Wednesday, August 19, 2009


So when the Samaritans came to (Jesus) they asked Him to stay with them, and He stayed there two days. And many believed because of His word. They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world. --John 4:40-41

As I approached my Bible this morning, I must admit I was thinking almost as much about the upcoming "Homework Date" I had with one of my daughters in less than an hour as I was about having a quiet and spiritual experience. (Homework-- I am 42 years old and think I may dislike it as much as my kids.) When I looked at the passage for the day, I quickly thought to myself, "John Chapter 4... Samaritan woman... Got it. This should be quick. Maybe I could even fit in a second cup of coffee before we started drilling complex vs. compound sentence structures and gathering printable images for fifth grade writing journals." Then, as I started reading the passage, I saw things I'd never really paid attention to before:

He stayed there... no longer because of what you said... we have heard for ourselves...

Now, don't get me wrong; I love it when God takes obvious things and reveals Himself afresh, but honestly I wasn't expecting it this morning! I knew this wouldn't be a quick read, so I immediately jumped in, reading and journaling, still hoping somehow on the other side of this appointment with my Father that I might find a few extra minutes for another cup of joe.

"They asked Him to stay there, and He stayed two days..." Every time I've ever heard the passage preached, I've heard about the ongoing conflict between Samaritans and Jews; how they despised each other, and how Jesus' choice to traverse through Samaria would have been completely unacceptable for any self-respecting Jew. I knew that. I even knew about the societal implications of Jesus conversing with a woman... What I'd never done was to continue thinking beyond that point and to realize that once the woman shared her testimony, the people desired for Jesus to stay there... AND HE DID. I had always envisioned this story as a whirlwind, off-the-beaten-path sort of episode, but it wasn't that. Jesus, a Jew, willingly chose to spend time there... in that place... with those people... Why?

Perhaps it was because the people needed time to "connect the dots." Their initial response to Him was rooted in the testimony of the Samaritan woman, but only 2 days later their story had changed.

And many more believed because of His word. They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world..."

This created in me a new realization that a commitment to share the gospel might require an investment of both sacrifice and surrender. Maybe, in order to share the gospel with someone who needs to hear it, I will not only have to go through a distasteful place, but maybe even STAY there for a while until others can "hear for themselves."

These are the questions I am pondering today:

  • What places/people/situations might I consider to be my own "Samaria"?
  • Is God leading me there?
  • Am I willing to go?

May we each answer these questions well.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Collision of Sorts

My office is a DISASTER. We are getting ready to relocate all administrative space across the street to the new annex, so I've been packing... and working... and packing. Whenever I find myself tired of what I'm doing, I stop and pack a box. It's really quite a mess; but I tell myself that it will only be like this for a couple of weeks.

So, earlier today, while enjoying one of my "packing breaks," I found a magazine on my desk, the May/June issue of COLLIDE. I don't subscribe to Collide magazine, nor had I ever heard of it, but the bold red title of the article that lay open caught my immediate interest:

MUSIC: Our Entertainment Worship Culture, by Daniel Darnell

For years I have been on a crusade to lead services that are more structured to involve congregants in actively worshipping God than to provide a means of entertainment, so you can imagine how quickly I might have grabbed the magazine to read it. However, not knowing the source of the article, nor the means by which it arrived in my very cluttered space, gave me a moment of pause. After a brief investigation I learned that it came from a colleague here at BVBC who thought it spoke well of our ongoing quest to craft intergenerational, stylistically-diverse worship experiences. So I dove in, head first, to see what I could learn. I soon found myself completely engulfed in the article. I emailed its author to receive permission to publish portions of it here, and he granted me permission to do so.

In his article, Darnell cites a strong case for the argument that churches throughout the country are not "producing worshipers... Rather we are producing a generation of spectators, religious onlookers lacking, in many cases, a true encounter with God, deprived of both the tangible sense of God's presence and the supernatural relationship their inmost spirits crave." (Sally Morgenthaler, from her book Worship Evangelism)

His premise is valid and the article is well written. The thing I like most about it, however, is that he doesn't simply outline the growing problem. He offers practical solutions to worship planners for staying above the fray in this slippery slope. He suggests that we:

Understand Worship—Unfortunately, many of us have an incomplete or skewed view of true worship. Worship extends far beyond music; it is our continuous response to God, in all that we do, because of who He is. A proper understanding of worship will shape how we lead our congregations.

Check Our Hearts—While our intentions in using entertainment in our services can be pure, we must constantly check our motives—we are all capable of placing our confidence in manmade things. As we incorporate music into our services, we should ask ourselves these questions:
• What purpose does this song serve in our time of worship?
• What does the song have to say about God and us?
• How is this song drawing people to the Lord?

