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I'm the Schoeneblogger. Come on in, and have a look around. While you're here, you should join in the conversation. If you want to find out a little more about me click that tab below that says "about me." If you like what you read or want some of your friends to join the conversation, click the "share on facebook" below the blog. (same goes for twitter or google+)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Be Careful Little Thumbs What You Tweet!



Remember the song you sang as a child?  Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.  That was the first verse.  The others were: Be careful little mouth what you say/feet where you go/ears what you hear/hands what you do... that's all I can remember.  May I submit an updated verse to this song that has shaped the character of many young children? (That may have been an exaggeration)  "Oh, be careful little thumbs what you tweet."

We live in the social media age.  Many of you tweet or blog or at least facebook.  These can all be very positive ways of communicating.  They can also be ways of spreading bad ideas or bankrupt theology.  Be careful little thumbs what you tweet.

First, the trend was emails.  Someone you new would forward an email that included a catchy little story or clever poem that sounded good.  It would be about God (after you scroll past the email addresses of  a thousand people you didn't recognize.)  It would pose a thought or an idea that just wasn't biblical ex. "now that johnny has gone, he is my guardian angel."  Then it would conclude with the assault on your relationship with Jesus - "If you love Jesus, then forward this to everyone you know. If you are ashamed of Jesus click delete." Where was the third option; If this is bad theology, click delete ALL and every copy will be deleted from every email account in the webniverse?

Can I get a witness?

In addition to my blog, I try to keep up with twitter and facebook.  I also monitor my kids facebook accounts to make sure they are safe and that their online witness remains untarnished.  It takes a lot of time to do all these things.  But, I am confident that they have value.  We, as believers have the opportunity to shine the light of Christ with our presence on social media.  We are also accountable to God that we present Him in truth and do not misrepresent his character.

The church in Thessaloniki was wary when prophecy was spoken to them.  So much so, that it seems they were rejecting all prophetic word.  Paul encouraged them to be open to the prophecy, but to test it all in accordance with God's word.

Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 ESV)

We would be wise to apply this to what we read and repost on social media.  Test everything; retweet what is good.  When you come across a spiritual tweet or facebook post and it sounds good, test it.  See if it stands up to a biblical foundation.  Does it agree with the character of God as He has revealed Himself to us in scripture.  Does it present Jesus glorified or cheapen His work of salvation?  Is it loving? Does it offer biblical encouragement toward others within the family of faith or does it merely attempt to make  the reader feel good with a clever but unbiblical clich√©?

Paul gives a list of instructions to the Thessalonians at the end of his first letter.  These would make a good checklist for us as we contemplate our Christian presence on social media.
  1. Admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak - be patient with them all.
  2. Rejoice always
  3. Pray without ceasing
  4. Give thanks in all circumstances
  5. Do not quench the spirit
  6. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good
  7. Abstain from every form of evil
Social media is playing a larger role in shaping disciples.  You and I follow pastors and bible teachers and fellow believers through social media. And by our own tweets and facebook posts we sometimes influence the way others understand or misunderstand the Bible. We are called to Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)

So, the next time you read a post that sounds good, but something seems a little off - test is.  If it declares an unbiblical view of God or applies scripture out of context - Do not pass go, do not collect $200 and absolutely do not retweet it! Be careful little thumbs what you tweet.

Father, we are your servants.  You have told us that we are salt and light to a world living in darkness. Help us as we try to live our lives as a testament to the greatness of Jesus.  May the light of Jesus, who lives in us and through us, shine whenever and wherever we interact with others.  May our presence on social media build up and encourage everyone, especially those in the family of faith. (Gal 6:10) Help us to hold one another accountable for the way we represent Christ through social media interaction. May your name be glorified in every thing we do, every word we say, and every phrase we tweet.               - Amen

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Worship Showdown



While reading the book "David," by Chuck Swindoll, I came across the section where David played on the lyre for Saul.  As I read this section, I knew I would have to return and spend some more time. As a worship pastor, I was intrigued by the contrast between Saul and David's purpose for music.

Background:  Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him. 15 And Saul's servants said to him, “Behold now, a harmful spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord now command your servants who are before you to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the harmful spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.” 1 Samuel 16:14-16

It is not really possible for us to know why God did this.  But we know that this harmful spirit was "from the Lord because it plainly says; a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him. We can realize that, in the Old Testament, God's spirit didn't permanently rest on any one other than David and John the Baptist.  It wasn't until the Day of Pentecost that God would send His spirit to permanently rest on His people.  As Swindoll says, "when the Spirit of God comes into the believing sinner as salvation, He never leaves."  God no longer causes His Spirit "to depart from" those who are "in Christ," nor does He send a "harmful spirit" to torment those of us who are "in Christ."  But He did do this to Saul.

