Category Archives: Giving

Wordless Worship


I am a wordsmith by birth and by calling.  As a child, I was a talker. My grandmother once remarked, as I burst through the door at a family reunion and unashamedly introduced myself, that I would one day become a preacher. Now as a pastor and a writer, words are my essential building blocks in the construction of concepts, ideas, stories, illustrations, and the unfolding of deep biblical truths that must be communicated.

But there are moments when I don’t have words, or for that matter need words. This happens most frequently for me during worship. Often I am speechless when I consider the wonder of God and his grace. No matter how skillful I might be in using descriptive adjectives or action verbs—I find no adequate words to describe his glory. In his presence I stand speechless—dumb and mute—unable to speak or convey the depth of my love for my God.

It is in those intimate moments of frustrated inability that my spirit must find some form of release that requires no words. Tears fill my eyes, chills clamor up my spine, my hands lift with palms upraised, or my feet begin to dance. Inability gives way to capabilities that are often hidden and closely guarded—yet available if I choose to release and use them.

My all-time favorite picture of worship and the one I often retreat into and emulate in my dreams is found in Luke 7:36-50. It is the story of the woman who anointed Jesus feet with her tears and the precious ointment of an alabaster vial. There is a great deal going on in that story, but in my visits all I can see is “go-for-broke” worship, yet not one word is spoken.

There is emotion. This is a once broken woman who has been restored through the grace of Jesus Christ. She has received worth and value through his ministry and now has a future. She cannot hold back the tears, though it seems they pour out in silence from a heart overflowing with joy. She does not hold back the emotions, yet without words she worships. True worship is filled with genuine emotions.

There is boldness. Once she realizes her tears are falling on her Lord’s feet, she steps out of the shadows from against the wall and quietly kneels while unpinning her long hair and using it to wipe his feet. She is exposed now—she has stepped from the safety of the crowd and courageously released the love of her heart without regard for what other might think or say. She is unashamed in her devotion and confident in her pursuit. True worship is always bold in its expression and sometime brash in the eyes of those who witness it.

There is surrender. This woman prostrated herself on the floor and gave the intimate gift of a kiss to the feet of her Savior. Not just once—but over and over and over. Her gratitude poured out like an uncontainable stream driven out of its banks by an unstoppable rain storm. Her position and her actions are the immutable signs of submission. True worship is characterized by total surrender.

And ultimately there is a cost. Sincere worship always carries an expensive price tag. It is never cheap—or if it is it ceases to be worship and becomes an empty religious ritual. This woman shattered her nest egg. She cashed in her retirement account—her only means of financial security—when she broke the seal on her alabaster jar of perfume and dumped the precious contents on Jesus’ feet. Her most precious possession was poured out as an offering of worship and thanksgiving—a sacrifice of faith. True worship always comes with a cost most are unwilling to pay.

This is what wordless worship looks like, yet its voice speak loud and clear!

Musings from a Madman: The Reality of Relationship (Part 15)

In those quiet, tender moments in the presence of God there is a sense of timelessness that always seems to wage war with our own limited sense of time. Being human brings with it a feeling that we have so much to do in such a short time. Sadly, we often place our time with God in that list and then treat it like a box to check off.

In a genuine relationship, each person must be fully present to fully engage the other person. God wants our presence as much as we need his. He wants it! Let that sink deep in your spirit for a few moments. God wants to be with you! And he knows you think you have a million other things to do. He is intimately acquainted with your schedule.

But occasionally there are moments during our time with God that he will ask us to linger—to stay a little longer. It usually happens when we are slammed to the wall with responsibilities and obligations—when we have far more to do than we have time to do it all in. Deep inside there comes a desire to stay a few minutes longer with God. And the struggle begins!

When, not if, this happens, simply wait. Be still! Listen to your heart—God is drawing you into a deeper place. Here is where God will reveal himself to you in new ways that you will be unable to believe. These are those special moments when God pours out a new anointing or reveals the depth of his love for you in a richer way than you have ever known.

These are the moments you were made for, that you have longed for. These are the moments you must fight for. Time is an ally as well as an enemy. In the intimate presence of God time stands still. Oh, everything around you will continue to gallop along at break-neck speed, but you will find yourself immersed in a timeless moment that has all the trappings of eternity. If you can shut out the demands of your everyday experiences and enter into this relationship, God will take care of what needs to be done.

