Monday, April 27, 2015

Blessed

We are all blessed but it is so easy to forget it sometimes.  When you are sick, when the money is running low, when someone lets you down, you fill in the blank because I know you have those times when you get down and start feeling sorry for yourself, we all do. 

I have to travel a lot for work but when I am finally in my office for a few days I sometimes eat lunch at my desk.  A few days ago I was eating lunch at my desk (cornfield beans, stew beef and cornbread); man I love good country cooking.  While eating I decided to search the internet for a song that I had heard earlier in the week that I was considering singing sometime in the future.  Well I found the song I was searching for and as any good YouTube junkie does I couldn’t stop with just one song.  One of the songs recommended was an old song that I remembered from my childhood.  The song was sung by Gordon Mote (the singer of the first song I was searching for) and Aaron Crabb and it was entitled “Thank You Lord For Your Blessings On Me”.  Well needless to say while listening to this song I had church and I felt the presence of the Lord in a powerful way.  I know that I am blessed but I all too often lose focus on what is really important.  The words of the song are so simple and the melody line is not complex but what a message!  Music does not have to be big but it has to speak to the heart, while our MPBC Praise Team does several “Big” songs we want all of the music we do speak to your heart.  Here are the words to the song and I hope that you will let them speak to you as they did to me. 

"While the world looks upon me, as I struggle along
They say I have nothing, but they are so wrong
In my heart, I'm rejoicing, how I wish, they could see
Thank you Lord, for your blessings on me

There's a roof up above me
I've a good place to sleep
There's food on my table
And shoes on my feet
You gave me your love Lord
And a fine family
Thank you Lord, for your blessings on me

Now I know I'm not wealthy, my clothes, they're not new
I don't have much money, but Lord I have you
And that's all that matters, though the world may not see
Thank you Lord, for your blessings on me"

The reality is that when compared to most of the word we are wealthy and we still complain and want more.  If we had nothing could we really say “but Lord I have You”? Whatever you have going on in your life you can say “but Lord I have You” and if you know Christ as your Savior then He will give you what you need to get through the tough times and you can say “Thank You Lord For Your Blessings On Me”.

Here is the song and I hope it speaks to you as well. 

video



Geoff

Monday, April 20, 2015

Would You Believe You?

When I was an undergraduate at Appalachian State, I had an amazing professor who taught teaching theory through the College of Education.  She was always enthusiastic about what we were learning, and her smile would make her students’ day.  On warm spring days, we would go sit in the grass under a shade tree with our books.  “Don’t take notes,” she would say.  “Just listen and think,” she would gently tell us as knowledge and wisdom poured from her small, seasoned voice of reason and discourse.  She helped us to learn more about teaching in addition to ourselves, but she did so through a series of gentle cerebral nudges and playful devil’s advocate questions.  Although I always looked forward to her classes, there’s one particular lesson that stands out.

It was an ordinary day.  She came in…no smile, and arms full of books and materials. She hurriedly slammed her supplies on the front desk in such a way where the students were immediately sorry for their regular before-class chatter the professor had walked into.  Sternly, she stated, “Get out a sheet of paper.  Number your papers one to ten.”  We scrambled to get our notebooks open.  There were a few whispers which were met with a forced, “No! Talking!” 

Good Lord.  We were scared.

She firmly stated from the front of the room behind the lectern:

“Question one: From the reading last night, fill in the blank - Normative philosophies or theories of education make use of the results of what sort of inquiry?”

As soon as pencil hit paper, she was off again…

“Question two…”

[Interruption from a student] “Hey, can you give us a sec….”

“No. Question two: In a philosophical normative theory of education, there will normally be propositions of several kinds.  There are five.  Name two.”

“Question three…”

“Wait, can you repeat…..?”

“No. Question three…”

As the quiz went on, there was a nervous stillness to the whole room.  Some stared at their papers.  I think I heard a couple start to sniffle. I’m pretty sure no one looked at the professor.

Finally, question ten was over.  Then from the front of the room, we heard a gentle, familiar voice:

“Eyes up here, please.” 

We didn’t move.

[Gently] “It’s ok, everyone.  Look up.”

As the class slowly lifted our heads, we noticed the icy, angry, piercing eyes of our professor were noticeably softer. While her tears never fell, they were there.

In a reassuring voice, she asked, “So what just happened here?”

[Student, after a long pause] “We took a quiz.”

“No, not that.  What happened just now? When I asked you to take the quiz?  And then the quiz? And me not repeating questions and telling everyone to stop talking?  What happened?”

[Another student] “You came in, and you were so mad at us! For no reason!  You just came in and starting asking these crazy questions!” [Voice cracking] “We were so scared.  We didn’t know what to do.”

