Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Just wanted to wish everyone a very merry Christmas!! Here is a clip from one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time, plus it is very spiritual. Enjoy and again, merry Christmas!

Grace and peace.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Oh How He Loves Us

I confess, I am lazy. There's no getting around it, I am lazy. Just look at this blog, I haven't posted since December 1st! Most of that is laziness but it could due to the fact my life is fairly monotonous...saving lives...church...saving lives...church...occasionally making it to the gym (had to throw that one in there for you Annie)...saving lives...et cetera, et cetera (is that even how you spell that?). I am looking forward to a little change when I head down to Macon for a few days. It is going to be so good spending time with the parentals, brothers and sister-in-law. I'll be down there for 3 days and then it's back to, as you might guess, life-saving!

Anyway, lately I have also been really lazy when it comes to getting into the Word. I put it off and give the excuse, "I'll wake up early and do it." Yeah right Justin. Since when are you the one to get up early?! Never. But not allowing God the time to speak to me through His Word has totally stolen my joy. My fuse is a little bit shorter, and in a way, I shrink back from people because I really don't want to be social. I'm just being honest folks! Then I think of what I'm missing by not spending time reading and listening. I'm depriving myself of the very heart of God! I'm depriving myself of the mysteries of God, the love of our Father and the joy and beauty of being in His presence! I just need the hunger and drive for His Word to return.

But hold on my friends, there is the truth that His heart beats for us. His heart melts with one simple glance towards Him. The thing is He is jealous for us! He gets so jealous when we spend time doing other things (especially insignificant things) instead of turning our eyes toward Him. It's a jealousy that is basked in love. I simply need a love encounter with Him!!

There is a song that has been ministering to me in amazing ways lately. I first heard it when I was watching clips from the Call in Nashville. A worship leader named John Mark McMillan was awakened in the middle of the night with this song after one of his closest friends died (there is way more to this amazing story, so please do yourself a favor and look up John Mark McMillan on YouTube). Just look at the words:

He is jealous for me
Love's like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great your affections are for me.
Oh, how He loves us so
Oh, how He loves us
How He loves us so.

So we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean we're all sinking
So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way

That he loves us,
Woah, how He loves us
Woah, how He loves us
Woah, how He loves


I love that 2nd verse. I need a big fat sloppy wet kiss of heaven meeting earth in my life. And that last line is truly a line to live by. "I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that He loves us." Beautiful.

Please, please, please watch this video clip. The video is of Kim Walker with a worship group called Jesus Culture singing John Mark McMillan's song. It will bring you to tears and give you goose bumps, and for me, every time I listen to it I have to raise my hands in adoration.

Enjoy. Grace and peace.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Shane and Shane

Tonight was the Shane Barnard and Shane Everett concert at Riverstone and let me tell you, it was amazing! Those guys are incredible. Their voices are superb and Shane Barnard is insane on the acoustic guitar. They did Vision of You as an opener and I could have left after that song and it would have been worth it! But I sucked it up and stayed the rest of the show. I know, it was a tough call to stay! It was their "Christmas Tour" so they winged some Christmas classics. And when I say wing, I mean wing. A few of the songs they had to stop and start over, or they didn't know some of the words of the verses. To me, that's what makes a musician, artist or a worship leader great. They have enough humility and vulnerability to show that they are human and make some mistakes, but at the same time point their lives, their hearts and their music upward towards heaven. This was made even more clear after the show when I got the chance to talk to both Shanes. They are such nice and humble people. They are the epitome of David's heart of humility. When David went before King Saul before he defeated Goliath (1 Samuel 17), he was confident in his ability and giftings given to him by God, but continually called himself "your servant."

Humility is one of the hardest characteristics to develop. There are 2 misconceptions on humility. Number one, "we have this humility thing in the bag," and two, "we make ourselves out to be nothing." The latter is what is commonly called "false humility." We need to be confident in our skills and abilities, but we need to take hold of and walk by the truth that it is only by and through God's grace that we have those things. So how do we develop and maintain this life of humility? First you need to focus on God's grandness and on the incommunicable aspects of His character (omnipotent, omniscient, uncreated, etc). You look at the stars and galaxies and how vast they are, but in one passing sentence in Genesis He spoke those into existence. Second, invest in obscurity. Be a "behind-the-scenes" person; look to serve! Thirdly, delight when others are blessed and/or when doors are opening for other people. We have to make sure the jealous root doesn't go deeper. We cannot have the attitude of, "Why is that person being blessed am I'm not?" or "Why did that person get chosen and I didn't?" The jealous root, if not sought out and prayed out, can ruin you!

In order to do this, we must have accountability. We need prayer! It's crucial to have an intimate relationship with friends, pastors, etc that will pray for you and hold you accountable if you struggle with humility and jealousy, which we all do in some form or fashion.

Back to the concert (and on a little bit of a side note), Shane Barnard wrote a song called "Burn us up." The song is based out of Daniel 3 and the amazing story of the deliverance of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. If you're not familiar with this story, read it and you will be blown away! If you haven't read it in a long time, read it again. I say this is a side note because I play drums in a worship band called The Fourth Man (based on the story in Daniel 3) and we are recording our first CD! The weekend of January 19th we will be in a studio in Nashville, Tennessee recording! Shane Barnard told me tonight he would draw his "Sunday School" picture of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego for us to put on our CD cover. He was joking but I told him we would send him a copy. So hopefully The Fourth Man will have a CD out by spring. Stay tuned!

Grace and peace.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Don't see this movie...

I was recently sent this article regarding a movie that will be released on December 7th called "The Golden Compass." The commercials make it out to be a pretty intriguing, Lord of the Rings/Chronicles of Narnia-type movie to draw in the kids. However, the author has different motives. Phillip Pullman is an atheist who "hated" C.S. Lewis and hates Christianity. The author says he wants children to see the movie and read his books and decide against Christianity and decide against the kingdom of heaven. He is actually quoted as saying, "My books are about killing God." Pay attention people. In this movie there is an "Aslan" like character; however, in the movie he is killed and does not come back to life like our favorite lion Aslan did. This dude claims to be both an agnostic and an atheist, which I don't think is possible...so the guy is very confused and cookoo. I'm praying that this movie makes zero dollars at the theaters. The movie stars Nicole Kidman so it is definitely going to get some hype but I'm asking all Believers to boycott the movie.

I've attached an article that you can read for yourself how disturbing this is. Just click on the link below...

The Golden Compass


Grace and peace.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nashville and my Tuesday

This past weekend I made the trip up to Nashville and it was a great trip! My older brother, Andy, and his wife moved to Nashville several months ago when he took a job at Vanderbilt to work in their Sports Information department. They were previously in Huntington, West Virginia where he worked at Marshall University. Anyway, I headed up Nashville after I got off of work Saturday night. My parents and little brother got there earlier in the afternoon. The next day we had an early Thanksgiving dinner since Andy will be traveling with the Vanderbilt basketball team over Thanksgiving. I ate way too much (which tends to be the case whenever I eat holiday meals). Meagan, Andy's wife, and my mom prepared an amazing spread. That night one of my cousins and her husband stopped by. It was my first time meeting her (I think she's my second cousin? I don't understand family lingo sometimes). Anyway, her husband plays in a bluegrass band in Nashville and he plays with Alan Jackson! Needless to say he is really good on the 6 string...and mandolin...and banjo...

On Monday I headed over to the Mann house! I was able to see Kevin, Mandy and Bennett, as well as Mandy's parents. Bennett is a super cool baby. I particularly enjoyed the mix of laughs, hiccups and spitting up...priceless! Then Kevin and I went and had lunch together. I hadn't had good quality Kevin time in over a year. It was so good to catch up and laugh together again. Kevin and Mandy are like a brother and sister to me, which makes me Bennett's uncle...Uncle Justin...I like the sound of that! You know you have a close friendship when you can not see someone for 1-2 years and once you see them, you pick right up where you left off. That's how Kevin and I are, and I'm so thankful that he is as close as a brother to me.

Now I'm back in Marietta. I don't have to work any before Thanksgiving so it means I get to fill my time up with whatever I can find to do before I head to Macon on Thursday for another Thanksgiving dinner! I'm going to gain so many pounds over Thanksgiving...oh well. That will just mean I will have to get back in the gym...so I can throw out my back again!

Today I had the cool opportunity to go to McClure Middle School and talk about veterinary medicine. Emily and I prepared a power point presentation about why we chose to become a veterinarian, what veterinary school was like and what a typical day looks like for us. We also brought in some radiographs (ie. x-rays) of some cool cases we had seen (pregnant Pug with 7 puppies inside of her abdomen, broken bones, x-rays of a dog who ate a bottle cap and a nickel, etc). The kids were very attentive and asked some good questions. I find that I really enjoy teaching people about animals and what I/we try to do to make them better.

Well, that's it for now. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving with their respective families. Be safe.

Grace and peace.

