Monday, December 28, 2015

Heart of Worship

Have you ever had a time in your life when God seemed distant?   A time when you felt as though you were going through the motions and missing the whole purpose in the “Why?”  I know I have.  A few years ago, a friend shared with me that her church was hosting a ladies retreat and encouraged me to come.  I thought to myself, with the busy weekend ahead, all the reasons I didn’t need to go, but then I thought of all the reasons I did.  I needed a renewal of heart-a rekindling of a flame as I worshipped and spent time with Jesus, but now seemed to be more like a spark than anything else. 

As I began driving across the mountain that day, I began seeking God and asking him to open my heart for worship.  I prayed and asked God to reveal to me His heart.  In this process, I saw mine.  I saw how the motions of my worship were just that…motions. I saw how my “faithfulness” had not really been faithful.   It was in these moments, God laid the words of this song on my heart:

When the Music fades all is stripped away and I simply come. 
Longing just to bring something that’s of worth
That will bless your heart. 
I’ll bring you more than a song
For a song in itself is not what you have required. 
You search much deeper within through the way things appear.
You’re looking into my heart. 
I’m coming back to the Heart of Worship
When it’s all about you.  It’s all about you Jesus. 
I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it.
When it’s all about you.  It’s all about you Jesus. 

I knew “the Heart of Worship” was not where I had been. I thought about these words and I began to sing.  That day there was no music, only my shaking voice as tears ran down my cheeks. I began to bring him more than a song-I brought my heart. I found my worship in the surrender.  Sometimes I think that’s where we get lost-somewhere between the words, and the surrender.

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less”-John 3:30

He wants our worship and our relationship not to be motivated by obligation or duty, but to be motivated by love-no matter what, because it’s not about me.

“You will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul”-Deuteronomy 4:29

When we seek Him in our worship, whether it is at church, or anywhere else, even in a car alone, we will find him. 
As we begin the new year, let us resolve to allow God to have a greater more meaningful presence in our lives, and that through our surrender, we would truly come to experience the Heart of Worship.  


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Should the Church Be Writing New Songs?

That seems like an easy question to answer, doesn't it?  You say, "Well of course we should be writing new songs.  The Bible says to sing to the Lord a new song."  You would be correct.  But for me, sometimes the answers to questions like this aren't always black and white. This can be a multi-dimensional question with a multi-dimensional answer.  Let me explain...

At the conference I attended back in September, I was sitting in on a music publishing seminar.  The speakers were two very well known producers in the Christian Worship music industry that have done publishing work for Gateway, Vertical Church Band, New Life Worship and even some Christian radio artists.  Going into it, I thought it would basically be them just giving info on how to handle things if you or your church ever decided to release original songs on a large scale.  However, before introducing themselves or the class, they asked one question: "Should you be writing new songs?".  I thought this would be an easier question to answer than it was, but honestly, I was torn.  I don't know that anyone else put a great deal of thought into it since it was asked rhetorically, but I couldn't get away from trying to answer the question in my own mind.  Part of me said "Well duh.  The Bible says to sing a new song."  But then, the other part of me said, "Wait, there are already a ton of great songs out there that we can use.  Why go through the trouble of writing something that's probably going to be mediocre at best?"   When it comes to writing a song, there are a lot of things involved that most people won't see but that are extremely important.  For example, once you have words that work well together and a good song structure, you then have to come up with a melody, then arranging music.  For most, this will involve consulting with many people who can guide you in the right direction.  So again, why all this effort for something that probably won't be another "Revelation Song"?  For MPBC, the answer is because we are worship leaders and we write songs for our church.  

Last year, I saw Vertical Church Band in concert just after they released their newest album, "Church Songs".  Just the name of that album says a lot.  Is VCB saying that their newest record is so awesome that churches everywhere are going to be doing the songs and that they're to be dubbed the new standard for "church music"?  The VCB front-man, Andi Rozier actually brought this up while he was speaking and what he said was what I believe to be the perfect answer to the question.  He said that since he and his band are worship leaders in their church, they wanted to write music that suited their church and brought glory to the name of Jesus.  He made it clear that these aren't to be the new standard for church music, but rather they are literally songs for his church and what they enjoy. 

Our church is geared much like that of what Vertical Church Band offers, so their songs relate.  For your church, it may be a rendition of a hymn or even music with more space for open worship.  I believe the answer to the question is yes.  If Jesus is at the center, then write new songs.  If that means you are a worship leader and it's you and an acoustic guitar or piano, then write something that works in your church.  If it means that you're a church with a large music ministry and can consult with a few people to write a song that works in your church, then do it.   

Don't begin writing something with the sole intent of it being some sort of hit.  Write something that points people to Jesus and that makes it easy for your congregation to worship.  The only outline you need to begin writing is simply Jesus.  That's what you will need to write your own "church songs".



Monday, December 14, 2015

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

“…keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith.”  Hebrews 12:2

I tend to be a perfectionist.  I think most musicians are; however, I believe my fellow worship team members and I are starting to realize that our attempts at perfection sometimes hinder us from the things that really matter.  I’m not sure why we are all coming to this realization about the same time, but for me this mindset started a few years ago, around this time of year.

