Monday, July 25, 2016

Not a Fan

So, on my vacation this past week, I started a book called Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. (If you haven't read it, run to Steve's store and get it--it's SO good!) This book is difficult to read because it is putting me through an intense pruning process... Am I just a fan of Jesus or do I truly follow Him? We all hope that we are true followers, but sometimes it is hard to discern. 

I want to share a passage from the book with you. This is a passage that the author has written about Nicodemus:

"Here is the reality that Nicodemus is about ready to have impressed on him: there is no way to follow Jesus without Him interfering with your life. Following Jesus will cost you something. Following Jesus always costs something. For Nicodemus it would cost him a powerful position. It would cost him the respect of his co-workers. It would cost him his source of income and livelihood. It would cost him friendships. It would likely cost him some family relationships. This brings up a very telling question for most fans: has following Jesus cost you anything?"

Whoa. This paragraph alone hit me like a ton of bricks. How much am I truly sacrificing to be a follower of Jesus? I think back on things that I've thrown away to be able to follow God's plan for my life, but did I once make the choice which would really cost something of me? I think that too often we fall into a rut, we get complacent and we stop stepping out of our comfort zones. We make small gestures towards our co-workers, but never step on their toes. We pray for our family members, but don't talk to them about why we are praying for them. To be a true follower, we've got to get out on the field and get our hands dirty. We can't sit in the stands, cheering when things are going our way, and then fleeing for the doors when they aren't. Jesus doesn't call us to be complacent in our lives, but to be disciples, going out of our way to make sure that everyone knows about Him. Think about the NFL for a second. There are millions, probably billions of fans. Many fans are truly die-hard fans, like my Daddy for the poor Cowboys-- he will never give up on that team, even though they are terrible! But other fans just buy the t-shirt and go to the game for some fun. Other fans started young, and have committed their love and life to that game and those are the ones that are on the field. They get out there, week after week, ready to defend their team's honor. That's how Jesus wants us to follow Him. He wants us on the field, bright and early, day after day, ready for whatever play He decides to throw our way! It isn't always comfortable, we don't always know exactly where the path might lead. But we can be certain that if we are truly following Christ, the He will lead us exactly where we need to be. 

I pray that each of you except the challenge this week to be a Christ follower--not just a fan! 


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Excellence and Perfection

In all areas of leading worship I truly believe that God wants us to give our absolute best.  But, what exactly does that mean?  Is offering our best about playing or singing every note perfectly?  Is it about having the perfect stage presence at all times?  Is giving our best about never making a mistake on stage?  Or is it about excellence?  Excellence and perfection...there is a difference.  Does giving our best equal perfection?  I would say that your best and perfection are, more often than not, two completely different things.  Rather than perfection, I think that giving your absolute best is the definition of achieving excellence. 

For me, perfection is often times unreachable. For those of us that are human, I believe we'll find the same to be true. As a musician, I understand that we want perfection, or at least our idea of it.  In the past, when striving for perfection, I came up disappointed every time.  However, when you understand that you aren't perfect and nothing you do is going to be "perfect", it makes it that much easier to see God in what you're doing.  I would even venture to say that when things aren't so perfect on stage, it starts to look more like what worship is supposed to be: bringing all that we have to show worth to the One whom we adore.  I'm thankful that Jesus doesn't ask me for perfect.  He asks me for me.  In that, I give Him my absolute best.  I think that we have really arrived at something when we understand and are okay with the fact that our best typically isn't anywhere near perfect.  Here are a few points on this topic that I read recently:

Perfectionists value themselves by what they do.  Pursuers of excellence value themselves by who they are.  

Perfectionists can be devastated by failure.  Pursuers of excellence will learn from it.

Here's one that really hits home with me:

Perfectionists want to be number one.  Pursuers of excellence can live with not being the best, especially when they know they've tried their hardest.  

A fact that I've come to cope with is that I'm 24 years old and there are just some people in the world who are more talented than I am.  I can practice, I can rehearse, I can learn but some people are just more talented than me.  That's okay.  

