Thursday, November 19, 2015

Looking Ahead

As we round the corner in our preparations for our Christmas concert, I am reminded of one of the strongest cautions issued to believers when embarking on any new initiative for God, whether it is a relationship, project, or even a new season or year. It’s found in Psalm 127:1. The English Standard Version (ESV) translates it:

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

Eugene Peterson uses the more modern vernacular in The Message:

If GOD doesn’t build the house, the builders only build shacks.
If GOD doesn’t guard the city, the night watchman might as well take a nap.

Either way, the point is clear. If God isn’t in it, you’re wasting your time to start it.  Rather than ask Him to “bless our mess”, better for us to seek Him on the ground floor.  Find out where He’s moving and get into the flow of that. From the outset of this project, God has been sought…in the selection of music, the prayer for singers and musicians, for a compelling theme and a unique way to retell the story, and now for God to provide a harvest from all the seeds that will be sown this season.

The best tool God gives us to discern His will, apart from His Word, is the gift of prayer.  To move forward without consulting Him for wisdom and direction, without listening for His voice, would be to waste our time and His limitless resources.  To handle what is in store for us with a high commitment to prayer is also one of our 16 values (We call them our Sweet Sixteen).  So let’s do a little reviewing of this thing called prayer.

Prayer is that act which enables the believer to express a broad range of thoughts and emotions in his response to God, including praise, thanksgiving, loving adoration, confession, lament, communion, petition, the making of a vow or commitment, and intercession.  The ultimate objective of prayer is not merely the good of the person praying but the honor of God’s name. And if we are to take our cues from the greatest pray-er who ever lived—Jesus, it’s more dialogue than monologue.  It isn’t just talking but listening. And for us fallen creatures, it must move beyond whining to worshiping.

In one of his most compelling treaties on prayers, Jesus encourages us:

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! “ (Matt. 7:7-11).

The apostle James puts it in the negative form:

“You don’t have because you don’t ask God.  And when you [do] ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  (James 4:2,3)

In our desire to be a part of a mighty move of God this Christmas season, as we attempt to inspire the faithful and illuminate those outside the faith, let’s collectively be bathing these efforts in prayer. Begin each petition by asking God how to pray, for what to pray, and for whom to pray.  And let’s be bold in our requests, as James suggests.  Let’s pray for people to receive Christ, for lost sheep to be found, for stragglers and strugglers to become warriors, and those crippled by fear to become filled with faith.

Finally, when it’s all over, let’s not be like the nine healed lepers who forgot to return thanks to Jesus for his miraculous work on their behalf.  Instead, let’s follow up our efforts with great thanksgiving to the One from whom we sought help in the first place. To that end, let’s even reimagine our Cast Party on Dec. 17 as just that—the night we returned to give thanks for the great things that God…is about to do.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Trees Talk (revisited)

One of the clearest voices God speaks through is the tree. Here, in this one beautiful symbol of life, we have all the stages, the actual rhythm of the human experience.  And ultimately, we have the reminder that through the use of a tree, God’s redemptive plan for his fallen creation was accomplished, and we are restored, we are made right with Him.

Several years ago, one of my favorite contemporary Christian lyricists, Nicole Nordeman, wrote a song called Every Season ( If you want one of the most honest, insightful windows into the human experience, you need look no further than the songs of this gifted writer.  Read along and see if you don’t agree that God has given her wisdom into a language that is all around us, spoken almost completely in silence.
Every evening sky, an invitation to trace the patterned stars.
And early in July, a celebration for freedom is ours.
And I notice You in children’s games, in those who watch them from the shade.
Every drop of sun is full of fun and wonder.  You are summer.

As the seasons of life go, I think of the summer of our days as the best of the best.  And it’s not necessarily a confined season or stage of our life.  It’s just when life is good, when we’re hitting on all cylinders, and all seems right with the world.  This experience comes and goes, but when we’re in the middle of it, we don’t want it to end.  It’s also a time filled with discovery and awe.  We often find the drudgery and grind of the rest of our life tolerable because we anticipate summer’s arrival.

