Thursday, January 31, 2008

Private vs Public Place

I love this quote by Louie Giglio:

"We become what we worship. If you don't like what you have become, then take a quick inventory of what sits enthroned on your heart."

This quote reminds me of the phrase, "You are what you eat." I used to bring this one out on many occasions when I was younger. Almost as much as, "I know you are but what am I?" Picture it...someone would call me a doodoo head, and as soon as they were finished supposedly cutting me down, I would whip this line out against this unsuspecting fellow 12 year old. Then I would proudly lean back in my wooden desk and think to myself, "Whammy!" Other kids around us would say, "Did that just happen?!" Yes it did my friend...yes it did.

But in all seriousness, if I were to look introspectfully at myself using this childhood one-liner, I would say that I'm one big fat Frosted Mini Wheat, or maybe a big bowl of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream (I love that stuff. I could have both at every meal of the day!). But, I find myself lacking in the "eating the Word" department. Anybody feel me? Or if I were to use Louie's quote and look at my daily life, I would be either a nice comfy leather sofa or a nice flat-screen (LCD) TV. (Sorry, I had to throw the LCD adjective in there! So what, I have a nice TV...if anyone wants to watch the Super Bowl after Facedown Sunday night, just let me know!).

Lately I have been thinking a lot about my daily walk with the Lord and about church services on a Sunday morning. There is a rut that myself, and probably others too, get caught in. Which is, Sunday morning is my time to be with the Lord. Or, Sunday is my time to read the Word. Some of you might be in this category, Sunday morning worship is my time to really worship and adore God to try and get my passion revived again. All of those sound like decent reasons to go to church. But there is so much more. Charlie Hall said this cool quote one time, "Sunday morning services should be one big fat celebration for what God has been doing in our lives for the past week." Sunday mornings should put a big exclamation point on the sentence that is your week. For me, a lot of the times this is not the case. I find myself leaving Sunday morning saying, "That was a good sermon this morning", or "Man, the music was really good." Both of these are the complete opposite of what it should be. It should be, "I had a true encounter with the Lord today and it totally sealed what He has been doing in my life!"

So where does the problem lie? I'm going to venture a guess at what that might be. You see, Jesus is looking more at your private life than your public life. Peter missed this. When Jesus took him and a few others to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, he fell asleep. So, Peter failed in his private life. Later on as we all know, Peter denied Jesus 3 times (ie. public life). Jesus, on the other hand, knew the importance of developing the private life. If you look at Matthew 27 (verse 40) where Jesus was being crucified, the on-lookers yelled at Him to "come down from the cross" if He is the Son of God. This looks awfully familiar to the passage in Matthew 4 when He was being tempted by the devil. Jesus got it right in the private place; therefore, he got it right in the public place!

How do we develop this private life? We need to continually romance God. If we don't, our hearts will grow hard, dull and apathetic. God is praised when He is prized. In Matthew 13 it tells of a merchant that sold everything for one pearl. In today's society we are constantly being distracted from this One thing. Success, relationships, jobs, clothes, money and so on are stealing the passion for Jesus. We need to seek Him in our secret place, digging deep in the Word, praying, LISTENING, and worshiping throughout our week, not just on Sundays! John Wesley, a little bit of an extremist, once said, "Every morning I set my heart on fire for Jesus, then I go out and let people watch me burn." Whoa! Granted, John Wesley had a unique anointing, but he had it figured out. He understood the immense importance of the private place!

So, as Louie states, we need to take an inventory on what sits enthroned on our hearts on a daily basis. If it's not the Lord, then our worship will suffer. If we all make it a point to develop our private life, then Sunday morning worship services WILL be one big fat celebration! The worship we offer will be transformed! We will become like the merchant and worship and seek after that One Prized Pearl, giving all that we have in order to have a true encounter with Jesus...and we will!

