Numbers 7

Numbers 7, to the best of my knowledge, is the most repetitive chapter in the whole Bible. And I’ve recently come to be very excited about it.

It begins “on the day when Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle.” On an historic day for the people of Israel, when God’s great mobile home is finally complete, the children of Israel begin a twelve day ceremony where a leader from each tribe brings dedication offering. All twelve tribes bring this prescribed offering.

“One silver plate whose weight was 130 shekels, one silver basin of 70 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; one golden dish of 10 shekels, full of incense; one bull from the herd, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs”

This exact same phrase is repeated twelve times in one chapter. When I read this the other day, I was confused. I got into the shower after reading and began asking God a simple question: “why did I just read the same thing twelve times?” I wondered why, if all the tribes brought the same gift, would the writer choose to write each offering out individually? Why not just write that each man brought the same thing? The chapter could be much more concise.

I believe that every word in the Bible is useful and purposeful. I don’t believe there’s even a single word that isn’t important to God. So as I pondered why God would exercise such great detail, this question popped into my mind:

Every silver plate weighed exactly 130 shekels, but does that mean that they were all the exact same plate?

I knew from earlier books that different tribes had their own master craftsmen, and so I began to imagine each of these separate dishes all next to each other. Although they each weighed exactly the same, they probably all looked vastly different. They were made by different men and carried a unique sense of the significance of the celebration. In the same way as the crafted items, each of the animals sacrificed were completely unique. Each of those animals had their own name and came from a specific set of parents. They had each lived their own animal stories up to this culminating point of their lives.

As my mind began to explore the great individuality expressed in these offerings, I felt like God was pointing this out as a reason for repeating the same list of items twelve times. All the offerings fit into a prescribed offering. But in God’s all-seeing eyes, they were all incredibly unique. He knew the story and name of every animal. He saw every moment that went into the creation of the dishes. They were special to Him.

At this point, what I had read became more than just a story to me. I felt Jesus begin to give me application. I have a pretty repetitive, predictable schedule. Sometimes I get bored with it. Sometimes I struggle with feeling stuck in the daily grind even though I believe that God wants me to be here. I feel sometimes like my life isn’t even that special because I’m around lots of people who do many of the same things I do. But I know my heart’s desire is to live as a pleasing offering to the Lord.

In this chapter, I see that that desire is possible. I know my structured life is an offering to the Lord. I know that even when I feel like I do the same thing as my friend next to me, God cares about the details of my life. I may be on the YWAM base serving from 8–5 every day as my prescribed offering, but even the little things count to Him. My offering this week may look very similar to the one from last week, but God sees the attitude of my heart and stories that go behind every little action.

I know that God delights in my “big” offerings, but this whole process was Him taking me a level deeper into what it looks like to “not (just) love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

So now, my question changed from “why did I just read (or do) the same thing twelve times?” to “how do I glorify and please Jesus with the details?”

For all of us, even if we feel like we are just living a repetitive life, there is great space to glorify Jesus and give love to Him in the details. I may give an offering of 9 hours, but did I focus my eyes on Him during that time? It would make Him smile if I did; even if everything looks the same on the outside. My offering may have been to sit in a lecture or teach music theory, but did I do it with sincere love for His children? That would have been a pleasing fragrance to Him.

I want to please Jesus with everything and I am excited for the journey of learning how to love with the details.

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School Update

I am presently very well. I have good friends and a great God. I have been forgiven much, and so I love much.

I’m enjoying this new school quite a bit. We have 27 amazing students from all over the world who have come to worship and grow as leaders. I have two particular students who I am walking closely with and they are two of the most hungry men of God I’ve ever known. I have never been more assured that a single three month school would bring more breakthrough in personal lives than I am with these two.

Already in the school I have witnessed landmark moments in peoples lives. We spent one week learning about intimacy in worship and another on freedom and healing. Men and women of God have been released to seek after relationship with God before any other thing. They have been called to live a life of fulness in beautiful freedom from wounds and hurts of the past. We have been awakened to the high calling of the royal priesthood in the Kingdom of God. We are pursuing Him as a class with everything we have and He is responding by opening us to understand great things about Him at an accelerated pace.

With 3 weeks already in the past, this school will surely go by fast. But I am convinced that there are many glorious things to come from our Father in the next 8 weeks.

Please pray:

  • That our whole school would continue to seek God first and not let any thing take our attention
  • That the lessons learned and freedom gained in the last few weeks would be permanent
  • That as staff, we would grow in servant leadership. We must serve and lay down our lives to see others built up. This is the way of the Kingdom.
  • That as a man, I would be built up in selfless love. First for the Lord, second for my fiancée, and third for our students

If you are interested in supporting me in missions and ministry, please visit this page. It is always a huge blessing to have more people to join my financial support team. 

