Fight or Flight – The Story of Your Life

Psalm 45:1 says,

My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.

What would you like the story of your life to look like? What is the theme of your heart and the story of your tongue?

I watched a man chiseling on a rock once while I was in college. After a bit he turned and I asked him what he was making. He replied, “The state of Kentucky!” The rock looked nothing like the state of Kentucky… in fact it looked more like a log. He then said something that I have remembered and thought about since. He said, “It may not look like it now, but the state of Kentucky is in there… I just have to get it out!”

What an idea! The artist knew that what he wanted was attainable, but it just was going to take some effort to get it exposed.

I am a perfectionist, which often restricts me as an artist. I get frustrated when what I have on canvas or paper doesn’t match what I had in mind in my head. That frustration restricts my ability to be artistic, whereas I watch my wife work, whether it is drawing or painting, she allows the work to transform throughout the process. Like a sculptor allowing the piece to take form with every hit from the chisel bit. She has a way of allowing a piece to take shape itself, and you are able to watch it take shape and detail as it transforms and evolves throughout the process of her work.

The Psalmist gives a valuable reminder that everyone has a “canvas” on which to “paint” the story of his or her life. If you were to paint yours, what would picture you create? The story of your life is determined by the overflow of your heart. Are you like me as an artist? Do you get frustrated and want to throw in the towel when the story you had in mind from the start isn’t taking shape just right? Or are you like my wife or the sculptor I mentioned above? Do you allow the story and art to unfold and transform as you pour yourself into it and work?

We must remember, transformation is always progressive, always changing and moving forward.

The Apostle Paul knew all about transformation first-hand. From murderer of Christians to Apostle of the Church, the canvas of his life underwent radical change. In Philippians 3:12-14 he admitted,

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul was well aware that he had some changing still to do but he understood that it wasn’t about perfection, qualifications or credentials; it was about Christ’s righteousness. He was committed to pressing toward the goal of transformation into Christ’s image.

Paul didn’t allow the first chapters of the story to determine the ending.

Paul refused to flee from the struggle and suffering involved with change. He was passionate for the Cause of Christ and his passion oftentimes involved pain… sometimes the change doesn’t come naturally but instead it takes work! In fact, the Latin word for passion means pain.

1 Timothy 6:12 says,

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

In our fight for change, we must realize that a certain degree of pain and work is involved. Putting to death the old ways of thinking, feeling and behaving is uncomfortable at best, and often painful! Don’t be passive, but instead be committed to pressing on.

Life is filled with situations where we are faced with a “fight or flight” decision. If you run, you’ll have to face the same fight again. You want to change your life? You have to fight for it. But take heart – you are in good company!

Be like Paul. Be like the sculptor we discussed above. Live righteously and know that what God wants for you is attainable, but it just might take some effort to get it exposed!

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Developing Leaders

I’m a guy who likes quick results. I don’t like to wait for the long-term results, and I don’t like to rely on other people to accomplish a task. Often times our churches are the same way… some of our churches operate like the New York Yankees. They prefer to “buy” talent on the free agent market rather than grow their major league roster from their minor league system like the St. Louis Cardinals. Many times in church we rely on those who present themselves to us as pre-formed and developed leaders to carry out the tasks at hand, and when the well of “pre-developed” leaders runs dry we freak out and wonder how things are going to get done!

But, healthy churches are developing and raising up leaders from within just like the Cardinals and their long-term MLB strategy. When we take that approach, we know the person, their commitment to our DNA, and their commitment to our vision and values. We are truly able to know their track record. When we hire from outside, we hope it works out and they buy in and do well.  If we believe “everything you need to reach your city is already in your church,” you focus on a homegrown strategy.

Today, we’re going to talk about developing leaders and why we should do it.

Definition wise, I want to talk about development for a second. I think a lot of times people use the terms development and discipleship interchangeably and they’re really not.

Discipleship and development are kind of close cousins, and they really can’t accomplish much without the other. So let’s define discipleship for a minute. Discipleship is spiritual formation. It’s walking beside someone in partnership in order to accomplish the task of being as much like Jesus as we can be. Discipleship is something that every born again believer should be doing. It’s a spiritual disciple and definitely in the Christian Basics 101 textbook. You should be pouring into someone spiritually. Point blank… the end.

Development is a little bit different. Development is taking someone from point A to point B in order to achieve their best potential. So… leadership development would be walking beside and training someone to be the best leader that they can be. Development is focusing on someone’s leadership skills, giftings, and capacity.

I’m thinking about discipleship and development working together and there are some caveats. If you just disciple someone, and pour into them spiritually… maybe you teach them hermeneutics, eschatology, have them read their Bible from cover to cover, and you have them read Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology cover to cover, then you’re going to have this person who is a deep well of spiritual information.

A deep well can really satisfy and sustain a whole city when you think about it. The problem with the well is that it takes someone to get the water out. The problem with the well is usually only one person can get that bucket in there and get that water out. You’re going have a person who is extremely well versed in the Gospel but possibly unable to take the reigns of leadership in order to quench the spiritual thirst of many.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you take development alone and you teach someone to hone their skills, sing the right songs, speak eloquently, put together the most moving services, and create the best atmospheres but they don’t know anything about theology or doctrine. Then you’ve got a dying star, you’ve got someone who is going be great on the outside for a short time, but eventually they’re going to fizzle out because they don’t have anything inside them. So discipleship and development have to work together.

So… why should we disciple and develop leaders? Let’s think together!


  • Jesus set the Example

I love watching videos of kids trying to mimic a parent or sibling. There is just something super adorable about a little boy in a pull-up pushing a plastic lawnmower behind his Dad as he mows the grass that gets me every single time!

The first reason that we should disciple and develop leaders is that Jesus did it… we are like that little boy following and mimicking the actions of his Dad. If you look at Matthew 4, Jesus has just been baptized by John the Baptist, He’s just been in the desert and tempted by the Devil. He’s about to begin His ministry here on Earth, but before He heals anybody, before He preaches a sermon, and before He teaches on the steps of a synagogue Jesus walks by the sea and He sees two brothers fishing. He says,

You follow me. I’ll teach you to be fishers of men.

Immediately they drop everything and start following Him. He sees two other brothers working with their dad, fixing the nets, and says,

You follow me. I’ll make you fishers of men.

Immediately they drop everything. They leave their father and follow Jesus.

Before He did anything else in ministry, He chose men that He was going to develop. He knew His time was short. He knew He didn’t have long, He knew He wasn’t going to have an endless amount of time on Earth, so He chose men to develop first. That’s what He did first in ministry. We should do it too.

In the Middle Ages, specialized artisans raised up future generations through an intentional apprenticeship process. Young apprentices served as understudies alongside a mentor who patiently provided careful instruction and guidance.

We can look to Jesus as the preeminent mentor, he turned a ragged group of social and spiritual misfits into world-changers. In fact, we are the legacy of this mentoring relationship. How did this happen? It took time with the master. He invested diligently in the lives of folks who just couldn’t quite seem to get their acts together. In fact, they bumbled the message and often missed the point as they followed him. But they watched and observed Jesus the master teacher, and He provided an atmosphere of trust, mentorship, and risk-taking. When they were sent on their first mission assignment, they were in way over their heads. But they had seen what Jesus did, and they had clear instructions. They gathered themselves together and the world hasn’t been the same since. Christianity is what it is today because Jesus developed leaders.

Any businessman likes to look at the bottom line and the value of an investment. When Jesus set forth the example of mentorship and development He provided the best example of a good spiritual investment. Mentoring is a risky, costly business. It requires time, effort, and disciplined focus. As ministry leaders, we are tempted to deliver results quickly and efficiently. But remember, deep-impact ministry is found in developing people, not acquiring them. Leaders with lasting impact, the ones who truly change the world, know their greatest impact in life is reproducing other people who have caught their vision and will carry it forward like a virus. If you want to radically change the world, follow the example of Jesus and invest in your volunteers. Disciple and develop them.

  • The Church Deserves It

For those of you who are married think about the last time you were out of town or gone for an extended amount of time. You probably called your spouse right? You checked in and made sure that everything was okay. You wanted to know that they were taken care of and okay in your absence.

Now imagine that you go to the doctor and the doctor says you’ve got three months to live. I would go out on a limb and guess that many of us would make sure with everything in our power, that our spouse was taken care of after we’re gone?

For me, as a husband, I am going take care of my bride.