Grace and Peace.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why the change

I don't know if any of you noticed the change in the title of this blog or not, but if you didn' did. I felt the need to change because that phrase is where my heart is right now. Have you ever felt like you were on the verge of something big, huge, ginormous? Well, I have felt that way for the past year or so. It is a routine thing in my walk with the Lord where I catch glimpses of what's "going to be." I am a very visual person and since the Lord knows me so well, He speaks to me in pictures. The pictures are of real people I know, or a specific situation or event in time, or He gives me symbolic pictures and later gives specific meanings to those pictures. He has even given prophetic words to people I don't know, or hardly know, about these images to encourage me that I am where He wants me to be. Anyway, for the past 12-18 months I have been collecting and praying through many different pictures that He has given me. So as you can imagine, I'm ready for this next step. I'm ready for the will and plans of God to come to fruition. I know, I know...patience Justin...His timing is perfect. I do know this. I've been praying for patience over and over for the past year, but I'm in desperate need of a step (not trying to steal from you Annie, I promise). I need a step forward. Even if it is half a step. Even if I step forward and fall on my buttocks; it would still be forward motion. I would be satisfied with a slip and fall. Does that make sense? This past week at cell group Tom led a discussion on his sermon from this past Sunday on the Parable of the Talents. The gist of this parable is that we need to be faithful with what talents the Master has given us. Because if not, we will be going to H-E-double hockey sticks. It says in Matthew 25 that whoever is faithful with a little will be given more, and so on and so on.

As I sat in cell group and thought about what was being discussed, I wondered which one I was in this passage. Each servant in this passage was given a different amount of talents "according to their own ability." One got 5, another got 2, and still another only got 1. You have to assume that the Master knew that the servant whom He only gave 1 talent to would mess up! That's why He only gave him 1, right?! Anyway, I don't want to make myself out to be nothing but I'm not sure I would be the one to get 5 talents. Am I being faithful with where I'm at? Have I missed opportunities to step forward? Maybe. Have I not obeyed His prompting and missed an open door to step forward? Am I not risking enough out of fear of failing? Possibly. Or maybe I'm completely missing the boat and I HAVE been faithful with the "talents" He has given me. Maybe this past year and a half has truly been a preparation for the next step that I will hopefully take in the somewhat near future. I need help, am I being too hard on myself?! I mean I have had the opportunity to share what I learned in London with the different worship teams at RIverstone and Stonebridge, and the Lord is blessing me with opportunities to lead worship (cell group, Scotland Youth Camp). Plus, I have this blog avenue (blavenue) where I can throw out ideas on worship (and life) that the Lord is showing me! So maybe I am being too hard on myself. Don't get me wrong, I am incredibly thankful for the opportunities I have been given. But the thing I can't get away from are those pictures in my mind that He gives me at the most random of times. These pictures I alluded to earlier are ones of complete freedom and joy, where I am in step with the Lord's purpose and plans for my life. I want that!

I was talking with Clay Kirkland one day about 4 or 5 months ago about this same thing. As he was praying for me he felt as if the Lord as imparted into me a heart similar to David's. But then he shared this fact, after David was anointed king he went back out into the fields and tended the sheep/animals for 13 years before he became king. I thought, "Huh, I'm a vet that tends to animals...that's odd." I just hope I don't have to wait another 12 years, but if so, then in 12 years from now it is going to be so GOOD!

Grace and peace.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Recording - part deux

I don't even know where to begin. First, the studio was amazing! To think that we recorded in the same studio as many famous folk (granted most of them are country artists, but still, they are famous nonetheless), including Elton John, Tina Turner, N'sync, Lonestar, Taylor Swift, Brooks and Dunn, Gretchen Wilson, etc. Second, it was an incredibly long and tiring weekend. Third, studio musicians are the bomb. I don't usually play to a click track and it takes some getting used to. You get off a little bit from the click and it totally throws everything off and sounds really weird in your head phones. Fourth, Adam, the sound engineer and cousin to the DeJarnett's, is really good at what he does. He was very encouraging and had great ideas for our songs. Fifth, I can't wait to do it again!

I must say that we had pretty low expectations going into the weekend. We were expecting to do around 4 songs in the two days we had the studio. Around mid-day Sunday we had 7 songs done (at least instrumentation wise). We still have some lead vocals to lay down and some background instrument tracks (ie. mandolin, keyboard, B3 organ, etc). So hopefully come spring we fill have a finished, 7 song CD!! So if any of you creative-folk have the time, we could use a CD title and cover artwork ideas.

Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure:

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Day One of Recording

Welp, right now I am sitting in the sound booth of Studio A at Sony Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. As I type I'm listening to Elliott play acoustic guitar, Jason Laiche play percussion and Caroline Darnell sing on a song called Psalm 116. It is sounding really stinkin good. It has been a good, but somewhat humbling day. I have much more respect for the studio musicians that do this day in and day out. Playing to a click track takes some getting used to if you don't do it on a consistent basis. Anyway, we've been in the studio for one day and pretty much completed four songs. We have one more day tomorrow to iron things out and maybe add another song or too. Our very first song we actually completely changed things around (kick pattern, strumming, etc) and it turned into a very rockin, up-beat jam song.

