Thursday, November 20, 2014

God really hears us...

The definition of "pray" is to make devout praise, thanks, petition, and offering to God.  Prayer is something that so many of us do.  In fear of a test, in blessing for food, for safety, for healing, for praise.  How often do we really soak in the fact that God truly hears our prayers?  

Psalm 3:3-5 - But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.  I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill.  I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.  

We can find such great comfort in this verse.  With great confidence we can know that the Lord hears us.  We cry out to the Lord and he answers.  He hears.  How amazing is it to think that the God of all creation hears me and cares about what I have to say to him.  No matter what we may be faced with, we can know that God hears our cries and he is powerful enough to protect us and to sustain us.  To sustain something is to hold it up, to keep it going, to provide.  God holds up and helps us keep going when we have absolutely nothing left.  He is our strength and we can find rest in knowing that he hears and that he will lift us up.

Having confidence that God hears you can radically change your prayer life.  Pray with a joy of knowing that God is listening to your prayers.  Rest in the fact of knowing that he hears you.  In the midst of those days when you feel like you can’t go on, cry out to the Lord and trust in the fact that he will lift you up and keep you going. 

Worship loudly.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Where I Don't Belong

Matthew 5:6 - Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

There is a song that we’ve done at FOTP for quite some time now called “Where I Don’t Belong”.  The bridge of the chorus says, “Everything in me yearns for everything in You”.  Our student/teaching pastor, Jamie Pope, told me one time that he never sings that line.  He told me that in his sinful flesh, he doesn’t believe that he can fully sing that line and mean it with all of his heart.  However, he said that he knew that one day, when he sees his Savior face to face, he will be able to sing it and with that glorious revelation he can sing the following line, “Hallelujah”.  

Theologically speaking, it is true that every part of us will not be able to fully long for Jesus on this side of eternity.  There is always a war within us between our revived spiritual side and the sinful nature that we were born with.  When Christ transforms our heart and calls us into a relationship with him, we begin that process of longing and yearning for all that Jesus is, to know him, to be loved by him, to be strengthened by him.  This verse in Matthew tells us that those who hunger and thirst for the pure and perfect righteousness that Jesus provides will be satisfied.  Jesus must be the primary focus of our thoughts, energies, and affections.  When we yearn for him, long for him, and pursue him, he will not disappoint.  He will open up the doors of wisdom, love, grace, might, and acceptance and welcome us in.  We will be satisfied in Christ.

I pray that God would place in us a great desire for Him.  David referred to it as a deer being parched and longing for water.  May we rest in the fact of knowing that God is enough.  Chase after Him, yearn for Him…and you will be satisfied.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Almost a year ago, I was sitting in my office and our student pastor, Jamie, was sitting on the couch and we were talking.  The couch in my office is a dark grey/black and Jamie was wearing a black hoodie.  At some point during our conversation, I noticed that I couldn't tell where his jacket ended and the couch began.  I realized that I needed to suck it up and go to the eye doctor.  Long story short...I now have glasses that...(hang on a second), I am wearing right now.

In that moment, I wasn't able to focus and distinguish between the objects in front of me.  My focus was out of place and not where it needed to be in order for me to see clearly the world in front of me.  Our spiritual lives function in much the same way.

Colossians 3:1&2 - If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

At some point or another we have all dealt with a struggle, habit, sin, or attitude that has not been the optimal way to experience life.  We can easily become consumed by those struggles.  We think and focus on how not to be defeated by them, how not to fall to temptation, and how to “beat” whatever it is.  Here’s the kicker…when we are trying so hard to not do those things and to defeat them, they are our primary focus.  We are focusing on the problem instead of the one who can solve the problem.  

This passage in Colossians tells us to set our minds on the things that are above, not on things here on earth.  We read in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  When God is our primary focus, our struggles and attitudes seem to fall in line.  That’s not to say that it is easy, it is still a challenge for sure.  However, when we are focusing on God and his glorious might, those other things fade in comparison to him.  It’s a simple, focus on the positive, not the negative scenario.

I pray that God would help us to focus on Him and his glory.  As a Christ follower, our pursuit of God and the knowledge of who he is one of the key steps in our continued growth and maturity.  Another step is engaging in telling God’s story.  Instead of focusing on the problems, struggles, and sin…focus on God and take those struggles to him and find great rest, strength, and peace from that.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Chasing Wisdom...

