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Author Archive | Gary Molander

This Song. Your Church. Please Sing.

 

There is much to be said about the songs we sing in our churches, especially when it comes to being overly critical. I am guilty of this beyond what I care to confess.

But I’ve been personally inspired and drawn to Christ’s hope with a new song by Elevation Worship. Why? Because it’s one of those rare and unique songs that invites people who once experienced the joy and majesty of God to declare that it’ll happen again, even if it’s not happening now.

This beautiful song invites people who once experienced the joy of the Lord to remind themselves that it’ll happen again, even if it’s not happening in their lives now.

Too many of our songs of worship invite us to pretend that we feel the closeness and goodness of God, even when we don’t. But not this song.

“Do It Again” gives me hope in the future, not only a future in heaven, but one day on earth too. It invites me to proclaim that the night won’t last, that change will come, and that the walls won’t stand forever. It reminds me of the mountains that God has moved in my past, and gives me the words to believe that He isn’t finished moving other mountains on my behalf, all for His glory.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating to estimate that at least half of the people in our congregations everywhere need to proclaim this message as they sing. We are in desperate need of artists and lyricists who give words to people in pain – words that make clear sense, especially when the events of our lives do not. It’s not just about proclaiming truth in our songs of worship. It’s about the truth we proclaim as we sing.

I hope this one makes it into your set list, or at least into your “Songs to Introduce Soon” list. It’s long, and you can chop it down quite easily. I believe that God will be honored, and that a larger-than-expected segment of people will find a place where they don’t feel like they’re the only ones who aren’t experiencing what everyone else seems to be experiencing.

This article originally appeared on GaryMo.com. Used with permission.
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The Myth of a Creative Class

The primary myth of creativity, as I see it, is any voice that makes any person believe that artists are the only truly creative people on the planet. As someone who’s an artist and who speaks to and from the middle of that Tribe, I confess that we can give off a vibe of being the only truly creative people in the room. We can be arrogant like that, but it’s really just insecurity masquerading as eliteness. And that’s because we’re looking for a group to belong to, mostly because we don’t really fit anywhere else.

But biblically speaking, we’re not the only creative people in the room. I promise we’re not. When my Tribe labels themselves “creatives”, it just makes me want to throw up in my mouth, because many of the most creative people I know are not, in any manner, artistic.

GENESIS 1:1-2

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

In the beginning of our world, it all started with a blank dark space. Into that space, God begins to create a bunch of stuff. If you read further in Genesis 1 and 2, you’ll see what the Creator creates. Light and water and sun and moon and vegetation and animals and humans. And it’s all very good.

It’s really good stuff.

But underneath the surface, what’s God really doing at the heart of it all?

I think this. I think there’s a void. The writer calls it a formless and empty space. And God sees the empty space, and then fills it with expressions of Himself.

EXPRESSION #1 – LIGHT

The sun and the moon and the stars. These are all expressions of God’s LIGHT. We’ll read later in Scripture that “God is light, and He clothes Himself in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16). But for now, just know that there’s a category of stuff God created that is all about light.

EXPRESSION #2 – LIFE

If light is the first expression of God’s creation, then life is the second. The water, the vegetation, the animals, the fish, the humans, and even the cats. All are a creative outpouring of God’s LIFE into what was lifeless, and into what would eventually become a world teeming with all kinds of life.

The essence of God is light and life. It’s those two things.

Light.

Life.

And He’s pouring those two things into the creation of our world. He breathes it into existence, and there is nothing random or accidental about it. In one jaw-dropping season of creative activity, He pours it all into an empty space.

The Trinity is giggling.

The angels are smiling and shaking their heads in wonder.

The heavens are singing.

BECAUSE GOD IS TAKING THE ESSENCE OF EVERYTHING HE IS, AND HE’S POURING IT INTO A VOID.

And the results are nothing less than fabulous.

And even though this might seem like a stretch, let’s just ask the question nonetheless.

What if a God who is a Creator invites us to do the very same thing?

WHAT IF GOD INVITES US TO POUR THE ESSENCE OF OURSELVES INTO EVERY EMPTY SPACE?

A God who pours Himself out invites us to pour ourselves out. He invites us to take the essence of who we are, and pour that into the empty spaces that we encounter every day. And that, my friends, is what creativity is all about.

Creativity is never an automatic thing because the essence of creativity always invites us to stamp His imprint into our worlds. The primary myth of creativity declares that some people are just born with creativity, and some aren’t. But when we buy into that thinking and believe that myth, we’re mistaking creating with displaying. But they’re not the same. Not even close.

