It was late Spring/early Summer, sometime near my 9th grade year, not long after the locust plague, when walking outside was always crunchy, and our cars slip-sided from side to side on the pavement because we were continually hydroplaning on swarms of living insect carcasses.  It had been a dry Summer, so the numerous hummingbirds were clinging to our many feeders for survival.

Looking back, it probably wasn’t fair to the local avian life that our garage was painted sky-blue, and had so many windows.  It makes perfect sense how it had gotten trapped: garage door open wide, & a feeder hanging feet from the door filled with bright red sweetness.  

When I walked into the garage from the house, I immediately flinched, thinking it full of bumble-bees.  My recent encounter with a Bumble Bee nest, armed with nothing more than my younger cousin, and two baseball bats, had left a burning impression – many burning impressions – upon me, to say the least.  “Buzzzzzz – THWAK!”  It smacked HARD against the ceiling.  “Bzzzzz – THUMP!”  Against the window.  “Bzzzzzz – BOINK!”  Against the raised garage door.  That poor hummingbird was so disorientated by the color of our garage that it thwaked itself against everything but the wide-open garage door.  No matter how hard I tried to shoe it out the open door, if resisted my movements.  After almost an hour of struggle, it eventually landed in the middle of our empty Garage and simply gave up.

Its tiny body heaved with enormous breaths – it had clearly given up, and was giving itself over to me, likely convinced – or even, at this point, hoping – I would eat him up immediately and end this misery. 

I walked slowly up to the tiny bird, and scooped him up very gently in my hands: so small – so fragile & delicate.  It was like holding a rose petal, except that I could feel it’s breath, and it’s heart pitter-pattering like a tiny, infinitely fast motor whirring along within.  I walked outside the garage and held the tiny thing towards the sun.  It sat still for a time, simply resting in my palm, then buzzed away.

How hard we fight and struggle to make things happen, when usually the most important step is to “be still” – to sit back and let that mighty hand carry us, as we catch our breath.  Human effort can only take us so far, but the most important step towards freedom is always trusting one greater than ourselves to take the next step. Yes, often it looks and feels like death – it seems like ‘the end’, but that hand is good, lifting us towards the brightest Son, and releasing us to fly.

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Yesterday via my iPod one of my favorite Bible teachers/authors – Rich Nathan of the Columbus Vineyard – reminded me of a passage I hadn’t looked at in quite a while: “…the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes… Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said ‘Oh that we had meet to eat!  We remember the fish we at in Egypt that cost nothing…” (excerpts from Numbers 11:1a, 4-5a)

Part of me just wants to slap them – those fish didn’t cost anything BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T HAVE ANY MONEY TO SPEND – YOU WERE SOMEONE’S PROPERTY!!!  My lawnmower doesn’t pay for it’s own gas, either – surprised?  I buy the gas, then fill it up, then USE IT.  It’s MY lawnmower – my property – so I take care of it’s needs. Idiots.  Then, I think – been there, done that.

The whole time I was an ultra-conservative, politically, that was my motivation: return to the “Good Ole’ Days”.  Too many Christians, in fact, lack a ‘Kingdom mindset’ and even their evangelism is not based on love for others and a desire for them to meet Jesus, so much as to save culture and protect what they’ve got – to keep the status quo of comfort for themselves and their families.  Sadly, the “Good Ole’ Days” weren’t “good” – they were just “ole'”, er, I mean, OLD.  

That means “past”, and let me tell you – my    memory   is   selective when remembering that stuff.  In fact, I began many years ago (still not finished, though) writing an autobiographical book which recounts some particular moments in my past which I know for an absolute fact did not occur exactly as I remember them.  My mind has dreamed about these events, I’ve daydreamed what might have been, I’ve told the stories in different fashions to different friends so many times that not even I remember precisely what really happened.  Sure, if I wanted to be ‘historical’ about them, I can pretty much piece together the solid bits with a little “critical realism” applied to my memories, but that’s no fun, so I’m writing these stories with all the extra little oddities left in – call it a study of dreams and memories, cloaked in dramatic biography.  Blah blah blah – whatever I was talking about, though…

That was all the long-winded ‘Shannon’-way of saying, if you asked yourself DURING what you now consider the “Good Ole’ Days”, you probably would complain to point to another bit of “Good Ole’ Days” even further in the past, or – if you’re a political liberal (I did that for a while, too), you point to some imagined idyllic utopia in the future, which any historian worth his weight in butter will tell you will result in something that looks like Communist China or Nazi Germany.  The road to destruction is paved with great intentions, huh?

What we have is NOW.  The only “Good Ole’ Days” that ever existed were at some point in the way distant past visualized for us as a Garden where God walked with us in unbroken relationship, and the only idyllic utopia in the future we have to look forward to is the Garden-ic moment reworked in us through God’s Kingdom come – and coming – which happens NOW, before it happens any other time – and right HERE, in our hearts, first and foremost – before it happens any place else.  It’s not a ‘return’ to what life was like 10 or 20 years ago, because the sin in people’s hearts was just as hell-bent then as it is now – the only difference was which sins were publicly acceptable (those have always changed) and which were condemned and frowned upon.

So, there you go: the “Good Ole’ Days” probably sucked too.  Stop complaining before the Lord and trying to RETURN to something that never was, and in the NOW step forward with God into His Kingdom, which begins inside of each of us – that starts with ME.

Let Your Kingdom come… let Your will be done… so that everyone might know Your name.
(Let Your Kingdom Come – Bob Kauflin)

Pride & Phone Theft…

September 23, 2008

Sounds like a powerful new book title, doesn’t it?

This past Saturday I bought my wife’s phone back.  I got a phone call on my cell phone from my wife, Cyle, which was only odd because she appeared to be calling me from her cell phone, and yet we were both home and she was JUST outside – I could’ve heard her just as well if she just called my name a little more loudly than would be normal under not-in-the-middle-of-an-argument-like circumstances.  The voice, however, is what really threw me; “Hey, do you know this number?

Immediately I wanted to kick his… um… rear.  No, I wanted to do far worse than that.  My first impression was that Cyle was being held at knife-point in the back-yard, and I was immediately trying to figure out how to kill him, while not harming her.  Yes, I went there that quickly.

I was absolutely trashed last night and I bought this cell-phone at the gas station on Gloucester“, he said next – not even realizing that I had been planning my wife’s rescue, and his demise.

He was now off the hook, to a large degree, but I still wanted to beat him down.  I got the details of the story from him, and his tale had some merit.  I asked some facts of my wife and it appears she left her phone in our car – which was parked on the street – and forgot to lock it.  She talked to him for a few minutes, and it came to the point that he asked for his money back, at least in part.  We said ‘yes‘, sorta.

