripture in my life? Someone once told me that our appetite for the Word of God functions differently from our appetite for food; if we stop eating food our natural hunger grows stronger with each passing day, but if we abstain from partaking of the Word our hunger lessens until we forget that it's even there. The opposite is also true, however; when we feast on God's word, we begin to hunger and thirst for more and more of Him.

Yesterday, I ran across this conversation and got a taste of scripture so potent and flavorful that it left me yearning for more.

it's far too easy to feel alone

it's far too easy to feel alone

mord says:
We humans are alone really, just stuck inside our brains.

Christina Lutze (photographer) says:
Psalm 139
"O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in-behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me...Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me."

We are not alone even when we think we are. :)

mord says:
I yell with agony as I see the sun rise,
A new dawn begins, as painful mind sighs,
Another day to face, of meaningless time,
Is there no peak to this mountain I climb?
The hills of dispair, the skyline of pain,
I keep a steady pace, but no hope to maintain,
This walk that I'm taking seems to be lost,
I hoped to find answers, but my path has been crossed,
Met by the demon we all know as fate,
He blocks the one route to finding the gate,
The door I want opened to discover a life,
An answer to freedom, without living the strife,
No beginnings to suffer, of things I want dead,
Never, once more will it have to be said,
That life is a struggle, with my syndrome alone,
That alive is unwanted, and death be the home.

Christina Lutze (photographer) says:
Lamentations 3
"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quielty for the salvation of the Lord. Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust- there may yet be hope. For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most high that both calamities and good things come? Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins? Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord...I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit. You came near when I called you, and you said, 'Do not fear.' O Lord, you took up my case; you redeemed my life."

Hope lies with Jesus. :)

mord says:
Excellent response but Jesus was invented to make Christianity more acceptable, copied from Mithra, therefore hope lies with a fictional character ? ;-)

Christina Lutze (photographer) says:
Hope could never lie with a fictional character, and you are right...if Jesus is not real than hoping in Him is really no hope at all. "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" (1 Corinthians 15:19). But I believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be. Each person has to decide for themselves who they think Jesus is...pretend, a practical teacher, a wise prophet, a liar, a crazy person, God, Saviour...whatever you decide is your choice. I won't pretend I can prove to you with facts and historical evidence whether Jesus was or wasn't copied from Mithra. I can only speak for myself and say that I am confident in my faith in Jesus, and that my hope in Him is something I am sure of.

mord says:
Again excellent views, a solid belief in your faith is something to be admired, commended and encouraged.

I have to admit I feel envy ( a sin in itself ) in your faith in Christ, something I've never had, and feel I never will have.

Nice to have some intelligent disussion on Flickr, have great life. See ya, Mord ( always alone )

Christina Lutze (photographer) says:
thank you for your honesty. i've enjoyed discussing with you also. i want to say that my faith is not something i can pat myself on the back for. credit must be given to God because even faith is from God. He will give us faith if we ask Him for it. also, i don't think doubt is always negative because doubt leaves you searching for answers, and when you find them you are better off than before. if you have a desire to know Jesus then don't give up. Can i encourage you to..."Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon" (Isaiah 55:6-7). "If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever" (1 Chronicles 28:9). That verse comes across very harsh, but i think it conveys the impact of your choice on who Jesus is. I sincerely wish you the best.

I'm ashamed to say that if I were placed in Christina's shoes I doubt I would have turned so readily to scripture as she did. I probably would have relied on human wisdom and philosophy in my attempt to communicate these heavenly truths ... and I would have failed miserably!

Today, I've been reminded of the all-encompassing power, adaptability and beauty of scripture, and I'm humbled to think that I needed reminding at all! Thanks, Christina, for the wake up call!

A Souvenir of Extravagance...

An amazing thing happened to me while we were in Bangkok last week. It all started on the final night of the conference at the banquet dubbed "Cultural Night". Everyone wore the traditional dress of their country; and with over 600 people representing countries from all over Asia it was certainly an amazing sight. We saw Japanese Kimonos, Korean Hanboks and jewel-toned saris, to name a few. Adding to the festive atmosphere of the evening, many of the delegates were generously passing out small trinkets and souvenirs to anyone and everyone, proudly representing their countries!