Friday, November 16, 2007

In the Name of Jesus

I was going to blog about this earlier, but I went ice skating with a big group of folks...it was fun. Then I read Annie's blog and I sadly realized we were blogging about the same subject. There is a guy that used to work at a veterinary clinic I work at fairly regularly. His name is Denard and a few months ago him and his wife had a miscarriage. She was 7 months pregnant and they were expecting a boy. He was devastated but still remained amazingly strong and faithful to the Lord. Then I find out today that their 4 year old daughter, Kristen, was diagnosed with a rare lung cancer on Halloween and just finished her first week of chemotherapy. I'm having a hard time conjuring up how I would react to this same situation. But I don't think I would be handling it as well as Denard is. His faith is still strong and he is trusting the Lord for great things.

I just don't understand why this sort of thing happens. The Sunday School answer is to say that this happens in order for God to show His glory. Don't get me wrong, I totally believe this. I believe God is going to show Himself mighty in both Kristen and Evan's (see Annie Down's blog) situation. But still, it breaks my heart when a young boy or girl has to undergo something traumatic and painful. Maybe it stems from my own personal history as a baby, but I think it touches every man and woman's heart.

So, please pray for Denard, Keisha (his wife) and their little daughter, Kristen. She is at Eggleston Hospital right now and I heard that she is still a light and so full of joy in the hospital, even when her hair is falling out. Some of these kids are so strong! To be even bolder, let's join together in prayer to eradicate cancer. It is killing so many and it needs to be gone!

Grace and peace.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

You don't like it? Deal with it!

Ok, there is one thing I have a problem with...well there are lots of things I have problems with but this one makes me shake my head in disgust. I have a big problem with people saying they do not like a particular worship song. I know I know, there are plenty of songs out there that really are NOT good, a one bit. Just listen to the Fish every now and then and you will hear some songs that musically are not that good. But don't listen to the Fish now because all they are playing is Christmas songs. They have been playing Christmas songs since Halloween! Yes, Hallo-freakin-ween!! Who are the ad wizards that came up with this one? Still, the focus and heart behind the song is Jesus and what He did and is doing for us. How can you dislike this?! And even more absurd is that one can have the nerve to go up to somebody else and say, "Hey, you know that song that talks about praising God? Yeah...I don't like it. Let's not sing that one anymore." What?! Please do not confuse this with singing a song too much or too often on Sunday mornings. I am totally in favor of putting a song on the bench for a while and bringing it back some time later. It tends to have a rather profound effect on worship. Nor am I talking about playing a song the same way every single time. I am all about doing the old songs in a new and fresh way. I'm talking about criticizing a song because of how it sounds or because you don't like the wording.

Anyway, I'm sorry to be venting a little but sometimes I get fed up with "too" opinionated people. More people these days are getting their theology out of the songs we sing than by liturgy or a good Sunday sermon. Music across the board is very influential, especially the words inside the music. I used to be a big cynic when it came to worship songs and I was full of musical snobbery. But after realizing how much music affects people, and how much people are paying attention to the words they/we are singing, I've slowly but not so gently, put the proverbial foot in my mouth. Writing songs is hard; writing congregational worship songs is THE hardest thing to do (I know, I'm trying and I can't seem to finish nary a song). I truly believe God anoints and speaks songs to those with the gift of song-writing. So by criticizing and passing judgments, you are doing the same thing to God. Stop it!!

Sorry this came out of nowhere. People just need to think before they speak.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Incredible!!

I was going through old emails today and I came across this one that was sent to me by Amy Norris. This kid is like 12 years old I think at the time and he is SICK!!! Throughout the whole video my jaw is dropped open in awe of his skills. There's a part towards the end where he starts playing the toms with one hand...you can barely see his hands. Anyway, hope you enjoy.

Grace and peace.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Mentors

As I sit down after playing guitar non-stop for over like 4 hours (and after reading most people's blogs that are doing the daily blogging), I feel the need to write a little somethin somethin. I just got back in town from a Continuing Education seminar in Raleigh, NC. Veterinarians here in Georgia have to have 30 continuing education (CE) hours every 2 years to maintain their license. Anyway, at this conference, there was a professor/clinician I had at vet school. He was/is a mentor of mine and he is awesome...I mean he has his own Infectious Disease Book (Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat). Dr. Greene is an amazingly smart doctor. One time during one of our clinical rounds sessions, he asked me if I had considered this one particular bacteria as the cause of this cat's swollen joints. I of course answered no (in my mind I said heck no). Dr. Greene then chimed up, "It's on page 430, 2nd paragraph on the left hand side." I was like, "Wha?!" I got out his book at home and checked his referencing skills. He was exactly right! Way too smart for me! Well, he is also really stinkin funny. If you know a little about medicine, steroids (not the kind that's plaguing are sports these days) do have some benefit, but also have some bad side effects. Dr. Greene will not call these steroids by their name. One in particular is Prednisone. He calls it "Vitamin P", or "Pixie Dust", or "the exogenous unmentionables" to name a few. He used to randomly call me after I graduated, introducing himself as "El Presidente" or "god" and ask if I was keeping my "gun in my holster," which meant that I was not using any steroids. I would tell him of course...I was a little bit of a brown-noser. Anyway, before I left for North Carolina, I picked up 2 toy guns with a holster and put "P"s on all the handles. I gave them to him before one of his talks and he thought it was pretty funny. He actually used them in a few of his sessions! Again, I am a little bit of a suck-up.

You are probably wondering where the heck I'm going with this. I do have a point, just be patient! As I thought about Dr. Greene and how he has influenced how I practice medicine, I began to think of other "mentors" in my life that have influenced or affected me. The first person I thought of was Kevin Mann. He has been so instrumental in my walk with the Lord and my passion for worship. He is such a kind, gentle and wise man of God and I thank the Lord everytime I think of him. Kevin, if you do read this, I plan on coming up to Nashville the weekend of Nov 17-18th. I hope to see you, Mandy and Bennett!. Then I thought of other mentors of mine. Here they are in no particular order: Bill Tanner, Mark Fritchman, Tom Tanner, Steve Hambrick (miss you dude), Clay Kirkland and of course, my dad. All of these people spoke words of life, wisdom and encouragement into me, whether through meeting one on one, praying for me, teaching and admonishing me, or just simply being my friend.

What I've realized is that I need to tell these people that they have been a huge part of my life and have helped mold me into who I am today, and that I need to thank them! So, if you are on the list and you read this blog, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!

I encourage you to think about those who have affected and influence you and find them! Find them and tell them thank you. I just hope one day someone will find me and tell me how I influenced them. It would be such an encouragment to me!

Grace and peace.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Approaching His throne with boldness...

Last night at cell group during the prayer time, Tom asked a very unique question to a group of the guys. He asked, "If you could ask God to give you one thing right now, what would it be?" I thought that this was a mesmerizing question. I then thought, could God follow though and actually give us this one need/want instantly? Obviously the answer is an emphatic "Yes!" But, would He? I'll admit, it is a little difficult to believe. I mean, I want to believe it. In my mortal, infantile mind I find it hard to fathom that God could instantly grant a want or need that I have been praying for for the past however long. May God rid me of this doubt.

Anyway, I asked God to allow certain dreams and past prophecies to come to fruition sooner rather than later. Over the past 10 years or so, I have had numerous dreams and prophetic words spoken over me regarding my kingdom destiny, which is to lead worship. I know that I know that I know that this is what I will be doing in the hopefully near future. For some, this may come across as redundant (because you know where my heart is), but that's ok. If you so desire, you can read past posts of mine that cover my thoughts on worship and my journey: Worship, Make a Joyful Noise, So timely, Got to Crawl.

At times I find myself leading a particular song in a corporate worship setting, or I see myself leading worship with other "more famous" worship leaders. I often wake up at night singing certain worship songs! The only way I can explain this is that there is a much higher purpose in my life. I believe there are interests in your life and there are your passions. I can only speak personally on this matter and for some, the two line up. For me, the interest I have had since I was a wee lad was working with and being around animals. God has allowed me to have a job (and be good at it...I think) that pertains to my interests, so that I can perform to the best of my abilities because I enjoy doing it. However, the PASSION in my life is worship. God is slowly working this out. I understand that it is all on His timing, but I'm believing that He will make this happen soon!

So, maybe you are reading and you are feeling what I'm saying. You have heard God speak kingdom purposes over you and you are waiting for those to fall into place. Or, maybe you have something else that you would ask God to fulfill NOW or give you NOW. Maybe you need wisdom? In James it says that if any of you lack wisdom, he should ask God to give you wisdom and HE WILL! Whatever it may be, I encourage you to be bold in your prayers. Approach His throne of grace with boldness (and humility) and ask for a speedy granting of your needs. He is a God that longs to give good gifts! Don't forget that promise!!

If you feel led, you can leave a comment saying one thing you want God to give you right now and I will join with you in prayer for this...if you will join with me.

Grace and peace.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Working it out?

"Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling."

