Good morning, friends! Yesterday at Highland we continued in our series "Sequels" about the idolatry of sex and romance. It was a powerful day of remembering who God is and laying down our idols. He is faithful even when we are not. As Hosea loved Gomer...God loves us and beyond.
At the end of service we had people come forward and write down their idols on cards at tables at the front of the worship center. Before people came forward I referred to a song called "How He Loves". The most popular version is performed by David Crowder. But a friend sent me this version today and I thought it was powerful.
I think one of the main questions we deal with that often goes unspoken...and we might not even be aware of...is, can I trust God? I see God lovingly gaze upon us asking, "Do you trust me? Do you trust that I am enough?" If I got the profound nature of His deep love for me it would cancel out so many things that compete for His affection in my heart.
May you feel and know His deep love for you today. I hope this blesses you on this Monday morning!
Monday, September 30, 2013
Good morning, friends! Yesterday at Highland we continued in our series "Sequels" about the idolatry of sex and romance. It was a powerful day of remembering who God is and laying down our idols. He is faithful even when we are not. As Hosea loved Gomer...God loves us and beyond.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
I have loved this song for a really long time. Sometimes I want to post it to people's Facebook walls (when I'm feeling extra contrary). But I know it would offend some. There are lines in this song that may be offensive...but I'd ask you to stop and step back and ask yourself why they're offensive. We build idols of all kinds in our lives...some of them look like really GOOD things...but they can still be idols. We have one King and one Kingdom. That's it.
Monday, September 23, 2013
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Well, it's that time again...time for the West Texas Fair and Rodeo. Since I was a kid I have gone to the fair every year...same sights, smells, food, rides... and inevitably it begins like this...
Monday, September 09, 2013
Recently, at Highland some big announcements were made. Here was the announcement...
Earlier this year the Highland Elders announced that as a group we were discussing adding an instrumental worship service on Sunday mornings here at this building. Our discussion was centered on 3 essential questions, which has led us through our discernment together:
AND SO, the elders want to send you out today with this challenge: let us live into our calling to be a priesthood in which divisions disappear when we see the glory of the Lord rise in worship with instruments and with voices, as we praise and honor a good God whose love endures forever.
Highland to add instruments to worship | The Optimist
So--here's where I am... it is with great anticipation and a healthy dose of wonder at the unknown that I step into this new season. My commitment to providing resources for a cappella churches is still as strong as ever. ZOE will continue to work hard to do that.
Our prayer at Highland is that more people will be opened to story of Jesus. That's it. Will you pray that God will guide us and give us wisdom and discernment as we walk this road? These are exciting times and sometimes it feels like the Lord is leading us like 27 horses running for the barn. I just don't want to miss anything He has for us along the way. I remember that the biggest example of hearing His voice in scripture is in the still, small voice. So, please pray that I will also take the time I need to be still...to wait...to listen.
Lift up your heads, O you gates;
Be lifted up, you ancient doors
That the King of Glory may come in!
Who is He, this King of Glory?
The Lord Almighty--HE is the King of Glory!
Ps. 24: 9-10
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Recently, I went to see the movie "The Butler". I am a history nerd and have been for many years. I have Fred Bailey to thank for that. Dr. Bailey is an expert on the history of the American South...even more specifically, revisionist history. I feel like in many ways, Dr. Bailey not only opened my eyes to a complex world of history, but also gave me a foundation to help me examine our own churches, systems and doctrine. It's something I never expected to receive out of an ACU summer course.
In the movie, "The Butler", I was astounded again at how close in time we are to the civil rights movement. In my own lifetime, the fight has continued. The thing that I can never understand or get over is how men and women who claimed the name of Jesus as Lord treated people of color so poorly. Some people want to make that about politics. I don't care where you stand politically...that is secondary to where you stand spiritually.
The church has been guilty of treating people in ways that are shameful. We all know that. But, any wise person also knows that if we forget our past (and aren't able to confess the sins of our present) we are destined to repeat history. It gives me pause. It makes me breathe deeply. It makes me contemplate how I am reflecting the love of Christ to those I consider different from me.
