Finding God as Your Refuge

The tagline of our new series at Trinity Church is “Finding God as your refuge when facing fear.” How do you find God as your refuge when facing fear? I’ve asked a number of my colleagues to share their answers each week as we progress through our STILL sermon series over the next six weeks. My hope is that we all might gain practical tools for how to do this better.

The STILL series kicked off with a very helpful message on Sunday, Though the Earth Give Way, team-taught by Todd Arnett and Walter Linn. Psalm 46 is best known for verse ten, the one phrase where God speaks. “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” (Psalms 46:10 NIV11). But God speaks based on the truth the Sons of Korah repeat three times, that God is with us. Verse one begins, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” It was this reality of God as an ever-present help that came alive to me a year ago as I entered a time of parenting “trouble” that caused me to fear. I’m still in it, learning how to make the Lord my refuge.

There are two things that came to mind as I listened to the message on Sunday. First, if the Lord is our refuge, that means that we are refugees. The picture comes to mind of desperate people fleeing their homeland, crossing the border to find refuge, to find freedom. Refugees are needy and incapable of finding their own way out of their “trouble.” Finding God as our refuge only happens when we admit or “confess” our need and flee to him for help. Todd pointed out that the Hebrew word God uses when he says, “be still,” means to “sink” as if resting in a chair, going limp, giving up the struggle and putting our complete weight and dependence onto the Father. Another English translation for “be still” is “cease striving.” We don’t have to run far to find our refuge. He is ever-present. Our refuge is not a place, but a person. The refrain of Psalm 46 repeats, “The Lord Almighty is with us[!]” I try to begin each day before I get out of bed admitting to him any fears I am facing, and that I don’t have what it takes to face them on my own. I begin my day asking him for help. Coming to my Father reminds me that I am dependent upon his perfect love and strength. Then I try to walk through my day mindful that he is “ever-present,” a refuge and strength available at every moment in whatever circumstances I face. 

Second, Psalm 46 says that God is “our” refuge and strength. Todd reminded us that this psalm is communal, written in 1st person plural for a community of people, not just for an individual. Our Enemy would like us to believe that we are alone in our trouble so we will hide in shame. But the reality is that we are not alone. God has placed us in a community of his people. I am blessed to have a small group of colleagues, friends and family who I can be completely transparent with when I am facing troubles. Yesterday, I prayed with two colleagues on separate occasions about my “trouble,” and also prayed with my small group in the evening. This wouldn’t happen if I was hiding in shame. Praying with these friends and knowing that they are praying for me is perhaps the most meaningful way I make the Lord my refuge in times of trouble.

Todd’s closing point on Sunday was to “pray more than you worry.” Slowly but surely, I’m learning how to do that. I’m thankful for our Trinity Church prayer core who proposed the idea for this series of articles. They are “on call,” ready to pray with any of you who have needs. Please take advantage of this following our worship services or by sending your prayer requests to us at 

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Twelve Thirty-One


[One of my goals for 2017 was to write at least one poem. You might say that I procrastinated, but here it is.]

Hard to believe another year—gone
365 days has left me in a daze
Wondering where did each go
It didn’t seem so long
Did I slow down enough to examine my ways

Did I stop to enjoy the gifts freely given
So much good abounding in measure
Oh, to pause and give thanks to the Giver in heaven
Reflecting is like uncovering lost treasure

Precious time alone with the love of my life
Laughter and friendship, blissful contentment
At home or far away adventuring with my wife
Celebrating love—reveling in the joy of commitment

Four lively kids growing healthy and strong
Cause my heart to overflow with gladness
Each marching to their own beat, singing their own song
Sometimes harmonious and sometimes dissonant
as they discover their identity, and the ways of their Maker
Yes, these treasures keep me on my knees
In humble dependence and with prayerful pleas
for Christ’s wisdom and love to flow through me to them

Then there is work, satisfying and rewarding
Loving and leading people to love and worship Almighty God
Is an impossible task—at times overwhelming
Yet with God all things are possible, so I let him love and lead through me
and enjoy the beauty of his work