Beach day with the Elevate School of Worship 2013

Beach day with the Elevate School of Worship 2013

Staff Training, Round Two!

About three weeks ago, I returned to Kona after an amazing summer. Life has been pretty relaxed since returning. The last three weeks have been the conclusion to my Summer of Adventure. It was a great time to relax, reflect on the summer, explore the island, and prepare my heart for the coming season.

Today, we officially started preparation for the Elevate School of Worship 2013. It’s my second time staffing and I’m looking forward to it very much. The school officially starts on 26th and it’s going to be a very busy 3 weeks preparing for that day. For the next two weeks we have staff training, where our staff group will be preparing ourselves and taking care of logistics. We have an incredible staff crew of 5 couples, 3 single guys, and 3 single girls.

I am in charge of academics for the school, so it’s my responsibility to define homework, book reports, and grading standards. I’m so excited for this opportunity. We are going to read the whole book of Psalms and some incredible books on worship next quarter. Staff and students alike, I believe we will all grow in our knowledge and understanding of scripture; as well as love for the Lord and depth of understanding about worship through these assignments.

If you would, please pray for us in the next few weeks

  • That we would be focused and willing to work hard
  • That we would be perfectly unified, having the mind of Christ
  • That we would be fully prepared for the arrival of students

Last, here are some pictures from my adventures around the island recently!

If you are interested in supporting me in missions and ministry, please visit this page. It is always a huge blessing to have more people to join my financial support team. 

That's me!

That’s me!


The amazing and beautiful Kelly

The amazing and beautiful Kelly

The sunsets here are beautiful

The sunsets here are breathtaking

Paying attention to the little things

Paying attention to the little things

Vacation

In Jr. High, I went on a ski trip to Utah with the family of my friend Justin Greer. Justin and I were homeschooled, and Justin’s mom was the champion of homeschool moms. Even on vacation, she still had homework for her kids. Justin and I had the marvelous privilege (feel my sarcasm) of watching a multiple hour documentary on the Donner party (an Oregon trail group that mostly all died in Utah) and Justin had papers to write on it too. Even on vacation, Mrs. Greer had lessons for us to learn. I was thankful at the time that I didn’t have to write any papers, because I didn’t want to learn. But I think Mrs. Greer may have taught me more about God on that trip than about the history of Utah.

At the time of this experience, I couldn’t believe that she would try to force school-ish things upon us during our ski trip. But now, reflecting on my own recent escapades, I couldn’t be more thankful that God Himself never ever stops teaching lessons and growing us.

This summer, I was blessed to take a vacation. After 11 months of nearly non-stop ministry, I stepped away from the whole world I’ve known and travelled to a new continent: Europe. I wasn’t on outreach, I wasn’t leading worship, and I wasn’t working to save up money. I was taking a rest. This was extremely significant to me. Before this trip, the only reason I’d ever left the United States was for outreach. Before this trip, I had been leading worship or on worship teams regularly for about 7 years. This was a new experience full of new lessons and discoveries.

Chief among the experiences I had this summer was that of self-discovery. I was away from any structure or people that should try to tell me who I am. The concept of leaving a system of familiarity always causes one to wonder if they will be the same outside of that system as they are inside. For fear of going back to old ways, it can even trap people inside those systems for far too long. Honestly, I’ve been in systems for so long that I didn’t know who I would be outside of my “good Christian” system. But I found out that I am real.

I had opportunities to lead worship where people didn’t know me and had no expectations of me, and I enjoyed it. I had opportunities to show the love of Jesus to strangers, and I wanted to. I had a chance to preach the gospel to the lost and hopeless, and I chose to.

Yes, I did some of the same things I might have done in Kona. But I did it without any system or pressure to do those things. I did them because it was real.

And now, I’ve returned to Kona to staff another School of Worship. I’m committed here for this year, so I knew I would have to. But as I was able to step outside of the systems I had known and find my passion for this school again, I am able to return with genuine excitement for the next year. I will not lead worship and have to wonder if it’s real beyond the island I live on. I will tell of the joy of the Gospel and not worry that I’m only doing it because I’m in a missions organization. I will pour myself into relationship with the Creator of the universe and know that this relationship is real far beyond the limits of my systems.

I broke out of my physical boxes this summer, and I found myself to be real. I now re-insert myself into familiar physical surroundings, but full of confidence and excitement for the next year.