Proverbs 4:20-27 - My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.  Let them not escape form your sight; keep them within your heart.  For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.  Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.  Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.  Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.  Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.  Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

There are a couple of takeaways from this passage.  This whole chapter is really good and I’d encourage you to read it on your own.  You can follow the link here for the whole chapter…Proverbs 4.  The first several chapters of Proverbs, are Solomon’s instructions to his son to pursue wisdom and to follow God.  If you read through Chronicles and Kings in the Bible, you’ll see that, sadly his didn’t follow his instruction and it went badly for him and all of Israel.  That goes to show that sometimes, we can do all we can as a parent, but ultimately the choice is made by the individual what decisions they will make…but that’s another topic altogether.  

First, we can see that Solomon (the writer of Proverbs), cares about his son and wants him to be wise and follow the Lord.  He knows that if he will follow the instruction of God, he will have a more fruitful, happy, and productive life.  For those of us that are parents, it is paramount that we continually point our children to the Lord.  By our actions we show them just how important God is to us.  We can talk about it and tell them to do the right things all day long, but if they don’t see us living it out, it simply won’t take root.  The example can hold true whether you have children or not.  We are to set the example with our lives to the younger generation and always point them to the amazing goodness that is Christ.  They need to see and know that we live an believe the things that we tell them.  Wisdom and the love of God are firm foundations to build life upon.  

Second, we can take these things to our hearts as individuals.  We can apply these teachings to our lives and pursue godliness, wisdom, and life.  As I said previously, when we pursue these things personally, it makes teaching them easier, because the student, child, intern, whatever can see that we truly believe the things that we are teaching.  In other words, we must always be sure as Christ followers to “practice what we preach”.  

Pray that God would help you to share and impart the wisdom that He has given you to the next generation of leaders.  I pray that God would help each of us to continue to seek to know Him more and to walk in the wisdom that he has provided for us in Scripture.  May each of us relentlessly chase after wisdom.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Where will we turn?

We've all been in situations where we've felt, maybe even known, that the odds were stacked against us.  In those moments, we make a decision...Where will we turn?  King Asa was in an overwhelming situation and his response is a great example to us.

2 Chronicles 14:11 - And Asa cried to the LORD his God, “O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak.  Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude.  O LORD, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.”

Back story…Asa is the king of Judah.  At this point in time, Israel and Judah have split into two kingdoms with 2 tribes in Judah and the other 10 tribes in Israel.  During this time of separation, there were many kings that would follow after other gods and not follow after the way of the Lord.  However, Asa, “did what was right in the sight of the LORD and followed in his ways”.  Asa, followed God and trusted him to help him lead the people of Judah.  God gave Judah ten years of peace during his reign.  After that ten years, a huge army from Ethiopia came up to attack Judah.  Before battle, the king would always call out to God in a prayer; verse 11 is that prayer before this battle.  God went before the army of Judah and destroyed the entire army of the Ethiopians.  So…

It would be quite easy to see that Asa felt overwhelmed by the challenge that was before him.  He had some great and mighty warriors on his side, but he was facing a massive army, almost two times larger than his own.  All of us, at some point, have felt the weight of being overwhelmed by the situation(s) in front of us.  In those moments, we make a pivotal decision…Where will we turn?

When we make the decision to turn to our vices, our own strength, or whatever brings us some sort of temporary comfort, we fall immediately to defeat.  I’m sure that Asa had a plan and had his men set out strategically.  We read in verse eight that he had a lot of men of might and valor…these were words used to describe the baddest of the bad in biblical warrior terms.  However, plans and preparation are not where Asa placed his complete trust.  He placed his trust in the LORD.  

“O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak.  Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you…”  That last phrase is so powerful!  Our every breath is reliant upon God’s power to sustain it.  We are held together by his very will.  He is unstoppable.  Nothing is impossible for him.  He is our greatest source of comfort, strength, and peace.  He is the first place that we should turn when we feel overwhelmed by our circumstances, whatever they may be.  “…we rely on you…”  What an amazing cry for help and a comforting place to find hope!

Pray that scripture this week…pray it everyday!  Especially in the moments that you feel overwhelmed.  “O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak.  Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you…”   I pray that each of us would look to the Lord for our strength and our help; for truly, he is the only source that really works.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The "WHY" behind our worship...

Coming out of the weekend of our Night of Worship at Fellowship of the Parks, I wanted to share a bit about the "why" behind our worship.  This passage from Psalms displays it quite beautifully.

Psalm 96: 1-13 - Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing the the LORD, all the earth!  Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.  Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!  For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.  For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.  Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.  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!  Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!  Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.”  Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it!  Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth.  He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.

This psalm, hymn, song, or whatever musical notation you want to give it, sums up the “why” behind our worship.  It give us a clear picture of who God is and why he deserves our worship.  It also gives some foreshadowing to God’s plan salvation and how we are called to share that Good News through our worship.

