Friday, February 14, 2014

That time I hated a Jeep Wrangler

So, I was on my way to pick up my lunch, and found myself stopped at a red light behind one person. We were in the right lane, where I was prepared to turn right, but the person in front of me was going straight, and therefore, was stopped. Although I was in no particular hurry (I mean, really – who is in a hurry to grab a couple McDoubles from McDonalds?), I found myself annoyed at this driver for having the nerve to be in front of me and wanting to go straight instead of turning, thereby keeping me from turning and moving on. He or she was obviously just trying to mess with me and ruin my day. What did I do to deserve this? They could choose to turn, so that I could then turn. Or, they could just not be there at all. But no . . . they just HAD to be right there in front of me, wanting to go straight, preventing me from turning right a moment or two sooner. How dare they!

That is when I thought it: “Man, I HATE when people do this.”

As soon as the thought concluded in my mind, in the midst of my frustration, I was suddenly taken aback. I thought to myself: “Really? . . . you HATE when this happens? You HATE that person for doing this?”

I hate illness. I hate injustice. I hate verbal abuse. I hate sexual abuse. I hate abuse of women. I hate abuse of children. I hate abuse of any kind. I hate that there are people who go without food every day. I hate that my Lord’s name is used in conjunction with war cries. I hate that some children will never know their father. I hate that some people use the Bible (often incorrectly and out of context) to hurt, harm or hold other people down. I hate that people around the world are driven by some unknown force (socio-economic disparities, zealous religions, racism, etc) to harm and kill other people. I hate that my kids have to be told to not talk to strangers. I hate greed. I hate disease. I hate human trafficking. I hate that people claim to be Christians yet condemn others. I hate paying taxes (But, as a former pastor of mine once said, “Paying taxes is a good thing. It means you’re making money!” I can’t argue with that, but still – does anyone really LIKE it? Ha.). I hate that I feel the need to set an alarm system in my house. I hate that the allure of the dollar is often more convincing and influential than doing what is right. I hate that people are walking around in this life without knowing how much Jesus truly loves them. I hate evil. I hate the devil. I hate that good people are sometimes too scared to do the right thing. I hate when people take truth and twist it into something else to suit their own goals. I hate that there is so much hatred and injustice in the world, yet I am so focused on my own little life.

I hate that I am so easily ensnared by anger, fear, frustration and insecurity.

To the driver of that Jeep today . . . I don’t hate you. I love you, because Jesus loves you.

Proverbs 10:12 . . . "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins."
Proverbs 15:1 . . . "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
1 John 3:15 . . . "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer . . ."

Friday, February 7, 2014

You Are My Hope - The Song Story

So, in my last post I shared the story behind my recent release, It is Finished. This time around, I want to tell you a bit about the first song I released, You Are My Hope.

I wrote You Are My Hope with my good friend Wisdom Moon. In addition to being a worship leader, podcaster, resource website creator (check out for some great worship leader resources!), father, husband, all around handsome guy and social media mogul, he is also a solid songwriter and musician. Back in 2012, Wisdom and I got together to do some writing. This is shortly after a writer’s retreat in Nashville that spring, and I was excited to bust out the guitars and iPads with this guy.

At this time, Wisdom was walking through some life changes that required him and his family to step out in faith in a big way. There seemed to be other options, but the way God was leading them seemed unclear. Wisdom didn’t necessarily know what it was going to look like, or what exactly was going to happen. He just knew that God was in control and was leading him, and he had to follow.

The chorus idea came from a conversation I was a part of with some other ministry friends, in which Wisdom was sharing about his situation and said something along the lines of “If God asked you to jump off a cliff, would you jump?” That idea stuck with me, and it helped ignite the central idea of the chorus in the song:

“If you lead me to the valley, I’ll seek You
If you bring me to the mountain, I’ll climb after You
If you guide me through the desert, I’ll follow
My rock and salvation
You are my hope”

Now, for Wisdom, there were challenges in his life that were impacting this decision that he had to make. He had to choose to follow God’s leading, even when battling some of those questions. This idea of hoping and trusting in God in the midst of darkness is what built our verses. Even “when the darkness closes in” and “when I cannot see Your light”, we will follow. Our hope is in God.