It is my desire, in every lesson that I learn from God, that the truth found and lessons learned cause practical change in my life. For this, I need focus, prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Please pray, if you will, that my sincerity will last through long hours and busy schedules. I never want to fall into doing the right things because of the people around me. I want to go after Jesus and the things He has for me with a whole heart because of Him and for Him. Pray that the year ahead is full of fruitfulness and growth and that my eyes and ears would be open to receive all that God has for me.

If you are interested in supporting me in missions and ministry, please visit this page. It is always a huge blessing to have more people to join my financial support team. 

Me at a palace near Copenhagen, Denmark

Me at a palace near Copenhagen, Denmark

Big ben at sunset

Big ben at sunset

Sunset in the forest of Denmark

Sunset in the forest of Denmark

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

 

The Measure of Our Lives

Let the glory of Your name be the passion of the Church
Let the righteousness of God be a holy flame that burns
Let the saving love of Christ be the measure of our lives
We believe You’re all to us

– All to Us by Chris Tomlin

I spent yesterday morning with the line “let the saving love of Christ be the measure of our lives”running through my head. It struck me deeply and I immediately agreed that it is a good idea. But what does it mean?

First, what is the saving love of Christ? It is the love of John 3:16. A love that would give the most precious thing it could for another. The only begotten Son of God. It’s a love that gives the most valuable thing in the universe to save a wicked sinner like me.

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

I see three different options for measuring our lives. Two end poorly, and the last ends beautifully.

First, the human way. Humans, by nature, measure their lives by the comparison to other people. Our pride wells up and we say we’ve done well when we’ve done better than others. But there is always someone better than you. I can never measure up to all the other people in this world. If this is the measure of my life, I am a failure.

Second, the Old Covenant way. Under the Old Covenant, God gave us the Law in Exodus with which to measure our lives. This is the old covenant. But we also cannot live up to that standard. If I use this as the measure of my life, I am a failure.

Romans 5:20a – Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound.

But third, there is the New Covenant way. This is measuring my life by the saving love of Christ. By His love, I recieve His rigtheousness and cast off my sin. I admit my failure to fulfill the law and am made whole and pure because of His saving work on the cross. I am valuable, because I have been valued by the blood of Jesus and His love. I am successful, because the saving love of Christ is unlimited and He has said that I measure up enough to recieve it. I do not have to depend on my ability to do or say the right things to recieve value. I do not have to compare myself to others to recieve value. I am successful and valuable for one reason and one reason only: Jesus says so.

2 Corinthians 5:21 – For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Ephesians 2:4-5 – But God … because of His great love with which He loved us … made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)

What is the measure of your life?

[spotify http://open.spotify.com/track/3vAOKV1lg5je6RnuGGI0Mp]

Travelling, Returning, and Planning

For the last half of March, I co-led a trip with 7 of our students to California to tell people about Jesus. It was amazing. We attended the Wilder missions conference, shared the truth of Jesus on the streets, led worship for historic gatherings, and got changed ourselves in the process.

One thing in particular that stuck out about the trip though was seeing our team members (including me) become more comfortable in evangelism. Many of our students expressed some significant fears about walking up to strangers and telling them about Jesus. But we saw all of our team members overcome their fear and share the gospel with joy!

I am back in Kona now and loving it. I am still teaching music theory (which you can read more about here) and running with the School of Worship track. Next week is my last week of teaching and the end of our “normal” schedule before we launch into all out outreach preparation. We have a team planning to go to Maui for a week in May and I am preparing to co-lead a team of 8 students to Asia next month.

The outreach in Asia is going to be amazing. We will be headed for the first week to serve at an international missions conference called Call2All. We have also been blessed with a very special opportunity to serve other parts of Asia. Feel free to contact me in person if you’d like more details!

It looks like I will need some extra finances to pay for the plane tickets for this upcoming trip. I would be honored if you would pray about joining me in monthly or one time support. If you are, please visit this page for further instructions http://uofnkona.edu/support/missionaries/5898

Prayer points

  • That I would be strong and courageous with every challenge ahead of me
  • That my faith would rise to a new level as I learn to trust God with new situations
  • That I would prioritize relationships over to-do lists
Our amazing outreach team

Our amazing outreach team!

