The stones will cry out

The nineteenth chapter of Luke tells of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. People everywhere were shouting and singing “Hosanna” and waving palm branches in excitement and adoration of their Messiah. In verse 39, some of the Pharisees demanded that Jesus rebuke these people for making such a fuss. In verse 40, Jesus responds that if they were silent, the stones themselves would cry out.

Wouldn’t that just be utterly terrifying? You’re going through life, minding your own business, never praising God, and all of a sudden, the rocks on the ground starting yelling and singing. Not only are they yelling and singing but they’re shouting praises to God.

As a worship leader, it can be hard to remove my ego and realize how truly irrelevant I am in praising God. Yes, it is my responsibility as a follower of Christ to glorify God and yes, it is my responsibility as a worship leader to utilize music to worship and lead others in worshiping God. But it’s plain right there in verse 40, if I don’t do it, someone else will, and if they don’t do it, the rocks themselves will cry out in praise and adoration of our great God.

God will be praised. God will be glorified.

The fact of the matter is: I’m replaceable, and that is a good and wonderful thing. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to use music to glorify God and lead others in worship but the realization that I’m easily replaceable, that God will be praised regardless of what I do, helps me to keep the most important aspect of worship in check: it is completely and entirely never about me or you. Ever.

Does ego get in the way sometimes? Absolutely it does. Even worship leaders and Pastors are fallible. But if I can’t work past that ego, then I’m in this for all the wrong reasons and need to get out of God’s way. We reach a dangerous point when we let ego step in and make worship more about our desires and our preferences than the reason we are worshiping in the first place. We reach an equally dangerous point when we constantly criticize another person’s preference of worship just because it doesn’t fit into the mold of what we think is best. When we allow that to happen, the only rocks that won’t be praising God are the rocks that were once the hearts beating in our chest.

God is expansive and beautiful and worthy of all the types of praise and worship that we can muster. Praise God with all you can. Don’t let ego get in the way and don’t let the rocks do your job.

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Midweek Music 04.13.16

And So It Goes | Billy Joel

We’re in the midst of a sermon series at the church called “Vinyl Theology” that challenges us to see and hear God in all kinds of music. This is going to be a special series for me to experience for obvious reasons. In addition to that, I’ve been on the side of the road in experiencing bits of tragedy and pain here and there over the last week. I say “side of the road” because I’ve not been directly involved or affected by any it but I’ve been present as people have been grieving and sharing their stories and experiences. Of course even when we aren’t directly involved, we are affected when those with whom we “do life” experience unexpected changes, good or bad.

This week, we have two memorial services at the church; one for a 7-year old and one for a 4-year old. I can’t comprehend it. I have an 8-year old nephew and a 4-year old nephew that I adore. I’ve had moments of transference as my mind uncontrollably places them in those shoes and I weep. I don’t see them nearly as often as I would like and yet I can’t imagine life without them. I don’t want to imagine life without them.

It was in high school that I first felt a calling to ministry. Recognizing what I was feeling was helped and nurtured by my youth pastor at the time. I loved that guy and I loved that I was challenged to love God and share that love with others. I loved his wife too. I was on the worship team with both of them and I spent most of my high school years in awe of their talents, their passion for God, and their ability to love people. Jeremy was one of the first people I reached out to after my divorce; it was the first time we had spoken in at least 4 years. I found out that his wife had Huntington’s and I was heartbroken. This week, he started a blog and I read his first post. I wept after I read it.

Billy Joel wrote “And So It Goes” when he was going through a breakup with his girlfriend at the time. It seems like a such a small experience compared to the deaths of children or being forced to watch your significant other succumb to disease but if there is anything I’ve learned about pain, it’s really not our place to tell people about what they can and can’t grieve or how they are “allowed” to grieve. All I know is that when I hear this song; I see, hear, and feel God amidst pain.

So I would choose to be with you
That’s if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break

And so it goes, and so it goes
And you’re the only one who knows


 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

 

Midweek Music 03.16.16

My Song in the Night | Traditional American Folk Hymn

There is unequivocal beauty in the Passion story. The fact that God, because of the great love God had for us, descended from heaven, took on flesh in the form of the Son, and sacrificed himself for us. I find the world to be a dark place more often than not these days. Maybe that makes me pessimistic, maybe it just makes me realistic. Either way, that is how I view it. But I take comfort in words like the lyrics in this song. May it be a comfort to you as well.

