What do I stand for?

I’m struck by a message I just finished listening to by Paul Manwaring. He asked this question – “What do you stand for? What are you willing to pay a price for?”

Honestly, I’m not quite sure yet.

As I look back, I have paid a price for certain convictions, but at the same time I’m not aware of clearly defined life messages in me or people knowing what I stand for. It seems that this is still developing in me – at the tender young age of 53!

At one point in the message I heard, Paul asks people who DO know what they stand for, to stand up and make declarations. Declare what they want to see; what they’re pulling for.

Well, I’m going to start to declare (write):

  • what matters to me
  • what I want to see

By writing it down, it gets it out of me and puts words onto sometimes shifting feelings/experiences. By posting it, I’m just starting to stand – to be public – preparing to pay the price for my convictions.

Here goes (in no particular order):

  • Europe matters to me – both the land and its people.  I wasn’t born here, but I most certainly trace my ancestry here.  It certainly began before I could say it was “God” but I know now that it was God who put it in my heart and brought our family here to live.
  • Reconciliation – ever since being awakened to reconciliation as a “thing” by Nadine Roure and Elvire Dieny, seeing reconciliation happen – at ALL levels – has been deeply satisfying and I increasingly see where it’s vital.  After all Paul told us in 2 Corinthians 5 that we’ve all been given the ministry of reconciliation.
  • Family matters to me – I’m certainly NOT the poster child for how to do family (in ANY of my family roles thus far in life), but the theology of family continues to grow for me on a regular basis.  God’s design for family; God’s government is family; The enemy’s incessant targeting of family; etc.
  • Identity/Son (and daughter) ship – WHO we are is so incredibly important.  When we understand the glory that God put in each one of us and His design for us and how being His son or daughter literally unlocks eternity TODAY for us – Wow!  It’s just the key to everything.  If I can (and increasingly as an older man, I CAN) help someone to find their identity – call out who and what God has made them to be – that is TRULY  satisfying and has eternal value.
  • Marriage matters to me – Why?  Because Jesus is coming for a Bride.  There’s going to be a wedding!  The power of this eternal union is echoed by what we experience right now between a man and a woman who commit before God to each other for their whole lives.  The power of that covenant is amazing and it’s only a shadow of the covenant that Jesus has with His Bride.  The depths of this are amazing.
  • Worship and God’s Presence matter to me – Not simply because I’m a musician, and one who is named David to boot, but I was made to be in His Presence and to focus on Him.  We all were, in fact, but because God has given me this gift and desire, I believe that He’s also given me a mandate to facilitate the experience of His Presence to others.  I also believe that we are changed by His Presence and we are fundamentally designed, as creatures, to become what we behold – to become like what we worship.  Hence if I worship God, I become like God.  If I help others worship God, I help them become like God.  This is my principle tool of discipleship that I have to offer.
  • The Kingdom of God matters to me.  It is so important to me that my citizenship is primarily with Heaven and that my understanding of “progress” in society is linked to the advancing of the Kingdom where Jesus is King and not necessarily a particular earthly government. My love of a country must be motivated by Jesus’ love for that country (and He loves them ALL) and what Jesus wants for that country.  This may or may not be my country of birth or my passport country(s).
  • Erasing Dualism and Living in Tension matter to me – So I’ve just finished stating “where I stand” but actually because of the things I stand for, I refuse (in principle) to let these stances hinder love or put God in a box.  Jesus was “box buster” in so many ways.  Our detachement from the cultural context of His earthly sojourn makes it easy for us to miss just how many boxes He exploded in His time.  We probably will never discover fully how He made people feel and react in in 1st century Palestine, but the willingness to understand that Jesus does do that – not just to 1st century Palestinian residents but to us as well – is the first important step to letting our own boxes disintegrate and letting Jesus out of the box that we so-easily stuff Him into. When we let typical “either/or” thinking dominate our reality, we immediately begin to de-humanize those who think differently.  In so doing we declare where Jesus is not welcome to challenge us to love that which we don’t understand or with which we don’t agree.  If, for example, reconciliation matters to me, then I can’t afford those walls to stand in my reality.  Not easy at all this wall-dismantling-process, but essential as members of God’s family.

So those are the things that I can say that I stand for and that I want to see – in me, through me, and around me.