We TOLD HIM, verbally, “yes” – but what we meant was, “I’m not quite sure yet – I want my phone back, and I can’t get a new one for $20, but I’m considering all sorts of things to protect my pride in this matter, including just sending a cop over to pry it from your fingers.”  So, we called the cops, and talked through all of our options, including the possibility that he was some sort of evil conspirator, and that I would be taken hostage or jumped/mugged/killed in broad daylight in a busy parking lot when I drive to meet him with my $20 to get my wife’s cell phone back.

At the climax of this story, I drove to his mama’s house – where he was recovering from his hang-over – handed him a $20 in his yard, and got my wife’s cell-phone.  He was clearly a nice fellow, and it would’ve made a rather boring scene in an action/suspense movie.  Then I drove home, still carrying the gnawing sense that I wanted to woop on someone viciously.

Of course, this was the power of my internal sense of justice and right-doing, right?  Probably not.  It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t believe someone stole a cell phone out of a car right in front of a home.  It was that someone stole MY wife’s cell phone, out of MY car, in front of MY home!  How could they do that TO ME?!?!

Ah, world – bow to the mighty Shannon!  Recognize his greatness, and humble yourself before him, lest ye pay!

Pride is a real jerk.  You think your doing pretty good spiritually (there’s the first mistake, actually), and the next thing you know, you’re your god – the al-wussy judge of the universe, to whom all must pay their dues if they attempt to hinder – or complex-ify – your way whatsoever.

The good thing about this discover is that now I know who’s tail to kick.  Mine (some would call it the flesh).

I’m diggin’ you a shallow grave
An’ to the sun your face I’ll raise
I’m diggin you a shallow grave
One hundred buzzards a’buzzin’

 

I’m diggin’ you a shallow grave
An’ on your rotten bones I’ll raise
Yellow daisies For my true loves hair
One hundred buzzards buzzin’

I see death runnin from his Majesty
O Lord, where is the fear in me?
In between your praying hands
You hold the skeleton key

(Lyrics from “Heal on the Shovel” by Sixteen Horsepower)

When have you found pride slip in on you when most would feel your actions were justified?  
How do you personally war against the flesh?  What techniques word best for you?
Why wasn’t Sixteen Horsepower world-famous when they were still a band?

Important questions to consider – discuss…

“Worthy” again…

September 17, 2008

Thanks in great part (in total?) to Fred, my article “WORTHY” has now been re-published online at ChristianPost.com.  Thanks Fred!  Please show some love, and drop by there and leave some comments!

I’m sorry for the lack of real content as of late.  One would think that being without a full-time job would amount to having a great deal of free time.  One would be WRONG!  Between catching up on my honey-do list from the Summer (having pulled 80+ hours a week this Summer, I didn’t do much around the house), entirely redesignig my home studio (Dear Jesus, please let me finish it up today!), and trying to start a new ministry, I’ve been surprisingly busy.  The bummer is, that leaves me not only little to no time to blog, but even less time to, well, make money.  I’m open to creative suggestions, particularly ones that involve me doing what I’m passionate about, and gettting paid to do it – namely, various combinations of God & music.

blessings!

John Stott on Worship

August 25, 2008

All worship is an intelligent and loving response to the revelation of God, because it is the adoration of his Name. Therefore acceptable worship is impossible without preaching. For preaching is making known the Name of the Lord, and worship is praising the Name of the Lord made known. Far from being an alien intrusion into worship, the reading and preaching of the Word are actually indispensable to it. The two cannot be divorced. Indeed, it is their unnatural divorce which account for the low level of so much contemporary worship.

Our worship is poor because our knowledge of God is poor, and our knowledge of God is poor because our preaching is poor. But when the Word of God is expounded in its fullness, and the congregation begin to glimpse the glory of the living God, they bow down in solemn awe and joyful wonder before his throne. It is preaching which accomplishes this, the proclamation of the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God.

-John Stott, Between Two Worlds

Believe it or not, this is not from a book on worship, but a book on how to teach the Word of God.  Powerful, convicting stuff, huh?!

(originally delivered at the University of Georgia WDA campus ministry)

Let me first admit to all of you — this is not an easy subject for me to write on. God’s love is a many sided thing, and as of late I have been receiving His hard love — discipline, correction, and rebuke. I have built up over the years a number of bad habits, which He is busy stripping me of at the moment, and I’m finding that rather hard to deal with. So, right off the bat, I don’t want you to think that the image of God’s love that I’m painting it all rosy, pie-in-the-sky by-and-by. Yet God’s love is real.

And yet again, I feel I have bit off FAR more than I can chew. I feel like St. Augustine when, it is rumored, he encountered a young boy on the beach that compared Augustine’s attempts to write books about God to the boy’s own attempt to pour the sea, bucket by bucket, into a small hole in the sand. This has led me to acknowledge outright that if I say ANYTHING tonight that speaks to you, it is not I. This is my attempt to pale the entirety of the Pacific into a small hole in the sand.

But seriously, I approached this subject asking myself, “How do I make this material new?” knowing that many of you will have grown up in the church, and may have heard it so many times that, sadly enough, you’ve grown cold to it. But I don’t know that it’s my job to make the truth new, so much as to remind you of it, so apart from a few new angles, that is exactly what I’m going to do.

As the third part in a series on God’s love, I thought I might quickly summarize. First, we talked about how God has shown His love for us in giving the law. He illustrated God’s love using his own fatherhood as an example. We saw that like a good father sets rules in place for my child for his protection and well being, that he might enjoy life within the boundaries that it was meant to be enjoyed, God did the same in his law. Next, we were spoken to about God’s love expressed through the prophets. We saw how again and again God’s people have played the prostitute, leaving our groom to chase after our lusts, and yet we saw how God has been faithful, working continually to call us back unto Himself.

Tonight as I speak to you, I hope along with Paul in Ephesians 3:14; “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” And in light of that, let me add — if you think you’ve got a grip on this “love that surpasses knowledge”, you REALLY haven’t yet even begun to understand. Read the rest of this entry »

Now, I’ll admit right off that though I’ve gotten a great deal out of his blog, and have also profited greatly from reading his books, I’ve never found Mark Dever to be a very engaging speaker.  Add to that the fact that he was given the monumental task of showing how the Psalms related to Jesus in “GLORIFYING CHRIST WITH THE PSALMIST“, I’m sad to admit that this was the session I got the least out of.  It was much closer to an “introductory overview” than a sermon, and was almost more content than I could take in during a session.  I did find one reminder encouraging, and that is that the example that the Psalms give of simultaneously acknowleging our sadness in the midst of times of suffering, while showing us how to remember God’s past goodness, and resting in the work he has done in the saints who have come before us.

