Jesus, Community, and what little I know about Revival.

fire-sparks

It was my senior year of college and I found myself on stage in front of an auditorium full of my peers.  I was leading them in worship with some of my closest friends.  The atmosphere was charged with energy like that of a summer lightning storm.  We were nervous, yet hopeful and expectant that God would move in a powerful way that night.  But that moment hadn’t snuck up on us.  We had been gathering multiple times a week praying, sharing life, and sometimes even fasting for our campus, asking God to do something amazing among the student body of Ouachita Baptist University.  During those years God did something among that small group friends that I look back on now and long for.  

Although that night was nearly 5 years ago, I continue to long for some of the same things that my friends and I sought while in college.  I still want to see God do something amazing in my church, in my city, and beyond.

I’m guessing that if you’re a follower of Jesus you probably also want to see a movement of God in your church and community.  You might even be actively praying for it.  If so, here are some of my thoughts on how we can see real revival happen in our day.

1) Seek Jesus.  This has to be where it all starts.  More of Jesus, less of us.  A desire to know Him and make Him known.  If we desire revival, but don’t genuinely desire Christ-likeness, then as crazy as it sounds, our revivalism is really more about making much of ourselves rather than God.  A genuine “hunger and thirst” for Jesus (Matt. 5:6) has to be our passion.  It’s a godly desire.  And it’s the spark and kindling for revivals fire.

2) Community.  Something powerful can happen when Jesus-followers get together to seek Him.  Although, it’s not guaranteed.  Something about our fallen nature makes this difficult.  This is  what I do know, when seeking Jesus is at the center of our community, things change.  Our masks come off because there’s no need to impress one another.  We realize that “all are one in Christ” (Gal. 3:28).  God’s grace connects us to Him and to other people.  We’re freed  to really be known by other people.  We’re privileged to be a part of each others redemption story.   When this kind of transparency takes place, it creates momentum.  It’s the fuel that feeds revivals fire.

3) The Journey.  A revival is not a one time event, it’s a series of events.  To revive simply means “to renew” or “to set in motion”.  Perhaps one of the greatest ways we can bring revival to our communities is to change our view of what it is to see revival take place.  In my opinion, any time a single person experiences a “renewal” in the grace of Jesus, we’ve seen revival.  Any time a group of people are “set in motion” for God’s glory, we’ve seen revival.  Each of these events is a revival fire that burns bright for God’s glory.  Only God Himself sees the big picture, the thousands, millions of revival fires burning around the earth at one time.  While I certainly hope that I get to see the day when hundreds and thousands of those fires catch one another’s flame and set a global fire for God’s glory, I know that I’m not in control of that, God is.

My friends and I led worship with all of our hearts that night.  Students read the scriptures and sang for over two hours.  When the service was scheduled to be done the student body began to call out songs for us to play.  No one wanted to leave.  So we worshiped with passionate singing and dancing late into the night.  It was awesome.  I’ll never forget it.  I believe we saw revival on that night.  As I look back on it I realize, however, that night was only one of the many revivals that happened that year.  Most of them happened in small ways; sharing life over coffee, laughing together, supporting one another, and praying together behind closed doors.

Today, I sense something similar happening.  There are revival fires burning all around, I see some of them, I hear about some of them, and  Jesus is at the center of it all.  I’m not saying that something unbelievably amazing is about to happen, but I’m not not saying that.  I’m trying to remember that my part is singular in focus.  Seek Jesus.  Believe.

4 Ways the Magi Could Impact Your Christmas Season

star_trail_tree_silhouette_night_sky1

Can you imagine what it would have been like to be one of the first people to see Jesus?  The Messiah was long awaited and desperately needed, just the news of his soon arrival made Elizabeth’s baby leap for joy and caused the mute Zechariah to speak again.  In the story of Jesus’ birth, the Magi are some of the first men on the scene of the Savior’s birth.  Their reaction was one of the most pure expressions of worship the Bible gives.  Here’s what I notice about their worship.