I love nativity sets and enjoy placing them throughout the house during the Christmas season.  Although I have a nativity that belonged to my grandma and others from around the globe, my favorite is one that I purchased for myself when I was a child.  Each Christmas, I pull it out of storage, carefully unwrap and set each piece out until it looks perfect.  One evening, my nieces were at the house enjoying a fun night with Auntie.  We had a picnic on the living room floor and were busy making crafts when one of the girls got up and started playing with my nativity set.  She eventually lost interest and joined me and her sisters back on the floor.  When they left later that night, I immediately went to “fix” my nativity so it would look perfect again.  Instead, I kneeled down in front of it and realized a profound lesson that had just been taught to me by a six year old child.  Because in my attempt to make things perfect, I forgot what was really important.  Here is a picture I took of my nativity that evening.

I believe it was in this moment that I stopped trying to be a perfectionist.  I realized that no matter how well we play or sing (or do anything else, for that matter), if our eyes are not on Jesus, it is meaningless.  That night, when C. turned my nativity around so that everyone (including the donkey, camel and a little lamb) was looking at Jesus, I couldn’t help but think of the words to an old hymn:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

I hope that through our worship, we always remember to play and sing our best.  He deserves our best.  But more than that, I hope that through our worship, we always keep our eyes on Him, the source and perfecter of our faith.
Celebrating the Perfect One given for imperfect me,


Monday, December 7, 2015

When It Comes to Music

When it comes to music, it’s always been my thing. I was the artsy one, terrible at most other activities. Music was naturally something I wanted to do. It still is.

I had gone to MPBC all my life and had experienced the change in music styles for years. I guess it’s safe to say that I didn’t really appreciate what we have here. When I got married, moved away and expected to find a church “just like mine”, I didn’t. Nowhere was just like MPBC. That is when I began to miss what I soon realized was the desire to pursue “excellence.” Running over a song once and saying “Eh, that’s good enough” just wasn’t enough. It wasn’t our best. So, when I moved back this past July, I reveled in the joy of lots of practice and harmonies and perfectly kept tempos. I was amazed at the changes that had occurred in two and a half years, but I liked it. It just felt good to play and sing and do it with people who really want to do their best for God. Not for show, but for glorious beauty, lifted to the Father.

God deserves our best. We know that deep down, but do we act on it? The music we play for Him should be as perfect as we can make it. The way we serve Him in any area of our life should be striving for excellence. Often times, we give Him our leftovers. I do too. He deserves more than that.

We are imperfect people and it’s okay to mess up. It’s okay to get off beat and miss a note or totally lose your place in the song, but because we take a breath and keep going, that’s the excellence. That’s what pleases God. He doesn’t need perfect people. He wants people striving for perfection so that His name is lifted higher and higher. Make His music beautiful, because it’s the best music of all.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Count Your Blessings...

I want you to ask yourself this question....Am I blessed?  In comparison to most of the world, we are, but not in the way you might think.  Yes, we are blessed in material things, but more so in a richness of spirit.  Because we have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we are able to serve Him whether it be in leading a congregation in a worship song, or simply sharing the light of Christ with others. In serving Him, we are provided with perpetual blessings. We may not always be able to see them, but great or small those blessings are always constant.  Blessings from God are one reason we praise Him and thank Him for His provisions. 

However, it gets a whole lot harder to be thankful in difficult situations, or even in those small, every day issues. It is so easy to be caught up in what’s going wrong rather than acknowledging and thanking God for all the good in our lives. The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Let’s go back and look at the “ALL” part. All includes every circumstance that we will face in our lives. I wanted to pause here to say I thought this would be fitting since we are coming out of the Thanksgiving season but the more I thought about it, we shouldn’t be “coming out of the Thanksgiving season”…..we should always be thankful!  There is no beginning or end to being thankful towards God.  “Thanksgiving” is merely a time to gather with family to give thanks together, not to say a prayer of gratitude over a meal then carry on with life.  As Christians, if we are truly serving Him, it shouldn't be difficult to find something to be grateful for all the time!  Even the little things that we so often take for granted.  

One thing I know I will always have to be thankful for is music!  Music is one of the greatest blessings in my life.  There are countless other things that I probably take for granted that I should be  praise God for.  God is constantly faithful and always good!  This truth is one thing we can always, and I mean ALWAYS, be thankful for.  He never leaves us, never forsakes us, and always loves us. He is our strength when we are weak and He is our everything.  Every Christian has at least one thing to give praise to God for…..that He is simply there.  Just the fact that He exists!  Since God is always there, we can give thanks in all circumstances, not just on Thanksgiving.
God graciously pours His blessings down upon us, so please remember to count your blessings!:)

Maddie Dowell

Monday, November 23, 2015

Be Hungry

Man I love Thanksgiving!  I love to eat, so one of the best holidays for eating is Thanksgiving.  I am kind of like Jerry Clower who said "I don't know what cholesterol is, but if you can deep fry it or put gravy on it then it will probably be pretty good".  I love dressing and gravy for starters but there are so many good things that go with the traditional Thanksgiving meal that I can't just stop with those two.  Just writing these couple of sentences has made me hungry so I think I will stop now and go eat some lunch!

45 min later:  Okay I'm back now and I feel much better.  I know that many of you are looking forward to the special meals that will take place over the coming weeks and you are thinking about your favorite dishes that you can't wait to dive into.  Do we ever "hunger" for the things of God in that same way?  We should!   I'm afraid that most of us would have to answer in the negative that we don't hunger that much for the things of God.  Lord I pray that you give us a hunger for Godly things.

