Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thought for the day (4/29/10)

I'm often amused by articles in which people talk about how "new" certain beliefs are in Christianity. It can be hard, sometimes, to remember that when the world uses the term "Christian" or "Christianity," they're not really talking about true Christianity, true Jesus followers, but refer to the organized religions lumped together into one huge mass called, for convenience's sake, Christianity. Over and over again, our beliefs are talked about as if they're relatively new, novel, not something to be taken seriously in a day of "enlightened" thinking. If we're not careful, it can be easy to allow those words, thoughts, or arguments cause us to doubt things we know to be true, shake our faith, draw us away from the things that really matter in life.

I was in Lifeway the other day and caught part of a video on the early life of Billy Graham. In this scene, he was confronted by a life-long friend who'd left the faith because he couldn't reconcile what he thought he believed with the reasoning of the intellectual world. Billy didn't have a response, and it led him to a place where he was crying out to God to show Himself, asking if it was all worth it. The answer came -- faith. He realized faith is what made the difference, and when we stand in our faith, we gain the strength to see through the arguments of the world to the real truth.

Psalm 3:3 states that the Lord is a shield around me, my glory and the lifter of my head. Verse 6 follows up with the declaration that I do not have to be afraid of the thousands of people who have taken their stand against me on every side. If we trust solely in reason, then we are trusting solely in ourselves.

Be honest with yourself for a moment. You know the real you, the one you keep locked up deep inside that never gets to see the light of day for fear that if it ever came out, everyone around you would run away in fear and disgust. Do you really want to bank the happiness and success of your life on you, knowing that you carry that around with you every day? Come on, whether you know it or not, that part of you affects every decision you make, ultimately the course your life takes and the person you become. That's what trusting in reason is. If we all have this ugly part inside, can we really trust human reason? That's why true followers of Jesus can say as David did in verse 5, we lay down and sleep, and wake up every morning resting in the knowledge that our God sustains us. It doesn't matter who stands up against us or what terrible circumstances we face. Our faith is not in ourselves, as those who rely on themselves or human intellect and reason, it's in Someone greater that we can ever be. Our faith is in the One Who, because of our faith, has made us new, wiped out the ugly part inside us forever, and, as verse 3 said, is our shield, our glory, and the One Who lifts us up every day.

The Apostle John speaks of us as being "of God" in chapter 1. We live, we love, we grow, we walk this world different because we are of God. Our faith is in God, we find our purpose and fulfillment in God, we have a hope and a joy no one else has because of God. Never let the reasonings or arguments of the world ever convince you otherwise.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The incredible workings of God

In July, God led me to take a step of faith that was one of the more difficult things I've ever had to do. It's not easy when He tells you to leave a place where you've served for 8 years, to leave people you love and have known for so long to go ... well, I didn't know. All I knew was that I couldn't stay in Pensacola any longer and have any hope of happiness or fulfillment -- because God said it was time to go. Honestly, I didn't like the idea, but He used different circumstances to help guide me to step out and trust Him.

So, I left. No job, no solid prospects, almost no money, to go do ... well, I wasn't sure, but I knew I was doing what He wanted me to do. So, I hit Winston the beginning of August 09, trusting the Lord to lead, guide, and provide. Shortly after getting here, God opened doors for me to meet an awesome church planter named Mickey who became a great friend, and for a time, my pastor. I was able to be a part of their worship services, playing in the band and singing with Jake, the worship leader (who, by the way, is now off planting a church of his own in obedience to God's leading). Was still looking for a church to work in, but didn't hear much of anything from any of them. I realized I needed something to pay bills with, so I went in search of temporary work. In this economy. In a state with one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country. There were times when I wondered if I'd done the right thing.

It would have been easy to get mad at God and just quit. Believe me, I was asking Him a lot of questions. There were many intense moments of crisis in my faith, yet through it all, God remained there, faithful to me, even when I wasn't sure He was doing anything. I realized one day that all of this just proved how great God was and how much I truly believed in Him, and I began to see what He was doing in my life and how He was changing me through this experience. Shortly after that, things began to happen.