It is widely thought that God did this as a form of judgement for Saul's sin of turning against the Lord.  This made it necessary for Saul to need soft, sweet music to relieve the spirit's torments. 

King Saul - Reading through this chapter, I wondered what we could learn from Saul's experience.  We don't share Saul's malady, but perhaps we tend to adopt his purpose for music within our own worship strategies.  And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him. 1 Samuel 16:23. Swindoll explains that the Hebrew word is ravach and it means "to give space so as to bring relief." I can relate.  Having 3 teenagers and a preschooler, sometimes I just "need a little space."

Now, the words "refreshed" and "eased" are good words. In fact, I like them very much.  We all need refreshed from time to time. This world can beat us up and wear us down.  Living life takes it's toll on us, but I don't think the purpose for worship is that we be refreshed.  That is not the goal of our worship.  It is a byproduct of being in the presence of God.  Being refreshed will be a symptom of an already-obedient heart.  Refreshment is the reward for taking on the yoke of Christ, for He says "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."

We would all confess that we worship God because He commands it, and because He deserves it.  But we would never say, "I worship because God deserves to refresh me."  It just sounds weird!  When it comes to worship, we don't want to sidestep the object of our worship  - God Himself.  We miss the point when we focus only on what we can gain.

Often times, we are seeking refreshment from the anxieties and worries of life.  Without a doubt, God wants to relieve us of those worries.  Jesus says to us in Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. In other words, God is saying, "Trust Me. Obey Me. Worship Me alone.  Don't worry about the things that make you worry.  I am taking care of you."

King Saul was tormented, because he was disobedient.  The soothing music allowed him a way to cope with his torment and gain temporary relief, without having to actually repent and obey God.  Saul had no intention of reconciling himself to God.  He settled for the temporary refreshment.

David -David gives us a complete contrast to what we see in Saul. Where Saul has the goal to soothe his tormented soul, David desires to be made right in God's presence.  Saul desired to be pleased by the music, but David desired to please the Lord. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:17. 

In Psalm 51:11 David, in his song, asks God,  "Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me."  How interesting! This same David who played to soothe a tormenting Saul, from whom God's spirit had departed, now asks that God not take His spirit from David.  I don't know about you, but that seems like more than a coincidence to me.  I'm so glad that we no longer have to resort to that request.  Jesus declared that He would always be with us.  Never will he leave us or forsake us.  As we've already learned, God did not permanently rest his spirit on any one until the Day of Pentecost, except for David and John the Baptist.

During the closing verses of Psalm 51, we see that David recognized something very significant.  God desires worshipers! For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. Psalm 51:16.  David knew that it wasn't the burnt offering, and it wasn't the sacrifices that pleased God.  Those were merely a medium to symbolize what it was that God really desired.  God desires that we offer ourselves to him - that we offer hearts and lives, broken by our sin, and bendable for his correcting.  This verse also looks forward to what Paul would tell us in Roman:  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1.  David rightly viewed the physical sacrifice as a symbol of "dieing to his sinfulness."

So, the question is - what is our goal when we worship?  Is it to be soothed, refreshed and made to feel better, or is it to die to ourselves and offer wholeheartedly our very lives to God?  Do we choose to make confession, or do we choose to seek refreshment while we live our lives in disobedience to God?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Top Ten for 2011



Each of us have our different tastes in music, books and movies, but most of us enjoy music and books and or movies.  I might read a book that I find particularly stirring or one that impacts me and my wife will think it's just "okay." So, your list might match mine or be completely different.  In fact, if you have a book, CD or movie that helped move you forward in your journey with Christ during the previous year, feel free to share it in the comments section.  I might just add it to my own list of things to read, watch and listen to in 2012.  My list below is not ranked in any particular order.  That is not my intention. They are simply the top ten books and recordings that have fueled my fire for Christ during the last year.  And maybe a movie or two. Anyway, here goes...