In September of 1620, 102 Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower to head to the New World that would later become America.  They headed to this New World so that they could have freedom to worship God.  Five of those on board died during the journey and never saw the New World when land was spotted in November, and before the first winter was over 45 colonist had lost their lives.  These people were hungry to worship God, they were so hungry that they headed out to the unknown and almost half died in their pursuit.  During this Thanksgiving we should be thankful that almost 400 years ago people saw a need to leave everything behind in pursuit of religious freedom.  I could go off now on another topic of how America has become a nation striving for "Freedom from Religion" rather than "Freedom of Religion" but I will save that for another day.

Here at MPBC we recently went through a sermon series on the Beatitudes and were challenged to hunger and thirst for righteousness.  My hope is that we will be hungry and that this hunger will lead us to worship Jesus through our singing, praying, reading the word or hearing a good sermon.   Psalm 63:4-5 says "I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.  I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you."   Just as a rich meal of dressing and gravy satisfies us so should we be satisfied as we praise God for all of his wonderful blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Beauty of Progression

    I'm not sure about you, but I'm a person who likes the idea of pushing forward, learning new things and progressing in my skill, even if I don't always feel like doing it.  Notice I said that I like the idea of it. Sometimes that idea is easier thought of than carried out. I think that this is something that anyone with any skill set will experience.  

    I've witnessed that first hand already with our new album project that will release next year.  Our last project, "Greater Still", was released about a year ago and as far as recording goes, I've had some down time since then.  That down time was nice, but it didn't come without it's disadvantages.  For the new album, I began scratch tracks (a dry run through of the song to give the drummer something to record to) about a month ago and started to get back in the mindset of producing a record.  However, before getting too far into it, I had the idea that I would listen to the previous album to see if there's anything that I'd like to do differently, or if there's anything that I would change for the new album.  At this point, I hadn't listened to a single song on it since we received all the copies in, because from listening to them over and over while mixing them, I was just about sick of it. Within the first minute of the first track I was a bit taken back, to say the least.  Let me tell you that I am not ashamed to say that  I want to do everything differently! I'm talking about everything from scratch tracks to final mixdown...I want to do it all completely and totally different!  Just as much as this fact scared the living day lights out of me, it also excited me.  When I began thinking about it, I would have been really worried had I not found anything I would change.  For me, that was a sign of progression.  

       I think that listening to the previous record was a great wake up call for me.  Had I not heard it, I would have probably subconsciously followed some old habits.  It reminded me of the importance of learning and honing a skill-set.  After all, whatever we do for the Lord, we should attempt to do it with the utmost skill and give it our best.  I know that can sound a bit elementary at times, but it is so true.  No matter what you do, this will apply.  Just like everyone who has a skill and especially one they use for the Kindgom of God, I always want to keep getting better.  I'm a person who loves to learn, so I pray that as long as I have breath, I'm learning.  Not just in this area, but in everything concerning Jesus.  In a year and a half, I hope to begin yet another album project with pages worth of things that I want to change and do differently!  To me, that is where the beauty of progression lies; knowing you are always giving it everything you have for the magnification of Jesus.



Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Here I Am To Worship

    This is the title to a fairly popular and well known praise and worship song.  It was written by Tim Hughes.  He penned the words on many other worship songs including Beautiful One and Name Above All Names.  It took him nine months to finalize the lyrics and complete Here I Am To Worship.   I have sung the song many times before as I am sure many of you have as well.  It is powerful and leads me to a place of humbleness and nearness to God each time I sing it.  Although the whole song is beautifully written and each line equally strong, I would like to focus on the phrase "here I am to worship".

    Over the past few weeks and months, God has been revealing to me glimpses of how people worship.   I am blessed to have a different perspective than most of the congregation.  As a member of the worship team, I have the privilege of standing on stage for our worship sets and even leading worship most Sundays.  From this view I can see hundreds of other people worship.  Over the years, I have watched people grow in their ability to "freely" worship our Savior.  Some that used to be afraid to stand or afraid to raise their hand, now do so eagerly.  I have seen them grow spiritually.  I see the look in their eyes coming from their heart silently shouting, "here I am to worship".  Philippians 2:5 states that we should "have this mind among ourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus."  This is the scripture reference that inspired Hughes to write these lyrics.  Worship is an attitude that we must allow to develop and grow as our relationship grows.  That's what I 've seen happen at our church.  People from all walks of life and various ages silently saying, "here I am to worship".

    As of late, God has led to me to two experiences that have not occurred while I have been leading music.  The first happened a few weeks ago.  It was a Wednesday evening and we were singing praise songs.  My daughter, 15, standing beside me nudged me to look to the right.  I glanced and saw what you now see in the picture.  It is one of our members holding his infant son.  I was moved by the look in the baby's eyes.  His dad was worshiping with hands raised while the baby watched so intently.  The picture is a bit grainy, but you get the gist.  Psalm 143:6 says "I stretch out my hand to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land."  This is exactly what the father is doing; stretching out his hand.  This baby is being led by his earthly father to develop an attitude of worship to his heavenly father.  How cool is that?  Dad's face shouts, "here I am to worship".  He hasn't a clue the impact he is having on his son.  Our church doesn't have a nursery.  We want our families to worship together and this is why.  What a loss for this baby to be in a room separated from this experience!  Consequently, my own daughter, having also been raised "in the sanctuary" noticed what was happening.  She was growing in her own attitude of worship.  My heart shouted this is a win, win!