Philippians 2:12

For a long time I have wondered what it means to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. To set this up, I want this post to be more of a forum-type setting, where a dialogue if you will (and I will) is created. So I will start with what I think Paul is trying to say here and I really would like for others to post with what their own take on it.

Here it goes: First off, salvation is a free gift from God, which we all know. I think that after we received this free gift afforded to us by the amazing grace of God, it is our job to perfect our salvation - ie. reading, praying, listening, loving, serving, encouraging, etc. By this we will avoid falling into the category of living by "cheap grace" that so many Christians do. Their sole motivation is to avoid hell, not to go deeper or fall more in love with our Beloved King Jesus. Will they make it to heaven? Sure. Will they be close to the throne? Probably not.

The second part of this particular verse stems from the fact that only He is the author and perfector of our faith. The fear and trembling arise out of sheer awe of who God is. We are a weak people that depend on God to be and provide for whatever we need. He is a Holy God, and our Sustainer! Once we realize this fact, and realize that He is our strong and wise adversay, then automatically the attitude of fear and trembling will be birthed.

Thoughts?

Grace and peace.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why not?

I was reading today in 1 Thessalonians and a few phrases stood out to me. It probably won't do much for you but it really motivated me. The first one being in chapter 1, verse 3:

"We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."

The bold print is there for emphasis. "Your labor prompted by love." I think that the Word itself says enough and my attempt to analyze it is, well, wimpy. But I think it is worth taking a second of your busy day to ask yourself, am I prompted by love to serve or labor? Is love the motivating factor in my day-to-day life?

The second comes from verses 7-8 from chapter 1:

"And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia-your faith in God has become known everywhere."

The question I asked myself after reading this was, "Why are we not hearing more of people's faith in God from other parts of the world or other parts of the U.S.?" Thessalonica was the capital city of one of the largest and influential provinces back then. So, one would have to assume it involved a large people group. Would it be egotistical to strive after being known everywhere for our faith in God? I don't think so. Maybe it starts with community transformation, which our church is so passionate about. Will people one day being able to say that they have heard about the faith of the people of Cobb county (or wherever you live)? Will people one day say that they have heard about the faith of the people of Atlanta? Even more unbelievable will be people talking about the faith of the Americans. I can only say 3 words, hopefully one day.

I know this post is a little random and my thoughts are probably incomplete. But it was just something I thought about today. Maybe some of you can offer some input?

Grace and peace.

Monday, October 15, 2007

My job

This is a late night, tired and frustrated post. I'm laying here, about to fall asleep (cuz I'm friggin tired), but I need a little release. I will say that this weekend has been one of the busiest weekends at work I've had in a long time. I've already expressed this to a few people, but I need to blog it out. Ok, if you don't know, I work most weekends down in Sandy Springs at a specialty and emergency clinic. My job is entitled, "Staff Emergency Doctor." I see emergency cases that walk in or are referred over by other private practice veterinarians, and I have the job of training interns (ie. fresh graduates). Teaching others, whether it be owners or interns, is something I truly enjoy doing. But, it can be quite frustrating too. Annie I'm sure you and the other teachers understand. As their supervisor, I get a little bothered when proper care (or sometimes just plain common sense) isn't taken. But I have to hold back the "you blew this one" comments, and try to gently correct them and hope they don't make the same mistake twice. Completely belittling them, though tempting, is not the way to build up a new doctor. Although sometimes I wish I could be more like the sarcastic doctor on Scrubs and make fun of them every chance I get. But I can't.

But the thing I have to remember is that I was once in their shoes, and not too long ago in fact. Eyes wide open, pupils dilated, heart racing and the feeling of, "oh crap," rushes through your head, as multiple emergencies come walking through the door. Some are very critical, some are the easy emergencies. But still, it is overwhelming. At this particular clinic, when there is an emergency, the receptionist calls on the overhead speakers, "Emergency, your next patient has checked in." I used to cringe everytime I heard their voice! I would say to myself, "Nooooooo!"

Anyway, back to the point of it all, was I that inept in what I was trained to do?! To put it bluntly and honestly, was I that stupid?! Answer...probably. Actually, probably more so. You learn as you go. And the exciting thing is that I/we will continue to learn new things. Mistakes will be made, no doubt. Don't dwell on it. Learn from it and be dang sure it does not happen again. Encouragement is the key. Tell them things they are doing right and then bring up the things they really didn't handle the right way. I have one patient right now that I'm hoping survives. Proper care was not taken and this dog's life is hanging in the balance. Granted, it has an awful underlying condition, but I have to wonder if his situation would be a little bit better if a different approach would have been chosen. But I held back the idiot comments and tried to correct them in a non-attacking way.

Words have the power of life and death. This is so true in every avenue of life. Train them and BUILD THEM UP. Kids these days don't need more ridicule and comments of inadequacy. They need encouragement. WE ALL NEED ENCOURAGEMENT. Wherever you are in life, sharpen one another. Speak life and purpose.

I know this is kind of a random post, but I felt it needed to be said. I just hope my mind, which is working on about 3-4 hours of sleep, made it comprehensible.

Grace and peace.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Splendid Day

I say splendid day, well, because it was. The afternoon got started off with a trip to IHOP-Atlanta for one of their intercessory worship sets. It was good to be back at "the House." I haven't been back there since they left their previous location at City Harvest Church off Indian Trail Rd and moved into their new building, which is the old Crossroads Church. I had spent almost 2 years there as part-time staff, or "Family" as I was called, playing drums for 2 intercessory sets a week. Their new location is a little ways away down 316 and that is way too far for me to drive once or twice a week. I don't know why I just wrote down all of that pointless knowledge, but whatever. This afternoon Caleb Andrews was leading worship. He is crazy good! I love his style of worship, and his voice is very unique and excellent. Not to mention his wife can belt it too! Anyway, so I was blessed just to worship with him again, but more than that, the Lord blessed me with the opportunity to just sit in His presence. Cause it was there...thickly (is that even a word?). I encourage any and everybody to go to IHOP. You will meet and become friends with amazing, genuine, Spirit-filled Believers, and the Lord will fall on you. You can check them out at www.ihop-atlanta.com. If you click on the "Music" section of their web-page, you will see that they have a CD of songs written by the worship leaders there. It doesn't say on their website, but the guy playing percussion on those songs...none other than yours truly. No big deal.

After IHOP, we continued down 316 to Athens, GA. We ate at 5 Star Day, enough said! If you have been to Athens and have NOT eaten at 5 Star Day, slap yourself. Right now, slap yourself in your face if you have not eaten there. Then, take tomorrow off from work and go eat there. I'm serious! After dinner we went to the Wednesday night service at the Wesley Foundation. Our own Elliott Dejarnett led worship with Tate Welling. Incredible time of worship! They did a LOT of old school songs, which are always good to bring back every now and then. Maybe I'll try to get some old school songs played at Riverstone (ie. We Make a Way, My God Reigns, You Alone, etc). Elliott is quickly moving up my top 5 worship leaders to play with (Kevin Mann and Tate are still 1-2 in my book). I also got to talk to Clay Kirkland, Aaron Biddle and Aaron Vickroy to cap off the trip!

It was so good to go back to Athens. I really do miss that place! Maybe I will move back there one day? Who knows?!!

But the best part of it all was having an evening of incredible worship and spending time with our INCREDIBLE GOD! I need to do it more often...

Grace and peace.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday Sunday, na na...na na na

Sorry about the title of this blog. It was the first thing I thought of when I was thinking of a tile for my Sunday recap. And I know that it is supposed to be Monday Monday (na na, nanana), but I still hope it leaves you humming that jingle in your head for a few minutes. So, I haven't sat down and wrote down my thoughts for a week or two and as I sit down on my sofa before I call it a day and read some of the Good Book, I felt like recapping my day.

First, it was Mission Sunday at church today. Here they announced the different mission trips the church is taking in 2008. Teams are heading to India, Ghana, Guatemala, Spain, Camp Hope, Born Again Blessings (local ministry here in Marietta, and last and certainly not least, Scotland! Annie Downs, Katie Bedingfield, Tom Tanner and myself have the wonderful opportunity to lead a team back to Scotland to put on another youth camp. I've yet to sit down and compile my thoughts and emotions from last year's camp. In one word...amazing! For more day-by-day details you can check out the blog, www.scotlandteam07.blogspot.com. I'm just going to touch on a few things that ministered to me the most. To start, the youth are stinkin incredible. From the first day we arrived there the kids befriended us and opened up to us. There wasn't that day or two of awkwardness. Their hearts were so soft and open to whatever we were doing, and more importantly, to whatever God was doing! Scotland is a very dark country and the younger generation is forgotten in man's eyes. But thankfully, not in God's eyes. He has amazing Kingdom plans for the youth there. Scotland has had numerous revivals, but none of them have stood the test of time because the church is dead. I'm being honest, the church is almost non-existent. There are a few there that are thriving (like the one we are working with), but a majority of them are simply cold. There have been numerous prophetic words given to missionaries and pastors over there saying God is bringing another revival to Scotland, and He is going to do it through the youth. After being there, I believe it with my whole heart. Over half of the members of the church we are working with are youth! And let me tell you, the youth of this church are going to move mountains in Scotland, bringing God's glory and the Kingdom of Heaven to Scotland and to the ends of the earth!