My heart is warmed and encouraged by dear friendships
Some from childhood, some wiser than I, others peers
All have graciously molded my character throughout the years
I praise God that I am not alone
I am loved
I am known

For this I am most grateful
I belong to the family of God for all time
Adopted by my Father on no merit of my own
But by simple faith in Christ confessing that I am his and he is mine

In that identity lies my hope and thus my greatest joy
Springing me into each day that awaits in the year to come and then all eternity

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Rooted & Reaching

TrinLogo 1024x1024 NO TAGBeginning our Rooted & Reaching sermon series reminds me of how God awakened me and helped me to engage more wholeheartedly in this mission over a decade ago. Still far from where I would like to be in living an effective and fruitful witness for Christ, I am eager to grow more rooted in him and see God use me to reach my relational world. I’m excited to do this together. Great things are certain to happen as we further align with his heart and his purposes.

All of us are on a journey of following Jesus, and the first thing we must realize is that it is a journey guided and fueled by grace. Our seed initially takes root in Christ by grace through faith. As we walk in him we become rooted and built up and established in him. (Eph. 2:8,9; Col. 2:6,7) God transforms our lives and shapes our desires and empowers our witness as we grow to know and love and follow him. Without grace, the concept of reaching our world can be a fearful and seemingly impossible demand at best and at worst, a guilt-inducing, nagging reminder that we don’t measure up. That’s where I found myself about twelve years ago.

Like many of you, I grew up in the church surrounded by godly influence and influencers from birth, my parents foremost. I believed and confessed Jesus as Lord when five-years old. I surrendered my whole life to him when baptized at age sixteen. It was a “no turning back” moment for me. I was “all in” and by God’s grace have remained so. While my heart desire from that day forward was to know Christ and live wholeheartedly for him, sharing my faith with non-believers remained obscure and difficult with a nagging sense that I ought to be better at it. I saw those who did it well, my best friend Dave being one of them, yet, I shied away, especially one-on-one with people. Most healthy churches make a big deal of our mission to reach the lost, including Trinity Church, and rightly so. It is our great commission by Jesus himself who said, “Go and make disciples.” Nevertheless, it took another friendship to be the catalyst that began to change my attitude and ability to actually do it.

In 2002, I became Trinity’s Worship Pastor and shortly thereafter developed a friendship with John and Tonya. New believers, musicians who joined Trinity’s worship team, they worshiped the Lord with a deep conviction and sincere emotion often expressed in tearful gratitude for the salvation they had received through Jesus Christ. Their hearts were broken for those who were lost without Christ and their lives dedicated to declaring his message. I wanted what they had. I began to wonder why I didn’t feel that way about God’s rescue of my soul and why I didn’t share the same burden for the lost. I knew that I should and thus began a season of soul-searching prayer. I asked God to open my eyes and heart to a deeper understanding of my redemption through Christ and give me the ability to wholeheartedly express that in worship. I asked him to break my heart for those who did not know and follow Christ. He answered both prayers and continues to do so today. Our Rooted & Reaching mission is yet another piece of the answer to that ongoing prayer.

The irony of my story is that it was in the process of becoming more rooted in Christ, specifically becoming more and more defined by the gospel, that I became more compassionate and confident and burdened to reach those who did not know or follow Christ. Encountering Jesus through the gospel initiated an emotional response that was fanned into flame by understanding the truth of my utter lost-ness without him, and his sacrificial love to rescue me. I began to see myself as an adopted child of God. Passion and love for Jesus produced compassion for others. This compassion was fueled by a growing understanding of the gospel of Jesus, and by his transforming work in my life.

What is this gospel? Simply put, it is the good news of Jesus Christ. We read about it in the Bible, the grand story of God’s plan to rescue the world gone wrong. We proclaim it every week in our songs of praise. Jesus gets the spotlight – who he is, what he accomplished through his birth, life, death and resurrection. We hear it in our sermons. Almost every sermon culminates with the ABC’s – when we admit that we fall short of the glory of God, sinners in need of a savior, and we believe that Jesus is the only savior, confessing that he is Lord, and we chose to follow him, we are saved. We hear it in the testimonies of our brothers and sisters in our small groups, seeing firsthand the powerful transforming work he is doing in those who believe. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes[.]” (Romans 1:16 ESV).