Today is the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march on Washington for jobs and freedom and the historic "I Have A Dream" speech. I'm so grateful for Martin Luther King Jr. and all those who followed his lead into peaceful change. I'm not old enough to have been around during that time, but I'll never forget the stories and the fight for freedom that ushered in a healthier season in the life of our nation. I believe that kind of heart is close to the heart of Christ.
"Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinion. The tendency of most is to adopt a view that is so ambiguous that it will include everything and so popular that it will include everybody. Not a few men who cherish lofty and noble ideals hide them under a bushel for fear of being called different."
- Martin Luther King, Jr
Monday, August 19, 2013
It is impossible to write anything that measures my deep love for, admiration of, connection to, and influence by this man. Last night, as I left the hospital around midnight I told Brooke, "I pray he just slips away. Gently. Quickly."
That is exactly what happened.
Brooke called about 3:25am this morning saying Ronnie had gone. He went so gently it was as if the thin space between earth and heaven just opened up and took him. If there was a way to go that fit Ronnie...that was it. (The only thing better would have been if he'd had a golf club in hand)
Mom and I immediately hurried to the hospital to be with everyone. He was so peaceful. Our prayers had been answered. "Pop"/ "Ahbaba" had slipped from this life into the next.
After a bit of sleep, I began culling through photos. When I came upon this picture of my dad and Ronnie, my eyes began to leak. It was like I was seeing into heaven...the joyful reunion Ronnie and my dad must be having. (Ella had sweetly whispered in Ronnie's ear last Friday some messages to take to her Poppie.) Oh the joy!
"The point of the resurrection...is that the present bodily life is not valueless because it will die...What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it. What you do in the present--by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself--will last into God's future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are part of what we may call building for God's kingdom. "
~N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church
Oh, the mystery of things to come. How do you unpack the emotion and admiration that has roots that go 43 years deep? Ronnie continues to decline in Hospice care, but he is slipping away very slowly. His physical body is still here...his heart beats, his lungs take in air, he snores. :) But, his spirit feels far.
What does it look like to be in transition between this world and what is to come? People have written books hypothesizing what that looks like...people who've never actually made the journey. I remember standing at the foot of my father's bed watching each labored breath get slower. Then years later sitting with my father-in-law as he gently slipped away from us. And, there were other relatives who've passed while we've read scripture or sung songs of praise over them...in each case I've wondered what they were sensing or feeling. Were they feeling?
One thing I have felt in each of those moments is a very profound sense of being on holy ground. Holy, holy ground. As my cousin Linda says, "God is good in giving us the grace to live...and the grace to die in Him." How can we know what it's like until we know? But I believe she's right.
God's grace covers over the brokenness of this world and as N. T. Wright says, God speaks in "conspiratorial whispers, of clues and suggestions and flickers of light" all nudging us toward a bigger story. That term "conspiratorial whispers" has glued itself to me over the last few days. I resonate with it. Because, while deeply saddening, this time of remembrance and community has pointed to things much bigger than this current circumstance. It's as if God is whispering, reminding me to pray as Jesus taught his disciples to pray, "May your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven."
This morning I turned to take the communion tray and for a moment forgot and looked up hoping to see Ronnie. Oh, the longing that was in my heart at that moment for all things to be made right.
As Ronnie continues his transition, stories are told, we've laughed and we've cried. But, more than anything, tonight Brooke, Darla and I sat around Ronnie's bed talking about how THANKFUL we were for his influence...over our kids, over our families, over us. Ronnie reflected Jesus in ways that were not manufactured. He just did what Jesus does...he looked at people and saw them for what they could be and treated them like the treasures they are in the Kingdom of God (whether they felt like treasures at the moment or not.) He seemed to have been given a very Godly perspective. Ask anyone who knew him.
Here's what I know...Ps 116 says "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants." I believe that's the holy ground we feel in these moments. In ways we could never understand or describe on this side of eternity, we enter a very thin space where God's presence and his heart are more tangible. I know tonight that this transition Ronnie is going through is precious to the Lord. I feel it in my bones.