I would encourage you to take your idea of achieving perfection in what you do and change it to striving to give your best in what you do.  Go for excellence.  Be okay with not being perfect.  God asks for you; for your best.  Give it to Him.



Monday, July 11, 2016

On the Outside Looking In

Life sure is getting messy these days.  I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but our nation seems to have accelerated into a whirlwind of immorality over the last year.  With all of the turmoil, my apologies, ‘progress’ that has been made toward gender equality, the most basic morality has simply been tossed out the back door.

I have found the song titled “The Outsiders” by Need to Breathe to be a nice representation of where we, as Christians, stand in today’s culture.  Those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ have definitely been shoved into the realm of political incorrectness due to our conservative beliefs and focus on right versus wrong (the new right).  It seems that everything that we consider right is now wrong, but as the song so eloquently puts it, “just ‘cause I’m wrong it don’t make you right…no, you ain’t right!”

There are times when all I can do is shake my head in disbelief and laugh.  Just as the song exclaims - “cause if you’re not laughing, who is laughing now?”  As grave of a situation that we find our nation in, we can rest assured that Jesus has already won!  As long as we focus on this fact, nothing that this world throws our way can steal His everlasting joy from us despite their efforts at doing so.

The book of Revelation shows us that our world will only continue to digress as it turns further and further away from the Bible.  And those of us who follow Christ will be mocked, slandered and laughed at for our faith and extreme ‘intolerance’ towards the ways of the world.  As our biblical foundation continues to be chiseled away out from under us, the question is “if we stop sinking, could we stand our ground?” 

I like to replace ‘could’ with ‘would’ in that verse while I am singing along.  I believe that it is a matter of will, a choice that we must make to step up and defend the Truth that we stand by.  We must take the kind of stand as proclaimed in the song, “I’m not leaving without a fight.  I’ve got my holster around my side.”  We are about to find ourselves embedded in a lopsided battle, and we need to be grounded in our faith and rooted in His word like never before.  

So where does this ridiculous movement end?  I know that we haven’t seen the end of it, but I am back to shaking my head and laughing as to what absurd thing is going to happen next.  I have simply accepted what Need to Breathe concludes when they sing - “and through everything we’ve learned, we’ve finally come to terms…we are the outsiders.” Yes, we certainly have become outsiders, seemingly on the wrong side of history, but each of us are owners of the freedom that this world is longing for.

Here's the song if you want to listen:


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

From Generation to Generation

Last week I attended a worship conference called "WorshipLife" that was hosted by Lifeway Worship Resources.  One of the speakers was Mike Harland (the Director of Lifeway Worship Resources).  I would like to share with you some interesting thoughts that he had concerning the book of Psalms.

In the book of Psalms many of the chapters have an introduction called a superscript.  They say things like "for the choir director" or "to be accompanied by stringed instruments" or "sung by David to the Lord concerning some battle".  But what is truly interesting is that some of these Psalm intros say that they are to be sung to the tune of very specific songs.  These melodies were so familiar that everyone would know how these Psalms were supposed to sound.  But over time, these melodies have been forgotten.  Think about that.  God preserved the text, but not the melodies.  Why?

Could it be that we aren't supposed to know how those songs sounded because each new generation is supposed to come up with their own melodies, their own music?   

As I get older, I can definitely see how melodies and music change from generation to generation.  My parents' and grandparents' generation was comfortable singing hymns like "Amazing Grace" and "How Great Thou Art" to the piano and organ.  My generation is comfortable singing praise songs like "Revelation Song" and "How Great Is Our God" to an acoustic guitar or praise band.  The generation after me...well let's just say that they are coming up with some truly unique sounds and arrangements.  

But regardless of how each generation sings the Psalms, it is the lyrics and theology that come from the text that ties and connects us all together.  

Psalm 96:1 says "Sing to the Lord a new song".  

New songs...but with timeless words. 

Worship Big!