We are at the cusp of a new season for our church family. Trinity Church has a rich history of helping people to be rooted in Christ and calling them to reach the world. This has been a part of our purpose: to love God, love people, share the gospel and serve the world. Now we are making Rooted & Reaching our primary focus and rallying point, our mission. While I believe that God will do a work by his grace through us and we will see many people in our relational worlds come to faith in Christ, I believe that we will also be changed. My friend and fellow worshiper, Randall, said it well. “When the sanctuary is filled with people who are viscerally aware of the preciousness of their salvation, the walls will bulge to contain the exuberance of our praise.” Let it be so, Lord Jesus. For your glory alone!

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A Map and Photos

“Please show me your glory,” pleaded Moses. God gave my wife and I a glimpse of Denali (Mt McKinley) on our recent trip to Alaska. God told Moses, “you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:23). Similarly, we did not see the whole mountain and not for long. But what we did see was glorious. As we were hiking back from the McKinley Bar (sand bar that is), I turned around and there behind us was the snow covered peak, barely distinguishable from the white clouds. It towered high in the sky, much higher than we imagined it would be. The view of Denali from the Wonder Lake area is the closest one can get by road, about 25 miles. And then the peak rises 18,000 feet above the valley floor, so it is quite magnificent and quite high. We had a few other treasured peaks at the peak that evening and then a few days later as we drove south. The words to the song, High Above It All by For All Seasons, came to mind.



Waters roar and mountains fall
You remain high above it all
You are high above it all
Seasons change and nations rage
You remain high above it all
You are high above it all
Almighty God


We just flew over Mt. Rainier in Washington state. It was a clear day and the 14,410 foot mountain is visible for hundreds of miles, commanding attention, awe and respect. Yet on a cloudy day you wouldn’t even know it was there. Like many in the Pacific Northwest, most of our lives are lived in cloudy days and rain. On such days if we look only to our circumstances (like the weather) for understanding and an interpretation of reality, we might conclude that God is not there. Yet, we have the Word of God and experience with God, both ours and other believers’, to point as a map and photographs reminding us that he is there, high above it all. Like a map, God’s Word tells us what he is like, his character and what kind of things he does. As we trust him, placing active faith in him, we begin to collect our own photographs or stories. These experiences of God’s personal love and faithfulness give us hope and strength as well as encouragement for others when the mountain cannot be seen for the clouds

We’ve just begun singing a new song, Do It Again by Elevation Worship, that illustrates the power of God’s Word combined with our experience as we trust him.

Your promise still stands
Great is your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m here in your hands, this is my confidence
You’ve never failed me yet

Our time in Denali National Park was limited to just three nights and we didn’t have a full view of the mountain. I’d been there 22 years previously and saw it all on a perfectly clear day. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was there. Its beauty was engraved upon my heart. The good news for the follower of Jesus is that we’re in it for the long haul. We’re not just tourists passing through for a few days every 20 years or so. We’re residents at the foot of the mountain. Our home is with God, every day and every moment forever. We can weather any storm until the clouds clear and we find that he was there all along. He is high above it all. The key to making it through the storm is grabbing the map, God’s Word, and those photographs, our experiences of his faithfulness or maybe asking other Christ-followers to share their own photographs that will encourage us. Then as we wait on the Lord, “we will gain new strength. We will rise up on wings like the eagles. We will walk and not be weary. We will run and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31). Eventually we will have another photo and another song to sing.

I’ve seen you move, you move the mountains
And I believe I’ll see you do it again
You made a way when there was no way
And I believe I’ll see you do it again


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DSC_8665Sitting here in Wonder Lake Campground, spot #20, waiting for the wind to shoo the clouds that hover over Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America, at over 20,000 feet in elevation, we tried to be patient. There is no agenda, no itinerary, no bus to catch, no appointment, no lists, no pressure. Just a strong desire to see the glory of God in one of the tallest mountains he has made. Yet, it hides among the clouds. Statistics tell us it’s like this 75% of the time. I keep looking up and try to imagine what it will look like. I am praying for God to miraculously blow the clouds away, and I believe he can.

