Pray for us this weekend as we head out-of-town once again to lead worship for a student retreat at the Master's Inn in Altavista, VA. We'll be partnering with my good friend Ed Martin and his students from Grace Community Baptist Church along with another good friend, Wes McMurray, a gifted communicator of God's Word and cultural visionary! Pray that the Lord will move mightily in the hearts of these students and that they will be receptive to the voice of the Holy Spirit in their lives, desiring to pursue Him and His kingdom above all else.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
In reading through the Exodus accounts recently and more particularly, the call of God on Moses' life, I realized a very important principle that I've often thought to be true, but never really had it confirmed quite like this until now.
In Exodus 5, just after things began getting hard for the Israelites upon Moses' reluctant obedience, Moses has this conversation with God.
22 So Moses went back to the LORD and asked, "Lord, why have You caused trouble for this people? And why did You ever send me? 23 Ever since I went in to Pharaoh to speak in Your name he has caused trouble for this people, and You haven't delivered Your people at all."
What we see here is the human heart in all its disgusting glory. The very moment that things started getting hard for Moses and the Hebrews, Moses began blaming God, even though God made it clear that Pharaoh would not listen ... at least not at first. God made it clear to Moses that Pharaoh would harden his heart (or, more accurately, God would harden Pharaoh's heart) and that getting through to him would be literally impossible for quite some time. Yet, in spite of knowing this, Moses still blamed God. He blamed God for giving him a task that was destined to fail the first eleven times (10 plagues, plus the "staff-becoming-snake-then-gobbling-the-other-staff-become-snakes" sign) before he would finally see victory.
While processing this story, I became aware of the following principle:
PRINCIPLE: Failure in a task does not necessarily mean that you have missed God's voice. God may actually be the One setting you up for failure until He's ready to give you the victory ... in His timing.
In our results-based Christian subculture, we often equate failure with missing God's will or not hearing God's voice. But that just isn't always the case. (i.e. If a church-plant "fails", did the pastor and leaders miss God's voice? Or did God want it to "fail" so that something greater could take place later on?)
To repeat this principle another way:
What looks like failure by the world's definition, may not actually be failure.
And the reverse can likewise be true: What looks like success by the world's definition, may not be success at all.
Moses' situation certainly does not give us the right to justify our sin-soaked failures and the times that we definitely did miss God's voice. But it certainly helps to clarify the issue of what success and failure really look like in God's economy; namely, that they are often in utter contradistinction to our own.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Last Sunday we had the privilege of leading worship at Crosspoint Church here in south Charlotte. My good friend Scott Spruill is the worship pastor there. Scott and his wife Stefanie have become great friends to Tasha and me over the past 6 months. Scott recorded keys on our latest project and did a phenomenal job. If you've heard it, you know. Sunday he brought us in as guest worship leaders and it turned out to be a great day, in spite of us. Thanks Crosspoint for believing in our ministry, for being a church that loves Jesus and preaches the Word unapologetically--and for just being plain awesome! If you live in the Ballantyne area of south Charlotte and you're looking for a solid church, you need to head over to Ardrey Kell High School on Sunday mornings and be a part of what God is doing at CP.
1. Salvation Rising (J & T)
2. Immanuel (J & T)
3. The Solid Rock (Charlie Hall arrangement)
4. Stronger (Hillsong)
Monday, January 26, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
Habitual sin has a hardening effect on your soul and a seering effect on your conscience. No question. When I read the following verses from the account in Genesis where Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, this truth is especially highlighted:
As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
They threw Joseph in the pit and then sat down to ... eat a meal?
That's right. The hardening effect of sin had already begun to fasten its grip on the brothers. And Scripture says that throwing Joseph in the pit was only a temporary step in their murder plot against him. You see, selling him into slavery was not their first option. Murdering him was the first option. Perhaps they intended to leave him in the cistern. Or perhaps they were going to pull him out and end his life quickly. We don't know. But with only moments to go before the murder was to take place, they sat down to eat a sandwich. To grab a bite to eat. To relax a little before the rest of the plot unfolded.
The obvious question becomes, how had they come this far? What brought them to such a low level of depravity that they would even consider murdering their own flesh and blood?
