Monday, November 19, 2018

May 4, 2000. April 15, 2001. September 8, 2013.

            April 15, 2001. This date seems like forever ago. It was Easter Sunday that year. I don’t recall much about the day, and frankly the date itself is really just another day on my calendar. Yesterday, one of our church members brought me in a stack of old Communicators (our church newsletter for First Baptist, Fargo) along with several old bulletins (thank you, Louella!). One of those bulletins was from April 15, 2001. The order of service begins as usual with a musical prelude. Then the “Call to Worship,” likely a scripture reading or greeting from Pastor Bob. We all then rose to sing the hymn, “Christ Arose,” number 256 in the hymnal we had at the time. After the hymn was a baptism. My baptism. I remember that Pastor Bob asked my dad to help with the baptism since I’m a rather big dude (and always have been) and Bob was suffering from lasting effects from a car accident he had. Pastor Bob talked about how great a day Easter is to hold a baptism as it symbolizes the death of our old self and the rebirth of a new self in Christ, just as Christ was resurrected on that first Easter morning. This connection was not lost on me earlier this year as I had the joy of performing my first baptism for someone on Easter.
            I was baptized less than a year after coming to accept Christ as my savior. It was May 4th, 2000 at Luis Palau’s Crusade 2000! that I went forward to give my life over to Jesus Christ. It took some time, however, for me to truly start living for Christ even after becoming a Christ-follower and a baptized member of my church. It took more than a decade, actually.
            September 8, 2013. I walked back into First Baptist Church of Fargo that day for the first time in many years. It was months or maybe a year or more before that I was feeling the need to go back to church. God was speaking. I heard loud and clear a voice that was saying, “Mike, you’re in your 30s, you claim to be a Christian, but you don’t go to church. There is something wrong here.” Long story short, God brought me back to church, to my home church, on September 8, 2013. The following year I attended 2 men’s camps, one at Camp Bentley in North Dakota, one at Camp Judson in South Dakota. At both of those camps we had the same presenter. In one session, he presented what he called the “Godly Life Priorities List.” Number 1 on that list? God, naturally. It was after those camps that for the first time, I truly put God first in my life. Shortly after that, I started feeling called into ministry, and by the fall of 2015, I was enrolled in Sioux Falls Seminary. In July of 2017, I was called as pastor of First Baptist Church in Fargo.
            I look back on that lost decade (plus three years) and wonder what would have happened if I had made the decision not to simply accept Christ as my savior (not to minimize that saving act), but to truly put Him first in my life from the very start. Then I remember not to dwell on things like this. I am where God needs me now. Looking back and dwelling on “lost time” is unhealthy and doesn’t allow us to focus on the amazing grace offered to us by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. And looking at today, looking at now, is where God wants us to focus. (“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 NIV) Part of the point of salvation, of being “born again,” is to put to rest the things of the past and look to the present, to our current state as Christ-followers, and understanding how God is at work around us today.

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Impact of Music

                In a religious or secular way, music speaks to us. I was a low brass, mostly tuba, player through college. I really miss playing. There are a couple of times I remember playing at North Dakota State that were those truly magical, musical moments. One happened during a concert, the other during a rehearsal. The first was during a performance of a song called Trauermusik by Richard Wagner. The other was during a pre-concert rehearsal of Darius Mihaud’s Suite Fran├žaise, specifically near the end of the fourth movement, Alsace-Lorraine. I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was that touched me about these moments, perhaps it was simply how everything blended together just right at that right moment that made it special. When you consider those were both over a decade ago and I still remember them, it should tell you a little bit about how significant the experiences were.
                Today, music speaks to me in a slightly different way. Pretty much the only new music I listen to is contemporary Christian. There are many songs that have come out recently that have impacted my life at a specific time. I Wanna Go Back by David Dunn was one of them. The idea of simplifying things, simplifying life spoke to me at the time it came out. Breathe by Jonny Diaz is another.  The need to step back and take a deep breath when things seem overwhelming is a lesson we all must remember. Reckless Love by Cory Asbury strikes you when you truly listen to the lyrics. Those three may not have the same impact now as they did when I first heard them, but they were what I needed to hear at the time, and they do still speak to me when I listen. God gave me, gave us, His message through them. Matt Maher’s All the People Said Amen is another song that holds a special place in my heart. Aside from being a wonderful, upbeat song, I have another reason for loving it so much. But that’s another story for another day. Today, there are two songs that, when I hear them, pause my life and make me consider God. One is So Will I (100 Billion X) by Hillsong United. The other, also by Hillsong United, it called Who You Say I Am.
                So Will I talks about the power of God and our need to worship Him. “If the stars were made to worship so will I. If the mountains bow in reverence so will I.” How can we not worship this powerful God? How can we not lift our voices to Him in praise? This is the God that created everything, that breathed life into Adam, that breathed life into us. I was listening to this song in the car yesterday, but the lyrics for Who You Say I Am were stuck in my head. It was an interesting combination…. Who You Say I Am starts out with a question, “Who am I that the highest King would welcome me?” and it ends with the answer, “In my Father’s house, There’s a place for me. I’m a child of God, Yes I am.” That last line gets me every time I hear it. To think of the love God has for us, that He has a place prepared for me in heaven, for me, strikes me in a powerful way.
                In six months, those last two songs may not have the same impact on me as they do today. But I pray I will always remember that last line of Who You Say I Am and the truth spoken through it:

In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

Monday Evening Check-In