Linger a few minutes longer. Don’t rush in and then rush out. Allow God to open his heart and then you will receive everything you need to accomplish what he wants you to do and far more. In those moments, he will equip you to handle the time/space continuum you live in. He understands it far better than you—he created it.

So relax, and if the desire arises to stay a few extra moments—then by all means stay. Those few minutes spent with the Lover of your soul will do more for you than all the stuff you could ever get done on the outside.

Be still and know—God says, “I will…”

Musings from a Madman: The Mystery of Relationship (Part 11)

Our pursuit has taken us to the very doorstep of God’s presence—now we must be patient. God is never in a hurry, but rest assured he will meet you here…in this place. Whenever you choose God over everything else, his passion is aroused. 


Now wait just a minute…are you saying God has passion? You better believe God has passion and he is passionate about you. God’s word talks about the zeal of the Lord (a translator’s word for white-hot passion) throughout the Bible. Jesus was passionate about the Gentile worshipers that had been pushed out of the Temple by the merchants who sold the animal sacrifices and exchanged foreign currency for Temple shekels. The Holy Spirit is passionate about his relationship with God’s sons and daughters. By the way, where do you think the model for human passion came from? We did not invent it—it was patterned after our Creator. God has passion.

And—when you want God more than anything else, God’s passion for you is aroused. Maybe you have never experienced his overwhelming love and desire for you. If so, this would be a great time to check your motives once again. Perhaps the reason you’ve never experienced this is not “how” you enter his presence, but rather “why” you have come. You can make the right preparation and do everything on the list and still not experience God’s passionate presence.

What do you really want out of this anyway?

 Too often we come wanting power, position, or a hundred different prayer needs and we forget the main reason is to enjoy his presence. Sometimes we come to get what he can give rather than to rest in his presence. There is certainly nothing wrong with asking God for provisions, but his presence (who he is) is far more important than what he can do for us (his power). Whenever you choose the presence of God over everything else, his passion is aroused and he will definitely show up.

Passion is a prerequisite to intimacy. It will not be your hard work, abilities, or capabilities that attract God. No! It will be your heart—the devotion, the longing, and the love that desires to embrace his heart alone.

So be still and be quiet! Search your heart and check your motives. The real question at this moment is: Do you really want to be alone with God as much as he wants to be alone with you?

Musings from a Madman: The Mystery of Relationship (Part 10)

Once true surrender has taken place, it puts you in a position to receive. When you surrender you have given over everything—especially yourself and there’s nothing left to give. At that moment, you may hear God ask, “Who are you?” This is the question of entry that opens or shuts the door to intimacy. Your careful response is vital.

God’s not asking for information, he has all the information he needs already. He is omniscient. He knows everything. He is asking so that you will understand who you are. The question is about identification—who do you think you are.

How will you respond? Think about it for a moment, because this is the single most important appointment you have ever been invited to experience. You are where you are at this very moment—at the very doorway of God’s presence based on an invitation from Jesus Christ, not what you have or have not done, your personal connections, or your past. This invitation is not really about who you are, rather it is all about who God is. So the answer is important.

This is not the time to list your religious accomplishments, activities, or accolades. This is not the moment to share all the positions you hold in your local church or denomination. This is not the occasion to gush over your degrees, spiritual depth, or grace giftings. No, this is the moment to respond from a heart that has understanding and enlightenment as to who it really is.

Perhaps your response might sound like this: “Lord, it’s me, your servant, purchased by the blood of your Son, Jesus Christ.” That’s really all any of us have the ability to offer. When you come to this moment—it’s not about being the pastor, the teacher, the choir member, the prayer leader, the sinner, the mess-up, the success, the failure, the addict, the prisoner, or whatever label you might want to pin on yourself. No! “It’s just me, Lord. I have nothing to offer—nothing to give, but me. I’m here at your feet!”

The answer we give at this moment determines whether or not we step into the secret place with God. He is not impressed with our résumé; he is drawn to our heart. If your heart is surrendered, rest assured it will catch God’s attention and arouse his passion. Once you have his undivided attention—his presence will receive you and you will step into a place beyond what you thought was possible.