During the camp, I had the priviledge of leading worship. If you don't know me, my heart is broken for the younger generation and I have a longing to see youth truly grasp what it means to WORSHIP. So I had a bird's eye view of how God moved in and transformed many lives that week. The first night of worship was tough. Most of them just sat there and watched me, Andrew Taulbee and Elizabeth Smith lead songs. However, as the week progressed, their hearts opened, and God began to take a hold of their lives! This was definitely made evident in the worship services. Each night more and more youth remained standing, some even closed their eyes! Crazy I know. But then on Thursday night, heaven broke open. That night Annie had an awesome talk on Worship; that there is more to worship than just singing songs...it's how you live your life. Worship is laughing with your friends. Worship is being alone in nature, sitting in awe of God's creation. Worship is reading your Bible. Worship is honoring your parents. Worship is being a friend to the lonely. Worship is serving others. Worship is gathering together and lifting up the only Name that is worthy to be lifted up. And that is what we did. I swear, after Annie's message we worshipped for close to 2 and a half hours! Guys and girls, young and old, stood in awe of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, with arms high and their heart completely abandoned to Him. Some were on their knees. Some wept. Some had an overwhelming joy written all over their faces. I stood there and soaked it all in. I was so thankful of the opportunity God gave me to be a part of the beginning of a huge move of God sweeping across Scotland. It got to a point that night where I was literally out of songs to play. I even had to ask for requests! Well...I tried to ask, my voice was pretty much shot! Even after the service ended the kids continued to worship together in their rooms (and showers!). Tears welled up in my eyes as I walked the halls and heard boys, whose ages ranged from 8-15, sing with all of their heart Love Song, Holy, For Who You Are and Blessed be Your Name. I will say it was more of singing and crying mixed together, but it was still altogether beautiful and moving.

I can't wait to go back! We are leaving July 9th and returning July 23rd, with a youth camp stuck in the middle. Our goal this time is to not just have our team put on the camp, but to really get the adult leaders over there involved. We want to teach and train them to put on youth camps in the future on their own so if there ever comes a day when we don't make the trip to Scotland, they will be fully prepared to keep it going. Don't get me wrong, I believe Riverstone (and myself) will be involved with putting on annual youth camps for many years to come. But this is truly a partnershp; Riverstone partnering with their church, as we both partner with God and jump into His river that is flowing through Scotland.

So if reading this moves your heart, join us. Join us as we pour into the youth of Scotland to bring God's light to a dark country; to breath life into the dead and dry bones!

I'll leave you with one of the most profound statements I have ever heard (and it came from one of the youth):

"I felt the love of 5 million people, then I realized it was just God." WOW!

Grace and peace.

Monday, September 17, 2007

You Got me Dancin...

This morning was so much fun and an incredible blessing. The worship band I play in (The Fourth Man) led worship at Riverstone Church. There was such a sweet spirit during the worship, and there was an intensity in the congregation (yes, even the 9am crowd) that I haven't seen in a while! Most of the band was there, minus a few folk: Aaron Biddle on lead, Kyle Hutcheson on keys, and the ever-talented, always funny Jason Laiche on percussion. But, we had the tasty lick-laying Nate Bedingfield sitting in on lead guitar. Anyway, our set list was:

Not to Us (Tomlin)
Hungry (Falling on My Knees) - Vineyard
Free (chorus by Tate Welling)
Holy (Vineyard)
Victory in Jesus (the 9am service was dancing around! Crazy I know!)
Lord of Lords (Hillsong's new album Saviour King)
Prince of Peace (chorus)

Ministry Time:
It is You (acoustic) - Newsboys
Better is One Day
No Sweeter Name (Throneroom worship, Kari Jobe - listen to her please!!)
Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)

Anyway, I really do not know why I'm posting about this except for that I had fun and I'm proud to be a part of this worship band/team. Each person's heart for worship and the Lord is so encouraging to be around; and the leadership of Tate, Elliott and Caroline is amazing. I hope we are able to come back soon and lead again. We had numerous people come up to us afterwards and tell us how refreshing worship was to them and how they enjoyed learning new(er) songs. So, I am thankful that the Lord brought this team together and I'm humbly and boldly asking for more!

Welp, that's all I got. Kind of random but I'm proud.

Grace and peace.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

You have to watch this...

I don't know if you have heard of the amazingly terrible show called America's Got Talent, but it's the one that has David Hasselhoff as a judge deciding on who has talent or not. Could they not find anybody else?! David Hasselhoff?!! What were they thinking? Yeah...talent is the first thing I think of when I think of David Hasselhoff...

Anyway, there is the exact same show over in Europe, creatively called Britain's God Talent. On the show they had a quiet, humble cell phone salesman on whose talent was singing. I'll just let you be the judge. If you are not inspired or brought to tears, then you need to place 2 fingers up to your neck and check your pulse!

Check it out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oxTx7KIAaA

Grace and Peace.

Piedmont Park Overtaking

I just got back from watching a concert at Piedmont Park with Emily and 55 some odd thousand other folk. The lineup was incredible. The evening got started with the Allman Brothers playing for 2 hours. It was their first time back to Piedmont Park, where they got their jump-start, since 1969! They were good; playing most of their classics. Derek Trucks played with them. That dude can tear up a guitar! The Brothers finished off their set with Whipping Post...awesome. Then the stage was set for the Dave Matthews Band. I love watching them in concert not just because every single one of them is freagin incredibly talented, but they have such a stage presence and energy to their music. If I wasn't groovin to the music, my eyes and/or mouth were wide open as I watched Carter Beauford, perhaps the best drummer around, tear it up. He has so much fun playing. Almost every time the camera showed him playing he was smiling or laughing. I only wish I could do a 1/4 of what he can do with a drum set.

If I can take one spiritual thing away from this concert, it would be this: Like I said, there were about 55,000 people there and they were all pouring their hearts, souls and their very beings into the music that was being played. I couldn't help but think that one day there will be worship gatherings at places like Piedmont Park or other big stadiums, where there will be thousands upon thousands of people pouring their very beings out to God. I can't wait. I know it will happen. Are you with me?

Anyway, I'm about to finish watching the UGA-South Carolina game and I'm a little disappointed. No, make that a lot disappointed. Well at least Auburn lost too!!

Grace and Peace.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Oh to know that I know that I know...

Ok, this post is one where I throw out some thoughts I'm trying to arrange in my little noggin about what I'm currently reading in the Good Book. So I've spent the past week reading II Peter and the first chapter has left me, well, a little, no a lot, humbled. It has also made me realize a lot about myself that I need to work on. Specifically verses 2-4:

"Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."

I have read these verses over and over, dissecting them phrase by phrase, trying to fully understand what Peter is trying to say. So here is what I got so far: #1, it is only because of HIS glory and HIS goodness do we have access to His divine power. Then, it is this divine power through which He WILL meet all of our needs. But an important aspect to remember is that these needs are met and His power is made available through knowing Him. Next, "through these...". What are the "these" Peter's talking about? I have to assume that the "these" is the Lord's glory and goodness. So through His glory and goodness He gives us very great and precious promises. Also, we can deduce that we learn of these promises as we get to know Him better. And finally, again through the promises He gives because of His glory and goodness we can participate in His divine nature. Christians become partakers of God's very nature by faith in His promises. God's nature in us manifests the likeness of God and Christ through us. It also gives us power enabling us to overcome the temptations of lust that result in corruption of our very beings.

So, we can participate in His divine nature through His very great and precious promises via His glory and goodness, which we are made aware of by the knowledge of Him, who will provide for all of our needs as we continue to attempt to know Him. Does that make sense? Even as I write it I'm a little confused and I'm scared I'm not making much sense. I could use some help here!

At any rate, I'm left with the feeling that I do not know Him. I remember writing something similar when I was going through Colossians (which I know I didn't finish blogging about...give me a break people!). Anyway, I have this renewed feeling of inadequacy; inadequate in my knowledge of Him. A simple prayer, Lord I want to know You...I need to know You. I want Your divine nature to be united with my own human nature. Rather, I want Your divine nature to overcome and replace my human nature. But, I need to know You!

To go even further and possibly take me a little lower, in verse 2 Peter says, "Grace and peace be yours in ABUNDANCE through the KNOWLEDGE OF HIM..."! Enough said.

I will end this undoubtedly confusing post with one last scripture. We all can recite John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." But there is one other verse that explains what eternal life is...check this out:

John 17:3 - (this is Jesus praying) "Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent." So eternal life = knowing God and Jesus! Hey, I just realized that this is one of His very great and precious promises that we can participate in through the knowledge of Him, who called us by His glory and goodness!