Finally, the bridge is a proclamation that God is indeed our rock and our stronghold, and because of Him, we will not be shaken. It’s the culmination of the entire song’s message, which is ultimately a prayer: God, there is darkness and uncertainty. But we trust in You. No matter where you lead us, we will follow. For you are our strength, and in You we are never shaken.

Man . . . that’s good stuff to be reminded of.

We were blessed and lucky to have the great Sean Hill produce this song, and the incredibly talented Kennedy Goins provide the vocal talent. It was great working with them on this project, and without them, this song would not be what it is.

You can still download the song for free on Noisetrade here:
You can also purchase the song on iTunes here:
And, for a sneak peek behind the recording process, check out this video here:

Monday, January 20, 2014

It is Finished: The Song Story

So, it's been a very long time since I've blogged. Like . . . over a year. So, I thought about getting back into it. Alot has happened in the last year. Probably too much to get into on here, but one big thing was the release of my second single, It is Finished. So, as my foray back into blogging, I figured I'd tell you a bit about the song and what went into writing it. 

“Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;
save me, and I shall be saved,
for you are my praise.”
Jeremiah 17:14 (ESV)

Ed Rotheram found himself reflecting on the simplicity of Jeremiah’s prayer, and noted the strength and power in it as well. The impact of this prayer is what first inspired Ed to get an idea onto paper.

Often, when singing worship songs, there comes great power in singing out in faith for something that hasn’t happened yet - declaring things for what they will become, not for what they are in the here and now. Ed and I wanted to explore this concept, and we were lucky to meet up at a songwriters’ retreat in Nashville in May of 2012. Sitting in our hotel room, the idea grew.

This song admittedly has a somewhat unique song structure. It's not the typical Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus-Chorus format. This was not an intentional move, but was an organic outcome of the message and progression of the song. Verse lyrics came first and were constructed as a cry of the things we wanted to declare in faith - healing, salvation, justice, hope. These are things we longed for, not yet to come. In response to this, in faith, we turn it around and give thanks to the Lord in the chorus. And then, in almost as much time as it took to sing it, the bridge came:

“It is Finished, it is won
We’re forgiven, death is gone.
Ransomed, healed, forever restored,
We are free”

This is where it all began . . . 
Jesus’ final words on the cross provided the key concept and resolution for us, as all of these promises were fulfilled as a result of His death and resurrection. We are forever restored to God as a result of His sacrifice. Lyrically, this song takes us through a process: Crying out in faith for healing and restoration, giving thanks in faith for those things that the Lord has promised us, and then recognizing that through Christ’s blood, all has been accomplished.

Early in 2013, we teamed up with Philip Kothlow and his wife, Sarah Reeves (Kothlow), to produce the recording. Through Philip’s sensitive and articulate approach to the production and arrangement, as well as Sarah’s incredible, passionate vocals, new life was breathed into this tune. We are hugely grateful for them, their vision, and their gifts - this song would not have been the same without them. And I encourage you to check out more of Sarah's work online. She is a recording artist with some past recordings, and lots of videos on Youtube.

If you haven't heard It is Finished, featuring Sarah Reeves, you can download it FOR FREE on Noisetrade. The link is below. If you listen to it and like it, are moved by it or ministered to by it, please share the link with your friends and family!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Worship and General Theology, and Love

So, as I sit here listening to “Come to Me” by Bethel Music (GREAT song), I began thinking about worship music overall.  Some worship leaders have asked whether or not modern worship music today is focusing too much on the “love” aspect of Christ, or that aspect of our relationship with Christ.  The concern, of course, is that God is also Holy, and one day there will be wrath wrought upon the earth.  He is a jealous God, and we see righteous anger from God in Scripture.  There is more than one side to God, so to speak, which is absolutely true.  In worship we should strive to worship God in whole.  Not just the side of God we like or is more palatable to our sensitivities.  That is why songs about His holiness are so important.  Songs about His sacrifice are incredibly important as well, as it is from this sacrifice that hope of salvation is birthed.  But when I think about all of these attributes, what strikes me the most is this consistent theme of love. This, naturally, got me thinking about the general ideology and theology about the topic of God's love overall. 