Pink Sari

Towards the end of the evening, we met a couple from Sri Lanka named Dinesh and Dinu who struck up a conversation with us asking about the Akha clothes we were wearing. Dinu was wearing a beautiful bright pink sari and I told her that I had been admiring it all evening (which I had.) We probably talked for less than 5 minutes before the evening ended and we all headed up to bed.

Lori in her sari

The next morning, Paul and I were sitting waiting for the session to begin when Dinu came and sat down next to me. She said, "I have a gift I want to give you, but it's up in my room. At break I'll go up and get it for you." After the session, she found me and asked if I could go to the room with her so that we wouldn't lose each other in the crowd.

When we got to there, Dinu pulled out the beautiful sari she had been wearing the previous night. This was the gift she wanted to give me! I was awe struck! With tears streaming down my face I told her how I had said to Paul, "If you ever want to buy me a new dress, I want one just like hers!" When I had composed myself, she explained that after the banquet she felt the Lord prompting her to give this sari to me. She didn't know my name or our room number, so she said, "Ok Lord, if I see her again tomorrow, I'll give it to her."

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the flowers of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the unbelievers run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

-From Jesus' Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 6:28-33

In the past, whenever I heard those verses I always tended to focus on one word: need. I've heard enough sermons on this passage in my life to remember the lesson that God provides for all our needs, but I've always been left with the vague impression that His provision applies only once we've hit a certain level of destitution. Even then, that provision is only what we "need" and nothing more. But as I read this passage today, all I can think about is God's amazing extravagance. By no meaning of the word did I "need" that sari, but the Lord poured out his extravagant love for me and fulfilled the desires of my heart. Today, I feel like a lily of the field adorned in God's finest!

Voices of My Generation :: Joshua Harris

Every generation asks questions about what the generation before it says about life, the universe and everything. This is true in every culture and subculture. My generation, and specifically the sub-culture of my generation that was raised in the church, is no exception.
We asked questions about worship.
We asked questions about ritual.
We asked questions about hypocrisy in the church.
We asked questions about relationships.
Specifically, we asked questions about the quality of the culture and environment that was created by dating.

Stop Dating the Church - Joshua Harris

During that time a young man voiced what many of us were developing in our own understanding of relationships in his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. While we had arguments and disagreements about the firmness of the stances he took on the issue, in that book Joshua Harris emerged as one of the voices of my generation.
One of the voices that is listened to.
One of the voices that can reach into our generation and culture and put into words the events and philosophies on our hearts.

We grew, we married, we experienced life, and Josh Harris continued to write books on these experiences. Now we're the adults in the world. We're the ones having kids, running companies and shaping ministries. As we enter this new phase of life, Josh has once again written a book that looks with insight into the ideas that our communities are talking about in his newest title: Stop Dating the Church

...this book is marking a very important transition in my life. The church isn't some other generation's responsibility—it isn't somebody else's business. I have to take responsibility. I have to be passionate and committed to it. Through the pages of this book I'm calling my generation to do the same. -Joshua Harris

Once again, he says it all in the title. With the exception of my friend Andy, who has been part of the same church for years, most of us wandered from church to church in our younger years. We actually embraced the fact that they were the wandering years of our lives. I havent read Joshua's newest book, and being on the other side of the globe I might never get to read it, but it's not hard to see this is my generation's new challenge: Dig In.

If there is hypocrosy, weakness, dullness, whatever-ness in the church we have a choice. We can continue to "break up" with our churches when things aren't what we want and move on to something easier, something new and sexy, but that road leads to dirty old men, set in their hypocrisies. Isn't that what we had problems with in the first place? Or we can dig in, we can follow God and impact our brothers and sisters around us to do the same.

Many of us are still young, still prone to run, but it is time to dig those heals in and make the church our family, not a one-night stand.