A) It was joyful.  Matt. 2:10 “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”   I love this. . .wise, educated, respected men rejoicing exceedingly and with great joy.  Knowledge of Jesus should always lead to fervent worship.

B) It was humble.  Matt. 2:11 “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.”  Worship often times involves both joy and humility, rejoicing and bowing.  This is because God is both transcendent (beyond us) and immanent (close to us).  His grandeur inspires awe and wonder, while his nearness brings peace and joy.  We see this also in Psalm 2:11 which says “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”

B) It always centers on Jesus.  This one is pretty simple.  Matthew says “they worship him.”  They didn’t worship the mystery of the moment, they didn’t worship Mary or Joseph, they worshiped Jesus, God in flesh.

C) It includes giving.  Matt. 2:11 “Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”  Worship always includes self-sacrifice.  The Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  But they also gave time, energy, and devotion to Christ as they worshiped.

We see these same truths about worship throughout scripture, and hopefully they make their way into our personal lives and our churches each week.  Often times, however, the latter isn’t always true.  In fact, if we’re not careful, our personal worship and corporate worship will revolve around the exact opposite of these.  Instead of our worship being  joyful and humble it will be greedy and judgmental.  Instead of focusing on Jesus, our worship will focus on our personal preferences And instead of coming to give in worship, we’ll come as consumers, ready to take in what’s been prepared for us.

I’m in no way pointing a finger or trying to be pessimistic, I simply want to point out how quickly we can get away from worshiping Jesus and focus on ourselves.  The beauty of this Advent season is found in its invitation for each of us to re-live the story of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  The magi teach us a great lesson in worship, pointing us back to Jesus, personal sacrifice, and humility.

 

 

Songs from SOAR 2013 (w/ iTunes links)

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Here’s a list of the songs that we led last week at the SOAR conference.  I hope this is helpful to those of you who are interested.

Freedom Is Here – Hillsong United (Live in Miami)

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/live-in-miami/id496131626

Forevermore – Jesus Culture

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/forevermore-live/id578670133?i=578670143

One Thing Remains – Brian Johnson

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/one-thing-remains-live/id415036948?i=415037143

In Christ Alone – Passion (Let The Future Begin)

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/in-christ-alone-feat.-kristian/id606305346?i=606305380

Your Great Name – Natalie Grant

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/your-great-name/id482115414?i=482115422

Alive In Us – Original (Klayton Seyler, Alan Thomas, Aaron Williams)

Here For You – Matt Redman

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/passion-here-for-you-deluxe/id419443180

Forever Reign – One Sonic Society

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/forever-reign-live/id376473219?i=376473234

How He Loves – John Mark McMillan

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/how-he-loves-single-version/id379151208?i=379151391

Never Ending Love – Original (Klayton Seyler, Alan Thomas, Aaron Williams)

Go – Hillsong United

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/go/id413410016?i=413410153

Set A Fire – Jesus Culture

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/set-a-fire-live/id578670133?i=578670390

Just As I Am – Brett Rutledge

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/just-as-i-am/id551221994?i=551222235

The Stand – Hillsong United

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-stand-live/id361893973?i=361897031

Revelation Song – Passion (Let The Future Begin)

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/revelation-song-feat.-kari/id606305346?i=606305372

 

 

 

 

 

Highlights From SOAR 2013

 

 

SOAR 2013

 

 

 

Last week I had the opportunity to lead worship at the SOAR conference in Dallas, TX.  I’ve had the opportunity to lead at SOAR for several years now and the friendships and memories created have become a regular highlight of my summer.  This years conference was no different.  This years theme was Discipleship, a topic dear to my heart and in my opinion a topic that is crucial for our churches.  There were a lot of memorable moments this year, here are a few things that stuck out to me. . .

 

1)  Every believer in Christ is called to a life of discipleship.  You don’t have to be a “super Christian” to live a life of discipleship.  The model for discipleship is pretty simple –> Follow Christ, our ultimate Discipler, intentionally seek out more mature Christians to pour into your life, and find fellow believers that you can invest your life in.