David Powlison, who spoke on “ENDURING TRIALS WITH THE PSALMIST”, was almost the opposite.  I have read Powlison twice now – first, one of his own books, which I gave away before I was finished, and second in a chapter in “Suffering & the Sovereignty of God“: his is the only chapter I take exception to, in what is otherwise one of my favorite books of all-time.  That’s just to say, I was primed for disappointment.  I was wrong.  Powlison is a compassionate communicator, and easy to follow, and I took so many notes that it would be very hard to cover them all.  His teaching was laced with gems, as he taught through Psalm 28, eventually bringing three very helpful applications for us as worship leaders:
1.)  Remember the Minor Key
2.)  Slower tempos allow time to process
3.)  Allow for silence – a time for rest

The final main session I missed in order to catch my flight on time, sadly.  It was given by Bob Kauflin, and given my experience listening to him on other occasions during this conference, I have no doubt it was powerful.  My wife heard some of it online and said to me, “Who is this guy?!  He’s GREAT!”  I love the fact that Bob would most certainly take issue with that, pointing the glory back to God and saying “HE IS GREAT!

In review of the main sessions, of those I attended, be sure to not miss KNOWING GOD…, EXPRESSING EMOTION…, & ENDURING TRIALS.

Next, the electives…

One thing that made Worship God ’08 unique from many worship conferences is the content of the main sessions.  Apart from the fact that the Psalms are the Old Testament hymn-book, none of the sessions were necessarily directly related to worship as it is commonly understood: corporate singing.  Likewise, only one of the sessions was taught by an individual others would consider a “worship leader”, and that was Bob Kauflin, the organizer of the whole event.  Instead, the speakers were  primarily Bible teachers, Pastors, & even Seminary professors, all of whom were solidly evangelical, and who took their time applying serious scholarship to the text before reaching into the various areas of application.  It was like a 4 day seminary for worship pastors, and much akin to drinking from a fire hydrant.  In fact, I will likely be going over my notes for several weeks in order to process it all.

The Wednesday night main session was KNOWING GOD WITH THE PSALMIST by Craig Cabaniss, a pastor in Frisco, TX.  “Where do we get our ideas about God?” Craig asked at the outset, noting that “…our perception of God will shape our response to God.”  Focusing his attention on Psalm 33, he drew attention to the WHY of worship, and challenged us to “…respond to GOD, who He IS and what He has DONE, and not to whether or not we are familiar with or like a song“.  Craig taught with great passion, and began the conference on the right step.

Thursday morning’s session was EXPRESSING EMOTION WITH THE PSALMIST by Thabiti Anyabwile, a jovial yet passionate pastor currently serving in the Grand Camman Islands, and the author of the excellent new book “What is a Healthy Church Member?” in the IX Marks series.  Taking apart Psalm 73, and teaching through it piece by piece, Thabiti pointed out that “…we as humans are terrible at predicting the source of joy…“, later adding that all “man-centered emotions ultimately lead to despair“.  The 73rd Psalm, it turns out, is a helpful reminder that believers may be experiencing a wide range of emotions.  Thabiti challenged us “too often we lead from ‘happy’ to ‘great joy’“, not addressing the fact that much of our congregation are simply not there.  Emotions are real, and important, but we – as pastors and worship leaders – need to address our congregations, and lead worship, in a way that directs our emotions God-ward, and guides and trains people’s hearts to respond to the right things.  Emotions for emotions’ sake will lead to despair, but “when I see Him, I will be satisfied“.  I found Thabiti’s applications particularly helpful, as he encouraged us to:
1.) Avoid shallow ways of triggering emotions
2.) Address the full range of emotions in our corporate worship
3.) Teach about and address suffereing
4.) Help our people see God in  way that draws them from self-centeredness to God-centeredness.

In many ways what I drew from these first two main sessions is quite similar: to lead passionately, doing all I can to put together worship sets, and lead in a way, that meets our people where they are, and merely where I think they should be.  I was also challenged to better address our congregation in a way that leads them to see God, and aspects of God, and leading songs that give them an opportunity to respond to revelation genuinely, rather than merely encouraging emotion and excitement for the sake of emotion itself.  Though it may be exciting for me to see a whole room ‘stirred up’, doing so when the emotion isn’t genuine may actually be training our people to lead the ‘train by the caboose’ to use the old Campus Crusade for Christ illustration of FACT (the engine), FAITH (the cars), & FEELING (caboose).  These were helpful reminders, indeed.

Next up, Mark Dever, & David Powlison’s main sessions…

In all seriousness, it’ s been a strange week. Though I never knew her personally (I had seen her before, but I don’t believe we’d ever met), we had a number of friends in common, and as it has many others, her music moved me deeply. Having followed her battle against cancer this past year or so, it really hit me hard yesterday to learn of the loss of Katie Reider. Apparently, there were many others her life and music touched as well, for it was the highest number of blog readers I’ve had since I started publishing my thoughts online several years ago (on Xanga – does anyone use Xanga anymore?). My prayers go out to her closest friends and family.

On the other side of the coin, I guess you’d call yesterday “bittersweet” – the source of my new-found “fame” (though I hope, in fact, that it expresses God’s fame): I’m excited to announce that my article “WORTHY” is being featured at TheWorshipCommunity.com, an new online Worship ‘magazine’ which facilitates discussion and community among worship leaders & worship musicians who are “in the trenches”, as some have said – those who are leading their congregations in worship in churches around the world every Sunday. I’ve made some wonderful connections, and new friends, during the time that TWC was merely an online forum, and I’m excited to see it grow, and take the obvious next step into a full-blown online publication. I’m also honored to have the featured article this week. Please swing by, read it, and be encouraged to comment!

Lastly, it was a good evening because I can see the release of Saint Lewis’ “Songs from the Hope Farm” e.p. immediately on the horizon. Very late last night my wife & I were putting the finishing touches on one of her originals, and it just excites me to see this small sampler (all of these songs – albeit more professionally mixed versions – will also be featured on our full-length c.d. expected early next year) of original worship material come together, and I’ve been really blessed by the positive feedback we’ve received on many of our songs these past few months. A very limited edition printing of the e.p. will be ready very soon, but until then please stop by our website-in-the-making: Saint Lewis Music.

May God’s blessings be evident, & His Spirit be near…

(originally delivered to WDA campus ministry at the University of Georgia)

“Lucky mud?” Is that all we are? Many of you, as college student, have likely encountered the innumerable unbiblical opinions expressed concerning who we are and what we are doing here. Richard Pratt, in his book Designed for Dignity tells the true story of a young woman who had left her husband and two children for another lover. The lover had recently thrown her out of his place, so alone in a hotel room, despairing the events that had led her to where she now was, she shot herself in the head with a .38 caliber pistol. The note she left on the nightstand simply stated, “Don’t cry for me – I’m not even human anymore. Ironically, just two floors down in that very hotel was a New Age convention. The gunshot couldn’t even be heard above the din of the crowd, who were all chanting, “I am God! …I am God! …I am God!

