Archive for the ‘Encounter’ Category

Every year we get to this time and, for the past few years at least, Facebook gets flooded with all of the things that people are giving up for Lent. Everything from coffee to chocolate, and meat to favorite TV shows. We write blogs about it (like I’m doing now), and we give updates about how things are going. Once the time is over we go back to where we started. Maybe not at first, but slowly we pick up where we so abruptly stopped. I have been that person many, many times. So please believe that I’m not pointing fingers are throwing stones or whatever other figurative phrase you can put there. It’s just something that I’ve noticed about the season and my own personal success or failure with this whole process.

The biggest problem I have with the Lent diet, whatever I may be ‘dieting’ from generally becomes the thing I think about the most. So for 40 days I’m basically counting down until I can have the thing I’ve so dearly missed. Easter becomes as much about sugar or soda as it does about the resurrection of Christ Jesus. I’m pretty sure that’s not the desired effect.

So, starting with Lent, and hopefully continuing through whenever, I’m taking on James 4. I feel that for me personally I have to just do one thing. I don’t always multitask well. I’ve tried and it doesn’t always work. So I’m going to focus on drawing near to God and having Him draw near to me. If that means that I spend less time watching TV (which I don’t know if that’s possible lately), then so be it. If it changes what I listen to, then so be it. If drawing closer causes me to change my eating habits then praise God (seriously, that would be awesome). But I’m not going to start from the place of a new deficiency. I’m going to start from a new place of filling. Because if I start to fill myself with something new, something old has to move out of the way to make space. And for all of you my friends who are giving up things for Lent, go get ‘em! I will continue to pray for you as I always have. I honestly wrote this today because this is a common question around this week. Not as common as the ‘Where did you go to high school’ question for my STL friends, but common enough.

Be blessed, friends. I will leave you with the passage that sparked it all for me. James 4:2-10

You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

 

::Now Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.:: Hebrews 11:1

I remember learning that scripture when I was little along with it’s companion in verse 6. They would be, and continue to be, constant reminders of God being there even when I couldn’t see Him. As I got older, there was also the reminder of Him being there even when I didn’t feel him. Now working in the church for so many years, I have the reminder of Him being there even when we plan Him out. Or when we move on our own accord. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, just because we work in a church doesn’t mean that it’s always just prayer and praise and decisions forged in the heart of God and shone down to us in glowing lights in our meeting rooms. There are times when we get wrapped up in doing what we think is best and letting that dictate all the things around us. I sometimes do it when I put my Sunday mornings together. We’ve done things in a similar way so many times that everyone knows what to do. So we are happy that there is such a well-oiled machine. So happy in fact, that if anything goes awry, we aren’t always so quick to recover. And then we discuss later how things didn’t go the way we planned. All of these thoughts and conversations are based on what we see.

Sometimes it’s as if we have planned God right out of His own house. Believing that if we don’t see those results or people’s reactions that things aren’t happening. Or if there is something difficult to work through that this must not be God because he’s the God of all things being easy for His people. Or he’s the God of all the things that we like. If we are only going to move when we can see what’s happening or can already know the end result (and like it), that’s not faith. Sometimes that thing right in front of you is really hard to handle. Continuing to believe that God is there to help with hard things helps you to fight through whatever that situation is. Sometimes you’re in a situation that is not to the best of your liking. Sometimes something happens that you don’t agree with. Continuing to believe that there is more means that there is something that God is wanting you to work through or grow through. Most importantly it’s continuing to believe that God is still there. God is still there when your boss is tough. God is still there when you get older and everything around you is changing and these young kids are bothering you with their new stuff. God is still there when you get some bad news. God is still there when you are continuing to fight with a stronghold in your life.  God is still there.

Where has your faith gone? Are you continuing to believe in more than what you see? Have you stopped believing in what is next because you are so focused on what’s right now? Have you stopped waiting because you are so focused on instant gratification? Where has your faith gone?