As simple as this is, so many believers are not involved in the discipleship process.  In the words of Donny Parish, “You can’t be mature in Christ without buying into discipleship.”  

2)  Community can’t be overrated.  I’m reminded over and over that one of the most powerful tools in God’s plan to shape us is community.  When a group of people that are seeking God individually get together powerful things happen.  Community and Discipleship go hand in hand.  The group of friends that I’m in community with at home are having a huge impact on my walk with Christ.  The band (co-leaders) that I was privileged to lead with at SOAR was just an extension of the community in my life, and it’s no surprise that God continued to work in and through us as we led people in worship.  I’m so thankful for the talent and heart of each of these friends and their families.  Thank you Jake, Kim, Klayton, Brandon, Wes, and Schwill.

SOAR band

 

 

3) Grace.  During the final night session of SOAR as Donny Parish invited the students to respond to God’s call on their life I had a flashback to the night I committed my life to the ministry.  As I replayed that night in my mind I realized that very night was the 10 year anniversary of my commitment to ministry.  Crazy!  The more I thought about the last 10 years I was blown away by God’s gracious work in my life.  It was a surreal, sweet, and humbling moment.

When We Get Worship Wrong

sermon-seriously

 

Our church is in the third week of studying through the book of Malachi.   While the over-arching theme of the book of Malachi is God’s “no-strings-attached” love for the people of Israel, a good portion of this book is directed towards Israel’s unacceptable worship to God.  In Malachi chapter 1 God comes down pretty hard on the Israelites through his prophet.  God is upset with the Israelites for “defaming His name” by worshiping Him unacceptably.  The Israelites aren’t taking their worship to God seriously.  They’ve lost sight of God’s holiness and their sinfulness.  They’ve forgotten the depth of forgiveness that God has given them, and they are worshiping half-heartedly and apathetically.

Now it’s pretty easy to read through this passage and think, “How could they do such a thing?”   “How could they apathetically worship God after all that He had done for them?!”  However, when I take a closer look at this passage and myself, I see that in reality, I am actually quite a bit like the Israelites.  I don’t always bring my best to worship God.  I don’t always give him the “first-fruits” of my life.  At times I loose sight of the radical grace that God has shown me.

So, in an effort to lead ourselves and our church back to the Gospel in worship, some of our worship pastors and teaching pastors crafted a prayer of confession around some of the sins specific to Malachi 1.  Our goal was to blend the traditional “Prayer of Penitence” with Malachi 1, in an effort to write a prayer of confession that is true to the Scriptures and our context.  I wanted to share this prayer in case it could be useful for you personally, for your small group, or even your church.

Everyone:

Most holy and merciful Father:

We confess to you and to one another

That we have sinned by our own fault

In thought, word, and deed;

By what we have done, and by what we have left undone. 

Leader:

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength.

Everyone:

Have mercy on us, Lord.

Leader:

We confess that we have been unfaithful to you in our worship.   We allow our pride, hypocrisy, and busy schedules to control our lives.

Everyone:

We confess to you, Lord.

Leader:

We confess our self-indulgent appetites and ways.  We are quick to seek our own preferences before the good of others, the Church, and Your glory.

Everyone:

We confess to you, Lord.

Leader:

We confess that we take the good news of the Gospel for granted.  We are apathetic toward the grace that You have given us.

Everyone:

We confess to you, Lord.

Leader:

We confess that we have defamed Your name by worshiping You half-heartedly and out of obligation.

Everyone:

Have mercy on us, Lord.

Everyone:

In Your great mercy, Lord, restore us. 

We ask You to the forgive our sins, and we receive Your assurance of pardon. 

Accomplish in us the work of Your salvation,

That we may show Your glory in the world. 

By the cross and passion of Your son, Jesus Christ,

Bring us to the joy of his ressurection. 