Know Our Congregations—Every church is unique, so no one formula works for all churches. Just because a church in Seattle worships in a particular manner doesn’t mean it’s the right formula for our church. We must know what engages their minds, speaks to their souls, and enables them to participate in worship.

Pray—While this last point may sound cliché, it is of great importance. Leading our congregations in worship is not a minor task. Left to our own devices, our worship times can become about us. We must be in constant prayer, asking for the Lord’s guidance as we seek to serve and worship Him.

Darnell closes with the following observation:

The Fine Line
May we all examine our motives and hearts as we program our corporate worship services. May we never seek to entertain the ears of man, but rather engage their hearts and always strive to bring glory to our God. In the end, I pray that the Church would produce passionate worshippers of the Lord rather than mere spectators of passing entertainment.

While the article is aimed toward those who plan and lead worship, I would submit that every believer should run the same diagnostics listed above in preparing to attend/participate in a corporate worship experience.

Understand Worship - Worship is our response, both personally and corporately to God's revelation of Himself. It's not just the music!

Check Our Hearts - Am I prepared to hear a word from God as I approach Him in song, through the scriptures, or in my giving? Am I listening for the sound of His voice?

Know Our Congregation - As a member of the body of Christ, I have the amazing privilege to be a part of something bigger than myself. We are wonderfully diverse... Am I willing to acknowledge the value of our worship gatherings based on who God is and the truth expressed in the moment?

Pray - Ask God to reveal Himself in a new and fresh way, and to place in you the ability to respond as He desires... in worship.

I hope and pray that your experiences of worship at BVBC are ones that lead you into God's presence where you can be changed by His word. I count it an honor to worship alongside you each week.


All italicized content is from the Article, Music: Our Entertainment Culture by Daniel Darnell. If you would like to read the entire article, an online version is available at:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Sobering Statement

Throughout the summer I have been in and out of the office, and I must confess that has taken a toll on my blogging habits. Nonetheless, the trade-off has been in having wonderful times of travel with my family and great experiences with special friends.

While enjoying one final summer getaway last week (see photo at left) I read a great devotional by Dr. Charles Stanley. I've not stopped thinking about it since then and have mentioned it in several conversations over the last few days. I've tried to distill it into a single statement, but cannot choose any part of the article to omit. So, today I am giving you the whole entry, unedited, as food for thought. I pray you will find in it the same godly challenge that I have.

July 22, 2009
How to Handle Burdens
Psalm 55
David was overwhelmed with the weight of external pressures and internal anguish. Burdens come in a variety of emotional, spiritual, and physical forms, but they all feel heavy and cause weariness. Every one of us can identify with David's desire to "fly away and be at rest" (v. 6).
Some of the loads we carry are not part of God's plan for us. We lug around the guilt that lingers even after confession of sin and load our backpack with worry about the future. Then we top it off with a little bitterness and unforgiveness because life has not been fair. These burdens are not from the Lord, and He will not help you carry what He has told you to release. (emphasis added)

Other burdens, however, are entrusted to us by God. He gives us responsibilities which can weigh us down, and He sometimes allows relational difficulties that tear at our hearts. Persistent problems and trials drain our vitality and threaten to overwhelm us.
Every circumstance in life is lovingly sifted through the Lord's fingers before reaching us. (emphasis added) From His perspective, those things which are too heavy for us are opportunities for dependence upon Him. God never intends for any of us to carry a burden without Him. He says to give it to Him (v. 22) and promises to sustain us.
Casting your cares upon God means releasing them fully into His control. You will no longer be free to manage and manipulate the situation toward your desired outcome, but the freedom Christ offers will release you from the burden's oppressive weight. He'll sustain you with His peace as you trust Him.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

People Watching

I've thought about several ways to begin this post:

I thought about telling how much Melinda and I enjoy going to the mall and observing the activity... people watching, as it were, when the objects of our attention are unaware of our gaze.

I considered telling about my "schizophrenic" iPod and the random songs it throws at me on occasion, one recent example being the 1984 hit "(I Always Feel Like) Somebody's Watching Me"

I even considered using the lyrics of a children's song to introduce my thoughts this morning...

...but none of those really seemed to work for me. You see, I received an email this morning that I knew was on its way. A friend of mine back in Texas died last night. His name was Theiss Jones, and he had an amazing influence on my life and ministry, though until recently, he never knew it. Theiss served as the Minister of Music at Temple's First Baptist Church for 30 years before his retirement a few years back.