  1. Bonhoeffer - Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy, by Eric Metaxas - This is a huge book about a great man.  I took my time with it and read it over the course of two months.  If you enjoys biographies or are inspired by the lives of great Christians, this is a must read! I loved this book and passed it on to a friend who passed it on to another friend.
  2. Ghosts Upon the Earth - Gungor - I don't really know how to define Gungor and I think the band would be very proud of that.  This is a very talented, creative, innovative group of musicians and worshipers.  As a worship pastor, looking for more songs to help us say all that we need to say to God, most of Gungors songs are attainable for congregations' singing, but it was unmistakable to me that worship was taking place during their concert at NWLC last summer.  It's difficult to put my finger why they're so appealing to me, but I can say that my kids and I can't get enough of Gungor and Ghosts Upon the Earth displays everything we like about the band Gungor. Trans-Siberian Orchestra meets Sigur R√≥s and Queen - minus a measure of flamboyancy.
  3. Jesus Manifesto, by Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet - I read this book toward the beginning of last year with my brother.  We live in different states, but called each other to discuss what we were reading.  Reading this sparked a revival in my own heart.  I didn't even realize that I was in need of a revival, but after years of working in a church, I'd begun to subconsciously convince myself that I had to live this Christ life out of sheer will.  I would have never said that out loud or even believe that I believed it, but my inner thoughts were telling me a different story.
  4. 10,000 Reasons - Matt Redman - Last summer I attended the National Worship Leader Conference in Kansas City, KS and when Matt Redman lead one of the evening worship times, his recording 10,000 reasons became my top favorite worship album of the year.  We have already incorporated 2 of the songs and I suspect more are to come.  The two songs we sing as a congregation are 10,000 Reasons and Holy.
  5. Bark of the Bog Owl, by Johnathan Rogers - In 2011 I began following the blog at rabbitroom.com.  It's a community of creatives - song writers, authors, musicians, theologians, artists, etc.  I encourage you to check it.  On to my point... one of the contributors to that site is the author, Johnathan Rogers.  The Bark of the Bog Owl is the first book in the Wilderking trilogy and takes the reader into world of swamps, gators and of course the mysterious Feechie folk.  Rogers is a wonderful writer and, though this book is more of a young adult fiction, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  6. The Reckoning - NEEDTOBREATHE - For me it seemed like this was a step back from the groups previous offering - Outsiders - at least on my initial enjoyment level.  But I found that I couldn't stop listening to it.  I'm still trying to figure out the deeper meaning behind some of the lyrics, but even if I don't pick up on them, the music is fantastic!
  7. The Way of the Wild Heart by John Eldredge - An older book that I finally got around to reading.  I can't express enough that I wish I had read this book when I first purchased it several years ago.  I think I'd be a better dad to my sons.  I hope that I can make up for some of the time I've lost, know that many of the things Eldredge pointed out have turned a switch on in my brain.  If you have sons, or just need to understand some of the "why questions" on your journey as a man, then I encourage you to read this book.
  8. Over The Edge by Brandilyn Collins - Okay, I admit that I might be rounding up on this one, but let me explain.  I don't normally read murder mysteries or suspense, but another book I read encouraged me to read the some of the same authors my wife chooses so... I actually like the book and finished it in maybe two days.  My wife and daughter had been reading a lot of Brandilyn Collins recently so I thought I would join them.  This is in my top ten to say - I'm glad I did - and it really is a good book for it's genre.
  9. The King's Speech - This was such a great movie.  I didn't catch it in theaters when it came out, so I'm a little behind, but my wife and I rented it this year and found it to be a very compelling story.  Reminds me of another who tried to use his stammering as an excuse not to serve.  Yes, I'm talking about you, Moses.  For the rest of us, we have no excuses to offer God when He calls us.
  10. Captain America - The First Avenger - A shout out to my favorite childhood super hero! There were certainly better pieces of cinema in 2011 and certainly more inspiring movies.  I willingly concede.  But I was excited to finally see my favorite super hero on the big screen.

Well, that's it - nothing too spectacular to an outsider, but to me, this was a big part of my journey over the last year and includes the things I really enjoyed.  I'd love to hear about the books/albums/movies you enjoyed last year.  Please share your comments.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Forget the New Resolutions - Just Be New



I didn’t make any “New Year’s” resolutions this year… There. I said it. Each year I make a few and always fail to follow through.  I start off well, but inevitably, I always regress back to the norm.  What I need to do is redefine what my normal is. I need a new normal.

2 Corinthians 5 talks about a new normal.  It would be a good place for all of us to begin the New Year. 

If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God.  And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit.  Either way, Christ’s love controls us.  Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.  He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.  So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view.  At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view.  How differently we know him now!  This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Cor 5:13-17

Perhaps the reason many of us continually fail to follow through on our resolutions is because we make resolutions based on living for ourselves.  Too often I fall into the trap of thinking that God’s whole existence is to make MY IDEA of “the good life” become a reality for ME. “I can do all things, through him who strengthens me” is not a verse about ME.  It is a verse about CHRIST!  I can pursue God’s will in every circumstance!

When I try to live for God, in my own will, it doesn’t work out.  I fail.  It’s a trap to try and conveniently add Christ into OUR old normal.  HE doesn’t fit there!  The only way to grab hold of the new life is to die to the old one.  Whoever belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The OLD LIFE IS GONE.  We are foolish when we try to go back to the old life and live in our will. Let us all fully embrace the New Normal – this new life, in Christ.  And may we never, ever let go of him.