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A Passage I Love

Jim, from missionary-blogs.com gave our little missionary "e-community" an assignment to write a short post on a scripture we love by Valentine's day. True to form (and to the chagrin of every teacher I ever had, and often my wife) I have put this off until the last possible day. But now, a passage I love:

Habakkuk 1:5 (New King James Version)

The LORD's Reply 5 " Look among the nations and watch - Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days Which you would not believe, though it were told you.

New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

I was originally going to write about one of my old favorites, but this verse (which I stumbled upon while browsing the FMI website) is such a powerful Word from God - and it is incredibly true today! As we have shared about the faith of the Akha people, those who have received it can hardly believe - as American Christians we are being challenged by the faith of the Akha! As I read stories of missionaries gone before, and as I see in film depictions of incredible devotion I think of how astounded those missionaries would be if they saw what missions looks like today.

A great work is being done. Look at the nations - the world has been made smaller! Though many would credit humanism, modernism, and the revolutions of man for this change, it is so apparent to me that God has worked a work in our days. And though the "days grow evil" and terror and hatred send fear throughout the earth, the good news of Christ - of His life, His Passion and His redemption - is able to spread far faster and wider than we have ever known.

Pray that the Lord of the harvest send out laborers into this great work.

Anne of Green Gables...

This excerpt is Anne speaking about the new minister's wife , Mrs. Allan.

"Mrs. Allan said we ought always to try to influence other people for good. She talked so nice about everything. I never knew before that religion was such a cheerful thing. I always thought it was kind of melancholy, but Mrs. Allan's isn't, and I'd like to be a Christian if I could be one like her. I wouldn't want to be one like Mr. Superintendent Bell."

"It's very naughty of you to speak so about Mr. Bell," said Marilla severely. "Mr. Bell is a real good man."

"Oh, of course he's good," agreed Anne, "but he doesn't seem to get any comfort out of it. If I could be good I'd dance and sing all day because I was glad of it. I suppose Mrs. Allan is too old to dance and sing and of course it wouldn't be dignified in a minister's wife. But I can just feel she's glad she's a Christian and that she'd be one even if she could get to heaven without it."

I love how Anne states things so bluntly. Especially, where Christian subjects are concerned, she's always being reprimanded by Marilla for saying something "inappropriate." More often than not, she has actually stumbled upon a great truth, but she just says it so differently that she tends to make Christians uncomfortable.

I think that's the case with this quote. Anne says, "Oh of course he's good, but he doesn't seem to get any comfort out of it." As Christians we've been given the greatest gift. Anne calls it being "good", but I think most Christians would use the word "righteous". The word "righteousness" has many connonations among Christians, but most simply it means that our relationship with the Father God has been made right! Our renewed relationship with the Father certianly effects eternity, but we sometimes forget that it also effects the present. So maybe today I'll join Anne and "dance and sing all day" because of the great gift of relationship that we've been given.

Sending out the Twelve

How appropriate that the first Bible Institute has twelve graduates! Yesterday we celebrated the sending out of these 6 men and 6 women to various internships as pastors and leaders. It was an amazing time - you can see some of the moments here. Hours of Akha singing and celebration - it was a great day. I've been stuck on a passage for days now, and it gained so much more strength watching the graduation. The passage is in Mark 1, quoting Malachi:

"Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple"

How wonderful that the God who created the universe loves every one of us! It's amazing, he sends messengers to love people and to talk about Christ so that when they seek Him and encounter the Living God they have already seen what love for Christ is.

It was as if we saw the embodiment of the song "Did you feel the Mountains tremble" yesterday...

Here we see that God you're moving A time of jubilee is coming When young and old will come to Jesus... Fling wide you heavenly gates Prepare the Way of the Risen Lord!

Be encouraged, the message is going forth. This is an exciting place to be, because God is already moving so powerfully from here.

Please continue to pray for us. We have decided to move to an Akha village about an hour and a half from here. One of the men who graduated yesterday will be going up to pastor the church there and we are hoping to move there to concentrate on the Akha language and way of life. We are confident this is where the Lord is leading us, but please pray for us in this process. We will let you know more as some of the details come together.

Don't forget to see the pictures!

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