It’s a frivolous request in the grand scheme of things that weigh in with importance. I have friends waiting and praying for much weightier things. A severed relationship that has left a family homeless. A job to provide enough money for the basics like housing and food. A life-long illness with chronic pain and fatigue. A life-altering injury that has stopped the ability to work, causing financial stress. A losing battle with cancer, waiting for the inevitable barring a miraculous healing. And I’m sitting here asking God for a view of a mountain. Seems trivial.

The crazy thing is that God’s resources and his power are inexhaustible. He doesn’t just save them up for the issues that matter most. We all matter to him and he knows and cares about the smallest details of our lives. Psalm 139 is the basis for that assurance.

Perhaps trusting him with the little things is what gives us faith and courage for the big things. I wonder why God doesn’t quickly move in power to heal cancer, provide a job, or to heal and restore a relationship more often. I’m sure my friends wonder the same. John Eldridge, in his book, Walking With God, sheds light on this. He says that God’s main purpose is our spiritual healing and restoration and that is what he is always working on. Often this is best accomplished through adversity and so we are told to “consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know what the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4).

Julie, sitting beside me, just read Habakkuk 3:17-19 outloud. I realize it is for our strength and joy that God allows adversity. Habakkuk’s response to failed crops is rejoicing because, “the Sovereign Lord is my strength … he enables me to go on…”

So, in my waiting for a very trivial thing I remember my friends and I pray for their strength and rejoicing in God. Infuse them with hope, God, that only comes from walking with you, secure in your steadfast love and faithfulness. Enable them to go on. In your mercy, answer their prayers today so that you may be glorified and so many would see and hear and put their trust in you. Amen.

Later that afternoon I glanced up at Denali, the clouds had parted and we could see the brilliant snow covered peak. He did it! He answered our prayer and let us see his great glorious creation. It was magnificent. We thanked him and praised him for allowing us to see it, even if for just a few minutes.


[This is the first of a few blogs adapted from my journal during a 3-week sabbatical given to me by Trinity Church in June/July 2017.]

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Unleashing Compassion

THRIVE photo of Anna

My heart has been touched by compassion once again. Tonight we tipped a pizza delivery girl $6,684 for delivering an extra large pepperoni pizza. When I say we, I mean about 1,600 of God’s people gathered at Southwest Church in Palm Desert for the Thrive Conference. We heard a little of her story since her boss was in attendance at the conference. An emigrant from El Salvador, Anna faithfully provides for her four children, one of whom has recently faced some medical difficulties and was facing yet another surgery. The phone call was made, the offering buckets were passed around, and we all anticipated this wonderful moment. Her boss made sure she was the one assigned the delivery.

At the end of the meeting, Anna was ushered into the auditorium with the pizza. An interpreter helped explain why we collected a tip for her, mainly, that she had value in God’s eyes and we wanted to express that love to her. They brought out a big metal bucket with a gallon sized zip lock bag stuffed full of the cash. She wept. We all wept. I was ruined, so touched by this unmerited act of love and kindness that I couldn’t stop weeping. I just sat there stunned, unable to speak or move for 15 minutes after the meeting was over.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been broken up over an act of kindness. I shared about this in one of my earliest blogs, On Unconditional Love. Seeing the beauty of grace is more than I can bear – it tears me apart every time. About every story of adoption does me in. Robertson McQuilkin’s Resignation Speech, leaving his post to better serve his wife who was suffering from Alzheimers. The betrayed lover forgiving her spouse and the gradual healing of their marriage. Joseph’s story (Genesis 37-50), the account of his kindness and forgiveness towards his brothers who sold him into slavery. Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Stephen King’s Shawshank Redemption.