Sometimes we hear such rhetoric from the very same individual, such as when a non-Christian professor pokes fun of traditional religion and proclaims us masters of our own fate, yet at the same time believes that we are no more than the product of chance and law, so called “lucky mud.”

Even as Christians many of us have accepted the subtle lies of the culture around us, rather than the words of the very God who created us. We believe that we are entirely sovereign over our own destiny. We believe that work is merely a chore to be put up with and is only for the sake of sustenance. We believe that sensuality is the end all of everything, and that a marriage relationship that doesn’t bring us happiness is one to be abandoned, for surely our own happiness is God’s highest priority. In some cases, Christians even believe that we can abandon the Biblical story of Adam and Eve altogether, the very story that serves as a corrective of the many things we tempted to believe concerning who we are and what we are here for, and on which Christ’s very work as our redeemer, the second Adam, stands. Read the rest of this entry »

I first preached the following sermon at a WDA Campus Ministry meeting at the University of Georgia in 2002. I have been hoping to edit it into essay form to blog for some time now. My interest was rekindled after reading Fred’s fascinating blog on Sickness yesterday, hoping to balance some of the other writing I’ve been doing on the subject in my lengthy dialogue with the text of SUFFERING & THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD over at my other blog. It is a healthy reminder to myself, and hopefully many others, that all-to-often we ask the wrong questions. I hope this blesses, challenges, and encourages you…

____________________________________________________________

Let me set the stage. You’re in the backyard of a single-story brick home on a hilly eight acres of spring-green grass. One acre is a garden, freshly planted, and needing rain. Downhill, East of the house is a small creek-bed lined with maple, white oak, and buckeye trees that seem to form a wall protecting a patch of newly planted evergreens nearly hidden behind them. All around edge the yard are log fence-posts, with fields of wheat, tobacco, and corn crops on the other side. This particular day was dark, and it looked as though it may storm. In the backyard among all that beauty stood an 8 year-old boy who was lonely, angry, and alienated, and just wanted a friend. He had been teased a lot at school for being weird, and many of his “friends” only kept him around as a scapegoat. Though his parents were not believers, his mom had taken him to Vacation Bible School at a local church to help teach him “right and wrong.” There he learned enough about God to come to the conclusion that it was God who was to blame for all his pain. That day, as a storm was fast approaching, that young boy held a pocketknife to the sky and screamed, “Come down here because I’m going to kill you. He waited around for a few minutes, in tears, and when he decided God wasn’t going to show he returned inside. That day he lost what little faith he might have had and began to live his life as though God did not exist. Read the rest of this entry »

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and GO ON TO MATURITY, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

Hebrews 5:12-6:3

I see my calling as not only that of a ‘worship leader’, but rather a ‘worship discipler’.  In fact, I think the call of every believer is to ‘make disciples’, but it’s a hard road for many because we don’t understand what we’re working towards.  This current series of blogs will examine the 3 primary goals which amount to Maturity in Christ: Character, Attitude, & Lifestyle.  I hope you stick with me for the long-haul, and be encouraged to discuss!

There is a time by which a believer is no longer in need of discipleship, but should be given responsibility to disciple others – a time where he or she is no longer a student, but a teacher. This does not mean we/they stop learning, just as an adult does not stop eating food when he or she is no longer a child. If any of us stopped eating we would die, but an adult does – under normal circumstances – no longer need to be spoon fed like a child. He is equipped to feed himself. Biblically, we should each grow up to feed ourselves – to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). This doesn’t mean we’re encouraged to separate ourselves from fellowship with other believers (Hebrews 10:25), but only that there is a point at which we should no longer need the spiritual attention of a newborn – when we should then be giving, rather than merely receiving. We need to seek Biblical relationships which can encourage this growth to happen – to put ourselves in situations and environments where we can become self-feeders.

I have been reading though Bob Kauflin‘s excellent book, WORSHIP MATTERS: LEADING OTHERS TO ENCOUNTER THE GREATNESS OF GOD, and though I don’t have the book on hand immediately to quote from directly, one idea in particular has hung with me for weeks now and I simply have to share it.

Worship is an invitation to enter into the joy that the Trinity has experienced from eternity past.

It’s Edwards-ian in it’s depth and profundity, meaning that I may never entirely understand the concept, but it rings true on so many levels: it’s as though an idea comes at my feeble mind in so many directions at once that I can’t possibly see it from enough angles to wrap myself around it.

It all goes back to the Biblical truth that God did not create us out of loneliness or want, but out of an overflow of joy. God needs nothing, particularly relationally, as God is a perfect community – an unbroken fellowship – three who are actually one. When we are converted, we are adopted as His child through Jesus, and filled with God’s Spirit, and likewise when we LIVE worship, we are living in our Creator’s presence, through our Savior’s work, drawn in by the indwelling Counselor within, and we are stepping in the midst of that perfect eternal relationship – participating in the fellowship between Father, Son, & Spirit – which overflowed into the creation itself, and from which our own life-story flows. And even our bit in this grand story is all about Him, as I’ve written in my song ‘All in All‘; “You made me – sustained me. You saved and showed mercy to me. You called me, and sent me, but all in all it’s been all about You.

And that’s the wonder of it all: we benefit from the love God has for God – we find eternal security because the Father loves the Son, and the Son eternally stands to intercede for us – because we are filled with the good deposit of the Holy Spirit, and God can never be ‘against’ God. We can experience deep joy walking a life of worship, because when we do we – albeit in some limited, imperfect sense – feel the love a perfect eternal Father has for His Son (whom we are ‘in’) and His Spirit (whom is ‘in’ us).

Lord, let me grow deeper in that eternal joy!

So be it!

In part one, I explained in detail how worship was, ultimately, not about singing, but about a whole life – heart, mind, soul, and strength – given over to God. I explained how, in the most important sense, I was not a worship leader – that at least I was unable to actually lead anyone into the presence of God, for that is Christ’s job, and was accomplished by his work on the cross on our behalf. Lastly, our personal response to what Christ has done is simple: draw near.

However, If you are ‘in Christ’, you are in God’s presence, and part of God’s kingdom. And if that’s you, I’ve got an important, but possibly confusing message for you, if you’ll allow me a direct contradiction from my last teaching: Worship is all about Singing. Give me a few paragraphs to explain.

Last Sunday morning I led worship for the 11 AM service at church. Oddly enough, I was no where on stage. I had no microphone, never address the congregation verbally from stage, and played no instrument. I didn’t pick songs. I didn’t rehearse the band. I did absolutely nothing that would make you think that I was leading worship, but I was a worship leader, none-the-less.

Who of you is a ‘worship leader’? Not in the sense that Jesus is, by bringing us into the Holy of Holies, but in the sense in which we usually use the word? Which of you are called to lead others in corporately worshiping God? Read the rest of this entry »

For the first 2 parts of this series, see the INTRO, and PART 1.