Obviously, love – great love, coupled with mercy and grace, is what drove Christ to the cross on our behalf.  There is no question here.  Without the love that Christ has for us, there would be no hope.  Period.  And when I think of God’s holiness, while I am struck with the magnitude of His holiness, I am most astonished by the fact that the God of the universe, the Creator of all, the holiest of holy . . . this one, true, almighty, holy God . . . chose to love ME.  How absurd!  I am a relatively good person by society’s standards.  I don’t cheat, kill, steal, etc.  I pay my taxes, open doors for ladies, and try to be a courteous driver.  My family and I give to those in need, both locally and abroad.  All these things are good and right, but they account for nothing when stacked against the weight of my sin and unrighteousness.  Where God is a pure white light of excellence and holiness, I am nothing but a dirty rag fit for the furnace.  All that being the case, this holy God still pursues me.  He still chases after me and desires a relationship with me.  So much so, in fact, that he sent his Son to die for me.  And it wasn’t an easy, clean death.  It was gruesome and brutal.  All for me.  How can the stunning holiness of God not cause us to be amazed by His great love for us?  Now, back to worship music . . . .

I could be wrong, but it seems like the main argument about songs that speak to the love of Christ is that it can lead to a watered-down faith, thereby ushering people into a lifestyle of carelessness and selfishness, believing that God’s love will compensate for anything we do.  I can imagine that this can be true in some, perhaps even many cases.  But if this is the case, then I believe the worshiper didn’t fully love God themselves.  It is easy to “accept” love from someone, yet not love in return.  But that is another story altogether . . . .  So, with this thought in mind, some try to limit or even remove songs about the loving relationship we have with our Creator.  To take this even further, this can sometimes lead to a theology based on acts and fear.  A theology where God’s love must be earned.  If you fear God, then you’ll do this, that and that other thing.  If you don’t do this, that, and that other thing, then you’re obviously not living right.  The problem I have with this mentality is that apart from God, we cannot do this, that or that other thing.  We cannot do it on our own, apart from God.  God says “come as you are, I will make you clean (paraphrased),” not “get your act together, and then I’ll take a look at you.” 

Living a holy life, living a life that reflects and represents Christ is the goal.  That is what we are trying to accomplish as Christ followers.  If this is the goal, what is the motivation?  For some, fear is the motivation.  While that may seem like a bold statement, I think it is accurate for many in the church today.  We feel the need to act holy and live holy lives because we are supposed to.  If we don’t, then there are consequences (being outside the blessings of God).  So, basically, the thought process is that we should live holy lives because we want to live in God’s blessing/don’t want to experience the consequences (whatever they may be) if we aren't.  Now, while it is true that there are consequences for our actions, and sin can and does bring destruction into our lives, I have come to the conclusion that this mindset is not appropriate.  This type of thinking leads to a theology based on self-earned righteousness.  As though we have to do these things to earn the favor of God. 