Right before the Wilder conference began

Right before the Wilder conference began

Me leading worship with a banjo back in January

Me leading worship with a banjo back in January

Yesterday, Today, and Forever

Last week during our Monday morning base worship set, we sang a song that was written in the 1800s called Holy, Holy, Holy. While we were singing it, I had a moment where I got a glimpse of the greatness of our God. God is, today, revealing Himself to us. He is revealing Himself as holy. I see it in the songs that are written today like Revelation Song or Agnus Dei (that both contain lots of “holy” lines in the choruses). But what amazed me last week is that God has been this way and revealing Himself this way to us for hundreds of years.

For me, it’s easy to see God revealing Himself in the Old Testament to people and disassociate that with real life today. But for some reason, the distance of two hundred years was enough to amaze me but close enough to feel so real. In that one song, I suddenly started liking old songs even more! God is so good and so real and He’s truly the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Daily Death & Resurrection

Luke 9:23 ESV And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

I love learning the hard way. By life experience and practical application, timeless truths can become life-changing realities.

Recently, I asked God to make me more dependent on Him. I’ve become convinced that one of His favorite attributes in a child is dependence. That constant knowledge that I can’t do it on my own and that I am completely in need of Him. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I don’t know exactly what I expected. I knew I would have to grow, but I wasn’t sure what that would look like. But then I started to feel worse. I watched my own heart as my attitude deteriorated, my patience went down, and my physical tiredness increased. What happened?

I became dependent. I am dependent.

I’ve always been dependent. Not one day since the beginning of time could I or the human race survive without God’s supernatural intervention. But something about that prayer forced it to become real. It came to the front of my consciousness. I was learning the hard way. Not by someone telling me that dependence was good, but by actually needing it to make it through my days.

It’s been a hard week, but it’s been a good week. My own strength deteriorated, I am more consciously aware of His presence and His care. I’m growing in appreciation for every little moment we get together where I am made whole in His perfect love.

I like Luke 9:23. It sounds morbid at first but I find that it’s life giving. Every moment that I deny myself and choose the ways and love of Jesus, I am refreshed and filled. I feel I’ve already crossed a point of no return. I am His. My life is dedicated to following Him where He leads. I’ve put myself in a permanent dependent state and I’m feeling it more and more.

So I grow in my dependence. And I grow to be more like Jesus. Not able to live without the presence and guidance of my Father.

John 5:19 ESV So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

Love the Lord Your God (with Music Theory?)

It’s a new year. It’s a new season. It’s a new determination to write on this blog instead of letting it sit like the Moleskine in my bookshelf.

The School of Worship lecture phase is over. The Worship Track has started. We no longer have speakers coming in every week. The schedule isn’t so packed. The students are more free to choose what they will do with their time. I have more responsibility.

My staff role in our track is to build up our musicians. I’m teaching music theory, piano lessons, and guitar lessons. I have books, I’ve made a curriculum. I have goals. I’m even writing tests for the students to take. It’s almost like a legitimate school class.

But the surface level doesn’t have the most weight in my heart. I keep asking the question “why am I here?” I keep checking in with God and making sure I know what I’m doing. Especially when my duty is so practical and surface level. Musicianship doesn’t necessarily mean heart change. How does music theory relate to loving the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength?

I always let life go back to the greatest commandment. If Jesus said that loving God is the most important thing, then I’ll say it too. So I’ll just share here where I’m at with music theory.

I like painting illustrations because I like paintings. I’ll use painting as an example. Say, for example, that for my friend Trevor’s birthday I decide that it would be great to paint an amazing portrait of him with huge muscles fighting off a horde of mutant polar bears with a lightsaber to protect his family (let’s all just agree that it would be awesome). Unfortunately, if I tried to do that in real life, it would just be a bunch of stick figures because I can’t paint. I’ve never practiced. I don’t have any canvas, paints, or brushes with which to do that. So how in the world would I pull something like that off? No matter how much I would want to do something like that, I just couldn’t do it.

Trevor

This is what it would look like….

Music theory is useful because in our relationship with God, sometimes it’s nice to express ourselves to God with music. We need to tell him how we feel, whether good or bad. We need to cast our cares on him. For me, and for most musical types, most of the time it’s nice to express ourselves with music. This is how I live my whole life. I prefer to play songs for people rather than tell them stories. I prefer to write songs rather than write in my journal. But how would I tell God how I feel with music if I never learned how? How would I make music that expresses joy? How would I make music that expresses sadness?

It’s the same answer as the painting. I couldn’t. Except that I actually can. Because I’ve learned, studied, and practiced. I can express myself to God. I can play sad music. I can play happy music.

As a music theory teacher, I aim to release people to be honest with God. This is even one of my goals as a worship leader. You can’t love God with everything if you can’t be honest with Him.