7 Things The Worship Guy Should Say

worship-leading-copyRecently I’ve read some articles circulating about what not to say when you’re leading music at a church… They were extremely insightful and often bring back memories of worship services I’ve attended. It’s easy for me to think of what not to do when leading people in worship. A little more difficult was finding 7 things I think leaders should do. Here is my contribution: 7 things I’d like to see more often. Leave some comments about what you would like to see… It will help me be a better leader.

  1. Read the Bible out loud. The public reading of Scripture is actually commanded for corporate worship in the Bible. (1 Timothy 4:13) Funny how little we read it aloud together in services. Read Scripture over your people. Let the Word of God do the work. Even better if you read Scripture that is relevant to the song we are about to sing or the one we just sang.
  2. Tell me what the song is about. Lyrics often move quickly and make references to things that are easy to pass over. Sometimes writers are incredibly poetic and it is difficult to understand everything we are singing. Slow me down… don’t let me race past song lyrics… tell me about the references that stand out to you or the poetic inferences I may have missed. Let me know why you think this song has value and what it is trying to communicate.
  3. Tell me something God has taught you. The most powerful worship moments I have been involved in at worship services are when the leader is transparent about something God has taught them. When the leader explains an insight that the Lord has taught, I am encouraged that they are growing and inspired to seek the same growth. Even if the insight seems small and obvious to me, genuine insight cannot be faked and growth is inspiring. Let me see you growing through a relationship with God that transcends your time on a stage.
  4. Talk about your gratitude for something God has done. Gratitude will lead your congregation to deeper worship. As you express thanks to God for the things He has done or the character traits He has revealed, my gratitude is increased and so is my joy. After you share what you’re grateful for, pray and give thanks publicly for it.
  5. Don’t ask me casual questions, ask questions designed to make me think. “How is everyone?” and “You guys ready to worship?” Are lazy ways to begin a worship service. In fact, questions to a crowd are lazy. They’re not bad or sinful. They’re not ridiculous or inappropriate. They’re just lazy. If the only thing you can think to do is ask a question, then make it a profound question. Prepare ahead of time and lay out a good question. Perhaps a theological one that is going to be dealt with in the lyrics of the song, sermon, or Scripture reading. Or maybe a question that calls the audience to consider Christ’s character. Thought provoking questions can inspire the soul and prepare the heart for worship.
  6. Pray… for real though. Be sure you actually pray. There is nothing worse than a contrived, forced prayer. Everyone in the room recognizes it, no one appreciates it. It’s silly. Don’t do it. Pray for real, even if it is just short.
  7. Nothing… don’t say anything. Let the silence sit for a moment on purpose. Model breathing for me. We are a culture that cannot stand silence. We surround ourselves with noise all the time and we drown out any difficult thoughts that may be troubling or exhausting. We need some silence. Silence to process what we are feeling. Silence to engage the words we are singing. Silence… we need silence to breath and consider the majesty of God. Give me some silence once and a while. Do it on purpose, not just because you have nothing to say, but so that what you don’t say carries tremendous weight.

So I am genuinely interested: what do you think? Is there anything I missed? Anything you particularly don’t like that I thought was valuable? Let me know…. I’m genuinely curious, since I’m an all in one’er and need to know what I’m doing well and what I’m doing poorly. Thanks in advance.

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I Did Cast My Vote: a Poem

I thought about calling this “I didn’t vote for Him.” but realized that would be click-bate and I hate that nonsense…  so This poem was inspired by the recent discussions of our new president. It really doesn’t talk about him… so if you are looking for political fodder for your angst or encouragement for politics, you wont find it. But here’s a poem.

We voted on ballots loaded with candidates
Remembering our votes would serve to mark the date
We chose the lesser of two evils, holding balance like Weebles®
Tottering back and forth, in our course
of sinful disposition
praying the Lord, save us from our own decisions

But remember when our ballots held His name?
and we proclaimed “Barabbas!” in extreme disdain?
The hope of life eternal, standing before us
Beaten, bloodied, bruised, ready to be poured out over us
Our vote was clear, “Sin’s the master here!”

Yet rejecting our vote, He took our shame and disgrace
Sacrificed Himself in grace for His name and our sake
He lay His life down to raise Himself King
Accepting not our votes, they were wasted things
He died on the tree bearing the reproach
of all who believe, all those who did vote
against His majesty, glory, and might
He made enemies sons, and ended our night.