Now, don’t get me wrong – as a follower of Christ, there are expectations as to how we live our lives and conduct ourselves.  We are called to live a certain way . . . to live as Christ did.  And there are indeed consequences to our actions.  But again, what is our motivation?  The answer should be love.  Gratitude.  Adoration.  Joy.  Appreciation.  All of these things, born out of the love we share with the Father.  If we recognize God’s love, and love Him in return, won’t we WANT to become more like Him?  Won’t we WANT to live our lives in a manner that pleases Him?  Won’t we WANT to share that with those around us?  With a fear based mindset, we don’t necessarily WANT to do these things.  With a love based mindset, we can’t help but do these things!  Love motivates us like nothing else.  If we have a true relationship with Christ, HE will change us.  We don’t have to do anything!  We have freedom!  Christ has wiped the slate clean!  We’re redeemed!  From there we need to walk in the footsteps of Christ, doing our best to live as He did.  We will stumble along the way, but we remember that we are redeemed children of God, and that when we admit our failures we are forgiven.  Then, we continue on.  There is no guilt.  There is no “religion.”  Reading a certain amount of Bible passages a day doesn’t save you.  Praying for a certain amount of time doesn’t save you.  Going to church, once per week or 10 times per week, doesn’t save you.  God’s love, grace and mercy saves you.  All you need is faith, believing in Him and His workings.  Then, you begin the process.  You love Him in return.  And your love compels you to dive into Scripture.  Your love drives you to spend time in prayer communicating with your God.  Love makes you yearn for the fellowship of other Christ followers.  Love creates within you a desire for a holy life!

So, back to my original thought regarding worship music (yeah, this post went a lot longer and in some different directions than originally planned) . . . .  

Love is where it all starts.  Without it, nothing else matters.  Now, for me personally, I am not necessarily a fan of the “love songs” we sometimes hear that seem more like a teenage boyfriend/girlfriend love . . . . those songs are weird . . .  But acknowledging the love we receive from Christ, and expressing our love to Him in return are both extremely valid forms of worship.  Use them in your church.   Teach it to your congregants.  Grow this into your children.  God gave us free will because He didn’t want to force us into a relationship with him.  If all we do is discount the love of God as a nice “warm and fuzzy” that is secondary to His holiness and justice, then we are belittling the very nature of God.  Everything grows out of His love for us.  And it’s because of His incredible, unfathomable holiness, goodness and righteousness that makes His love for us all the more scandalous and absurd.  That is why we need to incorporate all of these traits when we are engaged in praise and worship.  So, we need to do our best to be balanced as we teach those in our churches and around us about God.  Whether you teach via preaching, or you teach via leading worship, or any other ministry, please do not discount the love of God.  God loves us more than we can ever comprehend, as unworthy as we are.  And I am so, so very thankful for it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Sermon, or something like that

So, I was honored and blessed to teach at Victory Assembly this past Sunday night. I took my notes and expanded on them a bit to share with whoever wants to read something long.  If you prefer to watch a video recording, you can do so here:  This is the first time we have video recorded a service, so the quality isn't great.  The sermon starts at around 9:40 into the video, and the sound is super quiet until amost 13 minutes in.  You'll want to use headphones. Or just read the below.  Or just shrug it off and go elsewhere on the interweb.  Ok, that's all.

What brought this on? Why has this been on my heart?

This is a message that has been on my heart for a long time. It is something that has caused me to feel ashamed, angry, and inspired all at the same time. My heart for this has grown for a variety of reasons and experiences, such as:  Struck by the perception of Christians I encounter in “the world.”  Thinking about the unsaved, and why we don’t see more people coming to the cross.  Working with unsaved people.  News coverage.  Blog articles, etc on the web.

It occurred to me that something is wrong. Something isn’t happening, or the wrong thing IS happening. I wanted to see what the reality is “out there.”

What is the current situation? What is the perception?

I pulled some research from the web to see what was going on out there. A couple primary sources jumped out at me:

Survey by LifeWay Research (research arm of Southern Baptist Convention): 79% of those surveyed said that Christianity today is more about organized religion than loving God and loving people.  No info on the data set, demo, or date 

Barna Group study in 2007 – age 16-29 non-Christians over three years.  Only 3% have a favorable view of evangelicals. Top criticisms:  Christians today are judgmental (87%), Too involved in politics (75%), 50% of churchgoers think Christianity is judgmental and out of touch!  91% of non-churched and 80% of churched say that Christianity is “anti-gay.” That beyond opposition to homosexuality, Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. They have made homosexuality a bigger sin than anything else. “Christianity in today’s society no longer looks like Jesus.”