I apologize for not have any pictures up. I forgot the cable to go from my camera to the computer, so those will have to be added later. Anyway, just wanted to check in and I will holla at yall later!

Grace and peace from Studio A at Sony Tree Studio in Nashville, Tennessee.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Spirit-led Worship

In the Old Testament and up until Acts, there were many different worship songs with the names of the different people; we will call them worship leaders, singing these songs. Some examples include:

- Song of Moses
- Israelites sing a song after their escape in Exodus 15
- Song of David
- Song of Solomon
- Song of Mary
- Song of Zechariah
- Song of Simeon

However, at Pentecost a shift occurs. From then on out there is no mention of worship leaders. It ceases to be the Mary’s, David’s, or Solomon’s leading the crowd in worship. At Pentecost, a new worship leader steps up, the Holy Spirit. Here, God takes worship out of our hands (or man in general) and places it in the hands of the Holy Spirit. Music continues to play an important role for us, but it is God’s Spirit that connects, inspires and conducts! See John 4:7-24.

There are a few concepts we can use to help, or encourage, Spirit-led worship. To help remember them, an acronym is provided:

PPrepare with the Holy Spirit through Prayer. This is of utmost importance! As it relates to leading worship, do not just throw songs together without prayerful preparation. Ask God what He wants to accomplish in the worship service. Ask God what kind of response He wants the congregation to have. Ask God for songs He wants to use to achieve this response.

* Ezekiel 36:26 --> The Lord will put a new heart and a new spirit in you…a heart of flesh…”And I will put My Spirit in you…”

R – Rely on the Spirit as you lead
. Quietly pray during parts of the service where you are not playing. This goes along with the first point, PRAY AS A BAND BEFORE EACH SERVICE. Something that you may want to adopt is stopping practice 20-30 minutes before the service to pray, no matter where you are in the practice. You ask the Lord to lead you and the band members in the direction He wants to go. DO NOT simply run through well-rehearsed songs.

A – Adjust to the Spirit. Keep one eye on the Lord and one eye on the people. In your mind ask yourself: How do we see the Spirit moving? Are they engaged? Are they dancing, or are they weeping? It is probably not a good idea to go into a celebratory song if the Holy Spirit is ministering to people and they are overwhelmed and weeping. You need to be able to see the congregation. Here is the kicker: The Spirit is unpredictable. Just look at the book of Acts.

I – Inspiration of the Spirit. Breathe in the Spirit! Take in what the Spirit is doing. A song may be placed on your heart; a line of Scripture; a chorus or a line of a song that the Lord may want you to transition into. Important: Make room for the inspiration of the Spirit! Again, do not just breeze through well-rehearsed songs. In your preparation time and during the service, be ready and willing for the Holy Spirit to change directions on you.

S – Sing in the Spirit. Don’t force it! If you are sensing that the congregation is still hanging around a song, then it might be a good time to go into spontaneous singing. Try to encourage them that it is a Biblical act; we are trying to find that spiritual song in our hearts. Encourage them that they can start by simply singing the name of Jesus.

E – Edify the church. Is the direction you are going edifying the church? See 1 Corinthians 14.

It is important to communicate with your church leaders to gather their thoughts and opinions. This gives you the chance to explain why you did what you did during the last service, and gives your leaders the chance to tell you where you did well and also tell you where you totally missed it! But please do not be afraid to risk out of fear of failing. If we don’t find ourselves failing, then we aren’t stepping out in faith enough where all we can do is rely on the Holy Spirit. Meet with someone whom you know can hear from and sense the Lord and ask for their input. Also, give your pastor the freedom to come up on stage and whisper in your ear if he/she is sensing the Lord moving in a particular direction.

Please encourage your pastors/leaders to engage in and model worship to the congregation! In addition, your pastor has the responsibility of teaching the congregation who the Holy Spirit is. The people are not going to sing in the spirit and the worship cannot be Spirit-led if the congregation does not know who the Holy Spirit is!