Creativity takes intention. It’s active, not passive. It takes both dreams and sweat. It’s less about generating the next best creative concept. It’s less about comparing yourself with others who do the same thing as you do, and who – in your mind – do it better. Creativity is all about pouring the essence of who you are into a void.

It’s the essence of YOU. Not the guy who’s been on the staff team longer than you, or the gal who makes everyone in the room laugh, or the mom who’s children obey her every wish with a smile.

They have their own essence, and it’s not your essence. And God will never ever ask you, “Why aren’t you more like ________?” Instead, He’ll always ask you, “Why aren’t you more like you?”

And the voids and empty spaces aren’t trivial or random. They’re not simply opportunities or bullet points in your job description. They are empty spaces that will remain empty unless you pour the imprint of God into them.

  • So if you’re really good with money – then pour that into those of us who are not.
  • If you’re great at administration – at dotting i’s and crossing t’s, then pour that into those of us who just show up and hope everything will be okay.
  • If you’re an encourager, then speak life over everyone you encounter – from your wife and children, to the barista girl at Starbucks, to the kid who can’t make change at the 7-Eleven.
  • If you’re an artist, pour.
  • If you’re a teacher, pour.
  • If you’re a politician, use your authority to pour out, not in.
  • If you’re a welder, or a garbage man, or a stay-at-home mom, or if you serve in the military… pour.

Sometimes I wonder if the imprint of Christ is seen most clearly, motivated by love, when we pour our own uniqueness into the spaces that will remain empty and void unless we fill them with…

Us.

 

This article originally appeared on GaryMo.com. Used with permission.

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You Are the Light

What if the one thing the world is missing is the single unique thing you have to offer? Your heart. Your soul. Your passions. Your quirky smile. Your kindness. Your humor. Your courage. Your unwillingness to give up. Your desire to serve behind the scenes. Your creativity.

Your everything.

What if the world is missing you?

What if the world is thirsty for the beauty of God as He expresses Himself through you, and what if they can’t even identify that thirst?

Everything is holding us back from offering ourselves to the world, because it’s either too good to be true, or too difficult to believe. Or both.

We don’t have enough time.

We’re low on resources.

Our fears are too great to overcome.

And we just don’t really believe that anyone needs us. There are so many better people than us.

WE JUST DON’T REALLY BELIEVE.

And we bring all those doubts and misgivings about ourselves to Scripture, and we read something like this chunk of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:14-16), and then we’re screwed because Christ’s words don’t align with our beliefs about not really believing.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Please understand who Jesus is speaking to here. He’s looking into the worn and wrinkled faces of broken and battered people who had Palestinian dust pressed into every crevice of their skin. They have no clout in any arena where clout or influence is required. They are one half-step above the bottom of the smelly caste barrel that society accepted as normal.

But as the master Rabbi teaches them, He’s making absurd comments about them.

About THEM.

And as the religious leaders look on from a distance, they cannot believe what they’re hearing. And I’ve always wondered if it was at this point when one of the key religious leaders looked at another key religious leaders and said, “We gotta get rid of this guy.”

Because this Guy is saying these things:

“YOU are the light of the world.”

And again, “Let YOUR light shine before people…”

And finally, “… so the world will see YOUR light…”

If they could afford a mirror, they’d look into it and see only darkness, if they had the courage to look into it at all. But not in the mind and heart of Jesus. Jesus always seems to see what no one else sees, and He has the uncanny ability to frame that vision into a truth that everyone must either love or hate.

JESUS ALWAYS SEEMS TO SEE WHAT NO ONE ELSE SEES, AND HE HAS THE UNCANNY ABILITY TO FRAME THAT VISION INTO A TRUTH THAT EVERYONE MUST EITHER LOVE OR HATE.

Can these words on this hillside really be true?

I get it – I get that we Christians are always very careful to give all the glory to God, and to say things like, “Oh. That wasn’t me. That was Jesus.” We really want for Jesus to be the light, and make no mistake about it. Jesus is the light.

But you are imprinted with that exact same Light.

So am I.

That doesn’t make us equal to Jesus or divine or anything like that. But in the mind of Jesus, broken people are also illuminating people, because the presence of Christ is not a respecter of persons.

PEOPLE WHO ARE WELL AWARE OF THEIR OWN BROKENNESS WILL SHINE THE BRIGHTEST LIGHT.

So it all comes down to each one of us. What if the world needs your light so they’ll be drawn to the truest ever Light-Giver? What if Jesus’ words to them are really the words of God to us?

That might just be enough to inspire us to live differently today. So go into your world.

Blind them.

 

This post originally appeared on GaryMo.com. Used with permission.

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What Makes a Great Leader?