Big doings in our new digs…

Our church in Guebwiller, France recently moved into a larger facility. It was mostly unfinished when we acquired it. We rushed to make it “tolerable” in December 2007 for a visiting speaker…lots of moving…cleaning…setup…etc. Then it was obvious that the dust from the unfinished floors, walls and ceiling would soon kill us or our equipment and we (ambitiously) wanted to host the 2008 French Christian Education conference “Mathurin Cordier” in the new building in February.

So, we re-moved and re-setup in our old facility and started a manic rush of finish work (almost all of it done by the church and most by a handful of faithful, talented and insanely hard-working people). Well, we got “done” (enough) in time for the conference these last few days and with a fantastic team effort and a smiling Heavenly Father, we had a wonderful weekend together.

I was up in our sound booth (wow, a real-live raised platform for the sound people now!!!) on Sunday morning where we combined the last session of the conference with the Sunday morning service. Surveying the jam-packed room (good-sized for a French church!), I took this little 1-minute video of the worship with my digital camera…(don’t expect any high-quality stuff!) You can get at least an idea of what it looks like:

8Mb avi video of worship time during the conference

Trier, Germany

Ok Geography Scouts…Quick! Where’s Trier, Germany!?

Yeah…I didn’t know either.

In fact, before May (2007), I’d never even heard of it. That’s when our friends Rusty and Janet Richards from PRAY BIG in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (read more about some of their ministry focus here: https://anabaptistreconciliation.org/index.html) were in Guebwiller, France to participate in a weekend with Martin Scott at our church. During this weekend, they told us about a worship initiative that they had a heart to undertake in Trier, Germany the 5-13 September.

Trier is the little red dot!It seems that Trier, a city of 100,000 near the border of Luxembourg in western Germany (now you know!) is having a celebration this year to mark a very significant anniversary.

Ok History Wonks…Quick! What happened in 307AD!?

Yeah…I didn’t know that either.

Constantine307AD, a year after Constantine was declared by his troops Emperor of the Roman Empire in York, England, he began his reign…in Rome, right? No…apparently, he was declared “Augustus” in Trier, Germany, where his father had ruled and he set up his residence there for 10 years. Who was actually in charge of the Roman Empire at that time was apparently somewhat in question!

Ok, so much for moldy history and small cities in Germany…so why are we worshiping there anyway?

Well, this same Constantine, while living and ruling in Trier, was engaged in an internal power struggle in the Roman Empire with Caesar Maxentius. In 312AD, before the battle of Milvian Bridge, Constantine saw a vision of a cross in the sky (in the sun, depending upon the account of the story) and heard a voice that said “in this sign you will conquer.” The rest is, as we know and say, history…Constantine painted crosses on his soldier’s shields and won the battle; attributed the victory to God’s blessing on his enterprise, and perhaps most significantly, subsequently turned the tables of the relationship between the State and this young movement called Christianity. Up until this time, Christians had been horribly persecuted, but Constantine’s change of fortunes put an end to that. Christianity became the favored religious practice of the State and Christians went from being persecuted outcasts to favored citizens with influence. Most of history has credited Constantine with the spread of Christianity in Europe and, of course after that, the world.

Recently however, in the Nightwatch For Europe, Roger Mitchell had this to say about the vision of Constantine:

The famous story of Constantine’s conversion is very significant because it exposes the heart of the difference between the kingdom of God and empire. Constantine saw a cross in the sky and heard a voice telling him “In this sign you shall conquer”. But he did not understand it in Christian terms. Jesus said “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). The way of life in the kingdom of God is to give yourself in love for others like Jesus did. What a difference it might have made to the history of the world if Constantine had received his vision in those terms! But instead he took it to mean that faith in the Christian God and the support of the Christian church would make him a successful emperor in military and economic terms. His subsequent success and his protection of the church were interpreted as the blessing of God. As a result imperial sovereignty was increasingly seen to be God’s way of rulership, and the appropriate shape for authority both within church and society.

Rusty and Janet with DavidAnd in the words of Rusty Richards:

So when I read that Trier was planning this big celebration, I realized that it was in reality a season dedicated to worshiping the empire spirit. I asked the Lord to let me go there during this time to establish an altar of worship to the True God. It is not my intention to engage enemy spirits. I simply want to come to this place in the spirit of worship to Jesus. This in itself is probably very confrontational. There is an enormous shift happening in the world right now. It is a critical time in history. There are clashes of kingdoms and empires in the natural and in the spiritual. I want to take my place in advancing the Kingdom of God.