So we lay our vote down, for he bears a King’s crown.
You see, to elections Kings do not submit
They are Kings after all, in spite of all this
The good news is this King of whom I speak
Has come to rescue, the dead, lame, and weak
He died in our place, but entombed did not remain
He granted life to the Saints who trust in His name

My vote was cast for Hell and for Death
But my King rejected it, bringing me rest
He handed me life when I demanded my say!
Then He rescued my soul, showing me His way
By no work of my hand, He made me His own
Now life in my being comes from His life alone.

He is the life giver, my King so gracious
He is my only righteousness, my own goodness fallacious
His life is now mine, having taken my death
To the cross at Golgotha, laying it to rest
So vote as you will, He the King does remain
His glory is eternal, and His rule is the same!

 

My Sin Affects Who? (Joshua 5)

2006-08-22 - Road Trip - Day 30 - United States - Texas - Groom - Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ Ministries - Telephone Poles - SepiaJoshua chapter 5 opens with the people of Israel, having just crossed the Jordan river miraculously, receiving the command to circumcise all the males of Israel. What is peculiar about this particular story is that none of them had already been circumcised. Though this is a command that God gave Abraham waaaayyyy back in Genesis 17. God commanded that every male born in Israel be circumcised as a sign of the covenant. So, 40 years in the desert and no one had practiced this command.

Let’s back up and set the stage. Israel has been wandering around in the desert for the past 40 years. During that time, God was purifying the people by allowing a generation of disobedient Hebrews to die off slowly. (See Numbers 12-14. That’s a ton to take in I know… more to say on that, but too much for this blog.) After 40 years, everyone who was under 20 at the time when God made the judgement or all those who had been born after the judgement were permitted to go into the promised land (exceptions being Joshua and Caleb).

So after 40 years of wandering in the desert, this generation gets to enter the Promised Land. But wait!! Before they can conquer the land, before they can engage in warfare, before they can claim the right of domain, they must be circumcised! Enter Joshua chapter 5.

For 40 years, the people of God have not practiced circumcision, the most basic sign of the covenant. There are some interesting theories as to why they have not practiced this simple sacrament. Some postulate that they didn’t want their baby boys to feel the pain. Some postulate that they didn’t see a need for it, considering we wear clothes in public and it’s inappropriate to ask for that sort of identification… so who would know? Whatever the reason, Joshua 5 tells us they had not practiced it.

Here lies the rub! Now… all the men of Israel have to be circumcised. All the MEN. Oh my! Before they can experience the victory of the Promised Land, they must obey. Willingly, they submit to the covenant symbol and are circumcised. Don’t worry, the Lord provided for their protection by terrifying their enemies so no one would attack while they recovered. (That’s… um… cool…?)

These men had to experience severe pain in order to obey. Because of their parents disobedience, their obedience was painful. It didn’t matter if they obeyed now. Though their hearts were in the right place, the seemingly minor disobedience of their parents made the obedient lives of their children difficult.

This raises a question for each of us, our churches, and our generation: in what area’s are we overlooking obedience? Sinfulness is not an individual problem alone. Your sin impacts others. Our disobedience could have tremendous impact on the generations that come behind us. Our excusing of disobedience massively affects the lives of our children, even if they are striving towards obedience. Be careful how you walk… your kids, subsequent church generations, and community might suffer pain because of your disobedience.

 

5 Lessons from Tooties

tooties6Hi, I’m Tooties! Daddy is alway writing these bloggy things, so I thought I’d try one!

Here are five lessons for you grown-up types!

 

  1. tooties4Leave your lovey laying around, that way you can stumble onto joy. I like to leave my lady-bug laying around the house. It is precious to me, so I take it everywhere I go. Sometimes I drop it on the floor and that is ok. Later, when I walk into the room, I’ll find it. Then I’ll be super stoked about finding my favorite thing in the world! You should try it. Leave loving things around you. Drop them in places that you frequent. They’ll be a source of joy when you come back to that space!
  2. Always carry a drink with you. tooties5Whenever I walk around I try to carry a drink. Something that refreshes me… even if it is not mine. You need refreshment in this life. As you go about your daily life, carry a drink… whatever that may be. Whatever it is that refreshes your soul, carry it with you and drink deeply in moments of need.
  3. When you fall down, you’ll be ok… Daddy’s right there. I’m small and unsure of my steps sometimes. I fall down and sometimes it hurts. But Daddy is HUGE and he doesn’t fall down!!! When I fall down, I know Daddy is right there and can easily pick me up. He loves me and he comforts me when I fall down. Isn’t great to know that The Father is there!?
  4. tooties2Yelling is a form of communication, but it is less effective than laughing, smiling, and pointing. All I wanted was the juice! Couldn’t they tell? I was yelling and grunting… I even did my best impression of a fish so they would make the connection that I needed liquid! As I was writhing on the floor yelling my best impression of a flounder out of water, it occurred to me, “they give me things quicker if I laugh and point.” Yelling and being angry communicates something, but it probably wont get you what you want. Smiling and pointing work much better.
  5. No matter what you loose, you’ll find something better soon. I lose stuff all the time! One second I’m waving it in the air, and the next it’s gone! tooties1It’s like someone magically removes it from my grasp while I’m distracted by something else. Whatever the reason for this mystery (Daddy), I know that I should not worry… in another moment I’m going to find something else to be excited about.