And even when the trees have just surrendered to the harvest time.
Forfeiting their leaves in late September and sending us inside,
Still I notice You.  When change begins and I am braced for colder winds,
I will offer thanks for what has been and what’s to come.  You are autumn.

Personally, autumn is my favorite season of the year.  The colors, the smells, the cooler temperatures, the activities unique to fall:  they all remind me that just because something changes does not mean it can’t be beautiful or purposeful.  And I have learned the longer I live, that something wondrous happens even in the process of dying—if I look for it. 

And ev’rything in time and under heaven fin’lly falls asleep.
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation shivers underneath.
And still I notice You when branches crack and in my breath on frosted glass.
Even now in death, You open doors for life to enter.  You are winter.

I can honestly say this is probably my least favorite season of the year and of life in general.  It is often used to describe that stage which precedes our own death, when we fall asleep and are ‘no more’.  We hear the phrase the winter of our years.  Actually, I usually greet the start of winter with enthusiasm.  Certain elements like freshly fallen snow, the warmth of a fireplace, even the beauty of dead trees and vegetation against the backdrop of a beautiful white landscape—all of these intrigue me…initially. 

But then comes the waiting, the frustration of life slowed down, the lack of freedom, the lack of life, the sameness of it all.  At times, the bitter winds and uncertain conditions actually seem to oppose me in my journey, blocking my forward momentum.   And then, it happens:

Everything that’s new has bravely surfaced, teaching us to breathe.
And what was frozen through is newly purposed, turning all things green.
So it is with You and how You make me new with ev’ry season’s change.
And so it will be as You are recreating me, summer, autumn, winter, spring.

You and I, along with all of God’s creation, are reborn, given a do-over, awakened to life as it was always intended. Solomon once wrote: “Lo, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone; flowers appear on the earth, and the time for singing has come.” It reminds us that even the bleakest of periods in our lives have an ending point.  It’s as if God hits the refresh button and voilĂ !  Reboot! 

Our Maker is always at work moving us forward.  He has made seasons to illustrate the spectrum of our human experiences. And He has made trees, including the one that was used for His own son’s death, to remind us, that in whatever stage we find ourselves, He is at work for our good.  Let the seasons speak to you. Let trees talk to you. And be reminded, God is not finished with you yet.

[Jesus] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins,
might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.  1 Peter 2:24 NKJV

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What’s your job description?

As worship leaders, I like to think of yours and my role as primarily prophetic, not aesthetic.  If corporate worship can be viewed as entering the temple of God, the place of His dwelling, then our role is more akin to the pillars or columns supporting the structure, not the artifacts which merely provide artistic beauty.  Personally, I’d rather be a support beam than a statue or a stained glass window any day. 

And as support beams, what is it, exactly, that we are to hold up?  Three things come quickly to mind: the name of Jesus (Philippians 2:10, 11), the truth of His word (2 Timothy 2:15), the prophet’s arms (Exodus 17:10-13).  In these specific ways, we lead others into the praise of Jesus, the proclamation of His word through song, and receiving the seed sown by our preaching pastors. The writer to the Hebrews gives instruction to public gatherings with these words from chapter 10: 

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

This Sunday’s anthem speaks to one of the foundational roles this ministry can have in our corporate worship life—declaring truth, and more specifically—illustrating God. Who is it that we worship? What’s He like?  Is He worth worshiping?  Beginning with the first verse, we assert that He is unlike any other god. He has no equal; He has no rival. Our God is three in One—a community, whose very being calls us into shared lives entwined with specific function and distinct purposes. Before you declare these truths this week, be sure and live with the text yourself. Believe and receive the life contained in these verses.  For example, aren’t you glad that the One who is your judge is also your defender?  How amazing is that?!