O Jesus my Savior, my song in the night,
Come to us with Thy tender love,
my soul’s delight.
Unto Thee, O Lord, in affliction I call,
My comfort by day, and my song in the night.

O Jesus my Savior, my song in the night.
Come to us with Thy tender love,
my soul’s delight.
My comfort and joy, my soul’s delight,
O Jesus my Savior, my song in the night.

My Song in the Night (Arr. Mack Wilberg; performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir)

My Song in the Night (Arr. Paul Christiansen; performed by the Salt Lake Vocal Artists)


 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Midweek Music 03.09.16

Every Breath | Gungor

I just love this song. We’re doing it this week in worship at Keller so it’s in the forefront of my mind and I felt like sharing it.

Every breath
Every moment life beats in my chest
Springs up from your hand
Creation resounds
With every color and every sound
Your love is calling


 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Midweek Music 03.03.16

Child of God | Mark Miller

I was introduced to the music of Mark Miller 5 years ago. I was immediately captivated by his way of capturing powerful text and setting it so simply and beautifully to music. I had the privilege of meeting and working with him a little over 2 years ago for the first time. Since then, I’ve been able to work with and correspond with him on occasion. In that time, he and his music have shaped my philosophy on ministry and music as well as the church’s responsibility in regards to social justice.

Last year at a conference that I was attending and Mark was leading worship, I had the opportunity to hear him lead one of his most recently published songs. “Child of God” is the simplest yet most underrated message to and for the church. That next weekend, I took it back to my church and played and sang it for the congregation. It was a message that I felt needed to be heard immediately. The political climate in this country is terribly divisive right now. There are certain politicians claiming Christianity while standing on a platform that tears down people of varying cultures, genders, faiths, and creeds. That is not love. That is not the message of Christ. This is:

No matter what people say, say or think about me
I am a child, I am a child of God

No matter what people say, say or think about you
You are a child, you are a child of God

You can listen to a better recording here but there is no video.


 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

2 Corinthians 12;9

It’s not a typo. The semicolon is supposed to be there but we’ll talk a little bit more about that later.

Two years ago, I made a series of bad decisions. Some of the worst decisions I’ve ever made all in one night. Those bad decisions were the product of a time in my life when I was experiencing deep depression. The last bad decision I made that night was to harm myself on my left forearm. It’s not in my nature but depression can make you do things that you never thought possible of yourself. I was ashamed. I had allowed my brokenness, my weakness to control me. I sank further into depression. I drank more.

It was about 3 months later that I read 2 Corinthians 12:9 in my personal devotion time. I’d read it before, it was familiar, but it was different this time. I can be a prideful person and with that pride comes difficulty in recognizing and admitting faults, or weaknesses. It was easy to read the words and think, “I’m good.”

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

“(Christ’s) grace is sufficient for (me)” “Power is perfected in weakness”

This time as I sat there depressed and broken reading this passage of scripture, the words sank in and I wept. How could Christ’s grace be sufficient for what I did? How could power come out of such a great weakness, nonetheless be perfected by it? It couldn’t in my mind yet there it was in black and white. Paul didn’t mince words, he wasn’t talking in coded circles, he was explicit.

It took me some time to accept it. It took me longer to even think about boasting. I wrote about it several months later for the first time. It was hard. It hurt some people, it helped some people. After that, the whole thing became taboo to me. I didn’t talk about it and I didn’t want new acquaintances and friends to know about it. It was as if it had never happened.

I’m not regularly depressed but I’m going to admit, I do get depressed sometimes. Every so often, I become overwhelmingly and inexplicably sad. But I’m a lot better now; in some ways I’m better than I’ve ever been before.

The turning point was what 2 Corinthians 12 did for my faith. Everyone always seems to have it all together in church, good on them if they actually do, but having it all together is not grace; that isn’t Christ’s power working in us. Christ’s power is never better displayed than in our weakness. It’s right there in verse 9. Why do we hide it? Why do we, in essence, flee the perfect, redemptive love and grace of our Creator and Savior? For me, it was pride. I couldn’t admit problems because that’s not who I was. I had it all together.