Oh MY goodness yall!

Grace and Peace.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Follow the leader...


Brad, I'm following your lead with this post. I went and saw the Bourne Ultimatum tonight and I must say it was a VERY good movie. The action was intense and it brought everything together from the first 2 movies. Here is my question to my readers (however many there may be), what are some of your favorite trilogies. I've found that the 3rd movie is usually the best or close to the best of the 3...ie. Spiderman, Lord of the Rings, and yes, even the likes of Back to the Future and Austin Powers (but the first one was definitely the best). Your thoughts?

Grace and Peace.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Why won't you die?!

Isaiah 6
"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him were seraphs, each with six wings: with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of His glory.'

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 'Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.' Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, 'See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.' Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?'

And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'"

This was the Scripture of reference for the sermon today at church. Let me tell you, it spoke volumes to me. I had read this particular passage before and I had taken some of the same lessons from it, but today it really hit me. The first sentence alone even now ways heavy on my heart and mind. "In the year that King Uzziah died...". King Uzziah...who was this guy? What did he do that Isaiah felt so impressed enough to start off one of the most well-known passages of Scripture with? To go even further, what's so important about his death that led (or leads) to seeing the Lord high and lifted up? King Uzziah's reign is covered in II Chronicles 26. His reign starts off good. He was 16 years old when his kingship started and it says that "he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (v. 4)." However, verse 16 begins his downfall. After he became so powerful, he became very prideful. He thought that the worship should be centered around him. He entered into the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of the Lord, which was something only the priests who were consecrated could do. As a result of his unfaithfulness and pride, the Lord struck him with leprosy until the day he died. Again, his death led Isaiah to see our exalted King and a glimpse of the seraphs praising His name for eternity.

IF we are to see the glory of the Lord, there are things in our lives that need to die. For most, if not all, the number one thing that needs to die is pride. Get our eyes off of ourselves and look UPWARD! We need to stop focusing on our lot in life; we need to stop focusing on our circumstances and realize and study and KNOW that our God is Holy, Holy, Holy; Good, Good, Good, and Faithful, Faithful, Faithful! I'll admit, this is not an easy thing. It's hard not to fall victim to our current situation(s) in life and become discouraged and, I'll say it, angry. Why is this happening? Why is that person being blessed and I'm not? Why did that person get the position I'm more qualified for? Whatever the gripe may be in our hearts and minds, we need to turn our eyes upward to Him! Has He been faithful in the past? Has He forsaken you? Will He forsake you? You know the answers to these questions. But as soon as things start to go against us, we forget the answers and lose heart. We soon find ourselves deep in depression, alone and frustrated. Though the grass withers and the flowers fall, the Word of the Lord stands forever! And what does the Word say? It says that He is faithful to the end and apart from Him, there is no good thing! You can read all through Scripture and find the reward for those who stand firm, who do not lose heart despite what actually may be going on in their lives.

There may be other areas in your life, besides pride, that have captured your eyes. Job? Death? Sickness? Relationships? Whatever it may be, a question needs to be raised: Are you willing to put it to death? Are you willing to say, "Ok God, right now it ain't workin. I'm done trying on my own. I surrender to You and Your will and destiny for me"? I get a picture of these things/areas becoming a wall between you and God. Isaiah 59:2 has worked me over lately. It says, "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear." The sin of pride or idolatry in your life is keeping God from hearing you, from His face shining on you! Do you want that?! I sure don't!

So it boils down to trust. Just look at Abraham and Jesus! Come on, now! Can I get an amen? Can you imagine the anguish Abraham felt as he was walking up the mountain moments before having to kill his son? And I think you know the anguish Jesus went through...He sweated blood! Do you trust Him? If so, take your eyes off of yourself and look upward! You will see the Lord high and lifted up! You will see the glory of the Lord!

I'll finish with Psalm 13, one of the greatest psalms of lament. But at the end it says this: "But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me."

Grace and peace.

Friday, August 10, 2007

You Give and Take Away

First the Take Away:

Well, it's Friday night and I'm taking a break from packing clothes and what not for a trip to West Virginia. Not a trip I'm excited about. My grandmother passed away on Thursday and her funeral is Sunday at 2 pm. About a week ago she feel and broke her hip. Mawmaw, as we like to call her, has had a history of heart and lung problems, and has had very bad osteoporosis...not the best candidate for anesthesia/surgery. But, the doctors said she needed it or she would be bed-ridden for the rest of her life. Surgery was a success, but she never made it out of the I.C.U. She was in such pain that the doctors gave her more morphine. Because of that, her respirations were suppressed. So the doctors were constantly playing tug-o-war with controlling her pain and knocking out her breathing. Then on Wednesday night she went into a coma and then passed away at 11 am on Thursday. The family has found solice in the fact she passed peacefully and pain-free. But, the weird/neat/encouraging part for me was when I found out Thursday morning she was in a coma, I started praying and I heard the Lord clearly told me that "He was going to take her" that day. When I talked to my mother that night I informed her of what the Lord had told me and she was comforted and encouraged. So now I'm picking out a white shirt and tie because that is what pallbearers are going to wear on Sunday. My uncle wants me to give a eulogy at the funeral...I don't know if I'm comfortable doing that. I'll just have to be praying hard to see if God wants me to share or not. Mawmaw was a wonderful grandmother! Always so loving and boy could she cook!! Mmmmm....mmmmm!! I will miss her so much but I know she is not suffering anymore and she is with Jesus...man how happy is she right now?!

And now the Give:

Prior to my trip to Scotland, my grandfather developed these fainting/passing out episodes (basically multiple strokes). I witnessed one of these episodes and it was scary. I'm a doctor and all and I see a lot of scary stuff sometimes, but what I saw really freaked me out. Anyway, he went into the hospital in Macon (after being to 3 other hospitals) and I was wavering back and forth on whether or not I should go to Scotland or stay with the family to support them and be there for them. I talked to my dad and he told me I should go to Scotland and that if anything changes, they will get in touch with me and if I need to come back home, I could do it then. I knew I was supposed to go to Scotland, but to be honest, my heart and mind were back here in the States. While overseas, I checked my email as often as I could, fully expecting to get an email saying that Papa (that's what we like to call him) had passed. But instead, I got emails saying that the doctors believe they've found out why he's having these episodes. They performed a heart cath procedure and un-blocked 3 very clogged coronary arteries. Praise the Lord! But the Lord always gives more than we expect, and He truly gave our family some leftover bread and fish during this whole ordeal (reference to when Jesus fed the multitude on a few biscuits and sardines). The night before Papa had his heart cath procedure, he had an encounter with the Lord and he surrendered his life to Him!! Now if you knew my Papa, you would know that he is a very boisterous man (don't know if that's the right word or not?). He is always the first one to tell his stories of the deer he killed, or the fish he caught, and so forth and so forth. And he would tell these stories with all that was within him! The day I got back to America is when my dad told me about him being saved. The coolest thing my dad told me was that he was telling everyone who walked in his room that he got saved and Jesus is the Lord of his life! It was the first thing that came out of his mouth when my dad went up to the hospital the next morning. So to top it all off, Papa was baptized tonight. My brother and mom were there (as well as other aunts, uncles, cousins) and they said when he came out of the water, he shouted, "Praise the Lord!" That's my Papa. And you know what, that's my God!! He is in the business of healing, not just physically (which Papa is getting stronger by the day), but emotionally and spiritually as well.

So Lord, the past couple weeks You have truly given and taken away, but I can't help but bless Your name!

Grace and Peace.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Got to Crawl Before You Walk

Something I was thinking about tonight that could be an addendum to the previous post. I was at the Square and I saw a father holding the hands of his little boy as he was first learning how to walk. The child's feet were wobbly as he desperately hung on to his father's hands for support and reassurance. Then it hit me...this is where we are in worship. We are at the stage where we are transitioning between crawling and walking. There is the uncertainty of steps and the fear of falling on our hands and knees, even worse, falling on our faces. The little boy had the assurance of being able to crawl, but the next step in life (literally) is to walk. It's science. Worship right now, at least in America, is at this transition. Go with me on this one for a minute, I promise to make a point (and feel free to expound on it if you so desire). I touched on this in the previous post, but we have grown comfortable in our ability to touch the bottom. Or maybe we are at the middle rope in a pool and occasionally we venture out into the deep end where we can't touch, but quickly return to the rope. We as a church are on the brink of walking, but there is the comfort or the inward satisfaction of being able to crawl. That's just what we are used to. But like I said, it's time. It's time to walk. At first our feet are wobbly and we are unsure of our next step, but the key is holding on to the Father's hands. His hands are not too short to uphold us and save us! Will we fall? Will we fail? In a way, I hope so. If we don't find ourselves failing, then maybe we aren't taking risks enough! All in all, failing is not as bad as it reads. Failing equals learning. In the Gospels, Jesus encourages His disciples that if they go into a town and they do not receive them, then shake off the dust and go into the next town. Jesus is basically saying that the disciples will fail, but to not lose heart. Shake off the dust and go the next town and keep doing what you are called to do. The little boy has the innate goal to walk. The fact is, he is going to fall at least once (probably multiple times) before he "gets it." If we gave up after the first time we fell, then we would all be cruising the streets of the Square on our hands and knees! That ain't natural! But we have this fear inside us. Maybe it's root is the fear of man; the fear of what other people or what the congregation is going to think of us. Maybe the root goes even deeper...sarcasm. Sarcasm? Yes. We are afraid to step out and walk because of the sarcastic comments that may come our way. You know that the word sarcasm actually means "to tear man apart?" We are afraid that the words of the body will tear us apart (they do have the power of life and death). I don't know, I'm just kind of rambling right now and don't know if I'm actually making a lick of sense!?! So I'm enlisting a challenge...let's get off of our hands and knubby knees and start walking! Take ahold of the Father's hands. Put your little fingers inside His big, capable hands and start walking. We will fall and we will scuff our knees, but we can't stay like this forever...it just ain't natural!