Then come Sunday ready to sing the words of this anthem into the very souls of our people, proclaiming with conviction the truth of God’s word.  And all the while, remember you are pointing them to Jesus—that is the work of the Holy Spirit in you, friends.  That’s what He does. In John 15:26, Jesus says, "I will send you the Advocate--the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me.” So preach it, choir!

Our Father everlasting, The all creating One—God Almighty
Through Your Holy Spirit conceiving Christ the Son--Jesus our Saviour.

I believe in God our Father, I believe in Christ the Son, I believe in the Holy Spirit—Our God is three in one.
I believe in the resurrection, that we will rise again, for I believe in the Name of Jesus.

Our Judge and our Defender, suffered and crucified—forgiveness is in You
Descended into darkness, You rose in glorious life; forever seated high!  I believe in God the Father…

I believe in You; I believe You rose again. I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord.  I believe in God the Father…

I believe in life eternal, I believe in the virgin birth,
I believe in the saints' communion, and in Your holy Church
I believe in the resurrection when Jesus comes again,
 for I believe in the Name of Jesus.

By doing our “job” well, we also help till the soil of the peoples’ hearts, helping to ready them, prepare them to receive the sown Word of our preaching pastors. In so doing, we are “lifting up the prophets’ arms” and aiding them in displaying the wonder and power of God.

Do you know your job description?  Do you comprehend the high calling to which you have been called?  I, for one, can’t wait to join you in fulfilling our role this weekend.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Accustomed to His Face

Remember that classic song from My Fair Lady…”I’ve grown accustomed to her face, she almost makes the day begin”? It reminds me of a tender passage from Psalm 27, in which King David writes of His relationship with God in a most intimate way:

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek.

Imagine that—seeking the face, the presence, the expression of the Living God in prayer and worship.  Pursuing intimacy with God is just that—growing more and more accustomed to His face, His voice, His move.  If we loosely define being intimate as being relationally close to another, it becomes apparent that intimacy with God has less to do with what we know to be true about Him and more about really knowing Him…relating to Him, focusing on Him, talking and listening to Him, loving Him. 

A former pastor of mine described it like this.  Imagine, for a moment, the difference between sitting around your table on your birthday and having your closest friends and/or family members enthusiastically (sometimes humorously) singing happy birthday to you.  You are aware that beyond their singing skills and the familiar words are numerous shared experiences which over time have yielded a closeness and intimacy with them that transcend this simple tradition. 

Now imagine dining out at your favorite restaurant on your birthday and having total strangers surround you—your waiters and waitresses who have been conscripted by their boss to acknowledge your special day with some local version of Happy Birthday.  First, if you’re like me, you are feeling awkward or, worse, dying inside of embarrassment, and secondly, you are aware that these well wishers had little choice in the matter…it’s part of their job. 

Sometimes we as followers of Christ can fall into patterns of “doing our job” as the worship leaders at Hope…going through the motions, even saying and singing the right things, but feeling empty inside or at least a bit disingenuous.  I have even heard teammates confess that they feel hypocritical when they sing worship songs because their personal lives or walk with Christ have hit a rough patch or even flat-lined. 

It is at times like these that we can do a quick inventory, asking a simple question:  “If God seems far away from me right now, who moved?”  It is even in the dark and desperate times that God reminds us “Draw near to Me, and I will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)  For His part, He never stops calling, never stops wooing, never stops pursuing us.  Just move toward Him.

Also, there is an urgency to God’s invitation to stay close to Him when He warns: Seek the Lord while He may be found, call on Him while He is near. (Isaiah 55:6)  Yes, He promises to never leave us or forsake us, but there is something about delaying or postponing getting close to God for a more convenient season that becomes less likely the more time passes, and we grow comfortable with the distance.