Due to the incredibly huge nature of this next subject, I’m merely going to touch on this briefly, but when discussing the historical reliability of the Gospels, the time-frame in which they were written is an important factor to consider. Liberal ‘scholars’ often date the Gospels’ earliest manuscripts from 70 A.D., as with the Gospel of Mark, to 95 A.D., in the case of John’s Gospel; 40 to 60 years after the events recorded. Many argue that this is a long period of time, and that many facts could be distorted between the events being written about, and the act of writing them down.  But the fact is that at that time Israel was still an “Oral Community” — people were still reciting the entire Torah from memory. Combining that with the fact that many of Jesus’ teachings were formulated to encourage oral transmission by being spoken in essentially poetic form, in spite of what seems to us moderns like anything but up-to-the-minute breaking news, we can still be confident, even apart from any divine intervention, that the main body of the Jesus story would be rightly transmitted orally, even if those dates were valid.

But accepting such dates is even problematic. Methods for dating the Gospels are often spurious a grasping at straws. What one scholar uses to claim an early date another uses to declare an older one. For example, people using Liberal dating methods often date Mark’s Gospel after 70 A.D., primarily because of Mark 13:2; ‘”Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”‘ This is often interpreted to be a veiled reference to the destruction of the Temple and the Jewish-Roman war, and is used as evidence that Mark’s Gospel had been written after that event. It is assumed that any prophecy of an event that actually took place must have been read back into the mouth of Jesus after the even had taken place. Now the assertation that no one could under any circumstances predict the future in and of itself is very problematic. If any one of you were in the same situation as a person like Jesus, living in such a volatile age you could’ve likely seen the destruction of Jerusalem on the horizon. Given the political climate nearly anyone could have “prophesied” such an event rather accurately; it was obvious that something like the Jewish-Roman war was on the horizon — it took no miracle to figure that out. However, Mark 13:2, rightly understood cannot be a reference to the Jewish-Roman war because only the Temple was destroyed, not the entire city, as is implied by the verse. And even then, if that was intended to be a reference to the Temple’s destruction, that was what many Jews desired, so they could rebuild a VALID temple, because many viewed the current temple as less than perfect because it was built by a Roman and not a Jew. So, if this verse referred to a Temple destruction, it was more a THREAT than prophecy!

Another passage that is used to place a late date on the Gospels, yet again a Temple reference, is John 2:19-21; “Jesus answered them,”Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days. Jews replied, It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are to raise it in three days? But the temple he had spoken of was his body.” Here, it seems, this reference to the Temple again had little to do with the Temple on the Mount of Olives, but rather was a reference to Christ’s own body and his future death and resurrection. Since none of these are references to the Temple destruction that occurred around A.D. 70, then using these references to date the Gospels post-70 is unjustifiable.

That is just to say this: the gospels were written in a community that was trained to pass along large bodies of tradition orally, the message of Jesus fit into the larger story of Israel in a way that made sense and would be easy to pass along, the individual sayings of Jesus were originally given in a fashion that encouraged memorization within that culture, and the dates between the events of Jesus life and their being written down were not nearly as long as many doubters would like us to believe.  That adds up to yet another very good reason to believe what was written about Jesus in the Bible.

Many blessings, and stay tuned for part 3!

What makes you feel valued – of worth? Gifts? A phone call? Has anyone ever sung a song for you (Happy Birthday, per chance)? Better yet, has anyone ever WRITTEN a song for you? Music is powerful – SINGING IS POWERFUL. I’m serious: guys, if you know you are ugly, and you want to get married one day, buy an instrument NOW! But, music – and singing – is not enough. What if someone wrote you a song, but then hit on your best friend? Wouldn’t be quite as cool, would it? In fact, you’d probably despise that song, and turn the radio station any time it came on. There is more to feeling loved – to being praised- than simply being sung about, or to. This is an important point: WORSHIP IS NOT – at least not in any ‘ultimate’ sense – ABOUT SINGING, and, in the most important sense of the term, I am not your “worship leader”.

Sure, I may lead people in song, and on my best days (or, hopefully, MOST days) I encourage then to sing to God, but that’s not necessarily ‘worship’, and at best that makes me a ‘lead worshiper’ or a ‘song-leader’, not a worship leader. My ‘official title’ here at the church, at least the one on my job description, says “Associate Music Director”, which is very appropriate, I think, and Biblical.

I know what some people THINK we worship leaders are trying to do. I’ve heard it. Haven’t you ever heard someone who was really into a corporate worship service say of the so-called ‘worship leader’; “he really led me into the presence of God”? Or were you the one who said it? Now, I think I understand their heart, and what they’re TRYING to convey, but they were absolutely wrong because NO worship leader today can do that! I can’t do that – I was never MEANT to do that! But, someone else was, and DID! Read the rest of this entry »

For those of you who enjoy deep thinking and in-depth Bible study on tough theological issues, I’ve been engaging the excellent book (one of my favorites) over at my other blog, SUFFERING & THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD, a collection of challenging essays by solid Christian thinkers who have each suffered uniquely, who came together to speak to the Desiring God National Conference in 2005.  I’m finding my own thoughts on these subjects challenged, and deepened, and hope to continue ‘reflecting’ on this book chapter-by-chapter all the way to the end.

If you’d like to dive in, here are the posts to date:

INTRO & CHAPTER 1 (10 aspects of God’s Sovereignty over Suffering & Satan’s hand in It)

CHAPTER 2, PART 1 (All the Good that is ours in Christ)

CHAPTER 2, PART 2 (All the Good that is ours in Christ continued)

Be encouraged to discuss…

blessings!

Having been raised an Atheist, I understand the power of unbelief – it can act as a religion unto itself, and can be as much a world-view shaping belief system as the most controlling cult. Now, as a Christian, and a worship leader, I have recently recognized one of the hindrances to passionate, full-personed (heart, mind, soul, & strength) worship: unbelief. All too often our personal faith is based merely on experience, and though our personal experiences can supplement a deep, intellectual wrestling with facts to find the truth, even the Bible is FULL of individuals who had radical experiences of God, who later – sometimes quickly – turned from that very God whom they experienced. To truly worship God, we must KNOW HIM (experience) with our Heart, KNOW ABOUT HIM (apologetics/theology/doctrine) with our Minds, HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM ON A SPIRITUAL LEVEL (it is not enough just to have a spiritual experience once, and to like the IDEA of God – we must have a soul-level on-going spiritual relationship with Him), and actively WALK WITH HIM (walking out what we know is true). We must love the One we know about in an on-going relationship that results in living differently – that is loving God with your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And we can only do this if our mind is on board, which is why there are such a thing as ‘apologetics’.