While this is a golden oldie now, as Ronnie's physical body lingers for who knows how much longer, I keep thinking about the old worship song "Surely the Presence".
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place
I can feel His mighty power and His grace
I can hear the brush of angels' wings
I see glory on each face
TRULY the presence of the Lord is in this place.
I truly feel the power and reality of those lyrics in that hospice room.
I'm reposting this picture because it so accurately captures Ronnie's spirit and the sparkle in his eyes. I love you, Pop! Good night!
To keep up with Ronnie via CaringBridge please visit http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/ronnielorenz/journal and leave a message for the family.
Saturday, August 10, 2013
Over the past month or so at Highland, we've gone through a series entitled "Sacred". One Sunday, Jeff Childers preached on the tradition of "closed communion" and the next week Jerry Taylor preached on "open communion". Both were good but I have to say that Jerry Taylor's sermon was one of the best I've ever heard on the subject. He is amazing.
It got me to thinking about communion, community and how those two play together. Right now, at Highland, we are going through some discussions on instrumental music and other worship-related things. Whenever we begin discussing the ins and outs of worship style and format, people tend to get nervous. I don't think it always points to a lack of, or abundance of, maturity. I believe sometimes people, without knowing how to verbalize it, are afraid of losing holy moments in worship. What that looks like for one may vary in what it looks like to someone else.
The thing I keep coming back to is not guitars, pianos, pitch pipes or tuning forks. I keep coming back to the Lord's Supper. I've heard several people worry out loud about Churches of Christ losing their "distinctiveness". While I understand what they're trying to say, it always troubles me. I don't want my distinctiveness to lie in whether I sing a cappella or with an instrument. I want it to be solely in Jesus Christ and that I am washed in His blood. This is what brings me to the Table.
In our tribe, every Sunday we gather to take the supper. I've been a part of other churches who did this quarterly and always missed it when it wasn't a weekly tradition. I think taking the Lord's Supper is one of the most important things we do each Sunday morning. In my heart, it's where I find my identity. It informs...or should inform...everything about who I am and who I will be that week. Yes, there are many other parts of the Sunday morning gathering that impact me too. But, it's the Supper that really helps me the most.
Jerry Taylor brilliantly preached about Christ dying for all and what that means to us in the Supper. So, it's with that truth that I experience deep community in the taking of the bread and cup. It reminds me that we all stand on equal footing...none of us is righteous...not one. It reminds me that there are others out there, not taking this meal yet, who Christ died for and wants to bring to the table. It reminds me of my church family and that we are bound by blood, no matter our other differences.
There's one tradition that goes a little deeper that helps me experience all levels of community during this meal. Several years ago...maybe even 7-8 years ago...a group of friends and I made a pact to take the cup from the middle of the tray and when we did to remember that we are not alone on this journey. I'm sure we could have come up with a term that didn't feel quite so exclusive but it's common each Sunday to see my phone light up with several texts reading, "inner circle" from brothers like Josh Ross, Charlton Taylor, Stephen Bailey, our life group and others. It reminds me that when we take this cup we are joining with a multitude of believers in proclaiming, "JESUS IS LORD!" It also reminds me that this walk, while lonely at times, is not one of solitude. We walk together.
Tomorrow morning you can bet I'll be taking my cup from the middle of the tray and while remembering what Jesus did for me, I'll be asking Him to bring others to this table and celebrating those he's given me as fellow journey-ers. Tomorrow I'll be drinking that cup specifically thinking about Ronnie Lorenz and all he's done to show me Jesus in the flesh. While Ronnie's flesh is weak right now and barely holding on to life as we know it, the Spirit in him is strong and we will be communing together. So, "Pop"...this "inner circle" goes out to you tomorrow.
Wednesday, August 07, 2013
Before I was born, Ronnie and Darla Lorenz and Sam and Judy Thomas became friends. As time progressed, babies were born and a life-long friendship was deepened. Almost every memory I have of growing up in church involves the Lorenzes. We even vacationed together. Crazy antics ensued. We were in and out of each other's homes almost every weekend. Darla ended up being my father's administrative assistant for years in the Abilene School System. Ronnie calls me "son". I call him "Pop" or "Dad". Darla, still to this very day, calls me "Fred"...a story that dates back to when I was in middle school and auditioned to be Friedrich Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music".