That’s all for now! Have a great day!!

Ephesians 4:11-12; Brief Thoughts

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

These particular verses are often over-interpreted. Preachers and theologians frequently attempt to classify this as some sort of ladder in which some positions are higher than others. Those teachers and theologians who insist on some sort of hierarchy present in these verses are the type that would use their speculative theology to exalt themselves and rule over others. It should be apparent in these verses that people are given particular gifts that complement who they are. For example: teaching is given to those who are to be teachers, leadership to those who are to be apostles, discernment to the prophet, compassion to the shepherds, etc… God equips those He calls to do the work He has called them to do. If He has called you to be an evangelist, He will equip you with the gifts necessary to accomplish that role.

It is important to take note that people do not get to assign these roles to themselves. God gave the church specific people who come in these specific roles. He gave the church their shepherds and teachers. He appointed their apostles and prophets. He drew their evangelist into their midst. God gave them. So, the next time you’re praising the Lord for those various leaders in your church or cursing the day they were born, remember: God gave them to your church. Consider the implications of that before you complain or praise.

Note the purpose they are given in verse 12. They are not given to increase the flock or reach out. They are not given to make converts run the programs. They are given to “equip the saints.” In an age where we have reduced the Gospel of Jesus Christ to: Jesus loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life, and have hired professionals to accomplish the ministry so that we can have a comfortable atmosphere for worship, it is rare to find someone who recognizes that our gifts are to be used to “equip” each other. The purpose of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers is simple, they are to train the saints to live like Jesus. It is a wonderful thing when churches engage in out-reach. Out-reach is natural, wonderful, and it is something saints should do constantly no matter what their giftings or roles are. Out-reach, however, is not the primary function of these five roles. People in these roles are supposed to train the saints for the work of the ministry. These roles are supposed to build up the body.

The word translated “building up” means literally “constructing.” It is used to elsewhere in Scripture to describe edifying each other and encouraging one another in worship and ministry. (1 Cor. 14:26-31) In Ephesians, Paul is explaining that these roles that people play are given so that the Christians within the church body would be encouraged in their lives. (That is assuming they are striving to live a life worthy of the calling to which they have been called.) The church ought to be the greatest source of encouragement for a Christian. In the local congregation, believers should be taught the gospel, lead to worship the Almighty, strengthened in their faith, and encouraged in their ministry. Oh dear believer, do not settle for a church that is content to keep you busy with programs that do not edify your soul and encourage you towards holiness. Business at the church building is not the same as active spiritual growth. Evaluate what your church is asking of you and whether or not they are training you to live like Jesus.

This truth should inspire churches to become centers of training, teaching, and growing. We are to make disciples. Your church ought to be faithfully teaching the Word of God to the people of God so that they are living the life that God has called them to live. Your standard for success is the lifestyle of those in your church, not the number of attendants or the size of your budget. In light of this passage, strive to lead your people toward holiness and righteousness.

“We need to talk”- 7 things to remember when you hear this.

weneedtotalk“Hey, you got a minute? We need to talk.” Those are some of the most anxiety inducing words on the planet. Often they could be translated to mean, “Something you said/did bothers me and now I’m going to metaphorically kick you in the face.” The incident described below is all too common and has happened to me in various degrees throughout my life.  It happens in churches, businesses, casual friendships, and families. Perhaps you will relate.

The pit of my stomach sank. An odd description considering that stomachs don’t actually float. My mouth was dry and my eyes began to fill with tears. A record of wrongs was being laid out before me by someone I was never aware I had offended. The litany was tremendous, and the questions that fired through my head were jumbled and confused. I had no idea I had wronged anyone and was definitely unaware of the list of apparently insensitive, almost criminal acts I was guilty of in the eyes of my accuser. I could say nothing; I only stood in stunned silence. Adding to my confusion was the realization that this person had never spoken to me until now, while I had believed us to have a transparent relationship.