Rev. Rowten is an evangelist that came and spoke at our church a couple month’s ago. He told us this story about his mom, who was a baker back in the day. She would apparently mix up her batter, pour it into the cake pan and then test it. She tested it by taking a single finger, dipping it in the batter, and tasting it. Her assumption was that if that one little bit tasted good, then it all tasted good. It occurred to me then, and it strikes me now: that is exactly how the world at large form their opinions of Christianity. While I always tell people they shouldn’t base their view of Christianity on flawed human beings, people do. If they have an experience with someone who claims to be a Christian, then that has set an expectation in that person’s mind as to what Christianity is like. Perception is REALITY.

The main takeaway here is that the world, the nation, our very community has a warped view of Christianity. That is because the ones that seem to get the most attention are those who, although what they are saying may be true, are not communicating the truth through the love of Jesus in the right way. Sometimes they are the loudest, sometimes they aren’t. But either way, there are not enough Christians today communicating through the love of Christ in an effective way.

My goal is to look at what Christ showed us about this in Scripture, and then we’ll look at how we should then approach this.

What is Christ’s example? What does he show us?

Take a look at Matthew 9:10 – 13. Here we find Jesus is eating with sinners and tax collectors. These were the “worst of the worst” in the society at that time. This is significant! In this culture, dining together was a BIG deal. You didn’t just eat with anyone. And, Jesus was eating with the “worst of the worst.” He not only tolerated them – this is what a lot of us do. We think to ourselves that we can tolerate “those people” so long as they keep to themselves and leave us alone, but this is not what we see from Jesus. He aggressively pursued them and deliberately placed Himself with them. Why? “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” He ate with them. Why? Because that is where they were.

Look at the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Yes, Jesus told her to go and sin no more, but before that he stepped in and saved her. Love came first. What about the woman at the well in John 4? The sheer act of talking to a Samaritan was scandalous, let alone a Samaritan woman. This is someone he should not have spoken to. For anyone else, they would have felt awkward. They would have blown her off. But He showed love to the woman by engaging her in conversation. He then proceeded to tell her about her past, in an effort to show her that He knew her – and even then, He was still there talking to her. The cool thing is that later in the chapter we see that she tells others, who later come to Jesus and believed. Jesus never scoffed at a sinner. He never looked down his nose. He went straight to the sinners of the land, despite the religious tradition of the day, and he loved. And lives were changed. In contrast to the religion custom of the time (driven by the Pharisees), He was scandalous. This was a scandalous love. REMEMBER, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was not in response to repentance (repentance wasn’t required for love), it was born first out of the love of God for us SINNERS.

So, what should we do? What does Christ’s example show us about how we should live?

First things first, we must KNOW SCRIPTURE, and not just tradition. We cannot solely rely on what we hear in church from our pastors, or what our parents tell us. Why do I say this? Take a look at this information below:

Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life put together a 32 question quiz, and polled more than 3,400 Americans. This quiz was about religion at large, with a big focus on Biblical knowledge.  Most Americans scored 50% or less on Bible knowledge.  Bible belt folk did not score high – they were at the bottom!   Highest scoring were Atheists!  Those who said they believe the Bible is the literal word of God did slightly worse than average! So we believe it, but we don’t know it? No wonder the message is missing the mark!

When we approach those outside of the church, we need to do so as Christ did, NOT as the Pharisees. The Hebrew form of “Pharisees” means “separatists” or “the separated ones.” Sound like anyone you know? Most of us have heard the term “Be in the world, not of it.” First, as an FYI, this actual phrase is not in Scripture, but is a paraphrase “mashup” of a few different verses that basically talk about how we are not of this world, and we should not be conformed by the world, etc. Many of us believe this to mean that we must DISTANCE ourselves. We see the opposite in Jesus. He did not condone, but he also never shied away. He was there. He was in the places that the Pharisees didn’t go near. He talked to people that the religious sect excluded and shunned.