In Psalm 96, we see three different commands:

1) SING. We are told to sing and declare the glory and majesty of God, to declare his marvelous works that he has done.  All you have to do is look around creation and even your life to see the marvelous works that God has done.  His glory and majesty are stamped all over every aspect of his creation!  In the line, “sing to the Lord, all the earth!”, the Gentiles (or non-Jews…that’s us) are being invited to sing along and join in the salvation that God offers.  There’s foreshadowing into God’s plan to bring salvation to all the world through Jesus.

2) ASCRIBE (OR ACKNOWLEDGE). When we acknowledge how great and powerful God is, it makes it much easier to take on a position of worship.  If I think I’m high and mighty, I’m likely not going to be bowing down and submitting my life and will over.  Acknowledging God for who he is, helps us acknowledge ourselves for who we are.  We are broken, weak, and undisciplined.  We need a Savior God who is strong and able to heal our brokenness.  Our acknowledgment of who God is, helps us live lives of worship.  It allows us to show others around us what and who is most important to us.

3) SAY. This one in a way goes right along with “ascribe”.  This however, is the action to that acknowledgement.  When we say with our lives, “The LORD reigns!”, we are saying that God is the King of my life.  He controls my steps, gives me strength, and I trust Him and have faith in him.  

We sing, ascribe, acknowledge.  In other words, we worship.  We worship because he is worthy of our worship.  We are commanded as Christ followers to worship because, just like the Israelites, our worship proclaims to the world the greatness of God.  Our lives of worship, the songs in our hearts, tell of the hope of Christ.  The good news that there is hope in Jesus and that He is enough.  

Big takeaway's: SING.  Sing loudly and let the music speak to your heart as your pour out your prayers via music to your God.  ASCRIBE.  Acknowledge God for the mighty, powerful, and just God that he is.  That creates awe and worship.  SAY.  Live a life of worship and tell others about how God has transformed and changed your life.

I pray that each of us would ask God to examine our hearts and worship him for all that he is!

Friday, August 15, 2014


With a big Night of Worship approaching at Fellowship of the Parks, I thought it would be great to share one of the greatest "call to worship" passages in Scripture.  In the very last Psalm, we are commanded to worship and praise God with everything that is in us...and to do so...loudly!

Psalm 150 - Praise the LORD!  Praise God in his sanctuary, praise him in his mighty heavens!  Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!  Praise him with the trumpet sound; praise him with the lute and harp!  Praise him with the tambourine and dance, praise him with strings ad pipe!  Praise him with sounding cymbals, praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!  Praise the LORD!

"Praise the LORD!", is not only a declaration, but a command.  As Christ followers, we are commanded to give God the glory that he is due.  Why wouldn't we?  Think of how he has blessed us and all that he has done for us.  He has set us apart to know his salvation and the satisfying joy of having a relationship with him.  He has shared the glory of creation with us.  He has invited us to be a part of his story of reconciling the world to himself.  The list could go on and on.  This great God is so worthy of our praise, our adoration, our song, our worship!

In the last few verses of that passage, I hear the Psalmist saying, "Plug in the electric guitars, crank the amps, push the faders, slap da bass, crash the cymbals, and beat the drums!  Lift your hands, fall to your knees, lift your voice as loud as you possibly can.  Why?  Because our God is worthy of our praise!  Worship with your entire being!"

I want to share with you a video talking about the power of music, the song, and worship.  CLICK HERE.

I want to invite you to join us at one of our DFW campus locations Sunday night, August 17, at 6pm. Haslet | Grapevine | Keller  Even if you can't join us, I pray that wherever you may find to worship, that you will let yourself go and worship our God fully for all that he is worth.  I pray that if you are on the journey to faith, or even if you are far from it, that God would pull the strings of your heart to see that we all worship something, and that we are most fulfilled when we worship him.  

Worship Him...LOUDLY!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Setting the bar...

It's likely that most of us have heard sermons, talks, podcasts, etc. on giving to the church.  That topic has become somewhat of a stigma for my generation (mid 20's to mid-to-late 30's).  Perhaps it's because we've seen poor stewardship of the church?  Perhaps it's because we know we are being disobedient and should be giving faithfully of our time and resources, but we aren't.  Maybe it's because we think "we could do it better"?  

Whatever the excuse may be, we are still called to give faithfully.  It's a commandment and demonstrated very clearly in Scripture. It's an act of worship.  When we give, we are honored with the opportunity to be a part of God's story and how he is reaching people in our communities and our world.  Here's the thing, God is going to reach people with or without us.  He doesn't need us.  However, he knows the joy that we receive when we do join in the story.  He's basically saying, "I'm going to save these people.  Do you want to be a part of it?"