Grace and peace.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Catching Up

It has been such a long time since I blogged (I feel like I've said that before in another blog) and a lot has happened in my life since my last post. Let's see...I went to London for close to 2 weeks and took part in a worship leader conference by Tim Hughes. I think I have characterized that trip as both confirmational and transformational. It indeed was. I was there with 20 other worship leaders from around the globe and we had amazing teaching sessions, as well as incredible worship times together. It was confirmational because as I was there, I felt God tugging on my heart strings and whispering to me, "this is what I have for you, Justin. But, this is just the beginning..." I gained a lot of knowledge, wisdom and revelation concerning worship and where God is taking worship around the world. And, I gained amazing friends. God is taking worship to new levels. It is kind of hard to explain, but worship as a whole is going into deeper waters. I feel as if we have been in knee or waist deep water for so long now, but God is calling us deeper. Waters so deep that we can only swim. No more touching the bottom of the old way of doing worship. Don't get me wrong, I am so thankful of what worship HAS been in the past 10 years or so. Delirious came in and took us to deeper waters, then Passion, and now God is raising up worship leaders all over the world, and He is uniting us with with one goal...enountering Him. If we don't encounter Him and if we don't leave a worship setting changed, then we did not have a true encounter with the Living God! Now I am talking about the corporate gathering together where we lift up the Name of Jesus and adore Him, whether in song, meditation or contemplation. There are so many more ways to worship, laughing with friends, obeying your parents and authority, taking a walk and standing in awe of the beauty of His creation, reading Scripture, and so on and so on. But as far as corporate worship goes, where we are heading is exciting and can be a little uncomfortable to some. To start, look at what people are watching these days...reality TV shows. People enjoy tuning in every week to see what's going to happen next. They are drawn in to the unpredictable nature of these shows. In the same way, our worship services need to be "Reality TV Show Worship Services." In no way should one be able to know what is going to happen when they walk into church on a Sunday morning, or a Wednesday night. They should wondering, "what's going to happen this week?" I remember going to 7:22 many years ago, totally expecting to have loud worship and then hear Louie Giglio give his message. But as soon as I walked through the doors, there were signs up telling us to find our seat and stay silent. The whole service was silent. There was no music. There was no sermon. There was no ministry time. We sat in darkness (yes there were candles around the room) and read words on the big screens; words of Scripture mainly, but also words of instruction on what to meditate next on. It was an altogether different service, but one that I will always remember. It was the Holy Spirit that led that service as you focused on Jesus and allowed Him the time to speak into your heart. So, our worship services need to be unpredictable, because the Holy Spirit is unpredictable!

Which leads me to the next major point, the Holy Spirit is THE worship leader. I love Matt Redman's idea of lead worshippers. This takes the pressure off us mere humans and puts it all on the Holy Spirit. If you look back through the Bible, you read of different "worship leaders." You read, "a song of Moses," or a "song of David," or "Mary's song," or "Zechariah's song." These words were mentioned all the way up until Pentacost. It was here that the shift took place. From here on out, the Holy Spirit controlled the worship. He became the Worship Leader. So, as the lead worshippers (ie. Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Tim Hughes, Hillsong, Kevin Mann, Tate Welling, Bill Tanner, myself, etc) prepare for a worship service, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to direct the service. We need to ask Him where He wants the service to go. We need to seek His direction and ask Him what kind of response He wants in our worship. Also, we need to plan for the unpredictable. Space needs to be planned to give the Holy Spirit room to do what HE wants. He may want us to stay on one chorus for longer, or He may want us to completely go off of the set list and do a different song. Or, He may want to go into a prophetic time or He may lay a word of Scripture on our hearts that we need to turn into a song. Or, we just need to be silent and let Him speak into our lives. To some, this is scary because they have gotten used to touching bottom. Has He ever let us down? Will He leave us? Dive in. Swim. Splash around. HE IS GOOD!!!

It should be common in our worship services for people to dance. It should be common in our worship services for people to weep. It should be common in our worship services for healings to occur. It should be common in our worship services for God to call out people into their Kingdom destiny. If these aren't happening, then we need to take an inventory on the worship that is in our churches. It may be time to humble ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to lead. I'm speaking to myself here. See, God is doing a new thing all over the world. It's time to swim people. That's just it...it's time!

So I will leave you with those points. The bar has been set. I'm both excited and anxious to see what it is going to look like when the Holy Spirit is leading our worship. Not just in the corporate setting, but in our own lives as well.

I will include a few pictures of the London retreat:



Here is me and Tim Hughes! (My new friend...he loves Ketchup)



Here is the whole group giving our rendition of "jazz hands"



And this is the mansion we stayed in...pretty sweet huh?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

WWOOOOWWWW!!!

Ok....from the title I bet you can assume how amazing it is going. I haven't been able to land an internet connection for several days now, and I've been wanting to send daily updates...oh well. This trip has been in one word...transformational! Soooo much information has been downloaded into my brain that it is going to take a while to process and move forward. I just want to say that Tim Hughes is probably one of the coolest, most humble guys I have ever met! He has been cracking me up the entire time...and I do know what he eats on basically every kind of food though. That in and of itself was the object of some comments in jest for the first couple days. Brad, I have a lot to bring to the team! I have learned some incredible truths and practical worship ideas that I know will take the worship at Riverstone into deeper waters. I have been asked several times by people here what is one thing I have learned that I will take back to the U.S.? Well, there's not really one thing, but many things. This has been definitely a confirmation on my calling in worship! My heart is enthralled and my chest tingles when all 20 or so of us gather together and learn with each other and worship together. It is very encouraging to meet people from all over the world (most are from the London area, but there are some others from Singapore, Scotland, Wales and 3 others from the U.S.) that have the same struggles, the same questions and the same desires. We have had some of the most intense times of worship where we go into a room and leave it up to the Holy Spirit to lead the worship. I have a stronger passion for the prophetic aspect of worship, which we so desperately need at Riverstone! I can't wait to share more, but that's it for now. I plan on typing out all of my notes and making them available either by email or posting some lessons on this blog thing. I'm off to Ireland this weekend and then back to Tim's church in London. So until next time...

Grace and peace.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

On my way...

So, here I am, sitting at the E32 Gate at the Atlanta airport. What am I feeling? Extreme excitement and awe at the greatness of my God. He has such good plans for me...for you...for all of us who call Him Abba. Words cannot even describe what is going through my heart and mind right now. One is that this is where I'm supposed to be. No, not the airport! But on my way to be encouraged and skilled in the calling God has for me. I'm about to embark on the journey that God had planned for me since the beginning. He has had this day in mind while I was in my mother's womb. I can imagine that he has had this gitty, "boy do I have a surprise for you" look on His face up until this day because He has been waiting for this day, for this journey, for this life-changing event for 28 years! So, I'm ready. I'm ready for the knowledge and wisdom that will be poured into me. I'm ready for the new friends I will make...including Tim Hughes!! How freagin crazy is that?! I'm ready to come back to the states (we'll see about that I guess...) and take what I learned and be faithful with the talents the Lord has given me. Well, we are about to board. Please stay tuned for more. I would love for all my friends and family to be sharing...at least in the blog world...in this momentous time in my life.

Grace and peace.

Monday, March 26, 2007

So timely!!

