I needed this today. Spurgeon has some astounding things to say about salvation.
Here's a snippet:
"look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ"
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
We're in the studio this week. We have been privileged to be a small part of a new worship CD with the Southbrook Worship Band from Southbrook Church here in Charlotte.
And we're having a stellar time. There's some amazing song writers and musicians all having their hand in this project, and the Lord is going to be magnified through it.
The studio we're in is called Studioeast. It was one of the first recording studios in Charlotte, built and managed by none other than Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith.
You may know Arthur better as the man who wrote "Duelin' Banjos" that first appeared in the 70's flick "Deliverance." Arthur still comes around the studio and is having a hand in the production of the CD. Tasha and I got to meet him on Monday. What a cool guy. At 87 years of age, he's got impeccable hearing. The whole band would be playing wide open and he'd say something like, "The third G accented note on the acoustic guitar on the fourth bar of the second verse is flat." And that's only a slight exaggeration.
Today we've got a break from being in the studio, so I'm spending some time in the sun with the kids in our above ground pool. Gotta run.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
This will be one of those posts that only a small percentage of you will care anything about – namely, the songwriters and musically inclined. But it’s worth sharing as it’s been on my heart for a few days. I’m currently reading The Birth of a Hymn, a compilation of short biographies of hymn writers and the stories behind some of their hymns. In so reading I came across a quote by Robert Lowry that has resonated with me. Robert Lowry was a Baptist preacher and hymn writer of the 19th century. He authored more than 500 hymns such as "Nothing But the Blood," "Shall We Gather At The River?," and "How Can I Keep From Singing?" (no, he didn’t borrow from Chris Tomlin).
Here’s what he said about hymn writing that immediately struck a chord with me:
“Not even the highest grade of poetry will secure a fixed place in the service of praise if it be lacking in spiritual quality. There must be in a hymn something which is readily apprehended by the Christian consciousness, coming forth from the experience of the writer, and clothed in strong and inspiring words, if it would hold its place as a permanent factor in Christian worship.”
My translation: Without spiritual depth and personal passion, a song is just a bunch of poetic garbage that won’t stand the test of time.
My conviction is that we have a bunch of “hymn writing” in the church today that doesn’t fit this criteria. We have songs with lyrics, but no passion. We have songs with words, but no Scripture. We have songs with lyrics and melody but no spiritual depth or affections to which the soul can relate and attach itself in meaningful worship of the Creator.
Fellow hymn writers, let’s put our pens to the task of being a prophetic voice, not just a flowery poetic voice.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
This week we’re leading worship each night at Iron Bridge Baptist Church in Chester, VA. Each night the students pack out the worship center to compete against each other earning points by bringing friends, quoting Scripture and bringing coins and can goods for missions. Did I mention that they come as if they’re jacked up on a case of Red Bull?!
After the service last night Steve Maltempi, the youth pastor, asked me how I thought the youth were responding to the worship. He said, “They have my backs to me, so I can’t tell how they’re singing.” I was like, “Dude, they’re singing their guts out!” Having done so many of these events where the kids glare at you like you’re from Mars, this is like being transferred to the third heaven.
This morning I was just thanking the Lord for being able to do what I love and have my family with me. I can’t believe I get to do this! Thank you Jesus!
Thanks to all you guys who are praying for this event.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Vacation in Colorado was incredible. My father-in-law, Larry Litke and I went Jeeping up in the mountains one day. Un-stinking-believable how incredible it was!
(Quick commercial break: All you pastors and church leaders need to have Larry in your church to share about the ministry he's a part of, Faith in Action. It's an amazing mission organization that targets the hard to reach third-world countries and provides them with food, medicine and most importantly, the Gospel.)
Back to the story: Larry was born and raised on old Coloradian mining trails. But this was my first time to experience an off-road adventure of that calliber. Not to brag, but I think I handled myself pretty well. Even when I could look over the narrow edge to which our Jeep Wrangler clung and see the rocky crags hundreds of feet below, I didn't wet myself. In fact, now I've got the bug. I NEED a Jeep. I can feel the back of my neck getting redder as I recall those big mud tires with a 2-inch lift (okay, so, I know that 2 inches is laughable to some of you Grizzly Adams meets Tim Westwood types, but give me a break, it was my first expedition) climbing over boulders like they were pebbles. Anyway, back to reality.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and we've hit the ground running again. We're working on something pretty top secret right now that I can't say much about, but let's just say it involves a recording studio.