    The second experience happened on a Wednesday night.  Some of our younger females were leading in worship.  One of them, who is now maybe 14 years old was leading a song and playing guitar.  I could stop there and be amazed.  Leading and playing simultaneously is NOT an easy task, not even for an adult.  What happened next brought me to tears.  I saw her lift her sweet little hand to our Savior.  I stared in awe.  I have watched this young lady grow her skills and talents, but this was a deeper, more important step.  She was freely and openly unhindered in her worship.  She had reached a whole new level.  What a wonderful way to say to her Savior, "here I am to worship".  This pleases the heart of God.  

    All of this may sound unimportant to some readers and that's okay.  But as of late, God has laid this on my heart.  He has been intentional in showing me the significance of these acts of worship and reminded me that we are all there to worship.  We have to put aside ourselves and say to Him, "I am here Lord, to worship."  That is the goal of our worship team EVERY Sunday morning.  We believe that God has called us not only to worship in ourselves, but to take part in leading other believers to His presence.  My hope is that through this post, you will take the time to think about your worship experience.  When is the last time or has there ever been a time when you just simply said to your heart, "here I am to worship"?  Don't worry about what others think or what they might say.  Just submit to Him and I pray that you can have an experience like no other.  John 4:23 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."  He is seeking you to worship Him and He is worthy of our praise!


Monday, November 2, 2015

I Feel Like the One Losing

As I look at facebook, read emails, and hear of those around me hurting so badly, I am burdened for them all. It seems like in some way we are all “losing”. Whether it be our health, finances, or relationships, someone is struggling. I can clearly stand and say that my Father God has saved me from so much, but I still struggle and am no different from all the others.

Yes, my survival is nothing but a miracle. One that I will share until the day I die. But it's a daily struggle. I think about what it’s going to be like when I'm older with this now broken body. I cry often in the arms of my husband with pain that can't be described. This body is a daily reminder of my accident, my struggles and what is to come. But one thing God places ever present in my mind is a peace knowing that this body will pass away and a new one will be given ( NOT BROKEN).

Often when my pain reminds me of why I was hurt so badly (Satan tries to remind me of the past), I am faced with the question of why?  The song below says it all so easily…"Lord give me grace to forgive them, because I feel like the one losing”. 

It’s become a prayer for me. Yes, I have forgiven this man who struck me..but I can't forget the pain, loss, and suffering. At those moments, my Father God whispers so clearly (When “he” reminds you of your past…you just remind him of his future”). You see we can be hurt, broken hearted, and just plain damaged by others. And as humans we want to “get them back” for some reason. We feel that this will make it all better. This is not the case. Anger, hatred, and revenge will eat you alive and bring you to depths you never thought possible.

When we choose to face our struggles head on, knowing that they are already in the hands of Father God, we can make it through anything. I can say that I am happier now (broken, pain filled, and damaged), more than ever before, because I have experienced the clarity of God. He's here now and forever more. Just let him handle things.

Let's promise to let Him shine thru our brokenness so that others can see Him thru us.


*to read more from Jessica, check out her blog at: 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Are We There Yet?

We all went on trips when we were younger, and one of the main questions on our mind was “are we there yet?” No matter how far we were traveling, whether it was 15 miles or 300, that one question was always asked. I can only imagine how annoying it can be for parents to keep hearing the same question over and over again. I know from experience that my parents were not too fond of that question. So my dad, being the resourceful man he is, found a way to keep us from asking every 50 miles “are we there yet?”

For the curious parents out there that may have experienced the certain annoyance from your children asking the preverbial question, this is how my dad kept my sister and I from constantly asking.  He had recently read an article online that was entitled something like “Tips for the Traveling Family.” One of the main tips was about the question “are we there yet?” The article said to give your kids quarters. Yes, quarters. Each family could decide on a certain amount of money. Whatever you felt was necessary. My parents determined that five dollars was a reasonable amount. At the time five dollars was a lot of money to me. The catch to receiving the quarters was that if you asked “are we there yet,” you had to pay a quarter. Of course as a child I was not going to lose the money I had been given. Therefore my sister and I NEVER asked “are we there yet?”

I am sure by now you are all wondering what the point is to this slight look into my childhood. Well I have personally been dealing with God’s timing in my life. We all use the metaphor of God being in the driver’s seat of a car and we are on the passenger side. No matter what you are dealing with in life, we all question God’s timing. Sometimes while in the car of life I want to look at God and just ask “are we there yet?” Recently I was looking for a job, and nothing seemed to be working out. I know God had to be getting tired of me praying and asking “are we there yet?” In the long run his timing is always perfect and will continue to be. I now have a job and truly love it, but I will say that I am glad God doesn’t give us quarters that we have to pay every time we ask “are we there yet?”

As followers of Christ we have to have faith that while riding in the car with God he has our best interest in mind. Even if we have to take the back roads, which always take longer, He has a reason for leading us the way he does in life. I just pray that I will stop asking “are we there yet?”, and just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Much Love


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Bethel - Ever Be

A couple of weeks ago, I came across Bethel Music's new album, titled "We Will Not Be Shaken". To be honest, I really don't listen to a ton of Bethel stuff, but I always like to hear new music being put out.  My favorite song on that album is called "Ever Be".  This song just does it for me musically and I really like the lyrics.  To me, it sums up not only what we mean to God, but also our response to the love that He has for us.  As Christians, we always talk about our "level of devotion" to God, but this song spins it.  The first line mentions the devotion that God has towards us.  It's not terribly often that I hear a new worship song that just makes me think, but this one did that.  So, I'll have the lyrics below and the music video for you to listen to.  Hopefully you will enjoy it in the same way that I did!