Today, we'll see that giving is a matter of obedience and leadership.  We'll see where King David gave sacrificially and set the bar by setting the example.  

1 Chronicles 29:1-9 - And David the king said to all the assembly, “Solomon my son, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced, and the work is great, for the palace will not be for man but for the LORD God.  So I have provided for the house of my God, so far as I was able, the gold for the things of gold, the silver for the things of silver, and the bronze for the things of bronze, the iron for the things of iron, and wood for the things of wood, besides the great quantities of onyx and stones for setting, antimony, colored stones, all sorts of precious stones and marble.  Moreover, in addition to all that I have provided for the holy house, I have a treasure of my own of gold and silver, and because of my devotion to the house of my God I give it to the house of my God.  3,000 talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and 7,000 talents of refined silver, for overlaying the walls of the house, and for all the work to be done by craftsmen, gold for the things of gold and silver for the things of silver.  Who then will offer willingly, consecrating himself today to the LORD?"Then the leaders of the fathers’ houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and the officers over the king’s work.  They gave for the serve of the house of God 5,000 talents and 10,000 darics of gold, 10,000 talents of silver, 18,000 talents of bronze and 100,000 talents of iron.  And whoever had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the house of the LORD, in the care of Jehiel the Gershonite.  Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD.  David the king also rejoiced greatly.

I know that’s a long passage, but here are the big takeaways…

The Lord has blessed us greatly.  He has.  No question about it.  He’s blessed us with life, family, money, talents, time, the list could go on and on…and on and on.  God has a great thing going in this world by offering his love and acceptance to those that would receive it.  He’s called us to be a part of that.  When we give willingly of our resources (time, money, talents, etc.) we in turn have a great joy in that.  There is just something in how God has wired us in that we receive joy when we give and when we serve.  That’s why we encourage those inside the church to give and to serve.  It is part of fulfilling the role of a disciple of Christ to give back to his church.  By giving, we play a crucial role in helping more people hear about the Gospel of Christ.  

The second takeaway is one of the greatest leadership principles.  You should never ask your people to do something that you aren’t willing to do yourself.  David modeled that perfectly in this passage.  He gave sacrificially and then called his people to do the same.  He set the bar by setting the example.  As leaders, that’s what we are called to do.  We lead by setting the example.  Anyone who is on the stage is viewed as a leader.  Like it or not, it’s just a fact.  People see those in a high profile and visual position as someone in leadership.  By simply serving, we are giving faithfully of our time and talents; but are we doing it whole heartedly and joyfully?  As leaders, we should be the first to give and the first to serve.  We should encourage others that see us as leaders to join in God’s story and to experience the joy of giving to God’s cause.  

I pray that God would continue to grow us as leaders and use us to encourage people to give and serve with the talents and resources that he has blessed them with.  Ask God to investigate your life and see if you are giving faithfully in the areas he has called you to.  Pray for the courage to trust God and set the bar by setting the example.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Mighty Warrior

For several months now, we've been singing Elevation Worship's song Mighty Warrior.  The song celebrates the power, strength, and courage of our God.  I want to share a passage from Joshua.  In this scene, Joshua comes face to face with our Mighty Warrior.  His response?  Worship.

Joshua 5:13-15 - Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand.  Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”  “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of The Lord I have now come.”  Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”  The commander of The Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.”  And Joshua did so.

There are a few takeaways from this passage.  One is, we can know that The Lord is delivering a message to Joshua.  He is reminding him of the strength and courage that he spoke of in Joshua 1.  The commander is standing with his sword drawn.  This implies action.  If a sword is drawn, something is about to go down.  If you keep reading, you see that the Israelites take Jericho shortly after and it was by a supernatural means…hence the army of God.  

Two, something can be inferred from this commander…any time in scripture that someone bows down to a heavenly being (that isn’t Christ or God), they are immediately told to stand.  It’s as though the angels are getting the point across that they don’t want God to miss out on any glory that he is due.  This commander does not tell Joshua to stand.  Instead, he tells him to take off his shoes for the ground he is on is holy.  There are many that believe (me included) that this commander is Jesus himself…that’s why the ground was holy and that’s why he allowed Joshua to stay in a position of worship.  

Third, God makes a clear statement that he is not for the glory of any man, nation, or cause.  He is for the glory and honor of God.  In responding to Joshua’s question, “Who are you for?” with the answer, “Neither”.  He was making it clear that he was giving Joshua (and us) the opportunity to be on his side of the battle line.  