Ephesians 5:24-27 says,

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such

Now, I think it’s on us as leaders in the church to care for the church… the bride of Christ. Let me let you in on a little secret: Nobody else is going to care about the leading of your people like you do. So we should be thinking about who is going to lead the people when we can’! The church deserves it! The Bride deserves it!

We have to prepare and know who is leading. Hopefully it can be somebody that we’ve trained, somebody we have confidence in, somebody that we know is going to stand on that stage and shepherd our sheep well. It’s on us. We’ve got to take care of the bride! She doesn’t just deserve good things… she deserves the BEST things.

  • We are called to Replicate

Who are you replacing yourself with? Who are you developing to take your job?

I have always told people that if I work myself out of my job then I will be satisfied. It may sound crazy… but I’m not joking. As leaders of the church we should be consistently working on raising up new leaders from within the church to someday lead the people and the ministries of the church.

We are called to replicate.

That’s a word I feel like has been a buzzword in the church culture over the past few years, and usually “replicate” is always kind of synonymous with “discipleship,” but we’re called to replicate because we’re only as good as our last day. It’s true! If I get in a car crash and die on the way home from the office, I’m really only as good as the last day I spent here. If the church misses a beat on the Sunday that I’m gone then I have come short in my ministry area.

Really, when you think about it, the only thing you can do on this Earth with lasting eternal value is invest in someone else, to give a piece of yourself to someone else. At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus spoke what has come to be known as the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:19-20 says,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Of course everyone who has read the Gospels has read this passage, and the majority of us have heard more messages preached on this topic than almost any other topic found in Scripture. 

Typically, when we hear anyone speak on this message the emphasis is on missions… and it really should be! But, there’s quite a bit more than just that packed into Jesus’ statement. There are four main verbs in this commission or command. They are: go, make disciples, baptizing, and teaching.

So… what is a disciple?

The Oxford Dictionary defines a disciple as: a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher.

What I find even more interesting than the definition is the word’s origin though. The English word that we know comes from the Latin word “discipulus” which translates to “learner.” A disciple is a learner. We as Christians are called to make disciples of Jesus and to disciple others. That means we should be teaching and replicating what God has shown us into them! We should be replicating ourselves!

It is easy for us as believers to build a castle, surround it with a moat, and live isolated in our own “kingdom.” But… that isn’t how life was meant to be lived and ministry was meant to be done. 

We can look to scripture and see the example that Paul set forth in replicating himself in Timothy. We can see that Timothy was Paul’s son in the faith. We see historically that Timothy was considerably younger than Paul, but that didn’t stop Paul from making a substantial investment in Timothy. We can see that Timothy was the recipient of mentoring at the hands of Paul and it paid eternal dividends and carries substantial weight in the Kingdom of God.

We must become someone else’s “Paul!” 

What an honor that is! We need to be making and effort to be consistently pouring into someone for their benefit and growth… not for what they can do for us. If you are like myself you may be thinking that you have a lot of work to do on yourself before you can begin to mentor someone in their life and faith… but let me assure you that there is always someone who will be blessed by your intentional spiritual and educational investment in their lives.

If we all can grasp the concept of developing leaders by replicating ourselves then we will begin to create and develop a cycle that carries on and benefits the church as a whole for years to come. 

Finding a “Timothy” can be viewed as our spiritual “paying it forward.” We have been blessed by our “Paul,” and then in return we continue the cycle and seek out someone we can bless as we have been blessed.

Do you have a “Timothy?” Who are you pouring into? Who are you replicating and replacing yourself with?


These are just a few surface level reasons to spur on some deeper thought about our personal development of leaders. Why are you doing it?

When we Rest

Have you ever seen a kid that is fighting sleep so hard that it is funny? My wife might say that she has seen me do that. A typical weeknight for us consists of her studying her medical schoolbooks while I watch YouTube videos on the couch. Almost nightly she wakes me up on the couch to tell me to go to bed, and almost nightly I reply, “I wasn’t asleep.”

Rest is necessary and important physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We know that’s true. We know we need rest… but like that kid we often fight it.

Why do we resist rest?

When athletes are training for competition, one of the most important aspects of training that must be remembered is this; rest is what actually builds muscle and improves our performance. The training breaks them down and leaves them weak. That is why the rest is so important. While this is true in the realm of athletics, it seems that it is also true in God’s eyes.

The fourth commandment given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai reads as follows in Exodus 20:8,

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

The Lord continues saying in verses 9-11,

Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The Lord rested… so why do we resist rest. There are a couple of things that happen when we rest. Let’s think together.


  • When we Rest, We Trust

The fourth commandment directs us to observe the Sabbath, to rest one day a week. The nation of Israel regularly got themselves into trouble because they refused to honor the Sabbath. It was an issue for them the same as it most likely is for many of us!

The first use of the term Sabbath in the Old Testament is in Exodus when God was instructing the Israelites about rules for gathering manna. Six days they were to collect manna, but the day before Sabbath they were told to gather twice as much. When they took in too much manna on other days it rotted, but the day before Sabbath it remained perfectly edible.

But… did they follow God’s clear instructions? Exodus 16:27-30 says,

On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day.

Some of the people didn’t believe God. They didn’t believe he had given them Sabbath, that he would provide for them, or that he would allow them to truly rest.

I wonder if that’s our biggest problem with rest… we simply don’t believe God.

Rest is an opportunity for us as believers to exercise our trust in God for our daily lives and needs as it was for the Israelites in the desert. The Israelites risked being hungry for a day if God didn’t come through on His word, but they put themselves in a situation in which they would see God’s faithfulness, provision, and the truth of his Word at work.

So, when we resist rest we must ask ourselves: Do I trust God to meet my needs, or do I feel like I had better work a little more to make sure my needs are met? To be honest, sometimes I claim the former but live the latter.

By resting we trust God to provide for our material and physical needs like the Israelites did in the wilderness, but while writing this I am reminded that my most desperate need is for forgiveness and reconciliation with God, and no matter how frantically I work, I will never achieve that by my own effort. Work alone cannot earn grace! But thankfully, I don’t have to, work for those things. Jesus took care of them for me through his death and resurrection. In faith, I can rest in the truth that I am forgiven and reconciled. If Jesus Christ willingly died for me, why would he not also meet my daily needs?

God does not say, “Wait until all your enemies have been destroyed, until every problem in your life has been resolved, then you can rest.” Instead He says in Psalm 110:1-2,

Rest first until I make all your enemies your footstool.

Joseph Prince wrote,

What do you see when it comes to healing for a condition in your sick body or breakthroughs for your financial challenges? Do you see lack and say, “Let me get out of this situation first. Let me hear the doctors’ reports say that everything is clear, and then I can rest”?

We find it hard to rest because our human nature is inclined toward worry and restlessness. The devil loves to see human nature reign in the church and to have you believe that you can only rest when things go well or when you see your breakthroughs. Stop saying, “When my child finishes primary school, I will stop worrying and rest.” You know what? After primary school, there is secondary school. Then, after your child completes secondary school, you will say, “I think when my child finishes university, then I will rest.” And you will never rest!

God wants us to find rest in the midst of the storm. And when you rest in Him, things will go well. This doesn’t mean that there is no storm… but, it does mean that He will see us through the storm (Psalm 46).


  • When we Rest, He Works 

What happens when we become make a concentrated effort to rest? Let’s look at this secret hidden in the story of how Jesus healed a man who had been suffering from an infirmity for 38 years.

John 5:8–9 says,

Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take
up your bed and walk.’ And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.

Why did Jesus ask the man to take up his bed? Why not just ask him to stand up and walk? I think the question Jesus asks paints a picture of what Christ is saying to each of us. That command Jesus gave to take up the bed paints a picture for us of a command to rest in Him and to allow Him to do the work. For this man the work Jesus accomplished was a work of healing. What work are you needing Jesus to accomplish? So, in this story what Jesus was actually saying to the man was, “Rise, take up your rest and walk!”

Notice that the day this story occurs day was the Sabbath, the day of rest. Therefore, what God is saying is that when you rest, He works! Isn’t this amazing?

On the day that man rests, God is able to work!

Matthew 11:28 says,

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

We’re not used to handing control over to anyone else. We want to do it our way, on our timing. We don’t trust other people to do things exactly the way we want them, and we have a hard time trusting God too.

But can you think of anyone more competent than God? Can’t the all-powerful being who created the universe and who keeps it running take care of your problems?

When you rest in God, you don’t tell him what to do or how to do it. You take a break from your troubles and allow Him to work!


Remember that your time of rest is also a time to remember and to thank God for all that He has done for you. It’s not simply a time to stop doing all things… it is a time to stop your busywork and to focus on Christ.