"Ever Be"

Your love is devoted like a ring of solid gold
Like a vow that is tested like a covenant of old
Your love is enduring through the winter rain
And beyond the horizon with mercy for today

Faithful you have been and faithful you will be
You pledge yourself to me and it's why I sing

Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips
Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips

You father the orphan, Your kindness makes us whole
You shoulder our weakness and Your strength becomes our own
You're making me like You, clothing me in white
Bringing beauty from ashes, You will have Your bride

Free of all her guilt and rid of all her shame
And known by her true name and it's why I sing

You will be praised, You will be praised 
With angels and saints we sing, worthy are You Lord

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A New Revelation of Jesus

One of the great things about worship is that Jesus can show up at any time.  And many times He shows up in a way that we didn’t expect Him to.  And that’s what this week’s post (devotion) is going to be about.  And to do so, we’re going to look at an experience of the Apostle John in the book of Revelation, chapter 1.
9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Here we see the Apostle John, and he is having a rough time in life.  Historians tell us that he is probably in his early to mid 80’s at this time.  He has gotten in trouble with the Roman Emperor Domitian for teaching and preaching the gospel.  Domitian initially tried to kill him by boiling him in oil.  But it didn’t work.  John suffered no physical harm.  And so, Domitian exiles him to this island called Patmos to work in the marble quarries.

John’s description of where he is located is very telling.  If he were somewhere well known, he would have just said, for example, “I’m in Rome”.  But he didn’t, because he’s stuck on this island that no one knows about.  And no one knows about it, because there’s nothing there.  Not then, not now.  Currently, there are cruise ships that will take you to Patmos for 3-6 hour visits.  Do you know why?  Because it is mentioned right here in the book of Revelation (the cave where John received this revelation is the highlight of the tour).  So John describes it as the island called Patmos.  He is stuck in this place called Patmos.
Like John, are you stuck somewhere today?  His was called Patmos.  What is yours called?  Is it called depression?  Or worry?  Or fear?  Is it a place called lost or lonely?  What’s it called?

We are all somewhere. 

I want you to know that you are not alone.  John writes that he is our brother in tribulation (suffering).  He suffered just like we do.  And our suffering unites us together.  We are all a part of the family of God and we all suffer together.  We are all brothers and sisters in good times and bad.  Wherever you are, you are not alone.

But suffering doesn’t just unite us with each other.  It also unites us with Jesus.  Suffering makes us more like Him.  

So, here is John, on this island called Patmos, probably thinking he was going to die here.  An elderly man, working in a mine with a pick-ax doesn’t sound like someone with much of a future.  I’m sure he was down and needed something or someone to give him a little bit of hope.

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

There’s lots of good stuff here with the voice like a trumpet and the seven churches and the seven lampstands, and Jesus walking in the midst of the lampstands and what that means, but I want us to jump to verse 13.

John writes that he saw one “like” a son of man.  Jesus’ favorite name for himself was “son of man”.  So, this was Jesus.  And John knew Jesus.  He was one of Jesus’ first disciples.  He’s the one disciple who was present at the cross.  He knew what Jesus looked like.  He knew what Jesus sounded like.  But this Jesus was different.  He was “like” a son of man, but He was so much more.  He was dressed differently, his eyes burned like fire, his hair was white like snow, his feet were bronze, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. 

When John was at his lowest, Jesus showed up.  And He didn’t show up in a way that John had ever seen before.  This was a new revelation of Jesus.  And when we are down, when we are at our lowest, what we truly need is a new revelation of Jesus.  

Now this next part is my favorite.  John sees Jesus and just drops to the ground as though he were dead.  But then Jesus lays his right hand on John and says “Fear not”.  His right hand!  The same hand that one verse earlier is holding stars is now touching John!  Even Jesus in this glorified state (white hair, eyes of flames) is still full of compassion. 

Then Jesus says, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”

Considering his age and being exiled to work in a mine, John was probably very aware of death and how close he was to it.  So, Jesus says, don’t worry about death.  Not only have I overcome death, I’ve got the keys to it.  I was thinking about this, and while every once in a while I do think about my own mortality, I’m not really scared of death.  But there are things in my life that scare me to death.  The health and safety of my family being the biggest ones.  Yours might be different.  But I believe Jesus is telling us that whether we’re scared of death or just scared to death, “Fear not, because I’ve got the keys to death and I have overcome it”. 

But maybe death and fear aren’t the places you are in.  Maybe your life just feels like a living Hades.  It’s overwhelming and exhausting and you don’t know what to do.  I want you to know that Jesus says “Fear not, I’ve got the keys to Hades as well and I have overcome it”.

Through Christ we can overcome anything.  We are conquerors and we can be victorious!

And I believe that the first step in overcoming is to have a fresh revelation of Jesus.  And for me, worship is one of the best ways to see Jesus and experience Him in new and refreshing ways.  And so I hope the next time you have the opportunity to worship, you'll take advantage of it.  Because you never know when Jesus will show up.

Worship Big!