I don’t have it all together and that is okay. I want to boast about my Savior’s power to the world. I want to scream it even though I have found that screaming, “JESUS LOVES YOU” at people is one of the worst and most ineffective forms of evangelism. BUT HE DOES LOVE YOU AND I STILL WANT TO SCREAM IT.

I’m not going to scream it. I’m going to find ways to display Christ’s power through my weakness. One way I’m going to do it is through my newest tattoo. Project Semicolon was founded to be a way to spread hope and love for those who are or have struggled with depression, self-harm, suicide, mental illness, and addiction. You can read more about it by clicking above but the basis is to get a semicolon tattoo as a statement that my life isn’t over yet, the same way a semicolon works in a sentence.

I wanted a way to display this idea while honoring Christ and the work He has done in my life. I decided this was the best way to do so:

FullSizeRender-1 FullSizeRender

Christ’s power is made perfect in my weaknesses. I will boast about my weaknesses so that His power may reside in me and give me the ability to show that power with others.

Midweek Music 02.17.16

Psalm 16 (Fullness of Joy) | Shane and Shane

Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You. I said to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord, I have no good besides You’…You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, in Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 16:1-2

Psalm 16 is one of favorite chapters in Psalms. The NASB translation titles it “The LORD, the Psalmist’s Portion in Life and Deliverer in Death.” What an incredible reflection during Lent. God took on flesh and became Christ to be our physical portion in life and to deliver us from our certain death. And for that, I give all thanks, glory, and honor to God.


 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Midweek Music 02.10.16

“Now and at the hour” | The Brilliance

Party primaries and caucuses are happening. The Super Bowl was a few days ago. Mardi Gras was yesterday. Beyonce stayed in an AirBNB house. Valentine’s Day is this weekend but more importantly (depending on who you ask) so is College Night. There’s a lot happening in the world right now, as if there is ever a time “a lot” isn’t happening.

You might not have noticed, unless you partook in the Mardi Gras (or Shrove Tuesday) celebrations but Ash Wednesday is today. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, which is my favorite liturgical season. Maybe we aren’t supposed to have favorites but I don’t care, Lent is my favorite. It might be odd that it’s my favorite because it’s such a solemn, almost melancholic at times, season but that’s precisely why it is my favorite. Forty days of solemnity and reflection on the life of a man, God in the flesh, born for the sole purpose of death. A death that would have unfathomable effects on the entirety of mankind. I can’t fully wrap my mind around it but then again, I don’t think I’m supposed to be able to do so, I’m just grateful for it.

This song by The Brilliance is a simple prayer. I like that it addresses God as the Spirit, the Father, and the Son. I like that it asks for peace, forgiveness, and our rescue. It’s simple and yet so meaningful. That’s Lent. Simple yet meaningful. Simple in that all it takes is us recognizing our own brokenness, our own need for a Savior and meaningful in the realization that Christ fills that brokenness as our Savior. He does it now, he does it at the hour of our death, and he does it during all the time in between.

Repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


 

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Midweek Music 01.20.16

“Lead Us Back” | Sojourn

I’ve had difficulty writing this blog post, not because I didn’t have anything to say about it, more because I have too much to say about this song. This song convicts me because I can pinpoint many specific times throughout my life that each verse reflects perfectly.

It makes me sad that I have found myself to be so broken so often in life but at the same time it gives me hope. Each verse ends with “Lead us back to life in You” and I find hope because that is what Christ does. I fail, He breathes life into me. I seek comfort, favor, and power over Christ until I realize those things are empty and meaningless, then Christ gently and lovingly shows me that there is wholeness and life in Him not in the world.

I feel lifeless, I experience spiritual hunger and thirst as a valley of dry bones. I become wrapped up in the logistics of ministry and worship as if it’s a talent show. I criticize, mutter insults and judgments under my breath, hurling heavy stones at others failing to see the boulder in my own eye. Then Christ gives me new life and love.

I recently finished reading Blue Like Jazz. I loved every second of the book especially chapter 11 and a specific quote about death and life. I can’t share the whole chapter but I highly recommend reading the book if you are at all serious about loving God and loving people. I’ll share the quote below with the song. Read the book, listen to the song, love people, and live a life filled with Christ.