In the moment, my first thoughts were about how sorry I was to have wronged someone. My second thoughts offered a little less clarity, as I was not afforded the time to process the accusations in an appropriate manner and was therefore left more confused. My final reaction in the conversation was silent acquiescence. I was a beaten man at a loss for words. (A strange feeling for me.)

In the weeks that followed, I interrogated myself, attempting to find my guilt, sometimes rooting out my own errors, and on other points finding no fault. I questioned myself over and over, sought wise counsel, and tried to move past the awkward work of making peace. I moved from my beaten acquiescence, to furious anger, to indifference, then to a vague and somewhat incomplete understanding, and finally to a sort of resting in the peace of Christ. In this introspective time period, I realized that this person had held onto my offenses, rather than addressing them at or around the time they were committed. They sat on my errors, keeping a running tab. While claiming “love,” they had kept a “record of wrongs.” (1 Cor. 13:5) While they now claimed to be dealing with grievances, they had given too much time to their anger and frustrations… letting “the sun go down.” (Eph. 4:26) These actions are wrong and unfitting for a Christian. And yet, this is often the way people handle their grievances with each other. This has been the way I have handled things in the past. (A brief word of encouragement: Overlook their failure to handle these things well!  People are people… forgive. Teach people to handle things the right way by your own example.)

This ambush caused great grief and mourning. The friendship was irreparably damaged. I would never again feel the same joy and comfort around this person. Though forgiveness was granted, the damage done to my soul has me in a nervous fit every time I am aware of offense, whether purposeful or accidental. (Yes, I did just admit to offending some people on purpose.) Due to various encounters like the one described above, I struggle with anxiety whenever someone says, “hey, you got a minute? We need to talk.” But there are ways to move past that and to do the work of love.

There are some things I try to remember when I find myself in this type of confrontation.

  1. God is working. That famous verse in Romans 8:28 that Christians use to remind themselves that God is always good, also serves to remind us that God is always working. This verse, taken in the context of a persecuted minority (Christians in Rome), serves less as a “God will make this better” and more of a reminder that God is faithfully working, even in our suffering. With this in mind, we can be reminded of that other truth that Christians often miss-apply: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13) In context, meaning: “I can endure/ find peace in all circumstances….” No matter how great the anxiety or suffering, the Lord is working. In this uncomfortable conversation… He is working.
  2. Striving is hard. Hebrews 12:14- “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” I often find it interesting that God seems fascinated with the word “strive” or “wrestle.” So great is His affection for the one who wrestles, that He names His peculiar people “Israel,” or a direct translation: “Wrestles/Strives with God.” He loves it when we strive to know Him, and even more when we strive to be more like Him.   So, we find that life in a healthy community is hard and is full of striving. When you are confronted, your goal must be to strive for peace and holiness.
  3. Political maneuvering is always a bad idea.  Honesty and transparency are always lauded in Scripture, while political maneuvering gets people killed. (c.f. Acts 5, 1 Sam. 15, 2 Sam. 9-12, Num. 16) God honors honesty and protects transparent vulnerability. When the prophets stand bare before enemies, God defends them. When the apostles speak truth, God protects them. When martyrs of the faith stand transparent before their executioners, God redeems their lives. So it must be for all Christians. “To live is Christ, to die is gain…” (Phil 1:21) We must die to self and trust that the Lord is working, even through the hands of wicked men. God honors those who are faithful to walk in His ways… He will uphold those who are honest and transparent. (see Joseph’s story in Genesis 37-50)
  4. “Peace must be risked.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Similar to point number 2, this is a reminder that if we want peace, we must be willing to risk ourselves to find it. Peace that costs you nothing, is not peace. True lasting peace costs everything and can only be found in complete surrender to the Sovereign Lord over all things. Surrender your anxiety to Him and “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)
  5. Love will win…. This one is simple. Love wins. Accusations, legal defense, intellectual arguments, manipulation, business tactics, and politics all fail in the face of Love. Love will and has overcome all things. Everything else will all pass away, but love will cover a multitude of sins, it will never fail, and it will always claim victory over the darkness. (c.f. the whole Bible.)
  6. Grant grace when you are accused. Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Read carefully… “so far as it depends on you.” It is not up to the other person in the discussion to strive to this end. It is for you to do, regardless of their actions.
  7. Hold on to humility. Ask “how can I grown from this?” Avoid defending yourself. Avoid accusing the other person. “Turn the other cheek.” Remember your standard is not good people, it is Christ. Philippians 2:1-11 clarifies for us how we are to conduct ourselves. Christ was obedient, humble, and murdered for it. So… there’s your example and standard. Get after it.