Monday, October 5, 2015

I Don't Feel Like Doing This

Can I be honest?  I’ve been feeling a lot like what the title states for the past couple of months.  Many Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings have come and gone, and I’ve not really had the best attitude in the world towards playing music at church.  However, after doing this for close to 20 years of my life, I know that this is just a season and it will pass eventually; it always does. I have been so incredibly busy outside of church, it’s difficult to get excited about much of anything these days…and yet I still do it…even if I don’t feel like it or have the best attitude about it.  

Whenever confronting these feelings, the following verse comes to mind, especially in playing music:

"Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs."  (Psalm 100:2)

If you are like me, you may have grown up singing the hymn “Serve the Lord with Gladness.” With sermons and songs written about doing this, it has always bothered me whenever I sort of don’t feel like “doing church” on certain days.  At this point in this blog, if you are rolling your eyes and muttering phrases like “Get over it,” “I work harder than he does, and I’m happy serving all of the time,” “First-world problems,” or “I never get tired of serving my church in my ministry,” this blog is not for you.  Please stop reading, and I hope you have an amazing day!

If you ever feel yourself burning out or sometimes growing weary of doing your ministry at church, keep reading.

Before I go any further, yes, I realize and know that it’s an honor and a privilege to play on the praise team, and I know not to take it for granted.  Also, I feel extremely blessed to live in a country where we can go to church without having to hide (but if we did, I have a big basement…and a PA system…and guitars…and a drum set…and chairs.  Just sayin’…).  With that said, I’m sorry if I don’t feel like skipping across the parking lot at 7:30am every Sunday.  It’s just hard some days, you know?

Here’s where the problem for me lies: It’s been drilled into my head and into my heart for so many years that those of us in leadership-type positions have to be really, really happy whenever we show up to church every week. I’ve been indoctrinated in the idea that if we aren’t practically turning cartwheels whenever we enter the church building, there is something wrong with us.  Somewhere along the way, I accepted the idea that it’s downright sinful to not be happy while serving.  If you have ever felt guilty of feeling a little burned out in your particular ministry, may I be so bold and say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.  How am I to judge your feelings?  Your pain?  Your exhaustion?

So, what does the Bible say? I looked up verses regarding being a servant trying to figure all of this out.  You know what I found?  Besides the Psalm 100 verse written above, I don’t know if there are many other verses out there that deal with serving the Lord with gladness.  Instead of “being happy,” other words seem to be pretty common in regards to being a servant:  Righteousness, honor, love, trust, goodness, faithful, blessing, friend, etc.  When it comes to servanthood, the last I checked the goal is for Jesus to say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”  I don’t think that there’s an additional clause that states “…but you should have been happier.”  Thanks to His omnipresence, He sees what we do.  While a lot of the time a byproduct of being a servant is happiness and fulfillment, I’d rather shoot for faithfulness, loyalty, and friendship with God.

I love my daughter, and I’ve never been loved by someone in this world the way that she loves me.  We have a great relationship, and I hope to keep it that way.  We are open and honest with each other, and she has become a tremendous helper to our house.  Whenever I’m working on something, she is ALWAYS the first to ask, “Can I help?”  At least a few times a week, I have to ask her to clean her room.  While there is a certain level of satisfaction after she’s done, her personal satisfaction (or happiness) is not the point of my asking her; I ask her to do it because I need it to get done.  She does not feel like it a lot of the time, but she does it because it’s the right thing to do.  She does it because she was asked.  She does it because she is loyal.  Most of all, she does it because she loves her dad.  There’s a real deep pride that I have whenever my kids do things that they don’t want to do, and yet they do them anyways.  I think of this whenever I’m dragging on Sunday mornings or when I pull into the parking lot on Wednesday nights straight from work, knowing that I won’t be getting home until about 10:30 that night.  

Sure, there is some satisfaction after playing a good set.  It makes me happy to see other people worshipping, and I enjoy the people that I play with.  With that said, I don’t play to entertain at church.  I don’t sit at home and practice a few hours every week just because it’s fun.  

I don’t play drums at church because it makes me happy all of the time.
I play drums at church because I love my Dad, and He asked me to.  I really want to make Him proud.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Never Gets Old

Do you ever do anything that just gets old after a while?  Whether it's work related, running errands or just chores that need to get done at home, some things just get old pretty quickly.  It seems that this life can be full of things that are kind of bland or boring. Somethings are just downright dreadful! But with the busy lives we have, it's inevitable; some things are just going to get old.

Now, for me, there are a few things that I don't seem to grow tired of.  Honestly, the first thing that comes to my mind is playing with my 2 year old son, Elijah.  Every day when I come home, we play on the floor together.  It never fails, as soon as I walk in the door, he is pulling at me trying to get me down on the floor to play with him.  No matter how tired I am I absolutely can't get enough of it.  That has to be one of my favorite things to do!  Another thing for me is quiet time.  We probably don't think about it in this way too often, but for me, when I do get quiet time, I enjoy it.  Whether it's 10 minutes after the kids have gone to bed or the drive to work; quiet time just doesn't get old for me.  

However, during our worship set on Sunday, I was reminded of something else that never gets old:  seeing and hearing God's people worship.  For me, it's so easy to see Sundays and Wednesdays as a chore. Since I'm very much a "doer", I find myself getting caught up in the moment, making sure the MultiTracks fire when they need to, making sure that I'm not forgetting anything and that I've prepared enough, making sure I'm on the right patch on my pedal board, etc.  It's been a while since I've just chilled out and looked out over the congregation while they worship.  I love the sight and sound of a multi-generational congregation all singing together and raising hands together.  In my mind, that must be just a little bit of heaven on earth.  