I encourage each of you, and myself, to try and slow down and take the time to rest. We are all so rushed and so busy.  God commands us to rest because He loves us and He knows what’s best for us! What might happen if we put a little trust in Him?  Let’s be encouraged to show a little faith and find out.

May God give us the strength to rest!

Leading from a Place of Imperfection

In today’s society, there seems to be this ever-increasing need for perfection. Look at the models that are plastered on the billboards along your local interstate or in your local “trendy” department store window, or the “reality” shows on television. Everyone is striving to be something they aren’t… perfect. Physically perfect, mentally perfect, socially and culturally perfect, we want to look perfect, dress perfect, act perfect, and speak perfect… but we never can achieve perfection. Our culture sets this impossible standard, and what’s worse is the cultural message of “perfection” has seeped into the church and into the ideals that shape our thoughts about each other, our gatherings, our purposes, and ourselves.

The truth is perfection is not just a ridiculously high standard; it’s an impossible standard. This truth can be stated no more plainly than in Romans 3:10, which says,

None is righteous, no, not one.

None of us are immune to our fallen state; none of us are perfect. As a Worship Pastor there have been times when I am leading a song and thought, “wow… I really needed to hear this, say this, and live this.” There have also been times when the enemy creeps up on me and tells me that I’m not good enough, smart enough, spiritual enough, or “perfect” enough to be worshipping at all… definitely not good enough to be serving others through my leading of worship.

In Exodus 3:7-11 we see a situation where Moses has the exact same thoughts come to his mind when he is commissioned by God to carry out a task for the Kingdom. Those verses say,

Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Moses had hesitations because he didn’t think he was “good” enough, qualified enough, or “perfect” enough. But we all know the ending to that story. You see the truth is that none of us can be or will be perfect, but we still have purpose and God still desires to use us. We just have to desire to be used.

Rick Warren said,

If God only used perfect people, nothing would get done. God will use anybody if you’re available.

So… in our imperfect, but willing, state God can still use us! How can we as “imperfect” leaders be used more effectively by God? Let’s think together.


  • Protect our Hearts

The first step to being used by God is always personal cleansing. Without exception, when you find someone whom God is truly using in a prolonged way, they’ve dealt with the personal sin in their lives before God. They are pursuing holiness. Sure… we see leaders fall to sin, but if you desire to be used in a prolonged way you must handle the personal stuff first.

Although perfection is impossible to reach, we should strive to be more holy today than we were yesterday.

When the enemy sneaks back in to remind me of my failures and shortcomings I simply have to remind myself that God’s purposes for my life are not overcome by my past, or my status in the world, or my talent (what a relief). God uses small vessels, plain vessels, and even broken vessels. But… He will not use a dirty vessel, so I have to work to protect my heart and keep myself useable by God.

2 Timothy 2:21 says,

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.

No runner would willingly run a race carrying a heavy bag. The Bible says in Hebrews 12:1-2,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Before our salvation many of us filled our lives full of all kinds of junk. But in order for us to be a clean usable vessel for the Father we have to empty ourselves. A bowl can’t be used for cereal if it is full of other things. We have to throw off the junk to run the race effectively… we have to empty our hearts in order to make room for the Spirit of God to do awesome things in and through us!


  • Stay Grateful

Doctors refer to gratitude as the healthiest of all emotions because of its physical benefits. Studies show that grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people. Gratitude also improves psychological health by reducing a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert Emmons, a leading researcher in the field, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. Gratitude increases mental strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for, even during the worst times, fosters resilience.

The best benefit of gratitude though, is that God uses grateful people! Gratefulness is one of the keys to longevity in ministry.

In Romans 12:11 Paul said,

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

We need to constantly remind ourselves what a privilege it is to serve Jesus and His people. Never get over the things that God does in, through, and around us entirely because of His grace.

We can lead from a place of imperfection because of our gratefulness that we aren’t who we were yesterday!


  • Know our Purpose

Often times when we are asked the question, “What is your purpose” we don’t think all the way back to creation… but we should. God had a master plan. Why would a all-sufficient, self-sustaining God go out of His way to create something that would rebel against Him. I would have answer that by saying… what is a better way of bringing yourself glory? God intended for us, His creation, to bring Him praise from the beginning. Isaiah 43:6-7 says,

I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.

It is clear through Scripture that they very reason we were created is to bring God glory and praise. What greater purpose could there be?

Colossians 1:16 says,

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

Isaiah 43:20-21 says,

The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.

Remember the basics. You were planned for God’s pleasure, formed for God’s family, created to become like Christ, shaped for service, and made for a mission! These aren’t just good points for teaching others or for leading a church. These are the purposes for which God made you!

One who serves with purpose can better accomplish their mission.

God’s purpose for your life is far greater than your problems. Don’t give up when it gets tough. Go to Jesus. Keep your mind on Him!


None of us are perfect. We are all in this together!

As leaders let’s strive to lead from a place of progress… a place of battle and victory against the enemy. Let’s wage war against the evil one together with our leadership!

Need Inspiration?

Do you ever feel like you need to be inspired. Like life is going by at 100 miles per hour and you are being left behind?

We have all felt that way at one point or another. I know I personally go through seasons of inspiration with writing. Sometimes it seems like every thought that comes to my mind is a start to a blog or even a song… and other times I have to struggle to squeeze out even the worst idea to write or sing about. I also go through the same cycles in the gym. Sometimes I just HAVE to go every day, and other times I dread the thought of leaving the couch and getting sweaty.

Maybe you are like me and go through seasons of easy inspiration and seasons of having to fight for purpose and motivation? Maybe you have lost motivation and inspiration at work, or in a relationship, or maybe in your faith?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said,

If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.

Do you want to be more? Do you want motivation and inspiration to drive your purpose? Is it possible to cultivate inspiration?

Yes, I do believe we can. Let’s think together.


  • Listen

Have you ever been speaking to someone and come to the realization that they aren’t hearing a word of what you are saying?

Has a parent or teacher ever look at you and said, “Are you listening?” I’m sure my mom can think back to times in my childhood where she told me to do things and I turned my “selective hearing” on and didn’t hear a word that she said. I’m sure she knew that my hearing was fine, but that the problem was I wasn’t motivated to actually listen to what she said.

David Mathis on DesiringGod.com said,

Listening is one of the easiest things you’ll ever do, and one of the hardest.

In a sense, listening is easy — or hearing is easy. It doesn’t demand the initiative and energy required in speaking. That’s why “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). The point is that hearing is easy, and faith is not an expression of our activity, but our receiving the activity of another. It is “hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:2, 5) that accents the achievements of Christ and thus is the channel of grace that starts and sustains the Christian life.

But despite this ease — or perhaps precisely because of it — we often fight against it. In our sin, we’d rather trust in ourselves than another, amass our own righteousness than receive another’s, speak our thoughts than listen to someone else. True, sustained, active listening is a great act of faith, and a great means of grace, both for ourselves and for others in the fellowship.

Listening to God is like listening to anyone else, before we can hear Him, we must be ready to listen. Just as in a conversation, we cannot hear the other person if we are talking or if our mind is distracted. So it is with God! If we want to hear Him speak, we must be quiet and we must be focused on what He is saying. Regular conversation with God can transform your life! Think about a close friend, family member, or spouse and how you can almost finish their sentences. That didn’t happen immediately… it happened through a relationship grown by listening to them and understanding what they were saying. We must continually listen to God and we will begin to not only hear His voice… but also to know His heart.

We don’t consciously and deliberately disobey God… we simply don’t listen to Him.

Some of us prefer to hear the Lord’s voice only when we are in need of an answer or response. But a disciple trains to listen all the time. A consistent, daily prayer life and Bible intake are of paramount importance in this regard. So is learning to be comfortable with silence. The more we learn to listen, the more we will hear God and recognize His voice. Listening to God requires a deliberate choice to shut out the chaos around us and focus on Him and His Word. We live in a world of noise. Almost everywhere we go, we find sounds competing with our minds, keeping us from letting our thoughts get below the surface level. Hearing God’s voice means not listening to the noise of the world around us. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

Do you want to hear God speak to you? Listening to God requires regular Bible reading, since the Bible is the Word of God.

A WORD OF CAUTION: Sometimes Christians will use phrases like “God told me…” or “God inspired me to…” haphazardly. Everything out of their mouths seems, to them, to be personal, direct revelations of what God has supposedly told them. I don’t doubt for a minute that God speaks to us… but just be careful. Before you say, “God told me…” you’d better be sure, because if you’re claiming God said something when He didn’t, you are speaking untruth about Him. This underscores the importance of thinking carefully about how to listen for and discern God’s voice.