My Plan>your plan

Posted by worship180 under Encounter

I’m feeling like Paul lately. No, I haven’t beat up any Christians, been put in jail or have my name changed to Barry. I’m speaking more specifically about his missionary journey where they kept trying to get into Asia and God kept blocking their progress (Acts 16). This has been a particularly difficult struggle between Him and I, but that’s because I can be rather stubborn. I think I’m showing major only child tendencies with this one. It’s only because I had a plan. I wanted my first Christmas Eve service in the new church to be a big one that was memorable and spectacular. I had visions of multiple instruments and teams and doing something that had never been done before. I wasn’t even sure what HAD been done before, but I was going to be different. Never mind that no one was actually asking for or expecting that from me. This was the plan.

Then He decided that I wasn’t going to have as many people be involved as I thought. Okay, I can work around that. Then He decided to throw some curve balls so I wouldn’t have as much time to put all my major plans together. Okay, now we’ve got to push, but it COULD still happen. Then He changed personnel again and made it next to impossible for me to field a whole team. NOW I’m scrambling. But I’m starting to see the direction I’m being called to go in, I just don’t know if I like it because I don’t want to go that way. And I remember the verse. It’s the one everyone knows and quotes. I know it in theory sometimes, but I don’t always practice it. Until I get punched in the face with it. Now my cheek is swollen and my eye is closed a little. The trainer is putting that clear goop junk on the cut. I guess that’s actually just Vaseline. But I digress.

I don’t know what is going to come of our Christmas Eve. I do know one thing, I’m planning with what I have and I’m gonna let God handle the rest. Let these words ring out in your hearts and minds. Have a good weekend.

Come, everyone who thirsts,

come to the waters;

and he who has no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without price.

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,

and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,

and delight yourselves in rich food.

Incline your ear, and come to me;

hear, that your soul may live;

and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,

my steadfast, sure love for David.

Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,

a leader and commander for the peoples.

Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,

and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,

because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,

for he has glorified you.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;

call upon him while he is near;

let the wicked forsake his way,

and the unrighteous man his thoughts;

let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,

and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10  “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven

and do not return there but water the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

11  so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:1-10

In All Your Ways…

Posted by worship180 under Encounter, WL Thoughts

Learning to trust someone is probably the hardest thing to do. The cliche statement is “trust is the hardest thing to gain and the easiest to lose”. I believe that there is some validity to that. I also believe that some of that has to do with our right now/most recent mindset. From my own experience, the times that I have had trouble trusting was when I was in a situation where I thought I knew what was going on or thought I knew someone better than I really did. Then things change and you sort of get blindsided by something. As I’m sure it is with those of you reading this, you get to a point where something major happens and then you lose trust for that person.

Fortunately for me, I learned trust from my father. There have been many relationships saved and better understanding gained as a result of his advice. He has forced me to take a step back when someone has seemingly hurt me or done something that has caused me to lose trust. His advice is always to “think about what you know to be true about the person and then see where those things and this isolated incident don’t line up.” I’ve been amazed at what happens when I step back and think through a situation. Among other things it allows me to be able to talk to that person specifically about the issue instead of just blowing up about any and everything.

So how does this translate to worship? Well, think about the times where we have felt like God wasn’t with us. We try to take things in our own hands because we don’t believe or trust that God is good enough to handle a situation. Then we get all handsy and mess stuff up even more and then wonder where God was. But the question remains, what do you know about God to be true? Trust comes from knowing someone. And the more we get to know God the more we can trust that what He says is true. So again, what do you know about God?

When I myself find it hard to stay focused on worshiping God, I’m usually struggling with the idea of being able to let go of a situation for whatever reason. Being able to fully trust God means that we are constantly getting to know Him and His ways. We are called to acknowledge God in all our ways (Proverbs 3:6). That means we are called to take notice of who He is and what He can do. As we continue to do that, He will continue to show himself faithful and worthy of our worship. So, one last time. What do you know about God to be true?

Before I wrap this up, one thing I know for sure is that my beautiful, oldest daughter was born 9 years ago today. I love her so much and am glad to be her daddy. Happy birthday Kahmylia! Daddy loves you!

Singing a New Song to God

Posted by worship180 under Encounter

I waited patiently for the Lord;

he inclined to me and heard my cry.

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,

out of the miry bog,

and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes

the Lord his trust,

who does not turn to the proud,

to those who go astray after a lie!

You have multiplied, O Lord my God,

your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;

none can compare with you!