So the team’s desire in this trip was simply to establish an altar of worship in Trier. Using the principle that worship establishes the authority and rulership of that which is worshiped, we simply want to re-establish God as the authority in Trier by worshiping Him (See Psalm 22:3 for a Godly example and many ungodly examples among the nations elsewhere in the Old Testament). Many more things are to come, but this was s trip for re-laying foundations…in a place where many of the foundations of Western culture as we know it today were layed nearly 2000 years ago. (For more history of Trier, including some references dating to over 2000 years ago, see this link: https://www.tricon.homepage.t-online.de/5080.htm)

While it is possible to drop down in a parachute and worship God anywhere, God has usually already established people in different geographical locations. Working with the local Body of Christ is really crucial so that what is deposited by a visiting team is nurtured and so that the visiting team better understands the realities of the locality. In truth, “the team” is always those who are visiting and those who are already established there working hand-in-hand to hear what God is saying and to do it. I’d venture to say that any other model of ministry probably lacks a fullness that God intends.

The church in Trier - in the basement!Pastor Mike and ClaudiaWe were exceedingly blessed by the connection with a church in Trier called “Gemeinde des Lebendigen Gottes“, which means Church of the Living God. They are an example of a God who is alive and active in Trier. Their church is very multi-cultural, led by a multi-cultural pastoral couple, Mike and Claudia Williams, an anglophone African from Ghana and a German, respectively. They have a heart to serve the outcasts of the city and consequently the outcasts have come in, drawn by concrete demonstrations of Jesus’ love. In accepting them just as they are, for example those who are weighed down with sickness, mental illness, demon possession, or those who are recent immigrants from other countries that may not even speak German yet (17 nations are represented in this church), this church of a couple hundred really has their hands full and must lean daily on the Lord for provision and wisdom. The Lord made this connection and the church, rather than simply letting us use a room and leaving us to “do our thing” has wanted to be deeply involved and serve the visiting team all the time we were there. The majority of the team was housed in host families from the church and they provided us 3 meals a day, prepared by a wonderful team of Chinese that are part of the fellowship. The worship times were often conducted by groups composed of church members and the visiting team…playing together for the first time, of course, and having a wonderful time in the Lord singing in German, French and English.

The BLACK GATE in TrierIn the last couple of years, intercession and worship ministry trips have largely been something that I’ve done alone or done with my daughter Rachel. Recently, Angela and I have purposed to make ministry trips occasions, where as much as possible, we engage together as a couple. Not having done that in a while, we are definitely a bit rusty at it and there are challenges in how we approach and see such events differently, but these are great catalysts for discussion and prayer. There are also financial and logistical challenges involved.

It was a step of faith to go…for Angela because of concerns with how she might be feeling physically…for me because of the logistics of caring for our children while we were gone were not as “neat and tidy” as I would have liked. But God rewarded that step with a time that was rich in worship and relationship…between us and with others…and lots of little special blessings from our loving Heavenly Father (sweet fellowship as a couple, a wonderful bed to sleep in, increased facility in speaking German, deep worship times, easy travel, kids were fine at home, etc.) to let us know that we were firmly in His hands and walking in His ways.

The crowded market place in TrierWhile we went by ourselves as a couple, there were 7 others from our church in Guebwiller, 12 in all from France, 3 from Belgium and 9 from the US during our time there and some more to come after we left. It was a joy to work together in worshiping the living God in the Church of the Living God, to get to know new people, to see more connections for the future that cross the Atlantic and the French-German borders (my two big desires!).

Much more I could say about the significance of Trier and our time there, but I’ve droned on enough here. If you’re in the neighborhood, sometime, Trier is worth a visit, but while there think about what God wants to do there and run to your Heavenly Father to pull it from the heavenly realm into the earthly reality so that “His glory covers the earth as the waters cover the seas!

What was that all about?

At our children’s Christian school, they have bi-weekly “workshops” that are offered to the kids at the junior-high level. These are offered by parents and teachers and cover a wide range of topics and interests. Angela did one this year on banner-making and they created several banners (check out some examples here.)

Before the beginning of the year, I felt that God was challenging me to offer a workshop on “worship”. This was not to be a “music” workshop where we simply sang songs. I really wanted to lay a foundation as to what “worship” really is; how it is defined in the Bible; what is the range of what could be called “worship”. I wanted to break down stereo-types of worship and try to “let God out of the box”.