  • Yield

We all have seen those pesky yield signs along the roadway… and we have all seen people that have no clue what they mean! When we yield in our cars we stop or slow down in order to allow another “driving force” to overtake us.

Like yielding to other vehicles is the mark of a good and safe driver, the mark of a born-again Christian is measured in their yielding to the will of God and allowing it to “overtake” their lives. Obedience to God is required for all Christians, and the mark of obedience is yielding.

Yield in the Greek means to persuade; to make friends of, to win one’s favor, gain one’s good will, or to seek to win one, strive to please one; to be persuaded, to allow one’s self to be persuaded; to believe; to listen to, obey, yield to, comply with; to trust, have confidence, be confident.

In fact “yielding” is a verb, it is an action word and as such, when we yield, it is a conscious choice we make; whether it is a free choice or a choice we have forced upon us. But…we must be clear that God is not in the business of forcing His will upon us. Instead He makes His will known to us, and allows us the opportunity and choice to follow Him. God allows us the opportunity to yield to Him in obedience, or to reject Him.

We all yield to something. It might be a habit, and addiction, a person, rules, etc… if you are a Believer then you have to an extent yielded to God.

Romans 6:13 tells us,

Do not yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but yield yourselves to God, as one alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Romans 6:16 says,

Do you not know that to whom you yield yourselves as slaves for obedience, you are slaves to him whom you obey; whether it is of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness.”

When we yield to something, we will soon realize the tremendous control it has over us. Even though we might say, “Oh, I can give up that habit whenever I like,” we will ultimately know that we can’t. We will find that the habit absolutely dominates us because at some point we willingly yielded to it.

The first thing we must be willing to admit when we begin to examine what controls and dominates us is that we are the ones responsible for having yielded ourselves to whatever it may be. If we are slaves to our desires, and ourselves then we are to blame because somewhere in the past we yielded to ourselves. Likewise, if we obey God we do so because at some point in our lives we yielded ourselves to Him.

Yielding to Jesus can break every kind of slavery in any person’s life!

When you were saved you told God, in some way or another, that your life is now His to do as He wills. We are yielding ourselves to obedience. Yielding is a continual, daily process of submitting to the Lord. It’s He who forms our heart, transforms our lives, and leads us in ministry. It is so easy to lose sight of this truth, especially when everything around us seems to fall into place. We can be lulled into thinking that we have it all under our control and that we are in charge. That’s why we need to constantly remind ourselves that without the Holy Spirit we are nothing but broken and empty vessels that need to keep turning back to Him.

Psalm 40:8 says,

I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.

If we live each day with the attitude of that Psalm, and the willingness to yield to God in our everyday lives then inspiration from God will be soon to follow!


  • Follow

Sometimes our lack of inspiration comes from our lack of pursuit for the Lord. I’m not saying we have drifted or “fallen away” I’m just saying that if you are like me sometimes you grow complacent and stagnant in whatever place you are. It’s hard to be spiritually inspired when you are spiritually standing still!

We se this cool story begin to unfold in Genesis 12:1 where it says,

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.”

God didn’t give Abram, later called Abraham, a detailed map or even show him the exact final destination. He basically said, “Abram, leave your comfort zone and go where I will show you.” However, God also added that he would bless Abram and his descendants if Abram obeyed him. Abram didn’t know where he would end up, but he knew and trusted God’s character, so he obeyed anyway. Abram’s obedience happened one step at a time. With each step, Abram heard a little more and received inspiration from God.

Have you ever had to walk by faith?

Getting uncomfortable without a backup plan is a scary thing! I personally like routine. I like schedules. Lack of routine and schedules throws me for a loop! But… how is God wrecking your schedule?

We are given a commandment to “go” in the much-quoted Great Commission… but we do a lot of spiritual “standing still.” Abram was able to trust God in the not knowing and the continual going because he believed that God was with him. We also have that assurance. Matthew 28:19-20 says,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

So what is our excuse?

What if God’s plan isn’t our plan? Or our churches plan? Or the way our family has always believed? Can we change? Can we accept God’s plan if it’s different than what we currently believe? Somehow we must lay aside our preconceived notions and keep an open mind to what God wants for us, regardless of what we think or want.

Napoleon Hill once said,

Do not wait; the time will never be “just right.” Start where you stand.

Want inspiration? Get started! Begin moving and obeying… following God’s voice in your life! God’s not asking you to take a step that is five miles up the road, He is asking you to follow… one step at a time.


Need inspiration in your life? Need motivation to keep pursuing holiness and the things of God? Well begin to listen, yield to what He says, and follow out of obedience.

 

Obstacles.

Liu Chi Kung was a magnificent piano player. He was a man of renown in his homeland of China and even had the respect of international performers. But after placing second to Van Cliburn in the 1948 Tchaikovsky competition, Liu was looked down upon by fellow Chinese people. His government, displeased by his failure, imprisoned him for seven years. While imprisoned the once renowned piano player had no access to his instrument of choice. At the end of his seven year sentence Liu immediately began another performance tour even though he hadn’t touched a piano in that time. Stunned, reporters from all over the world traveled to seek the mystery behind his ability to play the same, if not better, than he had before his imprisonment. One reporter asked him, “How is it you are able to play these pieces having not practiced them for years?” Kung replied, “Oh, but I have practiced. There has not been a day that has gone by in which I have not practiced every piece I know entirely in my head.”

Kung faced a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Right at the peak of his career, he was taken away and banned from playing the instrument he loved and was passionate about. What a setback! What an obstacle! Liu could have given up, forgotten about his abilities, sulked at his unfair treatment, and moved on in life. Yet he faithfully practiced his pieces day after day so he would be ready to perform after his release.

Obstacles are a common part of the human life. Christians aren’t exempt. We will all face obstacles that threaten to derail us from living for Christ, running our race, and accomplishing the task He has set before us.

The difference between a successful person and one who fails isn’t the presence of obstacles along their path, but their reaction to those obstacles.

So… when obstacles come our way how do we react? Let’s think together.


  • Don’t Give Up.

I once watched a video of Admiral William McRaven, explaining what he learned during Navy SEAL training that helped him never give up and quit. To this day the idea of never giving in to the easy failure has stuck with me. I went back and found that video and transcribed it below. Take a read through it and apply what he says to whatever obstacle is standing in the way of your faith and everyday walk.

We used to have a saying in SEAL training, “Take it one evolution at a time.” Meaning don’t look six months down the road. Don’t ask yourself or don’t look and say, “My gosh, I’ve got more swims and more runs and more PTs.” If you do that, that event horizon becomes a little too far and I think it can be frightening. If all you do is try to do the very best you can at that very moment, you take it one step at a time and then six months goes by and you took it one evolution at a time and you made it. 

It is easy to quit in SEAL training. All you have to do is ring the bell three times and you’re out. You don’t have to talk to anybody. You don’t have to do anything. You ring the bell, you take your helmet off, you put it down, and that’s it. And you find that in tough times, there’s always kind of a way out and that’s quitting. That’s just deciding you’re not going to tackle this problem — you’re going to let the problem or the situation win.

And so the one thing I’m always asked is, “How do you get through SEAL training?” I had a young man who was going off to SEAL training about a year ago and he was a phenomenal athlete. I had lunch with him and he said, “Well, do I need to run more?” I said, “No, I don’t think so.” He said, “Do I need to swim more?” I said, “Nope.” “Do I need to lift more?” and he said, “What is the key to going through SEAL training?” I said, “It’s simple — you just don’t quit.” 

I wish we would always view it with that simplicity. The way to overcome is to just not quit. At some point we have somehow allowed ourselves to be deceived and convinced that defeat is somehow a viable option.

Not for me.

Romans 5:3-5 says,

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Let’s decide together that no matter what comes before us we will persevere and overcome it with the help of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 4:13 says,

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

  • Embrace Every New Challenge.

The psychologist and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl once wrote,

Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Now of course, Frankl was talking about embracing physical challenges so severe that we can’t even understand, but he did build a very solid case for the idea that even when going through hell on earth, he had freedom to choose his attitude, to find meaning in his circumstances, and it was this, more than anything, which was to determine whether he would survive the concentration camps or not.

Ultimately, the idea I would like to communicate is that we all have a choice about how we approach difficulties and obstacles in our lives and faith. When we have a literal mountain to climb we can choose to climb it resentfully, reluctantly, fearfully, half-heartedly, lazily, thoughtlessly, joylessly, unenthusiastically, lethargically, unintentionally, and with much dread and complaint. If we take this approach, that mountain does not move or run away, it is still there! We will either have to give up or take our time getting over the mountain, with much struggle.