Perhaps it began when Simeon and Levi, in an attempt to avenge their sister's rape, entered into the Hivite village under false pretense and mass murdered all of the males who had been duped into circumcising themselves three days earlier. (Gen. 34) Still in pain, the villagers couldn't defend themselves. Makes for a great movie plot. It almost makes me want to stand up and cheer for these guys as they defended their sister's honor. And something tells me that if Hollywood got a hold of the story, that's exactly the angle they would take.
And yet, Scripture makes it clear that this was not the will of the Lord. They were rebuked harshly and repeatedly by their own father (Gen. 34:30-31; 49:5-7). Why? Because they acted on their own accord--taking vengence in their own hands.
Maybe it began there and then snowballed out-of-control until their consciences were totally seered and corrupted. Then it makes sense why they could sit down to eat a meal hundreds of feet above their brother who sat in the pitch dark of the earth.
The bottom line? Don't underestimate the stronghold of unconfessed sin in your life. It can snowball much more rapidly than you ever imagined. As the saying goes,
"Sin will take you farther than you wanted to go, cost you more than you wanted to pay, and keep you longer than you wanted to stay."
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Monday night we rolled back into town after an exhausting yet totally rewarding weekend at Camp Bethel in Fincastle, VA leading worship for the student ministries of Rainbow Forest Baptist Church and Calvary Baptist Church. The event was pitched to the students as a "prayer retreat." And though the typical student would steer clear of such an event, these students came out by the droves expecting God to move and to do something big in their lives. It was an exciting weekend.
Pastors Jay Richards and Clif Williams brought the Word to the students in a powerful way. Many students made commitments to begin each day with prayer and Bible study--to give God the firstfruits of their day rather than trodding through an entire day of school or work and waiting until the very end of the day to have fellowship with the Lord. It was cool to see so many of the students commit to establish this spiritual discipline in their lives in a way that was sincere--not out of a sense of obligation or duty, but out of a heart overflowing with love for the Lord.
Tasha and I always feel like we receive the biggest blessing from these kinds of events. And once again, we weren't disappointed. We were grateful for the opportunity.
Here are a few of the songs that seemed to connect well with the students:
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Call me a nerd, but I love NPR. That's pretty much all I listen to in the car ... when I'm by myself, that is. Tasha hates talk radio of any kind. So, I indulge when I'm driving by myself. The other day I caught one of the coolest interviews I've ever heard. And when it hit the punch-line in the end, I knew I had to blog about it.
The interview was with a former White House butler named Lynwood Westray who served eight presidents for a total of 32 years. Mr. Westray's perspective on life inside the White House was fascinating. You can read the complete transcript here (if you're nerdy enough!) Toward the end of the interview, Mr. Westray was asked about his fondest memory during his 32 years serving in the White House. And here was his response:
"When reflecting on his fondest memory, Westray talks about a time in 1979 when Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visited the White House. After dinner, Prince Philip went into the Red Room, next to the state dining room. Westray and his buddy were serving liquor. Westray says he was carrying the tray and glasses.
"The prince was in there by himself, which was odd, because everybody else had gone down to the other end of the building," Westray says. "I said, 'Your Majesty, would you care for a cordial?' He says, 'I'll take one if you let me serve it.' What do you do? I didn't do all that because I had the stuff in my hand. And he says, 'If you let me pour it, I'll have one with you.'
"... So he poured it, the one he wanted, and we took the same thing that he had. And we had our drink there together and had a little talk while we were there. He told us if we were ever over there in London to stop at Buckingham Palace and see him. Can you imagine the prince serving you? I enjoyed it. You know, we're not supposed to drink and carry on at that time. We're not guests. It was just the three of us in the room, so nobody knew what happened. And I drank my little cordial, we all drank, and had a little conversation. But that was one thing I'll never forget, having been served by royalty."
I haven't been able to get that last line out of my head since I first heard the interview: "That was the one thing I'll never forget, having been served by royalty." I don't think I have to spell it out for you ... but that's exactly what Christ has done for us. We were served by royalty when He came to this earth,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Phil. 2:7-8)
Jesus, the King of Kings came as a lowly servant washing the dirty feet of His disciples--being baptized by those unworthy to even stoop down and tie his sandals--loving the unlovable--serving those who should be serving Him.
