The Words on the Screen

A few months ago, I was given an opportunity to join a ministry team in my church, True Life Church. I was asked if I would consider joining the team that puts together the slides that project the song lyrics onto the screen during services. It was a job I had watched my mom do when I was a teenager and I liked the idea of directly helping the congregation. I’ve now been a part of the team for a little while and I’m starting to learn important lessons about phrasing and minimizing the distractions of a busy background or having a lot of slides to flip through for a fast song. But probably the most important thing I’m working on is the timing of switching to the next slide. You would think that you would want to keep the words of a verse up on the screen until every syllable had been sung but it is actually best to switch to the next slide just as the last word is being sung, or even a word or two before in a fast song. This allows people to start processing the next words and be able to sing continuously.

I’ve started to get the hang of that trick, but one thing I consciously have to make myself do is look at the screen that everyone is reading from rather than the screen of the computer in front of me. The screen at the front of the auditorium only displays one slide at a time, but the screen on my computer shows the whole set of slides for the song side by side. It is really easy for me to start looking at that screen and read one slide after another and forget that no one else can see those slides until I press the “next” button. Unfortunately, I have been late switching the slides due to this bad habit a few times. It isn’t so bad when the song is very familiar and most of the congregation sings right along, but when the song is new or just familiar enough that people can sing it if they are given the words, there is a noticeable drop in the number of voices singing along.

Sometimes in life, we can feel like we know the path we’re walking on. We can see the plan for our week, our month, our year mapped out in front of us. But what happens if the next step of the plan is suddenly erased? What if you flip to the next page in your calendar and nothing is there? What if the slides with the words of instruction get stuck on just one line? If that ever happens, which it does more often in life than we’d like it to, the slide it usually gets stuck on says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10a) It is such a familiar phrase that it can seem trite or cliche, but there’s a solid reason behind it. God is the one sitting at the computer with all of the slides laid out in front of Him. He has the master list of instructions. Because we see the slides flashing in front of us at regular intervals, we can feel like we know the next step, the next phrase of life, but in reality, we only know one step at a time.

It is really hard to trust God when the screen goes blank or seems to be stuck, but He really does deserve our trust. This doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be actively following along and planning to take the next step. If the words stop popping up in front of me, I can still hum along with the tune, trusting that guidance will return. God has all the answers right at His fingertips. In fact, He doesn’t even need the words on a screen at all. He wrote them in the first place.

“For I know the plans I have for you” — this is the Lord’s declaration — “plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” – ‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭

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The Familiar Unknown

I had quite a unique sighting yesterday. My parents and I were driving back from the local grocery store and right along the main street in town I saw a lovely large bird. It was a sleek swan. Unfortunately, its feathers were merely rubber, and its insides were made of air. This large pool toy was floating in the above-ground pool display at the local pool store. I’ve driven past this store, obviously a renovated small house, for most of my life, but never had a reason to go inside. I looked through the windows and could only see the products standing right next to the windows. For some reason, I thought, “I’ve never been in that building. There are a lot of places in town that I know exactly where they are, exactly what kind of stuff is inside, but I’ve never actually seen inside.”

This past month it was time for my cats to get their annual shots so I made an appointment at a local vet clinic, again a renovated house on the main street. The outside is painted a dark green with warm cream trim and has an inviting wrap-around porch. I was quite surprised to open the door and find clean white walls; a tall-ceilinged, light-filled waiting room; lovely light grey tile floors; and stainless steel counters. Not at all what I expected from the outside, but a welcome look for a vet clinic.

I’m not sure why I suddenly became intrigued by these familiar buildings that, in reality, are unknown to me, but it made me think of the way that we tend to have hidden nooks and crannies in our hearts that we may let God have a peek at while we show Him around the rest of place, but we never let Him all the way in. That would be like saying my heart is an office or restaurant where God is a regular patron, but He never gets to go into the storage room or kitchen. My heart is supposed to be God’s house. He should know it the same way I know where to step in the hall to avoid squeaking the floor in the middle of the night. God should know His way around like that. We should be joint inhabitants of my heart-house, rather than host and Guest.