December of 09, I walked into a Radio Shack to see if I could get hired for holiday work. I'd applied a couple of months before, but hadn't heard anything so thought I'd stop by. As it happened, it was a very busy time, and the manager asked me to come back. He reviewed my application, then said that they did need help, and if I passed the background check, I could start working. Needless to say, I was rejoicing and praising God. That next day, I went to visit my parents at the church where they work. Their pastor told me of a local church who's worship leader was resigning, and that he'd mentioned me to the pastor as someone who could come in on an interim basis and help them out while they figured out what direction to go. The pastor (Mike) called me the next day and we met. I was a worship leader seeking to lead worship in a church and they were a church looking for someone to lead worship on short notice. I met with people from the church, sat down with the board, and I have to say, was very impressed both with the hearts of the board members and the hearts of the people of the church. After a time of prayerful consideration, the board asked me to come in and lead worship until after Easter, or until they had a set direction to head in regard to the search for a new worship leader. I agreed, and started the first Sunday of January, leading worship.

A lot has happened since then. I got to know the people, and they've gotten to know me. And I have to say, they are an amazing church. They have such an incredible heart for missions, both locally and abroad -- it's at the core of who they are. Former missionaries on staff, staff members getting ready to head to the mission field, just to give a couple of examples. They love to worship, from children to youth to adults, and I have had an incredible time worshiping with them and watching them worship. Oh, and the preaching is great. Pastor Gates never lets a service go by without making application to the lost and begging them to come to Jesus. I'm pretty certain that in the 4 months I've been there, there have only been a couple of services when someone didn't say they prayed to receive Christ. God is at work and doing might things there. And, the more I was there, the more I fell in love with the church -- the people and it's ministries.

Well, Easter came, and boy, it came big. We had a full production, with adult and children's choirs, multiple musicians, actors, video, and even a great challenge by the pastor. I don't know if I've seen a group of people work harder in such a short period of time to make something like this happen -- determined to share the gospel through their ministry with all who were there to hear. Eight people got saved that morning, praise God. Then, it was decision time. My commitment to the church was up, and so was their commitment to me. In my heart, God gave me peace about staying at Faith. The board met and voted to recommend me to the church. Yesterday, the church voted, and officially I am now the worship pastor at Faith Missionary Alliance. I don't know if I would have chosen the path God had me take to bring me to this place and this ministry, but that just proves I don't have a clue when it comes to running my life. God, however, knew exactly what He wanted all along and what it would take to get me there. And I am grateful He did. I am fully comfortable with Him being in charges of the direction my life takes, yes, even when I don't have all the details or know what the plan is.

You know, there are great things ahead for me and for Faith. I truly believe God has been doing great works in this church before I got there, will do great works while I'm there, and will continue to do great works long after I'm gone. He's God, and as long as His people seek Him with all their hearts, He will take them on journeys that bring about incredible glory for His name and incredible blessing for His people. My journey is an example of that. I am incredibly blessed, and I can't take any credit for it. The credit, the glory, is God's, and God's alone.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Beauty of Worship

I think one of the greatest things I get to witness as a worship leader is simply to see people worship. No matter where I am, no matter who is worshiping, from kids to youth to adults, worship is a beautiful thing. It transcends style and preference, because the Object of our worship transcends everyone and everything. He is the most lovely, and so watching His people worship Him will always be a beautiful, wondrous thing. True worship unites us in ways that can't be broken. Styles of music, styles of dress, even styles of speech all get lost and become inconsequential in the presence of true worship. I've watched all ages unite in worship in a church service as well as out in the world doing acts of service, and I've yet to see it when it didn't cause me to pause and lift my own heart in worship. How great a God we serve when even our worship of Him draws us into His presence! Imagine what the world would say if we lived that worship every moment of our lives, no matter who we were with or where we were. If nothing else, they would have to stop and say that what we believed, and perhaps even Who we believed in, was real.

I can remember just a short while ago driving through Pensacola and seeing graffiti on signs and buildings that said, "You're Beautiful." In a world obsessed with it's version of beauty, I ask you this. Which is more beautiful, that skinny model or actress on a magazine cover OR the person who's so consumed in worship that it spills out in everything they do? Give me the worshiper every time. I've observed worship all over the country and even out of the country. It doesn't matter whether I understand the language or not, it doesn't matter whether it's north or south, east or west, worship remains the same because our God remains the same, and true worship is a beautiful thing. My hope and prayer for you today is that you have the chance to witness that beauty today, in your own life and even in the lives of others.

Live worship, Love the One we worship, every moment of every day.