Mexico Loft House DedicationOne week ago, in Mexico, I fought back tears as I handed over the keys of a brand new house to Alexandro and his family on behalf of a team from Trinity who spent two days building it for them. This was one of three loft houses Trinity people financed, assembled in our parking lot and sent 98 people to build on site for three families in the outskirts of Ensenada, BC, Mexico.

Compassion like this is what Jesus said is not only part of his greatest commandment, but it is the mark to the world that we are his disciples. It brings glory to the Father and it brings joy to both those who are showing it and receiving it. Everyone wins.

Watching the Olympics, I often cry as an athlete or team takes the gold for their country. It’s the dream realized – all that work, all that investment and the glorious payoff. It’s the glory of the win. The media always points the camera to the mom and dad. Perhaps that’s why I cry in those huge moments where compassion is on display. It’s the win for God the Father – the beautiful display of Christ’s love through his disciples. As a worship leader, I believe this is corporate worship at its best.

Compassion is the heart of God. Not only that, if you’re looking for a definition of love, the Bible gives one. God is love. (1 John 4:8). Love is not just the heart of God; it is the very essence of God. Every act of love expressed through generosity, commitment, sacrifice, service, and forgiveness points to the one act of Jesus Christ on the cross. “This is how we know what love is. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

So, people of God, let’s rise up and unleash compassion in our church, and reach the world with the love that God has shown to us and yearns to show to them.


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Learning How to do Something Well

img_5834One of the great joys over the last month has been devoting a fair amount of my free time to building a playhouse for my daughter, Maria. Inspired to make use of some old windows found in the attic of our home, this project has been on my mind for about three years. Last December I realized that Maria, now ten years old, will be too old for a playhouse if I procrastinate any longer, so I jumped when I found the opportunity. What I needed was help, courage to begin, and I found both in a renewed friendship with a master builder, Jerry Huddleston.

Jerry and I reconnected on the building team for our daughters’ Christmas musical at Trinity Church. Through a good turn of circumstances for me, Jerry had a work project that stalled and was free to help when I asked him. So I took a day off from work and spent from sunrise to sunset with him getting the project underway. I wanted to learn how to frame a floor, walls, rafters, windows and doors and do it all to code, in essence building a mini-house. I could never match the experience I have had working with Jerry. Learning how to do things right and in a timely manner is one thing. Enjoying the time building a friendship, even better.

img_5177In our do-it-yourself society, I could have watched YouTube videos and probably figured it out on my own, but I’ll guarantee two things. It would never have turned out so well and the time it would have taken me to figure things out by trial and error may have discouraged me to the point of not completing the project. Worse yet I could have made a fatal mistake along the way that would cause the whole thing to collapse before I ever finished. (Like not putting diagonal braces on the walls until I put the siding on.)

When it comes to learning how to do something well, I find myself wondering why I don’t ask for help more often. Could pride be the prevailing issue, a fear of revealing an inadequacy or area of weakness? Building a playhouse is one thing, but building a marriage, a family, a career and most importantly a relationship with the Lord is on a whole different level. Yet, if you’re at all like me, I tend take those most important tasks and roles in my life and settle for a do-it-yourself mentality. Not only do I suffer, but cause those I lead to suffer as a result of my mistakes along the way.

I’m learning that a major component of leadership is putting myself in an apprentice role and finding a master to teach me the ropes. If this is to happen, I must humble myself and ask for help. We all need heroes, mentors and coaches and perhaps the key to a life of impact is in realizing this and going after it as if it matters most, and for the things that matter most.

I can’t wait for Saturday when Jerry will teach me how to install the drip edge and roof shingles on my little house. I think I’m going to ask him for some parenting tips as well.


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Come Quickly, Lord … 

img_5745The return of the Lord Jesus is the blessed hope of the believer. Yet, the timing of the Lord’s return has been a difficult faith-stretching aspect of the Scriptures for me. The writers of the Bible were certain that it would be soon, yet here we are 2000 years later. Seeing the evil on the face of the earth, even terrorist attacks in our own community, I wonder why he hasn’t returned sooner, to judge sin and set up his peaceful reign on earth. The Apostle Peter reminds me that it is God’s patience and yearning for all to reach repentance that causes him to wait.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8–9 ESV).

