Learning to Let Go

For a while now, I have sensed that God is calling me to let go of music. Not to totally give it up – I am, after all, a worship leader – but to lay down my aspirations of having a band and being on stage outside of my responsibilities at my church.

So, not long after finalizing a new lineup for my band, I made the decision to put it on indefinite hiatus. There may be some of you reading this who are upset by that. I imagine there are many more people out there that are pretty much indifferent. Of course, if you’re indifferent about that, you’re probably not reading this!

God just wanted me to relinquish control. Often in leading a band, I operated from a place of fear. Not in the creation and performance of music or in leading worship, but on the business end of things. Especially with booking, I got really hung up on making phone calls, trying to convince people to hire us. It got to the point where I didn’t actually have time for the music! Of course, that’s always a danger when you’re a professional musician. That’s why people get booking agents and managers.

But God has other things He wants me to focus on. I have a wonderful church I’m serving as Interim Worship Leader. I have an amazing wife and daughter. God has been calling me to lay down music for a long time. In fact, I’ve felt that call since before I formed the Jud Kossum Band back in Florida.

But somehow I know that music will always be a big part of my life. I love to write and to record. Somehow, I think God’s still going to give me the opportunity to do those things.

In fact, He’s given me at least one opportunity already. I made the decision to lay down my music career last Monday. On Tuesday, a friend from back in Florida who is now a missionary in Moscow, Russia, sent me an e-mail. He asked me to write and record a song to be used in a video they are producing to highlight a new project called “Engage Russia.”

From the moment I first read the e-mail, I have been excited about this project and felt God’s hand on it and sensed that He was saying, “Run with this, Jud!” I wrote feverishly for two solid days and – with the help of a couple of very patient editors – came up with some lyrics that fit the theme and really resonated with me as a writer and believer. (I’m going to blog later about the challenges of writing a theme song!) Now, I’m getting together with some of my old songwriting partners to complete the music.

And God worked even beyond the initial opportunity! I’ve received offers from recording and mixing engineers to use their services for free. I’ve gotten great deals from mastering studios. God has worked it out so that this project will be of the highest quality at very little cost. I am just incredibly excited about that!

He wanted me to let go, and He took control.

It seems like this is how it always goes with us hard-headed people. We want to have control. We’re afraid not to. But when we let go, more often than not, God takes it and makes it exactly what we needed, and sometimes exactly what we wanted.

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C’mon, Get Alienated!

Jesus demands a reaction. When people encounter Him, whether during His physical ministry or today, we can’t face Him without some sort of response.

In Matthew 8, just after Jesus heals two demon-possessed men and sends the demons into a herd of pigs, which then run into the water and drown (v. 28-33), we see this interesting reaction:

Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. (v. 34)

Inevitably, as so many passages of Scripture do these days, this verse draws my thoughts to today’s American Church. I just can’t help it! Almost daily, I see how different the Jesus of the Bible – and even the Jesus we preach – is from the Jesus we live.

When was the last time your church purposefully did something that they knew had the potential to drive people away? In my experience, most churches will do everything in their power to steer clear of such a situation, but we see over and over in Scripture that this is not how Jesus operates. He never avoids anything that might drive people away.

Now, it is true that He often found Himself in situations where people clamored for Him. In fact, He sometimes had to sneak away in the early morning hours to spend time alone with His Father because so many people were seeking His attention, but we see plenty of stories like the one in Matthew 8.

Jesus drove the demons into a herd of pigs. Maybe the pigs were important to the town’s economy. Maybe Jesus’ antics scared the townspeople. I don’t know. But I’m confident that Jesus knew He was going to drive people away with this stunt.

I’ve blogged on this before, but Jesus spoke in parables so people would not understand. (Matt. 13:13)

Rather than fight a revolution and rip the nation of Israel from the imperious claws of the Romans, Jesus died a criminal’s death for our sins. Not exactly the way to draw people in, is it?

The truth alienates people.

Jesus said, “…the truth will set you free,” (John 8:32), but He also said that people would hate us for following the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He also said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14)

My sincere hope is that we’ll stop focusing on what will draw people in, and start focusing on the Truth – Jesus.

Review of Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution

The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne

My review

The Irresistible Revolution is a book written from a place of love by someone who has put his love into action, and as such, I would recommend it to anyone who can read around its sometimes glaring flaws to find the challenging truths that make up the bulk of the book.

Claiborne writes with humor, kindness, and humility. He challenges the status quo of American Christianity, calling us to love the poor. He shines light on and brings into question beliefs and practices of both conservative and liberal Christians. Above all, he challenges all of us to know the poor. He writes, “I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.” How else can we truly love them? Claiborne goes on to say, “I truly believe that when the poor meet the rich, riches will have no meaning. And when the rich meet the poor, we will see poverty come to an end.”

He calls us from the isolation and – ironically – crowd-focused mentality of the church we have built in America to an all-encompassing love.

The problems come when Claiborne misuses Scripture to make valid points. For example, in Chapter 12, he makes reference to 2 Samuel 7, in which David decides to build a temple for God – a “permanent residence,” so to speak – but God tells David that he is not the man to build a temple. Claiborne uses this passage to validate his point that God doesn’t want us constructing multimillion-dollar church buildings. “God just digs camping,” he writes, seeming to completely ignore the next part of the passage, in which God says that David’s son will build Him a temple (v. 12-13).

The point is valid and he could have simply relied on Acts 17:24 (God does not live in “temples built by hands”) – a verse he references in the same paragraph – to make it, not to mention the time he spends prior to this talking about the church’s misguided endeavors to draw crowds, from which the desire to build these “temples” grows.