We have been served by royalty. We must never forget that!
Today is Tasha's 30th Birthday! I couldn't see her telling the blogging world, so I thought I would. Drop her a little note to say hey. It would make her day! Boy, I love her so much!
Friday, January 16, 2009
Whatever happened to the car phone? Some of my fondest memories as a kid were had traveling down the interstate with my Dad in our Eighty-Eight Oldsmobile station wagon chatting away on his stylish car phone. And when he had to pull it out to carry it with him, it was bigger than his brief case. That was awesome! My Dad was the kewlest!
Please pray for us this weekend as we head up to Fincastle, Virginia to Camp Bethel. Tasha and I and our good friend Scott Spruill will be leading in worship all weekend for several student ministries! We're pumped. Please pray for the students that the Lord will open their hearts to the message of the Gospel. That the lost will be saved. That the hard-hearted will be softened. That the broken will be restored.
Also, please pray for my Dad as he is traveling at this moment to the nation of Swaziland where he will be preaching the Gospel and evangelizing all next week.
"If both doctrine and practice are constant, the result is dead orthodoxy ... If both doctrine and practice are constantly changing, the result is living heresy ... But if doctrine is constant and practice is constantly changing, the result is living orthodoxy, which I propose is the faithful third way." - Mark Driscoll, Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches: Five Views, p. 147)
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I've been reading through the Sermon on the Mount this week. Wow, there's so much there. Every time I read it I glean something fresh. Here's something that jumped out at me this morning.
Matthew 7:12 is arguably the most quoted Scripture of all-time, though most people wouldn't know where to locate it in the Bible.
"Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them..."
Otherwise known in today's vernacular as "The Golden Rule." And here's the question that came to my mind: How many people can quote this verse, but have absolutely no clue the context surrounding it, particularly the verse that follows?
Verse 13 says, "Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it."
It almost seems that Jesus anticipated the phenomenon that verse twelve would become in our society--that it would turn into a social religion in and of itself when ripped out of its context. Yet, the ironic thing is that The Golden Rule means nothing without verse 13. Unless you enter through the narrow gate, it doesn't matter how many people you treat kindly; it doesn't matter how many people you treat fairly; it doesn't matter how many people you treat as you would want to be treated.
The Golden Rule, when standing on itself for support, is a like a load-bearing wall in a house when the main support truss is removed. It eventually collapses. The Golden Rule is meant to stand on the support structure of the whole context. And that demands that we enter through the narrow gate--life lived the way Jesus intended--abandoning the broad road to destruction--walking the narrow road with eternity in mind, and refusing the temporary gain we may easily achieve through social pleasantries, niceness and fairness alone!
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Sunday we were back at Ridge Church after having almost 2 weeks off from the worship scene. But it was a good day back. Pastor Chris Brown brought a great message called "Unwritten," challenging us to make the most of our days, the days still unwritten--and to make them count for eternity.
The band was terrific. Chad Keith on lead. Trenton Starnes on keys. Brett Banks on bass. Tim Morrison on drums. Lauren Wilson on BGVs and lead vox on "Unwritten." I gave Tasha the week off. :) She needed it.
Also, let me just say, if you haven't done "Revelation Song" at your church yet, you need to do it ASAP. It's a pretty amazing tune. I definitely felt the Lord's presence in a unique way as we worshiped Him with that tune. Hard to explain those times, ... but it was real.
Here was the playlist:
Jeremiah, thanks for turning me on to playlist.com!
Monday, January 05, 2009
Haven't checked e-mail or blogged in almost 2 weeks. And boy was it good! Good to be back though. Hope you all had a blessed Christmas and joyous new year.
Here's one thing I believe God wants do this year in my life:
- Take my prayer life to another level - Lately I've been reading alot about prayer. I'm reading the greats like E.M. Bounds and most recently Pete Greig of the 24-7 Prayer Movement started in England. And I'm being shaken to the core. I'm realizing that my daily conversation with the God who loves me immeasurably is pathetically small, de-evolutionizing into merely an honorable mention in my day-to-day walk. And I believe that God is saddened by this recent trend. But I also believe that He is waiting expectantly and with a heart full of hope that this trend is soon going to change. Thank You, Lord. May it be so. AMEN.