On the other hand, we can choose to embrace the challenge, and to climb the mountain with energy, enthusiasm, joy, exuberance, focus, intentionality, mindfulness, excitement, determination, perseverance, and courage.

If we are going to have to go over the mountain to continue the story then we might as well try to enjoy it or take meaning from it! Embrace your challenges with a smile and gritted teeth!

James 1:2-4 says,

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Christian faith isn’t all about prayer and passion; real faith takes action and perseverance.

  • Don’t Forget to Ask for Help.

Like we have previously determined, obstacles will come into your Christian life; it’s a fact you can count on. God doesn’t promise the path He has for you will be easy, but He does promise to help you along the way. The devil is a master at causing Christians to feel overwhelmed, discouraged, and doubtful. Have you ever had the devil jump on your shoulder and begin telling you why you couldn’t accomplish something for God, live a faithful life, or continue along God’s path? Don’t listen to him!

Moses faced an obstacle in God’s task for him to lead Israel out of Egypt. God foretold Moses that Pharaoh wouldn’t release the Israelites easily. Moses could have seen this obstacle and given up, gone back to shepherding, and allowed the obstacle to rule his life. But Moses turned to God and trusted Him for help.

Moses faced his obstacle and trusted that the Lord would help him to overcome.

Every faithful Christian has faced obstacles in their Christian life. Whether it was Joseph being thrown into a pit then sold into slavery, Moses having to face the ruler of the land, David being threatened by the king, Daniel being captive in a pagan land, or the disciples facing persecution; every Christian has had their share of battles. Yet the ones who remained faithful were those who allowed God to guide them and trusted Him for help in conquering the obstacles.

What obstacle has come into your life? In what area has the devil been telling you that you cannot be faithful? God knows of these obstacles, and rather than simply removing them, He desires that we would turn to Him to help us overcome them. Rather than listening to the devil’s doubts, believe God’s promise that He will help you overcome the obstacles. Like Moses, allow God to stretch out His hand in your life and do many mighty wonders through you.

Ask for help and trust the guidance you receive.


What mountains are currently in your path? How will you face them… begrudgingly or with gritted teeth? And how will you come down the other side… victorious or defeated? It’s your choice to make.

 

 

Spiritual Exercise

I enjoy certain types of exercise. I like to go to the gym and lift weights, I like to play basketball. I don’t, however, like to run. Maybe it’s because I think it’s aimless… or maybe it’s because conditioning to run is hard and it hurts! My wife enjoys running… she does it a lot. On the other hand, I joke with people and tell them that the only thing that would make me run is a bear behind me! I go through phases though where I will jump on a treadmill and run. I particularly remember the last time because I went from not running at all to running 3.5 miles on the first go round. I felt fine the day of… but the day after was a different story all together. My body, although conditioned for other types of exercise, was not conditioned for strenuous running! The point I am trying to make is… exercise is hard. Especially if it is an exercise that we haven’t been conditioning for.

Today we will talk about conditioning our relationship with God through a different exercise plan… service.

Think about a relationship that you hold dear. Maybe it is with a lifelong friend, a husband or wife, a family member… most relationships that have proven to be lasting have experienced hard times that you have to work through. Any good relationship takes work to develop. I can remember in the early stages of dating my wife how I took the time to get to know her, what she liked and disliked, how she handled situations, her sense of humor, etc… It took time and effort to form a stronger relationship with her and a better understanding of her.

Some people have the idea that knowing God should be easy. That developing a relationship with the Creator and sovereign Lord of the universe should require nothing more strenuous than listening to an occasional sermon or reading a book or two. Why is that? Why is it that we will study for years in college to get a degree, we’ll labor nights and weekends to get ahead in our careers, and yet we think that knowing God should be effortless? We’ll exercise for hours to improve our physical health. We’ll eat right and sacrifice junk food, and torture ourselves on the treadmill.

In other areas of life, we understand that having things of value require work and dedication. Yet in the realm of the spirit, we expect good things just to drop into our laps. But that’s not the way it works! Like anything else of great worth, knowing God requires diligence and sustained effort. Is it worth it? Yes, the reward of seeking God far exceeds the cost. But there is a cost.

1 Timothy 4:7-10 says,

Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

You see, “knowing” God isn’t something that just happens. It requires that we “train ourselves” or as other translations put it, “discipline ourselves.”

The Christian life is not just an intellectual exercise. It’s not just some kind of self-improvement motivational program. Nor is it a set of rules and regulations. The essence of the Christian life is truly knowing God and having a vital, living and intimate relationship with Him; experiencing His presence and activity in our daily lives.

The good new is that God is not hiding from us! He wants nothing more than for us to know Him. He promises good things, and rewards, to those who seek Him. But a true relationship with God is not going to be had by anyone with only a casual, passing interest. The half-hearted may as well not waste their time. The merely curious can and will eventually find something else to tickle their fancy and temporarily fulfill their curiosity. I say all of this because God is only found by those who seek Him earnestly, who seek Him with “all their heart.” God is known by those willing to persevere, those willing to keep asking, and keep knocking, and keep seeking.

Hebrews 11:6 says,

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Lamentations 3:25 says,

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.

Jeremiah 29:13 says,

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Imagine that you’re an actor preparing for a role, and you want to know what makes your character tick… you want to understand how they think, what they feel, how they view the world. What would you do? Heath Ledger was cast as the villainous Joker in The Dark Knight. Up until Ledger was cast in the movie he was notorious for playing more light-hearted roles. Playing the Joker required a bit more preparation, which Ledger took to an interesting level. It is said that he locked himself in a hotel room, isolating himself from everyone, and took prescription drugs in order to get into a Joker-like state of mind. Ledger slept an average of two hours a night while playing “a psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.” He put himself in that very state of mind to play the role. Ledger was reported as saying, “I couldn’t stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going.”

Actors have discovered that in order to really understand and get inside the head of their characters, the best kind of research is to actually live that life. Go through a day as them. Experience for themselves what it’s like. See what they see, hear what they hear, and hopefully feel what they feel.

In the same way, in order to really know someone, you have to enter their world and walk a mile in their shoes. If we as Christians want to know Christ, we have to do what He did. We have to imitate Him. Our topic today is “Seeking God through the Spiritual Exercise of Service.” I believe that we are never more like Christ than when we are serving others.

Matthew 20:25-28 says,

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Why did Jesus come? For two reasons. Everything He did can be summarized under these two headings. First, he came to die… to give his life in exchange for ours, to pay the penalty for our sin so that we could be forgiven. The crucifixion wasn’t something bad that just happened to him; it was in his plan from the very beginning. The other thing Jesus came to do was serve. He served people by healing them, He served people by teaching them, He served people by walking with them, attending to their needs (spiritually, physically, emotionally). Jesus even displayed service by washing his disciples feet!

John 13:3-5 says,

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

It continues in John 13:12-16 where it says,

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

You see, as many of you already know, at these times foot washing was a menial task, usually done by a household servant, upon a master or guest entering a household. Because of the footwear and road conditions of the time foot washing was necessary but dirty and unappreciated work.

That’s exactly the kind of service Jesus calls us to!

If you are not serving, you are not living like Christ. And to know Him, you have to be like Him. You have to follow His example. Christ came to serve, and unless we think we are greater than Him, we should be serving one another also.

1 Peter 4:10 says,

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

Galatians 5:13 says,

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,

The service that one should perform for another in Christian community is that of active helpfulness. This means, initially, simple assistance in trifling, external matters. There is a multitude of these things wherever people live together. Nobody is too good for the meanest (lowest) service. One who worries about the loss of time that such petty, outward acts of helpfulness entail is usually taking the importance of his own career too seriously.

True Christian service is humble service. It delights in being a blessing to others, and is not concerned with receiving praise, or recognition, or thanks. It’s only goal is the welfare of the one being served.

Finally, let me give you some quick practical principles for exercising your faith and relationship with God through service.


Plan to be Available

It is helpful for us to get in the habit of serving by planning to serve. But… we must also be available to serve on the spur of the moment. Our exercising of service needs to include both scheduled service and impromptu service. For instance, you could offer to help out one of the mothers in the church by babysitting once a week so that she can spend an hour or two without the kids. OR… you could serve in a planned and organized ministry of the church. That’s planned service. But you can also be available when a family needs help on short notice. Are you the kind of person that people call when they have a need? Do you have a history of service that would cause them to think of you?