Well, I cranked up my courage and proposed the workshop.

Only 1 student signed up…;(

I was a bit disappointed and even blogged about it.

I was also relieved and thought that it was “over” for this year…I was wrong!

It turns out that at the beginning of the year students sign up for all 3 trimesters in the year. What was not clear to me was that 6 students had signed up for the 3rd trimester! So, when I found out about that, I had to crank up my courage again and prepare. This has been hard, as I don’t enjoy preparing for teaching. I have a “teaching” motivational gift but actually giving teachings is not my greatest joy in life…and it still isn’t!

At the beginning of the year, I had the idea that I could easily fill a whole year with a “Worship Workshop”…about 15 sessions of 2 hours each. I still think that an in-depth course on worship with lots of practical hands-on would easily be able to fill up that time…and then some! After all, what will we be doing for eternity!?

Well, only 5 sessions (just the 3rd trimester) presents a different picture. What are the 5 essential themes of worship? Good question! Hard question!

Other wrenches in the works:

  • In French, the typical nomenclature for what goes on in church on Sunday morning is “praise” and not “worship”. My definitions of “worship” are largely based on the actual word…though “praise” presents an interesting study as well.
  • The way that my idea of a “worship workshop” was presented to the students (not by me) was using the word “praise” with the connotation of “music”. Basically, nobody “got it”, as far as what I was trying to do.
  • Some students get into a given workshop because their first, or even second choice was not available.
  • There are a handful of kids the the school who probably have not yet made a commitment to follow the Lord
  • There are plenty of kids who don’t have a “church-going” background

So, I ended up with 6 students who didn’t really have a good idea of what they signed up for and were not, perhaps, even in a workshop they wanted to be in…and a couple may not have even been Christians.

Needless to say, this was not easy. In fact, it was downright hard and unpleasant! I have basically zero experience with teaching junior high kids and these were on the younger end of the spectrum as well. I obviously need work on my teaching skills because the response I got while teaching was not too enthusiastic. I think there were 7 of us who were glad that this workshop had finally run its course!

At the end of the 5 sessions, I have very little evidence of positive impact other than the always-helpful “learning the hard way” for me. I realized, probably above everything else, that kids of the 6-7th grade age think too concretely for my style of thinking and teaching. I’m mostly focused on adults when I’m teaching or trying to get across a concept…and even then I can have a problem! ;c) So, it was good for me to better understand the way the kids received teaching and just how important concrete, hands-on activities will be in exploring the world of worship.

Anyway, this was a difficult experience for me and I’m asking the Lord, “Just how can I help foster a lifestyle of worship in these kids?” and “Do I do this again?” (I don’t really want to right now!)

Basically…”What was that all about?”

Was that really You God?

I just found out last night that I would not be leading a worship workshop at Collège-Daniel this trimester. Why? Well, according to the director, only 1 student signed up. I had not planned on worship “1-on-1’s” but a “workshop” where by the students (and I) would explore what it means, both theologically and practically, to “worship God”.

Now, this was a challenge for me…that’s for sure. I know that God has put some “teacher” “motivational gifts” into me. (brief motivational gift overview) Just having that as a motivational gift doesn’t mean however, that I’m experienced or feel qualified to teach…more that I value good teaching and see it as a foundation for God to use to build His Kingdom. Of course, there were the challenges of preparation, sequence of material/subjects (that which I’d picked up about worship over many years – now regurgitating it in an orderly, cogent sequence to junior high kids), doing it all in French, and connecting/not being afraid of a group of junior high kids!

So, that challenge has been removed from standing immediately in front of me…whew! That’s a relief!

But…why was I in the position to do this workshop in the first place? Well, I volunteered to do it! In fact, I felt that God wanted me to do it. Aye, there’s the rub!

Now I have some mixed emotions and confused thoughts. I still believe that there was some sort of impulse from God to do this, and I still believe that God wants me to be involved in the work of raising up worship and worshipers in Alsace and to specifically sow into the next generation. (I also saw this as a way to begin to “give out” more or “do” more, etc. It’s always a pressure we feel and it certainly affects me.) Did I simply miss God completely, or in some other aspect; e.g. timing, etc.?

There are other ways to accomplish those Kingdom purposes and certainly many ways for me to put my hand to the plow here and now. Of course, these require me to hear God more clearly…which could also be one of those key lessons for me to learn at the moment! ;c)

Well…off to listen for His still small voice!