When I was in college at Central Bible College in Springfield, MO, I worked as a server at a local Applebee’s. It came time for a holiday party or annual part of some kind, and it was being held in a bar. I wrestled with whether or not I should go. I had heard all my life that a good Christian boy should never step foot into a bar for any reason whatsoever. So, I went to my Grandfather, who I respect greatly for his heart for the Lord and his wisdom. I don’t remember his exact words to me, but the basic jist was that you have to be around dark to be a light. He reminded me that Jesus went to those people where they were. So I went, and hopefully I was a witness for Christ at that party.

The Pharisees looked down on others, and questioned Jesus when he ate with sinners. Someone questioned me about going to that holiday party. Matthew 23:13 says "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." Can our actions actually work against us being used by God to add to the kingdom of heaven? YES! And, unfortunately, a lot of the “Christians” these days in many churches seem more like Pharisees than Jesus to me. We are far too interested in keeping to ourselves and “protecting” ourselves from whatever evil lurks about beyond the walls of our local church.

We, as the people of Chris, need to focus more on the “who” and less on the “what.” Let me illustrate this for you. Let’s look at the issue of homosexuality, which is arguably a hot button item, but this was specifically mentioned in the Barna survey, so why not address it? The “what” in this case is homosexuality, and the “who” is the person. The actual individual being, with feelings, and whom God loves desperately. Politics was also mentioned in the Barna survey, and let’s face it – these two topics are incredibly linked in today’s political atmosphere.

Now first of all, we can and should be active in our democratic system. It is one of the great things about our country, and we should be a part of it. This is not to take away from that. Here is what I am seeing: the church is incredibly mobilized in the political arena to fight gay marriage. You see it in the news, on the web, on the streets, etc. It is a massive, almost militant effort, for the most part (not everyone, of course). You know what I don’t see? I don’t see a bunch of churches actually reaching out to and ministering to the LGBT community. We need to realize that getting laws passed does absolutely nothing when it comes to the hearts of men. If a law banning gay marriage was passed, what would happen? Nothing. Whether it’s a law or not, individuals are still gay. Passing a law won’t change hearts. So why the focus? I’m not saying you shouldn’t vote a certain way based on your core beliefs and values, but I feel like the “church” as a whole has put WAY too much emphasis on attacking this, and so very, very little energy into reaching out to and building relationships with this group of people. When we look at Jesus’ example in Scripture, he focused his efforts on bringing about the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth, not fighting against or trying to change the government at the time. This despite an incredibly corrupt and immoral government at the time. The problem comes when we spend more time being vocal about politics than we do about showing the love of Christ. What are you more known for?

Look at Matthew 5:46 and 47 (pieces somewhat mashed up here): “If you love those who love you . . . greet your brethren only, what reward have you . . . what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Christ likens us to tax collectors (which is bad), if we do not love others, outside the walls of this church. This is a serious matter. We cannot simply hide away inside our church walls. We have to get outside of ourselves and reach out to people the way Christ did.

We need to have a constant mindset that we are ALL sinners, and have fallen short – because it’s true! Grace is not only for us, it is for all people. We are no better than anyone else, yet the church seems to vilify some more than others. Why? Doesn’t Scripture say that God is no respecter of persons? Isn’t His love for ALL? What does Acts 10:34, 35 say? “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” No partiality. No preference. EVERY NATION, not just some, not just the ones we like. Every nation. Or, in our terms, every person, no matter who they are, how they dress, or where they are from. Then why do we, as the body of Christ, shy away from and vilify certain groups of people?