Leadership is like a many-faceted diamond. To define leadership in small and simple terms is to remove the beautiful complexity of the diamond, and replace with with a sheet of glass. We want easy definitions of leadership so we can lock in and press forward, but inso-doing, we take something that is beyond three-dimensional and make it flat and lifeless and powerless.

In these thoughts, I’m taking the diamond of leadership, making an observation about the view through one cut edge, then turning it for another view. And I’m just scratching the surface of what many others have already discovered about what it means to be a great leader.

Most leaders protect themselves and their interests. Great leaders cover those around them, and move their organizations forward underneath the safety of that covering.

Many leaders are trying to figure out their own purpose and calling. Great leaders are discovering that their greatest purpose and calling is to help those around them figure it all out.

Many leaders create friendships so the job gets done. Great leaders create jobs so the friendships get done.

Many leaders coerce. Great leaders invite.

Many leaders believe the ends justify the means. Great leaders focus on treating the means with integrity and honesty and love, then allowing God to create the best end possible.

Many leaders believe that the size or their organization matters most. Great leaders believe that the size of every team member’s heart matters most.

Many leaders try and remove the tension of not knowing. Great leaders learn to dance in the middle of that tension.

Many leaders hide their weaknesses. Great leaders confess them.

Many leaders have core values that serve the organization. Great leaders help people to fully embrace what it means to live and breathe and find life within those core values.

Many leaders talk first. Great leaders listen first.

Many leaders control. Great leaders trust.

I suppose that If leadership is getting the people around you to do your bidding, then Hitler was a great leader. But if leadership is pouring into others so they discover the best way they can pour into a needy world, then Jesus stands atop the leadership boards.

For in Jesus, we find Someone who both loved and challenged people fiercely. We find someone who always invited people into something that was far bigger than themselves – something He called “the kingdom” – and we experience a man who alone offered the keys to that door’s unlocking. We see a leader who lived for the glory of His Father, but who created a band of rejects to help a dying world see that glory.

And I just can’t get beyond the fact that, over and over and over again, we only see and hear invitational language on the lips of Jesus, never coercion and guilt and pressure. Jesus came because He loved the world so much, but that love never lost its invitational nature to either follow Him with everything, or not.

I want to be more like Jesus, and let any leadership I offer to my family or church or organization flow from there. And I never ever want to abandon the multi-faceted diamond of leadership in favor of something that fits into a few simple catch phrases, but lakes the oxygen away from the soul of anything I lead today.

 

This article originally appeared on GaryMo.com. Used with permission.

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Thy Will Be Done

Thy will be done.

Those are the easiest words to say, and the most difficult to mean.

Thy will be done when I don’t see a way out.

Thy will be done when I’ve unknowingly created a vision of what Your will should look like, and have already started moving toward it.

Thy will be done when I have no human understanding of why or how you’re allowing this thing to happen in my life, and why you’re allowing it to keep happening over and over again.

Thy will be done in my grief, in my despair, in my heartache, and in my loneliness.

Thy will be done when I succeed and verbally give You the public credit, all the while harboring some secret self-reliance, pride, or even arrogance.

Thy will be done when the disease returns.

Thy will be done when the relationship goes south, or when the business plan backfires, or when the truth about who I really am is brought to some embarrassing light.

Thy will be done.

Kinda feels like we’re getting to the heart of those words now. Because at the heart of embracing the depth and breadth and soul and nuance of those four words – Thy will be done – is to add a simple phrase to their conclusion. What if we added – “…with no strings or expectations attached.” That’s what we’re really saying here, right? So…

 

THY WILL BE DONE WITH NO STRINGS OR EXPECTATIONS ATTACHED.

 

For me, that’s the very best way I can mean it when I say it, and I can say it and fully mean it.  It feels like surrender to me, and I’m unaccustomed to feeling enough of that. It feels like I just came closer to the heart of worship than when I sing words to songs. It feels like I’m confronted with the choice to either believe in the goodness of God, or to abandon that belief in His goodness altogether. It feels like I can now begin to see my life in the light of eternity, not in the glare of these earthly and temporal and individual events.

Christ is not inviting us into some version of Christian Karma, friends, where His will is somehow attached to our good or bad deeds, and our lives get easier as a result of following Him. Not even close. He’s inviting us to climb up onto an altar, not as a sacrifice that will die, but as one that will truly and finally live.

So today, God – Thy will be done.. and truly…

with no strings or expectations attached.

So what about you? If you were to fill in the blank at this moment of your life, what words would you use in that blank space?

Thy will be done with no strings or expectations attached, even when __________________.  

This post originally appeared on GaryMo.com. Used with permission.

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