I once told a former house-mate of mine that I was speaking at an apologetics conference – he said that he was very sorry. Maybe that’s you – but seriously, since I’m going to start this on-going series on apologetics I feel it only right that I should AT LEAST touch upon what apologetics are and why we should even bother, before attempting to DO apologetics. William Lane Craig, author of Reasonable Faith, defines apologetics as “that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide a rational justification of the truth claims of the Christian faith.” So, for the uninitiated among us, “apologetics” is basically a “Case for Christ” – giving a “Reason for God”. Apologetics makes us ask the question, “How can I rationally defend my faith?” Though there are many passages we could look at concerning this, I’d like to glance quickly at just a few verses that I believe should encourage every one of us to recognize the importance of a having a good, personal apologetic, not primarily for the sake of sharing your faith, but MAINLY in order to make you a better worshiper.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Notice that at first this verse seems to encourage argument, which seems to be in conflict with much of the wisdom of the Old Testament Proverbs – after a closer look I believe the second half of this verse clarifies it’s intended meaning – the arguments and pretensions that we are to demolish are ‘thoughts’ – ideas that take root in our minds, planted there by life in this fallen world. This verse encourages us to develop our critical thinking skills, so we can grapple with the ideas we encounter, and sift them like wheat – literally demolishing anything that acts to hinder our faith. This is truly what it means to “love the Lord with all of your mind” – giving all your thoughts to Him, and seeing which stand true — studying that we might know the truth, and seeking to think more “Christian-ly” about the world in which we live.

Secondly, let’s look at a handful of passages from Luke’s sequel; the book of Acts 17:2, 17, 18:4, 19 say as follows; “Paul…reasoned with them from the Scriptures”, “…he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day…”, “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks”, and lastly, “He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.” In every one of these verses, Paul is recorded as not giving just a simplistic Gospel message followed by an alter-call. Instead Paul put great time and effort into REASONING with non-believers. In Athens, in fact, he even uses a local “alter to an unknown god” to make a case for the truth of the Christian God. Another significant thing to note, however, is the centrality of the Bible to good apologetics; Paul didn’t just use fancy philosophy to convince people of the truth of Christ, but “he reasoned from the Scriptures.” It is important to remember that, even in apologetics, the Scriptures are central to what we do – if it is indeed true that “the word does not return void”, then we’d be foolish to begin elsewhere. Often, one of the things that leads us to doubt is that we are not in the Scriptures regularly, and when we are there, we do it merely as a chore – not expecting to meet God within its pages.

If God requires of us as believers to love Him with all of our “heart, mind, soul, and strength”, we should recognize the true Gospel appeals to the whole person AS A PERSON – not as merely a ‘sales pitch’, which is what has too often occurred. Though the Scriptures require of us to “always be prepared to give an answer” (1 Peter 3:15)our intent is not to merely win arguments – even with our own doubts – it is to lead ourselves and others to further see the greatness (and TRUTH) of God, so we can better worship Him, and be better ‘worship leaders’ (in the broadest sense of the word) to a world that grows continually more skeptical by the minute.

Thinking back to not only my own walk, but looking around at the spiritual walks of so many others, I think of the fire that so many of us had when we first met Jesus, which grows dim as personal tragedy and heartbreak hit, and we let ourselves grow skeptical. How can I expect to be used of God to set a room of worshipers aflame with passion for Him, if I, myself, am not on fire for Him? For that reason – both for my own soul, for other worship leaders with whom I have contact, and for the sake of those I am blessed to lead, I am going to begin a weekly blog entitled “Unbelief: roadblock to true worship”, which I hope to publish every Tuesday. I hope that in the process of your mind growing more convinced, that our hearts with grow more passionate, our spiritual lives will flourish, and that the reality of Christ will be undeniable in our lives – which IS worship lived out.

I hope you will go on this journey with me.

So be it.

Friday Blog Love

February 22, 2008

Happy Friday! Just thought I’d spread some blog-love around before the weekend.

My friend (and one of my ‘bosses’, though that sounds so harsh & authoritarian), Fred McKinnon, has posted a pic of our new auditorium. It doesn’t represent the full room, but you can get a feel for it. I’m EXCITED!

I just discovered a very cool older post over at Fundamentally Reformed called THE RISE OF THE MODERN HYMN MOVEMENT, as well as a newer follow up post; MODERN HYMN WRITERS. Mandy, you should enjoy this. Being in a songwriting kick, myself, I found it fascinating.

One of my few living heroes, Tim Keller, has finished his new book THE REASON FOR GOD. Along with N.T. Wright‘s SIMPLY CHRISTIAN, this may be one of the best apologetics for the Biblical faith for post-moderns written to date. Good stuff.

Rich Kirkpatrick recently posted a very though provoking blog in his ‘Worship Mythbusters’ series entitled WORSHIP IS NOT ENTERTAINMENT.

I’ll be taking a much-needed blogging break until March 3rd.  Until we meet again!

Amen…and OUT.

Given how many ‘secular’ (I don’t actually BELIEVE in a Christian/Secular distinction, but I sometimes use it for the sake of simplicity) artists I talk about here, you may wonder why I mention them so often on a ‘Worship Blog’. Two words:

1. EXCELLENCE

2. CREATIVITY

God is great. He deserves our best – the ‘first fruit’. That is worship: giving God our best. Worship music – and all music made by Christians, which should be an act of bringing glory to God – should be original, inspiring, and – at least in some sense – cutting edge. This is one of the reasons I have been so convicted as of late to write new songs for worship, and to develop my craft as a writer: God deserves it.

God is also the creator, which is to say, He is the most creative being in the universe. We’re created in His image. Jesus is restoring us to that perfect image of God – our creator God: the creative God. Though there has been great headway made in this are the past few years, it should be the NORM, not the exception, that Christian be leading the pack in making music that is both excellent & creative, rather than creating more mediocre rip-offs of musical genres that are long passe to the culture at large.

Believe it or not, I listen to about 90% music that would be considered ‘Christian’ (as in, the artists either profess faith, and/or are on a ‘Christian label’ – whatever that means, and/or sing songs with messages primarily about Christian things – don’t fool yourself into thinking that all 3 of those must be in place in order for an artist to be labeled ‘Christian’ for marketing purposes, though), most of which is what would be called ‘worship music.’ Artists like Matt Redman, Eoghan Heaslip, Steve Jones, Jeremy Riddle, & the Sovereign Grace team encourage and inspire me: their songs are fresh, Biblical, challenging, and frankly I NEED that – I need to drink from that well. But they have their influences, and I only receive those musical influences distilled – watered-down – when I step into the stream at it’s end. I find it FAR more helpful, and far more challenging for me as a musician and a writer, to wander up-stream to it’s sources.

For instance, if you want to be the next Delirious stop sitting in your room trying to play “My Glorious”, and don’t even bother thinking you’re cutting edge by learning a U2 song – pick up My Bloody Valentine‘s LOVELESS (yes, those are GUITARS). Learn “Only Shallow” or “Loomer”, which inspired U2 to make their classic “Achtung Baby”, which then inspired 1,000s of clones in both Christian and Secular markets, even many ‘worship artists’. Besides, if you can work your effects and manipulate your guitar to sound like My Bloody Valentine, you will have no problems pulling off tunes that could tie Delirious in knots if you worked at it.

