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Category Archives: Ministry

God’s Answers to Difficult Questions – A Series

bible_question_boxLast week I gave my youth group an opportunity to write down any difficult questions they’ve been wrestling with and told them that we would look for answers in God’s Word during our class time in the coming weeks.  Our ‘question box’ was anonymous so they didn’t hold back.  I’m going to have my work cut out for me as I prepare for these next few classes, but I’m looking forward to seeing the light of understanding in their eyes as we discover the answers together.

As I was studying this weekend, it occurred to me that other people may benefit from this knowledge as well, so I’m going to blog about what we learn over the coming weeks.  It is my prayer that God will use this series and His Word to help you gain a better understanding about who He is.


As each of the following questions are answered, I will update this page with a link to the appropriate blog post.

  1. What are the origins of the different races?
  2. What does the Bible say about suicide?
  3. What does the Bible say about tattoos?
  4. Why did God strike Uzzah dead for touching the Ark of the Covenant? (The story behind this question is found in 1 Chronicles 13:9-12)
  5. What are the Biblical grounds for divorce?  I thought it was only when one spouse cheats, but some people say other reasons are okay besides adultery…
  6. My best friend was an atheist when he passed away. So if I go to Heaven, knowing that he was being tortured in Hell, wouldn’t that upset me a lot?  How can Heaven be happy if we know our loved ones are in Hell? (disclaimer: this last question was from a conversation I had, not written and submitted by one of the youth at church)
 
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Posted by on November 22, 2016 in Ministry

 

Living in Tension

He was forced to leave his home along with his parents because of civil unrest in his native country. The President had called for a genocide against his people and it just wasn’t safe for them any longer. His refugee family found shelter in Egypt for a few years, then returned to the Middle East after the President’s death. He worked in his dad’s shop before becoming a preacher at the age of 30. Shortly after his ministry began, he was sentenced to death by the government, even though he was completely and totally innocent.

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International Harvest Festival – World Relief, Nashville, Tennessee

I must admit that I am living in a tension between compassion for refugees and concern about terrorism. Knowing that Jesus himself was, at one time, a refugee, and having met several political refugees personally, it makes my heart swell with compassion… but knowing what we know about recent attacks around the world and this apparent “trojan horse” method of terrorism, it gives me pause.

I don’t have any answers. Just questions really. What is the Biblical response? To close all of our borders for good to everyone? To turn away thousands of widows and children who, through no fault of their own, have been victimized by war and violence? How do we obey a Biblical mandate to both welcome the stranger and protect our own families? This is hard.

I’ve heard the grape argument. “If one grape in the bunch was poisoned would you eat any of them?” But we’re not talking about grapes here. We’re talking about souls. Jesus looked at the whole bunch and knew ALL of them were poisoned, yet he still chose to drink of the cup and die for the love of them.

There must be a balance. I do think it’s reasonable and prudent to pause immigration to review and revamp the process of screening applicants (and yes, I’m aware that in some countries a majority of the refugees are single young men… thus the enhanced screening process). It is not anti-refugee to enforce the strictest of security standards, to ensure that our country remains safe. But we cannot slam the door and wall ourselves in, ignoring “the least of these” who have very legitimate needs for shelter and security. We cannot be controlled by fear. To borrow from an article I read earlier today…

“Fear leads to hatred; courage leads to convictional compassion. And convictional compassion means differentiating between the radical Islamists who would destroy us and peaceful neighbors who stand with us in deploring such violence.

We are in a war. An unconventional war, of course, but a war nonetheless. Wars always bring out the best and worst in humanity. When future generations look back in time, let us hope they will see that we met these challenges with courage, not fear. In doing so, we obey the most frequent command in the Bible, ‘Do not be afraid.'”

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” -1 John 4:18

Join with me in praying for the families of the men and women who lost their lives this week in Paris. Praying for the refugees who have been driven out of their homeland, just like our Lord. Praying for the terrorist who believes Satan’s lies. And most of all praying that the Gospel will be shared and shown through the hands of those that reach out in love and compassion. Jesus is the only hope for this world and the people in it.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2015 in Ministry, Personal

 

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Where Have all the Singers Gone?

John and Charles Wesley

Not my Mom and Dad

Music has always been a big part of my life.  I was raised on the front pew, watching Mom play the organ and Dad lead the congregation from an old hymnal.  Mom directed both the Children and Adult choirs, and as soon as we were able to stand and hold a microphone, my sister and I were singing solos on Sunday morning.  Our family has a passion for singing.  It’s in our blood.