I will proclaim and tell of them,

yet they are more than can be told.

I’m sure as I quote this passage from the Psalms that it isn’t new and has been read and reread by many. I’ve been thinking about this passage a little bit because of the fact that we will be singing a song based on this passage this weekend. Many times the Psalms start out with a cry to God and as your read through you see the sentiment change as God answers. I love to read that transformation of thought and attitude. It reminds me that when we call out to God, He will answer us. There’s a promise there that we need to always remember.

There’s something refreshing about keeping our song fresh to God. Now before you go left on me, I’m not starting a debate between contemporary songs versus hymns. I’m talking more about keeping the communication between you and the God fresh. We call out to God for a lot of things, and our cry can get stale if we aren’t giving of ourselves and we are just asking for stuff. Sometimes our song to God needs to be one that asks for Him to give us a new song. Sometimes that song just needs to be put to a new tune.

Have you ever been in a situation when you heard a song for the first time in a while and it just felt new? Sometimes we need to go back and cycle to a song that we’ve sung before. The new song comes from our heart, not from the words. Many times an old set of words speaks in a new way.

What I’m really putting before you today is a call to think about the song that you are singing to God. Our song is our worship. Are we giving Him to worship that He deserves? Or are we singing the same tired song that you aren’t even listening to it anymore?

Senseless Sayings Part 2

Posted by worship180 under Encounter, Enrich

Man, I know I’m going to get in trouble writing this one, but sometimes it has to be said. Before I get into this one, I want to reiterate that the reason I’m attacking some of these sayings head on is because of the fact that they are not only contradictory to scripture, but they cause us to walk in the complete opposite direction of any type of worship of the Father. Worship180 is designed to help us turn away from the things that cause us to walk away from Christ. Now that I’ve reestablished that, let’s get into this next saying.

“You can’t love nobody until you learn to love yourself.”

Look at that statement. Just look at it. I’m not sure exactly how to say this. I look at this and it seems to make sense. As an internal processor, I tend to do this with a lot of things. I work things around in my head and go through scenarios and ideas and situations until I come up with a working thesis. Then I’m able to have solid, somewhat intelligent conversations (as much as I can). So the concept of this sentence makes sense to someone like me. In reality, this statement is one of the more backwards statements ever quoted. It puts us directly in line for Satan to blast us in the face with all he has.

So why is this statement bad? Well, in short, it puts us in solitary confinement. When we spend time “loving ourselves” that doesn’t include anyone else in the mix. When we go on vacation or retreat or we take a break from the norm, this is an opportunity for us to be alone. This statement is basically creating a lifestyle of retreat and selfishness. Once you are alone, Satan then has the ability to come in a plant things in our heads and we begin to doubt everything and everyone around us.

Secondly, the more time we spend loving ourselves the less time we have for anything else. I think about my first dorm experience in college. I remember calling my roommate before moving and asking him what he had and telling him what I had and we tried to find a medium to make sure we didn’t bring doubles of certain things and and miss out on stuff that we really needed. Had I not called him and just started filling my car with stuff that I liked and wanted I could have taken over the space and left him no room for clothes or his bed or anything really. I would have been loving myself and and making myself happy, but totally disregarding the person that I was living with. We do the same thing when we spend time loving ourselves first. If I fill up my heart with a love for myself I do 2 things. One, I don’t leave much room for anyone around me, making it hard for them to find space in my heart. The other thing it does is causes me to put up guards around my heart. The things that I love are in there and I don’t want anyone to come in and mess that up.

Thirdly, again, it’s pretty contradictory to the Word. Go take a look at John 15:12-14. Read the whole chapter when you have time, but those 3 verses speak directly against the idea of loving yourself first. Love is sacrificial. Love looks out for others and considers them even before itself. You can’t sacrifice yourself for…yourself. It doesn’t work.

In our culture, we tend to worship the things we love. So it’s no wonder that God doesn’t always get the worship He deserves. Do we go and sing and shout and do the churchy thing? Sure we do. Week in and week out. Are we truly loving sacrificially? Are we giving our whole hearts and lives and stuff to Christ? Does our worship reflect that? Sit back and make an assessment. See what you come up with. You might be surprised…

 

 

 

Letting Go Of Yourself

Posted by worship180 under Encounter

When it comes to worship, you always hear leaders talk about “getting out of the way” or “clearing your hearts and minds” or “going beyond yourself”. These are a few of those churchy statements that we say that we don’t always explain and sound kinda weird if you really think about it. Of course, as I say that I used a similar phrase to title this post. But it’s my hope that I can help give some insight to what I mean.