Christ, the commander of the army of heaven, is still standing before us with his sword drawn.  He has dealt the ultimate blow to Satan with his victory over sin and death on the cross.  He is still standing, battle ready, before us his people and inviting us to join in the fray and stand at his side.  We can take courage in knowing that our God is strong, mighty, and unstoppable.

I pray that God would allow all of us to see Him as the mighty and powerful warrior that He is.  He is ready and able to deliver us from whatever temptation or trials we may face in this life.  I pray that we would find rest and courage in knowing that God is standing before us.  I pray that our response to the awesome greatness would be worship.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The three C's of worship...part 3


We always bring our best.  Excellence honors God, inspires people, and eliminates distractions. (Psalms 33:1-31 Corinthians 10:31Colossians 3:17)

Our Commitment eliminates distractions:

Being committed to your team, your church, your staff, and ultimately your Savior communicates how important they are to you.  It shows them that you value their time and their efforts.  It communicates honor, trust, and love.

Romans 12:1  challenges us to serve Christ as an act of worship.  The idea is that by giving sacrificially of ourselves we are engaging in worship.  We are showing God thanks for all he has done by giving back to him in serving his church and sharing his story.

Below we'll look at a few ways that worship leaders and all who are a part of the church can use Commitment to help them grow in the worship of Jesus.  Many of these points apply to both leaders and church attenders.  As they need separating, I will do so and explain a bit more.

1. Be available.  God has called us to do more than just attend and be consumers at his church.  We have been blessed greatly so we should bless others greatly.  There's no way that  you can be a part of any ministry unless you step forward.  It will help the church to continue and grow and it will greatly benefit you in your spiritual walk as well.  Believe me when I say, we want you to be a part of what God is doing through us!

2. Be on time.  I have a mentor that is NEVER late.  He always tells me that how you handle someone's time communicates how much you value them. (FOR WORSHIP TEAM MEMBERS...) If you constantly show up late for rehearsals when your team has been there waiting, it communicates that you really don't value them and their time.  (FOR REGULAR CHURCH ATTENDERS...) I really encourage you to be on time for service.  I know that if you have kids, that may mean a few minutes early to be sure that you can get everyone check in.  I have a kid too so I understand that.  However, when we show up late for service, it communicates to guests that the earlier parts of the service may not be that important.  We all want to be hospitable to our guests and show them the entire party is great, not just the part at the middle and end.

3. Be an encourager. By being invested in your team, (LIFEGroup, worship team, Kids Inc. Team, Bean Team, parking lot team, Greeters, or wherever you serve) you can know what is going on in their lives and have a greater ability to love them through the Gospel.  You can encourage them in their music and in the things that go on outside of the weekend.  Church is so much more than what we do in the few hours here on the weekend.

4. Attend a service with your family. We ask everyone at FOTP to attend a service and serve a service.  It's very important that we engage in worship corporately as a family with both our immediate family AND our church family!  Even when you are serving, be sure to attend a service.  It is crucial to our spiritual health that we be filled up spiritually, especially when we are pouring out that love and grace to others.

5. Join a LIFE Group.  The other thing we ask everyone at FOTP to do is join a LIFEGroup.  Community is built into the fabric of who we are as humans.  We need to fellowship and know other people.  More importantly, we need to be known.  LIFE Group is the best way to find friends, family, community, accountability and grow spiritually at FOTP.

6.  Give faithfully of your time and resources.  The Bible instructs us to "bring the tithe into the storehouse"; this means that we should give that tenth to the church.  This enables the church to continue the mission of reaching more people for the name of Jesus.  That is our cause.  That is the ultimate cause of the share Christ with the world.  When we give of our time and our resources we are giving sacrificially of ourselves and this is an act of worship just as we read in Romans 12 earlier.

7. Invite someone.  Last, but certainly not least, invite someone to be a part of what we are doing.  If you serve on a team, invite someone to come and join that team.  We always want to share the great experiences that we have when we serve.  We want others to have those same experiences and continue to grow in their faith just like we have.  Invite someone to come and see what God is doing here at FOTP.  If you believe in it, share it.  If it's changed you, share it.  God has changed us and moved us into a beautiful life...we should share it.

In conclusion, our Commitment speaks quite loudly to what we value most.  It shows the importance that we place on others as well.  Very thankful for each of you and the way that you give selflessly in serve to our church and our Savior King.  Love you and praying that you worship loudly.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The three C's of worship...part 2

First, sorry for the writing hiatus.  It's been crazy...things are still crazy, but maybe I'm managing better...anyway, I'm back.  Moving on...


