I have had the privilege of leading worship as a volunteer and a church staff member for close to 12 years now. I love and am so grateful for these opportunities, but like all things in life we have days or even seasons where we get stuck in the mundane and question if what we’re doing is right and the best way to accomplish a goal.
Let me first say this - worship is so much more but no less than songs on a Sunday. But for this blog post we’re working under the banner of a Sunday worship gathering.
I recently just left a season were I went four months without leading worship with a guitar or keys in my hand. This was really good for me as it reminded me that my identity is not found in what I do or create (We need this reminder constantly). During this time I began to pray and ask God to refocus my view and understanding of what worship is and how it plays into the life of the church.
He brought me back to a couple pivotal moments in my development and understanding of worship that I believe are of the utmost important for us to comprehend before we ever step foot on a stage.
One Tuesday morning I was spending time praying and thinking through the set list and preparing the different elements for our upcoming Sunday worship gathering. That particular week had been really hard for me as I was painfully aware of and confronted with the brokenness and hurt of the world. In my community alone people were fighting through depression, suicidal thoughts, broken marriages, cancer and financial problems. I had the thought, are we wasting our time on Sunday mornings? Do we really need another Sunday gathering or would it be of greater value for us to go and tangibly be the church on Sunday morning?
God is perfect in his plan and timing for our lives and as I opened my bible God answered my questions.
You see music and song have always played a significant role in the life of the Church. Singing in response to God’s character and work is nothing new to the modern Church. All throughout scripture we see people praising God through song. We also see in scripture God's people singing songs to remind and point their hearts to what is true of God and in turn, what is true of them as the people of God.
Pastor John Piper once said, "Worship is the goal and fuel of missions: missions exist because worship doesn't." I remember reading this statement for the first time and processing what this means for us as the church. At the time, I was reading through Mark 14 and Matthew 26. I believe God taught me something so foundational to my faith while reading that day.
For the first time, I began to see the great significance and connection between worship and mission. Let me set the stage for you. We have Jesus with his disciples sharing their last moments together before he (Jesus) begins to embark on the hardest and most important mission the world will ever know (taking the sins of the world upon his shoulders on the cross).
And what do they do? They worship. He gathers with his community (his disciples) to spend time in prayer/thanksgiving, take communion, to teach and then they sing a hymn together. If the God/man, Savior of the world, saw it most appropriate to spend his last moments (before his journey to the cross) fueled by worship, how much more do we as fallible, broken and fickle humans need corporate worship? Worship is so much more than singing but it is no less.
Worship music is portable and sung theology. As we gather corporately to worship through song, we are declaring the marvelous works and character of our great King. The songs that we sing are fuel and reminders for us as we seek to live in obedience and on mission to make disciples of all nations. Each time that I lead worship through song in a corporate setting, not only do I have the privilege of pointing people to Jesus by reminding those around me of Gospel truths, but also the opportunity to remind my forgetful heart of who God is and who I am in Christ.
I will end with a quick story that I think gives legs to the incredible and weighty purpose of worship music in the life of a believer. Pastor John Piper, whom I quoted earlier, has had a very significant impact on my life and ministry. I once heard him speak at a missions conference in which he briefly told the story of a brother of two of the 21 Egyptian Christians, who were beheaded in Libya (2015), thank ISIS for leaving the audio of their final breaths in the video. (Conference Video Here) When I first heard him say that, I thought, “How morbid. Why would he ever want to hear that?” But then I realized that he was able to hear them praying and singing in worship to God until their final breath.
How powerful and encouraging is that? You see these men were fueled by worship to declare the marvelous and saving power of our great King Jesus unto their final breath. Worship leader, your role is of the utmost importance! You have the opportunity and privilege to put the truths of the gospel through song, scripture and prayer on the mouths of the people of God. Our prayer should be that these truths would penetrate our hearts and move us to give our lives daily to the mission and work of God to save the world by the power of the Gospel.
READ - John 11:1-16
“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”
- John 11:5-6 ESV
The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is powerful and like many of Jesus’ other works, quite perplexing. Isn’t it like Jesus to do the very opposite of what we think he should do, and yet each time it works out exactly as he planed. This story is no different.