In Baptist life, social circles tend to overlap frequently, so Theiss and I crossed paths on many occasions in the 12 years I served in that city. I observed in him a genuine love for God and a strong commitment to the people in his care. Theiss was the first Music Minister I'd ever met who had a pastor's heart. That affected me profoundly. His example challenged me as a young minister to pour my life into serving God's people... to prioritize my work around the opportunities God gives me to minister to others... to put more emphasis on building the kingdom than I do on building a music program. I'm a better servant of God because of his friendship.

The reason I choose to share this so publicly today is this: For many years he had no idea how he had changed me. I was watching, listening and learning, but only in the context of our relationship. There was never a formal venue in which I learned the things he taught me. We simply worked together on a few city-wide worship projects, sang together in a quartet formed from within the local Kiwanis Club, and shared an occasional cup of coffee. To my knowledge he was unaware that he was teaching me how to be a better Christ follower.

Several months ago, when I learned of his illness, I took some time to send him a letter explaining how much he had influenced me and expressing my gratitude for his example. Today I'm glad I had the chance to tell him those things. I've been blessed already by emails from others who are sharing about his influence in their lives. Theiss' successor at FBC sent the following note in a note this morning:

I received a copy of his funeral instructions this morning. The wonderfulworship planner that he is, he timed every element of his service and givenstrict instructions for the order. I had to chuckle at this. Then again,he was only doing what he had done for his entire life; plan worship.
My mind's eye can see it now, his greatest desire would be that Christ be lifted up at his memorial, and I know that his service plans will reflect that.

All of this causes me to wonder, however, if there are people who are watching me in the same ways I watched him. If they are, I don't need to know about it... but I wonder. And that faint curiosity in the back of my mind causes me to think about how I pour myself into others. Theiss' legacy is vast, but building that legacy was never his goal... it was the by-product of a life given to God. He was only serving in the places God put him. I'm honored to have called him a friend and to be a part of that legacy.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Back in the Swing... Maybe

August 11, 1985...........................................December 29, 2008

Immediately following our BVBC Christmas Eve worship services, my family and I made a trip back home to Texas to see friends and relatives there. I made a conscious decision before going that I would not work while I was away. Now, understand, that's a very BIG deal for me, but I stuck to my guns and didn't write service orders, check voice mail, answer email... or write blog entries...

Now that I've been back in the office for a week, I realized that my last entry was 2 1/2 weeks before we left! AAARRRRRGGGGggggghhhhh! I'm sorry for being away from the blog for so long... Of course, any of you that follow Facebook might realize that I haven't even opened that for almost 2 weeks. So the fact that I'm getting to this point in my "To-Do" list means that I'm almost back to a manageable position in my work life.

With that preface, let me share that our time away was good. We spent several days with my mother, my brother and his family, then we went to spend a few days with Melinda's parents and siblings. For 2 days, there were 17 of us in my brother-in-law's house! We played games and visited, celebrated Christmas, rang in the new year, and ate more food than any one family should... all within the frame of about 60 hours!

But for me, there was one moment that was the high point of the trip:

When I was in junior high and high school, I didn't have alot of friends. I wasn't necessarily an outsider, but there just weren't a great number of people that I would spend time with. However, there were 2 students with whom I sang in choir, and for our last several years in school, if we weren't working at our respective jobs, we were together. We sang concerts together and even had a somewhat lucrative business of delivering singing telegrams. After graduation we all stayed in touch until time and distance got the better of our friendships. David went on to dance and sing in Broadway musicals, and Renay settled in the Nashville area, working on and off as a studio singer and raising a family before going back to school finish her degree in education.

About a year and a half ago, when I turned 40, I found myself reminiscing about life to this point. I found great fulfillment in the things God has allowed me to do in ministry. I celebrated the joy of a wonderful wife and children. I found surprisingly few regrets... one exception was the loss of contact with these friends. I made it a goal to reconnect with them and worked throughout the coming year to reestablish contact. Finding them took no small effort, and at one point I had conceded loss, only to find a few months later that the one friend I couldn't locate had been looking for me as well!

This year I had only one Christmas wish: Both of these friends were going to be in my hometown at the same time we were. I wanted to have our families visit and share a meal. I tried and tried to arrange it, but we couldn't seem to confirm arrival times and celebration plans with our various families. It just didn't appear that this thing was going to happen, so I resigned myself to seeing them individually as we had opportunity.