Love is hard to do well. Read 1 Cor. 13 and try to be that description. I hope these seven points and my own story will help to encourage you next time you are accused or confronted. Are there truths you try to remember and remind yourself about in these circumstances? Share them in the comments.

I am a pastor at a church that is striving to live out love in honest and transparent ways. If you’d like more information, please take the time to visit our website: www.sgfbrazoria.org

Squeeze My Hand- Suffering pt. 3

squeezemyhandHer eyes filled with tears as she gripped my left-hand.

“Oh, I wish we were already on the ground!” she wept.

The take-off was a little bumpy, but not unusual. In the same manner as always, we lifted from the ground and immediately hit minor turbulence. The plane rocked and bumped a little left, then a little right as if finding its balance. My little girl silently whispered prayers for safety as she squeezed my left hand tighter.

A 7 year old should not be able to cause severe pain to a 35 year old man. Yet, my affliction is evident in my left hand. You see, I have scleroderma in my left foot and my left hand/arm. (pictured above) As a result, I only have about 75% mobility in my hand and it pretty much hurts all the time. Occasionally it will flair-up, turn a brighter color red, and my nerve endings will feel like they’re on fire if someone touches my hand or foot. This particular flight happened to be one of those times.

I know the anxiety my little girl deals with, she got it from me. Plane flights tend to heighten my already anxious state. While other people are able to sleep or think about plans for when they land, I find my mind drifting in and out of a state of panic thinking: “we’re all gonna die, God help!” and a state of extreme cynicism thinking: “If God intended me to fly through the air, I’d be a bird!” So when I see the tears in my daughters eyes and hear her pleas to be on the ground, it is not without sympathy. This anxiety can be crippling. Rational thought escapes us when we deal with anxiety. We must force ourselves to reason when we are anxious. No one can do it for us… no amount of information can stem the anxious feelings… when someone suffers anxiety, they must decide to reason through it. Sometimes that’s not possible.

So here I sit. My nerves on fire, in a state of internal panic, wishing I could comfort my little girl.

We hit more turbulence. She squeezes tighter. I lean down and say, “it’s alright baby, just squeeze daddy’s hand.”

Pain floods my arm… I wince, and tears begin to form in my eyes. I could not take away the anxious feeling my daughter struggled with. I couldn’t ease her fears with rational logic or profound thoughts of God. All I could do was let her squeeze my hand. This is what God does with me. In my own painful circumstances… He takes the pain on Himself, urging me to trust Him.

More turbulence… more squeezing.

In that moment I saw again the way Christ walks with us. Jesus does not merely walk next to you while you feel the pain. He has actually taken the pain on Himself. In His kindness, He has taken our pain upon Himself. Every pain and anxiety you suffer, He has walked through and is walking through with you. In those dark moments of the soul, feeling your every pain He urges you, “it’s alright… squeeze My hand.” No amount of pain is too great for Him.

You see, I held my daughter’s hand because I love her. The pain didn’t matter in that moment. In that moment all that mattered was her pain. Pain cannot trump the love I have for my child. Likewise, pain cannot overcome the love Christ has for you. Jesus went to the cross, bearing your every affliction and failure so that you could squeeze his hand, and now He walks through your pain with you! Pain in this world is bound to come, but you don’t have to walk through it alone. The Holy Spirit will comfort. Squeeze His hand.

It is when we recognize this reality as a community that we will start to see past our own pain to love others. You see, my pain in that flight was second to her anxiousness. She needed to squeeze my hand, unconsciously causing me pain. This is how we should love one another. In the church, we personify the love of Christ to one another. We squeeze each other’s hands, ignoring our own inconveniences. We offer up our time and resources to provide for each other in spite of our inability to bring resolution. We wade through the troubles and pains of life together no matter how painful our own suffering. So… learn to be squeezed by your community. In doing so, you will live a full life in the church.

I’m not always good at this. I still complain when someone else needs to squeeze my hand. I fail to love people well. But I have a group around me who let me squeeze their hands. (Romans 12:9-13)  Our church strives to embody the ideal of grace extended. If you do not have a community like this, we are working hard to build one where I live. Come join us at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Brazoria at 10:30 Sunday mornings. We meet in the Brazoria Civic Center Conference room (the old elementary school.)  There is a map on the important documents tab at the top of this page.  We all have struggles, let’s walk through them together.

This is part 3 of a series. Part 1 is here Part 2 is here