When God eradicates evil, not only will the terrorist go down, but people who are trying to be good, but have missed that eternal life is in knowing and following Jesus Christ. The crazy thing is that God loves both equally. His compassion is what causes him to wait. God desires all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:4) So what will bring about this turning to the Lord that he desires? And shouldn’t his desire be ours also?

The proclamation of the gospel through the witness of the church is what will cause people to “reach repentance.” That seems to be the intent of the last instructions Peter gives in his letter. He asks an important question, “… what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, …” (2 Peter 3:11–12 ESV)?

What sort of people ought we to be while we wait? Full of peace rather than fear. Full of grace rather than judgement. Full of righteousness and holiness (light) rather than sinfulness (darkness). Diligently working rather than lazy. Full of wisdom rather than foolishness. Making the most of our time rather than wasting time. Full of the Holy Spirit who enables all of the above. Living lives of holiness and godliness will hasten the coming of the day of the Lord. “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for [the new heavens and new earth], be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation,” (2 Peter 3:14–15 ESV).

What will make the church rise up, hastening the coming of our Lord? A comfortable church is not a reaching church. A church where Christ’s love is not being lived out is a poor witness. A church where the truth of God’s Word is not leading the way is powerless to bring about salvation. God uses his disciples to reach the world with his good news of Jesus Christ but too easily we lose that focus and would rather be served by the church than be the church serving the world. Perhaps God’s patience is toward us who believe as much as it is toward those who have yet to believe through our witness.

Let’s be the people that God has redeemed us to be, walking as children of light, growing in patience and compassion like our Lord who does not wish that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. After all, he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. While we wait with that message on our lips, let’s count the patience of the Lord as salvation, one soul at a time.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18 ESV)


[I wrote down some of these thoughts after the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino a year ago today, December 2, 2015. I’m praying this week for all who were directly impacted by this evil act of violence in our community and especially for those who lost loved ones.]

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Last June, I had the privilege of spending four days with my wife, Julie, backpacking in Golden Trout Wilderness of the Sierras. To get there one must drive north on Highway 395. Approaching the eastern edge of Sierra Nevada range gives a breathtakingly beautiful, majestic, even awesome view. Behold rugged beauty, the awesome power of God’s hand through the forces of nature, earthquakes, volcanos and glaciers, giving rise to the rugged peaks and carving out the Owens valley. We who worship the Creator should rightly be in awe and praise him. However, at 70 mph, or whatever speed you might drive this highway, all too soon you’ve passed it.

Pulling over at a rest stop or view point enables one to take it in a little more. But, the real wonder belongs to the few who get off of Highway 395 and drive as far as they can on a back road, get out of their car, strap on some boots and start walking up into the wilderness. This takes a lot of work and sweat, but it is worth it, revealing something altogether different: a tender, quiet, gentle, luscious beauty captured in streams, wildflowers, lakes, waterfalls, and forests teaming with birds and animals. The rugged majestic beauty colliding with the tender quiet beauty give one a better picture and experience of the Sierras, a reward to those who take the time and do the work of getting to know the Sierras.

Too often I think our relationship with God is like driving down Highway 395 at 70 mph and we get content there, failing to go into the back country where one truly begins to know and experience the fullness of God. Even in our worship services, we speed along, happy with the familiar views of God and not seeking a deeper understanding, a growing intimate knowledge. The familiar is a necessary starting point, but it is just that, a starting point. It is only in the back country where we gaze upon he beauty of the Lord, and in awe of him, that our senses come alive, at the same time satisfied yet always craving more. It is here that heart-engaged worship is fueled for the duration of our lives on this earth. Our wonder is awakened and we want to make that next ridge and look over the top, to discover, to rest, to know. There is no end to the wonders of God.