I must say that God is a timely God. If you have been keeping up with me via this blog thing, you have read about some struggles of mine. One, being rejected for the 3rd year in a row for a neurology residency and then the last blog about my struggles with getting alone with God. Then on Friday the Lord encouraged me in such a way that I was immensely overwhelmed. This past February I applied for a worship leading seminar in London with Tim Hughes. There were only 20 spots available to the entire world! Yes, the entire world!! Well...I am one of those 20!!! Encouragement, confirmation, affirmation and spirit/soul uplifter all in one. More and more God is opening doors for me when it comes to leading worship. I'm getting all shaky even typing this blog. Being specialized in veterinary neurology would have been good, but God had/has something so much bigger and better in store for me. The seminar is the last week in May and it will consist of Biblical training, practical worship training, learning about the roles of each worship band member, and there will be song-writing sessions. Plus, I get to spend a week with Tim Hughes! After this week, I will be able to say that Tim Hughes and I are friends...maybe I'll call him Timmy (probably not but you never know?). I can't wait. I want to leave tomorrow. It's amazing to see prophetic words (some that were spoken over 8 years ago), dreams, etc starting to come to fruition. God is so good and faithful! He has BIG plans for me. I'm not being prideful at all, but I'm believing God for an international worship ministry. I believe I am going to be partnered with such people as David Crowder, Tim Hughes and Chris Tomlin, leading others in unity in praise and adoration of our Creator and King! My spirit is welling up inside me just by me typing this truth. I am so thankful for the many of you who have given me encouraging words about this gift and calling of mine to lead worship. By doing so, you spoke this opportunity into being. Thank you for your hearts and your friendship. Not to us God, not to us, but it is Your Name that deserves all of the glory!! Hallelujah...

Welp, gotta book a flight.

Grace and peace.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Zeal where are you?

I am in a dry land right now... a desert if you will. Today it hit me, I haven't spent quality time with the Lord in...man, about a month! What I mean by quality time is actually sitting down in my secret place, worshipping, reading and digesting His Word, and listening. To be real and transparent with you guys, I haven't had the desire to do it. I can try to pin it on me being busy this month, working overnight shifts, etc. But it just stems from a lack of zeal right now. It's been over a month since I studied the book of Colossians, which if you don't know, God placed it on my heart to in-depthly study this book after the Passion 07 Conference. Is this an attack from the enemy? Maybe. Is it just a period I'm going through? Maybe. Whatever the cause, the result is the same...run to Him. Lately I've settled and become content on the emptiness and blah-ness. I've become comfortable going through the motions. I lack good Christian guy fellowship. I need encouragement and accountability.

BUT, our God is faithful. His heart is moved at the site of one of His children pressing in during times of drought to seek Him and worship Him. He rejoices over our responding to the "yes" inside of us. I need a fresh wind to blow in and through me. I need a fresh water to refresh my soul. I need the breath of God to blow on my coals. I want to feel His gaze, and feel the warmth and strength of His embrace. He is beckoning me to come to His table. So that's where I'll go. I'm reminded of the amazing song by Leeland called Carried to the Table. Here are the lyrics:
Wounded and forsaken
I was shattered by the fall
Broken and forgotten
Feeling lost and all alone
Summoned by the King
Into the Master’s courts
Lifted by the Savior
And cradled in His arms
I was carried to the table
Seated where I don’t belong
Carried to the table
Swept away by His love
And I don’t see my brokenness anymore
When I’m seated at the table of the Lord
I’m carried to the table
The table of the Lord

Fighting thoughts of fear
And wondering why He called my name
Am I good enough to share this cup
This world has left me lame
Even in my weakness
The Savior called my name
In His Holy presence
I’m healed and unashamed

You carried me, my God You
carried me

Deuteronomy 33:12

Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him,
for He shields him all day long,
and the one the Lord loves rests between His
shoulders.
Can you visualize that last line? Here is what I see after I read that verse: I see God sitting down on the floor leaning against the wall or sofa with his legs straight out. Then I see me sitting between his legs with my back to His chest. His arms then wrap around me...I'm resting between His shoulders. There's no where else I'd rather be.
He is summoning me to His table and He is waiting to be able to cradle me in His arms. Oh sweet love. The cry in my heart is to be swept away by His love. At His table we don't see our brokenness anymore, we don't see our fears anymore, we don't see our insecurities anymore, or our weaknesses anymore. Here at His table, our healing and wholeness are found. Here the Lord places a banner of love over us.

Grace and peace.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

El Doctor

I don't really know why I'm blogging right now. I guess because it's 2:15am and I'm at work! Yes, yes, I know I promised all of you that the next blog would be about the Fourth Man playing up at Camp Glisson, which I know you have been waiting on pins and needles for! But instead, you are left with this random blog about some of the patients that are under my care right now. Let's see, I have a 7 month old Lab mix with a fractured right femur. It's kind of sad because it appears to be involving his growth plate, which may mean his right rear leg will be shorter than his left. There's a young Bichon that got hit by a car today that has pulmonary contusions (bruises in her lungs) and possibly has a broken jaw. She's resting a little more comfortably in one of our oxygen cages. Godfrey (which I think is an awesome name for a dog), is a 1.5 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with fungal pneumonia...not good. Oh and there is this 215 pound Mastiff, named Oki, with septic arthritis (infection in his knee joint). Yes, I said 215 pounds! It takes the whole staff to get him up and outside to use the bathroom...pretty funny site to see. These are just a few of the patients I have the priviledge of monitoring tonight. Some critical, some not so critical. But being here and trying my best to help these little creatures (or big creatures...Oki is freagin big! I could probably ride him. But I'm not gonna because his knee hurts) makes me happy that I do what I do. There's nothing like taking in a critically ill animal or one that had a serious traumatic episode, and seeing them get better day by day, by day, by day... . Yes, there is the other side of the story where animals come in and they are bad off, and their condition worsens to the point where they die on their own, or we help them out. But you know, we tried our best, and most of the time, euthanasia is for the better...I find peace in that (see previous blog "Good-bye").

Well, I guess I should get back to my doctor-ly duties. Oki says hi!

Grace and peace.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Un-Match Day

Is that even a word?! Well, for those of you who read this (again I'm sticking by 1-2 people) and are wondering what the "h" the title means, today was the day where those who applied for a residency position to become specialized in a particular genre of veterinary medicine found out if they matched or not. And I'm sure y'all are smart enough to pull from the title that I did not match...for the 3rd year in a row. I'll admit I wasn't too hopeful this year, but it's still disappointing to get rejected. I don't do well with rejection...I'm sure you can ask those who used to be close to me and they'll agree (key word being "used" - that's where the word rejection fits in). Even though I wasn't hopeful that this hail-marry residency pass would be completed, I had a feeling that this might be my year. I only applied to 3 places (out of 7 in the country) - UGA, Univ of Florida and NC State. I thought I had a good chance at UGA since I went there...wrong. My mentor at Georgia Veterinary Specialists where I did my internship went to Florida for his residency, so I thought I had an "in" there...wrong again. NC State was kind of a long shot, but I had a fairly good interview with them 2 years ago...and so there was "no" number 3. So I'm done. No more emotional roller-coasters for me. It'll take me a few days to get over this rejection, but then I'll start to look at the brighter side of it. Being rejected for 3 years in a row simply means that God has something better in-store for me. It probably has to do with worship...not probably, it does. I will say that if I had gotten a position somewhere, then I would have had to drop out of the mission trip to Scotland (even though I'm not too keen on going right now anyway - hey I'm just being honest; I don't want to be fake blogger...or a flogger. God just needs to add a few more guys to the trip, that's all). Also, the skies the limit for The Fourth Man, and I would have little to no extra free time to play music or lead worship if I was a resident. And by the way, my next blog will have some new pictures from our latest "gig" up at Camp Glisson.

"All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails" (Proverbs). So His purpose is prevailing in my life. Everything I try to do for the most part fails. The plans He has for me are such deep waters and are so good. What's that phrase? I can't see the forest from the trees? Is that right? Well that's how I feel. Sometimes I lose sight of the greater because of the lesser that is being burned away or pruned away in my life. The "lesser" is what I thought was good in my life. He promises to shake everything that can be shaken. God is so grand and big and majestic! Stars come out of his mouth and He knows them by name, each and every one of them. In the beginning light came out of His mouth! Ponder those 2 sentences a minute and try to wrap your mind around how BIG God is! The billions and billions of stars that are in the universe; stars that are 100-1000x the size of our little planet earth, came out of His mouth! I mean, come on, we serve a BIG God! Yet, He's a God that wants to be intimate. He's infinite and intimate. He cares for me, He cares for you, He cares for us! He gathers His sheep and pulls them close to His heart...how beautiful is this picture?! So whom am I to question? Whom am I to say, "are you sure God?" I just need to trust Him, which I do, wholeheartedly. I've heard it said, "Wherever you are, be all there!" So that's what I'm going to do. For now (and I do stress for now), where I'm at is Marietta, GA. I honestly don't see myself living here for too much longer. When I say that, I mean in the 1-2 year time frame. Until I get called elsewhere, I pledge to be all here! My God is faithful and sovereign. People will let you down...I know this full well, but God will never leave or forsake you. People will change right in front of your eyes...but God never changes; He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Plans will fail and what you thought was going to be, won't be. I just need to set my heart and eyes on the eternal, on things heavenly (because everything else is temporary and will be shaken). I need a little more of the intimate God right now. I need to be led by the still waters so He can restore my soul. I am moved and quieted by this, "I am my Beloved's and His desire is for me."

Hey trees, get out of my way!