There are verses in the Bible that talk about our hearts being God’s home, the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (I Corinthians 6:19). As God often does, He gave me this thought yesterday, and in today’s message at church, the pastor used one of the verses these thoughts brought to mind.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; Psalms 139:23

David, the man who wrote this verse, known as a man after God’s own heart, knew that God already knew everything about him and was not afraid to have God search every hidden corner of his heart. Despite the fact that David was human and sinned as all humans do, he knew that trying to kick God out of His home would only make everything worse.

The Proof

I serve a risen Savior

He’s in the world today.

I know that He is living,

Whatever men may say.

I see His hand of mercy;

I hear His voice of cheer;

And just the time I need Him

He’s always near.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!

He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.

He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!

You ask me how I know He lives?

He lives within my heart.

The Future

It is hard for me to get out of thinking about Jesus as otherworldly and somehow inhuman in the best possible way. Of course I realize that He is God which makes those descriptions ultimately true; yet, we are told that He was “fully man.” While He was on earth, He was human just like everyone else. The Bible tells of times He was amazed (Mark 6:6, Luke 7:9) and compassionate (Luke 7:13), He wept (Luke 19:41) and was full of sorrow (Matthew 26:37-38), He was indignant (Mark 10:14) and perceptive (Mark 12:15), and perhaps most of all, He loved (Mark 10:21, John 17:23, John 13:23, and John 11:5). And yet it is still difficult for me to think of Him as being a “normal” person.

There was one thing completely different about Jesus: He knew exactly what His future held. We never hear about Jesus praying for the Father’s direction for His life. In fact, we’re told that at just 12 years old, Jesus tried to begin the ministry the Father had sent Him to earth for (Luke 2: 41-50). We all know how often kids change their answers to the question “What are you going to be when you grow up?” But Jesus’ purpose never changed. The only time we see Him even slightly question the Father’s will is when Jesus is praying in the garden right before His betrayal, and this wasn’t a question of what God’s will was. It was a question of “can we do things another way?” We’re not told that the Father answered that statement, and maybe He did, but Jesus moved straight from the question into what He knew was the answer, “Not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) I am grateful that Jesus knew His purpose, and that He never truly wavered from it. I may not know my immediate future, but through Him I know my ultimate future.

“If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.” John‬ ‭14:3‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

The Greatest Friend

On Sunday, we sang the song “Whom Shall I Fear” by Chris Tomlin and I was struck by a specific line in the chorus – “He is a friend of mine.” That doesn’t seem like a profound statement unless you realize I didn’t capitalize “He” because it was at the start of a sentence. The song is all about how I don’t have to be afraid of anything because God is there for me. He’s not just there as an impersonal guardian, or as a referee making sure you follow the rules. He is my friend. When I sat down to write this, I started thinking of another song for which the chorus is “I am a friend of God. He calls me friend.” (“Friend of God” by Phillips, Craig & Dean)

But, does that really appear in the Bible? I remember Abraham being called a friend of God and Moses talking face to face with God as a friend would. Where does it say that I am His friend – that someone without the historical significance of these great men can claim that title? Let me check…

John 15:14 – “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Well, that seems pretty clear. All I have to do is obey God and He will be my friend. But what about the times when I am rebellious? I’m pretty sure God isn’t just a fair-weather friend.

John 15:15 – “I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.” – Ah, so we are His friends because He taught us everything He heard from the Father. We were slaves, so we were kind of obligated to listen, right? Not true. A slave or servant can choose not to listen to their master. There will likely be consequences, but it is something they can do.

Luke 12:4 “And I say to you, My friends, don’t fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more.” Oh, that’s just Jesus talking to his disciples. I’m not literally His friend like that. Jesus may have been speaking to certain people face to face, but I’m pretty sure He is talking to all believers, too.

John 15:13 “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” Hmm, I guess Jesus really was serious about using the word “friend” to refer to believers, because this verse combined with the next one makes a pretty strong point. You bet!

Ephesians 5:2 “And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.”

Jesus Himself said that someone who dies for his friends has the greatest love for them. I can’t think of any greater friend than Jesus.