A lot of times when we make statements like this one, we are generally speaking in the context of worship during the Sunday morning gathering. I realize that this can actually be harder than us worship leaders and pastors understand. People all have varying degrees of control issues within our own lives, and so “letting go of yourself” can seem like an enormous task in a 15-20 minute time frame on a Sunday morning while surrounded by people who we don’t know all that well. Letting yourself go also has a negative connotation in the world. I see people at their 20 year high school reunion and the ex head cheerleader walks in and she’s not what she used to be in high school and people say “man, she really let herself go”. No one REALLY wants to let themselves go. So true is the case of the rich young man in Mark 10.

It was difficult for him to consider selling all that he possessed to follow Christ. He was being asked to give up everything that he had worked for, everything that defined who he was in order to follow Christ. Christ was wanting him to go all in. That concept would institute a total life change, and it was something that he was totally not ready to do.

When it comes to worship, there has to be a total life change. When we are defined by what we do and not as much by who God is in us, it is hard for us to “let go of ourselves”. Letting go means giving up control and not being able to dictate the outcome of any particular situation. When we are living everyday in that mindset, it makes it increasingly harder for us to “let go” and worship in full spirit and truth. Yes, this is a bit of an overgeneralization, but hopefully you understand what I’m trying to say. I’m trying to get us to see that if we are going to be able to let go of ourselves and worship our Christ during a Sunday morning, it has to come from a place that is familiar to us. It works better when we are reaching for something and we have some idea of where it is. So this week and from here on out, let’s be thinking forward to giving ourselves to Christ always. That way when your worship leader suggests that you “let yourself go and let God take over” you have some idea what that means. In the meantime I’ll try to see if I can come up with another catch phrase.

Letting the Lord Create the Moment

Posted by worship180 under Encounter

I will be the first to say this: being a worship leader is not an easy job. People have so many opinions about music and what worship should and shouldn’t be. On top of that, we have to try our best to keep listening to new music and keeping older ones relevant while trying to stay true to what to Word says. Even with all of that, sometimes the hardest part of the job comes on Sunday morning. It’s our hope that we can create an atmosphere of worship that allows people to connect with the Father in a special way. We are crave that moment when everyone is just so connected that the Spirit flows through the room and people are just engulfed in the presence. In reality, that doesn’t always happen each and every week. So sometimes we get in the bad habit of judging the week based on how much we feel the Spirit moved. It’s a very inaccurate way to determine the effectiveness of any given week, yet it happens more frequently than we would like to admit. So what do we sometimes do? Sometimes we try and manufacture that moment by scheduling a praise moment. Sometimes we add a scripture. Sometimes we add a song to the flow. I don’t think anything is wrong with doing these things. I think the problem comes when we try to plan to create a moment that will impact people. There are many reasons why this doesn’t work. Here are a couple.

For one, as much as we want to believe we can, worship leaders can never know exactly how people will be impacted by a service. There have been many times when I have walked off the stage and felt like things didn’t really flow or come together like I thought they should. I’ve felt discouraged by the whole experience, only to have someone come up to me and say that every song that was sung was exactly what they needed that morning. On the other side, I have walked off the stage feeling super confident, knowing that we had just put together an epic set and performance, only to find out that it sort of missed the mark.

Secondly and probably most importantly, people can spot fake. What do I mean by that? I mean that people can generally tell when someone is attempting to manufacture a feeling. When that happens, people tend to become critical of the whole time, which in turn makes your job that much harder.

In the end, it is God who creates the moments of true worship. When you are in tune with Him, he will lead and direct your worship experience and you best believe that He will bring the whole congregation along for the ride. It is your job to make sure your heart is open to hear Him and do what He says. This is something that takes some prayer. It should always be our heart’s desire to let the Father lead, but it should be just as much a desire for us to be able to recognize when this is happening and know how to respond.