Lastly, worship leaders MUST be filled with the Holy Spirit! Leaders must make room for the Holy Spirit in their daily lives. We must intentionally seek after that regular, daily outpouring of the Spirit.

So, there’s your second session. I will be taking a break from the Sessions over the weekend due to the fact the worship band I play in will be recording a CD in Nashvegas! Stay tuned for more information on that. I will be blogging and posting pictures from this weekend. I am uber excited!

Grace and peace.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Heart of it All

Well, evidently I have 2 readers and they both voted for me posting about some of the topics that we covered in London. If you don't know, I had the amazing priviledge of spending some time with Tim Hughes at a worship leader conference. It was a fairly intensive week of learning and exploring worship led by one of the most anointed worship leaders today. There was so much juicy information to take in that I'm still digesting some of it. Something that has been laid on my heart lately is holding seminars, if you want to call them that, where I sit down with worship leaders or worship team members and share what I learned and share where I think the Lord is taking congregational worship all around the globe.

**Warning: Long post, may take multiple readings**

So, with that being said, the first "session" is on humility in that it is THE most important characteristic/trait everyone needs to aspire to thrive in. When it comes to being a worship leader, there are 2 simple concepts: 1) It all comes down to your heart, and 2) God is the center of everything. In 1 Samuel 16 we read about the calling of David. Here Samuel was sent by God to Jesse of Bethlehem because He (the Lord) had chosen one of his sons to become king. Samuel was instructed to anoint the one He indicates. So Jesse sent for his sons and Jesse thought it was going to be Eliab because of how he looked. He even went as far as to say, "Surely the Lord's anointed stands here before the Lord." But the Lord spoke to Samuel regarding His criteria. He rebukes Samuel and says to not consider his appearance or his height, for He has "rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at, but the Lord looks at the heart." All of Jesse's sons went before Samuel and none of them were to be king. David, the youngest, was out tending the sheep and was brought in before Samuel. The Lord said, "Rise and anoint him, he is the one."

It all comes down to a humble heart. In Isaiah 57:15 it reads, "The Lord says, 'I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit." Also Isaiah 66:2 says, "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit."

There are 2 misconceptions of humility:

1) We got this humility thing in the bag...
2) We make ourselves out to be worthless...

The passage in 1 Samuel 17 (vv. 34-58) is a perfect example of someone who has amazing confidence in the Lord, yet still is a man of humility. David walked out on that battlefield with confidence in the anointing he was given by the Lord and was driven by passion for Him, but always called himself, "Your servant." He was not concerned with personal glory. His only motive was to see the glory of God win the day! So whose glory are you living for? Whose glory are you going after by being on-stage? There are only 2 choices: ourselve's or the Lord's.

There are 2 instances in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus speaks on humility. So if He said it twice, do you think it's important?! In Luke 14:11 and in Luke 18:14 it says, For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." If you think about it, it is much easier to humble ourselves before God than before man.

If you look at the original text of these verses, then you will see that these are action verbs. Humility is an active process. So how do you make it an active process?

1) Consider the vastness of God and how enormous He is. Look at the galaxies and the stars and the planets...Stinkin' huge! But, in one passing sentence in Genesis it says He made the stars. Also, ponder on the incommunicable aspects of God (ie. eternal, uncreated, omnipotent, omniscient, etc). Then think of how He made Himself man for us; for relationship with us! Unbelievable!!

2) Invest in obscurity. Be a behind-the-scenes guy or girl. Choose to serve! It's not about being on-stage. It's about what you are like off-stage. I love this quote by the famous conductor Leonard Bernstein. Someone asked him one day what was the most difficult instrument to play. He replies, "Second violin, because everybody wants to be first violinist." He goes on to say, "It's hard to find someone who wants to play second violin and to do so with the same enthusiasm...without the second violin there is no harmony."

In Matt Redman's book The Unquenchable Worshiper, he uses the term "unnoticed worshipers." Redman says that the offerings of unnoticed worshipers are as private as possible, but heaven pays extra special attention. They do not go unnoticed by the heart of God. (Read the first part of Luke 21 with the poor widow giving all that she had)

God first seeks devotion to Him in the hidden, private place. The private place prepares you for the public place. This is of vital importance!