My encouragement to each of you is to have at least one other person in your life who routinely asks you how you are doing in this area.  Close, personal brothers and sisters in the faith can help us fan the flames of our passion for God before we find ourselves running on spiritual fumes.  Fumes are more like the remnants or even memories of former days when we really walked hand in hand with our God.  Let’s make a covenant in the worship ministry to lovingly encourage and challenge each other to keep the main thing the main thing.  As worship leaders, let’s commit to growing more and more accustomed to His face before inviting others into His presence as we lead.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Public Worship Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

One of my favorite teachers on the subject of worship is Pastor Jack Hayford, former senior pastor of Church on the Way in Van Nuys, CA.  This week I am excerpting a portion from “A Man’s Worship and Witness” where Jack gives his own unique spin on one the very first worshiping communities—Cain & Abel (see Genesis 4).

Soiled hands placed vegetables in a tidy arrangement on the rock altar. Cain felt proud of his display. His brother, Abel, had begun assembling his own offering hours ago and still wasn’t done.  Cain was. All Cain did was walk into his garden and pull up the fine specimens out of the ground. They had grown all by themselves. And the garden was close by. It all seemed so easy.

A smug smile curled Cain’s lips. His brother- still searching out in the fields for an offering- was laboring for nothing, Cain mused. He looked again upon the grand, colorful altar. There it was. Vegetables. On the altar. Easy. This being one of his first offerings, Cain wondered what exactly was to happen next. Pondering this, he sat on a nearby stone and waited. He looked over at this brother’s altar just as Abel came through the bushes carrying several ewe lambs. It wasn’t long before the lambs were mounted on Abel’s altar and slain.

Cain noticed that Abel’s altar was smaller than his. Good. Having sacrificed the animals on the altar, Abel walked several paces back and knelt in prayer. Cain felt uneasy. He hadn’t done that. But comforted himself by observing that Abel’s altar was blood-stained and dirty, while his was neat, tidy and colorful: orange and red and yellow and green and – just then: Whoosh! Brilliant flames from out of nowhere- from another realm- licked up all of Abel’s sacrifice! All of it! Cain jumped to his feet. A few ashes drifted in the breeze. The colorful harvest on Cain’s altar remained defiantly the same-unchanged. Nothing happened to his.

Cain stormed off, angered and pouting. And it was later, as his tormented mind seethed with hatred and jealousy, that the Lord met him near a tall palm tree: “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:6,7).

Shortly, Cain’s competitive jealousy grew to such intolerable levels that he rose in fury to kill his brother, Abel. And thus, the record teaches us: the first murder was born in the heart of a man who resisted God’s ways of worship. The first victim of violence was a man who worshiped God physically, openly, and freely.

Personally I am challenged by this story…not only from the original text, but also by the way Hayford has drawn applications for us as a worshiping community.  From this, I have come up with a list of takeaways:  
  • As we bring an offering to God (ourselves), He wants all of us, not what is comfortable or convenient.
  • Nothing less than our very best is really worthy of God.
  • He doesn’t require what He does not provide.
  • Man looks at the outside—God looks at the heart.
  • No true act of worship can be separated from the need for the shedding of blood.  Either we return to the old animal sacrificial system or we adopt God’s new covenant offer of the life of His son. (Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. - Hebrews 9:22)
  • Uncontested spiritual warfare can be deadly.  For the time being, Cain, an enemy of true worship, succeeded in quelling the sacrifice of praise offered by his brother. But unlike Abel, we are not left alone to be victimized by the Enemy in an effort to silence our praise.  This is why we often pray that God would “bind the enemy” (Mark 3:27) prior to our worship experiences.  We believe the One in us is greater than the one who is “in the world.”)
  • If we allow our worship to go public, it will impact others.  Some might be blessed and encouraged. Others will begin to pull away from us or, worse, try to discredit us.
  • As Abel learned, worshiping freely with abandon in public places can be hazardous to your health!  At the very least it can result in you being judged, ridiculed, less popular.  Kind of like Jesus.
  • In the end, warring over whose worship is more Christian or appropriate or godly still misses the mark. As wrong as Cain was, he still was not beyond redemption.  The writer to the Hebrews reminds us, “You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.”
  • Sincere and God-focused worship touches His very heart!  (“The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering...” 4:4) 
Bottom line?  May our ultimate goal be to bring pleasure to the One who alone is worthy, no matter what the personal cost. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Easier Sang than Done