I want to share an example of how Christ’s heart is played out at one particular church. Rachel and I were a part of Trinity Family Church in Gardner a while back. Part of the core value of this church was a ministry they began called Love Wins. It started with the ladies of the church going to local strip clubs and hanging out with the strippers. They would take cookies, gifts and other such items to the girls and simply love on them. This effort ultimately led to a new relationship like none I’ve heard of before. People from the club came to church. The owner of the club and other workers there helped our church do service projects for a local charity. Awesome! Then they branched out more and formed a ministry to reach out to the LGBT community. The goal was not to go and yell at them, picket them, put them down, shout at them, or anything like we normally see out there. The goal was to simply build relationships. Those who were called to do so would go to gay bars and talk to people, help clean up after gay pride parades, etc. All in the name of building relationships so they could earn the right to speak to individuals about Christ.

Lastly, we looked at a video from a couple years ago put on the web by Penn Gillette of the Penn & Teller duo. A link to the video is here: First of all, Penn is a hardcore, very vocal atheist. He has badtalked religion like crazy, the Bible, etc. However, you can tell as you watch this video that he was impacted by what happened in this story. Please note how he specifically talks about how this guy was polite, and sane. I am also intrigued by his comment that one experience with a good Christian isn’t going to change his atheist views. And I thought to myself, has he really only had one positive experience with a Christian? What if he had more? I know this, Penn is someone that most Christians wouldn’t go near if they indeed knew who he is. He is large in stature, famous, wealthy, incredibly intelligent, brash, and a very vocal atheist. I’d be intimidated! But this guy did it. Jesus would have done it. This video shows us two points: It is possible to reach out to someone most wouldn’t, and it can be done the right way. He didn’t confess Christ right then, but you can see it impacted him, and a seed was planted. That is all God asks us to do.

Remember, perception is reality. The wrong message is being conveyed and received. If we’re not careful, we can and will continue to lose our influence. We need to reach out to the lost. EVERYONE deserves to hear about this. We cannot keep this to ourselves. We need to do it the right way. Times have changed. We can no longer stand on the street corner and shout “Repent!” To do this, we must build relationships - earn the right to speak into people’s lives. SHOW LOVE. Remember, Christ calls us to create disciples, not just converts. “Disciple” in Hebrew is Talmid, which means ‘student’ or one who learns and imitates another. That takes an investment on our part. It’s not a quick “get em and leave em” kind of thing. It’s a relationship. It’s a journey.

It’s important for us to live the love of Christ because we are to be living examples just as Christ was a living example for us. How often do we really, and I mean REALLY, reflect Christ? Ask yourselves these questions: Do people in your life (neighbors, work, etc) know you are a follower of Christ? What kind of example have you set? Have you loved on people, on ALL types of people? If someone around you were to be quizzed on what Christianity is, would they base their answer on experiences with others, or with you? Would they have a favorable view of Jesus and/or Christianity based on experiences with you? Based on your example, would they say that Christians are judgmental? That Christians are more about religion and tradition than Christ’s love? Or would they say that they see genuine, unassuming, unconditional love?

All comes down to this: Does the world see the REAL Jesus though us?

All of this isn’t for the sake of improving the image or reputation of Christians in the world, but rather that we should love because Christ first loved us, despite ourselves. As a church we should reflect on these things and change ourselves because it’s Jesus’ will for us to be like Him. Does Scripture tell us to be like him? You bet. Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And; WALK IN LOVE, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us . . .” Does the world see the REAL Jesus though us?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Work to be done

So, it looks like I will be preaching/speaking/teaching at my church on Sunday night, April 3rd.  I have preached a few times in the past, but it has been YEARS.  I am a little nervous.  I am still kind of "the new guy" at church, having only been there since October.  I am also one of the younger peeps in the congregation (as evidenced by my use of the word "peeps").  Like it or not, right or wrong, people will come to conclusions and opinions about me based on what takes place that night.

The cool thing, though, is that it doesn't matter.  It's not about me.  It's about God.

The cool thing is that I am 136% positive that this is fully God ordained and directed.  I have had a message on my heart for awhile now, and was planning on asking Tracy if I could "help him out" sometime by preaching so he wouldn't have to.  Before I got that chance, however, he asked me.  I call that confirmation.  I know this message on my heart is from God.  It burns within me.  And I cannot wait to share it with the folks at Victory Assembly. 