This week we'll be at Ironbridge Baptist Church in Richmond, VA for their Youth Challenge Week. Tasha and I will be leading worship each night, so please say a prayer for us and for the youth of Ironbridge to be radically changed by the power of the Gospel.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Last night Tasha and I had the privilege of worshipping at New Life Church here in Colorado Springs - one of the most explosive, innovative churches in the country.
We attended "The Mill" - the 20-somethings worship service that meets on Friday nights. They pack out the East theater every week with over 1000 college students and young adults. The worship band was amazing. As worship leaders, it's not often we get to be on the other side of the microphone. But last night we had that opportunity, and the Lord really moved in our hearts. Not to mention, we came away with fresh ideas and insights to apply in our own setting.
After the service, we were privileged to meet Glen Packiam, one of New Life's worship leaders as well as one of the front men for Desperation Band. Glenn is quickly becoming one of the nation's premier songwriters and worship leaders. Tasha and I love meeting the people that God is using around the country in amazing ways. Definitely an honor.
Two things struck me about Glenn: 1. Humility - it radiates from him; and 2. Sincerity - though the atmosphere and quality of the band was second to none (even compared to some of the best rock shows I've been to), it wasn't a show for Glenn. It wasn't a performance. He wanted God's people to enter into worship with him. And he made it easy to do so.
Friday, June 08, 2007
I think that some of the best witnessing opportunities come when they are altogether unplanned and unrehearsed. Here’s one such example that happened to our family 2 days ago that is definitely worth sharing. Actually, I can't take any credit for how it happened. My 11-month old son, Ezekiel, initiated the conversation. Here's how it went down.
On Wednesday, we loaded up our little family and caught a plane for Denver, Colorado to visit Tasha’s family here in Colorado Springs. As we waited at our gate in the Raleigh/Durham airport, we sat near a mom and her 2 kids. I let Zeke crawl around to get out some excess energy while playing with a small keychain attached to my carryon. Inside the keychain is a little rubik's cube-type object known as an evangecube. You may have heard of it. It’s a small cube that twists and contorts to form various cartoon pictures that you can use to explain the Gospel with someone. Zeke enjoys chewing on it.
As Zeke crawled around gnawing on the evangecube, he wandered over to the little 4-year old boy next to us. The boy saw it and was immediately enthralled with it. He began looking at it and twisting and turning it to form the various scenes of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The divine appointment had come - he began asking me about the pictures on the cube. Well, actually, he was asking Zeke. (At 11 months, he's already telling people about Jesus. That's my boy!) With his mom in immediate earshot, I explained to him what each picture meant and how Jesus was killed for our sin, but 3 days later God raised Him back to life.
A few minutes later, Tasha and I began to have some casual conversation with the boy’s mother. Again, the Lord moved the conversation toward spiritual things as she asked me about the tattoo on my wrist. Bingo, one of the very reasons I got the tattoo in the first place. I explained to her the meaning behind the Hebrew text, that it is derived from Isaiah 44:5 and it means “The Lord’s.” I told her how it’s a reminder to me that I belong to Jesus Christ and that He is my God, the One I live my life for.
The conversation then began to shift gears as she explained to me that she was fascinated with all religions and currently she was studying Hinduism. I asked her if she had investigated Christianity very much and she told me how she had been raised in the gay community and was shunned every time she stepped foot in the doors of a church. From there I just began to encourage her not to give up on her search and not to give up on Jesus. I gave her a card that I keep in my wallet that directs people to thekristo.com. I told her that it could help answer a lot of her questions and misconceptions about who Jesus really is. She told me that she would check it out. I pray that she does.
Her name is Brooke. And she is searching. She is searching for the truth. She’s searching for answers. To me, Brooke is the face of billions on this planet who know deep down in their heart that God exists. They just don’t know that they can have a personal relationship with Him through the person of Jesus Christ.
Please pray for Brooke in her search. And pray that God will open your eyes to those divine appointments that He brings in your path everyday. I thank Him for how He used my little son to open the door. I thank Him that this was one of those appointments that He helped me notice. But no doubt there are hundreds that I miss all the time.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Here's a couple of pics from the Romania trip. The rest I'll post on the Flickr gallery.
The first is a pic from one of the basketball games with Crossfire Ministries. I sang at halftime right before the Gospel presentation. Scores of students were saved at the games.
The second is a pic from one of the classes at the public school where we did some ministry. I gave our CD to each class and to some of the head faculty. I think that was one of the means that God used to break down the walls and open the door for us to get in.