We always bring our best.  Excellence honors God, inspires people, and eliminates distractions. (Psalms 33:1-31 Corinthians 10:31Colossians 3:17)

Our Craft inspires people:

All art tells a story.  Good art can tell a powerful story.  We play and create good music because our God is the Ultimate Creator and deserves our best effort and creativity.

Several years ago, I was at a conference and Matt Redman was doing a breakout session on songwriting and creativity.  He made a statement there that has hung with me, "For too long people have used the church as a crutch to make poor music and play poorly.  God deserves the best we've got and that's what we should give him."  His point was that the idea that it's good enough for church because "their heart is in it" is a poor place to stand.  Our God is incredibly creative!  Look around at creation.  Listen to the songs the birds sing and the melodies of the wind blowing through the trees and between buildings.  Look at the sky and the landscape and see the colors that we only attempt at recreating!

As artists in the church, we are charged with the honor of displaying the glory of Christ via art.  That art may be music, visual art, lighting, video, photography, drama, or any number of things.  We are called to do so with excellence.  We when pursue our gifts and hone them, we are being good stewards of the gifts that we've been given.  God has blessed artists with talents, much like the master with his servants in the parable Jesus told in Matthew 25:14-30.  He expects us to sharpen those talents and use them for his glory.  If we just sit on them or use them for our own pride, we aren't being good stewards of what God has given us.

Below are some ways that lead worshipers and those in the congregation can use the idea of "Craft" to help make the experience the best it can be for all involved.

Lead Worshipers (Worship leaders, musicians, etc.)
1. Show up to rehearsal prepared and on time.  When you show up for rehearsal prepared and practiced, that communicates to your team mates that you value their time and that you realize how important our message is.

2. Be creative.  Make the songs your own.  Create good music.  Even cover songs can sound similar to the original while having a bit of personal flair added.  The original work is nothing more than a canvas.  All artists have boundaries, but we are able to work powerfully inside of those boundaries.

3. Never stop learning. Be open to honest and encouraging feedback.  We get better by helping each other grow in our crafts.  We should constantly be striving to get better at what we do.  It helps us more accurately portray the awesomeness of our God.  When we learn something new, it gets us excited about our instrument/craft all over again.  It's always great to enjoy what you do!

4. Be thankful for your talent. Nothing is worse than someone being incredibly talented and them letting you know just how talented they are.  In other words, be humble.  In my opinion, humility is the key to being a worship leader.  We must realize that God has gifted us with these talents and allowed us to be a part of His story.  It's not about us!

1. Be open. We all have our preferences on what looks good, sounds good, feels good, etc.  In the church world, it's good for us to occasionally set our preferences aside to look at the big picture.  How can this art reach more people for Christ?  Is it biblical?  Is it effective?  If it's doing these things, we should rejoice in it, even we don't particularly care for the style.

2. Be willing to learn.  We should always be willing and eager to learn new songs and new ideas for reaching people for Christ.  We should always welcome fresh ways of singing the truth of Jesus.  It can be like a fresh drink of water to our soul.  We should also be willing to learn from a different medium.  Lyric videos, dramas put to music, and video messages are all avenues that we can worship and share the Gospel via art.

3. Be thankful.  Be thankful for artists that God has given your church.  He has blessed them with talents that help you grow closer to him.  Lift them up and encourage them; they'll appreciate it.

Our God is the Ultimate Creator!  He is our inspiration and he has given us the desire to paint, sing, write, and display the beauty of His Gospel via art.  Let's do this and do it well!  Our God deserves it!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The three C's of worship...part 1

I have a document on my computer that is titled "FOTP Worship Values".  In the document, we outline what we feel is important to a ministry that is called to lead God's people in the worship of his holy name.  The first line is our purpose as worship leaders and worshipers:

To create an environment of worship where craft, culture, and commitment help others realize their role in the story God is telling.  (Psalm66:1-2, 1 Chron. 16:4-7)

Those "three C's" are the values that make up FOTP worship.  (Yes, I realize that my Baptist roots are showing with my "three C's".) They define what it means to be a lead worshiper and to be a part of a team that ministers to the hearts of God's people via music. I believe that not only do these values relate to us as worship leaders, musicians, and vocalists, but they also can relate to all of us as regular attenders gathering to worship Christ together.  Over the next few weeks, I'll unpack these three values and talk about how they can relate to us all.


We always bring our best.  Excellence honors God, inspires people, and eliminates distractions. (Psalms 33:1-3, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17)

Our Culture honors God:

Every place or environment that you can enter or be a part of has a culture.  When you go into a new work place or visit someone's home, you immediately begin analyzing things and trying to figure out the culture of the place.  As worship leaders and worshipers we want to cultivate and create an environment that is constantly pointing people to Jesus.  We should have a culture and habit of worship on and off the stage.