That we may worship You with our whole heart, mind, and strength. 

Amen.

Songs From the Warehouse: March 30th/31st, April 7th, and April 14th

A few shots from Easter services in the Warehouse.

A few shots from Easter services in the Warehouse

 

Edge 2

 

Song Set:

March 30th/31st (Easter):

Awake My Soul – Chris Tomlin

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/awake-my-soul-feat.-lecrae/id573260186?i=573260996

One Thing Remains – Jesus Culture

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/one-thing-remains-live/id415036948?i=415037143

Jesus Paid It All – COTM

(no recording available)

In Christ Alone – Passion (Let The Future Begin)

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/in-christ-alone-feat.-kristian/id606305346?i=606305380

The King Is Here – Kim Walker-Smith

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-king-is-here-live/id588338846?i=588339275

 

April 7th:

Our God is Love – Hillsong

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/our-god-is-love-live/id376473219?i=376473223

Here For You – Matt Redman

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/here-for-you/id441687303?i=441687323

Revelation Song – Kari Jobe

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/revelation-song/id303754179?i=303754191

Build Us Back – No Hope Collective

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/build-us-back/id421678686?i=421678723

 

April 14th:

Praise Him – The Royal Royal

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/praise-him/id526078283?i=526078286

Glorious – Brian and Katie Torwalt

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/glorious/id447595363?i=447595370

Here Is Love – Bethel

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/here-is-love-feat.-jenn-johnson/id565691625?i=565692024

In Christ Alone – Passion

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/in-christ-alone-feat.-kristian/id606305346?i=606305380

From the Inside Out

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/from-the-inside-out-live/id361944179?i=361944216

 

Your Dreams, God’s Will, and Worship

Have you ever looked at someone else’s life and watched them live out your dream.  Maybe they have your “dream job”.  Or they are impacting the world in a way that you want to impact the world.  I certainly have.

Have you ever worked really hard for something only to see someone else get what you wanted?  Maybe a friend of yours gets a promotion that you felt you deserved.  A colleague gets credit for an idea that was yours.  I have felt this way too.

King David is one of my favorite characters from the Bible.  He was a simple shepherd boy that followed God’s plan for his life and became the King of Israel.  If you grew up in church you’ve probably heard quite a few stories about David.  David was a king and a warrior, but  he was also a musician, a poet, and a songwriter.  He wrote a large portion of the Psalms, the largest book in the Bible.  He was called “a man after God’s own heart”.  And in many ways, he’s a role model for all worshipers and worship leaders.

God’s blessing was certainly upon David and his family, but even David was not exempt from broken dreams.  Later in David’s life, after he had seen God use him to do many great thing, he had another idea, a great idea.  David wanted to build a temple for the Lord, a permanent dwelling place for God.  I can imagine David staying up late at night thinking about this idea.  He probably shared it with close friends because he couldn’t contain his excitement.  It seemed like David was the perfect person to build the temple.  But, if you know the story, you know that David’s dream of building a temple for God was denied by God.  Not only that, it was given to someone else.  Ouch.  Here is what God said to David,

‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. 19 Nevertheless, you shall not build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’  1 Kings 8:18-19

I have no doubt that David was disappointed and frustrated.  David wanted something that he didn’t have.  Something he couldn’t have.  How would you have responded if you were David?  Anger?  Frustration?  We all find ourselves in this very predicament at some point in life.

David’s response is beautiful.  It’s recorded in 2 Samuel 7:18-29.  Instead of dwelling on what he didn’t have or what he thought he needed, David worshiped God for what He WAS doing in his life.  David gave his dreams to God and trusted that God uses people how He chooses.  He was thankful for the how God was using him, instead of coveting how God was using other people.

We can all learn a good lesson from David.  We can learn to trust God’s activity and plan for our life, knowing that it is the best thing for us.  We can learn to bless God and worship him for his goodness to us.  When we do these things, we stop comparing ourselves with others, realizing it’s all about God’s glory anyway, not ours.

 

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