 Dying for something is easy because it is associated with glory. Living for something is the hard thing. Living for something extends beyond fashion, glory, or recognition. We live for what we believe.


 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Crisis of Conscience

Disclaimer right off the bat: I’m not anti-lottery nor am I anti-gambling.

It seems like the Powerball jackpot is the big thing in the news (read: pop culture) right now. I’m going to buy a Powerball ticket. I’ve never bought one before and I have no real expectation of winning but I mean, come on, $800 million (after taxes) is a lot of money and the ticket is only $2. Why not?

Over the last week I’ve had a couple conversations with people about what I would do with that much money. I said the first thing I would do is pay off my student loans which isn’t an uncommon answer for many people. I would pay off all my family’s debts; mortgages, car loans, student loans, I’d take care of all of it because I would want my family to live a comfortable lifestyle. I was told my answers were boring.

I told them the first non-debt related, slightly impractical thing I would do is buy this house. I love Fort Morgan and I have always loved this house, both its beauty and its seclusion. Then I’d get really impractical and build a long private pier at which I would dock my private yacht. Then I would need an airstrip right by my house so my private plane could fly me to Auburn during the fall to enjoy all the games in my 50-yard line private suite. Oh, I have plans for that money…

I once read an interview with Bill Gates where he was asked if he had any real concept of the sheer amount of his wealth. He responded, “the only (he) could really grasp it was thinking that there was nothing in the world that (he couldn’t) buy.” After the interview, I thought for a few minutes about what that might be like. What would it be like if there was not a thing on Earth that I simply could not afford?

A few months ago, I wrote about an experience I had with a man named George. When I met George at a RaceTrac gas station, he hadn’t eaten and was hungry so I bought him some food. What I didn’t write about then was my desire to spend my money elsewhere.

For several years, I owned a beloved pair of polarized Rayban Wayfarer sunglasses. I’m notorious about losing sunglasses so for the longest time, I wouldn’t spend more than $15 on sunglasses. One day I decided that I really wanted those sunglasses so I would buy them and take extra precaution. I owned them for 4 years before I finally lost them one day by leaving them at the tennis court after a couple long matches. I was upset but proud of myself for owning them as long as I did.

I decided to reward myself for the longevity of my ownership by purchasing myself a new pair. I spent about a week shopping around, deciding if I wanted to stick with my tried and true Wayfarers or give something else a try. Once I made the decision to stick with those, I wanted the best deal, of course, so I looked a little longer. I met George the day before I was going to buy the sunglasses. The aftermath of my interaction with him left me feeling helpless and ashamed. In the midst of this man being unable to afford food, I was filled with excitement at the idea of owning my second pair of $200 sunglasses. I didn’t buy the glasses. I couldn’t buy the glasses.

I found myself feeling the same way in the aftermath of my lottery conversation. I first felt convicted upon realizing that none of my initial thoughts about spending the money involved giving money to the church. Tithe is important and I know some pretty awesome churches (namely the two I work with) and ministries out there that could do a lot of really great things with $80 million. That wasn’t even on my initial radar.

The conviction grew when I realized I hadn’t thought anything about helping people who needed it most…”most” being the essential word. Would my family benefit greatly from my paying off all their debts? Sure. Are any of them in danger of facing homelessness or starvation if I don’t? Not of which I am aware. But there are people who already face homelessness and starvation and they had nothing to do with my first thoughts on what I would do with all that money.

The conviction intensified to it’s maximum when this question popped in my head: “Why do I need $800 million to help people?” I didn’t have millions of dollars when I bought George food and I don’t tithe and give to certain charities each month out of some million-dollar paycheck I assure you. Why do I need to daydream about winning the Powerball to help people? The answer is I don’t.

I’m still going to spend my $2 on a ticket because how cool would it be if I got to write a check to feed every single homeless person in DFW. I think it would be way cooler than buying that beach house (which I would still buy). But I’m not going to sit around thinking about what I could buy with that money, I’m not going to sit around thinking about the ways I could help people with that kind of money. I’m not going to sit around thinking about what it would be like to literally be able to afford anything on planet Earth. I’m not going to sit around thinking about what I could buy with the money I have now and I’m not going to sit around thinking about the ways I could help people with the money I have now. I want to actually get out and help people. I think I will. I don’t need $800 million to help someone and you don’t either. Let’s do it.