Over the past few months I read a book by Paul Tripp entitled, Awe, Why it Matters For Everything We Think, Say, & Do. This book inspired me to spend time thinking and studying about awe. Its basic premise is that we have been created for awe and only when we are in awe of God does every other part of our lives align rightly. Listen with your heart to what the author has to say:

“…only when awe of God rules my heart will I set everything else in my life in its rightful place. Joyful, perseverant obedience only ever grows in the soil of worship. You see, because worship is not just something I occasionally do but the foundation of who I am and because I worship my way through every moment of every day, if my heart is not given over to the worship of God, it will give itself to the worship of something else. Whatever has captured the awe of my heart will also set the agenda for the things that I desire, think, choose, say, and do.” (Tripp, p.89)

That last sentence sums it all up. My life is devoted to and ruled by whatever has captured the awe of my heart. This insight has given me a renewed personal goal and a goal for every worship service that I plan and lead. The question that must be answered is this: how do I keep my heart captured by the awe of God above all else? Then from that place, how can I help the hearts of those I lead be captured by the awe of God?

The scriptures hold the answer, recorded in a song written by King David.

4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,

that will I seek after:

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord

all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord

and to inquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)

The answer: daily gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. Reading the context of the rest of Psalm 27 reveals David, the king of Israel, the most powerful and prominent man in the nation, being vulnerable, revealing his struggles, challenges, rejection, loneliness and fears related to his work and home life. Yet he begins and ends declaring his courage and confidence in the face of it all. Where does such strength and courage come from? David knew that it was in seeking the face of the Lord. His “one thing,” was to behold the beauty of the Lord and to learn from him. And he knew that this wasn’t just a Sabbath thing, but it was the every day pursuit of his life.

Getting Practical

While I’m far from perfect, and just a learner, here are some ways I daily gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and inquire of him.

God’s Word. For me it begins with opening his Word to see him, listen to and learn of him. I aim to spend time in God’s Word usually in the mornings anywhere from 5 minutes to a half hour. Being in God’s Word is also a weekly habit with my Small Group and with the congregation in the weekend worship service.

God’s People. Second, I see God when I fellowship with other believers who inspire awe of him. I live for lunch or coffee times with friends, young and old, who are also in pursuit of knowing God.

God’s Presence. When I was 25 years old, I prayed that God would make me more aware of his presence throughout the day, and he has. Since he is always with me, I should naturally converse with him in my thoughts, talking with him in prayer throughout my day. These are often sentence prayers of thanks, asking for help, or asking God to help others. A few times a week, I try to make a point to stop and listen, to cease striving and know that he is God. I do this by having a longer conversation with God during a walk alone over lunch or a break at work, driving to my next appointment in silence or laying in my hammock for fifteen to thirty minutes in between chores on the weekend.

God’s Work. One final activity that has greatly increased my awe of God is joining him in his work, work that is beyond my ability. This is work that sometimes takes me to the point of praying Jehosaphat’s prayer, “We do not know what to do but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12b). Caring for the poor, the widow and orphan is a good example. Serving other’s needs, especially in my family and my work is another. Trusting God through trials always increases my awe of him.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but simply some ways I feed the awe of God in my life. I know I am far from doing these things perfectly, but the more time I spend doing them, the more awesome God becomes to me.

Concluding with Our Goal

One final result of going into the back country with God, is that once one has been there, they want to take others to see what they have seen. This is what it means to be a worship leader. To say that the other way around, I cannot expect to lead people to know and be in awe of a God whom I do not know and who is not awesome to me. Listen to David in another well known song recorded in Psalm 40.

“He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

and put their trust in the Lord.” (Psalms 40:3 ESV).

I find it fascinating that the result of David’s new song is not that people would hear it, but that people would see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. A good definition for the Hebrew word for fear is, “awe inspired reverence.” David’s desire was for his song to lead people to see his awesome Lord. And that, my friends, is the goal I have chosen for us as a worship team in this new season of ministry at Trinity Church. This quote from Paul Tripp’s book states it well.