I realize this may not be your experience, and you may not even like music, but you should know that GOD also has a passion for singing!  The Bible contains over 400 references to singing, 50 direct commands to sing, and we’re told twice in the New Testament to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16)*.  We were created in the image of God, and we learn in Zephaniah 3:17 that the Lord himself sings!

“The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

For this reason, it saddens me to see the decline of singing in our churches.  The percentage of churches with a choir has dropped from 57% to only 34% since 1998**.  Even in our congregations, more and more people seek to be entertained rather than participate.  With the popularity of shows like American Idol and The Voice, Satan has deceived people into thinking that if they cannot sing perfectly, then they have no business singing.  He plays on our pride and convinces us to be more concerned about what others think of our voice than what God thinks of our hearts.

In his lifetime Charles Wesley wrote over 6,500 hymns, some of which we still sing today.  Many of these were composed as a prelude to his brother John’s sermons.  Together they led the congregation in worship and adoration to our Heavenly Father.  I think we would do well to revisit their instructions for singing, originally printed inside the front cover of the 1761 edition of Select Hymns.


Rules for Congregational Singing by John Wesley

  1. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up and you will find a blessing.
  2. Sing lustily, and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of it being heard, than when you sing the songs of Satan.
  3. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, as to be heard above, or distinct from, the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.
  4. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung, be sure to keep with it. Do not run before, nor stay behind it; but attend closely to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can. And take care you sing not too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from among us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.
  5. Above all, sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this, attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve of here, and reward when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

I know what you’re thinking… sing lustily?! In the words of Inigo Montoya, I do no think that word means what you think it means.

I had to look that one up for myself.  Lust = very strong sexual desire.  Lustily = in a strong, healthy, vigorous way; heartily.  It’s like they don’t even go together.  Will the strange wonders of the English language never cease?

These rules were written at another time, to be sure, but don’t miss the depth of Rule #5.  Have an eye to God in every word you sing and aim at pleasing Him more than yourself or anyone else.  I like the way Bob Kauflin concludes his article on singing in worship:

“We sing, not for our own glory, preferences, or pleasure, but for the pleasure of the One who gave us a song in the first place. The great Redeemer has given us the song of the redeemed, so that in endlessly varied interpretations of that one glorious song, we might remember His words, respond fully to Him, and reflect His glory. God gave us singing to develop and deepen our relationship with Him until that day when we will wake to find ourselves singing directly to Him. And what a day, what a song that will be. I want to get as much practice as I can.”

Will you not join me?


* from What Happens When We Sing in Worship? by Bob Kauflin, Author, Director of Worship Development: Sovereign Grace Ministries  ** from Nine Rapid Changes in Church Worship Services by Thom S. Rainer

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2014 in Ministry

 

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Let Go and Let God

tumblr_lzrok1E0uD1rn4pd2o1_500Admittedly, I didn’t set my expectations too high on Sunday.  The Lord is teaching me to set my mind on things above (Col. 3:2), but sometimes as a worship leader I still trudge into a service with a bad attitude and outlook based on what (I think) I know about people.  I knew many of our families were on vacation for fall break, and Alabama and Auburn both played terrible (I don’t follow sports much, but that’s an actual concern in Alabama; loyalties run deep and sports affects moods.)  My soloist asked to be rescheduled to another week, one praise team singer got sick and the other was called in to work.  All my plans seemed to get flipped upside-down at the last minute even though I had prayed and planned during the week.

Proverbs 16:9 “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

I think sometimes God allows our plans to go awry just to make us trust Him even more.  We have to let go and let God be in control.  We have to step back and say, “Thy will be done” instead of “my will be done.”

In the end, the service went really well, the sermon was on point, and my faith was stronger on Monday than it was on Sunday morning because God is in control and we are not.  Which, I suppose, was the point He was trying to make.

When your plans are spinning out of control, do you tighten your grip on the wheel?  Just let go, move over, and say, “God, you drive.” (I know I could have quoted a Carrie Underwood song here, but I vehemently refuse to do so. We both know we’d be singing it for the rest of the night.)

rmr

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2014 in Ministry, Personal

 

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Ventriloquist or Dummy?

WalterI love watching a good ventriloquist.  Ventriloquists can get away with saying almost anything as long as the dummy is the one doing the talking.  Have you noticed this?!  I even catch myself thinking, “that guy seems really nice, but his puppet sure is rude!”  Then I have to remind myself that I’m the dummy!  The ventriloquist is really the one saying those things!