Friday, June 01, 2007
We made it back. We saw the Lord do some pretty incredible things in Romania the past 2 weeks. I can see that Tasha was busy posting everyday keeping you guys updated! Just kidding! (I love you, baby.) She was unbelievably busy with our 2 terrorist children, so I don’t blame her in the least.
The Lord was gracious to allow us to see roughly 600 people come to faith in Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord! We worked with a local church in the city of Satu Mare who will be very busy following up with these individuals. We used many different methods of ministry and evangelism – sports events with Crossfire Ministries, street evangelism, school ministry, medical clinics, kids’ clubs, and evening church services.
On the flight home, I was praying and asking the Lord to help me make a list of some of the highlights of the trip that I experienced as well as some of the things He taught me that I want engraved forever in my heart. Here’s a synopsis, though certainly not exhaustive.
1. It’s pretty easy to be religious, harder to be a true follower of Christ – Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox Church are engrained in the Romanian culture. Elaborate church structures with beautiful Gothic architecture pepper the Romanian horizon – beautiful yet heart breaking - heart breaking because both churches teach that salvation is found in the church. Salvation is achieved through the keeping of the sacraments – repentance is unnecessary, even antithetical to their cause. Equally connected to this point is . . .
2. It’s hard to break past the surface of religiosity – for most people, the religious motions associated with Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox church are all they know. Interestingly enough, this sounds a lot like our own country. Bottom line: It’s hard for religious people to see their need for repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. These barriers are tough, but not impossible. I was reminded of the amazing work that the Holy Spirit does to soften hearts. In many cases, we just planted seed and prayed that the Lord would soften their hearts. It’s a tough barrier, and one that Jesus dealt with throughout his entire earthly ministry. But if the devil has been dragging religious people to Hell for centuries, why would he need a new tactic?
3. People just want to know that you care about them as individuals and that they are not just a notch on your religious belt – this should be a no-brainer, but we must always see people through the lens of the cross – that they are individuals made in the image of God for whom Christ died and loves. These are real people with names, families, dreams, ideas and, lest we forget, sin that separates and condemns. These are people in need of hope – in need of a Savior. And they need to know you genuinely care about them.
4. The Holy Spirit gifts his children all uniquely and differently not only to function uniquely in the body of Christ, but also to reach the unique and the different in this lost world.
5. I was reminded of the simple power and effectiveness of a gospel tract – our team canvassed the whole city of Satu Mare with tracts (on car windshields, in phone booths and into the hands of pedestrians). One event that I’ll never forget happened on our last day of ministry as dad and I were walking back to our hotel passing out the last few tracts that we had left. We handed one to a young man a block away from our hotel and told him “God bless you” and moved on. But he wouldn’t let us. He turned around, approached us and began talking to us in broken English. He told us his name was Thomas and that he was surprised to see some Americans in his city. We told him that we were there for the one purpose of sharing the love of Christ and the forgiveness of sins through his blood. After about a half hour conversation, the Lord opened Thomas’ heart to the message of the Gospel and he opened his heart to Jesus Christ right there on the street. It all started with a tract.
The folks at The American Tract Society said this: “A tract can travel farther, last longer, say it more effectively and cost less than any other form of evangelism.”
6. Finally, the doors that may seem closed by human standards can easily be opened by the Lord - On our second day of ministry, Dad and I decided that we could be most effective if we could get into one of the public schools to do some ministry, which we have done in many other countries. We asked the pastor of the church we were working with what he thought about the idea and he said that he didn't think it could be done. The headmaster would never allow it. But, we thought, “What do we have to lose?” So, we talked to our interpreter, Leo, and asked him to take us to his high school from which he graduated 3 years ago. He took us. And we were warmly welcomed by the headmaster and faculty. We told them what our intentions were, that we wanted to share some greetings from America and that I wanted to sing and play some American songs. Instantly, the Lord opened the door. The headmaster loved the idea. So, off we went, singing about Christ and preaching the gospel in the classrooms of one of the most prestigious high schools in Romania. Amazing!
But that’s not all. The headmaster invited us back the next day for an award ceremony. We arrived early and they gave me the opportunity to sing a few songs during the ceremony. So, I sang and lifted up the Lord and gave testimony to his goodness and mercy and forgiveness. It was a closed door, but not for God.
Thanks to all of you who prayed for us. And thanks especially for your prayers for the lost who were brought into the Kingdom of God. Pray that they will bear fruit that remains.