My prayer today for anyone is that you understand when the Lord is leading you to a moment where He wants to spend time with you. If you can recognize it then you’ll find your worship more fruitful.

The Shred

Posted by worship180 under Encounter

I did something pretty major last week. Or at least it was for me. For those of you that know me, you know I have a ton of keys. Or it looks like I have a ton of keys. After sitting down and assessing the situation, it’s been determined by my daughter and I that I have a ton of  key RINGS. So I did it…I started weeding out some of the useless items on my keys. 3 minutes later my keys were significantly smaller. They fit in my pocket better. They don’t smash my knee while I’m driving. They take up less space in the key holder (drawer) that I put them in when I come home. It’s an overall better experience. The most ridiculous part about it all is that I could have taken those three minutes MONTHS ago and had the same result. There really wasn’t much to it, but every time I thought about it, I just shrugged it off as not a big deal. I just let it sit there and be a big blob of key rings. Later in the week my wife even noticed that my keys were smaller when we were driving down the street. I just think that’s crazy that such a small gesture made such a big difference. I think I saved our marriage by getting rid of some of my key rings.

Once that was said and done, I immediately started thinking about the significance of letting go of the things we  hold onto just because. Just because I’ve held on for so long. Just because it’s easier than letting go. Just because of the changes that would occur if I no longer had this thing in my life. Just because I’ve gotten used to it being there and it doesn’t bother me anymore. Just because…

Never once were we told that this life would be an easy one. Let me rephrase that. Never once SHOULD we have been told that this life would be an easy one. There is always going to be change and transition and growth that happens in our lives that cause us to adjust. Sometimes we have to add things. More times than not we have to shred something. In this world that lives on getting all that you can, that can be quite confusing to get rid of something. Even if it means that what you get in return is better than what you’re holding. Sometimes it’s so hard to get let the comfortable things go.

Is there something that you’re holding onto that God has told you to let go of? One of the big things for me (other than the key rings) was the fact that I couldn’t do anything to lose weight. So yesterday, in the heat of the day, I went for a run. Now granted, I didn’t run the whole time, mostly because I haven’t run like that since my last game of baseball. But it felt good to get out and do that with purpose. but first I had to shed the idea of not being able to do it and looking stupid to the people driving down the street as I attempted to run again. I felt much better about myself when I got home. I want to go today, but evidently the pain in my heel that stopped me from being able to walk happens to be a bad thing. However, I won’t let that stop me from pushing toward this new goal.

So again, what do you need to shred? Give it over to God. Whatever it is, when you shred it there’s going to be something that fits you better than that thing you’re holding.

Read: John 15

I have learned that whenever you are going through problems it’s a general rule that you aren’t the only one. It’s so easy for us to think that we are the only ones in the struggle and that no one else could ever understand the situations. In reality, it’s quite possible that you aren’t the only one and that someone else is in a worse situation than you are. Now, I’m not saying this as a “Buck up and get over it” type message. This is more of a way to say I know that it’s tough and you aren’t alone.

I’m in this situation myself. I have been dealing with quite a bit of stress and struggles. Some of it comes with working in a church and the burden on your heart for the people you lead. Some of it is just life and the number of things that it throws at you. Then I went to a Bible study on Tuesday and we started sharing prayer requests and by the time it got to me I realized that the things I’m dealing with in my life right now aren’t the biggest struggles known to man. It brought some perspective. Even with that, I feel like there’s a huge obstacle in my way and I’m just looking up at how enormous it is. The song Mighty To Save jumped into my head as I woke up this morning. I immediately changed the first line of the chorus, and that’s where the title comes from. It’s good to know that God can move mountains when the time comes. It’s also good to know that I can ask for His help when I’m in the struggle. That’s what the line speaks to. There are times when we need Him to move the mountains and we have to ask Him to do that.

I don’t know what you’re going through in your life right now. It’s quite possible that your struggles make my struggles look like baby Pandas at the zoo. Whatever it may be, you have to be able to take them to the Lord. Cast your cares on Him. Let Him care for you. Spend some time with the Lord. Worship Him. Praise Him for who He is and what He does. Ask Him to move your mountains. I’m praying for you that He will work in your life and through your struggles.

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