John 4:19-26

"Sir," the woman said, "you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?"

Jesus replied, "Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on the tis mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming-indeed it's here now- when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth."

The woman said, "I know the Messiah is coming-the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."

Then Jesus told her, "I AM the Messiah!"

Friday, April 30, 2010


As most of you know, Tiffany, my wife, lost her job about six months ago. It was a very emotional time for us, not because she lost her job, but because of the way she lost it. I won't go into details, but I'll say this: my wife is probably one of the most Godly, kindest, professional, smartest, and beautiful (inside and out!) people that I've ever known. She was an executive and had some employees that, well, just didn't like her. I don't know why, though I'd guess it's because she wouldn't let them get away with doing things that they shouldn't be doing anyway. Needless to say, one thing led to another and she found herself in front of her board of directors, shocked and hurt at the accusations, and the way the whole process was handled. In the end, she resigned, though there was no fault found with her or her job as the executive of that company, not wanting to make a big deal out of it, and we moved on.

Now as you all know, I'm in ministry full time. I make hundreds of dollars a year! WOW! I'm rolling in it, right?! LOL. So needless to say, it was a tough time for us. Well, this past week, she did her third interview for a company, who absolutely loves her, and has asked her to take a job with them. She's very excited to be getting back into the corporate world, and I'm very proud of her. But that's not the story. This is.

During that time, we were forced to look at a lot of things, budget, time, budget, maybe selling our house if we needed, budget... you get the idea. The thing that we ultimately realized was this: None of that mattered. What mattered was the thing we had already known, and the thing that gets us through life anyway. God is in control. Period! No, our situation wasn't one that we would just choose to have, but it was one in which God wanted to show us something. And that something was all the blessings that we have. My wife and I are so blessed, that if I had to list out all of the blessings that we experience on a daily basis, we'd be here for the next week.

So often times we only see our blessings when things are going well. We forget that to merely wake up and take a breath is a blessing that our Father in Heaven has ordained. We all say that we don't want to take our blessings for granted, but do we really mean that? I don't think we do. We take EVERYTHING for granted, every day. The whole idea reminds me of a teaching series that we did here at The Journey, called "Highly Flammable". The whole series was about how to traverse the fires of life. The entire series revolved around a piece of scripture from the book of Daniel, where three young men were given the choice to either worship King Nebuchadnezzar, or be thrown into a fiery furnace. Here's what they said. (paraphrasing) The God that we serve is ABLE to rescue us, but even if He DOESN'T, we will still worship HIM. That's a big statement!

Tiffany and I held onto that passage during this time, knowing that, our God can bring us out of this stressful, despondent time. But even if He didn't or wouldn't, we would put our faith and trust in Him, knowing that, for whatever reason, He wanted us to go through this. Peter says that we are to count it as a blessing when we get to suffer, that we may share in Christ's sufferings, meaning that God will grow us in these times and reveal more of His character to us, as we lean on Him for our provisions. 1 Peter 4:12-14.

This post could go on and on and on about how we should count our blessings. But instead, I would ask you to take an inventory of your own life. This is something that Pastor Erik has challenged our church with a few times. Take some time by yourself. Take a piece of paper, think of as many blessings that you can, and write them down. Then pray over them. Take them, one by one, and thank God for your blessings. Really try to understand just how much we've been given, and see if you're not overwhelmed at the list you compile. And if you're like Tiffany and myself, you'll find yourself on your knees, thanking the God of creation for the very breath you take, and wanting to serve Him more.

Here is a link to some passages that are encouraging, and you can use as a reference when you're going through some rough patches. Start by reading the passage from Daniel. I hope they bring you comfort. They have me.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Opening Act, pt. 2

I've been trying to get back to this for a week now! Allergies, kids, work and just plain old life have gotten in the way.

So last post, I asked a question. "Do you think 'Worship' is the opening act for the message?" I got some good responses. Some were encouraging. Some were disheartening. I want to start this post with a statement, rather than a question. John Piper, in his amazing book Desiring God, said this (and I'm paraphrasing), that worship is not the means to the end. It IS the end.

So what does that mean? Well, it means this: that we are not to worship God out of duty, obligation, or because we just feel good at the time. We should worship God in EVERYTHING. It is the end of all things. To worship Him is why we were created. You want to live a life of freedom-- and I mean true freedom here, not the culturalized definition that we adhere to-- then you need to become a better worshiper. And let's just put this out there. And I'm gonna give it its own line because it deserves it.

Worship is NOT singing the 3 or 4 songs before the message at church. It is merely one, tiny, though very significant, portion of worship.

Worship is a lifestyle. If you are found in Christ, the Bible says that you are a new creation, one that is capable now of choosing to live a life of righteousness. You are no longer bound to your sinful desires (though we all know as a broken and fractured creation, we will still mess up. Let's not kid ourselves here... 1 John 1:5-10) But, we are new, found in Him! That should be the most astonishing, astounding, profound thing that we could try to wrap our minds around. We are no longer subjected to the 2nd death (Revelation 20:6). If we could fully comprehend this... and here's the thing... we CAN! We just have to apply some effort... then we would wake up each morning, regardless of what our situation is in life: rich, poor, sick, healthy, happy, sad, busy, relaxed... you name it, and we would be overwhelmed with the fact that the God of the universe, the Creator of everything, chose us, before the foundations of the world, that we may become adopted sons and daughters of the Christ, and share in His resurrection, and we would be moved to a state of mind that drives us to our knees and humbles us before Him in awe and wonder. And we would strive to, with everything in our lives, live to exemplify the work that He has done in us, and our lives would be lives that are led by worshiping Him and seeking His desires, and to do His will for our lives.