John begins this story by reminding his readers of the great history, friendship and love Jesus had with Lazarus and his sisters. Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, sent word to Jesus saying, “he whom you love is ill.” They called upon Jesus because they believed he had the power to heal Lazarus. Yet Jesus’ response is baffling. Upon hearing that Lazarus is ill he stays two days longer in the place where he was. That seems odd that Jesus, who loves his friend Lazarus, would chose to wait two extra days before he even leaves to go to him. Why wouldn’t he save his friends the pain and sorrow of Lazarus’ illness and ultimate death?
The answer is found in verses 4 and 15 of chapter 11. Jesus says, “it is for the glory of God... and for your sake… so that you may believe.” Jesus is basically saying, he loves his friends so much that he allowed them to go through sorrow and hardship. That seems crazy, doesn’t it? When I think of loving someone, I want them to suffer and be in as little pain as possible, but Jesus viewed their suffering in a different light. Jesus knew that when they saw and witnessed his power over death, by raising Lazarus from the dead, his glory and love would shine bright. As they saw the glory of God unfold, their only response would be to believe and rejoice in the Son of God. Their pain, suffering and heartache would draw them closer to himself, resulting in greater joy, comfort and worship.
What does this mean for us? It means that our suffering and struggles, no matter how small or large they may seem, have great value and purpose. This doesn’t make our suffering any easier. Rather, it shows us that there is great joy to be found in the midst of our pain.
All of us will walk through seasons of pain and suffering at some point in our lives. But we also have the opportunity to view these painful seasons differently. Let us not run from pain and suffering but rather let us run to Jesus. In the midst of pain and struggle, we can thank God for our suffering, because we believe and trust that knowing Jesus is of greater worth and value than easing our pain could ever be.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb… they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.”
- Revelation 7:9-11 ESV
I am writing today amidst the racial and social injustice that has been flooding our television and computer screens over the last couple months. My heart breaks to see what we are capable of doing to our fellow man because of the hate that lies within us. The media and protests are merely highlighting the sin that has been hidden in our hearts since the foundation of the world. Think back to Cain and Abel, Israel’s enslavement to Egypt, the Samaritans and the Jews hatred for one another, these are just a few examples of social and racial injustice throughout the Bible.
The beautiful thing about the Gospel is that Jesus breaks through all of our prejudices, fears and differences to unite the most unlikely of people. Just sit in that for a moment. Paul, a man who persecuted, beat and murdered Christians is now forever united through the Gospel with Stephen, the very man whom he watched die as he gave consent to have him stoned to death (Acts 22:20). If I was going to build an eternal family that’s not how I would’ve chosen to accomplish it. Doesn’t it make sense to create a family based on commonalities such as language, culture or social status? I am grateful that God’s ways are perfect and that his thoughts are high above mine (Isaiah 55:9).
As Christians we are eternally united by one common factor, the blood of Christ. This means regardless of where we come from, the language we speak, the color of our skin, our social status, how many rules we have kept or how many we’ve broken we will stand in eternity together worshiping our Savior because of his saving grace.
Because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection heaven will be an eternal, familial and global gathering of endless worship. Those who were once far off will be brought near. Those who were once outcasts and enemies will walk hand in hand in the glory of the Lord. All will be united by the name of Jesus, under the banner of his perfect love.
It has been said that the most segregated place in the United States is on Sunday mornings at church services across the country. Let us pray for the local church, that our hearts would align with Jesus’ heart to love the broken, the lost and the outcasts. Let us pray that our communities would look and resemble the diversity of heaven. That we would be a gathering of people from every tribe, tongue and nation worshiping together the risen Lamb, King Jesus!
I have been reading through 1st and 2nd Samuel this summer, I love reading about King David and the great ways God used him to lead and deliver his people. David, was a warrior, a fearless and faithful man. The scriptures often describe him as, “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). At times he seems like the perfect Disney prince or the stud, lead character of a new Twilight book/movie series. Who wouldn’t want to be like him, to learn from him or to be mentored by him? Can you imagine that?