That's what I love about MPBC.  Our church loves to worship.  And man, let me tell you; it never...gets...old.



Monday, September 21, 2015

Beards and Skinny Jeans

Two weeks ago I attended my annual worship conference in Florida.  As always, it was a great time of worship, training, and refreshing.  And I thought with this week’s blog post, I would share with you some of my observations while there.  So, here goes:
  1. Music people have a hard time being punctual.  Each of the main sessions began at a very specific time with the doors opening 30 minutes early to give everyone an opportunity to find a seat before the session began.  And still, about half of the 1500 people in attendance couldn’t seem to find their way into the building until the sessions had already begun.  It kind of reminded me of our early service on Sundays where most of the congregation doesn’t show up until after the opening song.
  2. Most music/worship ministries are small.  I had an opportunity to meet and talk with a number of worship leaders from around the country and most of them are part of worship ministries that include themselves and 1 or 2 other people.  When I would share all the people we have involved, they would just drop their jaws in disbelief.
  3. Everyone uses loops/multitracks.  We started using multitracks (loops) at the end of the spring and they’ve really added a lot (musically) to our worship times and our overall sound.  Well, every group/band/artist at the conference used them except Josh Wilson (but when you can play an acoustic guitar like he can, you don’t need loops).  Even bigtime Christian artists like Steven Curtis Chapman (who led in worship during one session) used them. 
  4. Beards.  Musicians love to have facial hair.  Whether it’s a goatee, sideburns, soul patch, or just a 5 o’clock shadow, music people love to decorate their faces.  And apparently 2015 is the year of the beard.  I’ve never seen so many beards.  Although my favorite were the guys with full beards and long hair pulled into buns.
  5. Skinny jeans.  What is it with musicians and skinny jeans?  To even think of pulling off the skinny jeans look as a guy, you’ve got to be super skinny.  Most of the guys I saw were not.  And don’t worry; there isn’t enough money on the planet to make me wear skinny jeans.
  6. Vocal issues.  Wow, the number of men leading who had their voices crack.  They sounded like me singing “Great I Am” at our 8:30 a.m. early service.  Maybe the notes come out, maybe not.  It was the same for them.
  7. Technical issues.  The right lyrics never seemed to be on the screen.  Sometimes the MC’s mic would be on.  Sometimes not.  When videos would play, there was normally 10 seconds of silence before the sound was turned on.  And during the last session, one of the projectors came loose and almost fell.  You’ll never appreciate MPBC’s tech team more than when you go to a conference.  They are the BEST!!!

So, that’s just a few of the things I observed.  I’ll share more in the coming weeks and months.  And who knows?  I might even grow myself a full beardJ.

Worship Big!


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Pursuit of Perfectionism

I tend to be a major perfectionist. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but most of the time it’s a bad thing. I really beat myself up if I don't do something exactly how I had planned and I beat myself up the most when I mess up during a performance of some sort. That can be a major pride thing for me. I am slowly, but surely learning that I shouldn't be this way. Yes, I do need to be concerned about doing the best that I can, but I don't need to be angry with myself or anyone else if something doesn't go exactly as I had planned. 

I have recently been thinking about perfectionism in the church setting. If something doesn't go exactly how we had practiced or planned on a Sunday or Wednesday it is so easy to get completely caught up in the mistake/mistakes. It’s easy to think, “Well that ruined the moment.” But did it really ruin the moment? It’s interesting because when I’m watching people perform or lead something and they mess up I find it endearing. It’s actually encouraging to me to see that they are real people who are trying their best, but sometimes come up short. I have to remind myself that when I am beating myself up about my mistakes I am taking my focus off of God and putting it back on myself. That is most definitely a sin.

Perfectionism is a delusion. The bible says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” and Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.”

We are not perfect people so that makes it pretty hard to accomplish everything perfectly. This can be a touchy subject because it’s easy to fall into the world of, “Only God is perfect so we shouldn't even try.” That is a commonly preached misconception. The Bible says in Matthew 5:48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We are to strive to be like our Heavenly Father with the understanding that it is okay if we have times of failure. Ultimately, the glory is to be given to God no matter what happens.

I am learning to give up the pursuit of perfectionism and pursue giving the glory to God at all times. In the long run I think that will be a lot more rewarding and a lot less frustrating. I am so thankful to have a perfect Savior to set the example for us. We have been made pure by Him and now we must continue to strive to be like Him in all things. The next time you have a mess up moment remember that the glory is to be given to God! He is the reason we are hereJ.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Next Step

By nature I am a worrier, I can’t deny it.  I try not to worry but oftentimes I let worry steal my joy.  I know that God is in control and that I have nothing to fear and God has never failed me.  Last week I had to make some decisions about buying a car.  I hate buying cars.  It literally makes me sick to spend that kind of money, but my old car had been in the shop 3 times recently and I was still having problems. So, it was time to put her out to pasture.  When I buy a car it is like buying a horse, I just need good dependable transportation. It doesn’t matter what color or anything as long as it will get me from point A to point B.  Last week I was in Matthew for my morning devotions and on Monday I read Matthew 1-6.  Chapter 6, verses 25-34 was what I needed to hear.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Now I had read this passage many times and I know that I shouldn’t worry but these verses were just what I needed to hear from the Lord.  Isn’t it funny how God always gives us what we need, when we need it?  Well I needed to hear this word loud and clear so for the next two days I re-read Chapters 1-6 again, always ending in Chapter 6 with a clear word about not worrying. 