Once it is complete, I will post my sermon notes here on this blog.  For now, however, I'll give you the basics.  My working title (definitely not final) is "The Army of God vs. The Love of Christ."  An interesting tagline I am thinking about utilizing is "Dear Jesus, please save us from your followers."  The basic message will be this:  It is ok for Christians to be politically active and vote as they feel led.  It is ok for Christians to believe that some things are Biblically right and some are Biblically wrong.  It is ok to have a voice.  But, are we known for love?  I have come across staggering statistics about how the world (especially younger people, in their 20's and 30's) views Christianity today.  It's astonishing, disappointing and saddening.  The opinions that people have are based on what they see and hear from "Christians," and often it isn't reflective of Christ.  In fact, a statement from one of the studies I looked at said that "Christianity in today's society no longer looks like Jesus."  This is a HUGE problem. 

Do we, as Christians - as followers of Christ - more resemble Christ, or the Pharisees?  We will look in Matthew and John and see how Jesus interacted with tax collectors and adulterers.  We will then explore other books in Scripture to see what this all means for us and how we should proceed. 

The end goal is this:  How do we show CHRIST to the world?  I am not interested in showing a particular political party.  I am not interested in showing "right-wing conservatism or left-wing liberalism" to the world.  All that stuff doesn't matter in the scope of eternity.  Legislation does not change hearts.  I want one thing only - to show Jesus to the world.  This is what we should all want.  That is all that really matters.

Monday, February 28, 2011

I am forcing creativity upon myself

So, I am a part of something called the Songwriter's Cafe, which is a branch of  It is meant as a resource and network for Christian songwriters.  I've dabbled in songwriting in the past, and I really enjoy it.  I don't think I'm all that terribly good at it, but that is beside the point. 

As a member in this network, I am able to submit a song I write to my peers for their review, thoughts, criticisms, etc.  Tonight I submitted my first song.  It's not the first song I've ever written, but it's the first one that I've put "out there" in order to willfully bring creative judgement upon myself.  I am a little nervous to see what people say about it, but I am super excited at the same time.

In the past I have typically only written songs every now and then.  Interestingly, usually my songwriting ideas hit me when I am staying up WAY too late, and often it is after I have listened to music, or watched a concert on TV.  However, as of this day I have committed to writing at least one new song every month. 

Looking at my time and obligations, one song a month will definitely be a challenge, but it is also very doable.  My hope is that by actually setting time aside on a regular basis I will be able to put more songs together, and hopefully get better as I go along.  In the end, my hope is to submit these songs to varios record labels and see if one wants to pick a song up and publish it.  If so, that'd be cool.  I don't want to be a recording artist (and I am nowhere near talented enough to do so), but if I could write a lyric that blesses someone else, then that'd be great.

Below are the lyrics to my latest song.  I have a super rough recording that I submitted to The Songwriter's Cafe, but I am going to keep that under wraps for now.  Once I am able to make a more proper recording (Scott, you and I need to get together!) then I'll put it on my PureVolume page for you to check out.  In the meantime, hopefully you enjoy the lyrics below.  My hope for this song is that you are able to see and know the grace of our Lord, the grace that none of us deserve, yet He gives so freely and abundantly.

Despite the dirt
Despite the pain
Though I’m unclean
You call again

I ask you when
You tell me now
You take my shame
I’m new somehow

In the light of Your holiness
My gold turns to dust
When my faithfulness is counted
My silver turns to rust
When my riches came up short
Your blood it washed my guilt away
And because of your grace
It’s a brand new day

I fall again
But by your grace
You call me to
the Holy Place

Wretched I stand
Destined for death
You fill me with
Your holy breath

When the world around me brings me down
When my heart believes the lie I’ve found
You lift the chains that I’ve put on
The grace is here the shame is gone