The professor, in her kind, gentle voice, said, “Always remember this.  Whenever you are in front of a group of people, it’s always up to you to set the tone.  Before I came in, you guys were in such a good mood, and I was able to change the tone of the entire class in just a matter of moments.  Within ten seconds, you went from happy and chatting with one another to scared and desperate.  So always remember this – you are in control of the tone for the room in front of you. So, on the days you have a crummy morning, smile anyway.  Not excited about the lesson? Be excited anyway.  Didn’t get a good night’s sleep?  Act well-rested.  It’s not about being fake; it’s about setting the tone for those in front of you.  Make them believe you.”

This is one of the most powerful lessons I’ve ever learned, and I have carried this with me for years.  Not only do I use this in the classroom, but I also use it playing music.  When you play and/or sing, do you actually believe it?  Of course you do.  Now comes the hard part:

Make THEM believe you do.  


Remember, it’s up to YOU to set the tone for the room in front of you.  If you (and I) as leaders don’t look like we believe what we are playing and singing, how can we expect the congregation to believe us and follow?  There are choir members and congregation members that put me to shame when it comes to outward expressions of praise and honor. Listen, it’s ok to act like you are enjoying what you are doing when you are in front of people.  This is why I believe that it’s so important to watch the videos which are posted each week.  You can learn a tremendous amount by watching yourself.  I feel like I always look mad when I play, and I’m working on this; however, with four limbs doing four different things and a click track in my ears, it’s really difficult to remember to smile.  For now, I’m trying to make an effort to at least look up more while I play and make eye contact with people in the congregation.   Hey, it’s a start!

Whether you are leading a song, singing in the choir, or playing an instrument, try to watch yourself on the videos and ask this:

Would YOU believe YOU?  

It’s definitely something to think about.

So let’s say that you have watched a few videos of yourself, and you would like to take some steps that would help with what you project from stage.  Here are some things that I’ve found as I poked around online on this subject.

1. Sing and/or play like you mean it!  I watch these videos of artists who do the songs that we do.  I believe Kari Jobe when she’s belting out the words to “Forever.”  I believe the different singers of Vertical Church when I see them.  Same goes for the folks at Hillsong.  Do you believe them but wouldn’t believe yourself as a singer/musician?  What are they doing that you are not?  What are they projecting that you would like to have or do?

2. Open your eyes!  It’s a funny thing when playing or singing in front of people.  You are in front of everyone, but for some reason, it can be uncomfortable looking at people although they are looking right at you.  Look at this this way: If someone came up to you to talk to you but didn’t look at you and avoided eye contact with you, how would this feel?  Would you believe what they say?  Would they seem trustworthy?  Would you rather them look you in the eye and be engaged?  Why should being on stage be any different?  

3. Commit!  Play or sing each note as if it were the last time you were ever going to.  This doesn’t necessarily mean to sing or play loud all of the time, but it means to approach your notes with confidence.  Do you not feel confident? Worried about hitting the wrong notes?  Then practice until you can’t help but hit right notes.  If you need someone to practice with, feel free to get together with others outside of Wednesday evenings to practice with each other.  Marci and I have a standing date every Tuesday night to practice music for Wednesday so that we can make sure to get our parts down before we have to play it in front of others.  It’s also common for guitar players to show up to the house on Tuesdays as well.

In closing, when my professor walked in that day, I had no idea what life lesson I had ahead of me.  However, the lesson learned is something that I will carry with me until I stop playing music publicly.  I’ll always remember that whenever I’m in front of a group of people, above all else, I need to project that I firmly believe in what I’m doing…so much so that others are willing to go there with me.  It’s something that I’m constantly working on.  I like to think that I would believe me.  Would you believe you?

Martin

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Who Is Jesus?

With this week’s post I would like to venture off a little bit from what we normally discuss and talk about a very exciting event that our church will be starting on Sunday that I don’t think people have realized the importance of yet.  On Sunday, Pastor Kevin will be starting a brand new sermon series on the life of Jesus from the book of Matthew.  Now, I know for many of you that might not sound like the most exciting thing in the world, but just hear me out.
 
For so many of us, our perception of Jesus has been molded and crafted by other people.  We take their thoughts and opinions (correct and incorrect) and apply them to Jesus.  We let social media, celebrities, relatives, and friends dictate who Jesus is to us.  Now, I’m not saying that all of them are wrong, but how many people do you know that have actually read the 4 Gospels.  Most people only know facts about Jesus because they learned them in a movie, TV show, or read it on Facebook.   Do we really know who Jesus is?
 
Any time you hear or read a quote of Jesus in the media (TV, movies, internet), they always seem to quote (or misquote) Him in a way that makes their point of view or lifestyle choices seem ok (and don’t get me started on how horribly they take things out of context).  But would Jesus really be ok with what has now become acceptable in society?  Now, I’m not trying to condemn anyone with this post (if you know me, then you know that’s not who I am or what I am about), but when you really look at Jesus, I believe you’ll see someone who would condemn the very things our culture now celebrates.