When I was 14 years old my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I still remember the car ride around town with Ronnie as he carefully tried to explain everything that was happening with my dad. My dad would live another 7 years. The jokes, the antics, the weekends together, the laughter with the Lorenzes never stopped. Dad still played jokes almost daily on Darla at school. And all four of them would sit and would talk about their hopes for Robyn, Brooke and me. Ronnie and Darla were there in those last moments of my father's life...to the very night he died.
Years later, on the weekend of our wedding, it was Ronnie who stood at our rehearsal dinner and spoke in place of my father. He also read scripture during our wedding (and it was the wrong one...which still cracks me up). As Maddie, Ella and Sam were born they were introduced to the world of Nanny and Ahbaba. Nanny (Darla) still had a box of things my dad liked to use for practical jokes. They helped keep his memory alive and have helped them know my dad.
In moving back to Abilene, one of the greatest parts of each Sunday is seeing Ronnie. Every single Sunday I can count on hearing, "Hey, Son!" And I would respond, "Hey, Pop!" I know right where to look while leading worship and see this couple who are more a part of my life and heart than I could ever describe.
Last Thursday, while I was still in Nashville, Ronnie suffered a massive heart attack. I got the call from Brooke that they were taking him to the ER and just froze...feeling every one of the 844 miles that separated me from that ER...from Ronnie, Darla, Robyn, Brooke and my mom and family. As I arrived back home Friday, Sheryl, the kids and I hurried to the hospital to see him.
It's been 6 days since his heart attack. He is still in CCU and showing signs of improvement. He opens his eyes and can squeeze your hand. He seems to recognize us. But there's really no way to know what's going on in there. None of us can know. So....we wait. We wait without real concrete answers. We wait hoping for miracles. But, as Brooke has reminded us several times, either way, God wins.
Life would be so much easier if things would just happen on a predictable schedule and with predictable results. But, as I think back over the things I've learned in life...some of the hardest lessons have come through times of uncertainty. So, what beauty is there in uncertainty? For me, I have to find the things that ARE known. Knowing that God is a good Father and He's with us. Understanding that one day God will restore ALL that is broken...this is worth waiting on.
That's about all I know...except that even through this heart wrenching week there have been many moments of laughter. Memories shared, tears shed, hugs given, hands held. This is what life looks like in community and I am so grateful to Ronnie, Darla, my mom and dad for living it out all these years. It's why friends mean so much to me as an adult...I'm convinced of it. They proved and continue to prove the value of lives shared in good times and in bad.
I'll leave you with some little gems I've found over the last few days and just ask that you pray for Ronnie. You can also follow his CaringBridge by clicking here http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/ronnielorenz
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Greetings, ZOE friends, old and new! We are excited to announce that the 2013 ZOE Worship Conference, “Here With Us”, will be held in Nashville, TN at the Otter Creek Church on October 25-27. This year our conference and CD will have a Christmas theme...specifically, Advent. Advent teaches us what “God with us” really means. Advent is about waiting… waiting on the Lord, watching for Him, believing in Him… even when He is silent. Advent celebrates the absolute truth that God is faithful and that His steadfast love is present, even in difficult times, to bring a deep peace unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. It takes what can become a very commercial holiday season that can leave us empty and lonely and infuses it with life and hope.
Recently, some of the other ZOE singers who are also worship ministers and I had a conversation about the things that are most helpful to us. We asked the question, "What would WE want and need in a conference?" Well, we love to worship. So, we want to have great times of celebratory and heart-felt worship as the ZOE Group leads us (including a Saturday afternoon worship session with song writer and worship artist, Carl Cartee from Fellowship Bible Church in Nashville). We also want some inspiring Biblical feeding. So our key note speakers, Mike Cope, Jonathan Storment and Jeff Walling will take us deep into the Word.