Often, a need arises, or an opportunity to serve presents itself, but we can’t respond because we’re too busy. Part of being available to help others is simplifying your life so that you have free time to serve when you’re needed. I understand… this is hard! Life is busy! But, we must evaluate our priorities. Are we too busy for people?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and cancelling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps — reading the Bible. . . . . it is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.


Look for Opportunities

Take initiative! Don’t wait to be asked!

Jesus responded to requests for help, but he also took the initiative to serve when he saw a need. A true servant always has their “radar” up. They stay alert for anything someone might say or do that indicates an opportunity to serve. Let’s be honest, sometimes our lack of service isn’t because people don’t want to ask… it’s because they don’t know to ask! Have you waited so long to be asked that people have no idea that you are even willing to step up to a task and possibly get your hands dirty?


Be Flexible

Don’t pigeonhole yourself and your service by having specific ideas of what your “serving” should look like.

In fact, don’t be too particular about how you serve. God has uniquely gifted each of us, but we shouldn’t be so concerned about only serving within our “specialty” that we pass up anything that doesn’t fit. I am absolutely certain that Jesus wasn’t an extraordinary “foot washer.” He saw a need and rose to fulfill that need.

We must be willing to serve in the small things as well as in the large. Don’t wait for a big project to come along, but seek out opportunities for everyday acts of generosity and helpfulness.

If there’s a genuine need, and you can meet it, don’t be too concerned with whether it’s one of your “gifts.” Just do it.


The key to a deep knowledge of Christ, and a deep experience of God, is to do the things that Christ did. The more we follow the example of Christ, by serving one another in humility and love, the more we will be like Him. The more we are like Him, the better we will know Him. And that is worth any price, any service, any sacrifice, and any suffering.

 

To the Worship Leaders out There!

I’ve been looking for an article like this and haven’t found too many. Honestly, we as a whole should be ashamed that most of us are too busy writing about the “10 things we wish Worship Leaders would stop saying” instead of building each other up and offering resources that can possibly encourage, or help someone to avoid some of the pitfalls many of us have hit. What is the point of spending our time and energy being judgmental and standing on our soapbox while others ministries are falling apart, marriages are failing, and passion is fleeing. Come on leaders… step up!

How many of us have struggled at times? If there is no part of you that is screaming “YES” then you are the exception. I haven’t ever met a robot in ministry so I’m pretty confident in saying that all the things discussed below can help us to “stay the course” and honestly stay sane.

In the past several years at times I have felt burnt… and during the “crispy” times I wish I had some of this insight. I have had friends lose their flame and “tap out” who have needed someone to come alongside them and hold them up. Let’s go into “survival mode” together and discuss some things we need to be doing below.


  • Sharpen your Mind

Just like we study our craft… we should also study our faith. Learning new things is never a bad thing. The old adage you can’t teach a dog new tricks shouldn’t apply to us because some “old dogs” are more than willing to learn!

We can’t be content to just love music… we have to love God’s truth more.

Nothing sustains a lifetime of worship leading like an ongoing pursuit of the knowledge of God. The more you see and experience God in His Word, even the difficult parts, the more you will love Him! The Word of God was designed to keep us fascinated for our lifetimes. Have you ever felt burnt out? Me too. Anytime I lose my fuel to lead I can almost count on it coming back through nearness to the Word.

I actually believe that in the long-term our knowledge and passion for the truth of the Gospel will fuel our worship!

We need to know theology… not just for others, but also for ourselves! We are guiding people into an experience of worship, and that worship needs to be grounded in the foundations of the Word. But more importantly God desires to be known by us as He is. It honors Him, pleases Him, glorifies Him when we know and declare His truth. Through that achieved purpose we can be refreshed.

Ephesians 6:10-17 says,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Back in the times of Jesus, Roman soldiers would “gird” their waists with a belt. This belt served many purposes. Their uniforms would include a helmet, shield, sword, short sword/ dagger, a breastplate, what we would consider a dress or skirt in today’s times, and a pair of boots. A soldier going into battle/ long march, or at alert position would take the bottom of their skirt and tuck it into their waistline and belt. If their waist was not girded with a belt a soldier was vulnerable because they couldn’t move as fast and their feet would become entangled in the bottom of their skirt.

The belt that “girded” the soldiers waist was what held the rest of the system together. Without it the soldier would be lucky to move and fight efficiently. This idea is similar to a police officer or soldier on today’s times. They have tons of gear and quite a bit of weight to pack around. If anybody reading this has ever carried just a holster and a gun before they will understand the importance of a good rigid belt to support the system.

The belt is their foundation. The truth is our belt. The truth is our foundation.

The belt we use to “gird ourselves” that we spoke of above was not only was used to tuck in the lower portion of a soldiers uniform, but it was also used to hold the sword at a ready draw position and to hold the shield during times when it wasn’t needed. So if a soldier was to lose their belt it would make the use of the sword (of the spirit) and shield (of faith) harder as well. So if we lose truth other parts of our walk with Christ become harder, and we become more and more vulnerable to the ways of the world and to the attacks of the devil.

Colossians 3:16 says,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

In this verse Paul urges Believers to have the Gospel message dwell within them, and to teach and admonish each other through the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Each of these three actions follow the original direction which is to “let the word of Christ dwell in” us richly, indicating that the teaching and exhortation is to occur through the action and content of the songs (psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs). This passage provides a powerful incentive for theological instruction regarding the music of the church. The Scriptures show us that worship serves as a teaching function of the church and those tasked with leading the song of the people must be adequately prepared for it!

Theological training allows a worship leader to plan meaningful ways in which the revelation of God through Scripture and the liturgy become evident to the congregation.

Bob Kauflin, in his book Worship Matters said this,

If over the course of a year, the only theology people heard was from your set lists, would people really know God?

Whether we like it or not we are teaching others through the songs we instruct them to sing!


  • Sharpen your Skills

This may seem obvious, but any “seasoned” Worship Pastor can tell you that often practice is the first “to-do” item that gets pushed off for other pressing needs of the ministry. In fact I believe that I probably got to practice and play music more before it was my job!

This particular point comes natural for some and is a distant thought for others. We shouldn’t stop pursuing excellence or the betterment of ourselves as worship leaders when we find a position or job. Outstanding worship leaders value training and love learning. Feel like you’re in a “rut” or afraid that you might be developing one? My response to you would be: Don’t get complacent or content where you are… continue moving forward, learning, and becoming a better worshipper and lead worshipper. This point doesn’t mean the same thing for every person in every situation, you don’t have to go to seminary to learn… there are a variety of blogs, podcasts, books, seminars, and resources out there that you can dig into for free!

Sometimes we get lazy or the office work can overtake the practice time… trust me, I understand completely. But a good practice session can be refreshing! We need to take time to remember and reignite the passion for music that once was one of our primary drives. Study your craft.

John Bellerjeau once said,

The bottom line is that a worship band is still a band; and a bad band is distracting.

You’d be surprised at the enjoyment that comes from being able to lead a song without even thinking about what you are doing musically. It is liberating and empowering. If we want to tap into our true potential then we need to be practicing. It will both improve and preserve us.


  • Grow your Relationship

Zachary Sapp once said,

Your heart has to be in the right place before you present yourself to God and the congregation; no matter how big or how small.

How often have you told someone that you would do something for them and then forgotten down the road and not come through? I do that more than I should. I also feel like we do that to God. We got into the ministry to serve Him and to seek Him. But somewhere along the way God is the very thing that we sometimes forget or ignore.

In all of our workings we must remember to put Jesus first.

I have said before that,

We lead from our presence more so than from our position, and if we ignore our relationship with Christ then our impact may be limited or not reach the potential that is really there.

All that we do in public worship is a reflection of our private worship. We absolutely cannot lead people to where we haven’t gone ourselves. We must learn to worship God by faith. This may sound easy… but it is SO hard! That basically means that when the “spiritual” feelings aren’t there, God is still worthy to be praised. Psalm 27:8 says,

My heart says of you, ‘Seek His face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek.

I’ve learned that if I am going to lead people in worship that I, myself need to be engaged in worship with the Lord off the stage.

Have you ever had guests? Most of us have. How much preparation goes into hosting people for a meal? I know if you are like my wife and I the prep usually begins with scrambling around the house picking up the dirty socks (hers of course… anybody that knows me knows that I don’t wear socks often) and running the vacuum cleaner. Then, when the guests are there you make sure the food looks just right and that you have enough place settings. You know the drill.