Similarly, if you want to explore the dreamier side of Brit-pop as a songwriter or musician, you may want to pick up “Serene Velocity” – an anthology by Stereolab, even though you’ll understand less than half the words (much of it is in France), and what little you’ll understand will primarily be political pro-socialism garbage. Yes, ahh – the music: a blend of Hip-Hop, Funk, Jazz, Chamber Pop, 50’s Lounge, Vintage Electronica, and ‘Krautrock’ – I THINK it fits somewhere in the ‘Rock’ category, but that’s debatable. I personally discovered a few of their early EPs as I was discovering the whole 4AD & Shoegazer music scenes in the 90s, and they had a long-term influence on my use of counter-melody and syncopation in many of my own songs. Here’s a good, balanced compilation of their tunes from the beginning until now. It might not be your cup of tea, but if you’re looking to expand your palette, here’s a good place to start.

And please, let’s not be derivative – good music should open our mind to the almost endless possibilities we have as songwriters and musicians…push yourselves. Remember: He deserves our BEST.

Welcome Justin!

February 18, 2008

Justin, one of my favorite people, and a fellow staff-member at St. Simons Community Church, just began his own blog called IN THE RAW.  He’s just beginning to roll, but already you’ll find some good stuff there.  Drop by and show him some love!

Atonement

February 18, 2008

One of the most powerful clips from Television I have ever seen. It says a lot, but I’ll let it speak for itself.

thanks to Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds for the link.

Confession: this will be no surprise to most of you, but I – though a card-holding Bible-believing Evangelical Christian – have a few contentions with the American church at large, at least as the Christian faith is often imagined/understood/expressed here (I can’t speak as clearly to European Christianity as I not only don’t find myself in that scene, but haven’t even yet visited – it is possible that my contention may be even more universal in nature, I suppose). That’s not to say that I necessarily believe that Christians who disagree with me are ‘lost’ – only that, at this point, I think they’re mistaken. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve always enjoyed conferences. I come away from them rested (even apart from getting no sleep, oft-times!), encouraged, challenged, and just plain excited, with a fresh of vision of what I can do and how things can be. Wouldn’t it be nice to take your whole team to a conference? Unfortunately, that’s just plain not feasible, given the complexities of people’s schedules, and financial issues. So a few years back I began putting on my own ‘mini-conferences’ for my youth group musicians, and those interested in one day being on the team, which I call ‘Youth Worship Workshops’. They’ve done well for us, not only in giving the youth a new vision for our team and a new passion for worshiping God, but also as essentially ‘try-outs’ to discover and invest in future talent which will slowly be integrated into, and one day replace, the current team. If you’re a worship leader an interested in doing one at your church, here’s the basics of what we do: Read the rest of this entry »

Sovereign Grace Fellowship pastor Rick Gamache recently preached a powerful, Piper-esque sermon entitled WORSHIP GOD!: WHOM DOES GOD WORSHIP? It’s a good foundation for a ‘theology of worship’. Recommended.

Discipleship (part 1)

December 10, 2007

Having read Chris Moncus‘ excellent blog on Volunteers Reproducing Themselves, I was inspired to post an edited version of an essay I wrote in 2005 on Small Group Ministry and Discipleship, as I think it captures the heart of what Chris was talking about. May this continue to happen at our church!

________________________________________________________________________________

“Three men digging a ditch on a scorching summer afternoon were approached by a friend who asked, ‘What are you guys doing?’ The first, already weary from exertion, responded impatiently, ‘What does it look like? We’re digging a hole!’

The second, sensing that the question was not meant to be rhetorical, added, ‘We’re laying a foundation pad. It’s going to be filled with concrete.’

The third man, who had been whistling happily while he labored, laid his shovel aside, wiped his forehead, and began to describe in great detail how this particular hole was strategic for the placement of one of the massive ‘flying buttresses’ that would support an entire wall of stained glass windows for a new cathedral. After describing in great detail the plans and procedures for completion Christmas Eve five years from now, my family and I will worship together at the altar where that rubbish pile is now located.’”

– from Bob DukesA Model for Strategic Disciple Building

Discipleship is the most important ministry in the church – in fact, it IS the ministry of the Church It’s a radical thing to say, but I stand behind it. I’m convinced of it from both Scripture and experience. In the Old Testament, according to God himself in Deuteronomy 6:1-9, Discipleship was teaching the faith, practicing the faith, relationships of faith, and day-to-day walking it out in faith – all were to take place. Who would know better than God the best environments and models for discipleship? Then Jesus, in Mark 13:13-15, called the disciples out, challenged them, raised them up, and even appointed them to positions of authority, ultimately sending them out to do likewise. Discipleship is the primary purpose of the Church, and the problem is not that we don’t try to do it – the problem is that we try, but do not have a vision as to what end we do it, and how to get there. This is where our ditch-digger comes in. Read the rest of this entry »

 Well, apparently it’s FINALLY DONE!  This one book I am most definitely anticipating…

Worship Matters: Leading Others to encounter the Greatness of God by Bob Kauflin, forward by Paul Baloche.

Is anyone else really looking forward to reading this?

Kevin Twit, an RUF Campus Minister at Bellmont in Nashville, the leader of the Indelible Grace worship team (some of the members of which are also in Jars of Clay and Caedmon’s Call), and an ordained PCA Presbyterian minister, recently gave one of the most profound teachings I have ever heard on KNOWING GOD’S WILL. Though I think he misunderstands the modern-day gift of prophecy, as most PCA Presbyterians do (I speak as a former PCA-member, who holds much love for the denomination – I should also note that not all PCA-ers agree with him), the rest of the content of his teaching is absolutely incredible.

If you find yourself challenged by this, be sure to also check out Kevin Twit’s excellent WORSHIP SEMINARS

John Piper on God’s Glory

November 26, 2007

This short essay – or rather, compilation of Scriptures – is so important that I chose not only to cross-post this to both of my blogs, but also to re-print it in it’s entirety here. If you’ve never read these passages back-to-back, or if you are unfamiliar with the “Christian Hedonism” espoused by such folks as Piper, Sam Storms, and even Jonathan Edwards, these verses may very well turn your world on it’s head. I know they did mine.
_____________________________________________________ Read the rest of this entry »

If you’re not already subscribed to the ‘Resurgence Podcast’ what are you waiting for?! Not only have they – in the past – made available the audio on such topics as Missional Christianity and responding to post-modernism, now they’re beginning to post all of the conference sessions, and question & answer sessions, from the CONTINUOUS WORSHIP conference, featuring Worship theologian Harold Best.