Welcome again to each and every one of you who have joined us this fall!  I hope you have had a refreshing break and are raring to go.  To you veterans, you have been missed!  To you rookies, we are glad you are here and hope you still feel the same in a few months!!  As we start another choir season, let’s dive into the Word together for a few moments and see what it might say to us about our worship community.  Let’s focus on three little verses from an Old Testament prophet—Micah, found in chapter 6:6-8.  On one level, it satisfies because of its simple Q & A formula.  If only all of scripture was as clear and indisputable!  But on another level, it could be the source of the old adage: “easier said than done.” 

Q:  With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? 
He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you? 
A:  To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

As worship leaders, we know that the very question Micah poses is critical to understanding the nature of worship. It's not about us. It's attitude before action.  It is giving before getting.  What can I bring? What can I offer…to the One who has everything, who owns everything? The apostle Paul reiterates this in Romans 12 when he calls offering ourselves to God as the reasonable thing, the spiritual act of worship.  It’s not the goal, it’s the starting point. 

Much of what we as a choir do in corporate worship involves words, speech, song lyrics, prayers.  But Micah suggests in this passage that offering ourselves to God in worship doesn’t have a whole lot to do with what we say (sing). His three prescribed action steps are just that…actions.  In some sense, our corporate gatherings are more about stated intentions than the fleshing out of what we vow to God.  It is here we declare before Him and one another what we desire to see become reality in our lives.  To put it another way, singing about the awesomeness of God, that He is holy, sufficient, above all gods, is quite different than demonstrating those beliefs with our lives. 

To act justly is one thing when hanging out with other Christians on a Sunday morning; quite another thing come Monday morning (or even Sunday afternoon).  It’s easy to love mercy when we corporately pray for the needs of the Body.  But what does it look like when others hurt us, devalue us, even oppose us?  And walking humbly?  That wasn’t even easy in heaven, when Lucifer lost his place and was cast out.  (Isaiah 14:12ff) The reason: He found it hard to be so gifted, so beautiful, etc., and to walk humbly at the same time.

Gathering around the common task of leading people in worship as a community provides us an excellent lab experience to practice these very principles.  Acting justly in the context of this ministry implies simply doing the right thing: keeping commitments (who was it who said 90% of life is showing up?), being punctual, honing your craft, giving your personal best, etc.  As teammates, it is important that we not only worship together regularly but also prepare together regularly.  We will not maintain a consistent momentum towards excellence if we allow issues of comfort or convenience to rule us as it relates to the grunt work of our task—practice. 

As a community, we love mercy when we foster a grace atmosphere...create a safe place for others to grow and be accepted. It means we treat others as we wish to be treated, assume the best motives, even when the behavior is different than expected or what you yourself would do, and be quick to forgive when behavior or motive falls short.  Loving mercy is intensely active and passionate, not passive and wishy-washy. 

And finally, we walk humbly with our God when we demonstrate the attitudes Paul writes about in Romans 12 and Philippians 2:  

Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, 
but rather think of yourself with sober judgment,
In accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, 
but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, 
but also to the interests of others.

So, again, welcome to this choir season!  Welcome to what I believe will be an exciting year of service, outreach and fun. But also welcome to the grand lab experiment we call Christian community, where we learn how to worship with more than words.  