Grace and peace.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Thomasville Disciple Now

This past weekend I had the priviledge to help lead worship at Thomasville, Ga's Disciple Now. Our 5-person band consisted of Elliott DeJarnett leading, his college roommate Bryan Fox playing lead guitar, Anthony McPhail on the base guitar and Caroline Darnell singing with Elliott. I can speak for all of us when I say we had an incredible weekend. D-Now was put on by 2 local youth pastors, Bobby and Floyd - sorry don't think I ever got their last names. Floyd is Cory Hallett's brother-in-law by marriage (Anne Marie's sister married Floyd). Do you even call him a brother-in-law? I don't know. I've never understood the nomenclature of family bonds by marriage. Maybe somebody can help me out? Anyway, we led worship for a group of students from all over the Thomasville area. About 7-8 different youth groups were represented, from all kinds of different denominations. I think in years' past only the Baptist churches were involved with the D-Nows. It was amazing to witness the unity that's present amongst all the different churches down there...which is something we are praying for here in Marietta.

We arrived in Thomasville about 4:30p Friday afternoon and began setting up at Thomasville First Baptist Church. The production came close to what we typically use at our summer camps; full of lights, smoke machines and a kick-butt sound system. That night we led worship for around 400 or so students and about 100-150 adult volunteers. I'm not going to brag...wait, yeah I am...the worship was pretty dang good. I could tell that they weren't quite used to the intensity of worship God brought through us. Don't get me wrong, there were more than a few people that had their hands raised, but a majority stood and just sang the songs. I will say that I couldn't see everybody from all the smoke that was around me! : ) After worship, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Barberitos (so good) and headed to our hotel. Elliott and I shared a room, as did Anthony and Bryan. Poor Caroline had a room to herself. Saturday we woke up and went and ate lunch at the First United Methodist Church with their youth. Floyd is the youth pastor at this church. He kind of reminds me of Cory, except he's funnier...sorry Cory! After lunch we all (we being the band) took a leisurely stroll down Broad St in downtown Thomasville. We stopped in a few shops, including the very sketchy Wig and Accessory store. There is a music store in downtown Thomasville that is the oldest music store in America. It's been open since 1904! (You could tell by the limited amount of inventory they had...). Also, if you've ever been to Athens you have noticed the different styles of Bulldogs (excuse me...Bulldawgs) that decorate many of the street corners. Well, here in Thomasville they have random small animal statues, including dogs and beavers...yes, beavers! Elliott thought it would be funny if I took a picture with all of the dog statues (see below).

Doing an examination... Playing peek-a-boo w/ this one
Such a good dog... I see what your pointin at there fella...

After goofing off downtown, we went back to the hotel for a little nap time. We headed back to the church that evening to get ready for the night's service. Saturday night was such a good time of worship. There were about 800 or so people there that night! We led worship for about 45 minutes. The students (and adults) were much more engaged than the night before. There was a dramatic difference in the response of the body. The students were right on top of the stage. They had never heard of Marvelous Light before and it became one of their favorites! The Lord definitely reigned on the praises of His people that night! The intensity of worship reminded me a lot of the worship that goes on at summer camp. I do have a random, but stinkin' funny story that happened while we were practicing for the Saturday night service. We were running through Jesus Paid it All and you know the part where it says, "Sin had left a crimson stain..."? Well, Elliott thought the song would sound better if it went, "Jen had left a clemson stain...!" We all stopped playing and were like, "did you just say, 'Jen had left a clemson stain?'" We were laughing... (sorry, Anchorman quote there). You may not think it is that funny, so I guess the right thing to say now would be, "I guess you had to be there." Anyway, the speaker was a college pastor from Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, GA. He spoke from the passage in Matthew 16 (vs 24-26) where Jesus talks about what it means to be a disciple and truly follow Him. I was definitely challenged when it comes to the things I have in my life as a priority over God. Can I truly say that I am able to deny myself of everything in this world for His sake? It's tough...

That night after worship we went to the fabulous Waffle House then went back to the hotel for bed. The next morning we were to lead worship at the morning services of 2 different churches (8:45am service at First United Methodist and the 11am service at Dawson St - not to be confused with Dawson Creek - Baptist Church). At the first service we played with the whole band and at the second service we did a little acoustic set with a djembe. This second service was rough. The students stood and the adults (where the average age was about 60 years young) stayed seated, blank stares and all. We plowed through that service and then headed back to our respective destinations (Marietta via Macon, and Athens).

All-in-all, the weekend was great. We got to meet a lot of great youth, youth pastors, pastors and adult volunteers. God showed up in worship, as He always does, and lives were changed. What more could you ask for?

I've included some more photos from the two nights of worship. Feel free to take a gander...










Grace and peace.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Make a Joyful Noise to the Lord All the Earth

How gorgeous was today?! It was like a spring day and oh how I love spring days. My birthday is in the spring, I can hear the tinging of baseball bats as the baseball season starts up, March madness, fly-fishing is starting to peak, it's great weather for hiking and/or camping. Those are just some of the few reasons why I love the spring. But as I went through my day today (which consisted of planning for this Monday's Inside Out, going by the Daily Grind to scope out the corner where we will have live music on Monday, talking Ghana with a new friend - Ryan, and packing for my trip to Thomasville this weekend), I was challenged. I listened as the trees whistled as the wind blew, I listened to the birds chirping and singing in my backyard and the dogs barking throughout my neighborhood. The thing that came to mind was, everything is praising God; creation is praising its Creator. Scripture is riddled with examples of creation worshipping God for who He is (Psalm 104, Isaiah 55, Romans 1:20). God made everything to worship Him - the trees, animals, even the rocks! Yes the rocks sing out in praise (Luke 19:40)! Can you imagine that?! I can't...I don’t think rocks would ever sing for me or you, for that matter. But they’ll sing for God, cause He made them. I found something written by Matt Maher, a Catholic worship leader who wrote Your Grace is Enough, that says it better than I could:

So I'm sitting at the piano one February morning, staring out the window, and I notice the trees. Bare and naked before God. The leaves have fallen. It’s just these empty branches, aimed at the ground. It resonates within me a desire to do the same before God. To be bare and stripped of all I am before Him...And I look at this tree, and I think of the tree of life. The cross. Back to the tree outside my window. I’m looking at this tree, and seeing the golden leaves on the ground. An offering of gold. It’s their tithe. It’s all it has to offer, so it does. Now I live in Arizona, and we generally don’t have winter. But we have a brief Autumn. Now in my head I’m imagining the autumn I grew up in (I grew up in Canada with 4 seasons). It’s getting colder. The sun is setting and the sky is on fire. Then I imagine winter, in its stillness and bleakness. The days are shorter. It gets really cold and gray. The cold dark places within the human heart. My moments of personal despair. My dark night. My moment of needing rescue; I look back on those moments and see God’s hand there, in the midst of it. Pulling me out of it.

Pulling me to Him. And the snow melts, and the flowers are stretching to heaven; their whole bodies trying to get in on the party that’s happening in heaven; and the birds are singing for no apparent reason, other than that’s what they do. Somewhere in space, there’s a star exploding to the glory of God. Everything is coming back to life, and I am seeing that everything must die to rise again. That God ordained it that way from before time. God the Father willed that everything would point to His Son’s passion, death and resurrection. And on that third day, we are glorified in Christ Jesus. (2 Cor 5:17), and united as one body. His bride and church, made Holy by Him.

So I was challenged. Back to the passage in Luke 19 about the rocks crying out. As Jesus was walking down the road, the crowd of His disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices and the Pharisees asked Jesus to rebuke His disciples. Jesus' response was, "I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." If we don't praise God, the rocks will pick up our slack. Oh how I wish my life would be so full of praise for my Creator and King that when I was around, the rocks were silent! His praise should always be on our lips!! In our own personal springs, and even more so in our own personal winters, we need to praise God...loudly! I love the heart attitude of the prophet Habakkuk, who decided he would choose to respond to God’s worth, no matter how bleak a season he found himself in: Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior (Habakkuk 3:17,18).

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas also resolve to overcome less than favorable conditions and worship God. Sitting in their jail cell, they could be forgiven for not being in the mood for singing. They had been unjustly arrested, beaten, severely flogged and thrown into the deepest part of the prison, with their feet in stocks. Yet, somehow, Paul and Silas found it in themselves to sing out praise to God. Refusing to let their souls be dampened, they worshipped with everything they had left. Most of us don’t own fig trees and haven’t been imprisoned for being Christians, but the principle is the same for us as it was for Habakkuk, Paul and Silas: We can always find a reason to praise. Situations change for better and for worse, but God’s worth never changes. We may be hard-pressed on every side, weary and not able to sense God. But then a choice faces us—to fix our eyes on the circumstances or to cling to God and choose to worship Him, even when it hurts. The heart of God loves the offerings of a persevering worshipper. Though overwhelmed by many troubles, they are even more overwhelmed by the beauty of God.

So my brothers and sisters, don't let the rocks out-sing you!!

Grace and peace.