These instances of scriptural manhandling are not numerous, but they stick out like the Crystal Cathedral and will probably lead many readers to completely dismiss Claiborne.

The end product, though, is a challenging, convicting work that needs to be read. Christians should read this book for Claiborne’s heart, even if his head is not always in the right place.

View all my reviews.

Don’t Let Me Forget

This morning, as I spent time with God, I felt a heaviness. So many things are wonderful at this point in my life: my family, my church, my job. But there are a few things – one major thing, in fact (the home in Florida that we can’t seem to sell) – that are weighing on me.

I am a person with an often volatile personality. I’m prone to periods of depression and doubt, and just as prone to get hyped about the dumbest things from time to time. (No, I’m not bipolar!) Yesterday and into this morning, I was in one of the down periods. My wife and I are trying to make some decisions about the future, trying to work some things out regarding the house. These impending decisions – and the situations that created them – were bringing that heaviness that I felt. And they were bringing doubt – doubt about God and His grace, about my personal struggle to grasp holiness.

So, I had some waffles and sugar free syrup (regular syrup is just too sweet for me!) and a cup of coffee, and I bowed my head. I just told God, “I’m doubting You right now, but I don’t want to doubt You. I want to trust You. Help me trust You.”

I cracked open my Bible, and – among other things – I read Colossians 1:15-22:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…

He reminded me who He is. Jesus, the one with authority over all creation. Jesus, creator of all things. Jesus, who holds all things together. Jesus, the Risen One. Jesus, the fullness of God in flesh. Jesus, who – through His blood – reconciled me to God.

God commissioned His Son, Jesus, to become a man and give His body for us. Why? So that God could “present [us] holy in His sight.” We need to be holy, and God wants us to be holy.

When I’m reminded of this, I can only worship!

Don’t let me forget, God. Don’t let me forget who You are, what You have done, what You continue to do.

Don’t let me forget!

Love the Word

Your word, O LORD, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
Psalm 119:89

His Word was before the beginning.

His Word is without end.

It will always be, and it will always be true.

There is nothing you or I can do to change it. Society’s mores change with culture, and we – even we, followers of and believers in Christ that we are – begin to judge right and wrong by the fluctuating opinions of the fluid culture around us rather than the rock of God’s eternal Word.

I the LORD do not change.
Malachi 3:6

He never changes. Why, then, do we, His followers, condone an unmarried couple’s living together? Why do we say that only love matters, not the gender of the lovers? Why do we divorce at a higher rate than the rest of Americans? Why do we end the lives of our unborn children? Why do we, children of God, lack compassion for the poor? Why are we so ready to go to war – personally, religiously, politically?

We treat God’s Word with irreverence. We do not believe that it is eternal. We do not believe that He never changes, or, if we do, we believe that someone must have made a mistake or inserted his own opinions into His “word.”

We must return to a place where God’s Word is revered as the greatest revelation of Him in our possession. It is not a document prepared by men to coerce their agenda on others, but a revelation of God’s holiness, justice, love, grace, and mercy given to the human race.

Because I love your commands
more than gold, more than pure gold,
and because I consider all your precepts right,
I hate every wrong path.
Psalm 119: 127-128

I’d like to challenge you to pray through Psalm 119. This Psalm is an acrostic poem (each section correlates to a letter of the Hebrew alphabet) with 22 sections. Take one section a day. Read a verse, then pray that verse to God in your own words. If you do this from your heart, I believe you will begin to love God’s Word more than you ever have. (I can say this because I have done it, and through, God has done exactly this.)

Let us recapture a love for God’s Word.

Steven Curtis Chapman’s Daughter

For those of you who haven’t heard the news, Christian artist Steven Curtis Chapman’s youngest daughter Maria Sue was killed yesterday. She was hit in the family’s driveway by an SUV driven by her brother.

Maria was the youngest of six children. (Steven and his wife Mary Beth have three biological children and three they adopted from China. Maria Sue was adopted.)

On a special “In Memory of Maria” page on Steven’s personal blog, his manager, Jim Houser, writes, “Your prayers are needed for all in the Chapman family. This is a family who has so generously loved and given to so many. Just hours before this close knit family was celebrating the engagement of the oldest daughter Emily Chapman, and were just hours away from a graduation party marking Caleb Chapman’s completion of high school. Now, they are preparing to bury a child who blew out 5 candles on a birthday cake less than 10 days ago. These words are unthinkable to type.”

Steven Curtis Chapman has been a huge influence on me as a musician and worship leader. His music has helped me through some of the most difficult periods of my life. I know that I don’t really know him, but he feels like an old friend.

My heart breaks for him and his family. Having a young daughter myself, I can only imagine the shock, the pain that you just can’t push away. The deep sorrow. As a father, the one thing I refuse to EVER think about is my daughter’s death. But in my darker moments, the thought does seep in, and it’s more frightening than I can explain.

Some friends of mine recently lost their teenage daughter – a young lady who had briefly been a part of my youth ministry in Florida. I saw all of this in their faces, their tears.

I think it’s safe to say that Steven, Mary Beth, and their children are living in a nightmare world right now.

I cannot even begin to imagine what their son is going through. How do you learn to live with something like that? How do you learn to forgive yourself?

My hope and prayer for this family is that they love each other through this, that they can forgive and somehow find God’s blessing in these appalling circumstances.

If you would like to express your condolences to the family, you can do so here. (Click on the comments link.)

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