I hope and pray each of you comes to discover your unique and valuable role in this family.  It might be your voice.  It might be your smile.  Maybe it is your ability to listen and care.  It could even be your ability to trust God in prayer.  Whatever it is, you are God’s treasure and have been placed here by His design.  The fact is that concepts like acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God are not all that difficult to discuss. But becoming a community of worshipers who experience that regularly in action?  Well that would be something to sing about.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

What Not To Wear

You may recognize the phrase “What Not to Wear” as the name of a popular cable TV show which finds seemingly ugly ducklings with frumpy dressing habits and transforms them into chic swans. It happens to be one of my wife’s favorite indulgences. The premise is simple: take one ‘lucky’ candidate (selected, by the way, by close friends and/or family members), put ‘em through fashion boot camp, give them a $5,000 credit card, and turn them loose on a shopping spree, and voila! —they are transformed into a more acceptable, less embarrassing part of mainstream society.

One of the criticisms leveled at this “helpful” show is that it spends the first 10 minutes dismantling the self esteem of its chosen “project” before attempting to reconstruct her. They mock their clothes, shoes, hairstyle, etc., even while trying to affirm the inner or essential beauty of these fashion failures. To be fair, they do spend much of the rest of the show trying to build up their client, focusing their attention on the root cause of the person’s less-than-appealing “presentation.” But by connecting one’s wardrobe, hairdo and makeup to their personal worth or value (even the approval of their friends and family), the viewer is left with the conclusion that it really is important to know what not to wear.

So does what we wear really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things? One ancient proverb states: “A pretty face and fine clothes do not make character.” On the other hand, a very quotable ancient Latin proverb contends: “clothes make the man.” The great humorist Mark Twain later modified that statement a bit, writing: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

Sadly, this is not how God intended it to be. He made His creation to live unashamed, wearing nothing at all but their ‘birthday suit’. Still, ever since our first parents lost their innocence through the fall, we have been trying to find just the right clothes to cover our bodies. I say right clothes, because what Adam quickly learned was that clothes may make the man, but not just any clothes will do. He discovered all too soon what not to wear—namely, leaves—even big fig ones. They have a habit of drying up, shriveling up and eventually giving up any secrets they initially might hide. (The prophet Isaiah, writing to God’s prideful people, observed that “we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6b) It wasn’t until God himself fashioned skins for our first family that mankind began to understand that not all clothes are created equal. Those first ‘outfits’ were anything but cheap either, having been acquired at the price of some poor animal’s life, by the shedding of blood.

But those first skins were but a foretaste of a much more miraculous makeover that God had in store for us. He knew in advance that our wardrobe required something more permanent than garments labeled wash and wear. Out sin and shame demanded something more holistic than mere window dressing. The prophet Isaiah discovered this hundreds of years before the birth of Christ when he wrote:

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; 
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, 
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, 
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, 
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
{Isaiah 61:10 - NKJV}

This passage, as one guest preacher recently referred to it, is a legal statement for the Christian, for those who throw themselves completely on the mercy of Jesus for their salvation. The garment of salvation is put on us by God himself, not something we design, that we sew, or put on ourselves. So it is with the robe of righteousness. We are declared righteous because God has punished all our sin when Jesus became sin for us. It, too, is custom designed, purchased, and put on us by our loving Heavenly Father when we trust Christ. We are declared saved...righteous.

But out God-given wardrobe doesn't just have legal implications. We also wrestle with the practical side of this life every day, every moment. And for that, we are also provided a wonderful wardrobe, which we ourselves get to choose. It’s like having that $5,000 credit card to buy that which we could never afford or supply ourselves. Ponder this makeover:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, 
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. 
Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, 
which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
{Colossians 3:12-14}

Are you and I compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient by nature? No, but through the Spirit we can put on these divine qualities. Can you and I produce agape (unconditional) love on our own? We don’t have to. Put it on.

So, I guess knowing what not to wear is actually pretty important. For instance, don’t wear leaves (self-made attempts to hide your sin and shame). Don’t wear your own self-determined value system (all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment—Isaiah 64:6a-ESV). But from this point on, determine to enjoy the garment bought for you with the very blood of Christ (yours legally) and the clothes made possible for you through the work of the Holy Spirit (yours practically). It may not get you on a cable TV show, but you can sleep well at night knowing God’s got you covered.