We also need tools...tools to help us be better at this calling on our lives. So, we've worked hard this year to broaden our break-out sessions to address both topical and thematic things like Josh Ross's and John Mark Hicks's classes all about waiting on the Lord, while also offering practical worship ministry, technical, and hands-on creative and inspiring classes. We hope that some of these classes about leading praise teams, innovative lighting ideas, worship planning, caring for your voice, innovative ways of using art, Planning Center, and more will help you not only leave feeling refreshed spiritually, but also equipped to do the technical parts of your job.
And, back by popular demand, we're doing another New Music Pre-Conference to kick off the weekend! In addition to the great new music we’ll learn at the conference from the upcoming ZOE CD “Here With Us,” New Music Nashville will provide an opportunity for attendees to discover even more great new songs for worship. Beginning on Friday morning, attendees will have a chance to learn a dozen new songs with Randy Gill, DJ Bulls and rehearsal accompanist Jerry Reed. These selections are brand new arrangements in a variety of styles that will be wonderful additions to your church’s repertoire in the coming year. A folio of the new music by Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Israel Houghton and others is included in the price of the Pre-Conference. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to be part of what one participant last year called “the greatest a cappella worship choir ever assembled!” The songs are great, the singing is incredible and it's just a blast! You won't want to miss New Music Nashville!
We know how hard it can be to take time away from your home church--whether you're a volunteer or a full-time minister. We know it's difficult to make time to go other places on the days when your job seems to count the most. But it's YOU we have in mind as we've carefully begun painting this canvas that will be "Here With Us". We're planning all sorts of surprises this year...and don't want you to miss even one of them. We would love for you to stay through the weekend and then worship with us Sunday morning too as Mike Cope and I close out the conference.
My prayer is that the Lord would begin building excitement and anticipation in your hearts as we look ahead to October 25th when we will gather and experience the Lord in ways that will shape our lives and ministries. I'm praying that these hope inspired words, "God with us", will begin to just haunt you....ring in your ears...and surround you on days of trouble and in times of rejoicing.
Registration opens tomorrow (July 29th). SIGN UP! Do it! I promise, this is one ZOE Conference you won't want to miss. I'll see you in October! I CAN. NOT. WAIT! Go here to register! www.zoegroup.org
Tuesday, July 02, 2013
Don't forget to save the date on your calendars for the first ever ZOE Christmas conference in October! October 25th-27th in Nashville at the Otter Creek Church. You can register online at www.zoegroup.org
We begin recording our first ever Christmas CD this Friday. We're excited and covet your prayers as we enter this process!
Monday, July 01, 2013
My great-great grandfather (William Samuel Herndon) was a Church of Christ preacher and church planter back in the mid 1800's. He moved his family to West Texas and planted a church that would soon grow...as his family did. (They ended up with 14 kids. I mean seriously.)
The woman to your right in this picture is my great-great-great grandmother...born in the early 1800s.) My great grandmother is the one over William's left shoulder. She learned to love Jesus from her parents and she passed it down to my grandmother and then my mother. I'll bet things looked different back in the 1800s, don't you?
This past Sunday we did an exercise in nostalgia and actually took out the hymnals and turned to #613 and sang "Hold to God's Unchanging Hand". It's a song my mother, grandmother and even great grandmother would have sung, written in 1904. Funny how songs with good theology form us. Those lyrics...verse one and chorus especially...are important. Funny to think that words sung so long ago could help us...help all of us...as we move into the church of the future.
The song says, "Time is filled with swift transition...keep your hopes on things eternal. Hold to God's unchanging hand." Forms will come and forms will go. But the love of Jesus is everlasting. It is an everlasting love and his power is never ending.
In her later years, my great grandmother went to Central Church of Christ here in Abilene. It later dwindled out and the building was given to Highland and it now serves as our Grace Fellowship campus. Interestingly, I remember walking in one day to rehearse with the worship band for our service that Sunday and stopped in my tracks. I looked around at the red carpet and the wooden ceiling and realized....this was my great grandmother's church. This is where she worshiped. And now, 150 years after William Herndon planted a church near Anson and then exploded the population with his own offspring, his great-great grandson is leading worship...instrumental worship...at the church his daughter attended well into her 90s.