Are you willing to chunk your dignity for a moment in God’s presence? Are you willing to step out into a place that might be quite uncomfortable for your personality, your religious beliefs, or your mindset? Are you really desperate? If you are, you will do whatever it takes to get to this place, and once you are here, you will give the only answer that will open the door. No ultimatums. No demands. “Lord, it’s me—I am desperate to enter the secret place with you. I want to go into that place where no one else can see me so that I can simply be alone with you!”

True intimacy with God has a protocol to follow. Are you willing to take the next step? 

Musings of a Madman: The Mystery of Relationship

The Dance of Relationship

In our desperate pursuit of God there is a certain protocol (rules of behavior) that prepares us for entering his personal presence. If we pay attention to the details of this protocol, we position ourselves to fully enjoy the maximum benefits of this heart-to-heart relationship. These are far more than rules etched in stone; they are, in essence, the etiquette of the heart.

Relationship is in many ways a dance with steps that move the partners involved around the floor. I like to think about this protocol, not as rule, but rather as dance steps. The sharper I am in my steps the more beautiful and satisfying is the dance.

It is critical as you begin this dance that the placement of your first step is correct and precise. Everything else rises or falls here. If you’re off balanced, out of step, or out of sync with the music, the dance is doomed and you will be forced to start over at some point. Relationally speaking, if you get it correct here you will likely have little problem with the rest of the protocol.

Please hear this—this is not about a “method.” These are not steps or rules to follow to get you what you want. These are movements of the heart—dance steps your soul must take. We love “method’’—we want “method” but the sterility of “method” will not work if you desire a fertile relationship. Don’t get me wrong—how you do things is important. But…why you do them is the real crux of the issue. Motive is infinitely more important than method. “Why” trumps “how” at this moment in your pursuit of God.

Why do you want to be in God’s intimate presence? Why do you hunger for relationship with him? In other words, what motivates you? Only you can answer this and your motive will either help or hinder depending on your honesty at this point.

Most people want something from God. They want more power or provision or peace in some area of their life. Too often we come to God like he’s a genie in a bottle or a Coke machine. We want to rub his lamp a little in prayer and poof! get what we asked for. We think we can drop a coin in the slot through intercession or good works, mash the button, and wham! watch our provision drop like a pop bottle through the slot. It just doesn’t work that way, and is likely why most of our prayers go unanswered.

If you pursue God for any other reason than to spend time with him—to be in his presence—you motive is all messed up. A rule of the kingdom is this—wherever God’s presence rests, so too does his power. If you gain his presence you will see his power—you can count on that!

So—you have to answer the question of motive. You have to determine your inner desire. What is it you really want? Do you want God for what he can do for you or simply for who he is?  Your motive will determine where this dance of relationship ends up and it’s up to you to take the first step.

Seeing with New Eyes

What we see with our eyes may or may not be reality. Sometimes our vision is clouded by our own perception—what we think we see or want to see. At other times, that fog lifts either through a direct experience or by divine revelation, and we behold a true representation of that which is actually being manifested. In other words sometimes we see what we want to see, but occasionally we see what is truly before us.

Nowhere is this more common than when we look at another person who may or may not be like us. Our perception of that person is formed too often by prejudice, culture, half-truths (which by the way are “whole” lies), folk, family, or faith beliefs, and plain old ignorance. We look at a person, issue a verdict based on bad or no information, and then pigeon hole that individual, group, or race into a narrow perspective and record that faulty file in the memory of our mind. Then each time we see someone who fits that profile, we dial up that defective folder and presto change oh—we see what we want to see rather than the person who is actually standing before us.

This defective vision not only affects those who claim to be followers of Christ—it’s effects blind almost all. Conservatives see raging devils intent on destroying the country in their liberal counterparts, who see the exact same thing in conservatives. Blacks and whites eye one another through the foggy lens of suspicion and mistrust, while both groups stare at those who are brown skinned with fear, distrust, and animosity. Likewise the brown skins keep to themselves and in turn trust no one outside their community. Militant homosexuals and fundamental Christian heterosexuals have drawn the battle lines and used the little shovels in their backpacks to erect their fortifications and foxholes from which to lob verbal grenades back and forth, intent on seeing the other side utterly destroyed or languishing in a fiery hell.