A few weeks ago I had an idea for a new blog, If Jesus Calls… Hang Upwhich is written from the perspective of a demon advising people on how to avoid God.  The purpose, of course, is for people to recognize how to draw closer to the Lord by disregarding the demon’s advice to the contrary.  Similar to The Screwtape Letters, it employs a sarcastic, quirky, reverse psychology.  It’s been a challenge to write from a different perspective than my own, and very thought provoking to ponder situations from a different angle than usual.

On the surface, it seemed like a great idea.  But upon further reflection, I’ve set myself up as a sort of online blogging ventriloquist, writing from the demon’s point of view and boldly conveying beliefs that I might not otherwise express for fear of criticism or condemnation.  The demon can bring up topics that I might be uncomfortable discussing with people directly.  It’s never been my intention, but in the back of my mind I know if the heat gets turned up too high, if something is a little too forward or controversial, I can just point to the demon and say, “That was him!  It wasn’t me.  You can still like me.”

It really is all about being liked.  It’s the same reason people write anonymous letters or make anonymous comments online.  It’s the same reason so many parody accounts exist on twitter.  Church Curmudgeon, Back Row Baptist, Unappreciated Pastor, and Youth Minister’s Wife are all funny-but-true accounts on Twitter because they share what people are really thinking about church life.  Would they still have a position in their church if people knew their true identity?  Probably not.  Anonymity makes us comfortable and critical without the fear of accountability.  Anonymity says, “I want you to change, but I don’t want you to be mad at me for telling you to change. But I want you to change.”

Ephesians 4:15-16 “…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Truth in love.  John Piper explains that “a gentle rebuke to fellow believers who have erred should always be brought with appropriate sobriety, humility, and never with arrogance and harshness.”  Truth in love.  When it works properly, it makes the body of Christ grow so that it builds itself up in love (v.16).  So I have to ask myself, when I see families drifting further away from Christ, what is the most loving thing to do?  Sit down with them and express a genuine concern for their spiritual well being, or run my hand up the back of my laptop puppet and hope they’ll read my blog?  Go to them and pray with them, or write an ambiguous article and hope that a friend of a friend shares my post and the Holy Spirit speaks to them through sarcasm?

I may be a dummy, but I’m smart enough to know that I need to make some adjustments in the way that I express truth in love.  I know what’s easiest, but what’s easiest is not always what’s best.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2014 in Ministry, Personal

 

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Video

Sharing our Adoption Story

I was so blessed to have the opportunity to share our adoption story at my church, Nazareth Baptist, this evening. It’s a rare thing for the worship leader to step behind the pulpit and have the senior pastor lead the music, but God has given us a wonderfully talented staff. Each with his or her own strengths, but gifted in a variety of ways.  Glad I could be used by Him this evening.

Click here to watch a video of the worship service.

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2013 in Family, Ministry

 

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Pocket Change

Pocket Change

IMG_6181We met a homeless man during our visit to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis this week.  He was sitting on a park bench with a large backpack at his feet and he kept wiping the sweat from his brow with a dirty rag.  There was a little wooden cross around his neck hanging from a green piece of yarn.  As soon as we walked by him Titus tugged on his mom’s arm and said, “I want to give him my money.”

I love the tenderhearted compassion of a child.  Their first reaction, when seeing a person in need, is to help.  And I hate that my first reaction was, “Don’t make eye contact.  This is a big city.  There are places he can go to get help.”  I hate that I even hesitated.  This was not a pushy time-share salesman on the street corner of some tourist town begging for “just a moment of your time!”  This was a man who carries all his worldly possessions in a sack and doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from.  We’ve become so jaded by the world.  I wish my attitude was more like Titus’ and I’m glad God is using my children to make me more like Him.

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We went back and introduced ourselves and he told us that his name was Steve.  I explained that as we walked by, my son felt like God wanted him to stop and give some money.  Tears welled up in Steve’s eyes as Titus held out a roll of coins that he had brought along to use at the gift shop.  Then following Titus’ lead, Evie reached into her little purse, pulled out a dollar, and timidly offered it to Steve.  I asked if we could pray for him before we left and he said, “I’d like that very much.”  He stood and I put my arm around him and prayed for him then we went on our way.

It wasn’t much money.  Barely enough to buy one meal.  But Steve received something infinitely more valuable.  The love of God, poured out through the obedience of a child.  On a day full of sight-seeing, I thank God for opening my eyes.  It was a brief encounter and took almost no time out of our busy day, but I pray that experience stays with my children forever.  I know that I won’t soon forget it.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2013 in Family, Ministry

 

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