As lead worshipers (worship leaders, musicians, vocalists):

This area is what could be considered the "spiritual development" side of what we do.  Before you throw stones at me, I do realize that all elements of what we do are spiritual in root.  However, some things have more of a practical nature to them.  Anyway, the most important thing for us as lead worshipers is to realize that worship is not for us nor about us; it's all about Jesus.  We want to do everything we can to point others to Christ and show him as the true guest of honor.  The best way to assure this, is to continue growing in our personal relationship with Jesus.  If we aren't growing spiritually by prayer and spending time in the Bible, our worship leading will suffer for it.

Another way to cultivate a great culture of worship as a lead worshiper is to keep a positive attitude.  Acknowledge that you'll get feedback from your team members and you'll give feedback as well.  As with any relationship, you have to trust that you all have each other's best interest at heart.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself!  It's important that we see ourselves as lead worshipers.  If we aren't engaged in the moment and worshiping our Savior, people know.  We have the honor to worship alongside them and lead them in their prayers via song.  The coolest part about it is that it is fun!  Music is an incredible gift that God has given us, so when you're on stage, look like you're enjoying it.  When you have joy in your heart and on your face, people see that and it engages them.  It helps them see and believe the message that we are singing and playing about.  

As worshipers (audience, crowd, guests)

As with worship leaders and band members, the most important thing that any of us can do to help ensure that we are having an incredible experience on Sunday is to prepare our hearts during the week.  A.W. Tozer wrote, "If you aren't worshiping God on Monday-Saturday, I seriously doubt that you are worshiping him on Sunday."  That may seem a bit harsh, but his point is that worship is more than the 25 minutes of music and 28 minutes of sermon on Sunday.  Worship is how we live our lives in response to what God has done for us.  We live a life of worship when we love our spouses and kids well, when we are friendly to our neighbors and co-workers, when we're nice and honest, when we show grace to others that may not deserve it.  In short, we live a life of worship when our lives begin to reflect Christ.  

As worshipers, our weekly worship culminates on Sunday (or Saturday) when we can come together as one church and sing to Jesus and thank him for what he's done.  It's like healing to our hearts to have those songs, prayers, and words from the Bible preached and sung over us.  In Ephesians 5:19-21 we read that we are to address one another in songs and to do so with a thankful heart.  That is what our corporate worship services on the weekend are.  We sing together and for one another.  We worship through the teaching of the Bible and share and affirm that truth with one another.  

In closing, I encourage you to do your part this weekend as you prepare to come and worship at your church.  Pray.  Pray for God to speak to you through the song and the message.  Pray for your pastors that God would speak through them and use them well.  Read the Bible and continue to grow in your spiritual journey.  And most importantly...have fun doing it and worship loudly!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

More than just songs...

There have been times in the church where the time of worship via music was viewed as less important and valuable than the time of worship through teaching and preaching.  Occasionally, that can still be found to be the case in some of our churches.  I believe that concept is part of the problem that has led to the "rockstar worship leader".  Many worship leaders fell that their primary responsibility is to put on a show and make the music sound incredible.  Please do not get me wrong; I am in no way advocating that music be mediocre or the excellence bar be lowered.  Our Savior is worthy of our best and we should thus give that.  What am I saying is that somewhere along the way the idea that the worship leader was, is, and should be a student of Scripture and a theologian has been lost.

I remember sitting in a meeting with several church planting pastors in Dallas about four years and there were all commenting on issues with their worship leaders not taking seriously the role of pastoring and teaching their people to worship.  The pastors said that their "worship guys" seemed to be more interested in "putting on a good show".  I was the only worship leader in the about awkward.  I suggested to the pastors that they hadn't clearly laid out the expectations for those worship leaders and encouraged them in the right way.  I said, "the only difference in what you guys do and what I do is that I have a guitar in my hand while I'm doing it."

This is so very true.  The music that we play, sing, pray, and worship to on the weekend should reflect the glory of our God and tell the story of the Gospel of Christ.  I heard Micheal Bleecker, the worship pastor at The Village Church, say once, "If the songs you're singing aren't telling the story of the Gospel, you need to be singing different songs."  It is very important that the songs we sing share the story of Jesus in the same light that the Scriptures do.  In 1 Timothy 4:16 we see the words of the Apostle Paul telling us to "keep a close watch" on ourselves and on "the teaching"..."for by doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers".  We have to be sure that the songs we are singing line up correctly with the Bible.