Jesus was and is all about Grace.  But He is also about Truth.  John 1:14 is one of my favorite Bible verses and it says that when Jesus came, He was full of “grace and truth”.  He is full of both.  We tend to want to focus on one or the other.  And that tendency causes us to just focus on certain parts of Jesus that we like.  If you are all about grace, then you like to quote the fact that Jesus told the adulterous woman “neither do I (condemn you)” (John 8:11).  But you leave out the part where Jesus told her to “go and sin no more”.  If you are all about truth, then you love when Jesus called the Pharisees and religious leaders snakes and vipers.  But you leave out the part where He said “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34) while He was on the cross.  If you are all about truth, then you love the fact that Jesus called out the woman at the well for having 5 previous husbands and living with another man who was not her husband.  But if you are all about grace then you love the fact that Jesus offered her “living water” that will never run dry and explained to her what real worship was like (in Spirit and in Truth).  In reality, we need Jesus’ grace and truth.  By His grace we receive forgiveness and eternal life (Romans 5:15-17) that we don’t deserve and by His truth we are set free from sin (John 8:32). 
 
Jesus’ life and teaching are so much more than most of us have taken the time to study and learn.  Jesus said “Stop judging others, and you will not be judged” (Luke 6:37), but He also said “Turn from your sins (repent) and turn to God” (Matthew 4:17).  He said that He has come to give us “life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10), but He also said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). 

Jesus said that we are to love our enemies (Luke 6:35) and pray for the happiness of those who curse us (Luke 6:28).  He also said that “Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him” (John 6:56).  Wait, what?  He really said that?  And while Jesus loves everyone, He was very adamant about the only way to get to heaven.  In John 14:6 he said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one gets to the Father except through Me”.  How very non-inclusive of Him.

I say all of that to say this:  I’m looking forward to learning more about the real Jesus.  My job/calling is to lead people in the worship of Jesus, and I can’t think of anything better than people knowing Him more.  So, I hope to see you all on Sunday as we begin this new journey.

Worship Big!

Brad


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

3 Services


So, the 2 questions everyone wants answered after Sunday’s
first-time ever 3 services are:  1) How did it go? and 2) How many people were there?    

Let’s start with # 1:  How did it go?


From my perspective it all went very well.  The transitions from service to service went well.  I was a little concerned beforehand that there might be some logjams with one group heading out and another coming in, but it never materialized.  We also didn’t have any trouble starting or finishing on time, which was a very good sign.  The key to 3 services is being able to finish on time so people have an opportunity to get out of the building before the next group comes in.  Hopefully, when this becomes the regular schedule in October, we’ll be able to continually meet our “times”.
 

On a personal note, one of the things that I really enjoyed was the overall pace of the morning.  The schedule moved quickly and it seemed like as soon as one worship time was over, it was time for another one.  There was no real “down” time, which for me, was a blessing.  With our current Sunday morning schedule, after the worship time is over at the 1st Service, it’s 2 very long hours before we’re up again.  There are Sundays when I feel like I completely forget how to play certain songs in the time between services.  And even when that doesn’t happen, it still feels like we’re going into the 11 a.m. service “cold”.  Here’s what I mean by that.  The early service begins at 8:30 a.m.  Our sound check normally gets done around 8:10 a.m.  That only leaves around 20 minutes before the service begins.  But with the 11 a.m. service, we’ve had 2 hours of non-playing/singing and it takes a song or two before you feel comfortable again.  With the 3 services, that didn’t happen.


Now onto question # 2:  How many people were here?


The overall attendance was 774, which is the most people we’ve ever had for a Sunday service.  The previous high was last Easter with 679 people.  So, what does that mean?  It means that the church is growing and it means that hopefully we are reaching more people for Jesus.  I also hope that it helps people see the need for 3 services in the fall.  If we had only had 2 services on Sunday, we would have had to turn people away for the 11 a.m. service.  There’s no way we could have gotten everyone in.
 

The really interesting part was seeing which service people attended.  The 1st and 3rd services were a little bit smaller than our normal early (8:30 a.m.) and late (11 a.m.) services, but the middle (9:40 a.m.) service was very big.  It had almost 350 people in attendance.  Unfortunately, when we start our new 3 service schedule in the fall, it will probably be the smallest.  With the 9:40 a.m. Sunday School/Bible Study time being the most popular, the middle service will probably be the lowest in attendance.  But that’s ok.  We’ll start with a small number of people and hopefully it will grow from there.


So, overall, I would call the 3 services a big success.  I'm sure there are things that we'll tweak between now and October, but I'm really looking forward to 3 services being our normal schedule in the fall.


Worship Big!



Brad