In Luke 10 we see as similar situation. In this chapter there is a story of two sisters named Mary and Martha. We all know the story. Martha is hosting Jesus at her house, and like many hosts, she busies herself with serving. To Martha’s dismay, her sister Mary does not help with the chores and all the busywork. Instead, Mary chooses to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his teaching. When Martha confronts Jesus about Mary’s laziness, Jesus says,

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.

In ministry there are many “chores” to be done. There are set ups, sound checks, planning sessions, rehearsals, leadership meetings, set lists, pro presenter problems, etc… In the midst of the chaos, we can’t forget that “one thing is necessary,” and that’s to spend time, sitting at the feet of Jesus. We must be reading the bible and praying daily. Our intake must be greater than our outpouring.

This may seem like a given, but it is far too easy to get in the flow or into a routine and to become a full-time worship leader and a part-time follower of Christ. We as human beings are very good at faking things by becoming “excellent” at what we do without even thinking about why we do it. We all have the church or spiritual mask that we can put on to make people believe we have it all together even if we don’t. Sometimes I myself can be so “task-driven” or goal oriented that I forget to be intentional with Christ. Improving our ministries and getting things done isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but if we do those things while sacrificing personal devotion then what are we really working for? I lead worship a lot… but I hope that I can be a personal worshipper of Christ even more. Let’s decide right now to never become more focused on the things that we do and how we do them than the REASON behind what we do. Take time to spend with Jesus… your congregations will thank you.

When we allow things to happen naturally, the chores overtake our schedule and it is our relationship that suffers. Want to stay in ministry? Grow your faith.


  • Grow your Home

How is your home? No, I’m not talking about the yard, or that room that may need a new coat of paint. I’m talking about the inhabitants. It isn’t a house that we call a home… it’s the company.

Sometimes our church feels like our “family” and in some sense they are… but in reality we have our “real” family to go home to! We can’t ignore them. How often does our spouse our children get the raw end of the deal when we jump at every opportunity to be with our congregants? Being at the church every time the door is open is NOT a good thing! You heard me right. The reason I say that is if you are like me you have keys to the church and it is always available to be open!

Our first ministry is to our family.

Saying yes to everything is NOT a good thing, and every “good” opportunity is NOT your “good” opportunity. You have to take care of your household. 1 Timothy 3:5 says

If someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

In other words, your ministry to your spouse and kids takes precedence over all other ministries.


  • Expand your Circle

Here’s a riddle for you. What is surrounded on all sides, but still stands painfully alone? A Pastor.

In the U.S. alone (in 2010), it is estimated that 1,700 pastors leave the ministry each month. A New York Times article, “Taking a Break from the Lord’s Work,” confirmed that being a pastor puts one at risk for physical and mental illness. The article stated,

The findings have surfaced with ominous regularity over the last few years, and with little notice: Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.

Statistics, which are numerous and varied, say that 70% of pastors constantly fight depression and 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living. This means that half of the 1,700 or so pastors who leave the ministry each month have no other way of making a living. Their education and experience is wrapped up solely in the work of the ministry. So, not only do pastors struggle with their choice to leave ministry, they have to worry about how they are going to feed their families. 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked and feel left out and under-appreciated by church members. 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend and 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.

The most shocking statistic I found was that 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years. 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form. And 4,000 new churches begin each year while 7,000 churches close.

So what does this mean? We cannot stand-alone. Now sure, we always have God… but we need some earthly support!

Rev. John Terpstra, pastor of Immanuel CRC in Fort Collins, Colorado. After 25 years in ministry said,

You need to do ministry in community because there are a lot of demands on you, and you need places to safely say things. There are things you can’t share with your spouse or elder group. That is a very normal experience.

In fact, we as Pastors are no different than anyone else, just like we preach to others; we need to understand ourselves that we also were created by God to live in community. We need someone in our lives who accepts us completely, unconditionally, loving us for who we are and not because of our position.

Jesus was intentional about building relationships with His followers. We should follow that example in order to disciple and mentor those around us, but also in order to be encouraged and lifted up. Being intentional within a relationship is essential in developing roots that will help us stand in harsh times. Jesus walked, talked, and ate alongside His disciples. They experienced life together. It was in that way that they were able to be ministered to, and the disciples were given the strength and perseverance to lay down their lives for the ministry of the Gospel.

Chip Bell says,

Effective mentors are like friends in that their goal is to create a safe context for growth. They are also like family in that their focus is to offer unconditional, faithful acceptance.” There can be no discipleship without relationship… and relationships are intentional.

Don’t make yourself and island… cut off from the resources that can help keep you alive!

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Partner with other worship leaders. Sit in on jam sessions. Write together. Do unifying things for the community and the Kingdom.


  • Feed your Flame

What is it that ignites you? For me it is allowing myself to worship without responsibility. After discovering that, I have gone out of my way to attend 3 or 4 worship nights that I played no part in just so I could be fed through my favorite avenue… music!

Take time and allow yourself to be encouraged. Are there things you could be doing better? Sure. Are your efforts in vain? Of course not! Is God pleased? Absolutely.

If it is the outdoors that helps you to connect to God and escape the hustle and bustle of ministry then get outside! If it is woodwork or shooting guns then do it! There is no shame in taking a step back every now and then to breathe. Professional athletes still have to get a sub at times. Just like a fire in a stove needs oxygen to burn, we too have to, at times, catch a breath!


Hopefully this hits home for someone! Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone… if you have no one to talk to I’m here.

Tanner.NHCC@gmail.com

270-735-7342

 

Our Focus

Sometimes on Sundays I wonder how people perceive the structure of the services they take part in. There have been times on stage where I think to myself, “I hope this is translating and being understood.” The unfortunate fact is that sometimes it isn’t. I have been in services that seemed to have no distinct structure or coherent theme/ message. Maybe there was one intended and I just didn’t pick up on it… but nonetheless it didn’t come across to me.

The truth is that each and every Sunday should start with a plan… a message, theme, or thought that we are going to expound upon. Obviously our plans are just that… “plans” and we all know that sometimes plans change. A statement I once heard fits that thought perfectly. It goes,

Every battle plan seems perfect until the first bullet flies.

But I personally would rather have a plan and have it altered than not have a plan at all and miss an opportunity. We should understand that we have a great foundation or starting point and that it is demonstrated for us in the Bible. Worship isn’t a new thing! In the Old Testament much of the worship that took place centered upon the Exodus event where God called His people out of slavery in Epypt and delivered them to the Promised Land to be His chosen People.

But… we are new covenant Believers and worshippers. Hebrews 9:15 says,

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

We worship on this side of the cross, so our New Testaments worship is centered on Christ. On this side of the cross God has called us out of our own “Egpyt.” Through Jesus God called us out of slavery to sin and has provided us an avenue to Heaven through the work of Christ. We are His chosen people! 1 Peter 2:9-10 says,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

So… why should our focus be on Christ? Below we will sift through just a few ideas.


  • Christ is our mediator before the Throne.

I almost feel like that point should have ended with an exclamation point! Take a second and think about that… there is no such thing as unmediated worship! In the Old Testament Christians had to have a priest act as their mediator before God to offer sacrifices to atone for their sin. We no longer have to do that because of the ultimate sacrifice made on our behalf by Jesus… the Son of God!

John 14:6 establishes the route to the Father through Jesus. In that verse Jesus says,

I am the way, the truth, the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.

1 Timothy 2:5 says,

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.

Have you ever bought a product because you had the assurance of a warranty? I believe we all have. More than once I have been on the phone for hours jumping from person to person to arrange an exchange or refund only to be told I wasn’t eligible because of some small print or loophole found somewhere. The good thing for us is that in Christ we have full access to God. No hoops to jump through or loopholes to get caught up in! Ephesians 3:10-13 says,

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

We can be assured as leaders and worshippers that Worship Pastors, bands, environments, atmospheres, specific songs, or creative worship planning cannot bring us any closer to God or provide us a more direct or expedient route than the one Jesus already has established!

  • All of heaven worships the Risen Lamb.

We serve a risen King! What other prophet or “god” has claimed to have been resurrected from the dead? Not only did Jesus defeat death and the grave… but He called His shot!

Hosea 6:2: says,

After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up.

On October 1, 1932, during Game 3 of the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago New York Yankee Babe Ruth pointed his bat towards the center field bleachers during his at-bat. On the next pitch, Ruth hit a home run to the same spot in center field. Babe Ruth’s called shot is said to be one of the greatest home runs in history. Babe Ruth has been forever concreted on baseball history partially because of this event and story. But… the death and resurrection of Jesus and the prophecies that came before are so much more impressive!