Finally, as we were packing our car to leave town for the next leg of our trip, God pulled the final strings together allowing the three of us, our spouses and children, and our high school choir teacher, a major influence in all our lives, to sit down for a 2 hour visit at the Busy Bee Cafe in our little hometown of Santa Fe, TX.

I still smile when I think about it... God has blessed my life in so many ways. My family and I have everything we need, we have a great church to serve and grow in, we have friends and loved ones who are integral to our lives, and then, as if that weren't enough, He gives me the only thing I wanted for Christmas in 2008. I'm grateful that He cares about the things we care about.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

While driving to work this morning I was thinking through my day and the things I knew I needed to accomplish. As is my custom, the radio was on, playing a local Christian station, and I was ignoring most of what was being said or sung. (When you work with music for a living, things like the radio take on a whole new role in life!)
Nonetheless, as I watched the road and ignored the radio, my ears perked up when I heard the DJ mention an Advent Poetry Blog. Many of you know that I LOVE Advent, but accessible and relevant resources for Advent aren't always easy to find. I reached over and turned up the radio in time to hear them mention that one of the members of Jars of Clay, a contemporary Christian recording group, had created a blogsite for the celebration of Advent. I went there today and looked it over and found some nice writings that focus on the season. I've subscribed to the RSS feed and plan to follow the site throughout the season as a part of my private times of worship. If you'd like to do the same, it is available at
If you are unfamiliar with Advent, let me encourage you to give it some thought this year. Advent is the season of the church year that runs the 4 Sundays before Christmas. It is a time to reflect on the coming of Christ and a time to anticipate His coming again. For me it's one of the highlights of the year. You can find good information on the web about Advent... A quick Google search yielded 41,500,000 results! (Granted, not all of that is good information, but the first couple of hits were great sites!) Try these:
Wikipedia - Advent
The Voice
Advent Coloring Pages
Today I'm praying for you a special awareness of God's presence this Christmas season!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Over and Over

Does God ever speak to you repeatedly?

No, really. REPEATEDLY.

In several ways and through several people I've been reminded recently that there are priorities in life that need to take precedence over other things.

While on the surface the concept doesn't sound so difficult, I guess there's something I'm missing, because it seems every time I've turned around for the last several weeks I have seen or heard someone or something that reminded me to consider the priorities of my life.

Now, I consider myself a pretty "together" kind of guy, so maybe I didn't give my answer the attention it deserved, but I did look at my calendar and say, "Yes, God, I'm listening... The things I'm doing indicate a desire to be effective at home and in the ministry. I've think I've got it!"

However, within a week or two, I was reminded again about the need to consider things in my life that are truly important. What gets the most of my attention and resource? So I look at my checkbook and debit receipts: "See Lord, I'm listening. I know it's not perfect, but I genuinely want the way I handle resources to reflect my love for you and my commitment to serve in the roles You have given me. I think we're good here."

Then, as recently as yesterday, I'm sitting in our general staff meeting when a colleague shares as part of our weekly devotion the story of an object lesson in which a speaker fills a jar, first with big rocks, then with gravel, then with sand and then with water. Each element represents something that requires our time or attention. It's not a story about how much you can get done, but rather it's a picture about ordering the things of life in such a way that the most important things get done first. I'd heard the story before. "Nothing new," I thought. But then it hit me... maybe I haven't been asking the right questions. I learned long ago, whenever God wants me to learn something He'll keep teaching it until I get the point.

"Okay, Lord, I'm starting over... Maybe this time I'll get it right"

And so, here I am today... re-starting a journey that I thought I'd already taken. As I ask myself the following questions I would encourage you to consider the same things about your own life. Be brutally honest and see what you learn about yourself. I assure you that I will. And as I work my way through the list of answers, I look forward to learning whatever it is God wants to show me about His will for my life and ministry.

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect." --Romans 12:1-2, ESV

I suspect I'm going to find that there are many more questions I've never asked myself, but my starting points are listed below. Whatever my journey turns out to be, I know that the most important thing in my life is to move forward in becoming the man He created me to be. I pray as you walk through this process in your own life that He'll show Himself to you clearly.

Here's where I begin...

  • Who am I? Am I becoming the person God created me to be?
  • Are the priorities I profess reflected on my calendar and in my checkbook?
  • Where do I spend my time?
  • Where do I spend my money?
  • Where do I focus my attention?
  • What is important to me?
  • What would my wife say I hold as my greatest priority? What would my children say?
  • How do I exhibit spiritual discipline in my life?
  • Am I willing to take action to restructure my priorities according to the things God shows me through this process?

I'd be interested in your thoughts and the questions you are asking in your own journey with God. Feel free to share as the Lord leads.