Currently there’s only one session from the conference available, but if you’d like to skip subscribing to the podcast, and listen to the messages as they come available, you can visit here. The first post is a DEEP teaching by Mark Driscoll on idolatry.

Be blessed…

As a subject that has been on my heart as of late, I’m also ‘cross-posting’ this to both Heat & Light and here.  I’m convinced that the Biblical picture of an ‘Elder/Bishop/Overseer’ has much farther reaching modern day applications that the decision making team many churches call an ‘elder board’, which apply particularly to anyone in an official position of leadership/oversight within their church. Read the rest of this entry »

I recently posted this in a couple of other blogs, most recently at Heat & Light, however given the unusual proclivity towards alcoholism among Christian musicians (particularly in the Nashville scene, as that’s where most of my direct connections reside) and even professional Worship Leaders, I thought it an important reminder for us to remain in line with God’s truth on this subject.

Read the rest of this entry »

Do yourself a favor and check out Bob Kauflin’s very insightful blog over at Worship Matters:

WHEN FEET WANT TO BE HANDS 

I wish I had written this…

September 24, 2007

I do wish that I had written this, not because I agree with every word (though he makes a few good points), but because I’ve passed through this phase and understand where this man is coming from. I think it’s important to keep in mind that there are a great number of folks that feel this way (particularly many men) within our congregations, and we need to keep in mind that this is a segment of the folks we are ministering to as well. So, here you go ‘worship leaders’: I am not in love with Jesus by John Stackhouse.

p.s. – you need to read through the responses as well.

As Biblical worship is more than music, but is rather a full-life response to God’s revelation, it’s important for any believer – in order to worship God ‘in Spirit & Truth’ – to understand not only who God is, but who we are in relation to Him. That is why I’m sharing this teaching I shared last year at INSIDE OUT.

I once heard Dr. Richard Pratt tell the true story of a young woman who was cheating on her husband, and had left her husband and two children to live with her boyfriend. But soon, things had gone sour with her boyfriend too – he had thrown her out of his place – so alone in a hotel room, despairing the events that had led her to where she now was, she shot herself in the head with a .38 caliber pistol. The note she left on the nightstand simply stated, “Don’t cry for me – I’m not even human anymore.” Ironically, just two floors down in that very hotel was a New Age convention. The gunshot couldn’t even be heard above the din of the crowd, who were all chanting, “I am God! …I am God! …I am God!” Read the rest of this entry »

For my personal growth and development as a worship leader I’ve been doing a lot of reading these past few months. These books are my personal ‘top picks’: Read the rest of this entry »

A God worthy of Worship

August 24, 2007

“Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion.”
– Albert Einstein

Hubble pic

(a collection of photographs by the Hubble telescope covering less than 1/2 square inch of night sky)

I realize that quote may be beyond some of you. Try this paraphrase – quite possibly the most brilliant Genius of the last century said, ‘I know science, and every theory or natural law that proves true ultimately points to the inescapable idea that SOMETHING is behind it all.’

Now, I admit it; Einstein was not a Christian – maybe not even a ‘theist’ – but even as a genius he was able to recognize that there MUST be something beyond this amazing universe.

Have you ever thought about awe and beauty? What about a mountain makes us stand in awe – or a beautiful sunset – a newborn baby – or even, for some of the serious geeks among us, a new Myst game (I proudly own my geek-dom, thank you very much)? How many of you have ever stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon and actually felt BIG and, pretty significant in comparison? If you’re like me, you arrogantly marched to the canyon’s edge, and then dropped to your knees to cling to the earth in response. It is beauty on that magnitude that just inspires awe.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sovereign Grace for FREE!

August 22, 2007

Sovereign Grace Ministries has just made ALL of their mp3 downloads available for FREE. Yes, that includes past conferences lessons and the like. Let me directly point you towards Sovereign Grace Ministries various messages on WORSHIP. I could take you months to get though it all.

DOWNLOAD AWAY!

Come on – go ahead! You know you want to.

Here are a few places you can start (by request):
Worship: What really Matters
Creating a Flow in Worship
Why do we Sing?
Becoming a better Songwriter
Principles of Songwriting
Heart attitudes for the Worship Team

I absolutely love podcasts – it’s an excellent way to access great Bible teaching without having to read continually, or travel extensively to conferences around the country. Here are a few incredible teachings on ‘worship’ that I’ve found very challenging/encouraging over the past few months…

DEDICATION AND DELIGHT (Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Seattle)

WHY DO WE SING? (Bob Kauflin, ChristChurch UK)

WORSHIP: THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES (Mike Plewniak, Cornerstone Church of Knoxville)
this is an excellent resource, an overview of ‘worship’ – though I have a copy on my computer, I can’t currently find it on the web – check back soon, as I’m going to keep looking…and if any of you know the folks over at Cornerstone Church, tell them to put it back up!

CHRIST, OUR ACCESS (Mark Mullery, Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax)

I teach with some regularity on worship being a lifestyle (singing/celebrating with the body of Christ is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’, so to say). And though I do fully believe that, I’m also convinced that the musical aspects of ‘worship’ are a very important part of aiding the Church in loving the Lord with our minds (lyrical content) and hearts (good music strongly affects our emotions), which in response often affects our spiritual lives and actions (soul & strength, respectively).

For some, it’s easy to criticize ‘contemporary’ worship. I used to be the ‘critic’. I’ve discovered, however, that most of my issues with ‘contemporary’ worship music were just that: my issues Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve been processing from the last few Christian worship ‘concerts’/events I’ve been to.

Now, I’ve seen a lot of bands live in my lifetime – upwards of 3,500 (I worked as a guitar tech and merch guy at music festivals for 7 years in a row, and used to study in college at a concert venue – and I just like live music): as a result of that, and my age, it’s not really incredible musicianship that impresses me – it’s creativity, great songs, and the ability to move people – to change hearts – to realign people’s passions. I go to these shows not only to be personally moved, but to take ‘mental notes’ – to assess what they’re doing ‘right’, and how I can ‘hone’ my skills as both a performer and a corporate worship leader. Read the rest of this entry »

As a Christ-follower (a rather flawed disciple of Jesus), my life is a response (what I do) to His work (what He has done and is doing): of creation, of sustenance, or rebirth, of enlightenment, of salvation, and sanctification. How I respond to God IS WORSHIP – that is what tells the world how valuable He is – what declares His worth. Of course, that’s far more than just singing a song – in fact, it is possible to worship God and NEVER SING, but as a people who – in order to fully experience a truth need to LIVE it – singing/making music to the Lord is for OUR BENEFIT… it doesn’t ‘usher’ in God – he’s omnipresent, and – for believers- already present by his Spirit on the inside…but it does change us, letting us experience – or making us more aware of the experience of – His Spirit in our midst. Here are a few Biblical guidelines for what singing to God could look like Read the rest of this entry »