The most significant prophecy in the Bible concerning the resurrection of Jesus is known as “the prophecy of Jonah.” It is a symbolic prophecy represented by the three days and three nights that Jonah spent in the stomach of a great fish as found in Jonah 1:17. Jesus himself explained the prophetic symbolism of this unique event on an occasion when He rebuked the Pharisees for seeking a “sign” from Him. We see this in Matthew 12:38-40 where it says,

For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jesus clearly and distinctly prophesies here, using the example of Jonah, that He will spend three days and three nights in the tomb before His resurrection will occur. Jesus called His shot! That is worth praising! In fact, we know that here on earth we aren’t the only ones lifting up the name of Christ.

Revelation 5:9-14 shows us a glimpse of this. It says,

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

We should join in this worship when we gather to worship as His Body on the earth!

  • Focusing on Christ in our worship helps us keep the proper perspective.

The world today is very caught up in itself. What other explanation would we have for the drastic things people do in order to attain a certain “model image” or the attention and affection of others? We as worshippers need to take specific measures and precautions to ensure that we make our worship about God and that our worship times do not become man-centered. We live in a self-centered culture where everything is centered on us… our wants, preferences, opinions, etc. The church is even like this! There is a church for everyone! If you like loud music there is a church for you! If you like soft music there is a church for you! If you want to drink coffee in the sanctuary in a seat that semi-reclines there is a church for you! This may seem ridiculous… but deep down we all know it is true.

Some of us leave a worship service thinking that if we did not get anything out of the service the preacher, worship team, or staff did not “fill our cup” or have somehow let us down. I propose that instead we should be asking ourselves how we did in honoring and serving the Lord in our worship. Is Christ our focus or has our focus shifted to include us?


The Gospel of Jesus Christ should always be at the center of all we do in the church including our worship times. We need to be constantly reminded of the cross of Christ and reminded of what Christ has done for us, but we must move past the cross to the resurrection and the power that it provided us to live and worship as Christ has designed for us to live and worship. Let’s focus on Christ and make Him the direction that our worship points!

 

The Value of Presentation

 


From the onset of this article many of you non-musicians or Pastors may feel a little left out. But… in reality this way of thinking can be applied across the board to ALL things done for God by ALL Believers. So read on and apply!


When it comes to church worship one topic that seems to be a tricky one is the issue of excellence. What qualifies as good enough? If the person has the right heart are they automatically eligible to lead? There is an obvious tension that exists between balancing heart and skill.

On one hand, we all know that worship is undoubtedly an act of the heart. But does that mean that we shouldn’t bother putting effort into our craft and offer forth a subpar offering? Colossians 3:23 says,

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.

So the often-heard statement, “Well… it’s good enough for church” holds no water when held in light of the verse above, and the old saying, “It’s the heart that counts” is only partially correct. God is excellent and His desire for us is excellence. Psalm 33:3 says,

Sing to Him a new song. Play skillfully and shout for joy.

As leaders and musicians, we are instructed to do everything we do with excellence and with “skill.” A good question we should ask ourselves is: Why is our need to pursue excellence, and the often lack of such a pursuit, even an issue? In fact, you’d think that Christians would widely embrace the fact that because God is excellent, he has called us to excellence as well, and so we ought to strive to be excellent in everything we are and in everything that we do. But you only have to look at people in our churches and our presentation or “offering” to know that this is not necessarily the case.

But… all of you non-musicians hang in there with me! This is for you too… this exact thought, or pursuit of excellence, can be applied to anything you do in the Lord’s name! What is your offering? What is our method of worship? Maybe it is teaching, working with kids, being a missionary to your community or workplace, sitting with the sick, crying with the broken? The opportunities are limitless!

I believe a major problem we run into with regard to excellence in church is a theological problem that is best interpreted as an underlying “cheap” understanding of grace. People like to embrace the notion that because we are saved by grace, we can just sort of kick back and relax and not be overly concerned about anything. Now of course we would never admit to having that mentality… but the complacency we talked about a couple of weeks ago is a sure sign of it. It seems as if in many ministries laziness, mediocrity, and complacency have become the “norm” and not just accepted… but also expected! Somehow, I believe, we have come to think the pursuit of excellence is incompatible with salvation by grace. Excellence is suddenly not a “spiritually correct” word because we automatically assume that we are seeking excellence for ourselves or to earn/ payback God for our salvation, when in actuality our pursuit of excellence is out of response to a deep-felt conviction of God’s grace that spurs us on to grateful service and a pursuit of true personal excellence for His glory alone!

As Christians saved by grace, we ought to try harder, because we want to bring honor and glory to God through the things he has enabled us to do!

Hebrews 13:16 says,

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

It’s a delicate balancing act between heart and skill… but it is one that we MUST balance. Our offering matters! Our presentation matters!

For example, imagine that your anniversary is coming up and you know that your wife has been admiring a new shiny $300 necklace. You scrounge up all the change you can by flipping over couch cushions and rummaging through the dryer and are somehow able to afford that $300 necklace.

The day of your anniversary comes and goes and two days later you realize that after all the prep work you have forgotten all about it! So… to save face you go to the closet where you hid the necklace and bring it out in the original shopping bag you brought it home from the store in… maybe the receipt is still attached. You hand it to her and say, “Sorry I forgot our anniversary… I got you this.”

What’s the necklace worth? Well, $300! The receipt can prove it.

But imagine if, rather than forgetting that you bought the necklace, you also bought the finest gift-wrap you could find. You carefully and perfectly wrapped the box and topped it off with a beautiful bow, and you give it to your wife with some well thought out words and a smile.

What’s the necklace worth? Well, still $300! The receipt can prove it.

The point is that the wrapping and appearance doesn’t change what the gift is worth. The value is on the inside. But what the wrapping does is communicate to her that you understand what the gift, and the recipient of the gift, is truly worth.

I believe the same is true in our worship services. John chapter 4 makes clear to us the kind of worship that pleases God. John 4:23-24 says,

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

God is after our hearts. This means that real worship of truly reverent hearts doesn’t depend on the quality of music, lights, stage sets, lasers, smoke machines, song selections, or any of the other trivial things we tag along with it. It never has and it never will.

The value of your worship is found in your sincerity.

But… if we view our worship as an offering or gift to God then what kind of picture does the above example paint? What challenge does it present? I believe with all my heart that my unceasing efforts of excellence in my craft, not just settling for “good enough” serves to demonstrate both to myself, God, and my church community, that I understand that very value of worship and excellence. The presentation matters.

Romans 12:1 says,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

This passage talks about our proper act of worship: taking our whole selves, everything that we can possible offer, and placing it before God as an offering. My love for Jesus should inspire and push me to work exceptionally hard to excel at my craft so that what I bring is the absolute best that it can be… because He deserves it and the presentation matters. When a laborer has a conviction that what they do isn’t just a hobby, but that they are being faithful with what God has put in their hand, then to them that labor is an act of worship!

Our sincerity can be found in our response.

I want to challenge us all to be Worship Pastors who are not willing to focus on skill at the expense of people’s hearts, but not brush off skill for the attitude of “good enough.” Worship Pastors, Christians in general, must know both must be addressed but ultimately realize that worship is fundamentally a function of the heart, and when a heart is transformed in worship, everything else follows including skill and excellence. The more experience I have gained, the more I have realized that my leadership has to become an act of worship that inspires others to worship, my skill has to be at a level high enough to allow me to worship with my presence and leadership without distraction. We become “lead worshippers” when we blend these two functions into one, so that people cannot tell the difference. Psalm 78:72 describes David as a man who led Israel with integrity of heart and with skillful hands. Heart and skill are two primary issues that every worship pastor wrestles with, not just for themselves but also for the people they lead. Both are part of the Biblical mandates that take a central role in the job description of a Worship Pastor.

In all of this it’s important to note that excellence is not perfection. Excellence is an attitude or mindset that drives us to do the best we can with what we have within our ability. Misappropriated excellence creates an environment that is harsh, restraining, and ultimately discouraging. But an appropriate understanding of excellence creates an environment that is fundamentally encouraging as it calls out the full potential of every individual that comes from the Father.

James 1:17 says,

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Aren’t you glad that when God created the universe, He took a step back and “saw that it was good,” not “saw that it was good enough.” Our pursuit of excellence is purely a reflection of an excellent God.

So, what is it that matters in our worship? Is it heart or skill? What actually matters is that Jesus is honored in all that we do and in our displayed love for Him.

Psalm 96:7-9 says,

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!