This faulty perception soon turns into an out and out attempt to paint the other group as insensitive, racist, warped, old fashioned, or intolerant. In other words, we demonize those we don’t agree with, understand, or care to get to know. We retreat rather than confront. Confrontation is not a bad thing. We can agree to disagree, but we cannot refuse to see one another as human beings. When we do, we lose far too much of our humanity.

Most of these trite little categories dehumanize a human being. That then makes it far easier to ignore, villainize, and even hate that other person. That’s why political advertisements pit us against one another with their garbage-filled commercials. They know that if they arouse those old sectarian, racial, or regional biases, that this passionate flame will effectively separate us into special interest groups intent on seeing our own specific agendas fulfilled rather than what might be best for one another and ultimately this country.

How do we change this? It’s impossible you might be thinking. That’s the way it’s always been. I agree, it has been that way, but I disagree it has to remain that way. We will never all agree, but we can stop judging one another based on categories, beliefs, and behavior, and start seeing one another first as human beings. What we do does not define who we are. What we do or don’t agree on does not define who we are. What we believe does not necessarily determine who we are. That has been effectively proven by centuries of the same old same old and countless generations who have ignorantly perpetrated the same old crimes of bigotry and hate upon one another.

Reality states that each of us is created in the image and likeness of God. I didn’t make that up, God declared that! That means every one of us is a human being first and foremost. Things could possibly change if we started looking at one another with new eyes—eyes that see the person hidden beneath the color, the choices, or a thousand other categories we seem intent on hiding behind.

Hey! Look at me—the human being—instead of what I seem to be doing as a human being. That’s the first step in learning to love one another. We may agree on everything, but we do have to love one another—especially if any of us want to label ourselves as followers of Christ.

Push Out into the Deep

“Push out into the deep!” Those words echoed like a trumpet sounding the call to arms. Staring out through the railing of a balcony eleven floors above the glistening white sands of the Gulf beach, above the roar of the crashing emerald waves, the eternal words of Jesus spoke clearly into my spirit, “Push out into the deep!”

The “deep”—an ominous place of mythical proportions.  It’s a destination just beyond the boundary lines where safety and security exist—just beyond the reach of life’s normal journey—the abiding place of every uncertainty—the resident address of unnerving fear—the zip code of the unknown—the abode of the miraculous—the habitation of Almighty God.   

The very sound of it strikes at the depths of our primordial craving for safety and survival. The response is almost involuntary—a recoiling—a drawing back like one standing too close to the brink of a bottomless abyss. And yet the very sound, the clarion call of God, grasps one’s heart like the song of the mythical sirens whose melodious voices caused ancient mariners to crash their ships on the ocean’s hidden reefs of rock and coral in a mad rush to possess what they could never own. His voice seizes both the spirit and the soul and simply will not loosen its grasp.

The “deep” is a place attained only by a clear invitation and utter abandonment. No amount of planning or preparing or programming will transport one to this destination. This is the place where experience falls in the dry dust, where common sense looses its confident bearings and passionate desperate obedience kicks in. This is the place where naked unbridled dangerous faith—not dazzling familiarity or even discernable facts – governs one’s movements. 

This is where a determined response—a leap—a “push” is demanded. A push through the terror of unspeakable fear—through the boredom of safety—through the dread of embarrassment—through long-held dreams and earnest expectations—a push into the unknown to know the unknowable majesty, mystery, and power of the Lord God.

But it is a push with direction. Out! Out from that which is comfortable—out from excuses—out from experiences—out from the ordinary—out from those acquisitions of security—out from anyone who would hold you back and away from everyone who stands between you and the very One who calls you. Push out!

Push out into! Into the unseeable—into the mist of mystery—into the haunts and the lair of faith—into the very place you said you would never go—that place you could not go—out into the God who’s not safe, but who is omnipotent. Out into a place that will engulf you—immerse you—bleach you out—turn you upside down and inside out—out into the only destination that will satisfy the unquenchable longings of your ravenous heart.

“Push out into the deep!” Push out into God! Push out toward the One you can’t explain but desperately desire to experience. Push out away from all that restrains you and into the One who draws you. Deep is calling deep. Spirit is calling spirit. Push out into the deep—let down your nets—and await God’s filling.