While reading this passage an old song came to my mind.  The song is entitled “The Next Step”.  I remember hearing the Inspirations sing this song when I was a very young boy and I hadn’t heard it in many years.  With today’s technology it is not hard to find anything with an internet search. So, I found the words to that old song so here they are:

Verse 1
Why worry about tomorrow.
Why worry when your steps grow slow.
If your life has been lived for Jesus,
You don't have much farther to go.

For the next hand you shake could be the hand of the Saviour.
Your next step could be on streets of purest gold.
Your next meal could be the marriage supper,
And the next touch you feel He could be blessing your soul.

Verse 2
Be strong and keep on working;
Don't be angry when things go wrong;
Don't give up for it's almost over;
All signs are pointing toward home.

The words of this song make it clear why we should not worry because we don't know where our next step will be.  I also found a recording of this song by the Freeman's.  This is not a contemporary/praise and worship song like we typically do at MPBC, but the words are great!  My hope and desire is that some of the songs that we sing now will pop back into the minds of people and be an encouragement at a time when encouragement is needed.  Maybe tomorrow or maybe even 20-30 years from now (if the Lord does not return before then).


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Stirring the Soul

Have you ever been listening to music and you hear a new song and it just does it for you?  I mean, you just get it.  Whether it’s the music or the lyrics or both, it just moves something within you.  Well, it happened to me last week.  I was listening to a new CD and when this song came on, I just had to listen to it over and over again.  And I’ll be honest with you.  I’m grateful that moments like this still occur.  I’ve been involved in music ministry within the Church for over 20 years and sometimes I get a little bit burned out.  I listen to, teach, play, sing, and perform music all the time.  And sometimes I grow a little bit numb to it all.  But then there are moments like last week where it all becomes new and fresh and exciting again.

Psalm 96:1 says “Sing to the Lord a new song”.  For years I’ve always seen this verse as a justification for why we write new worship songs.  Because you can’t sing “new” songs to the Lord if no one is writing anything “new”.  But recently, I’ve started to see this verse a little bit differently.  I think that one of the reasons we need to sing new songs to the Lord is because they can re-stir our souls in a way that old, worn out songs can’t anymore.   That’s not to say that those old songs aren’t of any use anymore.  It probably just means that we need to take a lengthy break before singing/playing them again.  That way when we pull them out again, they become fresh again.   The old becomes new.

At MPBC, we try to introduce one new song a month. Hopefully, it’s one that moves the soul and helps to encourage people in their walk of faith.  And just in case you are wondering, the song that I heard last week and had to listen to over and over again, is “Jesus, We Love You” by Bethel Music.  Here's a link to the video:  I hope it re-stirs your soul the way it did mine.

Worship Big!


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The New Normal

I promise you, I don’t mean to sound like I am complaining, but sometimes I wonder if I am a glutton for punishment or just a plain idiot.  As the church has grown, the worship ministry has grown with it.  So, where once it was just me, the pianist, and the choir, we now have multiple worship teams that I am in charge of.  We have 2 Sunday morning worship teams that alternate Sundays, plus the worship choir.  And what a blessing they are!  God has blessed our church with so much talent and with a group that really wants to lead in worship.
But it’s getting to be a lot of people.  I looked at next month’s Praise Team/Band schedule and there are 27 different names on it.  TWENTY-SEVEN!  And that doesn’t even include the choir.  So, in 10 years, we’ve gone from 2 to 27.  That is unbelievable!  And don't get me wrong, I am extremely grateful for each one of them.  And for the most part, I’ve gotten used to scheduling this many people each month.  They are broken up into 2 teams with Team 1 handling the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month and Team 2 handling the 2nd and 4th Sundays.  For months with a 5th Sunday and our 1st Wednesday services, I just mix and match from the 2 teams.   And the 2 team system seems to be working.  People aren’t getting burned out like they used to.  Plus, we are able to get some of our young people involved.  And they need as much experience as possible because some of us (me included) are getting older and won’t be around forever. 
But now that we are going to 3 Sunday morning services each week (in October), things are changing again.  We are now adding a full Wednesday night service each week.  And that means I get to create another team to handle Wednesday nights.  I already have a few people that will play each week, but the rest will be Sunday morning team members who have agreed to fill-in on a once-a-month basis for the Wednesday night service.  That means that every Wednesday night will feature a completely different group of singers/musicians.  YIKES!  

But here’s the thing.  We don’t have a choice.  Our church is growing and I have to have this new team to put people on to.  Right now, if a new acoustic guitar player or pianist or bass player were to join the church and want to get involved, I don’t have a place for them.  We’re kind of full.  And I don’t want us to ever be like that.  I know of churches where they have their worship team in place and there are no openings.  Like EVER.  I don’t want us to be like that.  If God brings talented singers/musicians to Mt. Pleasant who want to get involved, then I want to have a place for them. 

So, I’ll just keep doing my best to schedule everyone.  This is our new normal.  And in the end I believe it will work out very well.  But until we get to that point, just know that if I have a crazed look in my eyes, it’s probably because my brain is friedJ.

Worship Big!