If we keep reading into the book of 1 Kings we see that David’s son Solomon actually had this incredible opportunity. As King David was nearing the final days of his life he began to speak wisdom and truth to his son regarding his future as the King of Isreal. He says...
“When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son saying, “‘I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statues, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’” - 1 Kings 2:1-4 (ESV)
Let’s break his charge down into practical and simple steps.
First, he says, “ Be strong, and show yourself a man.” This sounds awesome and as a follower of Jesus I long for this in my own life. But how do we do this?
David follows this command with instruction, “keep the charge of the Lord your God.” I think it’s important here that he says, "YOUR God." This was not a call for Solomon to follow a set of rules and instructions from an impersonal God in which he does not personally know. Rather this was a call to trust the leading and instruction from an all powerful and intimate God, in whom he has a personal relationship with. As we seek to be strong and show ourselves to be men by keeping the charge of the Lord our God, we must first have a real relationship with him. This relationship can only be found in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
How do we keep this charge and what does it require?
He says we practically do this by, “walking in his ways and keeping his statues, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses…” Jesus gives a similar command to his disciples in what is commonly referred to as the “Great Commission.” He commands them to make disciples, by teaching them to obey everything he has commanded you.
We must remember that all of the laws, decrees, instructions and commands given by God in the bible are not a list of rules to follow so we can be approved by God. But rather they are given to the people of God for our good, his glory and so that we might have life and have it to the fullest (John 10:10).
Lastly, why must we keep this charge?
“… so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘if your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.” (1 Kings 2:3-4)
Again, he has Solomon’s good in mind. He is not trying to rob him of joy and pleasure but rather he’s trying to teach him where and how to find joy and pleasure. It’s found in the Lord our God alone!
When I first read David’s charge I thought, "wow… that’s an incredible charge," in the realm of Mel Gibson’s ‘Freedom’ speech in the movie Braveheart. But then I think, "how in the world could I or anyone else ever do this? Not even David or any of his own sons could fulfill this calling and charge." They all fell (many times), just read 1st Samuel and 2nd Samuel as well as 1st and 2nd Kings and you’ll quickly catch onto their many failures and short comings.
THE GOOD NEWS!
There is one man who could and did fulfill the Lord’s commands and laws perfectly. That man is Jesus of Nazareth. Paul writes in 1st Corinthians 1:20, that all the promises of God find their “Yes” in Jesus alone. Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise to David that, "you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.” Jesus, in the bloodline of King David (Matthew 1), reigns over the whole earth for all eternity. Jesus is the pinnacle example of God’s goodness, faithfulness, love and justice towards his people. He’s the reason we can worship God with our lives.
In closing, as we strive to be like King David, to be great leaders, pastors and worship leaders, we must always remember that Jesus (the greater David) was that perfect man in our place. His life, death and resurrection have fulfilled the perfect requirements of God’s law, bringing us back into a right standing with God the Father (2 Corinthians 5:21). I want to encourage you as you continue to grow in your faith, knowledge and obedience to God. His laws, commands and requirements haven’t lessened because of Jesus, rather they have found their fulfillment in and through Christ Jesus on our behalf.
Rest in his finished work on the cross!
In the last couple years I have learned to love books. I never thought I’d say that, as the only thing my brothers and I would read growing up had to include at least one of the following… rushing yards, free throw percentages or batting averages. Early this summer a friend of mine surprised me and bought me two books, Better by Tim Chaddick and The Truest Thing About You by Dave Lomas. I was really excited to read these books because both of these guys are great pastors, at two Gospel-centered churches on the West coast. Over the last couple years I have learned a lot from their sermon podcasts about the Word of God and how to better love and follow Jesus.
I dove into The Truest Thing About You first, and I haven’t been able to put it down all summer. The book centers on our identity, desires and why they matter. Pastor Lomas is a pastor at Reality Church in San Francisco, California. San Francisco is an incredibly beautiful and unique city that is driven by identity and success (much like most cities in the world - except SF is on another level). He challenges the reader to redefine our identity based on who God says we are as Christians because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross.