Oh, if we only recognized what we have been given....

My heart yearns for a time when the church, not just The Journey Church in Lebanon Tn, but THE CHURCH realizes that getting together on Sundays to gather together in fellowship is the culmination of our week, ending in praising Him, singing songs of adoration and hearing His word preached, and breaking the bread and taking the cup. Not because it's Sunday and that's what we do.... But because we've worshiped Him all week through our actions and our decisions and our words and deeds and our giving and our parenting and in our relationships with others and in our marriages, and now we are gathering together with our brothers and sisters and we are celebrating the Risen Christ!, for all of the blessings that we have.

I'm going to say something here and I hope it bothers some of you. It disgusts me to think that people come to church on Sundays because their ONLY motivation for being there is because they love the music, or they love their worship leader, or their pastor, and it's not to worship the Living God, from start to finish. That is Idolatry. And if you're one of those people, then you are an idolater. And you need to fall on your knees and you need to repent and ask your Father in Heaven to forgive you for not worshiping Him, and allowing Him to be the sole source of your joy and adoration. And you need to ask Him to reveal to you, through His word (yeah, you're gonna have to read the Bible to hear from Him... that's kinda how He communicates with us) how to worship Him better. And then you need to surround yourself with people who get it! You need truth tellers in your life that are going to hold you accountable for walking in the Light.

And when you allow all of that to take place in your life, you will finally understand what Worship is. And the Opening Act... well, it will become the first breath you take in the morning, as you wake up and thank Him, who ordained it that you even live.


Friday, April 9, 2010

The Opening Act, pt. 1

Well, I've kind of been on sabbatical for the last month. As most of you know, we at the Journey have undertaken, over the last two months, quite a huge project. Actually it was about 3 projects all wrapped up into one. I'm not gonna go into a lot of details. If you'd like to know all about that, and I would encourage you to inquire... it's been a lot of fun and exciting. Check out Pastor Shawn's blog. He's gone into great detail over the last couple months about all the campus renovations, filming studio/kid's area, website redesign, and Hartsville campus launch. Which by the way, if you haven't seen our new website yet, check it out here!

So, I had a conversation with Pastor Erik, our lead pastor and one of my best friends, yesterday. We were talking about worship and how it's often perceived in our churches. And during our conversation, we hit on something that I think is key, and hold enormous implications for our lives. He brought it up, and then we began to expound upon it, to the point that I thought it would make a good blog. As you will see in the post, I'm going to ask everyone who reads this to comment on this. But if you are a Journey person... Please Please Please leave a comment. At some point, I believe we are going to have the opportunity to teach about this subject on a Sunday morning. Your answers may very well provide the subject matter for the content of that talk.

Collosians 3:15-17 says this: And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (E.S.V.)

I guess I should've mentioned earlier.... this is probably going to be a 2 part blog. Otherwise, it'll get too long. So, here's the thought. When you come to church, and you see the opening video, or hear the band kick off the first song, or however your church starts... do you just kinda go through the motions and eventually work your way into a place where you feel like your just about to really connect to God... and then the music is over and it's time to sit down for the message. I would suggest that most of us do. I would bet that hardly none of us truly understand the purpose of that time of worship. Over the next blog or so, I'm going to begin to unpack what I think it truly means, and I'm probably going to step on some toes! But I promise, the one thing I won't do is throw stones. We are ALL guilty of the things that I'd like to talk about. And none of us are exempt from the consequences that will come as a result of our failing to engage in worship.

I'll post more later, but for now, I'd like to start this whole thing by asking a question. Please, Please leave a comment with your answer. Your answers are going to be the platform from which we get into this discussion. It's my hope that through all of this, we will all become better worshipers. Here's the question:

Do you think that the "Worship" time at church is a warm up for the "Message"? Another way of asking it would be: Do you think that the "Worship" time at church is the "opening act"?


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Who's God gonna tell?

So, this past week, my worship team did a fast. We do this from time to time. It IS an act of obedience that we're called to, as followers of Christ. For more info on that click here! But, back to the story... One of my worship leaders was telling me this morning about how she chose to fast from red meat. She and her family went out for dinner that night and she ordered a salad. The menu said it had bacon bits in it, so she began to think through the process: "Bacon is pork. But I guess you could kinda consider it red meat... is it red meat or white meat?.... never mind! I'll just not have the bacon bits and eliminate the doubt altogether!" Now, you need to understand that on this worship team, we take fasts very seriously. If you agree to fast and then break it, we consider it an offense against the whole team, as well as God. So if you cheat, and someone finds out, you may be asked to take some time off from the team. So.... like I said, we're VERY serious about it. So with that in mind.......