For example, it's great to sing songs about how if we follow Christ all things will be wonderful and sunshine and daisies.  It makes us feel good to think that being in church and trusting Jesus will magically make everything better.  However, in reality, it doesn't always work out that way here on earth.  When we sing songs in this fashion, we are walking dangerously close to the side of prosperity gospel which basically says, "come follow Jesus and you'll have everything you could ever want".  That's just a lie.

Colossians 3:16 states that we are lift one another up in by singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankful hearts.  There are many songs found in the Bible.  We can look at the book of Psalms and see LOTS of them!  Our song is important to the Lord.

The songs we sing are more than just songs.  The music and the lyrics paint a picture of who God is.  They portray is glory and majesty.  In our pursuit of excellence in the song we display his creativity.  The words in the songs we sing teach our church about God.  They teach about his grace and his mercy.  They teach about his power and might.  "The Lord is My Rock", a song by Elevation Worship that we do regularly at FOTP, teaches us that though the world may be crazy around us, God is a firm foundation for us to rest on.  We can find our footing with him and he will never move.  He will give us a place to rest.

The hymn, "Jesus Paid it All" teaches about the process of redemption.  It helps explain that only the blood of Christ can take away the darkness of our sin.  It teaches that there was a price to be paid and that Jesus paid that price for us.  It moves us to worship with a thankful heart because Christ has paid a price for us that we could not pay and now we are found holy, redeemed, and right before God.

Our songs teach about God and how we should worship him.  It is important that worship leaders see the importance in that as we choose songs for our churches.  It is important for our churches to see and understand that because it will help them continue to grow in their relationship with Christ.  It will help them to learn the Bible more through the songs we sing and grow their faith as thankfulness increases in their (and our) hearts.

They are more than just songs...they are tools given the church to teach about the greatness, holiness, and glory of our Almighty God and King.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Secular songs in church?!

For a little over a year now, we've been opening our services with a secular or mainstream Christian song (that may even be found on pop radio).  We've gotten a handful of questions about why we do this.  We've been hit with the accusation of profaning the holy and taking away from the sanctity of a worship service.  When discussion began around this topic, there were a lot of "hot sports opinions" on it.  If I'm honest, I wrestled with it quite a bit myself.  In the past, I had definitely found myself on the side of arguing that secular music had no place in the church.  Much prayer and discussion went into making this decision.  It was not something that was done simply for the sake of "being cool".

We are blessed with the privilege of being a church that has many "non-church" folk on the weekend. Each weekend, we have many visitors that are estranged from the church.  There are those who have been burned by the church and/or simply have a bad taste in their mouths toward it for one reason or another and there are some who may have never even heard about Jesus.

That being said, we feel that Jesus was very clear in his instruction of the Great Commission.  "Go."  We are to "go" and tell the good news of Christ.  We are to share the Truth that has been imparted to us.  In the world and context in which we live, it is important to relate to people before you begin to share with them.  The apostle Paul got that and we see him modeling that idea in Acts 17:22-34.

Paul is in Athens and he's talking to a group of Athenians and probably some other Greeks.  These Greeks would have been intelligent.  Some were philosophers, others may have been business men passing by.  They all had one thing in common.  They were not Christians.  They were worshipers of either intellect, money, or the pagan gods like Zeus, Ares, and Athena. (particularly Athena...Athens...hello?)  As Paul was walking through the Areopagus, he noticed the shrines built to the different gods and noticed the one "to the unknown god."  He used that moment to tell them of God Almighty.  In telling them he references two Greek poets, with these lines,

"In him we live and move and have our being."
"For we are indeed his offspring."

The writers of these poems would've been seen as Greek pagans.  They worshiped false gods.  They would not have been seen by the church as "wholesome people".  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that bands whose songs we cover are not wholesome people.  Nor am I saying that they are evil pagans.  I'm just giving an example.

Paul used the truth found in these to poets writings to point people to the truth of who God is.  When we cover secular songs before our services, we are doing the same thing.  We use songs that relay truth.  We use the truth in those songs to help disarm the walls that people put up when they walk into the doors of the church.  Today's music artists are in many ways our modern day poets.  When we cover those songs, we are basically saying, "as your own poets have said".

We want to do anything and everything we can to help people feel comfortable as they walk into our party that we throw every week for our Savior.  We want to show them truth that they may recognize and then show them where that truth truly originates from.  We want them to meet guest of honor, Jesus.  After that, we want them to use those same methods to tell their friends and family about this Great Savior.

So in a nutshell...that's why I believe doing secular songs in church is a good thing.Acts 17:22-34