“You could argue that every element of the gathered worship of God’s people is intended to give people their awe back again. We need a moment to refocus on the grandeur of God’s glory and grace. We need to see his awesome wisdom and power again. We need to dwell on his patience and faithfulness again. We need to be stunned by the perfection of his holiness and the righteousness of his judgment again. We need to be encouraged by the awesome truth of his constant presence again. We need to be reminded to rest in his amazing sovereignty again. And we need to be blown away by the reality that, by grace, he is all these things for us. He has unleashed his awesome glory on us! You see, awe doesn’t just remind you of who God is; it redefines for you who you are as his creature and his blood-bought child.” (Tripp, p.90)

Whether you are an artist or a technician, on stage or behind the scenes, collectively we work together to lead worship at Trinity. We have this privilege of leading kids, peers, youth, adults, guests, believers and non-believing seekers to see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Let us make a point to frequently get off the highway and into the wilderness, serving from a place of increasing awe and wonder at the grandeur and beauty of our great and glorious God. Let us lead people to know and be in awe of a God whom we know and who is awesome to us. Let’s show them Jesus. Might we be these type of worship leaders to the glory of God in the church and in Christ Jesus. Amen.


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Faith Fuels Faith

July 2016 Connections Web Pics BbornFaith fuels faith. This is the takeaway from the last two weeks, spending many hours behind the wheel zipping along at 75 mph, driving nearly 4500 miles from California to Iowa to Missouri and back home, visiting friends and family along the way.

Driving across country with four kids, ages 5 to 14, could be a recipe for disaster, but oh the glory of audio stories! We spent countless hours listening together. I shed many a tear as I was introduced to a hero of the faith, Lillian Trasher, who founded the first orphanage in Egypt in the early 1900’s. By faith, she heard God’s call on her life when she was a teenager, redirecting her to minister to orphans and widows. She lived by faith every day and at her times of greatest need, God was faithful to meet those needs. Her greatest demonstration of that faith was love offered through service, boldly living for God.

Julie’s uncle Leroy and wife Judy hosted us in their home during our 5 days in Iowa. Leroy has courageously been battling lymphoma cancer and the many side effects of treatment over the past nine years. Sitting at the breakfast table alone together one morning, I listened intently as he delighted in his kids, grandkids, and in his wife Judy, looking forward to more time together as she moves to part-time at her work. He reassured me that he was ready “to go home” when the time came. Faith like that is truly inspiring and humbling.

In a playground in Chesterfield, Missouri, I sat on a bench and wept after reading an email bringing bad news of the spread of cancer in our brother, Mike Lawrence’s body. Mike has demonstrated incredible faith, serving the Lord as the chair of our elder board through the past year and a half as our church family has learned to love and trust one another, strengthening our trust and hope in the Lord. While this news broke my heart for Mike and Paula and their family as they weather this storm, I was overcome with thanksgiving. My faith continues to be strengthened by their example of trusting the Lord and living their lives for his glory regardless of their circumstances. I continue to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation and devoted to prayer for this dear man and his family.

When I could sneak a few moments alone, I read the book, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. What an inspiration and encouragement I received from this biography written in 1932 by his two youngest children. His secret was one that I have long known to be true, but how beautifully he lived it. God uses the least to do his work. Our job is to cease striving, rest in God’s grace and love, let him do his work through us as we come to know and delight in him. Mr. Taylor’s favorite worship song declares, Jesus I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art. I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart. Oh that I will nurture a growing faith like that, facing each day, doing the work God has called me to do through simply abiding in Jesus.

As I have shared this takeaway from my vacation, many people have told me their own stories about how God has directed their lives and met their needs as they have stepped out in faith. Our pastoral candidate, Todd Arnett and his family, willing to leave a thriving ministry and dear family at High Desert Church to come and join us and lead us as our next senior pastor, are demonstrating faith. Their faith, encourages my faith. All of us at Trinity are beginning to see how God has been graciously leading us to this wonderful convergence of our two families.

I spent many hours filling up at gas stations across the country on my road trip. Likewise, these stories and conversations filled my faith tank to overflowing. In the words of the Apostle Paul, God imparts a spiritual gift to make us strong, whenever we connect on a heart level with faithful members in the body of Christ. (Romans 1:11) Thanks, Father for this gift. May our faith be pleasing to you, and your Son, Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.


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