In the middle of her conversation with herself, her daughter (who is adorable and I think 8 yrs old) says, "Who cares? Who's gonna know?" She smiled and said, "Well, God will know, honey." So her daughter gives her this "you are so weird" look and says, "Who cares? Who's God gonna tell?"

We laughed, heartily, about their conversation, because.... well, it's funny! I love the logic that little kids have. My son cracks me up daily with some of the things he thinks about, and his rationalization through them. But it got me to thinking about something. Integrity.

Integrity is word that we throw around a lot and dismiss its meaning. And we often rationalize things by saying, well who's gonna know. The answer is God. God knows. And if you subscribe to the beliefs of the bible (which you should... just sayin!) and are a follower of Jesus, then you are called to live a life of integrity. Who's God gonna tell? No one. Because God answers to no one. But the flip side of that is this: we may think we answer to our peers and friends and coworkers, but we don't. Ultimately, we answer to God. He is the only authority that holds any implications for our lives currently, and our eternities. And while He may not "tell" anyone of our misgivings, He will judge us for them. The bible tells us so, and is explicitly clear about that. And though you may be found in Christ, and have all of your sins wiped away, remember this: Christ died a physical, painful, humiliating death to atone for those sins. Do you think He did that so we could live a life NOT of integrity? And listen, I'm not writing this cause I've got it mastered. I'm as broken and messed up as you are. I need to hear this, too. But I'm committed to seeking His righteousness, and not my own faults and desires. That's the only way any of us can overcome our sinful, wicked desires.

So the next time you ask yourself, "who's gonna know?" Remember who it is that DOES know, and what He has done for you. Maybe then the word integrity will have a bigger impact on your thought process.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Worship and Theology

For those of you who know me... I'm a huge reader! I love to read almost as much as playing music or golf or watching movies. But here's the catch. I've always read fiction. I've never been a non-fiction guy. BORING!!!! However, over the last few months, God has really put it on my heart to know Him more. And so, I've been reading a good bit of non-fiction. I really didn't know where to start so, I asked Pastor Erik (who by the way reads about 4 books a week!) where should I start. He challenged me to first start with what I do. Worship. So I asked around, did some research and found an incredible book by Bob Kauflin called, Worship Matters. For the first time in my life, a non-fiction book was relevant and interesting to me. And I found that I learned a TON! As a result of reading this book, I found that I was drawn to understanding more about theology. Bob says that (and I'm paraphrasing here) in order to truly and fully worship God, you must have a deep understanding of theology. I didn't know that I agreed with him at the time. And I recently posted a tweet saying that. WOW! Some of you have really gotten up in my mix for that statement! LOL so, let me clarify.

First of all, you have to look at what I said. I said in order to "truly and fully" worhsip. Not just "worship". Let me ask you something. Is it possible for you to like football and know hardly anything about it? The answer is yes. But can you truly have a passion and love for the game if you don't know every nuance of how every position works, how every play develops, why coaches make decisions, or why certain players get drafted to certain teams? The answer is NO! You can't.

So why then do we presume to think that we can worship God, the way Jesus instructs us to in John 4:19-26 , without fully knowing who God is. That is theology.

Many people say, "well, I read my Bible," or "well, I just believe". That's all good and fine. But do you truly know God? Just as you've been given a gift of music or sports or talking to strangers, or whatever else you want to throw in there... God has specifically gifted men and women to be able to discern and teach about who He is, and what His word (the bible) says. As a pastor, I guess I'm somehow lumped into that category, though I often feel inadequate to claim it. But there are those who have devoted their lives to understanding God's word. Those who have dedicated themselves to learning Greek and Hebrew to be able to take the original manuscripts that Luke and Paul and John, Peter, Matthew, etc. wrote, and translate them and interpret them for us. One of those people is J.I. Packer. This is a guy who literally oversaw the translation of the English Standard Version Bible, considered to be the closest word-for-word translation that we have available to today. The man is something like 90 years old! He's been studying God's word for over 70 years! I would say, he probably knows more about the character of God than any four of us combined!

I say all of that to say this. You cannot (and I'll stand firm on this), you cannot fully and truly worship that which you do not know intimately. You can follow God. You can love God. You can put your faith and hope in Jesus Christ (which by the way you should, since by the way He did say, "No one comes to the Father but through me".) But you cannot truly and fully and whole heartedly worship Him unless you know Him. Understanding theology is in and of itself, by default, the definition of worshiping God. Here's what I've found out since diving in to these books: my worship of Him has increased with every page I read. My time in scripture has revealed more to me than ever. And my heart and mindset are being transformed before my eyes, more so than ever before! And it's nothing short of incredible!

If you are interested, here are some books that you can find on Amazon. This link, particularly, is for a J. I. Packer book. You can find the others here as well. They are: Worship Matters, by Bob Kauflin; and Desiring God, by John Piper. That's a great start. I would strongly urge you to read them. Then if you disagree with me, let me know. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Please feel free to comment below. No one is going to judge you for your comments. But I think this is a discussion that needs to be had. So, I'll ask you again.... can you truly worship God without a deep understanding of theology?