Our identity rules everything about us. It dictates the cities and neighborhoods we live in, it dictates the clothes we wear, the people we hang with, the words we say, even down to the restaurants and bars that we’ll visit. This is not distinct of Western society but rather humanity has been plagued by this identity crisis ever since Adam and Eve were booted from the Garden of Eden. We can try to find our identity in so many things, even good things in this life but at some point or another they will all fail because they were never intended to be our source of identity. Pastor Lomas reminds us of Genesis 1:27, that we were created in the image of God, to be the “imago dei” or the image of God reflecting his glory.
“When humanity fell, God never took away our call to be bearers of his image. Imago Dei is for all peoples at all times. It’s who we are.” - The Truest Thing About You, Dave Lomas
A NEW IDENTITY
He shows us that as believers in Jesus Christ we are a new creation, the old is gone and the new has come. He reminds us that we are deeply loved and accepted. We were created to live, work and create as a response to this identity. Too often we get this identity and response switched around, where we do all of these things in hope to get a response rather than as a response. Our daily choices, dreams and deepest desires reflect a longing to find unconditional love and acceptance. The good news of the Gospel is that because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection our identity is now that of adopted sons and daughters. It is out of this identity as children of God that we realize we are more deeply loved than we can ever imagine and the God of the universe has eternally accepted us.
One of the most impactful parts of the book for me was the answer to this simple question... Now that we know our identity is found in the truth of our adoption as children of God, how do we live this life out? Pastor Lomas shows us that anytime throughout the scriptures God calls his people to follow a specific command, to live in obedience to his word or to walk faithfully into the unknown he first reminds us of our identity (who we are).
I was reminded of this as I was reading through 1 Peter 2: 9-10.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
Peter is talking to the chosen people of God who are scattered throughout the known world. He reminds them that they were once a people without an identity and in need of mercy. He then shows them their new identity in Christ. That they are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation that has now received mercy. What is the purpose of this calling/identity as the people of God? He says in verse nine that this permanent identity change has taken place so that they would declare the praises of him who called them out of darkness. So before they are ever told to declare the marvelous works of God (make more of the glory of God) they are first reminded of their true identity and therefore they can live in obedience as a response to this identity.
My prayer for everyone who will read this book is that they will begin to understand, trust and believe that their true identity can only be found in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and that everything we do in life will be a response to this incredible and unchanging truth.
Last Sunday, I began to work on recording my first EP titled, Desert and Sea. I am so excited to share these 5 songs with you all. God has been doing some really cool things in my life over the last couple years and with the help of some great friends I've been able to create these songs as a response.
My good friend, Wes Ardis, produced this album and he did a phenomenal job. I would highly recommend him to anyone needing a producer, you will not be disappointed. Another great friend, Brady Pettit, engineered the album. He along with Wes are two of the best dudes I know and two of the most talented guys you will ever meet. To say the least, I am extremely grateful for them and their hard work.
The idea behind "Desert and Sea" is simple... I was studying through Matthew Chapter 4 about a year ago with my community group and we began to talk about how it was the Holy Spirit who lead Jesus into the desert. In the same way we will spend the vast majority of our lives in a desert or sea (these could be classified as difficult times, times of suffering or feelings of isolation and loneliness, etc.). If you're not in one now, you will be soon. Haha Don't fret, there is hope for us Christians. The same hope that has pioneered the way for believers throughout the ages...
God is leading you into deserts and seas for his glory and our greatest good. He not only leads us into these stags of life, but he leads us through and he will lead us out.
One of the most common ways God leads, teaches and loves his people during these seasons is through COMMUNITY. It has been through my community that God has grown, challenged and encouraged me the most. I am forever grateful for these people, near and far. It was only fitting that so many people from my community played such a huge roll in bringing to life my dream and vision for each of these songs. THANK YOU ALL! I love you all more than you will ever know!
4 days and a total of 55 hrs later, tracking instruments and vocals are done for the EP. Mixing and Mastering are to come. In the mean time here are some great pictures from the past couple days!
I can't wait to share these songs with you! They should be available in the next month or so! My hope for this EP is that people will hear the gospel in every song and be spurred to worship our great King Jesus. He is worthy of all of our praise!