3) Choose to prefer others. Jealousy and competitiveness are some of the most common things to infiltrate a worship team. "Why am I not playing or singing more?" Or, "Why are they using that person so much?" Going back to the story of David, in 1 Samuel 18 it says that Saul became jealous of David. We have to seek out that jealous root and get rid of it before it ruins!! I love this, DELIGHT WHEN SOMEONE ELSE IS BLESSED. DELIGHT WHEN DOOR ARE OPENING FOR SOMEONE ELSE AND/OR WHEN YOU RECOGNIZE THE HAND OF GOD ON THEIR LIVES!

A few more thoughts on humility to leave you with. Humility is reflecting the grace that has been given to you; it is reflecting God's glory. Humility is embracing what God has for us, no matter how big or small the stage.

So there you go. Session #1 in the books. I'm not going to apologize for the length because it is all food for your heart. Session #2 to follow soon.

Grace and peace.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I get by with a little help from my friends...

So, I'm sitting here on a Friday evening and I am uber tired. But I can't seem to put the computer away. I feel like I need to blog about something but I don't have a one clue. So, I'm going to put it in the hands of the few (that may be an overstatement) people that read my blog. Ok, should I write about:

1) My testimony
2) Lessons from London (here I would cover 1 topic from the worship conference I went to last summer, which could develop into a series if you will)
3) Random work stories (for those of you that don't know...I'm a veterinarian and I save lives)
4) Other (insert idea here): ____________________

Grace and peace.

Friday, January 4, 2008

So where would I be... I came home from work today (you know, saving lives..) and as I ate my leftover Chinese Dragon chicken fried rice, I turned on the TV. Don't make fun of me, but I started watching the Family Feud. Not the old episodes with the creepy dude that always flirted with the ladies, but with the guy that played Elaine's boss on Seinfeld. Anyway, this episode pitted WWE Wrestling superstars (which Ric Flair is supposedly a part of? I mean, he is at least 72 years old!!) versus the WWE Wrestling "Divas." It was round 1 and they came down to the last girl on the line. The host says, "Michelle, what is your answer?" Then underneath her face it says the name "Michelle McCool." My jaw dropped down and I said to myself, "no freagin way!" I grew up with Michelle McCool in a little town called Palatka, which is about an hour south of Jacksonville along the St. Johns River (it is the bass capital of the world! joke). We were actually mixed doubles tennis partners. I played sports and was good friends with both her brother and cousin. Craziness!! So I had to call my dad, older brother, and an old Palatka friend to let them know what I had just witnessed. They were all equally as dumbfounded as I was.

So it made me think the rest of the day about how thankful I am that the Lord took me out of Palatka, FL and placed me in Macon, GA. Nothing against Michelle and her being a WWE Diva (I actually looked her up for kicks on the internet and she has a strong faith and speaks out about how important her relationship with the Lord is), but whenever I think about where I would be if I had stayed in Palatka, it leaves me incredibly thankful. I had a friend in school that was shot in the head over drugs, others that had kids, some are in jail. I don't want to sound to negative about folks in Palatka and I will say that I have other friends that are doing very well for themselves. But it makes you think though? Where would I be and what would I be doing if I was still in Palatka? Would I be in jail? Would I have kids? Would I have a wife? Or more scary, would I be alive (because I didn't always do the "right" thing with the "right" people all of the time)?

But the beautiful thing is that the Lord's hand was on me. I wasn't a Christian when my family moved from Florida to Macon, GA. I was totally against moving! I was involved with sports and people knew me (I was a pretty big deal...just kidding). I was so adamant about not moving that my parents actually thought about letting me stay with my best friend. Ludicrosity!! Here's the scoop though, if I hadn't had moved, I never would have met a group of guys that invited me to a youth retreat, then I never would have had a 'for real' encounter with the Lord, and I never would have surrendered my life and my all to Jesus. It just goes to show you (and I'm reminded of this over and over) that the Lord has plans and purposes for each and every one of us. He has a destiny for you! You may not feel like His hand is on your life now guiding you, but in the future you will look back and say, "Ooohhhh, so that's what You were doing God?!" His plan may be for you to be a star in a wrestling federation and be a Jesus-loving follower on and off screen. Or, He may take you out of a town and place you in an unfamiliar place where you will be able to see Him more clearly. It may be hard and it may hurt, but it so necessary.

If this is you in any way, ask God to increase your faith. If you have disbelief, then ask God to help you with that. He is so good and faithful, and He wants to give you an abundant life and He wants to give you the desires of your heart! Believe!!!

Grace and peace.