So, what is eternal? Buildings? Song books? Red carpet? Certain hymns or styles of worship? No. Jesus. The same yesterday, today and forever. The Alpha and Omega. And I hope that William Herndon's love for Jesus will live on in his great-great-great grandchildren and beyond...as Maddie is already leading worship with the youth band every Sunday morning at Highland in the middle school class.
I pray that, as Psalm 145 says, "One generation will commend His works to another...and tell of His surpassing greatness." Keep your hopes on things ETERNAL. Hold to God's unchanging hand.
Thursday, March 07, 2013
Our staff is reading Deep & Wide, the amazing book by Andy Stanley. I highly recommend this book to EVERYONE! It is an important read for anyone who cares about the future of the church.
It's hard to choose quotes from this book because I soon realized I was underlining about 90% of everything in it. But, today, this part stuck out to me.
I grew up around people who believed the church was for saved people who ACTED like saved people. I'm all too familiar with that church brand. The catch was that they were the ones who decided what act like a saved person meant. They got to determine which sins saved people could commit and which ones were evidence of being UNsaved. Oddly enough, the lists changed every few years. Worse, the lists never coincided with any of the sin lists in the New Testament. ..... SO, those who were actually "tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt fightings and fears within, without" didn't feel free to talk about their fightings and fears in those churches. Instead, they covered everything up. Which, of course, made everything worse. Covering up may keep the person in the good graces of the church, but it only fuels the power of whatever sin one is covering up. Churches designed for SAVED people are full of hypocrites.You pretty much have to be a hypocrite to aprticipate. Transparency and honesty are dangerous in a church created for church people. Consequently, the casualty in a church for church people is grace. It's hard to extend grace to people who don't seem to need it. And it's hard to admit you need it when you aren't sure you'll receive it.
Go to Amazon and order this book! Do it!!
Monday, February 11, 2013
Last night marked the kick-off to our new Highland Sunday service at our Grace Fellowship campus. We've been working and planning for weeks and were so pleased with the opening night. Earlier this semester, the leadership at Highland gave the green light to move to one service at our main campus and add a service at the Grace campus. The Grace campus would include instrumental worship, the same sermon that Jonathan preached on Sunday morning and communion.
It was a special and holy moment for me. The Grace Fellowship campus was formerly the Central Church of Christ where my great grandmother and great aunt went to church many years ago. As I sat listening to Jonathan speak last night, it occurred to me that I was sitting on the same row I sat in for my great grandmother's funeral when I was just a little boy. I wonder what she would have thought last night. Would she have marveled at the amount of people there? Would she have stroked out to see the instruments on stage? Would she have loved the singing, so loud it could have lifted the rafters?
Last night was just incredible. The energy and excitement in the room were palpable. It almost felt like a herd of wild horses waiting behind a gate and then being released. Once the music kicked in and the first song began, the singing was almost deafening. There were beautiful expressions of worship happening all over that room through the evening as people sang and prayed and went to communion stations to partake with their friends and families...and others they'd never met.
I'm so grateful to an amazing team of people who helped us pull off this beginning. Alex Howard is a beast! What a heart! He leads with such courage and boldness before the Lord. Thank you, Alex! Thank you to Amy Sheasby (who also played keys), Trey Wrape and Christine Pinson for the incredible vocals. Thank you to the band--Amy, Nathan Sheasby, Matt Roberson, and Claire Warlick. You all lead us with grace, skill and heart!
Thank you to Matt Pinson and Jim Etheridge who put in countless hours of time. Thanks to Dickie Porche, Virgil (our homeless friend who helps regularly at Grace), and Ben Strizu for getting us to this day.
Here are some pics and video of set up, rehearsal and then of our first service.
|Communion Stations were set up all over the room|
|Jack Pinson and Virgil played cards to pass the time while the band rehearsed|
|Matt Pinson and Mike Wiggins did an awesome job on the chalk sign in the lobby!|